Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Not So Top 10

For a couple of years, I only had about 12 regular blog readers (and I am so grateful for you!  You are beloved friends who helped me to keep writing.).  Then things took off this last year, thanks to the generosity of some of my fellow bloggers.  I am so honored by all of the blog views and comments--you all rock!  And I wanted to share a few posts that I like, even though they are not the most commonly viewed ones.  They were all written before 2011, so I am hoping that you may find some that you haven't seen.  :)

1.   Shame Off You!

2.  My Favorite Perfume

3.  Languages of Love and Punishment

4.  Jesus Wept

5.  Why Christians Should Breastfeed in Public

6.  Scrubbing Toesies in Foreign Languages

7.  Shall We Dance?

8.  Is it Ever Bad to Be Polite?

9.  Misadventures in Parking

10.  His Banner Over Us is Love

Friday, December 30, 2011

In Defense of Kreeaytiff Nayemz and Youkneec Spellings

If you're different, you stand out 5
Image credit suvodeb on Flickr
Confession is good for the soul, so I am going to let you in on a secret.  I think that unusual names and nontraditional spellings are cool.   Why is this a confession, you ask?  After all, the people I spend time with are pretty tolerant, by and large.  We make choices that are a bit outside of the mainstream and look at the world though our own individual lenses.  So it never fails to surprise me when I see posts mocking unusual names or non-traditional spellings.  I am not talking about parents naming their kids something degrading, like Poopy.  And, of course, some of the criticism is gentle ribbing, noting the poster's accidental flubbing of pronunciation.  But a surprising amount comes across as a bit malicious, and I just don't get it.

I'll acknowledge up front that I am biased.  My own name, although common in Mexico, is very unusual here.  Few people get it right on the first try.  I have been called everything from Dooley to Doushay (yeah, really) and pretty much anything else that has any part of Dulce in it.  We used to get telemarketers calling for Dulcky.  I get that it can be aggravating for both sides to have a name that isn't easily pronounced on the first try.

And yes, I remember feeling disappointed at times when I couldn't find mass-market personalized items when I was a child. But that was a fleeting thing

Even more, though, I remember vigorously nodding along as my favorite literary heroine insisted that "Anne-with-an-e" looked much better than "Ann", that a "K" was much more alluring than a smug-looking "C" and that she could see all the sharp angles and corners in a "W" when it was spoken. 

I feel the pleasure of recognition when someone recalls my name or makes the effort to pronounce it correctly. 

I am also a teacher who learns a large number of names every semester, and it is actually very nice to see or hear names that stand out a bit.  I find that they stay in my mind much more readily than common names with conventional spellings.  I always ask my students to introduce themselves as they prefer to be addressed in the beginning, and it is never a problem.

Names are important.  We thought and prayed long and hard before choosing our childrens' names.  We gave careful consideration to the meanings behind them, how they would come across in both Spanish and English, and yes, even to the spellings.  And although none of them are in recent top 10 lists, none are particularly unusual.  But each of their names beautifully reflects the child.  They have made their names even more lovely to me because now I see them when I hear that name.  And that is every bit as true for kids with creative spellings or simply unusual names.

Whatever names you have given your children, however you have chosen to spell them, I celebrate the meaning, beauty and uniqueness of your child.  Of you.  Of your own way of seeing things and the way that is highlighted in the way you address your child.  And I believe that other people will, too.  (If you have gotten the argument that your child won't be taken seriously with an unusual name, let me say that in my experience, true leaders are open to innovation and creativity and are unlikely to judge your child negatively).

Please give your child a name that reflects how you see him or her.  One that speaks a blessing over your child each time you say it.  One that demonstrates exactly who your child is called to be.  You and your children are one of a kind.  It is OK if your names show that.  I will be cheering for you.  And I will have the courtesy to learn how to pronounce it and spell it correctly.  :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wifely Submission, part II: Before the Fall

Once I began to re-examine everything I thought I knew about wifely submission, I went all the way back to the creation account in Genesis.  It was puzzling to find some things that were seemingly ignored, and other things that I thought were there required a broad ability to read into things, to say the least.

First of all, Genesis 1:27 proclaims that both men and women are created in God's image.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  Women are created in the image of God.  Not men are created in the image of God and women are an afterthought.  God is not a man.  Sure, we use masculine pronouns to refer to Him and His physical body was male, but He is Spirit.  The Bible uses unmistakeably feminine imagery to describe God in several places--talking about the God who danced in the act of giving birth to us, giving images of us nursing at God's breast.  In fact, the name El Shaddai can be a reference to God's breast nurturing us. 

(The song is not totally relevant, but I love it, so I am including it anyway. Bonus :)

I had been taught that the very order of creation demonstrated the hierarchical nature of God's design:  Man was created first, then woman.  Of course, if you are determined to find significance there, animals were created before man, and I have never heard anyone claim that the Bible teaches that people were under the authority of animals.

But what about the fact that woman was made as a "helper"?  We tend to think of a helper as a subordinate.  Surely that means that woman is meant to be under the authority of man, right?  Except that the Bible frequently uses the same word to describe God.  He is our help, our strength, our power.  Nowhere is it ever implied that God is under our authority!

The Hebrew phrase that is used to describe Eve is 'ezer kenegdo'.  Far from being a term of inferiority or even subordination, this is a phrase that emphasizes equality of position.  The 'ezer' part is that of strength, help and power.  'Kenegdo' refers to being face to face.  It can even mean opposition!  Looking at this from Hebrew makes it clear that man and woman are a team.  Woman is a source of strength and help, and if necessary, can be help that opposes--one who helps stand in the way and opposes a wrong direction.  I love Crystal Lutton's descriptions, "a valiant ally", one who is "face to face with a shared vision."

It is clear that before sin entered into the picture, God's design was for man and woman to complete each other, to rule together.  Both were created in His image, and there is no hierarchy between them.  Then what happened?  The Fall.  That messed up everything, including God's design for relationships.  But His desire, design and purpose, don't seem to include a hierarchy in marriage.  Did that ever change?

To be continued

Read the whole series :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Wifely Submission, part I

... holding her head on
Do I have a rebellious, Jezebel spirit?
Growing up, I secretly feared that I would never find a man to marry.  I was saturated with the teachings of Elisabeth Elliot, Bill Gothard, et al on wifely submission, authority and gender roles.  I understood without a doubt that I would need to be a submissive wife.  The problem?  Finding a guy I would be willing to submit to.  Even with ones that I liked a lot and was very attracted to, I knew that I could not joyfully trust them to make the final decision on something if we disagreed.

I have always been one to choose truth over relationship.  I knew that if my own relationship with God and my own intelligence were leading me one way and my husband disagreed that I would have a very hard time submitting.  I certainly couldn't see myself doing it in the prescribed method of a cheerful attitude and docile respect.  No, I was honest enough with myself to realize it would be with me digging my heels in and arguing all the way.

I tried really, really hard to believe all of the teachings that I was given.  My mother reminded me countless times that I had to respect the husband's position of authority and his right and responsibility to exercise it, even if I didn't feel respect for the person or the decision itself.  I knew Gothard's teaching that the one under authority could make a Godly appeal.  If it was denied, she could suffer for doing right (of course, this only applied if what the husband was requiring of her was blatant sin, not mere stupidity).  Otherwise she should cheerfully submit and be confident that somehow, even if the husband made a bad decision, her submission would be counted as righteousness and God would bring some good of it.

My doubts persisted.  Carlos was the first and only man I met who I trusted enough to think that I would be able to submit.  To my surprise, he believed that the Bible taught mutual submission, and that we were to submit to each other.  HUH?  That was the beginning into a deeper look at what the Bible really teaches about wifely submission.  What I found shocked me.

To be continued.

Image credit: x-ray delta one on Flickr

Read the whole series :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Was Jesus Married? Some thoughts by Samuel Martin

I am honored to share an interesting look at the question of Jesus' relationships on earth by Samuel Martin.  Sam is the author of Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy and a wonderful advocate for loving and grace-filled family relationships.  Check out his blog and his web site. :)


As far as we know from the Bible, Jesus was not married. There is no specific text that someone can point to and say: “Here it is. This proves Jesus was married.” To say he was married is speculative to be sure. I believe that our Lord was not married and I think there are many proofs that one can point to that show this to be the case. I am working to get all these ideas together and write a serious research study on this subject. It is an extremely topical subject these days.

I have been working on this issue in the back of my mind for years, but now I am starting to get my thoughts down on paper. I will keep you posted on the progress of the larger work as it comes together. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to answering this question about Jesus and His experience in the flesh.

In that larger work, I will devote considerable space to some pretty involved arguments in favor of Christ being single. As an example, I want to point to one statement made by Christ Himself and its place in the historical context of that period. I believe that it relates to this issue of Him being single. Let’s look at it:

“And seeing a crowd about him, Jesus commanded to depart unto the other side. And one scribe came to him and said, Teacher, I will follow you where ever you go. And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds have nests; but the Son of Man has not where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:18-20)

Now, this passage is one we find in Matthew. Matthew is a book written from a decidedly Hebraic orientation. That means that the culture of the book, its themes, style, and tone is really oriented to Hebraic thinking and if we keep this in mind when reading this book, it will help us to understand it better. [Note: Of late, I have been doing research in Matthew and have been amazed at the things that I have seen – very exciting ideas to help show us just who Christ was and how He really relates well to humanity as that “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53. Will be having much more to say on this going forward as I do more research.]

Now, getting back to the passage, Jesus seems to quite clearly state that He at that moment in time, using His own comparison logically, did not have a residence, as did those animals. Now, maybe He did have a home in (or near) Nazareth, but are we sure He did? How can we know? Isn’t it interesting that while Christ was just near death, He said: “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by whom He loved, He said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son! Then said he to the disciple. Behold, your mother! And from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:26,27) [Note: In the Greek language, the word “home” does not appear, but we understand it from the context that Mary was now to be reckoned as the mother of that disciple and he was to be her son and this meant that she would now be living with him.]

Perhaps after that time referenced in Matthew, Christ and His mother may have had to abandon their home wherever it was due to the fear they had of people seeking to kill Him. Note that after the raising of Lazarus from the dead, Christ retreated to near the border of Samaria (John 11:54) because of a fear of being caught and killed. Had He had a stable residence, at that time, it would not have been safe to go there for fear of being apprehended. By Jesus’ retreat to near the border of Samaria, He may have been positioning himself near that area in case He needed to flee into Samaria quickly. Rousseau in the book “Jesus and His World” mentions this exact point in the article on Ephraim which John 11:54 mentions. (p.87)

Now, this passage in Matthew has that Hebraic orientation that I talked about and we in fact know that the ancient Hebrews had some teachings about married life, housing and the role that having a home and a family played in ones life. They have left us some very interesting quotes to consider which not only bear on the passage in Matthew 8, but also concern the issue of whether or not Jesus was married. Note the following:

“From Deuteronomy 20:5 the Talmud derives the lesson: ‘The Torah teaches the correct procedure: a man should first build a house, then plant a vineyard, and after that marry.’” (Sotah 44a)” (Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud, pg. 162)

This procedure is quite good advice really and we note it even today here in Jerusalem. It is very common for men here today to have to provide the means to marry. A home, a car, holding down a good job, being able to provide for a family, etc. Without these things being in place, men just do not marry and women will not think of marrying someone who cannot provide these necessities. Generally speaking, their families will not allow it or will frown on it strongly and put pressure on a girl to either wait until the man is in a better position to provide these things or urge her to move one to someone else.  

We can consider this issue when looking back on that passage in Matthew where Jesus indicates that He, at that time, did not have a place to rest his head. If He did not have a stable home, there is almost no conceivable way that He could have been married. It would seemingly have been a violation of the cultural norms at that time.

Cohen also continues with the very interesting following statement:

“A wife meant a home; hence the saying, ‘a man’s home is his wife’ (Yoma 1.1), and Rabbi Jose said, ‘Never have I called my wife by that word (e.g. – He never spoke of his wife as “his wife”), but always ‘my home.’ (Shab.118b).” (ibid.)

This is a lovely and deserved tribute to the wife of Rabbi Jose. It is a bit poetic and Middle Eastern culture is prone to such speech. Even today, I am always happy to hear my brother in law talking to his wife calling her “Ruhi,” (my spirit), or “Elbi, (my heart) or “Umri,” (my life). Makes my own “honey’s” and “darlings” seem a bit lacking certainly poetically speaking. Having said that, what we are talking about here really are terms which denote and point to a oneness relationship that loving married couples feel for one another.

These types of terms are used quite commonly even today and we can see from the Rabbi’s statement, he chose to call his wife “Beti” (my home). To him, having a wife was synonymous with having a home. The two were inseparable.

Now, once again consider that passage from Matthew in light of this statement. Jesus said he did not have a home at that time. Chances are that if he did not have a stable home, He also did not have a wife either and, of course, it goes without saying that this meant that Jesus would identify strongly with those who never knew the warm lovely marital embrace that married couples share, enjoy and engage in with the view to creating a family.

This was a part of God’s plan for Christ to experience not the best that humanity has to offer (which marriage, a family, children, a home and the loving warm embrace of that special someone). No! Christ came to earth to experience the worst that humanity has to offer.

He was born in ignominy, grew up as a tender plant, like a root out of a dry ground (Isaiah 53), must have been teased as a kid because people knew of the supposed ‘situation’ surrounding His birth, was not attractive (ibid), was sickly (ibid. and Luke 4:23), was poor, was rejected by His local community, was persecuted, and finally was killed in a most heinous painful way. This, of course, He did for you and I and went through these experiences bearing the sins of the world, not only the day He died, but throughout his whole life (Matthew 8:17).

Can you imagine how He must have felt going to weddings? Seeing the love of those who were soon to be married and to enter the grace of life together? Knowing that He would never have children or have the feeling of one’s own child saying “Abba”? Pretty hard stuff in a culture where the very first commandment of all is “be fruitful and multiply.”

Summing Up

When we look at that previously referenced passage in Matthew in light of some of these ideas, we can see that if Jesus was married, he was certainly operating outside of the some of the cultural norms of that period. This is just one point to consider when we are asking the question of whether or not our Lord was married. I will bring out more research on this issue in the near future. I look forward very much to your comments and feedback.

Biography of Samuel Martin
Samuel Martin was born in England and is the youngest child of Dr. Ernest L. and Helen R. Martin, who are both Americans. He lived in the UK for the first seven years of his life before moving to the USA with his family at age seven. He lived in the USA until 2001 when he married a native Israeli and relocated to live in Jerusalem. He and his wife, Sonia, have two daughters.
His experience with biblical scholarship began at an early age. His father, Dr. Ernest L. Martin (1932-2002), initiated a program in conjunction with Hebrew University and Prof. Benjamin Mazar, where over a five year period, some 450 college students came to work on an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem starting in 1969 (See Time Magazine, September 3, 1973, article ˝Digging for Credit.). Since that first trip, Samuel has visited Israel on 14 different occasions living more than five years of his life in the country. He has toured all areas of Israel as well as worked in several archaeological excavations.
Besides his experiences in his youth, he also worked on an excavation in northern. Israel under the supervision of Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and participated in a survey in the Judean Desert related to the Dead Sea Scrolls under the guidance of Dr. Robert Eisenman (CSU, Long Beach and author of "James, the brother of Jesus - Viking Penguin: 1997) and Dr. James D. Tabor (UNC, Charlotte and author of The Jesus Dynasty - Simon and Schuster: 2006).
His interests include social studies and the Bible, Hebrew studies and science as it relates to the Bible. He holds a B.A. degree with a special focus on Middle Eastern studies from Portland State University in Oregon. He was raised in an environment of high level Biblical scholarship. His father held a MA in Theology and a Ph.D. in Education and he is well known for his work concerning the Nativity of Jesus Christ (see Elwell, Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, article, Nativity of Jesus Christ or see plus many other books and publications on the Bible.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It is Not My Job to Persuade Her Not to Spank

Doodles in Pen
Image credit michelle brunner on Flickr
My dreams rarely make sense, but last night, they did.  I was back where I started first making the decision to turn away from spanking.  I was earnestly trying to explain to some parents of my K -12 students why we no longer supported corporal punishment.  I pulled out my copy of Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy by Sam Martin, only to see that someone had doodled all over the covers.  I recognized the handwriting as someone close to me in real life who doesn't get our decision at all.  In the dream, as I flipped through my book, I was dismayed by all the damage, but I soon realized that it was only on the outside.  The person to whom I had lent the book had never even read it.  She had simply used the covers for scratch paper.

We have had so many conversations about this.  And to be perfectly honest, not very grace-filled ones.  I get so incredibly frustrated that no matter how many times we have discussed it, each time seems as if we are starting from scratch.  Any of the documented negative consequences of spanking and all research are ignored.  The sexual damage that spanking can cause is met with shock and disbelief.  Pleas to examine the Scripture are shut down because the Bible must always say exactly what a person from our culture casually skimming the KJV would assume.

Her side of it consists of the exact same arguments.   She praises pro-spanking authors like Dobson and Gothard for all of the great good they have done for families.  She reiterates that spanking is only harmful if done in anger.  She brings out the instant obedience in the face of danger argument.   If the conversation is still going at this point, she will add that my kids don't always obey, with the implication that whatever I am doing isn't working perfectly, and maybe they need a good old fashioned spanking.  She argues that God spanks us.

Why do we even bother to have this conversation?  Partly because each time she would give the appearance of listening and a degree of openness, and promise to read more links and info if I would send them.  Partly because her approval matters to me.  Partly because our relationship is close, and this issue is so important to me that I want it to be important to her, too.   Partly because I am stubborn and get tunnel vision all too often. Partly because we are family, and have long established patterns that we still fall into even after recognizing that they aren't healthy or beneficial.  I wanted so much to think that if I somehow said the magic words they would sink in.   I wanted to believe that deep down, her defense of spanking was really protesting too much--that she didn't fully believe all the things she was saying and that a part of her didn't want to spank but was simply parroting all the things she has been taught.

Somehow, the dream made clear to me what any outsider would have seen long before:  she really does believe what she is saying.  She genuinely believes that spanking is beneficial, and any pretense of being interested in alternatives or reasons why spanking is harmful is simply misguided courtesy.  She will doodle on the covers of my beliefs regarding spanking because she has no desire to delve into the book, and doesn't really consider it important to begin with. 

I am slow sometimes.  When it comes to strangers, I am quick to remind myself that I don't have to persuade them.  I cannot be the Holy Spirit to someone else.  Whacking people over the head with our views is rarely productive.  I know all this.  But I forget so easily, especially when it comes to family.

Frankly, the bean dip approach is not who I am.  I don't think it will ever come naturally, because as much as I loathe confrontation, I blurt and feel compelled to talk back, even when my brain is shaking its head no.  I fully believe that there are times when we are called to speak up, particularly on issues like spanking when the victims have no power to speak for themselves.  But maybe, just maybe, there are also times when we are called to let go of things that were never our right or responsibility, like changing someone else's mind.  So I am not going to stop blogging about spanking or gentle discipline.  But in this particular relationship, I am purposing to let go of the compulsion to convince her (and I am blogging about it to help me remember).  It is not my job to persuade her not to spank. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

star sky panorama
Image credit blockedroad on Flickr
I don't need a personality test to tell me that I am an introvert with a capital I.  Sadly, the holiday season has no respect for that whatsoever.  Part of me loves getting to spend time with people that I don't normally get to see.  But I have never been a fan of crowds, and within seconds, I start feeling overwhelmed.  Physically I am fine, but the part of me that is me can't breathe.  As a child, I would always slip away with a book.  Now, I close my eyes and inwardly flash back to a very special holiday night.  It was one of those seemingly insignificant moments that stick in our minds and draw us back over and over. Like snowcream, it brings a bit of sweet coolness to an overheated day.

I was gearing up for finals, and for some reason that I've forgotten (if I ever knew it), I spent the evening with some acquaintances instead of studying. If I had been with some friends, it would have been great. The people I was with were nice, but we had nothing in common, and I felt out of place. We ended up in a horribly stuffy smoke-filled room where I watched the people around me drink and play pool (I do neither, and it wasn't a particularly entertaining spectator sport). It was so crowded it could induce claustrophobia. I had a headache from the cigarette smoke and was starting to have an asthma attack, and the overworked heater in there was making me feel feverish, so I slipped out for a few minutes and walked to a nearby cafe.

As soon as the door closed behind me, I could suddenly breathe. The cacophony was cut off, the air was delightfully clean and crisp, the sky was the deep cobalt of a clear winter evening, and the heavenly hosts were dancing. It was glorious. I felt such a peace and stillness inside. I knew I was in God's presence. I had a lovely walk to the cafe and was warmed on the way back with a rich white chocolate mocha.

That's it. No deep revelation, exactly, but ever since that night I've been able to close my eyes and take a deep breath and feel the stillness of that moment, the quiet in my soul. It is a moment I will be reliving many times in the next few weeks. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Defiance and the Thought Police

I am sure that the look on her face means defiance!
Of all the things that disturb me about punitive parenting, one of the most deeply alarming is the elevation of parents to prison guards over their child's emotions.  It isn't enough to punish physical disobedience--tangible action or inaction.  Fear of The Defiance Boogeyman means that parents must scrutinize every nuance in posture, voice and facial expressions for rebellion.  If they perceive defiance [disagreement], the child deserves a spanking.

We need to re-examine the whole idea of defiance. The punitive experts demand spanking for it. Parents say they know it when they see it.  According to several dictionaries, defiance is open resistance, bold disobedience or a reckless challenge. In application, though, it does not have to be nearly as flagrant as that. Somehow it becomes daring to feel or think anything in disagreement to the parent. It doesn't even have to be deliberately disrespectful in any way. Just different. In essence, kids get spanked for not feeling or thinking the same as their parents.

It doesn't even have to be conscious. Any body language that indicates stress, tension, or heaven forbid, dissent, also becomes defiance.   For many parents it is the look in their child's eye.  My mom would become infuriated when my left eye would begin to squint a little.  She considered it defiance.  I was so confused and frightened by this, because it was something I was not even aware of until I looked in a mirror once.  Even then, I couldn't always control it.  If I am very tense, my facial muscles on that side contract so that my left eye looks smaller.  It still happens as an adult, but now I can't be punished for it.

Michael Pearl gives numerous nauseating examples of hitting children so that they will be cheerful.  In chapter 13 of To Train Up a Child, he explains:
"Bad attitude is pure bad. For as a child "thinketh in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23: 7)." "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23)." If a child shows the least displeasure in response to a command or duty, it should be addressed as disobedience. If a child sticks out his lip, you should focus your training on his bad attitude. The wrong slant of the shoulders reveals a bad frame of mind. Consider this a sign to instruct, train or discipline. A cheerful, compliant spirit is the norm. Anything else is a sign of trouble." [Note: in Pearlspeak, instruction, training and discipline all mean spanking with some type of stick].
The wrong slant of the shoulders deserves a spanking.  For other authors, it not not pasting on a convincing smile.  (Because if they don't obey all the way, right away and with a smile, it isn't true obedience!)   How many four year olds, let alone toddlers, (and Pearl recommends hitting seven month old babies with a switch for fussing) have the physical awareness to even realize that their shoulder position or involuntary facial expressions are wrong, let alone the control to prevent it?  Nearly every child I know who has been spanked has similar stories of being hit for "defiance" that they were unaware of even expressing.

Here is the issue. Spanking or otherwise punishing a child for something as subjective and nebulous as defiant posture or expressions means that you are spanking them for a feeling, not an action. This goes far beyond the issue of ordinary obedience and respect for parents to punishing a child for thoughts and emotions.

The child is left with two options: lie convincingly or never question anything internally, not even to understand it better. After all, delayed obedience isn't really obedience according to these guys (whose Bibles all mysteriously omit Jesus' parable of the two brothers in Mt 21). Over years of practice, both options are exceedingly dangerous. You wind up with a compulsive people pleaser who will lie convincingly without qualm or someone who believes everything and never thinks for himself. 

Courtesy is important, sure.  Children need to learn to express disagreement respectfully.  However, that is a complex social skill with delicate nuance.  Most adults still struggle to do this successfully.  It is going to take considerable practice, teaching and perhaps scripting for a small child to be able to perform courteous disagreement, and punishing them for not getting it perfect is tantamount to punishing a toddler for not acing an algebra exam.  

Yet even respect is not enough for many parents who have bought into the defiance boogeyman.  It becomes a dangerous pride issue.  For them, regardless of how respectfully dissent is presented, the mere existence of beliefs or feelings contrary to the parent are labeled defiance.  Consider--is your child allowed to express disagreement without retaliation?  What would be necessary for it to be acceptable?  Are they allowed to feel angry?  Frustrated?  Upset in any way?  Can they show it?  Or must they pretend to be calm and cheerful?

Becoming another person's thought police or emotional prison guard is only about control. God does not give us the authority to control another individuals thoughts or feelings. A child is not required to obey you if you are asking them to sin. And this kind of parenting is definitely asking them to sin. Parents who do this are seeking to be an idol. They are claiming the place of God in their child's life.  They are grasping at privileges that God does not even take for Himself!

Over and over in the Bible, God's people poured out their hearts to Him even when it was messy.  They were honest with themselves and with God.  They even talked back and argued, and there were times when God counted that as righteousness.  He doesn't demand that we lie and pretend to follow Him.  In fact, hypocrisy seems to bother Him far more than questions or even emotional outbursts.

I would plead with all parents who punish their children for defiance to instead examine their own hearts.  Is your pride motivating you?  Fear?  Desire for control?  How is your attitude compatible with the Fruit of the Spirit?  With James 3:17?  With Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21, I Corinthians 13?  Rather than searching for splinters in the eyes of our children, we need to deal with the logs in our own eyes.  Then we can see more clearly to teach, and may discover that much of what we thought was defiance was simply our own greedy pride.

There is an interesting thread on how to deal with defiance here.  I agree with many of the posters who state that in practice, it doesn't really make a difference whether my children are inwardly defiant or not, because the response will always be to teach.  I don't have to claim to know what is in my child's heart and punish it (doesn't the Bible say that we don't always even know our own hearts, let alone someone else's?).  Instead, I have to model and teach the attitudes that I want to see.

Finally, we know that children learn best by example ("Be imitators of me like beloved children").  If we are rude, disrespectful and arrogant in our attitudes toward our children, how can we have any right to expect their attitudes toward us to be any different?  "Do to others as you would have them do to you" does not have an exemption if the "others" are children.

We are not called to police the thoughts and emotions of our children, to force their feelings underground, or to exact vengeance if they do not cater to our pride.  Instead, we called to teach them in love, gentleness and humility so that they will be able to find healthy and acceptable ways to express their God given individuality.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Opening Up the GD Toolbox: Stories

A good story
Image credit photogramma1 on Flickr
Some of my best childhood memories are of listening to my mother make up stories.  It was only natural to me to start using them with my children.  Most of us tend to think of stories as being nothing more than entertainment.  But they are also a fun part of our parenting toolbox.  Jesus was a storyteller.  The Bible is made up of stories.  Stories are a wonderful way to communicate Truth and encourage connection.  

Whether you are two, twenty, forty, sixty or ninety, one of our deepest needs is to feel understood.  Often children resort to meltdowns because they have no other way to fully express the depth of their hurt, frustration or anger.  They are compelled to show us exactly how serious and intense the feelings are.  Stories can be a great way to show that we get it.

Stories are also a powerful teaching tool.  Most of us tune out a boring list of instructions.  But in an exciting story, it is easy to absorb and remember how a character responded to a situation.  I want to clarify that this is not like some of the old fashioned morality tales that had a heavy handed punishment of bad behavior actions and simplistic reward of positive behavior.  The goal is not to scare our kids (these aren't horror stories!) or to alienate them by showing a disregard for their feelings.  But giving positive role models will provide them with ways (or even scripts) to help handle similar situations.

Stories are even more fun (and more effective) when they are a collaborative effort.  Invite your child to help tell the story.  Ask questions.  "How do you think he felt about that?"  "What do you think she should do next?" It is fine if the story goes in an entirely different way than you envisioned.  As long as your child is communicating with you, good things are happening!  It may seem disturbing if your child throws in a rather graphic scene of vengeance.  Resist the urge to squash their contribution, though--again, it goes back to expressing the full intensity of their feelings.  Once their emotions are fully acknowledged, you can gently work in alternatives.

The number one tip for story telling is to be a good listener.  As you validate and reflect, and allow them to tell their own stories they will be able to gain perspective for their own situations and acquire new coping tools of their own.
When my oldest daughter would have a meltdown, I learned to sit next to her and quietly begin a story about another little girl in a similar situation.  It was a delicate balance to get the same emotions with enough differences in detail to make it clearly a story.  Sometimes she would correct me on details, and I would welcome that as a way for her to share her feelings with words.  

The most beautiful example that I have seen of this type of storytelling is by Crystal Lutton, in her article Words as Magic.  Her story here with her four year old who was upset with his little sister is a fabulous template for using stories as a discipline tool.  Stories can help children feel connected and understood, and when that happens, a surprising number of problems disappear.

And of course, it isn't just for "problem issues".   Stories are always a way to communicate and tie our hearts closer together.

As much as I love story telling, in the moment, sometimes I am so tired or preoccupied that it seems difficult to get in the groove.  These are my favorite tips for coming up with stories my kidlets will love.

Have you ever used stories to diffuse a rough moment, encourage or teach your child, or just to connect?  I would love to hear about how you use them as part of your GD toolbox!


[4/365] Handy Man
Image credit goaliej54 on Flickr
Moving away from punitive parenting requires a brand new set of tools.  Let's open it up together! For the rest of the series, click here.  And if gentle discipline is revealing areas where you need to work on yourself, see if any of these personal tools resonate with you.

Looking for more practical tips?  Check out my favorite post from the Hippie Housewife on The Hows of Discipline (and read through all the comments!),  Pearl in Oyster's 52 Tool Cards series and Aha! Parenting's blog.  Do you need inspiration and a reminder of why and how to do this?  Read Emerging Mummy's Practices of Mothering and Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond.  If you have other great resources or ideas, please add them in the comments.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Guest Post: Fun and Simple Ways for Stay-at-Home Moms to Earn Extra Cash

You may be in that stage of parenting where your kids have all started school, and you have a few hours every day of quiet solitude in the house. Sometimes that quiet solitude can become monotonous and uninteresting. If you are a stay-at-home-mom looking for a hobby to fill in a few hours of the day, why not choose a new hobby that could potentially help you earn a little extra money? Listed below are a few suggestions.

1. Design and create your own hair bows: I have seen some mothers sell their hair bows for great prices and other moms always buy! To get started, you can use a free instructional guide found on the internet or purchase an instructional book from a bookstore. Clips, ribbons, headbands and other materials can all be purchased at your local craft store or even at Wal-Mart. Sell your hair bows at school events or host a selling party at your home.

2. Crocheting: This is not an easy hobby to learn, but once mastered, crocheting provides an excellent opportunity for stay-at-home moms to create unique items that will sale like hotcakes! It may be best to find a crocheting group that you can meet with a few times per week or month, as this is a craft that is best learned from a mentor. Once mastered, you could even create your own crocheting group; maybe even charge a small fee to teach others.

3. Compiling neighborhood recipes and creating a “neighborhood” cookbook: This is an idea that could range from a small task to a large project, depending on the size of your neighborhood. If you attend church, consider asking members if they would like to submit a recipe and donate a percentage of proceeds to a local charity. If the book will be less than 20 pages and you will be printing less than 20 copies, consider typing the book on your home computer and printing and binding it (with plastic comb binders) on your own, as well. The profit from this project may not be great, but the product of the project will be remembered by you and your neighbors forever.

4. Handmade Christmas Ornaments: If you are especially artistic and crafty, this is another hobby that has a potential of producing big bucks. Materials can usually be purchased for a relatively small amount at your local craft store. Ideas for ornaments can be found online, in books or from other ornaments for sale in stores. Display your product at local football games or other school events, and advertise that you will be giving a certain percentage of your proceeds to that school activity.

Whichever hobby you pursue, don’t get frustrated if life gets busy and you have to put a project aside for a few days. Remember, the goal is not necessarily making money but using your free time to enrich your life by learning and creating something new. And if you can teach your children your new hobby, all the better!
Denise Keene has been a Special Ed teacher for 15 years now and likes to write articles about various related topics. She also owns the site Masters In Special Education.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Opening Up the GD Toolbox: Play

I confessed to a couple of my dearest friends recently that although I love my kids dearly, I loathe playing with them.  Don't get me wrong--I really enjoy being with my children.  I delight in watching them play.  But actually participating, getting on the floor, jumping into games and pretending stuff?  That is hard.  Really hard.  It ranks about the same for me as small talk with someone with whom I have virtually nothing in common.  On the outside I try to smile and look attentive, but on the inside I am fidgeting, looking at a mental clock and wondering how soon I can politely disengage. 

Even though it is hard, I don't think I am especially good at it, and I rarely feel like doing it, I know that play is one of the most important things I can do with my children.  Besides all of the skills that children acquire through play, it is the key to two of their deepest needs: power and connection. 

Long Beach Comic Expo 2011 - Little Supergirl and Wonder Woman
Image credit PopCultureGeek on Flickr
Feeling helpless has got to be one of the absolute worst feelings in the world.  And, face it, when your greatest power consists of choosing the red shirt instead of the blue shirt today, being able to control a situation in play, to make your own choices and even change everything through your imagination is huge.  The key here is following your child's lead and not imposing your own preferences.  Offer role-reversals.  Let them be the parent and you be the child.  Let them rescue you.  The possibilities for empowering play are endless!

The other important by product of playing together is connection.  I am not a particular fan of Sponge Bob or Spiderman, but my son is.  And when I play with him, he learns that his interests, his likes and feelings are important to me.  He matters.

Physical connection goes hand in hand with the emotional connection of play.  Sometimes when our young explorers begin to move away from all the physical connections of breastfeeding, babywearing and bed sharing, we forget to make time for other healthy touch.  Rough housing, tag, hide and seek, and other games that deal with separation and connection are important.  We love the pushing game.  Filling little love cups with fun filled physical affection is one of the best aspects of play.

Meeting the underlying needs for power and connection is one of the keys to effective discipline.  People who feel empowered and connected are much more likely to behave in appropriate ways.  But there are many other ways that play can be used in discipline.

Transitions are much smoother if we have a fun way to do them.  Whenever we cross the parking lot, we all pick a different animal to imitate: stomping like elephants, wiggling our tails like little fish, hopping like bunnies (I excel at waddling like a penguin).  We prefer non competitive games for the most part, but every now and then a race to see who can get buckled up first or make it to their seats is helpful.  Classics like the Quiet Game or seeing who can win a silent stare down without laughing can be a great way to calm down after boisterous play.

Role playing is one of the most effective ways to learn any new skill.  Want to practice acceptable behavior for restaurants?  Play restaurant games!  Have tea parties!  Play library and practice using quiet voices.  Get silly and use exaggerated, over the top examples. Do you have a runner?  Play games like Red Light, Green Light or others that practice starting and stopping on cue.  Talk about bullying and then role play different responses.  For some games, you might want to provide a script.  Or depending on your kids' mood or the situation, you may all improvise. Just make sure that you don't lose the fun in the teaching.  If the educational aspect needs to take a back seat, so be it.  They will still learn from the little bits that you do work in.

Going through a potty talk phase?  Make a game of giving them nonsense words to use instead.  When my three year old was randomly inserting "caca" into every sentence, we zeroed in on what he really wanted: the fun of our reaction.  So we ignored that, but told him to never, ever say "snooglewoogles".  Of course, he immediately did, and we played up our shock and horror, throwing up our hands and looking around to see if anyone had heard.  Pretty soon, he decided that it was much more fun to say snooglewoogles. 

Use play to provide a spoonful of sugar for unpleasant or boring tasks.  My sweetlings can be very, er, inventive if left to distract themselves in a waiting room or other boring place.  Ahem.  Participating in their play or finding gentle ways to help direct it is necessary right now.  Go retro with I Spy, pen and paper games or even making up stories together.  If you need to all pick up the house, try tossing objects into a basket, setting a timer, picking up a specific color or type of object--anything to make it more fun.  (I need extra motivation on this kind of thing, too!)

This is just the tip of the iceberg on ways that you can use play as a tool.  The September 2011 Carnival of Natural Parenting is full of fabulous posts on this topic.  Read to the end to find all the links.  :)  For more inspiration and ideas, get Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen.  Discipline is not supposed to be miserable--it should be delightful.  Playing with your kids is one of the most powerful tools you will ever find.


[4/365] Handy Man
Image credit goaliej54 on Flickr
Moving away from punitive parenting requires a brand new set of tools.  Let's open it up together! For the rest of the series, click here.  And if gentle discipline is revealing areas where you need to work on yourself, see if any of these personal tools resonate with you.

Looking for more practical tips?  Check out my favorite post from the Hippie Housewife on The Hows of Discipline (and read through all the comments!),  Pearl in Oyster's 52 Tool Cards series and Aha! Parenting's blog.  Do you need inspiration and a reminder of why and how to do this?  Read Emerging Mummy's Practices of Mothering and Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond.  If you have other great resources or ideas, please add them in the comments.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Opening Up the GD Toolbox: Physical Needs

[4/365] Handy Man
Image credit goaliej54 on Flickr
Choosing to use gentle discipline is scary at first.  What are you going to do if you give up spanking?  Time out?  What if that doesn't work?  Take away privileges?  What if your kids are too young to really care?  I remember that feeling in the pit of my stomach when we first decided not to spank.  It was like jumping off a cliff and not being sure of the landing.

It turns out that there are many, many tools besides spanking and time outs.  I gave an overview of some of our favorites, but now I want to open up that toolbox by focusing on each one, with practical tips of how to use it.  Even if spanking is still one of your tools right now, I hope that as you read through the alternatives you will find fewer reasons to use it. For more in this series, click here.

Looking for more practical tips?  Check out my favorite post from the Hippie Housewife on The Hows of Discipline (and read through all the comments!),  Pearl in Oyster's 52 Tool Cards series and Aha! Parenting's blog.  Do you need inspiration and a reminder of why and how to do this?  Read Emerging Mummy's Practices of Mothering and Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond.  If you have other great resources or ideas, please add them in the comments.

Meeting Physical Needs

Punitive parenting is about responding to a behavior.  Proactive parenting means that instead of waiting for a problem, we work at helping our kids *before* it gets to that point.  One of the basic ways to do this is to make sure that physical needs are being met.  When I first heard that kind of reminder, I felt a tad defensive.  Is she implying that I am a neglectful parent?  Of course I take care of physical needs!!

Healthy summer snack
Image credit lindaaslund on Flickr
I am sure that you do what you can to meet your child's needs.  But in the hustle and bustle of all the responsibilities that we have, many of us fall into the habit of ignoring our physical needs to get things done.  Sometimes, our kids do that, too.  If I go too long without a snack or break, I get grouchy, and so do my kids.  I have learned to ask at regular intervals:  Are we getting healthy snacks?  Plenty to drink?  Enough rest?  Younger kids even get so busy playing at times that they ignore a need to go to the bathroom.  

Another important physical need is exercise.  We all need those endorphins.  A huge part of why we homeschool is that my kids need plenty of physical activity, and sitting in a classroom wouldn't allow them to run, climb, dance, jump and do everything else they need to do in order to use their growing muscles and get the wiggles out.  This is all well and good, but what if you can't go outside?  A couple of our favorite indoor activities are pillow piles and the pushing game.  Dancing is always good, especially when mixed with a moment to freeze and see who has the funniest position or expression.  

I know there are some people who suspect that parents nowadays invent food allergies for their kids.  Whatever the reasons behind food allergies, the truth is that they have risen dramatically, and they often don't look like hives and anaphylaxis.  And young kids may not be able to verbalize their symptoms.  Mold gives me an exhausted, foggy-brained  feeling that I struggle to put into words, even as an adult.  I have difficulty concentrating and a headache.  A lot of kids respond to wheat or gluten that way.  Tummy troubles, mucousy stools, constipation and other issues can make a child very cranky.  Some kids react to food dyes, gluten and other common foods by getting hyper and bouncing off the walls.  According to our allergist, dairy and other foods can even cause bladder spasms, so that a child doesn't feel the urge to urinate then suddenly has an accident. 

Image credit Wallula Junction on Flickr
Most of us are sympathetic to a baby who is teething.  But we forget about it as they get older.  Molars, though, are some of the most painful teeth to break through the gums, and they come through around two years and again around six.  No wonder those are some of the toughest ages for kids!  I remember the pain of wisdom teeth coming through, and for little kids to deal with the constant irritation and inflammation of cutting molars has to take a toll on their behavior some days.

How often have our kids had a tough day, and then the next day they get sick?  I can't tell how many times I have been aggravated at their behavior, only to look back a day or two later and realize that they were coming down with something.  Even if they don't have visible symptoms yet, they may be fighting off an ear infection, a virus or something else.

Finally, while no one wants to suspect that their child has special needs, it often isn't until children are much older that issues like an auditory processing disorder or other things are diagnosed.  Make sure that you are giving sufficient time for your child to completely understand your request and then to respond (which even in neurotypical kids often takes much longer than we realize).  I have even known of families who eventually discovered hearing loss in their child and finally realized that much of what had seemed to be willfully ignoring them was not.  And of course, there are tons of possibilities I haven't covered here.   If your default is to assume that they are doing the best that they can in a given moment, it will save a lot of energy from regret later!

People who don't feel well usually don't act right.  We know that.  But sometimes we need to be reminded.  If your child's behavior is telling you that something is wrong, take a look at possible physical causes.  There might be more going on than meets the eye.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

But They Look So Happy!

Happy face
Image credit masochismtango on Flickr
News about the Duggars’ newest baby has spawned a number of online arguments. One of the most frequent comments was about how cheerful their family is, especially the children; how Michelle is a great mom who doesn't yell. Life must be working for them, because the kids are well behaved and look happy. Sounds reasonable, right?

I might believe it, if I didn't know what I know of Gothard/ATI, the Pearls, and S. M Davis. One of the creepiest things about their teachings is that happy is the only acceptable emotion. Not only must children be perfectly compliant at all times, they must also look cheerful at all times.

The Duggars are deeply enmeshed in ATI, (Gothard's homeschooling program) and ATI takes allegiance very seriously. It isn't a vague statement of beliefs that you sign so your kids can take the courses. It is several pages of in-depth info that covers what kind of music you can listen to (no Christian rock), the kind of TV you may watch (mainly Christian DVDs), the way you must dress (those jumpers are about modesty), the kind of punishments the parents must use (spankings), and more. It isn't just a curriculum--it is a lifestyle which delves into family finances, child planning and every other detail.

One key idea teaches the importance of a joyful countenance and a light in your eyes. This is a measure of how mighty you are in spirit. Not only that, it is also an indicator of your respect for authority. Bill Gothard explains in the Basic Seminar session on How To Relate to Four Authorities that if you look unhappy, you are publicly shaming your authority. In parenting, that means that if the kid looks unhappy, it is a personal offense against the parents. He also teaches that unhappiness is the result of ungratefulness, and that anger comes from not yielding our rights to God. This boils down to the idea that if you are not cheerful, you are not pleasing God.

The Duggars also strongly recommend S. M. Davis in their Family Favorites link under Solving Family Problems. Although he is perhaps not as well known as Gothard or the Pearls, his teachings are similar. Along with the strong insistence on father rule and corporal punishment, he is adamant that not only must the child immediately obey without question, but that it must also be done with a smile.

advising parents of young children, he says, "They need to learn to obey what you say, do it right away and do it with a smile. Maybe that is a statement that you should have your children memorize and even hang in your home. ‘Do what I say, when I say and with a smile.’" A few lines later, he repeats it, "After all, isn’t the goal immediate obedience with a smile? If it isn’t that, it isn’t obedience, and the child has won." (Quite a contrast to Jesus' parable of the two sons in Matthew 28!). 

There has long been a lot of speculation about whether the Duggars use the controversial punishment methods taught by Michael and Debi Pearl in
To Train Up a Child (TTUAC). The Duggar’s website includes it along with a glowing recommendation. Considering that some of the other recommendations list personal details about how the materials were used by the family, I cannot believe that it was randomly included on their site without their approval.

Pearl's writings contain many nauseating anecdotes about how children (even infants) who expressed unhappiness or anger following punishment, were hit even harder and longer until they were ‘cheerful’. One of these examples is found in Chapter 13 of To Train Up a Child:

"My nine- and eleven-year-old daughters came in from a neighbor's house complaining of a young mother's failure to train her child. A seven-month-old boy had, upon failing to get his way, stiffened, clenched his fists, bared his toothless gums and called down damnation on the whole place. At a time like that, the angry expression on a baby's face can resemble that of one instigating a riot. The young mother, wanting to do the right thing, stood there in helpless consternation, apologetically shrugged her shoulders and said, "What can I do?" My incredulous nine-year-old whipped back, "Switch him." The mother responded, "I can't, he's too little." With the wisdom of a veteran who had been on the little end of the switch, my daughter answered, "If he is old enough to pitch a fit, he is old enough to be spanked.""

A seven month old. Hit with a switch for crying. How twisted is that?

He goes on to add, "Bad attitude is pure bad. For as a child "thinketh in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23: 7)." "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23)." If a child shows the least displeasure in response to a command or duty, it should be addressed as disobedience. If a child sticks out his lip, you should focus your training on his bad attitude. The wrong slant of the shoulders reveals a bad frame of mind. Consider this a sign to instruct, train or discipline. A cheerful, compliant spirit is the norm. Anything else is a sign of trouble."

So it isn't just verbal disagreement. A "wrong" slant of the shoulders deserves punishment. Children are taught from babyhood to always be cheerful, or else they deserve a spanking. As they grow older, it is not just the fear of a spanking that causes them to keep smiling. It is the sincere belief that they are sinning with ungratefulness, rebellion and more if they don't present a happy face.

You know the whole fake it till you make it idea? It is pretty effective. I am sure that there are plenty of times where the kids are genuinely happy. There are many good things in their lives, and I do believe that the kids are loved. I am not saying that it is all a sham. I do strongly suspect that the habit of "joyfulness" is so deeply ingrained that denying "ungodly emotions" is automatic by now.

If you repeatedly ignore a feeling of satiety and force yourself to continue eating, eventually it becomes very, very difficult to even recognize when you are full. In the same way, those who have come out of cultures where they must always present a calm, smiling face, often go through a phase where they can’t even recognize which feelings are authentic and which ones have become nothing more than a conditioned response. If you are under observation or threat of punishment all the time, such emotional repression becomes an essential defense mechanism to protect yourself.

A very telling question is, "Do they laugh?" Yes, they smile often. But how often do they lose themselves in a deep belly laugh? What other emotions do you see openly displayed besides peace and contentment? Do you see spontaneous outbursts of any strong feeling, even joy? Or is every response carefully contained? Do they ever flip a switch? Go from distress to instant calm?
Self control is admirable, of course. But so is healthy self expression. Suppression is not. Consider how the Bible portrays emotion.  Jesus wept. He even cried to the point of bloody tears.  He got angry, threw over tables and chased people out of the Temple. There were times when He sounded suspiciously close to exasperation with the disciples. David, the man after God's own heart, yelled and raged, cried and despaired. Read the stories of the heroes of faith- they argued, tantrumed, got discouraged, and felt afraid. They were open and real with their big emotions, even when they looked messy.

Part of our job as parents is to give our children healthy ways to express all of their feelings, not to punish them for having the feelings in the first place.  Expressing intense feelings in safe and appropriate ways is a skill that requires practice.  We must model speaking the truth in love.

For many people who follow Gothard, Davis and the Pearls, there is incredibly strong pressure to be a salesperson witness. Your countenance is your sales pitch testimony, and if you present an ugly picture to the world, it is a public shaming of your parents and ultimately your God. Are you going to be the cause of people in the world turning from Christ?

I have heard women who are part of this mindset justify staying in abusive relationships because "it would look so bad for a Christian to divorce". As if God would rather you live a damaging lie and deceive others than expose the truth that even families who claim Him are not perfect. (Shhhh. Maybe He won't know that your marriage is really broken as long as you don't sign divorce papers! It is the letter, not the spirit that counts, right? Oh, wait...) Please check out Families Where Grace is In Place or Grace Based Living to read more about living free from curse-filled relationships.

I believe that God values wholehearted authenticity over superficial perfection. As C. S. Lewis expressed so powerfully, "until we have faces" and remove our veils, we will not have the relationship with God or others that we were meant to experience. Such honesty and vulnerability is often uncomfortable, both to demonstrate and to witness, but it is vital. 

He is truly a God who is our Rock, the anchor for our souls. He is big enough to handle our fleeting emotions, even the messy ones. He can take our deepest questions. We can pour out anguish, discouragement, loneliness, petty annoyances, frustration and anger, knowing that His arms are everlasting and that He has promised to wipe away all tears from our eyes.

Jesus didn't say, "...or I'll give you something to cry about!" Instead, He said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." He doesn't condemn us for our feelings. He comes alongside us and comforts us. He doesn't punish us if our smile slips.

So when I hear someone say, "But they look so happy!" I can't help but think, "Of course they do. They know that happy is the only acceptable emotion in their world. But is it really happiness when you aren't allowed to express anything else?"

If you are interested in more of what life is really like for someone growing up under Gothard and the Pearls, there is a wealth of information and stories at:

No Longer Qivering
Commandments of Men
Darcy's Heart-Stirrings
Love, Joy, Feminism
Permission to Live
Recovering Grace
The Eighth and Final Square
Why Not Train a Child?
A Quiver Full of Information

Davis, S. M. (2011) Difficult Young Child Help
Duggars, J and M. (2011) Duggar Family Favorites and
Gothard, Bill. (2011) Basic Seminar Session 04: How to Relate to Four Authorities.
Pearl, Michael. (1994). To Train Up a Child. No Greater Joy Ministries.

 ***Note***This has been edited from the original post to correspond to the version that I wrote for Home Educating Family Magazine.  Both versions were written before Mrs. Duggar's miscarriage.  Although I disagree very strongly with their position on many things, particularly corporal punishment and patriarchy, I believe that the loss of any child is a tragedy, and they have my very deepest sympathies.