Sunday, August 14, 2016

Of Great Worth in His Sight

I go to church service first and then a "small group" Sunday School class of about 50 people. The small group consists of women and men who range in age from 40 to 70, with most well over 50.

Thus, most of the women have raised their families and they have time and money to buy beautiful shoes, pay for great hair cuts and flawless manicures, buy nice clothes, etc. They look stylish and put-together, to put it another way.

I, on the other hand, buy thrift store clothes, get my hair cut far too infrequently, and have chipped, thin nails from chronic housework. I feel like a poor servant in comparison, especially when I'm seated next to a women with flawless toenail polish. I try to pull my long skirt over my sandaled feet as far as I can, and wish I'd taken an extra ten minutes to redo my toenail polish.

Sometimes, on my less-than-stellar emotional days, it's enough to make me want to become a hermit and forgo small groups. They're messy after all, compared to sitting in a large church service and then going home. No investment and no risk. Right?

But I know better.

I know when my thoughts need to be held captive, and I'm quicker to lasso them than I ever was before. By the grace of God.

I know that my worth doesn't come from my outward appearance--I know it with my head and my heart. I know that the finely dressed only give the illusion that they're put together. They aren't better off spiritually. The Kingdom of God doesn't care about their $100 outfit. God is not impressed. We're all messy people with messy problems, and stylish clothes and perfect manicures don't change that.

This seems to be limited to women, these silly comparisons on dress and nails and hair. I know it's silly, and yet at first I recoil, feeling less-than for five or ten minutes.

Do you know of a family who drives away from church in a $40,000 new car, bound for a leisurely restaurant and looking forward to the cleaning lady coming on Monday? They don't have it better than you. Really.

Live involves pain for everyone, no matter what they do for a living, no matter what they wear or drive or look forward to doing next. The pain is well hidden for some, but rest assured, pain is universal. The need for compassion and understanding, rather than comparison, is universal.

If it's respect we want, we're wrong if we think it comes from a stylish outfit. Better to be that person who smiles, who welcomes, who listens non-judgmentally, who is not afraid of the messiness that comes with relationship. The second part of the greatest commandment speaks of relationship. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Our humility earns respect as well. Not only do we need to behave compassionately toward others, we also need to seek compassion by sharing our burdens without shame. A rich relationship involves give and take, and we hopefully can be people and will find people who are capable of mature relationship within our churches.

Some groups are more troubled than others. Some are hungry for compassion and spiritual guidance, without being capable of a give and take. We would do well to make sure we have a little of both in our life. People to minister to, and people to minister with.

We are all equal in Christ. Our worth comes from his love for us. We are precious in His sight. That is enough, my friend.  To be precious to Him means we don't need to hide anything. We can live joyful and free. Free from the confines of social class. Free from the pain of the past. Free from shame.

If we perhaps already have respect and it's beauty we desire, we need to know there's a beauty that far outshines any outward feature. No matter how plain our face or form, it all transforms to beauty if we're gentle with a quiet spirit, which carries great weight in the Lord's sight. This is a rare kind of beauty. A rare beauty we should all covet.

1 Peter 3:4
Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

Do you ever feel less-than? What triggers it and how do you counter your distorted thoughts? Do you recognize them as distorted? 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Life Lessons Relearned

A couple people have written to see if we're still alive. It's not that I've lost my writing/reflecting voice, just that every time I think I need or want to reflect and write something, there's never time.

I'll just jump in and write about a hodgepodge of things that have happened, hopefully some that will help others.

1.We had our end-of-year portfolio review last week and we're on day four of the new school year. I have two ninth graders now, and two fourth graders, though everyone is at their own pace with writing. I've learned the hard way that kids (and Mom) thrive when there's on-going routine, with days off here and there, or half-days off when necessary, rather than an extended break. The neurological problems such as the OCD and ADHD do far worse with lack of routine.

2. I had my second routine mammogram and they called me back again for a diagnostic mammogram (next month for what looks like calcifications), which can include more pictures and an ultrasound. I got the same form letter saying I have dense breast tissue, which basically makes it harder to see things clearly. Last time I was fearful of this "diagnostic" mammogram, but this time I've barely thought about it, except to accept the fact that they'll probably call me back every time, because my paperwork indicates my mom had breast cancer at age 65. The dense breast tissue will get less dense as I age. Now that I do daycare, every appointment is a hassle to arrange.

3. If you subscribe to Netflix DVD, please rent The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry. It's a fantastic Christian movie that will spur your children on in their faith and in their Bible reading. I found it heartwarming, inspiring, wholesome, featuring a culture reminiscent of the 1950's. We also rented God's Not Dead, which I loved. The Christian movie choices are pretty good through the Netflix DVD program.

4. I have learned to love the two children I babysit. The five year old will go to kindergarten in about five weeks and we will all miss her. Previously I mentioned that the mother is having a baby in December, and that I said yes to watching the baby and the three year old, but I recently reconsidered that due to the little boy's challenging behavior. He is a nice boy, but stubborn and prone to fits like most 3-year-olds. I told the mother I could handle either the baby or her preschooler full-time, or both of them half-time, but not both of them for 45 hours a week. She is thinking of staying home after the baby comes, anyway. She is the main breadwinner, so it will not be an easy decision for them.

The five year old has learned how to pray, and she enjoys our morning devotions. Because I am an ex-Catholic and she goes to a Catholic church, I regularly tell her that we do all things through His strength, not through our own. I missed that as a Catholic and my experience was that it is primarily a good works philosophy of religion and salvation. She asked me recently what a Christian is and among other simple things, I mentioned that it means we understand we cannot be good on our own. We need the Lord to shine in any way. He makes us who He wants us to be, as opposed to us trying and failing again and again. I felt defeated by my own nature when I was going to Catholic churches. Now, I understand that I need the Gospel everyday. Not one day any less than another. I embrace His nature in me, rather than hating my own. Does that make sense? God sent these particular kids for a reason. They are hard work, but I know it is good work I'm doing. Loving a child is always good work, meaningful work. Introducing children to Jesus is such a privilege. We may only plant a seed with some of them, but every effort is beautiful.

5. My girls will be doing Sonlight Core D this year, which is American History Part 1. They can do all the readings themselves now for all subjects, which has been a blessing and a pleasure to see. I loved this core when the boys did it, and I am looking forward to it with the girls, too. My husband will have to share the read-aloud load with me, though. Sonlight usually assigns as many read-alouds as they do student novels.

I believe I already wrote about our choices for the boys' first year of high school, but since then we did decide on horticulture as their first elective class. We're reaping the benefits right now of their countless hours of research and time spent planning and planting. The garden is the best we've ever had, even though we've been in a sort of drought here in northeast Ohio. They already have a good head start on their horticulture knowledge.

6. I had a varicose vein stripping surgery on one leg and will schedule the other leg for sometime this calendar year. It wasn't an easy recovery, but there is far less pain in the treated leg now, and he tied off a golf-ball sized blood clot that formed after one of my miscarriages (lower inner thigh..a benign area for a blood clot). The scars take about a year to flatten and heal, but I am so grateful!

Here's the main thing I wanted to share, which might help someone:

Sometimes we have to wait on things we've prayed for, and in the meantime we can be very uncomfortable. This is a given for the Christian, but when it happens to you, it ain't so easy. Right?

Our culture doesn't like to wait, but learning to do so builds character, perseverance, and faith, especially when the wait is very uncomfortable--such as physically or emotionally burdensome, on top of the everyday burdens. Everyday of the struggle, we're reminded that we're still waiting for an answer. Some days, we wonder where God is and whether he cares at all. As I write this I'm aware that America-style burdens are of course much different than most of the world experiences. Our burdens are pretty light compared to the third world's.

And indeed, the less you have, the less you have to be burdened about. We worry about car repairs and they worry not so much about possessions, but about daily bread. A downed vehicle is nothing compared to a hungry stomach gnawing at you, but it's still possible for one to lead to the other here in America.

As soon as I started doing daycare, one thing after another broke around here, at a pace fiercer than before. If were were thinking that my job would end all our financial problems, we were dead wrong. Teens eat a whole lot, after all. By November I'll have two that need more and more calories, and calories are expensive! 

The used washer we bought three months ago started leaking in the bottom front. First a trickle, than a whole bucket-full of water during each load! The used appliance place kept promising to come and fix it for a fee, but they never showed and the 30-day warranty was up. With no hope of another one right away, my husband built a pallet and we put it up on that, catching the water with some tupperware and changing it often. Even looking online at videos, we couldn't fix it ourselves.

This went on for four or five long weeks and even though sometimes I wanted to cry at the level of inconvenience and waste, I couldn't do anything but persevere. If I didn't get there soon enough and the tray overflowed, I had a huge mess each time with six kids underfoot.

Finally, my husband found another washer for $75 from a Habitat for Humanity Restore. It's high efficiency, which I've never used, but it's a Maytag washer, used, for $75 versus the $200 we paid for the other used one. It works but it's loud on the spin, even though it's advertised as a quiet model. I don't know how long it will last, but my discomfort in doing laundry is over for now. I'm so relieved and my experience proves once again that God's grace is sufficient.

Every time I think I'm going crazy, I somehow bounce back and find blessings to count.

That's His grace at work.

I'm sure it seems like this is all so minor, but to a mom with four kids and two daycare kids, laundry is never minor.

Our lives aren't supposed to be easy and comfortable, as Christians. How does anyone grow when things are comfortable? Our journey as Believers is not about moving up in the world, or even having a smoother path, but about moving closer to Him. That's necessarily a lifestyle that should look different than the way your typical American lives.

If you aren't different, why?

Embrace your own discomfort, whatever it is, because God has a plan. Keep praying and believing and listening to the Spirit as to what you should do next.

Sometimes, the answer is just......wait.

Your spirit will want to fight that. It seems so passive and wasteful, this waiting. But putting your trust in God is not passive. It's an active endeavor to rest in Him. It's work to rest in Him.

Around the same time the washer started leaking, the $2000 water softener we bought 11 years old quit working. Because two major car repairs hit us in the same period, along with a broken garbage disposal, we had to let the broken water softener just sit, even though it's likely that the extremely hard water will ruin the dishwasher, which is only a couple years old. It ruined our drinking glasses within a week.

For the first week after the water softener quit, I was incredibly frustrated and depressed, while still believing that God is always good, always faithful. At that point I was just done being long-suffering. I was done with hassle, after two and a half months of babysitting and working my rear off keeping the house up, with only a couple hours on Saturday for relaxation. It seemed there was nothing to look forward to but more broken appliances and more car repairs and more cleaning.

The stress brought worsening OCD and anxiety in the kids, so I knew I had to learn to stay joyful and hopeful.

Devotions became my salvation. Praying with my family brought the only relief from problems and disorders. Discomfort sends us running to the Lord and loving our time with Him. He purposely, I think, contrasts that time with all the other hours of the day.  With kids there are always interruptions, but it's still rich. As they get older, it gets even richer to pray together.

My overall predicament made me appreciate women of the past, who worked even longer hours without the modern conveniences we take for granted. They had so much to do they were primarily workhorses, and I don't say that disrespectfully, but with admiration. They weren't sissies. They weren't weak or impatient. They couldn't be. Their kids weren't sissies, or weak, or impatient, either. There was still the upper-class who used servants, but I'm talking about your every-day American mom from over a hundred years ago and longer.

I'm interested in the history of modern household inventions, but if you aren't skip this entire washing machine section below.

Some backgroundBefore indoor plumbing, the housewife also had to carry all the water used for washing, boiling, and rinsing the laundry; according to an 1886 calculation, women fetched water eight to ten times every day from a pump, well, or spring.[1] Water for the laundry would be hand carried, heated on a fire for washing, then poured into the tub. That made the warm soapy water precious; it would be reused, first to wash the least soiled clothing, then to wash progressively dirtier laundry.
Removal of soap and water from the clothing after washing was originally a separate process. First, soap would be rinsed out with clear water. After rinsing, the soaking wet clothing would be formed into a roll and twisted by hand to extract water. The entire process often occupied an entire day of hard work, plus drying and ironing.
Margaret Colvin invented the Triumph Rotary Washer, which was exhibited in the Women's Pavilion at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia.

1910 advertisement
Electric washing machines were advertised and discussed in newspapers as early as 1904. Alva J. Fisher has been incorrectly credited with the invention of the electric washer. The US Patent Office shows at least one patent issued before Fisher's US patent number 966677 (e.g. Woodrow's US patent number 921195). The "inventor" of the electric washing machine remains unknown.
US electric washing machine sales reached 913,000 units in 1928. However, high unemployment rates in the Depression years reduced sales; by 1932 the number of units shipped was down to about 600,000.
Washer design improved during the 1930s. The mechanism was now enclosed within a cabinet, and more attention was paid to electrical and mechanical safety. Spin dryers were introduced to replace the dangerous power mangle/wringers of the day.
By 1940, 60% of the 25,000,000 wired homes in the United States had an electric washing machine. Many of these machines featured a power wringer, although built-in spin dryers were not uncommon.
Bendix Corporation introduced the first domestic automatic washing machine in 1937,having applied for a patent in the same year. In appearance and mechanical detail, this first machine was not unlike the front loading automatic washers produced today. Although it included many of the today's basic features, the machine lacked any drum suspension and therefore had to be anchored to the floor to prevent "walking". Because of the components required, the machine was also very expensive. 

It appears that it was after the 1950's before in-home washing machines began to resemble something like we use today. Poorer Americans waited even longer, and of course many apartment dwellers are still using laundromats, at about $2.00 per wash load! Sometimes they simply don't have that money and go without clean clothes.

It's astounding how easy a woman's life is now, in comparison. What do we really have to complain about? We lose our babies to diseases and infections far less often, and we have medicines to treat our own diseases. We know less inconvenience and less heartache. 

Our biggest problem is our attitude, I would think, and that we've lost a sense of what God wants from us, as women.

I still have a broken garbage disposal; I'm used to not having one now. The water softener still sits in a closet, unused, but I no longer lament about the dishwasher rotting away from hard water. 

I've learned to wait. I've learned anew that we must squeeze what joy we can from each day, like it's a juicy lemon. We're not promised our next breath, much less our next 24 hours. I've learned that God promises daily manna, not weekly or monthly or yearly manna. 

Or rather, I should say I have relearned. Such lessons are on repeat from the Lord, aren't they?

A woman who rests in the Lord, who trusts in the Lord, lives a 24-hour day. She laughs at the days to come.
I'm so grateful for the Lord's wisdom and love. He knows what lessons we need and He's faithful to provide.

 So rejoice in your trials. Rejoice!

Our children are watching and learning from us. Let's pray that we can model strength, faithfulness, perseverance, and a heart full of gratitude and charity and joy.

When we fail for a day or for a season, he's there waiting to move us forward.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
What exciting adventures have come your way this summer?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Glimpse of the Empty Nest

Dear Internet,

Help. I'm a mother with a one-fourth empty nest and I feel it keenly.

My boys worked hard to apply for Christian Camp scholarships, keeping up with deadlines and gathering all the required recommendations. God honored it with a huge blessing--an experience none of my children have ever experienced before: A week at camp.

We dropped Peter off at high school camp two hours ago, and I'm a basket case. I feel like my heart has been ripped out. I just miss him terribly. I've never been away from him for more than a few hours since 2005, when I flew to Ohio for a two-day trip looking for a new home. He was three and a half then.

I am praying harder than I've ever prayed...that his OCD will not ruin his time...that he doesn't fall off the zipline and get hurt...that he won't get a sunburn...that he will be a blessing to a lonely boy in his cabin...that he will make a good friend...that all my years of discipling will make him a world changer in cabin #12.

I trust him and I'm so proud of him, and I know he is ready to be sent out, to make disciples of every nation.

This is what the empty nest will feel like at first. Like my heart is being ripped out. Oh, mothers. Soak up every moment and speak Christ with every pore. We can't go backwards...


A drippy-eyed mother

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Teaching Prudence to Girls

I'm catching up on news today and read three letters written in regard to the Stanford rape case--the victim's, the defendant's mother's, and the defendant's. In some ways, each letter appalled me. The victim's letter was outstanding. She knows how to show and not tell--something even successful authors sometimes fail to master--so that we the readers could feel as though we were right there with her, experiencing it as well. It was very powerful and I hope it's widely read, especially by men. Her suffering can't be fully comprehended by most of us, but we can come as close as possible through reading her words. She worked unselfishly in this case, enduring more pain through the trial to pursue justice, partially to give other women a voice and some validation. I salute her courage.

However, in trying to empower women and tell them they have worth, she failed in a most obvious way. What about..."You have worth. Take care of yourself in every way, including not consuming alcohol at coed parties. You are too valuable to feel you are entitled to drinking, just because it's a party and everyone is doing it, and you want to have fun."

The man who violated this woman is a criminal with no excuse. He should spend the six years in prison the prosecution tried to get. Not everyone is capable of such evil just because they are drunk. His actions were beyond horrible; he's morally bankrupt.

But in regard to all the women involved in these rapes I ask this: When are we as a society going to start advising women to avoid drinking at coed college or high school parties? Or with a man you can't absolutely trust? Isn't it obvious that this puts you at risk? Isn't it obvious that we live in a society where athletes are put on a pedestal, which appears to morally bankrupt them as they develop a sense of entitlement? Acknowledging this and warning girls is just smart, not sexist or victim-blaming. I don't blame the victim for the evil criminal mind of the predator. But how many girls' lives are going to be destroyed before we say publicly to girls--stay away from coed drinking parties? Why is this not okay to say, publicly? It's not politically correct and that is just tragic.

This, the victim's words: ...Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Sipping fireball is not your crime....Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.

She is right that there was a difference, but she doesn't go far enough to empower other girls to avoid her fate. "Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal." Does this fully communicate to college girls and women about how dangerous alcohol use is in coed environments? Sadly, it doesn't, as inspiring as it may read.

If we want to empower girls, why not tell them they are worth too much to take such risks? For example, I don't put my girls in short shorts or short skirts because pedophiles exist and they are turned on by skin, and as an adult, I am supposed to accept that reality and protect my girls accordingly, at church, at the store and in my own yard and home. I am their protector and I take it very seriously, as I do the importance of teaching them to protect themselves. I know the world and I have to make decisions on their behalf, so they can remain children.

We shouldn't live in fear of criminals, but we should teach our children that they exist in all parts of society. Love yourself enough to exercise great care. Learn to survive in the society you do live in, not the one you wish you lived in. Evil boys and men exist and you'll find them in every college and at every party, and beyond.

Do my girls have a right to wear whatever they want? Yes. Should they assert that right? No. Wisdom says no. Do girls have a right to go to coed parties and drink? Yes. Should they assert that right? No. Wisdom says no. Whatever happened to raising girls with wisdom?

Don't misunderstand me. However much a girl drinks, or however much skin or curve she shows, she is still not responsible for someone else's criminal actions. And even a conservatively-dressed girl or women can be victimized, surely. Dressing appropriately is like sunscreen. It's a precaution not a guarantee. Never going out alone at night is a precaution, not a guarantee. But I will still preach the wisdom of both, over and over again.

This young woman will undoubtedly be stronger for what she has had to endure, but this pain is not what God intended for her life. It was avoidable and could have been avoided if in our politically correct society, we were honest with girls. Some men are predators, period. Living wisely is a virtue. Can we call prudence a virtue? Can we go back to teaching prudence as a regular part of parenting both girls and boys?

A whole other post needs to be written about teaching boys to respect women, but many other writers have already written it, including the victim in this case, who described the respect we are after pretty well, though with a secular flare. Whether or not a woman respects herself as thoroughly as she should, a boy should always be taught to respect all women.  While it's true that not all women are worthy of becoming our son's wife, they are all worthy of respect, earned or unearned. Every human being is created in the image of God, worthy of respect as His child.

The victim's mother's letter was disturbing because she spent most of it bragging about her son's achievements, as though they excused his actions, or as though they in and of themselves deserved to be given a chance. She appears to be a mother after the things of this world, mostly. She mentioned toward the end that she was proud of how her son treated the disabled, but that was all negated by how he treated the woman in question, who was disabled by alcohol.

It was a hollow, shallow letter, and seemingly one on which the judge put too much emphasis in making his decision. It made me want to weep for this mother, reading about how hollow her life is. She said they would never be happy again, as though it's only through achievement that we can gain happiness. This is a family without hope because they were without depth to begin with, not to mention without the One who is Hope. I hope her son doesn't commit suicide, but it's a possibility if they brought him up to value achievement and nothing more. Suicide is sometimes the result of mental illness, but it can also result from an upbringing that emphasized the things of this world, as opposed to the things of the soul.

Pray for the country and its young people, for they've been sold a bag of soiled goods from a country seeped in sin. We're failing them.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My Daycare House

My house has changed now that it's also a business. You can see here what we've been doing. My girls appreciate that we're doing more art projects now. 

I just heard today that a new baby sibling will be born in December, whom I will be watching! How blessed is that? The whole SIDS thing terrifies me, but I love babies and I'll try to get past that fear as a daycare provider. The five-year-old sister starts kindergarten August 31, and then I'll have just the 3-year-old brother until their new sibling arrives.