Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sometimes a romantic notion....

I came across a charming blog written by a single woman and entitled The Wife. Her blog was featured in a Los Angeles Times article called Hits and Mrs.

Here's a quote from the article:

Whatever the source of their inspiration, a small contingent of women are turning to the Internet to champion the importance of being a good wife and partner. Some of their voices are sincere and straightforward. Others toy with the notion of 1950s housewifery, viewing it through a lens that seems clouded with nostalgia. It seems doubtful any of them would endear themselves to the editors of Ms. Magazine, but they have tapped into a longing.

Whitney Friedlander, author of the article ponders the fact that a Pew Research Center study reveals that 37% of women who work outside the home do not wish to work outside the home fulltime. She says:

Maybe those women are just tired, stressed out by the complications of everyday life amid a recession. Maybe it's easier to idealize so-called simpler times (1945 to '65 anyone?) amid difficult ones. Or perhaps we should examine the role of pop culture and TV, which has a tendency to clothe domestic life in perfect little cocktail dresses.
Has Ms. Friedlander really visited the great realm of blogs devoted to home and family as a full time way of life? It would appear not. Perhaps, she simply stopped by the Disneyworld theme park in that part of the blog-o-sphere -- the area that's devoted to pretty replications of family life. Perhaps, she missed the vast neighborhood of more realistic blogs where women at home share practical advice and discuss meaningful interests over their virtual back fences.

There are any number of bloggers she could have reviewed who truly are wives and mothers at home, rather than those who simply represent a longing for domestic life. These real wives have chosen to love their husbands and children and to manage their households as their way of life and as their career. They offer well-considered support to others who have chosen likewise.

I think this corner of the blog-o-sphere is a much larger community than the author might have imagined, and it is attracting more marketing dollars than the article implies. It ballooned before the recession hit, so it was built and peopled by something other than recession woes. Its inhabitants are also women who have been living this way long enough to be well over the notion of clothing domesticity in little black dresses. These are women who have chosen their role with serious intent, and these are women who expect, with reason, to be taken seriously by society. Is that too much to ask?

Having said that, some blogs do promote a glamorized view of the domestic life -- one which is more about the style and the dream than about the strong heart of home. All of us enjoy dreaming when we are young, and sometimes, we fix our romantic dreams a little askew. When I was a little girl, shows like "That Girl" romanticized what it would be like to be single and to have a career. I was young enough to believe when I watched it that a struggling young actress really could have an expensive and fantastic wardrobe and that "That Girl" and Donald really did remain chaste for years and years.

In her article, Ms. Friedlander spends a lot of time describing The Wife. The single author of The Wife developed her philosophy of being a wife when her affluent classmates were picked up from school by their mothers, and she was shuttled to daycare. The birth of her dream is understandable, perhaps even noble. However, she also makes no bones that she is also all about Style with a capital S. She earns income by taking gigs as a personal assistant to celebrities. In other words, she performs some small parts of the role that wives of lesser income either might leave undone or might perform themselves. The vision she presents of "the wife" is definitely that of a perfect, upper class wife, under girded by possessions of irreproachable quality and beauty, all while being dutiful to the environment.

The Wife is definitely a pretty blog. Is it the most realistic picture of love and family in the virtual neighborhood? Definitely not. Let's check back with Ms. Taryn in about 10 years. If she has become a wife as she aspires to be, I'm sure we'll find that her blog has evolved into a more substantial one. In the mean time, let's let her readers enjoy it for what it is.

Let's face it. Women are exposed to many a romantic notion, and some of these notions have little to do with domestic bliss. Consider a few of the Disneyworld visions that allure us:

1) There is an exciting, fulfilling career out there for every woman.

2) Your family, domestic, and office life can be as perfect as the senator's, rock star's, CEO's, etc., even though you do not have the professional or personal staff that she does.

3) You can wait until your late 30's or even later for love, marriage, and children and have no problem conceiving, no problems adjusting to marriage, and no emotional fallout from a series of sexual relationships without the commitment of marriage.

4) If you don't have children, you can keep your perfect thighs and tummy forever. Or, at least until cellulite, hormones, and too many meals grabbed on the run catch up with you anyway.

5) There is a man waiting patiently out there who will take second fiddle to your career, who will never snore, who will do housework and who will do it the way you want it done, and who will always look like Brad Pitt did ten years ago.

6) It's all about you!

Sometimes, dreams do come true, and sometimes, they don't. If you are young and starting out in life, let me give you some advice right up front. #1 might be true for you. #6 never will be. :)

Somehow, we in America have gotten ourselves tied to a dream that a woman's fulfillment consists solely of whether she has a job outside of the home or not. No matter which side of the mommy wars we are on, we fail to talk about the deeper and larger issues.

Happiness and self-fulfillment are strange things. If you chase them for themselves, you will fail to capture them -- at least in any permanent sense. If, however, you diligently seek the Lord in all that you do, and if you do all that you do in love, you will find satisfaction as a by-product.

In the 1960's through the 1980's, women began to seek careers outside of the home as a means to self-fulfillment, and they began to view home life as something empty. At the same time, many a man hit a mid-life crisis in which he threw away the very career that his wife so eagerly sought. And, while all that was going on, there was a movement of people who were dropping out of the corporate rat race and heading back to the land in order to find happiness.

Perhaps, today's mid-life career crises will see a reversal of earlier cultural trends. At any rate, the restlessness of the male and the female heart probably has little to do with what type of work the person does, but what meaning the person finds in life and work. The person who does not know his Creator or Savior, and who lacks a sense of higher purpose, cannot fill that void entirely through work or family. The person who does all work to the glory of God finds peace in all situations.

To any young woman who aspires to become a wife and mother, I commend her for choosing a noble dream. Likewise, if a young woman has it in her heart to develop a talent or a career calling, this, too, may be a noble calling.

To both, though, I would ask, is your dream founded in the most important thing of all: to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and with all your mind and to love others as your self? Have you surrendered your dream to the one who knows you best and who has your eternal best interests at heart?


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 11 -- Gratitude in the Home

I'm thankful for Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered dried cherries! They are my new Trader Joe's passion. Isn't dark chocolate medicinal? Isn't dark chocolate one of the major good groups? Surely, it is. And, when you combine it with fruit -- well, it must be healthy. (Do they offer 12 step groups for chocoholics?)

What is your food treat of the moment?

I love this verse: For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. I Timothy 4:4 This verse is speaking of foods here. But, all things God created are good. (Yes, in our fallen world, we must deal with sin, evil, God's discipline, God's wrath, natural accidents, and so forth. However, those are the result of the fall and were not part of the world as God originally brought it forth.)

How wonderful God is that everything He creates is useful, beautiful, suitable, beneficial when properly used, meeting a need, and appropriate. Everything that proceeds from Him is good. Don't you love reading about the creation and noticing every time that God pronounces a blessing on what He has made, "And God saw that it was good." When man and woman were created, we were good, because we were created by a good God, in His image.

I also love this description of Jesus in Acts 10:38 -- "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing goood and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him."

How exciting it is that a woman disciple of Jesus is described in similar terms to her savior, teacher, and lord: In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. Acts 9:36 I don't know how people read the Bible and miss the fact that women play a wonderful role in God's word. What better thing could be said about your life than that you, like Jesus, went about doing good!

Of course, that reminds me of the Proverbs 31 woman, of whom it is said that she does her husband good and not harm all the days of her life. The whole beautiful description of her life is of a woman whose hands were busy performing works that were good -- useful, beautiful, of quality, meeting needs, etc., including reaching out beyond her family to the needy.

What a privilege it is to have opportunities to do good every day of our lives, just as Jesus models for us. We may get weary at times. We may forget why we are doing what we do. We may even get our priorities mixed up and get off track. We may feel under-appreciated, and we may even be misunderstood, persecuted, or, at the very least, overlooked. But, God promises that we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:6). That's something to be thankful for!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 10 -- Thirty Days of Gratitude in the Home

If I never had to drive in it, I'd be totally grateful for snow. There was a time when I had never seen snow (at least that I remembered), and I wanted to see it so badly. You see, my parents, who were both natives of Tennessee, moved to Jacksonville, Florida when they married. At that time, it had never snowed in Jacksonville, where I was born two years later. My only chance to see snow was on trips up "north", but most of those took place in the summer.

For my friends and I, snow was more elusive than Santa Claus. My third grade class used a geography text book which described children who lived in the tropics. This description contained the sentence, "Imagine what it must be like for boys and girls to live in a place where there is no snow." At this, we all howled with laughter. A place with no snow! We couldn't imagine living in a place with snow.

Some people who visited Jacksonville said that it had only one season. This, we knew, was not true. There was a white shoe season and a season when you could not wear white shoes. White shoe season was from Easter to Labor Day. There was also a season for swimming and a season when you did not go into the ocean, and our mothers were very particular about making sure that we did not brave the waves until it was warm enough. Only tourists from Canada, Michigan, Illinois, and other foreign places swam in the dead of winter, when the temperature might be a brisk 60 or 70 degrees F and the water was c-h-i-l-l-y enough to make you catch cold.

Even then, freezing temperatures were not unknown in Florida, and we would often hear of measures that the orange growers down state were taking to protect their crops. Once in a while, the needles on the pine trees in our yard would actually have a thin coat of ice over them. That was so exciting!

One year not long after we moved away, some snow flakes fell in the pan handle, though the flakes didn't stick. Jacksonville parents loaded up their kids and drove over, hoping to get them there in time to see snow falling.

While I was a child in Jacksonville, I would look at pictures of snow and imagine that it must be like balls of cotton dropping from the sky. Yes, I decided, it must feel wondrously soft and fluffy to the hands. Oh, intellectually, I knew that snow was, of course, cold, just as the droplets of frozen water on the pine needles were cold. (What a deliciously hard winter it was when the pine needles froze!) But, could anything that looked that beautiful in pictures be anything other than soothing to the touch? Somehow, the reality of cold didn't connect with my imaginary snow.

When I was ten, we planned a trip to Denver, but this was side-lined when we moved to Atlanta instead. So, after we had settled in, we took our first of many fall and winter trips to the mountains of Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. I would eventually see my fill of snow among those peaks, but on my first excursion, we found only a little patch of old snow in a tiny nook near an overlook. My parents pulled over, and I ran out and put my hands in it. Hmm. Curiously, the snow was not soft. It wasn't fluffy. And, it was truly cold -- stingingly so.

Then, came a freeze and my first exuberant leap out onto an icy patch in the street, followed by the clutziest fall imaginable in front of my new Georgia friends. That winter, the deciduous trees looked bare and not even the roses bloomed at Christmas time! It all seemed so dreary. And, despite the relentless cold (meaning that we had an occasional freeze in a three month span), there was no snow -- no snow at all! I thought that was the hardest, longest winter ever, and I longed for the lush landscape of northern Florida.

Little did I know that Georgia, with its tall, evergreen pines, its short, mild winters, and its early, glorious springs, was hardly the home of Nanook of the North. In fact, many people would think it's a fine place to spend the colder part of the year! Fortunately, my parents put me on a plane back to Jacksonville to spend Easter with my best friend, and the sight of all that beautiful green cured me of my first winter's home sickness.

After that, I enjoyed living in a place with four distinct seasons (or rather a long summer, a short fall, a short spring, and a tolerably short winter), rather than in the semi-tropics. In Atlanta, I saw my first snow flurries, which fascinated me to no end. Then, I saw my first snow.

In Atlanta, we'd usually get an inch or two of snow every year or every other year or so, and once in a great while, we'd have a big snow. Mostly, we'd have ice storms, and the pine trees would freeze and pop like gunfire, and huge branches would drop onto power lines, and take out transformers, and we'd lose electricity and get out of school. Getting out of school was fun. What was even more fun was going up into the mountains to see deeper snowfalls. The best fun of all was when my friends and I took makeshift sleds up hills and slid down them. (Not many Southern kids of my age and set had real sleds. We had every other piece of sports equipment known to man. Many had skis and traveled in order to catch snowy slopes. Even so, very few of us had sleds.) My friends who had moved down to Atlanta from up north were sometimes take it or leave it about snow, but to those of us who had always lived in Atlanta or points further South the rarity of snow meant that it never lost its excitement. Even when we were in college, we squealed like little kids at the sight of the first wet flake.

I have since married, had children, and have lived all over the South. Wherever I have lived, a good snowfall has shut down the town. To me, a snow day represents family time with no outside expectations. School? Canceled. Doctor's appointment? Canceled. Meeting you didn't really want to go to on that day? Postponed. Snow days mean hot chocolate and pancakes. Snuggling with babies. Playing outside with older kids. Taking walks with your husband. Actually being at home and having your neighbors at home, too, rather than waving at each other as your minivans wheel by each other. Taking your time to clean house or sew or do whatever without feeling any pressure to do anything else. Taking the time to pray. Throughout my married life, I always viewed a snow day as a gift of rest given to us by God.

Snow has it's treacherous side, too. I learned that at age ten, when my mother and I were in a wreck on icy Atlanta roads. (Well, the villain, as it so often is in the South, was really ice, not snow. But, so often, our winter weather is a mixture of ice and snow.) I've never learned how to drive in snow and ice, and, judging by how many of my fellow Nashvillians drive, I'm not sure that many of my compadres have as well. Add that to the fact that Southern towns just don't have as much snow equipment as northern cities do, not to mention that we still have more rural areas near our more populated areas, and you've got a recipe for some nasty driving conditions.

I once rode across the city in a snow storm with a friend from northern New York. I suggested that we turn back. She told me that she had learned to drive in such conditions. She said that it was nothing to navigate her little car through the wintry precipitation. I yielded to her judgment. A little while later, we saw another friend of ours sliding back down a bridge. She could not get her car across the bridge. We saw that she was being helped, and we drove on. True to her word, my friend got us safely to our destination, which was both an answer to my constant prayers and a testimony to her driving skills. I was amazed at how well she handled her car on the roads. I was also happy when she delivered me safely home again.

As everyone knows, we are in a weather cycle in which the South (and much of the U.S.) has experienced more snowfall than usual in the past few years. This year, we started with snow early, and it looks like we're going to keep having more snowfalls. I already mentioned on this blog that this year marked my first bona fide white Christmas. A lot of places in the South that are now getting repeated snowfalls formerly had once snowfall in a year, if that. Life can come to a standstill once or twice a year, and we'll be none the worse for it. However, life can't stop every other week throughout a winter. If we continue in the weather pattern that we're in now, we may have to learn new ways of coping with winter storms. After all, people in Boston and Chicago, and Philadelphia and Denver trudge on, even when it snows.


I like my quiet snow days.

Still, learning something new is always good.

So, I remind myself, in all things, be grateful.


P.S. Why is this article about snow illustrated by a poodle? I took my toy poodle out for a walk today. As usual, he loved the snow. When we got back home, however, I realized that he had huge chunks and balls of ice stuck in the fur of his legs, and I couldn't get them out. So, I gave him a warm bath, which he needed anyway. Fun is a dog with a puppy's heart!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Book Review: The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster

Charles Foster describes "The Jesus Inquest" as the case for and against the resurrection of the Christ. Since he is a trial lawyer, he puts the resurrection on trail. He creates Character X who presents the position of unbelief and Character Y, who, with limitations, is designed to represent the Christian position. Mr. Foster attempts to keep faith out of the question and deal only with facts that could be examined in a courtroom setting. He does have some faith in the resurrection, himself, but he leaves it up to the reader to sort through the evidence and draw his or her own conclusion.

While there is interesting material in the book, I don't recommend it. Mr. Foster, himself, describes the weakness of the book in his preface. He realizes that neither the Christian nor the unbeliever will think that his or her case has been presented as strongly as it could be. A mature Christian who is familiar with apologetics might enjoy the book and learn something from it. However, I think that the book raises fruitless arguments that might needlessly shake the faith of some who are not mature enough to discern which arguments have a solid foundation and which don't.

Likewise, Foster does not establish the validity of God's word or the trustworthiness of the canon as we have it. People who are examining the evidence for the resurrection need to be presented with reasons why God and his word can be believed. Similarly, a person presenting portions of God's word must use them in context to avoid straw arguments, such as the odd misunderstandings cites surrounding I Corinthians 15.

I do believe that certain facts point to the truth of the resurrection beyond any reasonable doubt. In one sense, taking the evidence to trial would seem both logical and helpful. Certainly, verifying evidence can build our faith. However, this approach works only to a certain point. After all, court rooms run on precedence, and Jesus was the ultimate precedent breaker. He shakes up everything we have come to expect from a fallen world. His death and resurrection defeated two things that we, in our finite human experience, believe to be inevitable: sin and death.

From the prophecies of his coming to his birth to a virgin to his exit from a tomb, Jesus is like no other man we have ever met. He certainly is like no other man to ever step onto a witness stand. In ordinary circumstances, dead people do not come back to life. Jesus did. That is the point. We would do well not to endlessly examine evidence without arriving at a conclusion, but to take hold of the truth and preach it with power. (Acts 4:33)

(I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program. My opinions are my own.)