Friday, June 29, 2012

Reality is sobering!

This year--this summer, really--has been very surreal in a lot of ways. Many life changes, many things I thought were years away are happening now. Probably the most notable is that not only my own daughter, but also two of her friends are having their first babies this summer. It's kind of funny to think that many of my high school friends and I still have children in diapers, yet now I'm also a grandmother. No, I don't feel "old". As far as I'm concerned, "old" is something you are when you spend most of your days looking forward to the next life because there is no longer any joy in this one. I'm not there yet. Lord willing, I won't ever be.

The little hand in the picture above is my little grandson Levi's hand. He is, hopefully and prayerfully, just a few days away from ending his stay in the NICU and going home! He's doing incredibly well, and we couldn't be more thankful to God for the abundant blessings that have surrounded the little guy since his birth. This picture really got me thinking about what an awesome and scary task three young families (among many, many more) are just beginning as they bring their little babies into this world. It would be far too easy to think that having a child that isn't malnourished, abused, or neglected makes one a "good" parent, but really, when you look at that little hand, his physical welfare is only a small portion of this journey he is just beginning. In less than a decade and a half, the tiny little fingers will no longer be clinging tightly to Mom's and Dad's. They will have let go and will be grasping in this dark world to hold onto something that they can call their "own". Those little hands will work to find their own identity in this big world ... and it is the big hands that they hold on to right now that will determine what direction those little hands reach.

I think every parent reaches a point in their child's development that they wish they could stop the clock, go back, and un-do some things they did in their child's formative years. We all make the mistake of thinking our children aren't really watching what we're doing, or that we can "teach" them out of habits they learn from us. The reality is that a child will learn lessons from what a parent does, not what he or she says. In the first years of life, that child soaks in information from every source in his or her environment. TV, movies, music, how Mom and Dad react to the crazy drivers, and especially the company Mom and Dad keep and the activities they participate in. They learn what is important in life long before they can verbalize it. They learn right and wrong before they ever start testing Mom and Dad's patience.

New mommies and daddies, you don't have a few years to waste. Once that child comes home from the hospital, your job is to shield him (or her) from not just germs that can harm the body, but evils that can poison the soul. It is your responsibility as a parent to LIVE the example you want your child to follow. If you wouldn't do it in front of a 6-year-old who will repeat everything you say and do, you shouldn't be doing it at all. If it's something that is going to be a detriment to bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, then it shouldn't be a part of their life--OR YOURS!

I remember several years ago hearing some of our peers (I'll not call them friends, they really were just job associations who happened to be in the same season of life as us) telling us that they'll quit having their drinking friends over to the house for BBQ's when their kids are older and "more impressionable", because they didn't want the children thinking that they approved of social drinking. Guess what? That child is now a 17-year-old drunk. Mom and Dad never did stop having friends over to drink--they never made the mental connection about their son being conscious of what was going on. The behavior they already thought was acceptable was passed on to their son, because they never did anything to change it. He doesn't see anything wrong with his behavior. Why should he?

We have other friends (these *are* friends ... although our acquaintance has drifted because of how different our lives have become) who thought it was adorable to dress their little girl as an infant and toddler in skimpy clothing and encouraged her to role-play popular dance routines they saw on MTV. It was, back then, "cute" to see a 2-year-old shaking her booty provocatively. Now that she's 21 ... not so much. Of course, all the young men drooling over her at the pool would think otherwise. So would her boyfriend. Whoever he is this week.

I know these are 'extreme' examples, but life is never lived halfway. Choices new parents make about influences they are going to allow in their child's life in infancy are very difficult to reverse. Let "friends" who don't share your moral beliefs and values get close to your children, and your children will inevitably gravitate toward them as the "aunts and uncles" that they have been allowed to become. Let TV programs play in the background that are full of immorality and filth, and don't be surprised when your toddlers repeat things that would make your toenails curl. Children accept as "normal" those things they see on a regular basis. And they will become like tiny little magnifying glasses to their parents' spiritual struggles!

New mommies and daddies, you have a huge, HUGE task lying in that little crib. Your job is to protect them, to shield them from the outside world, to mold them into the people God can use to do grand things. Don't make your own job any harder by inviting things into your life that you will have to un-teach when it's too late. Fill your lives with good, pure, lovely things that please God and your children will learn to do the same. They will actually learn to love it. Fill your lives with the Lord's people, and your children will learn to love them as well. Please ... don't take a minute for granted.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Eye candy or heart poison?

I'm going to preface this with a disclaimer for anyone who may be reading this without "knowing" who I am. I have six daughters--five of them are under the age of 9, the other is a married adult. I've also got an adult son, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and a husband. To be bluntly honest, I don't think modesty is an issue more important to any one of us than another. My daughters and daughter-in-law can be just as guilty of being immodest as my son, son-in-law, or husband can. And every single one of us can have our consciences seared to the point that we just don't even think about the temptation that is being thrown at us every day as anything less than what it is--a blatant, "I don't care" attitude regarding the purity of the mind and body.

I was raised in south Florida, within a 15-minute drive (through horrendous traffic ... it was probably less than ten miles "as the crow flies") of the beach. I have LIVED the tropical, carefree, anything-goes bikini-and-Speedo lifestyle. I will say this much--I have only owned one bikini in my entire lifetime. I *think* I was about 8 years old, at the oldest. My bikini days ended one fateful day while playfully jumping headfirst into a crashing wave and popping up to realize that my top was nowhere to be found. I am only thankful that it happened when my body so closely resembled that of my best friend's younger brother. And I'm glad I had enough training in modesty to be completely humiliated at such a young age. My own 8-year-old just yesterday asked me why Target has moved the underwear section of their women's clothing (speaking of swimwear) to the front of the store. I replied to her that it probably did need to be closer to the underwear section, since it probably covered less than most bras and panties worn UNDER clothing. I'm at least thankful that my girls have that amount of innocence left that hasn't been trampled by our near-nude culture.

HOWEVER ... back on track ... these five girls still living in my house are already being "indoctrinated" by our anything-goes culture that has somehow infiltrated the church to an alarming degree. Folks, I'm not going to say we need to take on the state of un-dress for the rest of the world. That is an insurmountable task, especially considering how strongly our society feels about "freedom of expression" with regard to fashion. What I *am* challenging is how flippantly we Christians are approaching this problem. How many times lately have you had to avert your eyes (or did you??) from the photograph of a young CHRISTIAN girl in a bikini posted on Facebook? Or her mother??? How often have we looked the other way when CHRISTIANS show up to a worship service or Bible study dressed in ways that reveal not just "too much", but also conflicting loyalties of the heart? Have you ever wondered if the "rich young rulers" of today would be challenged by Jesus to give up their wardrobe?

"Don't judge me" is one of those catch-phrases that gets thrown around more than ketchup packets in a food court, and it has swiftly become the force field that people use to protect themselves against being confronted about behavior that is questionable. But, brothers and sisters in Christ, the "judgement" of the Bible is not condemnation--it is a discerning spirit that should be used with LOVE to draw each other closer to Christ and further away from the values and pleasures and motives of this world! Christians should reflect CHRIST, not anything else. In fact, (and I KNOW I'm going to receive some flames for this one) the Bible clearly states that a follower of Christ is to die to self. DIE to self. That, um, kind of removes the "self-expression" argument from the table, doesn't it? When people look at us, what should they see? Should they see someone who is "hot" or "drop-dead gorgeous", or (this phrase absolutely floors me) "yummy"? Should they see our ink-art that tells the world "who we are" and what we value? Or should our outward appearance lead them straight to the message of Christ by seeing that what is lovely and beautiful about us is in our hearts?

I'm going to throw an idea out there that has certainly been said before, but it has become lost in the current modesty debate. MODESTY is not about how much skin you are or aren't showing. MODESTY is about what people see when they look at you. And yes, that encompasses every little part of your outward appearance. Your smile, your eyes, your entire countenance. But see ... the "rest" of the modesty debate is that how we (and I'm speaking of Christians here ... the unsaved are lost and we have bigger fish to fry with regard to their salvation) dress and carry ourselves when we are in a public setting. What is it we are drawing attention to? Are we actually poisoning the hearts of the unsaved? Are we providing temptation for other Christians to sin? This is seriously NO LIGHT MATTER.

Ironically, physical modesty is something the Arab world has handled a lot better than we do. They realize, as a culture, that modesty is not just "covering up", but also a respect issue. Take a look at this sign, which is posted in a popular Dubai shopping mall, in the United Arab Emirates:
I know most of us Americans would think that they're trying to "force" their values on people, but what they are really doing is just asking people to be RESPECTFUL. Read this article and notice how the biggest problem they have is with foreigners who cannot RESPECT the culture and values of the country that they are visiting. It's people who value their own self-expression and "comfort" (but really, no one will ever convince me that short-shorts are comfortable) over the principles of others. "ME FIRST" is not dying to self. Christians, is that an attitude you want to have ruling your heart?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

I have his quick wit. The smirk that takes the place of any smile when I'm annoyed--that's his. My horrendously uncontrollable wavy hair came from him. My hot German-Irish temper? Yep, his. The sport I find in pointing out the awkwardness of complete strangers to those with me and get my companions in side-stitches while leaving the object of our amusement totally unaware? Also his. My love of being at and on the sea and having wind whistling through my ears, drowning out all other sound came from him too. My fastball. My high blood pressure.

My dad may not have been the 'best dad in the world'; he actually terrified my friends on more occasions than I care to recall. Shoot, he terrified ME half the time! But he was and is MY dad. He was the best for ME. Lessons I learned from my dad have shaped who I am, and that is priceless. He won't ever read this, because he can't stand even the idea of computers and thinks the internet is ridiculous. He turned 70 a couple of weeks ago, and he is too far away and too frail to visit on a regular basis. At this point in his life, because of his physical limitations, he can barely have a phone conversation. Does that break my heart? Sure it does. I remember the man who used to scale 45-degree slopes on muddy canal banks to grab a baby alligator from its nest just to lure the mama out and scare me and the neighbor kids senseless. I remember the man who would walk a mail route during the day, come home and mow the yard, and still have enough energy to make dinner. I remember those harsh fisherman-hands that baited hooks and reeled in huge king fish that my tiny little frame couldn't handle, all while trying to maintain balance on the rolling Atlantic waves. MY mind doesn't immediately identify the man who can barely stand as my father. I don't even think HE identifies the man he is now with who he really is. His pride and stubbornness won't let him.

I guess I got that from him too. He may not have many more "happy" Father's Days, but I'm glad he got the ones he had. Love you, Dad!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Life "support"

There are many "hot topic" debates right now, considering the upcoming US election. Most of the political ones are so opinionated and inflammatory that I have removed myself completely from any discussion--I will speak with my vote and let the mudslingers just go ahead and do their thing. However, this particular topic is one that has been ongoing for YEARS and will continue as long at the atrocities continue to be legal, and I will continue to speak up about it because it is truly a repulsive fact to consider that this "debate" even goes on at all. It makes me absolutely sick to my stomach to have a picture of my precious little grandson in the same post as what I am about to write about, but in some respects, it is the perfect life-affirming place for his picture to be.

In a day and age where political debates (some VERY heated) abound regarding the "rights" of people to do whatever they so please, you'd think people would at least be jumping to defend the innocents who cannot defend themselves, wouldn't you? Seriously, how can a woman's "right" to do whatever she wants supersede another individual's right to LIVE?

Well, because the two "sides" don't agree on what LIFE is, that's how.

When does life begin? Ummm .... well, uhhhh, I think ....

BALONEY! It has nothing to do with what we THINK! This isn't a debate about opinions over whether there's a God or not. This has nothing to do with whether we view something as a sin or not. This isn't a debate about something that our "belief" essentially doesn't matter, because it involves the very right of a human being to avoid being exterminated to make another human have a supposedly better quality of life. Care to see how flippantly the "other side" views it? Here is a quote taken from just ONE site--but I assure you, most I found were pretty much identical.

          "Throughout history, theologians, philosophers, and scientists have debated the question of when life begins. There is no single answer. That is why each woman must be free to make the decision about abortion based on her own moral, ethical and religious beliefs, including her beliefs about when life begins. The critical question is who should decide; at NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, we believe it should be the woman, not the government." 

So "each woman" determines when life begins? Circumstances dictate whether the human embryo/fetus developing inside her womb is a cherished baby or a lump of lifeless cells? Permit me to give you one little bit of scientific FACT for a second--we learned in elementary school biology that the difference between something that is alive and something that is not is one little thing: CELLS. If it is a life form, it has cells. One cell, many cells, doesn't matter. One would never say that a single-celled organism such as an amoeba is not "alive". But the difference between an amoeba and a rock is the fundamental makeup of that amoeba. The three designations for all matter on earth are mineral, plant, and animal. The amoeba is not a mineral. It has cells. On the microscopic level, the presence of CELLS indicates either plant or animal life. LIFE! Unless that cell is dead and no longer growing, regenerating, etc., it is alive. In the amoeba's case, just one cell--and then when it divides, that other cell is just as alive as the parent cell. In humans (this is something taught in biology class as well), the precise minute that the parent cells combine (ahem ... CONCEPTION!), a new organism is formed. That organism is not a non-living being. It is not a rock. It is a human being. It has all the genetic makeup that it will have for the rest of its life in that one moment. The two parent cells--the sperm and egg--cease to exist as a new LIFE begins. This new life is completely different in its genetic makeup and separate from either of its parents--yet through at least part of its life cycle, it is completely dependent upon the mother for its survival. Does that dependence indicate a non-existence of life? Well, if that were the case, then "life" wouldn't exist until the human being was about, say, 6 or 7 years of age and theoretically capable of fending for itself and providing its own food source. Shoot, I know of some 35-year-olds who seem somehow to be completely dependent on the care of others for their survival--does that make them less "alive" because they have not developed well enough to be independent?

The idea that life exists only at a certain point in development (which, incidentally, came about BECAUSE of  pro-choice arguments) tends to lend itself to subjective reasoning in a "debate" that really needs to be seen objectively. At what point in development is life present? When the heartbeat is detectable with instruments from the outside? When the brain fully forms? When all of the necessary systems are working properly? When the human takes its first breath? How about when that human is weaned, or when it is capable of speech? When it learns to reason? When it can vote?

To allow circumstance, whether it be the child's conception or the mother's (or family's) financial condition or the presence of other siblings of the same gender that would make another child of that gender "unacceptable", to determine the existence of life is utterly ridiculous. What manner of person would choose to cause the death of an elderly parent or grandparent--or even a child who had been stricken with some disability that caused him or her to be incapacitated in some form--merely because their dependence is a burden? We understand that to be an incomprehensible idea, yet that is exactly what abortion does.

Why is it easy to extinguish a human life before it is born? Before we've seen images on a screen? Before we've heard a heartbeat? Well, duh. Because that life isn't strong enough to fight back. That's why.

I want you to look again at the picture of my sweet little grandson at the top of this post. Go ahead. Look. Take a good, long look at the tubes, wires, and medical apparatus that he is hooked up to. Do you know what those things do? They support life. They SUPPORT something that is already there. Those machines do not GIVE life, that was already there before Levi was born. They sustain it. They provide the support his mother's body no longer can. Had he been born a full-term infant, he would not need that support--but he does. Is he less "alive" than a full-termer who can sustain his or her own body temperature, regulate his/her own body system functions well enough to breathe, suck, and swallow to gain nourishment? That idea is ridiculous. OF COURSE Levi is alive. So is the tiny little baby who is his NICU "neighbor, who was born at just 24 weeks gestation--which, shockingly enough, is just DAYS after the legal limit for abortion in several US states.

My little grandbaby, perfectly formed and strong as a tiny little ox, is just as "alive" as the cardiac patient in the ICU a few floors under the one he's currently in. Levi is just as "alive" as the man or woman who will take their last breath in the next few days, but for now are being sustained by a ventilator and IV nourishment. And whether the pro-choice crowd would acknowledge it or not, biologically our little grandson is just as ALIVE as the baby developing within the body of his Mom and Dad's friends in Pensacola who learned of their pregnancy just a few days before Levi's birth. LIFE is LIFE. And life in such fragile forms needs our support. These precious little lives did NOTHING to warrant a death sentence just so Mom can be rid of the burden of raising an unwanted child. How barbaric a society can we be, when we hold the comfort and happiness of some in higher regard than the LIFE of another?

God help us.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Simple Woman's Daybook, 6/4/2012

FOR TODAY – June 4, 2012 – 

Outside My Window… the rain has subsided but the sky is still gray. I could let it affect my mood, but I refuse that path today. Last night's storm, as harsh as it was at times (although by no means severe), gave me thoughts to meditate on as I rose early that are fueling the fire within me to begin just as the landscape has this morning--fresh, new, and clean. It will take some time for the little plants to perk up again, it will take time for the puddles to dry; but they will, and my own life's purge will proceed in like manner.

I am thinking… that my external influences are much stronger than I had ever imagined. It is amazing to me, how just the act of "ignoring" something, then having it come popping up inadvertently without warning makes my blood pressure rise even more. It's not worth the effort of feigning apathy. I don't WANT to be apathetic. God created me to be an enthusiastic, zealous person, and even claiming that something most would consider trivial association is dangerous to my conscience. I'm not going to tolerate trivial associations any longer.

In the learning room… we are beginning our new school year today. Morgan and Jamie will be starting a new "level" of math, even if it has the same number they have been working on for some time. Amazing how different two programs can be in terms of difficulty! I'm shocked at how advanced Singapore looks from Rod & Staff. I had to tell the girls that they're not "repeating" last year; this is "level 2" instead of "2nd grade". I will take advantage of creative mom-isms while I can, thank you very much!

I am thankful for… the rain we had last night, the close friendships we enjoy that make life SO much more meaningful, and right now, especially for the relative good health of my tiny little grandson.

From the kitchen… hmm, I think the kitchen is going to be going outside today for some grilling. We all loved the grilled chicken we had a few weeks ago before Pete's trip to Taiwan, and now that he's home and craving chicken, I think today is perfect timing!

I am wearing… my "garden" pants (capris that I wear to garden that are the comfiest pair I own ... but are permanently stained with grass and this lovely Alabama red clay) and a black tee. My favorite mom-uniform.

I am creating… a bunch of mental lists. I probably should be writing most of this down, but I keep lying to myself that I will remember it all. Packing lists, shopping lists, to-do-before-the-trip-to-MD lists, garden to-do-lists ... the list of lists goes on and on.

I am going… to stay put today, and as much as possible this week.

I am hoping… that little Levi will continue to grow stronger, gain weight, and develop well so he can leave the NICU and go HOME where he belongs! Besides, that's when I get to see him!

I am hearing… the girls finishing up their breakfast and playing

Around the house… a whole lot of laundry folding needs to be done.

One of my favorite things… sending my hubby off to work with a hot breakfast and a smooch.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: mostly just school and the usual household tasks. Pete has his first classroom-classes toward his degree this week, so we have a new routine to get used to.

Scripture to ponder... Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

Here is picture thought I am sharing… is any explanation necessary? SO much of our life seems completely inundated with social media, it's as if we just can't get away from it no matter what we do. It's time to take back our lives, take back our sanity, and use these things as tools instead of being used AS tools.

Want to see how other Daybookers' days are going? Go visit The Simple Woman's Daybook and join in the fun!
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