Church and Politics

It’s been a very long time since I’ve blogged. Admittedly, I’ve been super busy. My older teens are leaving the nest, my younger two are both well entrenched into toddlerhood (aka, the years of getting into everything) and husband is busy much of the year traveling for work to support our hobby farm (with the hopes it will no longer be a hobby farm at some point). So, I just haven’t had anything move me enough to take time from family and work to write.

However, I’ve really been pondering an issue lately, and want to sort through my personal responses via writing, which indeed helps me process better. A few weeks ago, I was sitting in church and had finished hearing a wonderful sermon, when the Pastor announced some changes on the horizon to be added to the church articles. The statements would pertain to marriage equality, sexual identity, and rights of the unborn. I immediately felt a bit ill. I’ve known for a long time I was one of the more liberal members of my church. I’ve even visited with Pastor, one-on-one, about my position and why it made me feel uncomfortable to actually “join” the church (formally, officially) because I know my position on many social issues would differ significantly from my peers there. I also understand the church’s position – in a litigative society, they want something on the record so they couldn’t be compelled to marry someone they may not want to (like gays, or transsexuals).

Now I’m in a conundrum. I really love my church. I love the way we worship (very contemporary), I adore the Pastor (a charming, educated, personable man who is clearly devoted to God’s Word). I love the congregation (they’ve always been very welcoming to me and others that I’ve observed). Many of my dearest friends have gone there for decades, and I’ve always enjoyed their Bible studies. Their youth program is top notch, and my girls have grown in their faith through their participation. I have wholeheartedly looked forward to raising up Miles and Ruthie in this youth program. These statements, though, counter most everything I personally believe in. I struggle with having politics in my church, and previously, that has never been something I’ve felt conflicted about. I also struggle with *these* statements, because despite my religious convictions (I feel Jesus and I are pretty tight), I disagree with them.

I absolutely want separation of church and state. I recognize that for many Christians, this harkens the death toll for society, but I think they’re overlooking the fact that what they really want is Protestantism in our State, not “Religion.” If we have a Protestant-based governmental system, how would that really differ from an Islamic-based governmental system? What if, by chance, the religious ideologies of the nation shift, and we become, in the U.S., led by a faith system other than Protestantism? If you open the door to faith-based government, you run that risk. I don’t want to suffer persecution for my beliefs, and the only way to ensure that is to eliminate religion from the government. I also don’t want to see other faith systems persecuted for their beliefs under a Protestant-based government system. I love me some Jews, some Muslims, some Buddhists . . . one of my dearest friends is Wiccan, and she’s a *good* person. I can never convince myself that people who don’t believe as I do are bad people – it’s a judgment I never want to make, never want to pass along to my children as I DO try to actively socialize them to love Jesus.

I have many gay friends I love. I want them to have equal rights (marital rights, economic rights, decision making in health care rights). If I have some of my (gay) loved ones over, can I not bring them to my church? Would they feel welcomed? With such a statement on the books, I think we will intrinsically adopt a position of exclusion towards gays, and frankly, I believe Jesus would have loved them, too. Likewise with transsexuals. I realize many people subscribe to the belief that there are only two gendered options (male or female). If you believe in the idea that God didn’t make them that way, how do we explain mixed genitalia from birth? They’re called intersexuals, and as one might expect, they indicate in self-identification that they feel very torn about how to identify. In my teaching, I have a full week in class devoted towards not discriminating against transsexual/transgendered individuals. How can I be comfortable attending a church where I feel discrimination *could* be supported? I’m not positive that it *would* be, but it *could* be. Last, while I am firmly in favor of the rights of the unborn, I also support Roe v. Wade. I don’t think that the dichotomous position (pro-rights, pro-choice) are the only means to describe people (like myself) who really support life, and want to see people make alternatives to abortion, but yet also don’t want to revert to a culture where women (who don’t feel as I feel) are pursuing abortions in back alleys. Is the church taking a position that any woman who’s ever had an abortion cannot belong to the church? Cannot serve? Is there no consideration for circumstances? Is there no gray area?

Then there is how very much I have to GIVE to a church. I have a big heart for service. I admit I’m not a regular attender (err, anywhere), but I attribute that to working 50-60 hours a week, running a farm, homeschooling, and raising up toddlers. Sometimes Sunday morning rolls around and I’d rather take 15 minutes to give it up with Jesus in my personal (daily) Bible time and prayer journaling, and then cook a big breakfast for the family. And yet, I love to sign up to help with things! I can’t sing (regretfully) and I can’t work in the nursery (too much commitment), and I can’t run anything electronic (Luddite). But I can serve in many other ways! If I believe differently than these articles of faith indicate, am I to be discouraged from giving to God with my talents?

I’m in a bit of a pickle. I’ve been praying for wisdom and discernment about withdrawing from my beloved church home altogether, but I’m not there yet. I’ve tried out a couple other churches, and while they’re seemingly good places, I’ve yet to do my “Pastor talks” (where I sit down with the pastor to get a feel for church doctrine). I really wanted to raise Miles and Ruthie up in this church, which I have considered my church home for 6 years. Conversely, I don’t want to be a hypocrite about my ideological positions.

I can’t convince myself I’m the only person who loves Jesus but seeks middle ground politically. I’m sure I’ve got contemporaries out there, but I’m floundering a bit now in finding them (especially here in rural mid-Missouri). I also don’t want to bring on a “poor me” party, because I’ve got many lovely friends (many from my church) who love Jesus, know my ideologies, and love me despite them (since they don’t share them). I’m very fortunate in that regard. It might be that, even in this church, there are more there who feel as I do, but perhaps just aren’t as vocal as I am.

With a positive spin to conclude, I’m grateful to live in a country where I’m able to worship as I want, vote as I want, support whatever political causes I choose without fear of retaliation or threat to my person. So, there is that.

On Drama, Conflict, and Epiphanies

I wrote a pretty extensive blog post, and it was remarkably healthy to then hit, “delete.” I think after exploring my feelings on the matter, I’ve developed a nice epiphany for my 2015.

Over the course of many years, I’ve learned not to let others’ emotional drama infringe upon my own personal health. In fact, I would contend I’m very disciplined about this, and it’s intentional, and something I benefit from.

However, I think yesterday I also determined that I don’t have an obligation to smooth out family conflicts, even if they have to do with me or touch upon my life. I had an interesting lesson, causing me to reflect on why I desire harmony in relationships where there just may never be any. If people don’t like me, either because they just don’t mesh with my personality or perceive me to be different than I am, that’s okay. I don’t need to sort through their issues. I don’t need to discover a “why”. I don’t need to get sucked into drama, even if it’s well-meaning because I’ve desired positive relations.

Ultimately, I concluded if I know that I’m living my life trying to be kind to others and doing the best I can to not harm my loved ones, I am a step ahead of most. That’s a good place to be before 40.

Goals and Motivations

A few blog postings ago I indicated I would be covering my goals soon, and it’s probably a good time to reflect on those now. I’ve been fighting a good fight for the last 11 months. I started my weight loss journey on December 26th, 2013. I’m *almost* at my 70 lbs lost mark. I keep creeping down. Initially I lost about 2 lbs a week, and it came off a lot quicker. The last 3 months it’s been more like 1 lb, and sometimes even only .5 a lb a week. As long as it keeps going down, I’m content, but it does get discouraging that it takes so long (especially when it goes on so easily!). I know the concept that 3500 extra calories equals 1 lb gained, and you’d really think it isn’t that easy to eat 3500 calories. When I examine what I used to eat, compared to what I eat now (about 1500-1700 calories a day, since I’m still breastfeeding), it floors me. I could easily have been eating 3500 calories a day! Revisiting my goals (mentally) is important because not only do I need to “scratch them off” once I’ve reached them, but I can see how they tie into my results, which I just love. Yes, yes . . . you’ve already ascertained I’m a spreadsheet kind of gal. My goals fall into distinctly different categories (some are tangible, some are intrinsic). Here we go . . .

I’m 32 lbs from my goal weight. I recognize this is going to be the slowest coming off. To reach it, I’m watching the calories still, working hard on strength training (muscle burns fat, and it’s not going to make me look bulky like a body builder), and *not* missing my cardio more than 2 days a week.

I want to be able to sleep better each night. I’ve noticed that I am already sleeping a lot better than I have been over the past few years, but I know that somehow (not sure how yet – I need to find a book on this) the quality of my sleep does correlate to being overweight. I want to be satisfied with my 5.5-6 hours of sleep. This also ties in to not really *needing* a nap each day. Sometimes I’ll tell my girls, “I just need to lie down for an hour”, but I tie that in to also staring at a computer monitor for hours on end. It isn’t just physical fatigue – it’s a need for a mental break.

I want to be able to keep up with Miles and Ruth. This is a huge motivator for me. I want to be able to spend their childhood running and doing things with them (which, for the most part, I was able to do with Addie and Rebecca in their younger years). I want to be able to walk places with them. I want to be able to ride bikes – never mind that we can’t ride them around our house because Missouri is crazy hilly – I want to load up bikes and go to the Katy trail or something. I want to be able to run up and down the bedroom steps as much as I need to if someone is sick and needs Mom (without becoming winded). I want to be able to encourage them to be healthy themselves (to exercise!). This is important to me.

I want to be able to keep up with my husband. Not so different from being able to keep up with the kiddos, really. Nathan is just a powerhouse of energy – the man can do more in a single day than anyone I know (physically). He can get up at 5:30 in the morning and run non-stop until 10 p.m. at night, and if you ask him if he wants a nap, he’ll follow up with, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I want to be able to haul fence posts for him, to herd cows (and as established previously, I need to be able to outrun the bull), and to go hiking or hunting or riding horses (although my butt and thighs weep at the thought at this point). I want to be in fabulous shape so I can really share more with my man. And, you know, the other stuff that comes with that. Which I won’t elaborate on, because my neighbor Ted thinks I overshare.

I want GOOD health. I want low blood pressure, healthy insulin response (reading a neat book my friend Amanda recommended called “It Starts with Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig that has me questioning relationships between food choices and hormonal responses), I want to never have to worry about diabetes (and have a healthy blood sugar balance), I want to have a really awesome resting heart rate. Who would have thought that I would care about this at 40? I want to tackle issues like heart disease and joint problems and breathing issues – all because I was overweight.

I want to look at pictures of myself and feel good. No shame, no embarrassment, no self-consciousness about the extra chins or always try to be in the back of the photo shoot because I want to hide my body. I know that’s not healthy, mentally and emotionally. Really, I know that. I know that I should love my body no matter what, but I also know that I am more uncomfortable with pictures when I weigh more.It’s actually easier for me to tackle weight loss than it is to learn how to love myself fat, and with so many other benefits to tackling the weight loss, why focus the extra emotional energy on trying to love myself fat?

I want to wear my lovely clothes. I have tubs and tubs still of beautiful clothes I haven’t fit in in years. Granted, most of them are professional dress. You’ll show up at my door to visit and I’ll be in a lovely pink silk suit (I bought it for conference travel), and the most overdressed farm wife you’ve seen. However, I’ll be delighted to be able to fit in it again. If you see me in my gorgeous beige beaded cocktail dress from Nordstrom’s while I’m shopping at Walmart? Just give me a bump for reaching that goal. I was tickled last month when I fit in my jeans (the last pair of jeans I bought, in 2007), which are still the largest size jeans I’ve ever owned. Yes, I was *tickled* I fit in my fat jeans. My next immediate goal would be the size 14 adorable boot cut Gap jeans sitting on the top shelf of my closet. I look at them each time I pull out my clothing for the day, and it’s just a little extra encouragement to keep moving forward (sloooooowwwly). In one of my clothing tubs, I have some size 8 Ralph Lauren jeans that I remember squeezing my butt into at some point. Those would probably be my “end goal” jeans. When I can wear those, I’ll know I’ve hit my target. I’ll probably use those as my “ruler” to know how to stay on track. They’re smoking hot. I can’t wait to wear them!

I want the extra jiggles gone. I have to say this with a bit of a caveat – I know some jiggles are never going to go away. I know that the baby-pouch from my 3 c-sections is not going to ever go away (short of a tummy tuck, which my husband would never be okay with). Cutting abdominal muscles repeatedly sort of negates any amount of sit-ups I can do. I also know that some jiggles will take longer than other jiggles (because my skin will take a couple of years to shrink down). I want the under arm jiggle to go, though (for good). I want the under-chin jiggles to stay gone. I want the inner thigh jiggles to disappear altogether.

This isn’t even the full list, but it’s enough of a start to get me out of my chair on my Monday (my busiest day) and take the time for ME to get a work out in. I need to eat, sleep and breathe in these goals because they keep me motivated. Just like Rocky chasing the chicken and catching it. That’s me, baby. I got this.

Miscellaneous Clothing Rant

I was out with Addison yesterday dress shopping at Macy’s. I saw some really adorable, fit young (20s) girls walk by, both wearing leggings. It wasn’t the leggings really I had a problem with, it was that they had really short shirts and jackets on with them. In essence, they were showing every possible curve of their lower half of their body. They were lovely curves, young and firm still, but *every* curve. When I later commented to Addison, “When I get my body all smoking hot, remind me not to wear leggings like that,” and then she and I had a discussion about judgment of women wearing leggings. Her point was that leggings aren’t that much different from skinny jeans, which I agree with, because I think in many cases, those also show curves I don’t want to see.

To clarify, I’m not judging those sweet young girls. I’m not thinking they’re promiscuous because they want to show every curve of both the front AND back halves of their lower body. I’m thinking they are a reflection of the culture, and quite possibly, when women started wearing swimming suits out in public for the first time, the older generation had a similar response. Does this make me old and unhip? Possibly. In this instance, I’m okay with that.

I also want to quickly add that I don’t buy into the various crap that’s out there regarding women and clothes. E.g., “If you dress sexy, you’re inviting rape,” or similar junk. Women should be able to walk around naked, if they choose, and not “invite” rape (which is a really ignorant way of considering it, but has been a cliché surrounding sexual violence for decades). By the same token, I don’t buy into the sexist double-standard that we expect more modest dress for women, but men can run around shirtless and working some Magic Mike look. I really don’t want to see men scantily clad either, unless I’m watching Baryshnikov performing ballet. I also don’t buy into the fit/fat argument – it’s acceptable for fit women to wear leggings that show every curve, but not for fat women to wear leggings which show every curve. I don’t buy into the mindset that young girls shouldn’t be a “distraction” to young men by wearing certain outfits (which is the rationale of many school districts who are now banning leggings as daily wear in their schools). It isn’t women’s responsibility to shield ourselves from males – that’s not the point.

I guess, what frustrates me the most, and perhaps this IS judgmental, is the idea that I think women who wear clothing which shows more than “I feel” they should (see how I’m qualifying all this subjectivity?) just don’t love themselves all that much. I can’t help but think if you’re showing a camel toe that you just don’t value the many other components of your self-worth – your personality, your wit, your sense of humor. You feel the need to display your body, and this could be because you’re seeking attention from others because you haven’t gotten enough before, because you have Daddy/Mommy issues, because you are riddled with self-doubt, etc.

I’m not a prude — I think those who know me would contend I’ve got a fairly normal sexual attitude. I have no problem with soft core porn, no real hang-ups, and am open-minded about how people want to live their lives behind their own bedroom doors. Or in their kitchens, or bathrooms, or whatever. I just don’t want to see others’ body parts when I’m out in public. Arms, fine. Legs, fine. Butts, no thank you. Vaginas? Definitely not.

I also think, as far as Moms go, I’ve been pretty restrictive of what my girls wear out in public in their developmental earlier years. I haven’t permitted midriffs, cleavage (whether or not they have it, it can always be attained by a push-up bra), cut-away backs, etc. I’ve spoken out against shorts that look like Daisy Dukes, leggings that make a butt look naked, and even the low-necked shirts (whether or not they had any breasts at the time). They’re finally at an age where they can wear (for the most part) clothing of their choice, and seldom do I say, “You’re *not* wearing that out in public.” More often it will be, “Are you sure you want to wear that to —?”

I want them to consider how they’re presenting themselves. I don’t want them second-guessing their worth, but I don’t think clothes MAKE our worth – I think they reflect how we value ourselves. I want them to wear clothes that say, “I’m strong and confident and I don’t need to show my body to reflect that.” I wish that classy was sexy again. We are such a hyper-sexualized society, though, I think my perspective will be relegated to the “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free,” era. Good thing I have my own blog where I can rant about whatever I want, then.

Sunday morning stroll through the woods

I decided to do a Sunday morning hike (primarily motivated by the fact my treadmill is on the fritz — again, and it was so gorgeously fall-lovely outside, I wanted to be a part of it). I thought I would amuse myself with a little photo-journal of the hike, with snippets of my own reflections as I progressed. And, if it’s an enticement to draw some of my BFFs I haven’t seen in ages to come stay with me for a week, all the better!

I started out by the rail road bed. My first musing as I’m walking is how Gerald O’Hara I’m getting, “Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, that Tara, that land doesn’t mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.” I really dig having property. It’s a lot of work, but when we leave it to the kids, hopefully one out of the six will appreciate it. 🙂

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This is actually part of the old M-K-T rail line that runs across the southern boundaries of our property. This is where the meth heads used to come and burn the plastic off the copper wiring before we put up the gate, and gave a copy of the key to the landowner on the south side of the rail road bed. Now the meth heads just come and ask to “arrowhead hunt” which my husband generally agrees to because, in many ways, he’s nicer than I am. Or, possibly not as aware that they’re in fact drug abusers — something which I can pick up on in about 30 seconds.

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This is the “road” up the hill where husband likes to cut brush. He really, really enjoys cutting brush. Like, it’s a hobby for him. If he’s got some chump to follow and “paint the stumps” (put something on the stumps that kills them for good, so they don’t regrow) then he’s in hog heaven. He also likes to brush hog, hence my many, beautiful walking paths (center picture). Then, I just loved this shot of some redneck’s “hunting chair.” I think this has been there 2-3 years.

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Oh look! Two paths diverged into a wood . . . you can surely guess which path I took.

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This looks like a passel of Sunday afternoon family fun. Haul up the wood splitter, and we’ll be good to go.

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This is my *most* favorite hiking path to take on our property. He’s got about 12 different paths brushhogged off of this one. I can never remember what he calls it, though. “The old logging road?” That might be it. I also love playing the game of looking for the No Trespassing signs, which are ancient ones he’s wired up in some capacity, generally as a marker. No one but family is back in the middle of this area. Still, you can always say, “Follow the old logging road up past the old barn foundation (which is rotted away, but the cement is still there), and you’ll see the white no trespassing sign. Beyond that is the white sleeper stand, and then you’ll go left  . . . . “

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This is the white sleeper stand (deer stand), but it’s somewhat creepy because critters crawl in there, and the only people who might actually want something this secure to hunt in (as versus a small seat with a small railing 30 foot up in the air, for the *real* hunters) are also likely scared of encountering a family of possums, in a small, urine-smelling stand at 5:30 in the morning, in the dark. Or namely, me.

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Who could fail to appreciate walking in such beauty on a quiet, crisp morning? Not this gal. I was half-tempted to pick up some of the acorns I kept coming across, because I was thinking like a 4-year old (or rather, thinking how delighted Miles might be if I showed up with a handful of acorns for him, since I left him wailing at home with sisters because I wouldn’t let him come along). However, I didn’t have pockets in my exercise pants (what’s up with that, anyway?) and the only other spot would awkwardly be my bra. This was my sweet hiking companion, Lady the Beagle. She was with me about half the time, but the other half she was off baying magnificently to let me know she found a trail of a rabbit. She’s sweet. She’s no Trixie, but she’s got a good heart, and the pup is on lockdown since he’s been killing chickens.

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The creek crossing was dry, but it was a doosy to get down the hill to that point. Very good for my thighs, I’m sure. My fat thighs. They need to see more hill action. Then, another lovely brushhogged path husband made for me.

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This one is interesting — evidently on an iPhone you can take pictures with your volume button. Since I didn’t know that, and kept trying to adjust the volume up or down on my morning hike playlist, I got home to about 150 extra pictures. Interesting, yes? Rather looks like a hippy-lover’s acid trip. And, I would assume the majority of my reading audience has not dropped acid, so you can just trust me on this. Just say no to drugs.

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Then, a dilemma. Here are the soybeans, and here is the pasture (with cows and ragweed galore). I decided to take the path along the edge of the soybean field. Much longer way home, but walking through rag weed on a September morning didn’t sound that appealing.

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This is one of husband’s favorite deer tree stands. He calls it the “Sycamore Stand.” Three guesses why! I was so tickled when the soybean field ended, and I saw the fence row home (mind you, it was still about 3/4 mile from home). Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that the soybean field ended at the bottom of a monster hill. This next picture is me stopping to admire the fencing handwork of my husband — truly the best fence builder I know. It had nothing at all to do with gasping for breath and screaming calves.

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Oh look! Home, sweet home! And one happy, sweaty Mama. Got in 3.15 miles all told, and a nice Sunday morning.

Coming Out

I saw something yesterday on facebook that had me rolling with laughter. It was this picture:

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I have been pretty candid with my close friends, when we discuss life issues, and I am pretty sure I’ve recently lost someone I perceived as a good friend because of my more “liberal” ideological position. I put “liberal” in quotation marks because I am actually a moderate, by most considerations of the continuum. I’m a liberal next to many of my good friends in the church, and I’m a conservative next to my LIBERAL (notice all caps — she’d appreciate that) girlfriend Jadi. Inasmuch as we can’t evaluate social class outside of relativity, I think we cannot evaluate ideology outside of relativity. But then again, that might just be my Marxism showing.

All that aside, I think it’s time to officially come out. Yes . . . yes, I am an Ally. What does that mean, really? It means I support gay rights. I support equality for *everyone* (people of color, people who practice a different faith than I, people of a different sexual orientation than I, people who are subjugated for whatever reason). As a straight white Christian woman living in very rural Missouri, this isn’t a conversation I have with many. My pre-Missouri friends know my position, and know it well (I’ve certainly dragged my daughters to rallies in grad school). Now I think they, too, would be considered Allies. Will that happen with Miles and Ruth? Lord, I hope so.

I probably lost a lot of people with that single plea, but I mean it! “Lord, I hope so!” I want to raise my children in a realm of loving acceptance. Yes, I am a Christian. I dig the Word. I talk daily to my Savior. I am comfortable with my walk in faith. Yes, I understand there’s much in the Old Testament that speaks out against homosexuality. However, God’s grace and Jesus changed all of that – Mosaic Law does not need to hold us captive any longer (thankfully, because some of the responses were pretty harsh). There are two things we need to be mindful of – Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s huge to me. That stands out more than anything else in the Bible (to me). For any scripture someone can show me an anti-homosexual castigation, I can show you one of Jesus’ love and acceptance. Unfortunately, there’s this “hush-hush” perspective that anyone who *really* is a Christian can’t support gay rights. That’s so judgmental. Judgement is not my place.

My place is to offer love. It’s not to judge someone who’s gay. It’s not to judge someone who is cohabitating. It’s not to judge someone who is on their 4th marriage. I’ve heard a lot from other Christians about the need to hold people accountable for their behaviors, but I think that gets taken out of context. It was specifically addressing other Christians within the church – it wasn’t talking about us having a role being the policing moderators of sexuality in the world at large. Does that mean we don’t have a responsibility to keep pornography off the television where children can see it? No, that’s silly. We still need to be responsible for raising our children as children. So many people lump homosexuality in with pornography, or pedophilia, or bestiality, etc. That’s sheer ignorance. Please educate yourself. Opening up gay rights (in particular, marital rights) isn’t going to open the door for people to marry their dogs, marry children, or marry their toasters.

In all likelihood, you know someone who is gay. You can either be frowning upon their “lifestyle choice” or loving them as they are. I have a lot of close, gay friends, and I love them. It saddens me to see that they can’t marry, or make medical decisions for their partner, or adopt children together (in many states). I think most of them don’t even care if you accept them (it would be nice, but not pivotal). What’s imperative is that gay couples be afforded the same rights within our society as straight couples.

I don’t have a problem being friends with people who feel differently than me – I’m just not going to keep my positions to myself simply to avoid discomfiting you. I’m not going to force my opinions on you – you’re entitled to hold your own, as am I. I’m not going to argue with you about whether its right or wrong, or what God says, or whether our country is going to hell in a handbasket (which, I would argue it likely is, but certainly that’s not related to gay rights). I’m not going to worry if you feel alienated, or want to unfriend me on facebook, or ignore my emails (I’m quick to take a hint). Frankly, I think we need to be discomfited. We need to create some social change. Yes, I am an Ally.

The Bad Rap of “Controlling” Behaviors

I was reading through the Bible for my study, and it referenced the Wife of Noble Character (a/k/a the Proverbs Woman, from Proverbs 31:10-31). In this, the wife of noble character is hard working, manages her household staff efficiently, toils through the night when necessary, provides good food and a clean home for her family, is experienced with trade and brings in wealth for her household, serves the poor, takes good care of her appearance, and brings her husband respect.

I freely confess I am a *long* way from being a Proverbs woman, but by the same token, I absolutely hold her up as an ideal, and an attainable ideal, at that. I think in 30-40 years I might have mastered these things if I continue to seek God in the daily choices that I make.

Unfortunately, though, I’m often considered as “controlling,” which I admit, raises my hackles a bit. There’s just such a negative connotation with being a “controlling woman” (in particular, it’s negative when associated with women, as men are encouraged to be controlling since it’s ‘manly’ and all that other sexist gendered stuff).

When I’ve been told I am “controlling” it’s often in the context of my interactions with my children (such as not letting my daughters wear make-up until they’re 14), or with my husband (although I have no specifics on that, but he’s mentioned his family perceives me as such). I’m trying to work through my feelings on this. On the one hand, I want people to think well of me – not in the people pleasing or codependent way, but just have an overall good regard. I don’t lose sleep when people don’t like me, and I don’t go out of my way to curry their favor (it is what it is). Still, when I hear I’ve been considered “controlling” I get defensive, because I think that the choices I make about what I control or do not control are sensible ones.

Here’s my position of defense:

I think not letting kids drink sugary drinks is good – we are one of the fattest countries in the world, and soda/sweet tea/slushies contribute to that. I think that managing our food could be considered controlling by many in our culture, but I have to juggle the costs of providing healthy options with how they’re taken in. If the kids each eat 4 peaches a day and I won’t be able to afford to get more for another 2 weeks, how practical is that? Plus, diarrhea is seldom a good thing. I think teaching kids about healthy options to eat, instead of junk, encourages healthy eating habits when they are adults. Why is this something that warrants justification? Why would I want them, at 40, to be working to lose an extra 100 lbs to be fit (ahem, ahem)?

I think not letting young girls wear make-up or dress provocatively before they have the maturity to handle that is good – we are a hypersexualized culture, and I don’t want them to be immersed in it.

I think that cleaning my house every week (or my beloved ‘deep clean’) is good – who wants to eat in an environment, such as on a farm, where there could be unseen poop somewhere? Or have a toddler crawl around on a filthy floor? Or can tomatoes with flies all over the place?

I think that removing myself from a situation where I’m in verbal conflict with someone *before* I speak rashly (emotional or verbal control) is good – I don’t want to regret my words, and I learned from an early age that unchecked emotional responses can be hurtful. I work hard at maintaining emotional control (without stuffing, of course, because stuffing is not ideal). But, I like to be a happy girl, and processing through my emotions before speaking has had positive results for me.

I think that working 50-60 hours a week might be considered a workaholic in society’s eyes, but at this stage in my life, it’s necessary to contribute to building up our farm (which my husband dreams of running full-time someday, someday soon, so he can be at home with us). Keeping a thumb on my work load might be controlling, but again, if it’s for the greater good, why is there harm? Why is ambition or a desire for professional success in a woman a bad thing?

I think that keeping a texting option off my kids’ phones until they’re older teens is a good thing (or for that matter, we don’t let them have cell phones until they’re ready to drive, and then just for security’s sake if there’s a breakdown). I read a lot about how texting and messaging is changing the culture of communication – I want children who can relate, personally, to others. I don’t want them staring down at their phones during dinner. I don’t want them playing games for 4 hours a day (and yes, I think gaming can be addictive).

Ironically, I think “the family” (or our closest social networks in propinquity) assumes that because I want to manage my household efficiently, of course I am controlling of my man. I use the word “ironically” because I know of no wife who is less controlling of her husband – my husband has full charge over his life, our children, and most elements of our marriage. I give my input, of course, but firmly state that I’m not the boss of him, nor do I desire to be his mother. 🙂 Throw in that his previous wife really was controlling, and I’m sure that influences perception.

Yes, I like to have my towels lined up in the bathroom, but I don’t punish anyone who doesn’t – I just straighten them for my own aesthetic sense of order. Likewise the canned goods in the kitchen pantry. I like to spreadsheet to-do lists. I’ve planned my own funeral. I keep six separate calendars of activities. OCD? Maybe. But not hurtful to anyone.

I would also add that there are so many things I vehemently *don’t* seek control of.

I don’t have a curfew for my older children.

I’m fine with the youngers playing in mud or sitting in the middle of the chicken pen in diapers.

I encourage cross-country travel (flying, or driving, so the older teens can build experiences).

I don’t freak out about bad grades (in that I don’t punish for them, although a short lecture on the consequences of bad grades in college may arise).

I don’t control how the kids spend their money they’ve worked for (except to take it from them for phone bills and car insurance).

I don’t regulate their clothing choices (unless it looks sleazy, but it seldom does) and I’ve even been known to purchase jeans with holes in them. I’ve accepted that mismatched socks are a fashion trend.

I don’t homeschool because I have a stringent need to regulate my children’s education or ideological positions –I do so because I want to encourage creative, free thinking, dislike structured tests as the medium of assessment, and resist the boundaries of the current public policies towards education.

I don’t call my husband repeatedly throughout the day to see where he’s at – I figure he’ll straggle in at supper time if he’s hungry. I don’t snoop through his things, read his texts or email, or open his mail. If I sincerely need him to do something to help me, I make sure to request it, and not command it.

I don’t micromanage the expenses (except when we’re broke, and that’s just to say, “we’re broke – we can’t afford it”).

I don’t interfere with others’ life choices – this is a big one, I think, because I see it a lot. How others choose to live their life is their business, so I don’t put my opinions out there on how they should be making this choice or that choice.

All I want to “control” is my little haven, and to conclude, I think that’s a good thing if it yields healthy, happy children, a fruitful marriage, and an efficient household.

The defense rests.

On Hand-Me-Downs

Each year in our local “not-quite-metropolis” there are huge consignment sales from the Mothers of Multiples group, where I go and rummage through an enormous warehouse to find my children’s (the youngers) clothing for the next 12-18 months. Generally items are about $.50-$1.00, and I can leave well equipped for both Miles and Ruth (including shoes, and a couple of well-worn toys) for less than $100.

The next sale is scheduled for this Saturday morning, so I do my pre-sales preparation, where I go out to the storage area and rummage through tubs of clothing to find out what we have in each child’s sizes, what I’ll need for the fall/winter/spring/summer to come, anticipate growth patterns, and make a checklist for each child’s needs. Generally I leave babies with Nathan as we get up at 5:00 a.m. to wait in line for the 7:00 a.m. warehouse opening, and take Addison and Rebecca along so we can divide and conquer. It’s a nice little tradition, and I can’t thank my girlfriend Dawn enough for introducing me to the sale.

This year, though – funds are tight. We’re doing the whole, “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else,” and while also saving up to replace our hobbling-along refrigerator (compressor is going out), funds are just tight. No way around it. My work load has been cut since colleges are reluctant to give part-time faculty a full load to avoid paying insurance (and please note, I am a fan of the health care plan, so I’m not bagging on Obama for this). I understand the dollars and cents of adjunct faculty issues. Nathan’s going to have to travel for work (out of state), and we always try to minimize our expenses to minimize his time away from home, the kids, and our bed. So, although getting clothing for 2 kids for a year + for $100 is a heckuva deal, I wasn’t looking forward to spending it, regardless.

Hence my trip to the storage tubs, where I finally opened the bags my brother has been faithfully shuffling my way from my beautiful niece, Ella Mae. As I sort through bag after bag after bag, I was ready to weep. I’m getting weepy just writing this. It was the MOTHERLOAD of hand-me-downs. Nathan quips Ruthie could wear a different outfit each day, but he’s a man, and somewhat exaggerates anything having to do with clothing or underestimates just how much a woman needs. Still, an incredible amount of clothing, and absolutely adorable clothing – what a blessing to have sweet Ella’s diva duds! Who would have thought my brother could pick out such cute clothing, additionally??!? So, lots of gratitude as I’ve rewashed and folded up the baskets I brought in. Mind you, all of this is just 2T, 24 months, and some smallish-looking 3T stuff, so all can be worn in the next year. There’s every range of weather needs (truly, all season). This stash below is *just* what I cleared out of storage — she still has a dresser full I have to sort through for what still fits, what’s out of season, and what we’ll hand-down ourselves.

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As I’m folding, Nathan and I are in the kitchen talking about our own experiences with hand-me-downs growing up. I didn’t have a lot of hand-me-downs. My dad gave us a clothing allowance each year to buy back-to-school clothes, and when I finally got to high school and that was insufficient, I supplemented with money I earned from working. Back in the day, those $75.00 Guess jeans were the shiz-nit, and I just had to have them. Nathan has told me about either wearing Walmart clothes (which he hated to go pick out, because the kids at school teased him about it) or wearing hand-me-downs from Uncle Ken.  Neither of us were clothes-horses like our school mates, because neither of us could afford it. I tended to wear the same clothes over and over again (okay, *sheepish grin*, I STILL do). That’s just being tight, I guess.

In our house, kids get new clothes for Christmas and/or birthdays. Occasionally the Easter Bunny will bring a new top with baby chicks or bunnies on it. We shop Goodwill. We shop consignment sales. We hit the Salvation Army when we’re near one that doesn’t smell all smoker-mc-smokey. Aunt Jill gives us clothes she finds in cars when they’re repossessed (from her work), if they would fit the girls. We are *blessed* with teen girl hand-me-downs from my plethora of nieces, and from my 40 year old neighbor who is a marathoner and hip (and fit) enough to still dress like a teen. When those bags of hand-me-downs arrive, I may grumble a bit that the girls will take forever clearing out the old, and sorting through what fits (not to mention the “battles” over who gets to pick from the bag first, and who really wanted THAT skirt or THIS top), but goodness, we’re grateful. When I have clothing to “redistribute” I try to give to people I know and care for, and feel could use it (rather than hauling the bag to Goodwill, although that still happens from time to time).

In short, all sanctimonious righteousness aside (and if you’re leaning towards thinking that’s my tone, disregard that thought), WE LOVE HAND-ME-DOWNS. I think it teaches kids a lot about practicality, taking care of what you have, valuing things that are “new”, and that the friends who would judge you on the basis of your clothing are not really friends at all. Feeling the love this morning! Thanks, brother of mine!

 

One Summer Day

I was hanging out diapers on the clothesline and I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Because I was hanging out diapers? No, no . . . that’s not it. Just had a moment where I thought, “I need to take a snapshot of this. I need to remember this day, this day right here in August 2014.”

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When I was hanging the diapers, I saw the shoes sticking out on the fence posts of my garden. The kids went down to play in the creek, and we needed a place to “put them” to dry – some place puppy proof, because the two Catahoula pups will chew up anything in their path. I could hear Ruthie on the deck rocking away on the incredibly noisy, but remarkably durable rocking horse that has served all of Nathan’s children (Dustin, Grace, Miles & Ruth). I could also hear Miles wailing inside the house. He was pitching a fit because I wouldn’t let him put on a pair of clean jeans (from the folded piles on the kitchen table) after he got up from his nap to come chore with me – I insisted he wear the same jeans he’d put on that morning, but took off when he was napping. After making my stance, I just came outside to chore and left him to sort through his temper tantrum (he’s 3 ½, and they are waning in number considerably, but I am trying to curb the amount of laundry he creates). Poor Rebecca was stuck up in her bedroom listening to the wailing as she tries to find enough quiet to work through her geometry. Addison, my fledgling eaglet, is at play practice (in a college production).

It’s almost the end of August, and everything is still remarkably lush from all the rain we’ve had this winter. I have been speculating (as I dab at my consistently-running eyes – allergies) if I need to look up the winter forecast in the Almanac. As a good farmer’s wife, I now check the Almanac for these things. It’s about 105 with the heat index right now, but the tomatoes are still hanging in there, and producing buckets for me (which I can as I’m able, but I sure give away about as many as I can).

So far today, I’ve done 3 loads of laundry, made two separate rounds of lunches for children (older kids to take to campus, and younger kids to eat here at home). I’ve chored twice today (morning to let everything out, water and feed) and afternoon (check everything’s water, and get eggs). I’ve searched out a calf we were worried about – only 2 days old, and Mama Cow is a bit negligent, and tracked down an older-than-dirt mare who is wandering away from the others. Not that I blame her – I probably will want to do the same when I’m older than dirt, it’s hot out, and I’m getting crochety. I’ve done my workout, picked up toys about 10 times, gotten both babies down for naps, up for snacks, and about 10 diapers changed. I’ve gotten in about 4 hours of grading, I would estimate, and have two new classes starting today. I’m about to start working on tonight’s dinner, which will be fried catfish and fried potatoes, which only my husband and the two babies will eat. There’ll be baked fish and salad for us 3 ladies who prefer a bit less, uh, saturated fats, in our diet. I’m not going to make a dessert, because I still have chocolate-chocolate chip cookies, chocolate brownies, lemon brownies, peanut butter fudge, and blueberry oat bars leftover from the weekend (oh, and homemade peanut butter bars in the freezer). The world’s greatest husband indeed deserves his fried catfish because he’s out working in this 105 degree day, at a coal plant, no less (10 hour shifts).

All in all, it’s an incredible day, and I am one lucky country mama.

The Balance Between Work and Play

This morning I was moved to write about work (and play). Yesterday, as I was processing buckets and buckets of tomatoes that I will need to can today, I was really tired by the evening. My husband got a call that he’s going back to work this morning (an hour away). The nature of the union is that you go where they send you, and his supervisor works hard to keep Nathan close to home. This morning as I was doing my devotion, I watched my husband get up, get dressed, and head out the door about 5:30.

He’ll work outside all day, in the heat, probably a 10-hr shift. He doesn’t have a microwave to heat up his leftovers for lunch, and (because I missed seeing the empty tea pitcher last night when the girls washed the dishes) will not start his day with his cold, sweet tea as he enjoys (it’s the equivalent of my morning cup of coffee). He has loads of work to do around the farm – stuff that sincerely needs doing, but he can’t quite seem to get on top of, even though when he is laid off at home, he’s working 15-18 hours a day to tackle it all. Despite this, he kissed me goodbye and went on his path without any grumbles. Is today’s blog an ode to my husband? No . . . it could be, but it isn’t. This incredible man I married knows the value of *work*.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude that we share a similar work ethic. I grew up working. I was one of those kids who had to pay for my own car, my insurance and gas, to supplement the budget I was given (pretty meager, I remember thinking) for my clothing needs, and I was working at least 20 hours a week from my freshman year forward. There’s also an incredible amount of work that goes into running a home with six children, homeschooling, farming, and working full-time (albeit from home – another big thanks to Jesus for that!). My dad was one of the few who made me sit down and reconcile my banking account on a consistent basis (and then show it to him). I had to help run the house (and since we were motherless, we all worked to do so from a pretty young age). I’ve often discussed with my siblings how interesting it is that our family circumstances contributed to the strong work ethic in our family. My dad rose up from poverty to become a self-made millionaire. That’s something to be proud of!

But then I look at children in society today. They grumble when they have to do chores (if they indeed have to DO chores), and grumble if they have to pay their own way (sometimes with the allowance they’re given freely each week). They shortchange their efforts on school, on helping with the household, on helping watch siblings, on saving their own money or *gasp* working outside of the home for pay. Is it any wonder we have young adults who put off leaving the nest until their 30s? Who bury themselves in credit card debt and never seem to get a handle on financial preparedness? Who can’t hold a steady job, much less invest in themselves enough to establish a career? What is going to happen in 20, 30, 40 years with this newest cohort of youth, who are seemingly incapable of doing things for themselves because helicopter parents steer their every move, and perpetuate a helpless or entitled mindset? It’s terrifying to consider.

I figure the best I can do is to start within my own home – to teach my own children the way my dad taught me (except, perhaps, with a bit more verbal instruction and encouragement – he didn’t have all the ‘hippy-dippy’ parenting books I have to read). I remember cleaning the bathroom as a child, but no one really taught me the most effective way to do so. . . I guess I just bumbled along until I sorted through it. In my Bible study this morning, Lisa Terkeurst was discussing how to teach your children household tasks, and although the scripture passages were interesting to read, I was saddened to reflect on just how many parents are not encouraging their children to work.

As I’ve said before, I don’t pretend to be Supermom – I couldn’t run this house without my children’s labors to help (delegate, delegate, delegate). They help with dishes, with laundry, with cooking (occasionally, anyway), with canning (most definitely), with gardening and weeding and mowing the yard, and taking out the trash, and all the animal care (which, in fact, I hardly ever do), and with keeping their own things picked up and their rooms clean. Is that a lot in the eyes of the world? I think it might be. Miles, at 3 ½, just got his first chore chart (a darn cute one I made up, too). There’s certainly plenty a toddler can do around the house to help out. Am I placing a burden upon them that will harm them? I hope not! I don’t want them to resent me, but I think to some extent I likely resented my father when I was younger because I just compared my work load to my peers, and never understood why I always had to work before getting to play. Am I grateful now for the blessings that work ethic created? Absolutely!

We have to teach our youth that the work and play must be balanced. There can be play – plenty of it! We live on a 300-acre farm. There’s loads of stuff to do around here (ride horses, hike trails, play on the monstrous swing set we acquired from the meth head neighbors for a song, climb trees, play in the playhouse which is full of games, Barbies, dress up clothes, tractor toys, and books, ride bicycles, ride the 4-wheeler, swim at the neighbor’s pool – the ones who don’t do meth, etc). We can picnic at the parks in Columbia, play on those play places, go to the library and pore over books (admittedly, that’s play to me), go to the creek and search for arrowheads, follow the path of a rainbow. There is just so much to do out there to play! (I would qualify, in our home, this doesn’t entail watching television or playing video games, but I guess, if one gets their work done and that’s play to them, it’s acceptable enough). I would probably argue it’s not equally balanced — I think in our home, I would estimate there’s 65% work and 35% play, but I imagine that lines up with responsible living as an adult.

We went camping this last weekend at Mark Twain State Park. The weather was gorgeous, and we hadn’t been to that lake before. We went to the beach each day, ate meals around the campsite, played cards, and enjoyed the scenery. However, there were inevitably the two days of preparing to camp beforehand, and the full day of putting the camping supplies away when we got home (plus the monstrous amounts of laundry to wash). Still, to enjoy the camping experience, that work is inevitable, right? Isn’t that how work and play have to be balanced, in the grand scheme of life? These are some sweet pictures from our camping experience (Miles enjoying a camping breakfast, Ruthie playing in the rocks, and Grace and her buddy playing cards with us around the table).

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Also, just as a last note, I think that, as a parent, I want to try and instill a positive attitude towards the work-play balance. Do I like processing tomatoes all day? Uh, no. But I love having my own tomato sauce come January. Do I like deep-cleaning the house? Uh, no. But I love relaxing in it when it’s done for another week, and I can appreciate knowing I am providing a safe, clean environment for my children. When it’s time to deep clean, I put in some rocking music (old school classic rock, for the most part – Addie has told me she will forever associate Don Henley with cleaning the house), offer a treat like a can of soda (soda is indeed a treat in this home), and we hit it hard to knock it out quickly. I try to teach the concept, “Many hands make short work,” and I try personally not to complain about the work that needs done. I hope when my kids look back, they’ll not envision some tired, haggard Mom always drudging along the day to day tasks, but a Mom who cheerfully does what needs doing so she can enjoy time with them in shared play. That’s my goal, anyway!

Now, I’ve had my play for the morning, and need to get back to work. 🙂