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?

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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!

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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!

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See that mildewy grout? EW.
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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!