My Most Recent Addiction

My kids think I’ve lost it.

The house is for sale, and that means WE. GOTTA. KEEP. THE. HOUSE. CLEAN!!!!

I hate house cleaning, friends. I seriously hate it.

If I could, I’d dive into the cooking part of momming, and outsource the cleaning.

That being said, I’ve managed to do a (half) decent job. Except, that is, with my *EVIL* shower.

The shower in my master bath is a big ‘ol pain in my butt.

I’m going to level with ya’ll and tell you that we’ve lived in this house about 7 years, and in all that time, I’ve cleaned that dumb thing maybe 7 TIMES. I will say that my husband cleaned the shower for the first couple of years we lived here, but even so, my record isn’t so great. Let’s just say I’m conscientiously objecting to the wet and cold of shower cleaning and to the fact that NO MATTER HOW HARD I TRY, the shower is never 100% clean.

I’ve tried half a dozen cleaners that claim to solve hard water stains and mildew, and all I can say about those stupid things is that they STINK. I mean, both literally and figuratively. I’m a crunchy sort of girl, and the chemicals just don’t jive with my values.

I’ve also tried DIY earth-friendly cleaning options. Baking soda. Vinegar. Borax. Lemon juice. The good news is these only stink one way: figuratively. I wish I could report better news, but these cleaners didn’t clean my shower very well.

Now, the good news: I’ve found something that WORKS.

Can I get a hallelujah?

A couple nights ago, after desperately scrubbing my shower for about an hour and being unsatisfied with the results, I had a eureka moment: why not use the kitchen copper scrubby things to SCRUB OUT the mildew? I mean, I was a little nervous that I’d scratch the tile, but after SEVEN YEARS of unsuccessfully cleaning that shower, why not just go for it?

IMG_7044
Handy Dandy Copper Scrubby Thing *ta-da*

More about the copper scrubby thingies: I found these a few years ago at the Dollar Tree. For several reasons, they are about a gazillion percent better than Brillo Pads (you know, black ones with soap in them) I’d been using. Brillo Pads get slimy, rusty, and don’t last long. The copper scrubby things last forever, and they aren’t gross to touch. Best of all, they’re super effective! The Dollar Tree sells a couple brands. Brillo makes some, but I usually get the other one. Either way, they’re all good!

img_7043.jpg
Four Scrubbies Instead of Three- SCORE!

I think the results speak for themselves! Since that night, I’ve been ALL ABOUT cleaning my shower. Every time I get in there, I tackle a different spot. It’s magical! It works! It doesn’t stink in any sense of the word!

IMG_7032
See that mildewy grout? EW.
IMG_7031
Not perfect, but way, way better! And no stinky chemicals!

Now, I’m not saying this will work for you. Your tile may be prone to scratches, so be careful if you decide to try it out. My shower is an older one, and it requires aggressive cleaning to look even sorta clean. That being said, I’m really happy with the way it turned out!

This morning I asked my kids to get me the new package of copper scrubbies that I just bought so I could work on the shower some more. They started accusing me of being addicted to cleaning (a hilarious accusation if you know my severe cleaning aversion), and to “help” me, they hung signs all over the house warning me about the serious danger I was in:

IMG_7036

IMG_7042

I guess that’s a win-win: my kids are aware of the evils of addiction, and I *finally* get a clean shower.

Advertisements

Three Favorite Summer Low Carb Recipes

I’m trying to make healthier choices, and making wise food choices is the hardest thing for me. I actually enjoy exercise, but I LOVE FOOD. I love to EAT. I think approaching food from a deprivation mindset is a sad way of living. Truett Cathy (the founder of Chick-fil-A) said, “Food is essential to life; therefore, make it good!” I couldn’t agree more! I try to eat low-carb/paleo/ keto meals.

These days my family is enjoying summer meals and lots of delicious produce. Isn’t it great to eat seasonally? Every winter I make tons of soups and roasts, but when summer roles around, I’m all about the grill and fresh produce! We want to eat lighter foods that don’t require too much of a time investment- that way we have more time to linger on the screened porch! Here are three easy, healthy, delicious meals that our entire family really enjoys!

IMG_6510
It took a lot of self control to snap this pic before devouring my meal.  You’re welcome!

 

Recipe #1:  Chili-Rubbed Chicken

I love dry rubs on meat because, unlike marinades, dry rubs don’t require me to think ahead too much. Last night I literally got our meat out of the freezer an hour before mealtime and just ran hot water on it in order to thaw it.

So, here’s the deal: I’m a pretty fluid cook. Recipes aren’t really my thing, and I don’t really care about exact measurements. That being said, I’m certain that you’ll get my drift and be able to get great results.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Make the spice mix. The exact proportions aren’t important. I guesstimate that I used 1/4 cup sea salt, 1/4 c. chili powder, and maybe 1 TBSP of Italian Seasoning. Mix this together.
  2. Prepare chicken. I like to remove the skin and cut the chicken breasts in half (so they cook faster on the grill).
  3. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken. Make sure you get it allllllll over; you will be so, so sad if you miss a spot! Get the sides, front, back…. everywhere!
  4. Cook it. I love the grill, but last night I ran out of gas (poor me), so I baked the chicken (about 375 degrees for 1 hour or until no pink in the middle).  This chicken is AMAZING both ways- grill or oven- you pick!

Benefit of cooking in the oven: you get lots of gooey, crusty, spicy baked-onto-the-pan bits.

*My kids & I may or may not have voraciously scraped EVERY.LAST.BIT off the pan and stuffed our gooey spatula into our happy mouths.** Don’t judge: you would, too!

NOW: EAT and ENJOY! This stuff goes FAST, so I like to make a double batch.

IMG_6930
Four Zucchini Entered, But Only 1/2 of One Remains

 

Recipe #2: Zucchini Boats

My husband and I love our summer garden, but sometimes the kids aren’t as excited about what our garden produces. They love planting it and watching it grow, but eating from it isn’t exactly their fave. This recipe changed all that! For many years, my daughter had a full-fledged WAR with SQUASH, but MIRACLES DO HAPPEN– PRAISE!!!- she LOVES this meal! And it’s easy peasy!

Directions:

  1. You can use squash or zucchini. I think eggplant would work too, but I haven’t tried that one… yet!
  2. Cut the vegetables in half lengthwise.
  3. Scrape out the middles/ seedy area. Now you have “boats!”
  4. Rub the insides with olive oil & sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  5. Make a meaty spaghetti sauce. FYI: if you’re eating low carb, be careful about spaghetti sauce. It can contain lots of hidden sugar!Read your labels! I like to add extra Italian Seasoning & garlic to make the sauce really flavorful!
  6. Spoon the meaty sauce into the “boats!”
  7. Sprinkle whatever cheese you like on top.
  8. Bake it at about 400 degrees for maybe 30 minutes.
  9. YUM!!

BONUS: If you have a garden overflowing in squash or zucchini, this recipe uses up a lot of veggies! No more piles of produce taking up valuable kitchen counter space!

IMG_6931
Three Empty Kid-Bowls lined up on the counter: M.I.R.A.C.L.E.

 

IMG_6907
This year’s garden isn’t huge (we have our house on the market), but we love it!

Recipe #3: Creamy Lemon-Berry Whipped Dessert

I told you before that I HATE food deprivation, and that extends to desserts. Last night I let my kids have some ice cream w/ berries, and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun OR make an unhealthy choice. I want to be healthy AND eat dessert. And it’s totally possible. TOTES.

Lemon-Berry is one of my favorite flavor combinations. It makes me HAPPY, and I think you’ll like it, too! Here’s watcha do:

  1. Get some heavy whipping cream. (I LOVE real whipped cream, and if you haven’t made it, you’re missing out on a REAL pleasure!) You decide the amount. This can be made as a single serving or for larger amounts. Actually, I tend not to make singl servings; instead, even if I’m just making it for myself, I’ll make two servings so that I can save some for later. Anyway, when it comes to amounts, just eyeball it. For a smaller amount I use maybe 1/3 cup heavy cream. For my family I’d use maybe 2 cups.
  2. Dump however much whipping cream you want into your mixing bowl. Now whip that thing on HIGH. In a short while you’ll see that it gets thick and creamy.
  3. Add some cream cheese. For just me, I use maybe 1/4 bar of cream cheese, but if I was making this for my family, I’d use a full bar. Mix it all up together. Whip it lake you’re crazy from delicious yumminess (Cue music: she’s a maniac, maniac, I sure know! And she’s cooking like she’s never cooked before….!)
  4. Add lemon flavoring to taste. I had lemon oil on hand (like what’s used to make hard candy), but you could also use lemon extract.
  5. Add sweetener to taste. I’m using Trim Healthy Mama’s Gentle Sweet, but use whatever you want.
  6. Put in a dish & top with berries.
IMG_6916
Every summer, I love spending time outside working in the yard! This girl got no time for a hot kitchen!

 

Last night I packed up our dinner & we headed to a local park for a picnic, hike, and time in the creek.  Goooood food and gooooood times! Live life like ya mean it!

I hope that you’re enjoying your summer! Eat good food, party with your friends and family, and soak up the sun!

 

When Kids Minister to Parents

My husband went out of town a few days ago, and he’s supposed to be gone for a couple weeks. This busy summer is pulling me like I’m a Gumby figurine fought over by a bunch of selfish toddlers, and with him now gone, this week all that pressure came to a miserable, explosive head. In the midst of taxiing my kids to soccer camp, juggling my pre-teen’s drama, and trying to make healthy choices (another stressor), I LOST. IT.

gumby 2

I won’t go into the details, but I suffice it to say that my 11 yr. old either made a mistake or purposefully disobeyed me (I can’t know which…the dreadful reality of parenting), but either way, she caused me stress, and I didn’t respond well. After a day filled with other childish shenanigans, in the middle of Joann’s Fabric, I angrily lashed out at her and said things NO ONE should hear. I’m guilty of the common sin of saying something permanently hurtful because I was temporarily frustrated. My poor, poor girl!

Very quickly, I tried to make up for my terrible words. I apologized. We group hugged. I asked for forgiveness. I tried to make amends. My kids were gracious and forgiving, but even so, by the time bedtime rolled around, I was 1000% ready for a BREAK!

But did my kids want to go to bed? Do kids EVER want to go to bed?? After I tucked them in, I hugged them, but they wanted more. Looking back, I can see that after our difficult day, they actually NEEDED more! But at that time, REST was all I really wanted! As I desperately desired to close their doors and collapse in my own bed, my youngest made a request:

Mommy, sing me my baby song.

(I have a “baby song” for each of my kids; it’s a little thing I do for each of my newborns, and something I occasionally sing for them.)

Now, as you can probably surmise, I absolutely did NOT want to sing. I wanted silence. I wanted pillows. I wanted isolation, but Sylva wanted a reminder that I love her, so in my tiniest, softest voice—about all I could really muster—I gave her that song:

When I think of you, I think wind through the trees

Crisp autumn days, and bright swirling leaves

Sweet baby Sylva, your momma loves you

She thinks you’re wonderful….

windy-autumn-day-lilia-d

(Credit: “Windy Autumn Day” by Lilia D.)

I felt better as the song ended, and I still wanted to go to bed.

BUT SYLVA WASN’T FINISHED….

Mommy, sing Rosie her baby song.

In my pitiful, self-absorbed state, I whispered back that I didn’t think Rosie wanted her baby song. I didn’t think Rosie wanted anything from me. Honestly, I think she just wanted me to leave her alone. Because my two girls share a room, Rose probably overheard my whispers, and being the girl she is, she didn’t contradict me. Still, Sylva persisted.

Mommy, sing Rosie her baby song. Don’t return evil for evil.

In that moment, my eyes welled up, and my hard, tired heart swelled. I’m not the best at teaching my children scripture—that’s a whole other subject—but here was my 6-year-old, encouraging me in the exactly right way. She perfectly ministered scripture to me, and our family desperately needed it!

I sat down on Rose’s lower bunk and stroked her beautiful hair and whisper-sang

I love you more than sunshine on a bright summer’s day

I love you more than Christmas or going out to play

I love you so much Rosie, my heart just overflows

I’ve got to give you kisses from your toes up to your nose!

a0203-000017

Credit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/first-day-of-summer-2013-june-21_n_3472964.html

Like a broken colt, my strong-willed tweenager accepted my love in a way she’d bucked all week, and when I finally did close her bedroom door, I did it with a clean heart.

Although I eventually did collapse on my bed in sweet, introverted, isolated oblivion, before I did so, I made my way into my son’s room where I also sang him his “baby song.”

….You were my little baby

But now you’re my big boy

You’re the apple of your momma’s eye

And daddy’s pride and joy!

And after that, my family slept under our roof, glad to make it together through our imperfect, sad day and hoping to again never see a day like it.

 

Moral of the story: Pour scripture into your children, and it will overflow into your own life! Also, say NO to stuff so you can say YES to your kids!

Make Your Home a Hospital

PART I

A couple weeks ago, I went out to long-overdue lunch with a beautiful friend. As we sat across from each other in that cute little downtown diner, she gave me something that the petty side of me had actually wanted for quite a while: an apology. After thinking about it, though, I realized that I owe her an apology, too.

In fact, I owe the whole world one, and you, my friend, probably do, too.

You see, a while ago, I had my friend and her new-to-the-area family over for a meal. It was sometime around Christmas, and my husband and I lived in a tiny 1400 square foot house. I think I made brunch, and since we didn’t have a living room, we sat huddled in my small living room. Some of us sat on folding metal chairs because I didn’t have enough furniture for the whole group. It was far from glamourous, but I enjoyed having them over, and they’ve said many times that they really loved our time together.

Doesn’t sound like there’s a reason for an apology, does it?

Here’s the thing, though: That day (and at many other times), she’s said that she wants to have me and my family over sometime, too. Has this happened?

Not yet. It’s been about a decade, but not yet.

She’s not the only one to say this sort of thing and not follow through. Sadly, many people I know have said and done the same thing to my family. Most of the time, “we’ll have to have you over” doesn’t really pan out in the real world of work, family, church, little league, chores, swimming lessons, grocery shopping, etc.

Our best intentions become little broken promises, and we’re left with these terrible regrets that rob us from the joy that God gives to those who live out His Word in this broken world.

Hospitality– what my dictionary defines as “receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way—is a central topic in the Bible, but it’s something that many of us rarely do.

Think of this:

1. While He walked this earth, Jesus modeled hospitality.

Take a look in the Bible at the number of meals that  Jesus shared with others; He ate with friends like Mary and Martha, sinners like Zacchaeus, and ministry partners like the disciples. During his short, busy lifetime, Jesus especially valued hospitality, and we should, too!

Jesus ate meals

2. Before Jesus left earth and went to heaven, he made a promise to show hospitality to us.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3)

3. One way in which Jesus differentiates true disciples (the sheep) from false followers (the goats) is that true disciples show hospitality:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” (Matthew 25:35)

4. God especially expects church leaders to show hospitality (it’s actually a qualification for ministry):

“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” (1 Tim. 3:2)

serve him hands

5. God also expects ALL his followers to practice hospitality:

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)

So, to be clear- hospitality is not the sole domain of women, a gift with which God only gives to certain individuals, or something that God expects from the married but not  the single. Instead, it’s a sign of true discipleship! Honestly, we could fill pages with verses on this subject, but even with these few verses, the point is clear: God prioritizes hospitality, and His followers should, too!

PART II

It’s all well and good to say that Christians should practice hospitality, but it’s another thing entirely to actually do it. Like so many other things that we know we ought to do, we’re caught in Romans 10:17…”  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

When it comes to hospitality, how do we bridge the gap between “We should have you over sometime” to sitting down together around a table?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Like any other good thing, we have to start in prayer. Why not pray about hospitality? Ask God whom you should invite. Ask God to show you the best time to have people over. Ask him to give you a passion for hospitality. He cares about these things, and He’ll help you!

2. Read a book or a blog about Christian hospitality! There are lots out there, and I’ve found them tremendously encouraging and challenging!

3. Relinquish worldly expectations. There’s a big difference between “entertaining” and “hospitality.” The first is ME-focused (MY house is gorgeous, MY cooking is amazing, MY family is picture-perfect), while the latter is OTHER-focused (how can I bless YOU?). Some of the excuses that my sweet friend said over lunch are things that many of us use to justify our lack of hospitality: “My house isn’t clean enough,” “I’m not a good cook,” “I’m busy.” Real hospitality isn’t about being Martha Stewart; it’s about showing love to others by putting them above ourselves. Honestly, I’d be thrilled if a friend had me over & we ate hot dogs (or even better, drank coffee)! It’s not about the food, the house, or propriety; it’s about the fellowship.

4. Think of hospitality as a MINISTRY. Too many times, when we do manage to have people over, we’re inviting people who fit into our comfort-zone: friends, family, pastors, church-goers, etc. That’s great because we never know what others are experiencing and how our ministry may bless them, but at the same time, I would like to encourage us to think outside the box when it comes to hospitality. Who do you know who might need special encouragement? A widow? Someone without much family or social ties? Someone struggling with their Christian walk?

We need to think of the root word in hospitality—HOSPITAL—and consider how we can make our homes a place of healing for the broken hearts trudging through the world rather than playing it safe by inviting people over who don’t honestly require much ministry!

sitting on floor hospitality

5. Don’t expect others to reciprocate. As well-meaning as your guests may be, and even if they do have you over, basing our hospitality on the hope of a return invitation misses the whole point! If we want a reward for our ministry, is our motive really love for God and others? When we let go of these expectations, we also help ourselves avoid the temptation to harbor bitterness. Honestly, I’ve struggled with this, and my struggle reveals my own selfish tendencies. Real hospitality, though, isn’t about what we can GET, but what we can GIVE.

With these things in mind, this year I want to intentionally show hospitality. Lately I’ve been lax in this area, but with God’s help, I want to receive and treat guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

What about you?

  • Do you think hospitality is an important ministry that Christians should practice?
  • Do you have ideas about how to express hospitality?
  • What successful hospitality experiences have you had?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let’s become more hospitable together!

The Arts and Christian Education

 

Note: Although the article following article was originally published in the Renewanation Magazine, I’m reprinting it here because Christian arts education is one of my passions. If you’d like to learn more on the subject, I’m giving a talk on the subject next month at Wellspring Presbyterian Church on January 13th at 7pm.

logo

Renewanation is a Christian organization working to transform culture by giving children a Christian worldview. If you’d like to learn more, check out renewanation.org.

_______________________________________________

The fact that you’re reading the Renewanation Magazine means you probably know that the mission of this organization is to “Secure a bright future for America and the world by instilling a Christian worldview in the hearts and minds of children.” You probably also know that Renewanation’s primary method of accomplishing that mission is to help children receive a full-time Christian education.  We passionately desire to educate the minds and the hearts of our young people so that they, in turn, can change culture.

However, while Christian schools tend to greatly exceed their secular alternatives in academic matters, the Christian community has failed to fully embrace a complete understanding of what it means to educate the heart. For the most part, we’ve perceived this to simply entail moral education. Unfortunately, we understand that simply knowing right from wrong rarely succeeds in producing desirable behavior. Real change comes from inspiration and inspiration is the realm of the arts.

If Christians seriously desire to change culture, doing so will require a much greater appreciation and investment in the artistic development of our children.

Van gogh

How can art transform culture? The answer to this question may be answered in both ideological and practical terms. First of all, the arts may and should glorify God. Men are made in the image of God: God is the Creator and like Him, men also create. It is not a question if men create: they will and do. The apropos question is “What will we create?” Francis Schaeffer notes, “The arts…do have a place in the Christian life-they are not peripheral… The Lordship of Christ should include and interest in the arts… An artwork can be a doxology in itself” (377). Do we want to train our young people to worship God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? Then we must teach them how to do so with the creativity with which God endowed them.

Secondly, the arts have practical application. Francis Bacon, the celebrated scientist and devout Anglican, wrote, “Man by the fall fell at the same time from his state of innocence and from his dominion over nature. Both of these losses, however, can even in this life be in some part repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by the arts and sciences” (qtd. in Schaeffer 377). In short, Bacon understood what few of Christians seem to comprehend: the arts serve a pragmatic purpose for the Christian.

The arts are a valuable tool available to the Christian working to subdue all of creation to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The television shows about which Christians disapprove were made by artists. The books on The New York Times Bestsellers List were written by artists. The music we don’t want our young people to hear was made by artists. Andy Crouch, in his book “Culture Making” rightly explains that “…the only way cultures truly change is through the introduction of new cultural goods” (190). So, if Christians truly desire to change culture, ranting and raving over the latest cultural “no-no” simply won’t do the trick. We need must create.

violin

When it comes to art, Christian standards have simply been pathetically low. Although alternatives to secular art exists in certain genres (most notably music), the real goal isn’t the creation of a long list of Christian alternatives. Instead, we want and the world needs Christians who create so compellingly that their good works saturate culture, becoming the standard rather than simply secondary alternatives.

Our cookie-cutter fiction, our predictable film, and homogenous music won’t do the trick. To raise the bar, consider Dante’s “Inferno”, Handel’s “Messiah”, or Michelangelo’s “David.” This is originality; this is culture changing; this is true Christian art. Although my examples are centuries old, my point still holds: we want authentic art with lasting cultural value, not fleeting, commercial stand-ins.

How can we encourage culture changing creativity in our young people? Several methods come to mind.

  1. Own your artistic biases. When the church imposes extra-biblical values on creative freedom by approving and rejecting certain genres or styles, we relinquish the opportunity to impact culture. Sadly, many young artists fail to reach creative maturity within the church because the church fails to value individual diversity. We present them with a false dichotomy: deny yourself or deny the church. Is it any wonder that many young artists leave the church and pursue more accepting environments? Gospel, rock, classical, and reggae music all have the capacity to honor God. Poetry, fiction, and prose may all change culture. Both abstract and realistic art have their place. In short, the Christian community must learn to protect and foster artistic freedom.
  2. Insist on technical excellence. There is a grammar (a set of rules) to every skill but too often modern artistic training ignores those rules in the interest of “fun” and “creativity.” Mature creative excellence stands firmly on the foundational knowledge of its predecessors. Christian artistic training should insist that artists master the grammar of their genre. Beware of “mushy, feel good” training that bypasses basic skill development.
  3. Provide artistic inspiration. If your child has artistic leanings you should make it a priority to encourage those inclinations. For example, many times the arts flourish in community. Perhaps you could find or even initiate a Christian artistic community in your area. In the absence of a physical community online options are available. Beyond that, invest in books and classes. Visit museums. Attend the theatre. Enjoy a concert. Read a book with your student and discuss it. Join a book club. Don’t let cost deter you: many low cost and free choices can be found. The local library is a great resource!
  4. Consider how you can help your local Christian school or homeschool community develop a robust arts program. Unfortunately, funding issues prevent many Christian schools from investing in the wide-ranging creative capacity of its students. This problem can be remedied when parents, concerned individuals, and the Christian community as a whole begins to see the value of artistic education. Sponsor a contest. Hold a fundraiser. Provide public opportunities for creative expression. Encourage high standards. Mentor a young artist. I’m sure you can think of more ideas to foster creativity in your school!

first-act-discovery-drum-set

As I close this article, I want to challenge you to consider what it would mean for culture if high-caliber artists possessing a Christian worldview became the norm. Consider how you feel when enveloped in the beauty of God’s creation. Perhaps you’ve walked on the ocean’s edge or stood in the forest, high on a majestic mountain.

God’s creation fills us with joy and wonder, doesn’t it? It enriches and ennobles us. We feel whole in its presence. And although man will never rival God’s work, we can emulate Him. We are made in His image. We have the culture changing power to erase the ugliness of destructive, sinful art. If we invest in the creative capacity of our young people, we can fill the world with beauty and goodness.

Michael Medved, the American journalist and political commentator, said, “Savvy observers occasionally note television’s resemblance to the weather: Everybody loves to complain about it, but nobody can fix it” (Michael Medved Quotes). Fortunately, while some might say the same for all types of creative endeavors, we know that Medved and those who concur with him are wrong: by God’s grace, we can do something about it. The only question is, “Will you?”

 

Works Cited

Crouch, Andy. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downer’s Grove: IVP Books, 2008. Print.

Schaeffer, Francis A. “Art and the Bible.” A Christian View of the Bible as Truth. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1982. Print.

“Michael Medved Quotes.” Brainy Quote. Web. 4 January 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Admit It: The World Sucks

 

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and I’m in the dreaded holiday Vortex of Loneliness.

I’ve spent most of the day shopping alone, as usual. I’ve survived the dizziness that descends every time I visit Walmart, the entitled shoppers of Fresh Market, and the teenage Kroger cashier who’s so busy talking to his friend that he doesn’t acknowledge me. Every year it’s been pretty much the same story: I’m in this alone. As the mom of 3 young kids, I’m responsible for making holidays happen. It’s my privilege and my burden.

Most of the time, I feel the privilege of holiday planning. Cooking delicious meals, shopping for this year’s perfect tree, wrapping their little presents… I’m blessed!

Sometimes, though, in all honesty, the holidays really, really, really suck. I mean in the worst way. As in “I’m a Christian, and I love Jesus, but I want to stick up my middle finger at the whole stupid world and say every cuss word in the dictionary” suck.

When I think about my stupid adopted dad (the fake Methodist minister who molested my sisters and is now on his 3rd marriage), I get mad.

When I think of my terribly naïve and unavailable adopted mom…

When I think of my adopted siblings who didn’t reciprocate when I tried getting to know them…

When I think of my former “pastor” who destroyed my church (the closest thing I had to a family in my life)…

When I think of the insular church, the smug cluelessness of most people with big families, the corporate materialism saturating the holidays, and this sin-soaked world…

I’m so, so mad.

Today, for the first time, I even aimed my anger at the 2 people who are my birth parents. I don’t know them, but if they happen to read this blog, birth parents, please let me extend a hearty “Thanks for abandoning me and leaving a massive never-quite-healed scar on my heart.” Yay.

I know that, as I Christian, I’m not *supposed* to say this stuff. I’m not *supposed* to get raging, selfishly mad, or want to stuck up my middle finger, or cuss. I’m supposed to smile, and forgive, and love.

I know that, in the span of human suffering, my problems aren’t unique. This time of year, I get that lots of Kroger shoppers probably feel the same way I do. Even worse, my problems aren’t even high on the totem pole of human misery. After all, right now, masses of Syrians are fleeing terror or living in conditions I can’t even dream of. I feel lame and petty for even feeling mad about my first world problems when I think of the world’s pain and sorrow. What right do I have to complain? I shop at FRESH MARKET, for crying out loud.

These are things I know. I know. I know. I know. But knowing doesn’t help much when I’m wandering through Walmart’s lonely aisles and desperately wanting someone to care. It doesn’t help when I’m reading Facebook posts about family visits, and I’m cooking alone in my quiet kitchen.

Really, the only thing that helps are my three little munchkins who need me to rise above my own pain and give them something I don’t particularly feel like giving. They want a happy Thanksgiving, and they want a Merry Christmas, and by God’s grace, I’m going to give it to them. When I literally feel like melting into a puddle of self-pity and despair (I know it sounds pathetically dramatic, but it’s true), those kids are God’s power made real to me. Through them, God shines His light and teaches me what real love means.

If there’s one thing I know about human nature (and especially Americans), it’s that we want to be strong without doing the heavy lifting to get there. We envision ourselves with the spiritual brawn of Mother Teresa, but we won’t lay down our lives for lepers. We’re sure that we would save Jews and defy Hitler, but we can’t defy our own television sets.

In this season, when all I really want to do is hibernate in a fetal position until January 2nd rolls around, God makes sure I do the heavy lifting.

He cheers me on through my kids. He’s my coach shouting out, “Come on, Sharene! You can do it! Life isn’t about you! Give them a Christmas to remember! Smile when you want to weep! Dance when you want to mourn! Give when you want to get! Come on, Sharene! You can do it! You can do it!” It’s not Olympic-level spirituality like that of Mother Teresa, but for me, it’s pretty darn hard.

Right now, I can hear Him in my heart, and it is the best gift I have ever received. It is hope and a promise. It is a future. It is a reward. It is the reality of Jesus who is real and is living and is making a difference in the here and now.

I won’t do the religiously-correct Christian thing and pretend that life is easy, or that I don’t struggle, but without Jesus, I would be one of those terrible and numerous statistics in the painful cesspool of life on this messed-up earth. Again, I know it sounds pathetic, but it’s true. 

So, this holiday season, I’m really and truly thankful. Even in the midst of my most intense bouts of loneliness. Even if I’m partly jealous and longing and pathetically craving what I can’t have. I don’t have a big, happy family or a comfortable, welcoming homeplace to visit, or a “normal” family tree. But, I have a great husband, and 3 sweet, crazy kids, and friends. And most of all, I have Jesus who makes the other stuff more than enough.

So, in the end, I know this: God is good to me. God is good.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

vintage-thanksgiving-cards-vintage-16361794-350-228

A Small Note:

In a confessional article like this, I feel like I need to say a few things:

  1. First of all, this article’s purpose is not to incite my readers’ pity. No pity, got that?
  2. Empathy, however, is good… as long as it leads to action. Show some love to someone—especially to someone who really needs it. Be Jesus.
  3. Please… advice, as well-meaning as it may be, is unnecessary. Prayers, though, are welcome. In fact, pray for everyone struggling this holiday season. 
  4. No, I did not actually spew a stream of cuss words or flip off the world. I was really tempted to, though.
  5. Thanks for reading. May God bless you and your family with a sweet, joyous season of celebration!