June 2010


We have flip-flopped over the 7 years of our marriage between having and not having a television.  I generally watch it when we have it, but don’t miss it when we don’t.  We have been TV-less for almost 18 months…that is, until this month.  With the World Cup  here, I compromised on my ‘no TV stance’ so hubby could have his fill of soccer for the month.  The cable will be promptly canceled right after Argentina wins. 😉

As you could probably guess, if we each had our way, I would vote no TV, and hubby would vote for TV (he misses his sports!) I’m not anti-TV because I’m some über-spiritual person, but rather because I’m not!  I’d prefer to not have that temptation starring at me each day.  Our 1-month exception has reinforced my stance that I HATE TV.

I don’t hate the concept of TV.  I don’t hate all the shows available to watch (although most are pure trash!).  I certainly don’t hate the Food Network.  But I do hate the way it seems to suck up time.  I do hate how there seems to be a magnetic field that draws me to the couch, with remote control in hand, mindlessly flipping the bazillion channels available even though there is nothing decent on.  I do hate how my kids turn into zombies when its on, as everything else seems to fade into the background and their eyes are fixed upon the images.  I hate how good TV programmers are at creating a story to catch your interest and draw you in, leaving me to wonder, ‘what happens next?’ as if it were real life.

I do hate that even on a channel like the Food Network, in a 10 minute time period there were 2 commercials that easily fit into the category of soft-porn, and 1 very scary movie preview.  I do hate how there is a constant barrage if images, trying to vie for the affection of my children.  I hate how even my attention can get fixed upon the TV – even the game – to the extent that I get impatient with my children if they impede my view.  I hate how I want to spend my evenings zoning out in front of the TV instead of reading, or even cleaning.  I hate how my instinct in the morning is to say to my kids, ‘let’s see whats on TV,’ rather then saying, ‘let’s read some books.’

So, I’ll enjoy the rest of the world cup, and maybe get my fill of some of my old favorites, but am looking toward July 12 when the cable can be turned off, and I can remove this temptation from my living room.

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As Christians, we know that we are to trust the Lord, even when we don’t understand, even when it’s painful.  Few would argue with this, yet when it comes to one area of life, it seems that head knowledge and practice doesn’t quite match up.

I’ll warn you up front, this post will likely cause a stir.  It is not going to be politically correct.  You may have strong opinions one way or another, and you may not like me very much.  But I’ve never  been one to be PC, so I’m going to post away.  My goal isn’t to cause controversy, but maybe to cause you to think.  To reevaluate.  To check in and see if your thinking on this topic is really informed by Scripture, or, maybe you have a worldly mentality, and cherry-pick the verses that allow you to continue that faulty point of view.  So, here is some food for thought.

We talk about trusting God with our whole life, we then turn around and take action to prevent the blessing of children.  Do we see how ironic that is.  We take action to prevent the blessing of children.  Is there any other area of our life in which we try to prevent God from blessing us?  Oh, no Lord, don’t bless us with a raise.  Oh, no Lord, don’t bless us with a vacation.  Oh, no Lord, I couldn’t possibly receive that gift…but that is exactly what we say when we use the myriad of birth control methods available.

I know, I know.  If God wants us to have a child, we’d get pregnant anyway…right?  I recently heard that from a newly married woman.  To be honest, I was terrified of getting pregnant the first year and a half of my marriage…but my attitude was in line with that of the world, not of the Bible.

There are varying degrees of telling the Lord we don’t want His blessing, but the message is really all the same.  It can go to the extreme of surgery, ensuring with almost 100% certainty, that pregnancy will never occur.  But even the other forms of preventing conception is sending a message to God that we don’t trust Him all the way.  If we did, we would allow Him to dictate when pregnancy would happen, without our interference.

A Christian women wouldn’t step into Planned Parenthood and abort her baby, yet she will take a little pill intending to prevent pregnancy, which may very well be doing just that.  There are three ways the birth control pill works, and the manufacturers are well aware of this.  They are intended to stop ovulation.  If that doesn’t work, they are intended to create conditions inside that prevent fertilization.  If that doesn’t work, they are intended to prevent implantation.  Did you catch that?  It’s subtle.  If plan A fails, and plan B fails, then the goal is to prevent that newly formed baby from implanting in the uterus, so that it cannot develop.  Plan C is to cause an abortion.  Christian women, you may be aborting your baby, and not even know it!

‘Well, I know that about the pill, and that’s why we use other methods.  Besides, we’re not ready.’   Then get ready.  You have at least 9 months to get yourself ready.  What are you waiting for?  God designed us to procreate.  Not like animals in heat, but His plan is for Christian couples to have children.  What are you waiting for?

‘We can’t afford children.’  This was my big objection when we were first married.  In essence I was saying to my heavenly Father that He is unable to provide for my needs.  I was calling Him a liar, when He tells me in Matthew 6 that my job is to seek His kingdom, and when I do that, He will provide for my needs.

One problem here seems to be our inability to distinguish between needs and wants.  We need a place to live, we do not need 5 bedrooms.  We need transportation to get to work, we do not need a brand new car, or a leased car, or two.  Life goes on with a single car.  My husband and I traded in our dream house, 2 cars and a dog lifestyle when our daughter was born, so that I could stay at home with her  (that would be a whole other post).  Are you trading in the gift of a child for that hunk of metal in your driveway?  We need food to eat.  We don’t need to go out to restaurants 3 times a week.  We don’t need vacations, or fancy clothes, or expensive electronic toys.  We made so many things into needs that are not really needs.  What are we forfeiting in the process?

Then there are those who have a plan.  We’ll get married.  We’ll both work for 5 years, enjoy each others company, travel, have fun, then we’ll have kids.  Ah, our plans.  We just can’t help ourselves with planning and plotting, and I’m no exception.  Here’s the problem.  Whose to say that in 5 years you will be able to get pregnant?  It’s not like saying, ‘in 5 years we’ll buy a house’ knowing that there will be plenty of houses for sale.  No, we are talking about the secret things of God, and we are presuming upon Him, to give us what we want, when we want it.  HOW DARE WE!  We live in disobedience to His command to be fruitful and multiply, and then when WE decide it’s time, we expect God to come through for us.  Can you see the problem here?

I love to plan.  I constantly ask my husband, ‘where do you see us in 5 years.’  I can’t help myself.  I like to know what we are aiming at, where we are headed.  But, I know full well that my plans may not be God’s plans for me, and I am yielded to wherever He takes us.  I wouldn’t dare claim that my plans are superior to His.  If my goal is X, but Y happens, I’m not going to turn around and say, ‘gee, God, you messed things up.’  No, rather I’ll acknowledge God’s wisdom, and even if I cannot see the benefit in the moment, I will acknowledge that whatever the scenario, it is for my good, and His glory, à la Romans 8:28. So why am I inclined to claim superior wisdom when it comes to the timing and number of children?

We had #3 a little over a year ago.  As my body began regulating itself again, hubby and I had the discussion of whether we should wait before having another.  We had all sorts of logical reasons for preventing pregnancy.  The timing isn’t right.  He works a ton of hours right now.  Money is tight. We are renting, and finding a place to take a large family is difficult, etc. Ultimately, we surrendered to the fact that God can take care of all those concerns, and He has promised to do so.  His timing is far superior to ours.  We are acknowledging with our actions that the gift of life is His to give, and His to take.  We are acknowledging that the Lord opens and closes the womb, and we are to receive with joy any life He places in our hands.  And who knows…maybe one day the life He gives to us will come from adoption.

If we take Scripture at face value, then we have to acknowledge that children are a blessing from the Lord.  So, why would we not receive such blessings eagerly?

“But we’re open to children.”  This is the phrasing I often hear.  Dr. Mohler has addressed this topic a few times on his radio program, and the phrasing I have heard him use on occasion is that we should be open to children, but we aren’t commanded to maximize our family size.  I’m going to break that down into two parts.

Being open to children:  what does that mean?  How open are you to children when you are trying to prevent them?  I’m open to receiving a gift from a friend, but I’m going to avoid that friend to prevent her from giving me that gift.  How does that make any sense?

I also find it interesting that the solution to avoiding pregnancy is always some outside, invasive method, rather than exercising self-control around the time a woman is most likely to conceive, but I digress.

The ‘maximizing family size’ argument is interesting to me.  I agree with Dr. Mohler that this isn’t commanded, but I disagree with the conclusion he reaches from this.  I think there is a difference between seeking to maximize your family size, and trusting the Lord to determine your family size.  The difference is in your intent.  If you are seeking to maximize your family size, your focus is on a number.  You do things to increase the likelihood of getting pregnant more often.  For example, someone who was really trying to maximize family size would wean early, or even formula feed to allow herself to get pregnant sooner.  I have yet to read of someone doing such a thing, and would think it absurd if anyone did.  Trusting God in this area means saying, with words and with actions, ‘we will live to the best of our ability in following the Lord, and as He so chooses, we will welcome any children given to us.’  The preoccupation isn’t on having more children, although there is often a desire for more that stems out of a recognition of their blessing.

How many Christian families do you know with 2-3 kids.  That’s an average size family these days.  Truthfully, I am often saddened when I see young couples calling it quits after 2.  Is this really a biblical perspective on children.  Can one honestly say, ‘I love children, but I don’t want more than 2.’  I don’t understand this.

Voddie Baucham speaks on this topic, and says that the mantra in many Christian circles is ‘a girl for me and a boy for you, and praise the Lord we’re finally though.’  And he says that there is an unwritten rule that if your first two children are the same sex, then you are allows to try, one more time, to get your boy/girl.  If you look around, you realize that this is largely true, whether it is verbally acknowledged or not.

I have gotten many comments by strangers on my kids.  When they see the youngest is a boy, after having two girls, they say, ‘oh good, you got your boy. You can be done now.’  Oh, how my heart breaks each time I hear this.  I shouldn’t be surprised by such worldly thinking in the world, but what about in the church?

I don’t pretend to know all the answers for every couple.  I know there are fertility issues, where some folks would love another child, but have been unable to conceived.  Maybe there are health issues that make another pregnancy a danger.  I am not speaking to any specific circumstance.  I am calling out the Christian community, at large, with a challenge to purposefully, and intentionally make decisions in this area of life.  Not to just fall instep with the culture by default, but to test your thinking by the Word of God – and nothing else.  Is your perspective of children truly a biblical one?  Or is it a humanistic one? Are you walking by faith, trusting God?  Or are you holding on to this area of life, refusing to turn it over to the Lord, based on fear or outright rebellion?  Could you back up your decisions with Scripture?  Or are you allowing the American Dream to select things and money over precious little ones?

This is between you, your spouse, and your Lord.  Don’t wait until your 55 to realize that you have forfeited tremendous blessings for that Disney vacation, or that second car.  If you wouldn’t trade in the children you now have for any of those things, why are you trading in children not yet given to your care, for those same things?  Food for thought.

My 4-year-old has this horrible habit of talking back to her Papi and me.  When we tell her to do something, we often get a reflex, smart answer back.  Even when she goes on to obey, her mouth reveals whats in her heart, and it ain’t pretty.  But where in the world does she get that??

I have 2 answers…and the second answer I don’t like so much.

Firstly, she gets it from her sin nature.  Her ‘exceedingly wicked’ heart is prone to disrespect, not respect.  In many regards, that’s the easy answer, because the other answer is, she gets it from me.

The other night at dinner my husband made a comment.  For the life of me, I cannot remember exactly what was said, or what the actual topic was, but for a point of illustration, I’ll create a scenario that could easily have occurred.  Warning, this ain’t gonna be pretty.

I was refilling Annabella’s plate, and hubby says, ‘don’t give her too many potatoes, it hurts her belly.’  My mouth quietly spews out, ‘no it doesn’t, as I serve her some more food, trying to avoiding picking up a potato.

As soon as those words came out of my mouth I thought to myself, ‘where did that come from??’  It was a total reflex.  I didn’t think up this disrespectful response.  I wasn’t plotting a way to cut him down.  No, the words came out before I really even thought about it.  It was a sad realization that my heart response to my husbands loving direction was not gratitude and submission, but rebellion and disrespect.

This wasn’t the first time something like this has happened either.  But thankfully I am starting to recognize these occurences more quickly, and it is a somewhat rare occurrence (I think.  Maybe I ought to ask hubby).

As soon as these words came out, I also thought, ah, no wonder why Abigail does that.  I could have said, ‘okay.’  I could have said nothing.  Instead I answered back smartly, showing a lack of respect for my husband.  I communicated with those few words, in front of my children, that I know more than him, and that his opinion does not count and does not deserve respect.

How in the world is Abigail going to learn proper respect for her Papi when she sees the opposite modeled by her Mami?

The heart issue isn’t going away.  Her heart is exceedingly wicked, and we will be addressing her innate sinfulness for quite a while.  But I do not need to complicate the matter by offering up a poor example.

Learning to show respect for others, starting with our Papi, begins with me.

It happened AGAIN!  An explosion the size of St. Helen’s, at least in the eyes of my kids.  Mommy has erupted, once again. And even as the words were pouring out of my mouth, my brain kept saying, ‘SHUT UP SHUT UP’, but I was on auto-pilot. I just couldn’t seem to grab ’em fast enough.  And the volume level, ugh.  I can out shout all three of my kids any day.  Oh, and the guilt, as I see there little faces contort, as I vented with words that cut down.  Why is it that the ones I love the most are so often the targets of my little tirades?  There was nothing edifying, nothing encouraging.  I was not building them up, by any stretch of the imagination.  I cut down, and did so with precision.

And what was the source of such an explosion?  Did one child throw the other down the stairs?  Did someone break a window?  Hurl a plate across the room?  No, the only one out of control one here was the adult.  How ironic is that?  And what was so horrible that cause such an eruption?  Inconvenience.

When I boil it down, when I remove all the excuses, peel through the layers of pride that want to justify, the big offense that led to a very ugly episode was being inconvenienced.  How sad is that?

I was sitting at my kitchen table, with my laptop, working on the budget and trying to figure out some new budgeting software. Work that was important.  Work that needed to be done.  At least (so I tried to tell myself, as if it makes any difference), I wasn’t playing snood, or visiting Facebook, or some other non-important activity, at least not this time.  No, I was doing essential work!  Making sure there is money in the bank to pay our rent at the end of the month is kinda important kids, can’t you see that momma is busy?

Well then, they must have been acting like little monsters.  I mean, surely they were climbing up the walls, throwing things across the room, something totally and utterly out of control, no?

But no, they were just being kids, and at that moment I didn’t want normal kids, I wanted mutant kids, who acquiesced to their Mama’s unreasonableness.  Who could read my mind, and see that I was already growing in frustration with the software, and just knew, by some amazing toddler intuition, to sit quietly, don’t move, don’t talk.  But, ah, they just wouldn’t comply.

So I did what any insane, outta control, depraved mother would do…I screamed.  Not only to them collectively as a group, but to each individually as well.

I wish  I could say that this has never happened before, but my kids would surely correct me.  Thankfully, they are the first to forgive me when I apologize and ask for forgiveness.  Thankfully they are quick to forgive, and do not keep count of wrongs.  Thankfully, my temper today is much subdued from 5 years ago, for my sake and theirs.  Thankfully, God is sanctifying me, even in this area, and uses some ugly episodes to remind me that I cannot do this ‘mom-thing’ in my own power, because today was a display of what my own power looks like.

Thankfully, today, I learned that sometimes I need to simply put it down and walk away.  The computer, the phone, even a book.  Yes, important work needs to get done, but does it need to get done RIGHT NOW?   Usually, the answer is no.  I may want it to get done now, but often it can wait.  It will be there later, or tomorrow.  self-sacrifice and truly loving these babes means not always doing just what I want, but doing what is best.  There will be a time when what is best does mean sending them off to play so that I can finish the task at hand.  But I suspect, after an honest evaluation, those are the rare exceptions.

Cleaning and scrubbing will wait ’till tomorrow, but children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs! Dust go to sleep! I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep. – Ruth Hamilton

We live in a world where the ‘best’ advice given to both young and old is to ‘follow your heart.’  It sounds pretty good.  It implies that one has the ability to decide their future, and live their dreams, whatever those dreams may be.  There are all sorts of errors in this thinking, in addition to harmful consequences, but I’m going to zero in on one particular aspect today.

‘Following your heart’ may lead you into a marriage that is not wise, and may lead you to divorce later on as you, ‘fall out of love,’ and ‘follow your heart’ to another woman/man, a different life direction, etc.

‘Following your heart’ may lead you into fornication because, after all, ‘we love each other.’

Following a heart that lusts after money, possessions or worldly importance, may lead a dad to become a workaholic, essentially abandoning his family, or a mother in abdicating her primary work as mom, not out of extreme financial necessity, but so that we can keep this house, both car, have good vacations, etc.

When we were expecting our first child, both my husband and I made a very conscious decision for me to leave work, and we accepted the consequences that came from that decision.  Those consequences included short selling our dream home (which was unwisely purchased to start), downsizing to 1 car, moving back to NY for better job opportunities for my husband, living in a 1 br apartment with 2 children, and amputating many of the luxuries of life.  Don’t get me wrong, we still made some stupid financial decisions after that, but we saw the importance of mom being fully mom, and made the necessary sacrifices to make that happen.

There have been a handful of moments when I have thought, ‘what in the world am I doing here?’ and thought about to lure of going out and getting a ‘real job,’ that produced real money and real recognition.

Last year I was offered a coaching position at my old middle school.  It seemed like a good opportunity to bring in some additional income, the season was short (2 months), and the timing worked well with my husband getting off work much earlier than most jobs, the kids would only be babysat for a relatively short period of time.  And, of course, it would be tons of fun.

The kids were watched by friends twice a week, my husband had off once a week, and I took them with me the other two days.  It worked well.  Until…

Towards the very end of the season, I was informed that I could not have them with me at the field because of liability issues.  We made it through the last week of practices, but knew that the decision to come back next season would take more thought.  We hardly ever leave our kids with a babysitter, and the thought of having them watched 4 days a week for two months straight was not appealing, no matter what the financial benefit.

I recently sent an email to the Athletic Director sharing our predicament (which he already knew) and asked if starting practices a bit later was an option, because by then my husband would be done with work.  If that wasn’t acceptable, I regretfully told him that I would not be able to serve as his coach this year.

His reply was gracious, but indicated that starting practices later was a problem, and explained why.  So I had a decision to make: stick to the convictions previously set, or give in, and compromise.  For a moment, my desire for worldly importance colored my thinking.  For a moment, ‘getting rid of the kids’ so that I could coach became an option.  For a moment, prioritizing the training of these children was less important than my desire for self-importance.  Had I followed my heart, I likely would have compromised.  Thankfully, I have learned that I need to lead my own heart.

Also thankfully, there was a third option, which took care of my concerns, and also came with a $1000 pay raise!

Over the past 10 years I have made many attempts to ‘get back in shape.’  Sometimes I’d lose motivation, (okay, often) and then the times that I did have the motivation, just as I started getting into a routine, I’d get sick, or get shin splints.  By the time I recovered, I had given up.  Then we’d start all over again at some point in the future.

In determining to ‘get in shape’ one more time, I’ve been checking out various fitness blogs and websites.  The best advice I have seen on starting to run isn’t the – ‘run 1 minute, walk 4 minutes’ (which always left me with shin splints), but rather, ‘run until you are tired, walk until you are bored.’  BRILLIANT.  I can do that.

Part of my problem, which always led to the shin-splints, or my body shutting down, and getting sick, is trying to push myself too hard to fast.  I used to be in tip-top shape, so the thought of walking almost feels like an insult.  My arrogance tells me that I’m not a walker, I’m a runner, so lets just get on it.  But sometimes, you just have to walk.

I just got back from a run/walk (and it felt great).  I didn’t time myself, I didn’t coordinate how much I’d run, then how much I’d walk.  No stop watch was invited.  I simply ran until I got tired, and walked until I got bored, but most importantly, I kept moving forward.  I’ve come to realize that I don’t always need to be in a full sprint, but I do need to be moving forward.

The same is true in my spiritual life.  When I repented and trusted Christ over 7 years ago, I was in a full out sprint.  I couldn’t devour the Scriptures fast enough.  There weren’t enough hours in the day to read.  I was learning so much.  About a year in, I was at a very steady, but fast stride.  I continued to read tons, and listen to sermons during just about every available moment.  Then…I had kids…

I began to stumble.  My consistency fell.  I grew frustrated with not being able to read as much as I used to.  Not having an hour or more to sit with my Bible, and a commentary, and a concordance, and really do in-depth studying.  In my frustration, I stopped, for a while.  I checked out intellectually.  It might have been a week without reading my Bible, maybe even longer at times.  I knew I should, but I couldn’t run as fast as I wanted, so I decided not to run at all.  Then when I would pick up my Bible again, I wouldn’t feel connected to God (I wonder why?), so I’d avoid the Bible again.

I have come to understand that there are seasons of life, and that’s okay, as long as we keep moving forward.  Sometimes all we can do is walk, or even crawl, but we must keep moving forward.

Sprinting has its benefits, but so does walking.

I find the same temptations today, with teaching my kids.  I did not grow up in a Christian home, and I want for them the teaching and training in godliness that I did not receive.  I want them to memorize passages, know catechisms, and be able to recite the names of the apostles and of Jacobs’ sons.  All good goals, but maybe I need to be content with a slightly slower pace.  Maybe it’s okay if they are 5 years old before they can recite the entire book of Romans.

So, I am giving myself permission top walk…in life and in faith.

There are many things that I know intellectually, but have a hard time translating into practical, everyday life.  This is one of those truths…my kids are not just like me, and that is okay, even a good thing.  Sure, they look like me; I’ve been told that my oldest is a spitting image of me at that age.  My middle child has my stubbornness, God bless her.  And my youngest is cute like me – so says my husband (I think we need to get his eyes checked).  There is some resemblance, but at their core, at who they are, their personality, their likes and dislikes, they are not a carbon copy of me.  When I ponder this, I say, ‘praise the Lord for that!!” but when caught up in our daily routine, I often think that life would be easier if they were just like me.

I have a friend who is great at accepting, loving and encouraging the differences in her children.  It may be the 20+ years of parenting she has under her belt, but I think it’s more than that.  Maybe its part of her innate personality, I don’t know.  What I do know is that I am often in awe of this, and seek to emulate it.

My kids have their quirks, like we all do.  They also have their sin propensities.  My difficult task is separating the two.  It’s tempting to look at the traits that bug me, and decide that it’s a sin issue that needs dealing with. Intellectually, I know this is wrong.  Intellectually I know this will likely provoke them to wrath and create strife and bitterness, if not today, certainly down the road.  The days would certainly go smoother is everyone was like me, but then where would the challenge be?

My kids are amazing people.  They are fun and funny.  The are quirky and I love to watch them in action.  I love to watch them when they are playing together, and when they enter their own, personal fantasy world.  It’s a blast to simply sit and gaze when they have no idea that there is an audience.  In these moments, I can look at my kids with admiration over the God who wonderfully and fearfully made them.

I look forward to watching my kids grow, and to see how there personalities, their likes and dislikes, play out in their lives as they mature.  I am eager to see how my middle child’s ability to effortlessly seek and destroy just about anything will play out in her future.  I am certain that there is some God ordained purpose for this – maybe she’ll be a tinkerer and an inventor.  I look at my oldest and her compassion, which can often go beyond what my introverted  personality is comfortable with.  Maybe she’ll become a missionary, bringing medical aid to others.  And I look at my son, his constant energy and overly physical play, and hope that  translates into a godly man who serves and protects his family.

Whatever their future holds, it is held in the hands of a good and loving God.  Keeping a longterm perspective can help with the here and now frustrations.  In the meantime, I think I just need to lighten up.

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