A Conversation

Would you counsel your child to date an unbeliever?

Mom: Hey, sweetheart, I saw that handsome young man…um, Cody? Is that his name? I saw his mom yesterday!

Daughter: Yeah, that’s his name. What about him?

Mom: Well, you know…he is a really popular kid, lots of trust fund money and a wonderful future in politics. All the other parents are trying to get their daughters into his social circle. Would, um…would you like to date him? Maybe even marry him? It would be such a step up for you to really understand the way his world works, be a part of it.

Daughter: No, Mom! He’s popular, and cute, and I guess it would be a lot easier on you if I wasn’t home every weekend while the rest of the kids are out necking, but weren’t you trying to raise me to be a Christian? Don’t you want me to marry a Christian?

Mom: Of course I do, honey! I want you to marry a Christian very badly! So you get out there and make Cody a Christian! Doesn’t he deserve to hear the word of God?

Daughter: Mom, I don’t think I’m prepared for that. I’ve only been a believer in my own right for a couple of years. What if he wants to teach me some of the things he’s been doing? Like having sex, doing drugs (just a little weed, nothing serious). What if I don’t yet have the understanding required to resist his arguments? If I give him my heart, don’t you think I might compromise? Aren’t we supposed to keep from being unequally yoked? And won’t he, being the person of higher social status, be the leader of our relationship? So won’t I be the one who ends up learning from him?

Mom: Yes, honey, but I just know that your light in his life will change everything. Your mere presence is enough. I’ve arranged a date with him Friday night. He says he’s bringing condoms and a pack of Camels, but I’m telling you, just say no. I know you’ll be strong enough. And sweetheart, do make sure you learn everything about his point of view on the subject. Be respectful when he pulls you into the backseat of his car. You don’t want to be narrow-minded!

Daughter: Don’t you think…maybe you could just tell his mom about Jesus? Or we could send them a tract? Talk to them together?

Mom: Oh, no, honey. Your presence is required, in this way. Sorry. That’s just the way it has to be. Nothing else will work.

Daughter: Hm. OK, Mom. I guess you know what you’re doing. You really do care about Cody’s soul! So much that mine is of almost no account at all! Thanks so much for that!

 

And that, my friends, is why we don’t send our children to public schools as missionaries. It’s not about what’s popular, or what makes social sense, or spreading the gospel (seems we could do that without sending our precious daughters to the drive-in with Cody, doesn’t it?), but about protecting those things which are valuable. World-view matters. Understanding matters.

If you don’t believe in missionary dating, why do you believe in missionary education?

Who’s in charge matters. 

Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? –2 Corinthians 6:14-16

A Day in the Life

Lessons and life are keeping us pretty busy here at the GAH! household. So busy, in fact, that I kinda forgot I had a blog. Sorry about that.

I thought it might be fun (for me, if not for you) to give a play-by-play look at our day. The problem with that is that I can’t decide whether to do this on a day that is going well (to show how good it can be), or a day that is going poorly (so you’ll know that you’re not alone in your fallen state). Since I’m not sure which to do, I’m just going to live blog today, starting now. You never know what you might get!

9:13 a.m. Breakfast was over half an hour ago. The children are supposed to be cleaning up their zones. I divide the living areas into smaller chunks and give each child responsibility for keeping that area clean for the day. When Mama hollers “ZONES!”Everybody immediately hops to and starts to tidy up, laughing gaily and helping one another along as needed. ROFL. When I give the signal, everyone wanders around aimlessly for a moment, a couple of kids fight about who was assigned which zone, and then, eventually, after I’ve reminded them a time or two (or ten) more that they shouldn’t stop until they are finished, we have a clean(ish) living area.

9:15 Scratch the “live” part of “live-blogging.” I can’t update on the fly. I’d lose track of things. I’ll just post this all at once. Tomorrow. Maybe. (OK, it turned out to be next week. Busy.)

9:20 I’m off to transfer some laundry to the dryer. Started it before breakfast. Only one load today! Then we will pray, sing, and read for our morning meeting. I’ll have my computer handy to take notes. Hark! What song is that? Why, daughter is crying. Mommy to the…oh, OK, now she is laughing. I guess I’ll just let them work it out amongst themselves, whatever it is.

9:30 Baby needs his nap. Nurse him while we read and sing. We usually have this done by now. Today’s reading is a chapter in Genesis. The seven year-old boy narrates, though not well. He needs prompting. Lots. Was he even listening? No, but the five year-old girl was, and big brother was, so they add what they know. We sing Draw Me Nearer, and then do our memory box.

9:45 Put baby in his bassinet. Good grief, the little boys are so LOUD! “Please don’t follow me. You’ll wake up brother.” And, miraculously, they don’t, and he goes down without waking up.

 

9:50 Listen to a couple of scenes from Hamlet. Those who can, sit and listen. The rest go play quietly. My desk is a tangle of wires, books, kleenexes, etc. I think I’ll straighten that while we listen. I say “Hush.” A lot. I guess the “quietly” part didn’t go so well. I pause it, send the tots out of the room, and start over because no one was listening. There is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Finally, the three oldest children are sitting and ready to listen. We listen. I do a little bit of my jigsaw puzzle while we listen, then David narrates. Mommy re-explains some things. They enjoy the Shakespeare mornings. ‘Tis true!

10:20 Tot school. I read a story and give the two little boys some undivided attention while the older ones do some copywork and spelling practice, maybe even get started on their reading lists. Then the littles play on the porch on this beautiful fall morning. Rice play, anybody?

Rice play

Sometimes tot school is a song and a book. Sometimes we play playdough or color. Baths are good for this time, too. Sometimes they wander off and do things alone, but I don’t let that happen very often.

This isn’t a time to just get them happy so they’ll be out of the way (though it does work out to that effect), so much as it is my time to fill up their hearts with the knowledge that they are loved and I am interested in them. I remember feeling like no one was very interested in my goings-on when I was a child, and it was pretty lonely feeling. I don’t want to do that to my babies. (I still feel that way sometimes, actually. What are you doing here?) I don’t want my kids to feel that way. Once they’re taken care of, I can devote more attention to the big kids, who are ready for…

10:50 Math. Start with the oldest and work my way down while the little boys do whatever it is that little boys do when mommies aren’t looking. It’s going to run long, due to whining. Hopefully, we’ll still have science. If not, we’ll push that up into our margin time after lunch.

11:30 There are men in my kitchen now. That’s because my cabinets started coming down off the walls a few weeks ago. All by themselves! Old house. Glad it’s not ours. They’re finishing up the replacements, and distracting the kids. I am done. Done. DONE. But we can fit in science now because I can’t make lunch anyway.

11:35 That part about doing science? Scratch that. There are men in my kitchen. It’s very distracting. Tomorrow is another day. Everybody is free to play or read.

12:00 The men didn’t take long, so we clean up after them and eat lunch. It’s just leftovers. Quick and easy.

1:30 “Zones!” They do better in the afternoon. I clean up the kitchen and dining room. Then we make beds, tidy rooms. Most of us, anyway. I’m nursing the baby and directing the little boys in picking up their messes. I send the two big boys to fold that load of laundry. There’s a baby in all of this somewhere. He’s just along for the ride. Not much to say for himself, I guess. He just hangs out with whoever.

Hanging out with sister

2:00 Littles go to naps. Time for me to clean the bathrooms. As soon as the boys finish their laundry, I’ll have them work on their reading lists, narrating as they go.

2:45 Reading lesson for the 5 and 7 year olds. She’s catching up to him fast.

3:00 Handicrafts. We’re doing basket-weaving (using this book to learn). Sadly, I failed to buy the flat oval reed, so I have to order that before we can continue. We only made it to the third row.

Handicrafts

But that’s better than nothing, right? Since we can’t do that, now’s a good time to pull out a new picture to study. AO has us doing Fra. Angelico. After that, the boys and girl will play until dinner time. Sometimes, though not today, I’ll play our composer study song for the week during this time, too.

Between now and dinner, I will nurse baby, check in on Facebook and Twitter, read my feeds, and finish this post. Then I’ll make dinner, and whatever is left undone after that will wait until tomorrow. Before I go to bed, I put the next day’s plan on the whiteboard, and we’ll do it all again tomorrow.

So, there you have it. A day like this is possibly boring to read about, but it was very busy and productive and fun for us. And I guess that’s what matters.

 

 

Excuses, Excuses

My dad’s a preacher. Y’all knew that, right? Well, he is. And he’s the kind that likes to get out and knock on doors to see how the people are doing. Naturally, that means he has a lot of stories about the excuses people make to avoid Sunday morning (or any other time) worship.

I don’t keep transcripts of conversations (that would be weird), so what follows is a composite of a couple of anecdotes of both his and mine.

Christian (Chx): Do you believe in Jesus, God’s son?

Unchurched person (UP): Oh, absolutely, yes!

Chx: Oh, good! Well, if you don’t have a church to attend, we’d love to see you at ours!

UP: Oh, no. No, I couldn’t do that. You see, my neighbor, who very conveniently attends a church you’ve never heard of, is a very bad witness. She gossips and curses and probably does worse than that.

Chx: Oh, so you’re saying she’s a hypocrite?

UP: The worst!

Chx: Well, why don’t you just get in church and show her how it’s done, then?

UP: Yes, but…well…I just can’t feel good about worshiping with a bunch of hypocrites. I can’t believe Jesus would ask me to do that.

Chx: Tell me, where do you think hypocrites go when they die?

UP: Hell, of course.

Chx: Well, do you want to spend eternity with them, or just Sunday mornings?

UP: But I don’t have to go to church to be saved!

Chx: You’ve got an interesting definition of “saved” if you think that. If you are a believer, you will want to be in fellowship with other believers so you can learn and grow. The Bible tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We’re also told that there will be fruit in the lives of those who are saved, and one of those fruits is love for the rest of the Church–even those that are failing miserably at the moment. There’s no such thing as a one-member church.

UP: But those people aren’t really Christians!

Chx: Really? Do you believe I’m a real Christian?

UP: Of course! I know you are because we’ve been friends for so long. You mean it. I’ve seen the way you treat your wife. I know you’ve never cheated anybody in business. You know the Bible better than anybody I’ve met!

Chx: Well, why not come on down and worship with me, then? I’ll sit right beside you!

UP: Oh, well, you see, there’s this lady at that church across town who gossips. And besides, I don’t really have anything to wear…

Dear unchurched person (the one who claims to love God. We’ll deal with the admitted unrepentant some other time):

If you continue to live a life apart from Christ, when you stand before God, you’re going to stand there alone, unprotected from actual Judgment. I’m not talking about the “judgment” that you think Christians are heaping on you when they tell you that you need to repent of your sins (something we all have to do). I’m talking about Judgment with a capital J, the kind that sends you to Hell.

Please understand that God is not going to ask you how such-and-such down the road made you feel about your lifestyle. In fact, He wants that “judgmental” person to make you aware of your sin so that you can be forgiven of it. He won’t care much whether you liked the demeanor of the man who greets (or fails to greet) you on Sunday morning. He won’t care if the people in your local church suited your personal taste.

Of you, and of those whom you revile as hypocrites, He will only ask one question:

“Did you repent and worship my Son?”

Repentant people seek to worship Christ. They seek to learn more about him. And they seek each other. When a Christian is cut off from the Body, for whatever reason, he feels it keenly, and he wants to remedy that situation as quickly as possible.  Anyone who claims to want Jesus, while excusing his distaste for worship with invectives about those “Christians” is fooling himself. While he pretends to be “hurt” at all the “judgment”, what he’s really doing is judging Christians in general to deflect awareness of his own sins.

I can tell you from my own experience that when I became a believer, my formerly “judgmental” “stuck up” Christian neighbors suddenly looked very different to me. They looked sincere to me, where before I had seen hypocrisy. I thought I saw anger in them because they made me angry. But they seemed concerned now, where before I had thought them judgmental. I saw them as judgmental because I was heading for Hell, and they knew it, and they didn’t pretend otherwise.

Excuses will not save you, friends. Only Christ will. Only repentance will. No matter what the failings of the individual in the next pew, you must face Him one day with your choice. So what’s it gonna be? Are you going to continue to cut off your own nose to spite your face, or are you going to start seeking a place to worship him?

Why People Are Leaving the Church

Seems to be a hot topic right now, so I thought I’d tell you the real reason. I can do it faster than those other articles I’m reading, too:

People are leaving the church because they don’t want Jesus.

If they did, they’d find their place in His body, then stay and serve him there.

You’re welcome.

Have a simple, uncomplicated, and obvious day!

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. –Ephesians 4:32 

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. –Colossians 3:13

Pasta Primavera

Pasta PrimaveraOr some approximation thereof.

It has been a while since we’ve had a recipe, hasn’t it? Well, this is more of a round-about way of making a meal than it is a proper recipe. I never make it the same way twice. And hillbillies don’t know much about Primas, though I do know an old lady named Vera; so this primavera is probably not remotely authentic. If you have a grill, then fire that thing up instead of the oven. I do not have a grill, sadly, so I have to heat up my kitchen to make it.:

Pasta Primavera
Author: 
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: ha!
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Pasta, roasted veggies, cheese.
Ingredients
  • Use any of the following vegetables in any amounts you like. More veggies=more love, so don't be skimpy about it.:
  • 2 zucchini, julienned
  • 2 yellow squash, julienned
  • 3 carrots, julienned
  • 1 onion, julienned
  • ½ pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 head of garlic, whole, outer paper removed
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil
  • ½ Tablespoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper (Freshly ground, but I don't need to tell you that, right? Right?)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 1 pound spaghetti or other pasta
  • Parmesan cheese (to taste)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400.
  2. Toss veggies (except tomatoes) and seasonings in oil, then spread in a single layer over two baking sheets.
  3. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper.
  4. Wrap head of garlic in foil, with a little olive oil drizzled over it, and throw the packet on a baking sheet.
  5. Roast the veggies for about 25 minutes.
  6. If your oven won't hold both pans on one rack, switch the top and bottom pans halfway through for even browning.
  7. Add the tomatoes to the top pan in the last five minutes of cooking. You just want to warm them up a little, not cook them much.
  8. While veggies are cooking, prepare pasta according to package directions.
  9. Drain pasta, then melt butter in the pasta pot. (How much? How much butter do *you* like? Let's say half a stick)
  10. Remove the garlic from its foil, adding any oil from the packet to the melted butter. Let it cool a little bit, then smash the roasted garlic from its casing using a big flat knife like a chef's knife. (This part is fun if you do it right. Cut the root end of the garlic off and smoosh from the pointed tips of the cloves and it should squeeze right out.)
  11. Give the garlic a few good smashes with the knife to make a paste.
  12. Add the spaghetti, veggies (along with their oil), mashed garlic, and parmesan cheese back to the pot, and toss to mix.
  13. Serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

So, there you go. One of my favorite pasta dishes. Hope you like it!

Measuring Motherhood

What is motherhood really worth?

If you’ve been on Facebook around Mother’s Day, or spent any time at all reading mom blogs, you’ll have seen numerous articles about how much real money a mom is worth. You know the ones. They add up the yearly wages of chauffeur, chef, daycare provider, psychologist, nurse, etc., and that’s how much you’re really worth, Mom! This past Mother’s Day, there was a very sneaky bit of advertising wrapped up in a video about how motherhood is “the hardest job in the world” and pays nothing. Nothing at all. (And now that you’re feeling guilty, kids, you need to fork over your whole allowance to buy an amazing gift for that completely unappreciated mom in your life!)

Eh. Maybe motherhood is that hard, maybe it isn’t. What I’m more concerned about is what it says about our society that we mothers so need our value to be defined in dollars and cents and hours “worked” that, instead of being ignored as the irrelevancies that they are, these things get passed around like a cold virus in a mid-winter Sunday School class. These articles, infographics, and videos all play to our desire to be appreciated, not by our own immediate families, but by the Joneses.  It’s not our children or husbands that we’re aiming at when we repost these things. We know they love us. We know they know how much they need us. It’s distant relatives, friends, and even strangers that we’re trying to convince. We look at the wider world and beg “Please, appreciate us! Look how much we do! Look how much money we’re worth!”

What motivates you as a mother? I can tell you what motivates me, and it’s the blossoming of my children under my care. I know I’m not alone in that. Nobody really measures that relationship in cash. It’s when we turn our faces from the people who make us mothers, and stare into the faces of strangers that we suddenly we feel the need to justify ourselves in terms of dollars and cents.

If we had any sense of our own real value, we’d find these memes insulting, not inspiring.

Think about it for a moment. Is a prostitute more valuable to a john than you are to your own husband, just because money changes hands? Do you measure that intimate relationship in terms of dollars per transaction? No? Then why try to measure something as priceless as motherhood in currency? Why do we think that being able to put a dollar amount on those things we do makes us seem more valuable, rather than less? All of the things that we can pay–are, in fact, encouraged to pay–other people to do for our children do not add up to our true worth. There is an insidious strain of thought in our culture that serves to separate us from our most important work–that of raising our children–by making all other jobs but motherhood out to be fairly compensated. If you cheapen motherhood, you cheapen the people mothers serve, as well. The Enemy knows this quite well, so he does everything he can to make mothers look elsewhere for their sense of self-worth.

If you’ve been here for a while, or if you’ve read my ebook, you’ll be familiar with my story about the second grade teacher who taught me that “mother” is not something worth aspiring to. I suspect that the reason we’re all so desperate to prove our cash value is that, like little Cindy long ago, we’ve been taught that the only way to be a grown-up is to bring home a paycheck. Further, I suspect that the reason we’ve been taught that a paycheck equates to usefulness, and the reason that government schools love feminism so much, is because government schools are tax-supported, and you can’t tax mere motherhood. You can only tax income.

And so, from our earliest grade-school lessons, income has become the only value we know how to assign people.

The trouble with the dollar value model of measuring motherhood is that you can’t pay a chauffeur to have a heart-to-heart in the car about the way the rest of the girls treated your daughter after dance class. You can’t pay a daycare worker to look lovingly into your baby’s eyes and tell him he’s still loved while she cleans up the accident that so embarrassed him. You can’t pay a housekeeper to pray over the people to whom the house she’s cleaning belongs.

You can pay people to do the physical act of care-giving, but you can’t pay people to love your children while they do it.

We women have outsourced so much of our physical labor, and not just as mothers, but as daughters, neighbors, and church family, that society has lost its understanding of our spiritual value as care-givers. Most people in our culture in this neglected generation haven’t often felt the difference between care administered for pay and care administered out of love and concern for the well-being of the recipient. We’ve gotten used to being “served” in any number of intimate ways by people who don’t really care a hill of beans about our spiritual condition. But we are people, not machines. We need to be served, not serviced. On a gut level it will always matter to our children whether the people around them would still care if they weren’t paid to.

Motherhood isn’t cheap. It costs us everything we have sometimes, doesn’t it? But it is free! And we do ourselves no favor when we encourage others to view it as a merely financial transaction. To assign a dollar value to what we give daily as mothers only cheapens the relationship. It’s time we reject these cheap, manipulative demands for cultural validation and instead learn to respect the sanctity of our unpaid, often difficult, even lonely, but indispensable and invaluable private duties to our families.

Permission to Be Ordinary

Homeschooling is going mainstream, and we’re about to lose one of our favorite arguments for it. 

Homeschooling is kind of an extraordinary thing to do, isn’t it? Even with the rapidly rising numbers of homeschooling families each year, we’re still in the minority (for now). Nearly every weekday outing I take with my kids requires me to explain to someone why my older children aren’t in school. People still don’t think of children staying with their mothers all day as a very normal thing. Parents just aren’t qualified to raise kids, you know.

When we think of homeschooling, we still think of violin-playing spelling bee champions with 140 IQ’s who were just too smart for normal school. And you know what? There really are a lot of home educated kids like that! It isn’t at all surprising that homeschoolers like to promote as much good press as we can for ourselves. Here’s a popular infographic, and I think it has some interesting facts that ought to be considered:

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure UpSource: TopMastersInEducation.com

Stories in the news like this family with seven kids in college by the time they were twelve years old, and blog posts asserting that homeschooled kids are 120% more smarter than public schooled kids are constantly circulating the web, not because those are our best reasons for homeschooling, but because to be able to associate ourselves with such an outstanding group of people easily counters the arguments of which we grow so weary.

“You’re not qualified.”

“They’ll never get into college.”

“Homeschoolers are bad at math.”

Just a few weeks ago I had to listen to my neighbor explain to me that I can’t possibly teach my children math in the higher grades, so I’d better be ready to send them to school by eighth grade. (I’ve learned to just nod my head and pretend that I’m going to take that brand-new, brilliant idea into consideration. I really don’t care what the neighbors think.)

We homeschoolers love this kind of evidence that homeschooling “works” because pointing to other people’s results is a lot easier than explaining our core reasons for keeping our children at home. Our motives are good and wholesome and altogether defensible, but because we live in a society that scarcely even understands what education is for, those points also take longer to explain and upset people more often than the academic argument.

I have to wonder, though, if we’re not accidentally making the task of defending our choice harder by using these kinds of things to bolster our case. You see, our stellar statistics and outliers like the “Brainy Bunch” family set some unrealistic expectations for normal kids. The first generation of homeschoolers was almost certainly an unusual group of people. It seems to me that they required a unique set of characteristics–qualities that usually go hand-in-hand with high intelligence and academic achievement–to be able to boost the homeschooling movement from the gravitational pull of traditional education. That first generation had, at the very least, enough imagination to dream it up, confidence to follow through, ingenuity to figure out how, resourcefulness to keep it going under pressure, and courage to fight the courts and social stigma.

As homeschooling becomes more mainstream, though, we are going to see some regression to the mean (though I doubt that we could ever regress to the abysmal performance of public schools). Because homeschooling really is a viable and superior alternative, and for reasons that have little to do with math, more and more parents who would never have considered such a thing before are going to jump on the bandwagon.

Those stellar statistics are going to level out, homeschoolers.  At some point, our neighbors are probably going to notice that some of us are pretty awful at math and science, and most of our children are going to trade schools or straight to the workforce instead of to Harvard. For that reason, it would be good if we kept our debating skills sharp, so that we can explain why homeschooling is well within our rights, regardless of our outcomes. If our best defense of home education is that other homeschoolers are really smart, we are sunk, because most of us are going to be graduating children who become ordinary people.

And that’s OK. Cashiers and plumbers, homemakers and factory workers are every bit as necessary to the functioning of society as engineers and political leaders.

Homeschoolers, as much as we cheer for greatness and excellence, and hope to see our children attain the absolute pinnacle of their personal capabilities, we need to give ourselves permission to be ordinary. The rightness of our choice to raise our own children isn’t predicated on our academic results or our children’s future earnings. It is based solely in our right and responsibility to raise our own children for the Glory of God. (Yes, I am aware that many people homeschool without any religious purpose, but they still have that right and responsibility, whether they know it or not.)

If we don’t keep our focus on that first principle, we’re going to make life mighty hard for our kids who are better at bricklaying than calculus. Not only that, but we might find our right to raise our own children, so hard won by the first generation of homeschoolers, diminished by our own focus on the wrong point. We need to speak the language of liberty when we defend our choices, rather than flashing the gaudy plumage of worldly success.

Test scores may temporarily dazzle our opponents into silence, but they will not stand the test of time like the simple truths of God-given rights and individual responsibility.

 

Samaritan Ministries

Samaritan

Please note that I am not an expert on all things Samaritan, nor am I associated with them except as a member. I’m just explaining things to some people who asked, and this post is not meant to be taken as expert advice on the subject. So don’t blame Samaritan if I’ve misunderstood something. However, if you decide to sign up for Samaritan after hearing about it from me, I’d love for you to name our family (Jesse and Cindy Dyer) as your referral. It helps cover a portion of a monthly share when we get sign-ups.

Children don’t cost a dime, as I like to point out to people who ask me how I afford all these kids. Hospitals, on the other hand, do.

Several readers have asked me to tell them more about Samaritan Ministries. Our family joined Samaritan Ministries back in August, 2013. Between the so-called “individual mandate,” and the fact that our high-deductible insurance kept getting more and more expensive while decreasing in usefulness, we decided to get out of traditional health insurance. I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me want to participate in a thing less than a know-it-all government telling me I have to, or else pay a fine tax whatever they’re calling it this week to make it seem legal.

However, I don’t like breaking laws (even questionable ones like this), so we couldn’t just not have coverage of any kind. Fortunately, members of health care needs sharing ministries like Samaritan are exempt from the individual mandate, so there is a way to both buck the system* and appease the IRS when tax time rolls around and you have to prove your health-care status.

Need-sharing is a pretty simple idea. Instead of paying a third party you simply send your monthly share amount to the person assigned to you by the ministry. When you have needs that are shareable, you submit your bills and the ministry sends your name and address out to others so that they can share with you. I didn’t want to jump in and tell all about need-sharing until I was sure of the way it works, and whether it works, so I’ve been waiting for my bills to come due for the baby before I wrote this post. Well, here he is!

 

Cute, huh?

And here the bill is!

 

A better way to pay for health care.

Not so cute.

And that’s doesn’t even include the anesthesiologist. Or the doctor. Or the baby’s hospital stay. Or the pediatrician. Wowza. This is kind of terrifying, isn’t it?

But it doesn’t have to cost that much. One of the many things I love about Samaritan is that they will help you negotiate down the costs of your health care. I have called for myself a few times and asked various offices for discounts, and sometimes I even get them, but the professionals do a much better job of that because they know more about the inner workings of the (criminally ridiculous) financial side of health care. I nearly always ask for help.

Does it work? Yes! While I have been skeptical that everything would be paid on time–after all, we’re depending on people we don’t know and who could flake out any time–the bills that I submitted earlier have been paid, and I’m confident that this bill will be paid, as well. Samaritan will always make certain that shares not received are reassigned to other members as quickly as possible. In addition to providing funds, members pray for each other, and there is always someone available at the ministry to pray for us, as well. There are, however, times when the amount submitted is more than the amount of money available, and then members receive less than the full amount of their bills. The ministry does have its ups and downs, life being unpredictable the way it is.

(UPDATE 4/22/16: I have, since writing this post, had two more needs to file with Samaritan Ministries. We had another baby and a broken clavicle. Both needs were paid in full within 60 days, though I did have a bit of a hiccup with getting one hospital bill covered twice, so I ended up having to write a rather large check to give that money back. Not a big deal, but I wanted to disclose that this system isn’t perfect. Show me the one that is, though, right?)

Who is Samaritan for? The most important requirement is that you be a church-attending Christian, and not engaging in any risky or immoral behavior. The reason for that is that this is a religious ministry for believers who want to depend on their brothers and sisters when they need help. It is not a health insurance plan. Samaritan is most likely a good choice for any Christian who pays for their own health care. It is a GREAT choice for anyone who hates the current state of health insurance and wishes to take action instead of just complaining about it.

Who is it not for? People with a lot of pre-existing conditions might not want to go this route. We have several conditions in our family that we have to cover out-of-pocket, and we’ve been blessed to be able to do so, but that is a down-side of this kind of thing. If you do join, the ministry shares these kinds of needs as “special prayer needs,” and many members (ourselves included) make an effort to send whatever they can for these kinds of special needs. So even those things may be less of a burden than you’d think.

I would also not consider this plan if I didn’t have enough emergency money stashed away to start making small (or total, as I usually try to do) payments on the bills myself, because it does take from 30-60 days for the checks to start rolling in.

What is covered? Any non-pre-existing need over $300 is covered, with exceptions for things like illnesses and injuries related to immoral behavior. Routine physicals and pre-existing conditions are not covered, nor are vaccinations, birth control, or baby murder. You always cover the first $300 of any need, but any discounts you receive are applied to that amount, so you can often end up will full coverage. There is a limit per need, but not per person or per year. You’ll need to browse the literature to really dig into all the details. Even with these exceptions, we’ve found it to be quite affordable.

Anyway, I’m not going to bore you with every detail of our good experiences thus far with Samaritan Ministries, but it has been good, so I thought you’d like to know. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can download an information packet or watch an introductory video.

Please note that I am not an expert on all things Samaritan, nor am I associated with them except as a member. I’m just explaining things to some people who asked, and this post is not meant to be taken as expert advice on the subject. So don’t blame Samaritan if I’ve misunderstood something. However, if you decide to sign up for Samaritan after hearing about it from me, I’d love for you to name our family (Jesse and Cindy Dyer) as your referral. It helps cover a portion of a monthly share when we get sign-ups.

Intentionally Childless Missionaries?

Childfree missions? Terrible, terrible idea.

Pastor John Piper advises Christians to sow the seeds of Western social sickness in other countries.

One of the things that has baffled me about the pastors in our times is their inability (or outright refusal) to consistently apply scripture to one of the defining issues of our times: birth control. They’re pro-life, but not necessarily pro-conception. Pro-marriage, but not pro-childbearing—at least not beyond that number of children that society has decided is “reasonable”. They’re convinced of God’s sovereignty as the Giver, Sustainer, and Taker of life, but still blissfully unaware of the presumptuousness inherent in the routine prevention of life. Most of the time, the issue of conception remains unaddressed in the pulpit and the pastor’s office while we wrestle instead with the sins of abortion, divorce, and homosexuality.

But once conception becomes a choice we allow ourselves to make, rather than a gift God graciously bestows on us, we Christians put ourselves on same slippery slope at the bottom of which we now find our unbelieving Western world–as this blogger calls it, we’ve embraced the “fetishization of marriage”. Marriage is for us alone, for our pleasure, for the serving of our own needs and lusts. We can do marriage however we see fit. It is ours.

Now, marriage certainly is meant to fulfill our emotional and sexual needs. But that is not all it is meant to do. Sadly, even our most important public Christian voices, our most loving and Godly pastors, seem to be happy to compromise the institution of marriage, as long as it is in the service of what they see as a good cause.

Unlike me (Hi, I’m Cindy. Just a housewife with a blog.), John Piper requires no introduction. Multitudes follow him closely, and I count myself among them. I enjoy his thoughts on Christian hedonism, God’s sovereignty in suffering, and race relations within the Church. I can’t peer into hearts, but when he speaks and writes, I feel pretty certain that I’m listening to a man who really, really loves and trusts in the Lord. He’s pretty thoroughly biblical, and always thoughtful. But in his daily “Ask Pastor John” spot yesterday, he advised a young lady in a way that makes me think he didn’t give a lot of thought to his answer before he dove in. I’ll transcribe a little bit of it, but you should listen to the whole thing to understand what I’m addressing, so that you don’t get the idea that he went completely off the rails with his answer. He makes a few reasonable-sounding points, but they’re not strong enough to support his conclusion.

The questioner asked:

“I’m a 20 year old woman who by God’s leading wants to live among unreached people-groups in India or the Middle East. I’ve never had the desire to have my own kids, even though I love kids, and the guy I’m currently dating doesn’t either. If we get married, we see ourselves living as Paul-type missionaries. Practically speaking, it makes sense to not have kids.”

And she goes on a little, and then Pastor John says, essentially, “Yes! Missionaries are in extraordinary circumstances and can be assured that there is Bible teaching to back up the idea of being married but refusing children.” Somehow he missed the fact that Paul-type missionaries are only childless because they are unmarried.

Now, this young lady is quite obviously aware (somewhat shockingly, in this ignorant age) of the connection between marriage, sex, and children, and also of God’s social design for the institution of marriage, or else she wouldn’t have couched her question in terms of “but isn’t it ok for us to refuse to have children if we can say it’s for God’s sake?” Is there any doubt that this young woman is searching for absolution from what she knows to be disobedience in ordinary circumstances by claiming her extraordinary calling as an exemption from the rule?

The tip-off here is the fact that she started her question with an explanation that she doesn’t particularly want children, but she does want the benefits of this young man’s sexual companionship for the rest of her life. If this was really a question about the best way to be a missionary, she’d have started there, not with her own feelings about kids and her (current) boyfriend.

Pastor John’s answer, though at least (thankfully) enthusiastic about the blessing of children, and rather cautiously given, still leaves the listener with the idea that children are a choice, and that they could be a liability to the Creator’s work. He managed to forget that the Creator of those unreached peoples (and they do have children in India, don’t they?) is also the Creator of the children of the missionaries who serve there, and He is a Creator who knows what He is doing when He creates life.

I see no need to rewrite my own words, so in answer to this, I’m simply going to quote from a chapter from Deceived: Little Lies…

We think we know better.

Among the arguments for the superiority of “planned” families is the idea that God wants us to use our own understanding to find the optimal number of children for our abilities and desired lifestyle. Even though He said to be fruitful and multiply, even though He cares for the children of the poor as well as those of the wealthy, even though He never even hinted in His word that limiting the growth of the human race would help right the wrongs of the Curse, we believe that we moderns at long last know better than He. We seem to think that He left something out of His written Word, or that biblical counsel isn’t quite enough to help us think about modern technological advances.

At the extreme end of that argument, I’ve even heard it said that having fewer children means being able to give even more of our lives to God’s real work, so it’s selfish to have too many children to tie us to the home. (emphasis added) Women with fewer children can minister more outside the home, where all the real needs are. They can take paying jobs and donate more money to charities. They’ll be better rested, and hence more capable of raising the few children they have with joy. Instead of adding more sinners to the world, we’ll just save the ones already born, they say.

This idea that through modern contraception we have this new, wonderful way to help God redeem His world reminds me of the account of Saul’s disobedience to God in 1 Samuel 15. God had told Saul and the Israelites, through His prophet Samuel, not to spare any of the Amalekites’ people or possessions as they conquered them. The Israelites, though, thought they knew better. Saul captured the king of the Amalekites instead of killing him, and the people saved the best of the livestock as well. And why?

Well, I suspect that it was really for their own gain, and they would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that pesky prophet! But Saul gave a novel excuse for his disobedience when Samuel caught him with his hand in the cookie jar: It was all done to help God!

You see, all they wanted to do was sacrifice these animals to please the Lord. It seemed such a shame to waste them. The Israelites somehow just knew, against the plain words that Samuel had spoken in the presence of all of them, that God didn’t really mean all that stuff about wiping out the enemy as they took the land. They could serve Him much, much better by saving the animals for sacrifice.

And Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,

as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,

and to listen than the fat of rams.

23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,

and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

he has also rejected you from being king.”–1 Samuel 15:22-23

We have a direct command from God as descendants of both Adam and Noah to “be fruitful and multiply,” and we have many indications of His continued approval of human procreation throughout the rest of the Bible. He wants to bless the faithful with overflowing homes!

But we think we know better now. We want to say we are “sacrificing” our natural ability to have children so that we can do “more” for Him–or do more for ourselves, when we’re so bold as to admit that motive. It seems a shame to us to waste all that female human potential just popping out babies.

But is this what God has asked of us? Has God ever considered raising children to be a less important task than other things we might do with our lives? Did He ever speak in such a derogatory way about motherhood (e.g.: baby factory, popping out babies, breeder) as we in this culture do? Has He ever made it a matter of choice? What does He really desire? Wouldn’t He have told us somewhere in His word if He had changed His mind?

There are a few questions I think Pastor John should have asked, instead of affirming this future missionary’s desired conclusion:

  • Why do you assume that God can’t add to the number of voices glorifying his name through your offspring at the same time that you are ministering in foreign lands?
  • Why do you think that living as a missionary in a foreign land is a special circumstance where marriage is concerned? Have there been no married missionaries with children before?
  • How do you think the married couples in your future home overseas will react to the idea that their homeland is not a good enough place for you to raise children?
  • Why not just join a well-chaperoned mission along with this man as a co-laborer in Christ and remain unmarried, if your purpose is really to keep your focus on spreading the Gospel instead of  having your own family? You’re still going to have that whole “husband-pleasing” problem if you get married. (1 Corinthians 7:34)
  • How do you plan to teach the whole Bible to these unreached people groups while somehow protecting them from the unbiblical, western, feminist, sterile view of marriage and children that you bring along with you for the sake your own convenience? This is a view of marriage that quite clearly ends  in the social corruption that we witness today in our own Western nations. We have seen the fruits of this thinking! It’s not good fruit! Why take that idea over to a people who might even still believe (correctly) that children belong on the asset side of life’s ledger?
  • Do you believe that God would give you and your future husband children He has no use for in your mission work? As Sally Clarkson says of her own ministry, if God calls you to do something, He’s also calling the children he gave you to serve alongside you.

Childbearing is not a decision God has ever asked us to make for ourselves. In fact, despite Rev. Piper’s illogical extention of Paul’s principle of singleness to somehow include marital sterility,  remaining single is not itself a decision God has asked his workers to make for His own sake. For the person gifted with singleness as Paul was, it is a natural outcome of personality and circumstances, not a painful, hand-wringing choice made in an effort to please God with our sacrifice.

I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. (emphasis added)

–1 Corinthians 7:7

Paul’s assumption here is that most people are not gifted in this way. He’s simply saying “This ‘singleness’ thing God gave me has worked out well. It might not go so well for you, so if you burn with lust, get married.” And getting married goes with making babies most of the time. If no babies happen, then God can certainly be in that, but it’s never offered as a choice. Childbearing is never even lamented as a burden to the Gospel, but as a blessed addition to the family of Christ. It seems clear to me that getting married so that you can slake your lust for another person, but then refusing the God-given fruits of that holy union was not quite what the apostle had in mind when he wrote this passage.

I know that I’m just a hillbilly with an internet connection. I know that John Piper is far, far beyond me in spiritual understanding and Bible training. I wrestled with myself all night, trying to conclude that Piper and I can both be right here, or at least that I could be wrong. But, comparatively feeble-minded though I may be, I simply can’t see any way to reconcile what Piper says he believes (and what I believe) about the sovereignty of God in human affairs with what the pastor has told this young lady.

Yes, all things are lawful for us, and we have lots of room to discover our spiritual freedom while still receiving infinite mercy (and correction) from God, who remains our Father through all of our missteps. But it is undeniable that behaving as though children are a choice has been a pretty honkin’ big mistake for the Western world, and Rev. Piper has just advocated exporting that same mistake to other countries through the work of married, but intentionally sterile missionaries. That just seems too egregious for me to let go, even though I am hardly worthy to shine John Piper’s intellectual shoes.

I hope Pastor John will come to a different conclusion the next time he has to address such a question. The young people of our generation need better counsel than this.

God is Faithful

There’s a reason I’m blogging less often these days. I’ve been adjusting to a whole new family dynamic, and I just haven’t had the emotional energy to write very much. When we first moved into this house five years ago, Jesse had taken a new position at work. Around the same time, he had also had a wisdom tooth extracted. He also started to get headaches, at first once or twice a week, and then more frequently as time went on. For the last four years or so, he had non-stop headaches, fairly mild in the morning, then by afternoon and evening, unbearable. The absolute best he could feel was kind of OK, and that only with massive doses of narcotics. (For which I thank both the Lord and the doctor who was willing to prescribe them.)

Except for the stress of having to earn all of the money, which Jesse always managed somehow to do, I was living the life of a single mom. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that. Jesse and I have both written about it occasionally. We could not find the right combination of treatments, or even pinpoint the cause of the pain to a certainty. We’ve thought it might be:

  • environmental (new home)
  • environmental (new job)
  • TMJ (tooth extraction)
  • Blood pressure (it is a bit high)
  • Diet (My darling has a soda-pop and hot-pockets habit.)
  • A Job-like curse

He’s been to a neurologist, a chiropractor, a dentist specializing in TMJ, probably some other people I’ve forgotten about, and finally, he just gave up. I resigned myself to the crushing loneliness, and he resigned himself to the constant pain. Neither of us had much hope left of finding even the cause, much less a cure for the problem. But neither of us lost hope in the One who has redeemed us.

So we just kept going on like that. He popping pills and spending six days out of seven in bed when he wasn’t at work, and I learning to keep the rest of it going all by myself. I don’t want to make it sound all terrible and tragic, but…well, it was getting terrible and tragic! Nothing is lonelier than chronic pain. The rest of the world tends to forget about you after a while. (If you know someone who has chronic pain, please, please, visit them and pray with them. It means so much.) If Jesus hadn’t been always present, always making himself known in our lives through those small mercies he poured out in the form of prayers and encouragement from friends–many of whom are this blog’s readers, and THANK YOU!–I don’t think we’d have survived all of that with our sanity intact.

Want to hear something amazing? For the last few weeks, Jesse has had about one mild headache a week. The thing that changed? He got a promotion. That promotion means he is no longer sitting in a cubicle all day typing and geeking and doing whatever it was he was doing as a QA guy. He still has a desk, but he’s moving around more, and his new job as director of technical support involves talking. All day long, he talks to people. You wouldn’t think that would be such a big deal, but as it turns out, TMJ really was his problem. All this talking, moving around, and changing posture more often has kept the swelling in his jaw and the consequent muscle and head pain at bay for the last month! The only times he’s had headaches have been those days when he was at home and didn’t get enough activity to keep all of those muscles and joints working.

So that is why I haven’t blogged much. I thought it was because I was just uninspired, but really, I’ve been on cloud nine. I just haven’t had the desire to sit down and write much. I’m too busy getting used to being around the guy I’d come to think of as the ghost that slept in my bed. He’s ALIVE! Resurrections are kind of a big deal, don’t you think?

Praise God, people! I know that there was nothing much supernatural about Jesse’s pain (poor Job probably had an identifiable infection, too, with all those boils and stuff). And I know that the cure isn’t especially supernatural. But God HAS moved supernaturally, both during this long illness, and after it. He has provided for our family through a wonderful work family that understood and endured Jesse’s many sick days. God has helped Jesse through the long days of pain without giving up. Even through all the fog of medications and pain, Jesse developed a valuable new product for his company, and that product was a huge boost to his career.

You can’t tell me God wasn’t in that–in the strong work ethic that made Jesse keep trying when nobody would have blamed him for giving up, in the moments of relief that always came just when we really couldn’t take any more, in the hymns and verses that would arise unbidden in our minds during the darkest hours–God was always in it.

And now that things are getting easier, He is still here! The hardest thing for me to come to terms with in all of this good stuff happening is that I’m a little bit hand-shy. I keep waiting for somebody to say “Just kidding!” and yank the rug out from under us. Once you’ve resigned yourself to living without bitterness in rather bitter circumstances, it can be hard to suddenly realize that you might get to have a normal life after all. I’m not even sure how to describe it, except that the first few weeks of this were anxiety-ridden. Every day, I’d try to keep my hopes down so I wouldn’t be disappointed when Jesse walked through the door with another headache. But also, there was a fear in the back of my mind that I’d get too comfortable and forget how to lean on those Everlasting Arms in all of this cushy living.

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” –C. S. Lewis

My husband is able to go to church and family gatherings with me. He can go shopping and take the trash, and play with the kids, and discipline them, and correct his headstrong, impulsive wife. He can do all of those husband and daddy things that I had just written off as not meant for this family. I confess, I haven’t been as joyful as I could be about it. It’s not that I’m not extremely happy, but there was an undercurrent of anxiety that I just couldn’t shake. In all this fun, I’ve been scared to death of losing sight of the One who has been my strength. That’s not a bad thing to be mindful of, really. The happy and the healthy do tend to lose sight of God more easily, having fewer reminders of their frailty. But I have to learn to trust, even now, that God has a plan to use my good times for His glory as well!

My circumstances have changed. That makes me nervous. Also, really giddy. But my God is not changing. He never will. When He shouted “Trust me!” back then, He was no more or less trustworthy than He is right this moment.

God is GOOD. All the time. Praise Him!

 

Deceived

A book. Sorta.

By way of apology, I must confess that this ebook is not what I set out to write when I decided I would write a book on Christian families and fertility. It would seem that I’m more adept at making babies than writing books about making babies. As soon as I had an outline written and felt ready to start writing, I got pregnant. Maybe some women can write lengthy tomes with brains addled by pregnancy hormones, but I am not one of them.  There is some new writing here–about half of it, I guess–but it is not remotely what I set out to do.

I hope it is, at least, what God has set out for me to do. It can be so hard to know, sometimes. All I can really do is say what I think is right, and pray that God won’t let me mess things up too much.

Anyhow, here ya go:

Deceived: Little Lies..

ConDeceived is free for downloading, printing, sharing, quoting, reviewing, picking apart, and whatever else you want to do with it, so long as you properly attribute all of my work to me by linking to the download page, and don’t alter or misrepresent it in any way.

Print it out and tack it to some church doors, if you feel so inclined. Or it might be more appropriate to just tack it to a barn on a lonely road somewhere. I used to live near a man who nailed his semi-literate conspiracy theories about Abraham Lincoln and Jews and World War III to a barn by the side of the road. I used to stop by and read them, fearing the whole time that I was going to get a butt-full of bird-shot for my trouble. His mind had been eaten up by a lifelong habit of swilling lead-laced moonshine.

This ebook might be in the same vein, so take it with the usual grain of salt. I’m just a hillbilly mommy blogger. You never know what I might have been making my moonshine with.

Happy Independence Day!

Yes, I know tomorrow is New Year’s Day. But I’m declaring independence anyway.

If you’ll look to the right sidebar you’ll notice that I no longer have a Facebook widget there to entice you to follow me there. There are several reasons for this, the chief of them that social media was pulling me away from my children, my husband, my rest, and my studying, and it simply had to stop. In last several months, Facebook has so effectively tweaked its algorithms to keep readers on their site that I couldn’t get off the stupid thing.

I was drowning in the voices of people who are both completely irrelevant to my life and useless to teach me anything. Facebook is a habit-forming, shallow product, and I want nothing else to do with it. Not only does it suck me in, but I’m also providing content for Zuckerberg et. al that makes them money and sucks other people into mindlessly wasting time they don’t have, as well. It might be entertaining, but it is not very edifying.

Having cut that chatter out of my life completely and found that the only thing I’ve “lost” is about 2,700 sets of eyeballs that weren’t really watching anyway, I’ve started noticing some other ways that the internet, including this here blog, has thrown stumbling blocks into my family’s path. I’ve stopped tracking my stats, turned off Google alerts, and done several other things that bloggers who want to succeed are definitely not supposed to do. That’s OK. I want to succeed, but not at the expense of my real work.

While blogging at GAH! has been a very positive thing, most of the things that go with blogging—social media, networking with other bloggers for “opportunities”, trying to keep one finger on the pulse of the marketing trends of the day (hello, Pinterest, you idiot!)—have not. I’ll bet even those of us who don’t blog are finding themselves sucked into the screen for far too long, many days. I’ve been reluctant to completely cut ties with many of the tools I’ve used to interact with people because I felt like I would be isolating myself and killing my blog. That is the conventional wisdom, isn’t it? Promote via social media or die!

But I’m not sure I believe the conventional wisdom. I’ve found it to wrong about nearly everything else in life, so why not this, as well? The idea that the best way to get traffic to your own website is to direct your readers to hang out with you on somebody else’s website seems a bit silly to me. Great marketing by the social media moguls, I guess, but it doesn’t turn out so well if you’re not one of them. So I have decided to write here, and here only. If it is any good, you’ll subscribe or bookmark it. Maybe you’ll share it on social media yourself sometimes, though I’d actually encourage you to stop doing that if social media takes up more than ten minutes of your day or causes you anxiety that interrupts the peace of your own home, as it was doing to me.

I think we’ve been duped, homeschooling (and especially homeschool blogging) mamas. We’ve been tricked into thinking that we can simultaneously be with our children and not be with our children, or with our friends, or with our husbands. We think that because we’re in their physical presence, we’re doing what we ought to. But my children know better. They know when mommy is distracted by what some stupid stranger on Facebook said. They know when she’s cranky because someone who means nothing to her has said something horrible about her faith or her family or (Lord help me) her looks. They can tell when she has yet again turned her brain off to look at meaningless things that have nothing to do with her real work, her family.

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A picture my son (then seven years old) drew for Mama to hang on the back of her chair. Ouch.

Moms, they know. We’re the only ones being fooled by the illusion that we’re gaining something of value here.

We think that chatting with somebody on Facebook is very much like sitting down with a cup of tea and a good friend. We think twenty-second interactions with people are some kind of “ministry.” But they’re not. The truth is that social media interaction is an interruption to social behavior, not an actual encounter with human beings. Ministry is person to person. Social media mediates. It is a go-between. I’m tired of having a screen full of ads and a corporation to mediate between me and my real life. If I’m going to minister to somebody, it needs to be my neighbor. If we’re going to be friends, we’re going to need to be in the same room sometimes. I need you to be able to smell me and tell me (in the most polite way possible, of course) that the new, all-natural deodorant doesn’t deodorize.

The internet can be a very useful tool for research and getting the news of the day. But it’s not truly social. Not for me. If social media doesn’t demand your attention in the same addictive way it does mine, then feel free to enjoy it. Others may. I may not.

There will always be a comment section here (unless I find that becoming onerous as well). I enjoy the kind of limited interaction I get from comments, but I’m finished with internet “socializing.” If my blog dies from that, then it’s just going to have to die. At least my children will be able to remember something about me besides the blank, uncomprehending look I give them when they speak to me but my mind is on things that don’t even exist in their world.

I’m going to go homeschool my kids now, and I’m going to do it better than I had been. I’m going to do it the way the successful homeschoolers in the days before the internet did it—without the kind of socialization you get from the internet.

Our First Term with Ambleside Online

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When I said at the beginning of the year that we were going to be using Ambleside Online for our curriculum this year, lots of readers expressed an interest in using AO, if only they could figure out how it all works. Being a newbie myself, I didn’t (and still don’t) have much in the way of tips to offer. However, I can tell you what we’ve accomplished so far, and how I see this turning out for us.

The hardest thing about getting started is the amount of reading you, the teacher, have to do. If you want a curriculum that just tells you what to do and then you do it, this is the wrong place to go. While you don’t need to read every word that Charlotte Mason ever wrote, you do need to get a good grasp of her philosophy in order to implement this curriculum. AO has all six volumes of the Charlotte Mason series for free here, or you can go download them for cheap on Amazon. I also like the Charlotte Mason Companion.

I still haven’t read all of this stuff, so don’t feel like you have to read the whole thing at once before you get started. You do, however, need to read enough to get off on the first leg of your journey with some vision for the future.

Furthermore, you’re going to want to read many of the books that your children are reading, or else they’ll think you’re an idiot when they narrate to you and you don’t know what the dickens they’re talking about. (Ask me how I know.) If you haven’t done anything like this before, read Home Education first, and then dive into the AO Introduction, where using the curriculum is made somewhat more understandable. That’s what I did, anyway, and now I’m just reading through other helpful features of the site and the other CM books as I go.

Here’s what we did, and how well it worked out:

Morning time: The first thing every day for us is family devotions, memory work, and a read-aloud, along with whatever else I can think of that I want to do day. Charlotte Mason isn’t heavy on read-alouds, but we like them. I got inspired by this Morning Basket idea, and started a little basket (well, OK, it’s more of a pile, because I am disorganized) of my own for our “together” stuff in the mornings.

Core reading: My oldest is doing Year 3, and the reading is one of his favorite things about this curriculum. No surprise there, as he has always been a good reader, but the kinds of books we’re working with do tend to put his mind to more of a workout than any of the curricula we’ve tried before. They aren’t hard, necessarily, just not dumbed-down. And there is a lot of reading, because this is a living-books approach. Textbooks are the devil! (I mean, unless you like them, I guess.)

If your kid doesn’t like to read, I would still suggest giving CM’s “living book” approach a shot. It could very well be that the reason your child hates books is that he’s never had experience with the kinds of books that don’t insult his intelligence. These are all good books. I’ve enjoyed reading them myself. The reading selections encompass Nature and Science, History, Geography (although I’m finding we fell short on this somehow, and need to work harder on it), Literature, Bible, and Poetry.

Language Arts: We do daily copywork (for both boys) and dictation (for the older one) from various selections. Sometimes I pick a passage from our reading or our Bible verses, and sometimes I use workbooks I’ve printed from Currclick. Dictation (for the oldest child) also covers spelling and grammar. I’ve also been having him do Daily Grams, but a more formal grammar course will come in a couple more years. One thing I love about Charlotte Mason’s approach is that there’s no expecting children to do composition before they actually know enough to say something. None of that silly “what I want to be when I grow up” stuff.

Handicrafts: We did sewing this term, and it was lots of fun. Just the basics, because I don’t know very much about it myself. Now we all know to some degree how to sew on buttons, sew a few kinds of stitches, and repair stuffed animals. I still have no idea where we’re going from here. (I could show you some pictures of our little drawstring bags, if only I had remembered to take some.)

Science: While there is science reading in AO’s curriculum, I really don’t feel like that’s enough. We’re going through Famous Experiments and How to Repeat Them, and Simple Kitchen Experiments, as well as having the kinds of impromptu discussions that children seem to draw out of us (well, me, anyway) in the day-to-day. Why no, we can’t make a pot of beans without talking about atmosphere and agriculture. Not in this house.

Nature: Goes with “Science,” I guess, but I think of it as a separate thing anyway. On our nature walks (which aren’t happening with the same frequency now that it’s cold outside) I sometimes have the kids take a specimen of something they want to study, then they draw it, read about it, and write a sentence or two in their nature journals for reference. I have no idea whether I do this because CM told me to, or because I like the idea. It might not be remotely CM. I don’t care. We like our journals.

Math: The boys love Life of Fred. I’m still not sure that’s enough, though, despite the insistence of many that it is, so we’re working away at Math Mammoth workbooks, too.

Foreign Language: Didn’t do it. If you’re easing into a new curriculum, especially, perfectionism is a killer. Sometimes you just have to let something (or several somethings) drop, and this was it for us. This term, we’ll be adding ASL as our foreign language, using this free online resource. My ASL accent can’t possibly be as bad as my Spanish accent. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Music (composer study, hymns, folk songs): I’m just following AO’s schedule, except for the hymns. I have my own ideas about that.

 Plutarch: Ha! Haven’t added that in yet, either. It’s not that I don’t want to, just that I forgot. OK, and I’m scared. Next year. Baby steps.

Art: Instead of following the AO schedule for artist study, I’ve been using Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolios. That’s my one splurge this year. Drawing with Children will be on our to-do list this term, as well. I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. I think it’s about time to put it to use.

Field trips: There really aren’t any field trips in AO. I just wanted you to know that we took some. They get out of the basement three times a month, whether they like it or not.

Busywork: There is none. I do not have piles of papers and crafts and “proof” that my children are learning. They are themselves the proof, though the pudding won’t be eaten for many years yet. I’ve concluded that about 75% of what people think of as “education” is just meant to keep children in their seats and give them a sense that they’ve produced something without having to go to the mess of actually letting them produce things.

Exams: Yes, exams are included in the Charlotte Mason way of education. That surprised me. If we hadn’t done the exams, I wouldn’t have really known how much was retained from all of this reading. I do believe this way of learning blows the doors off textbook “learning,” which often amounts to stuffing trivia down a child’s throat and hoping he can digest it into something meaningful later on.

So there you have it, our term in a nutshell. This is, hands down, my favorite way EVER to do school. It’s inexpensive, down-to-earth, and thorough. I think this will be the way we do school for a good, long time.

P.S. Anybody who is interested in a Charlotte Mason education should hie herself on over to the Teach Them Diligently page and register for one of the (very affordable, exciting, uplifting) conventions next year. Sonya Shafer, of Simply Charlotte Mason, gives some fantastic classes that will really help you understand what you’re doing. Her sessions were standing room only last year. Must see.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:

 Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in this post. Thanks for supporting us!

Public Schools and Naive Kids

One of the constantly recurring, and frankly silliest, objections to homeschooling is the embarrassing  naiveté of homeschooled kids. The implication is that a child’s growth and maturity will somehow be stunted by not witnessing the full smorgasbord of sinful behaviors and moral pitfalls that popular culture has to offer. If he hasn’t had a joint offered to him in the school bathroom by the time he’s a senior, there is simply no hope that he’ll be able to say no to it when he’s twenty!

When I put it that way, of course, the hollowness of the whole objection becomes evident, even to those who will most likely still think it’s better for a child to be “educated” in the ways of the world by his peers and (God help us) D.A.R.E instructors.

Fine, you’re right: I fully intend to turn my kids out into the world with little more than a theoretical understanding of the kinds of criminality and perversion that will most likely be going on right under their noses any time they walk down a busy street. By the time they leave my nest, they’ll most likely be in the same social position I am right now; people who engage in those activities don’t even want to talk to me much, let alone invite me to their parties. So I’ve just raised my children to be the kind of bland, boring, morally upright people that the unwise, unstable, and criminal amongst us shun out of instinct. Oh, how could I be so stupid?

Like I said before, there is no way that I can keep my kids from finding out about sin, being sinners as they are. I don’t expect to. But there’s a flip side to this whole naiveté thing, and that is the fact that, when I send my naïve children off to be educated by government-employed strangers, their naiveté is a serious weakness, making them prey to unscrupulous teachers, wayward peers, and even crooked police. If I keep them either at home with me or under the tutelage of Christian teachers I know to be working toward the same goals that I am, these little ones of mine will still be naïve children, absolutely! But what else do you want children to be? Jaded? Worldly? Street smart? I thought we wanted to keep them off the streets, not familiar with them.

Where does this perverse desire to destroy childish innocence come from? Certainly not from God, who says that we must become like little children, and not the other way around, if we wish to see the kingdom of Heaven.

Several years ago, I witnessed the whole adult congregation of a church gathering around a group of teens to pray for them because of the sexual pressures and violence that they were forced to deal with every day. Now, I’m all for prayer, and I’m glad they were at least doing that much for the poor kids. But what caught me was the pastor’s words before they prayed. He said “Our children have to deal with pressures every day that we as adults would never have to face. They need God’s hand of protection on their lives in a special way.”

So we’re sending kids into these spiritual and emotional pressure cookers, even though in the “real world,” for which we are supposed to be preparing them, this stuff (bullying, sexual pressure, drug use, etc.), doesn’t happen among decent people? In the real world where grown-ups live, if these things happen there are both practical and legal steps that a grownup can take to defend himself. He can simply choose not to go there; he can prosecute wrongdoing; he can find a new job; he can find new peers. But these kids, who don’t have the benefit of years of wisdom? Meh. Just cover them in prayer and send them to learn from these people how to walk in Truth.

This little episode at church was what did it for me. It was about 8 years ago, and it was what convinced me to homeschool.

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

–Proverbs 13:20

Not long ago, I witnessed a similar thing with a group of parents lamenting the sexual pressure that middle-school girls must face at such a young and inappropriate age. “Lord, help them!” they said. And they sent them back into the cesspool the very next day.

My dad is kind of a funny guy. When I was a teenager, he’d often see me doing some household task and ask “Do you need some help with that, honey?” I’d accept his offer, only to hear, “Help her, Lord!”

The difference between my dad doing that and these parents doing this is that my dad knew he was joking, and would then get up and help me.

The Bible says some things about praying and doing:

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

–James 2:15-16

Now, if we’re called not just to pray, but to do for the physical needs of our brothers and sisters, how much more does this apply to caring for the souls of our own children?

My children’s naiveté will vanish, despite the foolish concerns of naysayers, but it will recede through years of Bible training, not through the hardening effects of early exposure. My son will learn how to keep to the narrow path through the learning of Proverbs and being made aware of his own sin by God’s word, not through being slammed against locker doors because he’s the only kid that won’t get high with the rest of his social group between classes. My daughter will learn to honor her body by being around those who also honor her body, not from those who belittle and objectify her.

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.

–Luke 17:1-2

I went to a public school, so I know how that naiveté we’re so scared to see in our children gets worn away, and it is not through the maturing of a child’s spirit, but through the breaking of it. No thank you. We don’t want any of that kind of jaded “maturity” in our family.

Make the Most of Your C-Section

Make the Most of Your C-section (Giveaway)How in the world can you prepare for a good c-section?

Since I’m staring down my third c-section with this next delivery, I’m trying very hard to make peace with the idea.  I don’t like it. The idea of a planned cesarean causes me to dread what should be one of the most exciting days of my life. I’m so nearly phobic of hospitals at this point (ask me about my last c-section sometime) that if I thought I could get away with lining a box in the closet with old rags and giving birth alone, kitty-cat style, I’d do it. However, my husband and doctor are aligned against my irrational fear of competent and caring medical intervention and insist on there being no vbac–especially alone in a closet–no matter how I protest.

Since there’s no getting out of it, I am, just as the title of Mindy Brouse’s ebook says, going to have to make the most of it. There must be some upsides, right? Like not having to push, and knowing exactly which day your baby will be born? Small comfort, but better than nothing!

But this ebook isn’t just about making you feel better about your c-section. It’s about making your c-section better. I’ve heard of the idea of family-centered c-section once before, from Kimberly at Raising Olives. Make the Most of Your C-section explains both what a family-centered c-section is and how to talk to your doctor about it. Since it is a relatively new idea, some doctors may be resistant to change, but this ebook gives you the kind of information you need to be able to explain it to your doctor effectively.

There are some options mentioned, such as having the baby delivered to your chest so you can get to know him while you’re being sewn up, that I love. There are some others, like dropping the drape so you can see the baby being pulled from your belly, that I will emphatically not be doing. The whole point of spinal-block anesthesia is so mama can stay awake to meet her baby, ain’t it? That won’t be much use to me if I’m passed out from seeing people reaching into my abdomen and pulling out a baby. I’m feeling a little bit faint just thinking about it. (I swear I don’t have a weak stomach. I can stand the sight of almost anything, as long as it’s not happening to me.)

In addition to the very good information about the family-centered approach, Mindy also provides tons of useful advice for preparing yourself and your family for a surgical birth and recovery. Even if you plan on having a natural birth, this book could be very helpful for those who end up in an emergency c-section.

Buy: You can buy a copy of Make the Most of Your C-Section for $7.97

Win: One Get Along Home reader will win a digital copy of Make the Most of Your C-Section

How to enter: Just leave a comment.

Details: This giveaway is open to anyone in the US. This giveaway will be open until midnight, November 27, 2013. The winner will be chosen by And the Winner Is… WordPress plugin. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email. If there is no response after 48 hours, I’ll have to choose another winner. Please use a valid email address in your comments so that I can contact you if you win! Please use one email address per entrant, per household, per IP address. The giveaway provider (not Get Along Home) will be responsible for prize fulfillment.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this ebook for review. There are no affiliate links in this post, nor will I be compensated in any other way. Here’s your mommy blogger grain of salt.

Multiple C-Sections: When Is It Time To Quit?

Are some risks too great?

A reader (who has had five c-sections herself) emailed me a while back with a few thoughts and a question about c-sections. As someone with lots more experience than I have, I suspect she already knows what she thinks. But I’m glad she asked, anyhow.

I think the biggest question from moms (or at least the ones I get) are what to do when the OB says {your uterus is} too thin for another pregnancy. We know that God is the ultimate physician, but do we treat a {thin} uterus the same as any health problem that would need medical attention?

The short answer is, yes, I do think of a thinning or scarred uterus as a medical problem to be treated or avoided. If someone has a very weak heart, we don’t expect him to run a marathon that will kill him, even if it’s a marathon for a very good cause. Even if his God is a God of miracles. As I’ve said before, I believe that there is a moral difference between deciding not to make babies, and having that possibility taken from you by illness or infirmity. I addressed that at length in a post entitled Blessings and Curses:

What about those hard cases, though? The ones where a woman has a pretty near certainty that carrying another child would be detrimental to her health? Well, they are hard cases! My insistence that children are a blessing isn’t a refusal on my part to face “reality”, as some have said. I am simply enabled by the Holy Spirit to distinguish between blessings and curses—a distinction that isn’t so easy for the natural mind to make, sometimes.

Children are a blessing. Death, disease, and suffering of all kinds are a curse. In fact, they are THE Curse, and I believe we have license to do many things to try to mitigate the effects of the curse–within the boundaries of grateful acceptance of the blessings, of course.

Often, people who are advocating a weak point will run right to the hard cases to protect the easy ones from scrutiny. But “I don’t want to have any more children because it would interfere with My American Dream” is a far cry from “I can’t have any more children because my uterus is mangled.” This, of course, applies to many situations other than c-section, as well. While I’m extremely uncomfortable with the idea that children are a choice to be made, rather than a gift to be received, I am equally uncomfortable with the idea that women’s lives are expendable in the service of procreation. Not every risk we can take is an honorable one. Sometimes it may be foolhardy or even heartless, depending on the circumstances.

In speaking with my husband about it last week, I likened the situation to that of a soldier. A woman’s valor in childbirth is certainly comparable to that of a soldier in battle, and her necessity to the survival of her people is just as clear. The potential for grief is great. Childbirth is scary, painful, messy, smelly, bloody and dangerous. There is often cursing and violence involved. (Sorry, Jess.) It is also good and necessary. We’d think very poorly indeed of an able-bodied young man who was needed to defend his nation from an enemy, but who refused to do so.

(Of course, this metaphor falls apart when we start to think about all the unnecessary wars that our truly brave and valuable young men are fighting right now. Bring them home! We need them here! That’s the trouble with metaphors; even the best of them will turn on you and bite if you push them far enough. Anyhow…)

At some point, depending on the health and circumstances of the woman, she can certainly become wounded and unable to return to the battlefield, just as a wounded soldier can. Sure, even a crippled soldier could probably hobble back out there with just half of one leg and one eye, and many would be glad to do so if they could. But not only would our wounded soldier be unlikely to do any good for his cause, he’d be a liability to the other men who’d have to cover and care for him. So we salute his valor, honor his sacrifice, and keep him out of the fighting from now on. We revere him as a hero, despite his inability to continue. This is true whether he was wounded in his first battle or his twentieth.

Likewise, I could (and want to!) get right back into the “battle” and try making a new baby. But if my uterus is extremely thin (or some other complication arises), trying to have more children would probably result not only in my or the baby’s death or disability, but in the rest of the family suffering for it, too. I trust God in all things, including pregnancy. I also trust my doctor and the understanding God gave him to help me figure out when my body is failing.

As for my own impending c-section, I still have no idea how things are going to turn out. I am praying and preparing for a good birth, good news about the condition of my uterus, and the all-clear to go back into battle if the Lord sees fit. Given the risk of hysterectomy, thinning, and placenta problems with each subsequent c-section, I am also trying (with limited success) to emotionally prepare myself for the bad news that my child-bearing days are over.

Six kids is a wonderful family, and I’ll be happy with whatever God provides me. But seven is also a lovely number, and I’d be ecstatic to find myself in this position again two years from now. I do not want it to be over, and I certainly won’t be making that decision for myself based on nothing more than statistical risks. There are women who have had six c-sections, and are in wonderful health! I pray with every cup of raspberry leaf tea that I will be equally blessed with, as my emailer put it “a uterus as thick as a steak”.

You all pray for me, too, OK?

Pulling Punches in the Name of “Peace”

In many of my posts dealing with homeschooling, public schools, family “planning”, and a dozen other things, I’ve had the gall to say “this is right, and this is wrong.” I then try to back my thinking up with something like a rational, Biblical argument. I do this because I believe some things, and this blog helps me work out those things, while also encouraging others who may have the same ideas. Blogging has the added advantage of comment sections where these things can be further hashed out and knocked about by passersby. I like that. I assume you (to some extent) appreciate that, too, or you wouldn’t be here.

There is one kind of comment I get, though, that adds nothing to the conversation, but reveals much about the way people–mostly women–think about these things. I won’t quote anybody specific, out of respect for their obvious aversion to argument, but the song and dance goes something like this:

I completely agree with what you’re saying. You’re RIGHT. But you need to shut up, because nobody will ever listen to you as long as you’re making it so plain. You’re too blunt. You’re too sure of yourself. I don’t like you very much when you lay it right out there like that. Even though you’re right.

Now, this kind of reaction from people who disagree with me, I would kind of expect. (Except for the part about me being right, of course.) When you either don’t have an argument, or can’t stand the thought of trying to make one, hurling a “shut up” and then running away is probably a very emotionally satisfying experience. But from people who say they agree, I can only think of two possible reasons for it. Either you are a) a coward, or b) a manipulative person who prefers to try to trick people into coming around to seeing things her way. A third option might be that you don’t care very much about the issue, but then, why try to shut me up, instead of just shrugging and moving on?

Readers, especially those of you who disagree with me, or who do, but wish I wouldn’t say this stuff out loud, I need you to know some things:

I tell what I think is the truth because I respect you. Unlike my occasional wishy-washy correspondent paraphrased above, I believe that, if what I am saying is the truth, you can handle it. Not only do I believe that you can handle hearing the other side of something we disagree on, I believe that you have the brains and gumption to figure out what to do with it, should you become convinced of my point of view.

I will not try to manipulate you (as I’ve seen many homeschool bloggers do) by reiterating ad nauseum in every hard-hitting blog post that I write how I think it is perfectly ok for you to ignore what I say, or that I’m sure that what you’re doing is right “for your family,” so please don’t be mad at me for believing some things. *sniff*

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:5-6

I trust that you are grown up enough to understand that I can think that you are wrong without also thinking that you’re any worse a person, parent, or Christian than I am. It would be cowardice for me to never try to convince you to see my point of view because I’d rather get comments about how awesome and wonderful a person I am. But worse than that, it would be an insult to your intelligence. You. Can. Handle. Disagreement.

You can! How condescending these people are, who think that they are so special to have grasped this truth, but that you should be sheltered from it for the sake of your fragile ego!

Reader, I respect you enough to believe that, if we were to meet on the street, you would be able to separate our disagreements from your personal feelings toward me, as reasonable adults who talk about important things ought to be able to do. For those of you who are also in Christ, I respect you enough to say what I think our faith demands of us, and I trust that you will know that I believe that we are still fully brothers in spite of any disagreements.

My friends, many of whom very much disagree with me, know what I think about these things, read this blog, and still love me and know that I love them. This is in spite of the fact that I think that what our nation does with its children–from pre-conception to graduation– is a big mistake, and that they are participating in this mistake.

I tell what I think is the truth because I respect the truth. I cannot say what I believe to be true while also saying “but if you don’t believe this, that is totally ok, and I hope you’ll continue in your error because that is obviously what makes you happy.” This is what my detractors would have me do, not because it makes any sense whatsoever, but because they don’t want anybody to be mad at them. They want me to believe that you can simultaneously lull people to sleep with comforting words and somehow still convince them that they need to make a course correction–the kind of correction that is often uncomfortable, inconvenient, and unpopular.

If you get mad at me, I do not like it. I’m not a sociopath. I don’t like it when people don’t like me. But I care what the truth is more. Your good will is not more important to me than the truth. I didn’t start this blog to make friends. I started it to refine and spread my ideas.

(Oh, wait. I started this blog because I snagged a really cool domain name, and it just sort of snowballed from there. But you get what I mean.)

I won’t pull punches just because the person on the other side of things might not like it. Whether you agree or disagree, you are welcome here, but not at the expense of honest discussion.

I tell what I think is the truth because I want to know better what the truth is. While I don’t spend a whole lot of time hemming and hawing about what I think, I’m aware that I don’t know everything. That is another reason that I need to say exactly what I think, without regard to a reader’s likely reaction to it. How in the world can you challenge me, if I’m always defending, not my point, but my image? How can iron sharpen iron if we’re always scared of clashing?

And finally, I tell what I think is the truth because I love you as fellow believers and fellow Americans. I believe that what the commenters who provoked this post are often saying is that disagreement is too uncomfortable, so let’s just all have our own idea of what the truth is. They’d be happy to let everybody else go to hell in a hand-basket if that’s what they feel like doing. Maybe the result won’t be so good for those who disagree with us, but at least they’ll think we like them!

Well, I do like you. I like you enough to warn you about the path you’re on. I love you enough to make you mad if necessary.

When I see people continuing to make the same mistakes that our society has been making for generations–mistakes that have led us to what nearly all of us agree is a sorry condition for both nation and Church to be in–it would be emotionally easier for me to just let it roll off my back and ignore it all. It would be natural for me to put my head down and try not to rock the boat. After all, this is just the way things are for most people. I’m the minority. I’m the vulnerable one, frankly, not you who disagree.

But I love you, and I want you to understand the mistakes that have been made. We’ve been trained to believe a lot of wrong things, and there is simply no way I can help correct that wrong thinking without also upsetting the people whose lives are built on it.

Much harm comes from not being corrected. Children who should be here–millions of them–don’t exist, either never conceived or murdered, because of what we’ve been taught about birth control and the meaning of human life. The children of Christians are growing up under the tutelage of the secular state, instead of their loving parents and churches. Our nation is in one of the darkest, scariest financial times it has ever seen. While we are still comfortable on borrowed money, there’s a horrific crash coming, and it is directly related to the way we think about these things.

I don’t believe that it is too late to change our course, but it certainly would be if I (and others who do the same thing I’m doing) refused to speak up because we’re more interested in making people like us than telling the truth.

You Want a Christian Nation?

Stop letting the government raise your children.

Remember way back when President Obama declared that “America is no longer a Christian nation.”? The chatter in Christian circles was, for the most part, indignant. How could he say such a thing? Of course America is a Christian nation! Aren’t we here?

The headlines should have read “Obama Tells First Truth of Political Career”, or “Christians Outraged at Unexpected Truthfulness from Politician”. Instead, on right-leaning websites, I recall (if my memory serves me) article after article insisting on the historical and current Christianity of the citizens of our nation.  But, as Jesus said, you will know His followers by their fruits, and the fruit of this nation is 4,000 unborn killed every day, unjust wars, an ever-expanding debt, lurid entertainment raking in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, yearly celebrations of death, and sexual immorality of all kinds, while the only known public moral code is “Whatever, man. No right to judge.”

Could these things happen in a Christian nation?

Given the evidence, I’d say this nation is about as far from being a Christian one as Saudi Arabia is, despite its ridiculous percentage of professing Christians. If something like 80% of people in a country profess the faith, and yet it has this kind of fruit, what we have is not a Christian nation, but a Hypocrite one.

“These people draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

Where do you suppose this confusion comes from? How can a religion have so many “followers”, yet so little impact? The answer is in the upbringing of these so-called Christians. While their parents dutifully drag them to church once a week (more or less), they send them to secular schools every week day, and then spend weekends and evenings consuming godless entertainment. Their lifestyles and leisure pursuits suggest to me that, even among the sincere, they don’t even know what Christianity is, and that is a failure of education.

A while back, I wrote a post called “Homeschooling to Change…What Exactly?”, pinning most of the blame for our nation’s backslidden ways on parents abandoning their children to the authority of the state.

Sending Christian kids to public schools is, in fact, making them culturally powerless, and the reason why is very simple: It doesn’t matter which children your precious ones hang out with or surreptitiously witness to on the playground. What matters is whose authority all of the children are under.

Are we bringing the world under the authority of Christ by sending our children to public schools as mission-minded parents suggest? Or are we bringing Christian children under the authority of the world? I think there’s ample evidence that the latter, and not the former, is true.

When we speak about Christian children, we’re actually speaking about two different categories of people: Children who have been converted and baptized and believe in Christ with their whole hearts, and, more generally, the children of converted and baptized believers who are not yet themselves fully believing Christians. It’s important to make that distinction, because when we speak about education, we speak about raising up societies full of both kinds of people. If you want a Christian society, you need a Christian worldview even in the people who aren’t believers. In today’s America, we have the exact opposite: a humanist, godless, nihilistic worldview, even in believers.

As far as I know, I have five little unregenerate people running around my Christian home right now. While my children have the worldview of believers, none of them has yet made a strong profession of faith. I see my little ones attracted to the truth, though, and know that God their Shepherd is leading them toward it. If my little ones were in public school, there would be no one available throughout the better part of the day to catch those moments of interest and guide them to the truth. Instead, they’d be in an environment designed from the very beginning to squelch that truth.

Because they are under my authority, I can see to it that they have my worldview.  Because I place myself under Christ’s authority, that is the only worldview that my children can even imagine right now. That is how a Christian nation is built.

Christian public school parents, your children are not under your authority. If you think they are, try walking into their classrooms unannounced and directing them to do jumping-jacks all the way out the door to the car. Not only would you be escorted from the premises for disrupting class, your child herself would look at you as if you were insane, and then she would disobey you. Instead, she’d look to her teacher to get her out of this crazy situation. This would happen not because you’re insane, but because she recognizes the authority of the state above your own. (Though you obviously are insane. I mean, really. Jumping jacks, mom? But you’re still her parent, and she is still sinning when she disobeys you.)

But let’s have a less absurd example. Just go try to withdraw your child from school for a month of doing whatever you want to do. No explanation, no doctor’s note, no emergency. You just want to be with your child this month. See what the principal says about that. The very fact that you have to ask permission from a stranger who has no moral right to tell you what to do with your own child, rather than being able to politely and quickly retrieve your child, ought to tell you all you need to know.

Why do you think that putting your children under the teaching of the secular state for the “smaller” truths—the three r’s, health and PE, history—can be done safely and in such a way that they can still recognize the moral and spiritual authority of Christ in their day-to-day walk, when they can’t even recognize the authority of their own parents anymore?

Your children, when they go to public school, are not yours. So, then, whose are they? I know a lot of Christians are going to pipe up and say, “They’re Jesus’s!” But are they? I know from examining the last couple of generations’ fruit that most of them are emphatically not. They have no thought of Jesus, except as a little god in their pocket that they can pull out whenever they get out of class. You know, if they need him.  He is, by the very nature of the public school lifestyle, peripheral and private.

And Americans, even those of you who call yourselves Christian, he is peripheral and private to you, as well. If he weren’t, our nation would not—could not possibly—bear the rotten and bitter fruit that it has. You’ve been trained by your secular upbringing to subordinate Christ to every other area of life.

And you’re so well-trained that you don’t even know that you’re doing it. I look forward to the indignant comments that prove it.

Sore Thumb Syndrome

What to do when you stick out like a sore thumb…

I go everywhere with my five (going on six) children. This is mostly because I like going places with them, but also because they’re still too young to leave at home by themselves. When we go out in public, whether it is for shopping, recreation, or a quick library stop, I’ll often look up for a moment from whatever task I had been focusing on and find myself confronted with the unsettling (because I’m really rather shy) sight of someone staring at me. Just staring.

Many times, what I see is a look of pleasant interest. Often, I have seen looks of disgust. Other times, it has been pity or simply blank incomprehension. Sometimes it’s just plain amusement. It’s OK! I think we’re funny, too. People usually don’t seem to know that their thoughts are plainly written on their faces, and for the most part, they are simply reacting normally. Most people have very little experience with large families, and so I don’t blame them for wondering. Still, it requires a thickening of the skin to grow a large family–or, for that matter, to be different in any other way.

My children and I are well-behaved, civilized people–or so we think, at least. There is no public nose-picking or loud cursing or otherwise uncouth behavior in our ranks. (Well, alright. The nose-picking thing might be a problem for some of our younger ones. But the rest of us are fairly presentable.) Our clothes are whole, clean, and covering all the right body parts. We’re usually not even getting in anybody’s way! Even in Walmart, where being courteous enough to try not to block the middle of the aisle makes us even more of a rarity, we try to make sure that we’re not a nuisance.

“What’s the big deal?” I used to wonder.

Fortunately (for my curiosity’s sake, if not for that of my peace of mind) many of these individuals, upon noticing my noticing them noticing me, have pulled their faces back into a semblance of politeness and taken the time to tell me what it is that has them so shocked.

It is my brazen display of fertility!

I don’t mean to give the impression that we’re in danger of being stoned and left for dead every time we go to the library. Most people are, in fact, kind and sweet and accepting! Once even the most unguarded observer has picked his chin up from the floor and put on his company manners, he will still treat us as an oddity, but a harmless or even enjoyable one. Real hostility is rare, thank God! However, scattered amongst the harmless and amusing comments and smiles, there are always those scandalized few who are all too happy to let me know that what I’m doing is not at all socially acceptable:

“Doesn’t your husband know how this keeps happening?” (As if I’d somehow duped him into this.)

“Slow learner, huh?” (Spoken directly to my husband with a humiliating sidelong glance at my very-pregnant belly.)

“You poor thing! I’d go crazy!” (Um, my children have ears and they can HEAR you!)

“That’s too many! You can stop now.”

“Last one, I hope!”

Or, when spoken a certain way, the words that mean “you poor idiot” in the South: “Bless your heart!”

These are, thankfully, extreme examples, (hand-picked for their egregious rudeness). I try very hard not to lump them in with the well-meaning individuals who are just remarking out of surprise or interest.

But it is at times difficult to know how to respond, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but when I go grocery shopping, I don’t think I should have to talk about birth control with random men who don’t know me. People who are addressing you expect a response, and I was raised to offer one, so it puts me in kind of a bind.

What does one do, when one is weary of the whole discussion? 

I’ve given a name to this uneasy, unhelpful feeling I carry with me to Walmart: Sore Thumb Syndrome. Try as I might to ignore the fact, we stick out, and people notice, and sometimes what they say hurts. The temptation after a few painful encounters is to protect and defend, not engage. That’s natural! But defensiveness is almost never appropriate because most people aren’t trying to be hurtful.

I’m a pretty introverted person, and when I speak to people about things that matter, I don’t want it to be in the middle of the dairy aisle. Fortunately, I’ve learned how to do it anyway:

Be patient. My children haven’t taught me nearly as much patience as have the strangers who like to remark on the amount of patience I must have. I have to remind myself that this is a completely different person than the last person who said the exact same thing to me. Yes, I am tired of hearing “You’ve got your hands full.” But this lady doesn’t know that. I have to remember that the person in line behind me is not to be held responsible for the fact that I’ve already heard (and answered) that particular comment one hundred and thirty times. She gets my standard “Yes, ma’am, they keep me busy.” It’s not witty, but…well, I do have my hands full. I don’t have time to be witty!

Pay attention. Sometimes “bless your heart” is just a random comment. Sometimes it’s a door to a real conversation. Last month, a dear lady said that to me, and it did sound at first as if she were feeling sorry for me. But I stopped to talk with her for a minute, and found out that she’d had one child who (as she put it) “lived as a vegetable for eleven years” after a complicated delivery. After that, she was barren for ten years. Her second child was a wonderful blessing to her, and she wanted to talk to me about how blessed she was to have him. Her interest in my number of children was a chance for me to meet a kindred spirit, and a sister in Christ. It was her chance to talk about something that she probably didn’t have a lot of chances to talk about–her sacrificial love for her children. Her story ministered to me, and I hope I was able to minister to her in my response to it, as well. If I’d ignored her as I was tempted to do, I’d have missed a blessing! This sort of thing happens pretty frequently, so I’ve learned to never assume that there’s nothing new to learn from the same old remark.

Know that this is just small talk. Typically, people who like to do small talk will pick whatever topic first springs to mind. Forget about the weather. When you have five children hanging off your cart, they are what is going to come to mind first. Unfortunately, the fact that I hate small talk is not going to stop the people around me from loving it. “Introvert” is not the same thing as “rude”, so I’ve accepted that I’m going to have to suck it up and be the topic of conversation for a minute. It’ll be over in thirty seconds. I can handle thirty seconds of small talk.

Smile. The very last thing I ever want to do when asked about my very busy life is give the impression that I’m not enjoying it. That’s pretty tough to accomplish some days, not because I’m not enjoying it (I am!), but because the conversation itself is not pleasant. It is hard to smile and respond graciously when I’m told how much someone would hate to be in my shoes. This is an insult to my children! But I will not have my children thinking that our critics (and yes, some percentage of these people are critics, rather than just curious bystanders) must have a point because Mama is such a crankypants when she talks about it. Each one of these little people is a blessing in his own way. I can enjoy telling others about that, even if I don’t enjoy the way the conversation started.

Witness. You’ve got a conversation starter. Use it! As my mother-in-law reminded me recently, we are a peculiar people. Following Christ has led us to a very unusual lifestyle, and we must expect to be treated as oddballs. Christ sustains us, nurtures us, and yes, blesses us through our families! Never miss an opportunity to praise God for what he has done in your family. Children are a blessing!

As long as we’ve got this conversation going, though, let’s try very hard not make it all about the kids. See if you can find something out about the person to whom you’re speaking, as well, and minister in whatever small way you can. I certainly don’t do this every time, but there’s a nudge that the Holy Spirit gives when a little bit more than a smile and a nod is required. Go with that nudge.

Shamefully, I’ve been given to complain about the number of comments and questions I’ve gotten over the last few years. It is hard sometimes, and I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting it. But we need to be positive in our interactions with others, and complaining is a very bad thing to do. Jesus said so. We large-family parents are human, though, and this kind of attention (especially the cruel or unthinking kind) requires practice to handle gracefully. This is doubly true for those of us who prefer to go through life receiving very little attention at all.

Just as I’ve learned to thank God for the hard work of motherhood because the time that I’ll have these miracles in my home is so short, I’m certain that there will be a day when I miss even the strangest of comments, because the silence means that I’ve run out of ducklings to waddle behind me. Even the pettiest comments will fade away from my memory one day, but God will require an account of my response to each one.

35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

If I’ve learned one thing, it is this: Make your answers good. The person to whom you’re responding may need more than an empty, canned response.

How to Choose the Perfect Names

For your dust bunnies.

just ask the wemmicks

This month’s Just Ask the Wemmicks question is a variation on a question that I’ve gotten a number of times from moms who feel like they’re just barely squeaking by. I think readers might sometimes get the impression that because my blog is well-edited, my life must be, also. I think this post ought to put that notion to rest for once and for all.

The reader question:

How do I teach each child their lessons AND cook 3 nutritious meals a day AND nurse the baby AND keep everyone in clean clothes AND keep the dust bunnies at bay, all on very little sleep?! Did I mention that right now I’m only teaching 3 out of my 6 and we are focusing just on phonics and math?

So let’s talk about how I do all that for a moment, and then I’ll send you on your way to some mothers who (hopefully) have more helpful input to offer. I’m afraid my sole purpose in this life might be to give other mothers a feeling of comparative accomplishment.

Just get them reading. This might sound too simple to a more hands-on, buttoned-up kind of mom, but once my kids know how to read, I put most of the work off onto them. Now the teaching is up to them, and facilitating their self-teaching is my job. I assign quite a bit of independent work to my readers, but until a child is reading, phonics and math is enough. Let me repeat that: It is enough. You’ve got this already! Of course we do sciencey stuff together, and field trips, and handicrafts, and life skills, but the only regular mom-sits-down-with-one-kid-at-a-time things are math and phonics.

Healthy meals. Keep it as simple (read: lazy) as possible. Have a meal plan, but not an ambitious one. The crock pot is my best friend. As for health…well, there are a lot of health nuts who would rather die than belly up to our table, I’m sure. I buy sandwich bread at Walmart, and my kids have never heard of kombucha. We eat like hillbillies, frankly. Beans and taters, cornbread, and biscuits and gravy are common fare. When lunchtime rolls around and we’re in the middle of something, I am not ashamed to plunk down some hotdogs and call the pickle relish a vegetable. It’s fast, it fills their tummies, they like it, and shut up.

I also cook large batches of whatever is for dinner and have leftovers for lunch frequently. Beans are the gift that keep on giving. (In many, many ways. Toot!) Even a large family can get several meals out of two pounds of pintos. We eat them straight up one night with macaroni and cheese and a vegetable, then with rice and salsa for lunch the next day, then make beef and bean burritos another night, then the dregs go into the slow-cooker in a vegetable soup another night. Just stick with simple, familiar foods, get fast with a chef’s knife, and buy those labor-intensive tortillas pre-made like normal people do.

Nursing the baby. This is the one thing (for me) for which all else must stop. Since everyone in the family knows that, we have all learned a measure of patience.

Clean clothes. I really can’t over-emphasize how important it is to me to have a routine and stick to it with laundry. I hate laundry so much that if I didn’t have a schedule, I’d never do it. For us, it’s two loads a day, every week day. I fold and put away right after lunch. (OK, unless I’ve got pregnancy fatigue. The last couple of weeks, I’ve washed every day and then folded and put away every other day. Gotta have those naps.)

Dust bunnies. Learn to love them. I’ve named some of my bigger ones. We think they’re cute.

Sleep. Here is, I think, a clue as to why this mama feels like she’s not doing well enough. I suspect that she’s doing a fantastic job, but that sleep deprivation is coloring her perceptions a little bit. Moms, get enough sleep. You owe yourself and your family a well-rested mama. During the newborn months, I co-sleep, so there’s not a lot of waking up at night. If you move baby to a crib after a while (and I do), or if you don’t co-sleep at all, you probably can’t expect to always be well-rested until baby figures out how to sleep alone. I know that. It’s just a little while, and then you’ll have good sleep again. In the meantime, muddle on through. There really isn’t much to be done for it at these times.

But we moms do sabotage ourselves sometimes, don’t we?  I have caught myself sitting up until 11:30 when baby was asleep by 8:00. I could have been sleeping, like a responsible person! I stay up and read or write because it’s my time to wind down and not have anybody need me. It seems like a good thing to do, until I wake up at 6:00 a.m. and have to do all that on less sleep than I need. So go to bed! I certainly don’t always go to bed early enough (working on that), but my tiredness is often due to my own choices, not my children’s needs.

And now, I will send you on your way to some ladies who most likely have more helpful things to say than I do. Be sure to click through and pay all the Wemmicks a visit!

In The Nursery of the Nation

Walking Redeemed

E-Homebody

Mom’s Many Lessons

Visionary Womanhood

Generation Cedar

Pssst! There’s an affiliate link in this post. Here’s your mommy blogger grain of salt.

Update: I have written a follow-up post for those who feign concern for the welfare of my family. Click here to get your panties unwadded, free of charge.

A Wee Little Announcement

There’s a reason I’m not blogging much, and it ain’t homeschooling. Well, I mean it is, but it’s also the fact that I’m too sick and tired to get anything done beyond meals and lessons. Sick and tired is good, though, because of  the reason for it. God willing, Little Baby #6 will be joining us in April!

If you follow along on Facebook or Twitter, you probably already know that. If you don’t, then…well, why not? You should be doing that.

I’ve got a Lilla Rose (yay!) giveaway and a Titus 2 Tuesday coming up in the next couple of weeks. Other than that, I have no plans at all for this blog for several weeks. I’m just too sick. I’ve never been so wiped out with a pregnancy. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or maybe I’m lacking some vital nutrients, or maybe this means it’s a girl (my girl was way harder on me than my boys), or maybe it’s twins (that seems unlikely, but the doctor thought he might have seen two heartbeats, but it could have been a shadow. 10% chance, he says. So really unlikely.), or maybe I’ve just become a wimp since the last pregnancy. Whatever it the cause, I need naps. Lots and lots of naps. Not blog posts. Naps. 

That doesn’t mean there won’t be any blog posts, of course. Classic underachiever that I am, as soon as the pressure to JUST WRITE SOMETHING is off, I’ll probably crank out half a dozen great posts. Or maybe I’ll take another nap. Time will tell.

(P.S. I will not be doing those adorable week-by-week belly shots that some moms do for the simple reason that I am not adorable. I’d like to keep my subscribers if at all possible, and belly shots just wouldn’t further that goal. But Bambi is that adorable. You should read In the Nursery of the Nation. She’s blogging right through all of it, photos and everything. Makin’ me look bad, is what.)

Losing Our Kids to the World

A few months ago I was talking with a dear friend of mine, and we got onto the topic of homeschoolers losing their grown children to the world. These are not just run-of-the-mill unbelievers, either, but the kind of prodigals who are actively, vocally opposed to Christian homeschooling. The internet is teeming with this sort of article by what seems to be a whole generation of children raised by religious zealots who won’t even let them out of the basement for fear of being contaminated by the world.

“Rebecca,” I said. “We have to find out why this is happening! What are these parents doing? What can we do to keep our own generation from making the same mistakes? We have to figure this out. I don’t want to lose my kids!” (Her answer was characteristically wise, and I suggest you go get to know her blog as soon as you finish reading this post.)

My mommy-heart faints at the idea of my children turning on me because I gave them Jesus as I know Him. And in such a public way! For shame! That’s the kind of thing that keeps a Christian homeschooling mom up at night, isn’t it, Dear Reader? What if I ruin my kids, and bring dishonor to the name of Christ?  And yet, Jesus is all I can give them. He’s all I hold dear!

Since that conversation with Rebecca, I have read many articles about the grown non-Christian (or worldly-Christian) children of “fundamentalist” Christian homeschoolers. Not one of them contains any evidence beyond the say-so of the unbelieving child, and not one of them is even-handed enough to actually give the accused parents a chance to defend themselves. (Here is another example.) These aren’t news items, but gossipy hit pieces. But they’re useful hit pieces, for all that. Though they are most likely only half true in their descriptions of their homes, I think that these parents are, in fact, making some major mistakes that every Christian ought to know better than to make. And lest you start to feel too anxious, Christian homeschoolers (because that’s a whole ‘nother post, and I don’t want to keep you in suspense), what I’ve figured out is that having been raised on a steady diet of Jesus is not the problem with these prodigal children.

Don’t get too comfortable with that conclusion just yet, though. The truth is a heavy burden, and I’m about to lay it on you the way it’s been laid on me.

Look at the way Jesse and I are raising our children. We’re not as far out as some, but the non-Christian world would certainly call us radical. The first thing I do with my children every day is pray at breakfast. Then we clean up, and then we pray some more during our family devotions. And then we read the Bible, after which we do scripture memorization. When we walk outdoors, we talk about how God made things, and we thank Him for those things. I quote scripture to my children all day long. We sing hymns. Not all of our curriculum is written by Christians, but our worldview colors everything. Even in math, Christ is King, for he ordered the universe in this marvelous way! When the day is over, we pray again, and then I pray for them all before I go to bed. Our whole life is a prayer!

And this, according to scripture, is how it should be:

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
–Colossians 3:16-17

There are in addition to these constant prayers and hymns, many other things that we do (or don’t do) that set us very much apart even from the average Christian family. I won’t go into those here because they are personal convictions of the sort that God leads His children to in His own time, and for His own purposes, and I don’t want to be seen setting down rules that aren’t really rules.

We do this stuff because Mommy and Daddy love Jesus. We love Him, and we want our children to love Him, and so we teach them what we know of Him. Suppose these families simply did what we’re doing, and their children are twisting the truth about their upbringing to justify their own unbelief? Do we really think that these parents whose children so malign them are so different from ourselves?

Now, I don’t want to be taken to be saying that I know that there are no legalists out there who have decided that Biblical living stopped in the nineteenth century, and so they stuff their girl children into ankle-length Little House on the Prairie dresses and make them churn butter and watch their mother’s children all day because that’s all girls can do.

But even while admitting that those people might be out there, and condemning, at the very least, the kind of Phariseeism that could bring these reactions about, I can’t fail to notice that, in appearance at least, I’m doing a lot of the same things that these supposedly horrible parents are. If you’re a homeschooler, chances are that you are doing a lot of these things, too. Having more than the usual number of babies, or screening your curriculum for evolutionary beliefs, or wearing skirts—these are all the kinds of things that come under the scrutiny of the world when we let our children out into it. When you strip away the complaints about skirt-wearing, fuddy-duddy dress codes, the expectation of homemaking for mothers, and all the other things that many, many Christians believe not out of a desire to earn their salvation through works, but out of a worldview drawn from the scriptures we so love, what is left is this one complaint:

Too much Jesus. Not enough me.

The threat in these articles is clear: Christians who raise their children at home with Jesus as the first, last, and only purpose of their lives will lose their children. The world is coming to rescue them from us because the Bible is drawing us toward all sorts of unpopular conclusions that just won’t stand up in our scientific, feminist age. And do you know what keeps me up at night, praying for wisdom and mercy and courage to continue on the path of the Cross?

These people aren’t entirely wrong.

If my children leave my home without hearts that have been changed by the Gospel, I will lose them in the same spectacular way that these parents have. If my children find themselves identifying strongly with the world when I release them into it (and this goes for non-homeschooling Christian parents as well), they are going to think of me in the same hateful way, because I am human, and I stumble. I give the Accuser ammunition to use against me daily. Every time I get mad over spilled milk instead of smiling and wiping it up cheerfully, I give my future grown children tales to tell, not just against me, but against Christ himself.

This reaction, as much as I’d like to think I could prevent it through some action of my own, won’t have a thing in the world to do with the convictions with which Jesse and I raise our children, but with the condition of their hearts. I know this, because I was once a bitter child of good, Christian parents, and I said similar things about them. I called them hypocrites. (What a filthy liar I was!) I said they didn’t really love me, and that all they cared about was their stupid religion. I said they just wanted me to be good for the sake of my dad’s ministry, not because my soul mattered to them.

I slandered my own parents, not because they’d done me wrong, but because they represented Jesus and I didn’t want anything to do with the real Jesus. (Note also that I was not homeschooled.) And I know others who were just like me, and still slander their parents in this way.

Knowing that my children may resent me for it someday, I must now take up that lonely Cross, just as my parents did. This is what Jesus meant when He said

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.”

–Luke 14:26

He meant that we must be prepared to lose even those people we hold dearest. And, for the majority of us who still battle the idol of Self, this also means being willing to be maligned by our own children for the Gospel. Even if it were a certainty that my children would judge me so harshly and so publicly when they are grown, I could do no other than I am doing now. This is the way of the Cross, rejecting the world, even if the world is the child your heart breaks over every time you close your eyes in prayer.

Moms and dads, this doesn’t let us off the hook. We are responsible for our choices. We are responsible for everything we do in the name of the Lord. We are responsible for our words. We are–listen carefully–responsible for loving our children to the Lord, without imposing harsh legalisms born of our own self-righteousness.

But we are not responsible for our outcomes. GOD is responsible for our outcomes. And I rest in that, just as much as I tremble over the uncertainty of it and cry out to Him for mercy for my babies. I can’t love Jesus for my kids. I can only love Him in front of them. My convictions come from Love, not Law, but the world—the world that my children could leave me for someday–doesn’t know the difference. All they see when they see Christ is hate, because they hate Christ.

That’s a risk I have to take.

Three Decades of Fertility

Three Decades of FertilityIn our culture, fertility is something that is expected to simply be there when you want it, and vamoose whenever you tell it to. Contrary to our modern understanding of womanhood, when God designed the female body, he designed fertility to be a constant part of many decades of our lives. Since the Fall, of course, bearing children has been a sorrowful experience, and not as easy as it would have been if the first parents hadn’t been disobedient to God. But when God cursed Eve with sorrowful childbearing, he also promised her redemption through a special Offspring still to come. When she gave birth to her firstborn son, she said “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” She knew then, though our generation has largely forgotten, that it is only with God’s help that we are able to bring forth and nurture our children, and not because of any choice that we make. (We may choose not to have a child, but ask an infertile couple whether one can ever really choose to have a child.)

Through scripture, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we find that God’s design for our lives and bodies has very little in common with the world’s idea of what full-grown, virtuous womanhood looks like. The experience of motherhood is one that modern women have sought to control with technology as one controls the temperature in an uncomfortable room with a thermostat. But strong, godly women are built through trials and difficulties, not in environmentally controlled hothouses. Trying to get everything juuuuust right, especially regarding our families, we often miss out on the blessing of learning to adapt to our environment as it is.

Three Decades of Fertility is a book about adaptation. Any woman who has ever wondered if she could (or should even attempt to) handle motherhood more than once or twice will find within its pages proof that God can and does make wonderful mothers out of the iffy material of fallen woman. As it turns out, no woman is “just built for it” in the beginning. It is through motherhood that God makes mothers of us!

In this inspiring book, ten women of God explain through their personal stories how the whirlwind of natural, (mostly) unimpeded fertility has challenged their hearts, grown their marriages,  and stretched their faith. Not all of the writers of this book started out with the idea that a whole passel of kids was what they wanted out of life. Some did, but some were greatly surprised by the plan God had for their families. No matter where you are as a woman right now–staring down two lines on a pregnancy test for the first time, struggling with multiple miscarriages or dangerous pregnancy complications, or cruising through baby number eight and enjoying the ride–this book should be useful to you. It is full of stories of the difficulties, doubts, tribulations, and (thank God!) glorious triumphs that these women would never have experienced if they’d curtailed their fertility instead of riding out three decades’ worth of letting God do His work of procreation through them.

Included in Three Decades of Fertility are chapters on staying healthy through the fertile decades and beyond. It also contains a question and answer section full of good theology and motherly common sense from each of the writers. Ever wonder if it’s fair to have children when you’re not a spring chicken anymore, or whether your younger children might become a burden to their older siblings? Whether God expects us to be more “responsible” with our fertility than to keep getting pregnant after multiple miscarriages? These women answer those questions and more with wisdom and insight born of experience.

Ready to read? Enter to win a copy here! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Or, if you don’t want to wait to see who wins (and let’s face it, odds are it’s probably not gonna be you), you can just buy the book now. It’s available in softcover, PDF, or Kindle format.

Pssst! There’s an affiliate link in here. I like to eat, and affiliate sales buy some of our groceries. Thank you for supporting GAH with your purchases! More about how this website makes (a little) money can be found here.

just ask the wemmicksThe ladies who write at Visionary Womanhood have decided to answer readers’ questions as a group, each lady writing an article on her own blog for a single topic. I have inexplicably been included in this amazing group, even though I have a) never yet written a post there, though I hope to soon, and b) don’t know beans about anything but…well, beans. I’ve been holed up in my ivory tower rusty old double-wide for so long that I have NO idea how the real world works. Or so some trolls have told me. 😉

Sounds like fun, telling people what I think, doesn’t it? Never tried that before.

You’ll find links to more posts by people (affectionately dubbed “Wemmicks“) who actually know what they’re talking about at the end of this post.

On to the question:

“My question is regarding protecting our children from seeing too much skin in the summer months. A few years ago, my husband and I realized that we cannot go to public beaches and waterslide anymore because of the amount of skin exposure. We want to protect our boys’ minds. It has been TOUGH. We do not have free access to any pools, and we have to get out to the lake early enough to find a private spot. It is not always a good spot for teaching our youngest children to swim. Recently, we have been going to a semi-private spot near a major beach. It is turning out to not be *private enough*, since we are still exposed to some inappropriate swimwear. Today we dropped a few of our older sons off with extended family for a boating trip. There was a bikini involved, which was something we had not anticipated. My husband had an uncomfortable conversation, she got dressed, but I am unsure of what happened after we left. I am starting to feel like such a compromiser!
Most of our conservative friends do not bother themselves much with this issue, and still go to public beaches…I was hoping that someone at Visionary Womanhood might have some insights on all of this. I would love to hear from an older teen boy/young adult who was raised by parents who guarded his eyes. Do all of you avoid all boating trips and boat docks in addition to the public beaches? How do you deal with extended family who are showing too much skin?”

For the sake of full disclosure, I should admit that I hate swimming, so my kids don’t actually get the chance very often anyway. As my kids get older, I’m sure I’ll have to deal with this question on more than a theoretical level, though, and this how I think about this issue right now.

First of all, I don’t believe that you, dear Mom, are compromising by letting your boys go boating with your extended family. There was just an unforeseen difference of opinion between you and your relatives regarding standards of modesty. You were taken aback by the situation, and I daresay the girl who was thusly dressed was equally blind-sided. I do hope that your husband gently helped her see her choice of (un)covering in a new light. If not, then, I’d advise against further boating trips.

Secondly, I don’t believe that public bathing is necessary to well-rounded living, so if you were to say “That’s it. No more water parks, beaches, or pools, ever again!” I won’t be one of the people saying you’re throwing the baby out with the nasty, peed-in bath water. Especially for teen boys, there are just going to be times when other kinds of fun should be sought out for the sake of their raging hormones. If swimming is a favorite pastime, it makes sense to try to find more private areas, or limit swimming to situations where you control the guest-list.

The Lord Loves a Fuddy Duddy

The Lord Loves a Fuddy-Duddy

Don’t sweat the incidental stuff. If you’ve found a semi-private swimming spot, but every now and then someone will wander into view whom you’d rather not see, redirect your kids’ eyes. Use the moment to teach them that temptation often comes around without invitation, and how to handle it. This is how we do our trips past the magazine racks and drives through our college town (put on some clothes, girls!), too. If you have to leave early and spoil all the fun, so be it. If you can just look somewhere else until the person has passed, then teach your kids to do the same. Perhaps your obvious ( but quiet!) embarrassment will serve as a polite rebuke. Doubtful, I suppose, but it could happen.

Give some grace. I do believe we should jealously guard our sons’ eyes for them while they learn self-control. With girls who are in your circle of family or friends, that might mean you have to say something, since you can’t boot the dear girl out of your life entirely. Any time we speak to someone about immodest apparel, we’re opening ourselves up to accusations of being judgmental, so I hope your husband chose his words carefully. There is a way of making someone feel ashamed that is wrong and self-seeking, but opening a person’s eyes to real shame that is self-inflicted is a loving act, however poorly received it might be.

I wonder if she really knew what she looked like. I have myself had to rethink what constitutes a modest bathing suit since viewing a video of myself in a pool a few years ago. I thought I had been wearing a modest suit, and I was horribly embarrassed to find out otherwise. Yikes! I’ve been a lot more careful when trying on bathing suits since then, believe me.

Like me, she may have just needed someone to guide her to a full-length mirror for a clue. Even if she is one of those girls who knows good and well what she looks like, I’d say your husband was right to say something under these circumstances. But your standards are your standards, not the wider culture’s, so don’t expect any real change right away. If things haven’t improved with your gentle input, you’re better off avoiding the situation entirely.

The Lord loves a fuddy-duddy. We do need to flee temptation, however uncool and over-sensitive our family and neighbors (and even fellow Christians) may think us. They may be less sensitive to nakedness, but that doesn’t mean you have to sear your conscience to make them feel good about it. In our hyper-sexualized culture, we are the weird ones for even bringing up the idea of modesty. We are probably going to be left out of these kinds of entertainments more often than not, even when other Christians don’t see the harm.

It’s OK to be left out of unwise doings. That might be a really hard lesson for a child or teenager to learn, but it’s an important one. There are, even within “Christian” circles, those who delight in dampening the morals of those around them.

Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.

–Proverbs 4:14-16

Be sure to read what the rest of the Wemmicks think, too!

The Homebody Wemmick
The Visionary Wemmick
The Generation Cedar Wemmick
The Counter Cultural Wemmick

The Lamp on a Stand Wemmick
The Wemmick at Mom’s Many Lessons
The Wemmick In the Nursery of the Nation
The Thankful Homemaker Wemmick

If you’re interested in learning more about modesty–the heart kind, not the hemline kind–I highly recommend Bambi Moore’s More Than Rules: Exploring the Heart of Beauty and Modesty.

(There’s an affiliate link in this post. Just so ya know.)

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Black Bean Veggie Burgers--Very filling, and my kids LOVE them!Hush up and eat your beans.

We’ve been in extreme frugal mode lately. I’m leaving windows open and using fans instead of turning on the A/C, not running out for pizza every time the meal plan goes berserk, and generally finding ways to make life slightly less comfortable for everybody. We’re fairly frugal as a rule, but I’ve been shocked to look at our budget in the last month or two.  I don’t know what got into me, but this must stop!

One of the things about frugal eating that drives Jesse bonkers is the meatlessness of the menu. Nothing says “poverty” quite like beans and rice every night, right? But beans are good for you, and there are a lot of ways to dress them up to make meals satisfying enough to get you all the way to breakfast without craving a midnight snack.

You want to complain about beans for supper? My dad grew up eating beans for breakfast. It’s what poor folks had in the garden, and sometimes it was all they had, so it’s what they ate. So don’t you complain about meatless meals. This is good food.

Black Bean Veggie Burgers
Author: 
Recipe type: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A filling vegetarian burger that even the kids love.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked black beans, drained
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • ½ cup fresh parsley
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, minced fine
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke or Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ to 1 cup of AP flour (depending on how well-drained your beans were)
  • oil for frying
Instructions
  1. Mash beans until fairly smooth.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  3. Fry 'em up.
  4. Serve on buns (I like these) with your favorite toppings. Try some slivers of jalapeno or avocado slices.
Notes
I like to grate my carrots in the food processor, then change to the blade to mash and mix in the beans and parsley. You can always mash the beans with a fork, though. All the rest of the ingredients get mixed in with a spoon.
The mixture will be stiff, but not really easy to handle, so I use a spoon to plop them in the pan instead of trying to shape them into patties.
These burgers need to fry up fairly crisp before you turn them.
Experiment with the first one to make sure you've got the right consistency before frying a whole pan full.