Sunday, January 24, 2016

Homeschool and Public School and Christian School - Oh My!

Tomorrow is an exciting day for our family, not the first of it's kind in our 30 years of parenting.  Two of our crew will be returning to our local public schools this morning.  We will have three in public school (ps from here on out in this post) and two home schooling (hs for short) and three who have graduated, one from Christian school and two from ps.  Whew.

When it comes to research on educating children I have exhausted myself.  I have read books and blogs and articles and statistics.  I have spoken to friend who educate their children in ps, hs, and Christian school.  I have talked with teachers and administrators.  I have talked with my own children.  I, along with my husband, have tried to come up with the very best plan for the education of those we are in charge of.  We have prayed for wisdom.  We have sought God's will in this matter.  In the end, we have worn ourselves out trying to figure out the right/best choice. 

At a time when tolerance is a buzzword in our society and we are encouraged to embrace diversity, I have discovered that field of education is one filled with silent judgement.  Much of the conservative Christian hs crowd doesn't get how anyone who is conservative and Christian could send their precious children off on the prison bus to the government mind control centers that they believe our public schools to be.  They are critical (and rightly so) of Common Core, teaching methods, curriculum content, unbelievable issues such as gender neutral restrooms & locker rooms, and a host of other issues.  I too have grave concerns about these issues.

The Christian ps community often doesn't understand the hs lifestyle, They are concerned about the quality of education that can be provided at home.  Some wonder about the wisdom of removing the young people from Christian families from local schools and their influence and witness for Christ leaving a dark gaping hole.  This can also be a legitimate issue to ponder.  

So why the need for a blog post about this issue?  I'm not an expert, despite all my research.  I'm just a mom.  I haven't even figured out the right answer.  GASP. This is a huge issue for my Type A perfectionist leaning self.  How can I make a decision about this if I haven't figure out the BEST answer yet?  This struggle could leave me locked in a cycle of indecision and back and forths that would leave me feeling like a failure.  Oh wait, it already has.  It's time to stop.  Stop the research.  Stop the worry about what anyone else will think.  Stop the "concern" (there's a church word for you) that my decisions will and have ruin my children's lives if I make the wrong ones.  It is time to just STOP.

I believe there is not one right or best answer for every family.  I'd go even further, there is not necessarily one right or best answer for each child in a family.  In the same way it is important for each couple to determine if both parents will work outside the home or if one will stay home to care for the children, in the same way couples need to wrestle with the subject of birth control and family planning, each Christian family needs to first and foremost seek God and then know themselves and their children and make the best decisions for their family.  Then, no matter what school choice they go with, they need to teach their children to love God and love people, to deny themselves and pick up their cross daily and follow Jesus.  

I could write many, many words about why this decision is the best one for our kids and our family and me personally right now.  I'm not going to, because it doesn't matter.  Those things are the stepping stones on OUR path, and it's different from yours.   The bottom line is this:  I have watched kids grow up in public school and turn out to be young people who love the Lord and make great choices in their adult lives. I have also seen children be led astray by influences in the public school environment, both by their peers and by philosophies.  I have seen Christian school graduates go into adulthood with a strong faith and walk, and those that turned away.  I know homeschool graduates who are excelling and those who stun their families by plunging themselves into sin.   There is no form of education guaranteed to produce children who live exactly as their parents would expect or hope.  It doesn't exit.  God commands parents to teach their children about Him.  No matter what school my children attend, that command stands.  My husband and I are given that responsibility.   We dare not shirk it, or pass it off to others.  While we can (and do) have those who come alongside and support us in this work of parenting, WE are the ones with the responsibility.

So as we, for now, have our feet in what feels like different worlds, I remind myself that they are not really so different.  The Christian parents I know all want what's best for their children.  Every one of them.  My goal is to encourage others who may be struggling with making the best decision for their own children.  When you arrive at a decision you agree on and have peace from the Lord about, step forth in confidence.    You don't need the approval of others.  You might make mistakes.  In fact, you probably will.  It's OK.  Listen to God.  Listen to your spouse. Listen to your children.  Listen to your heart.  Be diligent in teaching your kids about the Lord.  Live your life.   Be filled with joy.  This is your adventure!   

Now excuse me as I have to go cry like a kindergarten Mama on the first day of school.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I've Got the Joy Joy Joy Joy....Why Don't Those Depressed People Just Turn to Jesus?

I really want to just go to bed.  It's late.  Tomorrow is the first day of school for some of my crew.  I'm  sleepy!  As I have seen the many references to Robin Williams today as the world mourns his passing, I have been increasingly feeling a need to address something.  I don't want to, so I am arguing with God.  I am not a medical doctor nor a psychiatrist, nor am I a pastor or other learned Biblical scholar.  My teeny little blog has 12 followers.  Yep, 12.  My words aren't likely to change the world.  They will be difficult, and force me to pull out and look at some stuff I much prefer to keep shoved in the way back of my mental closet.  Ann Voskamp wrote a great article which I encourage you to read here:    Surely it is not necessary for pitiful little me to add to the words that have been said already.  But God.  Funny how things are usually more for me than for anyone else.  Apparently I must do this before I sleep.  So here we are.

There is a phenomenon I have noticed in the church.  Those who suffer with mental disorders/illnesses, clinical depression, as well as addictions are seen as those who need Jesus.  If only that had that saving faith, or enough faith, or got serious about their relationship with Jesus and allowed Him to meet their needs, they would be OK.  They could stop leaning on the crutch of substances or alcohol. they would turn from their melancholy and be filled with joy, they would no longer have suicidal urges as they would have new life, this is the genuine perception.  Well meaning people think they know the answer and are looking for ways to share it.  This leads to facebook post, tweets, blogs, and all manner of social media activities that reflect this point of view.

There is a problem with this assumption.  It is simply not true.  Do people need Jesus?  As a Christian I believe the answer is absolutely YES.  Is it possible for Him to miraculously heal the mentally ill or the addict?  My answer is absolutely YES.  On the other hand, are there people who have a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ, who depend on Him daily, seek to walk in His ways and His truth, and still suffer from debilitating physical illness.  My answer is absolutely YES.  Now chance the word physical to mental.  Again, my answer is absolutely YES.

If you, or someone you love, have never suffered with a mental illness it is very difficult for you to understand the severity of these diseases/disorders.  I am not talking about a period of being sad and "depressed".  I am not talking about the emptiness of money and fame leaving one hollow and wanting.  I am referring to the serious medical conditions such as Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression. and many others.  If you have been touched by the indescribable pain of a brain that is not functioning as it was designed to, I don't need to say another word.  If you haven't, you need to understand that when you say things like "they just need Jesus" you are adding insult to injury.

I read an blog post today that insisted that those who commit suicide are ALWAYS making a choice, and a very selfish choice at that.  I can see how a person could come to that conclusion.  I believe that is often the case.  Again, I am not medically trained in any way, and I don't presume to be a theologian.  I have read accounts of those with no previous mental illness who encounter circumstances in their lives that they believe leave them without hope who take their own life.  That is not the situation I am referring to.  I believe wholeheartedly that their are others whose minds do not function properly.  A very frustrating component to the mental illness I have witnessed is that SOMETIMES they do.  And SOMETIMES they don't.  The person that is ill has no control over which SOMETIMES they are experiencing.  There are mitigating factors, of course. Do they have access to medical care?  Have they been prescribed medication?  Can they afford to have the prescription filled?  Are they taking the medication, and taking it properly?  Even if the answer to every one of these questions is yes it is not a foolproof process.  The human brain is so very complex. Medical science has come so far in our lifetimes, but we do not seem to have begun to explore the depths of the brain.

I want you to know that is is possible to love Jesus, to serve Jesus, to seek to honor and obey Jesus with your life, and at the same time suffer with an illness in your mind that renders you a completely different person from time to time.  It is possible to so lose control over your thoughts and your mind that you engage in behavior that you would never consider "in your right mind".   Those who suffer this agony are tormented enough without others making them feel that if they only had enough faith they could overcome their medical condition.

I have not experienced this personally.  While I have suffered from what I would call "circumstantial depression" on occasion, I have never felt the full blown clinical depression that incapacitates, that threatens to extinguish all hope, that would lead a person to do that which is in opposition to every self preservation instinct.  I don't know how it feels.  I have not walked in the shoes of someone with schizophrenia, or personality disorder, or bipolar disorder.  I know that I cannot truly understand what it is to deal with this, except from the outside.

I do know what it looks like from up close, though.  My sister suffered, was tormented by, lived in agony much of her adult life, due to what was diagnosed as bipolar disorder.  I didn't understand it even as I watched her struggle.  She knew Jesus.  She trusted Him.  Her faith was genuine, and she walked in it to the very best of her ability.  She begged Him to take the illness from her.  She wept.  She pleaded.  She was angry and the unfairness of it all.  She struggled to get appropriate medical care from a system that is broken and did not serve her well.  We would talk for hours about the Bible and what God was doing in her life.  At the same time she would literally not sleep for days.  Many days.  Way. too. many. days.  So she would drink, to end the mania.  Even though she kind of liked the mania, if the truth be told.  Addiction and alcoholism are often hand in hand with bipolar disorder.  Sometimes she would drink even when she wasn't manic.  The mess of the disorder spun and spun her world into a chaotic mess even while she sought God and His ways to try and put a stop to the madness.  Some days she was "herself".  Some days she wasn't.
June 21, 2013 was her last day.  While I do not believe she intentionally caused her own death, there is no doubt in my mind that in her "right mind" she knew that drinking as much as she did was dangerous, and that possibly mixing drinking with her medications was even more dangerous.  Yet she was not in her right mind that week.  That day her life here ended.  I have no doubt that her absence here means her presence in heaven.  Not one doubt.  I know her faith was real.  Her issue wasn't that she needed Jesus.  She needed better healthcare.  She needed access to medications that could help manage her medical condition.  Without them, she died.

I do not know Robin Williams.  His tragic passing has brought this issue to light, however.  I am deeply sorry for the pain his family is going through.  I do not know where they stand or where he stood on issues of faith. Mr. Williams shared that he suffered from bipolar disorder and addiction.  To those who say his comedy was a "laughing on the outside while empty on the inside" I say do a little research on bipolar.  This is a common thing.  Do an internet search of famous people with this disorder and I believe you will see similarities.  This illness is difficult to manage even with the finest medical care available.  

To be sure, I believe the world needs Jesus.   It also need compassion and understanding that being a Christian does not automatically lead to a life free from suffering.  For some, that suffering comes at the hand of mental illness.  Let us not add to the suffering.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Adrenaline, Self-Pity, M&M's,and Jesus

It's barely 9:00AM and already this is not my favorite day ever.  Seriously, can we go back to yesterday and have a do-over?  I know, there are laws of nature or physics or something that prevent it.  That's why I'm avoiding moving forward in today by blogging.  And eating. About a dozen strawberries, 4 Chips Ahoy cookies, a handful of peanut M&M's and a glass of Wild Cherry Pepsi (from my hidden stash of a 2ltr given to me for Mother's Day by my 16 year old), and I'm beginning to take the edge off.  I believe I have an issue with food.  It's like that BonJovi song....I'll be there for you....and it always is.  But I digress...

First of all we were supposed to be on a field trip today with our homeschool group.  With one kiddo on a fabulous once in an lifetime vacation adventure with her grandparents my other home educated child decided it would be much more fun to hang out with a friend than drive two hours with me, even to a destination she has been begging to visit.  I should have held my ground last night.  When the question was posed and the initial no due to plans today was handed down I should have remained unmoved by guilt at the tears.  I was hot and sweaty and dirty and tired as I tried to finish up my gardening for the day and instead of being the mom I took the easy route and let "fine, if that's what you want" slip out of my mouth.  Oh, the regret was almost instantaneous, but it was too late.  Now it is morning and instead of being an adult and telling myself it is a good lesson learned (stick with my instincts and do what I think is best instead of giving in to emotions - mine or my children's), I am prone to pout.  I can see how easily my flesh was manipulated and my enemy convinced me that I was REJECTED.  I have handed over so much power with that one word.  I'm quite sick of it.

The emotional attack (of my enemy or of my own flesh, I do not know) continues today.  Thoughts of my friends having a wonderful day and my being left out (which is my own fault) flood my mind, as unwelcome as they are.  They try and drag me to discouragement.  They whisper that I never have any fun.  That I'm just the cook/maid/laundress/teacher/gardener, work work work.  I know these are lies.  I know it.  But when I don't turn to the Lord and put my eyes on Jesus the troubles of today (oh how tiny they are, really) grow and grow until I cannot see anything else.  The gnawing tension and discontent is like hunger.  Another cookie might help.  Or 3.

The other big issue I'm wrestling with today involves my husband, my self image, and flat out fear.  You see, my man loves adrenaline.  Some guys play golf, watch football, or garden.  Not mine.  He loves flying - piloting a plane or riding one of his several motorcycles.  He's done the Richard Petty Nascar driving experience thing.  It's what he loves.  Me?  Not so much.  Over the years I have learned to enjoy his passions to a degree.  I love to go on rides with him on a certain motorcycle.  I have flown in the "right seat" on many occasions and tried to relax and enjoy his love of airplanes.  I still would rather be sitting by the pool engrossed in a book of theology or a homeschool catalog, or in the kitchen chopping and sauteing or baking up a "masterpiece" on any given day.  I do love my husband, though.  I want to be a part of the things that bring him pleasure and joy.

Many times I have tried to explain to God that it was different for me, this matter of choosing to enjoy what my husband enjoys.  After all, a woman might be bored to tears watching a baseball game, but I have often been completely terrified at the thought of getting in the plane or on the bike.  I gave myself a little bit of a pass.  About a year ago my man purchased a small motorcycle "for me" (although I suspect it was possibly more for our teenage sons).  He was so cute and excited about the idea of me learning to ride.  I played with it one afternoon out in the yard and then tried to ignore it.  Eventually I took the step of studying for and obtaining my learner's permit.  I did it without telling him because I was a little worried I would chicken out or fail.  I should have realized the studying/test taking part would be right up my alley.  That was the easy bit.

Now I am a permit holder, a bike owner, and I have opened a big can of worms for myself.  I am not one of those girls who grew up with a dirt bike or ATV.  I have no wealth of experience to draw from.  I have pulled the kiddos on sleds with my automatic 4-wheeler, and that's about it.  Learning how to start and stop and shift and brake and stay balanced and turn is completely overwhelming to me.  I feel like it takes 110% of my concentration and even then I might forget and accelerate accidentally.   Add into that my poor self image regarding my body - I'm not some cute 100 pound teenager.  Yes, I know, what do I expect if stress leads me to eat cookies and M&M's and my idea of fun is not going to the gym.  I get that.  It remains a very real factor for me that I look ridiculous on the thing, and it isn't a simple matter to just go buy a cool riding jacket for a full busted woman.  My head is also larger than my husbands, so now that my teenage son has apparently abused my expensive helmet without permission I cannot simply grab one of the many my husband owns and pop it on my big fat head.  I did order some riding boots a couple of years ago, and they saved my skin when we had an accident and I ended up in the road.  I'm so thankful for that.  But the silly things are made with no zipper or laces.  They are the right size, once I get my big feet with the high instep down into them, but that process is so labor intensive it could drive me to drink.  I persevere, and struggle into my gear and try to avoid looking in a mirror so I can pretend I look a little like one of those girls my son is fond of posting pictures of on their bikes on his fb page.  NOT.

I head out, all geared up, and am still afraid.  I cannot manage to get off of the concrete part of my driveway, much less all the way out to the road.  I can spend 30 minutes working on "start" and "stop" - and I mean literally a split second of go followed by an immediate halt.  My feet haven't even made it up to the pegs.  I am so stinking scared and lacking in confidence.  I feel like I am a disappointment and I'm stupid, and my flesh and my enemy get that whole thing cranked up and waves of insecurity wash over me like a flood.  I forget to pray.  It seems silly that Jesus would be interested in helping me with this insignificant "fun".

Which leads me right back to 9:00AM, stuffing my face and wanting to go back to bed and give up on this day.  So I sit down to write, knowing that often when I am too keyed up to sit and pray and read the Holy Spirit speaks softly to my heart as the words roll off of my fingers as smoothly as my man's tire on the road.  Peace starts to come.  The M&;M's and cherry Pepsi sit beside me with no tempting power.

I didn't choose how I was made.  If I had, I'm sure I would have been short, thin, adventurous, and FUN.  If that were the case, however, I wouldn't be ME.  When I was knit together by my Lord, it was with a purpose.  He made me wonderful.  Unique.  With the will to choose.

So for today, I can determine to stop the pity party over the field trip, and rejoice in the beautiful day and the opportunity to catch up on some work around here.  I can count as a blessing the rare moment of solitude for this mother of many.  I can remember that it is not my own will and way that my heart longs for, but His.  When it comes to be being a Motorcycle Mama, I can heed the advice of a good friend who offered me some perspective.  Maybe it's time I took that fear and gave it to the Lord, and determined to just jump in with both feet because my husband really loves this  Time to really trust God and cautiously move forward..  I can't see that I would ever willingly ride the R1, or do a wheelie.  I am a capable, intelligent woman; however, and surely I can learn to go on a little "toodle" once in a while.  I mastered the mower, with those little steering bars instead of a wheel.  It took a while, but I did it.  I drove 9 hours pulling a travel trailer for a family vacation and that was super scary for me, too.  I made it over the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Bridge, down to one lane (outside) due to construction, in the rain.  Even if I made it at less than 5 mph, I DID IT.  Even if truckers laughed at me pulled over to the side of the road to catch my breath after.  I DID IT.  I even manged to work up the courage to drive over that silly bridge to come home. Let me always remember that I was able to do it only by turning to His strength and power.

I know my Lord will help me.  When it comes to me being the kind of wife that brings joy to her husband His will is not in question.  When it comes to a life focused on Him, and not on my roller coaster emotions and false feelings of inadequacy and rejection, He's all in.  I might not walk away from this whole thing without being banged up.  Refining is hard.  Depending on Jesus, not on the temporary satisfaction of a full tummy, is a pursuit worthy of my energy.  If I have to have days like this every single day to drive me back to dealing with that, I will count it as joy.  He's not finished with me yet.  He's at work in me.  I am chosen.  I am smart,  I am kind.  I am important.

Have an adventure today.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Sandpaper Kind of Day

There are so many times that while in the midst of life, times when I am purposefully attempting to serve God, my wicked heart rears its ugly head and I cringe at how easy it is to sin.  I mean seriously, I am doing spiritual things, working hard for the Lord, making a difference, and BAM my flesh rises up and to my utter sadness and humiliation shows itself for all to see.  It would be so much safer to simply keep to myself.  I could manage to breeze in and out of Sunday worship service and no one would likely the be wiser. With my church mask on I could continue with my pet sins, you know the ones, that my family knows about but I can mostly hide from everyone else safely hidden away.

But God is not content to leave me in alone with my sin.  He calls me to not neglect meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).  I could operate under the assumption that going to Sunday morning service fulfills that mandate.  However, it is in the trenches, as I serve alongside and live life with my brothers and sisters, that real encouragement and real growth occurs.  If my sin habits are never exposed, how can Proverbs 27:17 happen?  As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. 

There are times when I am bumped and the ugly spills out.  When I’m tired, or under pressure, or overwhelmed, or have a headache, or just plain selfish that ick that the Holy Spirit is working on with me can become visible.  For me, perfectionist Type A, keep all the plates spinning and balls juggling me, that sin is a tendency to be sharp and abrasive instead of soft and gentle.  I hurt people.  Oh, not on purpose, never on purpose.  Nevertheless, my take charge motor gets going and I charge on and I say things I later realize are just plain rude and unkind in tone and/or in content.  Sometimes I can see it myself, and sometimes I am completely oblivious.

Why would I write a post about this?  Am I so eager to share my own sin with the world?  No way!  I would like nothing more than to pretend it didn't exist.  Refusing to deal with the hurt I may have caused others or the shame and embarrassment of behaving in ways that hurt my testimony would be the easy thing to do. Simply avoid anyone who may have seen my dark side, now there’s a plan my flesh would like! It doesn’t like to be pruned or refined or sanded.  It feels icky at the time.  Really icky.

I am so thankful that my fellowship, my koinonia, offers me the opportunity to be sharpened.  I am grateful for sisters who do the hard thing, and speak the truth in love.  That is what we are supposed to be about, dear women.  I don’t know what your sin struggle is, but I know you have one (or like me, many!)  Maybe you have a soft and gentle tone and would absolutely never snap or be short.  If so, thank  the Lord for making you that way, or working through that with you.  Whatever your own temptation may be, when others see it, despite the extreme discomfort it brings, they can be used as the Holy Spirit refines you.  We must not neglect meeting together, nor sharpening one another, no speaking the truth in love and encouraging each other.  We must choose to lavish forgiveness on each other .  Not fakey “it’s OK forgiveness” because we think we have to say it.  What a rich treasure we have indeed when we can walk out our faith and our struggles in front of each other with love and accountability and forgiveness.  When it comes to sinners, I am the worst.  I am agonized by that knowledge.  I am, however, blessed beyond measure by my Lord and my sisters.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What's The Big Deal About Lent, Anyway?

It seems as if the Christmas decorations have just been put away (or not, but that's another post), and the Lenten season is already upon us.  Growing up non-practicing Catholic turned forced to church as a teen Catholic turned Christ follower by choice and currently belonging to a Southern Baptist church I really do not know a lot about this special time observed by many Christians in preparation for celebrating the Resurrection.  I do know that I have been very concerned about the amount of time and energy our family puts into celebrating Christmas compared to Easter, and I have not really known a good way to rectify it.  This year I am determined to change that, not only for myself but for my children.  So I've been doing some research.

It seems that most of my church friends of today look at Lent as a weird Catholic thing.  I wondered if there was something I could gain spiritually from it, though.  This past December our family celebrated Advent for the first time.  We were truly blessed by it, and I believe the time we spent each day with our focus on preparing our hearts was the very best part of our celebration.  A dear friend loaned us a copy of a fabulous resource: "Jotham's Journey" by Arnold Ytreeide.  This devotion/story is something I cannot say enough good things about.  You simply MUST check it out.  This is a post about Lent, and so I'm going to restrain myself from going into any more detail about that book, the first of a series of three.  You can read about it for yourself here:  I really hope you do. 

This author has written another book, "Amon's Adventure A Family Story for Easter" that I cannot wait to dive into.  It is designed to be used during the Lenten season in much the same way as the Jotham books are used at Advent.  There are twenty-eight chapters or readings that you can decide how and when to use.  With 40 days of Lent (that are actually 46 days) you have some flexibility to choose how to fit it in with your family schedule.   I know, I totally sound like a commercial.  That's OK - I'm not getting paid for it, I really am pumped and excited to start this book.  

Backing up a bit, you may still be wondering what Lent is, and why I might want to participate in it.  We all have seen the focus on fish sandwiches at all the fast food restaurants on Fridays this time of year, not to mention the fish fry frenzy that happens at the Catholic churches.  You may have heard about "giving something up", and laughed as I have what some of the "sacrifices" were.  In the beginning pages of "Amon's Adventure" is the best explanation I have come across.  Rather than try and rewrite is I am going to share Mr. Ytreeide's excellent thoughts.  The credit goes completely to him, with the exception of Scripture quotes.

Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love .
                                                                                   Joel 2:13

Mr. Ytreeide shares: "Rend your heart.  If a better definition of Lent exists, I don't know what it could be.  The tradition of Lent reaches back to the fourth century A.D.  New converts were baptized on Easter Sunday in those days, and Lent was the official time of preparation for that act of faith.  So, originally, Lent was intended to lead to baptism.

For most Christians today, Lent is more a time of spiritual renewal.  In many churches the focus is still on penance and repentance - of recognizing our own tendencies to sin - but is can also mean any time of concentrated searching for a deeper relationship with God.

The season of Lent is said to last forty days, though if you look at a calendar it actually spans more than that. And in fact, even today, various traditions count the days differently.  In general, though, the forty days of Lent begin on the seventh Wednesday before Easter and run up to Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday), without counting any of the Sundays in between. "

So, Lent is a time of preparation for Easter, as I understand it in much the same way as Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas.  The dates aren't particularly important.  Lent is a tradition and not a biblical mandate.  But as Mr. Ytreeide states so well, "In a world that makes it difficult to focus on God and seek him with determination, Lent, like Advent, is a natural and obvious time for such a quest."

With regards to the idea of "giving something up", I personally believe it CAN be useful.  For example if I choose to give up 15 minutes of sleep to choose to spend some extra time in the Word or in prayer how can that not move me closer in relationship to Him?  If I forsake soda, with the intent to focus on Jesus and his sacrifice each time those pangs of desire hit me, I believe that can be a spiritual growth experience.  For myself, whatever I decide to do about sacrifice will be a private matter.  I will remind my children that just as we are not to pray "for show", fasting and sacrifice is not for public display.  That is my opinion based on Scripture.

Our family will be setting aside special time to read through the "Amon" book.  At Advent we lit candles, and I'd like to add that in to our Lenten celebration as well,  Instead of a wreath with multiple candles I plan to put a spring pillar candle in a special holder we keep on our coffee table.  When Good Friday comes around, we will reflect on our own sin, that which Jesus chose to pay the price for.  If I can find a black pillar candle I will replace the spring color with it for that evening.  I will leave the holder empty on Saturday, and have a pure white or possibly a gold candle for Resurrection Sunday.

As I have kept my eyes open on Pinterest for Easter ideas, this blog post caught my eye: 
The 10 activities each involve one of the 5 senses and they look like something my children would learn from.  This was an interesting blog post about a "sacrifice jar":  I am sure there are many great ideas out there -please feel free to comment if you have or run across them!

My goal with this post was not to give an exhaustive commentary on Lent, but to iron out my own thoughts and perhaps motivate someone else to consider spending some intentional time preparing for celebrating the Resurrection.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Evening Standouts

Here I am, poised at the brink of a new school year, a new week, a new adventure.  I was just thinking about all the things from the week that blessed me.  It was too long a list for a facebook post, yes even one of mine.  I decided I should begin blogging these things every week as an intentional way of being grateful.  So here goes:

1.  We enjoyed a wonderful long visit this week from my daughter and grandbaby, with a bit of time with my son-in-law at the end.  It is such a joy as a mom to see your adult child walking with the Lord, choosing an excellent spouse, being a wonderful Mama.  I love to hear her talk about the ministries God has put on her heart and what she might jump into.  I love to see my sweet baby smile for Mimi.  I love that my son-in-law is a man of integrity, honor, and faith.  I'm excited for some possibilities in their hopefully near future!!

2.  As part of that visit we had our first homeschool field trip of the year.  We explored the botanical gardens, had lunch at a famous local landmark, and toured a chocolate factory.  Enough said.  (Well, some of the kiddos may have expected something a little more Willy Wonka from the tour, but samples made it all OK).

3. The Lord has called me back to a ministry that is dear to my heart and although my place there is a little vague, it seems to be getting clearer.  It is so good to be doing things for His Kingdom.  Even if my involvement is minimal, if it blesses other and points people to Jesus it is well worth my time.

4.  I tentatively am considering a new commitment.  It is scary.  I don't know that I am good enough to do it. But the challenge is a blessing, too.

5.  I have a dear friend who never fails to point me in the right direction, and doesn't hesitate to speak the truth in love.  Such a blessing!!!

6.  My husband and two of my teen sons were involved this summer in a drama series based on the Dukes of Hazzard characters, tweaked and adapted.  I loved watching them do their thing.   My husband got to be a "Lead Worshiper" which stretched him and he did very well.  I'm proud of them all.  The whole production from writer/director to actors, sets, lights, audio was first class.  Kudos to all.

7. I am loving reading the blogs of my adult daughter's friends from high school and college.  These young ladies, all roughly 25-27 have such a passion for the Lord and their families.  I am so impressed.  I don't know if it was Christian school (be it elementary, high school, or college), or their families, or just something God put within them, but truly these young ladies have much to teach me.  What a joy to see those in the next generation whom can be counted on to have wisdom and faith.  Beautiful girls, absolutely gloriously beautiful.  I truly believe her class in high school was special.  They will do big things.  Her college friends are wonderful, too.    You should totally check out  ablossominghomestead@blogspot.com and!

8.  In the morning we officially start our homeschool year.  Even though I didn't get everything planned to a T, we are ready to go and I am confident we will have a fantastic day.  It is a blessing that I have the basic organization done and a good start on the rest, and I love our curriculum choices.

9.  Rain - it was looking so green as we pulled down the driveway this evening!

10.  I tried my hand at both riding a motorcycle all alone and milking a goat - two new things in 7 days.  I may not have been great at either, but I tried.  Woo Hoo!!!  Now there's another new thing coming up I am much more frightened of.  That will be a whole other post, however.  I know some folks who will be so happy when they find out about it.

Until next time, enjoy the adventure!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-Fil-A, Name Calling, and Reason

There are times when I am truly baffled by controversies that seem to be the proverbial molehills turned into mountains.  Perhaps I'm just a simple-minded gal.  This whole Chick-Fil-A "controversy" is one of those times.

As I understand it, Dan Cathy, son of Chick-Fil-A's founder and the current CEO, expressed in response to an interviewer his support for "traditional family values". Specifically, it was brought up that there are those who oppose Chick-Fil-A's support of the traditional family.  Cathy's response?  "Well, Guilty as charged..."
We are very much supportive of the family--the biblical definition of the family unit.  We are a family owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.  We give God thanks for that."

As I further understand the situation, these comments ignited a firestorm of hatred, and the mayors of Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco declared Chick-Fil-A not welcome in their cities.  Really?  This is completely stunning to me.  There are those people, stirred up into an angry mob, who are asking folks to boycott this restaurant and throwing around words like bigot, discrimination, and hate.  I simply don't understand.

I have read no article where Chick-Fil-A discriminated against a customer or employee.  I have never been in a CFA restaurant and witness acts of hatred, bigotry, or discrimination.  In fact, their customer service has been, in my experience, some of the very best in the industry.  I do not see Dan Cathy expressing any "anti" views towards any group.  He simply expressed his support for traditional family values.  Have we really come to the place in the United States of America that believing in such values makes one a bigot?  Guilty of discrimination, hate, and to  have your rights to grow your business infringed on?  I have no idea if CFA has or had plans to expand into the cities whose mayors spoke for their populations to declare CFA unwelcome, not because they broke a law, but because they expressed a viewpoint.  What happened to the Constitutional right to free speech?  

OK, that's all the "big idea" talk.  Here's the nitty gritty rubber meets the road for me personally.  I am a Bible believing Christ follower.  I know in some folk's minds that makes me a right wing nutcase.  I believe in traditional family values in that they reflect Biblical values.  I am not a perfect person, as such a thing does not exist.  I am a sinner whom God chose to redeem.  My sin is probably different than your sin.  But believe me I am guilty of breaking God's divine laws.

I would not call myself a bigot.  I do not hate any group.  I do not hold one sin above another in severity.  For example, I was an unwed mother at age 18.  God calls my sin fornication, and I am guilty as charged.  He does not forbid it to keep me from delight, but from suffering.  There are many other specific things God calls sin:  lying, adultery, homosexuality, pride, gluttony, etc.  The Bible is clear that ALL sin.  That means that each of us have violated at least one if not many of His commands, either in thought, word, or deed.  Should I hate the whole world?  Never.

My support of Biblical values is NOT synonymous for hatred of anyone, including those who are part of the gay/lesbian community. I am not so naive as to believe that all who call themselves Christians are like me.  I have heard shameful speech from those who should know better.  This is sin as well.  While I believe God says homosexual behavior is prohibited I absolutely can love and have friends within that community.  I  believe fornication and adultery are wrong according to God. I love and have friends who have been involved in these things as well.  If I were to refuse to associate with or hate every sinner, I would need to cut myself off from the world, including my own self.

I have had family members in homosexual relationships bring their friends to my home.  There is a man I went to high school with who I greatly admire for his kindness, who I would absolutely trust to care for my children, who continues in a long term homosexual commitment.  I do not agree with his choice.  I do not believe it makes him a monster.  

There is a young man who is often in my home who will be a teenage father soon.  I do not agree with his choice (fornication).  I do not believe it made him unfit to associate with our family.  I hope that I can be of some encouragement to him, in fact, as this is a sin I am sadly personally acquainted with.

There are members of my family who have struggled with addictions and alcohol.  I do not agree with their choices, and I do hold these things to be sinful choices and not simply "illnesses".   Despite their sin, I don't hold myself above them in any way.

In each of these examples I would not allow the behavior to go on IN my home, let me be clear about that.  My relationships with these people, however, are not focused on these issues but on friendship, love, and respect for another human being.  I think it is important to share the truth (which to me is God's truth) in love with other, but in my day to day life that sharing needs to be relationship based.  I am not called to go around bashing anyone over the head with my Bible.  

In conclusion, I did attend the Chick-Fil-A appreciation day.  I wanted to show my support for a company whose values I share, whom I believe has been the victim of a media attack.  I KNOW that I could head down to my local restaurant on any given day with any of the folks I mentioned in this blog and we would all be treated with respect, courtesy, and have a great meal.  I love that they are closed on Sundays.  I love that in America I am free to patronize this business, or simply go somewhere else.  I do not want to see that freedom disappear.   I find it very odd that the very groups who accuse others of bigotry, hatred, and intolerance are those that are guilty of those things themselves.  

That's my 2 cents.  Standing for what I think is right, that is today's adventure...