What Are You Known For?

A few nights ago, as I tucked my almost 7 year old daughter into bed, she engaged her usual stall tactic as I headed to her bedroom door.  She has a knack for asking deep questions at bedtime, although come to think of it, I’m not sure it’s as much a stall tactic as just her natural inclination.  Anyway, she stops me in my tracks with the question “Mom, what are you known for?”

Now, my sweet girl did not know that this is just the question I’ve been struggling with again lately.  You see, I really hate to admit it because I KNOW, comparisons are bad and unnecessary and a sucking black vortex into discontent, but I do fall into the comparison trap much more than I would like.  I find that social media can be a snare for me when I find myself in that place, especially Ye Olde Facebook.  I love to read blogs, and typically the ones I read are by women that encourage me in my faith in Christ and inspire me to step out on faith and change my perspective in a variety of ways. Yet those same women that encourage me on one blog earlier in the week can often be the same women I compare myself to later in the week.  A series of photos or status updates by people on Facebook that I am friends/acquaintances with can send me into a vulnerable flurry of doubts if I’m already feeling down, discouraged, frustrated, or just having an “off” day.

So this leads back to the question “What are you known for?”  I had been struggling because I was buying the lie our culture tells, both purposefully and accidentally at times, that being a mom isn’t enough.  That I need to be a mom AND have a career, that I need to be a mom AND an athlete, that I need to be a mom AND be recognized for whatever else pops into my head at the moment.  And ironically, when I’m not stressed or discouraged (and even sometimes when I am), I’m one of the first people to remind other women that being a mom is a calling.  For real- A CALLING.  I think we as moms often find ourselves downplaying the importance of what we do because we share the motherhood status with so many other women.  At least, I’ve found myself in that place.  There is truth that it is hard to feel something is special when it is common. But you know?  While motherhood may be a common, everyday role, it is also exciting, extraordinary, and yes, special.  Because not one of us, not one, parents exactly the same way, with exactly the same kids, in exactly the same circumstances.  God absolutely positively chose me to be the mother to my children, fitting us together to complete part of His puzzle.  Another mom would not fit in the exact way needed.  And if you are a mom reading this, He chose you in the same way.  Ironically, I feel entirely fulfilled in being a stay-at-home-mom who happens to also homeschool my children.  At least, I feel fulfilled until I let myself buy into that terrible lie that I shouldn’t be, that I should want more.

When my daughter asked the question, the first thing that popped into my head and out of my mouth was “I suppose I’m known for being your mom.”  She asked “What else?”, so I added that I enjoy writing and since I had something I had written published, that that could qualify (not that many beyond those close to me know that, but anyway).  But as I turned to head out of her room, I realized I was answering the question wrong.  I’m not going to lie and say I don’t want to be known for something sometimes.  Yet ultimately, I want to be known as a follower of Jesus.  I want HIM to be known.  And I want whatever gifts He has given me to glorify Him, not just serve as a well-liked status update or a chance to bask in a brief moment of glory.  And I took a minute more to tell her that.  Because if she can get that idea down now, on the cusp of turning 7, then her focus will be less on herself and more on Him- something her mama is working on.

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Why I Don’t Want to Be a Supermom

It seems to be everywhere.  The Supermom complex, I mean.  The growing pressure in our society to “do it all”.  Whether pressure we feel from others or pressure we place on ourselves, it is a very real thing.  Oftentimes I hear (or see if on social media) people complimenting moms by calling them a supermom, implying that they have it all, do it all, and don’t break a sweat in the process.

But you know?  I don’t want to be called a supermom (and all of you that know me well know there is no real danger of that!).  I do not aspire to be the perfect cook, perfect decorator, perfect homeschooling parent, perfect crafter, sewer, baker, mom, wife, and so forth.  There are times where I long to be better than I am at any or all of the above, and I strive to do my best in the variety of roles I am called to.  However, I feel there is a difference between “Supermom” and even an example of a woman such as the Proverbs 31 woman.

Granted, reading through Proverbs 31 can be intimidating, and I confess, has left me feeling a bit inadequate at times.  Yet the P31 woman is meant to be a composite of Godly, womanly characteristics rather than a very strict job description to be followed.  For example, I may not know how to sew bed coverings (Proverbs 31:22), but I can make sure my family has what they need to stay warm at night.  If that means using a coupon at Kohls to get a blanket for 75% off, then I believe that works!  The point, from my understanding, of the P31 passage is to illustrate characteristics we as women should strive for (and characteristics men should look for in a wife): industriousness, kindness to others, honoring our husbands, loving our children, taking care of our families, being wise stewards of what we have been given, and so forth.  Will these be done perfectly?  No, of course not.   Can we do these in our own power?  Not at all.  And that is the point.

To me, the supermom moniker indicates that that mom can do it all, that she is in control and on top of things- that she doesn’t need any help and does it all in her own power.  Is a woman like that even easy to relate to?  Speaking for myself, I am much more comfortable around women that are honest about both their successes AND their failures.  It’s just more real.  When women feel pressure to do and be everything, it is exhausting and overwhelming and unrealistic.  Ironically, it can lead to the exact opposite of characteristics like caring for your family and being kind to others- I know the times where I have taken on too much in order to appear “super” in some way, I have been less than the best mom and wife I can be!  I feel like the Christmas season brings out this need to be perfect more than many other times of year.  We lay high expectations on ourselves to perform so we can have a Norman Rockwell-esque Christmas, all the while wearing ourselves ragged and missing the simple joy in the smaller things.

It tells us in both Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12 that God gave us all different gifts.  While these passages speak mainly of spiritual gifts, I believe they can also be applied to the various skills and talents we have been given.  These gifts are given to us to be used to glorify the Lord and bless others, not to glorify ourselves.  And how beautifully they allow us to complement each other instead of compete with each other.   I’m not saying we can’t be excited about something we accomplish and share it with others, but I know we are supposed to point others to Him in the process.  It’s something I do strive for even though I often fall short.

How freeing is it though to really throw off the desire or attempt to be a supermom?  Think about it!  Less pressure to perform, permission to be who we are while growing in who we are called to be!  Drawing attention to Christ rather than ourselves?  I find that to be a beautiful, wonderful thing!  Yes, there are times I want to be praised, admired, have something I’ve made be pinned repeatedly on Pinterest or liked ten times over on Facebook.  But that’s when I know I need to keep my perspective in check and make sure that while my works may praise me (Proverbs 31:31), that ultimately, they praise the One who gave them to me.

Be encouraged ladies!  You don’t have to be a supermom!  Working to glorify Him and bless others is what we are called to, and we do it in His grace, not in our power, and with the unique gifts He has given us.  So relax, enjoy this season, do what you have been uniquely given to do and stop comparing your Charlie Brown Christmas tree or attempts at baking homemade bread with the mini Rockefeller trees and braided loaf breads of others.  😉

Pure and Lovely?

How do you write a post that you know may upset some of your friends? I guess you have to weigh out the possibility of giving offense with the love and concern for dear friends and acquaintances, and really, the culture, that led you to writing the post in the first place.

Over the past few weeks I’ve watched a few phenomena sweep through the pages of social media and swirl around in discussions with friends and strangers.  The first two that come to mind are 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike.  I haven’t read Shades and I don’t plan to see Magic Mike, which I understand releases in theaters today.  This is why….

First, before people start pushing the “she’s just being judgmental” button, I want to make a distinction between two different types of judgement.  There is a difference between comparing truths and making distinctions about things and condemning a person.  So considering that I’ve compared truths and made distinctions to arrive at my conclusion as to why women, and especially my Christian sisters, shouldn’t read 50 Shades or go to Magic Mike, than yes, by that definition, I am being judgmental. But I am being judgmental of the books and movie, NOT the dear ladies engaging in one or both.  I am not condemning you for choosing to get involved with either of these examples nor am I  judging your soul,  just to be clear here.  I just want to share my heart out of concern for women.  (end disclaimer- and for a great post on judgement, click here).

Anyway…I’ve read many thoughtful, well-written posts by friends and strangers alike on Fifty Shades of Grey, and shared one or two of these on Facebook.  I’ve read through the comments on these posts, both pro-Shades and anti-Shades.   I haven’t read the books because, first and foremost I strive to go by the Philippians 4:8 guideline “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I don’t always succeed but it is a wonderful tool against which to measure entertainment.  Secondly, do I want my husband engaging in porn?  No, of course not.  Then why would I engage in what basically amounts to pornography for women? 50 Shades is called Erotic Fiction for a reason.  It has graphic, extended sex scenes. It is designed to stimulate sexual lust, and uses bondage as one of the main vehicles for stimulating lust.  Christian women, we were designed to be stimulated by our husbands, and our husbands only.  If you are unmarried, then these books will awaken desires in you that are not meant to be awoken yet.  And if you are married, please do not use these books as a way to “spice things up”- using erotica/porn is actually proven to become an addiction in part because, like drinking too much with an alcohol addiction, your brain chemistry is altered and you end up craving more and more of it to reach the desired effect.  Focus on your husband- and focus on creating intimacy, not just sexual fulfillment!  For more on this in more detail, click here and here.  I’ll stop listing reasons here, as I’m going to give you one more link that shares much more eloquently than I can on the subject, and that is here.  This last one is especially for my sisters in Christ.

Magic Mike is a bit more subtle, ironically, given the fact that via a heavy ad campaign and social media, Channing Tatum’s physique has been emphasized heavily and at the speed of a viral youtube video.  I’ve seen pins on pinterest tongue and cheek asking God to make Magic Mike in 3D, or thanking Him for the casting decisions.  One of the newer ones is making the rounds on Facebook stating “I want to see Magic Mike for the compelling line, said no one, ever.”  And really, therein lies the issue.  I haven’t heard one woman say that she is going to see this movie because the storyline is so captivating.  And while women are being honest about their reasons for going, I’m afraid Christian women in particular have bought into the lies of our culture that argue this is harmless fun, and that women should get together and go out and enjoy watching these half-naked (and probably more than that) men on screen.

The appeal doesn’t escape me, of course, because of course I get it.  I get the need for women to go out for ladies’ nights out, the appealing thrill of seeing these handsome guys in this kind of movie…but.  The need for caution and the fact that this movie does not qualify for the Philippians 4:8 guideline I mentioned above cancels it out for me.  It isn’t pure.  It isn’t honorable. Sure, there are apparently cautionary tales, such as a longing for a stable relationship and consideration of life outside of being a stripper, but the tale is muffled by the excess of male flesh ((and apparently many of the strippers go on to great success in the movie so that kind of cancels out any realization Magic Mike may or may not have anyway).

And I have to link the movie with 50 Shades at least in part- both are, in essence, pornographic.  Good ol’ Merriam Webster defines pornography as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement”.  Both Shades and Mike qualify.  You can’t tell me that neither of these aren’t intended to cause sexual excitement.  Ladies, do we want our husbands looking at pornography?  Do we want our husbands fantasizing about other women instead of us?  My answer to that is a very loud, resounding “NO!”  If this movie was about women strippers, or porn stars, would we be okay with our husbands having a guys’ night out and going to see it?

We have become so accustomed to seeing and hearing about sex that I’m afraid Christians have a hard time looking less like the culture and more like Christ.  Movies like this definitely do not help, as they appear harmless fun but end up doing more harm than good.  Guard your eyes, your hearts, and your marriages.  Please, just take these things into consideration and pray about it.  And if you aren’t a Christian, please also think about the danger of pornography and it’s less than innocent affect on you and those you love.  And pray for me as I fight to think only on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, and anything worthy of praise– because in today’s culture, it is a fight indeed.

A never fail diet.

It’s been a hard few weeks if you live in the state of NC, especially if you happen to frequent social media and have friends/acquaintances on both sides of the Amendment One issue.  My heart breaks over the hateful/inflammatory comments from both sides, the pain felt by people on both sides, and the division.  Especially the division amongst Christians.

I considered writing about the amendment and my perspective, but 1) I’m not sure I can do that right now, and 2)  I’m not sure it’s necessary.  I do feel a need to continue to process, but that can be done privately and given the current state of affairs, probably should be.  I don’t presume to think anything I have to say on these topics needs to be heard right now, at least not via a blog or social media outlet.  I think that is one of our current problems, trying to have serious, heartfelt discussions on heavily-charged issues using superficial forums like Facebook.  That’s another post though.

Related to all of this, however, is how to deal with the range of emotions all of this conflict has resulted in both personally and vicariously.  My heart has been heavy and I’ve vacillated between sorrow, anger, and feeling almost numb.  Today, as I continue to ponder all of this, I am doing it in between homeschooling, cleaning, and taking extra care of my 2 year old who seems to have a cold complete with runny nose and  fever.  As lunchtime rolled around, he initially only wanted yogurt to eat (one of his all-time faves) and I could tell he was in desperate need of nap (read:  SUPER CRANKY).  I found myself hoping he would eat something else but reminded myself that the yogurt may be all he can manage right now.  Thankfully, as he watched his sister gobble down a piece of peanut butter and jelly toast, my little guy decided that it looked rather appealing and managed a piece of PB&J toast as well.  I breathed a sigh of relief and recalled a few weeks ago when his 4 year old sister had a 24 hour stomach bug and could barely eat anything for a few hours.  Then I think back to when I was nursing both of them and how one of my biggest struggles as a new mom was worrying that they weren’t getting enough milk, that their growth was somehow being impacted, or that they would become ill or malnourished.

Even as they grow into toddlerhood and beyond, however, and their health and growth is much better established, our responsibility and desire for their continued nourishment and well-being does not change.  As parents, we know that eating healthy foods and getting enough water (and milk) is critical to their growth.  When it appears that they are not receiving adequate nourishment, whether sick or for another reason, we do our best to give them what they need, be it through encouraging, imploring, begging, bribing, supporting…we do what it takes because we know what can happen if their nourishment is inadequate.  They become weak, frail, and growth slows.

As I made my son his peanut butter toast, I had the realization that just as I am concerned about my kids’ nourishment, my Father in heaven is concerned about mine.  There are many scriptures that talk about our spiritual nourishment; one of the most significant ones to me is John 6:35: “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  This verse alone is absolutely incredible when you really think about what it means.  When you factor in all the verses about the word of God serving as nourishment, such as Matthew 4:4 (But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”) and you equate the fact that in John 1:1 Jesus is described as being the Word (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”), the enormity of what it all means is overwhelmingly wonderful!  Jesus is the bread of life, He is also the Word, and we are instructed to live by every word from the mouth of God.  We live by Christ.  He is our sustenance.  He is our nourishment.  Without Him, we become weak, frail, and our growth slows.  And ultimately stops.

This is not a new concept to me personally- I have heard sermons on the above scriptures and have read through them multiple times.  But no matter how many times I think about the above truths, whether it be the first or the fiftieth, the beauty and significance of those truths grabs a hold of me tightly, yet in a way that frees me.

What did catch me entirely anew earlier today as I made lunch for my kids is the thought of how God may feel when we choose not to eat the Bread He offers us.  How my Father feels when we are too sick to eat, or too picky…thinking something else will satisfy.  Or, in the most desperate of times, when we don’t believe we deserve to be loved and feel so much despair that our interest in eating wanes and we slowly punish ourselves by depriving ourselves of the One Thing (Person) that would bring peace to our souls and joy to our lives.  I believe He is concerned for us, He encourages us, He implores us to seek Him.  To find our fulfillment in Him.  To satiate our deepest hunger and quench our never-ending thirst, and to answer our soul’s cry of “Am I loved?” with a resounding, passionate YES!

Without Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Word of God, all the heartaches, misunderstandings, sinful situations, and conflict would be overwhelming, hopeless, and spirit-crushing.  Only through seeking Him in the current situations we are facing do I find peace, the truth that is to be gently taught, and the love in which we are to show to others to point others to HIm.   And truthfully, I say in love that ultimately, Jesus is the answer we are all seeking and only through Him will you find the sustenance needed for your soul.

Book Review: A Sound Among the Trees

I still participate occasionally in the Blogging for Books program through WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing, and recently read one of Susan Meissner’s most recent novels, A Sound Among the Trees.  For those of you that check in on my blog regularly, her name may sound familiar to you, as I have reviewed two other novels written by her as well due to my love of historical fiction.

True to her form, Susan Meissner once again explores the world of historical fiction in A Sound Among the Trees.  The reader is left exploring two worlds throughout the novel, vacillating between the familiar modern-day and the remarkable years of the Civil War.  The story surrounds generations of women that had lived within the halls of Holly Oak, a  beautiful mansion in Virginia that survived the Civil War and had the cannonball embedded in the north wall of the house to prove it.

Newly married to widower Carson, Marielle has just moved into Holly Oak, the chidlhood home of Carson’s first wife and the current home of his mother-in-law, Adelaide.  Marielle agrees to live at Holly Oak with Carson and his two children, and Adelaide, as Carson feels it would be best for everyone.  It is not long before Marielle begins to hear the rumors that Holly Oak is haunted by Adelaide’s great-grandmother, Susannah Page, who was speculated to have been a spy for the Union during the war.

The story unfolds and the reader is taken on a journey through the lives of the women of Holly Oak and the mysteries the antebellum mansion may or may not hold.  Is the beautiful old house haunted?  Was Susannah Page a spy and are all of the women of Holly Oak cursed in some way?  Does Adelaide herself believe that Holly Oak is haunted, and if so, why does she stay?  In addition to the mystery these questions bring forth, the story also allows the reader to become well acquainted with Marielle as she struggles to find her place in an old home and a new family.

While this book cannot be classified as my favorite Meissner novel, I did enjoy reading it and had to get to the end to find the truth of the story.  Character development is solid and engaging, and the beauty and horror found in the Civil War is engrossing.  The story does move a bit slowly, but overall, I believe it is worth a read.

Disclosure:I received a copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for my review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own and may differ from others.

While I’m on the subject…

For anyone wanting further information on why Planned Parenthood is not what they present themselves to be, this is an excellent resource with well-documented information:

http://www.cwfa.org/images/content/cwfa_cuttingthecord_2011.pdf

It’s lengthy, but gives anyone seeking to be informed on this side of the issue a solid opportunity.

Now I’m going to go do something fun like play Angry Birds or find DIY projects on Pinterest that I will probably never get to.  Hey, I can dream.

On my mind and heart…

Sometimes I have too many serious issues and thoughts bumping around in my head, and while I want to write a blog post to clear my head and get the thoughts on “paper”, part of me dreads the process.  I’m not exactly sure why- perhaps it is because it is much easier to take time to write on DIY projects, funny things my kids are doing, or random life events.  Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about all of those things and plan to do so soon.  But I feel the need to get this out first so I can move on to the other (fun!) things.

I find myself getting increasingly frustrated when my brothers or sisters in Christ accept and/or promote the watered-down ways of the world.  First, a disclaimer- I am not trying to indicate that I never do this.  It is hard to be a Christian and avoid it, honestly.  It truly takes continuous effort and dying to self, and that is exhausting.  Thankfully, Jesus is there to help guide us through the process and shoulder the burden with us.  That said, it’s becoming a larger and larger issue and I’m both agitated and saddened by it.

Take abortion (surprise, back to this issue again).  I believe wholeheartedly that abortion is not only the taking of innocent life, but that it is a destroyer of women’s lives as well. And men’s.  I also believe that Planned Parenthood is one of the most sinister organizations that there is.  You look at the beliefs of the founder, Margaret Sanger- then go research some of her successors.  The ideology of Planned Parenthood is, at its core, horrifying.   Yes, I know the argument that “Planned Parenthood provides services to women that they can’t access easily elsewhere” in addition to the oft-used “but look at all the good they have done!”  Very few things get me going like the latter argument.  But you know, I’m not so surprised to hear it from nonbelievers and this post is not aimed at those who do not profess Christ.

Christians, on the other hand, should know better.  Since when does any “good” done by Planned Parenthood justify the murder of 332,278 babies in 2009 alone. It does 333 abortion referrals for every 1 adoption referral.  Also, according to Planned Parenthood Federation of America 2006-2007 Annual Report, abortion accounts for at least a third of Planned Parenthood’s total income from clinic services.  It took home $85 million in profit and had an operating budget of over $1 billion for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, according to one of its more recent annual reports.  If people would truly take time to read the information out there, even (especially!) in PP’s own reports, I think they would begin to see what this organization truly is.  Talk to women who have not been given full information before aborting their baby and who are daily dealing with the physical and/or emotional repercussions- talk to fathers who weren’t given a “choice” in whether their child lived or died.  Stop being lukewarm on an issue that demands a strong voice!

People like to argue that the good Planned Parenthood does outweighs the bad.  What, then, is the moral difference in justifying Hitler’s role in murdering the over 6 million people he did, because, well, he did great things for the German economy and advocated strongly for worker’s rights?  The Nazis provided the world with incredible strides in engineering and the field of medicine, accomplishments that undoubtedly saved lives.  Does that justify the evil they did?  Sounds harsh, even ridiculous to compare the two doesn’t it?  But why?  It’s the same principle.

The good an organization or individual does cannot outweigh the evil of taking human life.

Over 49,551,703 babies have been aborted since abortion was legalized in 1973.  Over 49, 551, 703.  Take some time to read about the various methods of abortion- read the accounts of how babies have responded with pain in the womb as they tried to avoid the suction device.  Then tell me again that Planned Parenthood is a honorable organization.

So…that is why I am shocked when my brothers and sisters in Christ support Planned Parenthood, even in part.  Please understand me- my heart breaks for women that feel so desperate that they kill their child.  Yes, I often feel anger too, but my real anger is for those that take advantage of these women and do it under the guise of advocacy and “choice”.  It is an organization that is no friend to children, certainly, but it is no friend to women either.

As Christians, we are called to be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14); to reflect the true Light of the world, Christ.  Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  How can we be the light of the world, when, as followers of Christ, we defend organizations (or individuals) that are so clearly opposed to the will of God?  I’m not saying I haven’t done this, and I may even do it now unknowingly, but it is my responsibility to be as informed as possible- and to me, Planned Parenthood is a clear-cut issue.   I’m not saying this against any one person, it’s simply an observation that has been building and building to the point where I felt the need to process it further.

If you’re still with me, I hope you understand the passion that drove this post.  Even more, I hope you’ll share it.