29 December 2005

Love and Joy Come to You

This Christmas was a particularly peaceful one. Being a family of five high strung, high energy, rambunctious, boisterous people, friction is easily achieved, most times without even trying. There have been some years with so much stress from unemployment, unmet expectations, and undue pressures, that it doesn't feel very happy at all. This year really stood out as a Christmas of peace, joy and togetherness. From my last two posts it may seem that I have been sad - but this sadness has only hit me in the days following Christmas. Christmas Day itself was very special. Some of the things that were different were -

- Instead of complaining either audibly or in my heart that Christmas is sooooo much work for moms that we need a vacation afterwards just to recover, I asked the Lord to give me a servant's heart toward my family.

- Instead of hoping for my husband to read my mind and find that special something that he knows I will just love, I got real and accepted that he won't know what I want if I don't tell him. (Honestly I rarely know what I want! How can I expect him to know!)

- Instead of looking for what I could get, I focused and concentrated what I could give - and found this to be the greatest blessing of all. This was found in both time spent, presents purchased, and experiences shared.

I have realized over the last couple of years that I can be very demanding. When is see my kids behaving in a way that says they feel entitled, the Lord gently points to who has taught them to have a heart groomed for discontentment. This was a monumental, groundbreaking year for our family - and I am so thankful to be able to say that it was me the Lord did the work in. I pray these are lessons learned I never forget.

28 December 2005

I Miss My Mom - CAUTION Revealing Post

This is indeed going to be a very revealing post about me. Perhaps because it's late, and I am feeling a bit vulnerable - but my heart is on my sleeve. Maybe I'll chicken out and never click the "add new entry" button, or even get up and delete it in the morning. If not, read with caution - there may be some things in here you just don't want to know, and if you comment, please comment gently, because my in this area, my heart is very delicate.
I grew up with a mentally ill mother. There it is - in black and white - I typed it. I have said it many times, but to put it down in black and white seems to make it more permanent somehow. I spent many years trying to cover up this simple fact, but the truth is that it really was never simple at all. As I have gotten older, and realized how abnormally she behaved, and how out of the ordinary our lives were, and refused any longer to live in the viscious cycle, things have gotten much more complicated.
A few years ago, right around this time - a few days after Christmas, my mom had a gastric bypass - but I didn't know about it because she wasn't speaking to me. (This is all a part of the cycle.) Within 48 hours of her surgery all of her major organs were failing, and a cousin called to tell me that my mother was in a coma. A girlfriend drove me the several hour trip to the hospital where she had the surgery, to see an unrecognizable form laying in a bed with every machine known to man hooked up to keep her alive. Early the next morning, I woke both my friend and myself up sobbing out loud in my sleep, crying over my mom.
For the next three months, every Sunday afternoon, my children and I took our little homeschool on the road. On Friday nights, when I would confirm that within a few hours my step-father would arrive to be by my mother's bedside, I would head home - to grocery shop, make 15 sandwiches for my husband (he eats 3 a day for 5 days!), and cook all our meals for the coming week - so my husband could also have a homecooked meal every night. I stayed by my mom's bedside, loving her the only way I knew how - bathing her, feeding her, putting her on a bedpan, learning to lift her out of bed, helping with her physical therapy, and just being a companion. I wish I could say that this made a difference in our relationship and in her heart - but, the same woman that had not spoken to me for a year or so preceding the surgery returned. It was just devastating.
So it has been for most of my adult life. I just celebrated the second Christmas in a row without her speaking to me. There are never any reasons that make sense to anyone else, so I will spare you, kind readers, the details. Fortunately, I am no longer a captive in the torture that befalls one living with a mentally ill person. There were times when I thought I was going crazy because the person in my life I most trusted would be so out of alignment with everything that seemed right and true. When I became a believer ten years ago, I really gave my heart, even the broken, confused and sick parts to the Lord and He alone has done a tremendous work there. But deep down inside, is a little girl who still needs a mom, and I am sad because I know she needs me too. I have tried to call her several times recently to no avail. I am reminded that the Lord says He will be a "Father to the fatherless", and I cling to that when I am hurting. But if you talk to Him, could you put in a word for me and tell Him, I miss my mom?

Don't Make Bean Soup!

Yesterday, I made a big pot of Navy Bean with Ham soup. It was a recipe my mother shared with me that she learned from my Memaw and Grandy - my dad's parents. I hadn't made it in years, and I forgot how much I like it. It is really rich, and hearty, with navy beans, ham, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes. The smell of it cooking in the house was wonderful.
While I was cooking, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my grandparents, and how much I miss them. They died four days apart, Memaw first, followed by Grandy in 1991 when I was pregnant with my first child. Their deaths so close together were very traumatic for our whole family. Grandy had battled lung cancer and emphysema for many years and was hospitalized for several weeks preceding his death. My Memaw's death was a little more unexpected, being up one night sick and rushed to the hospital. But what was significant about their lives was not their deaths, as eternally etched in my memory are the phone calls from my dad long distance breaking the news and the sight of a funeral home overflowing with people and flowers where two caskets sat at the far end of a long room. What is significant is the lives that they lived and how they impacted the people who loved them.
My Grandy owned a barber shop, perhaps a contributing factor the emphysema that he struggled with later in life from inhaling small hair particles all those years. His barber shop was the men's club of the small town Damascus, Maryland that they lived in. He knew everybody, young and old in that little town, and they all knew him.
My Memaw was the mother to two sons, born ten years apart, my dad being the younger of the two. She was a twin, and her mother died shortly after giving birth to her and her sister. The girls were raised by their father, who I understand remained single, and their oldest sister, my great Aunt Lib. Memaw went to work as a nanny at a young age, before meeting and marrying my grandfather. I think that she must have missed out on the gentle, loving touches a mother brings to a child's life, because she was never very affectionate - yet you always knew she loved you.
My grandparents were anchors for me in a very tumultuous childhood and adolescence. I wish I had spent more time with them when they were alive, but being young I knew very little of what a precious opportunity I was letting slip away. As I grew up I bounced back and forth between my divorced parents, but my grandparents never gave up on me, never stopped loving me, and even when they would get discouraged with some of my instability, I never felt diminished in their eyes. My one regret is that they never had a chance meet my children or to see the woman I have grown into.
So here is a little warning - one day you decide to make soup, and the next thing you know you are crying. As you watch your hands use the knife on the cutting board, in your minds' eye you see your grandfather at the kitchen counter chopping onions, and then your heart is aching for missing two people that were very precious to you. Don't buy ham, don't buy navy beans, and don't make soup! It'll make you way too sad.

Why I LOVE Blogging

You know you've been spending too much time on the computer when you find yourself reading a book, you know the kind with paper and ink, and you want to scroll your finger over words, hoping for something highlighted so you can click on it and go find out MORE! So with the Christmas holidays fast approaching, I found that I needed to tend to my blog a little less, and the tasks at hand, the celebrations and traditions, and to time with my family a little more. So my blog has been relatively simple these past couple of weeks - not a lot of deep thoughts or sharing my heart. Being someone that loves to write, I am probably going to FREAK OUT if I don't write something I consider significant soon. When I say significant, I don't mean necessarily to anyone else, but something that is satisfying to my own soul. It is all the better when you get other people thinking, writing and sharing their thoughts or opinions - which is why I love blogging! My friend Joanne titled her blog aptly "Cheaper Than Therapy"! I couldn't agree more!

22 December 2005

Christmas Traditions

I was replying to an email from KarenW and asking her questions about how her family celebrates Christmas. They are stateside this year, but I was wondering if they'd picked up anything interesting in Romania, or how their family in Alabama celebrates Christmas.
Growing up with divorced parents, from year to year, things were seldom the same. I have picked up some things from both parents and step-parents that I have implemented into how our family celebrates Christmas. We generally tend to be the first family in our neighborhood to put up our tree. Neither my children or I can wait, and honestly I don't care what anybody thinks anymore. Jesus said to enter His Kingdom you must become like a little child - and when it comes to celebrating His birthday - I am usually worse than the kids. We bake Christmas cookies with some dear friends. On Christmas Eve we go to my friend/adopted "big sister", Carol's house and celebrate with her family - husband-Andrew, daughter-Brenna and dog-Emma. There is always shrimp, and tons of good, beautiful baked goods because Carol is absolutely, without a doubt the best baker in the entire world. We usually go to a candlelight service for Christmas Eve - except for one year when we had a terrible snowstorm. Then we come home and always let our children open one present on Christmas Eve - NEW pajamas! (I figured out early on that this makes them look all nice and shiny in their Christmas pictures - unless somebody barfs on them in the middle of the night but I'm not mentioning any names! Kendra!!) We either snuggle up together on the couch and read the Christmas story from Luke. Before going to bed, the kids set out Christmas cookies and milk for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer. We have been known to tuck them in bed and listen to sleigh bells ring outside their window!
On Christmas morning, our children always wake and open their stockings first thing. My husband is a bit overbearing with the video camera, and insists that they wait to see what is under the tree until he is all set up to capture every single wide eyed, bedhead framed expression. We make a pot of coffee and put on some Christmas music, and if we can get the insane camera man to put the camera on a tripod, we all sit around in our jammies and enjoy watching each other open presents. The rest of the day is usually pretty laid back - for everyone but me! I spend most of the afternoon in the kitchen - and eventually we have a nice meal and watch a movie, play a game or continue assembling, or deconstructing the packaging of some of their gifts. Last year we went in the evening to visit some friends who will be out of town this year - but that was a very nice addition.
My husband grew up in Texas - and one of the things his HUGE-mongous family usually did to celebrate Christmas was set off fireworks. You can't even buy them where we live this time of the year.
Every family has ways of celebrating that are unique and special to them. Some of our traditions will stay the same when (Lord willing!) we move to Texas and others will sadly be set aside. (We will miss you terribly Carol, Andrew, Brenna and Emma!) I just thought I'd share, and ask YOU to tell me how YOUR family celebrates CHRISTmas!

21 December 2005

He Knows the Way That I Take

After a time of really struggling with my quiet time routine, I recently jumped back into one of Beth Moore's studies - A Womans Heart-God's Dwelling Place. This morning the study was focused on Gold, Silver and Precious Stones. In it there was a verse - Job 23:10 that says But He knows the way I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold. I pondered this for a moment, and thought about the "way that I take". Sometimes I take the way of pride, jealousy, selfish ambition. At times, I have my feet on a path I know better than to be going down. If He knows the way I take, I wonder why He doesn't just abandon me here? But He never does. He is always on the right path, calling my name.
As I am writing this I am reminded of something that happened almost two years ago now. It was early March during the first signs of spring, my slightly insane friend Lizbeth and I decided to take our kids hiking - up and over our little peak of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I knew the trail - or so I thought because I had hiked it once in the opposite direction! Long story short, we started off in the morning, stopped and had a picnic lunch with our five children, and continued on through the afternoon. What we hadn't realized is that the direction we headed was predominately uphill. My friend's 4 year old daughter was tiring, and we began to take turns carrying her. We also followed some arrows that appeared to lead out of the trail and back to civilization. Lizbeth hiked ahead as I sat with the children because we were tiring of carrying her little one - and I realized my cell phone battery was almost dead, and it was fast approaching dark in the shadow of the trees, so reluctantly I called my husband, and a couple of friends. One of our friends just so happened to live at the top of the mountain, and we called her to cancel plans that Lizbeth had with her for that evening, because she obviously was NOT going to make it - and unbeknownst to us, she sent her husband out to look for us. (He was a very expereinced hiker, who was very familiar with that section of the Appalachain trail.) As dark closed in, we bundled the children between us and huddled underneath an emergency blanket, and sang songs to the Lord for what seemed like hours. Finally we saw a flashlight in the woods. It was our friend's husband.
That is how God loves us - and even when the way that I take is the wrong way - He doesn't only stand calling my name - He comes to find me - in the dark when I am unable to find my own way home. And even though He always knows where I am, I know if I can lift my voice to praise Him, He hears my need for Him to find me all the more!
......He knows the way that I take....

16 December 2005

Jesus and "Father Christmas"

Over the past week I have read several posts from different bloggers about Santa and Jesus, and the whole spirit of Christmas. This morning, I was reading Boltbabe's story about Baby Jesus being stolen out of a light display in someone's backpack! How much more outrageous and anti-Christmas could that sentiment be? Then I followed a link to Spunky's blog about a teacher being reprimanded for telling her first grade students that there is NO Santa. And it is truly a crime that people get all worked up about something like this, but think nothing of the secularism that seeks to swallow Christmas - even its very name, into this nameless, vague holiday celebration of goodwill to all men, that in its very essense means absolutely nothing without Jesus.
So, all of this has gotten me thinking, and when I think, I blog - well most of the time anyway - sometimes I cook when I think, or actually have a conversation with a real human being - which is another blog entry altogether!
Last night Kullen and I were snuggled up on my bed reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe together - because I am determined that we will complete the book before going to see the movie. We are enjoying that time together so much, now that the poor child is not a theater orphan. In our reading, we came to the part where Peter, Susan, and Lucy along with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver meet "Father Christmas". "Father Christmas" (the English Santa Claus) gives each of the children tools for their adventure in Narnia. "Father Christmas" also bears the message that "Aslan is on the move". This fictional, fantasy story by one of the world's most respected theologians, that allegorically tells the gospel story, never seeks to put "Father Christmas" in the place of "Aslan", and neither should we. Pretend, fantasy and expansive imagination have given birth to great thinkers such as Mr. Lewis, and we as Christian parents need not be afraid of it. The ability to think, dream and create worlds, stories, and people is a precious gift of childhood that is quickly snuffed out as the responsibilities and pressures of adulthood come pressing in.
In our home, and in our family, Santa has never conflicted with Jesus, in the way that we have celebrated. I am not saying that this is true for the rest of the world, who would take Jesus completely out of the picture and replace Him with the jolly, fat man in the red suit. We have always talked about Santa's giving being in celebration of the greatest gift of all - Jesus!

15 December 2005

Late Night Shopping - Merry CHRISTmas!

One of my favorite holiday traditions here is a late night shopping trip my friends and I make one night in December together. We usually start out in the mall, go out to eat, and eventually make our way to Target and Walmart, and whatever anybody may be interested in along the way. We did it last night, and it is all bittersweet. It was great fun, and yet deep inside is the knowledge that this may be the last time I share a Christmas with these friends before the Lord clears the way for us to move to Texas. There were lots of laughs and fun. I was worried much of the day that because of the ice that had covered the ground that we would have to cancel, and that would have devastated me. I was just having one of those days that you just know you have GOT to get out of the house - and for me yesterday was one of them. Nobody was being particularly bad - but there have been stresses kind of pressing on me - and the joy of Christmas has been eluding me. Now, it wasn't the shopping that set me in the right spirits, but friends, and laughter and remembering that we enjoy giving to one another to celebrate the gift that continues to reach through eternity and give true and lasting joy - the kind that the worldly troubles cannot drown or temper. Thank you Jesus for that reminder. You are the reason for the season - and without you all the rest really means nothing! Praise You Lord for Your gift of eternal life - that you were born in a manger to die on a cross in so that our eyes might sparkle with eternity. Let us be light in this dark world that seeks to snuff Your name out of CHRISTmas!

03 December 2005

My Hubby's 40th Birthday

Today Travis turns 40 years old, and he is just as handsome as the day that I met him. He is a good man. He is a hard-working husband and father. Here is a great picture of him taken just a short while ago with his birthday cake - and our three beautiful children!

One of the things that I loved about him most when we met was how hard he makes me laugh - even at myself. One of the things I hate is that having to take care of the five of us, provide a roof over our heads and put food on the table has dimished some of his boyhood silliness, but I live for the days when he comes home in a spunky mood and there is such laughter and joy in our home. If I could give him one wish it would be to make his life easier financially. I am so proud to be his wife, by his side - and that he has always been willing to make sacrifices as a one-income - sometimes low-income family so that our children and homeschooling could be the highest priority! I love him, and I pray with all my heart that the Lord gives him health, and blesses our home and family with him for another forty years!
Here is a picture of the two of us - that I am going to post really, really small - because of my bruised up nose and scraggly hair! (We have a show tonight and it goes into the 40s hairdo much better if it is not freshly washed!)
I love you Travis - forever and ever! Happy Birthday Boo!

A "Play" Date

There are two more performances of "Miracle on 34th Street" for this weekend, and then four on the following weekend. Here is a picture of my girls and their friend Tayva getting ready last night for the big show!

It has been a wonderful experience again, like Scrooge was last year. There have been challenges. Such as, doing nine heads of hair - with my neck and back stiff. I just enjoy meeting new people so much, and being involved in something like this with such a diverse group of "characters". The energy of the audience is so intoxicating. It is a lot of fun to entertain others. I will post much more about the play soon and hopefully have better pictures of all of us in costume!

02 December 2005

Nail Breaking - Part II

I wanted to clarify for my gentle readers that in case anybody wonders, I am not a girly girl - and most of the time you can find my nails in various stages of growth, usually quite uneven. What I was complaining about that night when I wrecked my car was the violence, and depth with which my nail was ripped off the top of my pinkie finger. It tore it down in the quick where it smarts. But I wanted to share with you that specific part of the experience, as it has me laughing now days afterwards. The Sheriff's officer that stopped to help out was checking us over with a flashlight - the blood matted in my hair over my ear, whether my pupils were dialated - and I was in shock so I didn't feel anything at that point - not my nose, my arm, NADA. But the first thing I remember feeling pain from was that darn ripped fingernail. I said to the officer, "I broke my fingernail." He turned to his partner, without missing a beat and said, "Bob, I think we're going to have to call for transport." Yeah, funny cop on the side of the road - the guy should be a comedian!!!!

01 December 2005

Opening Night

Tonight is the opening night for Miracle on 34th Street. I have been enjoying it quite a bit, even last night with a stiff neck and shoulders, and what is painfully, obviously a broken nose. (It is bruised - and a sneeze yesterday almost killed me!) Opening night is the best. The cast finally gels together for better or worse, because truthfully none of us want public humiliation, and we stand before an audience simply to entertain them. My part is small, but when I am not there, I am missed and that means a lot to me.

However, as much as I am enjoying it, there are a few things that concern me. One is the lack of courtesy that adults give the children that are our castmates. This is "community theater" which means that all members of the community are invited to participate. However, over and over again, I have been confronted with situations where adults around us speak as if they were hanging out in a bar. Children don't need to hear that kind of (as my friend Tina calls it) foul-filthing, and quite honestly neither do I. These same grown-ups who are respected members of our community, work jobs dealing with the public and would never dream of using such colorful language or euphemisms in those settings, let loose here. I don't understand it! I am not making a moral judgment on these people, believe me as far as speech goes, I am not above reproach. The Bible tells us to "let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths" and I know I err here - often many times a day. And to God, there is no difference in foul speech and a foul heart from which wholesome sounding speech conceals venom, resentfulness, and the intent to gossip. As a believer, God's word is the plumb line to measure where I stand. But in our society, just from a moral standpoint, adults don't seem to respect the innocence of childhood. I guess that it shouldn't shock me the way that it does, in a sex-violence-evil saturated culture that the general public lives their lives void of beauty, joy and purity. It shouldn't - but it still does. And it makes me so desperately sad.

So, tonight, on opening night as I'm "breaking a leg", I will smile and play my part - but in my heart of hearts I will be praying that the innocence of the era of our play, 1947, will invade our hearts again.

If you would like to check out some blogs of some of the members of the cast and crew that are also Homeschoolbloggers - here is a list:
Raggedy Andy
Pilgrim Girl
Not-so-little Little Boy
Macy's Employee
Newspaper Stand Boy

30 November 2005

I Broke a Nail! Oh Yeah, and I had a Car Accident Too!

About 10 pm this evening, after a full evening of rehearsals at the theater, I went grocery shopping. It had been a nasty, wet, rainy, muddy, foggy sort of day. By the time we left Walmart, it was around 11 pm. We were heading home up the windy mountain roads that I am very familiar with - and just around a curve to the right, at the peak of a hill, my car started pitching left, right, left, and right one last time when BAM! we were off the road and into the woods. Both front airbags deployed in the full frontal impact, the car was full of the gunpowder smoke that ignited the airbags, the front windshield shattered and glass blew everywhere, and our ears were ringing from the sound of the explosion that rapidly inflated the airbags. I am thankful that we are all in one piece - both of my girls and I, and their friend Devan. Kaitlyn has cuts all over her forehead, and I have them on my right ear and in my hair. I had glass imbedded in my shirt and all over my face so much that I couldn't wash it with a cloth - but rather had to rinse it quite extensively first. My arms are injured from where the airbag blew the steering wheel open and scraped against them violently. AND to top it all off, I broke a nail!!! Thank goodness I'm not a girly girl. It was a traumatic experience, topped off by the fact that we just recently got the car after almost a year of not having one! I think it may be able to be fixed, but my husband, (we'll just call him the pessimist for now!) is not quite sure. I don't care - my kids and I are all in one piece and that's all that really matters. I am so thankful that the Lord was watching over us tonight. I need to go to bed now, my head aches and my neck is hurting. Sweet dreams!

22 November 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

I wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to anyone who happens to stumble across my humble little ramblings. We are leaving tomorrow morning bright and early - that is if I can get my butt to bed tonight and away from this computer!! There is so much to be thankful for - even when life seems to be throwing curve balls, the Lord is good - He loves me and He cares about my every need, counts my every tear, and knows my every dream.
When I was growing up, as a child of divorced parents, I often wondered if there really was a God. Yes, I had heard about Him but seeing no tangible evidence of Him in my life, I was sure that even if there was a God, He didn't care much about me. I bounced around - often by my own choice- between parents, state to state, school to school. I was lost in the deepest sense that a person can be lost. I never felt again like I had as a child - secure in the comfort of knowing I had a home and a family where I belonged. It was all fractured. Then one year at Thanksgiving, my mom and I went to a co-worker's house for our holiday dinner. The previous year we had had turkey pot pies, and this rabid traditionalist woman my mom worked with was not letting that happen again! I remember pulling up to the house, that was all decorated for Christmas and nestled deep into the woods in the Georgia countryside. The family was huge -aunts, uncles, grandparents, the whole kit and kaboodle. I remember in my heart, I made a prayer - sharing the desires of my heart that the Lord would one day give me a family like THAT one. Well, I grew up and got married - had children of my own, and never really thought about that day again. Eight years ago this past September, after ten years of marriage, my husband and I were finally able to buy our own house - and I was filled with that sense of being "at home" once again. Our son, Kullen was about a year old at the time, and we would occasionally lay down in my bed and take a nap together. Around Thanksgiving time, I remember stretching out, and staring out the back window of my bedroom as I was unable to sleep. As I looked at the beautiful woods, and the leafless trees, I remembered that Thanksgiving day as a lost little girl, and my dream-my wish-my prayer for a family and a home again. I realized in that moment how very real God was and that His love for me enveloped every part of who I was - even intimately caring for the desires of my heart! I was and still am so truly thankful for that gift.
I pray that you might know the depth of that love He has for you this Thanksgiving.

19 November 2005

Church - I Don't Wanna Go!

I have a dilemma that I haven't had since becoming a believer- I don't want to go to church. About a month ago, we visited one church for two weeks mainly because it felt like that's what we were to do - you know the whole "get back in the saddle" bit. However, for the last couple of weeks, I have been doing anything at all to keep from it. I can't really explain it - I just don't want to go. I feel burned out - and everything about being a part of an organized body right now really stresses me out. I want to be connected to other believers, but not in such an intense way. I am having great difficulty articulating what I am feeling - somewhat like JenIG's article in the summer issue of TOS - that feeling of not fitting in anywhere - intimidated by "super Christians" - and just not wanting to be part of the whole "CHURCHianity" scene. Now, this may sound pretty common to some of you - in fact I have friends who barely darken the door of a church, and others who have a much more casual attitude than I do about attending - but for me - I was at church everytime the doors opened - any event - I even occasionally felt the pull to the church on nights when nothing was going on but the "Promise Keepers" meeting - knowing full well I wouldn't belong there!! (not really but you get the picture right??) I have loved my church family fiercely - and still do, but I am not ready to commit again. My friend here on HSB, Kris has encouraged me to take it easy for a while, and we have as a spoof made up names for our family's home "church" times - such as (her creative input) First Church of Pajamas and Pancakes. A friend's husband suggested yesterday that we work on getting their garage together to serve as a meeting place, and have the husband's take turns leading a service as a house church. I think maybe I could handle that and I hope he's not kidding. I am hanging all my hopes on that for now.

17 November 2005

Blonde Moment!

I figured I needed to share this story with the rest of you so that you would know that I too am an airhead at times. I know those of you who know me personally will find this quite shocking, however, what I am about to share, I share solely for your benefit - so that you will never feel inferior to me again!!!! This morning, I was on the phone with my friend, Tina. We were talking through some problems, troubleshooting, praying, etc. and I didn't want to cut her short - so I began to multi-task - making beds, sweeping, wiping off the bathroom sink and getting dressed. Once I was dressed I decided to put my contacts in. Once they had both been put in and my contact case was empty, I told Tina that something wasn't right - my vision was fuzzier than before. So now I am no longer listening to my friend, but I have removed the contact from my left eye, and am desperately searching my right eyeball, eyelid, etc. for my other contact. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I must have lost it down the drain - but really had no idea how. After getting off the phone with her to call the optometrist's office to order new contacts, because of course this was my last box, I discovered in the bathroom mirror that there was a contact in my LEFT eye - but how could that be because I had already removed it! Conclusion - I had put both contacts into the SAME EYE!! No wonder my vision was blurry! Long story short, there are some things that should be done with singular concentration!

14 November 2005

Book or Movie - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

There is much excitement building as the day approaches for the premiere of The Chronicles of Narnia presentation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and I can hardly wait! I was at my friend Kathie's house last night. Our conversation had been somewhat peaceful being that there were eight kids in the house, and without realizing it had built to a crescendo as the kids had entered the room and made more and more noise. Kathie mentioned that read-alouds were somewhat like that at her house - how she starts reading in a normal, relaxed voice, and then it builds. I got curious, and asked what she was currently reading aloud - and she said The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe! I was so excited because I am too. I don't like my children to see a movie typically unless we've read the book beforehand, especially if it is a classic book. This opens the door for much discussion about what was good, bad, different between the two. I think this is an opportunity for critical thinking together as a family. Sometimes, it makes us all sad that we went to see the movie - because it totally changes the pictures we had in our imagination of characters, etc. Sometimes producers leave things that we feel are very important COMPLETELY out of the movie version, and it is hard to reconcile why such choices are made. Often we feel as if the work that was done, was untrue to the book author's actual story. I will say that the trailer for this movie looked absolutely captivating, and because C.S. Lewis' stepson was involved in production, I am very hopeful that this will be a great movie. I am also excited about the potential for allegorically spreading the gospel!

12 November 2005

Unschooling Moments

Yesterday was one of those days when it was extremely clear to me that my children are truly learning all the time - if I will invest myself enough to be present with them in whatever it is we are doing, and take the learning opportunities that are present. But, even without me, on their own, they desire to learn and life presents a multitude of opportunities. One such opportunity occured in the car on our way to rehearsal at the theater. We were listening to a Rascal Flatts CD, and in one of the songs phrases such as "you're a waterfall washing over me", "you're a mountaintop, when I reach for you your love lifts me up", and "I am frozen ground, you're the warm sunlight". As I was listening I realized that in this song, they were using, over and over, a literary device called a metaphor. Wikipedia defines it this way: Metaphor is language we use to compare things, but without using "like" or "as". I told the kids and some friends that were in the car, and we tried to see how many we could find. This was much more exciting than sitting in Grammar class, with a worksheet, tediously circling the metaphors and underlining the similies for a class period!

Another incident was also spurred on by music in a ZoeGirl song. (Yes, we listen to a wide ranging variety of music!) The singer is asking God to take away her superficial focus and help her concentrate on the beauty within. Kaitlyn asked me what "superficial" meant. This led us into a discussion about things that appear one way on the surface and are often very different inside.

It was a great reminder that they are, to coin a John Holt phrase, "learning all the time"!!

11 November 2005

To Blog or NOT to Blog

I have been struggling about whether to blog about this or not. So every day, I open an entry blank, and sit staring, hestiating to write. But the truth is, that I need to get this out, in writing and not hide it like it is some terrible secret. About three weeks ago, our family sent a letter to our pastor removing our membership from the church we have belonged to and been heavily involved in for the last ten years. It has been a very trying time for us as we have seen the Lord show us vividly the need to rely on Him - more than other people, more than our Pastor, and even more than the church. The Sunday after we sent this letter, and sat at home, unable to attend elsewhere because our hearts are still there - and after church commenced a church member and someone we had considered our friend, came to our front door, called me outside and proceeded to scream at me on my front stoop. Our family is the last in a string of families to leave the church in the last year, and evidently the Pastor has stepped down, causing people to place blame.

I have been snubbed in the grocery store, and generally ignored by people that were not only my friends but my "family" for many, many years. Some of these women and I have been long time friends - we have been together as we've had our babies, cleaned houses together when someone gets overwhelmed, carried meals to one another when we were sick, baked Christmas cookies, etc. - and suddenly they don't know me. My character, motives and integrity have been repeatedly questioned. We met with the elders the Monday after the Pastor resigned, and felt that we made it clear that our family was willing to return, not with an ultimatum but by rolling our sleeves up to help make the changes necessary to continue the work the Lord is doing in that little Chapel - alongside the Pastor as it was never our intention for him to quit. We've heard nothing in response to that meeting that I considered at the time very positive. I sent out an email to the body with a song about hurting and healing and my heartfelt concern for the hurting body - of which we are a part. Nothing we have extended has been received, and I know I must be at peace with that. But I have to admit I am struggling. Each day brings a new issue - the most recent is being told there was a "girls night out", but I was NOT invited because there was someone else coming -who never comes any other time- that might not be comfortable. I was invited to a baby shower - and I desperately want to attend, but wonder with others feeling like this if my presence may cause problems - and it all just makes me sick to my stomach. (Although let me just say that the extended invite means everything right now when so many others are pretending I am invisible or worse - never existed.)

The body of Christ is all who know Him. It reaches out beyond our church walls and encompasses every denomination, creed and color in the entire world. Those who should be setting the example of unity, sit inside church walls with those who they are in complete and perfect agreement, singing happy little songs and saying, "we have unity" but the truth is that they have built walls, within which there is no love for those outside.

A good and trusted friend said keep your focus on your ministry - and off of the conflict - and while I know what he said is true, it seems impossible that I will ever make it there. Our family could use your prayers right now as we travel this hard road - on our own. I only see one set of footprints in the sand, and I am struggling with this "Lord are you carrying me cause it sure feels like I am walking alone."

09 November 2005

Impatient And Squirrelly

I was thinking as I reread yesterday's post that anyone who really knows me knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am way too "squirrelly" - to coin a phrase my mother used to always used to describe me - to ever relax enough in the middle of the day to take a nap. As it is, I have to be completely and utterly exhausted in order to turn my mind off enough to go to sleep at night time - a trait that my husband doesn't find annoying at all! (she says sarcastically). I wish I could be the kind of person that is laid back enough to just kick their feet up and snooze for a power nap in the middle of the day. I think it would make a definite improvement in my mid-afternoon mood swings. Does anybody out there struggle like I do between maybe 2 and 4 pm?? Okay, maybe it's just me. But the truth is that if you would ever call my house and find me in bed in the middle of the day, I am probably suicidal or homicidal or both! I don't even go to bed when I'm sick. I'd rather just push myself and run around growling at my family all day.
With my children I have realized that my "squirrelly-ness" has deprived them of some focused training. I want to teach them how to do something, by telling them once how to do it and have them simply perform the task to my perfect, and utter satisfaction. A couple of years ago, our homeschool support group read a book called Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit by Teri Maxwell where she explained that many times our frustration with our children when they do not complete a task to our approval is that WE as the parents have failed to train them. I had just such an experience this morning. My 12 year old daughter has the job in the family of cleaning up the kitchen every morning, which includes unloading the dishwasher, wiping off the table and counters and rinsing out the sink. This morning, we had friends over and I made a mound of french toast. After breakfast she did what she thought was cleaning up, but fell far short of the standard I have for the cleanliness of our kitchen. She missed many sticky spots on the table (a gooey table is my absolute worst pet peeve!), didn't put half a dozen things away, etc. etc. I soon realized that it truly is my failure that I haven't stayed with her long enough to really train her to do what I want her to do the way I would like her to do it. Generally speaking, I have assigned them a task because I need to do something else, and don't stay to assist, mentor, or monitor progress. It is my failure - in my impatience to train my children properly. I know that children are often sloppy, lazy, and disobedient but the difference in the lack of skill and an unwilling heart are obvious. So I learned a valuable lesson this morning - AGAIN!

04 November 2005

Why I Don't Shop Much

Tonight I went out grocery shopping with my eight year old son, Kullen. While we were perusing through the frozen food, I saw something that amazed me - a large white box bearing the label "Turkey Dinner in a Box"!!! I kid you not! I just stood there a bit dumbfounded wondering what this world has come to. I am not the "earth-mother" type who grows all our own food, cans, weaves cloth, sews clothing or anything remotely close to that - but I do believe in the health and nutrition values of a home-cooked meal every night where a family sits together and breaks bread. It is the culmination and joining together of our separated days, as well as the beginning of our evening time together. Something about getting that meal in a box seems cheap to me. I'll be the first to admit that occasionally that meal we have together is hot-dogs and fried potatoes or grilled cheese and tomato soup - but NEVER a turkey dinner in a box! If I have offended those who do not like to cook - I sincerely apologize - and refer them to rules of blogging:

#1 - the blogger is always right (well maybe not in a moral or ethical sense, but in my personal little blog-corner of the world - my opinions will prevail on this MY blog)
#2 - should the blogger be wrong, please refer to rule #1
#3 - if either of these rules is unsatisfactory to you, the gentle reader, get your own blog and rant about it!!

Okay I even annoyed myself, and I truly am sorry if I have offended anyone in the abrupt spouting of my opinions. I have been out in public shopping a couple of times this week, and it has had me all worked up! Earlier in the week, we were out running some errands, and my girls asked me to take them to the Ross department store. While there we saw some "Britney Spears' perfume called Fantasy. I was laughing and telling my girls that being she is a new mother, her perfume should probably smell like baby barf! (Yes, even though I don't watch television or read the papers - I know that Britney just had a baby!)

To top the whole shopping torture off, I was listening on Christian radio to a call-in show where they take prayer requests, and my heart went out to a woman that asked for prayer for her marriage. Seems she has an eight month old baby and since the baby was born they have been having trouble. She went on to describe that she leaves for work before her husband even wakes up in the morning. I was just so sad and at the same time so thankful that I have never had to be a commuter mom, and live a life disjointed with my husband. And then I am so puzzled as I look around me and see how materialistic our society is and wish that people could see the price they are really paying in their lives for the things they think they need.

To sum my week up and all of my soapbox rants, it's okay to be a stay-at-home mom, and cook real meals for your family, and sometimes smell like baby barf! (I had breastfed babies that never barfed - just as a little footnote!) It's probably too late to be blogging!!! Please send all complaints to my public relations director Tina Francis - she won't even notice that you're mad!!!
Shh! If you don't tell her, she may not even notice I just made fun of her!!! JUST KIDDING - I love you Tina!

03 November 2005


My scrolling marquee used to contain the following quote from Fred Gailey in the story Miracle on 34th Street - "Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to." I found that to be very understandable in an every man kind of way. If you think about the cross - it makes no sense. My friend, Bonnie, a psychologist and PhD came to the Lord about five or six years ago - but as she gives her testimony and describes the experience of being an unbeliever the majority of her 50+ years of life, she recounts this story: Bonnie and her sister Barbara are sitting in a restaurant eating dinner together, and discussing some of Bonnie's struggles with Christianity. The conversation from Bonnie's perspective becomes intense, and she stands up (remember they're in a restaurant!) and says, "You are NEVER going to get me to say that a dead man got up and walked around." Common sense was telling Bonnie just what we know in the flesh - someone dies, they go to the grave, we never see them again - the end. But as Christians our faith tells another story - and our beliefs cannot always be supported by our reason.

So tell me why is it that as a Christian, I enter that first crisis of belief, and surrender my ability to understand all of the hows and whys of the cross - and then spend the rest of my Christian life, struggling to understand every single situation the Lord allows in my life - good, bad or indifferent - from that point forward?? Why don't I accept these mysteries of humanity with the same childlike faith that God is in control of all of them in the same way He was in control at the cross - even when it certainly must not have seemed like it to those standing there on that day! If God is in control, my heart and mind (ah! that's the biggest struggle) must accept that His view is complete. He knows what each hurt, crisis, joy, doubt is making in me - and He intends to use it for His glory. Common sense says I should be able to figure things out - to make sense of the world around me - and yes, in many ways I can - but in so many more - there is just the lingering "why". The only answer is Jesus - that in all of my life He might be glorified.

01 November 2005

Thought Provoking - Heroes of the Holy Life

I am currently reading a book to discuss with my small group called Heroes of the Holy Life. It is a collection of biographies of men and women distinguished as "fully devoted followers of Christ". What strikes me first and foremost in the biographies is that these devotees were just that - devoted. Christ was at the center.
It seems to me lately that I have been so busy spinning in circles, fighting against change, panicking over the unknown, licking my wounds - that Christ has gotten somewhat off-center in my life. I was so blessed last night - after finding myself interally spewing and occasionally allowing it to spill out externally - to get an email from someone I trusted very much encouraging me to recognize the foothold that Satan is surely getting both in my heart, and in the lives of my family. Today was a victorious day of waging war against the enemy. Recognition, repentance and a cry for help were all it required.
This morning as I was reading the brief biography of Oswald Chambers (author of My Utmost for His Highest), a man whose writings have deeply inspired me, I read this: "...Glory be to God, the last aching abyss of the human heart is filled to overflowing with the love of God. Love is the beginning, love is the middle, and love is the end. After He comes in, all you see is 'Jesus only. Jesus ever.' When you know what God has done for you, the power and the tyranny of sin are gone and the radiant unspeakable emancipation of the indwelling Christ has come."
Christ has gotten off center because He hasn't been the beginning, middle and end. He hasn't been my only, because my focus has been on ME and not HIM. The aching abyss of my human heart was filled with Him more today than yesterday - and I know no matter how big the ache gets - His supply of love and His ability to fill it up is limitless.

31 October 2005

Try Something New - Sushi!

A friend called me up yesterday evening - and asked if I wanted to go check out a used book store and get some sushi. Well when it comes to books, I am like a ravenous wildebeast - I can't get enough - but the sushi - I could take it or leave it - and since the sushi bar is at the Chinese buffet restaurant - I said I'd LEAVE the sushi and eat something else.

So we headed off in the dark dinner hour of having recently turned the clocks back for our evening out. The bookstore was so quiet and I found some great selections for only a few bucks. Then we went to the Chinese restaurant. I had some good food - but as I watched my friend eating her sushi - I wanted to try some!
I can't explain it - but something that used to repulse me was suddenly very appealing. I started asking questions about what was in the different kinds she was trying, and when I decided to brave some new selections, she accompanied me to the sushi bar to offer some advice on how to start slow. I got a "California roll" which she calles "FAKE sushi" and I loved it!!!! I also tried something that contained smoked eel - and found that quite disgusting. I had several different selections that contained salmon and other fish. It was all very good. In fact, I want to go again - VERY SOON!
I am not sure whether indeed it was the evening out with a friend, or the "trying something new" or the combination, but my spirits were lifted after being out last night. There are so many new experiences on the horizons of my life, and this little thing was symbolic of the fact that I can try something new and it can be good!

30 October 2005

Halloween Party Happenings

I have two Tinas in my life, and they are two of my very closest friends. One of my Tina's had a Halloween party at her house on Friday night - and the kids had so much fun. The fun actually began when we got together on Thursday to decorate -

Here are the kids making funny tombstones - and painting lanterns made out of cans to line the walkway. Their friend Walker is really busy in the middle - I'm not sure we could have gotten it all together without his helpful holding of the Cheetos bag!

Then the costumes - what fun!!!

The Lovely French maid had her shoulders raised to their appropriate positioning after this picture was taken! I wish I could get her to dust at home! And the 80s child on the right is dressed up as her mother - "Julie - circa 1984!!!!

The handsome young Jedi!!!

It was a really fun night - but I ate way too much chocolate! Never tell a chaperoning adult where the chocolate stash is hidden - especially if it's me!!!!! Tina's house is small and cozy - and she opens it up to more people than anyone I've ever known. She made it such a nice party for all of the kids. They ate candy, played hide-and-go-seek outside in the dark, danced around to a strobe light, and laughed like they were going crazy! I'm just sorry for the rest of you that you couldn't be there! Maybe next time.

29 October 2005

Self-Examination with the Great Physician

It is always interesting to me when God allows something to happen in your life, and it is so bizarre later to make the connections and see how something so seemingly insignificant was being placed at precisely the moment on the timeline of your life where it serves the largest purpose. Lately a lot of things have been lining up for me as our family enters a season of great change. It is not just preparing for a physical move, but moving on from things in our lives that have been harmful and destructive, as well as physically, spiritually and emotionally crippling. I have felt much this week like a stranger and an alien. Many things I used to enjoy all seem quite empty and shallow now, and I feel a bit lost - unanchored, and at the same time, liberated and unfettered. I know Christ has set me free from the captivity of my own emotions - and I cling to the one who made me and knows intimately how I feel. I am not lost in Him.

About a week ago, I had a rather intense discussion with a friend wherein lay a disagreement. This friend is someone who I love dearly - and always will, but during this season, we are on different sides of a figurative fence. My friend's assessment because of our conflicting perspectives, was that we were going different directions - and her summation was that I was becoming "worldly". These words were stinging and have attempted all week long to make me bitter and resentful. However, when I get stuck right there in those feelings, I fail to utilize the opportunity for self-examination, and for the Lord to tell me what He has to say about me. It is His opinion that matters, and none other. He is the one who I must give an accounting to of my life. I accept that others may not always see things the way I see them, agree with me, or even understand my perspective. The irony is shortly before I entered into this time of trial in my life, not only with this particular friendship but virtually all of my relationships outside of my own family, the Lord had led me to begin reading Job. I am not suggesting that I am being persecuted, or even suffering at the extreme that Job was - but that I can identify with the position of having to stand under the accusations of others - even ones who have claimed to be your friends.

Always when someone says something about you that cuts, wounds, injures or maimes, there is a responsibility for the believer to examine these places in themselves where others have poked, pointed, jabbed and jeered to see if any validity is to be found in what is being said about you. I have asked God to show me - to walk me through these things and sift what I think to be true out of what He is showing me that His truth about me would prevail. It is hard, but refinement always involves a testing by fire. Lord, help me to stand in Your strength as mine has failed me. I know He will. I know He will.

28 October 2005

Family Reading

When our family decided to take the plunge, pull our oldest daughter out of kindergarten and become homeschooling pioneers in our own rite, we only knew two homeschooling families. These two families were very different in their homeschooling lifestyles - and yet on one thing they were in passionate agreement: a well-rounded education involves reading, reading and more reading - but most importantly sharing good books as a family. Having grown up in a family that never read together at all, this was quite a foreign concept. I am sure that my parents read story books to me when I was quite small, and then passed the torch when I was able to read for myself at the tender age of 4. If I had never met these two women, who shared their contagious joy of family reading, I would have missed out on one of the best experiences I could have ever shared with my children.

When we plunged into the homeschooling world, there were two other families that were jumping in with us, and so we started a little "support group". Mostly we got together and asked lots and lots and lots of questions to these veteran moms. Often the questions about registering with the school board and how to test, when to test, what curriculum to use, how to pull it all off on a shoestring, etc. left me feeling confused and frustrated. It seemed like another life task to be overwhelmed by - until my friend said very simply to me, "You'll never do wrong by your kids if you spend time reading with them. Just read." This simple sentiment was not lost on me, and I quickly discovered the joy of reading aloud to my family. One way to implement this activity was that our small group began to have book discussions. I will never forget the first book they decided to introduce us to was Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson. Then we got together for a fun afternoon of snacks and book discussion. The kids were all very small at the time. Now before I incite a fury, and onslaught of hate mail - I don't like reading books about animals. And yet, there was such a benefit, a connectedness, a treasured time spent together of snuggling up with my kids and sharing these stories. Our second book The Little House on the Prairie was right up my alley - and we devoured that one very quickly. One of the best book discussions we ever had was on The Giver by Lois Lowry about a Utopian society and the pitfalls perfection can create. Awesome.

What I want to convey in this post is that reading is in and of itself a definite pleasure. I wish I made more time for it personally. There is a quiet joy in meeting new friends, sharing their lives, and understanding more about yourself in the process of the slowly unfolding stories a good book shares. But better than that, when in our frenzied, hurried, busy lives, we take time to just sit quietly, snuggled up on the sofa or with pillows piled all around us on mommy and daddy's bed, and share stories together, you create family memories that last a lifetime. To be able to talk about books you've shared together is one of the best connections you can make with your children. Over the years our family has read missionary biographies - one of our favorite was Torches of Joy, and we like the "Heroes then and Now" Series by Geoff and Janet Benge. We have read stories that brought us closer to World War I like House of Sixty Fathers. We have listened to many books on tape, such as the one we heard in its entirety played on our long trip to the Outer Banks in NC - we had two teenage friends in the car with us, and all five children were spellbound - nobody talked, nobody slept - everybody listened the whole way, called "Z" is for Zachariah - a story about the end of the world. Another great book that stands out is Homesick by Jean Fritz, a famous author who shares her stories of growing up as a young girl in China. Her descriptive writing about the culture, the people, long voyages in boats, and riding in a rickshaw will make you feel as if you are really there.

What I want to know is, do you read with your family? Do you share good books together? Do you desire to develop reading comprehension, listening skills, communication ability, attention span, etc. in your children? Reading aloud to them is an awesome way to work on each of these skills. But aside from all that, do it for the intense pleasure it will bring to you and your children. Pick a good book and start today! No child is too young, nor too old. I have an 8 year old who has been listening to chapter books along with his sisters since he was a baby and I still read to my teenagers. We are currently reading a missionary biography about George Muller during our family devotional time, and daddy is even enjoying that one. Let me pass on the best, simplest piece of advice my friend ever gave me about homeschooling with you- Just Read!

If you are interested in doing this with your family, please feel free to email me for ideas, or encouragement. You will also find the best resources in a series of books called Honey for a Child's Heart, Honey for a Teens Heart, and Honey for a Woman's Heart by Gladys Hunt. The names of her books were inspired by this verse: Pleasant words are a honeycomb; Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 It is my hope that you will share good books with your family and sweeten your life!

26 October 2005

Boyd's Bear Country for Brenna's Birthday

This weekend we went with my friend Carol and her daughter Brenna to Boyd's Bear Country in Gettysburg, PA to celebrate Brenna's 14th Birthday. It was a lot of fun. That place is a bear wonderland. If you like stuffed animals, and specifically teddy bears, you will go nuts there. It is like a teddy bear world. There are Christmas displays (just to get you in the mood), a baby nursery, a make your own bear shop, etc. We had a great time with some great friends. Here's a picture of my kiddies next to a "bear" nativity:

I even heard they have one in the great state of Tennessee!!!!! You should definitely check it out - especially at Christmas time - they decorate so special for the holidays.
Here is Kullen making his own animal - which just so happens to be a stuffed monkey - he later dressed in camouflage!!!! (Don't ask!) It was a really fun day - and if you get a chance to swing by there, you definitely should!
Thanks for inviting us!
There was a very thought provoking post on Amy Beth's blog. She was asking for a respectful conversation - not debate about the difference between the witches and such in the Chronicles of Narnia - stories such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe versus other types of fantasy wherein witchcraft is present and evil is a thematic element. I would like to continue that discussion here - and hear comments from anybody interested in participating in what I hope would be a continuation of the conversation that was started on Amy Beth's blog.

First of all, when the Harry Potter series first came out my children were much younger than they are now, and my thoughts on the Christian controversy were that there were so many other good books to read, they had no need of getting involved in something that clearly contained witchcraft. The Bible warns against participation in witchcraft as a practice, and also that we are to abstain from even the very appearance of evil. But as I took my stand the controversy brewed on. During that time, I saw an increase in books related to the occult, witchcraft, spells, etc. appearing on the shelves and highlighted in special displays in our library. Here is where my concern began. It is one thing to read fantasy, but it is another all together to benignly expose yourself or your children to things which allow an opened door for evil into your life.

However, I read a book three summers ago, just prior to a long trip to the South Carolina coast called Honey for a Teens Heart by Gladys Hunt. Having trusted her recommendations for years in Honey for a Child's Heart, I was stunned to discover in the fantasy section of this book full of reading recommendations for teens - the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I will share some of her synopsis here: J.K. Rowling, who has authored the most astonishing series in the history of children's publishing, causing many former non-readers to take up her Harry Potter books, has said that she has been deeply influenced by C.S. Lewis. That's one reason there will eventually be seven books in the Harry Potter series, just like the Narnia Chronicles. They are so wildly popular because they work well on several levels - as laugh-aloud books with word-plays, jokes and spoofs of British boarding school life, and as an introduction to a thoroughly real set of true-to-life characters who have their own quirks, foibles and endearing charms paralleling our own. Except for the Dursleys, there are no cardboard, predictable characters. These include elves, giants, ghosts, animals and oddball teachers of all sorts. Most importantly, Hogwarts is a complete world unto itself, a believable sub-creation in which the characters take chances, grow, fail, are forgiven, and learn discernment as they join the fight for the life-giving good against the life-destroying evil Though Rowling is not a Christian believer, we can see the C.S. Lewis influence on her work in how she has created a "Moral world that is consistent with biblical revelation of the nature of good and evil" (Connie Neal 176). Our recommendation if you hesitate to to let your children read Harry Potter because of the many claims that the books promote witchcraft as a positive lifestyle, is to read them yourselves first. Then explore the well balanced, in-depth discussion in Connie Neal's What's a Christian to do With Harry Potter? You must be fully convinced in your own mind, but exercise that mind prayerfully and with all the facts. You may become convinced, as we are, that not only are the books excellent fantasy, but that God can use them for redemptive conversations within your family and with the larger culture.

I immediately went to the library and checked out Connie Neal's book and read it in a day. She presents the arguments, assertions, and conflict between Christians on this subject, and I felt like I had an intelligent opinion afterwards - not just a random fear. As believers we read about witchcraft, demons, dragons, murder, prostitution, etc. all in God's word. It is the practice that is forbidden, not reading about it. C.S. Lewis himself states in The Screwtape Letters that there are two equal and opposite errors one can make about demons - the first is to be convinced that they do not exist - the second is to have a preoccupation with them. (my paraphrase). I believe we can see the same dynamic in this realm. We either behave as if witchcraft does not exist, or have an unhealthy fascination with it. That needn't be so. Christ has set us free. We can read fantasy without condemnation, and with grounded convictions avoid the fear of being sucked into a practice the Bible forbids. During our trip to the beach that year, I read the entire first book in the HP series.

I do not believe these books are for young children, and yet after reading the first book in the Harry Potter series, and handing it over to my daughter to read - I was able to have one of the best discussions I've ever had with her. I have found this "read it first" or "read it with" practice to be an incredible relationship builder with all of my children. In the very first book, Harry is an orphan because his father was killed, and his mother died saving his life. This is an easy way to communicate the gospel to unbelieving teens who are familiar with this story - because rarely in real life do we have examples of this sacrificial kind of love.

Something I found extremely enlightening in Ms. Neal's book is that Christians often accept other stories widely - that have ghosts, witches, and the like. A Christmas Carol and it's musical counterpart Scrooge for example have the "ghosts" of Past-Present-and-Future, as well as a apparition of Ebenezer Scrooge's dead partner Marley coming back from the dead. Scrooge himself participates in a ritual called astral projection - in which his spirit leaves his body to travel around London in order to see and yet not be seen. Most Disney movies have a villan, often a witch, demon or other evil influence, and yet we watch these fantasy stories with our children benignly without a second thought.

Here's my advice - don't jump to conclusions and be afraid. Read books with your kids or to them as a family read-aloud and discuss the things in them that you find are contrary to the word of God. Raise your kids to be thinkers, not those who shrink back in fear of the unknown, so submerged in their own little world that they cannot engage the culture around them. Help them be challenged in what they believe by reading things that they or you may disagree with. And, assert your opinions and convictions with respect to those around you! So if you would like to post a comment - please do so - even if you disagree - as long as you are considerate of others.

24 October 2005

Bloggers Block

The last few days I have felt unable to blog. Truthfully, I have felt unable to do much of anything productive without extreme amounts of effort and energy. Mentally, my mind has come to a stand still in all creative elements, and spun uncontrollably with all thoughts that preoccupy me. I have prayers on my lips for names that crush me to speak, and in my heart an ache instead of a song. I know there are others that have much pain around something that is happening at my church home where I have grown in the Lord, laughed and loved for the past 10+ years. My desire is for my heart to be laid bare on the altar before the Lord that He might use me to help bring healing. I keep hearing the words to the Third Day song - "Cry Out to Jesus" - this is what I am doing. I am perhaps without friends - but the Lord knows my heart, and every motive is clear to Him - I will leave it up to Him to reveal truth to blinded eyes - or not. He knows of my love for those that are hurting - I need not defend what is true. A ministry of reconciliation is what I seek - and if it is not to be, I will plead to the Lord to give me a peaceful heart to accept that human relationships will be sin-stained this side of heaven - and not allow my heart to shrivel for fear. God - help me love in a way that abandons my own selfish needs in relationships with others - and love the way Jesus loved - forsaking His own life that those He loved could reap the benefits.

23 October 2005

What are YOUR Flowers?

My friend Carol and I had a chance yesterday to spend some much overdue time together. She is way more like an older sister to me than just a friend. Our conversations together have always made me think deeper, helped make my convictions stronger, and challenge what I believe. Yesterday out of hundreds of topic we touched on, one in particular stood out and I said to her "I want to blog about that!" So here goes -

We were talking about husbands. You know, there is an understanding among women that if your husband brings you flowers, it really means a lot. For us girls, it means that during the course of the day he thought about us enough to stop what he was doing and bring something home to us in order that we might know he was thinking about us. As flowers wither and die, often rather quickly, and the expense that they are in spite of this fact, when a man brings a woman flowers, it is a demonstration of extravagant love. It says, if this will bless you, it was worth the cost. Yes, having the man that you love bring you flowers is awesome.

However, not all men choose to express love in this way. I can remember one guy I dated that said flat out, he would never buy me flowers because it was "expected" and what "everyone else did". {Shall we all pause for a moment of silent prayer for the poor woman who may now be married to this man??!?}

I can remember several years ago having a conversation in a ladies Bible study group about romance. We were going around the circle sharing the most "romantic" things our husbands had ever done. Some women had awesome stories of being swept away to a mysterious vacation, an elaborate proposal, etc. and as we rounded the circle it was obvious that some women were feeling awkward and uncomfortable. A younger woman sitting next to me said her husband didn't really do anything romantic and then started to list off the things he did do for her - like to go work every day so she could stay home with her children, and told how the night before he had stayed up the whole night with the baby so she could rest because she was sick. I couldn't help it, I said, "That is so romantic." And while we don't think in these terms, our culture has tainted us as women to only see love expressed in specific, materialistic ways. In our culture we have often chosen to define romance as things. Dictionary.com says in its definition of 'romance' that it is often short-lived, fleeting. Real love is giving something that requires a sacrifice on your behalf for someone else, and doing it over and over again through time.

I will admit, I have a "gift-challenged" husband. He hates to shop. Having a blue-collar income often dictates buying new tires for the van over other less utilitarian type things. But, I have memories of a day he stopped on the side of the road and picked me flowers, and different things he's made me over the years. One of his particular talents is working on our computer, and I have seen him labor tirelessly for hours to get something to work right for me - over and over again. A few years ago he had been laid off since the beginning of November and Valentine's day was approaching. With no money, he found a piece of wood in our basement and carved "Travis s Julie" on it. On the back he wrote that any tree he carved this in may be chopped down, but this way, I had it forever - his expression of love for me! These are the things I have been asking the Lord through the years to open my eyes to see as my "flowers". What are your "flowers"?

21 October 2005

Sweet Ride

So, even with the "Napoleon Dynamite"-ish title, you still decided to read this entry? I guess I could write pretty much anything now, and I would still have an audience, huh? Just kidding! I know this is an highly intelligent community and you would expect way more than that!

I have exciting news, and I have hesitated to share it before now, because someone who was involved asked that we not say anything - but YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE and we are very thankful.

My news is {drumroll please} I have a car!!!! I know it may not sound like a big deal for a middle-class family in middle-America, but there is much you don't know. This saga started out last year - the week of Christmas, my dear husband cracked the block on his car. It was DEAD - even after hours of CPR, no pulse, flatline - gone! Christmas was only days away and I had much shopping to do and preparations to make, when he gives me the news that his car is gone... and.....that he will have to drive my car to work.....and.....that since he worked an hour and a half away at the time it would make no sense for me to drive him! I handled the news with humility dignity and grace (NOT!) Over the past ten months, I have gone round and round with these wrong attitudes. The Lord has been a gentle and patient parent, showing me that His timing is perfect.

Also, my husband and I don't do credit cards or bank loans for anything other than our house - because he has always been convicted that you save up for what you need, and then you buy it - not the other way around. So for months we waited - and saved. We were finally able to buy a little truck that was for sale down the road from our church - but that was to be short lived - because on the way home with the "new truck" it broke down! And even though he had asked permission to leave the truck there, the next morning the owners of the driveway his truck broke down next to, had it towed away! After much TLC from my friends wonderfully talented husband, we determined that it was un-fixable, or at least not worth the expense it would take to fix it!

Over the ten months of car-less-ness, the Lord has taught me so many things - but he couldn't do that until I stopped kicking, screaming, crying, whining - and they have made me a better person. I am not good at depending on other people - and over this past year, I have had to depend heavily on all my wonderful friends who have taken me here, there and everywhere. I am sooooo thankful for a vehicle to drive. But he didn't just provide any vehicle, it is more than I could have ever asked for - the desires of my heart. And even if there wasn't a car in the driveway this morning - I would still say He is good! Better than a new car, he gave me a new joy in my heart. He didn't just effect a change in my circumstances, He made a humongous change inside of me.

Tuesday night around 10:00 when Travis brought the car home, we all went out and took a ride in it. Kullen summed it up perfectly when he said it - and not just about the car, about life, "Daddy, this is a sweet ride!"

20 October 2005

Halloween - Has it Gotten a Bad Rap?

I've had Halloween on the mind lately. I have been struggling as a believer in knowing what to make of it all. I have heard it called "the Devil's birthday", or "Satan's holy-day", "All Hallow's Eve", There is much confusion in these assertions, and a lot of history to sort through in order to have an understanding about the holiday Americans celebrate on October 31st.
I have come across several very interesting articles on Halloween origins such as one done by the History Channel called This article outlines the Celtic festival of the dead, and the tradition of dressing up in costumes on what was considered the eve of their new year, when it was believed that there was a blurr between the worlds of the living and the dead. Eventually around circa 800, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1st All Saint's Day - a day to remember and honor saints and martyrs, essentially, the dead. it is also widely believed that this was an effort to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a church-santcioned holiday. The old English word for this celebration is Alholowmesse - meaning literally "All Saints' Day" and the night before it, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.
I also stumbled upon an article by Christan Apologetics and Research Ministry on the origin of Halloween. The conclusion of this article assesses that the origins of Halloween are a mixture of old Celtic pagan ritual superstition and early Catholic tradition. I would definitely recommend anyone interested in learning more read what is written here. It is clear and concise, outlining scripture specifically addressing some of the negative aspects of Halloween, such as witchcraft, the occult and demons, of which the believer should beware.
The author of the CARM article also points out how other symbols, which had pagan origins have been redeemed by Christians, such as the Christmas tree. It's origins indicate that it was originally an ancient fertility symbol. As believers the evergreen tree has come to symbolize eternal life afforded to us because a Savior was born, to die on a "tree", to pay a debt He didn't owe because we owe a debt we couldn't pay.
The bottom line is that a person's decision to celebrate Halloween or not is based on their heart. What do the things associated with Halloween mean to you? The author of the apologetics article uses the references where Paul speaks about eating the meat sacrificed to idols. Where one man's freedom allows him to eat that meat with no association to the pagan worship it derived from, based on his life and history another man may not. (I Cor. 10) Our freedom in Christ, and our living of our lives is based on the conviction of the Holy Spirit working in each of us individually. In your heart, are you associating with Satan and his minions by passing out candy and allowing your children to dress up for Halloween? Or do you you see this as a tradition rooted in Americana, with no attachment to the "dark side"?
In the 70s my brother and I would dress up and take our pillowcases off of our bed. We would walk five blocks in one direction - as far as we were allowed to go without an adult - and get our pillow sacks half full. We would then go home and dump them on our beds, and go five blocks in the other direction! I did not grow up in a "Christian" home, and yet in my mind Halloween was ALL about candy and dressing up and not about the devil.
I read another interesting article that suggests believers are giving Satan a foothold by withdrawing from this holiday. The author asserts that while we lock ourselves up in our churches for this holiday we are missing out a valuable opportunity to be a light in a darkened world, on the one day when the world appears on our own doorsteps. Interesting perspective.
I am not saying to celebrate Halloween or not to celebrate Halloween. My concern is that as believers we level mandates at one another. It is not our job to legalistically regulate the lives of those around us. I can't tell you the times I've heard a self-righteous believer proclaim "We don't DO Halloween." In all honesty, it makes my skin crawl - not that I don't understand the sentiment, but that I am reminded of the prayer of the Pharisee, wherein he proclaimed to God all that he wasn't - and patted his own back for being so much better than the next man.
There is no conclusion to be found in this post - I am still torn on this issue. I would love to hear your comments and what you're thinking about the issue. Please check out some of the articles I've linked above, and if you're passionate about this one way or the other, please count slowly to 10 - and backwards again if necessary and please post your comments in a loving way that may reach the hearts of anyone who reads what we have written here!

18 October 2005

Chaos, Chaos, Chaos

I have a lot going on in my life right now - and even though there are the physical things, like homeschooling, schedules like work and housekeeping, activities like roller skating and Awanas and play practice - most of the chaos is in my head. I have spent my prayer time each morning for the past couple just trying to quiet my mind enough to focus on telling the Lord about the spinning feeling. My mind wanders and I feel guilty. I don't know how to get focused - and partly that is because I am avoiding some things I know that I have to do.
The biggest of those things is writing a difficult letter. I have at least made a step in that I wrote the draft about a week ago. When I re-read it, it sounded much like that sound you hear from down the hall in the middle of the night when your kid gets a stomach virus and between two of the wretching sounds is a gasping call for "MOM!" Yep - it sounded a bit like that - and that is not at all what I want to convey. I want to speak the truth in love, and yet everytime I attempt to think it through or write about it, this nasty, foul stuff is all that comes out. So I wait - but not patiently or peacefully knowing that the Lord's timing is right - but anxiously turning it over and over in my mind. As I lay in bed at night, the rough draft begins to re-write itself in my head, and my heart aches because what I will say, even in love, I know will hurt. What I really want to do is what I did before I was a Christian - I want to run away. I want my house to sell quickly, so I can get out of this situation, and never have to deal with it. The Lord allows no peace when my thoughts go here. I have been wrestling Him for two months on the issue, and the only time I feel like the match stops is when I settle it in my mind that the only right thing to do is to write the letter - and convey a message of love and forgiveness. Perhaps the Lord has not allowed me to write the complete letter because He knows I am not there yet.
Everything else I am juggling is much easier than this burden I am carrying. I am going to continue to seek His help in this area. I know He is patient with me, even when I am like a wiggly child, squirming on His lap. I am so thankful that He is the perfect parent - unlike me who would be saying "sit still!", "be quiet!", "pay attention!" The Lord just continues to patiently pull me back into His arms and speaks to my heart with that still small voice until I gaze into His eyes - and all of these trials and troubles melt away when I get my focus on Him!

14 October 2005

Quiet Time - Lessons from Job

I hate to admit it, but there are times when my quiet time with the Lord, reading the Word and praying in the quiet, still hours of the morning all alone before anyone wakes up are the absolute JOY of my life - and then there are other times when I struggle and strain, pulling what seems the weight of an elephant uphill against that time that so refreshes my life, if only I can let it wash over me. I am in one of the latter times right now. Mind you it is not willful disobedience, but rather a sick heart that keeps me from the only place that I know to truly make it well - what irony!
Recently I was led to the book of Job during this time between the Lord and I. I have read Job several times in the past - specifically two other times when I felt I was suffering conflict, persecution, and trial. But this time was different. I felt the Lord led me to that book because he had something very rational, very logical, very grounded in truth that He desired to show me. In the beginning Job suffers terribly - and that is previously where I had identified. But this time something altogether different came into focus as I have been reading. Job has friends - and they mean well, but everything they speak into his life only bring more discouragement, more opportunities for condemnation, and make his struggle to stand much harder than it ever needs to be. He has two choices - to give weight to the opinions, condemnations, and judgments of these friends, or stand, grounded in truth of his righteousness before the Lord. How many times in my life have I allowed the opinions, prejudices, preferences, ideals, and thoughts of others press on my life - bringing conviction that should come from the Lord alone, and by His Spirit. In this I am to blame - preferring the approval of man to simply pleasing my Lord.
I am thankful for His word and the power it has over and over to speak truth in my life. It is hurtful to realize you allowed the influence of another person to cripple you spiritually and hurt your family because you did not stand against the false accusations of others. But knowing this truth is the first step towards tremendous, liberating, exuberant, extravagant, elaborate, extraordinary, beautiful freedom in Christ! It is the strangest feeling - sorrow and anxious expectation. I will wait on the Lord.

11 October 2005

More Thoughts on Halloween

This weekend my family and I were riding to a fall festival in the next state and we had an interesting conversation. Our church has decided to have a fall festival this year, and are extending it beyond our church family to our surrounding community. As this is an outreach, the people organizing it decided that they didn't want it associated in any way with Halloween, and therefore have asked that the children not dress up. I understand the importance of the church keeping these two things separate, but my children, who have only ever attended this event at their church, were very disappointed that it was going to be so different.

A couple of years ago, our church did not have a fall festival. I think there has always been some tension - some think the children should dress up and others think it too Halloween-y. One well meaning woman suggested that our children be allowed to dress only as animals or Bible characters. This was the topic of our family discussion.

The first and most dramatic point of that discussion was that the Bible was full of characters that were not at all wholesome. For instance, Satan is a character that appears in the very first book of the Bible. Among others we listed were serpents, Cain - the murder, Rahab - the prostitute, David and Bathsheba - partners in adultery, Goliath - a monster, Saul, Pharoah or the death angel that passed over and struck the firstborn of Egypt, Lot's daughters, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention, what costume would you wear if you decided to dress up as Adam and Eve before the fall??? That wouldn't go over very well anywhere, much less at a church sponsored event.

It was interesting to think about how the Bible is not a baby's bedtime story book, but a book filled with rich history which is not always beautiful. It is an annal of war for the Jewish nation. It is a gory, and bloody book of crime and passion. It is a book full of sinful people living in a fallen world. And although the prevailing message is of a scarlet thread of redemption from Adam to Jesus Christ and extended to each of us - there are people all along the way who distort that message.
On another interesting note, during the pagan rituals that originated what eventually intertwined with Catholic traditionto become Halloween, the participants wore animal masks!!!