28 April 2006

Frugal Moment: Ingenuity and Good Deals

I love the idea of being frugal, but I am not one of those super shopper types. My dear friend Grace will always give my kids little outfits {brand new!} that she paid a dollar for, and I am always baffled, because buying an outfit that cheap means one must actually go into a store, and I'm just not sure I'm willing to do that.

So, in my little world, frugality usually means "do-it-myself." This means I made our wedding invitations, the birth announcements for both kids, and I know how to use odds and ends to make a scrapbook on the cheap. This also means that I have my eyes peeled for someone to teach me to make A.'s sundresses.

But Si is a totally different animal. He's not a super shopper, because he doesn't go shopping enough. But he has this knack. I don't exactly know what to call it, but BookcaseI know two of my prized possessions are because of this wheeling and dealing quality of his.

First, for Mother's Day a few years back, he bought me a beautiful, solid-wood cupboard with locking glass doors, and there is a real key to open it with. This was a real Indian-in-the-Cupboard-Moment, I tell you! KeyI store all of my best hardbound volumes in it, and they look beautiful! There is a story behind this piece, too. The people he bought it from won it on The Price is Right back in the 1980s. He only paid $100.

Exercise BikeSecond, there is my exercise bike, which Si bought at a garage sale for $10. He wasn't even intending to go to a garage sale that day, but he was out and he happened to drive by one that was selling an exercise bike that was just what I wanted, and unbelievably cheap. I had picked one out online for $250 after despairing of ever finding one used in the Penny Saver ads.

So you see, it comes in handy to have a man with a good eye.

Saturday update: It seems this post has motivated Si to conquer our bunkbed hopes on the cheap as well. He had an almost-success this morning. I will be sure and post a photo if he ever brings some home!

26 April 2006

Bureaucracy Makes War on Community {Part III}

I sometimes regret that I name a series of posts in its beginning, rather than seeing where the series goes and then naming it as an Afterthought. I say this, because I now see that I do not intend to spend much time discussing bureaucracy's relationship with community, nor how it is inherently detrimental to community. Or at least, this isn't really the main point, try as I might to stay on topic!

In retrospect, I think that I fell into a trap when I allowed myself to be engaged {at BabyCenter} in this discussion at all. The question itself contains certain false assumptions about the role of government and personal responsibility. I knew that going into it, but considered it necessary to "engage culture where it was at," as I have often been encouraged to do. I see now that this was a mistake.

Often, when engaging culture at its own level, I go beyond acknowledging where culture is at to actually indulging it. Yes, culture is where it is. But culture will never rise to a level to which it is not challenged to be, either.

After thinking about the Burning Question asking, "Should mothers be allowed to share or sell their breastmilk," I can't help but recognize that I should have simply approached the question as an inappropriate one, because in indulging the question, I am actually indulging the idea of bureaucracy.

I have felt this way about other issues before, most recently being Propostion 73, which will be voted on in California in June. If enacted, Prop 73 would "change the State Constitution to require a doctor to notify a parent or guardian at least 48 hours before performing an abortion on a pregnant minor." If the situation is argued on its own terms, then, yes, I agree that a minor's parents should be notified. After all, she can't even get an immunization without parental permission, not to mention notification. But, at the same time, Prop 73, in attempting to provide oversight for abortions, actually validates abortion as an option.

Along the same lines, I think that when I became willing to debate whether mothers should be "allowed" to do something, I actually validated the concept that it was a morally acceptable option to dictate such things to a mother in the first place.

A Christian should not ask the question "should we allow" in regards to a situation
Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws.
--John Adams
that is not morally absolute, because then the question is an assertion of power, an attempt by one group of citizens to control and dominate another. It is far better for the Christian to say, "I will not answer that question because it assumes a view of Man-as-Child that I refuse to accept." And then the door is open to discussing the likes of the Law of Reaping and Sowing, or the idea that self-government {aka, self-control} is superior to governmental control, etc.

The questions, "Is it wise?" or "In what instances would this not be wise?" are far better ones to ask, even in discussion with a nonChristian because it removes the struggle for power, allowing instead the search for Truth, or for what is best in a specific situation. In asking "What is wise?" the idea of wisdom is acknowledged--the person being asked is forced to engage the idea that there is such a thing as wisdom in the first place.

To some extent, I think resorting to bureaucracy is actually a way of giving up on the culture. It sends the message that the citizens are incompetent, unable to make good decisions, and so seeks to place one broad legal requirement on the shoulders of said incompetent citizens. The Church has to rise above this and start sending the message that there are answers, that wisdom is real, and that there is hope for those who seek it.

25 April 2006

Bureaucracy Makes War on Community {Part II}

Like all debates, this online debate over regulating the sharing and selling of human milk deteriorated into discussions of a few indirectly related topics. {By the way, it is best to read the Introduction and Part I before reading this post.} One of these topics was that formula has made the sharing and selling of breastmilk unnecessary. What about the poor who can't afford formula? someone asked. The solution given was that most states have WIC {the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children} and some even have "free stores" where one may attain "free formula."

Needless to say, I became very unpopular when I pointed out that these items weren't actually "free." In fact, in a round-about way, I believe them to be stolen. And, more importantly, I believe that the current system of the State, in Robin Hood fashion, stealing from some {and taking a cut of it, of course} and redistributing the money in the form of goods to the "needy" {I put this in quotes because there have been times where we qualified for this program, but we sacrificed and worked hard and paid for the items ourselves because we had a moral objection to social programs like WIC}, actually has two very negative side-effects: a growing animosity between those stolen from and those benefitting from the stealing, and, even worse, relieving the rich of any sense of duty towards the poor.

Obviously, I do not believe that poor babies should be allowed to starve. But I am also not one to feel forced to choose between Option A and Option B just because those are the only two solutions to a problem that are immediately offered. In other words, it is a false assumption to believe that the options are to either allow the State to continue providing formula or let a baby starve.

To recap a bit, the argument has gone like this thus far:
  • There are mothers with an inadequate milk supply

  • There are other mothers with an overabundance of milk

  • These mothers with an overabundance of milk cannot be trusted because the proliferation of sins of the flesh in our society necessitates a wary eye towards all bodily fluids

  • AND people lie about the diseases they have

  • Therefore, the sharing and selling of breastmilk should be heavily regulated by the benevolent State

  • But, maybe we should just make it illegal altogether because formula is just fine

  • AND, the benevolent State is more than willing to take money from some citizens and use it to buy formula for other citizens who have trouble affording it
I made this point in Part I, but I will reiterate it now: The model of a mother who is "rich in milk" committing a generous act by freely giving her milk to a neighbor with an inadequate milk supply {like me} is a morally superior model when compared to having the impersonal State intervening in the situation and disrupting what could have been a community-building relationship. And the model of a person who is rich in money {but not milk} buying formula for mothers who are in short supply of both breastmilk and money is still morally superior to the State's compulsory taxes subsidizing the feeding of the poor.

I know that this is an ideal. I can write about this every day for a year, and there will still be compulsory taxes funding social programs, and there will still be few churches that help the poor {which would cause the social programs to become
And we'll guard each man's dignity and save each man's pride//And they'll know we are Christians by our love...
--Peter Scholtes
obsolete in certain geographic areas}. But it is still true that there are morally superior social models that no longer function in our society. And it is still true that the Church has been welcomed by the State to abdicate her throne as the Helper of society.

When the Church is no longer obligated to be compassionate to the poor, when her work is done by another, she has effectively lost her wittness.

Think of the poor woman whose milk never came in, or who delivered a preemie that was unable to nurse before those milk hormones went away. In the bureaucratic society we live in, where does she turn for help? Where does the hospital tell her to turn for help?

Who is her Messiah now?

It's no secret that I consider bureaucracy invasive {at best} and even destructive. But I also think it is naive to shout against bureaucracy as such without acknowledging that it becomes necessary when the Church refuses to assume her rightful responsibilities within a society.

24 April 2006

Bureaucracy Makes War on Community (Part I)

Breastmilk is a BODILY FLUID! It is not any different than blood and should be treated as such. Would you accept a blood transfusion from your "friend"; just because she says she is a match?? No matter how close you are to someone, you cannot be sure that they are free from disease. Your close friends and family DO have things that they don't tell you. It is possible that they do have things that they don't even know about. It isn't responsible to share a bodily fluid just because they have it and you don't no matter what the situation. There are a million illnesses and diseases out there...if you are testing breastmilk and/or a mother you will have to test for EVERYTHING, not just a few. {posted on BabyCenter by hfish74}

It was after my initial posting on the debate board that the "disease posts" started popping up. There was even a grandma posting and begging the mothers to use formula because her daughter had just been diagnosed with AIDS, and there was some concern that the granddaughter could have contracted the disease through nursing. {They are currently in the "wait and see" stage.}

And so I came to understand that sin was behind this whole debate.

A world full of promiscuity, and alcohol and drug abuse creates a society of
...for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.
--Genesis 2:17
paranoia. Lives that are not conducted in purity necessarily bring about disease in the body, and even sometimes in the mind {but that is another post altogether}. Jesus was and is the antithesis of our current situation. He embodied a contagious cleanness--He touched a leper, and instead of contracting leprousy, the leper was healed and "made clean." But sin brings forth an inevitable death, sometimes more quickly than others.

Why would a person even ask the question, "Should moms be allowed to share or sell their breastmilk?" Because there is an underlying assumption of sin.

I remember when I was pregnant with E., and how I felt like the OBGYN condemned me because I chose to forgo the AIDS test. She didn't seem to believe that I didn't need it. I've never had a blood transfusion, never partaken of illegal drugs, my husband and I were pure when we married, and I was {and am!} the faithful wife of a faithful husband. Following Christ not only brings joy, but a certain amount of protection. But the wary eye of the OB told me that some people don't really believe that people like me exist.

Another example is the treatment of an infant's eyes at birth:
"Eye drops are routinely administered to newborns, and again they are not without controversy. Traditionally Silver Nitrate was put in the newborn's eyes after the birth to kill bacteria that may have been picked in the birth canal {like gonorrhea, chlamydia, etc.}. There were many cases of eye irritation stemming from this and so now erythromycin antibiotic ointment is used" {source, emphasis mine}.
This is a required procedure in the state of California unless the baby is delivered at home. Let me reiterate: Every baby born in a hospital in California is assumed to be born to a woman with an STD and treated accordingly with antibiotic eye drops.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
--I John 4:18

There is a complete lack of trust within the community that is revealed in the quote above from hfish74: "No matter how close you are to someone, you cannot be sure that they are free from disease. Your close friends and family DO have things that they don't tell you."

All of the above serves to make this foundational point: When the sins of the flesh abound in a society, the citizens find it desirable to create more and more laws. If I am going to make the point that bureaucracy actually makes war on community, that bureaucracy can tear a community apart, I think I first need to acknowledge that not all communities are created equal. And the citizens of some communities honestly believe that bureaucracy is the only thing that can protect them from each other.

Christ brought a Truth that results in freedom. A sinful people required the Law to be spelled out to the minutest detail. A redeemed and regenerate people require the light burden of loving God and loving neighbor.

22 April 2006

Bureaucracy Makes War on Community {Intro}

I try to stay away from the online battles that take place on blogs and bulletin boards. There are many reasons for this, but suffice it to say that if I make a comment, I try to stick to the less controversial subjects or simply leave a compliment unless it's concerning a subject I've spent a lot of time thinking about.

This changed yesterday momentarily, but then I quickly realized the fruitlessness of my involvement in such a debate, and I have now resolved to continue with my former methodology, which is to stick to my own corner of the internet and be content. {This, by the way, is also how I view life, which is why I fill my gas tank once a month. But I digress...}

I want to go over yesterday's debate here, in my corner, where I feel very safe and have had some time to think and grow in wisdom. First, I will explain exactly what happened and give a little history.

I am on an email list for BabyCenter. I've gotten to where I don't "need" said emails as much as I did early on, but suffice it to say that the site offers helpful emails and newsletters that are customized by a child's age. I receive one for each child. These newsletters always contain what they call a Burning Question, which is essentially a link to their online debate boards. They try to have a new topic each week.

This week's topic was: Should moms be allowed to share or sell their breastmilk*?

I was interested in this topic for one reason: I have suffered lactation failure twice in a row. This means that I do not make enough milk to feed my babies, and doctors and lactation consultants alike have not been able to help me. I once pumped all day, and it didn't add up to even half an ounce.

Human milk provides the perfect mix of nutrients, hormones and proteins and it cannot be duplicated.
--La Leche League
after having E., I supplemented him with formula (after the 9-day stint in the NICU due to dehydration, of course, where he was fed mostly through IV) because we didn't think it wise to spend around three dollars per ounce aquiring breastmilk from a milk bank, and I didn't have any trusted friends who were breastfeeding at the time.

When I had A., the situation was a bit different. She was on formula supplementation in the beginning, but when she was about eight-months-old a couple of my friends had babies, and they graciously pumped for me when they could and so I was able to also give A. real human milk.

I almost wept when my first friend offered. I loved nursing and had been so disappointed that it wasn't A.'s sole source of nutrition {I had hoped the second time would be different}, and it meant so much to me that a friend would be generous in this way. But, you see, this was really basic Christianity at work. She was rich in milk, and I was very, very poor.

Needless to say, I found it interesting to discover that this week's Burning Question was not only covering a topic that was dear to my heart, but that there was a hint that a group of people would wish to make such forms of generosity illegal. So I want to analyze the subject a bit over the next few days {excluding Sunday, of course}.

*Male readers may want to avoid this blog for a few days as it will be peppered with words such as "breastmilk," "breastfeed," etc.!

20 April 2006

An Adventure for the Tastebuds

With the arrival of warm weather over the last couple of days came an overwhelming desire to mix up the menu a bit. After five winters of practicing and perfecting, I feel like I finally have an official "winter" menu, complete with the right number of soups and other dishes that warm body and soul.

That sense of satisfaction only serves as greater motivation to do the same with summer, especially since our summer weather is so much harsher than our winter weather. I remember early in our marriage when I discovered a recipe for stuffing a steak tomato with a creamy salmon salad. It was so refreshing after such a hot day! I want my summer menu to serve up such refreshment daily, if possible.

So I started the week off with the Better Homes and Gardens Tarragon Tuna Meltsprize-tested recipe for Tarragon Tuna Melts. Filled with fresh spices and touched by a bit of real lemon, I knew that this recipe could go either way with the husband. Either he was going to love it, or hate it. With such a distinct taste, I knew there was no middle ground. Thankfully, the meal got four stars for the evening {to borrow the scale from Vegan Lunchbox}.

Anyhow, I am now much encouraged, and there are two more new main-dish recipes on the horizon for the week. Neither of them are distincly summer foods, but it will still be fun to see if we pick up some new favorites.

Party Meatballs w/Chili SauceThe first is Party Meatballs coupled with Sweet-and-Sour Chili Sauce {it's in the link to the Party Meatballs}, both also from Better Homes and Gardens. I didn't used to be a BHG fan, but I must say their recipe ideas have been fabulous the last few months.

Carne Asada TacosLastly, I am planning my first attempt at Carne Asada Tacos. This one kind of "came to me" when I found the meat on a reall good sale. I found the recipe for this one at AllRecipes, which is a great resource for spicing up old concepts {1000 ways to bake chicken!!} or finding something new altogether.

18 April 2006

Movies and Bioethics

One of my all-time favorite movies is Gattaca. GattacaI first watched this movie in late college, and loved its thought-provoking nature. Filmed during the era of the Human Genome Project, the writers of Gattaca created a world where genetic engineering is commonplace, and the children of those parents who choose to reproduce the old-fashioned way are considered inferior and unfit for most of society. Gattaca raises a lot of questions, but also reinforces the idea that human creativity, ingenuity, perseverence, and determination are key if one is to defy a society's arrogant prejudice. For a short review and bit of discussion concerning Gattaca, go here.

Now that we have a Netflix subscription {yes, to our dismay our local drug store finally discontinued their $0.99 movie rental department}, we have been able to watch a couple more movies that ask some good questions...and also fall into our favorite movie genre, action/adventure.

Stealth is a good example, though an inferior movie when compared with the likes of Gattaca. With a wealth of action scenes, poor character development, and gratuitous insinuations, StealthI still appreciated Stealth's main question: Should we create a new technology just because we can? And I thought this other observation {made by one of the characters} to be fascnating: We should not use technology to divorce war from its consequences. This would make war too much like a video game....etc. I found myself floating back to the Civil War, and how ridiculous it has always seemed to me that these men stood in a line right in front of each other and just shot bullet after bullet. But Stealth offers the other extreme--an unmanned and artificially intelligent plane that offers war without the deaths of our own pilots. The movie rightly implies that the old war techniques are more likely to make a society {or its leader} think twice before going to war because there are lives that can and must be sacrificed. An impersonal war is not adequately feared.

My final movie plug for today is The Island. This movie came out in 2005 and didn't get nearly The Islandenough publicity considering the $122 million that was spent producing it. But it is a work of genius along the same lines as Gattaca. The Island deals with human cloning and I feel I can't say much more without ruining the plot for a reader who hasn't yet seen it. My suggestion would be to watch this movie intelligently. A start would be to view the movie and then go here and flip to page seven to read one man's thoughts on the subject, or here to read the best article I've read on the movie thus far.

17 April 2006

Load Upon Load Upon Load

Busyness is a plague. This might sound harsh, but I truly believe it. I am often reminded of the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes: "Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun." Each generation seems to become busier and busier, and to what end? We have more divorces, less intimate relationships, less spare time, worse health, less energy...

Shortly before our wedding day, Si and I read Deuteronomy 24:5 which states, "When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken." We took to heart that God had found it especially important to protect the first year of a marriage from a husband's absence. We chose to commit to very few activities, and almost all of those were activities we could share together. We did not allow the stuff of life to physically separate us from each other. And we were able to nurture the new relationship that God had blessed us with. We learned to rejoice in a small, calm life.

I am a young mom, so I like sit back and watch the families in my church. They are my case studies, and I share my observations with Si and we try to learn from it all. Let me tell you something I have observed.

Behind us at Sunday evening service sits a family with eight children {the oldest is 11 and the youngest a brand new baby}. These are some of the sweetest, most well-behaved children I have ever met. The parents are very peaceful, and so is their home. They do not rush from activity to activity, and they are often available to welcome young families {like ours} for a mid-week meal. These children literally glow when they tell a person how much they enjoy sharing a room with their siblings or the adventure they had while playing in the front yard that day. Their home is full of people, and full of industriousness, but I would never call it "busy."

Some of the other moms in the church look at this large family with a bit of shrouded disdain. I have overheard their comments. They think that the mother must be completely overwhelmed {if they do not know her}, and predict that this family's life must be very hectic because they have so many children.

The interesting thing is what I've observed about these families that criticize the large family. They have fewer children, but those children have attitude and discipline problems--they are rude and unfriendly and almost completely unable to interact with anyone outside their own age group. Many were shuffled off to daycare at 6-weeks of age, and no one has ever looked back. The mother works. The father works. The kids go to school and to after-school care and to dance, baseball, football, soccer, piano lessons, guitar lessons, volleyball, not to mention time with friends, etc., etc., etc.. These families never see each other, do not know each other, and it shows. They call our church asking for counselling, but they do not have enough spare time to go to the appointment.

I've written before about the impact of birth control on our society's thinking about children. The modern families look at the large family and assume the children make life busy and burdensome because they don't realize that it isn't people that make life busy. It's stuff. And stuff, in fact, means we don't have time for people. And the parents who have a lot of stuff in their lives will feel out of control and overwhelmed whether they have one child or ten.

I didn't want to make this posting all about child training, but I find myself drawn to the subject because this is where busyness shows its most obvious effects. I firmly believe that these crazy-busy parents could be great {even strict and disciplined!} parents when they are with their children, but still have little-to-no impact to show for it because they are not with their children the majority of the time. One cannot decide to spend Saturdays training one's child and think this will be helpful. Ask an Olympian. Training is one of the primary images the Bible uses in regards to rearing children, and training is a lifestyle; it is all day, every day until the goal is reached.

Busyness has other consequences, too. The busy people I know tend to be complainers because they feel {and are!} burdened. Busy people tend to work themselves to the point of health troubles. Busy families eat at McDonald's rather than home. Busy families hire a gardener, housekeeper, pool guy, dog poop removal service, and soon no one has learned to invest in or take responsibility for the home life on any level.

Home is not a place where people should be "just passing through." Home should not be a dark empty house with a porch light on. Home should not be lifeless. And yet this is exactly the sort of "home" that busyness encourages.

I know there will be times in life when I am busier than others.
Busyness is not about getting the right things done. It's about doing things. Lots of things. Probably too many things. Busyness makes profligate use of your two least replenishable resources--time and energy--and provides a return that, in the investment world, would be grounds for firing your broker. Yet in the absence of a sound investment strategy, busyness happens by default.
--Fortune Magazine
But I am learning that I must always remember that busyness is a choice. And those choices need to be filtered through God's Word. I need to always identify the load God requires me to carry. Then, I need to make sure that I can still fulfill those responsibilities if I add something that is optional to that load. In the business world this would be called strategizing.

Here is a practical example: I recently met a young wife who has an internship all day, works some nights, and on the nights she doesn't work she has class. This young couple is almost literally never together. Since God commands her to love her husband in Titus 2, and says in Malachi 2:16 that He hates divorce, and says in Genesis 2:18 that she was created to help her husband, these optional loads that she has agreed to carry should be dispensed with, so that she has time to live a life that obeys God's calling.

Spending the bulk of one's time living out the specific commands God has for us will bring about a harvest of peace and love within the family {no matter how big or how small}. If extra "stuff" is introduced, and it reaches that level of critical mass where it detracts from the ability to continue whole-heartedly living in obedience, one will begin to reap the negative consequences in their relationships or health, etc. God's Word can gives one a "sound investment strategy" for one's time and energy resources.

I do not mean to say that the optional "stuff" is sinful or unacceptable. It's not wrong for me to take my son down and hire someone to teach him to swim. And I would never put myself in the position of being the one to judge whether someone else is doing too much. Some people can juggle more balls than others. However, I need to guard against crossing the line where the "stuff" takes over my life. Swimming lessons are great. But swimming, gymnastics, and piano all in one day does not give me sufficient time to ensure that I am the primary influence over my child {a.k.a., fulfilling my God-given responsibility}. A hobby is great. But those men who are working all week and then leave their wives all day every Saturday to golf or hunt or whatnot need to be asking themselves if they are truly able to love their wife "as Christ loved the Church" with that sort of schedule.

Jesus said that His load is easy and His burden is light. When I'm feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, I know that it is just that: the weight of the world. It's time to remember my freedom and return to the basics.

14 April 2006

Motivated by Love

Scripture tells us that there was a day when a lawyer approached Jesus and asked Him which commandment in the Law was the greatest. Jesus answered, "`You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

I do not wish my writings earlier this week to be misconstrued as supporting the
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing
idea of duty for duty's sake. Though I believe that a society will benefit from its citizens doing their duty whether they feel like it or not, the Bible does not teach an empty duty as the work of the Christian. Jesus said that the entire Law and Prophets depend upon a love for God and one's neighbor, and we know that He fulfilled the Law in His own life, animated by love.

Yesterday in the comments, Kim got me thinking when she wrote:
I would love to be able to do everything myself, but it is the times when I can't that I feel real community with believers. In our culture we are supposed to be self-sufficient and independent, the opposite of what God wants. D. and I were talking about loads turning into burdens turning into opportunities for the Christian community to serve.

I love the way you related accepting help with accepting love. This is true in marriage as well as in the body of Christ. We look at Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 as a motto for our marriage and this idea that is foreign in our culture.

Even before the fall, God instituted marriage as a form of community. God looked at the man, the perfect man, and said it wasn't good for him to be alone. And He created for that man a perfect woman to help him. In a perfect society, in a perfect environment, if my husband were perfect and I were perfect, there would still be a place for helping. How much moreso now that this is a fallen world!

I think that, for me, getting to the place where I can better welcome someone else's assistance when I need it, whether it be my husband's help or a friend's help, is getting past the idea that their help is some sort of commentary on my own inadequacy.

When my husband offered to dust a table, I used to hear, "Brandy, you didn't dust the table when I wanted you to," instead of, "Brandy, I love and appreciate your hard work, and I have time and energy to dust the table, so let me love you by doing it for you this time."

I can perform my duties {carry my load, so-to-speak} from a heart that loves God and the work He has graciously set before me, and loves those who benefit from my work {husband, children, community, etc.}. And I can offer help {ease another's burden} from a heart of love because that love from God overflows. And if I can do that, then I must also accept the help of another, knowing that they, too, have a calling on their life to be filled to overflowing with God's love, and to express that love to others. I should not thwart the work of the Holy Spirit in my own heart, nor in the heart of my fellow Christian.

13 April 2006

Accepting Help

This post is the one I want to avoid. Talk of duty, carrying my own load, personal responsiblity--that is all attractive to me. I value hard work. I feel blessed that God gifts us with work, with a calling to enjoy and use for His glory. The question is what to do when something goes wrong.

I am bad about accepting help. My husband tells me I am even worse about asking for it. I might love to help others, but I don't usually relish the idea of letting others help me, unless I'm really desperate.

Early in my marriage, I would get offended if Si tried to help me with the housework. Even though I had a 30-hour-per-week job outside the home, I wanted to be the one making the home. I wanted it to be perfect, and I wanted to make it that way myself.

More recent events {like modified bed rest during my pregnancy with A.} required that I let go of certain household chores {vaccuuming especially} whether I liked it or not. And what I learned about myself during that time was that early on I hadn't been keeping the house for Si. If that were so, then I would have welcomed his partnership whenever he wished to offer it. I was doing it for me. I'm not exactly sure why, whether I was trying to prove that I could do it, or win some sort of imaginary wife competition. But it wasn't the heart of service that refused his offers of help. It was the heart of pride.

I recently wrote about the passing of my old friend, Katy. The Final Entry on her blog says this about her:
She loved with purity. Through and through Katy was about LOVE.
And because she knew so well how to love, she was so able to receive love from others.
She loved everyone around her with such a nurturing love that made it so natural for her to give to them, to serve them. You could with conviction say that Katy was never loving to be obedient or loving to be noticed, she just loved. And because she knew so well how to love, she was so able to receive love from others.

I learned a lot from reading that last part. It is written that marriage is a
Never shall you wash my feet!
picture of Christ and His Church, and yet a fly on the wall early in mine would have imagined a Church that refused much of Christ's love. What I mean is that, in desiring to serve my husband without allowing my husband to also serve me, I inadvertantly held him at arm's length. Do I say to Christ, No, sir! Please do not love me in that way but only in this way that I have chosen? Neither should I say it to my husband.

I am struck by that picture in my mind of Katy loving and loving and welcoming all
If I do not wash you, you have no part with me
the love the others had for her as well. I'm not sure why I resist loving and being loved with such wild abandon. Perhaps it is pride. But I know this: trying to carry a burden on my own, and chasing another away when they try and help, breaks my relationship with that person.

There is much that is noble about personal responsibilty. But there is nothing noble about refusing to accept another's love.

12 April 2006

Planning to Carry My Load

When I was engaged, an older and wiser wife advised me to learn to plan a menu for grocery shopping. I really don't remember the context of this conversation, but I remember it being the first time someone had told me to do such a thing. Later, I read the suggestion again in a book on homemaking. And then a friend told me that she made menus for an entire month at a time to help with her once-a-month trip to Costco. And so on and so forth.

When we first married, there were only two of us, so I pretty much winged it. We both worked, and ate a lot of frozen foods and boxed meals and the like. We were just out of college {actually, I was still in grad school}, and we ate like college students. I planned one meal {from scratch} on my once-a-week day-off of work. It was good practice for me on many levels, and I slowly gained confidence in my cooking skills.

Then, about four months into marriage, I realized I was pregnant. Two weeks later, I was bleary-eyed and exhausted {oh, and vomiting, but that didn't seem especially pertinent to the conversation}. I've been that way ever since. Just kidding! Seriously, though, children--especially young ones--add an interesting dynamic to family life. They are often hungry. They are often sleepy. They have lots of needs and little-to-no ability to meet those needs themselves. And this can wear a woman thin.

Unless, of course, she plans.

My primary "load" in life as a young wife is carefully mapped out for me in Titus chapter two, and informed by Proverbs 31 {which is, of course, the ideal}. What this means is that I am to love and help my husband, care for my children, and make the home {cook, clean, wash, create a peaceful environment} as part of my daily life. On some days, this is pretty simple. On others, it is more challenging.

I've shared before about my Average Day chart, and that it really works for me. The Average Day chart is a visual representation of an entire week spent at home, with the exception of grocery shopping, E. going to Awana, and church on Sunday. But one extra trip or errand can make me feel crunched for time. And one sick child can make the goal seem unattainable.

But my load is still my load, regardless of someone needing to go to the doctor or being sick. If I don't clean, the house will be dirty. If I don't do laundry, we will run out of clean undergarments! This is because it is my job. My husband doesn't come home from work with his job undone and expect me to do it. And I try not to let him come home to my job undone and expect him to pick up my slack either--even though he is usually more than willing to do so. {I think sociologists call this Division of Labor.}

I spent some time early on trying to answer the question, "How does it all get done when things go awry?" And then I took the advice that all the wise women were repeating to me over and over and followed it. I made a chart. I make a weekly menu. I put the kids on a {flexible} schedule. And in the process, I learned the value of planning.

Once a week, I sit down and make a menu, and I plan in light of that week's events. This means that big meals that will create leftovers are planned for the day when they will reap the most benefit {usually the day before a day that I know will be hectic, so that I only have to heat food up on the hectic day}. Recently, a sketchy plan for lunch has been added to the menu to ensure that Si doesn't go hungry while at work. Someday, when the kids are old enough that a banana just won't cut it, I am sure I will add in breakfast as well.

A sober wife makes herself the match of every circumstance
--Debi Pearl 
in Created to be His Help Meet
This winter, one or both of my kids were sick almost constantly for 4 months. Two years ago, this would have created a huge amount of chaos in our family. And it did create some. But we never went hungry. The habits of planning that I had been taught helped me carry my load in this harder time. I didn't have to think about meals. I just checked the menu and followed my own instructions. I didn't have to think about cleaning. I let some of it slide and took care of the worst offenders during the kids' regularly-scheduled nap.

I remember that old saying, "No one plans to fail; they just fail to plan," and I think I'm finally beginning to understand what it means. It's the same wisdom that belongs to the ant in Proverbs. Planning ahead. Working hard. Taking the job seriously {even though it doesn't pay a dime}. And when the winter comes, there is no cause for stress or discontent, because everyone has planned to carry their load.

Help in planning a more peaceful domestic life can be found at Large Family Logistics, the FlyLady Website, and, my favorite resource, wise older women everywhere.

11 April 2006

Carry a Load in Times of Crisis

I read an article entitled A Whole Boy a few days ago, and I couldn't help thinking of it in terms of the concepts of "burden" and "load." The article is written by Debi Pearl {who wrote Created to be His Help Meet}. In it, she details a mother coming to her for counsel. This woman's son, I think, would qualify as a burden. Maybe not the heaviest sort of burden, where one would require constant assistance, but definitely the type of burden that requires a bit of help in carrying. The official diagnosis for her son's difficulties is ADD, and the doctor has "helped" by prescribing a drug.

The mother goes through a laundry list of problems, which includes her own troubled marriage, anger in their home, the son's unhealthy diet, trouble sitting still, taking of antibiotics, lack of early child training, and exposure to television {just to name a few}. Mrs. Pearl says of this mother, "She wants me to tell her some singular thing to do that will make it all right." The mother wants a load-sized solution.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light
I can imagine myself {lacking much maturity when compared with a seasoned woman like Mrs. Pearl} handing this mother a burden. I would have overloaded her with information. I would have tried to give her a long list of solutions to match the long list of problems. Mrs. Pearl recognizes the mother's desire for instant gratification: "I wish with all my soul I could give her the quick fix she so urgently desires, but there’s not one answer."

Mrs. Pearl assesses the situation:
Clean. He needs to be made clean. He needs a clean body, free of poisons, sugars, and dyes. He needs a clean home, free of anger, Hollywood, and deceit. He needs a clean day, free to roam the countryside until his body is relaxed and tired. He needs a soul cleansing that can only be found in Jesus and His shed blood. He needs a clean daddy whose heart wants only to bring healing for his son. He needs a clean mother, whose heart is turned to honoring and reverencing her husband. He needs a clean world, both physically and spiritually. This little boy has big problems. He is bearing the penalty of a generation of neglect.

But then she gives an answer that surprises me. She directs the mother to carry her load. She doesn't tell her she can solve it all. She simply tells the mother the parts that are within her power to fix, and directs her to do that. The mother is given the opportunity to "bring to her son at least one area of peace and security."

It kind of reminds me of the Cloud and Townsend concept of boundaries--knowing where you end and someone else begins, and only acting within your own jurisdiction, knowing that others are responsible for their own.

...in everything
I kept myself from being a burden to you... --Paul
Maybe one of the things I am learning today is that I can't lift a burden on my own. It is, by definition, something that cannot be carried by an individual. But I can carry my load. Sometimes that will be enough. Sometimes that will actually end up being the part I play in helping lift the bigger, family burden, or the bigger, corporate burden. But either way, I am to lift my load, knowing that I honor God in the calling He has on my life, and I burden others when I neglect that calling. I find hope in the idea that I, too, can be that oasis of peace and security for my husband, for my children, for my friends, and beyond.

10 April 2006

Burdens and Loads

In our Sunday School class, we have been moving through Galatians. Yesterday morning, we had a discussion concerning the concept of burdens and loads. Our teacher informed us that the difference is seen more readily in the Greek, where we learn that a burden is something that would overwhelm one person, but a load is something an individual can--and should--handle on one's own.

The ensuing conversation headed in a direction that surprised even our instructor. I will summarize by saying that we discussed the idea that a load can become a burden when left undone for an extended period of time. A complimentary idea is that a load is singular, and an attempt to carry load upon load upon load can result in a life that qualifies as a burden.

I have wittnessed examples of this firsthand, though never thought through it in the Greek terminology of "load" and "burden." An example given in class was that it is a man's load to take responsibility for protecting his eyes from sights that will incite lust, but when that load is neglected, especially for extended periods of time, it can result in the burden of a pornographic habit.

I have seen a woman refuse to clean her house day after day, week after week, month after month, until the daily load of keeping things tidy and clean became a burden requiring a small army of people to work long, hard hours in a polluted and infectious environment.
Failures in duties greatly reproach Christianity.

--Matthew Henry

And I have seen {and been!} the "yes-woman," who loves to serve, but says "yes" to so many little loads that carrying one's own primary service load of homemaking and hospitality becomes an overwhelming burden. Even the secular culture is beginning to combat the spreading-oneself-thin that has become an epidemic. An entire magazine is dedicated to Real Simple living.

I find myself wanting to explore this idea that neglect and irresponsibility create burden...so I think I find myself with a theme for the week...

07 April 2006

In Memory

It isn't every day that you find out an old friend has died. But that was how my day went yesterday. We received our latest Biola Connections yesterday, and I unwittingly flipped to the News & Notes section, hoping to learn of an old friend's marriage, or an old friend's welcoming of a new baby, but not an old friend's death.

And so I did what any normal person would have done. I thought, No...not the Katy I once knew, and ran for a yearbook, just to make sure. But it was her. And she is gone now.

KatyIn the fall of 1997, I volunteered to lead a weekly Bible study for a small group of incoming freshmen girls. It ended up being just three of us: me meeting with Katy and her roommate Heather. It was a good semester, and I felt I learned at least as much from them, if not more, than they did from me. All I wanted to do was help them adjust to Biola, but I learned they didn't much need my assistance to do that.

We touched base now and then as the years went by, but we lived in different dorms, ate at different times, and took different classes. I didn't make the effort to keep in touch after graduation. I haven't seen Katy in years. She died January 2nd, and I didn't even know. But there is a sad place in my heart today.

When I read her name in the Connections, I instantly remembered her face, her brilliant smile, and her contagious giggle. I remember how she worried about her friends, and desperately wanted to see them follow the Lord. And I remember her telling me that she didn't know what her major was supposed to be, but that she knew she was supposed to give her life to the poor.

And that is what she did.

On November 14, 2004, Katy wrote this in her journal:

When I look back on my life I want to be able to say that I lived it fully – not being inhibited by fears, insecurities, or apathy. I want to have learned to fully trust, love, and obey. To have learned to rely on a strength that
I want to be able to say that I made hard choices, took the great risk, and chose the extraordinary over the comfortable.
is not my own, and trust a direction that I have not contrived. I want my life to have meant something. As I grow older it is my desire that my life become more simple, more honest, and less my own. I want to be able to say that I made hard choices, took the great risk, and chose the extraordinary over the comfortable. I want to have lived a life of passion – I hope I am still called a spit fire even when I am 80 and should be “slowing down” as culture suggests. I hope that I am always going to and living in scary places and being in community with people who know no other way to be than be themselves. I want to live a life of no regrets. I hope that I am more true to myself and given passion with each passing day.
To read more about Katy, go here.

05 April 2006

Other People's Money

One of the benefits of Si's new job at the hospital is the health insurance. We don't pay a dime for it! We have a true appreciation for this after three years of self-employment {where the biggest obstacles are health insurance and Social Security taxes}.

Our old plan cost hundreds of dollars every month, plus $45 copays to see a doctor, plus a percentage of tests and scans, etc. It cost almost $4000 to have our last baby when I include all the prenatal visits, ultrasounds, blood tests, other tests, and then a Cesarean delivery.

Our new plan costs us nothing beyond Si's labor {for which they also pay him, of course}. The copays are $15, and if I were to deliver our next baby at his hospital, I would pay nothing to the hospital--no operating room, no delivery room, no board, nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.

Our new plan also gives us vision coverage...and dental for an insignificant monthly fee.

Here is where it gets interesting. I haven't been to the dentist in years. We didn't have dental insurance. Nothing hurt. So I didn't go. But now I'm thinking about going.

I haven't been to the eye doctor in years. But I do need new contacts. And I've done what anyone in my shoes would do: I waited to see if Si got the job. He did, and that optometrist appointment will be set for after I receive my new proof-of-insurance.

Before, when I went to the doctor, I was spending a considerable amount of my money. In the future, I will spend considerably less of mine...and more of someone else's.
...no free government, nor the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue...--Virgina Constitution {Art. 1,
Sec. 15}

I am reminded of early in my marriage when I was still working at Biola. I had caught something, and I was pretty miserable. But I didn't feel like staying home, so I went to work. One of the girls in the office encouraged me to go to the doctor. I told her it cost $35 for the visit, and I just didn't feel $35 sick. Her reply was that she and her children were always able to go to the doctor whenever they wanted to because they had Kaiser coverage and their copays were only $5.

I probably felt $5 sick. And therein lies the point of this endless rambling. A medical appointment tends to cost a certain amount. What differs is who pays for it. When I last took A. to her pediatrician, the people checking in in front of me paid a range of $10-$20. I paid $45. Did I get better service? Did I get more service? Did the doctor make more money? The answer is "no."

The appointment "costs" a certain amount. Depending on the insurance coverage and company, sometimes the patient pays more, sometimes the insurance pays more, and sometimes the doctor eats the difference out of his own profits.

Some people don't mind seeing the doctor take a cut in pay. After all, he is "rich," right? Well, maybe a bit...if he has his student loans paid off. And take my OB, for instance. That cut in pay could mean the difference between an outdated ultrasound and a top-of-the-line ultrasound. A high-risk pregnancy can give a person a new appreciation for a top-of-the-line ultrasound.

But I digress...

My real point is this: I am already seeing within my own family the tendency to spend more than we would have because it is on someone else's dime. Everyone does it, right?

This is especially common in the realm of optometry. Some eye insurance plans offer a new pair of glasses every year, and so people go right out and get them. But their old ones work fine and their prescription hasn't changed. They simply do it because they can.

Man has a tendency to be much more careful with his own money than with someone else's. I think of the government that frivolously spends money the taxpayers worked hard for. I think of the college boys in the apartment with "free electricity," keeping their apartment frigid in the summers, even when they aren't at home. I think of the at-home wife who blows her husband's paycheck on clothes and shoes. And then there is my family, dreaming of our dental work and eyecare {some of which is necessary, but some of which is not}.

It's not wrong to spend money, but I have a deep desire to err on the side of frugality and moderation. A frugal heart would care equally for all resources {remember, waste is a sign of disrespect}, and would respect another person's money as much as her own.

04 April 2006

Blessings from the Past

When I was 12-years-old, I started a small business tutoring elementary-aged children in reading during the summers. I invested most of my profits back into the business, buying up illustrated children's books at our local Christian Bookstore. More than half of my clients were not being raised in Christian homes, and I felt it was a unique opportunity to teach them Bible stories using these colorful books.

It is ironic that I remember feeling a slight sense of regret at the end of the summer, when I had fewer earnings to show for all the hard work, and no more children to read those beautiful books to.

Fast-forward almost 17 years, and here I am, reading those books to my own little boy.

I wanted to include a picture of the books that are my favorites, but, alas, they are no longer in print. How wonderful that I bought them while they were available! I will give you the title of the series, though, in case you ever see them used: The Kidderminster Kingdom Tales.

When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does. --You've Got Mail
There are many illustrated children's books that tell the stories of the heroes in the Bible {Jonah, Esther, etc.}. But these books are different, based on Jesus' parables, and include the original text at the end, so that you can explain to the child how the story is like a story that Jesus told.

As a disclaimer I will say that the author's detailing of wealth is not to my liking in that he tends to leave the impression that wealthy people sit around drinking tea and eating treats all day. {Maybe they do--but I don't want my children thinking sloth is ever an acceptable vice.} Nevertheless, the stories are pretty true to Jesus' intent when telling them.

The main purpose I am reading them to E. this week is to help him better understand what Si is reading to our family during evening devotions. Now we can say, "This is a lot like the story of Nicholas and His Neighbors!"

Anyhow, it is interesting to me that now, years later, I am incredibly grateful that I did not run out and spend all my money on the latest trends in clothing and makeup. The investment I believed I was making in the students I had then turned out to be an investment in the students I have now.

03 April 2006

The Darndest Things {04/06}

Welcome to my online baby book for the month of April!

26 April 2006: Phonics and Reinforcing Good Behavior
E. has read all of his Bob Books that we have on hand, and we are waiting {with great anticipation!} for the next set to arrive in the mail. In the meantime, I have been using the sounds he knows to make up sentences on the white board for him to read. He loves that I use his name in almost every sentence. This morning, he beamed with pride as he read:

E. went to church.
E. sat still.
Dad thinks E. did a good job.

Would this qualify as brainwashing? If so, I think tomorrow I will have him read:

E. cleans the house.
E. washes the car.
Mom thinks E. is a good helper.


25 April 2006: Picking out Her Clothes
I forgot to record this last week when it happened. For a while now, little A. has been reaching into her closet when I open it and grabbing at the clothes. It has been my tradition that if she grabs something appropriate {not too dress, not to warm/cold} then I pretend she picked it out to wear. I usually say something like, "Oh, do you want to wear this?" Anyhow, last week, she reached in and grabbed a play dress and said, "Wear! Wear!" My, aren't girls different from boys!

22 April 2006: Milestone
I think I've written about this before, but it's still true. A. is so much more resistant to table foods than E. By his first birthday, E. was eating bananas and avacados for breakfast, beans for lunch, etc. A. ate bread. By 13-months, she at pasta and cereal. She has been resistant to everything else. Last night for dinner, I made a huge salad into which I had mixed an entire {drained} can of mandarin oranges. They were so tender they would fall apart when I touched them. I told Si that I thought she could eat them, so maybe we should try and force her and see what happens.

Oh, did she fight and cry with that first bite! But when she finally closed her mouth, she said, "Oh!" and then went on to eat an ENTIRE BOWL! This made her brave, so she tried pears when E. had his evening snack, and then had part of a banana for breakfast this morning!

Sometimes, they just need a little push...

22 April 2006: Fear of the Storm
There was lightning about last night when we put the children to bed. We knew this would be an issue for E., because he is That Age, the one where a child decides that Lightning Is Scary. But we tucked him in tight and left the room. I made sure to go and check on him about fifteen minutes later or so. He was huddled under the sheets, still wide awake.

E.:Mommy, I'm scared of the wightning...
Mom: I know. Just close your eyes and go to sleep.
E.: I think I need a prayer for this...

21 April 2006: The Big Scare
My insides are still shaking over today's Incident. We were at our local pharmacy picking up my thyroid medication. I have rejoiced over our new insurance many times, but there was a glitch, so I was on the phone with Si trying to work it out. E. had been pushing A. around in the cart--very gently and very carefully. I turned my back for a second. I turned back around in time to see the cart tumbling over on its side, on top of E., and A. in the basket, sliding out and bumping her head on the cold, hard floor.

Even now, I can hear myself shriek--that mommy-shriek that has only come out of my mouth a handful of times, and over which I have absolutely no control. And I remember my words were, "E.! What did you do???" He lay there, under the cart, unblinking, as I pulled A. out of the cart basket and checked her over. She was crying, but seemed only scared, and so I turned my attention to E. and pulled the cart off of him.

He lay very still on the floor, and that is when it dawned on me that he might be injured. I feel pricks of guilt that I had been unconcerned for him simply because it had been his fault, even though it only lasted a moment. The pharmacist came out and began to check E.'s neck when he suddenly blinked and got up.

I think he had trouble understanding what had happened. He's never had an accident of that magnitude before. When I was sure he was okay, I sent him to the waiting chairs to Sit and Do Nothing. He didn't say a word the entire time. I am sure he was worried about his Impending Doom, but he also looked very sorry for what had happened, and I still don't think he knows how it happened. It Just Did. That's how accidents are.

I couldn't help but fly back in that instant to my own past and remember the little girl who had lived next door to me as a child. She had flown out of a grocery cart when it hit a tiny pothole in the grocer's floor. She broke both of her legs and was in a body cast for what seemed like an eternity to me.

All I could think was that it could have been us. In that moment, one or both of the children could have been seriously injured. Our whole lives could have changed in a mere second. But they didn't. And I was reminded that it is God, and not my security measures, who protects us, holds us up, and keeps our family safe from all harm.
Psalm 21
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The LORD will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

20 April 2006: A Really Cute Trick
A. is definitely more of a ham than E., so naturally she learns more "cute tricks" than E. ever did at this age. {E. didn't want the attention.} Anyhow, a song we have been singing during family devotions has been "Clap Your Hands," because A. loves to clap so much. Tonight, she learned to say a baby version of "Hosanna!" and lift her hands high up over her head. It was so darling that we asked her to do it over and over again, and she, of course, complied and gave us that Miss America Smile.

20 April 2006: Three Takes on a Growing Interest in Mathematics
Take One...Yesterday...Cute
E.: Dad? What's nine plus twelve?
Dad: Twenty-one.
E.: {almost whispering} Wow...

Take Two...Yesterday...Weird
E.: Dad? What's nine plus twelve?
Dad: Twenty-one.
E.: {almost whispering} Wow... ...What's ten plus eleven?
Dad: Twenty-one.
E.: What's twenty plus one?
Dad: Twenty-one {turns to look at me quizzically...and we're both wondering why every question has the answer of twenty-one when the child hasn't been taught much math beyond the Rule of Adding One...}

Take Three...This morning...Really weird
E.: Mom? What's nineteen plus two?
Mom: Twenty-one....{Later, Mom discusses this strange theme with Dad and agrees E. could have a future in playing blackjack}

19 April 2006: Scripture Memorization
Dad: Tell Mommy your verse...
E.: "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive a car from him." {triumphant smile}

18 April 2006: Turning the Other Cheek
This morning while doing dishes, I heard E. yelling "Mom! Mom! She's hitting me!" I must admit I wasn't quick about running to his rescue. After all, he is so much bigger than her, my hands were wet and grimy, and he has a tendency to believe that someone is "hitting" even when they have only run into him on accident. To my surprise, when I did arrive on the scene, I witnessed A. battering her brother with repeated slaps! Time for the No Hitting 101 Class for A.! E., on the other hand, was given genuine but not overdone praise explaining how much his mommy appreciated him remembering the Turn the Other Cheek Ethic as well as the Do Not Hit Girls Rule.

17 April 2006: What is With These Children?
Dear Children,

We have the strangest rules in our house, and it is all because the two of you insist on creating such strange methods of Bringing About Chaos or Introducing Unnecessary Risks. There is a new Rule starting tonight, and I hope you will understand that this is being instituted out of great concern for your general health and welfare. The new Rule is as follows: No Sleeping With a Blanket Covering Your Head and Face. Since you do not share a room, I am not sure how the both of you ended up in this manner tonight. E., you especially were bound mummy-like and I had to unwrap your sweaty head. A., I was not sure which end was up when I checked on you!

Thank you, children, for your immediate conformity to the new Rule.

Your Mother

17 April 2006: That Miss America Smile
I have always found it fascinating to observe how different siblings can be from one another. E. does not like excessive praise. I have to be careful to praise him just ever so slightly--enough to bring out a smile, but not so much that it encourages him to run away, flustered and a bit angry. But little A. is an entirely different story. Today, when she bravely tried a new food, E. clapped for her and encouraged me to do it, too. The look on her face was as if she had just been given a prize! She smiled so big, and the more we clapped, the more she smiled, to the point that little tears glistened in her eyes. I shudder at the thought of A. competing in one of those horridly immodest swimsuit competitions, but she has definitely perfected that "winning smile!"

10 April 2006: Adding Words and a First Sentence
Little A. had a miniature verbal explosion this past weekend. She added the words "here," "what," "shoes," "birds," "look," and she said her first sentence, "Here's this!" {while handing me her doll}. This was followed by a second sentence today, "What's this?" {in regards to Daddy's security tag hanging from his collar}.

5 April 2006: Daughter With a Death Wish
A. has learned to climb onto the couch. But she has absolutely no forethought. She cannot see her coming demise. Mommy sees a long fall, the poiny corner of the nearby coffee table, the hard concrete under the carpet. A. only sees Fun. Reminds me of a verse:

`Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline...' {Revelation 3:19}

5 April 2006: A Delightful Whine
There aren't many whines that could be classified as "delightful," but this is one of them:
E.: Mom! I want to do more school! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease! Please can we do more school??"

3 April 2006: A Snack in His Pocket
E.: Mom, I'm hungry. I need another snack. {Proceeds to reach into his pocket and then bring his hand into his mouth.}
Mom: {Hears crunching sound and decides to investigate} E.? What is in your pocket?
E.: {Reaches back into his pocket and pulls out a goldfish cracker}

The ensuing conversation reveals he believes it is totally normal to carry a snack in your pocket.

Training in Churchgoing

I wrote once before about bringing our children to church with us, and how we have encountered people who appear to think it is silly of us. Yesterday evening, I was reminded of the more practical reason for why we do what we do.

How was I reminded? By the poor woman in front of me, trying to control her two sons, who looked to be about 12 and 14 or so. The older one got up {I'm thinking it was to use the restroom}. And then he did it again, and then again. Naturally, there could be a reason for this. I initially suspected he had the flu or something.

After he had left and returned three or four times, his younger brother decided this was not a half-bad idea, and he proceeded to get up and leave the sanctuary, and then return a bit later. The mom became more and more obviously frustrated by this, and eventually I heard her forcefully tell her oldest son to sit down when he attempted to leave again. He obeyed, but I saw him there, squirming in his seat. Paying attention was on the bottom of the priority list because it was a struggle just to sit.

I believe there are three battles to be fought when one is training a child in churchgoing. Obviously, there isn't much mention of the training part in Scripture {the children are just there, it doesn't tell us how their parents interacted with them}, so this is based on my own observation.

I think the first battlefront could be given the long title of Sitting Still and Staying in My Seat. These children can be identified by the toys or pencils they have been given to "entertain them" while they learn to Sit and Stay. This is the battle our daughter is currently fighting.

The next battle is Listening. A child may sit there, but not hear a word that is spoken. They stare at the ceiling, at another child three rows up, or at their sister who is learning to Sit and Stay and is consequently a cause for many giggles. This is the battle our son is fighting right now. He can become completely distracted by flipping the pages in his Bible.

The third battle is Understanding and Assimilation into the Soul. This is where the {much older} child learns to not merely hear the word, but to understand it and obey it in love on his own. The bridge between Listening and Understanding is the parent, who can ask the listening child what they heard and help train them to process the information, until they are able to do it without assistance.

Each child is different and will learn at a different pace. But, in pondering my observation of these boys I mentioned, it seems to me that an average 14-year-old should be well on their way to victory in the battle of Understanding, and here I saw a boy fighting the Sitting and Staying battle instead.

I write this not to criticize the mother--she was there alone, and she has probably fought {and lost} a lot of battles because she has to fight them alone--but rather to reinforce the idea that there is value in helping a child to fight the battles they are capable of fighting at the earliest time they are capable of fighting them.

Honestly, I don't want to argue with a teenager about sitting through church, merely because he doesn't know how to remain sitting. I look forward to having many years while our children are still at home to aid them in the Battle of Understanding and Assimilation. But if they are still fighting the Sit and Stay Battle at 14, we might be lucky to help them conquer Listening by graduation. I wrote about this before:

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.

My new opinion is that not training a child to sit through church is a disservice to the child. Battles should be fought one at a time, not heaped upon one's shoulders at the magical age of 18.