Monday, September 1, 2014

Wedding Pictures

The photographer put "our" pictures on her own blog, and then they were posted on Facebook, but I thought I'd include a link to them here.

In case anybody was interested in more pictures of Laura's wedding...

Click here to view.

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, August 29, 2014

On shyness

I'm shy, so this is preaching to myself, and if you are offended by what I say here, then please at least realize that I don't like it either, but I think it's true.  Furthermore, I believe that truth is more important than palatability.

Elizabeth Eliot said that shyness is really only a form of selfishness.  I was unable to locate this quote; it may have been in an article and not a book, maybe even a magazine interview or something.  Additionally, my exact wording is probably inaccurate.   All I know is, I read it, and it was attributed to Mrs. Eliot, so whether or not you tend to agree with her, I'm trying to give credit where credit is due.

Also.  Let's just think about that statement: Shyness is really only a form of selfishness.

Shyness is a form of selfishness.

In what way is shyness selfishness?  Let's list some of the ways:

1.  When I am shy, I focus on my own feelings.  I am uncomfortable.  I am afraid to speak.  I don't want to be around these people.  I don't think anybody is being very nice to me.  I.  I.  I.

2.  When I am shy, I often think that I am the center of the universe and everybody is looking at me and sizing me up, and it is all about meMe. Me. Me.

3.  In assuming that I am the center of the universe and focusing on my own feelings, I neglect to think about others, their concerns, fears and feelings.  I think that others ought to make me feel comfortable, neglecting to understand that I, also, have a role in making them feel comfortable.  In so doing, I put my own needs above the needs of others.

4.  When I put my own needs above others, I begin to self-protect, to defend, to insulate.  My priority is to protect myself from being hurt, and I forget to think about the collateral damage this may cause, how in protecting myself I am liable to hurt others. 

Back in the day when I was a little girl growing up, I had a friend who was shy.  She was the sweetest thing, and much more shy than I.  In Sunday school, if the teacher asked her a question, or if she had to go to the front to drop birthday pennies into the bank, she would turn beet red.  Beet red.  And she would not speak.

She was shy for years, and we went from feeling painfully sorry for her to being used to her.  But then one day (I'm not sure if it was towards the end of high school or the beginning of college), she changed.  She became a wonderful conversationalist, a confident, caring, friendly person.

One time we had a conversation about this, and she said, "I just realized one day, I have to get control of this and stop thinking about myself and start thinking about other people."  So she started listening to other people.  And asking questions.  And listening to the answers and asking more questions.  Eventually, she also started sharing her own thoughts and feelings.

Most people want friends and relationships as much as you do.  Most people are dying for someone who cares enough about them to ask them questions about what they think, how they feel, what they've experienced.  Most of us are on a path together longing for emotional intimacy with our fellow man.  But many of us are afraid to step out and make the first attempt to connect.

We fear rejection so deeply, we isolate ourselves.  Which is crazy, because isn't isolation exactly the thing that we fear as the end result of rejection?

Now, clearly there are people who are only in the world to figure out whether they can use you to get ahead, and whether a relationship with you would benefit them.  If associating with you will help them climb the proverbial ladder, then they are all in.  But if associating with you will not get them ahead, may not result in any payoff at all, then they don't want to have anything to do with you.  You aren't good looking enough, or rich enough, or cool enough, or hip enough, or smart enough, or amusing enough, or whatever enough, and so they are uninterested.  Guess what?  You don't have to worry about them.  They aren't the kind of people who make good friends.  Their rejection will actually free you to find better friends elsewhere.  So go ahead and take the risk!  The only thing you have to lose is that you might be rejected by people you'd rather not invest in anyway.  This is a big win-win.

For adults, it is mind over matter.  Most adults have learned to be polite.  Just take your good manners to the next level and be honestly interested in people.  Try to figure them out, learn about what makes them tick, learn how to make somebody happy, and then do something to brighten her day.  Stop thinking about what makes you feel comfortable and focus on figuring out how to make somebody else feel comfortable.  When you do this, you will be astounded by how much happiness you can bring to people, and in return, how much joy you will experience yourself.

If you have shy children, help them by constantly exhorting them to think about others.  Teach them to be aware of others' feelings.  Say, "How do you think it made her feel when that happened?"  Ask, "What do you think he was hoping when he did that?"  Remind, "People like it when you smile at them!  It makes them happy!"

There may even be times when it is appropriate to tell your children, "You know how you feel awkward when the teacher calls on you in class?  Well, you make Steven feel that same sort of awkwardness when he asks you a question and you won't look at him.  And you hurt Nicole's feelings when you run away while she is trying to share her toys with you.  Even if you think you feel awkward, it is your job to be respectful and kind to others."  A shy child does not need to share stories and anecdotes or talk about his feelings, but he does need to learn to say hello and excuse me and thank you.

Explain that shyness is not an excuse for poor manners.  Good manners are a way that we express respect and kindness to others.  To be rude in the name of shyness is really very selfish indeed.  This goes for children and adults alike.

We are all magnificent creations of God.  He loves us with a love that stretches far beyond any love we could ever hope to express.  He did not try to protect Himself in any way, but laid Himself bare, first by emptying Himself of His divinity and taking on human flesh, then by dying an excruciating death while bearing all the collective sins of the entire world  (Philippians 2:6-8).

Jesus' love for us gives us security and confidence, and it also sets a pattern for us.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, the Bible says in Philippians 2:5.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. 
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 
not looking to your own interests 
but each of you to the interests of the others.  
Philippians 2:3-4, NIV

That is the antidote to shyness.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On killing

Today I had to kill a snake.

I was taking the dogs out for their walk, and there it was: a small, gray snake, coiled in the gutter at the end of our driveway, its tiny head up at the ready.

Poor little Piper, who is nearing his fifteenth birthday, almost stumbled and tripped on this snake.  Quickly, I yanked his leash aside, pulling him to safety.

I observed the snake closely and it didn't move.  Could it be dead?  Could it be dead if it was still holding its head up like that?  Why did it remain a frozen circle, there amongst all the action of two small, furry, bumbling dogs?

Since it was garbage day, I grabbed the garbage can and ran it along in the gutter, next to the snake.  The snake remained as still as a stone as the wheels of the garbage can passed on both sides.

I wondered if it were literally frozen, a cold-blooded creature that had succumbed  to hypothermia during the night and was now immobile forever.  I ran the wheels of the garbage can directly across the snake.  Then it did move, uncoiling, twitching.

I took my dogs across the street to finish the essentials, hoping the snake would slither away into the grass.

Usually I don't mind snakes so much (not nearly as much as cats and mice, at any rate).

However, a few days ago Shawn and I were walking in the park, and we happened across a snake on the path.  Rather than sliding away to hide when we approached, it struck at the bottom of Shawn's shoe.  Shawn thought this was funny and began to tantalize it, presenting the thick rubber sole of his sneaker again and again while it made stubborn and repeated strikes, refusing to surrender and leave.

Not enjoying this game, I procured a large stick and forced the snake into the tall weeds along the side of the trail.  I kept my stick with me for the remainder of our walk that day.

Today, I did not have a large stick.  All I had was a garbage can and the encumbrance of two dog leashes with vulnerable little dogs at the ends of them.

The snake had not slithered into the grass when we returned from across the street.  It merely palpitated back and forth in the gutter at the base of our driveway, a foot or two in one direction, then a foot or two back.

"I've damaged it," I thought.  "Now what?"

After returning the dogs to the house, I found a hoe in the garage and went back.

Uncommitted, I had hoped to scoop up the snake on the end of the hoe and remove it to the boulevard, away from our yard.  But I couldn't.  I couldn't get the hoe underneath.  Broken snake, broken situation.

In the end, instinct took over.  I scraped the snake into the grass at the edge of our yard and chopped it up with the hoe, each blow thudding sickeningly through the snake's body into the earth below.  My stomach lurched and my arms trembled.  The belly of the snake turned upward, its exposed white surface signifying the ultimate surrender.  I suppose I put him out of his misery.

I believe this is the first time I've killed something other than a bug.  I didn't like it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reflections on clothes shopping

  1. I hate clothes shopping.
  2. There is an overwhelming overabundance of clothing that I do not like and would never wear.  There will be no polyester in heaven.  (I am seriously self-editing my word choices here, and I sincerely hope you appreciate that.)
  3. I should not buy it if I don’t love it, because then I will not wear it.  It is unlikely that I will love anything that is hanging on a 70% off rack.  But.  Not impossible.  70% off can help to kindle love.
  4. Trying things on is exhausting.
  5. If I ever do find something that is both comfortable and nice looking, I should buy it, almost regardless of cost.  The rarity of these items protects the budget intrinsically.
  6. Sometimes I do buy things that I do not love, mainly because I spent the better part of the day pulling things on and off my body in an attempt to find some decent clothes.  After awhile things stratify into categories: despicable, blech, ho-hum, possible and not-too-bad.  Sometimes after a longer while, not-too-bad turns into Pretty Good, and I buy it.
  7. Sometimes something I bought turns out to be better than I expected, a favorite item.  Then I wear it over and over until it has appeared in an embarrassing number of Facebook photos, at which time I try to retire it to unobtrusive Saturday afternoons.
 Me in a dressing room
in a maxi dress 
that I did not buy 
because I felt ridiculous in it.

Parenting as children transition to adulthood

I wrote a little bit about dating yesterday, and somehow in so doing, I overlapped into the topic of parenting adult children.

I said, "Adult children can ask their parents for advice, but that is what it is: advice.  Not law.  One lady I know calls it "sharing wisdom."  Parents can share their wisdom forever, but there comes a time when they must recognize that it is no longer appropriate for them to make rules, demand cooperation or institute consequences.  Not appropriate."

I would like to clarify that when I said this, I was writing about parents' relationships to their adult children who are involved in relationships that might culminate (or are looking certain to culminate) in marriage.

When parenting children who are becoming adults, we do not suddenly turn over the reigns upon the occasion of their 18th birthday.  Although we should parent with this goal in mind (being able to confidently turn over the reigns to them when they are around 18), every child is different, and so should be every parenting decision.

I once, long ago, read a blog post about parenting which made a big impression on me.  She was writing about parenting little ones, but she exposed a principle that I think is very valuable.  She said something like this:  "Never try to make a child do something that you cannot make him do."

The issue at hand had been eating.  She was explaining how it is futile to tell a child that he must eat something.  You simply cannot enforce that.  You could sit across the table glowering at the kid for three days, and he could still refuse to swallow his beets, and he would have won.

It is foolish for a parent to put herself into a position with her child where the child can win.

You have to know your position.

So, in the eating example, you can say, "If you do not eat your beets, you may not have any dessert, and you will not be allowed a bedtime snack, either."  This you can enforce.  You cannot enforce, "You must eat your beets."

If you are a real tough cookie, you might even say, "If you do not eat these beets, they are the only thing I am going to offer you to eat for every upcoming meal until you do eat them."  Then, you could put them into the refrigerator under plastic wrap and bring them out for breakfast in the morning.  You could.  I doubt that it would create a positive solution in the end, but you could.

However, you cannot enforce, "You must eat your beets."

Parents need to avoid, at all costs, entering into conflicts that they cannot win.

As kids get older, it can be harder to win.

However, as long as they are dependent on us for survival, we have leverage.  Of course, the whole point of parenting is to get them to be independent of us and able to survive on their own.  Sometimes we should use this leverage (that we have as a result of their dependence) as a tool to motivate them to attain independence.

As parents, we should never underwrite our children's bad decisions with financial support.  It is not only our right, it is our duty.

As long as they need our money to pay for the rent, or the tuition, or the food or the clothing or the wedding or the car or the computer or the cell phone, we have the right and responsibility to say "no" when they act outside of our guidelines.  And they make the decision to abide by our wishes or get along without our support.  It's incredibly simple, really.  And it is okay for them to get along without our support, too.  Sometimes we make unreasonable demands and they say, "Okay," and choose to pay their own bill.  That can be perfectly fine.

We don't control their decisions, but we control whether or not we support them.  That is all.

Monday, August 25, 2014

On dating (hahaha)

So I finally got around to reading this post that was linked in my sidebar:

Of Course Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed

And I also read the post that she linked to in her post, saying, "The arguments in this article are so fundamentally flawed, one has to wonder what sort of homeschooling education produces this logic, or what social bubble spawned the idea that 'courtship dads' are more abusive than others."

I actually liked the post The Christian Pundit was refuting better than her own post.  I also think it is telling that Thomss Umstattd Jr. leaves his comments open while hers are closed. (Even though a lot of the comments are ridiculous; it still shows a graciousness of character to allow them.)

Here's my take:

Number one--Everybody is different.  You can't make a one-size-fits-all rule and demand that all relationships begin by following this prescription.  You just can't; it's stupid.  Yes.  Stupid is not too strong a word.

Number two--Who cares what you call it?  I'm sure those who make up the rules and write the lists have very definite definitions of "courtship" (which probably mostly means that people take steps to be honest and pure) and "dating" (which in those same rule writers' minds is something that oozes with sex and deceit and lack of constancy).  But that's just stupid too.  Nowhere is it written that every date is a dangerous encounter with a wicked person who wants to get all he (or she) can from you while promising nothing.  Many people are open, honest, friendly and pure as they go out for pizza and start to get to know each other... and they call it a date.

The point is this:  if you are a single young Christian rambling along through life, either actively or passively waiting to meet the life partner God may or may not have for you, you need to do several things:

1.  You need to remain morally pure.  No sex outside of marriage.
2.  You need to be honest, with yourself and with others.
3.  (and this should probably be #1 rather than #3) You need to trust in the sovereignty of God:
     > be patient,
     > do not panic and marry the wrong person out of desperation,
     > be at peace as a single person,
     > do not insist on forming your self-image around whether you do or do not have a romantic relationship in your life,
     > put the desire to serve God with your life above everything else.

There are corollaries to these, like talking to trustworthy advisers--parents or pastors or godly friends--and listening to what they have to say.  Like hedging your purity with safeguards.  Like being accountable to someone.

However, none of these corollaries should ever be hard and fast rules, because that is legalism.  Yes.  I do not like to throw around the word legalism.  Often people use it as a derogatory term for those who are concerned about obedience to the Lord.  Obedience to the Lord is not legalism.  Making up rules about how to "do" a relationship with the opposite sex is legalism.

Yes, you should honor and respect your parents, but no, you should not always "obey" them after you are an adult.  They shouldn't be demanding your obedience after you have become an adult, unless you have specific circumstances (e.g. Down's Syndrome) which would indicate that you need a lot more direction than the average person.  Parents must not hold the "I-am-your-mother/father-and-you-must-do-as-I-say" card as a tool for manipulation of adult children.

There comes a time in all of our lives when we are responsible for our own decisions.  Our parents must step back and let us fail sometimes -- or, if we are the parents, we need to step back and let our adult children learn directly from God, without us getting involved and trying buffer every lesson.  Everyone learns best that way.  And (get this) God is able to teach people all on His own.

Adult children can ask their parents for advice, but that is what it is: advice.  Not law.  One lady I know calls it "sharing wisdom."  Parents can share their wisdom forever, but there comes a time when they must recognize that it is no longer appropriate for them to make rules, demand cooperation or institute consequences.  Not appropriate.  (Unless there is physical abuse, in which case, by all means, somebody call the police.)

Whether you call it courtship, or whether you call it dating, it doesn't really matter.

You need to love and obey God. 

You need to have respect for the other person, and a willingness to serve and sacrifice.

You need to be ready to leave and cleave (and the way some families handle what they call courtship, this end goal is very severely hampered... but I've seen parents of children who "date" mess this up, too, so like I said, basing it all on a couple of terms is ridiculous).

You need to be self-controlled, faithful and pure.

The Bible is surprisingly silent on specifics sometimes, and I think this is because every person is different, every culture is different, every situation is different.  We like specifics because they are easy; they give us a checklist.  The harder work comes when we really have to think deeply about principles and how to apply them in our lives... but this is what we have to do.  We have to read the Bible, and think, and pray, and then obey.

And we need to avoid generalizing what worked for us into something that we think everyone else must do.  Like I said, we can "share wisdom."  But after we have, we need to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work directly in the other people's hearts and minds.  That's the only way their righteousness will ever count, anyway.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Get 'er down

I feel as though I ought to write, because it has been ten days.

I think.

There is a lot to say, but also a lot to filter.

My mind is cluttered with hopes, dreams, confusions, concerns, heartaches (simple ones, like headaches, not gut-wrenching ones) and a to-do list.

I looked at pictures to try to stimulate some antidote to writer's block.  We were on vacation in Missouri, visiting Shawn's parents last week, but of course I forgot the camera.  I have a few phone pictures.  Not good ones.

This is Jonathan shooting clay pigeons 
at a shooting range his grandfather took him to.  
He had a lot of fun and was good at it.

Here, Jonathan is target shooting at Grandpa's house.  
Grandpa taught him all about guns.  
He shot pistols, rifles and shotguns, as well as a cross bow.  

I am amused at this picture of Shawn taking a picture of Jonathan.

Jonathan also went fishing and tubing, because Grandpa has a boat on the lake.  I did not take my phone out on the lake, so there are not even any phone pictures of these endeavors.

It was an odd vacation, with only one child.  This may be the first time such a thing has ever happened, except maybe years ago with Shannon, before anybody else was born.  When Jonathan was tubing and knee-boarding, there were no siblings to trade off turns with him.  Grandpa drug him around that lake (a 70 mile lake!) for nearly an hour at 40 mph, no breaks except when the rope broke and we had to stop and tie it back together.  The boy is tenacious.  At one point, Grandpa was trying to knock him off the inner-tube, and he wouldn't let go.  Grandpa tried so hard, steering back over the choppy wake and speeding this way and that, he nearly pitched me out of the boat, but Jon held on until the rope snapped.  Jonathan.  He was sore the next morning, and scratched up because Grandpa's sweet chocolate lab kept jumping into the water and swimming out to try to "rescue" him (which he thought was endearing and cute).

While in Missouri, we also went to Branson and saw Dolly Parton's Dixieland Stampede.  Jokes, music and choreographed horseback riding while we sat in a line and used our fingers to eat chicken off the bones and corn off the cobs, while swilling iced tea out of ball jars.  My favorite was when they raced the baby pigs around the ring, and my second favorite was when the comical character donned a chicken costume and danced... it reminded me of when Jonathan used to be a mascot for the Syracuse Chiefs and dance on top of the dugout every night.

Jon and me at a Chiefs game in 2012 or 2013.

One of Dolly's Dixieland horses, last week.

It was a nice vacation, which was a good thing, because we came home and school started.

Have I ever told you how much I dislike the first day of school?  It was yesterday.  

Jon, who is unsure of his future direction, has moved home and is going to a local junior college this year.  I am glad to have him around, especially since Shawn will be traveling a great deal in the next few months.  It's nice to have at least one of my offspring less than eight hours away from home.  It's also nice to have an inexpensive educational opportunity to bridge the gap while Jon assesses what he really wants to do with the rest of his life.

Laura started working as a special education teacher in Ohio on Monday, too.  It was The First Day of School on many levels. 

My heart and mind overflow with prayers.  This is probably where God wants to keep me, clinging, eyes upward.

I didn't feel like writing, so I just splatted this out, mechanically, unbeautifully.  It's the best you can do sometimes.  Just get it down.  The memories are worth it.  If it's worth remembering, it's worth remembering in rough form.