Thursday, December 31, 2009

Equity and Equality

"Say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns,'
the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity."
Psalm 96:10

In the dreary nether-time between Christmas and New Year's, during the dim dusk of the end of the year when normalcy halts and schedules are confused to the point of nausea... God's Word still stands firm. Hallelujah for that!

So I was trying to get my bearings after eating a little too much baklava, and I started perusing the Psalms, where I came across the term "equity", which is the way the Bible says the Lord will judge.

And I wondered, "What exactly is the difference between equity and equality?"

So I checked out

Equity: the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality
Equality: the state or quality of being equal; correspondence in quantity, degree, value, rank, or ability

They are related, however, and the Latin root "equi-", which is the beginning of "equity", actually means equal.

I think equity has to do with understanding and discerning that flat out equality is not always fair. For instance, if there is a six month old baby and a 16 year old boy, and one hamburger and one bottle of milk, the best way to divide up the food is not to give each one a half of a hamburger and a half a bottle of milk. That would be equal, but to be equitable, you would give the bottle of milk to the baby and the hamburger to the teenage boy.

It would be a very good thing if the American governing forces (which I fear have more to do with the mafia machine that runs Chicago than with voter preference) could learn to discern the differences between dividing up the resources of our country equally and dividing them equitably. (Disclaimer--this is not to say that I think they even have equal distribution figured out, let alone equitable.)

We may well not get it right at any time in this life, which is why we should be so thankful for the life to come in eternity, where God's justice, truth and equity will reign supreme.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Middle age

When you are little, each birthday is a grand celebration. "What will it feel like to be eight?" you wonder on the eve of your eighth birthday. You are thrilled to hit the double digits at age ten, and full of wondrous anticipation when you turn sixteen: "Will I fall in love this year?"

When you are old, each birthday is a grateful celebration for continued life. If you aren't dead, you are thankful and filled with joy at the opportunity to live each ensuing day. Anyway, some old people say they feel this way, and they are the ones I want to be like.

However, between youth and old age, there is a time when we do not embrace our birthdays. We are not near enough to death's natural portal that we think to be thankful for the gift of life, but we have a dark and heavy feeling that our best years are over.

That is middle age.

And the best years aren't over. I'm going to list 20 good things about middle age.

1. You have learned how to roast a turkey.
2. You are an experienced driver.
3. You are not a slave to peer pressure.
4. You are past the pregnancy days.
5. You are past the getting-up-many-times-in-the-middle-of-the-night days.
6. You have some life experience under your belt.
7. You can afford to do some of the things you've always hoped to do.
8. You don't have to go to school.
9. You know what you are good at.
10. Your kids can tie their own shoes.
11. Your kids don't need any help with bodily functions.
12. Your kids sleep longer than you do.
13. Your kids can drive and sometimes even pick things up for you at the store.(!!!)
14. You can have intelligent conversations with your kids.
15. People sometimes say, "Ma'am" to you and mean it.
16. You understand Dickens.
17. You can go out with your spouse and not hire a babysitter.
18. Your tastes are defined.
19. People judge you on things other than your appearance.
20. Rather than thinking you are wiser than you really are, you are probably wiser than you realize.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Christmas memory

Even when I was little, I had ridiculous, soaring expectations... soaring like a toy rocket that is destined to crash in the neighbor's gutter.

I remember one year in particular, the year I figured out that there really was no Santa and no enchanted workshop at the North Pole where elves built toys.

I had asked for a dollhouse. In my mind, I pictured a handmade, wooden Victorian dollhouse with real miniature cedar shingles, tiny brass door hinges and diminutive silk draperies hanging majestically over real, working windows that I could open and shut. I thought it would be about four feet high and have at least three stories, with a grand staircase. It would be painted Victorian red, with gingerbread trim, and it would blend perfectly with all of our red and green Christmas decorations. Perhaps I had seen something like this at the state fair. I don't know.

On Christmas morning, I awoke and ran to the living room to see the beautiful dollhouse that Santa had brought me.

It was plastic.

Actually, it wasn't even really plastic. I think it was some sort of heavy cardboard covered with vinyl. There was not a speck of wood or fabric on it, certainly no brass. The windows were printed on the vinyl walls. It was predominantly blue. It smelled like polyurethane.

There were no doors. The front of the house snapped up like a suitcase, or you could unsnap it and lay it flat to play with the open house.

I sadly snapped it and unsnapped it. Clearly this had not been made by an elf. Clearly Santa was a myth. Clearly I should never hope for a dream to be fulfilled again.

Even in my childhood, I was a pessimist.

I didn't say anything though. I didn't want to hurt my parents' feelings. It wasn't their fault there was no Santa Claus.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who Is Jesus?

There is a child in our Sunday school class who does not believe that Jesus is God.

He is a bright child, and very active and verbal. He has also been afflicted with a serious case of brash, youthful arrogance. I am not sure how to handle him. I do not want to humiliate him. However, I do not believe that it is right to allow him to declare, in front of the other children, "Jesus wasn't really the same as God. My dad says there's no way Jesus could actually be God."

Because God is wonderful, He has been leading me to verses that clearly proclaim the divinity of Christ.

Romans 9:5
Theirs [the Israelites'] are the patriarchs, and from them are traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

For years I have been teaching that the Old Testament is about the nation of Israel, because they are the ancestors of Jesus. And only today I noticed that what I have been teaching is clearly and simply explained in this one specific verse. Glory to God! The nation of Israel is specially blessed because they are the ancestors of God. Jesus is God!

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

The child, the baby, the son of Mary is our Mighty God. The Bible says so. Jesus is God!

Titus 2:13
... while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is our Savior. Jesus is our God. It doesn't get much clearer than this.

Acts 20:28
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers
[Paul said to the Ephesian elders]. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.

Whose blood paid for the church? God's own blood. That's what it says. I am not making this up. Jesus was the one who shed His blood, and this is the blood that bought the church, God's blood. Jesus is God.

John 1:1-3, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made... The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word was God, it says, and then the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That's Jesus. Jesus is the one who became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus, who is God, became flesh and lived with humans on earth. I didn't even highlight the fact that this passage also states that the Word is the one who created the heavens and the earth, and Genesis 1:1 specifically states that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Jesus is God.

Please read this slowly and worshipfully...
Colossians 1:15-20
[Jesus, the Son whom God loves, who redeemed us; see verses 13-14]
is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

Jesus is God.

There are other supporting scriptures that you can read on your own:
John 10:30
John 14:9
Philippians 2:5-11
Colossians 2:9
Hebrews 1 (the whole chapter, but particularly verses 8-9)

Jesus is God. If you don't believe the Bible, or if you do not believe in God, this means nothing. But if you accept the Bible as God's Word, you cannot deny that Jesus is God in flesh, "God incarnate" as the old theology states.

1 John 4 speaks of testing the spirits. Whether a spirit is true and good or false and wicked hinges on one thing: what does it do with Jesus? The Spirit of God in someone "acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh... but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God." Acknowledging Jesus means understanding who He is, that He is God, not just agreeing that he was a guy like any of the rest of us who just happened to be born in the year that changed BC to AD.

I think I am going to need to have a serious talk with this child. If you read this, please pray for me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jonathan's genius

David has been very sick.

Since the boys share a small room together, during this bout of illness we moved Jonathan to the basement. This was to accomplish a number of goals:

1. That David would not be woken up in the morning when Jon gets up to go to school.
2. That Jon would not be kept awake all night while David coughs.
3. That Jon would be removed from exposure to David's germs, as much as possible.

We pulled out the futon for Jon, so he gets to sleep on a queen sized surface. It is dark and quiet in the basement, and it is near the laundry room, and since Jon rarely takes his clean clothes upstairs to his dresser, it is working out quite niftily.

I have been undergoing a medical procedure for the past two days, or I would have tidied this up before taking a picture. But hey, there's nothing like realism.

Please notice the blue string that is coiled on top of the dirty orange tee-shirt that is slung on the floor at the foot of the futon. If you can't see it, click on the picture to enlarge for a better view.

Now, we have already established that Jonathan has a bent for, shall we say inventing things.

That string by the futon is connected to this:

There are actually two ends, one he can pull from his bed to turn the lights on, and one he can pull to turn them off.

As you can see, he is making himself quite at home.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rabbit trails

I have always wanted white dishes. (If you are wondering what this has to do with the photo above, you'll have to keep reading for awhile, I'm afraid... note the title of this post: "Rabbit trails.")

I have always wanted white dishes, and before Shawn and I got married, I picked out some beautiful white bone china dishes with a scalloped edge. When Shawn saw them, he said, "What? I want flowers on my dishes." First of all, he wasn't supposed to notice or care. Second of all, why did he want flowers, of all things?

So we got the dishes you can see in the twelfth picture in this post. Secretly, although I didn't get my first choice of dishes, I was flattered that he cared.

But I've always wanted white dishes.

Recently, I have been growing tired of my tan and blue Pfaltzgraff every-day dishes. I've had them for nearly twenty-three years now. I don't really mind them, but, I don't know. I guess I am falling into that trap of being American and getting tired of something and thinking I have the right to replace it, even when it is perfectly good and useful. A few of my Pfaltzgraff dishes had broken, but then I attended a benefit for a local Christian school a couple of years ago, and found two huge boxes of this same pattern (used) for sale for something like $15. I was so sad when I bought them and brought them home. I had accumulated enough Pfaltzgraff to last centuries, enough Pfaltzgraff to pull the cabinets right off the walls with its weight (I am not even kidding). I figured that was it; I'd never get a change.

But I'd always wanted white dishes.

So I started poking around, checking the internet, checking WalMart. I found some awesome dishes on the internet: Mikasa Antique White. They are bone china with a scalloped edge. You can get them in sets for much less than buying individual place settings, but to get service for twelve, it would have run us about $300. WalMart had a set of bare-bones basic white stoneware dishes, service for four for $15. So I could get service for twelve for $45 by buying three boxes. I debated and debated. The problem was, I really didn't like them all that much.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, I was walking through WalMart (because I am such a high class person, you know), and I went back to check on my bare bones basic white stoneware. It was GONE. Sold completely out. The next time I went to WalMart (you are, I suspect, discerning a theme here), I checked again. Again they were sold out. I tried not to feel bad; after all, I had not really liked them very much.

As I walked through the store, I rounded a bend and came across a seasonal display of holiday tableware. And there, in the center of the display, were boxes of white porcelain dishes, the kind with a fluted rim.

Service for six cost, get this, $18. Can you believe that? It came with six each of plates, bowls, dessert plates, cups and saucers, plus a large serving bowl and an oval platter (the platter is ridiculously small, but you could put crackers and cheese on it, or crudites). For $18.

I am not an impulse buyer, so I circled the store a few more times before I put two sets into my cart. Then, for $36, I bought pretty white dish service for twelve.

I brought them home, and the agony began. I was torn about packing away my Pfaltzgraff. It has served me well for twenty-three years. It has been part of our lives three times a day, nearly every day.

It took me nearly a week to take the plunge, but yesterday was the day. Yesterday I unpacked the white dishes and packed up the Pfaltzgraff. (To be totally honest, I must admit that I unpacked one box of white dishes a little earlier and set them on the dining room table and started using them here and there to adjust myself before taking the big plunge.)

I had to keep reminding myself, "I am not giving it away, or selling it or throwing it away." Also, I told myself, "These white dishes are very cheap. They probably won't last. And then we will get the Pfaltzgraff back out again. This is a very temporary thing." I have to talk myself through these kinds of things.

While I was working on the project, there was a lot of cardboard packing material. (We are almost to the place where I tie in the photo at the beginning. Are you excited?) As I unpacked, I tore down the boxes and flattened them, so as to keep from frustrating Shawn with a big recycling project. At one point, I took a pile of cardboard out to the recycling bin in the garage. I put it into the bin and jumped in to stomp it down flat with my weight. Somehow, as I was stomping, I fell forward and bumped my cheek, hard, on a plastic oar that was sticking off the end of a shelf.

Which hurt. But it also jogged a most wonderful memory.

We bought this pair of plastic oars to go with an inflatable boat one summer when we were on vacation at Sunset Beach in North Carolina.

Sunset Beach is a south facing island just west of Ocean Isle Beach, another south facing island off the southern coast of the southern tip of North Carolina.

If you walk down to the easternmost end of Sunset Beach island, you can see across a channel to the westernmost end of Ocean Isle. It isn't very far, and one day on vacation, the kids and I decided that we would try to ford the channel in our inflatable boat.

I hope this was not a terribly dangerous thing to do. I prayed the whole time after we got started and my second thoughts kicked in.

Of course, we could not all fit in the boat at the same time, so we had to take turns. I went first; I suppose I was making sure it was safe or some such thing. I'm not sure who went with me, but I think it was DJ and Laura.

Now, you have to understand that the westernmost end of Ocean Isle is a very prestigious, gated community. You can't even access it from Ocean Isle when you are on Ocean Isle. So what we were doing was crazy, gutsy, dorky and possibly even illegal. Also, we were doing it at low tide, and we had to hurry to get everyone's turn in before the tide came in and made it too treacherous.

There was quite a bit of current (undertow?), so it was fairly hard work getting across, but we made it, and pulled up our boat, oars and tired bodies to rest a spell before heading back. There we were, wet (the boat rode low and took on water), tired and sunburned, when an affluent couple walked by and asked where we had come from. Fortunately, they were amused and not angry that we had crashed their private beach.

We headed back to our own island and gave David, Jon and Shannon a chance to try the trip. I do not know what I was thinking, so please don't ask me, "What were you thinking?" I knew how hard the trip was, and now the tide was actually coming in. But my kids are very determined, and I do have a lot of faith in their ability to put their minds to something and accomplish it. They really, really wanted their turn.

So off they went. The problem was, the boys couldn't cooperate on the rowing rhythm. Each was convinced that he was right, and that the other should adjust to his rhythm. This resulted in them going nowhere fast. A bemused man pulled up next to me and watched. I felt a little safer having him there; I figured I could send him for help in case of an emergency. Finally Shannon, who is competent, intelligent and athletic, jumped out of the boat and started to swim behind it, pushing it ahead of her. The boys continued to "row" and the boat started to move towards Ocean Isle. The man next to me chuckled and said, "Those boys have no idea that she is doing everything and they are doing nothing." I said, "Nope, they really don't."

In the end, they made it across and back, and we returned safely to our beach house to regale Shawn with stories of our escapade. What a happy memory of a hot sunny day at the beach.

I wonder how long it would have been before I thought about that if I had not bought new dishes... ?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thanksgiving pictures

Here are the cranberries. We use the jellied canned kind, because we like them. No apologies for that. I have had the homemade kind, and they are good too, but this is our traditional cranberry option. The kids liked them when they were little, and we still eat them this way now, years later. They are tasty, and they are easy.

This is the turkey. Shawn has traditionally called it, "Yon Fowl." I don't think he used that precise terminology this year; he wasn't feeling well, and wasn't quite as jolly as he sometimes has been.

My mashed potatoes are fantastic. Just saying. Smooth, creamy, velvety goodness, just waiting for...

some delicious gravy. It was really good gravy this year. The turkey was sublime as well. I think they must have injected it with a ton of MSG (you know how it says "injected with solution"?). But man, it tasted great.

Our stuffing was also very tasty. There was approximately one fourth of a cup of this substance left at the end of the initial meal. Technically, it is dressing, not stuffing, as I do it in the crockpot. But we call it stuffing and we love it. I think maybe we can consider it a vegetable, since it is loaded with celery and onions.

Ah yes, a real vegetable. Kind of. This is praline squash, which can also be made with sweet potatoes. It is absolutely sublime, covered with a thick layer of walnuts in brown sugar and butter, which crusts up delightfully. Even Shawn has been known to take seconds, and he hates squash.

Asparagus from a can. Hey, I did all the cooking myself, so I had to use some easy tricks. Besides, we love the buttery tenderness of canned asparagus. Yes, we eat both cranberries and asparagus out of cans, and we like them. Perhaps the natural homemade varieties are better, but not if you're so tired out from cooking that you can't even taste anymore by the time you get them done. I rest my case.

Ohhhh... yummmm!!! This is Waldorf salad: apples, celery, grapes and walnuts in a slightly sweet, tangy lemon dressing. My favorite!

Final preparations before we sit down to eat. Notice that Jonathan has eagerly taken his seat. I was getting punch for everyone... orange-tangerine Juicy Juice, cranberry juice cocktail and club soda mixed in equal parts makes an excellent accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner.

Shawn read Psalm 34 to us before we ate.

The boys listen with rapt attention. Amazing that they can concentrate with all those tantalizing aromas rising around them. Good for them!

Empty plate, empty belly.

Full plate, empty belly. But not for long...

Full belly, almost empty plate. We took a few hours off before...

Dessert. This is dutch apple pie with a brown sugar crumb topping. It was pretty good.

Do you know that there is apparently a national pumpkin shortage this year? I should have been cooking my fall decorations instead of letting the squirrel get at them.


Doesn't that whipped cream look good? I may use canned cranberries and asparagus, but it is only real whipped cream for me, baby!

Looking at these pictures just makes me feel thankful all over again!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I was going to post photos of our Thanksgiving feast. Maybe I still will, but it just takes so long.

Shawn is finally getting better after being very, very sick. Oddly, he had no fever, so I guess it wasn't the flu. I'm pretty sure it was at least bronchitis. He won't go to the doctor because he doesn't like what antibiotics do to his stomach, but the second I let up on pushing teas and other fluids and rubbing him down with therapeutic essential oils, he gets bad again (as in, this morning). I told him that if he needs to go to the doctor he'd better get there before the end of the month, because since Laura's concussion maxed us out, we've had full coverage this year. As of January 1, 2010, such coverage will be over forever. As in, the new plan never maxes out. Well, I guess it does after you've spent $7,200 out of pocket. In one year. Which could conceivably happen, but I pray it never does.

So that's Shawn.

DJ is also sick. I took him to the doctor yesterday for a strep culture, which sadly was negative, meaning that he has the flu (he has had a fever). So he is missing school, always a stressful thing. Too bad we couldn't put him on an antibiotic and zap it.

The toughest part of having sick people in the house is how sore my hands get from the constant washing. It goes something like this:

Get up. Make tea and egg drop soup. Let the dogs out.

Wash your hands because you touched the dogs.

Take tea and soup to the sickie. Take his temperature while you are in the room.

Clean thermometer and wash hands.

Gather used dishes from sick room and take to kitchen to be washed.

Wash hands.

Take dirty laundry to laundry room and sort it. Start a load.

Wash hands (you have been touching dirty socks and underwear, for goodness sake!).

Rub essential oils into the feet of the sick one. Now, do you wash your hands or not? The essential oils are fragrant, expensive and antiseptic. But, you were touching someone's feet. You should have done this before sorting the laundry... the essential oils would have been good for the laundry, and the feet wouldn't have hurt it any... that laundry has touched worse feet than the ones in the bed upstairs.

In the end, the hands get washed, because your next job is to make a snack...

Start to prepare a glass of ice water and a plate of fruit for the sickie. You are interrupted by a dog, who wants to go outdoors again. You have to touch him to accomplish this, but you are in the middle of food preparation.

There's no way to get out of washing your hands again.

And so it goes.

I need to go put some coconut oil on my hands. Too bad I'll probably have a reason to have to wash it off again in 3 minutes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

We did not go anywhere.

And you know what? That is OK.

We are tired. We are overstimulated. We are stressed out. Except for Jon, that is. Jon is never stressed out. Jon wanted to drive to Minnesota for Thanksgiving.

The rest of use did not relish 36 hours in the van (round trip) for 48 hours there, followed by a quick dive back into the school routine. Especially since they are all so tall now. Jon, being the youngest, was the smallest, but now he is the tallest, having surpassed both Shannon and David, who are 6'1". Shawn has always been 6'2" (well, ever since I've known him, anyway). Laura is 5'9", and I am the shrimp at 5'6". We don't fit so well in a minivan anymore, and we really notice on those l-o-n-g cross country drives.

(Here, Jon is trying to wear DJ's old tux from when DJ was Jon's age. The tux pants were totally too short, so we had to try to punt with a different pair of black slacks, which were also too short, because SOMEBODY never stops growing. Fortunately, he is easy going and did not complain about wearing an odd assortment of clothes in an attempt to simulate a tux for his first Symphonic Band concert in September.)

David is glorying in the opportunity to spend time with his friends who are home from college, some for the first time since they left in August. Shannon is taking it easy. One of her friends from college might come over for Thanksgiving, which would be lovely if it happens. Laura is working like a dog to finish her college applications.

I will be cooking. I haven't made Thanksgiving dinner for a few years (on Thanksgiving... I've made turkey dinners right along). This is going to be fun. I hope somebody helps me clean up!

We have been hosting a small group from church at our house for the past two weeks. Do you know what that means? It means... the dining room is clean!!! Which means we can eat turkey in there, on the china, and it will be special.

I am actually quite looking forward to this.

Friday, November 20, 2009

November sky

It has been a truly wonderful November.

I was praying with two friends this morning. We pray for our kids, who are in public school. We love our kids, and we get together once a week to pray for them. We love our kids very much, and we send them to public school, and we pray for them.

Anyway, in our prayer time, one of my friends prayed and thanked God for this glorious November, and I realized how right she was. We had one of the coldest, rainiest summers on record. There were two weeks of hot weather in August, and then I don't really remember September (hey, that rhymes!). October was bad... cold, rainy and in the 40's for most of the month. Now November has been sunny and mild with most days above 50 degrees.

Yes, there are clouds in this picture. There are usually clouds. A sunny day is one where the sun peeks between the clouds on and off throughout the day. Can I tell you something? I have never in my life seen people who appreciate good weather more than central New Yorkers. If you get a warm, sunny day, everybody literally drops everything and goes outside to celebrate. If we central New Yorkers were to move to, say, San Diego, we would never get anything done. We would have no idea what to do with all that good weather. We would probably die from overexertion because we would not be able to go inside and rest with all that great weather going on outside.

The picture above shows the view (if you can really call it that) from my front door looking east. A moment before, there were kids playing ball in shorts and a biker, but it took me too long to get the light settings right, and I missed them. Even reveling in the day, you can get cold and need to go inside.

I was trying to capture the time of day when the sun is very low in the sky, and its light comes streaming in from the west, sneaking under the edge of the last cloud, illuminating the neighborhood in a most beautiful and exotic way. Cloud cover traps the light between itself and the earth. The light glows as if it were in a tunnel, making flimsy brown weeds shine like gold. Unfortunately, I did not see any shining weeds to photograph, but I'm sure they were out there along the edge of the freeway.

This picture is looking west from my back door. Our house is built on an angle, which actually kind of bothers me. But that's beside the point. See the sun... the source of the light?

It looks bleaker than it is. Really it was spell-binding.

Maybe you don't see the beauty in this. That's OK. I appreciate it because I know how bad it can get. Sometimes I think God gave us Christmas at Christmastime to lessen the brunt of winter darkness. These pictures were taken at 4 p.m. Now it is 4:30, and it's dark out. The darkness will come earlier and earlier until we get to the end of December.

Being able to appreciate things is usually related to having gone without them at some point. People from Florida or California might not understand why a New Yorker would be excited about the November we've been having.

It's not just this way with the weather. Rough stretches can open our minds and hearts in many ways. I was just conversing with my husband this morning about how the kindest, most empathetic people are always the people who have suffered through something. People who have never lived a hard day in their lives usually aren't capable of understanding someone else's pain. Jesus died on the cross for us all, and He suffered all of our pain.

James tells us, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds." (James 1:2). Trials tender us. They help us to apprehend and appreciate beauty and goodness when they come. They teach us empathy and cleanse the impurities from our souls. They develop wisdom in us and ultimately make us like Christ.

You can have a wrong response to a trial. You can let it make you angry, bitter and ugly. But if you embrace it, learn from it, draw near to God through it, it can be the best beauty treatment you ever took. And it can help you feel the grace in a glorious November sky in Syracuse, NY.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

This post may need to be deleted

Laura is a much better photographer than I. She took these pictures, and she is currently not at home, so I can't ask her if I can use them. Generally, she is kind about letting me use her photos, but if she is handing any in for class, we have to keep them off the internet. If any of these are in her portfolio, I will have to delete this post.

The doggies are very interested in something going on atop the table, far above the chair behind which they sit at rapt attention. They peer fervently upward. All their focus, all their concentration is on what is beyond, even though they can't see it. (I think they can smell it.)

Look at these doggies. Have you ever seen such devotion, such sincere and undying interest? Would that we desired the fellowship of the Lord the way these doggies desire whatever is up there above their reach.

Observe the doggy's-eye-view of current events. Mommy is working on something, something with a delectable aroma, something that fills a doggy heart with hopes and thrills.

Mommy is... picking a chicken. Boiled chicken on a plate may not be a delicacy to certain humans (although the humans in this household appreciate it pretty fully), but to a doggy, it is ambrosia, caviar, la creme de la creme. It is the stuff of doggy fantasies and satisfied doggy souls.

"Awww Mommy, can't we have some? Can't we have some please... please... pretty please???"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why are the doggies barking?

Why are Piper and Schubert peering out their windows? What do they see?

Why is Piper scratching at the window? What is exciting him like this?

Why is Schubert yowling with all his might from the depths of his heart? Whatever could be the matter?

Oh my. Could this be the cause of all the clammer and commotion in our house? This cute little guy? I guess he was kind of hard on the pumpkin stem...

The doggies find it quite upsetting that this little fellow is visiting their front step.

Oooops! Where did he go? I guess he's taking a dip in the pumpkin slime, foraging for more of those nice, juicy pumpkin seeds...

It looks like he's gotten at all of our pumpkins now, even the one off to the right, although I don't think he made it quite all the way through the wall of that one. Funny how he went in the side and dragged the seeds out of the one in the middle of the photo: if that were a jack-o-lantern and the hole were a mouth, then the seeds and gunk coming out would

There are seeds all over the step, but there are even more seeds buried throughout the landscaping and the front lawn. This squirrel has been working hard. Spasticly, but hard.

We liked trying to get pictures of our furry-tailed friend, but I just couldn't take the incessant barking, so I bravely went out and threw the pumpkins onto our compost in the back. Peace has reigned since then. Well, relatively speaking.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Here we go again

The holidays are coming again.

One year I had four children in elementary school. Shannon was in sixth grade, David in fourth, Laura in third and Jon in kindergarten. They got on the bus together in the morning and they came home together in the afternoon.

It was not a great year. For one thing, it was complicated getting them all ready to go at the same time. But morning was nothing compared to “after school.”

The bus would pull up, door opening to emit the tumbled pile of them which quickly righted itself and came running, all eight legs of it, up the driveway to the house. They fought their way to get through the mud-room door all at the same time. Immediately, backpacks came unzipped and heaved their contents all over the kitchen table; notes about attendance policy and math homework sheets, corrected tests and lunch menus expanded and multiplied. At the same time, the children were all talking as fast as their mouths could possibly move, spewing out stories about the day, complaints about who used foul language on the bus, demanding a shopping trip to get the materials to do a project, informing me that I had been volunteered for a room-mother obligation… all talking at the same time, peering wide-eyed into my face, shouting to be heard over one another. I turned from one to the next, vainly trying to prove my concern and involvement. As I attempted to express an interest, answer questions, validate them all, if I locked onto one particular child, the others would all immediately howl, “MOM! You’re not listening to ME!!!”

One afternoon the bus pulled up. I was in the front of the house, and Piper was with me, sweet dog that he is, trotting by my side on the smooth hardwood floor. When the bus pulled up and its squeaky brakes squealed to a loud, metallic halt, Piper stiffened his little legs and went into an all-out skid across the floor. The funny thing was, I knew exactly how he felt, that inner voice he must have heard as well as I did, the one that says, “Brace yourself!”

The year after that, Shannon was in middle school, which meant that she left and returned earlier than the others. Also, I homeschooled Laura. The schedule improved greatly: I was able to spend quality individual time with each child at some point in the day, and everything was much better.

However, that same feeling of, “Brace yourself!” continues to plague me each year as the holidays roll around.

It is hard for me to write about this without sinning. I must have a lot of bitterness and unresolved unforgiveness or something… I probably need therapy.

Generally, I am a pessimist. My credo is, “Expect the worst and you will never be disappointed.” Somehow, this never helps me with the holiday season. Each year, I try to set my expectations lower, and each year I somehow end up in a weeping fit anyway, traumatizing my offspring and otherwise proving, yet once again, that it certainly is NOT “the most wonderful time of the year.” Of course, I hate myself for this, but that doesn’t help anyone else. (Proof of the damage I've done: Lu's favorite holiday is the Fourth of July. I'm not even kidding.)

Two years ago (2007) was probably the worst Christmas there could ever be. I won’t go into details, but it was bad. Really, really bad. So last year, we decided to jettison everything. We had no tree, no gifts, no nothing. We used the Christmas budget (and quite a bit more) to buy airline tickets for the family to fly to Minnesota to be with Grandma, Grandpa and the aunts, uncles and cousins over Christmas. Except for the weather related plane issues, it turned out to be one of our best Christmases ever.

I have a couple of other happy Christmas memories. There was the year—I’m not sure which one—when I couldn’t get the family together to chop down a Christmas tree. Everybody was just too busy. Finally, one day after school when it was not snowing and the sun was still up, I drove the hour to Mexico, NY with only Shannon and Jonathan. We went to a tree farm and hiked out into the forest where Jon picked out a perfect tree, and he cut it down himself with the saw they had loaned us back at the barn. Then, because at that time he was still smaller than we were, Shannon and I carried the tree out of the woods and tied it on top of the van. We had the best time; it was wonderful. I felt a weird, guilty pleasure at it being just the three of us, but we laughed, rejoiced over our perfect tree, and listened to Christmas music all the way home on the radio.

A few years prior to that, I had become utterly overwhelmed and beside myself, and the girls decided that they would do the Christmas decorating, probably because I had said that I was not going to decorate that year, or something. They decorated the whole house, garland up the banister and everything, and I didn’t have to do anything. It was like walking into a fairytale to see what they had done, and not to have had to do it myself. I might have shed a tear or two, it was so sweet, so pretty and festive. Such a gift, one of the best gifts I ever got.

Then there was the year I turned 41. I gave myself a birthday party, and invited a bunch of people over to sing Christmas carols. I think my birthday (December 22) was on a Friday that year, or a Saturday. I didn’t tell anyone it was my birthday, because I didn’t want it to be about that. I just wanted an old-fashioned, traditional carol sing. Our children’s piano teacher is also my friend, and she graciously agreed to come and play the piano for us. We sang carols out of hymnals and followed up with assorted Christmas cookies (delicious old-family-recipe ones, lovingly baked by Shannon and Laura), fudge, crackers and cheese, snacks, mulled cider, hot chocolate, coffee and tea. It was rather lovely, I thought, and many of the guests seemed to really enjoy it. A few seemed slightly uncomfortable with the singing part, and although this deterred me from ever trying to repeat the event, the evening will always be a happy memory.

One of my happiest Christmas memories was when I was about sixteen. I had mentioned to my mom that Christmas had never been quite the same since I got too big to get dolls, because my favorite part of gift opening had always been to try to figure out which package had the doll in it. That year, she bought me a porcelain doll, which was an utterly unexpected surprise, and it spoke an incredible amount of love to me when I opened that particularly mysterious box and realized what she had done.

I don’t know how to approach Christmas this year. If we build a house on our land in the country, it might be our last Christmas in this house, which makes me want it to be a special one. But I don’t dare hope for special, because my hopes are dashed every holiday season. I should not hope for anything, but it is so hard not to.

Over the years, there have been Christmases when we have been destitute, Christmases when we have been fighting, Christmases when we have been lonely, and Christmases when we have tried to fill the loneliness with crazy busy-ness through church or other activities. There have been years when the busy-ness of church and other activities engulfed us even though we did not intend to let it. Some years we have all been sicker than dogs, completely isolated, and I have spent most of Christmas day rocking a fever stricken baby.

God has taught me that Christmas is not about the gifts, the cards, the cookies or the decorations. Christmas is not even about family. Christmas is about how God became man and dwelt among us. Any other focus drives me to despair every time.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


(That baby was me, and that is my mom holding me, teaching me something.)

I am hitting the wall, I think.

Most autumns I get depressed, ever since the year Laura was born and we struggled from her birth (October 8) right through the entire winter with health problems.

I don't know if it's SAD or if it is just the emotions that are there in the unconscious memories of the winter of '92-'93.

This year I thought I was doing better, but today, not so much.

The leaves are falling more frenetically this year than usual. Every time I look out the window or walk down the street, my eyes chase flocks of leaves whirling in violent flurries off to the east. It was amusing, mostly, but today it seems ominous.

Daylight Savings Time stinks. It just messes me up something awful. Whether we gain an hour or lose one doesn't seem to make much difference; it all puts me off.

Yes, I am whiny. There is just a lot right now. Things I can't talk about, things that burden my heart, things that annoy me, things that worry me, things that discourage me. Bleck. Sometimes when there is a lot, God piles on more, to where you were sure you would have broken and fallen to the ground. But then He lifts you up and carries you on His eagle's wings in a miracle of grace, and you survive after all. I have had that happen and it is both terrible and wonderful. I am not exactly hoping for it to happen again, even the wonderful parts, and that is certainly a failing on my part and a lack of faith.

My mother was an anti-dramatist, and by that I mean that drama did not exist in her universe. She never cried at anything staged, probably never in her life. It has always been pragmatics. Her mother died while she (my mother) was in the next state helping my brother and sister-in-law with their new baby. My mom didn't bother to go home for the the funeral because she figured she was needed where she was, and she had spent plenty of time with her mother while she was alive, so it wasn't so important to be there after she was dead. My dad offered to drive down and get her, but apparently she couldn't see wasting the return airplane ticket she already had, or something like that. She was never one to embrace a change in plans.

She also did not embrace tears. Anytime I cried, it was chalked up to manipulation, no possibility that I actually had honest feelings of, say, disappointment or some such nonsense. I could never just be sad; all sadness was interpreted as a ploy to get my way. Which, by the way, I rarely got. Principles, you know.

I'm not trying to be harsh here, because I love my mother and I get along with her really very well. I just say this because I have been raised to be skeptical of dramatics, so when issues arise in my life today, I do not immediately assume that the sky is falling. By and large, this is a good thing, but there are times when I think I let things go that are "a big deal" and then sometimes the fallout is less than pleasant when I find out that something I was minimalizing has grown to epic proportions outside of my control.

Yes, there is a lot.

I think I will make some sloppy joes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A letter to my daughters… (part 2)

OK, so you have determined to the best of your ability that the guy with whom you share some mutual interest is a true believer (or, if not, reread part 1). Now what?

Ephesians 5 talks about God’s plan for the marriage relationship.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Ephesians 5:22-28

Along with everything else He created, God created marriage. He not only has a specific plan for the way marriage should work, He has a specific purpose for the marriage relationship: marriage is a reflection of the relationship that God has with His people, the ones who through faith have entered into a covenantal love relationship with Him. This is not something we talk about very often, but it is stated in Ephesians 5:32 ("This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church.")

The implications of this fact are mind-boggling. Husbands are to mirror the love of Christ for His church in the way they love their wives. And wives are to honor and respect their husbands the way the people of God honor and respect God. In Ephesians 5:22-28, the Bible tells us about this using the term “submit” to describe the wife’s responsibility and the term “love” to describe the husband’s responsibility.

Historically, somehow the responsibility of the wife to submit has received a lot more press than the responsibility of the husband to love. The result is that submission has developed a bad reputation among those-who-are-not-inclined-to-like-the-Bible. In fact, this lopsided emphasis is probably largely responsible for the feminism we see rising up all around us all the time, demonizing men and making them out to be the bad guys. However, if you think through the plan the way God designed it, it is a totally beautiful system. It is easy to submit to someone who loves you more than life itself (which Jesus clearly does, since He died for us—this is the kind of love husbands are to have for their wives). It is easy to submit to someone who treasures you and will go to any lengths to ensure your well-being. It is easy to submit to someone who cares for you in tangible ways, taking full responsibility to provide for all your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. These are all things that husbands are called to do in this passage. Clearly, God did not plan marriage as an institution where women would be humiliated and abused.

There is an entire book written about this, based on Ephesians 5:33. It is called Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerich, and you should probably read it someday.

In a nutshell, you will find your best situation if you marry a man whom you can respect and to whom you can submit gladly, and who loves you more than life itself. Easy, no? Well, maybe not. Let’s take these two sides of the coin one at a time.

Respect and Submission

You can’t marry a man you don’t respect. Well, I suppose you could, but it would be bad. Don’t marry a man you don’t respect. Just don’t. You can submit to someone you don’t respect, but it is an awkward, unpleasant and probably bitter submission in that case. It is submission in the sense that you will do as you are told, but it is not true submission from your heart because you are unhappy and balky about it. In your mind you will be saying, “I’ll do it because you made me, but not because I want to, and I’m not happy about it! And I think you and your requests are stupid!” This is a forced submission which is not a true submission of the heart. True submission can only be given by choice to someone you respect. Here are some guidelines for Respect:

1. Respect goes hand in hand with trust. You need to have a basic trust in the love your husband has for you. When you trust in his love, you can submit when things don’t always seem to make perfect sense to you. Of course, even the very best husband is imperfect and sometimes selfish, and your husband is sure to make mistakes sometimes. You can’t hold this against him, because you know you make mistakes, too. Everyone needs to give and receive forgiveness. I once heard it said, “You have to be willing to cut others at least as much slack as you expect them to cut for you.” Truly, the only One who is totally faithful to live up to the trust placed in Him is God. God is always 100% trustworthy. So at the end of the day, you have to bank on God’s faithfulness and sometimes submit to an imperfect husband, trusting that because doing so is an obedience to God, it will ultimately result in the best outcome, regardless of the mistakes your husband may make (always remembering that you are not perfect, either). But, that said, before you have taken your marriage vows and while you are still free to try to find the best possible situation that God has for you, look for someone you can trust. This means look for someone who is honest, straightforward, kind and unselfish. Stay far away from guys who try to mind-game you.

2. You should marry someone you would never be embarrassed to have by your side. It is unchristian to be proud, but there is a sense in which I think it is not wrong to be proud. You should be proud of your husband. You should esteem him highly. If you are embarrassed or ashamed of his appearance, his profession, his manner of speaking, or something else… then do not marry him. It may be your own problem in your own heart if you are haughty towards the man God has for you. If this is the case, then spend much time in prayer, asking God to form your heart the way He wants it to be. But it is also true that sometimes there just isn’t “chemistry” between two people, and if after much prayer and soul searching chemistry never happens, it may be that this just isn’t the right match. Your husband will not be happy if he senses that you are embarrassed of him, so don’t put him through that. Don’t marry a man if you cannot be proud of him.

3. You should marry a man who can support you in a manner that will make you content. This is not a blank check to marry for money. It has more to do with your own heart than with the limits of some guy’s earning potential. But you do need to be realistic about your financial expectations. If you have expectations that a man cannot meet, then do not marry him. For instance, if it is your heart’s desire to stay home with your children when you have them, then don’t marry a man whose career (or the lack thereof) will force you to work outside the home in order to make ends meet. You should also marry a man who can support you himself, without your parents’ help. You will not respect a man who is depending on your daddy to pay for his groceries and mortgage. I feel that it is also important that your husband make more money than you make. If he is the head of the home and the maker of financial decisions, then it is best if he brings home the bulk of the money. If you are the big earner, you will find it hard to turn over the financial decisions to him, or even just to let him have the tie-breaking vote, which is what the Bible tells you to do when it says, “submit.” It will be very hard for you to respect him in terms of finances if you make more than he does. I’m just saying.

4. You should marry someone who can give you good, Biblical advice when you need counsel. Your husband is tasked with caring for you. In fact, to fail to do so will actually hinder his relationship with God (see 1 Peter 3:7). He should be able to listen to your concerns and provide wise, godly guidance for you. Going back to #1 above, you need to be able to trust his wisdom and guidance. You will be best able to trust him if you know he has a solid understanding of and love for scripture. He does not need to be a pastor, but he should know how to find scriptural guidance and how to appropriately apply scripture to everyday life.

Once you are married, you are married. The vow has been made, the relationship is sealed, consummated on the honeymoon. You have become one flesh in the sight of God. This is a very serious and sobering thing. Once you have walked down the aisle and pledged your faith to a man, it is from that time forward God’s will that you should be married to him, no matter what comes next.

This time, now, when you are old enough to have discernment but before you are married in the sight of God, this is the only time in your life when you have the right to read and ask for what the Bible says husbands should be like. After the wedding, verses like 1 Peter 3: 7 and Ephesians 5:25-28 are not written to you. In effect, they are no longer any of your business; they are written to your husband, and they are part of his story, not yours any longer (as Aslan told certain characters in The Horse and His Boy when they were concerned about how others would be held accountable). After your wedding day, it is your job to obey the commands of the Lord yourself, the ones He wrote to you, and to trust Him, God, to work things out. It is not your job to be the Holy Spirit to your husband’s heart. The Holy Spirit does that job Himself. (Also, He—the Holy Spirit—does it a lot better than you ever could, and it will only mess things up if you get your fingers in it, so cultivate your trust relationship with Him now!)

It is very important to choose your husband wisely. It is of utmost importance to choose a husband who loves you, who is crazy about you. If you settle for less, it will be hard for you to respect him, and then you will find yourselves in a vicious cycle of disrespect, hatred and unhappiness. Look for love! Here are some ideas for how to do that…


1. If he loves you, it will make him happy to make you happy. Look for a man who is delighted by your happiness. He does not need to think about you all the time; indeed, he could hardly be a good provider if he spent all his time daydreaming about you. But he should think about you frequently and make regular attempts to bring you joy. If you seem to be “out of sight, out of mind” it may be a bad sign. Now, he may not speak the same love language that you speak (read The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman). Women are instinctively more natural and easy communicators, so cut him slack if he doesn’t exactly speak your love language right away. But if he is not speaking any love language at all, beware! It should be his delight to delight you, and attempts to bring you joy are mandatory, even if they are clumsy sometimes.

2. You absolutely do not want to marry a man who thinks he is doing you a favor by marrying you, and who thinks that you are the lucky one. No! You want to hear him say, “I’m so lucky I found you!” Or, if he is devout (which we are hoping), he will probably say, “God has blessed me so much by bringing you into my life!” This is no small thing. The minute he starts to think that you are the one who is being blessed by his interest in you is the minute the whole deal starts to break down. Trust me on this. It is far more important that he is crazy head-over-heels about you than that you are nuts about him. You need to respect him and be proud of him and esteem him, yes. And if you do, and if he is wild about you, you will eventually become wild about him. It will all be good.

3. He should be protective of you. He should even worry just a little bit about you. He should feel that he is the only one who quite understands everything about you, and that you need him because he loves you most and will take the best care of you. He should open car doors for you, walk you up to your door at night, and forbid you from going anywhere iffy or dangerous. He should call you often if you are working late and coming home in the dark, or if you have to drive to an unknown place, or if you have a scary doctor’s appointment. He should always be there with a shoulder for you to cry on, a hand for you to hold, and an arm for you to lean on. And he should love every minute of it. If you are dating someone and this is not the way he treats you, look for someone else.

4. He should demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice for you. If he never offers to give anything up to make things nicer for you, there is something wrong. You cannot demand this as a condition for your submission after you are married (actually, it’s never the least bit satisfying if you have to ask for this type of thing, anyway), but you sure can look for it in someone before you are married. You don’t always have to accept his sacrifices for you. As you grow to really love him, you probably won’t want to. You can give things up too, and you certainly should sometimes. But if he is never willing to give anything up to accommodate you, he will not be a properly loving husband. In the best marriages, both spouses routinely offer to do more for the other than the other will accept. Just a little secret here, that I think you need to know… men very, very rarely get nicer after you are married. Men are usually at their peak of best behavior during courting, so don’t expect things to improve with time. Things might improve, because our God is a God of miracles and, as the Bible says, with God all things are possible. But the likelihood is that things will cool down a bit after the conquest has been won, so look for excellence early on. At any rate, it is more likely to be maintained than to be developed out of a vacuum. Be very wary of a man who always expects you to sacrifice for him instead of the other way around. It isn’t a healthy pattern and it will lead to marital frustration in the future, making it very difficult for you to respect him. It seems to me that this is not a characteristic that you can really discuss or ask for. By asking or demanding, you ruin the gift—at that point if you “get your way” it is bitter and unsatisfying. You can’t figure that over time you will teach a man to sacrifice for you. If a man does not have a heart inclined to sacrifice for you now, he is not likely to develop one later.

The last thing I want to say is this: God never promised us that we could have perfect marriages. We should be prayerful, wise and discerning as we choose a spouse, but in the end, God never promised that if we do certain things right, then our marriages will be utopian gardens of pleasure. Sometimes God calls us to hard things… I am thinking about the prophet Hosea. God told him to marry “a wife of adultery”. Why would God do that? Apparently because He knew that is what it would take to get Hosea to write the book of Hosea which has since taught many generations of Christians about the steadfast love of the Lord, even towards people who are unfaithful to Him. God may call you to difficulties in your lives, possibly even through your marriage. If it doesn’t turn out all sunshine and roses, you need to throw yourself on the mercy of God and trust that He is working out His perfect plan. Even though there are no ironclad guarantees, you should strive to seek God’s will and use as much wisdom and prudence as possible in seeking a mate. If you do, it is much more likely that things will go well for you, and even if they don’t, you will have much more peace, knowing that you have sought the Father’s will and that He is in control.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A letter to my daughters… (part 1)

(your mama loves how you refuse to take yourselves too seriously)

You are getting to that time of life when the future is nearer than it was before… which could probably be said about any time of life, given the flow of time and the nature of the future. But still, you know what I mean. You are getting to that place where the future begs decisions of you, and you are forced to decide, or to decide by not deciding, what to do next. You will do something next, whether it is on purpose or as an unavoidable reaction to events as they unfold.

You are starting to have ideas about what you want to accomplish, what you want to spend your lives doing. This is good, necessary, in fact. People say you have to have a dream. I’m not sure that’s right, exactly, but it is good to have goals and ideals to strive for, as long as you are flexible and allow the Lord to guide you and don’t get upset and angry if His plans turn out to be different from those you had made for yourself.

I am so happy that you are not boy-crazy, either of you, and that your lives are not dominated by an overwhelming “need” (perceived need) for a relationship with the opposite sex. There are so many women who cannot see themselves as individuals, who must have a male in their lives to make them feel worthy. It is a true virtue to let the Lord develop you as an individual and leave the marrying or singleness in His hands, according to His will.

That said, I wanted to tell you a few things about finding a husband, in case you ever decide to do so.

The first thing is, of course, the most important. He has to be a believer and a follower of Christ. This is non-negotiable. You are daughters of God, and you have no part in an intimate relationship with someone who does not share in this fellowship. The Bible says it this way: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:15. It is a terrible sadness for a believing woman to be married to an unbelieving husband, to live as his wife, loving him, cooking for him, bearing his children, and all the time knowing that he is headed for a devastating eternal destiny separated from her and from God and from all that is good. And speaking of the children, your chances of teaching your children the truth about God and having them accept and believe what you say are severely hampered if your husband does not agree with what you believe.

So, we have established that any potential potential person has to be a Christian, and yes, I meant to write potential twice, meaning, “If he has the potential to become a potential.” But there is a sticky issue here, too. There are a lot of men who masquerade as Christians, particularly in Christian settings, in order to score a nice wife. Be on your guard. I can think of three women I know well who were duped in this kind of a situation… and that’s right off the top of my head. I could think of more if I tried.

How do you know if a guy is a real Christian? It’s not an easy task. A tricky guy, particularly one who has grown up in the church, can put on a really good show. So can one who feels the need to convert (or to appear to have converted) just so he can get you.

Here are a few ideas you can use to guide you…

1. What is his commitment to honoring the Sabbath? Does he take church attendance seriously? This may sound legalistic and judgmental, but please hear me out. Does he like to go to church? Or is he always looking for an excuse to skip? When he is at church, does he restlessly go through the motions, or does he seriously enter into worship, prayer and discussion of scripture? When debating the scriptures, does he have any real insight, or does he just mouth back pat answers? Is he excited about new things he discovers about the Lord, or is he negative and argumentative regarding spiritual issues? I am not saying that a person who goes to church is good and one who doesn’t is bad, because we all know that isn’t always true. However, a good man will love opportunities to learn about God and worship Him. On the other hand, someone who does not treasure fellowship with the body of Christ may not be part of the body of Christ, and that, after all, is exactly what you are trying to discern.

2. Does he walk along the edge of the line, or does he seriously seek the face of God? What I mean is, be looking for his attitude… is he always thinking about what he can get away with? Does he try to mimic the world and be as much like it as possible? Or does he strive to honor God because he loves Him? Does he read his Bible on his own, because he wants to? Or does he slam out an obligatory 5 minute read when he thinks somebody is looking? Physically, does he push you to get as much as he can without actually jumping the fence into sin, or is he committed to a purity that starts in the mind and trusts the Lord’s timing? (Granted, you should not be at a point where you know the answer to this last question if you are merely determining whether he has potential to become a potential, but what feeling do you get about this? And, very importantly, what is his history with other girls?)

3. What are his friends like? This is pretty huge. If his friends are committed Christians who encourage him in a righteous direction, you are much safer than if his friends are edgy and questionable. It is likely that he will continue to have guy-time with his friends after he is married, so if you don’t like his friends, you need to consider that. If you think his friends bring him down, he might not be the right man for you. On the other hand, if he has friends who hold him accountable and motivate him to take part in godly pursuits, it could be a very good thing. The significant thing about his friends is that he chose them. Analyze his choices and evaluate what they say about him.

4. What does he do in his spare time? I would stay far, far away from a guy who is always recreating on the computer, and from one who plays video games excessively. The computer is downright dangerous, as it is a cesspool of available free pornography. Video games are just plain annoying. A real God-loving, God-fearing Christian takes part in other pursuits: church activities, fellowship with believers, physical activity, exercise, appreciation of nature, music, volunteer work, helping his parents around their home, etc. This is not to say that a scholarly fellow who spends his time studying on the computer is bad, and (conversely) I know of someone who actually met her husband while they were volunteering at VBS, and he turned out to be an abusive porn addict, so you have to be careful here. Be prayerful and be on your guard. What he does when he is not with you is probably even more important than what he does when he is with you. If he keeps secrets about his spare time, if he guards blocks of unaccounted time when he is not working but still wants privacy from you, put up your antennae. These things do not bode well. Obviously (in the end) a good husband will need you to leave him alone when he at work, in business meetings, etc. But his spare time should be something he mainly wants to spend with you, and if he isn’t spending it with you, he should have no qualms about being transparent about where he is spending it. Secrets are only OK if they involve surprises that he is planning for you. In other words, secrets need to be temporary and short.

5. How does he treat his parents? A godly man will respect his parents and treat them with honor. If he is disobedient, rebellious or belittling toward his parents, run like the wind. This is an easy sign that he does not care about God’s commands or His promises (Exodus 20:12). Obviously there are some caveats here. If he has really difficult, demanding parents, he may need to assert his independence sometimes (respectfully), and this does not mean he is not a Christian. However, if this is the case, you also need to consider whether you can live with difficult, demanding in-laws for the rest of your life. You need to consider these things. Often, young people in love think they are just marrying a person, when in reality they are marrying into a whole family. The family into which you marry can bring you great joy or great pain for many, many years.

6. What does he like to talk about? It is a very good sign if you overhear him having spiritual conversations with people, discussing the scriptures with believers and sharing about Jesus with those who do not know Him. Pay attention to his chosen topics of conversation, and not just the conversations he has with you. If he is trying to attract you, he will naturally and understandably gear his conversations with you toward things you like to talk about (…until you are married, and then he may feel that he has won the conquest and no longer has to try; this is just reality). But… listen to his conversations with others. This is very important, and it will give you a better idea of what he really likes to talk about, which is what he will end up talking about after he has won you. So besides tipping you off to the condition of his heart where the Lord is concerned, this exercise can also help you determine basic compatibility, even if he is a Christian beyond all reasonable doubt. If he only ever talks to people about sports or cars, and these things bore you to tears, look for someone else.

7. Does he take a role of spiritual leadership? This is pretty key. Even if he is a Christian, if he is not your spiritual leader, you could end up a frustrated wife. If he is not a Christian, he will be unlikely to actively lead in a Christian setting. Does he pray aloud? Does he pray for you? Is he a leader in his spiritual fellowship group? Does he encourage you in your walk with the Lord? Again, all these attributes can be faked in the short term, so their presence is not a guarantee, but the lack of them is a big danger sign. I knew one woman who married a “baby Christian.” God convicted her to break up with her boyfriend because he was not a believer, but then he got converted, so she married him. In the end, she said it was often difficult because she was the one with the church background, the prayer life, the knowledge of scripture, the ingrained convictions of right and wrong. Ultimately she had to do a lot of the spiritual leading in their home, and she said it would have been a lot easier if she had married someone of a more similar spiritual maturity.

These guidelines are for the first stage… how to determine who has potential to become a potential. He has to be a lover of Jesus, no compromises. These guidelines are to help you determine whether there is any potential for potential. Next we will talk about where you go from there.