Will You Lay With Me?

Big pools of brown blink,

Pouting lips,

and clasped hands.

Untangling your fingers you pat the pillow.

“I’ll lay here and you there, okay?”

Hearing the distant chatter, I glance towards the door.

“I can’t darling, I really can’t.  There are guests to entertain.”

So I retreat and you recoil,

bereft and broken.

As my steps fade I hear the peels of your screams,

you’re calling me back, pleading for me to stay a little while longer.

I chose ease, I chose comfort.

Rather than be inconvenienced,

I took leave and left you there in the dark.

Your fists pounded the floor in response.

You questioned.

Honestly my dear, I did too.

They exited and I took reprieve in my sheets.

As I rest my head, turn to the one who willingly offers his presence, I shed sobs.

When you asked, I denied.

Know this, I chose wrong.  I should have chosen you.

 

Other than God and your father, you and my other kin are always the choice I want to and should invest in.

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Choosing Silence

An extroverted people appeaser will, without fail, become discouraged.  The person will often feel unwanted, undervalued, and purposeless.  You see, as an extrovert, people fuel your excitement.  However, attempts to please folks is feeble.  You will wind up making someone angry, frustrated, or annoyed.  Trying to please everyone is wrought with failure.

I know this because I am an extrovert who struggles with people pleasing addiction.  I also struggle with depression.  I think them more intertwined than I care to admit.

When you express feelings of feeling devalued, unwanted, or ignored, you are often told that you are exaggerating, to deal with it, or to just ignore it.  This simply perpetuates the problem.  At the same time, you begin to wonder if you are just exasperating a non-issue.  Shouldn’t I be the quiet, demure woman so praised in Scripture?  Am I really just inflating the problem in my mind?  I do tend to read into things more than I should.

I’ve been told I’m nosy simply for taking interest in people and their life.  I’ve been told I’m controlling, judgmental, and dramatic.  I will confess that at times I struggle with these attributes, but are they my character?  Oh God, I hope not. Can I be known beyond my sin or am I so steeped in it that is all I am really identified as by outsiders?

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”-Col. 4:6

Lately I am beginning to wonder if I should even speak at all.  Sometimes silence is more pleasant, more accepting, more kind, no?  If we are silent though, will we be found in agreement with what we are against?  Is it important for everyone to know our opinions and views?  How do I make it so my actions are louder than my words; or that there be no need for words at all?

We live in a society addicted to social media.  I guess we are consumed with self, with independence.  Any inkling to community and sharing vulnerability is frowned upon.  I guess this is why I get hurt so often.  I’m an extrovert who strives to please people.  Am I throwing myself a pity party?  I guess in a way I am.  Forgive me.  *The people pleasing prowler is on the hunt again.  I’ll be damned.  God, please release me!*

The fact is, you can’t please everyone.  I’m trying to break this cycle.  I know it will only be broken by the Spirit’s power.  How do I manage though?  How can I surrender this desire and will to God?  This is not a question of ability but more the tangible application of such surrender.  I know I need to do it and I want to; just exactly does someone go about doing this?  What would this look like?

Do I speak? Do I remain silent?  It took years to admit that I’m an extrovert.  I fought so long and hard to resist the desire to want to be around people rather than holed up by myself and entertaining my own interests.  Since accepting I’m an extrovert, I try so hard to be silent because I am constantly “eating my feet”.  Would God want me to be consistently quiet in a group?

I often wonder if he made me this way or if it was years of criticism, belittlement, etc. that made me full of self-doubt, a desire to appease people, and the need to feel “validated” by a group.

It is ever more pressing we find our identity in Christ, not in the flexible opinions of individuals or society.  (I say this more to myself than you, my reader, of course.)

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”-2Cor. 5:17

“For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”-Eph. 2:10 (Is it a good work for me to be silent?  Would I be serving myself or Christ? I want to choose silence because I have been feeling “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Prov. 17:28)  Am I really just a fool?  Or am I only wanting to operate in silence to preserve my self-image and reputation?  Is that glorifying to God?)

Dear God, how? I need discernment.  Some days I feel like I’m choking on the very air (the extroverted composition) that gives me life, the breath that fills my lungs and passions.  Lord, I need you, every hour I need you.  My heart knows the truth for you said, “ I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”-John 15:5  Help me to see the fruit of my life devoted to you, be it in silence or audible speech.

Foreigners Find Fellowship: Christian Charity

Cease complaining,

Promote praise,

Usher unity.

Divisions deceased

as aggrandizement’s assuaged,

exaggerations extinguished,

humility honored,

and appeasement appalled.

Christ cherished,

boundaries bereft.

Love labored

releasing redemption,

saving souls,

permitting peace.

Not neglecting neighbors,

sharing stories,

especially encouraging

gospel’s grace.

 

 

 

 

Wise Words: Cease Crassness, Prevent Perverseness

This morning I shared a thought of Thanksgiving, it being the month of November and American Thanksgiving, of course.

My daughter had peed on the floor.  It meant the floor needed to be cleaned.  A friend commented that they still held that it was Frank.  I, in the past, would have laughed and said, “Yeah, he needs to shoot better” or something along those lines, joining in the jest.  This past weekend’s retreat reminded me that sarcasm is scarcasm.  Culture operates differently than Christian worldview.

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”-Eph. 4:29

From this verse, we see that we aren’t supposed to joke at a person’s expense.  It isn’t humorous to make fun of someone.  Generalities and poking fun at stereotypes is different than humor directed towards a particular individual.

I had taught my eldest to say “bleh, Army”.  I found this amusing.  My husband, however, found this hurtful.  It is something he is passionate about.  While I might not be fond of the military and how it often separates family (contrary to it touting that it tries to bond family), it is an organization that my husband is a part of.  Even if I don’t agree with the organization, I need to offer respect because I value and treasure my husband.  I don’t offer encouragement to the institution, I do it for my husband, my best friend, my treasure from God.  My words need to reflect this.

In the manner that I need to start being his cheerleader with the military, I need to do this in other areas too.  While friends might say I am being too serious and need to lighten up, I will not, under any circumstances, make jokes or join in jest about my husband.  When I laugh because a friend was trying to be amusing about my husband’s bathroom abilities, what I imply is that my husband is inadequate, unable to perform the basic functions of human decorum.  I never want to imply that!

Perhaps if we stopped poking fun at our spouses we might witness radical change in our marriage.  If we cheered on our partner and encouraged them, we might start to have the attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude we are commanded to have as Christians.

“Everything you do or say should be done to obey [or as a representative of; in the name of] the Lord Jesus. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus.”- Col. 3:17

I want to stop demeaning my husband.  He is a gift from God.  It is time I start treating him this way.  If I start speaking encouragement to him, perhaps this will become my normal operative. I’ll speak blessing even to those who berate me, who antagonize, and perhaps those who persecute me.  This practice has to start somewhere, may it be with the man to whom I covenanted (is that a word, gee I hope so) my heart.

I love and respect you Frank.  My words and actions always need to reflect that.  Though I’ll be called stiff, lacking humor, and perhaps even prude, I will not sacrifice your integrity for a laugh.  You are too valuable for me to do this anymore.

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Rom. 12:14-21 

Living at peace starts at home, with family.  How I operate in the privacy of closed doors will translate to my actions in the public sphere.  If I desire to see transformation in how I behave in public, I need to start at home.  Sometimes when we get too comfortable, which happens frequently with those we love the most, we take out our depraved emotions and hurt those whom are dearest to us.  Let’s be intentional in how we act, starting with the blessings and gifts God has given to us to show where our real treasure lies (in materialism or investing in authentic relationships).  Hubby, please keep me accountable.  How I act with you and our children will overflow into societal performance.  May I be transformed for God’s glory and be the vessel he has called me to be.

I love you now and always.  I want to do better at expressing it.  I need to do better.  It has to start today!

A Weekend To Remember

This past weekend, Frank and I had the opportunity to get away together.  Our friends treated us to FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember getaway.  They even watched our daughters for three days.  Needless to say, it was a gracious gift.  We are forever thankful for our community.  Our friends cared enough about our marriage to invest in it.  We can’t express our gratitude enough.

Frank and I learned valuable tools in conflict resolution and intimacy.  These tools were not only spiritually pointing to Christ, they were practical.  It is rare that you will encounter advice that is tangible (biological/scientific) and spiritual in Christian circles, at least the ones I’ve encountered.  This, however, was exactly that.  There was much breakthrough in our marriage.  Frank and I have always had a good marriage, but it could be better.  It has been hard and not without lots of work, of course.  Thankfully, we learned valuable tools that we just need to remember to implement in reality.

Yes, there were instances that I disagreed with some of the points.  It was stated that the most important relationship is the marriage relationship.  I understood the intent of this, but I think Christ has to be pursued in spite of family.  This means that I will seek God and try to teach Christian living to my family even when my husband isn’t (i.e. I won’t sit around and expect him to take responsibility for our family’s spiritual health).  I pray for Frank and for him to take initiative, but I won’t sit idly by and make my spirituality or my children’s be dependent on him or his leadership.  Also, I will put God ahead of my husband.  I know this is the organization’s desire, and probably assumed, but when attendees might not know Christ, it is important to emphasize this lest we make family an idol itself.

Part of the retreat involved standing in front of your spouse and renewing your vows (not legally, but in front of others and the speakers).  One of the lines had women say “I will submit to you.”  During that section I said, “I will partner with you.”  I understand biblical submission.  I probably get caught up in current cultural notions of submission and the semantics of language.  However, I don’t always think the man has to have the last say.  If I get the final decision and it turns out poor, it isn’t his fault, it’s mine.  In the same regard, when he is weak spiritually, I can be the strong one.  This holds true in reverse.  I believe much more in partnership rather than hierarchy.

Thinking on this though, sometimes I do need to exercise silence.  Every thought I have doesn’t need to be expressed.  Sometimes my husband might receive the same advice from a man better than he does me.  It is in those moments that I need to hold my tongue and not exert the pride of “I told you so”.

If we extrapolate submission, let us use Abraham and Sarah as our example.  She called him “Lord” and “master”.  When Abraham instructed Sarah to be the pharaoh’s concubine for their safety by pretending to be Abraham’s sister, she “obeyed”.  God did intervene and protected her.  However, how comfortable are we with that in our American sensitivities?  Would we say that isn’t biblical so she could refuse?  How would the story have turned out if she did?  Scripture doesn’t permit an obstinate nature does it? If it did, would God have said it?  I don’t know, but if we are going to demand adherence, then let us be consistent in what we are preaching.  This does not mean we have license to sin.  Instead, it is a call to truly assess our interpretations and worldview.  It is putting Christ at the forefront and bending our wills to him, even if it makes us uncomfortable; be it in liberalism or conservative observation.

Overall though, it was an amazing weekend.  Frank and I divulged information we’d bottled for quite some time (with each other of course).  We also had hours of uninterrupted study of Scripture, prayer, and conversation.  We did minimal screen time, perhaps 30 min-1 hour of TV from Friday night-Sunday afternoon.  We invested.  Christ redeemed and continues to do so.  It is our prayer to see marriages flourish, not for the sake of marriage or family itself, but because marriage is a covenant reflective of Christ’s relationship with the church.  We need to do better as Christians and as a church.  It is time we started to fight for Christ to shine in us as individuals and as a family (however that looks in your circumstance; couples, kids, empty-nesters, etc.).  I have failed more than I care to admit.  I know salvation isn’t works based.  However, my ministry and shining a light for him will be evident through my love through service.

FamilyLife has many marriage resources.  We are implementing the prayer challenge which I know will transform us in supernatural ways for God’s glory.

The organization has parenting advice, which is valuable when culture (like Cosmo magazine) teaches girls as young as 8 that they can be “sexy” and how to do it.  *My skin crawled.*

I do recommend these resources.

I also recommend perusing and internalizing Scripture.  We will be transformed as a result.

May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven God, please use our marriage as one of the many avenues to complete this divine will.

Amen.

The Flip-Side of Interrogation

As you are well aware, we visited several daycares, centers and in-home facilities.  Whenever individuals found out we were Christian, they asked our stance on Halloween.  I responded that we are okay with it, so long as we steer away from satanic things.  The more people inquired, the more I started asking myself questions.

1.) Why do we celebrate Halloween if we pursue Christ?

2.) How did Halloween originate?  Is it any more pagan in origin than Christmas and Easter (which have merely been adapted throughout church history for Christian purposes)?

3.) If permitted from a biblical standpoint, to what extent is it acceptable?

4.) Am I reluctant to give it up because I would be stigmatized at work? With friends?  How much do I need to let go of approval addiction?

5.) Isn’t Purim similar enough?

6.) What is truly living in the world but not being of the world?***

7.) Can we just enjoy the candy aspect of it?  Isn’t this what children really think it is about?  Are we promoting diabetes?  Why are so many food holidays about junk food and carbs?

8.) People are killed and sacrificed on Halloween in rituals.  Are they not killed and sacrificed in rituals on other days too?  What makes Halloween so evil?

9.) Why are we so mesmerized by the paranormal and supernatural, but struggle with Christ’s authority and power?

10.) Can’t this time be used for fellowship and evangelism?  (We met our neighbors about 3 years ago by going trick or treating.  No one came to our door.  As such, we went to them and handed out candy.  Not only did we meet our neighbors, we have founded friendships and been able to share the love of Christ over meals and general interaction at other times of the year.)

Perhaps we over-spiritualize too many things and under-spiritualize others.  Oh Lord, grant discernment in these muddy waters of living in the world, but not of it***.

A First Observation: A Day Care Experience

We had a daycare tour, one of many in the next couple of weeks.  (We have seen three so far and have seven more to go and one left to schedule; we saw one months ago.  That would bring the total to around 12 observed) Gosh, I am exhausted.

Yesterday was a good visit.  The director was more reserved than I am.  Sometimes I find it hard to gauge the room when personalities vary.  Extroverts tend to express emotion openly so you can read their feelings pretty easily.  Anyways, other than not being 100% sure as to the “feeling” of the director about us, it went well.  We even witnessed one of the firsts in our search experience, let alone total experience with childcare (i.e. church nurseries).

There was a man!  *Stand aghast folks*

Yup, and yes, there was a small part of me that had an initial trepidation (a byproduct of sexist culture).  Then I thought on it and said, “Yes, this is equality.  This is incredible.  The director didn’t discriminate based on sex.  Females are just as capable of abuse/assault as a man.  A man can be just as competent in childcare as a woman.  This makes me inexpressibly happy.  My kids love their dad and will have a male role model if they attend here.”

I’ve often wondered why daycare is such a female saturated market.  Yes, there is something to say about general interest.  However, how much of that is natural interest or coerced?  When we live in a society that sometimes labels dad watching the kids as “babysitting”, it is no wonder that we segregate fields.  Men are not inept at caring for a kid.

It is a sad state of affairs when society thinks women are better at it.  We aren’t better, we are just different.  In fact, I tend to think my husband is better at spending time with the girls than I am.  He is a much more patient and gentle person.  Things don’t bother him as easily.  My husband is perfectly capable of such things.  I get frustrated when women don’t trust their husbands to watch the kids.  If you don’t trust your husband to watch your children, why did you marry him?

I guess that is too accusatory.  Yes, I know people change.  Kids have their own personalities that can flow more readily with one parent’s personality over the other.  However, there needs to be trust in parenting.  If you trusted that person enough with your body or enough to make a public covenant, why not trust them to care your children?  Finances? (This excludes cases of abuse, sexual assault, addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling, porn (specifically child), and poor mental health status of course.)

All this to say, I admired the courage of this man to be willing to endure criticisms of women.  I admired the director’s boldness in hiring a guy which might jeopardize her enrollment figures (with our society the way it is).   I admire the parents willing to entrust their children with a man that isn’t “family” (but could be considered as it eventually).  You should be applauded.  Way to stand against biases, stereotypes, and judgement!

Needless to say, this place is ranking high on our list.  The main drawback is distance.

 

Unearthing Holiness: Spearing the Sea for the Soul

Mud squished between my toes,

water lapped at my ankles.

Dirt crusted my nails

as I dug through earth,

uncovering the shell.

Pocketing my discovery, I continued to venture forth,

trailing behind our knowledgeable Aboriginal guide.

As my thumb flicked the rough surface of the mussel,

my other hand intertwined with my husband’s,

we listened to our guide regale us with folklore, tradition, and culture.

He cautioned us to tread lightly,

not racing.

Do so and your feet would become ensnared by the mangroves we were meandering through.

So slowly we traveled,

careful thought on foot placement so as not to jab the sole.

mangroves

While traipsing, we caught sight of a crab.

We thrust spears and caught future nourishment.

spearing crab

Eventually we found ourselves at his doorstep, the stoop surrounded by fresh coconuts.

coconuts

Our guide, Juan picked it up, hauling it into his parent’s home.

Inside, he continued to tell us stories as we munched on our fresh morning catch and ripe fruit.

crab dish

Time was steady here, it was a simple life, difficult, but enjoyable.  We lounged, tired from fending for our own food.

When you empty yourselves of busyness, savor the moment, you’ll truly find the abundance of living in the present.

This was a taste of sustenance living, this was fellowship, this was an earthly embrace with the divine…or most certainly a close encounter.

If you are interested in such an experience, please contact Juan.  You will not be disappointed!  This remains one of our favorite memories to this day.  It was one of the best authentic experiences we’ve ever had while traveling as a couple.

http://www.walkaboutadventures.com.au/Walkabout/Home.html  (Port Douglas, Australia)

(Whenever I write a travel blog, I secretly hope that #BMTM (bemytravelmuse) or Nomadic Matt will stumble across it.  I admire their work and would enjoy their feedback!)

Checklist for daycare

As I continue my hunt for care, I came up with a list of questions to ask when I go on tours.

*The most important part of a child’s care is nurturing their soul.  This is best when care providers assist spiritual development.  Some facilities provide this, but it is not common place anymore.  When a facility can not be found that will help nourish this aspect of a child’s education/development, it must be done at home.  Barring this availability, I found that the checklist below is a good outline when interviewing potential babysitters/daycare centers.  (Since ultimate education, spiritual development, and character shaping is the responsibility of a guardian anyways.)

  • How much outdoor time do kids get a day? Are they allowed to play in snow/rain?
  • Are meals included? What types of meals are given?
  • Are cloth diapers permitted to help alleviate diaper costs for families?
  • Is technology/screen time limited to less than 2 hours a day?
  • What educational model/theories do you ascribe to?
  • Are there field trips?
  • Are contracted days required for payment for sick, vacation, or holiday time?
  • How sterile do you keep your environment? (Too sterile?)
  • How much is tuition? (Paid weekly/bi-weekly)
  • Are there discounts: sibling, military, financial relief?
  • How are teachers screened?
  • How do you ensure kids are not being abused (spanked without necessity (i.e. dangerous situation)…used to discipline when kids hit other kids, etc.)
  • How do you discipline/correct a child?
  • Are kids forced to sit and learn if they aren’t feeling like participating or will alternate activities be available?
  • What certifications/credentials/etc. are required by your staff? How well are your providers screened?
  • Are kids forced to a schedule or do you operate on as-needed basis (i.e. diapers every two hours, but if peed 10 min. after a diaper change, they will be changed again)? e. feed when hungry rather than force to eat at set times? Sleep when fatigued or sleep train?
  • Are kids taught practical life skills: food prep, cleaning, hygiene?
  • Are you licensed/credentialed?
  • Do you have a code for taxes so I can file for deductions?
  • Do kids get to interact with the various ages or are they limited to kids only their age?

Best wishes on your search friends.  It isn’t an easy task to entrust children with friends or family for extended periods of time due to having to work, but we know, ultimately, God watches over our little ones.  We can only have so much control.  It is also our responsibility to let our little ones fly, reach their potential, and be disciples themselves, rather than always being sheltered and relying on guardian opinions and faith.

The Costs of Childcare: Heavily Reliance on Prayer and Christ devotion.

A friend recently fell ill and is unable to watch my daughter Willow now.  Willow will be returning to the care she had prior to this friend homeschooling her.  It is more convenient, but not ideal.  I am on a hunt for very specific criteria.  Sadly, the facility that meets my criteria isn’t available until January.  Baby 3 arrives in March and then we will need to terminate any childcare because it will be too expensive.

My wishlist:

1.) Bible verse memorization and Bible study

2.) Multi-age (I don’t want kids divided by age group.  I don’t like this in schools and I think it is a horrible model for real life.)

3.) Heavily focused on outdoor play (even in “inclement weather”; my philosophy is that there isn’t bad weather, just inappropriate attire for the climate).

4.) Montessori or child-led learning (work in the interests of the child…if they aren’t feeling it, let them stop and come back until focus can be had).

5.) Teaches basic living skills: hygiene (nutritious eating, teeth brushing, hair combing, using the toilet), cleaning, and cooking

6.) Exciting field trips—fire stations, zoo, etc.

7.) Teaching basic finances (that money doesn’t just come on trees and so you have to work…like chores)

8.) MINIMAL SCREEN TIME (THIS INCLUDES IPADS, COMPUTERS, PHONES)—MAXIMUM 2 HOURS A DAY!!! (PREFERABLY NO MORE THAN 30 MIN.)!!!!

Preferably, cost would be around $200/wk (max $400) if the provider offered meals and was willing to do cloth diapering for infant/non-potty-trained children.

God performs miracles and since I have spent nearly the whole day perusing options, it appears that this is an instance where I need a miracle.  Sometimes trust is easier in theory than it is in application.