6.05.2020

All Evil, All The Time

I just shared this on my personal Facebook page, but I thought it was worth turning into a blog post as well, since I'm not friends with all of my readers. 

I'll be honest...I have remained quiet about everything that is going on, primarily because I don't believe the online world is the platform for debate. Nor do I think that "going black" on social media does anything more for the real, underlying issue (sin) other than make those who do it feel better. Yes, that is my opinion. BUT if you chose to do it, guess what? Everyone has their own opinions! 

I may disagree with you--and over the last few weeks, I've started to think I disagree with most of my connections on just about everything!--but I can still accept you as a person, made in the image of God. And that's the heart attitude I hope to convey in what I share below, and I hope that you read it in the manner in which it was intended. 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

"Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was altogether evil all the time." {Genesis 6:5}
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. No, I'm not colorblind. Why would I want to be? I've lived all over the world and experienced cultures that are vastly different from my own, and the experience changed me. I currently live in a household where we range from pasty white to beautiful brown, and I couldn't imagine it any other way. I love the diversity of colors, shapes, and sizes that God created! No matter what the shade of melanin, each person is a human being, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
"So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them."
I am thankful that I was raised in a home where people of all skin tones were welcomed in the same way. I know that is not always the case. There is racism and there is prejudice, not just in the U.S., but all over the world. I've seen it when shopping with friends, when store clerks followed my darker-skinned friend but didn't give a second glance to me. I've seen it with our coffee-colored kids, when those same types of clerks come bustling up to them and say, "Can I help you with something?" and then turn red when I turn around and say, "No, thanks, we're just looking." Oh, the white woman is with them...that makes it okay. ☹ So yes, I know it exists...and far worse than what I have seen for myself.

It's prejudice and profiling...and if we were honest with ourselves, we all do it.

In my case, I know the groups of people who I look down on, and they are as pasty white as me, typically. It doesn't make it right, it just means that I am not immune to profiling and making assumptions about people.

Throughout history, we can see how race and religion, economic status, caste and tribe inequalities, even biological sex, has been used as an excuse for mankind doing unspeakable things to each other. Torture, enslavement, persecution, rape, and yes, murder, have been common themes throughout the ages and into present day, all across the globe. People like to say it's because of racism...and yes, I suppose that's one name for it, in some cases, but the bottom line is even simpler: SIN. And none of us are immune. We live in a fallen world, where mankind does horrific things to each other. But there is an Answer, and His name is Jesus.

He wasn't white with blond hair and blue eyes, he was Middle Eastern. He hung out with stinky fishermen and religious scholars, prostitutes and outcasts, women and children. He wasn't politically correct in His day, but He loved people. And so He surrendered to the will of His Father, and gave Himself up to die, taking our place, so that we would have a way to God. A way which didn't require our good works, but our total faith. He was--and is--the Way Maker. He didn't stay dead, and He will return again.

In the meantime, to my fellow Believers, remember that we are the reflection of His light here on earth. We are here to love the unlovable, stand up for the disenfranchised, and open our lives and homes to those who need a safe place and a listening ear. We are here to be truth tellers, in LOVE. We are here to be lights on a hill. I have failed at this many times up to this point, but God continues to work on me, convicting me that my life is not my own to do with as I want, but I belong to Him, and His call on my life has not changed.

The heart of man is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), but it doesn't have to stay that way. In Ezekiel 11:19-20, God says this about His people, the Israelites:
"And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow My statutes, keep My ordinances, and practice them. Then they will be My people, and I will be their God."
In the New Testament, Galatians 3:27 & 28 tells us:
"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Our hearts do not have to remain hard, our prejudices can be broken when we allow God to break our hearts and see people, even those who do evil, as human beings--fallen--who are imprinted with the image of their Creator. He created them and He loves them, even if He abhors their actions, and sorrows over their rejection of Him. May we do the same. 

#BeLight

2.07.2020

What's My Motivation? Lessons in Humility from the Sick House

For the last two weeks, I've been playing Nurse Ratched...er, I mean, Florence Nightingale, to five different family members, including my poor Hubs, who came down with various forms of fevers, chills, coughs, sinus issues, and general illness that kept them quarantined to different rooms of the house for days on end. While they worked on getting better, I worked on keeping everything going, running children who were well to and from school, staying on top of my work assignments, getting meals on, checking temperatures and doling out medicines, doing the bedtime routines single-handed, and generally rushing around like a chicken with my head cut off before falling into bed to do it all again the next day. It's been hectic, to say the least, but it's also been a fantastic opportunity to do some soul searching about my motivation.


You see, after the first week of caring for everyone, I found myself in a heated disagreement with my sick husband over the lack of appreciation for all that I was managing to do for him, as well as our five kids. I felt underappreciated and taken for granted, and I expressed that in no uncertain terms. The outcome was anger and tears, eventual nose blowing, and finally sucking it all up and realizing that I did, in fact, have the wrong motivations. While the Hubs was working on finding joy in his sickness - something God's been teaching both of us - I realized that I had a hard time serving without recognition. I wanted to be acknowledged for my service, and seen for my ability to juggle so many balls in the air at one time. I wanted someone to say "thanks" or tell me I was doing a good job and that I deserved to treat myself to a specialty $5 coffee for all of my sacrifices on behalf of others. In other words, despite caring for others, I was still totally self-absorbed.

Once I came to this realization last Sunday, week #2 of sickness was a different story. You see, my outlook had changed. My perspective was no longer as the poor martyr, suffering in silence as I took care of the myriad of jobs that needed to be done, but that of a wife and a mother, pulling up my big girl panties and doing what was necessary. Half-way through the week I shared this change in perspective with my mother and then my long-suffering husband. I was suddenly struck by the pathetic nature of my complaints. Sure, they were long days, and yes, I felt pulled in many different directions, but at the end of those days I was still sitting in a comfortable home, able to whip up dinner in a Crock-Pot or even pick up pizza using a gift card I'd been saving for just such a time.

Despite what I wanted to think of as my hardships, I finally had to admit that I wasn't Ma Ingalls. I wasn't following my husband West in a covered wagon, facing starvation, wild animals, and yellow fever while helping him build our one room cabin by hand or living in a dirt dugout along the riverbank. I didn't have to go out and trap my own food and skin it, or save seeds to grow a garden and hope something survived the swarms of locust. No, indeed! I was a 21st century working mom, married to a man who normally goes above and beyond to help out when he's not stricken with fever and snoring on the couch. I had access to easy meals, live within walking distance of a Starbucks, and am able to hand out Tylenol when fevers spike. In other words, I needed to suck it up, buttercup

And that started me thinking about how often I incorrectly view perceived hardships and trials. Trials, in fact, being much on my mind over the last month. How often are the trials that I complain about, in fact, messes of my own making that I've either put myself into by my poor choices, or made into a mountain when they should be a molehill? Probably more often than I care to admit - to you, or even to myself. Whatever happened to denying myself in order to pick up my cross (a method of torture and death) and follow Jesus? How could I possibly justify my quest for recognition and praise when Paul tells us in Galatians that we ought to serve one another, humbly in love, not gratifying the desires of our flesh? Or Christ's command that he who wants to be greatest shall be a servant of all? Servant of all...I didn't even want to be a servant to six! 

As I type this, all who have been ill in our house are now well on their way to recovery and back out in the land of the living (which, in this instance, means allowed out of their rooms and back at the dining room table with the others). I, however, am still pondering the selfishness and wrong thinking that God revealed to me over the last two weeks. While they have all recovered health and moved on, I have a feeling that my trek is just beginning, but the outcome, Lord willing, will be one that makes a long-term difference. Here's to serving the Lord with joy, no matter what the situation.

1.21.2020

Sherlock Meets Pooh Corner

Last week I wrote a blog post about the books that I was reading, and a kind reader left a comment telling me about a book that she (or perhaps he, I'm not sure) was reading—a mystery by none other than Mr. A.A. Milne, well-known author of the Winnie the Pooh stories.

Being a lover of locked-room mysteries, and a childhood fan of the Pooh books, I immediately headed over to Amazon to check this thing out. Once there, I made the happy discovery that the book was not only available for FREE as a public domain book on Amazon Kindle, but that I had actually downloaded it almost exactly seven years ago, but had never gotten around to reading it! I rectified that oversight this weekend, and the following are my thoughts on Milne's one and only mystery novel, The Red House Mystery.

Photo by Phil Hearing

The basic premise of the book is that the owner of the Red House, Mark Ablett, is hosting a group of acquaintances at his manor and receives a letter from a brother who is supposed to be stashed away in Australia but is, instead, coming to see him in England that very afternoon. While the group of friends takes themselves off for a round of golf, Mark and his live-in cousin/estate agent/personal assistant, Cayley, busy themselves about the house, awaiting the arrival of the rogue brother, Robert. Robert arrives and is shown into the office, Mark can't be located, eventually there is the sound of a gunshot, and when the main character - our amateur Sherlock Holmes - Antony Gillingham, arrives on the scene, Cayley is madly pounding on the door of the office, demanding to be let in. 

Gillingham is an independent Jack-of-all-trades, and currently in the area for pleasure, but recalls that a friend of his, Bill Beverly, is staying at Red House, which puts him Johnny-on-the-spot moments after the murder takes place. For, oh yes, there is a murder. Brother Robert lies dead on the floor of the office, brother Mark is nowhere to be found, and cousin Cayley is acting mighty suspicious. What follows is the rather parody-like attempts of Bill playing Watson to Gillingham's Sherlock, with a somewhat dim Inspector Birch playing the backseat role of Lestrade

It's not hard to quickly see through the plot and know who did what, but nevertheless, it was almost comical enough to overlook the clear leaning upon classic British mystery writers. Locked rooms, secret tunnels, midnight escapades, attempted misdirection, unrequited love...it's not Dame Christie nor Sir Arthur, but I read it in a weekend and enjoyed it for what it was: a grown-up version of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. 😊 Plus, Milne wrote it because his dad liked mysteries, and I think that's a pretty sweet reason to write something. 😍
WOMNS Rating: 3.5 stars (which I'll bump up to 4, because it's FREE)
Worth Reading? Yes, especially if you're down with a cold or have nothing better to do.


No Kindle? You can find multiple formats and ways to read it by visiting this page on Project Gutenberg.

1.17.2020

Let's Talk Books (a #WOMNS Post)

I read 59 books in 2019. I really didn't know if I'd make my original goal of 52, so I was surprised and delighted when I surpassed it. Granted, several of them were children's chapter books or re-reads for my own pleasure, but it still counts for me. Reading is reading, and I'm amazed that even in all the chaos of being a full-time chauffeur, cook, nurse, tutor, and life counselor for five little people, a part-time, work-from-home editor and consultant, and squeezing in the occasional lunch date with the Hubs, I still managed to find time to read that much. It just goes to show that if you make something a priority, you learn how to say no to lesser things and yes to better things. 📚

Since 2019 proved it was possible, I've chosen the same goal (52 books) for 2020. But here we are, half-way through January, and I've gotten off to a rather bumpy start when it comes to sticking with completing a book a week. Life has been very busy, the Hubs has been working long hours and late nights, and by the time I crawl into bed and try to read anything, the book (or my phone, where I use my Kindle app) just ends up hitting my face within minutes of starting. I know this is just a season, so I continue to grab the moments I do have in car line or sitting at a sporting event, and try to make some headway, albeit slowly.


  • Hank & Jim (by Scott Eyman) was a Facebook recommendation that someone else shared on a friend's post about Jimmy's service in the Air Force during WWII. I love Jimmy Stewart, and when I read the premise of the book, I decided it was something I wanted to add to my shelf this year. So far, it's not sucking me in, but it's interesting, and the book is currently 70% off the list price on Amazon, with free shipping.
  • A is for Arsenic (by Kathryn Markup), I believe, was a Goodreads find. It covers the poisons that Agatha Christie uses in all of her books, and gives details about the poisons themselves, as well as examples from real life cases (some successful, some not), antidotes, and how Christie used them in what books. If you are a fan of Christie, this is a good companion to her work. I might look a little scary while reading it at taekwondo, but this is the kind of random stuff I like learning about (though now I'm a little paranoid about the kids eating too many apple seeds...). 
  • Murder on the Orient Express (by Agatha Christie) is a reread. Every once in a while I get the urge to reread my collection of Christie (mostly Poirot - not a huge fan of Miss Marple, or her stand-alone mysteries, unless it's And Then There Were None). I started working through them again last year, and this is where I am at the moment. I just re-watched two film remakes of this book—the all-star cast in the 1974 version, and the one from season 12 of Poirot with David Suchet—and I couldn't help but be disappointed with both. The story stands alone...stop changing the films to add drama. At least, that's my opinion. And we won't even speak of the atrocity that was the 2017 big screen version (really, Poirot with a gun??).
  • Mary Poppins Collection: Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins Comes Back, Mary Poppins Opens the Door, Mary Poppins in the Park (by P.L. Travers - Kindle Edition) is a book I borrowed for free through the Prime Lending Library. Let me just say that if Saving Mr. Banks had any ounce of accuracy in it, I would fully understand why Mrs. Travers was appalled by the Disney transformation of her beloved character. But let me also say that having grown up on the Julie Andrews version, reading these stories for the first time has left me a little dumbfounded. I'm on the final book of the collection now, and honestly just ready to be done with it.
So while those are currently what's on my nightstand (WOMNS), I haven't finished any of them. My saving grace at the moment, and the only reason I'm still "on track" as far as Goodreads is concerned, is that everyday on our ride to and from school the kids and I are listening to Radio Theater's production of The Chronicles of Narnia, produced by Focus on the Family and recorded in London. We've completed The Magician's Nephew and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe so far, and are currently working our way through The Horse and His Boy.

In general, I am not a fan of audio books, but the kids have loved listening to Adventures in Odyssey over the last two years (as have I, reliving my childhood!), and when I saw that this was done by the same folks, I figured it might be worthwhile...and it has been! I cannot speak highly enough of this production. We received the CD set for Christmas from a family member, but you can also get the MP3 version from Amazon (for over twice the price, just FYI - it's cheaper to buy each MP3 audio book individually in this case). As soon as we get in the car each morning and afternoon, at least one of the kids immediately says, "Can we listen to Narnia?" That's music to my bookworm ears!

Side note: If you're on Goodreads, feel free to send me a friend request so that we can keep up with what we're both reading. I love seeing what others add to their shelves, and often find a future read because of it.

What's on YOUR nightstand?

1.13.2020

A Tale of Two Snowflakes

Last Friday, I had the rare opportunity to be out, by myself, at night. While our son stayed with a friend and the Hubs kept the three youngest girls at home, I drove into a nearby town and dropped our oldest off for a school event and then headed to the mall, like some kind of irresponsible teenager who has nothing better to do on a Friday night. 😊 But unlike my teenage self, I was on a mission. With a $10 off coupon in my purse, I hit up Bath & Body Works to see what might be left on the 75% off displays, thinking ahead to Christmas and birthdays and loading up the shopping bag that was hanging from my arm.

As I tossed $3.25 body washes into the basket and tried to keep from going totally nose deaf after sniffing so many different scents, a large "CLEARANCE" tag caught my eye on the top shelf. It was attached to an over-sized wooden snowflake that had been $60 and was now on sale for $15. I felt myself reaching for it when I heard the associate next to me say, "We have two, if you're interested..." and the next thing I knew I was asking him to put them behind the front counter for me. I knew immediately where I wanted to put them in our home, and I also knew that they would be just what was needed to help blow away the after-Christmas doldrums that always follow the removal of all the holly and jolly decor.


I've written a lot over the years about my desire to simplify. I've shared my rules of "one-in/one-out" and my participation in the William Morris Project. I've talked about my desire to eliminate junk and keep only what is useful and beautiful. I've even been a part of the 12-week uncluttered course that Joshua Becker puts on several times a year. But over time, I've learned that needs change. What worked 10 years ago, doesn't work now. I'm still a fan of clean, clear surfaces -- though if you were to see my work desk where I am typing this at the moment, you wouldn't know that. I still prefer minimal decor to chaotic clutter. I'm still adamant that the kid's toys and art supplies remain in their rooms and designated play areas, while the main portion of the house remains devoted to simplicity. But I also know that I want our house to feel like a cozy home, not some cold, sterile landscape.

The post-Christmas blahs are hard enough. When the tree comes down and the festive lights are packed away, it can easily feel like we've lost all the warmth from the house. In a month with no holidays to celebrate, both school and work starting back up, and long, dark evenings, it's no wonder people immediate look forward to the arrival of spring. But January has always been a month for me that is full of promise and opportunity. The promise of a new year, with new possibilities on the horizon. The opportunity to make changes and try new things and take action on long-held goals. I don't want to rush through the winter months, always looking ahead to what's next on the calendar. January is our month to reset and start well, and just as small steps towards a larger goal shouldn't be overlooked, I think January is worthy of some festive love in the decor department as well.

When I spotted these giant snowflakes on Friday, in an instant I knew they were what our winter home had been missing, and I also knew I had the perfect spots for them. In fact, if I hadn't immediately known where I would place them, I wouldn't have purchased them. And I think that's really the key to the whole idea of #minimalismsimplified, isn't it? It's not that you need to purge the house of all signs of human life, but that you need to have a plan for the stuff BEFORE it comes into your house, just like I usually know what is going OUT before I buy a new pair of shoes or a new sweater.

I haven't read the book, but I watched the show. And yes, I rolled my eyes while people said thank you to the used shoes and old underwear before they put them in the trash bags. But Marie Kondo's way of folding t-shirts has definitely made a difference in our dresser drawers (even the Hubs is a fan), and the idea of looking at things and asking if they spark joy isn't necessarily a bad thing. For example, I knew as soon as I saw the snowflakes that they made me smile. I knew where I would put them. I knew I would be willing to get rid of other things if necessary in order to store them. All of that put together meant that I felt it was worth $30 to bring them into our house. And the end result? The kids loved them, the hubs admitted to them being a nice addition, and whenever I walk through our dining room, I grin. Whether you call that "sparking joy" or simply see it as fun decor, I think winter just got a little bit friendlier, don't you? 


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