Tuesday, June 30, 2015


In the past two weeks depression set in and I've longed to be with Jesus. I'm so weary here, even while I still have strength left, and hope too. Peter and my husband want to see Jesus too, but the others still have plans, like being Mommies and dancers and novel writers or newspaper reporters.

Formerly, I wanted the Lord to hold off in coming because I wanted to get married, and then I wanted to be a mother, and then I wanted to be a mother again and again. And then I wanted to nurse them all and savor their baby and toddler years. And then I wanted to see what my children would chose for their lives. And finally, I wanted to rejoice in the different ways they would serve God.

But lately, I just want to go Home, though with my family, not without them. It's time Jesus meets us in the clouds, don't you think?

There is fleeting joy several times a day, but there's much pain too, with OCD being the worst of it. And my daughter's arthritis, and aging, and a too-tight budget, though God always provides for needs. My husband has a mild form of pneumonia, and life just keeps on going, seemingly harder by the day, while still punctuated by much grace.

Maybe it's the roller coaster ride that is life, and me just wanting to get off, for I've been on the ride too many times. Or something like that. The hormones of a 49 year old can't be trusted. Maybe next week I'll be bursting with enthusiasm.

The only time this feeling has lifted lately has been during family devotions. During devotions, it's the best that it gets on earth. It's perfect. No, the children aren't perfectly behaved at this time, but that doesn't detract from the perfect feel of hearts glued one to another, and to Him.

We read directly from the Bible, or we read hard-hitting, amazing stories that illustrate certain passages of Scripture and spur us on in the faith. And then we pray, taking turns. We let it all out. All of it. We humble ourselves and apologize to God for all manner of wrong attitudes or careless words. We remember each other's sufferings large and small, and we feel strengthened by the mere mentioning of them before our Glorious, All Powerful, Merciful God. It really is as though they transfer from our shoulders, to His, by the mere mentioning.

Prayer is a discipline, for there is so much to mention at each sitting, from the beginning praises and thank yous, to the sins and finally the petitions. It is mentally and emotionally cleansing when we don't rush it.

Sometimes I wish we could do devotions all day long and call it life, you know?

But I get it. I really do.

God delights in us and loves it when we sit with him and learn of him. He fills us so we can fill others. He wants that none shall perish. We can't sit on the couch all day just receiving from God. Now go, he says. I filled you, now go and be my disciples, loving your neighbor through my Holy Spirit power, and using the collective gifts I gave you to build my Church.

We get up from the couches and chairs and then we go and do the Word. And it ain't easy, but it's the fulfillment of our purpose, these daily dances of sitting, receiving, and giving it away, only to do it again 10 hours later.

The Lord said, remain in Me and I'll remain in you.

I know I could do all the things God delights in so much better if I just didn't have this human body, which is a problematic vessel, from headaches, to vein aches, to hormone aches, to joint aches. It slows me down mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I realize that while the body is perfectly formed and perfectly designed, it is fallen and so it's a nuisance. And it isn't just aging; even young bodies can be problematic.

The morning devotions spur me on until late afternoon, at which time it's clear we all need another round of Grace, through Scripture and Prayer, after dinner. We're depleted and we're sinning more, the more hours we're removed from the morning devotional.

Never before have I felt such a strong dependence on God presence and on his Word. I need it desperately, like a parched desert soul.

 I'm 49 and I am broken.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Matthew 5:2-12 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. ...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Open Letter to Bristol Palin...And to the Church

Dear Bristol,

I know you said you didn't want lectures or sympathy, but I am going to give you both, anyway, as one of your elders and as a fellow Christian representing Christ and his church, which you have called your own.

I don't write to you or to the Church because I am without sin, or because I have less of it in my life than others. Rather, I am writing as one who has the gift of discernment. God tells us that first, no one gift is better than another, and secondly, we must use the gifts we were given to help build the Church. They aren't to be hidden away because it's too much trouble to bother.

Understand, I am not judging you, Bristol. I'm merely writing to highlight what I see as a problem in the Church--a Church that's failing to make disciples. Internal sin hinders the Church terribly and makes it a mockery.

I want to commend you on several fronts, beforehand.

Firstly, I am glad you have loved your son Tripp so well. I rejoice that you believe every life is precious. I commend you for carrying this new baby, despite the horrific cost to you personally, in light of your public life. I too believe every baby is a blessing.

And Bristol, I'm sincerely sorry you have been disappointed in love and that this pregnancy doesn't come at a happier time in your life. My heart aches for you over that disappointment. Truly, people will disappoint us--whether it's husband, parents, children or friends--they will all disappoint, which is why we have to cling to the Lord harder than to anyone or anything.

You had the best of intentions and I'm sure you'd like credit for those. I heard that some years back you told Oprah you wouldn't engage in any further premarital sex. And as the left loves to remind you, you got paid a high salary to speak on behalf of an abstinence campaign. Yes, this puts you in an embarrassing situation now--one that's inviting the worst of the You Hypocrite! comments regularly lobbied at Christians. I want to address your response to these attacks, and your response to your own sin.

But first, about your paid ventures, such as the abstinence campaign: I clearly see that you and your mother are entrepreneurs and when opportunities come, either by chance or through your savvy smarts, you take them. As a single mom with no education to fall back on, you are right to do what you can to support your child. No one can begrudge you that.

Entrepreneurs have a certain set of strengths and weaknesses, and impulsiveness is unfortunately one of the weaknesses, which has gotten you and your mother into trouble through carelessly tossed comments--comments that, while perhaps true, too often are devoid of grace and gentleness. Your tones exude defiance rather than humility, which is understandable given the viciousness of the personal comments you and your family have received over the years. The minute we name Christ, we're vulnerable to attacks.

God wants us to clothe ourselves in grace and gentleness. Our enemies being vicious toward us does not justify defiance, defensiveness and sarcasm, at the expense of humility and grace. When we fall and speak rashly, we need to apologize for our lack of graciousness. There is something very noble about these two words, sincerely offered: I'm sorry. 

My own carelessly tossed words toward an enemy brought condemnation on me, and the Lord taught me the humility necessary to say I'm sorry, even to one who hates me and didn't deserve my apology. The apology wasn't for my enemy, but for the Lord and his bride, the Church. Sometimes we don't get to be individuals in the Church. We must see ourselves as part of a Body, to whom we have an obligation.

Maybe I'm sorry won't satisfy the left, but it will please the Lord, to whom you owe everything.

Now I'm going to address what most bothers me about your overall attitude. I haven't read your bestselling book about the forgiveness and redemption God blessed you with following your 2008 fall from grace. Maybe it was very contrite and I rejoice if that is true.

But as a fellow member of the Church, I am saddened by your first blog post announcing your new pregnancy, and your following  "Update" post, in which you're pictured making a zero sign with your hand, indicating how much you care about the negativity lobbied at you.

This zero sign smacks of defiance, in the face of a sin God finds grievous. You can't afford this attitude right now and neither can the Church. My whole spirit groaned when I saw it, Bristol.

And here's your initial announcement, which also has its problems, spiritually speaking:

(I’m announcing this news a lot sooner than I ever expected due to the constant trolls who have nothing better to talk about!!!) This is not gracious, Bristol. You became a public figure by choice when you began taking jobs that put you into the public eye. When you were a teen, you were thrown into the public eye, but in your twenties, you chose it. Be gracious to the public no matter if they deserve it or not. Be humble and consider that you are impulsive sometimes. Have a plan to pray about your words before publishing them. The more famous you are, the more responsibility you have. To whom much is given, much is expected.
I wanted you guys to be the first to know that I am pregnant. Honestly, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my chin up on this one. At the end of the day there’s nothing I can’t do with God by my side, and I know I am fully capable of handling anything that is put in front of me with dignity and grace. Let's not speak of dignity and grace without considering what it looks like, first. I agree you are capable of this. However, without clothing yourself in humility, dignity and grace will allude you. Acknowledge your sin as many times as you have to when you address the public outcry. Or, give up your public persona and live as a private citizen. God allows notoriety for Christians, and with it comes responsibility. Yes, I said that before, but it needs repeating for any Christian in the public eye.
Recall when the Duggars were thrown into the public eye to a greater extent because of Josh's sin. They didn't respond snarkily, but humbly. They remained humble and gracious throughout.
Life moves on no matter what. So no matter how you feel, you get up, get dressed, show up, and never give up. Your children need your strength and not viewing yourself as a victim is commendable, however, life does not just happen. We make choices and God demands that we take the consequences even while he forgives. Sin is incredibly costly for us personally and for the Church. Thus, you are having trouble keeping your chin up emotionally as you live the consequences. This is to be expected. The cost of your sin will be high for you and your two children forever, even as God gives you the hope to face tomorrow.
I wish you had said something about the cost to your children. We love our children with our prudent choices on their behalf, as much as with our hugs and our time with them. As always, love requires dying to self and this is something your children are going to look for in your history, as they reflect back on their childhoods. Yes, mom gave birth to us despite the public ridicule, but did she also live her life with tender care for our overall well being--for our salvation, above all? Bristol, I have to ask myself these same types of questions as a mother, everyday. Every mother needs to remember: I no longer fly solo in my everyday decisions. God is merciful, but the stakes are high for parents and without putting God first intentionally, who gives us wisdom and insight, we will mess up frequently, and our children will identify our mistakes in their own minds someday, to our shame and regret.
When life gets tough, there is no other option but to get tougher. Or, when life gets tough, there is the option to embrace humility and clothe ourselves in it. I'm not sure God wants you to get tougher, Bristol. I think he wants you to have a contrite spirit and realize that to avoid sin, you have to be intentional. You have to view yourself as incredibly fallen and sinful. Only through this lens do we take terribly seriously the need to walk away from temptation. God always provides a way out of temptation, and we have to locate that way out and keep our eyes on it.
You needed to avoid being alone with your boyfriend/fiance. You needed to have the humility necessary to plan not to be alone with him. Planning not to sin is how we avoid sin, and yes, this is the lecture you didn't want and said you didn't need. Passion is more than human beings can handle unless we put it under God's rule, just as too much money is more than most of us can handle, unless we put it under God's rule. Without a plan, no single or single-again person remains chaste--nor does a wife or husband who allows themselves to be alone with the opposite sex, or allows themselves to share their personal life with the same, resulting in an emotional affair.
Any other stance regarding sin is magical thinking--and magical thinking has weakened the Church. We all exercise way too much of this. You are not alone here, Bristol. Magical thinking is crushing the Church, making her more and more irrelevant.
I see it in my own life as well, Bristol, and your pain has been a reminder that I need to address every last sin in my life with an intentional plan, starting with a note on my computer: Set a timer now. No escapism allowed. For this is what intention looks like, and yes, even with it we will sometimes fall. Thus, the Cross. But the cross is cheapened when we sin on a regular basis, willfully or through lack of an intentional plan. Indeed, without a plan to identify the escape route God provides, maybe we are willfully sinning. This judgement is up to God.
But she was engaged, some people say. I understand this may seem like the time to relax your standards--when the ring is already on the finger. A ring doesn't matter in the least in terms of sin. People change their minds and they fall out of lust/love quickly--and this is especially true when we fall sexually. Disdain for the object of our passion is common after our sin.
If you ever want to be married, Bristol, understand that the minute you say yes to passion before marriage, you will love yourself and your partner less because of it. Nothing kills love like shame and disgust. I'm sorry the shame isn't equally shared by your ex-fiance in society's eyes, but believe me, God is just as displeased with him. His walk before God will not be easy if he doesn't do the right thing.
I want to see your joyful face in the future as a mother and wife, and I just don't think that will happen if you don't receive and take to heart a bit of lecturing. We all need spiritual sharpening and we mustn't begrudge it haughtily.
I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you. While this is nice, it falls short of admitting sin. It falls short of saying: I'm sorry I stained the Church. I'm sorry I didn't take more seriously my high position and consider what good I could have done for the Church. Part of the disdain against you, Bristol, is due to your wording here: This simply isn't a contrite heart asking for forgiveness. It isn't a heart that's been humbled enough to say: I have sinned against God, against the Church, against my fiance, and against my children. I humbly ask for your forgiveness, and I need your prayers so I can do right by God and by the Church, going forward.
But please respect Tripp’s and my privacy during this time. I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy.
My little family always has, and always will come first. Tripp, this new baby, and I will all be fine, because God is merciful. He'd be far more merciful if you were far more contrite. I urge you to put out a new statement, Bristol. One that points to the terrible consequences of sin. One that shows you truly understand your failings. One that expresses sorrow that you did not live up to the hopes of the organizations who paid you to encourage abstinence. One that shows you understand we are part of one body, the Church, and you let the Church down too, not just your family, friends, and blog followers. I urge you to say the obvious to young people: Do not be alone with your date, for passion is something bigger than you. Tell them to be intentional with this, and that they need to ask someone to hold them accountable. Understanding the need for accountability is part of humility. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Whether you ever get paid again for a public appearance, or book, or not, do the good you can right now. Go low and humble for the glory of God. Use this opportunity not to make a defiant zero with your finger, but to make amends. After you adopt this stance, God will make beauty from ashes. 

And the same is true for the rest of us. Want beauty from ashes? We have to give up what we want for ourselves or our image, and bow low. We're all in the same boat here. All with the same scarlet letter Bristol wears. All defiant and fighting humility like it's our worst enemy, instead of our way Home.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

When Father's Day is Bittersweet

This post is for all those who didn't have a father who made them feel like a special girl all those growing-up, and grown-up years. Sometimes we felt like we were barely on their radar. Definitely, we weren't someone they took pleasure to invest their hearts in, so this day is bittersweet, even after we've forgiven.

Look at your father as a young boy who was hurting himself, because that was probably reality. When we aren't honest about our upbringings and the pain they caused, we can't move forward. So many adults are adults in age only--not because of the way they think, feel, and behave. So do yourself a favor--don't minimize your own hurting. Acknowledge that you have some wounds so the Lord can heal you and move you forward, whole in Him.

Our unhealthy, troubled parents wanted credit for their desire to do the right thing--for their ideals--even though they rarely did the right thing. They couldn't deal with the truth of their situations; they deceived themselves and hope they deceived us just as well.

We avoid their mistakes and hidden regrets by acknowledging the pain. The Lord will direct our healing path and bring any resource forward that can genuinely help us re-parent ourselves, and also parent our own children excellently.

My father's biggest mistake? His own father was an alcoholic and he never acknowledged the pain and turmoil that caused. Instead, he minimized it and liked to pretend it wasn't his reality. He didn't speak of it until I recently asked him about it. Now on his fifth wife and third family, peace still alludes him and there are six children--two each from his families--hurting because he was never able to move forward in a healthy way.

Keep in mind this is an anonymous blog which I don't share with acquaintances, friends, or family, so he is unlikely to ever see things I've written.

I am praying for all of you in this boat, that our Heavenly Father would make you feel like His special daughter today and always. Make sure to get in some Bible reading today. You need a reminder of His love and faithfulness.

And do not neglect your own pain, please? That doesn't mean you play the victim--a fear that can keep us stagnant. Acknowledging pain and the need for healing is not playing the victim. It's wisdom.

Pass this message forward to whomever needs it. Give those children in the neighborhood who don't have a dad at home today a pat on the shoulder, and remind them of our Heavenly Father's beautiful, faithful love.

Much love to you!

Psalm 146:9 The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

Psalm 27:10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Friday, June 19, 2015

Weekly Summer School and Life Wrap-Up 6/19

Giving Thanks Today:

~ Reading Colossians at night for family devotions. My favorite verses so far: Colossians 1:10-14 We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

~ Children kneeling in the yard, searching for the glory of God in the form of caterpillar, frog, toad, katydid, grasshopper.

~ That we have a yard at all is an excellent blessing in itself, and a good-sized one a huge grace.

~ A 13-year-old son willing to do yard work for the elderly from our church, along with a few from his youth class. I told him God would reward him, and besides, an excellent way to meet friend, or later, a wife, is through serving the Lord alongside one another.

~ A dancing, singing, exuberant six year old

~ A husband in tune with people more than tasks (to balance me)

~ Nice librarians this year

~ Natural Vanilla Bean ice cream on hot nights.

~ The Lord's ever-present comfort.

~ A hope and a future

~ Boys growing in grace and obedience

~ Precious time with my children.

~ In times of darkness, a promise of sunshine coming.

~ Sharing Christian stories of His grace and love with my children, to spur them toward moral excellence.

Good Friday to you all. I hope you've had better weather than Northeast Ohio this week. Clouds, rain, thunder, clouds, rain, thunder. Depressing. No sunlight lasting more than an hour or so. I have to wonder how the gardens and the local sweet corn crops will survive. This is the third summer in a row with unfavorable weather.

Mary's storm phobia raged with the thunder and lightning this week. She asks to watch library movies when the skies are dark and scary--she says to get her mind off the scary possibilities (like the roof caving in if lightning strikes one of our huge trees). In order to give her a better option, I canceled our Kindle Unlimited subscription and ordered something produced by Reading Rainbow for the same price per month. It offers expertly narrated books with interactive parts, such as birds that fly through the air when you click on them. Many of the books are non-fiction science picks which my kids love. Recently launched, it's called Skybrary. The cost is $9.99 per month, or less if you order for 6 or 12 months.

Introducing Skybrary by Reading Rainbow:

Synopsis(May  13,  2015)  Los  Angeles – Beloved children’s brand Reading Rainbow® today launches SKYBRARY®, the  all-­new, web-based  digital library of hand-­curated children’s books and story-­driven educational video field trips, created for kids ages 2-­9. Designed to entice and excite children’s natural sense of curiosity about their world, SKYBRARY delivers an adventure-­based unlimited book reading and video field trip experience. Built on the foundation of the industry leading educational App launched in 2012 and the Peabody Award-­winning television series, SKYBRARY was funded by the record-­breaking 2014 Kickstarter campaign. SKYBRARY is a new portal to the world of Reading Rainbow, inviting every child with Internet access -­-­ at home, at school or at the library –­ to develop a passion for reading and to experience the fun of learning.
Young readers and pre-­readers pilot their own personal hot air balloons among SKYBRARY’S seven unique themed islands, each featuring a wide array of quality literature and video content. These engaging worlds of animals, music, adventure, science, heroes, friends and family feature over 500 books from esteemed authors and acclaimed publishers, made available to children as “read by myself” or “read to me,” and contain interactive elements that enhance enjoyment while preserving the reading experience. Over 150 newly produced and classic video field trips with host LeVar Burton show children they can “Go Anywhere, Be Anything” as they are taken behind the scenes to places like the White House, the Los Angeles Ballet, the Grand Canyon and Cirque du Soleil.
“The importance of developing a passion for the written word can not be over stated — ­children who love to read have the greatest tool to reach their highest potential,” said the 12-­time Emmy Award-winning Burton. “Our determination to encourage the love of reading and learning in every child, everywhere is more steadfast now than ever before.”
Other School News

We've averaged about 90 minutes to 2 hours of school each day this week. I had the boys write an essay about their ideal summer, and the girls dictated the same to me. I'll share those, plus a new writing resource, and some library books we loved, along with some pictures of the kids' activities this week.

For my part, quite a bit of time was spent gathering 7 bags of items for Goodwill! 

First up...the summer essays. I reflected on these and realized these are the things the children do most days, so apparently they're all living their best summer ever. The only missing links are a lake beach trip (30 minutes away), which the weather has yet to allow, and a vacation and camping trip.

Essays About Summer

Paul's Essay (age 11):

My best summer ever would include certain weather, summer projects, and activities. I will write about each separately.

My favorite summer weather would range from 67 degrees to 92 degrees. It would be sunny to partly cloudy, rain once or twice a week, and thunder only once a month. It would never rain or thunder on weekends.

My summer projects would be to write and publish a book, make lots of toys and games, and write a Bible study.

My summer activities would include: having a huge garden, playing sports with my family, playing board games every day. Every Saturday I would either go bowling or go to the beach, depending on the weather. 

These things would be included in my best summer ever. What would you include in yours?

Peter's essay still needs an ending, but here it is, unfinished.

Peter's Essay (age 13):

During my best summer ever I would serve God in any way possible, and I would do lots of activities. I would see nature and glorify the God who made me.

In my perfect summer I would see: lots of toads and frogs, newts, bigger salamanders, lots of birds, lots of flowers and butterflies, and turtles. I would catch a giant bullfrog.

My activities would include going on vacation, going camping, going on lots of park trips and fishing trips, going to church, and biking for exercise.

Mary's Best Summer Ever (age 8):

I would spend all my free time in the garden catching grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, grubs, and any kind of insect I find interesting. I would look for toads and frogs and snakes and turtles.

On rainy days I would feed my bugs and hold them. On really pouring days I might watch a library movie or play a game with Paul. I would also make crafts.

On park days I would fish with Peter, play on the swings, catch more insects, and walk around the bushes looking for toads.

At night I would bug my mom to let me catch fireflies or night crawlers every night, no matter how much sleep I get.

Beth's Best Summer Ever (age 6):

On sunny days I would be a princess and practice my princess manners, and my princess dancing and walking. I would play and sew and do hopscotch with Paul, and do stuffed animal crafts.

On rainy days I would make a dress, go out in the rain and take off my shoes and warm my feet in the muddy puddles. I would watch a library movie with Mary and lie down to rest. I would snack on a carrot, my BFF. Or maybe on ice cream.

Pictures From This Week:

Beth continues to create projects and huge messes. This week she mostly stapled papers together to make books, but there were other things too. Above is a box she unfolded and made into a flying jet. She sits on it and puts her hands on the "controls" (the pencils she duct taped onto the cardboard).

She made a Bible book detailing the David and Goliath story.

She painted.

She made a guitar out of cardboard and a rubber band.

She single-handedly created a disaster out of our house, as you can see in the following three pics from three different areas. 

These are all of the family room, which the previous owners converted a one-car garage into. It has always been a playroom for the kids. They don't use it much anymore, though, due to the colossal messes Beth makes in there. She's been stomping her feet and fussing when I ask her to clean her messes. Peter and Paul have taught me that this stage doesn't last forever. They don't like to clean, but they do it without stomping or complaining, 90% of the time now.

Allowing kids to make messes is very, very important. Their jobs are to discover, invent, create, explore. A childhood full of these things is a rich one. They don't need programs, classes, or a trip to Europe or Disney World. They need time, the most wonderful part of childhood. Time to discover, invent, create, explore. Not a childhood without responsibility, but one that adds it incrementally, while not crowding out the imagination.

Reflecting On My Own Childhood

My upbringing was quite a bit different from my children's. They've lived in one place for ten years, which is unusual in America now. I was born in Germany, lived in England at three years old, and Guam and Sicily later. My dad and stepdad were both in the military.

I was a seventh and eighth grader when we were in Sicily for 14 months. I remember some things about it: the beautiful ocean, the open markets, the weird personal pizzas, served on a dinner plate with peas and sliced boiled eggs and lots of olive oil. There were a lot of pastry shops. There were lewd magazines visible everywhere in the cities, and some of the men were touchy freely and rude with girls.

Many of the Italians wear their clothes for two to three days, producing a body odor they apparently like, but which I personally had trouble with (we Americans are unique, perhaps, in our daily showers and clothing changes--although there is certainly variation in this here). The towns closed down each day for siesta until late afternoon. The nights went late, and some children were served wine with dinner.

I didn't really like traveling all over. My memories are all disjointed and my acquaintances short and sketchy, until my stepfather retired (while I was in high school).

Now, I wouldn't mind traveling for short periods, mostly to see the world's beautiful nature spots and phenomena. Definitely, if we ever have the money (which I pray for) I would go to see each Compassion child.

We haven't seen the raccoon in several weeks, but we have a wild bunny now, chewing parts of the garden.

Mary is my fourth child to get eyeglasses. She's nearsighted like Paul and myself. Here she's observing a tiny water snail.

Peter and Beth looking for creatures in our backyard.

Some of these pictures, including the above frog, were taken as possibly entries for the library's annual photo contest, which Peter and Paul are eligible to enter.

Paul's painting\

Today they got out a motor from an erector set and tried to use it to make a motorboat, at Mary's request. She started the project and got too frustrated, until the boys mentioned they had a motor in their erector set. Here. they were trying to balance the metal for some reason.

A couple years ago they planted a milkweed plant so we could have more milkweed caterpillars and monarch butterflies. Now, the milkweed plants have multiplied and are slowing taking over the strawberry patch. 

I had to buy strawberries today. Our patch seems to be done for the season.

When I downloaded this pic, I asked the kids who took the frog picture at a pond, and they said, "Mommy, that's not a pond. That's behind our air conditioner." (Where they can always find frogs). Last year I told them to put grass sod over this area, but I can see the little rascals dug it up again.

This is a gigantic water balloon.

This spider has babies on its back! My children saw them crawl off, amazingly enough.

Library Books We Enjoyed:

The Mouse and the Meadow 
Written and Illustrated by Chad Wallace, published 2014

Synopsis: A young mouse quickly comes of age as he sets out to explore his meadow. There he meets many remarkable creatures. Spider has tangled intentions. Firefly really knows how to put on a show. Mother rabbit is kind. Turtle is wise. Others would have him for lunch! Fortunately, help arrives just in time.

My Thoughts: The illustrations are so wonderful in this book. We marveled over each one! A sweet story.

by Michael Engler, published Feb, 2015

SynopsisYou never know when a best friend will be delivered to your doorstep. And that s just what happens to Andrew when a mysterious box arrives with a talking stuffed elephant inside! The two friends set off on an adventure, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, crawling through the sun-filled savannahs of Africa, and exploring the deep and dark jungle. It s a wonderful afternoon until Andrew s mommy interrupts. It turns out that the box was delivered to the wrong doorstep. It was actually meant for Louise, the neighbor upstairs. . . ."

Potatoes, Potatoes
by Anita Lobel, published 1967 and 2004

Synopsis: There was once an old woman who had a potato farm and two hardworking, loving sons. But one day one son ran away to the army of the east; the other son joined the army of the west.

Caldecott Honor artist Anita Lobel tells a powerful story of two brothers who become enemies at war, and their wise mother whose cleverness turns fighting into peace.

A new, full-color edition of the timely and timeless tale Potatoes, Potatoes.

The Princess of 8th Street
by Linas Alsenas, published 2012

Synopsis: Jane, the Princess of 8th Street, has many royal duties to attend to. Between having tea with her “ladies-in-waiting” (her doll collection), keeping up with her studies (Math for Monarchs andPink Power are two of her favorite books), and dealing with her horrible toad of a brother, Jane doesn’t often have time to venture from her palace or socialize with other young royals.But one day, on a trip to the market, her mother insists that Jane go play in the park with the other children. Jane is shy around the other young lords and ladies, and things become even worse when she is confronted by Samantha, the Princess of 10th Street. Will the two princesses be able to overcome their differences? Will Jane finally make a friend?
This cute and clever picture book proves there’s more to being a princess than just dresses and tea parties.

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister
by Linda Ravin Lodding, published 2011

Synopsis: Ernestine is in over her head. Monday through Sunday, Ernestine's week is packed with after-school lessons--tuba, knitting, sculpting, water ballet, yoga, yodeling, and karate. Overwhelmed and exhausted, Ernestine decides to take matters into her own hands and heads off to the park with her Nanny where she builds a fort, watches the clouds, and plays all kinds of unstructured and imaginative games. But when a teacher calls Ernestine's mom to report that she has not shown up for yodeling, her parents search everywhere until at last they hear their daughter's laughter coming from the park. Ernestine tells her parents what a wonderful afternoon she's had, and explains her plight, asking, "I like my lessons, but can't I stop some of them?" This saga hilariously captures the dilemma of the modern-day over-scheduled child in riotous color and absurd extremes. A delightful heroine, Ernestine will be sure to put "play" back on everyone's agenda, demonstrating that in today's overscheduled world, everyone needs the joy of play and the simple wonders of childhood.

Math World Telling Time
by Bridget Heos, published March, 2015

Synopsis: "A young boy learns to tell time on digital and analog clocks as he impatiently waits for a friend to come over to play."--

New Writing Curriculum Found

Apologia Jump In 2-Book Writing Set
Here is the review by Cathy Duffey (one of her top 102 resources)

Synopsis: Jump In will help your student learn to write persuasive papers, expository essays, descriptions, narration, and poetry. The easy-to-use parent/teacher section includes what to look for in an assignment, how to assign a grade, how to help the student proofread, and a one-year writing program with daily writing prompts designed to be fun and interesting. This two-volume set includes an illustrated student workbook and a teacher’s manual. $40 set

On the blog this week:

Just Say No to Video Games

Causes of Addiction to Video Games, Technology

Around the Web This Week:

You Can't Serve God and Entertainment

Binge-Eating, But Starving

Peaches in Paradise: Why I loved Elisabeth Elliot, by John Piper

Did you know Elisabeth Elliot died this week, at age 88? She declined and became an invalid in the last decade (10-year battle with dementia), and her husband took care of her, along with nursing help. Here is a tribute to her, from a grateful wife and mother: Do the Next Thing: A Mother's Gratitude for Elisabeth Elliot

How was your week? Thank you for being here!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Causes of Addiction to Video Games, Technology

I'm sure my last post regarding video games ruffled some feathers. Nevertheless, today I'm following up to provide insight into addiction in general.

I grew up with someone addicted to alcohol. Thus, my attitude toward addiction will always be ruled by disdain and horror. Addiction is one of the ugliest dimensions of the human experience. Eventually, it steals the soul, literally.

It's a tragedy--but a preventable one.

I keep in mind that not everyone who drinks is addicted, and that the Bible doesn't prohibit drinking--only drunkenness. So when Christians talk about drinking or drink in front of me, I have to monitor my facial expressions and attitudes as my upbringing comes into play. It's a fight to act normal.

Naturally, my attitudes about introducing addictive things into a Christian home will be strong ones, so keep that in mind as you read. My perspective is likely different from yours.

In today's society addiction takes many forms, and we have to be vigilant in keeping our hearts and lives pure--recognizing that we are no longer slaves to sin or self, but to Christ.

Addictions to consider:

- Alcohol (now, a full third of Americans display problem drinking)

- Street drugs, prescribed drugs

- Nicotine, caffeine

- The checking of social stats, texts, email - We get a brain high when someone connects with us positively, and a brain slump when someone doesn't. The checking of stats dictates our moods if we're not careful to monitor it. This is why 60% of people are said to be addicted to their smart phones. Our identity isn't meant to be tied up in what people think of us. This is the main reason it's hard to be a teen; the temptation to evaluate oneself based upon peers is so strong. Parents have to keep their kids talking, and make sure family is more important than peers.

- Attention - This is somewhat connected to checking stats, above. Younger people especially are addicted to attention. They get it with their outrageously risque clothes (the barely-there red carpet dress, their daring or dangerous feats, their social media accounts). When their clothes no longer bring the desired attention, they make confessions to get attention. We're raising and witnessing a whole generation of people who lack humility--which is a proper sense of their position before God and their fellow man.

- Shopping

- Video gaming

- Gambling

- Internet Use (either pornography, or just sitting there wasting time)

- Excessive eating/binge eating

Causes of Addiction

While there are certain conditions that predispose a person to addiction, such as impulse-control disorders or mood disorders, there are also social factors associated with addiction. Human beings require healthy connection to God first, and to others, second. The greatest commandment lays this out pretty simply:

Jesus replied: “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

When this is absent, addiction becomes a possibility. Good, loving people aren't enough--our souls need the Lord first and foremost. Human beings will always disappoint, and ideally, we minister to them without expecting something in return. We don't love to get love. Rather, we love because he first loved us, to overflowing. Our love toward others is an outpouring of what God has poured into us.

Our initial connection with the concept of love comes from our family life growing up. Our ability to believe how much God loves us is primed by having been loved wholly by our parents.

Children who grew up in addicted or dysfunctional homes received too little love, and what they did receive wasn't a healthy, but rather a manipulative-type love. It goes like this: You play along with my addiction--that there's nothing wrong with me--and I will reward you with acceptance and love. If you don't play along, I will withhold my love from you.

High percentages of these children grow up to be addicted themselves, due to a lack of healthy connection. They had no model of what a healthy relationship looks like; they choose relationships that mirror the patterns they grew up with.

Consider that cocaine is considered to be the most addictive substance around, and yet when offered to rats in isolation, they became addicted strongly, and when offered to rats in groups, addiction rates were lower. The lonely rats still became addicted, but not the more social ones. And further, when addicted rats were taken out of isolation and put in a "rat park", they got over their addiction relatively quickly, with just some withdrawal symptoms. 

Humans are not rats, but let's assume from this that our ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships insulates us from addiction.

Therefore, what is happening to us as we spend hours on the Internet, or on games, or on phones or tablets? We're spending less time with God. We're practicing our social skills less. We're making fewer new connections with people. We're bonding less with our family members, who are all into their own screens.

As a result, when a crisis comes, we're less able to handle it, and we run to our default substance or behavior even more. We're starting with a weakened support system.

It seems, then, that it isn't so much the substance, the behavior, or the device that's the problem in terms of understanding addiction. It's the strength of our connection to others.

This is a strong message to all of us parents. We are responsible for building strong relationships with our children and spouse. We can't let our own use of substances, or technology, or shopping, etc. get in the way of this. 


Engage. That's the operative word here. Instead of escape, engage. Yes, it's messy sometimes, especially if we've let resentments build. Embrace the messy to experience the fruit of healthy connection.

I'll close with this information on symptoms of video game addiction in teens, found here.

Symptoms of Video Game Addiction in Teens
Although it hasn't been given an "official" diagnosis, addiction-like behaviors with computer, video, and Internet gaming have noticeably increased among both teenagers and adults. Like any addictive behavior, there are signs to look for if you suspect your teen might have a gaming addiction. Your teen need only exhibit two or three of these symptoms for his behavior to be considered "addictive."
  • Preoccupation
    Someone who is addicted to computer, video, or Internet gaming often exhibits an unusual preoccupation with the game or computer when he is away from it. The teen could seem distracted, irritable, or disinterested and may talk about the game almost constantly.
  • Downplaying Computer Use
    It's common for someone with addictive, computer-related behaviors to downplay the amount of time she spends in front of the TV or computer. The person may make excuses, saying she "needs" to be online, or may outright lie.
  • Lack of Control
    A person who is addicted, or at risk of becoming addicted to gaming, is unable to control the amount of time she spends on the computer. She may go online with the intent to spend 15 or 20 minutes, but will keep extending the time until several hours have passed.
  • Loss of Time
    Along the same lines, a person may sit down at his computer, again with the intent to spend only a few minutes, but completely lose track of time and suddenly find that several hours have passed. It is not unusual for someone with a gaming addiction to play through the night and only realize how much time has passed when the sun begins to rise.
  • Negative Impact on Other Areas of Life
    Because the person spends so much time on the computer or video game console, other areas of life are neglected. He may grow distant from friends and family who had previously been close. Homework may go unfinished, causing grades to slip. In more extreme cases, the teen may even neglect personal hygiene, choosing to play video games rather than taking a shower.
  • Hiding From Negative or Uncomfortable Feelings or Situations
    Some people become addicted to gaming because they use it to self-medicate. When confronted with situations or feelings that are uncomfortable (feeling sad, arguing with a friend, or getting a bad grade), the person may "hide" in the game as a method of avoidance.
  • Defensiveness
    When confronted or asked about his time spent gaming, a person may become defensive. Denial is often an indication that something is wrong, especially if the person seems unconcerned that friends and family feel neglected or left out of his life.
  • Misuse of Money
    Someone who is addicted to video, computer, or Internet gaming will spend a disproportionate amount of money on computer-related items. The person will seem to be continually upgrading hardware, software packages, and accessories. This becomes an even greater problem if the person spends money that should be used for bills, groceries, and other necessities.
  • Mixed Feelings
    As with any addiction, use of the "substance" – in this case, the video game – initially causes euphoric feelings, but that euphoria is quickly followed by guilt. Guilt may be felt either over what the person is doing while online or simply the amount of time he is spending at the computer.
Though this list is not exhaustive, it provides warning signs for parents, friends, and other family members to look for if they are concerned about someone's use of video, computer, or Internet games. This list can also be used as a self-diagnosis tool for those who believe they may have a problem.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Just Say No: To Video Games

I came across an article about giving kids an old-fashioned, carefree summer on Simple Homeschool. Some aspects of the article I enjoyed, but I was disturbed when it became clear in the comments section that many children just wanted to play Minecraft for hours, and in the interest of a carefree summer in which freedom reigns, parents were considering allowing it.

I hate to be the stern librarian type who constantly tells people to be quiet in the library--you know, an annoying know-it-all type--but I have to say something about this video game craze.

It's insanity.

We don't play them here, and yes my kids feel like oddities because of it, but they agree with me about video games. They've seen what they do to the neighbor kids, and it isn't pretty. They hear the boys at church talk about little else.

Did you know that 9 out of 10 American children play video games? I'm sure you know they're highly addictive? If something doesn't change, our country's in trouble: children are the future.

The history of video games here: My kids used to get 24 minutes a day on a website called Cool Math Games, but last fall I banned it due to worldly ads showing up on the site as pop-ups. I originally let them on because the site was recommended by my sister, who was going to school to be a teacher at the time.

The site turned out to be a joke, mostly. Not much educational value, but I didn't think 24 minutes was going to kill them--not enough time to get addicted, I surmised. And only Paul really looked forward to the time each day (more so than I liked). I frequently had to tell him to stop watching the screen during someone else's time--that if you watch, you don't play yourself.

They dappled in Webkinz.com and on PBS.com too over the years, when they weren't using Cool Math Games for their 24 minutes, but I've banned anything that looks or seems like a video game. The computer is a tool and nothing else. That's where the line in the sand is here, and where I think God would like it to be--though for your house, of course, I can only make suggestions.

They don't miss video games all these months later because they never had an Xbox or Wii or PlayStation, or anything like that; video games were never prominent in their environment. And I thank God every day that my husband doesn't care for such things either.

34 million Americans spend 22 hours per week, on average, playing video games.

Drug-Like Effects that Rewire the Brain According to a study featured in Neurology Now, a publication of the American Academy of Neurology, nine out of ten American children play video games -- about 64 million. The study found that "excessive gaming before age 21 or 22 can physically rewire the brain."
"'Playing video games floods the pleasure center of the brain with dopamine,' says David Greenfield, Ph.D., founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. That gives gamers a rush—but only temporarily, he explains. With all that extra dopamine lurking around, the brain gets the message to produce less of this critical neurotransmitter. The end result: players can end up with a diminished supply of dopamine."
I've never seen Minecraft but I've read several articles about it, in which parents claim it teaches problem solving. I don't think much of that rationalization. First of all, I hear it's very addictive, as are all video games (even ones that are supposedly just virtual building blocks). Secondly, there are real-world ways to encourage problem solving--ways far more productive and well-rounded.

Would you give your kids a cigarette or an alcoholic drink or a street drug? All these things are addictive, and video games do similar things to the brain.

I know it's very hard to say no to kids, but I urge you passionately to get these things out of your home unless you can limit it to thirty minutes or less without hassles (for non-violent, wholesome games).

Our children benefit when they learn early to say no to worldly things. Fitting in with peers just isn't worth it--not at 12 years old or 35 years old.

We fit in with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and our relationship with the world should be ministerial.

If your kids are already addicted, give it all away and give your gaming budget to charity. The Lord wants us to gauge our eyes out, or cut off our arm to keep ourselves from sin. We're called to do whatever it takes to rid our lives of things that don't honor God.

Are your children all still young? Then I urge you to never introduce these things in your home in the first place. Tell your children: we will live differently than the world. We are set apart. These games serve no real purpose and as Christians, what are we supposed to be teaching our children about their time and their minds and their hearts?

Our time is a gift and our salvation is a miracle. We were chosen. 

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

1 Peter 1:16 Since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Entertainment is not our God. Our Heavenly Father is infinitely better and the water he offers is living water

Teach them: Seek first the kingdom of God. Live for what Jesus loved. Let your hearts bleed for the orphans, widows, sinners, and the poor. Make each day, each hour, count for His glory.

See part two of this post, regarding causes of addiction, here.

And if the spiritual arguments don't convince you, read the following sobering facts below, reblogged from here. You may not allow violent games in your home, but if you allow a gaming culture, your children may be tempted to venture out into other, violent games when they move away from home and are exposed to new gaming friends and acquaintances:

Violence and Video Games

There are countless cases of violence and crime connected directly or indirectly with video gaming.  Grand Theft Auto, for example, has created a long death trail in its wake.  However, few have had the courage to call its designers and promoters to task, halt its production and reverse the severe damage it has unleashed.  Here are only some of the many crimes connected to Grand Theft Auto:

  • A man was stabbed and his copy of the game was stolen;4
  • A college student stole a car, kidnapped a woman and slammed into nine parked vehicles. He said he wanted to play the game “in real life”;5
  • A teenager in Thailand killed a taxi driver in a copycat crime from the game (Thailand banned the game afterwards);6
  • An 8-year-old boy in Louisiana shot and killed his 90-year-old caregiver minutes after playing the game (this was ruled a homicide);7
  • Students as young as six acted out drug and rape scenes from the game.8

It is also noteworthy how some observers have recognized similarities between the virtual riots enacted in Grand Theft Auto and the real life riots over the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

More crimes tied to other video games can be seen in the following cases:

  • After his Call of Duty game was taken away, a 13-year-old boy shot his own mother multiple times, killed her, and proceeded to attempt to rape her;9
  • The father of a two-year old son punched his child in the face, killing him, in order to stop him from crying while he was playing his video game;10
  • A 17-year-old in China was stabbed through the skull with a kitchen knife after being caught cheating in an Internet café while playing an online game;11
  • A 16-year-old boy killed his mother with a hammer while she was sleeping after she took his Play Station away;12
  • A couple in South Korea allowed their real child to starve to death while they were feeding a “virtual” child on a game called Second Life;13
  • An 8-year-old hung himself after he was scolded for spending too much time playing video games.14

Gaming to Death

Video game addiction can be so overpowering that players sometimes lose their most basic instinct of self-preservation.  Dozens of people have injured and killed themselves playing video games as can be seen in these examples:

  • A young man was found slumped over his keyboard at an Internet café after playing for over 15 hours. He died of an heart attack caused by lack of sleep and dehydration;15
  • A 20-year-old died from a blood clot after playing 12-hour binges, sometimes staying up all night on the computer;16
  • Another man died after a 40-hour binge playing a game called Diablo III.  He passed out at a computer terminal at an Internet café. When an employee woke him up, he promptly stood up, took a few steps and collapsed and died;17
  • A man in China played for an unbelievable 27 days straight (650 hours of consecutive gaming), and died of heart failure and malnutrition;
  • A 13-year-old girl, while playing video games, called to her mother, “Mom, I can’t breathe.” She had a severe heart attack and later died.

When Imagination Overpowers the Mind

Video gaming frequently allows the imagination to cloud the intellect and weaken the will.  The player sees a virtual “world” on a screen and interacts with it as if it were real.   The distinction between real and false is blurred.  Even in extremely simple games such as Angry Birds, impulse and imagination rule.  Because of the “respawn” -- when the digital player or human player comes back to life after being killed -- gamers act first and think later. 

To win, the player makes split decisions, ignoring all danger.  After all, it is only a game. However, this behavior lends itself to a real imbalance.  If you routinely “do” things you would never dare do in reality, there is a chance you might behave in real life as you behaved during the video games. The player can “do” crazy things -- usually involving violence -- that would be horrible crimes in real life.  This mental dichotomy desensitizes the player. 

For example, in countless games the player can rip out throats, slit necks, shoot and stab people, and run over people with a car.  Imagine the mind of a young man who just played six hours of Gears of War II, an extremely violent game. He walks into the (real) street after "killing" people with a chainsaw, but suddenly, that's no longer a good idea.  He must switch "realities."  If the same fellow sees a chainsaw in a yard, images of human carnage will flash into his mind.  He might chuckle to himself, thinking, “I wish I could do that in real life.”

In fact, Grand Theft Auto V is so realistic that there are Google maps that show real-life locations used in the game set to Los Angeles, California. The designers of the game took pictures of buildings, intersections, and places of interest to make the game more life-like: “There's always new things to see, and layers of detail on the ambient life that really makes it feel like there's stuff going on without you," said video game architect Aaron Garbut. "It's a world with which you interact and exist, it doesn't feel like a facade that's created around you.”18  Grand Theft Auto V, which cost $265 million to make,19 promotes criminal activity, cop killings and prostitution while the player visually "walks" on real California streets.  Can this have a positive effect?