Sunday, December 22, 2013

To the Mom Who Brought Wonder Woman to Church

Image credit: Cayusa on Flickr

Dear Mama,

I saw you duck your head as you entered, embarrassed that the singing had already begun.  It's OK.  Getting little ones out of the house takes longer than you expect some days.  I was just delighted that you and your little girls made it!

You bit your lip and winced when you realized that all the pews in the back half were full and that you would have to go nearer the front.  You weren't distracting the others.  They smiled as you and your three year old knelt down and were happy to scoot over and give you more room.

When your five year old pulled off her coat, revealing a Wonder Woman dress and purple sweat pants in all their glory, I could see you thinking again that it wasn't appropriate for church.  Oh, mama!  First of all, I have kids with SPD and I know very well what it is like when every single item of clothing they own suddenly doesn't feel right.  Here is the most important thing: she had put on joy, love and a tender and open spirit.  She has plenty of time to adapt to social conventions of what is appropriate.  What I saw was a pure heart that was happy to be there, and that is far more important.  Seriously--if you had pushed the issue, and forced her to change, it would only have meant that you both arrived in a bad mood (if you arrived at all!).  And finally, she was totally rockin' the sparkly shoes with her outfit!

Her eyes lit up when she saw the purple and gold robe the priest was wearing--her favorite color!  When she and your three year old began to pray along with the congregation, my heart melted.  I chuckled inside when the littlest one began to clap, even though no one else was clapping.  Although they can't read yet, they turned the pages in the hymnal and tried to imitate the adults, and it reminded me of a couple of girls about that age who used to close their eyes and raise their hands in worship.  They weren't sure why, but they saw the grown ups doing it and thought it must be important.  During the homily, they looked around, and their eyes sparkled just like the stained glass windows they were admiring.

I could see your shoulders tense up a little at the wriggling, and knew that you were worried about their behavior.  I wasn't.  And that is why I pulled my arms around you and whispered in your ear, "Shame off you!  My house is a place of grace, not shame."

"And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  ~ Matthew 18:3 NIV

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Even when they come dressed as Wonder Woman.

With all my love,



I know that some people will feel uncomfortable that I signed God's name to this.  It is not done in any spirit of irreverence.  You see, I was that frazzled mom this morning, and I believe that this is what He told me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Prepper-ish: A List for Those Who Are Not Too Worried, but Want to Skip the Stores (Bonus Cookie Recipe!)

Oatmeal Cookies
Image credit: Paul martin on Flickr
As a winter storm barreled our way this morning, one of my favorite writers, SortaCrunchy, asked what we were doing to prepare.  I mentioned that we didn't do much beyond baking a double batch of our favorite dark chocolate walnut oatmeal cookies, because we are prepper-ish.  In other words, you will never see us on a reality TV show, and we would be in deep doodoo if a disaster lasted beyond a couple of weeks, but we also get to avoid the panicked crowds at the store before the occasional ice storm.  So, if you want to be reasonably prepared in case of a minor emergency, but have no interest in Youtube videos about the coming apocalypse, this post is for you.

Our pantry staples:
  • Several cases of bottled water (enough to last our family of six and pets for several days)
  • Several bags of chocolate chips (seriously, we do not want to endure stress without chocolate)
  • Plenty of coffee (ditto)
  • Several cans of sweetened condensed milk for the aforementioned coffee
  • Toilet paper
  • Trash bags
  • Salsa
  • Flour
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Vanilla
  • Oatmeal
  • Candles
  • Lighters and matches, flashlights and batteries
  • Any meds
  • Beans and rice, because we like them
  • Cocoa and tea
  • Dish soap
  • Canned goods that we actually like, mainly tomatoes 
  • Pet food
  • Applesauce
  • Pasta
  • Parmesan cheese
  • precooked shelf stable bacon
  • chicken broth
  • Folex (a miracle worker for cleaning anything, especially if you can't do laundry for a few days)
  • plain bleach
  • chiles
  • salt
Our freezer staples:
  • ground beef
  • chicken
  • cream
  • frozen fruit
  • butter (I have a Paula Deen streak, y'all, and I also stock up on pastured butter during the spring and summer and then stick it in the freezer so that I have it year round)
  • bread
Most of these are pretty self-explanatory, but you likely noticed the prevalence of comfort foods.  I know that there is the idea that if you are starving, you will eat anything, but it isn't true, and we have kids, and honestly--if I am already stressed out and in an emergency situation, I need my coffee and chocolate.   Similarly, I am not optimistic enough to think that that will be a great time to try to convince my children that canned spinach is going to be delicious.  So I only stock things that we already enjoy and would use, which means we are limited on the veggies, but most spaghetti sauces have veggies, or you can do some V-8 or something.  And though I know how gross Velveeta is, it lasts forever and makes really good cheese dip, so I keep a box or two and some Rotel on hand as a special treat.  Think of your favorite foods and plan from there.

Although water is the biggie, I also want plenty of flavored beverages in case we need to boil water later on.  In Haiti, we added a few drops of bleach to the water and boiled it to make it safe for drinking, then disguised the taste by making it into strong coffee with lovely Haitian vanilla.  Tea or cocoa can be used if you aren't into coffee or just want a variety.

Since we have dealt with egg and dairy allergies in the past, I am not too worried about eggs and milk (and applesauce can make a good egg substitute for baking).  

We also keep an extra can of propane for our grill in case we need to use it for cooking.

For any minor medical emergencies, having four kidlets means that we are pretty well stocked, but I try to make sure we have plenty of the basics: essential oils, bandaids, pain reliever, allergy meds, burn ointment, etc.

Make sure that all phones, etc, are fully charged, and there are even some neat solar chargers and other fun things if you are worried about being without electricity for a considerable period.

Books, of course.

Our little ones are now weaned, and out of diapers (praise Him!), but you would obviously want to have extra diapers in their sizes, wipes, and any other baby needs.

I have a diva cup and cloth pads.  Although I am not a fan of the diva normally, I would totally go with it in this scenario.

The FEMA site has some helpful guidelines for building your own emergency kits here.

The good thing is that you don't have to stock up all at once.  An extra case of toilet paper here, and few extra cans of tomatoes there, a $4 case of water this week, an extra bag of chocolate chips next week go a long way without breaking the budget. 

As we cozy up with extra blankies, a movie and cookies, I am really glad that I won't have to fight anyone at the store or be around well-meaning but inept drivers on icy roads for the next few days.

Now, for our favorite cookie recipe.  I suck at giving recipes because I am of the throw-it-together-till-it-looks-right school of measurement, but this one is nearly impossible to screw up.  I used to do a GF/EF/DF version, and it always turned out great!

2 C flour
2 C regular oats
1 1/3 C honey or sugar
1 1/2 C dark chocolate chips (we love the 60% cacao Ghiradelli, but any is fine)
1 C walnuts
1 rounded tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks melted butter
1 egg
generous glug of vanilla
a splash of milk if needed

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix dry ingredients together (if you use honey, save it for the wet ingredients).  Melt butter and let cool just enough so that it won't melt the chocolate or cook your egg.  Add in the egg, vanilla, honey and stir, then blend with the dry ingredients.  It should be thick enough to hold its shape, but thoroughly moistened.  If you need to (basically if you used sugar instead of honey), add a splash of milk.  Scoop into golf-ball sized balls and put on a cookie sheet.  Back about 15 minutes or until the edges are golden.  Then enjoy the sound of the storm on your windows with a good book, cookies and coffee.  :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How I Lost My Voice, and Got it Back ~ Anonymous Post (Sensitive)

It started innocuously enough.  I loved to read, and my favorite heroes were self-reliant and uncomplaining, even in the face of adversity and mistreatment.

There was a universal scorn against tattling among my friends.

My exasperated mother told me over and over to stop trying to justify my actions and accept just punishment and show contrition. I was six.


No more words
Image credit: Katie Tegtmeyer on Flickr
He was a wealthy professional.  My eyes wide at his luxurious home, I also noticed that my parents were extra-polite to him.  They respected him for his knowledge, experience and reputation.

I was frozen with shame as he pulled down my underwear.  I looked at the ceiling and tried to convince myself to believe his lies as he touched me.  I was eight.

I didn't want to say anything.  Trying to get the right tone of voice and not sure if I should be casual or outraged, I told my parents what had happened.

My mom was upset.  My dad was uncomfortable.  There were some careful questions as to exactly what had taken place.  They argued.  And then...nothing.  It was ignored.  No police report, no confrontation with him, not even the trouble to keep me from being alone with him again.

Each time, I held my breath, afraid he would try again.  The nightmares were always connected to his place, though never to his act.  I was afraid to go to sleep.  Months passed, and just when I started to think it would never happen again, it did.

The second time, I didn't bring it up.  I was nine.


Deep in the patriarchy/courtship movement, there was an agreement:  I would keep my heart and body pure, and following the tenets of courtship would keep me safe.  Going through my father would mean that I was respected and valued.

Brushing my arm.  My shoulder.  A squeeze.  Always little things, but always finding a way to touch me.  I squirmed, blushed and ignored it.  Finally, after weeks, I went to my dad and told him, feeling awkward beyond words.  I had a suspicion as to his response, but this was only a teenage guy.  Maybe it would be different?  I had to force out the words, asking if he would tell him to back off and stop touching me.  I could see the humiliation in my dad's face at the idea as he asked how important it was.  And I mumbled "not very," because it clearly wasn't.  I was fourteen.


His pastor praised him as the most upstanding young man in his whole youth group, one who was committed to sexual purity and had a heart that was devoted to God.  The first time I met the guy, we were crowded into the back seat of a carload of people.  Of course he was pressing against me--there wasn't any room.  Except later that afternoon, there was plenty of room, and he stood behind me and began to rub my butt.  I was mortified, and took a second before I could work up the courage to move away.  I knew better than to bring it up to anyone else, but I wrote him a letter expressing how much it bothered me.  He responded with a very nice apology.  We wound up spending quite a bit of time together and he was always very respectful and polite, and never again initiated any physical contact.  I was sixteen.


I was working a volunteer position with an international company.  Every single time I or any of my female coworkers passed a particular employee, he would make lewd suggestions in reference to our jobs.  I rolled my eyes and ignored it, but a friend insisted that we needed to file a report, if not just for ourselves then out of consideration of the repercussions if he were to repeat that to a woman from another country that was doing business with us.  We reported his behavior.  The supervisors were horrified by his comments and took it very seriously.  They never once dismissed or minimized his behavior, or our discomfort with his harassment.  I was twenty one.


I had a little girl, and I realized that I would always fight to protect her, and that if she ever, ever came to me, I would believe her and do everything I possibly could to keep her safe.  I was twenty nine.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline (Book Review and Giveaway!)

For the last nine years, I have immersed myself in the world of gentle parenting, and LR Knost's books represent some of the best info I have ever found.  The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline not only covers the background of why gentle parenting is so important for healthy families, but it also includes the how.  How do you make this work?  What does it look like in a busy family with several kidlets and many needs?

Some of the things that I loved about the book: (Does it sound too schoolgirly to shriek, "Everything!"?  OK, well, here are some of the things that I super-de-doopery loved about it.)
  • Bite sized chapters.  The 30 chapters are informative, but also short and easy to read, which is especially helpful when your reading time some days is just a few minutes on the toilet. 
  • Chapters for all ages.  So many gentle parenting books focus on babyhood, which is--admit it--relatively easy.  No matter how curious, a one year old doesn't push nearly as many buttons as a sassy four year old or a six year old in the throes of disequilibrium.  The Gentle Parent gives specific chapters for toddlers and preschoolers while still devoting a full third of the book to middle childhood, the teens and beyond.  
  • It's truly gentle.  I have been disappointed in several books that talk about positive parenting but are really just punishement lite--more sophisticated ways to shame and punish our children than brute physical force.  We recognize that childish bullying can take many forms, whether through punching a child on the playground, shunning them at the lunch table or humiliating them online.  Parenting bullying is still bullying whether through spanking, forced isolation or shaming.  The techniques here are focused on the three Cs: Connection, Communication and Cooperation.
  • It's truly practical.  Many books focus on vague rainbow-flower-sparkly-unicorn principles that sound good (and maybe even are) but in the moment of dealing with a child who bites or hits or is melting down, most of us don't need lofty sounding ideas--we need targeted, rational and compassionate steps.  This book has individual chapters on tantrums, hitting/kicking/throwing/biting, lying, backtalk, parenting in public and strong-willed, highly sensitive children.  Over and over I found new ideas and tools to improve my relationship with my children and ways to help them cope.
  •  It's fun.  The chapter Sandbox Soapbox: Toddler Insights had me laughing out loud.  It was so insightful and so entertaining.  Ideas like the Calm Me jars and the scripts for silliness were great, because those things just don't come naturally to me.  And even when dealing with parental hurts and establishing firm boundaries for how parents need to act, LR Knost is never belittling or discouraging.  Chapters like Hurting Parents, Hurting Children, The Butterfly Effect and The Color of Change, and All the 'Right' Parenting Moves shower parents with the same loving wisdom that she approaches children.
  • It's effective.  I have applied many of the concepts that The Gentle Parent covers with my own four kidlets.  LR Knost has used them with her own six children, two of whom have sensory issues, one with Sensory Processing Disorder, two with ADD, one with Auditory Processing Disorder and two who are very intense/high-needs, as well as with the other families she has helped.  I can always tell a difference when I have been spending some time reading her books--I am more patient and centered, my children are more connected and cooperative, and there is more harmony in our lives.  With my review of Two Thousand Kisses a Day, I described it as love waves that keep splashing on my family the whole day, where we all experienced more peace, joy, patience, kindness and self control.  That has been true of all of her books and is why they are one of my treasured resources.    
Seriously, y'all.  I used a highlighter to go over my favorite quotes and ideas, and nearly every page has lemon-scented yellow on it.  

One final note--as a Jesus-lover, my parenting and my faith are very much intertwined.  Although this book is not religious in tone, I know that this also reflects the author's deep relationship with God and the love that fills their home.  I highly recommend her posts on Christian parenting and her interview with Gentle Christian Mothers.

So how can you get it?  It is available on Amazon and from the Little Hearts Books website, and for international mamas who don't want to pay that much shipping there is also an Etsy shopBest of all, you have a chance to get it for FREE!  As part of the celebration for reaching 3,000 Facebook friends this week, we are offering a free copy of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline.  To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post with your email address by 11:00PM CST on Sunday, November 17, 2013.  One winner will be chosen randomly.  

Also, be sure and check out the Little Hearts blog and Facebook pages.  I have been blessed with access to a ton of wonderful parenting pages and I simply don't have time to stay caught up on all of them, but this is one I never want to miss because it ALWAYS refreshes my spirit. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Response to John Piper's "Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children"

This post has been all over my newsfeed today.  There are some good points in it, for sure, but there was also much that left me either shuddering or rolling my eyes.  Our world is already saturated with adversarial, fear-based parenting that tries to mix with common sense, and I would much rather see more Gospel that is truly good news for our children and families.

Piper's article starts off lamenting permissive parenting where parents repeatedly give a child instructions that the child ignores, and then resort to bribes.

OK, I can agree that that is not necessarily effective parenting.  We are teaching children that our words don't matter if we toss them out there willy-nilly and they know that we don't mean them.  However, he doesn't clarify whether or not the children heard the instructions, which actually is rather important.  My children, just like me, often become so engrossed in whatever they are doing that it doesn't always register that someone is talking to them.  In that case, yes, I repeat myself.  I also try to get close enough to my child to gently touch a shoulder and make eye contact so that I know they are aware of what I am saying.

As for the bribery, it is just the flip side of his own form of motivation.  He advocates punishment and fear-based coercion, some parents prefer to rely on bribery as a more positive version.  The thing is, though, that both punishment and rewards are external motivation.  Neither encourage children to do the right thing because of love and desire for righteousness--it is all about what is in it for them and how to keep themselves most comfortable.  I want my children to go beyond self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness.

Then the ick starts to ramp up: he essentially says that if parents don't enforce immediate compliance every time, they are training their children to be shot by the police.   Really?  The fear-mongering here is a bit over the top.  Fear clouds good judgement.  When you encourage parents to operate from a place of fear, almost anything can be justified.  It's the "spank-them-so-they-don't-run-in-the-street" argument on steroids.  After all, if you are convinced that your children will be killed, or go to hell, or whatever other dire outcome, lesser violence seems acceptable and even desirable.  And if you are scared enough, you just might not realize that there are better ways. My own worst parenting moments have always come from fear.

Piper claims that "requiring obedience of children is implicit in the biblical requirement that children obey their parents." Where does he find this in Scripture? The commandment is not, "Parents, demand honor for yourselves."  Read the Gospels and look at Jesus' response to the disciples when they started trying to grasp honor and position for themselves.  Arrogantly demanding that others honor us goes entirely against the nature of Christ.

Consider this other example of Biblical family relationships.  Husbands and wives are commanded to submit to each other, but they are certainly not commanded to coerce the other into submission.  Knowing that Piper believes wives must obey their husbands, if he is going to be consistent with this idea, then he would believe that husbands must force their wives to submit.  That is a recipe for abuse.  For a Reformed pastor to teach that we must coerce others into obeying God seems awfully Inquisition-like.

We are responsible to God for following His commands to us.  We are not responsible for exacting revenge against those who do not soothe our pride.

Another important consideration is that obedience is far more than compliance.  Compliance is just outwardly doing what is required.  True obedience means that they hear with their hearts, they understand, and they choose to obey.  It is a heart response of united purpose.  It cannot be forced.  If it is done out of fear, it is merely compliance, not obedience.   And nowhere are parents given the authority to judge the hearts and intents of their children.  To attempt that is to try to usurp power that belongs to God alone, and a far more serious thing than any childish mistakes our little ones might make.

Piper's third point is also disturbing: "Little children, under a year old, can be shown effectively what they may not touch, bite, pull, poke, spit out, or shriek about. You are bigger than they are. Use your size to save them for joy, not sentence them to selfishness."  First of all, the most basic, introductory info on cognitive development in infants will show that babies this small are not capable of that level of self-regulation. What is most telling to me about this comment is that he doesn't say, "Use your maturity, wisdom and perspective as an adult to help them."  He says, "Use your size."  Instead of adults coming alongside their children to help, Piper implies that they are to bully and intimidate their babies.

Piper's fourth point seems to be that public behavior is much more important than behavior at home, and that consistency is desirable so that we won't be embarrassed in public.  If obedience is really a heart issue, though, then what is done in secret is just as important as what is done with an audience.  So many parents fall into the trap of focusing on outward appearance, and especially of harshly punishing their children for not catering to the parents' pride.

Point number five, that true discipline or teaching requires a lot of effort from the parents is absolutely true.  I disagree with his characterization of children's motives, but he is right that parents need to teach their children even when they are tired or it is inconvenient.  The problem I have here is that Piper again focuses on the outward action, with the example of a child getting out of bed repeatedly.  This is "disobedience" and requires consistent punishment.  Wouldn't it actually be more effective, though, to find out why the child is so resistant to going to bed?  Is he scared? Is she not feeling well?  Is his love-cup empty or leaking so that he needs extra time or cuddles with us?  Is there a problem at school that has her anxious?  

Point six:
"One reason parents don’t require discipline is they have never seen it done. They come from homes that had two modes: passivity and anger. They know they don’t want to parent in anger. The only alternative they know is passivity. There is good news: this can change. Parents can learn from the Bible and from wise people what is possible, what is commanded, what is wise, and how to do it in a spirit that is patient, firm, loving, and grounded in the gospel."

I really like this one, perhaps more than anything else that Piper says in the entire article.  So many parents do fall into the anger/passivity trap because they don't have better tools.  I just wish that he had given them more effective ways to parent "in a spirit that is patient, firm, loving and grounded in the gospel."  I heartily recommend Gentle Christian Mothers, Little Hearts Books, Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond or Aha! Parenting for practical tools that don't rely on punishment.

Point seven: Piper claims that "the obedience which they have learned from fear and reward and respect will become the natural expression of faith."  So, he wants parents to start teaching the kids through fear and reward before they are even capable of understanding obedience.  (Wait a minute--reward? I thought he was against bribery?  And I get the strong impression that respect in Piper's world is a one-way street.)  I would suggest that if the children cannot understand it, it is not true obedience.  It is just conditioning them.  My children are not Pavlovian dogs.  Piper also fails to provide any explanation of how fearing parents will cause them to love God.  My relationship with God is not based on fear that has become internalized to the point of habit.  It is based on love and trust, and that is what I want for my children, too.

Point 8: Piper's vision of children as brats who must be coerced into being convenient for adults is clear.  Is it possible that seeing children as adversaries who must be defeated contributes to family conflict instead of solving it?  The part about them being happier is just weird unless you read it through his final point, which implies the whole "happiness is the only acceptable emotion/punish them till they are sweet enough" ick that Ezzo and Tripp promote. 

Point 9:
"Since parents represent God to children — especially before they can know God through faith in the gospel — we show them both justice and mercy. Not every disobedience is punished. Some are noted, reproved, and passed over. There is no precise manual for this mixture. Children should learn from our parenting that the God of the gospel is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:7, 29) and that he is patient and slow to anger (1 Timothy 1:16). In both cases — discipline and patience — the aim is quick, happy, thorough obedience. That’s what knowing God in Christ produces."

This one made my head spin a bit.  I have seen some parents take this idea of representing God to children to the point of setting themselves up as idols, but let's bypass that for the moment.  "Not every disobedience is punished.  Some are noted, reproved and passed over."  Didn't Piper just essentially say over and over that inconsistency would cause our children to get shot by the police?  Now we are supposed to pass over disobedience? Oookay. 

"The aim is quick, happy, thorough obedience."  Not only are children supposed to unquestioningly obey our every whim, they must be happy about it!  "Right away, all the way, with a smile," according to some parenting teachers.  Except Jesus' parable of the Two Brothers contradicts this.  The one who obeyed didn't do it quickly and happily.  "That's what knowing God in Christ produces."  But a couple of lines before, Piper says that this is "before they can know God through faith in the Gospel."  So, we are to hold them to a standard that they cannot reach yet, and one that God Himself does not hold us to, but that isn't "the same as requiring perfection". 

I get the idea that Piper is trying to soften his extreme "your child will be shot and it will be your fault!" stance, but is finding it difficult to flesh out.  That is common with a punitive mindset.

Children do need boundaries.  We do need to teach and disciple them like Jesus taught His disciples, even when we are tired or busy.  Instead of passively ignoring misbehavior until we snap in anger, we must learn to parent in a spirit that is patient, firm, loving, and grounded in the gospel.  Piper is saying important truths here.  But this does not mean bullying our children and forcing them to comply through fear.  True discipleship comes when there is so much trust and love in the relationship that the disciple chooses to follow.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Lonely Little Pony

"Mami!  Play ponies wif me!"  I winced inwardly.  This little girl is the delight of my eyes, but I hate playing.  Confession time: one of the best things about having four kids is that they have built-in playmates.  At the moment, however, her older siblings were all engrossed in a group video game, and I sensed that she really needed this.  "OK."

I reached into the pile of ponies and randomly chose one. "NO!  Not dat one pony!  Dat one pony's mine!  Get anudder one pony!"  I meekly reached for a different one.  "NO!  Not dat one eider!  Use DIS one pony wif no tail."  I accepted the mangy-looking pony, which had suffered from an unfortunate encounter with a pair of scissors and was also missing chunks of mane. 

"Look at my pony!  She's fwying!"  I held my balding pony up in the air to fly alongside hers.  "NO!  Dat pony can't fwy!  She's too little.  She has to stay on da gwound."  Yeeeep, I could tell this was going to be a fun game.

I trotted my pony around listlessly for a few minutes, resisting the urge to peek at my phone.  "Fluttashy is leabing.  Dey are all leabing in da van for icecweam.  You stay heah.  You aw too little."  The phone won out for a split second, but apparently I was more crucial to the scene than I thought.  Before the Facebook app had opened, she shrieked again.  "Mami!  Play ponies!"

Each attempt to engage was ruthlessly squashed.  "No!  You can't do dat!  Her wings don't work!  Stop, mami!  Your pony is too little!  She doesn't know how to do dat!  No!  She can't come.  Stay heah by yoursewf."  A nice little lecture on reciprocity in play was on the tip of my tongue, when it hit me.  The theme to the whole game was powerlessness and loneliness.   Suddenly, I found myself much more invested in this game.

I began to give her words.  "I feel lonely when I am left behind."  "Yes!  Your pony feels sad, Mami."  "I want to do things, too!  Even though I am small, I can do a lot."  "Yeah, mami!  Be her!"  I was clearly on the right track.  We spent the next hour playing empowering themes.  I let her ponies take the lead, admired her skills and resourcefulness, and gave words to my own little pony.  By the end of the hour, we were both having fun, and I had heard something incredibly important from this little baby girl of mine.

If you had asked me how often she hears that she is too little or that she can't do something, I would have told you that it was extremely rare (and she has never been left behind or excluded from icecream!).  In fact, my concern would have been closer to the spoiling end of things--her brother and sisters dote on her, and even the nine year old will stop and play ponies or anything else with her.  She is the apple of our eye.

Although my girls have never been discouraged from playing princess themes (the eldest actually wore elaborate princess gowns every single day for over a year around age four), and we regularly tell them that they are lovely, we deliberately tell them just as often that they are strong, smart, kind, capable and brave.

The thing is, though, that all of us have times when it is easy to focus on our lack of capabilities, and sometimes we struggle to find the words.  When you are three years old, no matter how beloved you are, you get slapped in the face daily with all the things that you cannot do: you are too small to reach what you want, your videogame skills are not as developed as your siblings', you can't read things for yourself, you have to rely on others all the time.    

If I hadn't sat down to play, I would totally have missed how powerless and lonely she felt.

I also discovered that when I can focus on a purpose in play, I have fun with it.  At one point, she played mami and I played the baby.  With every moment of listening and allowing her the fantasy of omnipotence, she found the power and connection she needed.  Looking back over the last couple of days, I recalled the increase in irritability she had been showing, and I am sure that those unmet needs would have spilled out one way or another.  I am so glad that this time they took the form of a lonely pony with a bad haircut, and that I took the time to play and listen.   

Friday, September 27, 2013

Let Me Hold Them For You

Atlas, it's time for your bath
My warrior princess had been going through a period where the warrior was very much in evidence.  Her rages were a terrible thing to behold.  She would yell, stomp, knock things down and throw things.  If someone was too close, it was certainly within the realm of possibility that she would hit or kick.

And I was mad.  Mad at this tiny little girl whose feelings were so, so much bigger than she was.  Mad because she was adding a burden that I didn’t want to bear.  I resented interrupting other activities whenever she got upset to help her calm down and make sure that she didn’t hurt someone or something.  Each outburst added a few more pounds to my load of mommy guilt as I fought to hold on to patience, peace and self control, and often dropped the ball.

Could we have punished or ignored it out of her?  I asked myself that several times.  Honesty compelled me to admit, though, that all punishment would have accomplished is to turn that fearsome rage inward, and the thought of that seething inside of her was far worse than dealing with the outward expressions.

“Use your words.”  Except words don’t matter to this one they way they do to her older sister and me.  This mighty girl has always been a tornado. Walking earlier than any of her siblings, always jumping, always running, perpetual motion, breath-taking hugs, bouncing from delight, shuddering under sadness–her language has always been more physical than verbal.
“I don’t love you.  And (her voice caught here) I don’t love God.”  Oooow.  Words aren’t the release for her that they are to me, but she knew how to use them to kick my mama gut."

What do you do when the weight of big emotions is too strong for your little one, and you are cracking under the load of mommy guilt?

What if "use your words" doesn't work for your child whose language is much more physical than verbal?

What does it look like to bear one anothers' burdens?

I am over at A Deeper Story today sharing how my mighty girl and I are learning together.  Come join us! 

Image credit: woodleywonderworks

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Watch and Pray *Sensitive*

Her eyes are blank and there is a pool of blood spreading around her face on the floor.  I wake up wanting to vomit and check her Facebook page repeatedly until I see a post.  The relief is incomplete because she and I both know that one day it might not be a dream.  Her children's faces--so close in ages to mine--rise in my heart, and I pray.


Something in her voice was off.  "Well, it couldn't really be rape.  After all, they were married.  She knew when she married him that sex was part of it."  It seemed like we were discussing a newspaper case at the time.  But years later I can still remember the oddness in her voice and I wonder.


It's the kids, you see.  She can protect them just a bit right now, deflect his rages, and watch that he doesn't go too far with them.  If she left, who would be there to get between them?


"God hates divorce."  Heaviness and resignation in her voice, she asks what the church congregation would think if the pastor's wife left.  "It would be like a slap in the face to God.  I just need to be more submissive and try harder.  If I can just praise and affirm him more, and show him that I respect need that, you know..."


Everyone else at the table shifts uncomfortably at his "joke" that is yet another jab at her.  She doesn't seem to notice and gets up to refill his drink again.


Enthusiasm dies down to quiet disappointment.  "Oh, I would love to!  But I better not.  He wouldn't like it."  In her world, it is clear that activities--everything--must be planned around whether or not he likes it, even if it doesn't affect him in any way.  It's second nature to her to try to placate him, but even after all these years she doesn't seem to see that it is a constantly moving target.  He will always, always find something else to be upset about, another way to control her.  Her life revolves around trying to make him happy. 


I take a deep breath and quietly say, "This is abuse.  The way he treats you isn't right."  For a moment, her eyes flash with fear, anger, surprise, relief, uncertainty and thankfulness.  I'm not sure which will win out.  Then she smiles and brushes it off.  "You're exaggerating.  It isn't abuse.  He would never hit me.  He just...well, I think sometimes he didn't get enough nurturing as a kid and is still hurting."


He controls the money.  He controls everything.  She scrapes to find ways to stretch what he gives her to pay for the doctors visits and new shoes for the kids.  She puts off the doctor or dentist visit for herself again, forgoes the new shoes that she needs.  He goes out to eat and gets a new computer.  "Well, but the money is really his, you know.  He is the one who works.  I'm just home with the kids." (She works more in a day than he does in a week, but he is still "too tired" to help with the kids when he gets home.  He "needs to unwind", even though she hasn't had a break in weeks.  So he spends another night playing videogames.)


They tried counseling.  Well, she tried and he went along.  It didn't help.  The church counselor told her to affirm him more and build him up more.  Praise him a lot.  He said all the right things. Showed enough regret for his mistakes (although he was always a little vague on the details).  She really was a bit messed up from her family issues, you know (whispered confidentially.)  Eventually, they stop going.  The cycle hasn't really changed, but he has some new words to use against her now.  He even tries to convince her that she is the abusive one, especially if she has ever fought back.


Once your eyes are opened, it is hard to unsee things.  I watch her pain, helpless and desperate for her to wake up (but if she did, how much better would that be?  Sure, it is easy for me to yell, "Leave him!"  For her to do that, especially with children involved, is no small feat.)   I do my best to be a safe friend and pray desperately for angels to protect her.  Wincing at the telling comments she doesn't even notice about how she is trying to avoid upsetting him, I try to balance truth and love with the fear of driving her away.  I watch and pray.


I really think there is an abusers' handbook somewhere, because I have known so many women in abusive relationships, and most of these could apply to every one of them (if you know me in real life and are trying to guess who these stories are about, don't.  Just know that they could be any woman).  If you see yourself in here, please know that you matter.  You are not crazy, you are not blowing it out of proportion, it is not your fault.  Read Why Does He Do That: Inside the Mind of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.  Read my friend Hope's blog about leaving her abusive husband and finding healing.  Talk to a domestic violence counselor.  Freedom and healing really are possible. 

Related posts: Sex Ed in a Christian Home: Abusive Relationships 
A Letter to My Divorced Friends

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

You Are Not a Failure

This isn't what I thought it would look like.  When I imagined my life with children before actually having kids, I expected it to look more polished and less challenging.  I thought it would be easier.  Not the physical stuff--I was fine with lack of sleep and changing diapers and dealing with tummy bugs and all that.  But this emotional work of being a parent?  It's hard, y'all.  As Shrek would say, there are so many layers.  And we are definitely talking onions instead of parfaits.

This has been a challenging last few months, and I am so, so glad that it didn't happen earlier in our parenting journey.  When we first made the transition to gentle parenting, I was still looking for guarantees.  You know--if you breastfeed, your kids won't have allergies or get sick.  If you parent gently, your kids will always be gentle and compassionate and well-behaved because they will always want to follow your instructions.  If you do this, if you do that, if you check all the Good Parenting boxes, if you follow this manual...  I never would have said that, of course.  I would have told you that just because certain outcomes are more likely doesn't mean that it will happen in every case.  Deep down, though, the residue of growing up a Gothardite means that it is my default programming to believe that if I just try harder and do it right, then everything will be perfect.

Of course, that means that when it doesn't turn out that way, I start to panic.  It is all my fault!  If only I had done this.  Maybe I was wrong about that.  I should have tried harder and been more consistent and...

Those thoughts are tricky little zombies.  Reeking death and decay, and ready to suck out our brains.  No matter how many times I try to kill them, they seem to rise again. 

Honestly, I haven't yet figured out how to keep them from coming back.  The best I can do is resist the deadly lies.  Because the truth is, I don't think I can try harder right now, and I am starting to believe--really believe--that I am not supposed to.  I am not a failure.  Neither are you.

As messy as this life looks some days, there is still beauty in it.  There is love.  There is growth.  It gets better.  You aren't meant to do it all.  You wouldn't put a crushing weight on your children and tell them not to ask for help--show them what it looks like to allow others the blessing of helping your family.  Most of all, know that these days come to everyone in real life.  You can listen to the zombies, or show your children how to fight the lying, shaming soul suckers.

You are lovely.  You are.  Your children have God's fingerprints all over them, even if you have to look hard to see them.  Breathe and let grace wash over you and refresh your spirit. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Because I'm the Grown Up, That's Why!

Today has been full of whining.  Me, not so much the kids.  Some days it sucks to be the grown up.  I'd much rather indulge in selfishness.  But what is discipline, really?  It isn't punishment.  Discipline in an adult should look like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, humility and grace.  What is the point of trying to discipline our children (NOT punish them--I am talking about helping them grow as disciples of Christ) if we haven't learned to discipline ourselves yet?  That isn't exactly a rhetorical question, because for me, at least, it is an ongoing process that I have not yet fully achieved.  My answer is that there has to be grace for all of us, and reliance on the Holy Spirit to help us.  And while being a grown up isn't always beautiful, growth truly is a beautiful thing.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pierced and Proud--My Little Girl Got Earrings

Of all of our parenting choices that have been outside the mainstream, the one that has actually gotten the most comments was our refusal to pierce our daughters' ears when they were born.  This shocked some dear little abuelitas (not our kids' abuelitas, though) to their core.  (Of course, neither did we shave their heads when they were infants so that their hair would grow in thicker, either.  :shrug).  For us, this was easy compared to so many decisions that we researched and weighed--as new parents, the last thing we wanted was to deal with an unnecessary wound on a tiny baby!  Even more importantly, they weren't our bodies to modify.

One of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to teach our children that their bodies belong to them.  No one else is allowed to do things to their bodies without permission.  Sure, there may be medical emergencies that override that, but seriously, getting ear jewelry isn't one.  We do all that we can to keep our children safe, but we know that there are predators out there.  Children who are confident in telling others, even adults in positions of authority, not to touch their bodies are less likely to become prey, and more likely to tell us if it should happen.  And as they grow older, sometimes the lines get a little blurry.  We live in a rape culture where it is assumed that guys are supposed to pressure girls, and girls will eventually give in.  I want their body boundaries to be such a part of them that they will never feel uncertain of their right to control what happens to their bodies.

Since my ears are pierced (and I am very thankful that my parents also bucked tradition and let me choose for myself), my kidlets have watched me wear different earrings and asked questions about it.  We talked about different options, including waiting to get her ears pierced as a celebration of menarche, but this summer my nine year old decided that she wanted to go ahead.  She kept asking how much it would hurt (she is very sensitive to needles), and was clearly nervous.  However, she was also adamant that she wanted to do it.  I was honest that it would hurt some, but also that if this was what she wanted that I believed she was strong enough to go through it whenever she decided she was ready.

Mine were done with a gun at the mall, but after researching I decided to use a professional piercer for my kids.  There are many reasons, but think of the difference between a hole from a hole punch versus the ragged edges from pushing a sharp pencil through a piece of paper and how that could effect healing, for starters.  I asked for recommendations, and my midwife shared the place where her daughters got their ears pierce, and several other friends recommended the same place.

Like any professional tattoo/piercing parlor, the decor was geared more for adults (my kidlets were simultaneously fascinated and horrified by the Native American sculptures of warriors who had been pierced through the chest and were hanging from a tether).  We didn't look closely at the tattoo designs or magazines.  (Also, like most other piercing places I have researched, they only pierce lobes on children, and we were required to bring her birth certificate and photo ID).

The guy who was going to pierce her came out.  He was probably 6'4 and around 260 lbs.  His head was shaved and covered in ink, and the rest of him that was visible was likewise covered with piercings, gauges and tats (he awed my kids by passing a pencil easily through the gauge in his septum).  He was also the nicest and most professional guy we could have asked for.

He spoke directly to her and then to me, describing exactly what would be done, how and why.  He asked her questions to make sure that she understood and that this was what she wanted, answered honestly when she asked if it would hurt, and did everything possible to help her feel relaxed and comfortable.

The only awkward moment came as a result of her little sister having a meltdown shortly after we went back.  In hindsight, it was totally a mommy fail to bring her--I knew she was exhausted and not feeling great, but my eldest didn't want to wait and the little sis thought she would be able to behave well.  She started fussing loudly and then tried to hit me when I picked her up.  Our piercer said that when he was a boy he would have been spanked hard for that.  My eldest looked at him with such compassion and said, "That is horrible!  No one should ever hurt you like that!"  He responded that it taught him a lesson.  She shook her head sadly and told him that if anyone ever spanked her that she would have just decided in her heart that she didn't want to do what they said and would have fought them in every way she could.  She said it was so much better when parents could actually help their kids instead of scaring them.  I am sure that the behavior of the little one provoked doubts about the effectiveness of gentle discipline, but he was also very impressed with the our eldest, and was very polite in responding to her.  :)

He had her count with him as he pierced the first ear, and the needle was through and out before she could even blink.  He asked if she needed a moment before doing the other ear.  She said yes with perfect calm, took a deep breath and smiled and told him to go ahead.  He did the other just as easily, and she beamed at her reflection.  "It didn't even hurt hardly at all!"

She has been so pleased with her new pierced ears, and has taken excellent care of them without hardly any reminder from me (another bonus of letting them choose when they are older!).  More than just being happy with the way they look, she is so proud of herself for her bravery and her growing maturity.  I look at her eyes sparkling even more than the earrings, and am so pleased that we let her make the choice for herself. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Missing Sunday Dinner

Sunday dinner

There are so many important conversations going on right now about including others at the table.  My family in Christ is challenging the pharisaical, dismissive attitudes toward women, the poor, our LGBT brothers and sisters, and all who are denigrated and ignored.  The Church talks a lot about loving children, and shows it with prizes and programs and playgrounds. The thing is, I see the harsh attitude toward children that labels them as selfish, lazy manipulative sinners, and I have to cry out.  We are missing Sunday dinner with our church family because the food at the kids' table makes my family sick.

The post is over at A Deeper Family

Image Credit: Keoki Seu on Flickr

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Trying Church...Again

Disclaimer:  this is going to be one of those long, messy, rambly, processing-out-loud, blahgy posts.

I went to church again today.  Growing up, one mild area of friction between my parents was about how many times a week we should participate in a church service.  My dad was content with a Sunday morning service, and my mom wanted Sunday morning, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, and possibly a prayer meeting in there somewhere.  I sided firmly with my dad. 

I also suffered the burnout that comes from many years of being part of a tiny church where your parents are pastors.  Every Sunday meant work, not rest.  Cleaning the church, preparing communion, teaching Sunday school, helping in the worship service, interpreting, working in the nursery--there were always several jobs that needed to be done, and even those that I started out feeling excited about eventually became a chore.  As an extreme introvert, the idea of making small talk after the service and greeting everyone was excruciating.  I eventually reached the point that unless God writes something in burning letters on a wall, I will NOT volunteer or accept any special responsibility for many years.

Before our children were born, we seemed to have found the perfect fit for us in a church.  I loved the worship time, loved the pastor and his family and always came away from the services refreshed and looking for God in a new way.  Then.  Then we had kids and God changed some things in me.  Then the pastor preached on spanking and how if we love God and our children, then we will hit them.  And I couldn't let that go, and my husband and I wrote a letter, which eventually resulted in this blog.  At first, I just figured we could agree to disagree, but the convictions in my heart about how we treat the smallest of these grew until I couldn't sit under a pastor who preaches that we have to spank any longer.

When you have four very young children and are committed not to leaving them to cry in church with people that you probably don't know well enough to let them babysit outside of church, going seems like an exercise in futility.  I spent most of my time walking the kidlets in the halls or hanging out in a nursery with germy toys and crying little ones.  I never came away feeling spiritually fed, that is for sure. 

So we just stopped going.

Every now and then we would try different ones, but they all preached about spanking on the very day we decided to visit, which is almost funny--really, it seemed like a bizarre coincidence, but it saved us time.  After the last fiasco, I couldn't even work up the desire to try anymore. 

It felt so awkward answering questions about where we go to church.  I felt like our kids were missing out on something important, and I missed it for myself.  Although, when we visited any church, I was always tense, waiting for the ick to start.  I also found my emotions going haywire with all kinds of little things, and it was generally exhausting and stressful.

But this morning, I worked up the courage to try again.  After reading the encouraging statement from the United Methodist Church regarding corporal punishment, I decided to go there.  Their only service is at 9:00 AM, which is a little earlier than I am used to, but my nine year old and I managed to go, and my husband graciously took over the younger ones so that I could enjoy the service in peace.

The congregation was really friendly.  I liked it that there was a pretty wide variety of dress--from casual pants and T shirts to fancy dresses and heels.  It felt like people dressed for themselves and not everyone else.  I did NOT like it that there was not a variety of ethnicity.  There were over 100 people present, and I saw one man who appeared as though he might be Hispanic or Native American and one boy who was African American.  Once during the sermon, the pastor referenced race in order to pointedly identify a criminal as African American, although that was completely irrelevant to the story.  (Every time I am seriously tempted to include profanity in a post, it is about a church, but seriously, for the pastor to do that detracted from any positive in his message.  And probably explains the lack of diversity more than it doesn't.)

The music, well, bless their hearts.  Probably the least said about that the better.  They did sing "Jesus Loves Me" for one of the hymns, including a second verse that I don't remember hearing before.  The message was better than some I have heard where the pastor clearly wasn't prepared and just got up and rambled for awhile and then relied on the worship team to pull him out of it whenever he got stuck, but it didn't make me think or feel anything (other than to critique that one aforementioned reference), and he read it in a droning rocking horse rhythm that rose and fell regardless of the content, which made it hard not to tune out.

On the plus side, I LOVED the responsive readings, the creed and prayers, and the communion service.   Also, there was a feeling of family and affection among all the members there--I got the strong impression that these people do life together, not just church.  When we arrived, they had boxes of children's activity kits stacked to hand out to any families with kidlets, and there was a constant whispering and wriggling from all the children present.  Not in a distracting way, but just in a normal, real-life way.  My nine year old loved the children's church and has asked a dozen times to go back.  That is a first, and is very important to me.

I don't particularly want to go back, although I might for my daughter.  I just hate that the idea of meeting with my brothers and sisters in Christ comes with such a deep heaviness and feeling of discouragement.

Where, oh where, is my group of people who love Jesus and actually want to treat all people the way they would like to be treated? 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Bad Days

Most of the time I feel like someone who doesn't quite know how to juggle but is performing in a circus juggling act every day anyway (Did I just call myself a clown? :shudder  I am NOT that scary! Clowns are evil.  :shiver).  Four kidlets means that at any given moment at least a couple of them are in disequilibrium, and there are always a myriad of other things--teething (it doesn't stop at toddlerhood, folks!  Molars hurt, and they come in around 6 and 12), an ear infection, a tummy bug, developmental jumps, friend issues, anxiety, fill in the blanks and take your pick.  It is a struggle to meet all the needs when resources (energy, time, money for starters) don't always seem to stretch.
A Juggler that juggles
I won't even tell you about all the creepy pics I looked though to find one that wasn't a clown.

Early on, I kept hoping that our parenting choices would mean that everything was easy.  Our kids trust us, you know.  They want to please us because our relationship is good.  They are learning internal motivation and discipline. 

And it is true.  But.  BUT.

There is no easy button.  Our kids do trust us and want to please us and they are developing internal motivation and all those other things that we desperately (but sometimes a little smugly) repeat to ourselves early in the whole gentle discipline journey.  That makes it easiER, but not easy.

We have had some really rough days lately.  I have found myself more than once turning to my husband in exasperation and saying, "They should have outgrown that by now!"  I hear the doubts that maybe, just maybe, it would be worth it to trade relationship for compliance, just a bit.  I can say all the things about this being different from permissiveness and I believe them, but the truth is that I feel tired sometimes and permissiveness doesn't seem all that bad, until I really, really need compliance and where is the line exactly, anyway?

Gentle discipline isn't a pre-cut pattern.  Applying it to real life is hard, and I am often afraid that I have made it the wrong size.  All of our kids are strong-willed, but two are particularly intense (I suspect borderline special needs) and just as one seems to be making progress and I think I can catch my breath, all heck breaks loose with the other one. 

So I am reminding myself today that even on the bad days, I am not doing this because of a guarantee.  I am doing this because it is what God has called me to do.  It is about being the kind of person that I am meant to be, not just who my children are meant to be.  Even though it is still hard, I do see the fruit.  It isn't all perfectly ripe yet (they are still kids, and I am only nine years old as a mom), but it is growing.  And while I was typing, the one who has been having the roughest time came over to me to snuggle and smooch my cheek and say how much she loves me.  I look at the trust in her eyes and imagine how much more difficult the last couple of days would be if that were broken, if she knew I would just bully her into compliance.

Gentle discipline doesn't mean there won't be bad days.  It just gives me better tools and a stronger foundation to work through them.

Image credit: Mike Fernwood/Don Fulano on Flickr

Friday, July 26, 2013

Storm Season

Croatia Storm Clouds
Image credit: Mathew Knott

 “Thank you, Jesus, alleluia, thank you, Jesus, alleluia, thank you, Jesus, alleluia, thank you, Jesus, alleluia…”  Curled up next to her in the double bed we shared, I sighed just a little louder, hoping to muffle the sound of Grandma’s prayers.   I couldn’t even get away with telling my little sister to shut up, so there was no way I could use those words on Gram, but I thought them in the same repetitious rhythm as her chant.   OK, “shut up” was too disrespectful, but wasn’t there a Bible verse somewhere criticizing the Gentiles who repeated the same words over and over?   Probably wouldn’t go over much better, though.  Perhaps sensing my growing irritation, she switched to song.  “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know.  Fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go.”  My thought about Jesus keeping her singing verged on the profane.

I am over at A Deeper Family today sharing about my panic attacks, Grandma's insomnia and growing in understanding.  I actually wrote this post a month ago, and although the stress from this last month has been even higher, my anxiety has been much better.  My midwife suggested Peace and Calming essential oils from Young Living, and although I am not a distributor and have no incentive for promoting them, that oil has been amazing!  It has stopped several panic attacks within seconds for me, and I have felt so much more balanced and in control when I use it.  I know that different things work for different people, and I am looking at several options to deal with anxiety, but this has been the most helpful for me so far.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Memory Verses for a Mother's Heart: Guest Post by Becky Eanes of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond

I thought I would share with you today my collection of memory verses which set my heart and mind for a day of parenting God's precious gifts in my life. We are called to be gentle, humble, patient, and meek, yet many of us find this challenging in  our daily lives with our children. By spending time each day reviewing these verses and praying for wisdom and strength, we are better able to parent our children with the Love and Grace of God.

1. She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Prov 31:26

2. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Prov 15:1

3. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing in love with one another. Eph 4:2

4. Let your gentleness be evident to all. Phil 4:5

5. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved. compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Col 3:12-13

6. But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4

7. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Eph 6:4

8. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

9. To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. Titus 3:2

10. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

11. Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. Prov 14:29

12. Let no corrupting talk come out of  your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Eph 4:29

13. Love is patient and kind; loves does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor 13:4-7

14. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Col. 3:14

15. A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Prov 17:22

Rebecca Eanes Rebecca Eanes is a best-selling author, blogger, and the founder of The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting and a co-authored book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide for Putting Positive Parenting Principles into Action in Early Childhood. She is the mother of two and married for 11 years to her high school sweetheart and best friend.  She is also one of my heroes.  My family and I have been incredibly blessed by the grace and truth in her writings, and I am so very honored to have her share this post.  Please check out her incredibly inspiring and powerful post on speaking Biblical blessings over our children, and my review of her book, Positive Parenting in Action, and her website, Peace at Home Books.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Under His Wings

We love going to Puerto Rico every summer. Except it always happens that some of us--usually all of us--get sick.  It started early this time. The weekend before we were supposed to leave I got very sick, then our just turned three year old started running a fever between 101-103.  And threw up.   We were able to squeeze in a doctor's appointment and they said that it was just a virus. Her ears were clear, strep test was negative, her fever went down, and we left on schedule.

The first flight went pretty well. She was fine during the descent, but while we were taxiing to the gate, the mother of all meltdowns began. This fierce little one goes from utter calm to hysterical screaming in a heartbeat when she doesn't feel well, and at that point every attempt to console her usually makes it worse. This was one of those times. As we exited the plane, she was shrieking, hitting me about the head and generally doing an amazingly impressive and enthusiastic imitation of a rabid octopus.

We were changing planes at DFW, and naturally our connecting flight was in another quadrant of the galaxy.  We heard more comments on her meltdown than I have heard in her entire three years before, and the lady next to us on the tram was shooting daggers the whole ride, even after she ostentatiously moved two feet away. (I was kind of waiting for her to actually say something, because for the first time ever, I had a comeback ready.  I was going to smile as sweet as Texas tea and say, "She is still a baby and hasn't had as many years as you have had to practice being considerate of others when she is feeling miserable."  Usually I don't think of those things till the middle of the night, and I thought it was just pointed enough without being too bitchy. But I didn't actually say it, which was probably just as well. I am better at blurting than at passive aggression.)

Something distracted me, though. I remembered Jesus' words about longing to gather Jerusalem under His wings, and I had the clearest picture of us. How many times have I flailed and screamed and yelled because I was overwhelmed and hurting?  I could hear Jesus whisper that it would be so much easier if I would just rest my head on His shoulder and let Him carry me and comfort me.

It was so clear that I didn't care anymore about the cloud of witnesses. I could feel some of the same tenderness and compassion that God feels for us.  It was the coolest thing of feeling so in tune.  God's presence was so strong and powerful.  I felt like He clearly spoke to me that He was going to do some special things during this trip.

Then we boarded the next plane. Thankfully, our three year old was perfectly calm again. However, our five year old rested her head on my arm and it was burning up. She kept up a 103 fever for the full five hour flight to San Juan.  She had the sick look and said she felt like throwing up.

We landed amid all kinds of warnings about Tropical Storm Chantal. None of us had eaten much since breakfast and we were all exhausted. My five year old felt too sick to want to walk, so I put her in my wrap and we exited the plane.  In the little tunnel between the plan and the airport some people tried to hurry past us, so I moved towards the side.  I couldn't see that the middle of the walk way was a couple of inches higher than the sides, for some reason and fell and twisted my foot.  Badly.  I couldn't stand on it.

They grabbed a wheelchair and eventually paramedics came. By that time it was terribly swollen, hard and purple.  The paramedics thought it was likely a sprain, although they noted that my blood pressure was 90/70.  I really didn't feel as much pain as I would expect, though it hurt a lot. I felt a little weird. Shock maybe?  They wrapped it and suggested I go to the hotel and take some Tylenol and ice it, and then go to the ER for X-rays in the morning.

This was what it looked like about five days later.

I had on impulse (?) made a special trip to get a new bottle of arnica before the trip, and I also had Tylenol (yay for overpacking!) so I popped Tylenol snd arnica every few hours during the night while touching Elena's cheek (fever gone!) and trying to keep my foot elevated without bumping any kidlet in the hotel bed.  I couldn't hear any wind or rain (and the storm didn't seem that spectacular compared to Oklahoma), but the lightening was regular throughout the night.

I can barely walk now, and can't put my full weight on it. I have to give a lecture this evening to our class, and it looks like I will definitely have to miss some of our excursions (no way to hike the rainforest, or explore El Morro and Old San Juan or do the hike to the bioluminescent bays).   My husband has done a phenomenal job of coping with the details of leading a group of nineteen  students on a study abroad trip and coordinating everything solo as well as taking care of the four kidlets. He has been incredibly tender and patient with them, as well as organized and on top of all the class details, and thoughtful of me (and he brought back mofongo after the class outing this afternoon, then took all the kidlets to the pool so I could rest).

I would be tempted to lightly mock all that I thought God spoke between the flights about doing good things on this trip (in a way not to bring fire on my head, of course). But I know it was real. I don't know what the rest of the trip will look like, but I can't shake the residue of peace and His presence. So I am trying to keep from flailing and screaming and just rest and let Him carry me. I suspect there will be more to this story, even if I don't hear it for awhile.

About Benjamin he said: "Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders."~ Deut 32:12

So we are home now.  It has been more than two weeks and my foot is still swollen and has purple and green splotches.  I did go back to the hospital in Puerto Rico.  One doctor thought she saw a fissure on the x ray, but another said it was just soft tissue damage.  The rest of our trip was mostly uneventful, except for one day when the street and the ground floor of our hotel were knee deep in water (I was so glad that we had a fridge and snacks in our room, and that the kids had Minecraft on their phones, since there was no TV and we were trapped in our room all day).  I don't have any dramatic ending about what happened.  No special moment where it all fell into place and I could see some miraculous result.  Except.  Except the peace that I felt then and still feel.  Maybe that was the special thing, right there?  Because I still feel like He is carrying me, and it is so nice to rest on Him. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Why I Burned My Newsboys CDs

When I first saw that the Newsboys, a Christian band that has been around for over half my life, had tweeted in support of corporal punishment, I was bemused.  Without even getting into the fact that they didn't even use a real translation, but a paraphrase that gets that verse all wrong, why on earth would they feel a need to tweet about corporal punishment of children?  What's next, a catchy song about spanking?

Then I looked at their Facebook page, and saw that they had liked Chanel Campbell.  That rang a bell with some bits and pieces I had heard before I knew enough about Campbells to put it all together.  Turns out that maybe the spanking thing isn't as bizarre as I had originally thought.  Chanel, who sang back up on one of the Newsboys' recent CDs, is the granddaughter* of Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies, and the band is partially owned by Wes Campbell, Nancy's son.  I seem to remember the Campbell sisters Serene and Pearl opening for the Newsboys or at least being marketed as having a connection back before Serene's marriage, but I am fuzzy and don't have links to prove it.  However, from Nancy's about page, it sounds as if the whole family is pretty closely connected to the band.

Above Rubies is one of the key outreaches to women by the whole extreme patriarchy/Quiverfull/stay at home daughters movement.  If you are familiar with the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl, Vision Forum, Doug Phillips and the rest of that ilk, you know that they have some innocuous stuff that just looks like "old fashioned family values" on the surface, promoted far and wide by many Christian homeschoolers.  The Campbells and Pearls even reach out to the neo-hippy/crunchy crowd with many of their practices, including natural remedies/alternative health views and elimination communication.  I am not going to get into their whole stay at home daughters thing which sounds creepily incestuous when you start reading how they equate husbands and fathers, or their extreme views on wifely submission and abuse, but they merit investigation.

However, their view of corporal punishment goes far beyond a couple of swats on a padded diaper to keep a child from touching an electric outlet.  This article by Kathryn Joyce contains many incredibly disturbing things about the Campbell family, including this graphic description of "discipline" of their adopted children/grandchildren:
"Discipline included being hit with rubber hosing or something resembling a riding crop if the children disrespected Serene, rejected her meals, or failed to fill the reservoir. For other infractions, they were made to sleep on the porch without blankets. Engedi, the toddler, was disciplined for her attachment to CeCe. To encourage her bond with Serene, the Allisons would place the child on the floor between them and CeCe and call her. If Engedi went to CeCe instead, the children recalled, the Allisons would spank her until she wet herself."

The rubber hosing sounds exactly like the plumbing line that the Pearls recommend, which has resulted in the deaths of at least three adopted children, most recently Hana Williams.  This article from Why Not Train a Child mentions some of the other parallels.

I am trying very hard not to think too much about that paragraph, or the rest of the article, because I have already been sick this week and the idea of a terrified toddler being hit until she wets herself makes me want to puke.  Yet, I think we owe it to these children to consider what we are supporting when we purchase CDs or concert tickets.  My own little toddler was singing along to one of their songs in the van last week.  I imagine her sweet face, streaked with tears, cringing from plumbing line, and I can't even... There really aren't adequate words.

I keep hearing that people like the Pearls and the Campbells are fringe, that they don't represent mainstream Christianity, and I want so much to believe it.  But look at people like the Duggars, who are fully steeped in this (yes, the ones from all the kids and counting shows.  Yes, I know that Michelle sounds sweet and doesn't yell and the kids look happy).  Look at the popularity of author Lori Wick.  Look at how widely accepted the Newsboys and some of Wes Campbell's other artists are.  Now that I know, I can't enjoy them as wholesome entertainment.

When I was a teenager, my family followed Gothard, another one of the quiverfull/patriocentrist leaders who also promotes dangerous corporal punishment and the Pearls, although he condemns all forms of Christian rock.  Gothard advocated burning CDs of Christian rock music as repentance and to break any spiritual ick connected to it.  I've rejected most of what he teaches, but the irony appeals to me.  It might be the only enjoyment that is left for me in them.

*I originally was under the misapprehension that Chanel was Nancy's daughter.  Thanks to a couple of alert commenters who caught that mistake.

The title was misleading, since I haven't burned them yet.  I wonder if it is close enough to the 4th to do a bonfire?