Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Consonant-Vowel-Consonant: Pray the Small Stuff

I can hear Amelia's high-pitched voice echoing down the hall from our bedroom.

"Fuh-uh-nuh. Fun."

"Buh-uh-nuh. Bun."
 If she hears slippered feet pad across the floor, the music of her learning will stop in self-consciousness.  And so, I simply sit, listen to this little one sitting upright on her bed, spindly legs and feet under blankets of pink and sparkly butterflies as she waits for daddy to come say nightly prayers and kiss her goodnight.

"Buh-eh-ll.  Bell"

"Ssss.aaa.t. Sat."

One by one, she rhythmically goes through a list of words, sounds, always a series of two consonants separated by one vowel.

I smile, thank God that something is sinking into that head, the one that fears what she doesn't already know how to do, just like her mother. 

Just today, she and I both had another meltdown over her reading lesson, something I thought we had gotten past weeks ago.  We'd been taking it slow and making great progress.  The day before, we had celebrated completing the fiftieth lesson, halfway through the book.

But today, her genetically-acquired fear of failure reared its ugly head again as I gently prodded her to repeat the sounds so she could figure out the new word.  The corners of her lips turned downward and quivered intentionally with fussiness.  As her I-can't-do-it attitude huffed towards my razor thin kindness, I snapped.

We three had been out early for a trip to the dentist, the pharmacy for brother's vitamins, and the weekly library run for fifteen books and story time's much-anticipated craft. Two boys were coming over in one hour for a writing lesson, and I was trying to sneak in the twins' reading lesson before lunch, knowing the relationship-destroying hurricanes that swirl when I try to do lessons in the afternoons.

This was the very kind of confrontation I was trying to avoid because I want her to associate reading with fun, laughter, imagination, and the key to all knowledge.

But I was rushing.  I guess she could tell, could feel it even as I tried to speak slowly the lilting soundtrack of fun that I repeat whenever we're doing the lessons I know are more difficult for her than for her brother.

Frustrated with each other, we both took a time out.

Minutes later when I called her back to the table, it was obvious her attitude still hadn't changed.

I started slow and soft.  "Amelia, it's not always easy to learn something new.  I know that.  Mommy had to learn to read when she was a little girl, daddy, too."

"Do you know what your daddy does when he doesn't know how to do something?"

She thought, chewed her lip, refused to meet my eyes.  Then came a whisper. "He asks God."

The Holy Spirit's chastening came through the voice of a little child.  How stupid was I!?!

A natural born teacher, I had been trusting in my own abilities, the same abilities that had succeeded with my firstborn and were doing better than expected with her twin brother.  But with her? Here I was, struggling with my daughter all these months and not once had I asked God to help her to learn, to help me to teach.  I had prayed for God to help me teach others but never my own daughter.

As a result, she and I were simply reenacting the same scene my own mother and I had played out more than once during my childhood, one of frustration and hurt feelings on both sides.

"Amelia," I said, softly again.  "Would you like to pray to God and ask Him to help you with your reading lesson?"

Those big eyes flickered before her brown bob shook up and down.

Right there at the gathering table, the yellow and white reader open between us, I took her small hands in mine and prayed out loud for God to give her the ability to learn more easily, to help her have a good attitude about learning, and to help me be a good teacher.

The girl who flew through her reading lesson after that simple prayer wasn't the same child who sat with me moments before.  Yes, she still stumbled over words, and yes, I still had to ask her to repeat sounds until she got it right, but the tension was gone.  She giggled at the silliness of the story's plot, munched her M&Ms with great relish, and skipped off for playtime while her twin brother sat down for his lesson.

God's Spirit came down to my kitchen, to help a woman and her daughter through a seemingly insignificant situation.  

It's times like these that I wonder what other insignificant problems in my household could miraculously vanish if I would stop calling them insignificant and, instead, take them before my heavenly Father's throne, if I would stop dealing with them on my own and would break the cycle of frustration and defeat by gathering there with my children and asking aloud for God's help.

Friday, February 22, 2013

To My Children (after a hard week)

My Darling children,

It's been one of those weeks when I wonder if you've been replaced by alien look-alikes from Mars who only look like my children.  Or maybe the mushrooms in Monday's sausage and potato soup were poisonous and caused you to develop a sudden case of selective amnesia wherein you instantly forgot every positive lesson I have sought to teach you over the past four or six years, respectively, in how to live as a loving family.

Instead of training up children in the Lord, I fear this week shows I still have a long way to go to avoid being a failure as your mother.  Perhaps it would help jog your memory if I reminded you of a few rules of the house.

Because we are a family, ...

We say please, thank you, yes ma'am, and no sir.  Mommy comments on your manners quite often, praising you for these few simple words that make grown ups feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

But when you forget, when mommy looks in your eyes and corrects your mistake, you're supposed to repeat after her with a parroted "No ma'am," not merely turn your head and go back to what you're doing.  Yes, I will keep annoying you by saying those magic words over and over until you repeat them back to me. Don't sigh or pretend you didn't hear me.  I know better.  Just practice the politeness and move on.  With practice, those words will hopefully come naturally one day and will help you have positive, healthy relationships with others in your adult lives.

We express gratitude instead of entitlement.  You are not entitled to television, computer time, sugary treats, trips to the zoo, toys, or anything else of the sort.  These are all blessings from God and your parents.  A simple "thank you" for any such blessing is always much appreciated.  And when you want something else?  Yes, make your request known, but if it is denied, don't take this as an invitation to practice your lawyering skills with such fervency, a stranger would think your very life depended on mommy changing her mind.  (She's not budging, by the way.)

For instance, when mommy plays three games with you but doesn't have time for a fourth, be thankful for the hours she devoted to spending time playing/cutting/gluing/reading/teaching/feeding you.  Don't take her refusal as an invitation for you to sulk and then tell everyone we meet that mommy was "too busy to play with me."  Those words are untrue and hurt mommy's heart.  Washing your socks may not seem important when what you'd prefer is another round of of Clue Junior, but the day you have to go outside in 32 degree weather with no socks on, then maybe you'll understand.

Also, when mommy allows you to watch a single episode of Scooby Doo in the afternoons and a second episode auto-starts, push the pause button.  You know how to work the remote as well as she does, even if you're 1/7th her age.  Mommy will eventually realize your error; she will stop the second forbidden episode in the middle.  Don't then screw up your face and lower your eyebrows in disgust before breaking into full whine about how this episode is the only one I never have let you finish before.  Be thankful for the one and go outside to spend time with your siblings. Your time with them is shorter than you know.

We accept the meal on the table as a blessing, not a curse.  Not every meal will be your favorite.  Not every meal is mommy's favorite either.  I would rather never again eat macaroni and cheese or meatballs in my spaghetti, but I know you enjoy these foods and so we eat them with great regularity.

Accept that mommy and daddy adore mushrooms.  I know you all hate them, so I rarely include them in a dish anymore, even though we ate them by the pound before you were born.  But when mommy puts a few rather large ones in your soup so you can easily just scoop around them, please do just that.  I promise they didn't poison the rest of the food, and it won't kill you to leave them in your bowl.

What's more, your rather loud insistence that you hate mushrooms, sausage, etc. isn't considered polite table conversation and won't convince me of anything I don't already know.  Never tell me "I don't like..." if it's sitting on your plate.  Take a bite, then leave it there.  It probably took me several hours to prepare this meal you're frowning at.  And that's not to mention how hard your daddy worked to pay for the food so you could grow up healthy.  We aren't intentionally trying to make you sick.

We treat others with kindness, forgive, and forget.  You are all so good at the forgiving part, always ready with those kind words on your lips as soon as the request for forgiveness presents itself.  But forgiving also means forgetting.

That means you're not allowed to exclude your sister from your games for the rest of the afternoon because you don't want her to make the same error a second time.  That also means you can't bring up what your brother did to you a week ago.  Forgiving means forgetting, giving the person another chance, wiping the slate clean.

Your siblings may drive you crazy.  But, you wouldn't push/yell at/throw things at your friend at school or at church (or you shouldn't, in case you've forgotten).  That means you shouldn't act that way towards your siblings either.  Treat them with the same kindness and love you would like them to extend towards you.

Remember how often others in our family have had to forgive you.  Forget their trespasses as you hope they forget yours.

We understand that our words and actions can really hurt. When you don't listen to mommy, when you ignore her instructions, when you talk back...when you fail to respond with love, gentleness, patience, gratitude, and kindness, it hurts her heart.

Yes, you may be small in stature, but you can hurt mommy more than most people in the world.  You can even make me cry so hard, I'll feel like I'm breaking apart.  

Some days, it may seem as though I am doing everything the opposite of how you would choose to do it.  Some days, it may seem as though I'm asking you to do "all the hard work."  But remember: mommy is trying her best to be the best mother she can be.

I will screw up.  I will have to say I'm sorry and ask your forgiveness, hoping you will still love me anyway.  Some days, I will make so many mistakes, you'll wonder how God could have picked me to be your mother.  I often wonder that, myself.

Even so, everything I do, I do because I love God and I love you, not because I want to make your life difficult or because I want you to follow a set of rules merely for the sake of following them. 

My children, I want you to learn to love as Jesus loved, to think of others before you think of yourself, to treat others with kindness even when they don't deserve it, to be joyously thankful for the little you have instead of always looking down the road with longing.

Look in your heart.  Remember the teachings of your youth.  And seek to put those precepts into practice.  It's hard, I know.  But we must never give up on each other.

We are a family.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Jesus Compared a Woman to a Dog

Women don't seem to matter much in the Old Testament, at least for the most part.  And when they appear on its pages, too often they end up in books like Liz Curtis Higgs' Bad Girls of the Bible series.

Eve, Potiphar’s wife, Delilah, Bathsheba, Jezebel, Job's wife--even a society not well-versed in the Scriptures likely recognizes these names.  These women, their stories, and their sin stick with us and find themselves repeated in popular novels and movies.

Sure, there are the Ruths and Esthers who blow us away with positive lessons about faith in God, but for the most part, Biblical women get a bad rap.

What has always intrigued me, though, is how society can remember the bad women of the Bible but not (for the most part) the bad men.

Let's see....there's Jeroboam, King Herod, Pharaoh, and Judas.  That's four.

How many evil, sinful kings were there in the Old Testament?  Can you name them all, the ones who sacrificed their children, who murdered their way to the top, who slayed prophets who spoke against them, who God repeatedly said were "worse than their fathers before them?"  I sure can't.

But the women?  Yep.  Even I can name them all.

Julie Zine Coleman's Unexpected Love: God's Heart Revealed in Jesus' Conversations with Women offers a different look at Biblical women in the New Testament.   Specifically, she delves into nine interactions Jesus had with women.

Each chapter serves to confirm her primary argument that our Savior had quite a tender heart for women, that every woman (including the sinful woman caught in adultery) was important to Him and to the kingdom of God. 

Coleman begins her nine vignettes with a "how-it-might-have-happened" narrative, transforming the sparseness of Scripture's into a three dimensional work of art.  Then, she begins to dissect the interaction, asking questions, providing historical and cultural background needed to understand what was really going on, and drawing conclusions as to why He said the words He did (such as when he compared the Syrophoenician woman to a dog under the table) before concluding each chapter with a real life application for today's woman and journal / small group questions for discussion.

The text is conversational and analytical at the same time without being filled with a theological vocabulary one would need to go to seminary to fully understand.  Personally, I found myself challenged with information I had not before considered but never felt the book's meaning was beyond my grasp.

Throughout the text, Jesus' interactions serve to show how He was intentionally seeking a relationship with these women.  In several instances, that meant initiating a relationship with a woman caught up in the throws of sin.

Still, He met them where they were, but He didn't leave them there. Instead, He called them to repentance, to deeper faith, to a knowledge that they truly mattered to Him.

In a world of Twitter, Face book, the Internet, and various other social media outlets, where everybody has a cellphone and a camera to capture a person's solitary sin and then plaster it across the world in seconds where it will remain there for a lifetime...

In a world where one person can be then defined by that single sin despite a lifetime of pure actions, Coleman's book shows a Savior who values women (even fallen women) and who still says, "Repent. Come back to Me.  You matter."

As the author concludes,  "He will never fail to meet you where you are when you come to him."

**I have received no compensation from Thomas Nelson for my review of this book, good or bad.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Different Kind of Anniversary

As the sun set on Valentines Day, I left my husband and children to gather with another adopted family, the kind I imagine joining with in heaven's throne room.

Every tribe, tongue, and nation raises voices together to sing two verses of Amazing Grace.  In reality, it's only twelve countries gathered round pressboard tables rather than brilliant sapphire and radiant rainbow of holy glory, but still, to this sun-kissed white girl who grew up in an all-white neighborhood, went to an all-white church, and went to a school with only two skin colors, the rainbow before me is just as beautiful.

As they enter the room, they hug, kiss, even smile differently than the vanilla world I live in.  Several of my students from Africa--now they know how to smile.  It's contagious, those smiles, an impossible joy based on their histories, their present circumstances, their poverty and loneliness, separated from our country by a language barrier thicker and more impenetrable than most concrete.

I know the long hours these refugees work, the low salary they make, the menial jobs far beneath their intelligence that they take simply because they're what is available, meaning no one else wants them.  They mop floors, clean hotel rooms, hand wash cars, wash dishes in restaurants, and sanitize public schools after hours. 

One twenty-something man only two-weeks here from Malaysia tells me he used to farm rice, then worked the last three years of his life as a cook.  Pizza and pasta.  Do we eat Italian here in Louisiana?

Another young lady, alone in this new land with a four-year-old daughter--she speaks maybe two sentences week after week until last night when she bubbles forth unstoppable broken paragraphs of excitement.  Some gracious soul had taken the time to write a short email praising the cleanliness of his hotel room.  The ten minutes it took for him to express gratitude resulted in her being named "Employee of the Month," her salary bumped from $8 to $9 an hour, and managements' good favor.

The former truck driver cleans the casino but never stops smiling and laughing as we struggle to overcome each other's language barrier.

Kih-mee-KAA , they teach me last night.  Scorpion.

I continue to be amazed at the great God I serve who sent the world to my doorstep so I could have the opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission even though I lacked freedom and funds to go in obedience.

February 14, 2013, marked the one-year anniversary of our group's first English as a Second Language (ESL) meeting.  In His perfect timing, God-ordained that on the day our nation celebrates love, He allowed us to begin a ministry to show true agape love to all the nations in our community...

opening up our church doors, our homes, our pocketbooks, our minds, our families, and our very hearts to them.

And just like what normally happens, the more love we've given and the more of ourselves we've invested in those who come to learn from us, the more love we have received--exceedingly, abundantly, far beyond any love we have demonstrated.

That is a love to celebrate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Mother's Gift of Love

It only happened four times in all my years, four Christmases where I padded downstairs in slippered feet, rubbed the crust from the corners of my eyes, and found true love beneath the tree.

Each Christmas morning, my brother and I were blessed with several store-bought presents from our parents.  There was always a game for us to share, a book, and usually some aromatic Strawberry Shortcake toy I had longed for.

Yet, on those four occasions, my mother wrapped something more precious for us--handmade dolls she had stitched with care while we slept or were away at school.

Juliana was the first.  She came dressed in a red and white Swiss dot dress I wore as an infant and a real diaper with plastic pants.  Only when I untied her matching bonnet did I learn she had two faces, one asleep and one awake.  What amazed me most was knowing there was a golf ball in her neck that allowed her head to unnaturally rotate the full 360 degrees.

Then came Annie, a doll as tall as I was at that time.  With loopy orange hair, long lanky legs, and satin stitched eyes, she was beautiful.  I still remember wondering what was in that extra-long, limp package, then catching my first glimpse of her crimson red and white belted dress just like Daddy Warbucks bought little orphan Annie in the popular musical movie of the day.  On her feet were a pair of black felt shoes with their black buttons, shoes that have long ago been lost to the hands of time.

Somewhere along the way came Allison Rose, dressed in another of my toddler dresses, this one pale darling pink with a calico-like pattern of tiny roses and short banded sleeves.  Cabbage patch dolls were all the rage, and I wanted one, too.  Although I don't remember ever asking, my mother must have known, as mothers usually do.

Unlike the others she had made, this doll had well-defined, chubby cheeks along with firm, chunky arms and legs, each limb jointed so the doll could sit in my childhood rocking chair or stand alone, her feet dressed in my old pink-embroidered, frilly church socks and first white-patent, hard-soled walking shoes no longer seen on children today.  Atop her head were two brown-yard pigtails pulled to each side and held in place with fuzzy red ribbons.

As my brother and I grew older, I guess we kept mother too busy.  There were no more dolls until the last one she made for me when I was in high school.  This doll's face was cross stitched on the tiniest canvas I had ever seen.  This obviously wasn't a doll to play with or her face would get permanently stained with drops of chocolate like Allison Rose.

Her dress was of blue silk with a white smocked pinafore.  Around her neck was a childhood heart locket I hadn't worn in years, and on her feet were black suede shoes as soft as deerskin.  The most amazing thing, though, was her hair.  The usual Red Heart Super Saver yellow, orange, or brown yarn didn't cover her scalp, but rather a real doll wig with permanent brunette ringlets that fell down her back.
 I never named her.  Maybe it's because I always assumed the doll was me. 

Growing up, I appreciated these gifts, but not nearly as much as I appreciate them today.  The gift wasn't the doll, itself.  The gift was my mother's time.  The most precious thing she could give me was a gift of herself when she took her own two hands and fashioned love out of fabric and yarn.

As a mother, myself, now, I know that showing extraordinary love to my family isn't always the easiest thing to do.  Mothers are called upon to show their children love as a daily practice.

The most precious thing I can give them is a gift of my time, whether that's reading an extra book, playing another round of Clue Junior, or listening to them retell me the Easter story.
Tomorrow, my little ones will awaken to a small gift of love from me, a gift of my time...nothing as extravagant as my mother's gifts, although maybe one day, she'll pass on her learning to me.

Each shy octopus (or monster-pus, if you're Wyatt) was made out of scrap leftover yarn from other love-projects in years gone by.  They wouldn't sell for much if bought on Etsy, and my children's friends might think they're pretty dopey as gifts go.

But despite their lack, I know one day, these gifts will be worth more to them than any casually-bought item from the store, for each crocheted tentacle is proof of a mother's love, of a mother sacrificing her own personal interests to give her time to them.

Such is a gift of true love.

I should know.  I learned from the best.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Helping a Kindergartner Choose a Wife

It started out as a discussion of the word mine. 

Wasn't a mine a place for gold?  If so, why was I saying "That's mine," meaning something belonged to me.  These are the annoying dinner topics I expect, those intended to serve as delay tactics when what's on the menu isn't what my children would choose if they ruled the world.

Realizing mommy was growing irritated with his feigned ignorance, Wyatt turned the dinner conversation to a more serious topic: "What's a wedding ring for?"

This was another feeble attempt to delay eating the meal before him. Even his younger sister, Amelia, could explain how that small circle of gold meant mommy belonged to daddy and that daddy belonged to her.  As her daddy had taught her before she was two years old, the ring meant "I choose that one."


Last year, it became no longer acceptable for her to hold my right hand.  Only the left hand with such a precious ring adorning it would do.  Many times while walking down the long gravel drive to Oma's house or while training for our marathon, she would realize her mistake and suddenly duck behind me to grab the proper hand. 

One afternoon, she and Emerson actually got into a heated argument over who should hold what hand, never mind that both bore beautiful gifts from their daddy.

Wedding rings, the forever commitment between a husband and wife, this promise of love for better or for worse--these are topics much discussed in our household.    In a society where divorce is present even in the church family, husband and I have already found it necessary to explain God's design for marriage.  We have needed to explain that not everyone chooses to honor their forever promise to their spouse.  We have also needed to reassure our children that even when we argue, husband and I promise to love each other forever, "and a promise is a promise."

These are not the conversations I expected to have with a six-year-old.  I thought surely I'd have a few more years before I had to address the serious topics, but here I was again with a captive audience of three children watching me, waiting for my answer.

The wedding ring. 

God must have directed my lips, because the words that came forth from my mouth weren't part of the typical pat answer. 

"When a man feels in his heart that he has found the woman God has for him to marry, that man gives her a wedding ring and asks her to marry him.  If she feels in her heart that this is the man God wants her to marry, she says 'yes.'  If she doesn't feel in her heart that God wants her to marry that man, she says 'no.'"

This was new information--the idea that you didn't have to marry someone just because they asked you.  All three began talking at once before Wyatt yelled over the twins, "But there are SO many girls that I like.  How will I know which one to choose!?"

The comment seemed ludicrous; yet, the look on his face showed such serious concern that my heart went out to him.

"Oh honey," I said softly, "When you get older, your heart won't love all the girls around you." 

I pointed to the weed flowers Amelia had placed in the makeshift bamboo vases just that afternoon.  "You will be like a bee who passes up all the other flowers because he sees just the one flower he wants, just the one flower God has told his heart to land on."

With that, I let my finger touch the single yellow strawberry flower in a sea of clover and purple before looking across the gathering table to see if he understood.

Wyatt's smile was anxiety-free.   For now at least, he understood God would help him choose a mate.

"Yes," he said with sudden authority.  "Daddy was a good choice.  He loves me and gives me piggy back rides and takes me to Chick Fil A and...."

To my kindergartner, these are the qualities that show I made the right choice when picking my husband from a sea of flowers.

It's at moments like these I wish I could push the pause button and erupt in laughter.  Instead, I am like Mary, tucking away all these precious nuggets in my heart.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kicked Out of the Feminist Camp: Defining 'Head of Household'

"We'll have to see what your father says."

It's a great line for all mothers, one I rely on quite a lot when I don't want to commit to something before asking husband's opinion, when I want to pass the buck and have husband make the decision instead of me, or when I want a get-out-of-jail-free card to not ever give an answer, hedging my bets my children will just forget about it before husband comes through the door at day's end.

Lately, though, my six-year-old has been questioning the statement.  Why should we ask daddy.  Can't I just make a decision on my own?  I am the mommy, you know.  A grown up who is no longer told what to do (in his eyes, anyway).

"Well, he's the boss," I say, struggling to put my anti-feminist convictions in a kindergartner's vocabulary.  "The Bible says he's the head of our household."

Wyatt's face lights up.  "Oh.  Cool!  I want to be the boss, too." 

That look on my son's face makes it obvious he equates being the boss with stomping around with his plastic sword like an arrogant tyrant whom everyone obeys without question.  For a split second, I catch a glimpse of my future daughter in law hating me.  (Sigh.)

"Being a boss isn't all that fun," I begin, deepening my voice in an attempt to sound somber, serious."  To be the head of his household, a man has to do certain things.  The Bible says that a man must be willing to give his life for his family.  That means daddy must be willing to die for you and me.  He must provide for his family, which is why daddy works so hard.  He also has the job of leading his family to know about God.  That's why daddy takes us to church."

The face that has been listening so seriously to my soliloquy suddenly brightens again.  "Oh!  That's why daddy prays with us every night and not you!"

I smile.  He and I go back and forth for a few minutes, discussing the role he will play one day as head of his own house. 

Across the table, Emerson pipes up, "Me, too!  I'll have a house."  Yes.  Two future heads of their families.

I tell them when there's a hard decision to make, if mommy and daddy don't know what to do, daddy ultimately has to make the decision.

"And what if he doesn't know the answer?"  Wyatt asks.

"He asks God," Emerson responds matter-of-factly.

Through a too-large bite of spaghetti, Wyatt finally concludes, "Wow.  Being a boss is hard work."

And with that, the conversation turns to how hot the spaghetti is, what's for dessert, and how much water we need to drink to get rid of any "bugs" in us.

I know well this is not the popular way to raise boys.  Some might even say I'm turning back time and creating two little cavemen who think women are worthless.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.

At four and six, my boys already know to open/hold the door for a lady (although they haven't learned not to knock said lady down in an attempt to get there first).  They know to offer a lady help if she is carrying a heavy load.  They are learning mommy needs help picking up the house, setting the table, and separating the lights and darks before helping me shove heaping loads into the washer and dryer.

Women are to be respected, loved, treated more delicately with kindness.

What many people don't understand is there is a difference between submitting to one's husband as the head of your family and being a wall flower.

I grew up in a family of strong women.  I still live in a family of strong women.  There are definitely no shrinking (or quiet) violets here.  We study our Bibles and have lively, educated discussions about Scripture with our men.  We actively pursue our individual ministries within our churches and within our communities.  Many of us work both within and outside of the home.

When I was in high school, I clearly remember my father's family labeling my mother a feminist.  At the time, she and I didn't think that was such a bad thing.  Of course I was a feminist.  I equated the term with women's basic human rights, equal treatment, and equal opportunities.  Honestly?  When I consider how women are severely abused by their husbands in parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, how many rights these non-American women don't have around the world, that's still the kind of feminism I want to be a part of.

Granted, ours was a family where women were expected to be educated, where women were encouraged to speak up and participate in the dialogue of a family, where gender roles were undefined when it came to things like washing clothes, cooking supper, or mowing the lawn.  Yet, there was still the knowledge that the buck stopped with my daddy.  He was the spiritual head of our home.

When my children were born, I sadly came to the realization that feminism had changed from what I once believed it to be.  Overnight, I found myself booted out of the feminist camp because I believed in a baby's right to life over a woman's right to her body, because I believed the Bible when it said my husband should be the head of our household as Christ is the head of the church.

Submissiveness is not on the feminist agenda, nor is it popular.  But it is part of what the modern family needs.  Families need women who not doormats but who are submissive to their husbands.  Families also need men who love their wives so completely that they are willing to daily give their very lives for them.

Whichever role you play in your family, as my son said, "It's hard work."

Image: My son, Wyatt, helps refill the cat food container, his contribution to "housework."

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Great Valentine Exchange

My son's teacher sent home the note a few weeks in advance, giving parents plenty of time to help their darlings choose, address, and sign twenty-four Valentines for their other classmates.

Maybe it was the cute "I Luv U" heart graphic at the top of her note or the list of names on the back.  Whatever the case, Wyatt was thrilled with the thought of being able to give something to his peers.

It didn't matter that mommy had to leave in an hour to go teach ESL.  Such an important project immediately skyrocketed to the top of his list, beating out Scooby Doo reruns, the half-finished magnetic mosaic on the dining room table, and the joy (and naughtiness) found in the great outdoors.

This was an exercise in penmanship and phonetic pronunciation of names, all disguised in the garments of fun. And that clever disguise had worked...too well, making this also a now exercise.

I pulled apart the lenticular cards, slumped in the chair beside him, and watched him spread them face-up before him in lines of five.  Taking mommy's special blue pen, he carefully chose a name and checked it off before copying it.

The list of names was a mixture of the very familiar with faces and personalities and those too rarely mentioned for me to remember.  There was the little girl he'd love to marry (or at least call his "girlfriend") if this mother would let him, the boy who was always in trouble or doing something mean/naughty, the girls who scream louder than a tornado, the boys who threw rocks at him on the play ground.

I wondered which name belonged to the new kid but didn't have a chance to ask before Wyatt started into a monologue about each name as he copied it.

"I'll do her next.  She has a short name."
"He likes green, so he can have this one."
"He's kinda a friend, so I'll give him Lightening McQueen."

The more I listened, the more he shared details about his classmates...and the more I had to stifle the ball of laughter growing inside me.

"She's as sweet as fireflies."
"He's my favorite."
"He fusses at me all the time."

"She never talks to me."
"She's the one who always wants to be my girlfriend but I said no."
"He's always so shocked with _____ says a bad word.  He acts like (insert shocked face and spread arms)."

"She's cute."

When there were only three girl's names left, Wyatt panicked--which cars would girls like best?  All the purple girly ones were long gone.  I looked over the choices--a grouchy looking green car, an equally unpleasant looking orange car, a smiling blue stripe, and the traditional candy apple red of Lightening McQueen (the only name I knew in the whole set).

I suggested reds and blues.  Then, he looked at the names again and frowned.

"She's kinda bossy," he said, putting down the blue card and picking up the green one.

"Yeah," I giggled.  "Give her the grouchy green one."

I honestly expected him to balk at giving a card to the classmate he claimed had "punched" (read: poked) him in the stomach that day, but he didn't. 

It's a silly childhood rite of passage.  Yet, it was a positive way to reinforce what husband and I try to teach around here--that God calls us to show everyone mercy, grace, and love, even those who mistreat and persecute you.

It's not that they have done something to be worthy or deserving of our love or even that they'll appreciate or reciprocate it.  They may have nothing to offer us in return.

But when that happens and we love the unlovely, the unlovable?

Then, we know that we were loving as Jesus loved--not out of self interest but out of selflessness.  And that's a kind of love that just might bless the one who gives more than the one who receives.