Tuesday, February 28, 2012

on being the mother of one baby

i have had an unusual parenting experience thus far.

alex and i tried to adopt before having biological kids.  originally we were just going to take in one child, but pretty early on in our foster care classes we learned that there is a big need for families who are willing to take in sibling sets, so we decided we would be open to two children, ages two and under.  some people thought that this was a bit ambitious, but we figured that we are young, so we can keep up with two young kids like others would not be able to.

soon after we were certified, two children were placed in our home- a baby girl almost 6 months old and a baby boy almost 18 months old.  they had two older brothers, ages 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 who were placed in another home.  after a couple weeks,  the older brothers needed a new foster home, so we decided to take them in as well.  at this point, people decided that we weren't ambitious, but rather crazy.  fast forward 10 months and a judge ruled for the kids to go back with their birth mom.  four months later esther was born.

so, in a nutshell, if you are keeping track, we went from zero kids to two to four to zero again and then to one.

and i am really enjoying this time with just one baby in the house. it is so unique.  its such a joy to be a mother but also feel like life is manageable.  i know things wont always be this easy... soon esther will be crawling and walking, and (hopefully) soon we will be getting another foster baby.  but i am soaking in every moment while i can.

the early days were the easiest... she slept all day!  but even now, its nice that i can generally count on 3-4 hours of nap time per day.  and when she is awake she loves being carried in her moby or ring sling, which allows me to move throughout the house without having to worry about her.

i love that i can sit down and read a book to her whenever i want, or sing a silly song, or dangle toys above her for her to bat at.  but there is also plenty of time and space for me to hang out with friends,  hang out with other mamas, do housework, volunteer at various places, try new recipes, write blogs, do ministry at church, etc.

a time will come when i have to sacrifice more of these things that i enjoy to spend more time with our children.  but right now i can't help but to be incredibly thankful for this stage of life.

[and i cant end this post without a HUGE thank you to my hardworking husband for providing for us financially, so that i am able to focus on my household duties without the stress of a job.  thank you alex and i love you!!]

Monday, February 27, 2012

why do christians need the ethical instructions of the bible?

the bible makes it clear that God is the one who causes us to be good and do good things that honor him when we become christians.  we are reborn when we become christians (john 3), the old self passes away and God makes us a new creation (2 corinthians 5:17). the Holy Spirit works in us to produce godly character (galatians 5:6-7), it is not something that we can work hard and strive to produce in ourselves.

as a result of learning these truths, sometimes i wonder why God has to give christians so many instructions through the bible. if christianity is not morality, but rather life changed by God, what role does the pages and pages of ethical and moral instruction play in the christian's life?

i read something today from nancy wilson's blog that was very illuminative on this topic:
"When Paul gives ethical instructions (stop lying, etc.) he is speaking to the regenerate. The unregenerate cannot obey ethical instructions. If they do, it is like water on a hog, and soon the hog will return to the mud. When the regenerate hear ethical commands, it is food to the sheep. They respond and are nourished by the instruction."
[regenerate= those who have been given new life by God, with new desires to love, honor and please him]

"the hog will return to the mud".  that sounds like the teaching of jesus that i wrote about a couple days ago.

but the reason that this impacted me was because of what this says about christians. the instructions of the bible are like food to true christians.  we enjoy learning more about how to love, honor and please God.  it is our spiritual nourishment.

Bucatini all'Amatriciana
photo credit: bucatini all'amatriciana by zen zero on flickr

so next sunday, as your pastor goes up to preach the sermon, picture him as the chef and you as the glad recipient of the delicious and nourishing meal that he has prepared.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

a balanced raw milk debate

over the past couple days, i have watched bits and pieces of a raw milk debate that occurred at harvard law school earlier this month.  it is rare that raw milk is debated by both sides in the same location at the same time.  i appreciated that this debate was fair and balanced, with leading experts from both sides of the debate.  it is long (an hour and a half) but i recommend it to you (you can watch it while nursing, doing dishes or other activities where your hands are busy but your ears are free, like i did!):

i took notes here and there throughout the debate, and here are some of the things that i learned that stuck out to me:

*raw milk contains all the components of blood (including lymphocytes, etc) except for red blood cells

*only .005% of food borne illnesses come from raw milk.  and this is not for lack of drinkers: 9 million americans (3% of our population) drink raw milk

*studies show that raw milk helps relieve asthma.  5500 people per year die of asthma.  no one has died of raw milk consumption in the past 20 years.

*CDC: "raw milk is one of the riskiest foods of all" (this is a curious point since earlier i pointed out that only .005% of food borne illnesses come from raw milk)

*yes, there are small risks involved with drinking raw milk.  but there are risks in consuming any food.  recently people have died from diseases contracted from spinach, ground beef, cantaloupe and peanut butter but no one is talking about completely banning these foods.  so why raw milk?

*a study was done with rats. some were fed exclusively raw milk and some pasteurized milk.  not only were the raw milk fed rats healthier, but they also behaved better.  the pasteurized milk fed rats tended to bite their handlers.  interestingly, anecdotally, the number one result of giving raw milk to their children that parents report is better behavior.

*the biggest disease concern with raw milk is the fact that udders are close to the cow's anus, therefore fecal contamination is a danger.  cows produce a lot of manure... 125+ lbs per day!!

*one debater (a lawyer) recommended that raw milk purchasers be forced to sign a waiver before purchasing raw milk.  one audience member asked why mcdonald's (which is causing WAY more people to become unhealthy) wouldn't have to have customers sign a waiver.

*raw milk freedom: it comes down to the pursuit of happiness.  
you can see that my notes lean towards the pro-raw milk side of things (indeed, we buy raw milk whenever i can fit it into our budget), but you will find a balanced view of both sides if you watch the video.  overall, i was more impressed with the pro-raw milk side and learned a lot that i hadn't already learned from my research, but i was also challenged by some of the points made by the raw milk cautioners. 

what do you think? do you drink raw milk?  should it be legal?  if you drink it, have you seen health benefits?  if you don't, what are your concerns?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

removing evil and partial conversion: thoughts on luke 11:24-26

[jesus speaking] “when the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘i will return to my house from which i came.’ and when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” luke 11:24-26

"Sweeping House"
photo credit: "sweeping house" by fotobird1 on flickr

one of the important lessons from this passage is that evil cannot simply be removed, it must be replaced with good.

one example of how this plays out is in the christian's thought life.  many women (myself included) struggle with their thought lives.  my thoughts often revolve around worry about the future, fear of the unknown or double-thinking.  in my attempt to battle thoughts that don't honor God, this passage is helpful in reminding me that i cant just remove the untrue/dishonorable thoughts ("stop thinking about bad things!").  they instead must be replaced with good, true, christ-centered thoughts.  paul teaches on this, putting it this way:

"rejoice in the Lord always; again i will say, rejoice. let your reasonableness be known to everyone. the Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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." philippians 4:4-8 

it is not happenstance that these verses stand next to one another in paul's letter.  it is clear that paul sees a link between rejoicing, defeating anxiety, prayer and God-centered thoughts.  it is important to note too, that we don't bring about the peace that paul teaches of: it is the gift of God, which is why we seek God for it; it is not something we bring about ourselves.

this principle of good replacing evil also plays out in a person's decision to follow Christ.

this passage is one of the few places that the new testament speaks of partial conversion.  one of the saddest things for me to see as a christian is people who seem to become christians embrace the gospel, the bible and God's people enthusiastically for a time, then fall away and cease to follow jesus.

partial conversion happens when a person comes to have a positive view of or experience with christianity and christ, but they never repent of their sin and the Holy Spirit does not come to live in them and they do not experience the necessary rebirth from death to life (see john 3).  their outward life starts to look very "christian" but inwardly they have not been cleansed and changed by God.

this is very common in our country since christians teachings are looked at in a positive light by many people who are not christians.  as a result, many people decide to start living a "christian" life, but this is not a life empowered by the Holy Spirit.  so, they may get rid of the evil and metaphorically sweep out their house, but since the Holy Spirit has not replaced the evil that was in their life, they leave themselves open to being overpowered by evil once again.

there is a temptation that i see among christians to preach morality instead of christ.  we want our friends who dont know jesus to stop sleeping with their boyfriends, to stop lying, to stop being depressed, to stop getting drunk every weekend.  even if we are successful in getting them to change their lives (which is unlikely anyways), we are making them "twice the sons of hell" (matthew 23:25) if this is accomplished without jesus.  the gospel, the good news that jesus saves sinners and changes lives, must be at the center of what we preach.

but how can we make sure that conversion is true and that the Holy Spirit lives in those who seem to become christians?  the truth is that it is by God's grace (gift) that the Holy Spirit dwells in anyone.  we cannot force His hand.

but he does give us the gift of prayer: we can and should pray for those who seem to be exploring christianity (or have seemed to come to know jesus).  furthermore, if you are a christian, examine your heart to make sure that you have truly repented and trusted Christ fully with your life (in line with hebrews 6).

[thanks to d.a. carson's "for the love of God" for sparking and molding my thoughts on this passage]

Thursday, February 23, 2012

links i like: the luther household, mung beans and more crunchy mamas

sometimes i wonder why i even blog, there is already so much good content out there on the internet.  and i'm not afraid to point you away from my blog to all the other good stuff.  i hope it is a blessing to you today!

hospitality and generosity in the luther home- a challenging look at the generosity of martin and katharina luther.  i was really impacted by the hard work of katharina, accepting so many guests in their home (in a day when serving a meal took much more work than it does now!) without even insisting on pay.   i also have to say that the picture made me smile; we visited wittenburg when i lived in germany and i clearly remember that room!

why we support ron paul- i was so excited when i read this post! one of my favorite real food bloggers has come out in support of ron paul.  she has never written about politics before, so why now?  watch the video to find out!

mung bean soup-  i have recently been introduced to mung beans.  i usually sprout them to put in asian stir-fry dishes or on top of salads, but this soup recipe uses them in a similar way to other kinds of beans. i found the tangy combo of tumeric and lemon juice to be fantastic!

and, part two of the stuff crunchy mamas say (i linked to part one previously)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

passionate, joyful homemaking: healing balm for the widow's heart

there is one clear situation that makes it acceptable for a mother to work outside of the home: when she is a widow.  and because of the epidemic of deadbeat dads in our culture, i would broaden the category of widows to include single moms.

i cannot even imagine how difficult it would be to be widow, especially if you have very young children in the home.  i wont even attempt to make recommendations for any one in this position, but i do want to point you to some very comforting scripture passages.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows 
is God in his holy habitation. psalm 68:5

as he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. and when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “do not weep.” then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. and he said, “young man, I say to you, arise.” and the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. luke 7:12-15

as saddened as i am to see the vast number of widows in our country, i am greatly encouraged to know that God has a very tender heart towards widows.  he calls himself the defender or protector of widows.

the passage from luke shows the tender compassion God has towards widows.  can you imagine the pain this widow must be feeling?  first she loses her husband and his income.  then her son took her in, but now he too has died.  not only is she without the closest members of her family, but she is now also without any means of support.  in this account, we see that jesus has deep compassion for the woman, knowing the immense grief she has gone through.  he sees her situation and chooses to pour out his tender mercy on her by bringing back her son.  what joy!  not only has God provided for her physically, but emotionally as well.

single moms, do you wish you had a strong man at your side to protect and defend you?  this is a natural desire.  but take comfort, knowing that the God of the universe has promised that He is by your side as your protector and provider.

life as a widow/single mom will be hard... your heart may weigh heavy with the desire to be a stay at home mom, but you may have to work in order to provide for your children.  keep your eyes on jesus, and remember how he had compassion on the widow in luke... he has the same love and compassion for you!  do not lose heart, for this temporary affliction is preparing an eternal weight of glory (2 corinthians 4:16-18); God will bless your efforts to love and serve your family.

i would also highly recommend this sermon to you by pastor mark driscoll, about the passage i quoted above from luke.

lastly, for those reading this who are not widows, keep this in mind: "religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." james 1:27

"visit" implied not just financially helping widows, but being relationally involved in their lives.  pursue the widows that God has placed in your life, and seek to serve them.  and if you don't know any widows, pray that God would bless you with the opportunity to be a blessing in the life of a single mom or widow. this is one of the many ways that we as christians can demonstrate God's heart to the world.

what are some distractions that stay at home moms face?  click to go on to the next part of the series

Monday, February 20, 2012

the calorie myth, being green, and making a home management binder: links i like

restrained eating and obesity- will going on a diet help you lose weight? even if you stick to it, possibly (probably?) not.  on the same subject, i also recommend his series "the calorie myth":

part one- raw food weight loss
part two- digestibility
part three- eat less/exercise more
part four- stool volume (yes, this is a blog about your poo...)

(as a side note- the more i learn about nutrition, the more i realize that no one really understands nutrition very well!  its such a complex field with vastly different opinions. so feel free to read these with a grain of salt, though i do think they have good info.)

its too easy being green-  a wall street journal article examines the american belief that over-consumption is acceptable- as long as its "green".

a way through the wilderness- your home management binder- i love my home management binder!  it helps keep me sane :) after reading this article, i want to upgrade mine... which is now on my "to do" list for the coming weeks.  a definite must for stay at home mamas, especially when you have multiple little ones!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

passionate, joyful homemaking: what is the main role of a mother?

this post probably should have been earlier in the series... but better late than never :)

i have touched on the many benefits of being a stay at home mom, as well as God's creation of biblical femininity.  but what is the main job/purpose of a mother?  there are a few, but i will highlight one very important one: discipling her children.

why is discipleship important?

before we go further, let me define discipleship, since it is a church-y word that we can sometimes throw around without thinking about the implications.  discipleship is teaching about jesus and the bible, while modeling godliness, and exhorting and encouraging in faith.

for christian parents, the goal of parenting is to raise children who know jesus, and follow him closely.   although God is ultimately in control of their salvation and maturity, God uses means of discipleship to do this.

in recent years, with the advent of the role of youth pastors and private christian schools, many parents have (unfortunately) assumed that discipleship is the responsibility of christian teachers and youth pastors.  however, the main responsibility for discipleship is most certainly the parents'.  and while there are many contributing factors, it seems that this lack of emphasis on discipleship within the family has contributed to the decline of children of christian parents deciding to also follow jesus (though again, to be sure, God is ultimately in control of salvation).

what does the bible say about discipleship?

"so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us."  1 thessalonians 2:8

"you shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  you shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth."  deuteronomy 11:18-21

both of these verses are a beautiful picture of discipleship.

there are three themes in these verses about discipleship that i will highlight.

discipleship is continuous.

"you shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise"

"we were ready to share with you... our own selves"

children are constantly learning.  every minute of the day they are building their understanding of God and the foundations for their world view.  God instructs that this learning should come from their parents.

every minute of the day is full of opportunities to point our children to jesus through our words and actions.  it is important for mothers to be as available to their children as possible, so that they they can take full advantage of every opportunity.  usually we can not even anticipate the key teaching moments, which especially necessitate this availability.

discipleship happens through family devotion time, and reading the bible and praying together before bed.  it also happens when a child comes home crying from school because he was picked on that day, or when a child disobeys and must be disciplined.  children need their mothers to be open for counseling, theological discussion and life questions.  the more time, the better.  discipleship must be a priority so that every situation can be used to its full advantage to point to jesus.

this type of whole-life discipleship is a big responsibility, taking lots of time and energy.  it can best be accomplished when a mother can fully focus on discipleship with minimal other distractions.

discipleship happens in words and deeds.

"we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves..."

"you shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul... you shall teach them to your children..."

paul emphasizes two qualities in sharing the gospel: boldness and clarity (ephesians 6:19-20 and colossians 4:3-4).  boldness happens by teaching God's word outright.  clarity happens through living out the truths of the bible in relationships.  both boldness and clarity are needed to disciple our children well.

boldness happens while reading the bible together and leading in prayer, celebrating christ-centered holidays and explaining the gospel and other spiritual truths to our children.  clarity happens when children see these truths lived out.  parents should comfort their children (which points to the fact that God is our ultimate comforter), repent of sin (allowing their children to see their need for the gospel), discipline their children in love (which helps them understand that God disciplines those he loves), have fun with their children (to show that following God leads to joy) and pursue relationship with their children (just as God pursues relationship with his children).

discipleship yields fruit

"you shall teach them to your children... that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth."

when we take steps of faith and make sacrifices (such as giving up a career) to disciple our children, God will bless it (see also psalm 112).  these passages are truisms and not promises, but they teach that God uses godly parents to raise up children that will be blessed by him.

in eternity, the decision to put our full time, energy and effort into discipling our children will not be one that we regret.

but what about widows and single moms?  click to go on to the next part of the series....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

passionate, joyful homemaking: what about ___ situation?

if you have been reading my recent series, you have already read about God's creation of a mother's role, a discussion of whether christian mothers should pursue careers, and an exploration of why some mothers pursue careers at the cost of their biblical responsibility to keep the home.  furthermore, we have seen how the pleasure/duty paradox of christianity applies to being a stay at home mom.

this series may be leaving you with some questions.  

can i have a job and be a homeward focused mother?
to be clear, there are not cut and dry rules in the bible about a mother working outside of the home.  the main reason for this is that it used to be that there was less distinction between working inside and outside of the home.  many people were subsistence farmers, or had some sort of trade business that they ran from their house, so there was little divide between employment and household.
one way to get an idea of what God desires for biblical mothers is to read proverbs 31.  there are 12 verses in this passage that specifically describe her activities.  all of these verses describe her as doing something focused on serving her home and family (such as providing food, weaving cloth, etc.).  two of these verses mention her doing something to earn a profit, and these seem to be just an extension of what she is already doing for her family (such as making clothes), and certainly don’t seem to be exclusive of her children (she is not shipping them off to daycare!).
so, it seems it is possible for a mom to manage her household while earning an income from an outside source.  this does not negate the biblical mandate for men to provide for their families (1 timothy 5:8), and it is clear that her income is merely supplemental.
because of the nature of employment these days, namely that it IS exclusive of family and children, and does force women to shift their focus away from their home (often for many hours), as well as the fact that men should be the providers and not women, i believe that working outside the home should be the exception to the rule. this gives the most flexibility for being homeward focused in times of unexpected temporary or long-term need, such as when a child is sick, or if an elderly parent needs to be brought into the home for extra care.

the problem with exceptions to the rule is that everyone thinks that they are the exception.  if you truly value the role that a mother provides in discipling her children on a moment by moment basis and being feed up to help and serve her husband, it is unlikely that you will be asking about exceptions to the rule, except for in extenuating circumstances.
since most employment could potentially be a big distraction from managing your household and loving your children and husband, the big question- what is your motivation for working outside the home?  it is likely that the motivation could be a desire for more money or career success.
what if i have extra time in my day to fill?
some women feel that they have too much extra time on their hands once all their children are in school (or are starting to move out), which may cause them to work to fill their time.  this is a situation where work might not take away from your homeward responsibilities.  

however, there are many other ways you could potentially use your extra time wisely in ways that are flexible and continue to allow you to be there for your family and home responsibilities. i will offer some specific suggestions in case you are in this situation.  

  • take in a foster child (heck, adopt one)! there are a half million children in the foster care system in the US, the majority of whom are in unloving and even abusive foster homes, an unseen epidemic that many people prefer to ignore.  taking in a foster child gives you an opportunity to be obedient to romans 12:13 and james 1:27, while having the opportunity to show jesus’ love to someone in need.  in the process, i guarantee that you will also experience major sanctification!

  • volunteer somewhere! find an organization that fits your passion and give of your time.  this is a great way to build up your community and show jesus’ love to your neighbors, and as a volunteer you have lots of flexibility with how much time you devote to this activity.

  • do ministry with your church! if you are involved at your church, i’m sure you can see a million places where the church needs extra help. but if you really cant figure out where you could help out, call your pastor.  any pastor would love to get a call: “i have too much time on my hands.  how can i bless the church with my talents?  i am willing to do even the most menial job”.  or just look around... who is a younger woman that you could build into?  read titus 2 for inspiration and get moving!
what if i could earn more than him? 
“husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” ephesians 5:25 
paul says that husbands are supposed to emulate jesus in their role.  this means that they are to lovingly sacrifice of themselves, leading their wives and children well while taking responsibility for the family. as we saw in genesis, the man’s burden is to work, even though it is laborious for him.  to switch roles is to go against God’s design for marriage, and it will lead to problems in some form or another.
less importantly but still of note, statistics show that women (even ones who are feminist leaning) are happiest when their husbands earn at least 2/3rds of the household income (source).  as i mentioned before, the bible should be our main decision input, but a statistic like this backs up what God already put into place as the ideal.

to put it a little more straight to the point:

what if i can work from home?  
working from home is certainly the best option if you must work.  but make sure your motives for working are right, and that it does not take away from your household management responsibilities and the discipleship of your children.
what if i don’t feel gifted in keeping the home?

maybe you burn something every time you step in the kitchen, or you shrink something every time you attempt to do laundry.  maybe you feel very inadequate at managing the household, and feel much more gifted at a career.
first of all, i would encourage you to focus on your strengths.  what are you good at?  maybe its something you feel is small or insignificant, but it still blesses your family.  maybe you are good at making bath time fun for your kids.  maybe you are good about remembering to pack your husband's lunch.  if you need to, ask your family about what areas you are best in at in your homemaking, and work on excelling still more in these areas. 
secondly, develop your weaknesses.  most likely you went to school for four or more years to train for your career.  you will likely also need training to become an effective household manager.
this may be easier than you think.  seek out other women who are strong in the area(s) you want to grow in.  ask them lots of questions and spend time with them.  see if you can do things with them (like cooking, sewing or gardening) to help you learn and grow in these specific skills.
the good news is, you will probably only improve from where you are at now, and maybe one day you will be the one to train another inexperienced homemaker.
and until then, there is always carry-out food and dry cleaners to help you out with your household responsibilities! :) 

ok, this has nothing to do with this blog topic... but too cute not to share!

what about you?  do you have any lingering thoughts or questions from this series so far?

go on to the next part...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

passionate, joyful homemaking: what to do if you want to stay at home but your husband wants you to work?

some moms are in a situation where they truly want to work at keeping the home, but their husbands want them to work outside of the home.  what can they do in that case?
most importantly, pray about the situation.  pray for your husband’s heart to change.  pray for God to give you wisdom in how to address it.  pray that God would mercifully allow you to be a homeward focused mom.
after bathing it in prayer, talk about it with him.  show him the reasons you would think it is better for the family and for him for you to stay at home.  show him from the bible why you have this conviction.
address his concerns. most likely his reservation comes down to money.  show him how you could adjust your budget to make it possible.  be willing to sacrifice from your side of the budget, such as your clothes money, eating out, entertainment, etc.
if he is a christian, get your pastor involved.  it is always important to have a godly mediator in any dispute that comes to an impasse, but most especially a disagreement as big as this.  sometimes men respond better to other men than their wives.  hopefully, your pastor also has the biblical view that women should be homeward focused.
if your husband is not a christian, your next step is not clear cut.  pray about it and seek advice from wise other people in your life.  it could be that you should submit to him in order to be a godly example to him (1 Peter 1:3), but it could be that staying at home is a call from a higher authority (God) than your husband.  you may still benefit from a mediator, though your husband may want someone “neutral” like a family and marriage counselor, rather than a pastor. 
as a side note, this is one of the many reasons not to marry someone with a different heart faith.

also, avoid little boy larries like the plague:

go on to part six...

Friday, February 10, 2012

passionate, joyful homemaking: the pleasure/duty paradox

"when christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." 

-dietrich bonhoeffer, german theologian and martyr under the nazi regime (pictured above)

"our pleasure and our duty,
though opposite before, 
since we have seen his beauty,
are bound to part no more"
-john newton, former slave trader turned christian pastor (pictured above)

in this exploration of a mother's responsibility through the lens of christian spirituality, many have said something to the effect of "what if a mother really wants a career?"

this is a valid argument.  if you are looking through the lens of secular humanism (which is, in its own way, a type of spirituality).

by contrast, in christianity, there is an interesting paradox when it comes to desire.  sometimes, we must deny our surface desires to tap into a deeper, more satisfying desire, namely the desire to know Christ, see his beauty and serve him.

as bonhoeffer says, when christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die to these worldly, surface level desires.  why does he do this?  is God a kill joy?  more specifically, is God a cruel sexist for giving women the responsibility of keeping the home?

when you come from the perspective of believing that God created the world, created men and women, and specifically that he created each intricate part of you and i, it is not a great leap to think that he created us with a best purpose.  and from his Word, the Bible, it is clear that the best practice for a woman is to be homeward focused.  to step outside of this is dangerous, as it goes against how he created us.

but lest you think of this as enslaving, know with joy that "our pleasure and our duty/though opposite before/since we have seen his beauty/are bound to part no more".  when we walk in the way that He created us, it will bring true joy and fulfillment to ourselves and our families.  furthermore, if we are doing something, anything, just because it is duty, there is some disconnect between that duty and God, because anything done for Him should ultimately be a delight.

if you still have trouble believing this, you may need to take a step of faith in order to see and understand why he has given women the direction to be homeward-focused.  a precedent for this has been set.  when the israelites were putting their desires before God's purposes and withholding their tithes from Him, God said:
"bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." malachi 3:10 

his mercy is amazing: he does not squash them for their disobedience, but instead woos his people and even promises to bless them when they finally do obey.

if you are walking in opposition to the biblical directions of being homeward focused, take a step of faith.  it could be that God will "open the windows of heaven and pour down a blessing [for you] until there is no more need".

go on to part five...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

biblical manhood, bra burning and raising healthy eaters

God, manhood and ministry (the desiring God 2012 pastor's conference)-  a bunch of really great talks are available on line for free from the recent pastor's conference.  so far i have listened to two of the talks, and i can say that i highly recommend the panel discussion and the first talk by doug wilson.

these talks are geared toward men and are on the topic of men and biblical manhood.  so, why do i recommend them to the female readers of my blog?  for several reasons: 1.) if you are single, you need to know what to look for in a good man 2.) if you are married, you need to know the biblical values God desires for your husband.  knowing these things, you can pray well for him and encourage him in these areas.  3.)  all women need healthy men in their lives, and resources like this helps us discern what kind of man is in good spiritual health.  this includes male friends (for single women) and more importantly male church leaders.

a new reason to burn your bra?  could it interfere with your limbic system (ie the body's trash removal system), contributing to things like breast cancer?  the jury is still out on this one for me, but the article makes some interesting points.

how to get kids to eat healthy- a study of motivation and food rewards/punishments.  i especially recommend the video, it is super interesting.  i cant say that i agree with everything he says (for example, i think it IS wise for parents to teach kids what is healthy, he downplays this too much) but i do agree that certain foods should not be overemphasized or restricted, it makes them that much more appealing.  what i have tried to do with our kids is to give them options when appropriate, but also set boundaries when appropriate.  and though i ranted (probably too much) about the amount of mcdonalds and candy their birth mom gave them (ie every time they saw her, literally), i can say that i feel good about the food freedoms they had (for example, if they wanted a second helping of food, they could choose what they wanted more of).

this reminds me of an interesting study done a while ago (like 1950′s or so). they gave babies (i think around one year old) lots of different foods to choose from at every meal and recorded what and how much they ate of each food. they discovered that even though on any one day (or multiple days in a row) the babies might focus on just one or two foods, overall they ate a completely balanced diet. with no help from anyone! they just intrinsically knew. pretty interesting.

and a cool infographic.  click it to enlarge.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

passionate, joyful homemaking: why do moms pursue careers at the expense of family?

being homeward focused is biblicalit also has many benefits to mother, father and children.  knowing this, why do many women still pursue a career at the cost of their families?  are these legitimate reasons?

the curse of childbearing (its hard!)
bearing children is difficult.  just like many men try to get women to bear their burden, women too want to get out from under their burden.  some women choose to work outside of the home so that they can outsource their job of raising kids to someone else.
furthermore, not only do some women want to abandon their burden, they want to try to take over their husband’s role.  both of these motives are sinful, and lead to destruction of the marriage and family.
the temptation of money
probably the main reason that women choose to work outside of the home is because their family “needs” the money.
'Money' photo (c) 2011, 401K - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
i can’t find the exact statistic, but a working mom has to earn a significant amount of money to make it worth her time, once you account for expenses like commuting costs, business dress (and dry cleaning) costs, day care, after school care, increased tax bracket, increased eating out, hiring a housecleaner etc.  some of these costs are hidden, but need to be taken into account.  

it is important to keep in mind that stay at home moms provide tremendous services to their families for free, but the actual value of their work is quite high. some estimates place the value of a stay at home mom's work at $115,000- $135,000 per year (once you add up the value of childcare, plus housecleaning services, plus laundry, etc). (source)
furthermore, when a woman is being an excellent wife to her husband, she frees him up to focus on work and become better and more efficient at his job.  this could lead to more promotions and upward movement in the company, which would lead to greater pay in the long run.

moreover, what is this “need” for money?  it is very likely that you can cut down on your budget in many ways if you see the importance of being the keeper of your home.  alex and i have lived on a shoestring budget for most of the time that we have been parents.  it has often been hard, but well worth it.
ultimately, it comes down to a decision between investing in your present life (owning an iPad, the latest cell phone, a daily starbucks drink, a nice car, a fast computer, etc.) and investing in your children’s future.
improper role models 
some will say, “well i know ___ who worked and her kids turned out fine” or even the converse: “i know ____ stayed at home and her kids didn’t turn out well”.

proverbs 22:6 says, “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”. this is a truism, not a promise.  it is usually true that if you invest well in a child, they will turn out well.  however, God is sovereign over everything, even the outcomes of our children, and he will ultimately determine what happens.  
God makes it clear that the best thing for a mother is to focus her attention homeward.  he does not make any guarantees with this, but we can trust that the Creator knows the way he created his creatures to function best! 
titus 2:5 instructs that godly older women are to teach younger women to focus their attention to the needs of their household.  the burden is on older women to lead by their example and words in this area.  
the temptation of (temporal) prestige
do not love the world or the things in the world. if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. for all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. and the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 john 2:15-17
i have heard some women say “we don’t really need the money, but i want to work so that i can continue to advance in my career.”  the temptation of prestige is huge, especially in certain careers.  but the bible points out that “the pride of life is not from the Father but from the world” (v 16).  furthermore, it reminds us that “the world is passing away along with its desires” (v 17).
on the other hand, there are things that are going to last.  in 10,000 years, your career will not matter.  the respect you got on earth wont matter.  the size of your house will not matter.  your possessions will not matter.  but you can work now to build up as much happiness in the next life as possible, and that happiness includes eternal investment into your family.
however, that is not to say that you should not pursue greatness.  i think that the bible DOES encourage christians to pursue greatness.  consider these words of jesus:
and they came to capernaum. and when he [jesus] was in the house he asked them, “what were you discussing on the way?” but they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. and he sat down and called the twelve. and he said to them, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” mark 9:33-35 
the disciples were clearly ashamed that they had been talking about who was the greatest.  but does jesus rebuke them?  no, he just points out that their definition of greatness is incorrect.  they are defining it by the world's standards, but jesus gives them a different definition: “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

pursue greatness that will impact eternity.  this will be the toughest job in the world, but the rewards are everlasting.


our society screams out its values from every facet. the internet, TV, magazine advertisements all tell us: get more stuff! buy this and be beautiful! pursue what makes YOU feel fulfilled!  get people to like you!  secure your future!  be the best you you can be!
outside of the church, no one will encourage you to be self-sacrificing, putting aside your needs to focus on others.  you will be told that the “professionals” at the local pre-school can teach your child better than you, and that the best thing for you is to focus on your job, so that you are getting fulfillment.

be counter-cultural.  don’t give in, and don’t let your family suffer the way that too many families in our country are currently suffering.

not trusting God/your husband
i like to be in control.  during the times i have worked for pay since we have been married, i have enjoyed knowing that i am contributing to our finances, and that i am helping to control of our finances.
it can be hard for a woman to trust God and her husband to provide for her, most especially if you come from a family where your dad chose not to provide.  however, this is an important act of faith.  your husband will feel loved that you trust him to provide.
and ultimately, our trust is not just in our husbands to provide, but in God (as he is the one who provides through them).  do you fear to focus your attention at home?  your motive may be a sinful lack of trust in God.

did i miss anything?  what do you think distracts women from their work of keeping the home?

go on to part four...

Monday, February 6, 2012

looking forward to fresh eggs

our chickens will be here in just a few days!

to be honest, i am more nervous about the chickens than i was about becoming a mom, haha.  they seem like a lot of work!  and it will be take some time to get them into our routine, figure out how much they will destroy our yard (probably a lot :/ ) and we still need a coop for them, among other things.  honestly, babies are much simpler by comparison.

but i am keeping the end goal in sight: fresh, delicious, healthy and nutritious eggs!  we go through about two dozen eggs a week, so i am certain that we will easily eat all the eggs they produce (which i pin at 20 maximum per week).

what i am most looking forward to is having eggs that i trust to eat raw.  thats right, folks, raw eggs.

'Cracked egg' photo (c) 2012, Jim Mead - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

but, wait sarah!  doesn't the FDA recommend cooking all eggs until they reach 160 degrees fahrenheit?  yes, they do.  and they also recommend eating lots of refined grains and pasteurized milk, two pieces of advice that i also disagree with and ignore.

in fact, raw eggs contain beneficial enzymes, and the nutrients are more in tact.  moreover, there are some recipes that can only be made with raw eggs.

i have really been craving and looking forward to...

1. mayonnaise (and making ranch dressing from the mayo!)

2. raw eggs in smoothies

3. ice cream! (i already make ice cream a lot, but without eggs.  eggs will improve the texture.)  and did you know that ice cream is the closest food to breastmilk? (warning to christian guys... you prob don't want to click thru the link)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

passionate, joyful homemaking: should moms pursue a career?

two main things are mentioned in genesis.  our role towards our husbands (being a helper) and our role towards our children (bearing them).  however, due to sin, we want to run away from our role, which once was a blessing but has become a burden, due to the fall.

so now the question of career.  does a career mesh with God's created purpose for us?  is it practical, is it a good thing for a mother to have a career?  or should women be homeward focused?  why?

'Tavik Frantisek Simon: Japanese Mother with Child' photo (c) 2006, D Flam - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

the bible speaks to a mother's purpose
“[older women in the church] are to teach what is good, and so train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home...”   titus 2:5
“younger widows [should] marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander”  1 timothy 5:14
“[the excellent wife] looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness”   proverbs 31:27
the bible makes it very clear that a christian wife and mother is to be the keeper of her home.  this is not demeaning (as our culture tries to paint it as being); on the contrary wives/mother are entrusted with a very important and complex job. fortunately, it is a job that taps into the strengths that God has uniquely created women with (for example, studies show that women are better at multi-tasking... a much needed skill with the multifaceted complexities of managing a household, such as making dinner while toddlers are running around and helping older kids do homework!). 
mothers have the responsibility to be the main influence in their children’s lives, to keep the household in order and make it a place of peace for the whole family, as well as making it possible to host outside guests (romans 12:13).
personally, i would say that i have never felt more alive as i do as a stay at home mom.  this is the job that has tapped best into my personal gifts and passions, and i truly love it.  thats not to say it is never hard, or that i never end the day feeling defeated (that has happened plenty of times!) but ultimately i know that it is what God created me to do, and that i am following His word by doing so, which is always the best for us (though not always the easiest).
it is better for children’s behavior
the bible is by far the most important source in instructing the christian’s life.  but the cool thing is, God gives instructions for a reason... because he designed us knows what  the best thing is for us.
the bible does not stand alone in encouraging a mom to focus on her children, many studies back this up.  of particular note is the impact day care has on a child’s behavior:  the more time children spend in day care, the more discipline problems they have, up until at least sixth grade. (source)

when we are with our children throughout the day, we can instill biblical values in them, even in the little moments.  day care workers (and even teachers) are just doing a job for a paycheck.  this not to say that they don't care about their students, but they will never care about the soul of your child like you do.

for example, in all the schools i have worked in, they push tolerance.  i don't want my children to learn tolerance, i want them to learn a higher value.   i want teach my children to love others, even their enemies,  as jesus did.  how can they learn this if i am not free and available to instruct them throughout the day, especially in their young, foundational years?

furthermore, being with your children throughout the day shows them how much you love and care for them.  they do not have to act out to get your attention; they are secure and assured of your love and care.

about a month ago i was at a christmas party at  a large, beautiful house, one that (i assumed) could only come from a two income family.  i was wrong!  i got into a conversation with the hostess, and asked her what sort of work she does.  she told me that her kids are her main focus.  “as it should be” she went on to say. “sometimes i substitute teach at my kids’ school.  you can definitely tell the difference between the kids with a mom who stays at home and those whose parents both have full time jobs!”
working creates excessive stress on mom 
i can personally attest to this.  for about two months, by accident, i was a working mom.  about 7 months after we got our foster kids, we were told that they would be moved to another foster home after our van broke down and we had no way to transport them to parent visits.  i told my work that they could start scheduling me again, and they did (i hadn’t fully quit my job at that time, since we knew the kids might go back with their mom, and i might have to work again).  however, when the time came for me to start working, the kids were still with us (and were for two more months, until they were reunited with their birth mom).
i had just about the best “working mom” situation you could have, and it was still hard:  I only worked 4.5 hours per day, my commute was minimal, and my mom (who lived with us) watched the kids while i was gone. i even had weekends off, since the kids were starting to stay with their birth mom friday night to sunday at that point.  furthermore, the whole time i knew that it was a temporary situation with an end in sight.
while i was at work, all i could think about was what needed to get done at home.  i fell behind in my goals for the kids (teaching them letters, numbers, etc).  scheduling things like pediatrician check-ups was very difficult.  i felt like my attention was divided, and work definitely wasn’t my main focus.  i can only imagine how much harder this would be for women who work full time with a long commute and no relatives to help with care.
when a mother has to work in addition to fulfilling her home responsibilities, she is trying to serve two conflicting ends and she feels divided. 

in addition to the stress on the mother, stress is created in the marriage when mom works outside the home.  parents fight over division of responsibilities like picking up the kids and doing household chores.  almost always, the mother ends up doing a greater part of these responsibilities, in addition to her job.  this leads to busy, stressed out parents and confused, attention-seeking children. (source and source)
you can be the main influence on your child’s spiritual life
many parents assume that it is the church’s or youth pastor’s role to teach their children about the bible and jesus.  however, the main burden of this responsibility lies in the hands of parents (deuteronomy 11:19).  being able to focus fully on your children gives you many opportunities throughout the day to disciple them by teaching them the bible, modeling christ-likeness, modeling repentance (when you inevitably fail at christ-likeness!), and speaking into every facet of their lives.

it may even be sin (probably on the husband’s part) if she is pursuing a career
a husband who wants his wife to work is basically saying “hey, honey, can you help me out with my part of the curse?  i know that you have the whole childbearing curse, but work is hard, and i think you should help me to bear my burden, too.”
its childish.  it is unmanly.  but too many times he is getting away with it.
conversely, it may also be sin on the mother’s part if she is working.  women want to take over their husband’s role and this may manifest itself in a desire to work so that she can be the leader of the family.
not pursuing a career is counter-cultural
do you long to be normal, to do what everyone else is doing? the norm in america is divorce and kids growing up without a dad.  the norm in america is high levels of stress, stress-related illness and high incidences of depression.  the norm in america is long hours at work and even working while at home (via the laptop, blackberry, etc).  the norm in america is failing schools with greater and greater discipline problems.
be counter-cultural. DONT outsource raising your child to an institution.  DONT put your marriage on the rocks for the sake of a job.  it will be hard, it will go against the grain and it will ruffle some other people’s feathers, but it will be worth it.
being a stay at home mom is traditional
“traditional” is a word with bad connotations to some people.  but for me it is a plus.  i am starting to learn that there is wisdom in many of the things that people have been doing for thousands of years.  after learning the benefits of traditional diets, i have been changing the way we eat, with noted improvement in our health.  after learning the benefits of traditional sleep (sleeping at night, longer in the winter and with total darkness), i have been increasing the amount i sleep and trying to keep our bedroom as dark as possible (source).  after learning the benefits of traditional babywearing, i make it a priority to wear our babies as i go through my daily activities.
people have had thousands of years to perfect the art of living.  most of the ways they have been doing things for these past thousands of years really are the best.  and when all is said and done, i would argue that staying at home is by far the best job for a mom.
'mother' photo (c) 2007, Hans Splinter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

do these things resonate with you?  why have you chosen to be a stay at home mom, if you are?  what advantages have you seen in your life and family?