Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Random thoughts...Training children about love and marriage -- Part II.

Children (and adults) often have trouble distinguishing between temptation and sin. Reading James 1:13-16, Colossians 3:5, and Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 4:14-16 are some verses that can help us with this issue.

Why is this important? There are several reasons. If we recognize temptation for what it is, we can flee or resist the temptation before it leads to sin. Also, if we understand that temptation is not yet sin, we can keep ourselves from falling into discouragement simply because we were tempted.

It's very important to help our growing children understand this in the area of sexual temptation. By God's wonderful design, children's bodies mature into young adulthood in preparation for love and marriage. For several generations, the natural changes of puberty have been occurring earlier and earlier, especially in girls. There are several theories about this. Two interesting ones are that the hormones used in our foods may affect this and the constant exposure of children in our culture to sexualized images also may somehow trigger early hormonal changes.

While our children are trying to sort out the changes in their bodies, they will have to deal with cultural pressures, as well. Also, while puberty is occurring earlier and earlier, the average age when young people marry is being delayed longer and longer.

So, our children need our love and our teaching to help them deal with their physical natures and cultural pressures. It's important that they understand a few important facts about temptation and sin in order to stay strong in their purity:

1) A boy's emerging masculinity and a girl's emerging femininity are wonderful gifts from God. A boy should learn how to appreciate his masculine nature and how to respect a girl's feminine nature, and vice versa. Of course, children do need to wait for marriage to express their masculinity or femininity through sexual activity. But, sexual activity is not the only expression of a masculine character or a womanly character. While waiting for marriage, a boy can use his manly character for good and a girl can use her womanly character for good. When marriage does come, the child will be ready to step into a joyful and healthy sexual relationship.
2) Merely realizing that someone of the opposite sex is attractive is not sin. It's normal for a girl to notice that a particular boy is handsome or for a boy to realize that a particular girl is beautiful. In fact, a boy's palms may sweat when he is introduced to a cute girl, and that girl may feel a little flutter in her heart when the boy says hello to her. Adolescents with overly sensitive consciences can become overly alarmed simply because they experience an instinctual reaction to some one's physical attractiveness. They may overwhelm themselves with guilt or frustration in the impossible quest to avoid any attraction whatsoever to the opposite sex.
3) If, on the other hand, a child dwells on some one's physical presence, it can lead to the sin of lust. A classic example is the progression that King David followed from seeing Bathsheba to lusting after her to sinning with her to committing murder. If King David had disciplined himself to look away when he first saw Bathsheba, he would not have sinned. At every point, he kept making decisions that took him further and further down a tragic path.
Children who have weak convictions about lust may dance around the line where temptation crosses into sin, not realizing that they are placing themselves in spiritual, emotional, and physical danger.
Lust occurs when a child the does a double take and continues to look at a person for the purpose of engaging in sexual desire or fantasy. It also happens when a child continues to look at something sexually explicit, rather than averting the eyes or leaving the scene. Likewise, it occurs when the child engages in fantasies involving sexual images or sexual activity.
If a girl stumbles in this area, her daydreams are not likely to be as sexually detailed as a boy's might be, though this is not necessarily so. More often, a girl will get caught up in romanticized fantasies, similar to those found in romance novels. Whether or not a girl's fantasies are spun of stardust or if they are more graphic in nature, this is still a danger area. At the very least, fantasies like these can develop unrealistic expectations about marriage, and she may expect that her future husband will shower her with romance every day of their lives. At the very worst, dreams like this can be the pathway through which girls do begin to entertain lust and impurity.
Girls, as well as boys, need to be taught how to have a healthy thought life. Too much daydreaming, even about innocent things, can make it hard for a person to enjoy real life. It can also interfere with a person's productiveness. And, if someone is always running a tape in their minds in which they are the hero, they may develop an unhealthy sort of pride. Having said that, imagination can be a healthy part of childhood and adolescence. Rehearsing life via a few daydreams now and again is one way that children work out what their adult aspirations and values will be. Just help your children to keep their daydreams focused on things that are pure and wholesome, and help them to harness their dreams for good.
4) The first sexually enticing thought that comes into a child's head is generally temptation, rather than sin. If something comes before a child's eyes that invites the urge to lust, but they quickly look away, they stopped the process at temptation and have not sinned. Likewise, if a sexual thought passes randomly through their minds, that is not sin, unless they hold onto the thought and nourish it. If they struggle with the urge to look when a friend or acquaintance wants to show them something pornographic, but they say "no", they have not sinned.
5) While we need to reassure kids who deal victoriously with temptation, we still need to teach all of our children a healthy and sober conviction to flee from sexual lust and sexual sin. Proverbs 4:23, Proverbs 4:25, and proverbs 5:8 tell us to guard our hearts, our eyes, and where we go. Build the kind of relationship with your child so that if they do fall, they will tell you quickly! Also, pray for wisdom to know what is going on in your child's life. Help the child to repent quickly so that the sin does not begin to rule over them.
6) Children with active imaginations may develop embarrassing or even, weird, questions about their own sexual nature or about sexuality in general. If they do not feel that they can discuss these things with you, they will hold them inside, and the questions may loom larger than they really are. It's important to listen without over-reacting, to answer their questions and problems, and to guide the child toward more wholesome thoughts.
7) Much of the world's view of sexuality today has a "mean" streak to it. Sex and sexual terms are used as weapons, as ways of expressing defiance towards authority, as mean-spirited and coarse jokes, as a means of exploiting people to make money, as cursing, and in connection with violence -- especially towards women. Also, many people today have been abused sexually, and they may have trouble seeing sex as the blessing it was meant to be. Teach your children that God's design for sex is beautiful; it is sin that distorts God's beautiful plan into something ugly. Show them that, in Christ, our sexuality can be what it was meant to be. Teach them that in a godly marriage, sex is a gift. Instill in them a healthy respect for God, for their own bodies, and for other people. Teach them God's standard of love. Show them a healthy and happy view of family life. Give them lots of love and affection. Children who grow up in an atmosphere of love and respect generally will not choose a mate who will mistreat them. Neither, will they be as likely to let someone talk them out of their convictions about purity. In every way, fill your children's minds with the good so that they won't be attracted to the world's cheap imitation.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Teaching Children About Sex and Marriage...Some random thoughts -- Part I
(Please note: This post is not for young readers, but for parents.)

God's word is eternal and firm, and, thus, God's standard for love and marriage applies in every generation. When God's standard for sex, love, and marriage is followed, it leads to happiness, holiness, and blessing. When this standard is either ignored or flagrantly disobeyed, the consequences lead to misery and, even, destruction.

History students know that while God's standard remains constant, the world's standard fluctuates. The world swings back and forth from times when sexual sins are openly accepted and times when they are not condoned -- at least not condoned publicly.

Sometimes, a culture will enact strict standards of morality, because they see this is best for the family or the community or the nation. People often confuse the world's more conservative ideas of morality with God's standard of purity. Worldly morality -- in or outside of the church -- can be accompanied by self-righteousness, merely outward conformance to a set of man made rules, and hypocrisy. God's standard of purity is accompanied by a genuine concern for holiness, dependence on the Lord for grace and strength, obedience to God's rules, and humility.

The godly person who takes a stand for sexual righteousness may be labeled a repressive hypocrite by those who don't understand. But, the godly person avoids hypocrisy if he remains mindful of his own sins, and if he remembers that he, himself, has received much mercy from God. Then, he is able to take a stand for righteousness out of love and respect for the Lord, as well as out of concern for another's spiritual welfare.

In the twentieth century, we saw a greater and greater acceptance of sexual sin, combined with a disdain for all authority -- even that of God. In the past century, society's ideas about morality jumped all over the place. Think of the "roaring twenties", the deceptively calm fifties, and the "free-love" sixties.

We have brought the last century's legacy of sexual confusion with us into the first decade of this century. Actually, the confusion was created as soon as sin first entered the world. Since then, Satan has perverted God's beautiful gift of sex over the ages in order to snare many a soul. But, there's no doubt that our present culture is hurting because of the world's faulty approach to sexuality and relationships. When we get to the point that a middle school in Maine considers offering condoms to students, we know we're in trouble!

Today, technology brings into our homes what could once only be obtained on the street. Children of today can passively receive and view pornography, whereas children of a hundred years ago would have had to go out of their way to see illicit materials. Not only that, but modern pornography is graphic and portrayed with living, moving human actors, which may leave a deeper imprint on young minds than the crude drawings of centuries ago.

In such a world, it's easy for us as parents to make two grave mistakes: 1) assuming that their little darlings will never be tempted by such things or 2) freaking out, because we are intimidated as parents by the pervasive corruption of our society.

As for the first, you can guarantee that somewhere along the line, your child will encounter someone who will offer the child a chance to view or participate in sexual impurity or immorality. You cannot build enough hedges around your child to ensure that they will never run into temptation. Besides, our children are meant to become Christians, who are to shine like lights in a dark world, pointing other people to Christ. As such, they will need the character to say "no" when temptation comes their way. So, while we must shield our precious children's innocence, we must also give them the tools they need to develop their own firm convictions about purity. If they attempt to fight for purity based on the strength of our principles, they'll be prime targets for temptation. We must help them develop their own firm faith in God.

Regarding the second, we do live in difficult times. But, reading the scriptures shows us that godly men and woman have raised faithful children in times that were as dark or darker than ours.

In Bible times, prostitution and fertility rites were often associated with idol worship. Other than in Israel, distorted views of sexuality were accepted as a normal part of life and were even thought to be pleasing to the "gods". Sadly, even Israel ran after foreign gods at times.

Pagan ideas of sexuality were present in both Old Testament and New Testament cultures. Thus, God-fearing parents in Bible times faced some of the same challenges that we do today.
With all of this in mind, we can appreciate the examples of parents who raised children with hearts devoted fully to the Lord.

Think of Noah, who was the only faithful man in a generation of which Genesis tells us that their thoughts were full of evil and violence. Despite the fact that they were the only couple who believed the Lord in the world, they raised three sons and influenced three daughters-in-law who believed the Lord's instructions about the ark. True, the family had some troubles later on. But, at the time of the flood, everyone in Noah's little family was motivated by their faith in the Lord to help build the ark and to get on it when the Lord said that the time had come.

God was able to use the faith of Noah's family to illustrate the wonder of salvation. I Peter 3:21 says, "...when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God (or, as most translations say, "the appeal to God for a clear conscience".) It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him."

Though it probably didn't make logical sense to them, Noah's little family believed God and went into the ark. God carried their little ark safely through the waters of the flood. They were the only eight people on the earth whom God saved from the flood! God used the flood to cleanse the earth from evil. In the same way, when we, in faith, pass through the waters of baptism, God saves us and cleanses us. He does this through the resurrection of Jesus. This verse tells us that the waters of the flood symbolize our immersion as Christians.

So, we, as parents, can take heart. If, through God, Noah could inspire three sons and influence three daughters-in-law to be saved from a totally corrupt generation, then, surely, he will help us with our families!

In order for our children to grow up with strong convictions about purity, they must know the following things:

1) God is infinitely good. He is also infinitely wise. He knows what is best for our children, and he desires what is best for our children. Whatever he does and says is for their benefit. He is not out to take away their fun, but to save their souls from pain and destruction and to give them abundant life.
2) God's boundaries protect us, rather than stifle us. Satan's first lie to Eve was that God was holding out on her by forbidding her to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Today, he still preaches the message that God is holding out on us by denying us pleasures that we want, and he tells us that "freedom" and "fun" are found only by stepping out of God's boundaries. The world believes this lie. We can help our children reject this lie if we teach them how to have faith and confidence in the Lord. Again, it goes back to trusting that God is perfectly good and that He is perfectly wise.
3) It's not just enough to fight the sin of impurity; it's important to fill the heart with the positive quality of purity. Children must learn to see godly purity as a blessing.
4) God is sovereign, and he has the power to arrange the specific events of our children's lives for good. God's plan for the majority of people is marriage. If that is what he plans for our child, our child must know that he will bring the right person into the child's life at the right time. When he does, the child can look forward to a happy sexual relationship within marriage. If God's plan is for the child to stay single, he will provide strength for that, as well.
5) All who want to live a godly life will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12. Today, children, teens, and young adults who do not go along with the world's standards are accused of all sorts of things -- from being called "judgmental" all the way to facing questions about their sexual orientation! Our children must be prepared to stand firm in the face of persecution, without giving way to fear, anger, or self-righteousness. They look to us to help them. We must either remove the child from a situation that he is not ready to handle, or we must guide the child through the process of facing persecution. If a child learns how to respond to persecution in a godly way under our roof, he or she will be better equipped to deal with it when they leave the protection of our nest.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Joy: Problems and Solutions for the Homemaker Part III

6. Problem: Loneliness Possible Causes: Fewer women at home today during daytime, when keeper at home often wants to make friendship (Note: This trend may be reversing a little bit as more women do make the decision to either work from home or make home their career ); moving to a new community, away from relatives and old friend; friends move away from your community; not being part of a church that is committed to following God's pattern for relationships; not making the effort to have friendships; real distance in your relationship with your husband; unrealistic expectations of what romantic closeness in a marriage means; unfavorably comparing your overall, daily relationship with your husband to your dating days or to romantic movies and books or to what you think someone else's husband is like; focusing in on your family so exclusively that you are at a loss when children grow up; health challenges that may prevent you from participating in outside activities; being widowed or spouse leaving; being single; having a hard time finding people who share your interests; trying to get all your need for fellowship met through blogging friends though you need irl friends, too; not being close to the Lord; our God-giving longing for heaven; Possible ways this can manifest itself in your life: Feeling lonely; sense of emptiness; placing too much pressure on your husband or your children or one best friend to meet all of your needs; feeling resentful if your work seems to go unnoticed or if you think you are under-appreciated; escaping into business or using other escapist behaviors to avoid feeling of loneliness; slacking off in reading Bible and praying Possible solutions: Stay close to God; study scriptures so that you can watch your life and your doctrine closely (I Timothy 4:16; Acts 17:11) study these scriptures and others about how God wants his children to interrelate and think how you can put these into practice: Acts 2:22-47; Romans 12:10; Romans 12:16; Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 10:24-25; I Peter 1:22; I John 1:6-8; John 13:34-35; I Corinthians 1:10; I Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2; remember that God often uses loneliness to drive us to seek Him and to remind us that this world is not the final home of a true Christian; Be the woman in your neighborhood who always takes food or a little house-warming gift to a new family; participate in some kind of charity; read a few Biblically sound books on marriage and put some of the principles into practice; have at least one close friend that you can talk to on a deep level in addition to your husband and children; do deeply enjoy your children while they are in your home, but cultivate some interests that you can expand once your nest empties; go where other keepers at home are -- the park; the library, the grocery store, a cooking or sewing class, etc. -- and strike up a conversation; host a coffee or tea in your home; if you know only a few people, ask each guest to bring a friend with them to your tea and you'll meet new people that way; plan dates -- even "at home" watch a movie together dates -- where you and hubby have some time to enjoy each other alone; plan special times with each of your children; get to know parents of your children's friends (Note: This is important for your children, as well. You need to be up on the influences in your children's lives.); keep a prayer list with people's names on it; write cards of encouragement and send them to other people who might be lonely, such as those in bereavement or recovering from an illness. (See Jane McWhorter's book, "Special Delivery" for ideas about how to write encouraging letters for a wide variety of specific situations; she has some great ideas to help you know what to write to people with many different kinds of needs.)

7. Problem: feeling blah due to not taking care of physical self Note: On the one hand, a busy wife and mother -- even a full time keeper at home -- may find it hard to take the time to stay in shape and to get the rest and relaxation she needs. On the other hand, the woman who is a full time keeper at home has a flexible schedule which can help compensate for this. In fact, you may enjoy better health than your dear hubby, if he has a sedentary job. If he does have a sedentary job, you may want to find creative ways to help him feel better. Ways this can manifest itself in your life: feeling too sluggish to tackle tasks you normally accomplish with vigor; losing cardiovascular stamina if your daily activities don't provide for it; losing muscular strength if your daily activities don't provide enough exercise in this area (Generally a mother of children who are preschool and younger does get the bending and lifting she needs for at least minimal muscular health; so does the woman who gardens or is a farm wife or who engages in other domestic activities that require you to use muscular strength. But, there are some keepers at home, particularly older ones, who need to do a little extra work in this area to keep bones and muscles healthy and the metabolism working as it should); pooping out at the end of the day; being too tired to feel very romantic or companionable with hubby; becoming irritable and tense. Possible solutions: Get at least 15 minutes of sunshine and fresh air a day -- more if you can. Fair skinned people should have 15 minutes of sun without sunscreen, while darker skinned people should aim for thirty minutes. This allows you to absorb Vitamin D and other health benefits from the sun in the best way that the body can use them. If you will be out longer than the 15-30 minutes, slather on the sunscreen with a liberal hand and use hats for protection. I am living proof that the sun damage you accumulate in your skin can have some ugly results later on. And, skin cancer runs in my family, as well.

Read a good book about the hormonal seasons of your life; although I don't necessarily recommend everything in it, a great book to help you find natural and medical solutions to women's common needs in this area is Emotional Phases of a Woman's Life by Jean Lush. The author passed away sometime during the past few years, but you can probably find this book used on

Include lots of fresh foods in your diet. Unless you have a certain medical condition or an hereditary disposition towards some disease, you probably don't have to be fanatical about your diet. But, remember moderation in all things, especially when it comes to fats and junk foods. And, thank God for the fresh, wholesome foods that he provides for us.

Moms need an "energy break" in the late afternoon, as do kids. There's a reason why women of my mother's generation called the time around 4:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon "the crying hour". Even the sweetest of children and the most loving of mothers may find that their energy flags sometime during the later afternoon , leaving everyone feeling on edge. So, find some time between 2:00 in the afternoon until 5:00 in the afternoon to help your children take a break. You try to take a break with them, as well.

Start with a nourishing afternoon snack. Sometimes, the temporary energy dip can be corrected with a little nibble. I have found, however, that for an adult to eat too much at this time can cause even more sluggishness and weight gain. Set an appropriate snack amount. Then, if you still feel "peckish" have a cup of tea.

Around 4:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon, make the house as soothing and comforting as possible. Now is the time for quieter music, scented candles (if your children are old enough they know not to touch them), or other little touches that calm things down.

Letting children soak in a sudsy bath can do wonders for their spirits, provided that you know they won't be going back outside to get dirty again. Even if you do have to help them wash up at bedtime, it still might be worth doing the afternoon bath.

Train children who are growing just beyond the need for a nap to rest quietly on their beds for 20 to 30 minutes in the afternoon. They don't have to sleep. But, they should play quietly with toys or look at interesting books or color during this time. Train them to respect this as a quiet time for mom, for themselves, and for siblings. While they are resting quietly, you put your feet up and rest, as well.

Create a space where you can relax for even five minutes at a time. It could be one pretty chair, with a little table beside it to hold a drink or a book, and an afghan.

Have an afternoon devotional with the kids.

Accept that you will have an occasional day when you're just the faintest bit blue or your body seems extra tired. We all have them. However, if the "down day" extends into "down weeks", do whatever you can to identify and to resolve the problem.

Pick one hobby -- such as playing the piano -- that you really enjoy. Even if you can only find five minutes a day to practice the hobby, keep it up as best as you can. This will give you a creative outlet that will take you away from the problems of the day for a few moments and that will also add pleasure to your day and, possibly, to your family's day.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Joy: Some Common Problems and Solutions for the Homemaker Part II

Note: These problems are common to all people. But, I am writing about them from the point of view of a woman, particularly from the point of view of a woman who is creating a home.

1. Problem: Becoming bitter or disheartened when faced with trials, temptations, and other difficulties. Possible roots of this problem: Having the false belief that if we just have enough faith, we won't have any problems in this life. Thus, we are tempted to lose faith when the way gets hard. (Matthew 17:24-26; Romans 5:1-8) Following Jesus because we think it will make this life easier rather than out of gratitude for what he did to save us by the cross. Forgetting the hope we have through his resurrection. (John 6:22-40, 2 Corinthians 5:20:21) Selfishness, pride, fear, and ingratitude. Possible ways this problem might manifest itself in our lives: Complaining. Worrying and fretting. Folding under pressure, rather than persevering and overcoming. Focusing on our problems to the extent that we don't see the many blessings God has given us; finding it hard to praise God in the midst of a trial. Becoming overwhelmed. Failing to comfort others in their need, because we are tied up in our own difficulties. Losing our heavenly perspective. Possible solutions: Look to Jesus; trust God. Pray about everything. Leave your worries in God's hands. If the situation calls for you to act; act in faith. If the situation calls for you to wait; wait in faith. Remember that Christ always walks with us and that he has promised He will never let us be tempted more than we can bear. (Psalm 23, I Corinthians 10:1-13) Study what the New Testament has to say about suffering and its role in our present lives; study heaven, especially Revelation 20:11 through Revelation 22:21; take up your cross daily and follow Jesus (Matthew 17:24-26, Luke 14:26-25, Galatians 2:20); study Jesus' faith; study how Paul dealt with trials; seek guidance from someone who overcame a trial similar to yours; ask someone to pray for you and with you.

2. Problem: Procrastination, which can lead to a depressed feeling. Possible root: Laziness, fear, selfishness, lack of knowledge about time management. Ways this can manifest itself in our lives: Failing to fulfill our responsibilities; being a poor steward of the time and resources which God has entrusted to our care; distracting ourselves with "busywork" instead of tackling more important things; being so afraid of making mistakes or of failing all together that we don't even try (Matthew 25:25-27); neglecting our family; neglecting service to those outside of our family; neglecting our own health and appearance; getting so behind that we become overwhelmed; focusing on how hard or repetitive a task may be instead of the benefits of completing the task; letting our personal devotion to God drift away; getting to the end of the day and wondering where our time went (Note: This is not always the result of procrastination, but it can be); leaving a job to the last minute and rushing through it; failing to plan our work well; planning but not sticking to the plan; not working when we can and when we should and, thus, not being able to rest and enjoy life when it's time to rest; feeling dissatisfied, rather than experiencing the satisfaction of work well done; Sometimes, a new homemaker may be so used to the structure of her parents' home, college, or a job that she gets stuck simply because she does not know how to order her own day. Possible solutions: Seek God's help in overcoming procrastination and any root sins behind this trait. Rather than paralyzing yourself with fear that you won't do a good job, focus on doing your best, with God's help, and let God take care of the results. Set a timer and work for fifteen minutes, no matter what. Sometimes, just the act of doing something -- anything -- will overcome your inertia. If you are too rigid, learn to be flexible to God's leading. If you are too lackadaisical, plan your work and stick to your plan. If something interrupts you, get right back to your plan as soon as you've taken care of the interruption; remind yourself of the benefits of work well done; allow yourself some time to stop and reflect on the joy of a clean house or a work project that is completed; If you find certain domestic chores to be dull, learn all you can about the art and the science of homemaking. Learn the chemistry of cooking, for example. Or, study why certain cleaners work for certain things. Seeing your work from that standpoint can help you appreciate what it is that you are doing. Also, challenge yourself to find better ways of doing things, and blog about your domestic experiments; learn about time management in the home.

3. Problem: Failure to grow as a person, which can dampen your enthusiasm. Possible roots: Narrowing your focus too exclusively to your home and family or on an outside job. Also, neglecting your relationship to the Lord. Or, just simply being so busy that it's difficult to find time to learn and experience new things. Possible manifestations: Discovering that your faith has become dull. Finding that you have pulled back from serving the Lord in some areas. Realizing that there are parts of your life that you need to re-surrender to Christ. (Revelation 2:1-7) Becoming bored and burnt out after keeping a home for many years or after doing a certain job for many years. Feeling that you are boring, whether or not others see you that way. Feeling mentally sluggish and scattered. (I'm not talking about unavoidable changes related to aging or disease, but the results of letting your mind drift wherever it will). Allowing your appearance to become sloppy. Feeling that something is missing. Finding that you and your husband have fallen into a rut in your marriage. Daydreaming. Possible solutions: Seek God with all of your heart, mind, and soul. Those who stay close to the Lord can't help but grow. Do something for the Lord that takes faith and that makes you step out of your comfort zone. Study Jesus for six months, and fall in love with Him -- for the first time or again and again.

Also, pick one new topic -- such as photography or architectural styles -- that you'd like to learn more about. Check out books from the library; listen to tapes about that subject; talk to people who are experts in the area. Or, take a class in the subject. For example, if you've always wanted to learn to play the piano, take lessons. Learn another language. Even if you devote only an hour a week to the study of a new topic, that's OK. Think how much you will have learned by the end of a year, if you only keep at it!

Today's sensational, round-the-clock news coverage means that we can become overloaded with a steady diet of all that's wrong with the world. I don't recommend that anyone stay glued to CNN or to FOX News. But, you might want to take just a little time each week to catch up on what is happening in the world. This will help you to follow discussions of current events, as well as to make informed decisions about certain issues. More importantly, you will discover people and events to pray about.

Practice hospitality. By having people into your home, especially people whom you don't know well, you can learn new things. Ask questions about their interests; draw them out in wholesome conversation. Your husband will probably find this enjoyable, and your children will learn new things in the process, as well. And, you will have made an enjoyable time for your guests, as well.

Remember, as your husband moves through life, he, too, learns new things and has new experiences. Draw him out in conversation, as well. Don't take him for granted. Learn more about his business or his job. Take up a hobby he enjoys, even if it's one that you don't find to be interesting at first. Stretch yourself a bit.

4. Problem: Materialism, which can stir up dissatisfaction in your heart Possible roots: Greed; ingratitude; lack of faith in God's provision; As women, it is part of our job to be keeper and steward of many material things. If we are not careful, we can get too caught up in this side of keeping a home. Ways this can manifest itself:
Being discontent with how God (and our husband) has provided for us; forgetting that everything we own comes from God and belongs to God; forgetting that we are merely stewards of God's resources; family quarrels over heirlooms or money; expecting as a young couple to live at the same standard of living that it took decades for the couple's parents to achieve; feeling that the wife must work outside the home in order to have "the right house" or "the right car"; letting our culture shape our financial expectations, rather than surrendering our finances to God; not having the faith to give sacrificially; hoarding; conversely, spending too much now and not saving for an emergency or for our children's future; finding more comfort in the things we can experience through our senses, rather than in the Lord; failing to stick to a budget; getting into debt; gambling money away; feeling burdened by possessions you thought you'd enjoy; feeling that you are spending too much of your life maintaining possessions; Possible solutions: Ask God's help in overcoming materialism. Study what the Bible has to say about stewardship, greed, and giving. Keep a list of things you're grateful for. Read Luke 14:33; memorize Matthew 6:18-34; with your husband, ask someone in the church who is good with money to help you set up a budget; as a family, visit a charity or mission in a third world country; as a family, do something for the homeless or for the ill; learn the principles of sound money management; do the best you can with what you have; keep your house neat and clean even if it's not the home of your dreams; teach your children how to be good stewards with you of your home and possessions; If, however, the children accidentally break or damage something -- even something to which you are very sentimentally attached -- remember that the children are more important than the thing; use your home for hospitality; pare down your possessions so that you are not overwhelmed by clutter; also, think about what will happen when you die. Will you leave behind a lot of papers and junk for your children to wade through? If so, they may find this task to be very difficult -- both on a physical level and on an emotional one. How much better it will be if you keep your house in a way that your heirs can quickly identify what they want to keep and can easily dispose of the rest. In the same vein, keep your finances and your will in order, and make sure your executor, your children, and a designated guardian for your children, if they are young, know exactly where these things are. It's nice to know that you are leaving things in good order for your loved ones.

5. Problem: Basing your security on your external appearance, which can lead to insecurity and discontent. Possible roots: Pride, relying on self instead of God; or simply being influenced by our looks-conscious culture. Ways this can manifest itself in our lives: Feeling insecure around other women who are younger and/or prettier; manipulating our husbands with our looks; conversely, not taking the trouble to be lovely for our husbands; spending too much money and time on clothing and personal maintenance (There is no legalistic limit here; it's a question of the heart) ; going to the opposite extreme and refusing to look pretty, feminine or fashionable; being uncomfortable with the fact that you do have God-given beauty; dreading certain birthdays; secretly hoping that men other than our husbands will do double takes when they see how pretty we are; dressing and conducting ourselves immodestly; fantasizing about some imaginary ideal man who is always swept away by our blinding beauty; making snap judgments about others based on their appearance, without getting to know them; being miserable as the inevitable signs of aging catch up with us
Possible solutions: Pray; read all of the passages in the Bible that refer to the godly woman's appearance, as well as Song of Songs; keep yourself fresh and lovely, but without going overboard; adjust your style to your age in life; yet, don't use age as an excuse to be dowdy or slovenly; cultivate the inner loveliness that transcends physical appearance; study God's love for you and base your ultimate security on that; Remember that pretty really is as pretty does; look for an older godly woman whose inner loveliness shows itself and imitate her faith; be a joy to your husband during your intimate times together.

Coming soon -- Part III


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Joy: Some common problems and solutions for the home keeper.
Part I

I'm sure you're all familiar with the recent survey about happiness. I think I may have even referred to it in an earlier post, myself.

This survey is a repeat of one that was taken back in the 1970's. When researchers compared findings from the two reports, they were shocked that more women of today said they were unhappy than did women in the 1970's. Oddly, a greater number of men report being happy today than did men in the 1970's.

I hesitate to rely too much on the survey's findings, because worldly perceptions of happiness, satisfaction, and contentment with life are in constant flux. We don't know the standard by which the men or the women in either the 2007 or the 1970's survey measure(d) "happiness".

I would imagine that in both the 1970's and in the 2,000's, many of the survey's participants
measured their lives by circumstantial happiness. Without Jesus, we all try to stake our satisfaction in life on the things of this world: a husband, a job, a baby, material success, great health, the approval of others, etc.

Even as Christians, we can sometimes put our hope in happy circumstances. We think, "I'll be happy when I get married or when I have a baby or when we finish building our house or when I can stay home from work or when I can go to work or ______." You name it.

The truth is that while happy circumstances are great blessings from God, meant to enhance our
happiness and gratitude, they are a rickety foundation on which to build our satisfaction. Only Jesus and his word can be the sure basis for our lives. See Matthew Chapter Seven.

There have been lots of interesting discussions about why today's women aren't as happy as they were a generation ago. I don't intend for this post to examine that issue in detail. Nor, is it my intent to judge any woman whose happiness is floundering at the moment. We all have to work through hard times.

However, I do meet many women today who seem to struggle with a general state of discontent. This unhappiness can manifest itself in any area of a woman's life, but especially so in the domestic sphere. This is true whether the women fit their home life around an outside career or whether they are full time keepers at home.

Of course, our society provides much less respect and much less emotional support for the woman's role as wife and mother than it did in the 70's, and there was less respect for this role in the 70's than in the thirties. The modern idea that a paycheck, a big house, and perfect looks are the ways a woman's worth is measured produces guilt and angst for many women. Those who work outside the home and also those who have chosen the home as their full time career are both laboring under the false message that no matter what they do, it will never be enough. In that sense, I do think that society's attempt to "liberate" and "empower" women have backfired.
Also, I think many women are frustrated because they do not receive the training they need in order to love their husbands and children and to manage a home well. I could also say that young men don't receive as much training in how to be husbands and fathers, either. So, many couples enter marriage unprepared to make a happy and productive life together.

Marriage, children, and a household are meant to be blessings to us, as well as a way to share God's goodness with the world. But, if a woman does not know how to manage these things, she will spin her wheels in frustration. Likewise, if she has not been trained in the habits that make for a successful home life, she will flounder under the little cares that come with loving a husband and children. Her blessings will seem like burdens in the process. Again, this is true for the woman who combines family with another career and for the woman whose home is her career.

For example, consider a woman whom we'll call Janet. Janet has recently decided to leave her job as an administrative assistant in order to be home with her three-year old child, Susie. Janet worked efficiently in the structure that her office job provided, but she is at a loss how to manage her days at home. Likewise, she is unsure of how to meet Susie's needs. Janet means well, but she doesn't know how to train or to discipline her child, much less about how to enjoy her company.

The morning after she begins her new life as a full time keeper at home, Janet takes Susie to the library. In her mind, Janet expects that Susie will be considerate of the other patrons. Janet doesn't realize that Susie has never been to a library. Janet does not know that little Susie needs her mother to teach her how to believe in a library. So, Susie acts inappropriately, first out of ignorance and then out of will. Janet does not know how to respond to Susie with appropriate guidance and discipline, so she tries to plead, bribe, and idly threaten Susie into a more cooperative attitude. Susie senses her mother's indecision and her irritation, and her mother's attitude makes her feel insecure. So, she acts out even more. Soon, both Janet and Susie are out of sorts with each other, and neither one enjoys the morning. If something like this happens day after day, Janet may become discouraged. Add to that an increasingly cluttered house and a young husband who has no clue just what a wife -- his wife -- does all day, and Janet may regret her decision to stay at home.

Let's say, however, that Janet's friend, Lisa, who is an experienced mother, comes to Janet's aid. She offers some welcome suggestions, and, before long, Janet learns how to love and train her daughter. Both mother and daughter develop new attitudes and behaviors. Now, their outings together are generally happy ones. If a rare problem arises, Janet is equipped to handle it. Janet's joy as a mother soars. Susie feels more secure and contented, as well. Lisa's husband helps Janet's husband appreciate the momentous role that Janet has taken on, and Janet's husband begins to encourage her. Janet's satisfaction at home increases.

Let's say that Lisa and Janet have a friend Alice, whose husband, Joe, is not a Christian. He won't hear of her quitting her job to be a full time homemaker. He has grown used to her salary, and he expects that she will advance in her career to help pay for their over-sized home. Alice has come to the conclusion that she should continue to work as Joe wishes. However, she does not do so prayerfully, but with resentment towards Joe and envy towards Lisa and Janet. Joe feels her resentment and has no desire to go to church with her. At Alice's request, Lisa and Janet commit to praying with her and for her. Alice's attitude changes. Joe still wants her to work, but he does come to a few church activities and Janet's husband is building a friendship with him. While Alice still prays for the chance to be home with her children and, even more so, for her husband to become a Christian, she is at peace.

So, we see two women in two different situations. But, each has learned how to be joyful in the position where God has placed her.

The two surveys that were taken in the 1970's and in the 2000's give us a snapshot of thirty years, which is a tiny slice of history. Have you read the book of Titus and wondered what life might have been like for the women of Crete almost 2,000 years ago?

Since the human heart doesn't change that much, those women probably struggled with some of the same questions about happiness that today's women do. Why else would God, through Paul, be so careful to instruct the older women to live reverent lives, avoiding gossip and addiction to wine? Aren't those some of the very sins we often turn to today when we are out of sorts with God, with ourselves, and with life?

Paul tells Timothy to teach the older women. He counsels the older women in the church to rely on the the Lord for strength, rather than on escapist behaviors. He also counsels the older women to train the younger women in godliness, particularly in the domestic sphere. Paul does not assume that women will automatically know how to live godly lives; he assumes that they will need help and support. His instructions to older and younger men indicate that they, also, need the same type of encouragement from each other. Then and now, one way God provides for us is through godly friends.

So, if the women of Paul's day needed to learn how to be godly in an ungodly culture, we can't blame all of the unhappiness of today's women on our current cultural circumstances. The Scriptures place greater emphasis on what emanates from within our hearts than it does on outward pressures. For some verses on this subject, see Mark 7:14:23, Luke 7:22-34, I John 1:115-17, Hebrews Chapters 11 and 12, and the entire book of Philippians.

That is not to say that we should be indifferent to cultural pressures or to unhappy circumstances. We should pray, and we should look to God's word for instructions for dealing with problems.

However, if we find ourselves blaming our circumstances for our unhappiness, there is probably something that is going on that is deeper than we realize. This is where we need God's perspective on life.

For example, a woman may struggle with discontentment because the only home that she and her husband can afford is small, cramped, dark, and, frankly, ugly. Plus, she may wish that she lived across town, closer to her sister.

The woman's first step toward happiness will be to look at her dwelling through God's eyes. Many a woman in this world lives in only a hut or a hovel. Some are even homeless. While he was on earth, Jesus, himself, had no place of his own where he could lay his head to rest. A woman should consider it a great blessing from God if she has a dry roof over her head and four secure walls around her. Plus, if she is a true Christian, she has a heavenly home to look forward to. Once she is there, she won't care where she dwelt on earth.

Once a woman in this situation turns her heart towards godly contentment, then she is ready to tackle the outer circumstances. After giving it some thought, she may discern how to make improvements in the home's appearance. Some new paint, a few carefully planted flowers, or a porch swing might go a long way toward turning her little house into a charming cottage.

She may also set her sights on serving, loving, and sharing her faith with the people in her present neighborhood, rather than eating her heart out because she doesn't live closer to family. In time, she may come to love her little home so much she may be a little sad to leave it, even if she does get the chance to move into the house of her original dreams.

Now, since this is a blog about homemaking, chances are that I'm preaching to the choir. You may already be quite joyful in your general life and you probably are happy in your domestic sphere, as well.

Still, we all have room to grow. Even the most joyful of us may have days or even seasons when our motivation suffers a bit --- with the possible exception of Julieann:) Or, we may be generally content, but still not know how to overcome a specific problem.

In my next post, I hope to list what I think are some common problems that keepers at home face when it comes to maintaining their joy. I'll list some possible solutions, as well.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Home Keeper's Wardrobe

Charming the Birds from the Trees has a delightful article about what items should be in the wardrobe of a woman who works from the home. In the post, Emma invites other bloggers to share their thoughts on this subject.

So, this is my attempt to describe what I think works for me. I am a keeper at home and run a home business, plus am active in church and other activities. The challenge of my day is that I might be scrubbing a floor one moment and needing to look fresh and neat to have lunch with someone the next moment.

My basic list is similar to Emma's. Practically, a woman might add some other items to flesh this out. Anyhow, here goes:

One or two items that are -- shall we delicately say -- "eye-catching".
One or two items that are attractive and feminine, yet provide a little more cover and warmth than the "eye-catching" outfits. These can be silky, satiny, or of cotton, but they should be on the glamorous side -- not cutsey or dowdy. They should make you feel feminine and lovely. A long peignoir would be nice. These can be expensive, but, often, you can find one on sale.
A pretty robe
If your family likes to camp or stay in cabin-type atmosphere, one very modest night outfit, such as cute pajama pants with an adequately concealing knit top. You wouldn't just wear this around the cabin or tent, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if a child popped in to your sleeping space and saw you in it. You could also wear this on a day when you come down with a bad cold or something. But, don't take wear it just any old evening or night. Even when you are sick, as soon as you can manage it, slip on one of your glamorous outfits and brush your hair and teeth and slick on a little lipstick. You'll feel better about yourself as you recover.

pretty slippers and, maybe, one pair of old-fashioned feminine boudoir mules -- the kind that heroines in 1940's and 50's movies used to wear with a pretty peignoir.


Emma suggests a wardrobe of the essentials in nude. That's good advice for those of us whose skin ranges from fair to medium dark. Nude is the most economical choice, as it will go underneath any color. With my fair skin, I also do well in a light shell pink or a very, very light beige. I do have some black delicates, but I cannot wear them with white or other very light colors or some spring and summer-weight fabrics. So, in that sense, they aren't the most practical choice for me.

If you have skin that ranges from medium-dark to darkest ebony, nude may be too light for you to use as a neutral color for delicates. Try nude, then black, underneath a white blouse. If the nude stands out, but the black doesn't, then black may be your best choice for your essential delicates.

Whatever color you choose, make sure undergarments fit well, launder them gently, and buy new ones when you need them. I have learned the hard way that wearing worn out or ill-fitting delicates can make your outer garments look shapeless and sloppy. In clothing, as in architecture, a good foundation is essential -- even more so as you age.

When it comes to delicates, make sure you have everything you need to wear every outfit in your wardrobe. That would include hose and slips. When shopping for a new outfit, ask yourself if you would need to purchase special undergarments for it. That might be a factor in whether or not you buy it. Ask the same question about accessories. Will this outfit require new shoes, a new bag, a scarf, or some new jewelry? If so, do I really want to invest in all that right now? Or, do I want to find something else that works with what I already have.

Shoes: If you stick to one neutral, all you need is one pair of heels, one pair of flats, and one handbag, plus flip flops for the beach and any footwear you need for exercise or gardening. You could also add a pair of boots or even rain boots, depending on your local climate and/or what's in style. I have yet to stick completely to just one neutral! But, I am aiming to pare down to one or two.

Handbag: A dressy one and an everyday one. You also might want to invest in a stylish, large tote that you can take with you on an overnight trip or if you need to carry a lot of items to a certain event. Some fashion experts might look down on this idea. But, then, they are thinking what looks good in a boutique or on a runway, not what is pratical for daily life.

Also, you may want to find some sort of shoe that you use when cleaning house. I've heard a bootie recommended. Since flats are so in right now, a cute pair of neutral flats would work with all of your outfits, too. Try to save these "housework" shoes for mostly indoor wear, so that you don't track outside dirt on your floors and carpets as you clean the house.

Shoes do protect your feet as you work. How many times have we dropped a can or some other item on our toe or rammed our toes against something as we worked? Shoes prevent injuries in such situations. If you absolutely don't want to wear shoes when you do housework, at least try some presentable looking slippers. I must admit, though, that I'm barefoot as I'm writing this. Well, I am from Tennessee. :)

Coats: One stylish all-weather-coat with a removable lining in your best neutral will take you almost everywhere. It will be especially versatile if you can find one that has softer lines. You might want to add a dressier wrap of some kind if you attend a lot of dressy functions. Also, a lightweight spring/fall jacket is very handy. Of course, I live in a mild climate. Someone who lives in a cold climate might need a heavier coat than the all-weather-coat. Trench coats never really go out of style, but they are especially "in" this year. A trench coat could be your all-weather coat. But, buy one you love for itself and not because it's the trend right now. You want something that you can wear for five to ten years and still feel fabulous in.

Blazer/Fashion Jacket: As Emma says, a versatile blazer or fashion jacket can add polish to your wardrobe items.

Bottoms: Three great skirts and one great pair of pants, if you wear pants. If not, three to five great skirts should get you through a week. These should be in your best neutrals and one or two coordinating colors These should be items that carry you from housework to the store to lunch with a friend to the dentist, etc. Wear an apron and gloves when you clean! If you buy classic styles and materials, you can wear these to church functions, as well. Well-made knit items will work for some of your wardrobe basics, but be sure to include some well-fitting items in other materials, as well.

Tops: Three to five tops that coordinate with your bottoms. Aim for having a nice and freshly laundered top in your closet at all times, so that you can pull off a top you've worn during the day and add a fresh top for a family dinner or other evening activity. You may want one good sweater, as well. Twin sets are versatile, as you can wear the shell and sweater together or split them up to go with other outfits.

If you prefer dresses to tops and bottoms, have five versatile dresses in your wardrobe.

Apron: At least one.

One outfit to exercise in and, maybe, even to garden in. Otherwise, don't let yourself get in the habit of wearing sweats around the house. The only exception might be a really nice jogging or valour suit that you do not wear for exercise. This exception is for you only if you are the really sporty type and are in fantastic shape and you keep your hair and face fresh and pretty and you know for a fact that you look cute in the sporty look and your outfit is modest and you don't wear this type of thing every day. Otherwise, you will feel better about yourself and have more emotional and mental energy if you wear more feminine things for your daily activities.

Something you can wear to a funeral, to a wedding, to a baby shower, etc. If you choose well, you can accomplish this with one or great dress or one skirt and blouse. Perhaps, your daily coordinates will even serve this purpose. Just be sure to keep something neatly laundered and on hand, as these life events tend to pop up without much warning.

I'm looking forward to getting other ideas from Emma and her readers.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One project at a time...

I read a blog recently by a woman who was overwhelmed. She felt that in order to be "the worthy woman", she needed to be doing a long list of domestic enterprises all at once: canning, gardening, sewing, etc. As a new homemaker, she didn't know much about how to do any one of these, much less how to bring all of these skills together into a manageable routine.

I think, as women, we can often overwhelm ourselves by a lack of focus. For example, I once took a part-time job in a craft store. My husband was starting a new company, and we needed just a little extra cash. So, I chose a craft store because I love crafts. Needless to say, working among all of those supplies, I soon wanted to do every single craft in the store!

"Oh, that looks like fun," I'd think, as I rang up a customer's jewelry making supplies.

And, then came the person with the wooden bow-maker. "Oh, that's so neat!" I'd think.

And, then, would come someone who was knitting or crocheting. Behind her would be someone with scrumptious scrapbook supplies. And, behind her was the person who loved to paint. And, behind her was the person who was refinishing furniture.

And, then, would come the person with all of the glorious cross-stitch projects.

So, after spending too much of my paycheck and my lunch hour collecting supplies for projects I have yet to finish, I realized that I needed some focus. I made a decision about which crafts I can do now, in my season of life. And, even once I narrowed my list of crafts, I decided that I will do them one by one, rather than thinking that I can keep them all going at once.

I have learned that you can't do everything in one season and, also, that you can't predict just what a season will bring. We're having an unusually busy season now. My father has been ill; my mother-in-law just had to have surgery for a shattered knee-cap; we just got back from a lovely family wedding; an older relative's funeral is this week, and so forth.

So, I have had to think, realistically, what do I need to do right now to keep my home running as it should? I have also had to seek advice from my husband about how much work to take on for my at-home business. I've had to learn how to be flexible to needs, while, at the same time, still making and sticking to plans as best as I can.

I have also made a list of creative home projects that I want to accomplish, in addition to my church, home, and family responsibilities. I'm doing them one-by-one, as I can fit them in. And, I'm keeping myself focused on the one extra thing. I'm not letting my thoughts run ahead to the next, and I'm not fretting about what I can't get to.

For example, I started my garden in the spring as usual. Then came a late spring freeze, a summer and fall drought; dad's illness; and other pressing needs. I realized that this was not going to be a good year for me to garden, after all. So, I've left my plants to fend for themselves as best as they can. Once we have our first fall freeze, I will take them out and add some much needed soil to the garden. Now, I live not far from a place where I can buy fresh produce, and, failing that, I do have access to grocery stores. I can provide my family with fresh produce without gardening myself. If I lived somewhere where we depended on my garden for food for the family or to sell, I'd have made it a higher priority, in spite of the drought.

I whole-heartedly love the example of the Proverbs 31 woman and do think she is a model for us to follow. But, we have to think about how to apply her example to our lives. The worthy woman was skilled at the activities needed to manage her household in her era and in her country and in her culture and in her particular family. So, we have to pray, think, and consult our husbands and wise women about what that means in our day and our culture and in our country and in our particular family.

Now, this is one of the many areas in life in which I do not have all of the answers. It's something you will have to work out for yourself, under the umbrella of God's guidance, of course.

The major lessons of Proverbs 31, I think, are about the worthy woman's heart. She was dedicated to God, to her husband, to her children, to the management of her household, and to her outreach to the poor and needy. She was in her home and aware of what transpired in her home, so that she could take care of what was needed. She spoke kindly and wisely. She put her heart and her strength into her household management, and she worked eagerly, without complaining. She was wise. She was a good steward of financial resources. She planned ahead and prepared ahead. She lived life on purpose, rather than letting herself drift according to her circumstances.

Those points of character transcend time and culture. If a woman cultivates the attitude of the worthy woman, then the works of her hands -- whatever they may be -- will flow from a heart that has healthy priorities. As such a woman passes through the seasons of her life, she will do the best she can with what she has where she is and with whatever ability has been given to her. She will grow in character and in skill. And, no matter where and when she lives, her life will be a blessing to others.

A Genuinally French Perspective...

Some of you may have read the posts I did on France and French culture for the Finishing School. I was a little bit nervous about it, as I am not truly French. I've just studied a lot about French culture and history and have traveled there a couple of times -- once to study for a summer.

So, I am very happy that Lilith dropped by my blog and left some helpful comments to my posts. She is from France and, therefore, she has a truly French perspective. So, please check out her comments for some genuine insights into French culture and history. When I finally get around to posting all of the Finishing School entries onto the main site, I will ask her if she would mind adding her two cents to the posts about France.

It was also helpful to have Eva post about Europe during her week of the Finishing School, as she, being Belgian, was able to help us learn about her own country and the countries nearby.

It's wonderful that the Internet is bringing us a new and easy way to interact with other cultures.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Today's doings...

We actually had a little nip in the air this morning and, again, this evening! It's very refreshing.

Today, I had a lot of stuff to catch up on around the house, after having had company and other happenings. It felt good to dig in and get going. I neatened our pantry, de-junked in our storeroom, did some general around the house tidying, and finished several loads of laundry. I was in a nesting sort of mood, so I decided not to work on my from-home business today and to just concentrate on the household. I'm saving business type work for tomorrow. There's more to be done, though, and something about this weather makes me want to tidy, simplify, and clean -- just as spring does.

And, my trust crockpot worked along beside me, cooking chicken and rice for dinner.

It was great to meet with our small group tonight for worship, as well.

One little tough spot has been trying to coordinate with three different doctors, all of whom are involved in a decision about a medication that my father take. The medication has some wonderful benefits for my father's memory, but some scary side effects for his heart. So, I'm praying for my father and I and the doctors to have wisdom.

I hope everyone had a wonderful day.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

To be sober or sensible

One of the areas in which the older women are to train the young is to be sensible or sober-minded When I was a little girl, this didn't sound too appealing to me. I thought it meant to be stern and humorless. But, as I learned more, I realized that, of course, this isn't what the concept of being sensible means after all. In fact, joy, peace, gratitude, and gentleness are also hallmarks of the faithful woman or man. That doesn't sound at all stern or humorless does it?

So, what does it mean to teach one to be sober-minded or sensible? This phrase comes from the Greek word that is transliterated into English as "sopronizo". It has the meaning of restoring one to his or her senses, to hold one to his or her duty, to moderate someone or to teach (disciple) them, to admonish, and to exhort earnestly.

In Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus, he instructs that both men and women should have the quality of "sophron". Someone who is "sophron", translated as discreet, sober, or sensible, is of sound mind, sane, self-controlled, temperate, and able to curb his or her appetites and feelings.

The process of being trained to be sober by older women and of training ourselves to be sober may not be very fun - in the moment. But, in the long run, it yields joy and peace.

After all, look at what happens when we fail to be sober-minded and sensible: We strain our budget with a rash purchase. We let PMS get the better of us, and we speak harshly to a beloved child. We react hysterically to a situation, rather than trusting the Lord, and our lack of control discourages others. We read lots of religious books and are always learning, but we never seem to actually put what we learn into practice.

If we do cultivate the quality of being sober-minded or sensible, how will that help us? Here are just a few ideas:

1) We will grow in our knowledge of God and his word; we will be able to apply God's word to our lives
2) We will learn to rely on God's wisdom and not on our own understanding; we will have peace, because we trust God to give us whatever wisdom we need. We will be able to walk by faith, and not by sight, because our mind is trained to trust the Lord.
3) We will think before we act, rather than acting rashly. In this way, we will avoid many painful consequences, both for the affects our actions have on other and for ourselves. We will know when a situation calls for a quick prayer and urgent, zealous action and when to wait in prayer before making a decision.
4) We will think maturely; we won't be prone to every wind of teaching; our relatioinship to Lord will be more stable.
5) We will use time wisely.
6) We will use money wisely.
7) We will order our priorities wisely.
8) We will live with eternity in mind.
9) We will control our tongues, thereby saying things that build others up. How much pain we will avoid by speaking wisely, rather than rashly!
10) We will keep our heads in an emergency. We will be a help rather than a hindrance.

I doubt if any one of us can say that we've fully arrived at being sensibly-minded. Some of us will find the road to this trait harder than others will. Some people, by nature, are giving and loving and quick to believe, yet are impulsive. Others are practical and self-contained by nature, but they may find it hard to walk by faith, rather than by sight. They may also have trouble being warm and spontaneous with others. The key is not to look down on each other's particular struggles, but to lovingly and persistently help each other mature.

In the same way, we need to persevere in order to train ourselves to be sober. This takes prayer, meditating on God's word, a heart that is willing to learn from those who are older and who are more mature in their thinking, and time. It also takes faith that the Lord will grant our desire to please him in this area.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Breathe Easy, Part II.

Right after I wrote Part I of this series, I had to see my doctor about a couple of little problems. He was late getting around to me because a child had come in to his office in a state of hyperventilation. His first concern, he said, had been to rule out any health problem. Once it was established that she was over-breathing, he said that it was very important to work with her and the mother. He said that doctors are realizing just how important it is to diagnose breathing problems in young children. He said that if a child experiences an unexplained bout of hyperventilation, the child is likely to become unduly concerned about his or her health. That can set up a lifelong pattern in which the child considers himself to be sickly. This can severely limit their life. I thought it was interesting to see how seriously he took the matter, since this subject has obviously been on my mind, as well.

As I promised, here are some suggestions and exercises for maintaining a normal breathing pace.

1) Lie, sit, or stand in a relaxed position. Place one hand on your upper abdomen, between your lower ribs and your navel. Place one hand on your chest, just below the collarbone and reaching down to your breastbone. Breathe naturally and comfortably for a few breaths. Also, take a deep breath. A big breath should feel natural, not forced. While you do this, notice these things: Which hand moved first? Which hand moved most? Did you breathe through your mouth or your nose? If you are breathing correctly, the hand on your stomach will rise first. You will have very little chest movement. You will breathe through your nose, not your mouth. If you find that your upper chest moves first, you have little stomach movement or you even find yourself drawing your stomach in, and you breathe through your mouth, you are probably breathing too shallowly and rapidly. You may need to practice better breathing habits.
2) If you habitually breathe with your upper chest, you may find that breathing correctly feels strange at first. You may even have a desire to take a big gulp after a few minutes of breathing correctly. That's ok. Your body is having to readjust to normal levels of carbon dioxide. Once your body retrains itself, you will find that your feel much better overall. Do note: If you do encounter unusual problems, you may want to check with a doctor as there are a few medical conditions where you cannot achieve normal breathing patterns. In such cases, it's not wise to force it.
3) Some habitual hyperventilators fall right into normal breathing patterns the moment that they realize they have been breathing incorrectly. Others may take at least a year to break poor habits and re-build better ones. Be patient.
4) There are some great books and web articles that describe breathing exercises to help your body return to normal patterns. I, personally, avoid ones that are taken directly from eastern disciplines, such as Yoga and T'ai Chi for two reasons: a) I am uncomfortable with the religious and philosophical underpinnings of eastern exercises and b) I don't think they are as effective as exercises designed by respiratory therapists and other specialists who work with people with poor breathing habits.
5) Attend to problems with allergies, asthma, or anything that affects the respiratory system.
6) Do you gulp air when you talk and/or do you gulp air when you eat and drink? Both of these habits can lead to some uncomfortable physical problems. In both cases, slowing down may help you breathe more naturally.
7) If you find that you are feeling breathless for no apparent reason, stop for a moment. Check your breathing. Relax, especially in your shoulders and upper chest. See if a few moments of natural breathing will restore your breath again.
8) Sometimes, lying down with your arms resting above your head can help you get the hang of what it means to breathe correctly. This position naturally encourages the upper chest to stay still and the diaphragm to move easily.
9) The focus on breathing exercises is to help you breathe naturally, easily, and without undue effort or tension. Breathing expert, Dinah Bradley, counsels: "Lips together, jaw relaxed, breathing low and slow." Her emphasis is on keeping your upper body relaxed, so that your body can breathe as it was intended to. If you find that you are becoming frustrated with yourself, tense, dizzy, or bothered in any way, stop for the moment. Try again later, when you are more relaxed.
10)People breathe at individual rates, so it's difficult to say just how many breaths per minute you should take when at rest. I've seen various figures quoted. Dinah Bradley suggests aiming for about 12 breaths per minute, but I would not take that as a hard and fast rule. Time your breaths for a minute and see where you fall. If you have any questions, as your doctor about what is best for you.