Christian, family, marriage, Proverbs 31, women

Proverbs 31: A Love Hate Relationship

Like every woman, I have sat through my fair share of Bible studies and women’s events that focus on the Proverbs 31 woman. I have wanted to love this woman, but I just don’t know how I feel about her. First off,  the Proverbs 31 woman is not so much about womanhood; it’s about wives and mothers. And while many people might think that is six of one, half a dozen of another, it’s not. Women encompass so much more. There are many women who have yet to become wives or who may remain single. There are women who are divorced or widowed. Those who are married may or may not be mothers. Where do these women fit into this passage and all those Bible studies? Secondly, this woman is loaded. Quite frankly, many of our income levels don’t allow us to be the kind of women who have servants to be feeding in the morning. But having a few servants would give me a little more time in my day to do all the things this woman is apparently able to do from dawn to dusk.

Of course, the Proverbs 31 woman, let us remember, is a fictionalized composite person not an actual woman, and she cannot be replicated by everyone….or maybe even anyone.

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As a wife myself, I have a bit of a love hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 woman. I desire to live up to the expectations set for me as a Christian wife, and yet I find her Pintrest perfect and there is a reason I don’t go on Pintrest. In addition to her unrealistic expectations, being a wife is only a part of who I am. Yes, I am a wife and mother, but I am also a friend, sister, employee, writer, social justice advocate, and human being. I cannot focus 100% of my efforts on being the Proverbs 31 woman, lest I lose myself in the task. And while many aspects of who I am can certainly fall under the umbrella of the Proverbs 31 woman, such as employee and social justice advocate, it’s important for me that my identity is more firmly rooted in Christ than it is on my role as wife and mother. I am an expert in what Brene Brown calls “Foreboding Joy.” I know that my positions as wife and mother can be stripped away from me in one tragic moment. I have imagined it a million times as my kids drive away in the car or my husband’s flight is taking off for a business trip. However, my position as daughter to the Living God can never be taken away. That is who I am first and foremost.

In A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Rachel Held Evans tells us that Proverbs 31 is a poem that men memorize and sing to their wives and the other women in their lives (mothers, daughters, sisters). Did you catch that? MEN. It was never meant to burden women with a task list of things to become. Wife (check). Mother (check) Domestic Goddess (check). Business Owner (check) Pintrest Perfect life (check). I have made it into a burden that is too heavy to bear.

I love the idea she shares in her blog post on this topic that Jewish women cheer one another on with the phrase “eshet chayil” or “woman of valor.” Women, we need to cheer each other on. Women building one another up. Men building women up. That sounds like a world I want to live in. It wasn’t meant to weigh us down but to lift us up.

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So, I’m working on becoming a woman of valor. Sometimes that is by making homemade doughnuts. Sometimes it’s by swinging by McDonalds on the way home from work so I don’t need to cook. Sometimes it’s by sitting and studying the word of God and learning more about His amazing character that moves me to grow more like him. Sometimes it’s by skipping my quiet time and watching a movie with my husband after a long week.

I haven’t arrived. I don’t expect to arrive, but this is my journey, and I’m still moving forward.

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Christian, marriage, Proverbs 31

Marriage: Loving Tension

“For the record, in Bereshit (Genesis by you) where it talks about the “helpmmet,” the Hebrew is not just Ezer, but Ezer k’gnedo, which means “the help that opposes.” The Rabbis explain this term like two posts of equal weight leaned against one another. They stand because of equal force.” A letter by Ahava as it appears in A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

            I have a theory that solitude is a major contributing factor to people becoming a little crazy. I mean who hasn’t seen Castaway? My parents were very different from one another, but they balanced each other. Mom couldn’t give all her money away to the poor, and Dad couldn’t spend his entire life at caving conventions or Renaissance Faires. There was someone to talk to, cook for, clean for, to stretch you into doing things outside your comfort zone, and most importantly someone with whom to compromise. I don’t think people need to live with someone to have these kinds of accountability and stretching relationships, but I think the loss of my father meant the loss of that balancing factor for my mom. Mom seemed to slowly slide into a world of her own making, with total freedom to do what she wanted, or more often than not felt obligated to do, and she had no checks and balances. We like to think that there is nothing better than total freedom, but I’m not sure that’s true.

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Marriage is a partnership of two imperfect, sinful people joined in a permanent bond of mutual submission. They have different strengths and weaknesses. They come to the union with different upbringings, dreams, and expectations. Hopefully they are driven by common life goals and faith, but even with their commonality they are bound to have friction. They are going to pull and push against each other in a million tiny and not so tiny ways. And through the tension they will sharpen one another. They will refine each other, mold each other, balance and sometimes annoy each other. It is actually part of the miracle of the two becoming one.

I can’t say that Jay and I enjoy living out the “iron sharpens iron” part of marriage, but it’s part of the strength of our marriage. There is trust in our relationship because we know the other person isn’t just going to “yes” our ideas. We are going to give alternate viewpoints. We will argue our points until some more reasonable middle ground rises up. As a result, Jay isn’t going to buy every piece of new technology that lands on the market, and I am not going to take the family on road trips across Europe (even though it is clear my spending goals are way better than his.) We are not going to uproot the kids or quit jobs without diligently thinking through the implications and prayerfully coming to a mutual decision. Sometimes we practice giving up our desires for the other. We submit. We stand firm. And we are both better for it. Our family is better for it.

It is in the Ezer K’gnedo, the help that opposes, that we discover the strength of our union.

 

 

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Christian, food, mental health, prayer, Uncategorized

Dr. Jesus, the Church, and Mental Health

Here are some facts about our brains from “Complexity of Our Brain” by Dr. Mario D. Garrett as found in Psychology Today.

  • A human brain has 7.146 billion models.
  • It has 86 billion neurons that each have 1,000-10,000 synapses, which equals 125 trillion synapses (the equivalent of 1,000 times the number of stars in our galaxy.)
  • A single synapse can control 1,000 molecular control switches meaning that the entire brain contains 125,000 trillion switches.
  • In the cortex alone, there are over 100,000 miles of nerve fibers.
  • Messages can travel through the nerve fibers at speeds of 268 miles per hour.

The level of complexity involved in the function of the human brain is unparalleled. The brain not only controls the way we interpret outside information, it is actually changed as a result of the information it receives. Whether you are talking about Classical Conditioning and Pavlov’s dogs or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the brain is molded by both experiences and the data it receives.

The brain can be impacted by physical conditions such as sleep deprivation, dehydration, and tumors. Human behavior and the physical health of the body can be impacted by imbalances in the brain. Learning specialists tout cross body movement and “crossing the midline” to help with brain functioning. They talk about the connection between babies that skip the crawling stage and later reading disorders. Want your kid to read better? Experts encourage exercises that cross the midline such as playing patty-cake and/or use both hemispheres of the brain like riding a bike. And we’ve all heard of the placebo effect. If you can trick the brain into thinking you are healing the body, you might actually get better.

The reverse is also true. We know that gut health is directly related to mood. Ever heard that drinking warm milk or eating a tryptophan filled turkey on Thanksgiving will make you fall asleep? There is some truth to the claims (even if they might be exagerated). Many diets promote optimal brain functioning and improved memory among their many health benefits. (Whether or not these diets can scientifically prove their specific claims, we know there is a connection to diet and brain function.) Exercise reduces depression. Sleep improves both our memory and our ability to learn new information. Too much screen time can impact attention and interfere with sleep.

My list of brain body interactions could go on and on for a very long time.

Amazing isn’t it? Yet we read one Bible verse, and somehow we can dismiss all we know in exchange for short platitudes.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? …..31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:25, 31-34

or

“But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness.” Psalm 68:3

Oh, well, I guess having anxiety must be sin. Depression is a sign of unrighteousness. Mental health issues can always be cured through prayer and the Great Physician.

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Um. No! Just, no.

My father drowned. My mother died of pulmonary fibrosis. My son died from diabetes. I prayed for all of them. I prayed for healing. Heck, I prayed for resurrection for my father. I know many people with chronic health problems. I know people who take cholesterol medication, insulin, and other daily medications.  And don’t even get me started on the church’s embracing of the healing properties of essential oils (unless you want to know what I’m diffusing in my house this season because it smells amazing).

“Well, that’s different,” you say. “That’s the body. Sometimes God chooses not to heal someone on this side of heaven. We don’t know why, but it’s not a lack of faith.…Well, unless it’s a mental health issue and then it’s totally a lack of faith.”

Maybe we don’t come out and say that, but we act that way every time we tell someone struggling with anxiety to “give all to Jesus” or someone with clinical depression to trust more in Jesus and rub a little lavender oil on their wrists. We might not tell the person diagnosed bi-polar that they are living a life of sin because of their mood disorder, but we make comments about mood stabilizing medication that we would never make about high blood pressure medication or chemotherapy.

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As a church body, we need to be more educated and understanding of mental health disorders, medications, and treatment. We need to understand that there is still a lot we don’t know. Faith absolutely plays a vital role in mental health, just like it plays a vital part in physical health, and every other aspect of life and community. Healing might come through the Great Physician or it might come through trained doctors, therapists, and pharmaceutical companies. We need to take away the stigma that if your pancreas isn’t producing insulin it’s fine to take an insulin injection, but if your amazingly complicated computer of a brain is misfiring one or more of it’s 125,000 trillion switches, you need to pray more.

Church, we can do better.


 

To read the full article: Complexity of Our Brain by Mario D. Garrett, PhD

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Christian, grief and loss

Solo drives, Showers, and Worship

Carolyn had seen the muffled sobs that shook me in the pew and had come to gather  me into her arms. Despite having only met twice before, Carolyn ushered me from the sanctuary to a place where I could unload the agony burning inside me. My father had recently passed away, and I was a wreck.  Carolyn offered comfort and counsel while thousands of people worshiped God in the next room over. Carolyn met my need in the privacy of a ladies room. It was there where the Holy Spirit did a great work and helped to heal my hurt.

Each week for months after the passing of my father, I would return to church twice a week. Each worship time, I would find liquid emotion streaming down my face. The emotions that I had kept in check throughout the week could not  be contained. Worship is suppose to be about God; it’s suppose to be about praising Him and honoring him. For me, worship had become a place of raw emotion where I met with God. As the healing of my heart gradually occurred, I cried less and less.

God is good. God loves me. God is worthy of my praise, worship, adoration, and devotion even in the darkest moments of my life. Humbling myself into submission to God’s plan for my life week in and week out has been the core of my strength in troubled times.

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The death of my father, while agonizing, would not be the deepest loss I would face in life nor the last. In the 20 years since that time, I have shed too many tears to count. Yet, most of the times I have found myself giving into pain or grief have been times of solitude: the quiet car rides, showers, or restless nights. It seems natural to cry during such private moments when thoughts easily wander towards grief, but in the midst of a public worship service?

Crying in public is not socially acceptable. One can get away with it at funerals and weddings, but not walking down the grocery aisle or sitting at a Starbucks. So what makes worship different? I think two things.  The first is that safety of the body of Christ. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is our spiritual family. These are people in dwelt with the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that dwells in me. There is not merely a camaraderie, but there is literal power when the person seated near you sees your tears and lifts you up in prayer. It physically brings comfort and healing. The second reason I believe this to be true is that as an individual member of the universal body of Christ we are one. In this oneness, it is easy for us to melt into worship as if there is no one else around. We alone are worshiping God, and in that divine communion nothing else matters. Once we are drawn into the presence of the Living God it is easy to be swept up in the moment.

So when you sit in church and see someone with tears streaming down their cheeks or wiping away that tear from the corner of their eye, lift them up in prayer. If God is calling you to personally minister to them, don’t ignore that call. However, for the most part, there is no need to interrupt the healing work the Holy Spirit is doing. And if you find yourself needing to cry, let it happen. Let the Great Physician do his work.

He is good. All the time.

 

 

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family, women

Having it All

As women, I think we feel this pressure to “have it it all” or at least have what we do have all together. We want to be content and competent and loved and valued. These are all good things. They are not, however, easy to achieve. We talk about the elusive work life balance. We talk about “having it all, but maybe just not all at the same time.” What does that mean even?

Here is what I have all of:

All the exhaustion:

I am tired ALL THE TIME. I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t tired. It was before having kids for sure. I thought once they slept through the night, I’d be rested again, but nope. And bonus, everyone keeps telling me that once menopause starts I’m going to start having insomnia. Seriously? What a genetic load of garbage. So basically, by the time I’m actually able to relax again with my kids out of the house, my body will actually reject sleep. I can’t not tell you how I really feel about this because I’m a good Christian girl.

All the confliction:

If I am at work, I am thinking about what I should be doing for my husband or kids. When I am at home, I am thinking about what I should be doing for work. I am always thinking about how I should be serving more (in my church, my community, my world). I am thinking about how the time and expense of my writing “career” is taking away time and financial resources from my family. I am confident that I am missing out on my kids lives in ways that will irreparably damage them. I don’t even use Pintrest, because I already have enough guilt in my life. Thank you, unrealistic expectations.

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All the feels:

I occasionally see this phrase and think this describes me exactly. I feel things so deeply. I cry just about everyday. Not in a bad way, but in the maybe I’m not completely emotionally stable way. I tear up reading novels to my students in class. Novels I have ready half a dozen times by now. I get choked up during movies I am only half paying attention to. I think about my son at college and I get choked up thinking about the man he has become. I cry in grief, in joy, in pretty much any context. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I feel all the feels.

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All the chaos:

I dreamed of having a lovely family life where my children were polite and calm and we took walks in the woods and always helped each other. We’d be those people at all those town fairs or the ones taking day trips on the weekends. I should have known better. I came from an eccentric, crazy (read: AWESOME) home, and about the only thing I was able to bring to my new home was the crazy part. We are more of a “watch movies in our PJs” than “stroll through a quaint Christmas village” family . We are more loud voices and bickering than homemade Valentines and family service projects. Our separate lives mingle together more like a Jackson Pollack than Seurat.

This is my family <or life>. I found it all on my own.
It’s little, and broken, but still good. Yeah – still good.
– Stitch from Lilo and Stitch

So, no, I don’t really have it all. I don’t want it all. I’m still trying to juggle the plates I’m already spinning.  I’d rather drop a few of the less important ones, than keep going at this pace. I want less rather than more. I want less commitments, less stress, less frantic, less inches in my waistline. (But more doughnuts!)

 

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politics

What Could Be More Important Than Voting?

Election Day is right around the corner, and I have no idea who I’m voting for. To be honest, outside of the school board election, I don’t even know what offices are even up for election. I know I got a ballad in the mail that is somewhere in the pile of mail on my kitchen counter, but I haven’t opened it. Don’t get me wrong; this matters. Who we elect as leaders for our schools, communities, states, and nation, does matter. The referendum questions matter. I want to vote wisely. I believe my vote matters, and yet, here I am completely uninformed. I care about this; heck, I teach this. So why the disconnect? It’s because there are other things that also matter that take me away from becoming informed.

 

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Here is a list of things that also matter:

  • Spending time with my family matters.
  • Going on dates with my husband matters
  • Eating matters, which means grocery shopping, cooking and doing dishes also matters.
  • My job matters.
  • Reading my Bible and spending time praying matters.
  • Going to church matters.
  • Finding ways to volunteer and serve others matters.
  • Spending time with my friends matters.
  • Relaxing (ie. Shutting my brain down) matters.
  • Sleep matters.
  • Cleaning up my house matters.
  • Doing something I love that makes me feel good matters.

I’m sure this list could be longer, but you get the point.

I check the internet news, at least several times as week. My go-to site is the BBC, because I feel it to be the least full of crap. (I believe that is the technical term for totally biased journalism.) It actually has better US news coverage than US news stations. It also means what little I know about what is going on in politics has nothing to do with state or local issues.

This is not an excuse. Before Tuesday, I intend to do some research and do my best to make an informed decision. However, I also know that as important as this decision is, it’s not the only important thing I need to be thinking about in life. Get out and vote. Take some time to do some research. Pray over the options. But don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t as knowledgeable as you’d like to be. You can’t do it all and know it all.

And for those of you running for office, doing all you do to make your school, town, county, state, and nation a better place, Thank you! Best of luck on Tuesday!

 

 

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book review, elder care, women

Life with Extra Cheese: A Book Review

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Many of you know that I’m working on my own book about caring for my mother through her illness and death. And because you know me, you also know that this is a dark comedy. Well, as part of the market research for my book proposal, I began looking for books that would be similar to my own. That’s when I found Heather Davis’ book Life with Extra Cheese. It was HYSTERICAL!
I picked this book up on Amazon and began reading it slowly as I fumbled my way through writing a book proposal and beginning the first weeks of school. The last thing I had time for was pleasure reading, and yet I couldn’t help but grab it any chance I got. I even read several passages aloud to my husband, who is used to being the target of the overflow of my excitement.

The Sandwich Generation: (n) A group of people, typically in their 30’s and 40’s, who are raising their own children while also caring for aging parents.

Heather Davis really nailed life in the sandwich generation. From her opening passage when her sister calls to say her mother is on her way to the hospital, to her daughter’s desire to use the shower chair, to getting frisky with your husband while your mother in the house, everything was spot on. This book really nailed the crazy moments, the hard moments, and the beautiful moments. I loved that she understood the struggle of the working mother torn between so many responsibilities, motivated by love and family, and just plain tired. This is the sandwich generation struggle in a nutshell, a hilarious nutshell.

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In short, buy this book! You’ll love it.

 

You can find more by Heather Davis here.

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