Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Excuse Note, Or: But I Have a Reason

We lived through another long day. A long day with many errands occasionally punctuated by fun. (Any errand running day with five children is a long day. I love my five but I'm not going to lie to you.)

Then the errands were over, the fun was complete (trip to the library, supper at Chick-Fil-A, just what the tired family ordered!). Home again.

Home where we could not just crash and sit and finish our Cherry Cokes with crushed ice from Chick-Fil-A (OK, that was just me. The kids had apple juice.), and read our new library books and just generally goof off.

Because, laundry. Because, dishes (from earlier in the day, not Chick-Fil-A). Because, chores.

These were accordingly done with varying levels of excellence and /or cheerfulness from the weary parents and the tired but not admitting it (and over-stimulated) children.

One child was not balking at doing the chores but she was not working quickly either. At a certain point (about fifteen minutes after the point where I was convinced the children needed to be in their room for bedtime already) one of my children was still out working on folding her clothes from her basket of laundry.

"Just take that to your room and finish it," I instructed, still working on a task (or two or three...) myself. She didn't move.

"There's more room out here," she said.

I was slow to react. It really had been a long day. But eventually my brain caught up.

"Maybe you didn't hear me," I said after a few long seconds, "I told you to take it to your room." I spoke slowly, I didn't yell.

She complied. (And, it must be pointed out, without whining, complaining, or crying, which is good.)

And then my husband and I talked about what had just happened. Well, first we did that thing where our eyes meet and we just shake our heads because we are in complete agreement with each other.

Maybe this would be a different story if she had asked, "Would it be OK for me to finish out here because there's more room?" Or even just, "Could I finish it here?"

Even then, the answer would still have been no. Philip and I were ready for the children to be in their room. End of story. But it would have been a lighter moment. Instead it felt heavy and important. Like I couldn't let her just ignore my instructions now because what about later? And has this been happening lately without my noticing?

"What made her think that disobedience was OK if she had a reason?" I asked my husband.


This is what I do. This is me.

I think disobedience is OK because I have reasons. Oh boy, do I have reasons.

There are things that I know I should be doing. There are things I know I certainly ought not to do.

But I have reasons. (This is more comfortable, I know how to do this other thing better, I have more practice doing this, I'm tired, I'm hungry, There's more space over here, This sounds better...)

The thing about reasons is they're just so doggone reasonable.

I'll just do this thing my way in my time because I think it's a good idea. I know I should do that but I'm not going to because...

Do all things without murmuring and disputing?

Love my neighbor as I love myself?

Keep my tongue from evil?

I have reasons why I can't, why I don't. (Those are hard things! And that's just the tip of the commands iceberg.) And all the while the Holy Spirit whispers to my heart, "Do you think your disobedience is better because you have a reason?"

There are no excuse notes. I don't get to say, "Well, losing my temper is OK this time because..." or "I know I should be kind to this person who isn't very kind to me but I'm not going to because..."

So many reasons.

And yet, I want to remember the reasons why I ought to obey and not just obey, but obey with joy. My Heavenly Father knows best. He has a plan for my life. His understanding is perfect and mine is not. He equips me for what He requires of me. I can't complete His commands without His help but He provides what I need. He is gracious and just and loving and merciful and patient and good.

If I can remember those reasons, those truths, my other reasons fade away like an excuse note written in invisible ink.

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (Romans 7:19 KJV)

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17 ESV)

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, 
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; 
but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death; 
but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:3-6 KJV)
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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weekend Links - October 26, 2013

Happy Saturday, everyone! I'm thinking my crew is going to have the flee the premises today: the owner of our rental house is still working on the foundation and between the drilling, the pounding, and whatever else it is they're doing down there, we're all a little on edge. I'm not sure exactly where we'll go but I'm hoping a thrift store will make the agenda.

Now for the links:
Spiritual / Inner Life
  • 3 Ways to Stop Stressing About Giving by Jeff Anderson at Relevant. My two cents: giving is like anything else. Practice makes better, if not perfect. So practice giving, even if - especially if - you think you can't afford it.
  • Related: Church Giving Drops to Depression Era Lows. The sad thing to me is that at the high point in 1968 Americans were still only giving 3.1%. Really?
  • The Gospel of Ghoul by Timothy George at First Things. I am not a fan. That's not surprising since scary things, scary movies, etc. are not my idea of fun or a good time no matter what the motive.
  • Fun and Substance in Youth Ministry by Mark Howard. Encouragement for those of us working with young people.
  • What the Church Can Learn From Chick-Fil-A by David Mathis. Thought this was interesting. What sets Chick-Fil-A apart in my family's mind: they've thought of the little things. A step stool in the bathroom so little folks can wash their hands. Hand sanitizer by the play set. Free refills brought to your table. I could go on.
  • Is Feminism a Source of Good in the Church? by Denny Burke. This is a controversy I've recently seen playing out on several blogs I enjoy.
  • Doubts: Fatal or Futile? by Jonathan Holmes. Helpful post.
  • Four Reasons the Gospels Could Not Be Legends by J.D. Greear. Jesus is alive! Everything I believe is based on that one truth and that truth is not simply wishful thinking. My favorite quote from the post: "I don’t believe in Jesus based on blind faith. I believe in Jesus for the same reason these first believers did: because I am convinced the testimony of the apostles is true, that Jesus really did resurrect from the dead. And if Jesus really is alive, that changes everything."
Marriage / Parenting
Homeschooling / Education
  • How Handwriting Trains the Brain by Gwendolyn Bounds in the Wall Street Journal. In our homeschool we're still teaching cursive. It's nice to have that instinct reinforced.
  • Words of Wisdom: Laura Berquist on Classical Education Done Well by David Kern at Circe Institute. 
  • 17 Phrases You're Probably Saying Wrong by Sarah Brooks. Let's all do our part to make Facebook better and share this post over and over again until these mistakes have been beaten out of our friends and family are no longer prevalent. "For all intensive purposes" is my favorite. And by favorite I mean, "phrase that makes me want to slam my head against my desk." (Although I might disagree with her on #14, the "think" versus "thing" argument. I've done some research and it is not as simple as she makes it sound.)
That's all for this week. What caught your eye?
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall Foolishness, Or: The Cult of the Pumpkin

 OK, don't get me wrong here: I love pumpkin. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin spice drinks. I even made pumpkin soup once upon a time. (It was not well received by my crew.)
But y'all (I grew up in Tennessee. I'm allowed to say "y'all") something has gone loco here in the blog world. I call it: "The Cult of the Pumpkin".

At the first sign Summer might be ending bloggers trot out their posts and tweets about how much they crave that illusive Pumpkin Spice Latte. (Query: why so many copycat recipe posts for this drink? Apparently no one drinks them as there are equally as many posts / tweets about the superiority and bliss that comes only with a Starbucks PSL.)

Fashion bloggers in their newest boots pose near pumpkin patches. In August. (Where did they find these pumpkin patches in August, you ask? I don't know. It's a mystery of modern life.)

Food bloggers post 31 Ways to Cook Pumpkin. (Side note: my family will disown me if I ever give in to my blog related urge and fix pumpkin soup ever again.)

Craft and Decor bloggers are all pumpkin, all the time. Paper, foam, printed, stenciled, mod-podged, spray painted, carved, stacked, sewn, displayed on mantels - pumpkins in every imaginable iteration.

This madness goes on from August until Halloween. Then Christmas starts. And if you're inclined to protest, "What about Thanksgiving?!" Well, too late. You can look back at all the October posts if you need to make a pumpkin pie or something. Otherwise you better get busy on your Gingerbread House / elaborate Elf on the Shelf plans (a rant for another day...).

Listen, I love Fall as much as the next boot wearing chick. I love the temperature dropping from 1,000 degrees. (I also love exaggeration and hyperbole.)

I love fewer bugs, the fall foliage, woodsmoke in the air. I love a good bonfire and hayride. I love when it's cool enough to snuggle under quilts. I love apples. (My own personal PSL is the Caramel Apple Shake from Steak and Shake. Only available in the Fall but SO GOOD.) I, as I've already mentioned, even love pumpkin.

But people, this madness must stop. Fall and cooler temperatures also bring with them my nemesis.

What is this thing I dread? I can tell you in three words: socks and shoes.

That's it. Those three words can leave me in a puddle of not-so metaphorical tears. Or, conversely, a quivering tower of rage.

You see, in the Summer, or whenever it warms up enough so my children's toes don't end up frost-bitten, my kids go about three ways: barefoot, flip-flopped, or sandal footed (in order of dressiness).

Our church is casual so on particularly nice Sundays (Easter, for example) they wear their "good" sandals. So, sandals to church, flip-flops everywhere else, barefoot at home. Sure they have sneakers and socks but the times they actually need them are blessedly rare.

Cold(er) weather changes this. Getting our family out of the house (once dressed and hair is fixed) on a Sunday morning takes about 10 minutes in warm weather. ("Get sandals on! Put more diapers in the bag! Everyone have your Bible? Who's still in the bathroom?!")

With the advent of cool weather this exit time can stretch to 30 minutes and remember, this is after everyone is already dressed, fed, and their hair is fixed.

Because, socks. Because, shoes. Because, tights. Because, boots.


Socks (or tights) must be found. They must be put on. Then maybe they don't fit right. Or maybe there's a hole in the toe. Maybe they don't match your hair-bow the way you'd like. Maybe your sister screeches, "I was going to wear those!" Maybe you put on tights because you were really cold this morning but now it's warming up and you might die if you have to wear them all day.

With the socks (or tights) issue settled, shoes must be found. Now, we, as you know, have four daughters. This is generally what happens: 3 get their shoes on, no trouble. But one (and there is always one and it varies which one, lest you think we have one repeat offender), one cannot find a shoe. It is not usually both shoes that have gone missing.

No, it is one. One has gone on a solitary jaunt away from its home. Or, what else happens sometimes: a child cries, "I can't find my shoes!" And I respond, "Did you look where they belong?"

Mystery solved, mom is a genius. Put away? Who puts shoes away?! (Mom)

I have spent massive amounts of my adult life just looking for shoes. That is, sadly, not an exaggeration.

So, much as I love Fall, I dread it too. Maybe if we lived in a more temperate clime my children could wear sandals year round. And I might have time to sit down with a PSL at Starbucks (or even better: a Caramel Apple Shake at Steak and Shake).

Until this move to warmer weather year-round comes to pass, if you need me, I'll be matching tights to hair-bows and looking for one black Mary Jane.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Things I Want To Remember Thursday

My apologies for the length of this post and for those of you who have seen this all before. But I just realized what a poor excuse for a blogger I have been lately. I have been on Twitter though, and these are some things I tweeted about that I want to remember:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In Which We Are All Amazed

And another:

(OK, I admit to being conflicted posting these videos of North Korean kids. But still: wow.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Renovation Underway...

Here at the blog, that is.

My web guy (and what a handsome, amazing guy he is!) is working on some updates for Candid Diversions.

Except he had to go to a real job where people pay him real money instead of finishing my important but less lucrative task.

So, catch you when the reno is complete.

(Meanwhile, there is also renovation going on here at the Rental. Three guys have been working on the foundation almost non-stop since Saturday morning. Fun, fun. Quote from Miss Lili: "Um, Mom, I heard a noise. What's dat?" Imagine this about every eleven minutes while the child is awake. Like I said, fun.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Weekend Links - October 19, 2013

It's a rainy, cool Saturday here. Perfect weather for curling up in a blanket with a hot drink and reading through the links that catch your eye. (Except I can't curl up at my computer. I unlike many - most? - folks do not use a laptop or handheld device for surfing the web. Curling up at a desktop is harder to do. I like to think I've perfected the art. But I digress.)

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
Homeschooling / Education
  • Funny Real Estate: "This Seems Like a Bad Idea" Edition from Hooked on Houses. This makes me wish we had taken pictures of some of the places we've looked at. Bad ideas abound.
  • Design Ideas and Tip for Renters from Remodelaholic. Great advice but what can you do when you CAN'T HANG ANYTHING ON THE WALLS? Sorry for yelling. That has been one of the most frustrating things about living in this rental. Kids need hooks for jackets and boards where they can hang their art. We haven't had those for 6 months.
  • Coconut Oil: What it Is and How to Use It from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Our Kroger had a bunch of oils on clearance this week so I bought several I've never used before, coconut oil being one of them.
In the News
Everything Else
Well, that's all for this week. What caught your eye?

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"I Can't Know How"

Miss Lili has a standard response for when her daddy, sisters or I ask her to do something she's never done before: "I can't know how."

Now, we try not to laugh at her mixed-up phrases - at least, not when she can hear us - but this one makes us smile.

One of her sisters asked her, "Don't you mean, 'I don't know how'?"

Her answer: "No." And then she said, slowly and deliberately, "I tan't know how."

This response is especially likely when asked to do something she would rather not learn: putting on her own church shoes, doing some task for Baby Brother, complete some household chore for the first time.

Now, lest you think Philip and I are overly permissive parents, let me assure you that we inform Miss Lili that yes, she certainly can know how and we will assist her in learning the task or in, ahem, being properly motivated for the task if necessary.

See, that's the thing. Maybe she doesn't know how to do something yet, but she can learn how. At her age she's soaking in information and forming new skills on a daily basis. Her excuses are just that: excuses.

I am, unfortunately, not so very different from my stubborn and determined to be ignorant three year old.

I see something that needs done. I see someone who needs help. I hear God whispering to me through his word some area of my life I must improve or some discipline I should be applying.

And I don't even look up. I stay where I am,doing what I am doing, and just as casually as Miss Lili I declare, "I can't know how."

Speak to a stranger at the laundromat? I can't know how.

Give a soft answer when I want to angrily retort? I can't know how.

Let go of my worry and trust God the way He ought to be trusted? I can't know how.

Work without recognition? Can't know how.

Forgive - again? Can't know how.

Set a cheerful example even when I'm weary? Can't know how.

Make plans when I'm over-stimulated already? Make a meal for someone else just because? Write a note of encouragement to someone I don't know well? Can't know how. Can't. Can't. Can't.

You see it, of course you do. I know it deep down. I can know how to do these - and many other - things. I can try. I can learn. I can - with God's help and guidance - step out of my comfort zones. I can stretch. I can change. I can grow.

Which means, "I can't know how," is really just another way of saying, "I won't."

And just the way Philip and I, as parents who love their child enough to insist on reasonable, regular growth, will cause Miss Lili to learn and apply new skills, well, God does the same with me and with any of us who He call His children.

I can know how. You can know how.

Start now.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Weekend Links - October 12, 2013

Buckle up, weekend links readers. A week off means EXTRA links today. You might want to settle in at your computer (or device of choice) with a cup of hot chocolate. (Anyway, that's how I like to imagine my readers as they look over these link posts: following rabbit trails, learning new things and then you look up and it's two hours later.)

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
Homeschooling / Education
Culture / Politics
Writing / Creativity
NASA / Scott Carpenter
Random Things Left in My Links Folder
Well, give yourself a pat on the back. That was a lot of links, but you made it.
So, which link(s) caught your eye this week?
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Monday, October 7, 2013

Books of 2013 - September

Here it is, October 7, and this is my first post of the month. A week of vacation will do that, I guess.

Anyway, here are the books I finished in September (note: if you can't see book covers, try un-blocking pop-ups on this page):