Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Joys

I think Spring is finally springing here in our town. I went away to Texas for a week during spring break and came back to beautiful white pear trees, daffodils and green grass. Ahhhhh. And allergies, sore throat, stuffy nose, dizzy head, stuffy sinuses. But that kind of goes with the territory, I guess.

Here are some things I love about Spring, in no particular order:

Birds singing in the morning. LOVE the birds. I didn't realize how much I'd missed them in the early morning until I heard them the other day when I was walking my dog in the dark hour before sunrise. There was a robin sitting on the corner of the roof just chirping and singing and I loved it. It's just such a HAPPY sound.

Green grass. It's amazing what a luscious, welcome sight green grass is after all the brown, brown, brown and white, white, white of the dead grass and snow. Every spring I'm amazed how quickly the grass greens up when the weather starts warming.

Daffodils and tulips. How I love the simple joy of seeing those cheerful flowers blooming. I drove by my old house yesterday just to see if any of the bulbs I've planted the past few years bloomed this spring. I'd forgotten just how happy those daffodils looked. It was lovely. I am thankful our house sold when it did since we have to move away this summer, but I do miss my yard and flowers and my warm, sunny back deck.

Mornings sunny and warm enough to sit on my little back porch before the sun goes over the building and leaves our back yard in shadow for the rest of the day. I've been having a lovely morning today sitting in a rocking chair on the back porch enjoying a cup of Irish Breakfast tea and reading my Bible. How I've missed sunny, warm weather.

The newness of watching the trees and flowers and grass come back to life. That never gets old. What a beautiful reminder of God's mercies, which are new every morning.

Getting to wear my capris again.

Celebrating Easter. Thinking about our Savior's great love and mercy and grace.

Talking with my little girl about how every season has it's joys when she asks me which one is my favorite. I honestly couldn't say any of them were my favorite. I love Summer with it's warmth and freedom; I love, love, love Fall when the weather cools and the air turns crisp and the leaves turn glorious colors, and camp fires and the indefinable something in the air as I walk the neighborhood and enjoy the scarecrows and corn decorations and everything that goes with Fall (ok, maybe I'm a little partial to Fall) - having grown up in Florida where we didn't really have a true Fall, I never get tired of that season; I like the first snow and the anticipation of Christmas, but I will say that winter is the one season that I do feel seems to drag on toward the end, especially in February, that longest of all short months, it's the one that I probably tire of quickest because of its overabundance of gray and dismal and COLD days, even though I'll never get over the joy of watching snow fall (Florida girl again); and back to Spring, which seems ever so much more of a relief after the harshness of winter. Florida girl again, but I didn't really appreciate the absolute joy of Spring and the anticipation of waiting for it until I experienced the real winter of the Midwest. Florida, for all the complaining about the few 'cold' days we had each year, does not experience WINTER.

And of course I mustn't forget walks with my little girl and her beautiful weed bouquets. She thinks they are beautiful flowers, and I'm not going to try to convince her otherwise today.



Happy Spring!




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I'm Thinking Our Family is Going to Sit These Movies Out

There is always so much buzz when a movie that seems positive to the Christian worldview comes along. There are several out or coming out recently that I wish I could have supported, but I've come to the conclusion that as for me and my house, we're going to pass on them. I'm really not trying to make anyone angry or to be a jerk, but I find myself perplexed, and at the risk of being thought a curmudgeon or worse, I'm sharing this post. I always feel like I'm so out of step with pretty much, well, everyone, and I almost didn't even post this, but here are three movies that I'm hearing from lots of people that they are just awesome and we just have to see them but that I am not planning to see or take my kids to see. I'm not dictating to anyone else what you should or shouldn't do regarding watching these, so see them and like them or not if you wish, but please at least be discerning about them and understand what some concerns with them are, and at least understand why I can't join you and why I'm not joining in with the celebration of them on Facebook and elsewhere. The first two fall into the category of I wish they had been something I could have supported but I just really can't and don't, the third falls into the category of I thought the book was concerning and disturbing, so I sure am not going to support the movie.

1. Son of God….based on the miniseries that I also couldn't, in good conscience, watch. Putting aside for a moment that I am squeamish about Passion Plays and movies like this anyway ever since many years ago I had to start sitting out of certain choir Easter productions because for months afterward I would see the actor who portrayed Jesus in my head when I prayed and that just was not something I wanted and because there were always things I found problematic in our portrayals which is probably something for another post and beyond what I want to delve into here, there are even graver reasons I don't want to watch this one. I'm linking to some reviews, and they spell out why I don't want to see this thing. Please, why is God's Word not enough for us? Why do we feel we need a movie? Why are we not satisfied that God gave us the information He wanted us to have in the way He wanted us to have it through His word? I felt the same way about The Passion of the Christ, and I chose not to see that one, either. Even though at the time we were being told we'd never really understand the crucifixion if we didn't. Really? And I sure don't want to fill my head with an anemic portrayal of Jesus that misses the mark of the gospel, so I sat this one out.

Answers in Genesis' review
"Writing Checks to Mel Gibson"
"Son of God Will Show Crucifixion, Not the Cross"
Movie Review: 'Son of God' Is Most Certainly Not The Son of God

2. God's Not Dead…..When I saw the trailer months ago, I so much hoped this would be one I could support, though I have to confess that even then I didn't hold my breath and didn't join the band wagon of linking to the trailer, since I couldn't endorse something like this without knowing more about it. Now that I've read some reviews, I'm glad I waited. I'm not saying it's wrong to go see it if you want to, but I am saying I think we will pass and just sit it out, and the more reviews I read, the stronger I am in that decision. I don't think I will be taking my kids to it right away. I guess with this one, I might not put my foot down and say they can't see it, but I don't believe we'll go out of our way to, either, and we'd have to have some discussions about what they see. Wish they had done better. I really, really do.

God's Not Dead Review: A 'feel-good' movie that sadly did not make us feel good at all!
God's Not Dead Movie Review (Answers in Genesis)
God's Not Dead…But Christian Films are on Life Support - Movie Review
God's Not Dead but Christian Screen Writing Is

3. Heaven is For Real…..No. Just no. Not going to this one and really do not understand why this book is all over our Christian bookstore in various formats. I'm sharing reviews of the book, which should be enough reason to know why we will not even attempt the movie. (And for good measure I'm also sharing a review of a similar journey to Heaven book that I did read and was very concerned at how popular it had become also).

Heaven is For Real - Book review by Tim Challies
90 Minutes in Heaven - Book review by Tim Challies
Heaven Tourism
Books I recommend: Heaven Tourism - Tim Challies

This blog is, obviously, me sharing my opinions. I'm not looking for an argument or a fight, but I'm just sharing what I honestly think here. I really do think that movies like these can actually be more detrimental to the sharing and understanding of our faith than others that are more obviously not biblical, like, say, the awful Noah movie that is coming out soon. We aren't going to that one, either, emphatically not, but at least the director is honest enough to say it's not even meant to be biblical in its portrayal. I'm more concerned, however, with movies that intend to be 'Christian' but which do not present the gospel correctly. In my opinion, that is more damaging than watching a secular movie that we don't expect to get spiritual things right. So, that's why I shared this. Like it or not, this is where I've come to in my thinking on these movies. It's not that I want to be hyper critical. I really don't. I would love to like and support movies that are done well from a Christian perspective. Really, I would. Problem is, I just can't with these. It's the same problem I have with a lot, not all, but a lot of Christian fiction I've come across. It's often hard to do Christian fiction well. I understand that. But I have qualms about these movies and that's just how it is. Do with them whatever you will.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Helpful Cleaning Tip

We have shiny black appliances in our kitchen, and one of my frustrations with them is that no matter how often and well I wipe them down, they always have streaks, which drives me a little batty because no matter how clean the kitchen is, it doesn’t LOOK clean if it’s all streaky. I have found something that does a very nice job of cleaning and taking care of the streaks, and it’s not a store-bought cleaner.

A few years ago a friend spoke at our MOPS group and shared some homemade cleaners she uses that are not as harsh as store bought cleaners can be. In the long run, it’s cheaper, too. Now, before I go further, I’m not weird about essential oils and homeopathic stuff or anything. There’s nothing spiritual or mystical or redemptive about essential oils and so-called natural cleaners, etc.  But I do like to look for cheaper ways to clean, and I have found that vinegar and lavender have antiseptic and antibacterial properties, plus I like the way lavender smells, so I think this cleaner is a safe way to go if you’re interested in saving a little money and making your own cleaner. Anyway, to take care of my kitchen counters and appliances I use the all-purpose cleaner she taught us to make, and if done properly, it leaves my kitchen clean, fresh, and shiny. I just spray some of this cleaner on the appliances and counters, scrub with a clean sponge ( you do know to clean your sponges or they become little germ spreaders, right?), then go over it once more with rinsed sponge, then use a clean dry towel to wipe away any excess cleaner. When you use the towel, make sure to put a little elbow grease into your wiping and when it dries, the appliances are clean and shiny, no more streaks. If you see a streak or two, just go back over with dry towel and it takes care of it. I love it. 

Also, if you spray it in your stainless steel sink and use a scrubby sponge, it easily takes care of coffee and tea stains, leaving you with a nice, shiny sink, too.

And it works really well in the bathroom, as well. Fresh, clean bathroom without the harsh smells of store bought cleaners.

Now, I said it’s cheaper, but when you first buy your ingredients it may seem expensive, but when you figure how many bottles of cleaning solution these ingredients will produce in the long run, I think I do end up saving some money. I need to say a word of caution about buying some of the ‘natural’ ingredients, but I’ll save that for the end.

Here’s the recipe for the homemade all-purpose cleaner I’ve been using:

2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp Borax
10 drops lavender essential oil
2 cups hot, filtered water
1/4 cup liquid Castile soap

Mix vinegar with borax in a 32 oz clean spray bottle. Fill with hot, filtered water and shake until all the Borax has dissolved. Add the liquid Castile soap, followed by the essential oil and shake well.

Now, a word about buying liquid Castile soap and essential oils. Unfortunately there is a whole fad market out there that is just plain weird about essential oils and ‘natural’ things that tends to make all kinds of unfounded, and dangerous spiritually, ‘wellness’ claims. Stay away from companies like that. Unfortunately sometimes when you go to buy these things you might end up having to go to new-agey kind of places to find them, so be careful. Especially with the liquid Castile soap. I had to stop making my cleaner for a while because the only liquid Castile soap I could find was the Dr. Bonner’s brand, and I bought it once without looking at what all those words on the bottle were saying. When I got it home and read the strange religious philosophies the company puts all over their bottle, I felt kind of sick. I don’t want my money going to something so overtly new age and just plain spiritually wacky as that, so I had to not buy it. In such cases, I've used other kinds of mild liquid soaps with success. I finally found another brand, and our Walgreens here carries it. It’s even lavender scented. Now, this company may be weird too, I don’t know, but at least they don’t have stuff all over their bottle that I don’t want my kids reading. Yes, it is that important to me. 

This is what I found at Walgreens, and I've been happy with it: 

























And that’s my little cleaning tip for the day. Enjoy!



Saturday, March 08, 2014

When a Good Book Ends

Do you ever finish a book and find that you just aren't ready to move on to a new book yet? I am a constant reader. My favorite thing to do when I have a moment of down time is pick up a book and read. In fact, I can't imagine not reading. I must read. So usually when I finish a book I immediately move on to the next one.

However, every once in a while, a book comes along that so involves me emotionally that when I finish it I feel almost bereft, and the thought occurs, "What am I ever going to read now?" I've read two books like that so far this year, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and the one I just finished, The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. Some books just leave you needing a little breathing room space before you can jump into another book because the story so grips you you're not ready for it to leave just yet when you turn that last page. You need a little time to think it through and process it, and it feels kind of lonely if you try to go wander the library stacks too soon after in search of something else to read.

How to describe my listless wandering at the library today? Well, suffice to say I left empty handed. It would have helped if our library had had the specific book I went there looking for to replace my latest read, but, alas, they did not. I may have to break down and buy it for my Kindle.

About The Orphan Master's Son. I don't know how accurate the portrayal of North Korea is, but I suspect it probably is fairly accurate. That's not a part of the world we read much about, and this was a powerful story of the harshness and fragility of life under that oppressive regime, but more than that it was a powerful look at people, and love, and sacrifice. To say I like the book seems strange for such an emotionally heart breaking book. I did like it. Very much. Though it wasn't a happy, happy, happy story. But it was satisfying, and in the end, that's what makes a book good to me. Excellent writing with a story that gripped me and will stick with me for a long time.

But sometimes when you finish that kind of book, it's like saying good-bye to people you're not quite ready to leave. And you don't want to settle for something less than that with the next book, if that makes any sense. Or maybe I'm the only one who ever feels this way.

So, what good books are you reading?

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Learning to Dance

I had a few deep thoughts occur to me this weekend as I took my little girl to her first school dance at her elementary school on Friday. Before I go any further, let me say from the start that this is in no way a criticism of the dance itself. The people who organized it did an outstanding job and it was well done, good, clean fun with lots of security measures in place and I appreciate all the hard work that went into it, and I know people had a great time. So don’t read this as a criticism of the event at all. It is not. This is more an insider’s look at the life of an introvert. Now on with the blog post, which I warn you is a long one.

One thing about my little 7-year-old girl is that in some ways she reminds me a bit of the beloved Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. She builds things up in her mind and gets so very excited about them that, as Marilla tells Anne at one point after a broken hearted experience, 

“You set your heart too much on things, Anne, “ said Marilla, with a sigh. “I’m afraid there’ll be a great many disappointments in store for you through life.” 

Though I do love Anne’s response, 

“Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,” exclaimed Anne. “You mayn’t get the things themselves, but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them.”

I think there is some wisdom in both quotes, but I think I also share Marilla’s caution when I watch my little girl.

Boo was terribly excited when the announcement came home about this school dance, and she pleaded with me to take her. She chattered about it all week and planned what to wear, and come Friday she was so ready to go she was practically floating.

And then we arrived. 

The school gym was filled with kids and their parent chaperones and loud music. My poor girl froze and looked at me in terror. “It’s not at all what I thought it would be like. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do." We attempted to stay, but we ended up leaving early because she felt so out of place since none of her good friends had come and what she calls the ‘girly-girls’ who never seem to click with her were the only ones she could find there. Then all my old insecurities from my youth came crashing in around me and I realized my poor little apple hasn’t fallen far from her mommy’s tree, and it broke my heart because I truly do not know how to help her. 

My girl loves to dress up all pink and sparkly, and she’s not a tomboy, but she’s not what she calls a ‘girly-girl.’ She’s not into shopping and the coolest fads or clothes or name brands or squealing and talking in that ‘girly-girl’ way. I’ve tried to figure out what it is that makes her girly, but not a ‘girly-girl,’ and I realized it’s that some girls seem like little mini teenagers and are already concerned with fads and pop culture things that my girl just isn’t interested in yet. She doesn’t know or even like the popular music - just ask her how much she despises “What Does the Fox Say?” or One Direction. And I am SO okay with that. I don’t want her running her life by the peer pressure to be just like everyone else or giving up her own personality to be part of the in-crowd, or trying to grow up too fast. I like that she doesn’t feel the need to be someone she’s not to fit in and is perfectly willing to like what she likes because it’s her thing. I don’t want her growing up too fast. I like that she’s not ‘seven-going-on-fifteen.’ 

But. Watching her at that dance, seeing how out of place and uptight she felt with the crowd and the noise and the ‘girly-girls,’ I thought about what a torture I’ve always - still today - found dances and parties to be. No matter how much I wish I could let out my playful side, no matter how much I may be dancing and easy-going and fun-loving on the inside, no matter that in a small group or at home I can ‘let go’ and sing and dance and be, put me in a crowd and I just can’t.  It isn’t that I don’t want to. But for some reason I find crowds leave me feeling unsure, awkward and alone. I am so much more alone in a crowd of ‘girly-girls’ and extroverts - those fortunate ones who are able to let loose and have a naturally bubbly personality - than I am in a smaller group. Parties, even Sunday School parties, are hard for me, though truth be told I’m always glad I went when all is said and done. 

All my life I’ve felt a bit like I’m on the outside looking in, wanting to be a part, but never quite feeling like I fit in, never quite peppy or ‘fun’ enough. As much as I wish I could let loose, I just can’t. I’m reserved and quiet by nature, and when I try not to be, it often comes off as false and not who I am, trying too hard to be something I’m not. As much as I’d like a crowded party to be something I enjoy, as soon as I walk in my brain shuts down and it’s all I can do not to run away. But I have learned not to run away, and most of the time I’m really glad I stayed.

So that’s why it broke my heart when I saw that familiar deer-in-the-headlights freeze up in my daughter, and all I could think was, “Oh, honey. I’m so sorry.” Seeing my sweet, sensitive little sweetheart, who I know has oodles of personality in just her little thumb be ignored and pushed past by the acquaintances who have naturally bubbly personalities that allows them to be in the moment and let go and feed off the energy of a room that only serves to paralyze a more introverted personality, was hard. 

She had looked so forward to this event, and her hopes were crushed when she got there and didn’t have anyone to connect with. It is not that anyone was unkind to her. Not at all. It’s just that she seems to have inherited some (though not all) of my reticence and inability to function in such an environment. I don’t know if I’ve somehow projected this onto her, though I’ve tried so hard not to, or if people are just wired this way. She is sensitive and wants to be a friend, but she seems to have a hard time connecting to the ‘girly-girl’ world. 

I hate it for her because I know how hard it is to feel like you don’t really fit in. She wants real friendship, and she does have some good girl friends, just not at that dance. That would have made all the difference in her case, I know. Had any of her good friends come, she would have been able to shut out the rest and let loose with her friends.

I told my husband how hard it was to see her just like I always was, uptight in the crowd. I told him about the giggly ‘girly-girls’ and how they just seem to be able to have fun and let go. And you know what he said to me? He said, “I’d rather have Boo’s personality than the girly-girl personality any day.”

And that’s when I realized something huge. He wasn’t just saying that about Boo. He was saying it about me, too. We have been together a long time. I know, and have known, that he loves me, I’ve never had any reason to doubt that. He demonstrates it in so many ways. But I did not realize until he made that comment that somewhere deep inside me I’ve harbored this unconscious lie of a suspicion that though he really does love me, maybe he really wishes I were different, maybe he wishes I weren’t so introverted and more like the extroverts who have those bubbly personalities. But the truth is he doesn’t wish that. He loves me. He chose me. He didn’t choose an extrovert. He chose introverted me. And he loves me for me, not for someone he wishes I were, but me. And that undid me. 

My husband showed me something in that comment as he demonstrated to me his real love. He pointed me to Jesus and how He loves the Church. That’s what that pointed me to, when my husband made that innocuous comment that he had no idea would prove so profound to me. Jesus created me. He knows my insecurities and introvertedness and sinfulness and He loves me even still. He died to save me. There is room in the Kingdom for the introverts and the extroverts. He made both types of people, He saves both types of people, and He has things for both types of people to do in His Kingdom. More important than being an extrovert or a 'beautiful person' I need to focus on being a woman who loves the Lord and let that make me useful and beautiful in the ways that really matter. And that's what I want for my girl, too, to learn to be a woman who fears the Lord more than she wants to 'fit in' or idealize worldly charms. May it be so.

And I found that to be a very comforting reminder indeed, and maybe, just maybe, it could give me the courage to dance a little, and to help my little girl do the same. 

Friday, February 07, 2014

Hoping for Spring

So, I was driving down the road a few days ago, and a flock of robins flew right in front of my car as I hurtled down the road at 45 MPH. Only the last robin wasn't as fast as the rest of the group and smacked into my windshield and landed on the road, dead I am sure. That was a bit traumatic for me, and my heart sped up and I thought, "Wow, usually the first robin you see means spring is on the way. That wasn't nice at all." 

And then, not many days later the groundhog saw his shadow, unhelpful, there, Phil, and winterpocalypse seems to have descended upon my part of the country. We've had a full week of snow/ice days with kids out of school, and the trees are beautiful diamond ice sculptures, a winter wonderland that is breathtakingly pretty but COLD, and more predicted snow on the horizon. Aside, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite as coldly beautiful as the sun shining on those icy trees with the rainbow colors sparking through the ice prisms on their branches. Didn't so much enjoy the 1/2 inch coating of ice that froze my car doors shut, though. 

All that to say, I think I killed spring. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Recommendation

It is freezing outside. This Florida girl is having a hard time staying warm. I'm talking, 10˚ and Antarctica-cold windchill freezing. I had to get gas in my car today, and it was SO cold waiting for the tank to fill my hands are still red and icy cold. I had to break open some Hot Hands yesterday even though I was doing all indoor activities, that's how hard a time I have warming up my cold fingers. Cold hands = warm heart, right? We've had several snow and cold days, and while that's a tad miserable for people like me who have a hard time staying warm, it does mean I've had more time for reading.

I often will have a fiction book and a nonfiction book that I read at the same time. Typically I'll read a chapter a day from the nonfiction book and considerably more of the fiction book. This time, however, I got so involved in the nonfiction book, I had to put the fiction book down for a day and half until I finished reading the nonfiction one.

The nonfiction book I'm talking about is Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue by Matthew C. Mitchell. I must recommend this book highly. I had bought it a few weeks ago for my Kindle and have put off starting it for a while because I was reading some other things, but I knew I needed (and kind of dreaded) to read this book. Gossip is such an insidious thing, and I really do want to put it to death in my life, and I was so interested when I saw Tim Challies' review of this book, that I bought it right away.

This is a book I need to pull out and read again several times a year. Very convicting, but full of hope and gospel-saturated truth. It got up under my skin and I found myself having to put it down often to examine my heart and cry and repent over what I found there. Quite challenging, but written in a pastoral and loving style that offers hope and encouragement in the best way. I found the section discussing sinful judging versus right judging very helpful and convicting and difficult. How deceitful my heart is! Sometimes it's just so easy to justify a sinfully judgmental heart attitude and gossipy speech, but when you think, really think, about the fact that God hates gossip, it is very important to think and act biblically about this topic. As the author points out, all speech is heart speech, meaning that out of the heart our mouths speak.

I've been thinking quite a bit today about how gossip doesn't just start when we're tempted to share something we shouldn't. It starts way back with what we allow our hearts and minds to dwell on and think about long before the temptation to gossip presents itself. It's a heart issue.

I am glad I read this book. I knew I needed to, but I didn't realize just how much. I prayed before reading it that I would honestly listen and look at my life and habits as I read it. Like I said, I think this is a book I will ponder for a long time and would do well to read more than once as time goes on.

Highly recommended.