Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for December, 2012

Paying For Sex

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I just read a social media post that looked like a list of New Year’s resolutions (It is that time of year after all.) and on it was ‘stop paying for sex.’ Now I do not know this young man well, but from what I do know I have reason to doubt he is speaking about prostitution. (Or maybe I am being naive, I can be you know.) Which led me to think, ‘What would make a married man feel like he must ‘pay’ for sex with his wife?’

And I began to think of all of the passive-aggressive relationships I have witnessed. And thought, ‘This really could happen.’

While it is true that women tend not to be all that receptive when there are unresolved issues in a marriage, and it is equally true that women tend to be more receptive when their husbands do little things, like helping with a chore that is typically done by her, that show that he loves her, there are times when it becomes more than this. When a spouse becomes petulant when they do not get their way, and only does what the other one wants if the other one caters to their every whim and desire. There are times when human beings slip into very controlling behaviors without noticing it.

And this should not be. Marriage should be about agape love. A love that is there whether, or not, things go exactly as we wanted them to. A love that allows the little things to slide.

So how do we know if we have jumped over to the ugly other side?

There’s likely no way to know other than an honest talk with your spouse.

But don’t have that talk unless you are willing to hear some truth and change. Every marriage needs tweaking. It is good to discuss things that are not quite right. But only if the aim is to fix them.

If you are not ready to hear an honest assessment of how your spouse views life, then don’t go there until you have worked on your own issues surrounding why you can’t handle hearing that maybe you need to change too.

Marriages work when two people honestly communicate about everything. They are less fulfilling when one must tip-toe around telling the other something for fear they will blow up and life will become worse.

So have the conversation. Be willing to compromise and make changes, and for heavens sake, protect the marriage bed! No one should be made to feel like he needs to ‘pay’ before going to bed with his own wife.

Photo by Matija Barrett

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For Everyone Who Gets Drawn Into Chaos… Here’s An Answer

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Philippians 4: 8 is contained within a letter that addresses two women who are fighting with each other and what to do when people think differently. This verse is not the whole answer, but it does address what we are to do within ourselves to keep the peace.

It is about what we are to focus our thoughts on.

And it does not say to focus on what the other person said, or did to you. Nor does it say to focus on whatever you believe to be ‘stupid,’ and ‘ungodly.’ Instead it tells us to focus on the truth, not on our opinion of the truth, but on what scripture actually says, because that is the only truth. It is only then that we may accurately discern what is right, and find the ways to explain it to others (rather than yell and try to cram the same things down their throats over and over again).
We are also to focus on what is noble. Wanting to tear someone apart is not typically ‘noble’ behavior, so all of those thoughts about what you would like to see happen to the other person need to be pushed aside. What is noble is to work in the best interests of those with whom you disagree. This may not mean that you buddy up to them and become their best friend. There are very real reasons why we sometimes disagree, and the Bible does tell us to stay far from the wicked and the hot tempered. But, as hard as it may be to do so, we are to focus on being the best person we can be.

This involves doing what is right. So there is no thought of doing anything vindictive, or passive-aggressive to get the person back. We are to do what is right to do. This also means that we do what is right with regards to the rest of our relationships as well. We do not allow the person we are in conflict with to consume us so that we do not function well in the other areas of our life. We also do not drop everything to run and cater to the person whom we are in conflict with when they make unreasonable demands. Bad behavior is often a ploy to get attention and love in an unhealthy way. Dropping everything in hopes of fixing a relationship over and over again will only reinforce needy behavior, make you miserable, and strain your healthy relationships. Doing what is ‘right’ means that you try to fix the things you can, but you also recognize when someone is being unreasonable, and you do not deprive those who are behaving for unreasonable requests.

We are also to think about what is pure. Your love for your spouse, your children, your love for the Lord- those things are pure, and deserving of your attention. Thinking about what mean thing so-and-so-said, or how much you hate someone is not. Re-focus your attention to the good in your life. Focus on what the people around you do right, rather than on what they do wrong. And learn to put the people who frequently abuse you into a low-priority slot when it comes to the things you allow yourself to think on.

Think about what is ‘lovely’ to you. God created the world and put some impressively talented people in it. Surround yourself with things that you find pleasing. Grow flowers, invest in art if that is what pleases you. I like earth-toned, well-worn objects and my children’s creations. What is ‘lovely’ to you does not have to be ‘lovely’ to everyone. Make sure your home is calming. Play music and create beautiful memories.

Think about what is admirable. When the Sandy Hook massacre happened old advice from Mr. Rogers was circulated telling us to help our children focus on the people who helped and not the man who caused the hurt. While bad people exist in this world it is still amazing to see how many people come together to help when they are needed, even to the point of giving their own lives. Focus on those who sacrifice- the police, firemen, rescue workers. And teach your children about the heroes. Sadly we probably know more about Hitler than we do Mother Theresa. This should change. People need role models to understand what it is to be admirable. Focus on those who are and apply their example to your own life as well.

Finally, we are told to think about what is excellent, or praiseworthy. It is empowering to see what someone else has done well, and doing well is what we should strive for. We are not to settle for less than we could achieve, but instead we were made to use our talents in ways that only we, being unique, could. And we are to praise those who do well. Lifting up people who go above and beyond encourages them and others to do even more. Praise, given when something is truly praiseworthy, buoys the spirit and gives one energy to push even further. Admiring what is good also makes it difficult to have the conflicting emotion that comes with focusing on what is bad. Keep life in perspective, and remember that the ‘good’ deserves more of your attention than the ‘bad.’ It is not that we do not take care of the problems, but when they are done being handled, we are to move on to more wholesome thoughts, trusting God to do the rest in His time.

So, do not allow petty disagreements to consume you, leaving you unavailable for other people who have not recently mistreated you. While words do hurt, we must work to avoid allowing the problems in our lives to be the primary focus of our attention. In doing this we deprive good people of the love and care they deserve from us as well. Prioritize those who treat you well. Not the flatterers, but the ones who truly have your back and love you.

You have a choice. You can fill your head with garbage, awful thoughts that depress and consume. And you can fill your time with people with whom nothing ever seems to go right and you are always crying over. Or, you can choose something different. You can seek people who don’t invite drama into their relationships (be warned, they prioritize well, so you will not have their constant attention- this is co-dependency and it is not healthy!). You can seek to surround yourself with what is good, and focus on what is positive, instead of what is negative. This is what is healthy. This is what allows you to love, and be free and feel joy. This is what God wants for your life.

Will petty squabbles come? Yes. But they are not to consume you. In a healthy relationship there will be fights and misunderstandings, but they will be resolved and as the relationship grows they will become fewer. Immature relationships are marked with frequent fighting, that seems to be resolved, usually with a overly emotional ending where everyone loves each other again, only to be re-enacted in the near future. These are the relationships you need to set boundaries on and de-prioritize. They resolve more quickly when they receive less attention, but it is really the maturing process of the person who engages in this behavior that will determine how long they last, not you, so do what you can, leave it to God and think on other things.

The Beauty of a Mistake

photo by Matija Barrett

photo by Matija Barrett

Throughout the years my children (believe it, or not) have made mistakes. Some of them small, and some of them whoppers.

Through them all my husband has had to reassured me that this is not the end of the world.

My problem: I am a perfectionist. I was the ‘good girl,’ the honor student, the one who did not mess up. (At least not often, and not according to the standards of the world.)

My husband did. He knows what it is like to make a mistake and overcome. He knows that even the bigger things are not always as bad as they seem to be.

By making, correcting and overcoming mistakes one learns to put things into perspective. One learns that hard work, and true repentance solve most problems. One learns to have mercy, to worry less, and to not sweat the small stuff.

So… while one never wants to see a child flounder, fall and fail, there is a beauty in having done so. And a beauty in having the loving hand of a parent to guide them through. One who understands and appreciates the truth that the hard work they need to do to overcome is not something to be avoided, but a lesson to be embraced, and to be glad that they have the opportunity to learn to face adversity and win when they are seemingly so young.

And yes… I am preaching to myself today!

Outside the Camp

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I have never viewed being ‘outside the camp’ once a month in the desert as a bad thing.

It always looks like a glorious week off!

No children (except maybe the one you are currently breastfeeding), no chores, no responsibilities save taking care of yourself.

A monthly week off to visit with friends. To relax. To enjoy the company of other women and refresh. To be without the demands of everyday living.

And then to come back, having missed those you love, appreciating them so much more and ready to do what needs to be done with renewed vigor.

I have always viewed Sunday as a day of work. Children to be gotten ready, Sunday school to teach, music to be learned hurriedly before service, and a schedule that is completely out of synch with the rest of the week, that inevitably puts small children off kilter.

The anticipation of ‘rest’ and the reality of chaos.

The Sabbath is not a rest for a young mother. And I doubt it was much different in the desert. Children’s needs do not go away for a day.

In my mind, God ‘redeemed’ the working Sabbaths by giving young mothers a week away. And I was a little jealous of them.

Photo by Matija Barrett, effects by Kristin Andraka

My Priorities Rant

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I just read answers to a question put out to home schoolers about when they do chores. The answer was unanimously, ‘before anything else’ in the morning. What?!?!?
I have heard of home schoolers missing co-op classes because the housework was not completed, and thought that this was rare, and nuts. (Who is going to see your house when you are gone?)
What I am beginning to see is that in many homes it is more important to mom for her house to look ‘perfect’ (so her friends think she is wonderful) than for her children to be well educated.
Let me point a few things out:
1. A clean house never paid the bills, but a good education leads to much wealth.
2. If your children do not get a good foundation in school they will find college extremely challenging.
3. By placing housework first you teach your children to over-value other people’s opinions. This makes them a slave to those who emotionally bully people. This is not a personality that does well in life, but is a personality that is prone to depression, low self-esteem and fear.
4. An overly clean house stifles creativity. If you have to worry about making a mess, you will not do the things that make learning fun. Finger painting, elephant toothpaste, raising small animals- all of these hands-on projects have great mess-potential. But they are also the things that children remember most.
5. Being overly attentive to how clean your home is makes mom the house Nazi. This is not a fun position to be in, and does not help your relationship with your husband or your children. It is hard to cuddle up with someone who is always worrying about how dirty you are.
Remember: Proverbs 14:4 “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean, but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” (KJV)
Do not keep things so clean that it inhibits productive work. And remember, those of us who were at the beginning of the home school movement, the one that produced those wonderful kids who scored amazingly on their standardized tests and won spelling bees, we had messy homes! (And we visited each other. There was clutter, honest!) Let’s stop being like the world, always worried about being ‘better’ than others, and start being the people God created us to be: kind, caring, and hospitable enough to let the little things slide.

photo by Matija Barrett

The Dead Beat Dad Plan

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First, we know that every baby has a daddy. This is how they are made. So why are some daddy’s supporting their children, while others are not? And, since tax dollars now pay to support a percentage of these fatherless babies, that means good, hard-working men (and women) are paying to support other men’s kids.

So what can we do about this?

Here are some ideas:

First, the father’s name on the birth certificate is not optional. We know one exists. If the mother does not put one down, then an investigation is opened. Every child needs a daddy, just in case something happens down the road.
-An investigation would cost less than supporting the child on tax dollars, and, with Face Book, Twitter, Instagram etc and so many people willing to rat dead beat dads out, it should not be too difficult. A DNA test will confirm. It is not unreasonable search and seizure if there is reason to presume you are responsible.
-If the father does not sign the birth certificate, but instead the mother puts his name in the blank a notice is sent to him and he has 90 many days to disprove paternity, or the child is his.
-If the mother wants absolutely nothing to do with the father she can either prove that she is self-sufficient and list who the baby will go to in case of her death, or put the name of a person who will take financial responsibility for her, and her child should they fall on hard times. (This could be one, or both of her parents or siblings.) This person would have to sign that they are willing to be that person.

Next, since many times the mother is worried about upsetting the father, a PFA is automatically issued if the father does not voluntarily claim the child and forces an investigation. The mother, and a witness (unrelated to the father) may then attest that the father is not a danger and the PFA is removed. The father can get the PFA removed if he can prove that he did not know about the child prior to the investigation, and cooperated when informed.

Dads who will not work will not be tolerated. If you have a child, then you work. If you do not find a job, the government can assign you one until you do. (Our parks and roadsides will look especially nice until you get your life sorted out.) The exception would be the permanently disabled, but this will be rare since the boy was obviously ‘able’ enough to father a child and should therefore be able to do other things as well. My thoughts: If the nice boy with Down’s Syndrome at the grocery store can work, and tell jokes that make me laugh while doing so, so can many other adults. I know of too many men that refuse to get off their mother’s couch because they are not working to support that &!%@#. This is wrong, and should not be condoned.
-Can you imagine this? You get a notice in the mail that there will be a dead beat dad at work in your neighborhood and until he finds a job your driveways will be shoveled, lawns mowed, leaves raked etc, with the elderly having theirs done first, since, after all, it is your money supporting his child until he finds other employment. He can flex time around job interviews, but since many people purposely bomb interviews 40 hours will still be required until a job is found.

This plan should decrease the amount of tax money going to support single mothers overall, while making sure they are protected and provided for. True there is a cost for investigating these claims and supervising the dead-beat dad work squad, but the decrease in people needed to process child support should offset these numbers.

What do you think?

Oh, and if he does violate the PFA and beat up, or threaten, the mother of his child the penalties will be stiff. I don’t mind paying to support her to see that his butt is in jail. It belongs there.

photo by Matija BarrettĀ 

How We Home School

IMG_7844Now this is a much more difficult post to write because how we do things has changed over the years. And it needed to. Different children need different things, and what they need, especially regarding structure, changes as they age.

In the beginning, when I was home schooling a second grader and pre-schooler, we sat on the floor a lot. The baby could crawl around and we worked until the child became bored, then took a break and returned. There was no pressure, and we went out and about a lot. My children enjoyed their work, and often sat down with their books and went ahead on their own. (My suggestion for this age is to buy curriculum with a lot of colorful pictures. The more the children are drawn to it, the more they will do. Also, make sure there is not too much on each page. Too many tasks in too little space overwhelms younger children, and some older ones too!)

When we added more children to our home school (7 in total) we woke up at 7 am, had a quick breakfast and got to work. There was a timer set to 30-minute intervals. If you were done with the work I assigned, you got a frozen Juicy-Juice ice cube (for some reason my kids loved this- use what works). If you did not finish the remaining work was put away and was ‘homework’ for later when the other children had free time. After the Juicy-Juice cube another subject was pulled out, and I corrected the papers while they worked on their next 30-minute task. (One of the advantages of home schooling is that mistakes are caught early and corrected.) When all of the subjects were done we had lunch. After lunch the children worked on their ‘corrections’ so there was an incentive to do things right the first time. Home school was not done until Mom was sure you knew what you were doing. Then any work you had not finished was to be done while the other children played, or watched TV. (Another incentive to work hard when you were supposed to.) We also had devotions at night, before bed, so Bible teaching was not considered a ‘chore’ they had to do.

Later the Juicy-Juice cubes and timer were no longer needed. The children had gotten into the habit of working well, so we continued to wake up at 7 am, but I merely sat in the room, available for questions and I monitored the situation. We also did a few subjects together as a family now that our adopted children had ‘caught up.’ We then introduced the concept of doing the work you do ‘alone’ beforehand, whenever you have free time (before bed, waiting for music lessons etc), so you have more time to do other things during the day.

My oldest three children never enjoyed school that much so they needed the daily structure. After they left the house things changed radically. My youngest three now do most of their work on their own whenever they have time. As long as it is done before it is due, I am fine with this system. We have an inbox that I check regularly and I make them a list of their daily assignments for the year before the school year begins. They can even begin during summer break if they would like. As long as they are completing assignments in a timely manner they can sleep in as long as they wish (The perk that drives this awesome behavior.). Or at least until we do the subjects we do together. Last year we gathered together at 1 pm. This meant some of my children slept until then and did their work at night. This was a little too late for my tastes so we now gather at 11 am. We are working on Science, Philosophy and Greek as a group this year. I am working on having them take notes as if they are in a college classroom, so I lecture and use my dry erase board. But it is still somewhat relaxed. If there is nothing to put on the board I sit sideways with my feet on the corner of my desk and the children are free to interrupt and ask questions at any time. Because the setting is so laid-back we explore many ‘rabbit-trails’ in addition to the work at hand.

I recently asked my son, who is a freshman in college studying engineering at a very competitive college, if there was anything we could have done to better prepare him for college. He said ‘no.’ He pointed out that the freedom of home schooling taught him how to budget his time better than his peers, and that he seems to have more self-confidence than many of them. He did say that his ability to sit through long, one-sided (no discussion) lectures could have been improved with practice, but he believes he would have learned less if we had used this method.
The biggest problem the home schooled children we know have upon entering college is just remembering to put their name on their papers. (Mom usually knows whose is whose*.) and they don’t all know how to open those silly little cardboard milk cartons in the cafeterias that still have them.
*With seven children ours did need to put their names on most things. My three youngest children developed their own unique signatures for this purpose. Their professors will just love this… (sarcasm)

On extra-curricular activities:

We have always done a lot outside the home. We participate in a home school co-op, but do not consider these classes to be part of our core curriculum. This is ‘fun’ learning. We are involved in whatever our church, and other churches our friends go to, offer. (We do not limit ourselves since they have many friends through co-op who go to different churches, this gives them extra time together.) We also play, and usually invite others to come along. We do the normal things like bowling, hiking etc. but also explore new things like cake decorating and pottery classes, or going to the opera (which we discovered most of us enjoy).

When all seven were home this was our week:
Monday: Co-op/music lessons/boyscouts (This started in the afternoon so school work was done before we left.)
Tuesday: Home school skating at a local roller rink then karate lessons
Wednesday: Wednesday night church school for all ages (more fun than it sounds)
Thursday: Home school gym and swim then bowling league
Friday: Karate lessons
Saturday: Youth group/ boy scout activities
Sunday: Sunday school, church and night service at church (again more fun than it sounds, the children have age-appropriate classes)

As the children grew they became involved in their own activities and/or worked. Some of them joined sports teams and occasionally played for the local school, which is allowed in New Mexico. Some could also drive, which helped. (Driving age is 15 in New Mexico, which, for a home schooling family, is awesome.)

There were also field trip days- lots of them. What I do to accommodate these days is two-fold:
1. I schedule lightly on Fridays so I can flex work onto that day if necessary.
2. We have a ‘half-day’ plan. If I say that today is a half-day then they do 1/2 of any problem set, and read the passages assigned without doing the questions. (Mom can spot check to make sure you read.) Labs are moved to the next day, and the assignment for the next day is done today. (Unless you want to do the whole thing on Friday.) Most of the time my children finish their assignments in the car. (We often have to drive a distance to get to these events.)

And then there are chores:
My motto (once the kids are old enough) is that I did not make this mess, so I am not going to be the only one cleaning it up. That being said, here is some of what we did:

When the children were younger there was a lot of clutter so we picked up as a family and vacuumed as needed every night before bed. They also had individual chores.

When the children were old enough to want money we allowed them to sign up for chores. The more they did, the more they earned. Some chores were one-time events, while others were daily or weekly. They fought over who got to do what at times, which is not a bad problem to have!

They also did their own laundry at a young age. This was not my plan. My husband decided to take over the chore and then quickly delegated it to the kids!

As they became older, and there were less of them in the house, we cleaned well once a week. Sometimes we worked as a team and other times we picked rooms that each was responsible for and got them done. Some rooms are tougher than others, so they each took a heavy and a light one, or one room counted as two. When they picked rooms Mom did not have to clean. This was the perk they decided on since the system allowed them the flexibility to do things in their own time, which they enjoyed. So we either cleaned as a family, with Mom helping, or we picked rooms. If the rooms were not done well, then the next week we cleaned as a family because obviously you need Mom to supervise! So while it was never as clean when they picked rooms as I would have liked, there was a limit to how bad it could get.

We then hired a cleaning service. (Many of the children had jobs and other things that kept them busy.) Now they rotate doing the dishes. The dishes are ‘theirs’ until they do them. If they ‘forget’ on their day, the dishes pile up and they do more. We try not to nag and badger them, but rather we allow natural consequences to take effect, in this case, the longer you wait the more dishes you will have to do. They also each have an individual chore and can be asked to pitch in and do anything when needed, including cook a meal.

One of the things I have learned is that it is not good for me to be ‘super-mom.’ Super-mom does everything for her children and makes sure everything is ‘perfect.’ Children then learn to be lazy. (At least mine do.) If they do a poor job, or wait long enough until Mom is sick of the mess, she will do it for them. She may nag, but this is a small price to pay for getting out of the work. This is counter-productive to raising adults who are competent people with servant’s hearts. Not being ‘super-mom’ also allows me to have some free time too. (Hence this blog…) Enjoy!

Photo by Matija Barrett

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