Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sexual Healing - Not the Marvin Gaye kind

I just 'attended' an online book launch party for Crystal Renaud's release of Dirty Girls Come Clean, which will officially be released tomorrow.  It was such a neat time to see and hear so many people who have already been impacted by her work with Dirty Girls Ministries.  The theme of the book and the ministry is the healing of sexual brokenness, specifically in regards to pornography addiction for women.

I remember about 10 years ago when my husband first began working with men of all ages who were struggling with pornography addiction.  There were (and still are) very few resources to help them face this addiction.  There seemed to be a running joke of "wow, if I have to have an addiction, that is the kind I want".  You know, macho guy stuff to mask the tragedy porn often brings to individuals and families.  However, there is increasing evidence and research that women are almost as likely as men to be caught up in the web of sexual addiction, which includes addiction to porn.  This is understandable, given the almost complete cultural saturation of sex.  But no one has been talking about it, at least not in public, until now.

Crystal Renaud is taking her story and using it for God's glory.  She is giving the world not only a new book, but a new paradigm for addressing issues of sexual brokenness and healing.  I can't say enough good things about her or her ministry, and will post my official review of Dirty Girls Come Clean tomorrow.

You can read my previous post about Crystal and Dirty Girls Ministries here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tsunamis and Laura Ingalls

Right now it is raining outside my window.  This isn't anything new around here.  It has been raining with hardly any breaks for weeks now.  Parts of the country are getting hammered with snow and ice.  Last week a very large tornado hammered through my college town of Hattiesburg (A.K.A. Johannesburg, according to the Weather Channel).  All manner of posts and commentary about the weather is 'flooding' social media sites lately.

Stories about extreme weather often make me think of a radio interview I heard about the continuing devastation following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan a couple of years ago.  One particular part of that story has stayed with me since then.  One of the men interviewed was explaining that he just missed being carried away by the flood waters because his elderly mother insisted on being taken to higher ground immediately following the massive earthquake.  There was only about five minutes from the time of the earthquake until the tsunami struck, but it was just enough to get them both to safety.

He went on to say that his mother had been telling his family for years about what could happen in such an event.  Japan has earthquakes all the time, and people are more or less immune to them because they are so commonplace.  There hasn't been a similar event comparable to this one for over a hundred years.  His mother had never seen it, but she grew up hearing stories of a similar tsunami from her own grandmother.  This grandmother was saved once only because she was so high up when a tsunami struck when she was young.  For a couple of generations after that, almost everyone would immediately go for higher ground if they felt a quake of perceived intensity.  Over time, though, it became inconvenient and somewhat silly to think this way, but this woman kept telling the stories to her family.  She believed them, even though it was 'ancient history' by then, and it saved her and her son's lives when that devastating tsunami came through her village last year..

It got me to thinking:  what are the stories that I need to know, or remember, or keep telling again and again to my children?  In a world where technology and a 'bigger and better' ideology reign supreme, what old school ideas should remain front and center, even if they are met with eye rolls?  In a church where praise choruses are the songs du jour, maybe I need to teach some hymns.  In a pop culture that idealizes youth and indulgence, maybe we need to spend a little more time watching 'Little House on the Prairie' and remembering some real life lessons about poverty, family, community, and bullies with pretty stuff.

I always did like that little Laura Ingalls, anyway.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This was originally posted on Facebook several months ago by a lady in my church named Patience C.  It was written less than 2 weeks after her 16 year old son's funeral.  He committed suicide.  I add that because to me it adds that much more meaning to Patience's words and God's heart to want to heal her pain.  This is what she wrote:

Storms( corrected version)

by Patience C on Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 7:52pm

In Matthew 14:22 - 23
     We can be in the center of God's will and still go through terrible storms!  Christ calls us to walk by faith through our storms.  It seems like a big requirement until we realize Christ does far more than that--He walks on the water during our storms.  Christ is in charge and He is right there with us.  Christ walked on the water before he calmed the storm.  If he had simply calmed the storm, the disciples would have missed His majesty.  His majesty was the whole point!  The goal of life is not the absence of pain.  It is the presence of God and the glory of God.
     One of the most powerful, though difficult, lessons we all need to learn on our spiritual journey is that even when bad things happen and we do not understand why, we can trust God to be present and working on our behalf.  I have experienced how God has entered a heartbreaking situation and, by revealing His presence, love, strength, resources, and specific guidance, created a path through the most painful storms.  The words of Don Moen's song "God Will Make a Way" say it well:
                       God will make a way
                       When there seems to be no way
                       He works in way we cannot see
                       He will make a way for me
                       He will be my guide
                       Hold me closely to his side
                      With love and strength for each new day
                      He will make a way
     I used to be the parent who would say that I could never make it through life if I ever lost a child.  What I did not realize is that God never allows anything to happen to us that He cannot see us through!  I have been blessed to experience His presence through my storm!  His grace is sufficient and He alone can give you strength to face each day. God is providing for me what I cannot provide for myself each day!   I know that He is faithful and true and that He loves me and still has a plan for my life and for my family.  I know that I will not have all my questions of "why" answered, but what I do know is the character of my God and this gives me hope for each day.
     I was blessed to have been Brandon's mother for 16 wonderful years.  I have nothing but good memories of an incredible son who taught me many lessons in life.  I will miss him terribly and my heart will be forever scared from his departure.  I want to thank all the people who came and ministered to our family during this difficult time.  You were really the hands and feet of God to us and your prayers have helped to see us through.  Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers throughout the year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fun video - Life Goes On

I just found this online.  I wanted to put it here because it made me smile.  The people seemed to be having such a good time being silly.  Look for the guy playing a hand-held keyboard like a saxophone.

Vaccinations, and Facebook, and Parenting--Oh, My!

A couple of days ago my teenager decided to make a new Facebook page.  This isn't anything new for him; he seems to come up with some new reason to create a page every other week or so.  Our dog has a page, and so does one of his bouncy balls. But this time it was a page about vaccinations and school attendance.  You see, our state is the only one that requires mandatory vaccinations for public/private school attendance.  All other states offer an opt-out option.  Not ours.  This was not an issue for our family for many years because I had always homeschooled.  However, my son had planned on beginning high school at our local public school last year, so he had some catching up to do on his shots.

I won't get into our whole vaccination experience here, but we have very strong opinions as a family on their safety and usefulness, going back to when my first child was a baby.  This became personal for this particular  son when he had a severe reaction to one of the vaccines he took last May.  It required hospitalization, numerous specialist consultations, and still no resolution.  We have finally found a specialist in Atlanta (7 hours away) that is working with him to get the toxic materials from the vaccine out of his body (mainly copper and mercury), but it is a long, slow process.  He continues to exhibit embarrassing physical complications (jerks, twitching, stuttering, memory issues) and the psychological ramifications that go along with it.  He was unable to go to that school after all, because of the daily maintenance, and we continue to homeschool.  Needless to say, he has a strong personal interest in this issue, and thus the Facebook page.

One thing that has really shocked him is the strong negative reaction people have had to his page.  Part of the problem is that Facebook now allows a person to make a page and just add people to it without their consent.  And believe me, he took full advantage of this, adding 150 people (mostly adults) to the page.  I tried to gently explain that hardly anyone will be sympathetic to his passion (or page), because they just haven't been personally affected by the issue.  They seem to think he is against vaccinations at all, and people feel strongly about that, thinking that it is stupid.  My son just wants to be able to go to school without having to get more shots, especially when he knows he could do so anywhere else in the country.

This has led to some interesting discussions about civil liberties, apathy, civic responsibility, and life missions.  Not too bad for a homeschooling day.  I doubt he would ever have learned lessons like this at public school anyway.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Why I Blog

Having a blog isn't something I ever set out to do.  I only broke down and set an account up a couple of years ago because it was a requirement for a year-long review gig I had with a homeschool review site.  I had to google how to set one up, and to this day it remains a bare minimum/no frills blog.  I set this particular account up a few months ago when it hit me that my kids have no idea what I think or believe about much of anything.  Because here's the thing--I have thoughts on just about everything.  I listen to liberal and conservative and Christian radio and can pretty much give an informed opinion about most anything.  The only thing is, nobody asks anymore.  Most of that is just the reality of being a stay at home mom with kids still at home, so I don't take it personally.  However, I don't want my kids to become grown men thinking all their mom did was cook and clean (because of course what they will probably remember is that having breakfast for dinner usually meant everyone going to get their own cereal).  One of the reasons I loved teaching college classes so much was that it gave me an outlet of sorts to finally be able to talk about what I wanted without being interrupted for food/drink/diaper/blood cleanups (poor students).  Since I don't have that outlet anymore, here we are.

So, in no particular order, this is why I blog:

1.  I was excited to see that blogspot has a feature where they will print and bind any and all posts throughout the year.  I think I will definitely take advantage of this because it makes me feel better about no longer journaling like I used to do.  It makes me feel like I'm not just wasting time by typing, and if I get around to buying one of those books, maybe the boys will think to look through it one day.

2.  Freebies - simply having a blog entitles me to sign up to review things like books and DVDs.  Every week or so I receive a package in the mail of a free book I actually got to pick out, and all I have to do is write a short review.  My plan has always been to then give them away to whoever thinks they might like the book, too.  So far, very few people have indicated any interest in them, so I am going to have to start sending them out to people as little 'happies'.  Oh, yes.  Free is good.

3.  Creative outlet - I feel like I have something to say, if only to me.

4.  A different voice - I have spent some time lately trolling through other random blogs.  I have found a LOT of them that have the tagline "Ooh, I am the most happy person in the world, a flawed but willing vessel with an amazing husband and 4 talented children.  We grow all our own food and make lapbooks about it after family devotions, which are led by the 3 year old on her violin.  Check out our commemorative craft selections".  Or, they are full of trash and totally unnecessary bad words.  I am SURE there are many fun, inspiring blogs in the middle, and I will keep looking.  In the meantime, I will be writing from the perspective of a tired, middle-aged mom who is so glad one kid got off to public school this morning but dreading that I have two more about to get up and be homeschooled.  I have done homeschooling for 10 years, and it is no longer fun or inspiring or carefree (for them or me).  My 'fifth grader' can't spell or remember his multiplication tables and the high schooler probably can but all he does is grunt nowadays, so I can't quite be sure.  Believe me, I know all about flawed vessels, and I am their queen.

5.  I think this is an amazing way to connect.  OK, maybe not with my blog personally, since I doubt hardly anyone will ever read it.  But in our disconnected, fast paced world, I now have a place to complete a sentence, at least on screen, without getting interrupted or losing my train of thought.  Where else can I express thoughts about facebook, racism, gluten-free cupcakes, Desperate Housewives, and boys with lizard hands, among all the other things that I deal with every day?

6.  I want to make others feel good and validated, particularly with regards to their worth in Christ.  We don't all have to supermoms that are crafty and stylish (thank goodness).  Store bought bread is fine.  Don't compare yourself with the wheat grinders.  They have to deal with their own guilt about not being wheat growers first**.  My thoughts on that are best summed up by Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber:  "Remember, God made you special, and He loves you very much".

Time to teach Algebra now.  Yay (not!).

**To any wheat growing/grinding/making a craft out of the chaff readers that might ever stumble on to this:  you are my heroes.  Seriously.  Keep up the good work.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Losing It - Spin Class

Sixteen months ago I was in a car wreck, which broke both of my knees and a bone in my left hand.  I had been training to walk a half marathon and had just walked six miles that morning.  I was in the hospital for a month, and went to therapy for months after that.  For the first few months, I lost quite a bit of weight, since I couldn't get up to get food for myself and didn't want to bother my family with it.  (They would have gladly brought me some, though).  I can get around and cook again now, but I rarely eat anything more than a slice of bread or some chips.  However, I keep steadily gaining weight.  It is most definitely not based on caloric intake, so my metabolism must be totally shot.  I go to the gym several times a week, but it is more working on my knees instead of overall/cardio work.

Well, I have now gained 26 pounds since the wreck, and none of my clothes fit.  I have bought one pair of larger pants, but that is it.  I have decided that something has got to give.  I am not sure how I will do this, since it is not about food and I can't move very quickly, but it is going to happen.  I have been walking more around my neighborhood in the past couple of weeks, since it is finally warming up some.  I decided to try something new today, that I never even did before when all of my body parts worked correctly - spin class.

For those of you who don't know, spin class is a stationery bike aerobics class set to music, led by insane masochists.  My husband loves it, but it was always too much for me.  Until today.  I held no illusions that I would be able to keep up with the others, but my goal was to stay on the seat for at least half the time and make slow revolutions with my feet.  This is something that I have worked on for months in the gym, and can finally bike slowly on those bikes that lean back and have nice, normal seats (and a TV screen).

I found a morning class that fit my schedule and showed up a little early to be fitted on the seat.  Apparently this is important.  I introduced myself to teeny-tiny, cutely dressed instructor, and she tried to get me situated.  Unfortunately, no matter where she moved the seat, my left knee would not make the full turn.  So, I had to leave before I even started.  She didn't seen too concerned or torn up about it (for another post:  why aren't fitness centers more understanding and accomodating to those who are not in perfect shape?).  I almost left the gym, but ended up trying my luck on a bike in the open workout area that was closer in style to the spin bikes.  This meant a regular bicycle seat.  Have you sat on one of these lately?  I was able to make full revolutions, but my rear end was very uncomfortable.  I even made a few turns standing up (a regular part of the spin routine), which was a post-therapy first for me.

I decided then and there that somehow I am going to make it back into that spin class, and will work my way up to it being a full workout.  I would most definitely lose weight that way.  I just have to somehow convince my knees to cooperate.  We'll see.  In the meantime, I've got to lose this some of this weight.

I'll think about ways to do that as I go now and find a big ice pack to sit on for a while.  Ouch.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan - what will they do now?

My mind is still reeling as I watch news footage of the devastation in Japan caused by the earthquake and tsunami that hit last week, as well as the continuing threat of nuclear exposure.  I can not begin to imagine the utter devastation that the survivors must be feeling.  How will they even begin to go forward from here?  This isn't the first area to experience a disaster like this one, and it won't be the last. But for these people, THIS is their story, their tragedy, and will be the defining life event.  I heard a Japanese commentator state that the Japanese people are strong and united, and will come back even stronger as a culture because of the events.  In fact, this has been the case throughout history when all seems hopeless:  people totally give up or they rally and continue as survivors.  Time will tell how the cities and country recover, but it has to be so much harder on an individual level.

More and more horrible stories are now being told of people who desperately tried to cling to family members when the waters came in, only to have them slip out of their grasp and swept away as they watched hopelessly.  I can not begin to fathom this.  How do you recover from something like that, especially when you are now being told to stay inside because of nuclear radiation in the air, but there is no inside because all of the structures are gone? What about the ones who had spent a lifetime collecting stuff to validate their worth--stuff washed away in an instant?

I just don't know how I would respond.  This is where I would hope that my faith in God would be shown to be real.  I truly believe in a God who is all-powerful and all-loving, not just in the good or easy times, but in the devastating times as well.  I hope that I would hold on to the promise He made that He would never leave me or forsake me, and that He would be my refuge and strength.  Or that I would cling to the verse that I've repeated so many times in often frivolous circumstances (like lifeguard swim drills), "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".

  I don't personally know a single person that lives in Japan, but I will continue to pray that if they know Jesus they will find their comfort in Him, and if they don't know Him, that someone will be able to physically be the hands and feet of Jesus for them.

I heard this song on the radio for the first time today, and it made me think of the survivors.  Time will tell if they become stronger, but in the meantime, I hope they find comfort in God's strength.

It is called 'Stronger' by Mandisa.  I'm a little hesitant to put it on here because of the line that says, 'when the waves are pulling you under, hold on a little bit longer'.  It almost seems cruel in the context of what happened in Japan, but I post it with only the best of intentions.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fresh eyes - Messing Up

I think one of the most difficult parts of being a parent for me is dealing with 3 kids who have tunnel vision.  They only see events and circumstances in terms of how it affects them, which is often at odds with the overall big picture for the family.  Most of the time they just can't seem to grasp that the plans and decisions my husband and I make for them are not some master scheme to make their lives more difficult and less fun, but are truly part of something bigger and better for them in the long run.  They complain and whine and argue more than I ever thought any children of mine ever would.  Seriously, those kinds of kids were the products of bad parenting and uninvolved parents, right?  Judge not...

Which brings me to my Bible reading for today.  My new Bible has a reading from the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs every day, and each of the passages for today all pointed to stories of misinformed, bad judgment making, often whiny people who made bad decisions because they didn't see the bigger picture--that life is not all about them. 

The Old Testament story was from the book called Numbers.  It tells of a time when Moses and the Isrealites have been away from Egypt for over a year, but still not in the Promised Land that they were headed toward.  God had been using this time to give very specific details and instructions about what He required from each of His people, because He knew that they had to be prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually for when they actually went to the Promised Land, otherwise they would accept and follow the customs of the people who were already there.  Th0se people had their own ideas about gods and worship, which did not include the true God.  God, knowing the big picture, was getting them ready.  But the Isrealites, what did they do?  They complained.  A lot.  Today the complaint was about not having meat.  "Oh, Moses.  We are so hungry!  We never have anything good like we used to--fish, onions, melons.  You know, when we had it so good and easy in Egypt (You know, when we were SLAVES!).  All we have is manna, manna, manna--all day long."  Even Moses got in on the complaining:  "Why me, God?  Why do I have to deal with these whiny people?  I don't know why you have made them MY problem, God.  Can't you just give them meat and be done with it?".  My reading ended with God about to go off.  Seriously, had Moses never heard the story of Job?  Its supposed to be the oldest recorded story in the Bible, happening long before Moses was even born.  Did he not know that there are times when it is best to just back off?  And, for that matter, why have my kids not learned the same thing about me yet?

The next reading is one of the saddest in the whole Bible for me.  Jesus has been telling His disciples for several days that He is about to be killed, but they aren't getting it.  They happen to be having a meal when a lady comes in and breaks a jar of expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus.  I mean, picture it:  meals were definitely segregated by gender at that time, and in busts this girl (reportedly a 'bad girl' at that) who starts pouring stuff all over one of the men.  There is a lot of symbolism and backstory here, but the focus is on Judas's reaction.  He wasn't the only one that was angry. Several others went off on the lady, basically calling the whole thing wasteful and inappropriate.  Judas took the stance that it was a waste of money and that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.  I've heard several commentators say that Judas probably really meant this, and wasn't just being goody-goody.  He was the disciple in charge of the group's money, which probably meant he was the most trustworthy of the twelve, so he would be the one with the most insight as to their finances and responsibilities.  He knew that the Passover was the next day and that there wasn't even any money to cover a place to have the meal together, much less the mandatory food involved.  By the way, Jesus took care of that problem just a few verses later...

So, this is the breaking point for Judas.  He leaves that meal and immediately goes to turn Jesus in.  This latest scene is just further proof for Judas that Jesus is not who He says He is, and that He has lost His mind.  When I was little, I just thought of Judas as the bad guy in this story.  The older I get, though, I see this disillusioned man who truly loved Jesus and believed in His vision--up to a point.  When Jesus's teaching became too impractical, he just couldn't follow through.  This is the lure of and disillision of money.  We can become so imprisoned to it that we lose sight of what really matters in God's economy, an economy that makes no sense in a world focused on 'stuff' instead of people and relationships.  I don't think Judas was money or power hungry.  I think he just didn't see the big picture, only his perception of it.

And then there is David.. King David.  He decided that he didn't have enough wives and concubines to satisfy his needs when he noticed a lady named Bathsheba.  The problem was that Bathsheba was already married.  Well, I guess it wasn't too big of a problem for David, because he brought her over anyway, and when she came up pregnant, he just had her husband killed.  David had lived a life full of God's presence and provision, and truly loved Him, but at this point had become too big for his own britches, so to speak.  He had forgotten that there are boundaries that God had placed on his life, until God sent a man named Nathan to remind him.  This Psalm is one of my favorites, because it shows David's brokenness about what all he has done, and his need for God to make him right again.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. 
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don't take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.

I love that last line:  and make me willing to obey you.  David got it.  He had messed up and only God could make that right.  He was restored.  Moses got it.  It took him a little longer and he still didn't make the wisest of decisions at times.  He didn't get to see the Promised Land, but he was restored.  And Judas--well, this one is tragic.  He did betray Jesus, and the weight of it all caused him to kill himself.  He couldn't get past what he had done, and didn't believe God enough to know that he could have been restored, too.

Three stories.  Three different outcomes.  All serve as reminders and examples that only God has the big picture in mind, and even when I don't understand the circumstances, He's got my back and wants what is best for me.  Maybe my kids aren't the only ones with tunnel vision issues.

 (taken from Numbers 11, Mark 14, and Psalm 51)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Review - While the World Watched

December 7, 1941
November 22, 1963
September 11, 2001

Most Americans my age know the significance of these dates.  They correspond to well known attacks on America - Pearl Harbor, JFK's assassination, and the attack of the Twin Towers.  But what about these dates?*:

August 28, 1955
June 12, 1963
May 2-3, 1963

These are also attack dates, but not as mainstream. However, they are all integral dates and events related to the civil rights movement, and are referenced and discussed in Carolyn Maull McKinstry's book, While the World Watched.  This is her recollection of events surrounding and shaping her life as an African-American girl born in Alabama in 1948.  There is one date in particular that sets the narrative for this story - September 15, 1963.  This is the day that a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four of McKinstry's friends and narrowly missing her.

I was vaguely familiar with this particular incident, but did not know many details.  I vaguely knew that the Ku Klux Klan had planted the bomb in a church in Birmingham, killing 4 little girls, and that this was an event that galvanized a shocked nation to FINALLY do something to end the craziness of the Jim Crow South.  But, it happened before I was born, and was not an event that I learned about in school or saw any coverage of in documentaries of the time.  That is a shame, because it is a story that needs to be told and its lessons remembered, which was one of the exact reasons McKinstry decided to finally tell her story, so that others would learn the details and understand the sacrifices made by so many.

This was a heartbreaking story of a time that I still can't wrap my mind around.  How could things like this have been allowed to continue for so long?  I still don't have many answers, but I do believe that this book paints a picture and fills in gaps that are crucial to public dialogue and understanding.  McKinstry did an amazing job of tying her personal and family story in with her church's attack, as well as with the key figures and events playing out in the area of civil rights in the world at large.  It also addressed issues of healing and forgiveness, which are relevant for anyone at any stage of life, but in particular for those who were denied acknowledgment of their personhood by those in power for so long.  I got the feeling that I was somehow being offered a glimpse into a time and place that are very personal and little spoken of for McKinstry, and it was not a position I took lightly.  It was not an easy read, but very powerful and appreciated.

*Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till is kidnapped and murdered in Mississippi (for saying "Hey, doll" to a white lady); Klan member kills Mississippi Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers (in his driveway in front of his wife and children); Children's marches in downtown Birmingham are broken up by police with attack dogs and fire hoses.

You can read the first chapter here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Flowers, dancing, and all things green

Things have been pretty 'blah' around here lately.  Not bad, just blah.  There is just an average routine to my days that seem to revolve around cooking, cleaning and disciplining kids.  I know this is the reality for most people, and I don't dwell on it, but it is easy to just stay in a rut and have any semblance of fun drain away.

I think this is one reason I seem to be so much more excited about spring coming this year.  I've always hated cold weather, but this year the winter season has just seemed to drag on and on.  The reappearance of wildflowers and budding trees excites me to no end.  In my mind I envision the flower beds and vegetable plant that will never become a reality, but make me smile just the same.  I think about the promise of summer and precious hours spent at the lake.  Maybe the kids will spend more time outdoors than inside arguing (although this just means they will be arguing outside instead).

I'm so thankful for this season that comes every year.  It is a reminder that the cold/bitter times don't last forever.  While I'm waiting though, I think I need to sign off and go do my favorite 'blah-busting' activity--turn up some music and dance!