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

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Disney Syndrome

Like most women my age, I grew up singing every lyric along with Belle,* reciting the hilarious Timon and Pumbaa duo, and empathizing with Ariel. It doesn't set well with me that I watched them enough then to be able to recite extended scenes now. By the time Pocahontas was painting with all the colors of the wind, I was kinda over it. It wasn't until Pixar and Disney teamed up that I had a renewed interest in what kind of films they were producing. It also wasn't until a few years ago, that I set aside my nostalgia and began reevaluating the prevalent Disney messages.

Before you all flock to the comment section to tell me what a wonderful man the late Walt Disney was, allow me to lay down some fundamentals. Pretty please? I'm not suggesting all Disney movies are evil and that people who enjoy watching them are waltzing right through the gates of Hell. I'm also not suggesting that the C.E.O. of Disney is the Antichrist seeking a one world order via cleverly hidden messages thrust upon unsuspecting little kiddie eyes. I'm merely suggesting we be willing to scrutinize Disney movies with less sentimentality and more objectivity.**

Without further ado, here are my gripes with the average Disney movie:

1. Very few full-length films showcase a healthy nuclear family.
Most of the time, only one parent is present. What's with that?!? Dating all the way back to their first full-length feature film, Snow White, the families were presented as dysfunctional. Why the need to normalize broken homes and families?
Speaking of Snow White...
2. The hourglass shape on the lead female characters has gotten ridiculously out of proportion. 
Snow White is about the only modestly shaped woman, with a thicker form and a refreshingly contained bosom. We can kid ourselves all we want, but Disney jumped on the "Unhealthy Body Image Bandwagon" a looooong time ago. Aren't our precious little girls bombarded enough with unrealistic body images without adding children's movies to the list of offenders? 
3. "Innocent" has been cast aside in favor of "coy and flirtatious". 
While I think this trend is waning (at least to a certain degree), some of the princesses have emanated a worldly, almost seductive, charm. Disney is not a dating service for grade-schoolers. There's no need to instruct these little "sponges" in the art of being feminine. ***
4. Boys have preposterous expectations placed upon them. 
Starry-eyed girls began looking for their Prince Charming, but few found them. Thankfully, the male species simply does not fit the Disney mold. Wouldn't our children be better served by seeing realistic portrayals of both sexes?****
5. A majority of  these movies focus on a romantic pursuit. 
A nonsensical one at that. They met, fell hopelessly in love and got married. Amazingly this only took a matter of days. No wonder men and women become disenchanted with the realities of making a relationship work.
And lastly...
6. The Disney mantra is trite and pathetic at best, damning at worst. 
"Just believe in yourself and follow your heart" sounds so idyllic. However, believing in oneself rarely produces the desired results. Our efforts are feeble because we are fickle beings. My heart is naturally wretched. Following my own heart will lead to destruction, and I won't have Disney to blame-only myself. 

My aim in all of this is not to lambaste Disney films and criticize those who watch them. My aim is to draw attention to the issues we are likely to pass over in our saccharine childhood view of Disney (and other sentimental favorites). These matters will continue to take shape in the minds of children as they enter into adulthood.***** Considering these issues are already pervasive in our society, at the very least, let's be proactive in addressing these (and other difficult) topics.  

Weeding Out Old VHS Tapes,

*I may have overshadowed her a little bit, but she still held her own in our duets.
**This really goes for any television programming or movies. It's just more fun controversial to pick on a high profile corporation like Disney.
***I'm pretty sure we ladies are hard-wired to figure it out on our own.
****I know it's a stretch. We are (after all) talking about animated characters...
*****Case in point: The Twilight phenomenon.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Hullabaloo

Do you hear that? It's the sound of worms spilling out of the can.

Christians are at war regarding the level of Halloween festivities acceptable for the Christian to engage in. On a scale of 1-10, we have your run-of-the-mill "God hates Halloween" crowd sitting squarely on -3. These are the people who take this opportunity to pass out intimidating "If You Were To Die Tonight" tracts. Around the mid-scale mark, we see the "Harvest Festival" groupies. Their church usually holds a trunk or treat event (or whatever is trending that year), and everyone has warm fuzzies over not being sucked into secular holidays while still conducting a "community outreach". Dancing on number 10, we observe Christians acting just like the world. They go trick-or-treating and embrace Halloween in all it's fake fanged glory.*

Each camp appears to be at odds with the others, and I think the whole shebang is ridiculous. The very fact that we allow one day out of the year to be such a divider speaks volumes to how we really feel about each other. We more securely mask our opinions the other 364 days of the year, but the sentiments remain the same. 

To the first group, I implore you not to judge those who participate in the traditional Halloween celebrations (whether churchy or secular). Please don't assume that a Christian family who carves pumpkins, excitedly buys costumes or goes trick-or-treating are nothing more than shallow, weak-faithed, ill-informed individuals. Some of them have considered the spiritual issues of Halloween with a great deal of soul-searching and bringing their concerns before their heavenly Father.**

To the second group, it's easy to feel like you've taken the moral high ground by shunning the secular activities and not alienating the unbeliever all at the same time. Yes, your events usually flaunt less gory costumes. However, I see very little distinction between secular and churched girls when it comes to their costume choices. As the mother of young girls, it's disheartening to see this inclination toward (dare I say it?) slutty costumes. How on earth does that help with the outreach aspect of your event? If you're in the second group, please don't assume that those on either end of the scale are out of balance with God. The middle of the road is not always the best place to drive either.

To the final group, you feel Halloween is no different than Christians celebrating Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day or National Peanut Butter Day.*** You have freedom in Christ and feel gravely misunderstood. As such, you respond by snubbing Christian attempts to Jesus-ify Halloween and you mock those who choose to capitalize on the opportunity to hand out tracts. Please don't assume that your relaxed position on Halloween  is somehow more spiritual than the previous two parties. These other two groups are not filled to the brim with stuffy, goody two-shoes who have forgotten about God's grace. Also, see my comments above regarding provocative costumes. 

To all three camps (and anyone in between), I beseech you to consider how your attitude towards one another on October 31st taints your attitude towards one another the rest of the year. Let's all strive to live out Philippians 2:3, which admonishes us to "Do nothing out of selfish ambition, or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."


*Therefore effectively known by the former two groups as "those poor back-slidden Christians."
**If you are in the second or third group and have not carefully considered your position on Halloween, now is a great time to do that.
***Typically observed on January 24th. No really. Google it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

One Of Those Christianese Phrases And A Little Boy Named Nico

"It's a God thing".*
I hear and say it myself. I'm all for giving God the credit for things that go smoothly, or a "chance meeting" that needed to be. However, we run the risk of trivializing the mighty hand of God. Example: "Praise the Lord I was in the turn lane to get to my massage on time!"

Well. Whew! It's a good thing Jesus was taking the wheel on that one!**

That said, I'd rather err on the side of giving God the credit. I don't want to be stingy with my praise, and I also don't ever to want lose sight of how powerfully my God can move mountains.

This is one of those big God things.

If you've been friends with me on Facebook for any length of time, you have probably seen a post from me with a link to the MOST ADORABLE little boy EVER. I mean, look at this face!

Give me a break! They don't come cuter than this! I snicker at your attempts to find a cuter kid than Nico.

I have stared at this angelic little face for a year, praying for a family for him, agonizing over whether we were supposed to adopt him (being pregnant, I felt like now was not the time). I regularly visited his profile on Reese's Rainbow. On one such recent visit, my breath caught in my throat. A family is now pursuing this precious boy!! I admit mixed emotions. After all, I won't get to see his cherub smile on the website anymore.

As I read the adoptive family's profile, it left me speechless (no small task). Out of fifty, we just "happen" to live in the same state! After contacting Nico's mama, Kara (in an only sorta-kinda stalker-ish style), I found out they live in the same city as us. Whuuuu???? I'm no statistician, but those odds seem pretty remote.

So, in a nutshell, Nico will have to endure a few cheek snurgles from me***

My reason for sharing this is two-fold:
1. God deserves all the glory for answered prayers.
2. I want to support this family as they labor to bring Nico home, redeemed into a family. You will see more of their story. I'm already asking you to head over to Kara's blog and donate a lil' something, or enter into one of her super cool raffle drawings.

After you do that, go see the happenings at Reese's Rainbow. You never know. You may see your kiddo staring back at you. A little boy or girl who has been asking themselves, "Where the heck is my mom and dad?".

Remember, our God moves mountains. And not just for Nico. He wants to do the same in your life and mine too.

Watching Expectantly,

*Also referred to as "Divine Appointment" by scholars and other people who use big words.
**Just for the record, I'm all for massages. They're a thin slice of heaven.
***Relax people. I'll wait for the "all clear" from Kara. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Roses Are Red...

...Violets are blue

Why is there a disaster
Every time I'm in the loo?

I don't know about you, but it seems like EVERY SINGLE TIME I step foot in the bathroom, World War III breaks out, or someone is suddenly on the verge of starvation, or someone tries to shatter a bone, a cup or my sanity. The state of emergency is directly proportionate to how long I need in order to take care of business.*

Let me paint a beautiful scenario:
I let my children know when I'm excusing myself to the powder room.** Now. We do not have exhaust fans in the bathroom (which means I can't mute their yodeling). This also means that every single response from me is heard by the neighbors via the open window in the bathroom. I'm sure they appreciate hearing me announce what I'm doing in the bathroom and how much longer it will be until I get out. 

Since I know you're all on the edge of your seats waiting for nuggets of wisdom to handle this parenting snafu, I present to you for your entertainment spiritual growth:

Parenting From The Bathroom:

1. Both announcing and slipping away unnoticed will result in company, quandaries or a dire malady.

2. Pounding on the walls is not nearly as effective as giving them the hairy-eyeball-death-glare.

3. Locking the door only heightens the challenge.

4. Sometimes it's better to preserve a shred of anonymity with your neighbor to the north.***

and lastly

5. Sometimes the worst form of punishment is to trap the offender in the bathroom with you. (insert evil laugh here)

Enjoy your daily recommended fiber allowance,


*This is eerily similar to trying to make a phone call...
**I know, I know. My husband thinks the same thing: Don't tell them you're going. BUT otherwise the youngest will be yelling for me throughout the house the entire time I'm gone. Entire. Time. You try that on for size after two minutes.
***I understand they need Jesus too, but opening with "Hi I'm the lady who shouts about her bathroom trips. Care to listen to the four spiritual laws?" just doesn't seem to open doors.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Am I Disturbed?

You know it's going to be a good story when it begins with a legal pirate.

 Sixteenth century English sea captain and privateer, Sir Francis Drake, had some pretty good kick-you-in-the-pants zingers. His prayer recorded in 1577 resonates with me in an elephantine way:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

~Sir Francis Drake~

In the throes of life, sometimes it's all too tempting to hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door and remind God that I have enough on my plate. I can hide behind the excuse that my family is my ministry during this stage of life. We can all huddle behind our door, with our pretty "go away" sign and I can teach my kids how to love others.* Safely. From a distance. Maybe just let them know I texted someone a "thinking of you" message. I'm sure that's the stuff of Kingdom work. Stuff that will surely set the world ablaze.**

We can be safe or we can be strong, but rarely can we be both.

Needing To Be More Disturbed,


*Confession: We have a welcome mat at the front door that says "leave". Did you honestly expect something else coming from me?!?
**If the new definition of "ablaze" indicates something about lighting fires with a wet sponge.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Old Friends and New Challenges

Monday night we had the privilege of catching up with an old friend. 

David Joannes took time during his whirlwind trip to the U.S. to share with us his vision for Southeast Asia. David has been a missionary to China for over a decade. He's my age (YOUNG) and he is nothing short of an inspiration. Before you race over to his website (and race you should), I want to share a little bit about what I've seen develop in him over the past ten years. Each time we have the joy to connect with David, I see someone who has matured even more in his faith and whose convictions run deeper than ever. Years on the mission field have left him, not depleted, but rather all the more assured of his calling. I have seen someone go from the bachelor's life, to a dedicated husband, and soon-to-be father all without compromising his mission to further the gospel in Asia.

OK, go check out his ministry's website, dig a little deeper in your pockets and your souls to see what you should do to partner with an amazing team.
"People are still waiting at the other end of our obedience."
~David Joannes

Challenged and Stretched,

Monday, October 8, 2012

The C.E.O. Has Returned to the Nest!

Mikayla had a wonderful opportunity this past week to go to Disneyland with family. Last week I packed her bag, patted her on the noggin and shoved her out the door.*  Three days later, she's home, and I swear  she had the nerve to grow up a little bit more while she was gone.

I think I grew up a little while she was gone too. Remember when I said I get nervous at the mere thought of my children riding a Ferris wheel? Remember that Disneyland is a collection of death traps we so fondly refer to as "rides"? See where this is headed?

I was politely reminded by God to unclench and focus not on the "What Ifs", but rather "What Is".** I couldn't possibly answered the myriad of "What Ifs", but I can tell you what was: It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend a good chunk of time with family, build fantastic memories and get the heck spoiled out of her.

Deeper than that, it was an exercise for me to trust the Lord. It may seem ridiculous, but I caught a glimpse of what life will hold in the next 6-10 years with this girl. Today it's Disneyland. Tomorrow it's driving solo. Next week, it's watching her Daddy walk her down the aisle. I think I just sprouted a grey hair. For the first time, my mama heart was truly anxious about where she was going and what she was doing (despite knowing she was in good hands). It's only the beginning. She is undoubtedly going to make decisions, go places and associate with people that make me anxious. I have to choose to turn my anxious thoughts into sincere prayers. Now. Not when the issues are truly drastic.

Mikayla grew up a little too. For a while now, it's been her goal to ride a Ferris wheel.*** She did it and was utterly terrified. BUT she learned you can survive scary things. She has processed her experience much like she would any other emotion, and that is a valuable lesson we all need to learn. Too often fear rules our choices and actions. The sooner we shed the tyrant, fear, the sooner we can get down to the business of living for Jesus and loving in His name. 

So, to summarize: Jesus has got it all under control.

Living and Learning,

*Don't believe it for a second. I would have bawled like a baby had I been home when they drove off to "The Happiest Place on Earth". Thankfully a previous engagement away from home prevented me from making an awkward scene in my driveway.

**I clearly need to be more careful about my blog topics, seeing as how God is going to use this to smack me upside the head. Prepare for upcoming topics such as the various consistencies of marshmallows and reviews on store brand hair conditioners.

***Apparently the ground isn't good enough for some people.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Where Are My Pearls and High Heels?

I'm going all June Cleaver over here!

On Monday I briefly mentioned this allusive thing we call "dinner". Specifically, "family dinner" (whatever that is).

I can't have anyone envisioning my family sitting down to a perfectly moist roast on Sundays. Let me burst that ridiculous bubble right now. I don't think I've ever cooked in heels (perhaps a dress, but no pearls). My hair is more likely to be in a messy bun than a perfectly coiffed style.* I usually have a mess on every inch of counter space available and half the time I've spilled something on me or the floor or both. 

Seeing as how I manage to cook meals so attractively, you can imagine I look forward to doing that every night. HA! I love to cook and bake, but every night is a "no go" for our family. Here is what our family does to retain the family dinner:

We enjoy breakfast together most mornings, with Saturday typically being a special menu (pancakes, scones, waffles, doughnuts, etc.). My husband works later shifts, which allows for fantastic breakfast time, but not many evenings around the dinner table. Dinners are mostly no-nonsense, quick meals, with the exception of making pizza on our Family Day.** This has become quite the tradition for our family, and we hope it is creating an array of sweet memories for our kids (along with doing all the other positive things family dinner is supposed to do-increase confidence, boost grades, keep them off drugs, all that jazz). 

So there you have it. Our family dinner takes place in the morning, and there's no roast cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Just a family spending time together and investing in each others' lives.

Give it a whirl and be creative! 
What does your family do to keep the spirit of family dinners alive?

Looking Forward to Pizza,

*I don't think this even qualifies as a hot mess. I'm sweating like a pig glowing, which encourages all my wispy baby hairs to stick straight up like horns. 
**The children have perfected the art of making what we have dubbed "pizzaritos".

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Flip-Side of the Same Ugly Coin

Last week I mentioned the single mom who cried "foul". Today it's time to talk about when to demand a timeout. While parental overreach is obnoxious, parental under-involvement is a measuring stick for societal failure. 

I'm sure some of you saw that New York City schools will be offering the Plan B emergency contraception to girls as young as 14 years old.* I guess the free condoms weren't proving helpful enough (what with the engineering degrees required to operate them). Did I mention no parental consent is required? Parents were notified of the change and there is an opt-out program. So. That's reassuring...

The big question mark for me is this: When did kids start trusting the "experts" (in this case, the government) more than their own parents? Have we (the parents) become so distant and untrustworthy that the school nurse (who typically knows our children for a mere four years maximum) is preferable for discussing important topics such as sex? We have become far too lackadaisical in our parenting. It's light years easier to entertain my children rather than patiently (and oftentimes painstakingly) discipline and instruct them, all the while doing my best to model righteous living. 

There is a general sense of familial degeneration in our society. I don't think that's news to anyone. A greater number of students are latch key kids, in foster care, coming from broken families and are spending more time with friends on social networks than those with whom they share a home. Parents have given up on the idyllic family dinners from Leave It To Beaver

This degeneration has paved the way for other authorities to become the parent. It's doing society no favors in the long run. We should get riled up at the thought of "experts" mentoring our children. We should be indignant when teachers, pediatricians and therapists impose their beliefs upon our children. Sports coaches need to stick to their game plans and leave the parenting to us. Don't get me wrong. There will always be a few kids who need someone besides their parents to step up and parent them. I know a family who has for all intent and purposes adopted a former student. Sometimes it is necessary, but it should be the exception, not the norm. I also recognize that parenting is exhausting and am by no means suggesting we not seek help and encouragement (as well as offer help and encouragement). However, I am suggesting we reclaim family dinners, put down the phones and turn off the telly.* It's past time we tune into our children and parent them in a way that leaves no room for doubt in their minds as to who loves them most and who is the most qualified expert to parent them. I may not have a fancy degree, but I should darn well know my kids better than the school nurse knows them.

If I've learned anything from this ugly coin it is this: I must be extremely proactive in this endeavor called "parenting", because there is a laundry list of experts lined up for my job. 

Stay Strong,

*If you so choose:
**No, I'm not British, but "telly" is just so fun to say. Also, I'm serious about that whole dinner bit. Takeout is fine! It's the time together that matters, not the food eaten.