cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hey, Did You Hear The One About The Single Mom...

...who cried "foul"?

It reads like a worn out joke, but unfortunately this one is factual and not at all funny.

A single mother poured out her woes to her local chapter of the ACLU. It wasn't fair that her daughter didn't have a father figure to take her to her school's father-daughter dance.*

The obvious solution is to cancel the entire shindig. Problem solved.

Except it's not. Not even close to solved. 

Instead of working through consequences and trials, we're teaching the next generation to avoid pain, regardless of whether our avoidance triggers pain for others. Pain is not altogether negative. Great character growth and discovery can come from struggling through pain.**

We're raising a banner of normalcy and mediocrity. We're letting the next generation know that fitting into the majority is our God-given (or is it government-given?) right. Interest groups are always pushing to appear normal. Why? If we keep broadening the concept of "normal", nothing will be unique. What a sad day that will be! 

If everything is acceptable, how does anyone (or anything) become truly exceptional? 

Lastly, we're modeling an alarming sense of narcissism. I don't know the circumstances surrounding this single mom. For all I know her husband was killed in combat. I'm in no position to judge her situation. However, I can't help but wonder why there is no suitable father-figure in this child's life. Instead of supplying positive male role models for her daughter, this mom halted a long-standing tradition at a school, disappointing scores of families. It's so much easier to be self-centered than to sacrificially seek the greater Good. 

This leads me to ponder what areas of parenting am I redistributing blame off of myself and onto others, or onto circumstances outside my control (which is super easy to do when adoption enters the picture). 

Cynthia (In case anyone cares to read it)
**Says the woman who no longer cusses when she stubs her toe. Added bonus: I burn more calories by hopping around like an idiot for three minutes AND my kids see someone who didn't sin in her anger (Ephesians 4:26). 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Battle of the Sexes (Part Deux)

Women are nothing more than men with boobs.

Women's Lib had some positive aspects. However, the fallout damage is significant.

The responsibility of this lays more squarely on the shoulders of both men and women, so without further ado:

Dear Women,
Knock it off. There's a a big difference between embracing our femininity and extorting it. Somehow the line between the two has become dangerously blurred. The other day, a woman came into my husband's place of employment in hopes of returning an item purchased. As soon as she realized the verdict of her return was up to my husband, she tried the ol' "squeeze and lean" routine.* There was no reason (policy-wise) for my husband to deny the return, so he gave the OK. As soon as he did, she stood with Emily Post-approved posture.
This is just one example of the pathetic behavior we've grown to believe is acceptable. Our bodies are not a means to an end; Our bodies mirror the image of The Creator. Treating it as anything less is fraudulent.  
It is not becoming to smugly display ourselves over our male counterparts. Yes, men are visual. Let's not turn that into a weakness by lording our bodies over them (as though that somehow makes us stronger). Provocative expression is just a glorified form of self-loathing, and that is not sexy.
Along the same lines, gender equality cannot be achieved via our bodies. Never mind that I think gender equality is problematic and unhealthy in the first place, you won't be taken seriously by men if you resort to "squeeze and lean" tactics. You may think you're getting ahead, but it's a farce. 


Dear Men,
First let me apologize to the boys from my high school. I didn't know then what I know now. While I don't think I deserved any awards for "Most Compromising Outfits and Conduct" I may have been able to walk away with a participation ribbon. I hope that your experiences in high school taught you that young women are dense when it comes to this whole "visual stimulation" thing, and are doing what you can to teach your daughters how not to be quite so dense.
That being said, you need to knock it off too. The woman you're looking for doesn't exist. The reality is that gravity eventually takes it's toll. Real women want to know that when gravity wins, hair greys, or a double mastectomy is in order that you aren't sneaking out the back door in search of greener grass. We are not perfect, and we don't expect you to be either. However, we do expect you to risk loving us (it's a dangerous business). It's not easy, but comparing us to unattainable, photo-shopped, enhanced, Hollywood women is not making it any easier on yourselves. I repeat: She Does Not Exist.


P.S. Chivalry is not dead. At the end of the day, most women still want the door held for them (darn those automatic car door un-lockers). Ignore the women who glare at you for being a gentleman.

P.P.S. If you're a little lost, check out Part One.

*Ladies, you know what I'm talking about: Push the girls together and lean forward to create optimal cleavage.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Did That Really Just Happen?

Don't worry. Part two is headed your way on Monday. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check out Part One.

Lest anyone think I live a pristine life, filled with one blissful moment upon another *snort* I present to you, Did That Really Just Happen? All from this week.
Enjoy the laughs at my expense.

Did That Really Just Happen?:
1. I left produce in my cooler bags for three days and wondered what "that smell" was.
2. I repeatedly walked by a giant black baby doll for half an hour wondering what had so wholly captivated Sophia.*
3. I guffawed (heartily) when the dental assistant apologetically told me they had accidentally popped out one of Naomi's teeth while flossing.**
4. Speaking of "that smell", I realized I needed to launder my daughter's shirt for AWANA. I tossed it in the washing machine along with the clean-up-the-bathroom-accident towels that had been in there for a day. No shame, people. Absolutely no shame.
5. At my midwife's appointment (sorry fellas) while procuring my urine sample, I may or may not have peed on my hand for a full five seconds before realizing it.
That, my friends, is sightly disturbing.***

You are welcome.

Keepin' It Real,

*Which begs the question, "What was Sophia doing for half an hour that required setting up a decoy to distract Mama?"
**Before you report me to CPS, it was already a little bit loose. And anyway, have you seen how fast they floss teeth?!?
***Perhaps no more disturbing than actually sharing it on the World Wide Web...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Battle of the Sexes (Part I)

Men are bumbling idiots.

Hollywood agrees and the average family depicts likewise. 

"I have three children: A preschooler, middle-schooler, and him." (accompanied by a thumb jerk in her husband's direction and an eye roll)*

"Ugh. MEN!"

"Oh, you think that's bad?!? Have I got a humdinger to tell you!"

We belittle their hobbies: "He's off doing his little _________ (hunting/fishing/golfing/wood carving/book writing/music/painting/whatever) thing." (another well-placed eye roll)

We mock their aspirations: "You'll never guess what he wants to do (or get) now!"

We flaunt their weaknesses: "I'll call the plumber before you make things any worse." or "Most men can handle a barbecue, but not my husband. He doesn't even know how to turn the thing on!"

We use our bodies as rewards for good behavior: "A, B and C need doing. I'll make it worth your while." (wink, wink)**

He is not a pet, a child or a one-track minded being. We all know men think about sex more often than women. Somewhere along the line this translated into being a neanderthal. Hollywood picked up the mantle and ran full steam ahead with the idea. Husbands, fathers and even boyfriends are constantly and consistently regarded as befuddled, detached, simple-minded and akin to a dog that needs to be neutered and trained à la Pavlov. 

What is the average male supposed to do but begin the transformation into this new image? Psych 101 tells us as much. Husbands get berated for not leading the family (we won't let them, because we know how to do it better). They pull ridiculous stunts (that earn them fame on America's Funniest Videos). They play video games for hours on end (despite our huffing and nagging). 

Here's a newsflash: Men are NOT more simple than women. Their complexities are different, not non-existent. Somehow women have latched onto the notion that since we can multi-task, we are therefore superior. Has it crossed anyone's mind that a man's ability to focus in on a task allows them greater depth into said task?

You hear that? Shhhhhh. Listen. 

It's the sound of a creaking table being turned. 

Ladies, we have formed this new man and we need to unform*** him. Since we helped create this mess, we definitely need to be on the front lines of the clean-up crew. And it all boils down to one word: Respect. We can mop up a lot of this gunk with a simple shift in thinking (and acting on it). Men crave respect. It's the way they are wired by their Creator. Why do you think they play with fire, defeat video games, hunt, put in long hours at work? If they manage to conquer their foe, they earn respect. Just not yours. 

I understand that we women don't "get it". I have no interest in jumping over a 6 foot tall bonfire or trying to bounce a basketball off a moving target onto the roof and through the hoop. But can we at least begin showing respect to our men? Start with the small things and keep working up to the big things? He needs to know that you are behind him when he promotes his idea to the boss. He needs to know that (even if you don't "get it"), you still get him. That you will stand by his hobbies, encourage him to be the best at what we does and let go of the things in which he's unskilled. And, as a bonus, if hubby knows you respect him, the bedroom is going to be loads more meaningful for the both of you.**** 


P.S. Check out for a great article on this subject.

*This one is a MAJOR pet peeve of mine. Considered yourself forewarned.
**Ladies, we are shamefully skilled in subtle (and blatant) manipulation.
***Yes, I know it's not a word.
****I also understand that some of you are married to low-down, dirty, rotten, scummy men. I'm sorry. I can't pretend to know what that's like. I still say respect is worth a shot, but some serious, quality counseling is probably in order.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Playing It Safe

This may seem contradictory on the heels of Monday's post. Too bad.

Do you know that there are companies who sell helmets? I'm not talking about bike helmets or football helmets. I wish I was. There are actually helmets for babies to wear so they don't bump their precious lil' noggins while they're crawling around (eating dog food and who knows what else off the floor). There are slip-proof knee pads for new crawlers (can you see my eyes rolling?). These two products are the most ridiculous "safety" items I've heard of. There are countless products designed to keep babies and kids safe. I dare you to Google it. 

By the time we suit them up with all this safety gear, they won't be able to move. 

Call me a minimalist. We cover the outlets and teach our children which cabinets and doors they are allowed to open. 

Before a bunch of people start coming to the defense of their favorite safety item, let me state that I willingly admit there are situations where minimal safety precautions would be grossly inadequate.


This preoccupation with safety is a symptom of a much greater sickness. We're creating impenetrable safety nets around ourselves, our families and our ministries. My and my family's safety comes before anything. I don't stop for hitchhikers because they might be serial killers. I don't volunteer at the homeless shelter because they're unpredictable. I don't want my teen to go on a mission trip to Mexico because there are drug lords roaming the streets. 

Catching my drift?

It's a slippery slope, friends. Pretty soon we're contented to merely survive this life and be able to retire comfortably. We're not doing the hard business of loving. Do you know how elusive service projects are for kids of all ages? My oldest daughter is barely old enough to help on-site at a few ministries in our large city. We've been turned down for much-needed volunteer positions because my girls would need (and I would want them) to come with me. Even in our ministries we've placed precautions above gospel-passion. 

The result? We are suffering from a self-inflicted paralyzation. A widening age range of people don't know how (and don't care to learn) to serve outside themselves. Safety and comfort are all they've known. Instead of hands-on love, we've relegated our "service projects" to promising to pray for someone and cushy mission trips in which the highlight is going to Disneyland and the beach. 

By the time I suit up myself and my family with all the "safety gear", we are unable to move for the Kingdom.

 Abandoning the constrictive safety nets does not necessitate abandoning common sense, but we need to recognize that Jesus doesn't always work within the confines of common sense.* Last I checked Jesus was a risk-taker. It's rather convenient to ignore that little tidbit from the Bible. By nature, I personally am not a risk-taker. I'm a consider-the-worst-case-scenario kinda gal. I get nervous when I think about my children riding Ferris wheels.** But I should not let my fears dictate the gospel. And neither should you. 

Can we begin slicing though the safety nets and watch what God can do in a life lived outside restrictive safety?

Scissors In Hand,

*I'm pretty sure Jesus is OK with fire extinguishers and similar apparatuses.
**I'm a work in progress, people.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tyranny of the "What Ifs"

Last night Naomi choked on a toy.*

It was ugly and scary. We're thanking God it didn't 100% block her windpipe, which allowed her to continue yacking it up whilst being pulled toward the door for a late night E.R. trip (in between back whacks and Heimlich maneuvers). Almost to the door, she gagged one final time and spit up a very slimy (and stinky) plastic horse.

Other than minor abrasions and having a hoarse** throat, it appears she's no worse for the wear.

Once the girls were calmed down and back in bed, all the horrid "What Ifs" flooded my brain, leaving me choking on a huge lump in my own throat. 
What if Mikayla hadn't run for us? What if Naomi hadn't gotten up? What if it had lodged all the way in? What if, what if, what if????

Us humans are wired to grapple with the "What Ifs". It's necessary. To a point. We need to work through the "What Ifs" of future life situations (ie. What if my job relocates me? What if I adopt a special needs kiddo? What if the Starbucks nearest to my house closes?). We should make informed decisions after considering probable "What Ifs". That's healthy (and smart).

But that's where it stops, folks. 

Rehashing all the horrible possibilities of past events is fruitless and divides my attention from the "What IS". Likewise, regretfully reevaluating what could have been done to avoid a situation will only prove valuable up to a point. Everyone has those sticky memories that become quicksand for ruminating the dreaded "What Ifs". This is paralyzing and turns us inward (no beuno). 

In a nutshell, these thoughts need to take a long walk off a short pier.

Instead of getting hung up on excessive "What Ifs" let's focus on "What is"...and go hug your kid, for crying out loud.***

*Yeah. Not how I was thinking of beginning today's blog post either.
**Pun intended. Have I mentioned I use comedy as a defense mechanism?
***Yes, even if they are 53 years old.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

This Is A Very Serious Post About Homeschooling

I decided to go easy on you today. 
Remember how I said I like lists? Remember how I said we homeschool?
I present to you...

Top Five Silly Homeschool Myths About Our Family:

1. We don't stay within our commune every day until the harvest is in.*
2. I don't think my kids are smarter than yours.
3. I'm NOT more patient than you.**
4. I don't think homeschooling is the only Christian option.
5. I am aware that my kids are just a little weird. I'm ok with that.***

I have serious opinions on these topics, but that's a post (or five) for another day. Suffice to say (for the meantime) that we're not the only homeschooling family who could post this about themselves. 

Laugh a Little,

*This is a joke. We live in a nice, normal home and depart from it almost every day. Also, I have a black thumb.
**No really. I'm not. The children are sworn to secrecy and the walls can't talk, so you'll just have to believe me on this one.
***Our girls just recently discovered that Dora is a show (they prefer The Dick Van Dyke Show), we don't shop at Justice for Girls (our closet is a frightening mish-mash of styles and eras) and my oldest studies Greek while my middle confuses cursive for Spanish. It's all good.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Onward, not inward.

In this post I alluded to a growing issue among American churches. We have lost some serious momentum. At some point, we were The Little Engine That Could. We pressed on. We lived contrary to the world. We reached out, dug deep and invited spiritual challenges (or at the very least, didn't shirk them).

Now, (too often) it seems like we're The Little Engine That's Doesn't Give A Crap And Doesn't Want To Be Bothered.

Crude? Perhaps.

Accurate? Mostly.

When I go out to a restaurant for lunch, I have expectations. I expect the server (who else slips up and still calls them waiters and waitresses?) to get my order correct, be courteous, and be able to answer my questions about unpronounceable dishes (not that I frequent places with tough names. "number #1" isn't exactly difficult.). I expect the food to be flavorful, served in a timely fashion and worth the price paid. I expect the dining area and bathroom to be pleasant and clean. That's about it.

Now, just replace "restaurant" with "church" and "food" with "sermon". It's pretty much what we're looking for in a church service. We want greeters to be welcoming (but not too welcoming-ever heard of personal space?). I expect a well-ordered service (that doesn't deviate from the bulletin/worship folder thing), and a pastor who can answer my paltry questions and include witty anecdotes* without going past 12:30. I expect the service to be worth my tithe, and the sanctuary (and bathrooms) to be pleasant** and clean.

The main distinction I see is that tipping is optional.

I did a quick Google search for churches in my city. I clicked the links for about 25-30 churches (eat your heart out Barna Group). Several churches had the standard annual outreaches to the poor in the community (blanket or sock drives, soup kitchens, etc.). Around five churches listed absolutely no outreach programs (one of which boasted a coffee shop and a spa***). One church's outreach link sent me to their automatic giving page. Of these 25-30 churches only ONE had an extensive outreach program. With the exception of this one church, the lists of ministries were much longer than the lists of outreach opportunities.

We have become preoccupied with our children, our youth, our college/career, our young families, our singles, our special needs, our retirees, our widows, our landscaping/building...You get the point. In addition, we get our dander all up when one of these programs isn't pulling their weight. Children's ministry took a night off. What in the world am I supposed to do with my kids (I'm guilty as charged on this one)? Perish the thought that they should actually see me worshiping!

"Ministries" has become synonymous with "Outreach". We have one ministry: People. We have one goal within this ministry: The gospel. It doesn't take new carpet, well-choreographed skits, a bigger keyboard or faith-based initiatives to communicate the gospel. It takes people in relationship with people. That's it. If I'm not doing that, I'm contributing bupkis to the Kingdom.

Now, don't get me wrong. I see the point of programs. I'm not a huge fan of a bunch of church programs (more on that later), but I get why churches have them. The problem is that programs have taken center stage, and the ministry of the gospel has been cast aside in favor of shiny new buildings. We've turned inward. We're no longer a mobile church moving onward. I also realize that there are churches ministering beyond themselves. One only has to look to churches such as Brook Hills (pastored by Dr. David Platt) to see that there are churches on the move in a radical, sold-out kinda way.

They are the exception, not the norm.

Regardless of whether your church is the exception or the norm does not excuse you (or me) from action. God isn't going to judge my actions based on my church. He's going to judge my actions based on, well, pretty much my actions. Ideally, churches across America would begin fashioning themselves after the gospel instead of tradition. However, in the meantime I am still called to move onward, not inward.

Blessings on this Labor Day,

*Unacceptable anecdotes include: Cheesy, worn-out-saw-them-in-an-e-mail-in-1997 anecdotes.
**Read, free of distractions. No loose cannons yelling "AMEN!", no coughing (especially if you're sitting directly behind me), no whiny babies and no problems with the sound system.
***Aaaaaand now my husband wants to go there so he can "get a mani/pedi while worshiping Jesus".