Friday, October 31, 2014

Their Name is Today (Book Review)

At the beginning of this month, I received a new book from Plough Publishing House to read and review. I was super excited about this book because it was by Johann Christoph Arnold, who authored Rich In Years, which I loved! This book is entitled Their Name Is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World.

By the title, I thought this was going to focus primarily on our fears in today's society: child abductions, terrorism, and the child sex trade. That's what I get for getting so excited about Arnold's name in the author line that I didn't read the blurb about the book. ;)
However, as I began reading it, my soul often cried out "YES!" as he spoke passionately about all of the many ways our world has become hostile to children. Ways we may not think of as being "hostile" per se. Standardized testing and mass educational systems that meet no child's real educational needs (and certainly not their psychological or physical ones), as well as the over-stimulation, materialism, and busyness of today's children and families, not to mention technology's impact!

At times, I felt the book take on a slightly liberal feel about how we should help the world's children, but it wasn't anything glaring or offensive. I think that people who are passionate about children have a tendency toward the "it takes a village" mentality, and certainly many of the people Arnold quotes and references in the book seem to be of that mindset. I do not feel this was a fault, though, because it is difficult to take on the issue of a generation of children's best interests (and how we are failing them in so many, many ways) without getting a little overreaching in our methods. I have often struggled with this as I feel very passionate about children, too!

The more I read about the failings of today's methods of raising children, from the poor assessment and teaching methods of our public schools to the behavioral after-effects of the all of our too-high expectations on children, the more grateful I was that I was able to provide an alternative to my children by homeschooling and maintaining a somewhat laid-back schedule. However, we have a long way to go in the materialism piece of the argument as a fairly well-to-do American family. :(

It is absolutely a book a would recommend if you have any interest at all in how to help your child or the children around you. If you are a parent, educator, childcare worker, or anyone who is passionate about or works with children, I suggest reading this very eye-opening book. Some of it you will likely expect to read, but I would hazard a guess that much of what the author outlines in his book will be very enlightening, even if it is just a different spin on an issue you are already aware of.

*Note: This review is my own opinion. I was given a free copy of the book from Handlebar and Plough Publishing House in order to read and review it. There was no expectation that the review would be positive, only that it be honest.

Monday, October 27, 2014

When it's easier...

Over the past few weeks, i have learned a lot about myself and about the cycle of domestic violence. I have learned that no matter how knowledgeable i thought i was, there were always warning signs and evidence of abuse that i didn't consider or wasn't aware of. Little things and bigger things. Daily things and occasional things.

One of the really profound things i learned was how often i ignored the inner voice that cried out for kind regard. The check in my spirit that whispered, "what about me?" Or the ache in my heart from words that struck deep and were never forgotten. But those whispers were always countered by the louder voice of my husband telling me what a "good wife" or a "Christian" wife was supposed to be. Or the church, without intending harm, exclaiming that a truly submission wife would not be treated badly by her husband. Or the well-meaning women who asked if there was truth to my husband's accusations about my laziness, my disrespect, my emotional imbalance, or my failures as a wife and mother.

And it really just became easier to tell myself they were all right.
Because the only person i can control is myself. And i can change myself to fit whatever mold others say i should fit into. But i cannot change my circumstances or my husband or my church or my friends... so i worked diligently on changing me.

So when my husband accused me of not being affectionate enough after our baby was born because she was always touching me and i was begging for some solitude, i tried to be what he needed. Because it was easier to change what i needed than to feel unheard.

And when my husband refused to walk the living room with our colicky son for even 15 minutes so that i could take a shower - because he "couldn't handle it" - i tried to not need him as much. Because it was easier to figure out how to change my schedule to accommodate my most basic needs during that difficult season of working full-time and caring for two children alone than it was to feel unimportant.

As the anger bouts came out in full force against me and the children, i tried to change any behaviors or the situations that might be triggering them. Because it was easier to keep the peace than to fear for our safety.

When my husband made room for his things but not mine, took food off of my plate after he finished his own, cared for his laundry but no one else's, cleaned his bathroom sink but not mine, helped his sister with her child but not me with ours, bought his favorite things at the store but didn't ask what i might like, or took the only towel rod in the bathroom for his towel, i tried to remind myself to be more self-sacrificing. Because it was easier to ignore his little actions that put me last than it was to feel unloved.

And when my husband filed for divorce last month, those same inclinations came flooding back. Because it would be easier to bend myself to his will and continue in this farce of a marriage so that my children do not have to be pulled away from the only life they have known. It would be easier to submit myself to the evils of my husband's self-serving demands than to walk this road of uncertainty and chaos.

But....
i have been learning a lot in the past few weeks.
About myself and about the cycle of domestic violence and abuse.
And one of the things that i learned is that it is sometimes easier to stay in a situation that is absolutely killing you than it is to fight your way out of it.

And when it is easier, it is generally not the right path. Because i have always believe that the easy roads are not the ones that challenge us, and when we are not challenged, we don't grow, and if we don't grow, we cannot flourish! Oh, how i long to flourish!

So i am choosing to walk this very hard road with my husband. A road toward independence. A road toward separateness. A road that will take me out of the firing line of some really dreadful behaviors. And i choose to believe that we will be okay, my children and i. God walks with me. He has this tiny circular beam of light that He is shining on my next steps, but He is also putting wise counsel in path, words of truth in my ears, and peace within my soul.

It isn't easy.
But i trust that it will be worth it. :)

~Angie

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Leaking

This month, my pastor has been talking to us about the Holy Spirit. He is teaching us about being filled with the Spirit and getting our power from the Spirit. He made an interesting point the first week, and reiterated it the second: he said our problem with being filled with the Spirit is that "we leak."

It got me thinking quite a bit. We tend to ask for help in times of trouble. No brainer, there. And that causes us to have a pretty heavy reliance upon the Holy Spirit to just get through the tough days. But we don't hold onto that. Life stabilizes, as it tends to do, and the bad things either get resolved or we learn to adjust and the pain eases a bit over time. When this happens, we lose sight of what we were heavily focused on before: the presence and strength of God given to us through the Holy Spirit.

I've also been thinking about how we tend to react poorly in times of stress. We lose our tempers, raise our voices, make poor decisions that we later regret, act impulsively, or damage a relationship because we didn't pause and allow the Holy Spirit to act through us.

So... yeah, we leak.

We leak the goodness of the Spirit.
We lose sight of the strength of the Spirit.
We leak the strength of the Spirit.
We forget the grace given by God because of Christ.
We leak holy love for our neighbor.

And when we leak, we need to be refilled, my pastor says. Constantly, at times. But that takes awareness to our emptiness, our weakness, doesn't it? And i'm just not sure most people have that sort of personal awareness. Which is frustrating. And unfortunate. And really sad.

This week, i encountered someone who was reacting to a situation with fear. She was overreacting, in my opinion, based on her small viewpoint, and was being not-so-kind to others who didn't share her opinion. In the moment, my blood pressure began to rise and my indignation took root... and then, a still, small voice spoke to me, reminding me to extend grace. And i was able to reign in my anger and frustration, give her the benefit of the doubt, and act in love and grace.

That wasn't me. I leak.
But the Holy Spirit, who resides in me, has been my daily portion lately, so i was not so easily distracted from His prompting as i might have normally been if my situation wasn't so difficult right now. And, frankly, that was pretty cool. :)

I've never been angry with God about suffering. Not saying i'm special for that, just saying... it isn't in me. I understand that suffering is a very unpleasant but undeniable part of life this side of heaven. But it seems like every time He guides me through another valley, He shows me another side benefit of our pain. And i truly hope that i learned well enough during this season just how wonderful the constant presence of the Holy Spirit is! I know i'll still leak, but i want to always stay aware of my need to be refilled. Moment to moment, He is my comforter and my guide, and i need Him.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ashes Have Purpose

Much like the ashes under my charcoal grill tend to swirl and lift with the sweeping breeze to be carried off to replenish the earth, i am aware that the ashes of my life are carried away for a greater purpose than i can imagine. Did you know that routine burning of plant life is a necessary component to a fertile soil? The ashes allow nutrients that would otherwise not enter the soil become available for new growth.

In the same way, our lives have experiences that must be renewed... by the burning of what was so that we can establish newer, healthier growth. I am in a season of letting go of the old and watching it burn. It isn't comfortable and it isn't always easy, but i recognize it for what it is: opportunity.

God uses everything, yes, everything, to stretch us into His image and manifest in us a purpose we often cannot see. And since we cannot see what He sees, it is easy to get discouraged. But He has a plan for that failed business venture, that project that you bombed, and that relationship that ended badly. We cannot always see His plan in the midst of our struggle, but that is why it is so important to have faith.

My faith tells me that God is still looking out for me. It reminds me that He is allowing this season for a purpose far greater than whatever it seems in the moment. And it centers me to remember. Because my life is bigger than my piles of ashes along the way. My ashes are merely a necessary component to the growth of who i am becoming.

It is often said that "hindsight is 20/20" and i believe that is true. Mostly, i think it is true because we can see the good that comes after the experience is over. During the trial, we are too busy fighting for the next breath, struggling toward the next moment, and reaching for the finish line. But later, when we are down the road a ways, we can often look back on the struggle and understand it's value. The job we wouldn't have gotten if we hadn't had the failure, the opportunity that arose because we were in the right place at the right time solely because of the trial putting us there, or the self-awareness and new-found strength that came out of that bad relationship.

So, i can say with confidence, from my position in the battle, "count it all joy," my friends! Because if you must suffer the burning, let it not be for nothing - watch for the beauty that will come from the ashes. :)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Addictions

Some people are addicted to alcohol.
Some people are addicted to cigarettes.
Some people are addicted to prescription medications.
Some people are addicted to illegal drugs.
Some people are addicted to pornography.
Some people are addicted to love (or at least, the idea of it).
I do not struggle with any of those addictions, though i have compassion for those who do.

Specifically, i battle a nearly constant urge to defend myself.
To defend myself against unfair accusations.
Against lies.
Against misunderstandings and miscommunication.

God is working on my heart in this area, and i know He wants me to remain in my peace with what i know about myself, but sometimes, the urge to defend is so strong! And i have to bite my lip. If the person i would be speaking to on the matter is not open to my side, no words will penetrate anyway.

Sometimes, people have to cling to their flawed views of things in order to remain in their own reality. Other times, they are believing a lie themselves and have not yet had their eyes opened to the truth. Mostly, though, i believe that people just don't want to take responsibility for their own mistakes, errors in judgment, or lack of efforts to try something new.

Whatever the underlying cause, i can only change ME, and i have a limited amount of energy each day. So, i'm learning to let go of the things - and people - that attempt to drag me into unhealthy cycles. I am learning that my reputation in Christ is the only thing i have any rights to boast about, and everything else i am is broken, mistaken, and sinful. And if i cannot boast in who i am - other than who i am in Christ - then what is the point of defending myself, really?

So... i will try to say less, turning the other cheek and letting God be my defender. Wanting the truth to be known, while a noble goal, is outside of my realm of control anyway.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

When Your Friends Pray You Fat

Earlier this week, i noticed a frightening side-effect of my current stress: rapid weight loss. Scary weight loss. I knew my appetite was reduced, but i didn't expect to become my 15-year-old self's weight so quickly (i hadn't finished growing the last time i saw that number on the scale!)! Since i have an auto-immune condition that is barely restrained - which is easily triggered by stress - and adrenal fatigue - which is exacerbated by stress - i understandably became concerned.

Fear of regressing into a full Hashimoto's Thyroiditis "flare" in the midst of divorce and dealing with the kids drove me to my friends on Facebook, where i asked for prayer regarding my stress levels and my weight loss.

In typical "Be Careful What You Wish For" fashion, in less than a day, i am back up to a reasonable weight. Seriously? Since i didn't notice eating differently, don't remember feeling any difference in my stress levels, and didn't burn any additional calories that i am aware of, the only explanation is that my friends are praying me fat! (Um, gals, you can back off a little now... ya know, so i don't need a new wardrobe.) ;^)

I'd challenge anyone to tell me that God doesn't care about the minutia of our lives. I have experienced His hand in so many little things that i might laugh at you! So if you don't believe that God cares about the small stuff you deal with, ask your friends for prayer... but be careful: they might pray you fat! :)