Mourn with Those Who Mourn

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. 

Isaiah 54:10

Mother and Child

I don’t know why bad things happen period, but when they happen to good, innocent, people it’s doubly hard to wrap my mind around. I’m grateful I don’t have to understand to know that the God I serve and love has got everything under control. That seems so meager in hard times, but I know it’s true. And I know that he is the God of restoration and healing and can bring beauty from ashes.

Lord, hold Geof and Gen and their sweet children. Help them feel your peace and comfort. Give sympathy and wisdom to those who are close to them who are caring for them during this difficult time.

Thank you for the beautiful life of Sebastian. Thank you that even a brief life holds so much value and meaning and can touch the lives and hearts of so many people. We won’t forget him, Lord, and we’re grateful for the time he did have on this earth. Amen.

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Valentine’s Day 2017

In years past I’ve cooked a fun breakfast or dinner (depending on the day of the week ), set the table with fancy dishes, and made a bit of a fuss. This year, I woke up sick and just didn’t have it in me to do much of anything.

Thankfully, Ben had decided to pick up some breakfast goodies the night before as a surprise. They weren’t exactly healthy, but it was gluten and dairy-free so I appreciated that!

Thankfully, I’m usually pretty good at not waiting until the last minute on things so I had little gifts for Ben and the boys. For Ben, I’d picked up some “healthy” chocolate peanut butter cups. Each boy received a book. I just had to wrap it all and then print out my valentines and affix a little chocolate heart (ordered from Equal Exchange).

For dinner, I whipped up some pancake batter and Ben made the pancakes. We topped them with some blueberry-lavender jelly we’d picked up in Maplewood and it was a tasty dinner! I’d tried to color them pink by adding a few strawberries to the batter but that did nothing at all. Note taken.

Ben and I had already celebrated by taking a few hours to ourselves on Sunday afternoon. We wondered around Maplewood for a bit and had some coffee, explored Penzy’s and a book shop, and had fun looking at goodies in a shop that sold locally-made products.

He surprised me on Tuesday by placing sweet post-it notes all over the house for me to find.

It was a bummer being sick, but love isn’t just about the good times. It’s also about the not-so-good times and how you overcome them as a couple/family. My guys were sweet to me and let me get lots of rest. And what says “I love you” more than an uninterrupted nap?

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Cliff Cave Hike

We were blessed with amazing weather this past weekend. Low 70s!

I told the guys, earlier in the week, to prepare themselves for an outdoor adventure because we were absolutely going to be taking advantage of such unseasonable weather.

We went back to Cliff Cave Park and decided to do explore some of the trails we missed last time.

Cliff Cave Park in the Mississippi Greenway offers stunning views of the Mississippi atop rocky bluffs that tower 170 feet over the river. It lies within one of the most naturally diverse plant and animal communities in the region, offering rocky, droughty hillsides as well as woodlands and wetlands.

This unique park within the greenway gets its name from the cave tucked in the bluffs of south St. Louis County.  There is tremendous folklore surrounding the area, including stories from its past as a riverside tavern during the early exploration days of Missouri, a hideout for horse thieves as well a summer camping area for native Americans. It is known for its Karst topography – a region where the bedrock has been dissolved or collapsed, leading to caves or sinkholes.

First we walked along the bluff. It was a ton of fun with lots of steep climbing.

Starting out near the river.

Taking in the view

Now the workout begins.

Path along the ledge

First buds of spring

Leaving the woods

We climbed up the cliff, found a path in the woods, and then wound our way down to the road.

We followed the road for just a bit then crossed over to another path. Luke and Ben were already ready to head back to the car, but Gabe was just getting started. We hiked up a hill and found a slow-moving stream.

Erosion on the banks

We sat for a bit and then moved on.

We found the remnants of an old car.

Finally, we happened upon the trail for the cave itself.

The Cave

From the cave looking out.

Trail alongside the cave creek.

Following this trail lead us back to the road which we then followed back to our car. We’d stayed a bit longer than originally planned, but I’m so glad we did. I think this may be our new favorite local hiking trail!

Tracks

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Birds of a Feather

For years I had a cute heart wreath to hang on the door for Valentine’s Day.

I was randomly given a Styrofoam heart. I wrapped it in yarn and added a few handmade book-page flowers to it. That lasted for a couple years then the yard faded and the flowers looked sad so I stripped it down and hot-glued a bunch of scrunched book pages to it. That lasted for a couple years until a particularly strong wind storm came through and broke the wreath completely in half.

I was determined to make something new this year and not be (super) cheap about it. Because that’s what I often do. I don’t want to spend money and I don’t want to go without so I make a super cheap and often lame version of something that I have pictured in my head. That may seem like a sensible thing to do, but if I end up disliking what I settled for then it seems more like a waste of money than a prudent purchase.

I wandered through the floral section of Michael’s muttering to myself like a crazy lady for about 45 minutes but I finally made my selection and after 30 minutes of crafting at home I had this:

Love birds

I have a thing about birds and I honestly don’t know why. I love watching and feeding birds. I unknowingly accumulated a ton of bird decor over the years. I seriously didn’t even realize my apparent adoration of birds until someone else mentioned it to me and I was dumbfounded! How does a person not even know they like something? How could I fill my house with bird prints and pictures and collectibles and not even realize I was doing so? Especially as I do not like birds in person. They completely terrify me. Even pets. I cannot stand for them to be flying about my head. Total and complete panic.

Anyway, the store didn’t have any Styrofoam wreaths so that lead to me choosing this twine wreath. Then I saw the birds and the nest. Then I saw those pretty flowers on clearance. The moss was something I already had. And the ribbon looked like it would go well with the natural theme I had going on.

So there it is, the story of my little love bird nest which is complete and ready to greet everyone who comes to our door!

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Homeschool Organization

Over the years I’ve tried different approaches to homeschool supplies. In our previous home, the boys were little so I didn’t have much in the way of dedicated homeschool supplies or curriculum. I had one little shelf that I put everything on and that was that.

When we moved to our current house we had an extra bedroom that became the homeschool room. Around that same time my mom moved and bequeathed all her homeschool supplies and curriculum to me. It was a lot. 7 kids and…..I don’t even know how many years worth of curriculum and books and supplies. It was a lot.

Then we added on to the house and had to get rid of a bedroom. It made the most sense to knock out a wall and make the homeschool room open to more of a dining room. Because you can now see into that room from the moment you walk into the house, I felt like I needed to repaint, declutter, and spruce it up.

I carefully combed through the mountains of books given to me by my mom and ended up donating a lot. Some of the highschool level books were packed up and moved to the basement. The remaining few were placed on bookshelves in Luke’s room.

That didn’t leave much in the way of day-to-day supplies so I hauled a crate up from the basement and stacked everything in there. At the beginning of the year there were some hanging files, our workbooks, and then a plastic box containing pencils, tape, etc.

But halfway through the year it starts to look like this:

We started doing school at the kitchen table and the idea was that I could stash the crate away at the end of the day. Or at least at the end of the week. But it got so full and then overflowing that I didn’t bother and so this is what stared at us every. single. day.

Every year, about this time, I clean it out and it does help, but it still just wasn’t enough. And that’s where my beloved IKEA came in.

We were shopping at IKEA the other day and I saw this cart:

It was love at first site. Baby, you’re coming home with me.

I put it together myself in about 30 minutes and transferred everything over right away.

Ah, that’s better. And it rolls so I can just roll it into a nook in the dining room where you can’t even see it.

I love, love, love it and don’t know why I did’t think about doing something different sooner!

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Polar Plunge Fun

Despite the misleading name, the Polar Plunge had nothing to do with swimming! Let’s just get that out of the way!

This past summer, the boys attended a VBS at the church of some friends. Since then, we’ve been invited to several special events hosted by the church. We haven’t been able to make any of them, but I’m happy to say this one worked for us. It was a blast!

 

Read to go.

The church rented out the tubing section for the night so there wasn’t a huge crowd. This meant that the kiddos didn’t have to wait in long lines. They were able to make 10 runs or so. I think I did about 5 before I was tired of walking up the hill!

Ready to get going

Heading up

Wheee!

Done and all in one piece!

Afterward we grabbed dinner together and the boys were in heaven.

I’m glad we had this opportunity because it’s just not something we’d do otherwise. It was great exercise and a ton of fun!

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Girl’s Night In

I’m so glad to have a best friend who enjoys the same things I do!

The bestie decided to try and get a small group of ladies together once a month to do a craft. As a crafty introvert I wholeheartedly support this plan!

We each chipped in a few dollars and she provided several ideas and goodies for us to create with.

I chose this:

I’m determined to find his some little twig arms. I think it’ll complete him nicely.

It was kind of fun to have some direction but still a lot of leeway for personalization. I really enjoyed seeing what everyone came up with and am really looking forward to next time!

 

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Bouncy Balls

Gabe has been begging to make slime for months and months now. I kept putting him off because I didn’t have the clear glue it called for and because I’ve heard that borax is something that really shouldn’t be handled (even though slime recipes call for it.)

I finally caved and gave him a bottle of glue in his Christmas stocking. I’ve never seen a child so excited about glue before!

We’ve been learning about chemistry and how matter changes so it seemed fitting to try this recipe. I also printed off a bunch of these sheets so that they can fill one out for each experiment we do.

They were thrilled.

Finished product!

Of course, they each had to make a batch in their favorite color. We realized that it’s the type of recipe where you really do have to add ingredients in the right order! Otherwise they just don’t gel.

The boys played with them for about half an hour and then threw them away and washed their hands. We’ll probably make another batch someday because we really want to try the kind with glitter!

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I Tried It and I Liked It: Sandwich Rolls

I’ve been trying recipes from Against All Grain’s website and so far I’ve really enjoyed everything. Despite the success of so many of her recipes, I was still hesitant to make these sandwich rolls. For one thing, 3 cups of cashews makes for an expensive recipe. Which means that if they fail it’s an expensive failure. I finally decided to give it a go because I’m having pretty serious food fatigue lately and needed to try something new.

The recipe calls for an English muffin pan. I don’t have one of those and the last thing I need is yet another kitchen gadget. I simply poured the batter into my well-greased cupcake pan and made sliders.

Slider

These were a total hit and I have a feeling I’ll be making them often. They are easy to make, taste good, and actually hold up well!

We don’t miss bread, for the most part, but during summer I always miss sandwich bread because we have so many lunch dates and picnics with friends. You can’t beat sandwiches for quick, portable lunches. I’m thrilled that we now have a healthy alternative!

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Random Reads: God’s Design for Building Your Marriage and Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian

This past fall I participated in a Bible study with a couple of other women. The book we went through was God’s Design for Building your Marriage by Kay Daigle. I’ve never done a marriage bible study before so I was excited to jump in.

But first, a look back. I grew up in a church that emphasized a husband’s authority and wifely submission. All of the churches we’ve attended have done the same and have offered limited roles for women in ministry. Over the years this hasn’t set well with me, but it was just never something I felt compelled to dig into.

This past year, as I started digging more into peer counseling and trauma work I became increasingly uncomfortable with the position that is so tightly held by many in the church. Add to that a few situations I saw play out where an abusive husband was let off the hook and the wife was treated with derision and I was really beginning to chafe at all of this.

Daigle’s study came at just the right time. As we worked our way through the book I really took my time to search every scripture and read as much commentary as I could. I really dug in.

Now, I’m not arrogant enough to say that I’ve figured all of this out. After all, these things have been debated by people much more intelligent that I for many, many years. But I did learn enough to see that there are some very big problems with the ultra-conservative complementarian view.

I cannot tell you how many times Daigle would make a statement, toss out a scripture to support that statement, and then I would find, quite easily mind you, that that scripture was taken out of context or otherwise misused. After this happened a couple times I was really uncomfortable with her stance and the fact that she’s peddling this nonsense to unsuspecting women.

For instance, she says that we should suffer at the hands of other people because Jesus himself suffered at the hands of other people. She then quickly adds in that, of course, this doesn’t mean physical abuse. Of course this is confusing because the scripture she based all of this off of specifically talks about Jesus being mocked, beaten, and killed on the cross. So, just using logic here, if this scripture *is* telling us it’s okay to be verbally abused, how can she then turn around and say that we should not allow physical abuse? Complete and utter nonsense!

(This also shows a fundamental, wide-spread, misunderstanding of the severity of verbal abuse. People won’t tolerate physical abuse of the wife, physical or sexual abuse of children but verbal abuse is okay??? This position breaks my heart because, make no mistake, verbal abuse *is* abuse and is extremely damaging. )

The other issue I have is that she, like so many Christians, have a very warped perspective on suffering. Yes, Jesus suffered. But he suffered only when it would bring about his Father’s purpose and plan. And that is the salvation of all mankind. There are many times in scripture when Jesus escaped persecution or imprisonment. When there is no other way out, then we should bear up under persecution. But to allow or pursue persecution or abuse just for suffering’s sake is ridiculous.

And last but not least, telling women to pray harder and submit more when their husbands sin is putting the responsibility of the husband’s sin on the wife. That’s not scriptural. For instance, God hates pride. If a husband, who is called to love his wife as Christ loves the church, is making decisions purely based on pride, why would a wife not confront him? Why would any partner or “help meet” just smile and nod and go along with it? Pride is sin. And it’s not a little sin. At least God doesn’t think so!

I could go on an on, but this is just a sample of the thinking that is rife in this study.

So why does it matter? Well, for women who are in a healthy marriage I’m going to venture to say that it doesn’t matter much. I’m mean, not practically day-to-day. But what about when things get difficult? What about the “gray” areas?

For instance, I have a friend who’s husband was caught using pornography. It happened multiple times. The counselor told my friend that it was her fault because men are visual. Come to find out, years later, pornography was an ongoing issue in this man’s life leading back to his teen years – well before he met my friend.

Another example: A women we knew had a husband that was a jerk. He was verbally abusive, financially abusive, and was addicted to pornography. His wife went to the local church several times and the pastor himself, after meeting with the husband, said that there was nothing he could do because the husband was not willing to change. But then, years later, when the wife (after more than 20 years of living like this) finally filed for divorce, she received an avalanche of – not love, caring, and compassion – but criticism for having the audacity to leave this man. The pastor washed his hands of this man because he couldn’t make him change, but has no trouble insisting that the wife can somehow make him change. No, more than that, the wife is responsible for influencing him toward change.

There is a hyper-focus, in a vast majority of the Christian community, that believes this kind of thing! They believe that the spouse that files for divorce is the bad guy while ignoring the actions and words of the person who caused the rift in the first place. To these people, a person can do and say pretty much whatever they want, but as long as they don’t physically file for divorce then they aren’t at fault for divorce. The victim is at fault. The victim, who has been worn down, ground down, over and over and over and usually in a myriad of ways, is also the person we put the responsibility on. We don’t care for them. We don’t love them. We don’t ease their burden. We add to it. We tell them to pray longer and harder. We admonish them to “submit more.” And when they crack and break we abandon them in the dust, but only after we’ve hurled insults and insinuations at them.

So, to sum it up, this topic matters

I’ve found my way to multiple blogs and resources that have helped me shift through some of this. I’ll include some links at the bottom, but for now I want to focus on this book, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate.

 

Of course, again, one book is not going to settle this debate once-and-for-all, but, I do like the approach that’s taken here and feel it’s a good way to understand this topic a bit more without leaning heavily to one side or another.

She starts out talking about how our ideas on womanhood and ministry roles have changed over the years. I think that we Christians like to believe that we cling to scripture and that the outside world has no influence, but you start to see that that really isn’t true. The values and ideas that shape the world at large do end up infiltrating the church (and vise versa, thankfully), at least to some degree. Now the examples she provides here, to me, show that there really is a lot of leeway in women’s roles at home and in the public sphere. Even under patriarchal rule! Very insightful and interesting.

She then goes on to look at what the Bible says both in the creation account and in the New Testament. Since her goal isn’t to offer pat answers, she doesn’t really give a concrete conclusion. She’s not trying to sway readers to one position or another, but she offers more information to help us round out our view.

Personally, I found some of the information very detailed and well-thought-out while other information wasn’t, so that threw me for a loop. For instance, she does say that Adam being created first seems to indicate that he was given authority. But she doesn’t substantiate that position very well. She offers a weak example of how first-born children were given preference and authority throughout the Old Testament. Oookay, but that was *after* the fall. Also, she devotes so much time throughout her book reminding us of “kingdom reversals” (the first will become last,etc) that using the argument of “First!” as a symbol of authority doesn’t make sense to me, personally.

At any rate, this book was informative and intriguing and a good read for anyone who is interested in this topic.

As for what I believe on this topic all I can say is:

I believe that hyper-focusing on male authority/female submission or individual rights are both going to lead to trouble. Especially when we are narrowly focused on templates and black-and-white checklists that we can apply universally to all people/couples/ministries.

When I read the Bible I see so much about how we Christians are supposed to love one another. I read about how we don’t cling to our individual rights. I read about love, but I read about speaking the truth. Iron sharpening iron. Confrontation.

I read that Christians are supposed to love sacrificially, but that abuse and mistreatment isn’t to be tolerated. I read about how those of us that dare call ourselves followers of Christ are held to a higher standard not given a license to hurt others. I read about how we are all responsible for our choices. I read about how Christ is the only one who can save us and the Holy Spirit is the one who changes hearts. I read about how Jesus wasn’t fooled or impressed by the way things look on the outside, but by our hearts.

I feel like Jesus cared about the church, but that he cared more about the individuals that made up the church than the church as an institution that must be protected at all cost. He calls us to repentance. He calls us to take responsibility. He calls us to humble ourselves before him.

I believe that in situations where there is mistreatment we have to stop looking at the surface and stop trying to determine who has what rights and drill down to the heart of the matter.

In the examples I provided above, no actual help was offered. No restoration was achieved. That’s because, in part, there was too much focus on who was responsible for what went wrong – the husband or the wife. Instead, I think we’d do better to hold people responsible for their sins. And to go further than that and help those people understand why they were drawn into sin in the first place – what need were they trying to fill in their own strength apart from God – and get them back on track by whatever means necessary.

We need to stop look at actions as separate and distinct from the heart. The Bible tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. If our actions or words are wrong then our heart is wrong. That has to be address or no real change will occur.

We need to change our perspective on how “helping” differs from “enabling.”

We need to realize that allowing a person to continue in sin or abuse isn’t only detrimental to the people around them but also to the sinner themselves! Our sin separates us from God. Period. For a church to allow someone to float along, in unchecked sin, is unconscionable. We must call errant Believers to repentance. And we must protect and care for the people they are harming until restoration has occurred.

So how did a review of a couple of books on women’s roles turn into a post about abuse? Well, quite easily unfortunately.

Here’s where a wrong view of women’s roles takes us:

 

Here’s another one by Patrick Doyle. The letter he reads at the beginning is heartbreaking and is, unfortunately, a prime example of the fact that when churches have a wrong view of women’s roles they end up floundering when abuse and neglect is present.

 

And this is why I’ve been spending a lot of time on trying to learn more about these issues and see if I can get some kind of a grasp on them. If I want to be able to offer help to women who have suffered or are suffering, I need to be able to have a clear-ish view on some of these things. I don’t know that I will ever get it all figured out or if anyone will, but I do believe that this is a wake-up call to the church and am committed to doing my part to make that change happen.

If this topic interests you I’d encourage you to browse the links below. My personal favorites are Patrick Doyle’s videos on Youtube and the blog A Cry for Justice.

My Only Comfort

Emotional Abuse Survivor

New Life

The Lasting Effects of Sexual Betrayal

Brad Hambrick

Patrick Doyle

A Cry for Justice

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