Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Nightstand Reading




Do you keep books on your nightstand? 

Whatever I'm currently reading usually ends up there, along with other random things. 

Yesterday I looked at my nightstand and realized that I have a relatively small stack of books - just five, in fact.  Here's the list from top to bottom:

Have you read this blog?  Robyn is a friend of a friend so although I've never read her blog before, I went to the book signing here in Omaha.  As she read a couple excerpts from the book and shared her story, I knew I would like the book!  

This book is by a fellow Redbud and it is one I'm reviewing for BookLook Bloggers.  I'm not too far in, but I can tell that it is a book that has the potential to impact many people.  I am looking forward to writing a review when I finish it.

It is impossible to be a good Christian writer and not read Anne Lamott, right??  Although I've known of Anne for years, I haven't read any of her books.  But when a different Anne (of Modern Mrs. Darcy) posted Shauna Niequist's book recommendations for writers and it contained not one, but TWO Anne Lamott books, I knew it was time.  I'm so looking forward to digging into these.

Another Anne Lamott!  And also from Shauna Niequist's recommended list.    

I love this little book by Lauren Winner.  This is probably the third or fourth time I've read it!

Also hanging out on my nightstand is a book of crossword puzzles, a book on toddler speech, a bottle of melatonin, Starbucks tea, lotion, Kleenex, and nine bobby pins.



What's on YOUR nightstand??


**All opinions are my own.  Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers was given to me by the publisher in exchange for a review that will be posted soon.  All other books were purchased on my own or given as gifts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I woke up in pain.



I woke up in pain.

It was surprising - breath-taking, even.  I had blissfully forgotten what that was like.

Quickly I ran through the inventory in my head:  Was I stressed?  Was I skimping on sleep?  Had I been making poor food choices?  Had I not been moving enough?  Had I been moving too much?  Was the weather changing abruptly?

All of these questions really just shoots off the big question: why?

Why was I in pain?

Why AM I in pain?

Why, why, why?

Focusing on my sleeping and eating is easy because they are masks, cover-ups for the real questions I'm trying not to ask: Why does pain exist?  And why me?

Is this God, with a divine plan?  Is this a result of genetics?  Is it toxins present in the American diet?  Or the result of living in a too-sterile environment?

I put on comfortable, non-hurty clothes.  I dragged my body (plus the 30 lb toddler) up the stairs to give him a diaper change despite how much my achy joints protested.  

All day long I did the next thing.

Remembering the advice they gave at Mayo, I texted my husband just one line:  I'm really hurting today.

Don't focus on the pain, they said.  It just makes it worse.  Don't mention it at all on the normal days and on the very difficult days, just say something short.

So I did.

I texted my one line and he responded with appropriate concern.

And I went on with the day.

I tried not to think about the pain.

Does that work for the rest of life, I wonder?

Is it that easy?

The world is messed up.  We've established that.

Can we just suppress and repress the pain of this world?  Can we go on like life is fine and only mention the pain on the very-hard days?  Are we just fooling ourselves into having a more comfortable life?  Can we ignore the discouragement of living amidst a fallen creation?

Don't focus on the pain, they said.

But what about the days when you can't see past the pain?




Monday, May 12, 2014

Currently Reading: Where the Wind Leads



Compelling.

That is what I would say if I were asked to sum up Where the Wind Leads in one word.

It is "a refugee family's miraculous story of loss, rescue, and redemption" written from the perspective of the son, Vihn Chung with Tim Downs.

Chung begins by laying out his family's history in their homeland of Vietnam.  The story is tumultuous as the family survives various coups and wars.  Each time they are uprooted and upset, yet they press on.

Eventually they decide that they cannot live this way any longer and in 1979 they become "boat people" who sail away from Vietnam in hopes of finding a better life.

Intertwined with the Chung's story is the story of Stan Mooneyham, the second president of World Vision.  When a friend challenged Stan to learn more about the boat people and find a way to help them, Stan resisted at first.  Soon, however, he was convinced that his Christian organization should be helping these refugees who were fleeing their country for safety, yet unable to find a country to welcome them.

Chung's description of their time on the boat and as new refugees is agonizing.  Eventually they are rescued and, with World Vision's help, are allowed to enter the United States.  There are still difficulties once the family is settled in Arkansas, but they work hard and persevere.  Chung fulfills his father's dream when he graduates from Harvard Medical School.  Chung now lives and works in Colorado Springs, Colorado and serves on the board of World Vision.

This is an excellent book.  Chung (and Downs) told a gripping, riveting story and appropriately interwove both humor and history.  I am more familiar with stories of immigrants, but this book opened my eyes to the experience of refugees.

I was a bit worried about the ending.  In the last chapter, Chung asks questions about why his family was rescued and why others were not.  I was afraid that the book might turn the corner to preaching a prosperity gospel (e.g. "They called upon God and therefore all their problems were taken away").  But it didn't.  I was impressed the way Chung turned the question around, explaining that why they were the ones rescued isn't the correct question.  Instead he says that he should ask the question, "What does He expect me to do now?"

Chung answers the question with this: "Now that I am safely ashore, He expects me to send the boat back for someone else."  

I was left with a renewed realization of how much I had been given in this life and, as Chung says, "I believe that blessing is something I am expected to pass on to other people in any way I can."

Please note that all the author royalties from this book are donated to World Vision.



** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Military Spouse Appreciation Day







You left behind family, friends, and your hometown to join your spouse on this journey.


You understand that your education, your career, and your preferences will always come second to your spouse's career.

You learned all the acronyms just so you can communicate in this esoteric world. 

You know that plans can always change and that most of the time they do change, at least once, so you've learned not to hold any plans too tightly.


You experience heart-wrenching anxiety when you see a strange car drive slowly past your house.

You are a single parent for months on end, all the while assuring your children of things you're not even sure of yourself.

You watch your loved one get on the plane because you have no choice.  And instead you focus all of your energy on counting down the days until homecoming.

You compact your life into dozens of little boxes and watch it all pull away on a truck only to unpack it a few weeks later in a new house, in a new city, in a new state.

You are a military spouse.  And today I'd like to say thank you for the sacrifices you have made.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Whole30/Paleo Crab Stuffed Mushrooms



Yesterday I posted this picture of my lunch on Instagram and Facebook and quickly received requests for the recipe.  So I posted it to Facebook and made sure to note all the changes I made.  When I realized that my minor changes weren't so minor after all, I decided to post the recipe here.





Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:
16 oz crabmeat
      (I bought the flaked kind in a package and minced it in the food processor.  Original recipe calls for canned crab)
24 oz baby bella mushrooms 
     (We buy 16oz of mushrooms and use the remaining crab mixture in omelets for breakfast the next couple of days)
1/2 C homemade mayo
3 Tbsp chives, finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Method:
Combine crab meat, mayo, chives, and paprika.  Let rest for at least 15 minutes.
Clean mushrooms.  Remove stems and let dry.
Place mushrooms on baking sheets (if you're worried about them sticking, spray with EVOO or line with parchment paper)
Fill mushrooms with crab mixture
Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes (until top is slightly browned)
Let rest for 1-2 minutes.  Top with freshly squeeze lemon juice and serve.

To see the original recipe, more details, and *much better* pictures, click here!


Whole30 Mayonnaise

I have never been a fan of mayonnaise, but when we started Whole30 the first time, I realized that we needed something as a base for foods like chicken salad.  When I tried this recipe, I was shocked at how easy it as and even more shocked at how delicious it was.  I usually make a double or triple batch because it goes so quickly in our house!

Ingredients:
1 egg
     -The egg MUST be at room temperature so I usually leave it on the counter in a bowl of warm water for an hour.
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice (also need to be room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon mustard
3/4 cup LIGHT olive oil
salt and pepper


Method:
Combine egg, garlic, lemon juice and mustard in blender and blend until smooth.
Slowly pour in olive oil.  If you are doubling the recipe, I recommend pouring in 3/4 cup at a time, blending and then adding the second half.
Blend until it thickens.
Add salt and pepper to taste and combine.
Store in fridge.  
Mayonnaise will be good for one week past the expiration date on the egg carton. 

To see the original recipe and better pictures, click here!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"fearlessly expanding the feminine voice"






When I first joined the Redbud Writers Guild, I saw this phrase on their website: 

"Fearlessly expanding the feminine voice in our churches, communities, and culture."


That resonated with me.


Because even though I have a voice and I want to use it, I am still timid about speaking up in the catholic (read: universal) Church. 


Perhaps this is curious to you.


You might be asking one of two questions:


1.  Why does the feminine voice need to be expanded?


2.  Why would anyone be fearful about using their voice?


I write today from a place of love - I am not angry or bitter as I write these words.  
But I do want to explain why that phrase resonated with me and why I think the catholic Church needs to intentionally make steps to be more inclusive to women. 

*****


I am the researcher in our family.


I have researched everything from housing options to strollers, partly because I think researching is fun and partly because I want to make wise, informed decisions for our family.


So when we moved to Omaha it was only natural that I started researching churches.  I would collect all the information and then talk through each church with my husband, pulling up their websites so he could look too.


I scoured their websites and listened to podcasts of previous sermons.  I downloaded bulletins and researched their childcare policies.  


And I always read about the pastors.  At that point, we were only considering churches who had male pastors.


That's when I noticed a sad trend.


As I looked at their book recommendations, and as I searched their social media accounts, all the Christian authors, pastors, and speakers they recommended and were connected with were men.  On a very long booklist, I saw only one female author mentioned, but only about "female issues" (i.e. one book on the wife's side of marriage and one book on parenting)


These pastors didn't have women speaking into their lives.


Of course, you could argue that my method for finding this out wasn't the most accurate. You could say that who someone follows on Twitter is an arbitrary way of finding out who they listen to.


But I think it is indicative of more.


Are these men doing it intentionally? 

I don't think so.  


But they are ignoring half of the church.


Intentionally or not, it sends the message that not only should women not teach, they also don't have anything valuable to add to theology or Christianity.



*****


I attended a church with all male pastors.  That wasn't an oversight, it was what they believed.


This church sent a group of their pastors overseas to mentor local pastors in a country where the government is trying to repress Christianity, yet it was flourishing.


When I saw a picture of the trip, I laughed.  A tiny room of someone's apartment was packed, wall-to-wall with women.


The church set a group of all male pastors (men who believed that only men should be pastors) to teach a group of all FEMALE pastors.  Really, it was comical.


They came home talking about how much God was doing in this country.  How amazing it was!


I wondered if these men ever considered that they had half of their team benched.  And maybe, just maybe they would play a better game if they used all their players.

Did they consider these female pastors second-best?  Did they think God was only using women because He couldn't find any men in the country?  Or does God just use people? People who love Him and are committed to Him.


When I tried to bring this up to someone, it was excused as "cultural".


Instead of laughing, I got angry that time.  But I didn't press the argument because no one wanted to be pressed on it.


Passages about women being silent in church and men alone being pastors were taken literally at this church.  If I had tried to say that those passages didn't apply today because they were cultural and were written to people over 2,000 years before, this church would have said that I was denying biblical truth.

Yet here we were, two churches at the exact same point in history, and the difference could be dismissed as cultural?


*****


She laughed as she told me, "When they gave me the job, they called me the children's minister, but if they had hired a man, the position would have been children's pastor."


Exact same job description.  Exact same work load.  Exact same responsibilities.


Different title.


Whether or not that woman was called a pastor, she was pastoring.


It was semantics.

*****



I've heard it in college.  I've heard it in churches.

A prophet just means a preacher.


They say this when we're studying the Old Testament prophets, of course.

They don't mention the six women in the Bible who are called prophets.

They don't mention that Act 2 quotes Joel saying that a sign of the Holy Spirit coming will be that "sons and daughters will prophesy" (emphasis mine).

They don't mention I Corinthians where Paul calmly gives instructions for when (not if) women prophesy in Church.

So...a prophet means a preacher, unless that prophet is a woman?

*****

When I've said these things to people before, I usually hear one thing from them.

"Don't you think it is self-seeking?  Don't you think women just want these things because they want attention?  Aren't we called to humility?"

Here is my answer: It can be self-seeking.  They may simply want attention.  And yes, we are called to humility.

But all of these thing can be said for men as well.

Yet when I've seen men who say they feel called to preach or called to the ministry, I see them encouraged.  People are excited about it.

But women?

When a woman says she feels called to ministry (or to preach), her motives are immediately questioned.  Her character is vetted.  She has to prove herself over and over again.  

These women aren't always self-seeking.  In fact, often it is a bold step of faith for them to simply say aloud that they feel called to preach - they know the reception they will receive.

A person's motives may not be pure when they decide to become a pastor, but I think that has much less to do with their gender and more to do with their character.

*****

Do you see the need to expand the feminine voice yet?  And do you see why sometimes we are fearful about using our voices?


Regardless of what is said, the feminine voice isn't always welcome in the Church.






Monday, May 5, 2014

The Topic You MUST Address With Your Children



As a newborn my son slept in a bare crib to reduce the risk of SIDS.  

When he was crawling we gated the stairs so he wouldn't fall.  

Later, as he started to pull himself up on furniture, we bolted our tall bookshelves to the wall, just in case.  

Now that he is a toddler and has learned more about kinesthetics, we worry less about maneuvering the stairs.  Instead we focus on keeping chemicals and medicine out of his reach and holding our hands while crossing the street.

Like all parents, I would do anything to protect my son.  We don't want to raise him in a glass box, but we do want to set boundaries and take precautions for his safety.

We diligently baby-proofed the house, not just out of necessity, but out of love.

If we truly love our children, though, I think we'll do more than baby-proof.

If we truly love our children, I think we absolutely must open our eyes to the reality of sexual abuse in our world and address it with our children at a young age.

Statistics show that 1 out of every 4 girls and 1 out of every 6 boys were will sexually abused by the time they are 18.

Please don't think that your family will be the exception.  Abuse shows no favoritism - it touches all races, religions, and socio-economic statuses.  And if it doesn't effect your family, it most definitely will effect some of your child's friends and classmates.  Be prepared to help.

This is not a one-time conversation and certainly not a subject to put off until a child reaches a certain age.  Since our son was a baby we've been incorporating specific parenting techniques geared towards protecting him from sexual abuse and educating him properly.






1.  Use Anatomically Correct Names for Body Parts


Begin this practice during diaper changes and baths when your child is a newborn and it will become natural.  Use the name of body parts matter-of-factly just as you would teach them matter-of-factly about their elbow or nose.  Demonstrate that there is no shame associated with these parts of the body.


2.  Allow Them to Say "No"



I know a lot of parents who teach "instant obedience".  And I know that toddler can be particularly frustrating when they say "no" to everything.  But saying "no" is a empowering, important lesson for our children to learn. 
They need to know that their body is their own and that they are in control of it.  They always have the right to say "no," even if it is just a hug from mom or dad.  One way to teach this is to tell you child to say, "I'd like some personal space please." 
We want our son to know that certain parts of the body are always off-limits to other people.  We say: "The only people who can touch there are mommy, daddy, and the doctor, and ONLY if they need to for a diaper change or for your health."


3.  Teach Alternate Greetings


Since we need to teach children that they are in control of their bodies, we have to give them freedom in this area.  One way is by teaching them alternate greetings for people.  Someone I know who had been abused once said to me, "I always got in trouble for not wanting to hug that relative, but I just wish someone had asked WHY I didn't want to hug them." 
Instead of requiring your children to hug people (especially relatives who may be pushy about it or get their feelings hurt), speak up for them and say, "Would you like to give Uncle So-and-So a hug, a high-five, or a handshake?"


4.  Teach (and Model) Informed Consent 


Just as my son has the right to say "no", he also must respect when someone else says "no" even if it seems trivial.
People were outraged when a 6 year-old boy was suspended for kissing a girl in his class.  People defended it as being "cute" and "innocent".  I'm not sure if suspension was the correct way to deal with this situation.  But I know that I want my son to recognize that someone else's body is their own and that is not cute or funny or "being a boy" to force yourself upon another person in any way.


5.  Talk About Tricky People


Most abusers are people you know, not strangers.  So while I'll caution my son about "stranger danger," we'll be talk more often about "tricky people".  Our son is never alone with anyone unless both my husband and I trust them 100%.  But even still,  we feel the need to talk plainly about tricky people. 
We'll say it like this: "Tricky people can be anyone: a teacher, a friend, a relative, a babysitter.  They are tricky because you will like them and want to trust them, but you still don't feel right about it.  A tricky person wants you to keep a secret from your parents, which is NEVER okay, but especially not if the secret makes you feel bad inside."
Also prepare your children that a tricky person might say that they will hurt someone if your child tells the secret or that no one will believe them.  Assure your children far in advance that you will absolutely believe them and that you will handle it and that they don't need to be ashamed.

   
6.  Have Books or Movies


Keep books and/or movies on hand that teach about body parts and/or about abuse.  Books are a great way to open a conversation with a child.  These resources can give your child the words they need to discuss abuse and give them confidence that everything will be okay.



7.  Research Your Childcare Options


Since I'm home with our son at this point, we only have had to worry about childcare at churches.  He is not sent into any church nurseries unless we've researched their childcare policies (and he usually doesn't go in the first few weeks).  Thankfully most churches these days have realized the importance of protecting against sexual abuse and have strict policies in place.  
But GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) says that 93% of all sexual offenders describe themselves as "religious."  Terrifying.   Of the people I know who have been abused, it has almost always happened in Christian families, in churches, in Christian schools, and in Christian ministries.


8.  Give Them a Script to Follow


I said earlier that books or movies might help give your child the words to say.  But you can help too.  Make this a regular conversation in your home - if you are awkward and embarrassed about the subject, they will be too.  And they won't come to you when something is wrong. 
Tell them that it's always okay to talk with you, even if someone just makes them feel uncomfortable.
It might take a lot for your child to talk to you about abuse, even if it is happening to a friend, so make it easier on them by telling them that they can come talk to you about it at anytime, or can even write you a letter about it if that's easier.


Looking for more resources?  Check out these links! 

Articles:

Child Sex Abuse is a Taboo Topic For Some Parents (CNN)


Calling Out the Evangelical Culture of Sexual Abuse (in a mirror dimly)

The Super Ten, Play-It-Safe Rules for Kids and Grownups (Safely Ever After)

8 Ways to Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse (Raising Godly Children)

Tricky People Are the New Strangers (Checklist Mommy)

10 Way to Talk to Your Kids About Sexual Abuse (Everyday Feminism)

The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Consent To Kids Ages 1-21 (The Good Men Project)

Talking With Kids About Sexual Abuse (Musing Momma)

Fold Your Hands {On Teaching Consent to Pre-Schoolers} (A Deeper Story)


Books:

My Body Belongs to Me: A Book About Body Safety

Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept

Amazing You!  Getting Smart About Your Private Parts

I Said No: A Kid-to-Kid Guide to Keeping Your Private Parts Private





Sunday, May 4, 2014

this glorious maze on Facebook!





In conjunction with a project I'm working on, this week I decided to launch a Facebook page for my blog!  I would appreciate it if you would "Like" this glorious maze on Facebook!  

Thank you!

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