Sunday, December 04, 2011

Strong men or wimps?

Sorry for the absence. Things have been crazy around here (when are they not?) and I've been mulling over a lot of spiritual things.

I'm really struggling with the roles many Christian men and Christian ministries place on women. I'm struggling with the idea of telling my daughters that their dreams are limited because of their genitals. I'm struggling with a theology that purports to cherish women but limits and demeans them. I don't understand why "feminist" (a term that just means you believe that women are equal to men) is such a cuss word in the church, and I'll be writing about this more over the next few weeks.

But right now I want to talk about wimpy men. Or at least the idea that men are wimps. Many of my friends are very, very conservative. They talk all the time about how submissive we should be as women, and how their husbands are super strong, macho leaders. But when you really look at their behavior, it is clear that they believe their men are wimps.

A few months ago, we were sitting around talking at the park. We were discussing freedom in worship and several of them decided that it was "immodest" for a woman to dance during a church service. This came as news to me, since our church encourages freedom. Several of the women and quite a few children dance freely for the Lord during worship. We even have a team of college students that performs amazing dances on stage.

But for my friends, moving your body in the presence of men is immodest. It is apparently provocative to wave a scarf or shake a tambourine where dudes are around. (My friend Brandi says if she danced like that for her husband he'd laugh so hard he choked. It would definitely NOT be arousing!) I was incensed at their censure of the dancers. I could not believe that they thought their husbands would be turned on by a woman dancing for Jesus. But they shushed me, saying that we need to remember that we are our brothers' keepers. Their arguments have been nagging at me, and I finally figured out why.

Ultimately, in my opinion, the whole modesty/submission/husband-worship thing comes down to a view that men are weak. Men cannot control their desires, so women must cover their bodies. Men cannot lead if anyone questions them, so women must keep quiet and submit. Men will not participate in church if women teach, so women should shut up and listen.

Let's look at modesty first. I'm not advocating that we all run around nude or wear bikinis to the grocery store. But it is not the responsibility of women to control or protect men by what they wear. This kind of thinking leads to the whole "well, she got raped but she was asking for it dressing like that" kind of talk. Several of my friends think pants are not modest. They say that pants draw the attention to the crotch area and make men think about sex. (Are they aware that women don't really have anything in the crotch area to draw attention to? By that logic, men should wear skirts!)

All men are not the same and no matter how you dress, some guy will think you're hot. (Ask my husband, I practically dressed Amish when we were dating and there was no lack of lust!) It is a slippery slope when you make women the guardians of men's eyes. First you cover your knees, then your shoulders, then you're in a burka. Because you are a precious treasure, of course (insert eye roll.)

I understand the desire to shield your husband from temptation. We live in a culture saturated with sex. But my husband is strong enough to be around ladies in pants and not start humping their legs like our shi tzu. And I think most husbands are. We are calling our husbands wimps when we require women to dress a certain way to "help" our menfolk be faithful. (Modesty is more about action, in my opinion, anyways. You can flirt with a friend's husband just as easily in a skirt!)

The same reasoning applies to submissive women. I have heard so many of my friends say that they suppress voicing an opinion because they want their husbands to lead. I even heard a preacher (not mine!) saying that women should never lead Bible study for their children because their husbands should lead. The idea here is that if women step up, men will just fade into silence and allow their wives to lead spiritually.

But I really don't think men are that wimpy! Mine isn't. We certainly don't see eye to eye on every spiritual doctrine and he's not cowed by my opinions. He doesn't abdicate responsibility for teaching our children about Jesus just because I also teach them about Him.

Another friend was talking about how men won't participate in church if there is a woman pastor or Sunday School leader. Are our men that pathetic? Is their manhood challenged by a person with a spiritual walk, opinions, and ovaries? I don't mean to be crass, but ownership of male genitalia does not give a guy a special hotline to God. And I really don't believe that our men are that weak. That we must cover and cower and keep silent or they won't step up and participate.

If we truly think our husbands are strong leaders, they should be able to handle women who dress normally. They should be able to handle women who teach and women who have opinions. They should recognize that God has made all people to function according to their gifts, not according to their gender.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

College bound

I've appreciated the comments on my previous entries about patriarchy.  I've had quite the rousing discussions happening on my facebook page as well.  I think it is good to stimulate one another to think and pray about theological and cultural issues.

As I've said before, I think there is a need for restoration in the family.  I think God has an amazing plan for families, and that plan has been distorted and warped by the enemy.  Fatherlessness is an epidemic and divorce rates are sky high. I appreciate ministries like Above Rubies that hold up a standard saying that God created motherhood and we should embrace child-rearing and loving our husbands.  I am thankful that I found other Christians who taught me that children are a blessing and that I could trust God and accept a larger family.

But I still contend that there is a dangerous edge to some of these ministries.

A friend and I were discussing our daughters recently.  She was saying how much harder it is to raise sons because their education is so much more important.  She said that really, as long as her girls can keep house and balance a checkbook she feels she has done a good job.  I asked if the girls would be prepared for college with such a rudimentary education and she just gawked at me.  "I can't imagine sending my sweet girls to college!  It's a horrible place!  And why would they need to go, anyway?  I mean, why spend money on all that when I know God wants them to be homemakers?"  She then offered to lend me a book and video ( The Return of the Daughters  and So Much More) so I could see the error of my plans.

As I did more research I realized that this is a common and growing belief in patriocentric families and ministries.  Ministries like Vision Forum don't come right out and say it is a sin for a girl to go to college, but they do say that it is poor stewardship of resources.  Similarly, blogs like By His Grace and For His Glory and Generation Cedar talk about how training girls to be homemakers is the only Godly plan for their lives.

The crazy thing is, I never heard Jesus say any of this stuff.

Once, He had dinner with two sisters.  One wanted to do housework and cook, while one wanted to sit at His feet and learn.  So, of course, since women are called to the kitchen and not to education, He rebuked Mary and sent her to sweep while the men learned, right?

No, our Savior praised the woman who wanted to learn of Him and told Martha she would do well to sit and learn with Mary.

I Corinthians 7:8 says , "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do." Why? Paul goes on to explain in verse 34-35, "An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord."

Since Paul explains that remaining single to serve the Lord is a good thing, we can rightly assume that marriage and homemaking are not the only choices that should be available to Christian young women who desire to please God.

So, will my girls go to college?  I expect so.  Now, will it be traditonal four-year, live-away-from-home college?  I don't know.

What I do know is that Philip and I believe God has amazing plans for each of our three girls.  Plans that may include careers, home-making or a blend of the two.  God has not limited them to the kitchen (not that there is anything wrong with the kitchen!) - but given each talents that they will use for His glory.  I expect that our daughters (and our sons) will pray long and hard with us about what they are to do with their lives.  I expect that as we give our input and they listen to the Holy Spirit, He will guide them. 

Our sweet Susannah love science and art.  I can see her being involved in a natural science, caring for animals or even illustrating texts about animals.  Adventurous Abigail is crazy creative.  I never know what she will sculpt next.  I could see her doing interior design or becoming an artist.  Little Leah only likes to crawl around and shove things in her mouth so far, so we'll have to see what talents and interests the Lord has given her.

But I know husband and I will support the girls in whatever endeavors the Lord leads them to undertake, whether that be wiping noses or wielding scalpels.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


So I've been writing about some of the teachings coming out of the conservative/fundamentalist church that I believe are, to varying degrees, toxic and extra-biblical.

I do agree that many of these ministries have some good things to say, and I have tried very hard to  judge only the teachings that they have presented and not the hearts or salvation of the teachers themselves.

But this really takes the cake.

When I read it I had to step back and shake my head in disbelief.

It seems that Doug Phillips, of Vision Forum, believes that it is murder to do surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy before it ruptures.  He thinks this is a tenable approach because one random woman in Australia carried an ectopic pregnancy attached to her ovary for nine months and gave birth via c/s to healthy baby girl.

It's good logic, you know, to make your case based on the strangest, most bizarre incident you can find (eyeroll).

What this man does not mention is the 40-50 women who die every year in the US from ectopic pregnancy.  What he does not mention is that there are very, very few cases of ectopic pregnancies making it to the age of viability.

I would contend that this man is dangerous, and, dare I say it - cruel.  There are well-meaning Christian families, many whom I know and love, who listen to Mr. Phillips.  And if any of them feel his condemnation and misguided classification of ectopic pregnancy surgery as murder, they could be putting their life in danger for no reason.

Has Mr. Phillips had miscarriages?  Has he wiped away the blood and had the cramps and cried the tears associated with the loss of life and a dream?  I have.  And I know many other women who have.  It is heartbreaking.

I've never experienced an ectopic pregnancy, but I have held the hands of women diagnosed with them.  As a nurse, I've cried with them as they were wheeled away to the OR for emergency surgery to save their lives.  I've seen the vital signs dropping as a woman bleeds out from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. I've pumped in the fluids and blood to try and save her.  I've watched her color turn grey and her skin become clammy as her life drains into her belly.  It can happen in minutes.  I've seen women go to sonogram and be diagnosed with an intact tubal pregnancy.  They can come back to their room and crash in just a few minutes.  "Watchful waiting" is not an option when you can bleed out in five minutes.

But in Mr. Phillip's theology, a woman who has life-saving surgery, knowing that there is no way the tiny life insider her can be saved, is a murderer.

And that is sick.  It is uncompassionate, rude, cruel and unkind.  Because these women are grieving the loss of their sweet babies, as well as usually facing reduced fertility due to the loss of the affected tube.  I cannot see the character of my Savior in a person who would condemn the grieving mom.  I see legalism, judgment and misogynism.  I see a man, who, for all his talk about valuing women, sees them as expendable. 

As the body of Christ, we should be weeping with those who weep and comforting those who are grieving, not heaping blame and condemnation on their heads.

Monday, June 06, 2011

FREEEEEDOOOOM - aka, why I am renouncing my prairie muffin credentials

I feel like such a fool.  I remember who I used to be, the person my husband fell in love with.  I was so joyful and vibrant and friendly and free.  I read my journals from that time and I see such passionate love for the Father and openness to Him.  And I just don't feel that way anymore.

My husband remarked the other day that I am so stubborn.  That I dig in my heels and refuse to listen to his advice.  And it's true.  I am stubborn.  I am loathe to receive any more instructions or corrections.  But probably not for the reason he infers.

It is because I have been deceived.  For the past 5 or so years I had been wading softly into the waters of Biblical patriocentricity.  I had been reading things from Vision Forum, Ladies Against Feminism, Voddie Baucham and the like.  And I felt so condemned.  Because there is no room in these man-made philosophies for a woman like me.  The only way for me to conform was by changing who I am.  By changing from the person God made me into some strange Stepford wife.  And when my sweet husband added any more advice or correction, no matter how just, I felt as though my knees would buckle under the burden.  My relationship with God was so pathetic.  I could not seek His Face because I knew it would be contorted with disappointment in my failure to conform to the requirements of the "godly."

But the Holy Spirit in me cried out against this.  I was not made for this.  I was not made to be a visionless sidekick.  And I don't think that the Lord created half the population of the world to only be sidekicks.  Christ did not come to deliver me to another set of rules. 

The patriocentrists insist on uniformity in the body.  All members should act alike.  Personal preferences of leaders and fathers are exalted to the status of doctrine and to have a different take on things is labeled sin.  Small verses are catapulted to stardom in their doctrines and whole ways of life are centered around minute portions of Scripture.  "Forget the whole counsel of God," they seem to say, "we only need two verses from Proverbs and a snippet of Titus."

And it is all about control.  Subjugate the women and make the men kings.  Keep your daughters at home until the time comes when you transfer ownership of them to their husbands.   Keep your sons working in the family business and spreading your glory. 

So from now, on, I am not just Philip's helpmeet.  I am Tamara, daughter of God.  I am valuable to Him in my own right, apart from my position as wife or mother.  I have been given dreams and passions apart from those of my husband and it is okay!  I am capable and gifted as a woman.  Not in spite of being a woman or only as an adjunct to a man.  I am made in the image of God, just as a man is.  The fact that an X chromosome sperm fertilized my mother's egg does not make me less in substance or stature before God than if a Y chromosome sperm had done the honors. 

It is okay for me to occasionally need time alone.  Despite what the patriocentrists teach, it is okay to go for a mani-pedi sometimes.  I DO need a little me-time sometimes.  I do need an hour or two to myself.  It doesn't make me selfish, it makes my healthy and honest.  I have six kid, for goodness sake! 

I am valuable to God apart from my womb.  I do not need to engage in militant fecundity to prove my worth or my devotion to Him.  I can be okay with my hysterectomy and I do not need to self-flagellate in the presence of quiverfull women because I cannot bear any more children.  I love babies, but frankly, my quiver is full at the moment.  And that is okay.  God has richly blessed me, but my hands are full!  The patriocentrist ladies won't admit it, but you really cannot do it all! 

Gabriel will be going to speech preschool at the local public school 5 mornings a week next year.  And I am so grateful for the opportunity.  For him and for me.  Because I cannot teach 4 kids with a crazy preschooler at home as well as I can teach 4 kids with said crazy preschooler enjoying friends and fun at school.  The patrio books/blogs would indict me for not training him better and for sending him to public school.  But I have been honest with myself and realized that this is the best thing for all of us.  I could insist that I am capable of juggling all these balls, but it would not be helpful to Gabriel or the rest of us.  He needs the speech help and I need 3 1/2 hrs each morning to teach without constant interruption.  And that is okay!  Praise God that this service is available!

This is not to say that I do not adore my husband or children.  It is not to say that I am not unbelievably blessed to be Philip's bride and the mother of my six amazing kids.  But those things do not define me.  Christ and Christ alone is my portion, not motherhood or marriage or anything else.

It is painful to admit that I have been so deceived.  That I have been like the foolish Galatians, adding law to the finished work of Christ.  But it is true.  And now that my eyes have been opened I just want to shout "FREEEEDOM!"   The weight of law and condemnation is so heavy.  But His burden, His teaching, His truth - they are so, so light. 

I cannot reject the pestilent teaching of the Vision Forum and other Patriocentric ministries strongly enough.  They are divisive and cruel.  They cause strife and division in churches.  They are not humble.  They do not just present teachings for consideration.  They call their critics names and abuse their character and their Christianity.   I repent for ever believing their lies and ask all Christians to honestly compare patriocentric teachings with the Word, remembering that description in the Word does not equal prescription.  Just because Abraham and Jacob were patriarchal leaders does not mean that God intends all fathers to own their daughters like chattel.  They were ancient men, living in an ancient culture, and their habits are not commandments for us.

(PS: My husband did NOT push me in this direction.  He wasn't slipping VF leaflets under my pillow or buying me their books.  I was the one dragging him down this path.)

Monday, May 30, 2011

What would Jesus protest?

I was reading about that horrible cult led by Fred Phelps. I am truly repulsed by this man, and ashamed at the reproach he has brought to the name of Christ.  (It's one thing to be a sick, hateful jerk, it's another to be a sick, hateful jerk and claim that Jesus made you do it.)  I hate that people look as his brand of vitriol and associate it in any way with my Savior.  I hate that this "preacher" takes verses from the Holy Scriptures and misuses them.  It makes me ill.

I know we are called to evangelize.  But when I read the Scriptures, especially the words of Christ, I hear a different command than the one Fred Phelps is hearing (which is, apparently, "insult folks into the kingdom").  I read the words of my Master and hear that I am to share the Good News.  I hear that I am to share a message of reconciliation between an unrighteous sinner and a Holy God.

I understand that people must repent and realize their sin before they can be reconciled.  I reject the watered down self-help gospel that does not require repentence.  But I fail to see how calling names and claiming every bad thing that happens to America is a divine judgment is evangelism.  Is this man making converts?  Are sinners being reconciled with their God through his teachings?

Now I realize the Mr. Phelps is a pretty extreme example of a Christian picketer.  I realize there are many others who have picketed at Pride parades and abortion clinics and other places who do not hold to the vile teachings of Mr. Phelps.

But I still wonder what Jesus would picket.  I wonder if He would be standing anywhere holding a sign of condemnation.  And if He did, wouldn't it be in front of a "church" like Mr. Phelps'?  In the Gospels Jesus saved His most scathing criticism for self-righteous religious folks. To the sinner He reached out with salvation, to those who thought themselves righteous He lashed out with condemnation.

If the Church is truly the hands and feet of Christ, shouldn't we be reaching out, promoting reconciliation and healing?  Shouldn't we be bringing people to the Savior so He can restore shalom (wholeness) to their lives?  Isn't the Good News more than just a judgment or a "don't" list?   Have picket signs ever caused a sinner to turn, or do they simply strengthen the resolve of the foolish to continue on their merry way towards destruction?

I understand that we cannot stand for sin in our own lives, but isn't the Church most effective when we allow God to cleanse us first and then reach down into the pit and help folks up?   I realize that the Cross is a stumbling block and the ways of God seem foolish to man, but can we let the Cross be offensive enough without adding the shame of our own nasty, hateful behavior? 

I am not saying that we should be soft on sin.  I am not saying we should lie about things that offend God.  I am not proposing that we seek to please people with our words instead of Christ, or that we should allow our feelings to dictate our stance on subjects of morality.  But I am saying we should clean house first.  Focus on our own hearts and our own sin.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Called to judge?

So apparently I'm becoming adept at stirring the pot.

My last post led to a 75 comment long stream on Facebook.  Some folks really agreed with me,  while others adamantly defended the Pearls.  Some folks called me judgmental and called into question my behavior as a Christian.  

So my question here is, are we allowed to judge as Christians?  When?  Why?  Are there limits?

Nearly everyone is familiar with Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, or you will be judged,"  Offer an opinion on nearly anything that someone else doesn't like and you will be smacked in the face with this verse.  But what does it really mean?

If we continue down the passage we read, " For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?   How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?   You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."   A companion verse is Luke 6:37, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

Reading these, and knowing what my Savior said to the hypocritical, hyper-judgmental religious leaders of the day, it is easy to see that we are not to judge other people.  I am not to look at another person's heart and condemn them.  I should follow Jesus' teachings and treat others the way I would like to be treated,  forgiving them as I would like to be forgiven.  We know from the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21-35), that it angers God greatly when we, who have been forgiven an unpayable debt, hold others accountable for the comparatively small offenses they have committed. 

So it seems pretty obvious that we must develop a policy of charity towards others since we desire charity for ourselves.

But the issue becomes more murky when we start talking about behaviors and teachings. 

Pope John Paul wrote that Adam and Eve mistakenly thought that they could choose right and wrong.  In reality, God alone can determine if something is right or wrong, good or evil.  We only get to choose which side we will stand on (Josh 24:15,  Matt 12:30.)   Will we agree with God or pretend that we get to determine what is sin?  It's a form of idolatry, really - enshrining one's own self and one's own opinion greater than God's.  Because when we refuse to agree with God and call sin sin, we are really telling Him that we could do a better job - that our judgment is better than His. 

So, for example, when we call abortion a sin, we are not being judgmental in a way prohibited by Scripture.  Instead, we are siding with God, who hates murder and the shedding of innocent blood (Prov. 6:17, Ex. 20:30).  I am not judging a woman's heart when I say that abortion is sinful.  I am agreeing with God, who creates life and despises the killing of innocents.   To say otherwise would be to tell God that I have better judgment than He does.  (I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that's a bad idea.)

Teaching is a whole 'nother ball of wax.  Teachers are held to a very high standard of accuracy and faithfulness to the Gospel (Titus 1:9 and 2:1, Gal. 1:6-9).   We are repeatedly admonished to evaluate teachings to make sure they line up with the Gospel (Acts 17:11).  We should endeavor to separate our feelings about a teacher as person from our evaluation of their message.

I am sure the Pearls are kind and meek.  My husband greatly enjoyed his time with the couple and was very blessed when Debi watched his movie and gave him a review. But I have a duty to separate those warm feelings from an honest evaluation of their teachings in light of revealed Biblical truth.  And I find the books lacking in the Spirit of grace that I see the Bible.  I also find them to be full of judgments and Law that will not bring life, but bondage.

I do not believe I am sinning in judging or evaluating the teachings of the Pearls.  I have not judged their hearts, after all, I have simply judged the teachings that they have presented to the body of Christ.  I would argue that not only is this an allowable practice, but an essential and beneficial habit for a maturing believer.

PS:  I should add that the teacher's platform matters as well.  The Pearls have presented themselves as Biblical child-rearing experts.  This means they must be evaluated using stricter standards than someone who is just sharing informally about their parenting philosophy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

REAL parenting joy

So yesterday I shared my reservations about GKGW.  Thank you for your comments.  I realize that many loving parents do use Babywise and don't sabotage their milk supply.  I realize that doing GKGW doesn't mean your baby will scream in his crib for an hour until he vomits.  Many caring parents use Babywise with common sense and do just fine.  I thank those parents for extending grace to me when I say that it did not work for us.

And now I'm on to another Christian parenting book that is popular in my circle.  No Greater Joy Ministries, a fundamentalist Christian ministry that puts out several popular parenting and marriage books.  I have read To Train Up A Child No Greater Joy (Vol. 1-3), Rebekah's Diary, and Created To Be His Helpmeet.   They were all interesting reads, and did contain nuggets of helpful truth.  But in the end, I cannot recommend them.  My husband always encourages me to chew up the grain and spit out the straw, but at some point the grain-to-straw ratio becomes unpalatable.  And the poisonous nature of some specific straw (is my metaphor breaking down here?) makes it dangerous to ingest.  (Just ask the two children who died because of its teachings.)

Let me explain.

My husband has dined with Michael and Debbie Pearl and says that they are kind, meek, loving people.  I have some issues with their doctrines (KJV only, water baptism only, sinless perfection, etc), but I don't doubt that they genuinely love Jesus and desire to strengthen families.  What I do doubt is their method and their general feelings about child-parent relations.

The Pearls say that their methods will work 100% of the time.  If you end a spanking before you have achieved 100% outward submission and repentance in your child, you have failed.  Which will make it even harder to break your child the next time.  If your child flees from you, you should stalk them, hold them down and beat them.  When you are spanking them, you should act like it's a big joke and pretend you have lost count of how many licks you have given and jest that you must start over.  You should wear your switch around your neck so your children are always reminded of your authority.   BUT, if you are steadfast and continue to whip your child until they repent, every single time they disobey, with utter impunity (and a smile on your face!) you will have completely happy and obedient children. 

Most rational, thinking, loving people can read that and realize it is a load of hogwash (not to mention disgusting!).  There is NO guarantee of a perfect outcome.  God has disobedient children, who am I to think that I am a better parent than He?  What we must do is PRAY!  Often and in earnest!  Ask the Lord what we should do and teach our children the Word from an early age.

But there are folks out there who do not have this common sense check in their spirits.  Well-meaning, Christian folks who read these books and fall under a load of condemnation for their children's faults.  Who read these books and think, "If I just spank more/harder/more consistently......if I just break my child's will....then I will have an absolute guarantee of their success!"  And so they throw rational thinking to the wind and end up with dead children.

I understand the draw of a guarantee, but as attractive as that thought is, there is no biblical precedent for this.  Instead we must draw near to God in faith and work with Him to train our children and LOVE them into the kingdom.

In addition to the sickening descriptions of spankings in the book,  the entire premise of the parent-child dynamic seemed off to me.  It, and books like it, seem to promote a ruler-serf mentality with children and parents.  I am no permissive parent, and firmly believe that this is the time to be my child's parent - friendship will come later.  However, I see no reason to be my child's adversary.  I want to be his coach, his teacher, his cheerleader.  The Bible says we are co-heirs with Christ.  We are growing in grace and wisdom together and I see no reason to assume antagonism between my children and myself.   Yes, there are times when they must submit to my leadership as the mother of the home.  But they are also my brothers and sisters in Christ, and we, as a family unit, are trying to follow hard after Him. 

I didn't want to write this.  I had read parts of the Pearl's books and liked them.  But when you know better, you do better.  And I know better now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Baby Unwise

I've really been enjoying Three Moms and a Podcast, a podcast where my friend Kaysie and two of her buds dish about different mothering issues.  A few weeks ago they talked about the-book-that-shall-not-be-named (aka, Babywise), and I've had a lot of thoughts rolling around in my head regarding GKGW and programs of its kind.

I've mentioned it before, but when Nate was born, I thought this book was gold.  We followed it like it was child-rearing manna from Heaven.  Sure enough, he slept through the night by 8 wks, even though he was 4 wks early.  But at a very high price - his early sleeping habits, coupled with scheduled feedings during the day and a full-time night shift work schedule, cost me my milk supply.  By 5 months it had disappeared. 

We used the program again with Susannah.  And by 6 months I was struggling again.  I managed to make it to 9 months, supplementing heavily with formula, when I became pregnant with Abigail.  I tried nursing her while pregnant but she was no longer interested. 

Abigail's time at the breast started roughly.  She was born 7 wks early and was only 4 lb 7 oz when we brought her home from the NICU.  She never latched well and by 12 wks she'd weaned completely.

With Luke I was determined to do something different.  I knew that God had made me to nurse.  I had sweet toothless babies and breasts to feed them, but for some reason "God's way" wasn't cutting it.  I was drying up far before it was time for weaning.  So I went to a breastfeeding support group as soon as Luke arrived.  At first I was skeptical.  All these hippie ladies sitting in a room with nursing toddlers kind of scared me.  And when I mentioned how I didn't know how to boost my supply while doing Babywise, a hush fell across the room.

"You know," the lactation consultant (now my dear friend, Mellanie) said, "your baby didn't come with those instructions imprinted on him.  He just knows he's hungry."  I immediately went on alert.  I knew about those no-schedule, family-bed marsupial parents.  I'd been warned about them in my GKGW class.

But I kept coming back.  And I saw that these ladies really loved their kids too.  And many of them loved Jesus as well.  And that GKGW wasn't God's way.  It was a way that some Christians raise their children.  And while it wasn't wrong in and of itself, neither was it right or holy or somehow perfect. 

And I threw out the book.  I still kept the basic routine of eat-play-sleep, but I let Luke set his own schedule.  And he nursed past a year, almost all the way through my pregnancy with Gabriel.   Gabriel, too, nursed for over a year and my supply was plentiful.  Leah Claire is 8 months old.  She still wakes a couple times a night, but she's exclusively breastfed and happy.  My supply is abundant and since we cosleep it's not a big deal to drowsily nurse her in the night.  (Frankly, with the noise and craziness of our daytimes, it's a special time for the two of us).

My point is not that Babywise is one hundred percent wrong, though I do have serious caveats about a book that undermines natural milk production and made me numb my soul to my maternal instinct to comfort my child.  My point is that it is not God's way.  Neither is Sears', or Pantley's, or anyone else.

When we were born again, God filled us with the Holy Spirit.  As we became mothers, that same Holy Spirit empowered us to mother our children.  We must listen to the still, small Voice of the Father and ask Him how we should mother, not some silly book.  We should rely on the natural instincts that our Creator gave us to care for our little ones.  And we should pray, often and earnestly, that He would fill us to overflowing with knowledge and wisdom to raise our children in the way that they should be raised (this may come as a shock to you, but not all kids are the same - my kids might have different needs than yours.  That's why an omniscient God gave them to me!).

So let's give each other grace.  I won't call my way perfect or anoint it with the "God's way" moniker if you will do likewise.  Let's pray and support and encourage each other to seek the Father about raising all our kids to follow Him all the days of their lives.

Stay tuned - tomorrow I'll tackle No Greater Joy.  

(PS, thank you to my sisters for not punching me out, in Christian love, when I repeatedly gave them copies of the book.  You know, back when I thought it was God's way.)

(PPS, now I'M the hippie, co-sleeping marsupial mom)

Monday, May 09, 2011

Inspired to Action: Maximize Your Mornings.

So, I'm realizing that I fritter away half the day by being unprepared.  I don't have all my lessons planned.  I don't have the kids' chores planned.  I haven't had my quiet time.  I haven't exercised.  I haven't prayed.  And I spend half the day playing catch up and becoming emotionally and mentally exhausted because I'm trying to figure out what I need to do while I'm trying to do it.

So I'm committing to change.  I'm committing to get up early.  6:30.  And spend 1 hr praying, running and planning before the kids wake up.  I'm participating in the Maximize Your Mornings challenge .   I hope you will consider doing it too.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Recently I got into a kerfuffle on Facebook about abortion.  (I knew better, really.  I mean, who changes their mind based on some FB wall posts?)   I called it murder and was told that I needed to work on my compassion.  I was told that Jesus doesn't judge. 

Really?  Because the Jesus I serve is kind of a badass.  I mean, He knocked over tables in the Temple and drove the moneychangers out with a whip.  In Revelation He returns on stallion with a sword and judges the Earth. 

Now, I know, I am not Jesus.  I know the verse constantly thrown in the faces of Christians.  (I read recently that the most common verse known by unbelievers used to be John 3:16.  Now it is Matthew 7:1-2.)  I get that we need to be gentle with others and strict with ourselves.  We need to self-examine before we point out others' sins.  

But we also need to be honest.  And call things like they are.  Of course we should show compassion to individual women who have had or are considering abortion.  Of course we shouldn't make death threats to abortionists or stone them in the street.  

But compassion is a complicated.  How do you show compassion for someone without condoning their sin?  How do we reach out to women while still working to end the genocide that is abortion? 

Jesus had to be the most compassionate person to walk the planet.  But He still called sin sin.  I don't think He wants us to stand idly by and allow the murder of innocents. 

I've heard the same logic used to condemn evangelism.  People get all peeved when they are called sinners.  Have you heard some altar calls lately?  I've heard some on TV that make Jesus sound like a magic infomercial panacea.  But salvation is so much more than a "better life" scheme or a set of steps towards ultimate fulfillment.

How can one recognize their need for a Savior until they recognize their sin?  And how will anyone every realize their sin when we bow to our culture's false idol of tolerance?

Compassion has to be two-fold.  Kindness AND truth.  Holiness AND love.  Gentle AND firm.  Because my Savior is all those things, and He is the one I want to emulate.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

just an FYI

I don't hate the public schools.


I know I am often quite vocal in my appreciation for the privilege of teaching my kids at home.  And I do feel that the public school down the street was not a good fit for my oldest son.

But there are a lot of really great schoolteachers and workers out there.  And I'm not just saying that because I'm sleeping with one.  (Shhhh!)

I'm married to a teacher.  My mom is a teacher.  My step-mom is a teacher.  And I know many, many more.  There are many students who are learning fantastic things from amazing teachers.  I cannot say this enough.  It breaks my heart to hear homeschool moms bashing the public schools.  Do we realize how hurtful it is when we malign all public schools in our small groups or churches, right in front of our Christian sister or brother who teaches in a public school?

(My problem is with the whole education model.  I don't like a system that only values the kids with academic brilliance.  I don't like a system that teaches kids that there are no absolutes, that all values are equal.  And I don't like a system the causes children to value their peers' opinions more than their parents'.)

I am a product of the public school system and I am grateful for the education I received (especially in Mrs. Trusty's AP English class!)  I know there are many teachers who are working within the system and making a positive impact on kids.  And I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

I think as homeschoolers we must be careful not to engender animosity that is not necessary or helpful.  Our enemy is not the public school system, nor the teachers within it.  Our enemy is the enemy of souls, who delights in causing Christians to turn on one another instead of fighting him. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

You know THAT girl?

The one you read about on the web.

The one who teaches her kids Latin and Sign Language in preschool.

The one whose kids excel at every subject known to man.

Who always has a perfect house and perfectly obedient children.

Who values punctuality and has immaculate systems for preventing lateness.

Who rises early to get at least 2 hrs with the Lord before her kids wake up.

Who takes her kids to every extracurricular activity under the sun.

Plus church.

Who takes her kids to feed the hungry and scrub toilets at the downtown mission every week.

But still has time to sew all their clothes, and prepare organic meals from scratch.

With vegetables she grew in her garden and eggs from her chickens.

Well, I'm not her.  And I doubt you are either.  I don't think this lady really exists.  But it's really easy to read blogs and get a false idea about who we should be and what we should be doing.  I have a tendency to synthesize all the ideas I get from blogs into some monstrous mommy idol.  I somehow think that the lady who makes all the nifty craft stuff on Filth Wizardry is the same one who makes all her own food on Heavenly Homemakers.  But they can't be.  Something's got to give.  And one person cannot accomplish everything that this magical lady in my head does.

And I know this.  Somewhere in the back of my head, I really do.  But I still walk around feeling condemned because I'm not her.  Because I'm not living up to some imaginary standards set by other folks.

And I get paralyzed by fear.  And descend into inactivity because I know I can't do everything. 

But all I need to do, all He has called me to do, is the next right thing.  Listen to His voice and obey. 

I need to ask Him what is important and go from there.  Accept that I cannot do it all and focus on doing a fantastic job of the few things that matter to His heart. 

People have been telling me for years that I should be selling the things I make.  But honestly?  I don't have time.  And it stresses me out.  Twice I have tried to open online shops only to get stressed and quit.  I recently tried again.  And I realized (sooner this time!  Yeah!  I'm learning!) that sewing adorable baby clothes for other folks' kids is not what God has called me to.  I should sew for my own enjoyment for the people I love.  Heck, I have a part-time job that pays well.  I don't need another one.

But I do need to streamline.  And prioritize.  And run hard with the vision He has given us for our family.  Which means dropping the extra stuff (good stuff, but not necessarily God stuff) and focusing on being excellent in a few things. 

And not beating myself up because I'm not THAT girl.

Because she didn't exist anywhere except my head.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I'm raising weirdos.

So, I'm pretty sure I'm raising weirdos. 

No, not that kind.  But I notice that my kids don't seem the same as the public and private schooled kids I know.  I read this article yesterday and felt a bit better.

 Because I don't want to raise "normal" kids.

I don't want to raise kids who tow the line and do what's expected and fit in perfectly.  I don't want to raise kids who conform to the world's mold.

I want to raise world-shakers and soul-winners.

Sure, I want my children to be polite, well-behaved and able to get along with others.  I want them to be hard workers and hope any employer feels like they are getting a really great deal when they hire my child.  I pray that their spouses and friends feel enriched by knowing my kids.  And I pray they are a blessing to their churches and communities.

But I do not worry about their socialization in the way most folks mean it.   I do not want my kids to be conditioned to accept things on blind faith because a teacher said it or "that's the way we've always done it."  I don't want my kids to ignore their consciences in order to blend in.

I don't want my kids getting lessons on how to be a better sheep.  I want them to retain their wild creativity and sincere questioning.  I want them to engage ideas instead of regurgitating facts.  I want them to learn how to learn instead of just memorizing data.

Because honestly, if I'm not desiring a different product than the public schools churn out, I'm putting in a hell of a lot of work for nothing!   And I'm way too lazy for that.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to make a faux Grecian pot.

We're wrapping up our study of the Greeks and preparing to move on to Rome. 
For our final Greek art project we made faux Grecian pottery.

Supplies needed:
Terra cotta pot
Black acrylic pain
Peach crayon
Paint brush
Paper towels
Clear coat spray-on sealant

Draw your design on the pot using the peach crayon.  Press hard so lots of wax transfers to the pot.

When you are finished with your design, paint over the entire pot using black acrylic paint. 

Then buff the pot with a paper towel while it is still wet, revealing your design.

Now all your designs should be showing.

Spray with Krylon Acrylic Crystal Clear Spray Coating and allow to dry.

All done!  Ours now adorn our kitchen table.
We planted rosemary and basil in them.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gospel and Law

I've been reading some more emergent church books lately.  I enjoy Donald Miller, Rob Bell, and to some extent, Brian McLaren.  Their books make me uncomfortable though and cause me to search my faith.  Have I built my spiritual house on bedrock or is part of the wonder of God that is He is ultimately unknowable?

The emergent pastors seem to purport that what we believe about God is not really important.  What is important is that we follow Jesus into a new way of living in love and community.  They stress Jesus' call to kingdom living and sacrificial love for our brothers.

Which all sounds great. 

Except is is not the Good News.

It is not the Gospel.

When I stand before a holy God after I die,  I cannot trust in my adherence to Jesus' way of kingdom living.  My works cannot reconcile me to a perfect, just God.  That is Law.  And I cannot fulfill it.  I am inadequate to pay the monstrous debt I owe.

The apostles and early martyrs did not die because the Romans feared their lifestyle of community.  They died because they bore witness to the real Good News - that Jesus Christ, the incarnate God-made-flesh, had died for our sins and risen again in victory. 

I am so thankful for the real Gospel.  That my salvation does not rest in my works, but instead I have been ransomed back through the shed blood of Christ.  Indeed, works will follow as the Spirit of God restores my soul and conforms me to the image of His Son.  Works are evidence of true salvation.  But they are not the work of salvation itself. 

I am thankful for the solid rock of Christ.  That I don't have to build my house on the shifting sands of emergent theology that pretends to be about grace, but is really just regurgitated law.  And I can choose not to be enslaved again to law, but rejoice in the freedom His blood purchased for me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Social network

Philip and I watch "The Social Network" the other night.  Pretty interesting movie. 

What struck me was the Ecclesiastes vibe that ran through the whole thing.

Here is a guy (Mark Zuckerberg) who is brilliant and creative.  Who worked hard to create Facebook.  And made a boatload of dough doing it.

And how useless it all is.

Has FB contributed to our prayerfulness?  Brought people to Christ?  Fed the hungry?  Healed the sick?  Clothed the naked?  Placed the orphan in a family?


Now, I do use FB.  I enjoy catching up with friends and talking, even virtually, with folks who don't wet their pants.

But I hope my life matters for more than that.  That it is more than a striving after the wind.  Because in the end, this world is just a breath.  And Mark Zuckerberg's billions and my more modest thousands and the poor man's pennies will all be gone.  And all that will remain is what we have done for and through Christ.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For real

So my friend was watching me change Leah's diaper and says, "Oh, those are so cute.  But they really make your baby pee more.  I mean, you've changed her like 3 times and I've only changed my baby once."

Um, yeah.

Your baby pees just as much.  It's just that the paper diaper changes the pee into those weird little gel beads.  So it doesn't seem like your baby is wet.

For real.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


My husband remarked the other day that he has very few regrets, while I have many.  It's not that I have made that many more mistakes than he, it is just that he moves on quickly.

I tend to ruminate over past failures and fantasize about what my life would be like if I'd chosen a different path at various crossroads.  If I had faced my opportunities armed with the knowledge I have now instead of the understanding I had at the time. If I had known how much a sin would cost me before I succumbed to temptation.  If I had seen the potential good in certain choices and counted the benefits worthy of the cost.

But I can't go back.  I can't wallow in what might have been.  I can't wiggle my nose and create an alternative reality.

But I can use the regrets of yesterday to make better, wiser choices today.  To act more slowly and carefully.  To heed the still, small Voice that cautions and guides.

And I can serve a God Who makes all things new.  Who is not surprised by my choices.  Whose plan cannot be foiled by my foibles. Whose providence is bigger than my propensity for foolishness.

I think it's a case of casting our Maker in our image again.  I get upset when family/friends/kids "mess up" and it alters my plans.  I have to work around the changes.  But God has foreknowledge.  He already has a plan worked out for me.

He has designed me for His glory and His plans will be accomplished.  And that is something I can revel in.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


So the last two weeks were a gaping void in which I was constantly doing one of two things:  working or coughing.  (Sometimes both.  Because I'm a mom and I can multitask.)

But I'm doing better.  The holiday work-a-thon is over and my pneumonia is clearing.

And I've been thinking about Christmas.  Several of my sweet and well-meaning friends do not celebrate.  They are getting into the Jewish roots of Christianity and have rejected Christmas and Easter, saying that they are just "Christianized" versions of pagan celebrations.  And that they aren't even in the Bible.

Which is fine.  If the Holy Spirit convicts them about this, then who am I to judge?

But for me, both the holidays are altars.

God was really into altars in the Old Testament. 

Every time something super nifty happened (crossing the Jordan, wrestling with God, etc), God told His people to build an altar to remember.  A physical reminder of an encounter with an invisible God.

And if there is anything in this world worth remembering it is the incarnation of our infinite God and the sacrifice He made for us. Two times a year when we should stop and say, "Wow," and just marvel in His goodness.

What other altars would you make in your journey?  Are there any special times when you remember God's amazing acts?   Any times when you've pulled stones from the river and made a memorial to God's intervention?

Birthdays are a big one I think of.  Sure, they can be commercialized, stress-filled celebrations of materialism and white sugar.  But they can be altars too.  Reminders that God intervened in my life and gifted me with six amazing kids.  Reminders that His voice saying "yes" is bigger than any doctor's voice saying "no."

I think our biggest problem with holidays is not that they exist.  It is that we've forgotten what they are for.  Christmas, Easter, birthdays, etc should be days reflecting God's glory.  Where we ponder the provision of a mighty Savior.  As always, it is a heart issue when we really come down to it.