Monday, June 22, 2015

The Saturday "7"

I'm not sure I have much to share today.

1. Thanks for all the great feedback on my reviews of A Woman After God's Own Heart. It was heartening that most of you agreed with me. Although I'm worried that some of my more conservative friends were holding their tongues. Feel free to message me if you want to avoid facebook debates. :-) I want to hear perspectives from all sides.

2. One of the comments a friend made on one of my review entries seemed to resonate with a lot of people: "I always knew Jesus loved me, but I didn't think He liked me." This is something I've struggled with for much of my life. As a result, I've underlined a few verses in my Bible through the years that assure me that God not only loves me, he delights in me. I'm going to share them with you today.

Zephaniah 3:17 "The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."

Psalm 18:19 "He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me."

Psalm 147:11 "the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love."

Psalm 149:4 "For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory."

3.  Other than A Woman After God's Own Heart, I also read Chasing the Sun by Tracie Peterson, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig (It was super boring. Not recommended.) The library is doing an adult reading club this summer. For every four books I read, I get to enter my name in a drawing for a gift card. I'm going to be reading up a storm this summer!

4. One of the many reasons I love summer is because of all the cute outfits I get to dress Lena in. Unfortunately, she hates having her picture taken, so my phone is full of pictures like this, trying to capture her adorable outfits:

Lucy's pretty cute too, even though she insists on dressing herself:
And she's certainly not camera shy!
5. For the past few days, something has been making a booming noise just southwest of our house. It sounds like distant fireworks and has been driving me crazy. I finally timed it and realized that it goes off every two minutes And all night long! 24/7 the stupid booming carries on. My parents think it's an automatic "cannon" to scare birds away from someone's fields. I don't care what it is. I just want it to stop. I'm pretty sure it woke both of my girls up before 7 today. Heads are going to roll if it doesn't stop soon . . .

That's all I've got for today. Sorry to disappoint. Better luck next time.

*This post contains affiliate links.*

Friday, June 19, 2015

Book #23: The Nightingale

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This book received rave reviews on Amazon/Goodreads. It's a historical novel about two French sisters during World War II - right up my alley. It was a great book. Interesting storyline, a side of the war I didn't know much about (France during the German occupation), and multi-layered relationships. It was heart-wrenching and beautiful and well-written. I spent five straight hours reading it today. Haha.

When I finished the book, though, I wondered why it was so well-received. I've read Christian fiction that's just as good. Just as well researched and well written, with compelling characters and storylines. Christian fiction just doesn't get the audience secular fiction does. There's my profound thought of the day.

Two thumbs up from me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Woman After God's Own Heart {Part 2}

After the disastrous marriage chapters, George gets to parenting. Again, she's a little over the top, but I appreciated a lot of what she had to say. Here's the part that I have questions about:

She talks about how important it is to pray for our children. Agreed. But then she says this:
Each morning when I woke up, I knew I would be asking God during my prayer time to touch my girls' hearts and open them to Jesus. I also knew that God's Word says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (Psalm 66:18). I didn't want my sin and shortcomings to keep God from "hearing" my request for my daughters. No sin was worth its momentary pleasure when laid beside the eternal salvation of my children (109).
I'm not sure I agree with that.  I know I said in my last entry that I wasn't looking to tweak God's word, but this verse was written by David in the Old Testament before Jesus' death. Do you think it still applies to us? Does our sin prevent God from hearing our prayers? Isn't that why Jesus came? Do mend the rift between us and God? To serve as a mediator between us? When he died, the curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies tore in two, so we have full access to God. Hebrews says to approach the throne of grace with confidence. (4:16) Colossians says we have been reconciled "by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation" (1:22) Haven't we been forgiven of all our sins - past, present, and future? I'm not advocating for sin. I'm just wondering if it still serves as a barrier between us and God. Do we have to confess every sin in order to have our prayers heard? While you're thinking about it, here's a verse from the New Testament that might disprove everything I just said: "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (1 Peter 3:7)

Something I noticed about George throughout the book is that she's definitely a Type-A, extrovert. She's forever making lists and creating methods for effectiveness. Most of it was a little too extreme for me (as I am neither Type-A nor an extrovert), but I appreciated something she shared toward the end in her chapter on Practicing Your Priorities.

George claims that our priorities should fall in this order:
1. God
2. Husband
3. Children
4. House
5. Self
6. Ministry
7. Everything else

Then, she talks about her prayer and priority list. Every day, she sits down with a sheet of paper.
God - First, I write the word "God" on one side of my folded paper, and pray, "Lord, what can I do today to live out the fact that You are the Ultimate Priority of my life?" As I pray, God usually leads me to list certain actions like pray, read His Word, memorize Scripture, walk with Him, be aware that He is present with me minute by minute. I write all that down.
Husband - Next I write the word "Jim." Again, I go to the Lord for help: "God, what can I do today to let Jim know he is my most important human priority?" At that point, for instance, God reminds me that I can choose to be "up" when Jim arrives home at the end of the day and to stay "up" throughout the evening. I can choose to be physically available to him. I can make plans for a special date night on Friday . . . (231-232)
Regardless of how she chooses to show her husband he's her priority (gag), I like the idea of this list. She goes on to write down specific ways to bless her children, the tasks she needs to do for her house, what she needs for her self, what ministry activities she's going to pursue (even easy things like emailing a friend in need or sending a card to a shut-in), etc. Then on the other side of the paper, she plans out her day's schedule and fits in each of the things she wrote down.

I've been doing this for a couple days and really enjoy it. I always have a to-do list of my household chores I need to do, but I love the addition of a specific way I'm going to bless my husband and kids that day. A scheduled time to read my Bible and pray. A scheduled time to "rest" - whether that means taking a shower or watching "Friends" on Netflix.  :-)

And the way I show my husband he's a priority is not by plastering on a mask and being "up" the whole time he's home. My ideas from yesterday were to do a chore that's usually his that he hates doing, to text him something I appreciate about him, and to make sure to look him in the eye and say "hi" to him when he got home instead of yelling, "Will you take Lena?! She's driving me crazy!" (Although I did do that about an hour after he got home. Haha.)

Thanks to all of you who responded to my questions on my first entry about this book/marriage/submission. I've concluded that submission to our husbands isn't going to look the same across the board. Elizabeth George is old. Haha. Her husband is old. He probably appreciates some of the things she does in a way that Justin wouldn't. I have to know my husband and what's important to him. It's not important to him that I blindly agree to everything he says. He wants me to discuss things with him. He wants me to be involved in our decision making. As much as he'd love for me to fluff the pillows and hand him the remote when he gets home (who wouldn't?!), he doesn't expect that from me. When we talked about it, he said, "If you did everything and I came home to sit on the couch after work, not only would I feel terrible, I'd feel like I'm not worth anything except making the money." But there are things that are important to him. He likes dinner to be close to ready when he gets home - not because he's a chauvinistic man, but because he's starving. I don't have dinner ready, necessarily, as an act of submission, but as an act of love. And he wouldn't be angry if I didn't have it ready. He understands our children are needy and I have my own stuff going on sometimes.

My broad take-away from this book is that it has some great Biblical principles and advice on how to show love to your family and create a godly home. But much of her advice is simply opinion - things that have worked for her - not a hard and fast Biblical mandate for godly living. I was harsh on the marriage section, but it has really made me think and challenged me to learn what submission looks like, practically, in my marriage. Thanks again for your audience participation, and don't forget to give me your two cents about our sins effecting our prayer lives.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book #22: A Woman After God's Own Heart {Part 1}

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Oh this book. I loved it and I hated it. It was convicting and challenging and helpful and daunting. I thought its main focus was going to be on nurturing a relationship with God. Of course, that's the core of the book, but it also highlights marriage and mothering and home-making.

Throughout the book, George gave me an important perspective: spiritual discipleship is just that - a discipline. She says, "Only through regular exposure to God's Word can you and I draw out the nutrition needed to grow a heart of faith" (29).

The first four chapters are along those lines. I underlined a lot and felt convicted to change. And then came the chapters about marriage . . . dun dun dun . . .

I read these chapters then made Justin read them and tell me honestly if that's really what he wants/expects from me because I was so shocked. Haha. (For the record, he said no. I'll get to that later.)

This book was written in 1997 (at least the version I read. It's since been updated.), but these chapters could've come out of a manual for the Perfect 50s Housewife. Let me say again that I do not consider myself a feminist. I am not a post-modernist. I'm not looking to tweak or re-interpret the inspired word of God. But I also want to take the Bible at its word and not read more into it than what's intended.

George posits that our husbands should be our greatest priority - second only to God. At first glance, that doesn't seem so awful. I know it's something I should work on. My life, right now, is consumed by my very needy children. Justin gets put on the back-burner because he's a fully grown man and doesn't need me as much. But I know that my kids will grow up and move out and I still have to have a relationship with my husband. George takes it to another level, though.

I shared a blip on facebook that was my first clue I might not like where this book is going. Haha. Here's some more:
I began a life of serving Jim [her husband] that has continued for more than two decades. Oh, I have many things to do, but my primary purpose and role each day is to help Jim, to share his responsibilities, to respond to his nature, and to wholeheartedly cooperate with him in God's plan for our life together. (59-60)
Hold the phone. My primary purpose is to help my husband? She gets this idea from the Biblical description in Genesis 2:18 of Eve as Adam's "helpmeet."In context, this verse comes just before Adam starts naming the animals. So essentially, God says, "You shouldn't be alone. Let's see who can help you. Here come a bunch of animals." Adam names them all, but no suitable helper is found. What does Adam need help for at this point before the fall? I'd say companionship, maintaining the garden, and ultimately reproduction. Animals sure aren't going to help there. So God makes the woman.

From that one verse at the creation of the world, we're supposed to assume that all women for the rest of eternity have the same responsibility? I'm not trying to be sassy. I'm honestly wondering. Are we all "little Eves"? George goes on to say, "God wants us wives to focus our energy and efforts on our husbands - on his tasks, his goals, his responsibilities" (60). I just don't see how she gets that from Genesis. I understand being partners, helping as needed, and fulfilling certain roles. But making my husband my career? Focusing all my energy and effort on him? Are you serious?

One night this week, I flipped through my Bible searching for every "woman of character" passage I could find. I read Titus 2 and Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, and of course Proverbs 31. The Proverbs 31 woman respects her husband, but she's also busy caring for her household, buying fields, and helping the needy. Her life does not revolve around her husband.

And then she started in on submission. Oh boy. Haha. Now don't get me wrong. I believe in submission. I believe that the husband is the head of the wife. I don't deny that there's a little bit of hierarchy there. But to me, that means when we have to make a decision as a couple, Justin gets the final say. It's actually kind of freeing. If we're uncertain about something being God's will, it's on Justin's head if he gets it wrong. I was just submitting. Haha.

Ms. George, of course, takes it a few steps beyond that. The part that really rankled me is her instruction to "respond [to your husband] with a single positive word." She elaborates, "I chose the word 'Sure!' (and that's with an exclamation mark behind it and melody in my voice.) And I began to use this positive response and say, 'Sure!' on the small things" (73). She goes on to share a horrendous story about her friend whose husband loved to take the family to Price Club (like Sam's Club) randomly throughout the week.
Well Dixie - with three children, one of them a baby at the time - could have presented a watertight case against dragging the entire family out to Price Club on a school night after dark - but she didn't. She also never challenged Doug's leadership in front of her little family. Instead, she just smiled, responded "Sure!" and got everyone into the car for another trip to Price Club. (73)
Gah! That makes me crazy! I understand sacrificing for the good of your husband, but blindly agreeing to everything he says isn't a relationship! It's servitude! What if Dixie would've said, "You know, maybe we could go Saturday morning or Friday evening. But do you think it's best to go on a school night with all three kids?" Maybe her husband never knew she hated it. Maybe he would've gladly said, "Oh honey! I didn't even think of that." Is the Biblical call to submission really a demand for becoming smiling Stepford wives who don't question our husbands? Again, these are my honest questions.

I know this is so long already, but there's a little bit more. George goes on to share 8 ways to make your husband your "number one human priority."
1. Pray for him - I take no issue with this one. ;-)
2. Plan for him daily - She says we should match our schedule to our husbands'. Go to bed when he goes to bed. Get up with him in the morning. Send him off with breakfast and a kiss.
3. Prepare for him daily - Clean the house before he gets home, put on some make-up, clean the kids' faces, get the kids excited that Daddy's coming home, prepare the welcoming committee, greet him with a kiss, have dinner ready, take on the attitude of 14th century monarchies and declare "the King is in the castle!" Focus your time and attention on him. Have your housework done and your social visits over. He is your world now.
4. Please him - Learn what he likes. Do it. If he likes sports, get into sports. If he likes the top of the refrigerator dusted (even if he's the only one who can see it), dust it. I'm not making this stuff up, people.
5. Protect your time with him - She shares the story of one woman whose motto is, If my husband is home, I'm home. Forget outside activities - even Bible Studies. Make sure you're available to your husband every minute that he's in the house. (Ok, I'm getting a little sassy now.)
6. Physically love him
7. Positively respond to him - Already covered this.
8. Praise him - I don't take much issue with this one either. Men love words of affirmation.

I can see the value in most of those. But I bristle at the thought of my life revolving around my husband. It seems like George is implying that the husband is more important than the wife. That's what I can't wrap my brain around. Here's one more quote that will leave my feminist friends dry heaving:
Learn from a darling cartoon I have of a mother and her two children standing in the family room with a checklist. Mom announces, "Your dad will be home any minute, let's go over the list: TV remote, check; comfy pillows, check; dinner, check; loyal canine companion, check; doting family, check!" How's your family doing in the doting department? (87)
I may not work outside the home, but I keep the home running. I do the housework and the budget and the bills and the grocery shopping and the cooking and a lot of the child-rearing. So why does he get the comfy pillows and the TV remote? Again, let me re-iterate that Justin does not expect that of me. But does the Bible? Does God? Is it really my position to continually die to myself and put on a mask of happy, helpful wife all the time?

I could keep going, but I'm sure I've lost most of you by now. If you have any helpful, respectful insight I'd appreciate it. No facebook debates. :-)

Stay tuned for part 2. A few more questions (non-marriage-related) and some more of the good I took from the book!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Saturday 7

1. Last Saturday was one of those perfect summer nights. All of my siblings and nephews spontaneously came over. We had pizza, played Bocce and Spades, and had a bonfire. We laughed and talked and puked - well Lucy puked. But that's what she gets for eating 4 pieces of pizza and half a bag of marshmallows. Ha. Poor kid.

2. As promised, I got serious about potty training with Lena this week. It was a disaster. The first day she cried every time I put her on the potty chair and had 8 accidents. She did have 2 successes despite her aversion to the potty chair. Day 2, she was feeling more cooperative, but didn't have any more success. By day 3, she was done. She was holding it longer and longer, refusing to go on the potty chair, and having accidents minutes after I took her to the bathroom. We powered through most of day 4, but I finally gave up by 6:30 that night. I stopped counting on day 4, but between days 1 and 3, she had a mess to success ratio of 21:4. Not cool. I guess we'll try again in a couple months.

3. I went back in my blog archives to see when I potty trained Lucy. She was almost exactly the age Lena is now. But I also read a few other entries that show how completely opposite my girls were. Take this for instance - one of my updates about Lucy:
She knows all the basic colors, and she's getting the hang of letters. One thing she doesn't do that most kids her age do is sing the alphabet. She sings her own version of it, but not the classic version. :-) She kind of counts. Again, she knows her numbers 1-10, she just says them in her own order. She's clueless about most shapes. We've been working on that. She knows heart, star, and moon, but not circle, square, triangle, etc.
If I were to write a similar update about Lena today it'd be almost the opposite. She knows her colors except red and green. She has no concept of letters. I'm amazed that all my friends' two year olds can identify their letters! Lena seriously doesn't know one. And yet, unlike Lucy, she's been singing the alphabet flawlessly for months. She can count to 12, and she knows her shapes. The point is, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Lena's not interested in potty training because Lucy was at this age. Haha.

One more quick note: It's also amazing how much better Lena speaks than Lucy did at this age. I was reading an old entry about Lucy potty training, and I wrote that she peed on the floor and said, "Uh-oh. Floor!" She was barely speaking in sentences at 2.5. One day this week, Lena saw I had put a towel on the couch cushion. She said, "Why you put that towel on couch?" Before I could answer her, though, she continued, "Just in case I go potty on it?" Haha. No shortage of sentences with that one.

4. Lucy had her pre-kindergarten doctor's appointment this week. She continues to be strangely tall. Haha. (3'9.5" - 93%) And she's in the 74% for weight, so apparently that diet of mac n' cheese and bananas isn't stunting her growth too badly. She passed her vision test (which I was worried about), only had to get one shot, and I had the doctor check out her rash. Over the past week, Lucy's entire torso has broken out in this splotchy, itchy rash. It's starting to spread to her limbs and face, too. The doctor said it was likely a food allergy or an environmental allergy. Since Lucy is not an adventurous eater and hasn't had anything new, we decided it must be environmental - probably pollen or something similar. So we got a prescription cream that is supposed to help. So far, it hasn't changed.

5. I read two vastly different books this week. The first was One Night With a Rockstar (Chana Keefer). It came up in my daily bookbub email and looked interesting, so I "bought" it. (Free Kindle book.) It was good, but kind of strange. It was definitely a Christian book. The characters have relationships with God, evangelize, pray, and a big storyline is abstinence before marriage. And yet, there was more swearing than any Christian book I've read - including taking God's name in vain, which seems really unnecessary.

6. I haven't actually finished the second book yet: A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George. I've been working my way through it for a couple weeks. The first few chapters were about having a relationship with God. They were really good and really helpful. But then came the chapters on marriage. Oh boy. This book was written in 1997 and reads much older than that. It has been tormenting me. Haha. I shared a little blip on facebook with the caption that I don't usually consider myself a feminist, but the more of this book I read, the more I'm starting to think maybe I am a feminist. I don't want to write it off because it makes me uncomfortable. I want to really study it and see if her reasoning is Biblical. But it's been difficult. I'm going to write a whole entry on it if I ever actually finish it. Stay tuned.

7. Justin and I went on our June date today: fishing! It's free fishing weekend, so I didn't have to buy a license. We went to this little private lake that friends of Justin's family have a cottage on. I was worried it was going to be rainy and cold, but the weather was actually perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. Didn't rain at all. We fished for about 3 hours and I lost count of how many fish we caught. I got pretty good at casting, but Justin did all the putting on of worms and taking off of fish. Blech. We had a great time, and capped off our date with dinner at Trini's. Glorious.

*Amazon affiliate links were used in this entry.*

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Saturday 7

1. If you get my blog emailed to you or happened to look it up this week, you may have noticed I wrote a one sentence entry this week. Haha. I often jot down notes to include in my Saturday 7 and save it in an unpublished entry. But I accidentally hit publish on my note this week. Haha. Anyway, the note was that I actually made some money off my Amazon affiliate links this week!! I was linking to something for my 30 Before 30 and noticed that it said my earnings were $6. I was shocked, so I looked it up. Someone clicked on one of my links, then went on to order 3 infant baptism/confirmation dresses. Thanks, whoever you are! Made my day! :-)

2. Justin had Monday through Wednesday off this week. We can't afford to take a real vacation, so we just took one day to have a little "staycation." We splurged and went to the zoo. (It's expensive now that Lena is 2 and we have to pay for 4 of us!) It was a gorgeous 75* day and we went in the late afternoon, just a couple hours before the zoo closed, so it wasn't busy at all. The girls loved it.
Stinky Penguins
Lucy was obsessed with the map. She spent more time looking at it than at the animals. Haha.
This picture is from 2 years ago. We recreated it this year:
Lena is going through a "don't take my picture" phase.
We went to Applebee's for dinner, then came home for a bonfire and "smellows!"

3. I made a good meal this week. Cajun Grilled Chicken, parmesan orzo, and broccoli.
The orzo and broccoli were from a box. Here's the recipe for the chicken:

Grilled Cajun Chicken

1 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
2 Tbsp dried Italian-style seasoning
2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp lemon pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness

In a small bowl, mix the oil, Cajun seasoning, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and lemon pepper.

Place the chicken in a ziplock bag. Pour marinade over chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to grill, drain chicken, and discard marinade. Place chicken on hot grill and cook for 6 to 8 minutes on each side, or until juices run clear.

4. I didn't read any books this week! Well, I didn't finish any. I've been slowly making my way through Elizabeth George's A Woman After God's Own Heart. I really like it. I just don't devour non-fiction as quickly as I do fiction. Instead of reading, I've been watching a lot of Friends on Netflix. Ha. Quite the substitute.

5. I'm putting this in writing, so I'll be held accountable: I'm going to get serious about potty training Lena next week. She's almost 2.5 and I really think she's ready. She's been staying dry longer and asking me to change her when she pees. Potty training is my least favorite parenting task so far. I'm really dreading it. Haha.

6. I've been thinking about trying to be healthier. I'm exhausted all.the.time. And lately, I've been having all kinds of stomach problems. I know it's because I get zero nutrition. My diet consists solely of carbs, sugar, and dairy. But being healthy is too daunting to me. And too sacrificial. I'm not sure it's worth it to give up sugar and pop. We visited my sister-in-law at The Vitamin Shoppe this week and I found this:
Now we're on to something. Maybe I can just get my nutrition in pill form . . .

7. This week's pictures from my phone:

Lucy's snapchat of the week.
A couple of cuties going out to play in the rain.
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