Reflections on life, marriage, and a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fleeting Moments

My friends and housemates in Oxford, Fall of 2002. Jane is the second young woman from the right. She was our only British roommate...the rest of us being guest-students from the U.S.

I received this heart-wrenching email last night:

Dear Friends,
I am passing on some very sad news because I think you would want to know. Jane's mother sent me the following email yesterday. We had some great times at Oxford, and Jane was a memorable part of them.

I hope you are all well, and I think about each one of you often.


February 25, 2006
It is with a very heavy heart that I want to tell you that Jane in her troubled torment decided to take her life last Sunday 19th February. She is free and flying. Life had become too difficult for her. We are having the funeral for her on Thursday 2nd March...This will celebrate her short life. She was a shooting star. We will be finding a positive way of remembering her in the future.

I am so sorry to bring this news to you.

My heart ached as I read this news. When I lived with Jane, I knew that she was in treatment for emotional difficulties. I didn't know the extent of her pain.

Four of the six in our little flat were Christians. Is there more we could have said to her? Some hope we could have given? Could we have shared Jesus with her a little more clearly? Did we fail in our attempts to minister to one who was hurting?

I know that nothing we could have done would have saved her. Only God can save people. But it's sobering, nonetheless, to look back and wonder if I presented a compelling picture of Christ to this sweet girl. I laughed with her. We talked. We lived together and went out places together. Did she know that my relationship with Christ is what makes my life worth living? Did she understand what He means to me? Did I ever clearly share with her the peace that she could find in Him? I'm afraid of what the answer is.

Our moments on earth are fleeting. Our moments to touch others and share the reason for the hope within us should not be taken for granted. Sometimes, all we have is a little while, and then that chance is gone forever. May I learn to shine His light brightly all the moments that I have.

Monday, February 27, 2006


We now have a washing machine!!!:o) No more trips to the laundromat! (We already had a dryer) Funny how such a little thing can make me SO happy!:o) We got it from my parents, who are purchasing a new one. It's twenty years old, but IT WASHES CLOTHES! Yay!

I have going washing-crazy today, washing things I've been putting off...shower curtains, rugs, blankets and comforters along with the regular clothing loads. I even washed all of my hand washables (that have been sitting on my closet floor for months) while I was at it. Needless to say, I'm feeling very productive and proud of myself;o)

In other good news, Micah's job situation (doing building inspection) is looking up. He's finally getting passed through his job training a little more quickly. Last week, he got the go-ahead on a type of job he's been training on for months! The fact that it was taking so long to get passed (due to the perpetual unavailability of the supervisor to meet with him) was becoming a real trial for us. Now that he's passed on more types of jobs, he has more work and better earning potential:o)

Thanks to everyone for the great discussions over the past several days! It's been good to try to think through these issues. Consequently, my mind has been buzzing lately with these and all the other things I've been thinking about, and I have lots of posts in my head that need to be let out! Hopefully very soon. Right now, I've got to start thinking about making dinner...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Buying Freedom with My Frugality

Micah and I are on a mission to "buckle down and tighten up" on our finances. We agree that we would rather have freedom from debt and from full-time employment for someone else (for me, and hopefully, eventually for him too) than things, things and more things. Things not only cost money to buy, they cost money to maintain. I don't want to fritter my life away just so I can have things. I'd rather, my LIFE!

Amy Dacyczyn writes:

Tightwaddery without creativity is deprivation. When there is a lack of resourcefulness, inventiveness, and innovation, thrift means doing without. When creativity combines with thrift you may be doing it without money, but you are not doing without.

We're not trying to go ultra-crazy here. We like nice things! We have no desire to subsist completely off of beans and rice and ramen noodles. I don't plan to try to find a way to re-use dryer lint. But with a little creativity and knowledge, we're already finding ways to get more with less!

We're starting with a complete financial evaluation. Here's what's come of that evaluation so far:
  1. We realized that for some unknown reason, neither one of us took the initiative to cancel an old internet service that has been charging us $13.00 a month, even though we haven't been using it for the past 5-6 months. Why??? I cancelled it this morning (after searching high and low to find their company's contact information. They don't make it easy on cancellers, I'll tell you that!)
  2. I called our car insurance company this morning to inform them that I'm not driving my car as much now since I'm working at home. (I had read that companies will often lower your premiums if there is a diminishment in how much you drive). Unfortunately, they did not lower my premiums. But they did inform me that if Micah and I both take an online defensive driving course (for a total cost of $40.00), that will reduce our premiums by about $80.00/6 months over a period of three years. So we can save $440.00 over three years by taking the course. It is beneficial to call up your insurance company and inquire about any discounts you may be missing on your premiums!
  3. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we are planning to switch to flourescent lightbulbs to save on energy costs. We can buy flourescent bulbs at $1.59 apiece at Sam's. In order to give out the same light that a traditional 60-watt bulb would give, a flourescent lightbulb only requires about 13 watts of electricity. Furthermore, they last 5-7 years (with 3-4 hrs of usage/day). Flourescent bulbs seem to have come a long way in the past few years. It claims on the packaging that they are quiet and don't "flicker" when you turn them on.
  4. I'm also doing my part to save energy costs during the day by only turning on lights when really necessary. Thankfully, we get a decent amount of sunlight in most of our rooms if I just open the blinds!
  5. I'm completely studying into how I can save on groceries and still have good meals. Like I said, we're not into ramen noodles! I'll try to do a separate post on this sometime soon, as it's a big topic.
  6. I'm reading books such as The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn, and anything else I could find at my local library about frugality. Amy's book is HUGE (over 900 pages!) and looks like a telephone book. It will take me a while to get through that one! But already I've found some great inspiration and ideas.
  7. We're re-evaluating our budget and vowing to stick with it more closely.

If anyone's interested (and even if they're not, because this is my blog;o) I'll share ideas as I learn more about living frugally--and still living well!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

OK...THIS explains it

Curiosity about the fear some seem to have concerning Christianity has propelled me to do a bit of research trying to discover what our lefty friends seem so wadded up about. I think I've uncovered it. They have a special name for it (one I wasn't familiar with, beyond hearing foggy references, until today): Dominionism.

Dominionism is our secret evil plot to take over the government and the world. (Just in case you guys aren't up on the plan, because, like me, you weren't even aware that you were part of this movement...;o)

Wikipedia gives us the scoop. Here are a few quotes:

Dominionism is a term used by some social scientists and critics to describe a trend in Protestant Christian evangelicalism and fundamentalism that encourages political participation in civic society by Christians through appeals to their religious beliefs. Politically active conservative Christians rarely use the term dominionism as a self-description; many feel it is a loaded or pejorative term. Use of the term is primarily limited to secular and leftist critics of the Christian Right. The term emerged in relation to the Christian Right in the mid-1990s, but became more widely known due in large part to the U.S. presidential election, 2004 where the media attributed Republican wins to "Evangelical" voters in "Red states" who voted for "moral values". Some poll analysts call this claim oversimplistic. It has been claimed to be a kind of Triumphalism.

Aha! So "Dominionists" are Christians who practice civic participation! That's scary. But wait...there's more...

The dominionist interpretation sees adherents as heeding a command from God to all mankind to subject the world to the rule of the Word of God. The terminology of dominionism, and the broad concept of the trend described by critics, has been taken from the Bible's text in Genesis 1:26
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl
of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping
thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Christians typically interpret this verse as meaning that God gave humankind responsibility over the Earth, but anti-Dominionist critics commonly point to this passage as a paradigm that influences Christian attitudes of Westernist domination over the Earth and everything in it.

Ok, let me see if I got this straight: I always thought Genesis 1:26 means that human beings are to be good stewards of the land and animals God has placed in our charge. But actually, the verse is a secret call to "Westernist Domination." I'm intrigued! (Maybe I should go claim my portion of the Bahamas right now...)

Some organizations and writers who are targeted with the label of "dominionism", disagree with the categorization of their beliefs as a political ideology. They admit that their Christian beliefs influence their vote but deny that they seek political domination. In fact, many so-called dominionsts see that voting one's moral convictions is entirely consistent with Democracy, and that criticizing Christians for doing so is hypocritical.

Mmmhmm. But that's not as much one's moral convictions...remaining consistent with Democracy, etc., etc. It would be much more interesting to be part of a Dominionist government overthrow!

But Critics such as Frederick Clarkson, the author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, frankly express their fear that, as this coalition of religious people grows, democracy and pluralism will be increasingly under attack. During the administration of George W. Bush, critics of the Dominionist idea have sometimes claimed the trend is representative of all Christians of a Republican or politically-conservative orientation. New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, for example, has equated the sermons of James Dobson to the rhetoric used in the former Yugoslavia to justify the slaughter of Muslims by Serbian Christians, and he has characterized federally-funded Christian charities as "parallel indoctrination systems."

See, all of us Christians are part of this together! You can't claim ignorance now!

According to the conservative Washington Times, some "liberal" critics of dominionism express "hostility toward Christian conservatives." [1].

I'm shocked.

Stanley Kurtz, in the conservative forum, National Review online, complained that discussion about Dominionism (at a conference in New York and in articles in Harper's Magazine) often linked average Christian evangelicals with extremism, such as views found at the fringes of the very small but influential movement known as Christian Reconstructionism:
The notion that conservative Christians want to reinstitute slavery and rule by genocide is not just crazy, it’s downright dangerous. The most disturbing part of the Harper’s cover story (the one by Chris Hedges) was the attempt to link Christian conservatives with Hitler and fascism. Once we acknowledge the similarity between conservative Christians and fascists, Hedges appears to suggest, we can confront Christian evil by setting aside 'the old polite rules of democracy.' So wild conspiracy theories and visions of genocide are really excuses for the Left to disregard the rules of democracy and defeat conservative Christians — by any means necessary. [2]

Oh, so we would get our own personal slaves too? (I'll have to think about whether I want one or not. Maybe just to clean the bathroom.)

One conference speaker criticized by Kurtz is Katherine Yurica, who has written about the rise of Dominionism as a theocratic tendency in the Christian Right.[3][4] Yurica responded to Kurtz and pointed out that she has not used the term "Christian Fascism" in her writings.[5] Yurica has noted fascistic tendencies in Christian Right Dominionism, but she does not consider the Christian Right to be "Christian."

Christian conservatives, however, are not the only people who suggest that some criticism of dominionism is hyperbolic. Even some progressive researchers warn of the tendency. For example, two progressive websites that challenge the Christian Right but urge respectful rhetoric are Talk to Action and Campaign to Defend the Constitution.

Respectful rhetoric is good. But maybe they shouldn't naively take such a light tone with us, being evil Dominionists and all...


Are Christians scary? I was in a blog-skipping mood last night and ended up transfixed to my computer at 2:00am pondering this question.

It seems there is a significant collection of people out there who honestly think we're monsters. Call me naive, but I'm surprised by this. I'm resigned to being thought of as "weird" because of my beliefs. I expect to be made fun of or considered "out of touch" or even ignorant. But viscerally frightening? Why this paranoia?

I rack my brain, trying to dredge up some examples from history or current times where significant numbers of sincere, practicing Christians (not just "cultural Christians" as in "America is a Christian nation") have perpetrated mass terror on their societies or blown up buildings. Where have we incited violence against innocent people, or threatened our non-believing friends? Do we steal from our neighbors? Do we rape people? Do we torch people's homes or beat people up because they disagree with our beliefs?

The particular individuals we apparently frighten point to obscure or fringe-clinging folks as examples of "the scary Christian". They theorize (or fantasize) about Christianity's mad methods and conspiracies to "take over the world and impose 'Christian martial law' on everybody else." (Oh yes...that would be terrible for society, by the way! Can you imagine a place where everyone had to "love one another as Christ first loved us"?)

Hmm...I've just had an epiphany! Maybe this phenomenon of Christian-fear is the "Bush thing" again. (Though I am not a total fan of everything Bush does, I will never comprehend the utter hatred and fear he incures from some.) But logically, that can't account for all of it. Bush has never indicated any desire to punish or persecute or exile people who don't practice his beliefs. He does consult his own convictions in his decision-making...but isn't that what's expected of the President? Is the President to govern apart from the conclusions his thinking and his faith lead him to? No...while people may or may not agree with or like Bush...he cannot be the sole reason for their fear of Christians as a whole.

A few more rabbit trails I've unsuccessfully followed to resolve this mystery in my own mind:

1. Can the fear stem from some Christian's declarations that they wish to reform or even "take over" the culture? No...I don't see it. Islam says the same thing and doesn't incure the same fear from the people who fear us. Some fractions of Islam even practice violence to accomplish their goals, and the "tolerant" liberal crowd (from whence comes much of the fear of Christians), for all intents and purposes, gives them a pass. Furthermore, most groups of people claim to want to influence their cultures. We all say things like this all the time...yes, even the "tolerants."

2. Do they believe that people such as Pat Robertson give us marching orders and we follow? (My suspicion is that Pat's "followers" include more gray-haired little grandmas than trained killers ready to carry out political assassinations, but then, I don't know everything!)

3. Are we feared because we're so shrewd and cunning that we will probably succeed at carrying out our evil plots? No...they claim to think of us as ignorant...simple-mindedly, blindly following the mandates of ancient superstitious texts. Sheep may be laughed at, but not feared.

What then?

Christ said "All men will hate you because of me". I always took this to mean that I would be mocked and ridiculed as His follower. But perhaps hate also translates to a fear reaction. People often hate what they cannot control, ever noticed that? Perhaps they see in us people who--while disagreeing with many of their fundamental beliefs--will not be wavered from our own beliefs. We won't water down our beliefs in order to endorse--for tolerance' sake--other opposing views. (Well, that only makes sense: people are either agnostic or logically conflicted...NOBODY can be multi-viewpoint and still maintain congruity within their spiritual and thought-life...but that's another discussion!)

I guess all we can do is live life according to our faith, and leave the fact that we might be hated, feared or ridiculed in God's hands. I'd hate to think what I'd have to become to be loved and revered by the world!

P.S. I'm not trying to start an argument about any of these points. I'm simply sharing a bit of my thought life here, because I wondered if it might resonate with or be helpful to other Christians who might have wondered on or considered these things too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Are you a Crunchy Con?

I listened to Rod Dreher, author of the book Crunchy Cons, on the Michael Medved program this afternoon while I cleaned my kitchen. While I didn't agree with everything he said (for instance, I'm not against the death penalty and while I don't like big box stores, I do shop there to save money, etc.), I was fascinated by the topic. I've always felt that the liberal conception of conservatives as fat, greedy, gas-guzzling, french-fry chomping, anti-intellectual bores didn't quite fit many of the people I know! In fact, I feel quite at home at a Barnes & Noble or Whole Foods store, am currently considering joining a produce co-op, like to make my own granola and bread from whole wheat that I grind myself, plan to homeschool any future children, and if my husband and I ever get our dream of building a house out in the country, we will be checking into solar power:o)

Crunchy Cons (picking up organic vegetables in your National Review tote bag)
Crunchy Con Manifesto


Read this post by Carmon, on all the things women can accomplish with their freedom to be at home!

Price Comparison: Sam's vs. Walmart

We did a bit of sleuthing over the weekend: Is it worth it for us to get a Sam's membership?

Short answer:

For We cannot buy perishables and many other "bulk items" at Sam's, because we cannot eat that much...nor do we have the room to store everything! But it WOULD be worthwhile for us to visit a few times a year (with my mom, who has a membership) and stock up on certain items!

For large families...probably, yes! If you were able to do most of your shopping there and finish off the large quantities of food offered more quickly, you could probably save a lot! You would only have to save about $4.00/month to break even.

For my purposes, I only compared items that we either a: Use a lot of, b: I can freeze, or c: I can store (i.e., it would do OK out in our garage, because that's really the only place where I can fit excessive amounts of things!).

Sam's Best Deals:

Sam's: Ground beef (90% lean) at $1.98/lb
Walmart: Ground beef (93% lean) at $2.98/lb

Sam's: Shredded mozzarella cheese (5 lb bag) at $1.75/lb
Walmart: Shredded mozzarella cheese (2 lb bag) at $2.93/lb

Sam's: Butter (4-16oz pkgs) at $1.64/pkg
Walmart: Butter at $2.24/pkg

Sam's: Honey (5 lb bottle) at $1.33/lb
Walmart: Honey (3 lb bottle) at $2.18/lb

Sam's: Pure Vanilla Extract (16 oz) at 0.43/oz
Walmart: Pure Vanilla Extract (2 oz) at $1.96/oz

Sam's: Walnuts (3 lb bag) at $3.29/lb
Walmart: Walnuts at $4.28/lb

Sam's: Pecans (2 lb bag) at $5.86/lb
Walmart: Pecans at $8.12/lb

Sam's: Georgia Pacific copy paper (2500 sheets) at $14.86
Walmart: Georgia Pacific copy paper (2500 sheets) at $19.35
We go through a lot of this! :op

Sam's: GE Softwhite60 flourescent lightbulbs (pkg of 8) at $1.59/bulb
Walmart: GE Softwhite60 flourescent lightbulbs (pkg of 3) at $2.51/bulb
We are planning to start using flourescent lightbulbs to save on energy costs

Sam's: Always feminine pads (72 ct) at $8.08
Walmart: Always feminine pads (36 ct x 2 = 72 ct) at $9.88 total

Other: Sam's has fresh flowers at good costs. It's a great place to buy large quantities of flowers for special events, such as a wedding! My parents and others have gotten excellent deals on clothing, books, and other items that come and go at Sam's. Their stock is constantly changing, so you have to need the right thing at the right time!

Sam's Not-So-Good Deals (Walmart was about the same or better):

Flour, sugar, baking mix, rice, pasta and other low-cost staple items are not generally cheaper at Sam's.

I found it cheaper or about the same to purchase most generic canned goods at Walmart, than the namebrands common at Sam's.

Paper goods (toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, etc.) are not generally cheaper at Sam's. Neither are most cleaning products and detergents. (In fact, Walmart carries most of these items in bulk sizes as well).

Monday, February 20, 2006

Open Embrace

So - Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception by Sam and Bethany Torode arrived in my mailbox on Saturday, and I had it finished by bedtime that night! (Just so that doesn't seem overly impressive--or overly nutty, depending on your perspective--it is a rather short book. Slightly over one hundred not-quite-full-sized pages!) Micah and I read it together, but we stretched it over two-days time for his benefit. He doesn't devour books the way I do; he sensibly eats them in smaller bites. So I finished it alone on Saturday (because--alas--I cannot help myself), and I finished it again with him the next day:o).

I thought I'd give a little run-down of the book for the few of you who might be interested in our study of this topic...

The book is well-written and full of interesting research. It's short, but in no way fluffy! It includes such interesting tidbits as:
-Many cultures in both Old and New Testement times practiced contraception and abortion. This issue is not unique to our times!
-Church leaders throughout the past 2000 years, up until the early to mid-twentieth century, have been decidedly opposed to both contraception and abortion. Examples are given.
-Sam Torode makes a convincing argument linking cultural views about contraception to abortion. He shows how the same mentality leads to both.
-The Torodes gently suggest that perhaps we, as Christians, have been deceived or have simply ignored the physical, relational and spiritual implications of using contraception.

The Torodes state that chemical contraceptives are harmful (see my last post). As anyone who has read my other posts here and here on chemical contraceptives knows, I agree strongly with that position. It is not biblically right to knowingly pump chemicals into our bodies that can harm both ourselves and our potential children.

Mr. and Mrs. Torode also believe that barrier forms of birth control are not God's ideal (Please forgive the long quotes--I just don't know if I can do justice to their thoughts by paraphrasing:o):

We've read defenses of contraception from several Christian authors. All agree that when it comes to birth control, it's our intentions that matter, not necessarily our actions. Contraceptives, they say, are tools that can be used for good or ill. For example, one such author condemns the abuse of contraception to "facilitate promiscuity" but says that the use of contraception by married Christians "can be a great blessing" because "it permits them time to grow in greater love and commitment at the beginning of marriage." By severing the biological link between s*x and procreation, these authors assert, contraception can nurture the spiritual companionship of the spouses.

Underlying these arguments is the assumption that the "spiritual" aspects of s*x are more important than, and can be enjoyed apart from, the "merely physical," biological aspect of fertility. The Bible, however, speaks of man as a unity of matter and spirit, a "living soul"--not a holy soul trapped in an evil body, as the ancient heresy of Gnosticism taught. Because man is a unity of soul and body, one can't elevate the soul by subverting the body. [...]

Uniting the male and female bodies in love says something beautiful; it speaks of the union of Christ and the Church. Lovemaking should always be life-giving, even when it does not generate new life in the form of a child. The procreative partnership of a husband and wife goes far beyond the conception of children. Human s*xual desire is not limited to the times we are fertile--we were designed to express our love s*xually even when conception is impossible. But while s*x is not solely for conception, it is not our place to deliberately separate s*x from its procreative aspect. [...]

Christian proponents of contraception often assert that while a marriage on the whole should be open to children, each intimate act need not be. What if it was suggested that while a marriage on the whole should be monogamous, each intimate act need not reflect that? Because s*x is the consummation, the summing up, of marriage, each intimate act is a picture of the marriage as a whole. if marriage is about completely giving yourself to your spouse, then s*x should embody that truth. The issue is not whether each intimate act is able to result in conception. As we noted earlier, a woman is infertile for most of her cycle, and a couple may be infertile for extended periods of time or even indefinitely. This does not mean that intercourse during these times is closed to children in the way that contraception, by placing a barrier between s*x and procreation, is closed to children.

Open Embrace also includes some thought-provoking and heart-warming musings (especially a few of the portions written by Mrs. Torode) on the blessings and growth experienced by opening our lives and hearts to the ones God gives us to care for.
Christians should have an entirely different view of life's purpose than the surrounding culture. Ours is a life of sacrifice, to be molded after Christ's. [...] Our lives are to be poured out for others in love. [...] God does have a different plan for every person. Some marry young, some marry older, and some never marry at all...but whether single or married, barren or fertile, God wants us to spend our lives loving others. These include babies, children, friends, strangers, the sick, the elderly, family, and foreigners.
What else in life is worthy of our devotion besides the nurture and care of our families and others in our sphere of influence? How else will we truly know Christ, but that we love and serve others? Jesus said, "that which you did for the least of these, you did for me."

Despite their cautions against other methods of birth control, Mr. and Mrs. Torode endorse natural family planning, because "God's timing is different for every couple, and some have legitimate reasons for postponing children immediately after marriage." They also believe that NFP is a legitimate means of spacing children. They do not think of NFP ("informed abstinence") as birth control, because it "respects the female fertility cycle and preserves the integrity and wholeness of each s*x act. The one-flesh union is neither diminished nor compromised."

The Torodes don't prescribe that couples completely take the reigns off the number of children they conceive, they simply caution against "always abstaining during the fertile times and avoiding children for selfish reasons."
We don't make any recommendations about family size. How many children a particular family can support is a matter between each couple and God. Circumstances vary widely; some couples will be called to larger families, others to smaller. That said, we should try to remain open and generous, careful to discern between God's voice and what our culture tells us about the "ideal" family size.
I was disappointed that this book does not adequately discuss NFP in light of 1 Corinthians 7:5, which cautions couples to only abstain "by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer." The Torodes simply mention this verse in passing as "Paul's admonition to those who take abstinence within marriage to an extreme." They do not address whether NFP itself might be in violation of this verse.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this book and pondering the thoughts shared by the Torodes. I cannot discuss all of them here, because this post is already way too long! But I would encourage others who are interested in studying birth control from a biblical perspective to consider this book as one interpretation of God's Word on this topic.

The Pill Controversy Amongst Christians

The medical literature describing how the Pill and other hormonal contraceptives can cause abortions is widely available. Even so, many pro-life Christians still use the Pill, and many pro-life pastors still recommend it to young couples. Why is this?

First, some Christians believe that life begins at implantation, not conception, and that drugs and devices that prevent implantation are thus morally acceptable. This position seems problematic for several reasons. Scientifically, to say that life begins at implantation, or any other point after conception, is to draw an arbitrary line. A fertilized egg undergoes no substantial change upon implantation, just as a fetus undergoes no substantial change upon birth. After conception, the progression from embryo to fetus to child to adult is continuous, and all the genetic information necessary for development is contained in the fertilized egg. Moreover, there is no biblical evidence to support the notion that God breathes the soul into the body at some point between conception and birth. A newly fertilized egg is a human body, however small, and wherever there is a living human body, there must be a soul. As the Epistle of St. James states, "the body without the spirit is dead" (2:26). [...]

Second, many pro-life Christians, while believing that life begins at conception, have been misled by confusing terminology used in the scientific literature on contraceptives. In 1976, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists redefined pregnancy as beginning at the successful implantation of a fertilized egg. Under this definition, abortifacient drugs that prevent implantation are labeled as contraceptives. [...]

Third, some Protestant leaders, despite having heard the evidence, choose to believe that the Pill does not prevent implantation. [...]

Is there really a great "controversy" as to whether hormonal contraceptives thin the endometrium, making it hostile to implantation? Outside of Christian circles, I haven't found any. Bethany and I searched the Internet and scoured the shelves of the local Barnes & Noble, reading everything we could find on the Pill, checking the authoritative pharmaceutical guides (including the Physicians Desk Reference), peer-reviewed medical journals, and consumer health organizations. Everywhere we looked, we found the same conclusion: All forms of the Pill thin the uterine lining to prevent implantation.

We must be sensitive on this point because many Christian women use the Pill, and many Christian doctors prescribe it. I am not calling their character into question. But when pre-born children are at stake, how can we ignore the overwhelming consensus in the pharmeceutical literature about how the Pill works? In order to claim that the Pill never acts as an abortifacient, one has to discredit all of the sources that doctors and patients normally rely on for their pharmaceutical information. One must believe that these authorities actually want us to think abortions are taking place when they aren't, something they have no vested interest in doing because most don't believe a fertilized egg is a person. Faced with this evidence, why take the risk?

~Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception

Savings Tip: Hobby Lobby

Never buy anything full-price at Hobby Lobby! If you sign up for their weekly email newsletter, they will send you a new 40% discount coupon for one regularly-priced item EACH week!

(Now, the trick is to discipline myself to resist going buy-crazy after they get me in the store...)

God fixed our car for $20

I mentioned earlier that our second car was broken and has been out of commission for the last several weeks! We figured it was the breaks, because it made a horrible screeching sound when we tried to drive it. We had no idea how much money it would take to fix, but I was envisioning hundreds of dollars. (I tend the think of the worst, because when our cars break, it usually seems to be something very bad and expensive! And our second car, the civic, unfortunately has a terrible history!)

Well, this time, God surprised us with a very affordable solution! Our next door neighbors (a couple we don't yet know very well at all) came to us, said they noticed that we hadn't been driving our one car recently, and offered for the husband to look at it for us. Apparently, he's a professionally trained mechanic. Not only did he figure out what was wrong right away (the break pads needed replaced, and a few parts needed oiled), he took Micah to one of the mechanic shops he manages and got Micah his employee discount on the parts. He then installed them for us for free. Total cost: $20.00. We are so thankful for God's provision, and our neighbors' generosity!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Our Wedding #3

One of the tables in the reception. We had a buffet line with desserts and hors d'oeuvres. My family did all the decorating. They worked so hard and did a great job!

Of course...the cake!

In our "escape car" ;o)

I would like to invite others to share their wedding pictures on their blogs too! Don't make me be the only one:o) If you post your wedding pictures, let the rest of us know so we can come ooh and ahh!

Our Wedding #2

Just after the ceremony

We're married! (I remember this like's such a weird feeling knowing you're finally, actually married! It doesn't seem real.

Our Wedding #1

OK...for those of you who requested to see these...and also in honor of the fact that today is Micah's and my official "half anniversary" (You half birthdays? Today makes exactly 2 1/2 years since August 16, 2003:o): Here are some of our wedding pictures.

In trying to protect the privacy of our family and friends who may or may not want their pictures on the internet, I'm not posting any of our bridal party. We each had four attendents. The girls wore light blue dresses and carried pink roses. It was an evening ceremony, 7:30 pm.

Oh, and these aren't the fixed up versions of the pics, but they're all I have for now! (We weren't thrilled with our photographer's pictures, but thankfully my mother is a great photographer herself and is planning to pretty these up using photoshop at some point. I can't wait to see them when they're done!:o)

As bride and and groom

My Dad walks me down the aisle

My dress (it's bustled in this picture, which is why it sticks out a little bit funny! :o)

Blogs that link here

New column in my sidebar! If you link to me, place let me know and I'll be happy to add you to my list!

I'm going to be trying to add an email link in my sidebar as well, if I can figure out how to do it. I'm really such a technical ignoramus:op

Random question: Why does the blog post spell-checker cite "blog" as a misspelling?

In Erin's dream world...

There would be a library containing all available (worthwhile) books on these subjects:

Christianity/Biblical studies
Biblical family/marriage/parenting
Biblical womanhood
Homemaking and simple living
Home decorating and Do-it-yourself resources
Personal finance
Home business
Education in general; homeschooling in particular

Unfortunately, my local library (which I incidentally just returned from, hence the inspiration for this post)--though huge--has a noticible dearth of books in most of the subjects I just listed (Except, perhaps, history and cooking). Try looking up "Homemaking" in the library catalogue and you get:

Blondie gets married [web site] : comic strip drawings by Chic Young.
[Washington D.C.] : Library of Congress, 2000- 2000-

(What does that have to do with homemaking???)

Careers inside the world of homemaking and parenting / by Maryann Miller.
by Miller, Maryann, 1943-
New York : Rosen Pub. Group, 1998. 1998.

Looking up all the variations on that theme yield similiar results. Oh wait...I's one more to add to the treasure trove, catalogued under the keyword "homemaker":

Confessions of an organized homemaker : the secrets of uncluttering your home and taking control of your life / Deniece Schofield.
by Schofield, Deniece, 1947-
Cincinnati, Ohio : Betterway, c1994. c1994.

Woohoo! What a load of information to glean from!:op Most of the other subjects I listed above fare a little better than "homemaking", but still not great. The specific books I want to read (A very long list!) are nowhere to be found on my library shelves. It seems I am left with no choice but to continue adding to my own home library. My husband will be glad to know that we're going to have to go without food for a while so that I can support my reading habit!

Where Can I Opt Out?

Many Americans do not realize it, but fully 40 percent of all federal spending goes to just three programs--Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which account for about $1.1 trillion in a $2.7 trillion budget.

The problem is that these three already-mammoth and growing programs are slated to grow even faster in coming years as 77 million baby boomers start drawing benefits from them. Left alone, spending on the three big entitlements will more than double by 2015, and then really spike in the decades after that.

Mr. Riedl points out that without cuts in these three programs, future lawmakers will face three unsettling options: raise taxes until they are 60 percent--or $11,000 per household--higher than they are today, eliminate every other program in the budget by 2045, or watch the federal debt threaten the economy in a few decades. See rest of article.

My question is: where can I opt out? I promise not to request to take advantage of any of these programs, EVER, at any point in my life. I want to save, MYSELF, for my own retirement and healthcare. I even promise to help others, as I see fit, with my money. But I want NO part of these programs, and I certainly don't want to pour thousands of my family's hard-earned dollars into them year after year. I need that money to take of our family (In fact, we've been helping to fund medicaid this whole time when we couldn't even afford to buy our own health insurance!) and to help the needy in our own sphere of influence.

You can KEEP the thousands of dollars my husband and I have already given you for these programs over the past several years--we won't ever ask for any of it back, and we won't ask to draw social security or have our meds paid for when we're old--if you JUST LET US GET OUT OF THESE LOSING PROGRAMS NOW...ONCE AND FOR ALL!

Blogger Categories

Hi Erin,
I have a blogger blog as well, and I'd like to know how you were able to add categories. Do you mind posting a brief explanation of how this is possible in Blogger?

Sure, Emily! Blogger doesn't currently offer a categories feature, but some creative people have figured out some ways to use the Blogger search engine to generate categories for your blog. Here's a link that discusses how to generate Blogger categories automatically. I tried it, and it worked for me on NEW posts. However, I couldn't get it to work on any of my old posts, which I really wanted to categorize. (I don't know if I was doing something wrong, or if it just isn't possible! But I spent enough time messing with it and didn't want to waste any more time.)

So: I did it the hard way, and manually added my post links to individual category webpages that I then linked back to my main blog. I used a web domain that I own. The hardest part was getting all the old posts categorized, but I'm hoping that it won't be too much trouble to go in an update every couple days.

If anyone knows of other good ways to categorize in Blogger, please share!

What does "meme" mean?

Or does it stand for something? I guess I'm showing my "blog naivete" here. But I saw this on Crystal's Blog and thought it would be fun:o)

What were you doing 10 years ago? Hmm. I was sharing a room with both my sisters for the last year (After that, we moved and I had my own room). I was in an intensive high school English/Literature/History class for homeschoolers, cementing my love and interest in those subjects. I was also a member of the largest homeschool students' choir in Houston. We had concerts all over the city and state. It was fun, but we had absolutely DREADFUL costumes!:op I was just starting to recover from a few years' of VERY bad fashion choices (Let's just say, I was where the bad stereotypes of the way homeschoolers dress came from:op My hair was too long, and I had bangs. You just can't do that with my hair, and if you had my hair, you would know why! And I had some outfits that I bought in the middle-aged women's section at the stores. Don't ask...I have no idea what I was thinking!)

What were you doing 1 year ago? I was right in the middle of my second year of marriage. Micah and I were going through rather difficult times, actually...not with our marriage, but with life! It's not that interesting though, and I won't go into it here:op

Five snacks you enjoy:
Oooh...can I have more than five? OK, I will.
1. Homemade popcorn
2. Fresh veggies with a good dip
3. Hot Spinach Artichoke dip with tortilla chips or crackers
4. Trail mix (The good kind. I'm particular about my trail mix)
5. Fruit: grapes, apples, oranges, strawberries...really, almost any type that's in season and ripened to perfection:o)
6. Cheese. I LOVE cheese and probably eat far too much of it.
7. Hot tea with milk or a sweetened decaf coffee drink

Five songs you know all the words to:
1. Most of the Christmas carols
2. Most of the patriotic American songs and hymns.
3. Maybe 1% of the other hymns in any traditional hymnal (?) I'm familiar with the classics, but I never actually worked at memorizing many of them.
4. Many of the worship choruses prevalent in American Bible churches
5. All the songs on Norah Jones' first album

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
Micah and I have discussed this before in detail, and we have our plan honed to perfection for that day when, inevitably, we will be millionaires:o) There are actually six steps to our plan.
1. Pay off every penny of my debt and never, ever, get into debt again!
2. Buy a house for cash
3. Set aside some for start-up business capital
4. Strategically give some away, after deciding where and how we can do the most good.
5. Set aside maybe $10,000 for some fun: Trip to Europe, new furniture and electronic goodies, an updated wardrobe, etc!
6. Put all the rest in Savings and mutual funds.

Five bad habits:
1. Staying up too late which results in sleeping in too late.
2. Not allowing enough time to get places on time
3. Getting nervous when I have to get up in front of people
4. Resorting to TV watching when I'm really tired at night (I want to cut back to watching almost NO TV!)
5. Procrastinating

Five things you enjoy doing:
1. Spending time with my husband.
2. Reading
3. Writing
4. Playing the piano
5. Being domestic-y

Five things you would never wear again:
1. Bad colors (for me!): Gold; some shades of tan, brown, yellow and green.
2. Bangs!
3. Hair longer than my shoulder bones
4. Just about any type of jumper
5. Yellow gold jewelry (I always wear silver/white gold/platinum!)

Five favorite toys:
1. My computer!
2. My scanner/printer/copier--it does a lot of fun things for me:o)
3. My piano (is that a toy?)
4. My "household toys"...Kitchen Aid mixer, salad spinner, dishwasher, etc.
5. My favorite toy that I need to use more: my sewing machine
6. My favorite toy that I don't have yet: a laptop!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My First Valentine

Yesterday, I realized, marked the fifth February 14th that Micah has been my Valentine. And he makes a very good one, too! Last night, he brought me beautiful pink roses that we admired as we ate our candlelight dinner together. We shared such a nice, warm and relaxing evening. I'm very thankful to lay claim to Micah's heart.

But Micah wasn't my first Valentine: There was a very special man in my life before him. This man held the first place in my heart for a very long time...nineteen years, in fact. He brought me flowers and candy every Valentines Day, and now and then (all the more special because of the rarity of his writing) he wrote me little love notes. Even more important than those yearly gestures, he demonstrated his love for me everyday of my life with his hugs, time and attention.

I remember, on Valentines Day in 2001, he told me: "Honey, I think this is going to be the last year that I will be your Valentine. Next year you'll have someone new." I was surprised. I could see no one else on the horizon who might want to apply for that role. "How do you know that?" I asked. "I just think so," he said. "You wait and see."

His prediction came true. By the next year, I was receiving roses and a card from Micah, a young man with whom I had discovered a fresh, new love.

"I told you so!" said the man who had held my heart for so many years. I was excited, but also a bit sad. I didn't want my First Valentine to think that I loved him any less, and tried to assure him of my commitment. He smiled. "I always knew you would find someone who you loved even more than you love me...but that's OK. That's the way it's supposed to be."

A couple more years passed, and the day came when my First Valentine was readying to walk me down an aisle in our church and officially "give me away" to my new love. Again, I very excited, but also felt a bit like crying (which I did. I couldn't help it!) I was taking a step from which there was no return. I couldn't wait! And yet...never again could I belong to my First Valentine.

Sometimes old love, tried and true, must make way for new love. But that doesn't mean--in every case--that the old love must end! Maybe I don't belong to my wonderful father anymore, but I still love him very much! He still has a part of my heart that can't be filled by any other. And that's why I just wanted to take a minute to be thankful for the love that my First Valentine brought--and continues to bring--into my life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Dinner for my Sweetie

I'm making a "surprise" dinner for my husband tonight. (Well, sort of. Because of our current one-car situation, I had to let him in on the fact that I am in fact making him a secret dinner, so that I could finangle the car keys this morning for a short trip to the grocery store before he left for work. Frankly, ladies, there is just no good "fake reason" to mysteriously go out alone in the early hours, so I had to be honest. But he wasn't allowed to come, so he doesn't know WHAT I'm making him. Aren't I sneaky?;o)

Anyway, I can tell you guys! I'm making filet mignon, baked brie with crackers (one of his favorite things ever!), salad, rolls (I'm actually not attempting to make these from scratch this time, but Sister Schubert's rolls are almost better than homemade anyway!) and chocolate sheet cake topped with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream and strawberry slices. (You northerners don't know what you're missing out on with Blue's hands-down THE BEST ice cream:o).

The baked brie isn't exactly cheap to make (hence we save it for special occaisions) but it's very easy and SO delicious! Here's our favorite way to make it:
  • Buy a wheel of plain brie, unwrap, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Spread apricot spreadable fruit on top and sprinkle with chopped pecans.
  • Wrap puff pastry around the brie, pinching the edges together on the bottom side of the brie wheel. I coat the outside with egg white to make it brown nicely. If you have little miniature cookie cutters, you can make designs (hearts, etc) out of excess pastry dough to decorate the top.
  • Cook at 350* for about 10 minutes
  • Serve with crackers

Well, I have a lot to do before Micah gets home so I better get going! I know he's going to be shocked...just shocked, I tell you...when he sees his "secret" dinner;o) (hehe!)

Happy Valentines, everyone!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Christian Books on Birth Control

Carrie commented on this post and asked if I wouldn't mind sharing the list of books my husband and I are planning to read on the subject of birth control. Of course I don't mind, Carrie:o)

As I said in my post, our list is short. I simply did a bit of research on the internet to see what was available and selected some that look as if they might be helpful. Since I have not read any of these, I cannot yet recommend them. That's why I was seeking some input from those of you who might know:o)

Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception and Aflame:Ancient Wisdom on Marriage are both books by Sam and Bethany Torode. I have been reading articles by Bethany on Boundless Webzine since I was in college, so I know a little bit about where she's coming from. She and her husband do not believe in using any chemical or barrier forms of birth control, although they do advocate Natural Family Planning (NFP). Open Embrace is supposedly very well researched, trying to address the use of birth control biblically and historically. I'm not sure if Aflame discusses birth control or not, but I think it looks interesting. It pulls from many historical writings on the subject of marriage.

(In my mind, there are questions about using NFP because of 1 Corinthians 7:5: "Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." Also, it just seems a bit complicated and not-so-much-fun:op I'm interested to see how the Torodes address this.)

I am also interested in reading Be Fruitful and Multiply by Nancy Campbell, the book Mrs. B mentioned. It appears to hold the perspective that all methods of contraception are to be discouraged and that couples should not take measures to control family size. Again, I'm interested to see biblical support for this position, not just peoples' opinions!

I'm not sure if there are any sources that purport to make a biblical case FOR the use of birth control. To be honest, I would be rather skeptical about the validity of such a book, because the Bible consistently makes a strong case for the nurture of life and families. However, questions remain about whether or not the use of contraception is an area in which Christians may have freedom. I would love to read some thoughtful analysis on both sides.

Blog Changes

In attempts to shrink my blog header, I've removed my profile and placed my picture and profile link in my sidebar.

I've also created topical category links on my sidebar, because I think the monthly archives can be rather unwieldy! It took a bit of time to put together, but I'm glad I did. It's helpful for me, too, because now I can see at a glance what I've written about in the past and what I haven't. Just looking at the lists makes me realize a few "holes" in my topic coverage:o)

I think it's interesting to see how one's life can develop in just 7-8 months (The amount of time I've now been blogging). When I'm plodding along, it sometimes seems like nothing's happening. But looking back through my archives has reminded me how many changes have transpired in my life during the past several months...and how much I have learned. (Much of it, my readers may not realize, because you don't know everything that happens in my head:o)

Thank you guys for taking the time to read and comment on this blog. I sometimes don't know why you do! But I'm thankful for each of you. I'm thankful for your thoughts and encouragement. I pray that God blesses each one of you in your homes and families and spheres of influence as your lives continue to unfold.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Pardon my mess...

I'm fiddling around with my blog template today! So if I happen to have any visitors during this process, please excuse the weirdness:o)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Dangerous Birth Control

The more I learn about chemical birth control such as The Pill, the more I wish women (and men) would be aware of and consider the many dangers involved! Unfortunately, these facts are not very well-known, even in the larger Christian community, or maybe--are they simply ignored? (I used The Pill myself up until about a year ago, not realizing how harmful it is. Though a couple people mentioned to me that it could be an abortifacient, the little bit of research I did didn't address this as a problem, or claimed it wasn't true). Even the "Christian" books about s*x I flipped through did little to nothing to discourage the use of birth control, let alone the use of The Pill. Birth control was usually addressed from a factual standpoint (i.e., "here's how this particualar form of BC is used"), with the moral and health implications "left up to each individual couple to figure out". Well...if something destroys life or is spiritually or physically unhealthy, then wouldn't that be true for everybody? Why are we, as Christians, afraid to deeply examine this issue?

Here is some Chemical Birth Control Research that women NEED to know about!

The Pill - Contraception or Abortifacient?
The Impact of the Pill on Implantation
Contraceptive Pill Side-Effects
Report: Birth Control Curbs S*x Drive
Lawsuit Grows Over Birth Control Patch

Ok...let's say that these pharmacists and researchers are full of it, and that they really haven't proven anything about the dangers. Let's be agnostic and say we don't know FOR SURE if chemical birth control produces harmful effects or side effects. Is that a chance we want to take?

Personally, chemically overriding the way God created my hormones and my body to work does not sound like a good plan. He made me this way--I'm not broken--and He knows best. Pumping unnatural artificial chemicals into my body CAN'T be great for me. And if there's any chance that it's as harmful as the above research points to...

On another related note, my husband and I are currently researching into the philosophy of birth control in general (not just chemical methods). We have a short list of books we want to purchase about this topic and would love to know: does anyone have any suggestions for excellent resources from a biblical perspective? We don't really want peoples' opinions, but biblically solid studies into the history and spiritual ramifications of the various viewpoints surrounding birth control.


I've been following the discussion about women and college at Carmon's blog with interest, though I haven't taken the time or mental energy to comment (Sometimes it's just better to listen anyway...I might learn something!:o).

She recommended this informative article: ‘Anti-Dowry’?: The Effects of Student Loan Debt on Marriage and Childbearing by Allan C. Carlson, Ph.D.

Let me just true, how true. Take it from someone who found out the hard way not to finance education with debt! Though I don't at all regret my time spent at college, Micah and I are in total agreement that we would give anything now not to have made the financial choices that we did to pay for it. Though we did not delay marriage (for which I'm glad), and we don't often fight about money, it certainly hasn't been a piece of cake to make ends meet over the last few years! Our future children will NOT BE ALLOWED to even consider debt for any reason:o).

(In reading some of the stats, I realized that I was near the bottom of the youngest 23% of American women to marry, and Micah was in the youngest 13% of men. No wonder people thought we were crazy. No wonder people still can't believe me, two and one half years later, when I tell them I'm married! The most telling stats about the declining rates of marriage in this country are that, within my lifetime, the number of people who marry in their early to mid-twenties has decreased almost in half).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Never Truly Hopeless

The past few days have been crazy-busy with out of town company and two family birthdays. Hence, not a good time for the reemergence of a certain familiar malady!

I can only be honest: I have struggled with depression ever since high school. I guess this often accompanies the melancholic personality, and is further demonstrated by the fact that I always did aspire to be a writer or some type of artist. (Hmm...maybe things would be different if I had striven to be a birthday party clown?:o)

Usually, I'm fine...but if I let things get me down, I can tend to dwell on them which only pertpetuates the problem. Thank God I have a husband who tries to help me break this "stinkin thinkin" cycle by encouraging me and trying to help me refocus! Though depression can sometimes be hormonal in nature, I think it's perpetuated in the brain. I have found that when I force myself to start thinking about my blessings and God's goodness--though it doesn't always remove the inner ache--it does allow me to go forward with a strength not my own. It allows me to turn my focus outward again.

My job used to contribute to my depression, because it felt so unfulfilling to me. Now that I'm at home (and loving it!:o) there are other factors. I've noticed that they tend to be mostly instances where I allow myself to become hopeless about something. Or I berate myself for my failures. Or I allow myself to feel as though I'm not contributing anything of meaning to the lives of those around me.

I'm thankful that God saw fit to give us the writings of a man who knew what it was to struggle, entertain doubts and hopelessness--a man who wrote: How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?

David knew there was only One who could help him.

But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence...

You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry...

...I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes for him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

If you are struggling with anything today, remember God's love for you. Read through the Psalms and be reminded that you are not alone in your pain. Not only are all of us in pain of some kind, we have our Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered the ultimate pain all because of His love for US! Yes...measly us. I will try to remember my own advice in the hours and days ahead:o) None of us can be truly hopeless in Christ...thank the the Lord!

Friday, February 03, 2006

A young mother I knew

I was going through old pictures the other day and found this one of my mom and I from when I was almost a year old. The inscription on the back notes that it was my first Easter, and that my mom had made the matching dresses we are wearing:o)

My first thought was: "Wow! Too bad I never learned how to sew (very well). Maybe I should would be nice to sew sweet little dresses for my girls (Lord willing) someday." I'm majorly impressed by women who can sew. I'm even more impressed by young mothers who manage to add something as thoroughly difficult (in my opinion) as sewing to their busy schedules.

My second thought was: "Either Mom was using some serious hairspray in this picture, or else it's just the shadows making her hair look so full and fluffy." Believe me...under normal circumstances, it would be pretty much impossible for her hair to look like that...I've inherited that hair, and I know!

Then, my thoughts began to drift, and I began to wonder what my mom's experience of motherhood was like in those early years. From reminiscences I've been party to, I've deduced that I wasn't always the perfect little baby, and things weren't always as easy as they appear in this picture!

As a new mother with a six-week old baby, my mom was uprooted from the Midwestern state she'd lived in since birth and transplanted to the "foreign country" of Texas. No friends or family nearby. No older woman to come alongside and give advice and support. Apparently, I did know how to be fussy, and I was also rather independent (ie, not Ms. Snuggles!). So I'm sure I didn't "give back" in the ways that warm a young mother's heart--cuddling contentedly in her arms, and begging to receive her attention and comfort.

In the years that followed, two more little girls joined our family, and new struggles arose. I'm sure I don't know or understand half of what my mom has gone through as a wife and mother and woman over the years. But I do know that no matter what trials she encountered, my mom has been faithful to her calling as a woman who loves her family and gives herself up for us. She was always there, and she was always giving, whether I appreciated it or not.

The woman in this picture, youthful and vibrant, could have taken on the world and nobody would have called her selfish. In fact, she might have garnered much praise for "accomplishing something important and wonderful," instead of passing her days away on a fussy babies. But she chose to share her days of youth and energy with ME. She chose to give me everything when I couldn't give back. To this day, she still gives me much more than I can ever repay.

Should I have babies of my own, I don't know if I will ever have the skill to sew precious little outfits for them. But I pray that I will have even half of the patience, love and creativity that my Mom put forth in her vocation as wife, mother, teacher and homemaker. I hope I won't give up when the going gets rough. I hope I will somehow attain the willingness to live for others day in and day out, in the hopes that I can pour true meaning and love into someone's life the way my mother did into mine. What a daunting example to strive after!

(Mom, if you read this, I hope I've sufficiently embarrassed you:o)

Have you seen the one about the lamp?

Getting rid of things that have served me faithfully for years, or that have "faces" always makes me tear up a bit. That is why this commercial made me laugh (after I got over feeling horribly for the poor little lamp sitting out in the rain:op ). I guess I have my dad to blame...he always made my chocolate Easter bunnies talk to me right as I was about to take a bite: "Don't eat me, Erin! Please don't eat me!" And I never, ever could.

(But doesn't it seem like some things truly have personalities? I'm positive my civic does. I feel bad talking critically about it in its presence. Anyway...yeah, I gues I am a little crazy:op)

Thursday, February 02, 2006


My last post inspired me to present a story of a good example of a selfless woman grown to her riper years! I came to know this special lady when I worked for her a couple days a week as a teenager. I wrote the following as a tribute to her a few years later. Though I didn't specifically talk about this in my story, I am confident that Ann's selfless spirit grew from her long walk with Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate example of selflessness, and it is only through His grace that we can become like Him!

Ann lived in an assisted living home during the last two or three years of her life. If you walked down a typical hallway in the home, you would be struck by the oppressive “peachiness” of the surroundings. The walls and ceilings were painted a brownish-peach color so drab, so lifeless, that it was a mystery how the residents could walk or wheel themselves down the hall without falling asleep. When I used to go there to visit, I often encountered the urge to find a paintbrush and slap on something cheerful and peppy, like scarlet red or sunshine yellow-- something that would inspire the elderly residents with a fresh sense of verve and vitality when they opened their doors.

Ann, however, chose to be energetic regardless of the gloomy interior. Not in body; her health was so poor that she could hardly move without assistance. No, Ann’s energy emanated from her spirit--a spirit kept alive by the relationships she watered and cared for until the end of her life.

In earlier years, before the death of Ann’s husband, the couple had owned a large ranch in southeast Texas. They worked to fashion it into a haven of hospitality and invited numerous families and church groups over the years to come use their home and property for meetings and retreats. I remember going to the ranch with families from my own church when I was around age seven or eight. The ranch house seemed enormous, with lots and lots of food laid out on long tables inside. Most important to me, the yard featured a trampoline the size of a room.

Shortly after Ann’s husband died, her declining health forced her to sell the ranch. But Ann’s friends-- borne of years of generosity to others--were many. By focusing on these others, Ann continued to have a full life as she entered her twilight years.

As a teenager, I used to spend time with Ann every week at the peach-colored home. By now she was in her late seventies, and her health complications were becoming more encumbering. I was there to help her with things she could no longer do herself, like pick up and organize her apartment, read, write letters. And that is what she mostly wanted to do--write letters. Her address book was the size of the King James Bible. I even remember writing a letter to Elisabeth Elliot, whom Ann claimed as a personal friend.

Unlike many others in the home, Ann had a continual stream of visitors. She accepted each guest with graciousness, offering them simple refreshments such as coffee and cookies. She always made the effort to apply fresh lipstick and blush before greeting visitors or leaving her apartment, desiring people to know that she considered them important enough to dress up for.

Ann also had a sense of fun that kept a light in her eyes long after she had lost much of her sight. Once, a friend arrived at Ann’s home to collect some money--she was going to help Ann by purchasing a wedding shower gift for a mutual acquaintance. Ann counted out the money and handed it to her friend. “Now listen,” she instructed, her eyes shining conspiratorially. “I want you to go to the lingerie store and get the naughtiest thing you can find.” A couple of days later, Ann arrived merrily at the shower and bestowed upon the unsuspecting young bride-to-be something resembling leopard print dental floss.

The last time I saw Ann was shortly before I left home for college. She wanted to hear all about my plans, and then she told me about the plans of several other college students she knew. When I was leaving, she gave me some gifts--a plaster figurine from the dollar store and a picture of herself and her husband that had been taken probably fifty years earlier. Normally, I would have no use for dollar-store plaster figurines, but Ann’s gift was different. The figurine--a young woman holding wildflowers, the coloring fresh and alive--made me realize that Ann wanted to be remembered, not as a feeble old woman, but as the animated young woman in her picture, as the youthful spirit of the figurine. Yes, her body was old and dying, but she was still very much alive. And she held on to that sparkle of life by staying wide awake to the world of people around her. I hold on to that figurine still, in remembrance of Ann.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Grandma's too busy

I think this article shows the natural progression of women living a me-centered and career-centered lifestyle. Their children suffer...and later on their grandchildren suffer as well. What a terribly sad, sad way to live life!

When and if I have children, I want my mother to bake LOTS of cookies with them and keep her checkbook in her purse (I know she's already looking forward to those cookie-baking sessions!). Children don't need JUNK...they need love and time from the people who most care about them. Someday, I hope I'll look forward to being a cookie-baking grandma too:o)

Here's a few snippets...

"Look, I'd love to nip over and whisper secrets into 1-month-old Maggie's ears, or to dress 2-year-old Ryan in the black leather jacket I bought her recently and take her to look for late blackberries in Golden Gate Park on my bike (with its deluxe new kid seat). But I have a job. I'm a reporter, I have two books to write, a husband who wants to go to France, and I just bought an investment property in Portland, Oregon. I love my grandchildren, but being a grandmother got added to my to-do list.

The truth is, I can't be the kind of grandmother my own grandmother was -- available and self-sacrificing, always arriving in her red VW with her overnight bag to help Mom. I wasn't a stay-at-home mom, and I can't be a stay-at-home-grandma either."

"My own daughter, Morgan, told me, "I know you're busy, Mom. But I can't help wishing you could help more. I thought that was what grandmothers did."
Well, yes, it is, but now it's on our own terms."

"So listen up, Fisher-Price. For your next early-learning game the image of the grandmother should show her writing checks. We give money to the parents for rent and down payments on apartments, and we chip in on "extras" like after-school tuition, saxophones, and private schools. (Heck, I bought Ryan so much stuff Morgan said she didn't need a shower.)"

Thanks to: World Mag Blog