Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Today is our Anniversary!

DH and I are very grateful to God for 26 wonderful years together!

We are actually celebrating tomorrow night, so, today, I'm pulling together some ideas to make the time special for DH. He surprised me this morning with a card that he's been saving for awhile.

I have always believed that God brought DH to the city where I grew up so that we would meet at church and eventually marry. We were reflecting last night how funny it is that we have been married for longer than we were alive before we got married! Sometimes, it seems like just yesterday since we said, "I do." Other times, I am amazed at all of the living -- all of the adventures, all of the good times, and all of the hard times -- that have been packed into 26 years. I wouldn't want to be going through life with anyone else.

Our anniversaries bring out the romantic in DH. Now DH is a very large, very rugged, very practical engineer, and he claims that he is not at all romantic. But, just between you and me and the blog-o-sphere, I will tell you a secret: He is romantic at heart. He even sheds a tear or two every time he sees the last scene in "You've Got Mail".

On our seventh anniversary, DH handed me a box with a complete outfit -- including boots -- from an Australian clothing company that I especially liked. Then, he took me out to dinner at an Australian restaurant. From there, we went on to a lovely hotel for a night away. He had prearranged babysitting so that I didn't have to worry. Lest you think we went on an exotic tour, I must mention that the Australian clothes and the Australian meal were purchased right in our then home city in Alabama.

Last year was another example of how romantic DH is. DD, DS, and friends surprised us with a Paris-themed 25th anniversary party. DD did a lot of the organization, and I was so proud of how she pulled everything together. Anyhow, I wasn't supposed to know, but already did, that DH had purchased two tickets for us to go to Paris in March. The tickets were unbelievably inexpensive thanks to frequent flier miles that Dh logged in the days before miles had an expiration date. After a year or two, DH left the job that kept him in the air so much so that he wouldn't have to be away from our young family. But, we were delighed to use the points he earned way back when.

Last year's anniversary was the beginning of a big year for our family. DS and DD graduated from college in May. DD married a wonderful young man in June. DS took a new job in a new city and moved there in August. He is planning to marry a wonderful young lady.

DH is a hero to me. I've seen him sacrifice a lot for the sake of following God and for our family. I know it's a cliche, but I can truly say that I love him even more deeply now than I did on our wedding day.

Some years, we celebrate our anniversaries on a lavish scale; sometimes, we keep things simple. But, it's always sweet to share another milestone with DH.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Beauty of Reverence

…While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. I Peter 3:2 KJV

…When they see the purity and reverence of your lives. I Peter 3:2 NIV.

“Who in the days of his flesh, when he (Jesus) had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Hebrews 5:7-9. The NIV translates the word "feared" as “reverent submission”.
Do you feel like you are standing on holy ground when you read this passage? I do. What love God had for us to allow Christ to suffer on earth for a time, rather than to snatch him right back up to heaven immediately! What love Christ had for his Father and for us to endure such suffering so that we could be saved! What deep connection the two must have experienced as Jesus poured out his heart to his Abba Father. How amazing that our Holy, Awe-Inspiring Father shares this tender moment with us.
There’s so much in this passage that we could chat about, but I want to focus on one thing: Jesus’ reverence for God. This reverence moved him to submit himself completely to the Father’s will. Even though he had been with God and was God (John 1:1), he put his glory aside in order to carry out his Father’s mission.
What was the nature of Jesus’fear as described in Hebrews 5? The Greek word used is eulabeia, which, depending on the context, can mean reverence, veneration, godly fear, caution, circumspection, fear, dread, or terror. (Strong’s Concordance).
Let's look at Jesus example to get a clearer picture: Jesus was the Perfect Son of our Heavenly Father. As the Perfect Son, he had a healthy, deep, consuming respect for His Father. He had a deep regard for his Father’s holiness. His driving passion was to obey His Father and to do His will. It was said of Him that zeal for his Father’s house consumed Him.
Jesus was also God in the flesh and the visible image of God. As such, He expressed a righteous indignation towards hearts that were hard and self-righteous. While he freely proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, He also taught a lot about the fear of God.
In John 8:29, Jesus said, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hat not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him (God, the Father).” What an incredible thing to be able to say! Those words inspire a feeling of deep awe in me.
Likewise, I am astounded and inspired by Jesus’ preceding statement in John 8:28, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”
Jesus was the Word Incarnate! Yet, He did not presume to speak on His own, but spoke only what the Father had taught Him. Likewise, He did nothing on His own, but revered the Father in everything He did. If Jesus, our Lord, was this reverent toward God, how foolish I am when I act and speak on my own – without praying and considering God’s word first.
Jesus reverent submission pleased his Father. In the same way, God asks Christians to be reverent or to have godly fear. Most verses about godly fear are written to all disciples of Christ in and apply to male or female. A few are written specifically to men. A few are directed towards women. Because this is a site for keepers at home, let’s see what we can learn as women striving to demonstrate our love for our Holy Father through our reverence of Him.
As referenced in I Peter 3:2 above, two keys to pleasing our Father and having a wholesome impact on our husbands are purity and reverence or godly fear. Here, the Greek word for fear is: phobos. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, This word means “fear, dread or terror, a reverential fear of God as a controlling motive of life in spiritual and moral matters. It is not a mere fear of his power and righteous retribution, but a wholesome dread of displeasing him. It is a fear that influences the disposition and attitude of one whose circumstances are guided by trust in God. Reverential fear of God will inspire a constant carefulness in dealing with others in his fear.”
Our reverence for God is to be evident in our life, especially to our husbands. It is interwoven with our inner beauty of a meek and quiet spirit, which is so precious to our Father. (I Peter 3:1-6)
Proverbs.31:30 KJV gives us an old covenant picture of the beauty of reverence: Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” The NIV puts it this way: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
A charming demeanor may merely mask an ungodly heart, and sheer physical attributes diminish over time. But, the beauty of a reverent heart is never false, and it never fades.
It’s no wonder, then, that Titus 2:3 exhorts older women to be examples of reverence or, as the King James puts it, to “be in behavior as becometh holiness.” This quality is the foundation for an older woman to be able to train a younger woman in godly character.
The word used in Titus 2:3 is “hierprepes”. It means that which is suitable in persons, actions, or things consecrated to God or that which is suited to a sacred character. An Old Testament example that might help us grasp this concept is the things that were consecrated and set aside for worship first in the Tabernacle and, later, in the Temple.
It’s always fascinating to me to read God’s detailed instructions to the Israelites for building and moving the Tabernacle. He even prescribed the formulation of one certain incense, the exact proportions of which was not to be used for anything else.
Under the New Covenant, Christians are all to be consecrated and set apart for God’s holy purposes. Our heart and our actions should represent our devotion to Christ. In order to achieve this, we must have a profound respect for God’s word, and we must put the word into practice. Like Christ, we should seek God’s will in everything. What a high calling it is to be consecrated to God! What grace Christ bestows on us to free us from our sins by his blood and to make us to be a kingdom and priests to serve God, the Father. Revelation 1:5
Ephesians 5:33 tells us that wives are also to phobeo or to respect their husbands. Showing respect to our husbands flows out of the reverence that we have towards God.
Consider how reverence for God blesses our lives. In Jeremiah 32: 29-41 God promises, “I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”

Enjoy the beauty of reverence!


Monday, November 27, 2006

Living Graciously with My Husband...Some Practicals

1. The power to respond graciously to my husband (and to others) is found in God's grace toward me. God's grace teaches me to have self-control in my thoughts and words (Titus 2:11-12). God's grace helps me overcome any fears that I may have that might tempt me to use unkind or nagging words. Going to God for grace also removes any temptation to lash out at my husband because I am feeling insecure or because I am feeling bad about myself. (Hebrews 4:16, Epheians 2:4-10.) Tuning in to God's grace can help me to act and speak graciously with my husband.

Here's a quote I love: "Mercy is a beautiful gift we can give to those around us. We can be rich in mercy because God is rich in it, and he has given us his unlimited source of it." From A Gentle and Quiet Spirit by Virginia Lefler.

2. As a gracious woman, it's important for me to be emotionally vulnerable with my husband so that I do not develop harsh or bitter attitudes. However, there are two ways I can go about communicating with my husband. The first is driven purely by emotion and borders on whining or nagging: "You brought your work home again? Why don't you pay more attention to me?" The second is gracious: "Honey, I'd love to spend some time with you. When would be a good time for us to hang out together? What would you like to do? Take a walk?" Both statements express the same need. The first is negative, faithless, and critical. The second is positive and solution-oriented, and it also demonstrates faith.

3. Being able to respond graciously, as in the second example above, takes a lot of insight on my part. When I am feeling emotional, I don't always know why. Feelings-wise, I can be like the proverbial frog in a pot of slowly heating water. I can become emotionally and physically exhausted without realizing it until I'm at the point of boiling over with tears and whining. When I reach that point, dear hubby has to help me sort out my feelings. It's far better for me to pray about everything and worry about nothing, as Paul counsels. That way, I can deal with things as they arise and before I lose perspective. Then, I can identify what I need to communicate and think of a positive, solution-oriented way to present it.

4. "He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend." Proverbs 22:11 Two keys to great friendships are a pure heart and gracious speech. I had never applied this verse to my friendship with my husband until I read A Gentle and Quiet Spirit by Mrs. Lefler. But, now I consider Esther, whose pure heart and gracious speech won the heart of her hsuband. Of course, he was literally a king. God worked through Esther's pure heart and gracious speech to move the king's heart to save the Jews from their enemies. My husband may not have the same powerful position that Esther's did, but I can still show him the same kind of respect that she did -- respect fitting a king. I can speak graciously to him and act graciously toward him. Most important, I can be gracious toward him in my thoughts, which are the wellspring of my words and actions.

5. The word grace means "favor". God shows his favor to me in countless ways, most importantly through the cross and resurrection. God's favor results in kindness, truth, compassion, mercy, love, patience, faithfulness, forgiveness, etc. Something to ask myself on a regular basis: Do my speech, actions, and attitude convey favor toward my husband? I've found that when I'm not showing favor towards my husband, it's usually from two roots: 1) I am fearful about something or 2) I am favoring my own self to the point of not showing favor towards my husband.

6. It is difficult to be gracious when we are uptight and afraid. It is easier to be gracious when we trust. Our Lord graciously washed the feet of his disciples -- He performed the role that was usually taken on by only the lowliest of servants. He was able to do be gracious in this manner because he knew who he was, where he had come from and where he was going. (John 13:1-3). Jesus didn't feel like he had to "prove" anything. He was secure. He was able to freely demonstrate his love his disciples -- despite the fact that he knew that one would betray him and the rest would shortly desert him in his greatest trial. So, considering Jesus' example, it's good for me to ask myself some questions: Am I trying to prove something? Or, am I secure in God's love? The answer makes all the difference in how gracious I am in my relationships, especially with my husband.

7. Lots of prayer, proper exercise and rest, and some plain old fun go a long way toward helping me be gracious toward my husband. Of course, being tired doesn't excuse a lack of graciousness on my part. And, there are times to set my needs aside in order to meet the pressing needs of others, even when I am feeling tired and spent myself. Though Jesus was tired and had chosen to rest at the well, he put his tiredness aside to meet the spiritual need of the Samaritan woman. And, through her, a whole town was converted.

But, just as there is a time to push through for Christ's sake and for the sake of others, there is also a time to rest, to spend extra time alone with God, and to simply have fun. Our family is busy, and happily so. But, for the past three or four weeks, our schedule has been extra packed. At the same time, I've been fighting a cold and ashtma. This was made worse by an overnight stay in a relative's home who had two pets that triggered my allergies. Now that we've come through this push time, it's time for me to rest and to take some extra time to be with God. That may mean saying no to an activity scheduled for tonight.

I know there are a lot of different opinions about what Peter meant when he said that women are the weaker vessels. I have an idea that he was talking about our physical vessels -- our bodies. After all, Peter says this in conjunction with the thought that we are co-heirs with our husbands of Christ -- In God's eyes, we are his precious heirs and no less so than our husbands. But, I know that my husband can work longer hours than I can and get by with less sleep. He can also handle a packed schedule better than I can. Because of this difference, I need to communicate with him so that he understands my physical and emotional limitations better. Ironically, I also need to listen to him so that I can understand my physical limitations better, myself. Sometimes, he will see that I am"about to hit the wall of my limitations before I do. He is able to help me make better decisions about using my time so that I can attend to my physical and emotional needs. He helps me sort out when to say yes and when to say no to activities and needs. I also let friends help me with this as well.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A new Challenge, A New Positive Goal

One of the qualifications for elders and deacons in the church is that they must manage their families and households well. See I Timothy 3:4-12. Well, for the past few years, God has given my dh the privilege of being an elder in our church. The Lord put this dream on his heart when he was a very young man, and I believe that the Lord has been preparing him for this role throughout our married life. I feel privileged to be able to be by his side as he carries out his God-given mission.

I love supporting him in his role. I do not consider that I have arrived, but I aspire to keep growing and learning how to be a wife as we move through the different stages and responsibilities of our life passages. It's so fun to still have things to grow in even after 26 years of marriage. (I just have to interject that our 26th anniversary is on the 29th!! I love our anniversaries!)

Here's a thought from elder's wife Virginia Lefler in The Calm and Gentle Heart that is calling me higher, right now: She says, "I do my best to make our home run as smoothly as possible so that he (her husband) can focus on other things, but there is no area that I feel he should stay out of. I welcome his input in any area of my life. There were earlier times that I felt insecure when he would make suggestions, and I would bristle at his "intrusion" in my area of domain. Now, I ask more questions. I’m much more secure as I've learned about God's expectations for my role. Do you let your husband manage your household? One of the greatest obstacles a husband can face in managing his household is that his household refuses to be managed. As a wife, you can make his work impossible. If you won't follow, he can't lead you."

For me, this goes back to the fact that our submission is voluntary and not demanded. The scriptures do not command husbands to order or coerce their wives into being submissive (nor do they tell us to demand or coerce our husbands into loving us or being considerate of us as the scripture instructs them to do.). Instead, the Word appeals to our hearts to follow Christ's example in our role as wives. Phil. 2 tells us that Christ put aside his equality with God in order to do his father's will -- even to the point of going to the cross. And, because he was willing to do so, he opened the door for those who respond to the gospel to receive the gift of salvation. If Christ’s submissive heart did so much for us, then how can we refuse to follow in his steps? God raised Christ up because of his reverent submission; we can trust in God’s promise that he will do the same for us. Thus, submission must come from within our hearts, out of a desire to please God.

Sometimes, our positive growth in our Christian walk is spurred by a moment of painful awareness. When I glanced through Mrs. Lefler’s book this morning, I was struck by her statement, “I do my best to make our home run as smoothly as possible, so that he can focus on other things, but there is no area that I feel he should stay out of.”

Ouch!! I do have a few areas which I secretly think DH should stay out of, one of which is how I run MY kitchen!

Like Mrs. Lefler, I have as my goal to manage the house in a way that DH doesn’t have to worry about it. I do want him to be able to concentrate on the heavy responsibilities he carries as an elder and as the co-owner of a small, start-up company. But, sometimes, I get a picture in my head of what that means, and I forget to take DH’s own desires for how the household should run into account! I forget that I am running the household under his oversight. Then, I bristle when he offers input, particularly when it comes to when the fridge should be cleaned or how the kitchen should be organized.

This is all the more silly when I consider that DH welcomes my input in areas where he knows that I have more talent and training. But, the bottom line is that I am insecure because I am not the world’s best organizer. Now, I am very creative and do have many household talents. But, to be honest, keeping things in order is not my natural forte. Dear Hubby is an engineer by education and by profession. He’s not so creative as I am, but he does have an excellent spatial sense and a good grasp of how things can be done most efficiently.

Our strengths do complement each other so well. DH has so much to offer me in helping me attain my own goals of creating a comfortable, smoothly running home.

If DH’s input is so helpful, why do I bristle? Mrs. Lefler put her finger on the root cause: It makes me feel insecure when DH crosses into what I view as my feminine sphere. Insecurity is a form of pride. Insecurity comes because we seek to get our security from our own performance, rather than from our relationship with God. I somehow think – wrongly -- that if DH notices an area where I can improve or if he makes a personal request that is not in my agenda, it somehow means that I am not living up to my ideals of being the Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 woman.

Sarah, in the Bible, didn’t see it that way. When Abraham wanted to entertain the strangers who turned out to be angels, he gave Sarah specific directions for the meal. He said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal, knead it and make cakes.” Then, he ran to select and prepare a calf.

Now, if it had been me, I might have said, “Oh, Abraham, I know how to cook a meal for company. Leave it to me.” But, there is no record that Sarah resented Abraham’s instructions.

The truth is, God has blessed my hubby and me both by giving us complementary talents. DH’s wisdom is an asset to my life, not a threat to my security. Besdies, if I manage my household to suit myself or someone else, but I leave out DH’s wishes, I haven’t fulfilled my true role as my husband’s wife.

So, I have a new positive goal: I will be able to say, as Mrs. Lefler does, “I do my best to make our home run as smoothly as possible so that he can focus on other things, but there is no area that I feel he should stay out of. I welcome his input in any area of my life.

Monday, November 20, 2006


I Peter 3:4 encourages us to have a calm and gentle spirit, or, as the King James puts it, meek and quiet spirit.

The Greek word for calm or quiet is hesuchios. It means tranquility arising from within, undisturbed, peaceable, and quiet.

Here's an image I love from the book, A Gentle and Quiet Spirit," by Virginia Lefler (published by Silver Day Press:

"As a young child, I lived near a spring of water where my father would fill our water cans. Someone had put a concrete liner in the ground around the spring so that it was easy to draw the water out. I loved to go there. It was a peaceful place where water constantly bubbled up from within the earth and overflowed. It was puzzling to me how year after year, the water kept coming. There was an invisible underground source that I could not understand as a child. I think of that spring every time I read this definition of 'tranquility arising from within.'" The quiet spirit also has an unseen source. It comes from a deep trust in God's love, protection, and promises.

"There are a lot of things we face very day that reveal whether or not we have this kind of spirit. Do the words 'tranquility arising from within; describe you or would the words 'stressed out' be a better fit. Stress, not tranquility, describes many women today. Think back on what the last week has been like for you and your household. Were you undisturbed by the events you faced and undisturbing to others around you? Did you raise your voice or somehow lose control? Were you peaceful in the middle of all your business? Now, I assume you have been busy. We aren't talking about whether you have a life of leisure or not, we are talking about an inner quality.

"Again, Jesus is the perfect example of hesuchios. Large crowds of people who were needy, hungry, and sick often surrounded him (sounds like a family at times). Luke 8:43 says, 'As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.' It goes on to say that a woman touched him and that Jesus took the time to inquire about it. Unlike his disciples, who urged Jesus to send the people away (Mark 6:26), Jesus was unruffled by the crowds.

"I love to be around peaceful people, because there is something very calming about them."

My note: When I was young, I used to think that having a hesuchios spirit meant that I would always move through every moment of my life serenely, and that I would eventually get to the point where I had all circumstances in my life going according to plan. I didn't realize that what I was, in fact, asking for was that life go according to MY plan.

Of course, we should attend to our outer circumstances. Keeping an orderly house is more soothing than living in disorder. Adhering to at least a loose schedule or rhythm to life makes life go more smoothly. Taking time to get away and rest and pray refreshes the spirit.

But, gaining our whole sense of peace and tranquility from our outer circumstances is unrealistic at best. I have had to learn that it isn’t MY plan that counts, but GOD’s. Sometimes, he has different plans for my day thanI do. But, He knows best!

Besides, we live in a fallen world. We are in a spiritual battle. Things will arise that will distress us. The key is what we do with our distress. Do we take our distress to God and depend on him to help us, or do we let our distress eat us up?

Having a meek and quiet spirit doesn’t mean that we never express grief or pain. When I was a young mother, my mother was diagnosed with the disease that would take her life some thirteen years later. We all knew that the illness would be terminal. I decided to be strong for my family throughout the long process of her dying. However, I had the wrong idea about what it meant to be strong and to trust God. Rather than grieving openly while expressing trust in God, I tried to be stoic. This only harmed me spiritually and emotionally, and it didn’t help my family, either. After all, Jesus wept at Lazarus graveside, even though he knew he was going to raise Lazarus. Again, the key is not to pretend that we have no distress. The key is to take our distress to the Lord.

This week, I was confronted with a couple of situations in which people were being harmed spiritually. I was right to be concerned. But, I didn’t fully give it all into God’s hands, as I should have. Oh, I prayed about it. But, I got up from my prayer still anxious and fretting and dreading having to have a couple of uncomfortable conversations with people. I didn't truly do as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane. I didn't keep praying until my will was completely surrendered to God. Despite my lack of trust, God graciously worked out these situations without my doing a thing! Once again, he reminded me to depend totally on Him.

In short, hesuchios doesn’t come from being placidly unconcerned, nor does it come from perfect outer circumstances. As Mrs. Lefler writes, it comes from the source – from our trust in God.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Joyful Consumption -- Baked Brie

It's fun being inspired by my daughter, who is a young bride! She mentioned the other day she was going to serve baked brie for a function. That reminded me of how much I have loved baked brie at parties. So, when we had a small gathering over for dinner last night, I decided to serve baked brie, myself. Oddly, when I got to the store, I found that the price of a pre-prepared (Is that redundant?) brie was the same as a basic brie. So, by the time I would have added ingredients, it was cheaper to buy the brie already with the fruit and nuts inside and the pastry wrapped around it. I had great fun serving it, though I must admit that I chose to serve it to a particular group that wasn't exactly enamored with the idea of cheese for dessert. Still, it was fun to offer something outside of my normal repertoire. Trying brie wasn't on my feminine challenge list (See Emma's blog about that), but it was an impromptu choice that gave me a lot of domestic fun. I'm trying to serve and to eat higher quality foods in smaller quanties and more slowly.

An addendum to the joyless consumption post of yesterday. Has everyone heard about the few stampeding and robbing incidents that have taken place in the U.S. in conjunction with the offering of Play Station 3? Of course, we have to keep this in perspective. Considering how many people were waiting in line for Play Station 3 nationwide, these were only two or three isolated events. I understand that bidding for PS3's are going crazy on E-Bay, so some people must have bought them in order to sell them at higher prices.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Joyless Consumption -- The Culture of Excess

Having just been in France in March, I found this quote to be every interesting:

"These days, an image I carry around with me is of two airports. It's fitting, since airports are now the crossroads of the world, the most commong interface of one culture with another. At O'Hare International in Chicago, on the way to an appearance on the Oprah show, I witnessed a surreal spectacle I wish I had videotaped. People all around me in the terminal were gulping down hamburgers, fries, and pizza and knocking back big tups of soda or coffee as they tapped away on their laptops, talked on cell phones, and flipped through newpapsers. Most remakrable, it was 10:a.m. Why were they even eating? I asked myself. Breakfast? Early lunch? Or just a way to pass the time? It looked more like stuffing than eating, actually. And, most of the people I saw were significatly overweight. Plus, I could not detect pleasure on a single face...

The airport-cum-food court may be a sign of the times, but not quite yet in France. At Charles de Gaulle (or Roissy,as the French call it), the busiest hub on the Continent, when French people eat, they generally sit down to a knife and fork at enclosed cafeterias or restaurants. There are small stand-up bars for those who want a quick croissant or perhaps a jambon beurre and a cup of coffee. But, have you seen a typical French cup of coffee? Three sips, four max.....The airports may still reflect the traditional differences, for the most part, but they also show that infiltration is taking place in both directions. Things in France aren't yet set up to accommodate the contemporary culture of excess, but where there's a will, there's a way; in the odd corner you do find people engaging in alien habits, with two sandwiches, an iPod, and a magazine feeding them all at once. But, in France, they are the exception; in America, they are the rule."

From Mireille Guiliano -- emphasis mine.

Of couse, Mireille is confining herself to the problem of obesity and over-eating. But, I think she's inadvertently hit on some deeper spiritual truths.

Was anyone else struck by the phrase, "with two sandwiches, an iPod, and a magazine feeding them all at once." Our gluttony has surpassed that of the stomach and mouth and has moved to a complete gluttony of the mind and heart. We are stressed; we try to soothe ourselves with things that only make us feel more stressful. So, we reach for another sandwich and turn up the music. We must be constantly entertained via the media and constantly pacified with food. The result of our stuffing, as Mirelle points out, is that our faces do not reflect joy, nor even pleasure.

Mireille sees this as ceasing to be a French/American thing and more about the clash between two differing globalized approaches to life. France is slowly taking on the culture of excess,
while some Americans are re-thinking it. In the end, says, Mireille, it's not about where you live, but about how you choose to live. It would be interesting if readers from G.B., Canada, and Australia or other places would share about what is happening in their countries in this regard.

Of course, cell phones, laptops, iPods, magazines, and such are not bad things. When used properly and in moderation, they benefit our lives. I personally enjoy knowing that when my adult children are traveling by car, they have a phone with them in case of emergencies. I also love the fact that the Internet has opened up a new way for people from all cultures to communicate. And, both my husband's livelihood and my part-time job depend on access to the net.

It's an emptiness of heart and not gadgets that create the culture of excess. That's why even in Isaiah's low-tech era, God implored, "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently untio me, and eat ye that which is good and let your soul delight itself in fatness." Isaiah 55:2

I, myself, get weary and jittery with too much electronic stimulation, but I must admit that I can numb myself out with the best of them. If I find myself eating lunch at home alone, I usually flip on the T.V. Yet, how much better it would be to follow the advice of 1911 homemaking expert, Alice James, and take my meal outside or to a covered porch or at least near a window to eat. And, how many times have I felt God nudging me to pray about a trouble, but I sought comfort in a book or reading blogs or some other form of escape?

Our impulse admist the noise of modern life is to flee to a safe haven with just ourselves, our families, our church, and a few close friends. I know that I personally relate to David when he cries in one of the psalms, "Oh, if I had the wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest." The idea of creating a quiet oasis for myself and mine and never coming out appeals to my selfish nature.

Now, we should carve out some time and space where we can nurture our relationship to God and to our family and friends. But, continually holing up in our own peaceful conclave does nothing to feed a hungry world -- a world that is so spiritually bereft of real fare that it must constantly stuff, stuff, stuff itself with the world's junk food. We are all spiritual beggars who have been seated at a great banquet; how sad it would be if we neglected to point other hungry beggars to the giver of the feast.

Wouldn't it be great to be the person in the airport who keeps a still and content heart before the Lord. Wouldn't it be great to look up from our laptops and cell phones to consider the person sitting in the next seat? Wouldn't it be great if we always left a seating area having shared our faith with a stranger and performed a kindness for a weary traveler?

If you spot such a person in the airport, what will you see on their face? Joy!!


Monday, November 13, 2006

Feminity Challenge

Over at Charming the Birds from The Trees, Emma has issued a challenge to do something each day this week to make things around us more feminine. I'm excited about this challenge, and was looking forward to it. But, I woke up this morning with a bout of asthma that has sidelined me for the day.

But, so far, I have four goals in mind: 1) concentrated work on my posture 2) making a feminine cover bag for my cellphone and figuring how to hook it on the outside of my purse (I'm always fishing ungracefully in the depths of my purse for a ringing phone, only to retrieve it after the caller has given up.) 3) Taking a thorough inventory of my house and writing a detailed list of inexpensive projects I can do in each room to make it more attractive and comfy 4) Framing some prints that I've been holding until I could work framing into the budget.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

More Share if You Dare...

Mrs. Blythe's comment on my last post reminded me of my funniest homemaking flub -- It's funny only because it turned out well and no one was hurt.

When I was carrying my son, I had a lot of morning sickness. DD is only fourteen months older than ds. At the time, she was still nursing. But, I was introducing solid foods to her, as well. And, you know what happens when you hit that stage. Needless to say, diaper changing was one trigger for my morning sickness.

One morning, I woke up feeling horrible all over and was sluggish in mind and body. I let my housework go. I shlepped around in a robe during the early part of the morning. (Warning -- No matter how badly you feel, never lounge around in a robe!) Around 10 in the morning, I got a strange craving for popcorn. So, I started some oil heating. Normally, I would never leave the stove in the process of popcorn making. But, I quickly discovered that dd needed changing. (Warning: If you start cooking something like popcorn and are called away -- turn the burner off and set the pot aside).

When I tended to dd, that prompted a whole new wave of morning sickness and a total lapse of memory that I had oil heating on the stove. Popcorn was the furtherest thing from my mind at that point. When I remembered the oil a few minutes later, I flew into the kitchen. The oil was smoking a bit. I yanked off the lid, and of course, everything flamed. (Warning: If you are ever in a similar situation, turn the burner off and set the smoking contents aside until it cools. Never feed the flame with a rush of air).

I was in a panic, so I picked up my dd and ran to a friend's two houses down and left dd with her. From my friend's house, I called 911 and reported the kitchen fire. Then, I ran back to the house and threw a box of baking soda on the flames. Of course, that stopped the burning.

So, I called the fire department and asked them not to come.

They said, "I'm sorry, m'am. Once you call the emergency number, we have to come. And, come they did, with sirens blazing. Everyone in our neigbhorhood poured out of their houses to see what was going on.

Lo and behold, the captain was a good friend of ours from church. There I was in a robe, looking a little green around the gills, and welcoming an entire squad of firemen to my untidy home. The kitchen had black soot around the fire. And, I was finding it a little hard to explain why I was popping corn at only 10:00 in the morning!

The fire fighters were proud of the way I had extinguished the fire. They praised me for calling the fire deparment, and explained they needed to check things to make sure the grease fire hadn't caused damage that might render our kitchen unsafe. Finally, they pronounced that all was well. They went on their way, and I cleaned up the mess.

Now, we enjoyed the town in which we lived. But, we were fourteen hours away from our families, and we considered moving back closer to home. The opportunity arose when I was still pregnant with ds. Dh was offered a great job in the town where he had grown up. So, we moved to a snug little cottage on the top of a mountain overlooking our new city.

Near the end of my pregnancy, I popped something into the oven to cook. There was something wrong with the oven, and it started sparking across some kind of broken connection. I turned the oven off, but I wasn't sure if there was still a remaining fire hazard. So, I looked up what I thought was the fire department's non-emergency number. They said they would be right out. I said, "But it's not a real fire. I only wanted to ask what to do ." The fire department said, "I'm sorry, but you've called our emergency line. Once you call this number..."

I waited for the firemen to arrive. It took them forever to find our cottage. They circled the little neighborhood on the top of the mountain many times -- with sirens blaring, of course. I tried to signal them, but to no avail. If it truly had been a fire, the house would have been long gone.

Finally, they found us and came in and inspected the oven. While they were there, dear hubby arrived home from work. He came in the house, calmly whistling. I suppose he had accepted that this would be my pyromania pregnancy.

Those were my only two encounters ever with the fire department -- for which I am grateful. I have great respect for fire personnel. Time and time again, they risk their lives to save others. In my book, they are true heros. But, I'm happy not to have had the necessity to call them again.

I'm happy to report that ds has never shown any signs of pyromania. Apparently, whatever fire-starting effect he had on me was confined to the time he was in my womb. Or, maybe it's just that his mama learned a little more about fire safety during that time.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Share if you Dare....What is your Biggest or Funniest Homemaking Flub?

When reading homemaking blogs, we can all get the idea that life rocks along perfectly in everyone else's home. But, even the best and the most devoted of housekeepers have catastrophes now and again. While they may not seem funny at the time, if we do find the humor in them, they can actually morph into treasured stories.

So, here's one of mine: I invited several ladies over for lunch. Now, my mother had wisely told me never to try a new recipe when you have company coming. But, instead of sticking with my tried and true dishes, I threw caution to the wind and followed a new recipe that I wanted to try. After all, I know how to follow a recipe, I reasoned. What's the worst that can happen?

The recipe was for chicken and rice. You were supposed to mix the rice with soup and water and let it sit overnight in your refrigerator. Then you placed the chicken and seasonings on top or the rice. You covered it with foil and baked it for forty-five minutes. The idea was that the rice would soften overnight, absorb the liquid, and be ready for use in a cassrole without boiling it first.

Apparently, I did not know how to follow a recipe as well as I thought. I must have gotten the water/soup to rice ratio wrong. When the timer went off, I checked the casserole. There was no soft, fluffy rice, as the recipe promised. Instead, the grains were hard and inedible. I kept extending the cooking time, putting off my hungry guests with the promse that the rice would be done soon. But, eventually, I had to give up that thought. We ate the chicken without the rice. Luckily, I had prepared some side dishes, as well.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

You mean Great-great Grandma didn't run down to Wal-Mart for some shelf paper?

Reading Alice James' 1911 book, "Housekeeping for Two," reminds me that there was a time before home keepers had access to modern shelf and drawer linings.

"For kitchen shelves many use newspapers, the edges scalloped; others like the marbled enameled cloth, which comes for the purpose, and is so easily wiped off," she says.

Doesn't the idea of scalloped edges sound appealing? But, I don't think I'd recommend using newspaper today, since have so many other materials available to us. In fact the whole subject of paper in the kitchen gives me shiver. When our children were very young, dh and I bought a house in which the owners had glued left over wallpaper to the shelves and the bottoms of kitchen cabinets. I learned after calling a pest control service in desperation that roaches love wallpaper paste. Apparently, this is not a problem when wallpaper is used as it should be -- on walls. But, it does become an issue if used on flat surfaces in the kitchen. Roaches may be lured to the kitchen by food scents and hang around to indulge in tasty snacks of glue.

According to Alice, some of our great-grandmothers covered their shelves in high style: "But for the dining room closets, some brides will have nothing but hand-embroidered linen, with monogram in the centre of every piece, starched and ironed and glossy. These latter are certainly attractive, and if carefully laundered will last a long while. If not bleached with acids or ruined with lye or other strong cleaning agents, good linen will last unbroken, for fifty years. To be effective, the embroidery should be of a very open pattern and the scallops should be large ones and rather shallow. Pointed edges curl up and, besides, are apt to catch in the hair when one is putting away or taking out the dishes."

Here's a pretty image from Alice, "A substitute for linen is machine-embroidered lawn with edge in large effective pattern. One needs to buy but one set, as they are so easily and quickly laundered. Lace paper is still popular; and if a white strip of it be laid over a green one, the green edge showing an inch or so below the white, the closet shelves present a very pretty picture of daintiness."

Many homemakers of today still make decorative and functional linings for kitchen cabinets and pantries. Also, some trim the edges of wooden pantry or cabinet shelves with lace or other decorative trim.

I have inherited many pretty dresser scarves, doilies, etc. I use some of these to line shelves which don't get a lot of daily use. I have to say, though, that when it comes to my kitchen shelves and drawers, I'm thankful that someone invented durable, easy-to-trim and easy-to-clean shelf linings. Wal-Mart, here I come. :)


Monday, November 06, 2006

Timeless and Universal Principles of Dress

As you know, I've been reading a lot of blogs and books -- from past to present -- about homemaking. I've discovered that there are universal and timeless truths to which all great homemakers refer. In this sense, homemaking is a science.

When it comes to the methodology of how to apply those principles, there is more room for variation. The practical application of timeless homemaking truths can change over time, particularly as technology changes. Also, two women of today can take two different approaches to arrive at the same homemaking goal. Each family is different; each family needs different things at different times. So, a savvy homemaker must learn how to apply the scientific principles of homemaking to her individual situation. In this sense, homemaking is an art.

One universal truth that has yielded many different applications pertains to how the home keeper dresses for her tasks. The attire of a homemaker is so important that you can hardly find a homemaking book or web site that doesn’t refer to this subject in some way. Authors from the early 1800’s opined about it; authors of today discuss it frequently (and sometimes heatedly) as well. Some current home making experts go so far as to prescribe a “uniform” for the homemaker. They are very specific in telling a homemaker what to wear, even down to specific footgear.

My favorite homemaking uniform is a pretty skirt or dress and an apron. But, some women feel great in jeans and a feminine blouse. It’s not my purpose here to prescribe to others exactly how they should dress in their home.

Instead, let me lay out what I’ve discovered about the underlying principles of dress. I’ve tried to stick to the general concepts on which almost all great homemakers agree:

1) Paying attention to the details of your personal presentation -- from grooming to dress to shoes -- sends a message to you and to others that your domestic responsibilities are important. Dressing in a way that makes you feel both "professional" and attractive gives you more energy and efficiency for your tasks. (You will find this same advice in books for at-home freelance writers, by the way).

2) Keeping a neat and fresh appearance is a gift you give to your family members. After all, would you enjoy it if members of your family went around with un-brushed hair and teeth and schlepped around in sweats with holes in them? We should treat others with the same consideration we desire from them. This is especially important to our husbands. They are created by God to be attracted to our smiling, fresh, and feminine appearance. If they come home to find us habitually looking careworn and unfeminine, we can discourage them more than we realize.

3) If you make it a point to dress to at least an acceptable appearance in the morning, you will not be embarrassed if someone unexpectedly rings the bell or if you need to make an unplanned foray into public.

4) Some home experts advise wearing sturdy shoes to protect feet from household accidents, such as dropping something heavy on your toes. Others prefer to wear pretty, comfortable, inside-only slippers. These have no dust or dirt on them that could dirty carpets and floors. One expert even suggests that you wear thick cotton socks when you mop the floor so as not to leave shoe prints. There is merit in each of these points of view; the underlying principle is that you should put some consideration into what you slip onto your feet.

5) Many homemaking experts – especially those from the past – advocate changing from our day’s clothing into a fresh outfit for the evening. The evening outfit doesn’t have to be fancy, just fresh and clean. Others suggest that simply touching up your appearance by splashing your face with water, re-combing your hair, etc., is sufficient. The point is, once again, to have a fresh appearance when your family comes together for dinner.

6) Our inner and outer natures affect each other. Order in our dress and appearance can both reflect and inspire order in our hearts. Disorder in our dress and appearance can both reflect and inspire disorder in our hearts. We have to walk carefully here. This principle is not meant to be a yardstick by which we measure others; Jesus warned against judging others by appearances. Instead, this principle is meant to help us with our own dress.

7) I have found out the hard way a truth that mose excellent homemakers reccommend: Taking care of your health is a part of presenting a fresh, pretty, and modest appearance.

8) If we aspire to follow Christ, we will have an extra reason to watch our dress. God’s word enjoins us to dress in a way that is feminine and modest. The fact is; there are many differing views about how to apply this practice in today’s world. We should read God’s word, pray, get advice, and arrive at an informed conviction about how we, personally, will put this principle into practice. We should realize, however, that equally conscientious believers may arrive at different opinions about what constitutes feminine and modest dress than we do. Perhaps, this is where a reading of Romans Chapters 14 and 15 will be useful. At any rate, it’s not wise to blindly accept the world’s norm, here. We need to seek God’s will.

If you understand the principles I've listed above, you can apply them no matter what type of dress you choose. Whether you put on a dress or a pair of jeans, you can wear them one of two ways: 1) With a tired face, wrinkled or less than fresh clothing, poor grooming, and with no thought toward modesty or 2) With a cheerful face, fresh clothing, good grooming, shining and neatly brushed hair and with a thought toward modesty.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

A thought inspired by Alice James
(Or, I knew there was a reason why I like this author...)

"Many very wise housekeepers pursue the plan of leaving the dinner or supper dishes to be washed the following morning, the cooking things having been washed and put away during the process of getting the dinner... Leaving the dishes at the end of the day saves one's time and sterngth for something pleasant in the evening, and also saves one's good dresses from much extra wear and tear and incidental injury," says Alice James, in Housekeeping for Two.

Aha! I've finally found a cleaning expert who not only okays leaving some dishes rinsed and ready to be washed the next morning, but actually calls it wise!

The truth is, though I'm often known to do it, I don't think this is a wise practice. If you get up in the morning to find a sink of rinsed dishes, waiting to be washed, you find yourself already behind schedule. When possible, it's far more efficient to completely clean the kitchen after supper or dinner.

There are occasions, however, when this is not possible. Perhaps, you're heading out to church on a Wednesday night. Or, maybe, you have only one evening to visit with a certain guest, and you don't want to spend the whole time in the kitchen. In such cases, it's essential to put away all leftover food that is to be saved and to scrape and rinse away any food particles on dishes. As long as you are not leaving anything that's unsanitary, you can get away with leaving some items overnight.

At any rate, this statement underscores something that I'm learning. The principles of home management are universal; there are varying ideas when it comes to the details of how to apply those princples to daily life. In this example, everyone -- including Alice James -- agrees that it is essentail to a family's well-being to keep a sanitary kitchen. This requires at least some degree of attention every night. Some would never go to bed until the entire kitchen is spic and span; others, like Alice, might leave a dish or two to do in the morning.

So, when reading all of the many books and web sites about home keeping and when listening to the advice of women that we know personally, we have to look beyond what might seem like conflicting opinions about methods to the underlying principles. Then, we can choose advice that helps us apply these concepts to our situation.

The author of Home Comforts, alludes to this as well. One of her grandmothers was of Italian heritage and followed the Italian custom of opening windows and drapes to let in lots of sun. Her other grandmother was of Scots-Irish heritage, and she followed her culture's custom of keeping drapes closed to keep sun from fading upholstery. Yet, notes the author, both women were excellent homekeepers, and she credits them both with insitlling in her a love of all things domestic.

Deciding whether we will open windows and drapes or keep them closed depends on understanding the "why" behind the advice. There is a lot of merit to letting in sun and fresh air. Both will chase away stale odors. Both make for a cheerful enviornment. Both add to our health. Yet, there is some merit to the opposite argument as well: strong sun does fade upholstery and carpeting. And, for some, open windows bring in allergens that worsen conditions such as asthma.

So, we have to decide what works for our situation. Perhaps, we will even employ a combination. I love sun and fresh air. But, I have a long wall with a western exposure. During the summer, if I don't keep the light drapes and sheers over the windows on that side of the house drawn, the glare and the heat become unbearable.

I love to read about homemaking. I like to glean new things that will help me be a better wife, mother, and keeper at home. But, especially when it comes to scheduling and order, I've found that you can't let all of the information that's available get your sidetracked. Sometimes, you have to pick a plan and stick with it -- at least until your circumstances change and you need to draw up a new one.

I'm sure we've all heard this story, which highlights the need to understand the reasoning behind homemaking advice:

A husband saw his young bride cut off the end of a roast before cooking the rest in her huge, brand new roasting pan -- the pan that his mother had given the couple for a wedding present.. He asked her, "Why?" She said, "Oh, I learned that from my mother. She always did it that way. That's just how you cook a roast."

Later on, she started wondering why it was necessary to remove one end of a roast. So, she called her mother.

"Oh, I learned that from your grandmother. She always did it that way. That's just how you cook a roast."

Later on, the mother started wondering why it was necessary to remove one end of a roast. So, she called her mother.

"Oh, my pan is too small to hold a whole roast," said the grandmother.


Friday, November 03, 2006

The Home Keeping System, Then and Now

My father was born when his mother was 42 and I was born when he was 36, so we have long generations in our family.

My father's grandmother truly was a Victorian woman. She was of German heritage and kept house according to the old system of having certain tasks scheduled for every day of the week. (except Sunday). For example, my great-grandmother baked on one day and did laundry on another. To hear my father tell it, her system ran like flawless clockwork

My father remembers his grandmother's household as being both pleasant and efficient. Her daughter, my father's mother, was an equally capable home keeper.

And, then, there's me... Let's just say that, somehow, the family gene for order and system by-passed me. It's takes some effort on my part to come up with workable routines that fit the changing needs of our family and to stick to those routines. Sizing up priorities and sorting out the more important matters from the trivial isn't my strongest gift, either.

I've found that, for me, it's one thing to know a lot of individual domestic skills -- such as cooking, sewing, cleaning, childcare, etc. To understand how to pull these skills all together to create a smoothly running household is another matter, all together.

I assumed that all of our foremothers just naturally had a handle on scheduling household tasks. I assumed that they all learned this at their mother's knee and just stepped into their role as wife and manager of a home already knowing exactly what to do and when.

Those of you who have been reading this blog know that I've been looking through a book, Housekeeping for Two, by Alice James, which was written about 1911. Apparently, she found it wise to instruct her readers -- who were beginning housekeepers -- in the principles of home management and system. Evidently, some of our foremothers struggled with this issue, just as we do.

I imagine that if Mrs. James' readers took the time to read and study her book, they learned from her advice. Since she was writing to beginning home makers, I also assume that they continued to learn through experience.

It's exciting to think that we are following in our foremothers' footsteps when we learn concepts of home making and apply them to our lives. Isn't that a wonderful thing about being a keeper
at home? No matter at what point we find ourselves -- from struggling beginner to home manager extraordinaire -- we always have room to grow. Perhaps, if more people saw manaing a home as a calling that yields personal development, they would hold it in higher esteem.

I've included some thoughts on home management from Alice James for us to ponder:

"The Chinese maxim, 'For him who does verything in its proper time, one day is worth three', is well worth remembering.

"System is absolutely indispensable to the housekeeper who would lighten labour and conduct her domestic affairs with the least hardship and friction, and who, also, would have time for other things. It can be said to all beginners that system is of so much important, no house can be carried on rightly without it; even a poor system might be better than none at all.

"But to have system need not mean a slavish devotion to arbitrary unyielding rules, urged without discrtion or regard to circumstances. Such a a form of house government, strictly enforced, becomes despotic and is ruinous to family happiness; and moreover, a despotic housekeepr finds herself perpetually harassed and perplexed by the merest trifles, which would be unnoticed under a less rigid rule.

"On the other hand, a well chosen system means independence for the mistress in her management of the domestic affairs. If it should be so elastic as to accommodate itself to unforseen interruptions, without danger of disunion, that would be much in its favour."

System with balance and's a good thing :)


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Children: Ways to Deal with Whining or Fussiness

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that there are times when moms and children can feel a bit peevish. Perhaps, everyone has been trapped inside by illness or the weather. Or, maybe guests have come to stay for a holiday and the family hasn't had enough relaxing time alone together. Here's a list of some suggestions that I found helped with my children, when they were tempted to whine or fuss. Some, I learned through trial and error; most were things I learned from books or -- from my favorite source -- older godly women.

Keep in mind, I am just a mom and not a professional expert in child behavior. So, take what works for you and your family, and don't worry about the rest.

(Note, for convenience sake, I'm going to refer to a child as "he". But, these suggestions are meant for girls and for boys.)

1) Crying and fussiness are low-level forms of crying. A child who fusses or whines is trying to get your attention through these behaviors. He may be doing this because he has a need or a desire he can't express. Or, he may be doing it simply to get you to notice him.
2) True crying can be healthy. A child's tears alert us that our child is in need or in danger, so that we can comfort or protect the child. Also, tears help a child release feelings such as fear, anger, fatigue, or hurt. Of course, it is possible for a child to over-indulge in tears or to cry those famous "croccodile" ones. But, an honest cry now and again can do a child (or an adult) a world of good.
3) By contrast, whining and fussiness are unhealthy ways to express emotions. Our goal is to help our child learn how to state wants and needs without resorting to these behaviors.
4) The first thing to do when a child fusses or whines is to make sure his needs are met. Does the child need a nourishing snack? A nap? A dry diaper? A hug? A listening ear? Is he teething? Does he have an earache?
5) On the other hand, it's easy for busy moms to reinforce whining without realizing it. If we tune into our children only when their whining breaks our concentration on some task, we teach them that whining is the way to get our attention. Thus, they will whine more and more until it becomes a habit. To counter this, we need to be alert to a child's initial attempts to get our attention. We need to acknowledge him before he resorts to whining. We can either meet the need right away or ask him to wait until we are through. Then, we can go calmly back to our task. Also, we need to give our child positive attention when he is happy and content. Every so often, we can stop our tasks to cast a smile our child's way or to say something positive and pleasant. We can take a few moments to notice something that he is coloring or building with blocks. We can sit down to read a book together.
6) If your child makes a request and you say no, do not allow your child continue to whine and whine about it. Send the child to a quiet place to think and allow him to return when he is ready to be pleasant. Also, do not let a child's whining manipulate you into saying "yes" to a request that goes against your better judgment. Remember, consistenly enforcing appropriate guidelines helps make for a happy child. Letting a child's whining control both you and him only makes him unhappy in the long run.
7) Children often become whiny or peevish if they do not get enough fresh air, sunshine, and freedom to move around. Children are by nature full of wonderful, delightful energy. They function best when they express this energy in creative outdoor play. Find a way to provide your child with such an outlet. Even if you live in a tiny city apartment, find a safe park and take your child their for daily outings. If a long string of bad weather keeps you and your child indoors, find creative ways to move around. Put on DVD's and hop and dance to the music. Even on cold, sunny days, a healthy, warmly dressed child can enjoy playing outdoors.
8) A soothing bubble bath in which the child can play with bath toys can ease a whiny mood. Even if it's not your child's scheduled bath time, a soak and a splash in a sudsy tub can do wonders.
9) When a generally happy child whines, moms can usually pick up on what's wrong. Perhaps, you are running errands, but the child is tired and bored and wants to go home Or, maybe the child was kept up past his usual bedtime the night before. Express sympathy for a child's feelings. But, do not give your child the idea that a minor discomfort is an excuse to whine. It's far better to say something like, "Oh, Suzy, are you tired? I understand. You were up past your bedtime last night. We'll get you home soon, so that you can rest. But, right now, even though you are tired, you can still be polite to Mrs. Smith." Or, fill in whatever positive goal you want to reinforce. Of course, if a child is teething or sick, he may not be able to control his fussiness very well. Make some allowances here. But, through the years, gently help your child understand that just because we are tired, hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable does not give us license to whine, fuss, or snap at others. There are better ways to deal with these issues.
10) Once a child has mastered the word, "please," do not allow him to fuss, whine, or throw a tantrum to ask for a toy, a drink, or something to eat. Ask him, "What do you say?" If he is frustrated with not being able to communicate well or is in some other way upset, help him to calm down. Refuse to give him the desired item until he says, "please." If the child hasn't yet learned the name of the desired item, he may point to it and say, "please". You can say the name of the item as you hand it to him, to help him increase his vocabulary. But, above all, help the child to stay calm and to get out a polite word or two. This teaches the child that it is ok to ask for things, but also that there is a polite and pleasant way to get your requests across to another person.
11) As your child grows, teach him how to deal with emotions -- even anger -- in respectful and healthy ways. We taught our children that they could say anything to us -- provided that they maintained respect for God and for us. Sometimes, well-meaning parents don't allow their children to ever verbalize anger or other negative emotions. This is not healthy for the child. If you read the psalms, you see that David was open about all kinds of emotions and that he worked these feelings out in his prayers to God. There is a reason why God gave us the capacity to feel all kinds of things, such as anger, sadness, fear, joy, excitement, gratitude, love. The trick is to learn how to handle these emotions in ways that please God, rather than to let emotions control us. Children need to learn how to make emotions their servants and not their masters. Children who can identify what they are feeling and take that feeling to God or to talk about it with a loving parent feel less need to whine or complain.
12) Keep an eye on whining throughout the child's growing years. We were consistent in helping our children communicate without whining when they were very young. Then, when they got to be about eleven or twelve, we slacked off for a time. It was easy for me, espeically, to let them make requests on the fly, without noticing their tone of voice. So, we had to regain our focus, and train them to make requests respectfully. As the child matures, he needs to keep maturing in how he communicates.
13) Here's the most obvious place to start: We set the example for them. (Aren't we all saying "ouch" right now!) Your children will mimic what they hear and see you do. If you complain a lot, they will complain. If you manipulate your husband through nagging or wearing him down with your requests, they will whine to you. On the flip side, if you remain calm and pleasant, even though you have a slight headache, your children will follow suit. They will learn how from your example to meet life's little disappointments and pains with complaining. As we said yesterday, if you are finding yourself feeling edgy or peevish, take steps to help improve your own frame of mind. Then, you will be able to help your children.
14) You are doing your child a favor by helping him learn to communicate without whining or fussiness. Both children and adults who persist in whining or fussing are often perceived as being immature and unpleasant. Conversely, people who express themselves calmly, reasonably, pleasantly, and, when appropriate, with gentle firmness are perceived as being enjoyable and worthy of respect.
15) Pray!


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Hour for Lighting Lamps

“At dusk, before the dark sets in, the gas should be lighted in the halls and bathroom, the lamps lighted in the rooms to give the house a cheery look to the home-comer. Nothing seems more forlorn to a man returning from business, than to find a dark house or its mistress away,” says Alice L. James in her 1911 book on home keeping.

This sounds so appealing on a day like today. In my yesterday’s post, I cheerily proclaimed that I was going outside for some fresh air and sunshine. I didn’t realized that clouds were moving in. I did manage to eat a bite on our back deck, and then to cut back vines that grow on my mailbox. Soon, light sprinkles became heavier, sending me back inside. I was grateful, though, to have had some happy time puttering about the yard.

The rain let up just in time for last night’s trick-or-treaters. Today, it’s rainy and colder. We’ve just switched from daylight savings time back to regular time, so the darkness is setting in earlier.

On such nights, how delightful it is to come in from the cold and the dark to a room in which candles are flickering, a lamp is casting a soft light, and a fire is glowing in the fireplace.

I love light! In fact, I have a bad habit of flipping on too many switches. My husband teases me by asking me, “Do you have stock in the power company?” I will try this winter to use more candles and less costly electricity.

It always seems to me that at the hour that Alice Walker is talking about – the hour for lighting lamps – it’s always good for me to check how my inner lamp is shining, as well. Sometimes, I hit a late afternoon slump, in which I can become brusque, grumpy, or anxious. At those times, it helps me to eat a nourishing snack or to put my feet up for a few moments. My greatest help comes when I take a few minutes to pray.

When my children were small, this was often the time when they would whine. They could be happy all day long, but something about passing the marker of 4:00 in the afternoon got to them. My mother told me that this is often called, "the crying hour." The wise mother isn't shocked by this. She calmly helps her children deal with their feelings so that they do not whine. She meets their needs. She exerts a soothing influence.

This brings me back to prayer! I found that if my own sprits were flagging, I couldn't be a soothing influence in the household. If I found myself growing as whiny as the children, I would ask them to say a short prayer with me. That usually refreshed our hearts, and we started our evening with happy hearts.

Tonight, dear hubby and I are driving some distance to meet with a small church near an army base. They invited us to come and have dinner and some worship time with them. I'm not especially looking forward to the cold and rainy drive, but I am looking forward to the warm smiles that I will see when I get there.

I always admire those women who seem to fill their homes with the light of a warm, serene, faith-filled, and loving heart. Women like these seem to carry that comforting glow with them no matter where they go. They are the ones you want to see on your doorstep when you are sick, overwhelmed, or otherwise hurting. They are also the ones around whom you can relax and have fun. Even if they have to talk to you about some serious matter -- perhaps even point out a matter in which you need correction -- they always leave you feeling loved.

I fall so short, but I do want to be such a light. After all, the lamp that really makes a home cozy is the one that shines in our hearts.