Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Midweek Links and a Homekeeper's Journal

This week I've been quite busy reading. I'll link to some of the articles here and keep your eyes peeled later in the week for my review of a book that absolutely floored me. I hope that everyone who reads here is having a wonderful and blessed spring!

I started the past week off very well by reading this devotional from Elisabeth Elliot that has been reprinted over at LAF. This reminder of the mystery at the heart of home keeping and mothering was a wonderful read!

I spent much of my professional life working with the disabled, so I found this article about Alzheimer's and God's sovreignty both an encouraging and challenging read. Not only do these folks need the services of those in the paid workforce, but as Christians we need to remember and care for them. They are also children of God and they tend to be very much in need as their conditions tend to isolate them from others.

I don't know how many of you have seen this story, but I was horrified to learn about the family that is keeping their baby's gender a secret. This commentary discusses how they have handled gender roles with their children and I just can't help thinking that they are setting these children up for all kinds of pain down the road. God made us male and female for a reason and I feel so sorry for this child who isn't being allowed to live as God planned for him or her.

And in honor of Memorial Day earlier this week, I found this list of ways that we can minister to military wives very helpful. I have had friend with husbands who served in the armed forces, and I know it meant a lot to them to have their dear friends and sisters in Christ reach out to them while husbands were deployed.

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And this week, the Homekeeper's Journal is all about summer. Since it's been about 100 degrees here, give or take a degree or two, Summer has been on my mind as well.

During summer, my kitchen ……. gets insanely hot! I'm blessed to have access to a very good farmers' market and my own gardening skills are improving, so we eat a lot of fresh produce and meals that take little stove or oven time.

One of my favorite things about summer is … having fresh berries. I love berries of all kinds and the summer produce season is wonderful to me. I wilt in the heat, so I also relish the summer evenings when it's finally cool enough for me to venture out. I love the long twilight of a sultry summer night.

One of the summer things I could do without …. Mosquitoes and humidity! I live in the South and I have an overabudnance of both. I miss the Blue Ridge where I grew up. Somehow I don't recall it being quite so humid.

A planned summer or take it as it comes? I have a few planned celebrations - a week's vacation in June, graduations, family reunions and such. Mostly I just take the days as they come, though.

Summer meals consist of …… fresh fruit, fresh vegatables, salads, sandwiches, stir frys and occasional forays into grilling.

The last thing on my mind during summer is …… anything that involves using the slow cooker. No heating up the entire house for me, thank you very much. I also tend not to think about my knitting quite so much because the thought of getting cozy with skeins of wool in the middle of a southern summer is almost enough to smother me.

A Simple Hot Weather Dinner

It's been 90-100 degrees here lately, so the thought of heating up my kitchen just doesn't work for me. Besides, I've noticed that extreme heat has a tendency to lessen one's appetite. So, I went digging through my latest bounty from the garden and from the local farmer's market and went to work creating a very simple dinner for hot days - 3 very easy courses and almost no use of the stove!

Dish 1 - sandwiches
I had some cheese from a local cheesemaker, so I made jalpeno cheddar sandwiches. However, anything will work - peanut butter and jelly, cold cuts, whatever you have on hand.




Dish 2 - Spinach salad with "Summer Dressing"
I made a simple salad of fresh spinach with green onions and a couple of sliced hardboiled eggs (see photo above). This I topped with something my grandmother calls "Summer Dressing." I don't know what is specifically summery about it save that it's quite refreshing in the heat. Here's the recipe for you to enjoy!

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain yogurt
Mix these two together, and add sugar and salt to taste. This is also good with just a touch of garlic powder.

Dish 3 - Dessert!
I took the last of my garden strawberries and sprinkled them with powdered sugar. The perfect dessert on a hot late spring night.

Cool, refreshing and it all takes less than 30 minutes. Bon appetit!

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day


For many, this may be a day for great sales and cookouts in the backyard, but let us not forget that the primary purpose of Memorial Day is to remember...

...to remember those who have served during times of war and have given their lives that we might remain free

...to remember the families of the fallen who have given so much for their love of God and country

...to remember, from generation to generation, the lives, the heroism and the sacrifices of those who have served this country that they might never be forgotten.

Thank you to all who serve or have served in our armed forces. You are ever in my prayers, and I am grateful for your service!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Few Notes on Reading


I love to read and I plan to review books as I read them as well as mention gems I have already in my library. When I'm reading, there are some things I try to keep in mind.

1. First of all, whenever we read, I think we need to check what we're reading against Scripture. Authors are human and we already know that humans have not attained perfection, but that we are fallible, sinful people. References to the Bible may contain errors or there may be problems with an interpretation in a particular work we're reading.

2. On the advice of a very wise pastor I had growing up, I try to make an effort to read things I disagree with on occasion. By this, I don't mean that readers should go seeking out books that they know will tempt them into sin. I simply mean that reading about ideas we disagree with can be helpful. It helps to know something about the ideas we confront in the world. In addition, having our own beliefs challenged by being exposed to other viewpoints leads us to strengthen our own arguments and convictions, and helps us to be better witnesses.

And most importantly,

3. No matter how many wonderful things we read, nothing we study can serve as a substitute for reading the Bible regularly. A strong grounding in the Word is necessary and it should not ever be neglected.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review - What Makes a Man Feel Loved?


The Book: What Makes a Man Feel Loved: Understanding What Your Husband Really Wants
by Bob Barnes
Harvest House Publishers (1998) $12.99

I have pretty wide-ranging reading tastes, everything from fiction to history to theology to homemaking guides and guides to Christian living. I've seen plenty of marriage books written by women and when I saw this one was written for women by a man, it piqued my interest. In the end, I found it to be a decent read for the most part, though not the best marriage book I've ever tried.

Barnes starts off on solid ground, unpacking many of the lies that we have been told about marriage by the world. These are things such as "Men and women are fundamentally the same," "Today's woman should abandon'softness' for 'assertiveness,'" or "A woman should look for senstivity, not strength, in a man." His descriptions of how the world has warped views of relationships between men and women rang true and marked a good starting point for the book.

From there, Barnes uses a mixture of stories from his own 40+ year marriage as well as Biblical wisdom to explain not only what men seek from their wives, but also what a good marriage can look like. His reminders of the need for grace because we are all fallen creatures and we are all going to sin and make mistakes at some point were comforting, and his reminder that women need to look to God first and to be ever in prayer was helpful. It can be easy to focus on our spouses and forget that we need to bring our marriages before God and not just talk to each other without seeking Him.

While I've heard from many sources that men value their wives' softness and quiet, gentle spirits or that men need to be providers and heroes to their wives and families, Barnes explains in his book why that is so. Most of what he says is more commonsensical than earth-shattering, but I still found it helpful to read. Likewise his discussion of what men primarily seek from their wives and how different (yet complementary) that is from what women report seeking from their husbands made for thoughtful reading.

I also found his use of Scripture helpful. Not surprisingly, he talks about Proverbs 31 and Ephesians, but in discussing helpmeets as well as men's needs to work and provide for their families, he also quotes several times from 1 Peter 3 about the women who were in submission to their husbands or as Barnes saw it (using the Living Bible translation) "fitted in with their husbands' plans." I'm not normally a fan of the Living Bible because I don't find it the most accurate translation, but I did find this translation helpful in thinking about what being in submission can look like. Barnes talks a great deal about how much men need the support of their wives in important decisions.

And I really enjoyed the supplemental material in this book. The book is filled with sidebars containing inspirational quotations, Bible verses and "Expressions of Love" which are little ways in which a wife can show her husband how she feels about him. Some are cute and flirtatious while others involve serious discussion and prayer over ways to improve the marriage. I know my husband would love many of these ideas!

On the less than positive side, this book contains a bit too much modern psychobabble for me. I'm not completely anti-psychology as I do think there is a role for Christians in counseling and in treating mental health problems, but the personality/temperament test discussion was more cheesy than helpful to me. In addition, the author talks about submission and the role of women, but then clearly contemplates that some married women would not only take on full-time careers, but perhaps even be in a supervisory capacity over their husbands which while carefully phrased in the book, still didn't seem to have Scriptural authority quoted for it. That dichotomy in thinking didn't make sense. Likewise the use of a paraphrase of the Song of Solomon toward the end seemed unnecessary. As I read the paraphrase, all I could think was, "The original is beautiful. Why didn't they just use that?"

So, while it has its flaws, I did find What Makes a Man Feel Loved an interesting read and even if I didn't find it to be The Best Book Ever, I did get some helpful insight from it. And I know I'll be trying some of the cute ideas like leaving notes in my husband's lunch, flirting with him "just because", and otherwise letting him know I love him. Bottom line? This isn't an earth-shattering book and it does contain some things I would consider possible error, but it can still be a helpful read if you're interested in getting an everyday man's perspective on love and marriage. I would just recommend reading with discernment.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Midweek Links - Living Well

For whatever reason, a lot of my most interesting reading this week has been filled with practical tips for living well. Whenever I find a good thing, I want to share it, so here goes!

1. I discovered a new-to-me blog this week called The Atypical Housewife. To my delight, her Tuesday posts are filled with practical little hints like this to make homemaking just a little bit easier.

2. Since we're transitioning down to one income, I'm trying to save money where possible. In addition, I am trying to use the healthiest items that I can and I've become more conscious over the years of trying to minimize dependence on things with harsh chemicals. Now that I actually have more time to mix up natural house cleaning supplies, I've been looking for recipes and many of these from CHK really deliver. I've especially liked the window/glass cleaner.

3. Speaking of cleaning, Flylady saved my life! I had NO IDEA how to organize myself when I first started really keeping the home. Her system of baby steps and daily assignments (and lots and lots of prayer) helped me start getting my act together.

4. I've gone a little beyond the Flylady system now, and I'm also liking Time-Warp Wife's Housekeeping Schedule. Like Flylady, she breaks everything down into smaller components and I find that system helpful.

5. And when it comes to living well, our first priority needs to be keeping our eyes focused on Christ above all things. While reading the archives of A Wise Woman Build Her Home, I came across this encouraging reminder of that truth.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful, blessed week!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Weed Soup


Sometimes when the weather is warm, we crave soup even as we know that we don't want to heat up the kitchen by cooking for too long. Despite its less than appatizing name, weed soup is a spring classic in the Shenandoah Valley where I originally come from. The recipe below is a combination of my memories of watching my grandmother and recipes from various Mennonite cookbooks. The ingredients are inexpensive and easy to obtain, so the soup can be expanded to feed as many as you wish.

Weed Soup

1. Brown bulk sausage in dutch oven. For a family of 4, you'll want about 1/2 pound. Remove sausage from pot, and spoon off all but about 1-2 T. of fat.

2. Chop up green onion and saute in the sausage fat. Add sausage back to pot.

3. Add chicken broth (about 4 cups for every 4 people), diced potatoes (about 1 cup per 4 people) and salt and pepper.

4. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft.

5. Add greens of your choice, chopped. Note: You'll want 1-3 cups for every 4 people. You can use any kind of tender greens available. In my neck of the woods, swiss chard, mustard, spinach and kale are all easy to come by. Collards are the only greens I've encountered that don't always work well in this soup. Add chopped fresh parsley to taste.

6. Cook until greens are tender. This takes just a few minutes so keep an eye on your pot!

7. Serve. This soup is delicious garnished with Parmesan cheese.



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Monday, May 23, 2011

We Gather Together

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
- Matthew 18:20

I spent this past weekend at home with my extended family, and spending time with them as well as going back to my childhood church really renewed me. It was so good to see all of these reminders of the ways in which believers gather.

We gather together....

In church - As we gather in the presence of other believers and come before God to hear His word and respond in worship, something truly special happens. We were made to worship God and glorify Him forever and when we do this together with other believers, we are gathering as spoken of in the Bible and binding ourselves together. When I stand in a truly faithful church and think of all the believers who have come before and all that will come after me, I feel small and yet I swell with joy and awe at the thought of being part of this group of saints who have come before God to worship for centuries.

We gather together...

With family - As we sit down with generations of family to give thanks for our many blessings in life, it is impossible not to feel closer. Taking meals together and giving thanks to God together not only is another way to worship God, but it strengthens the bond of the family every day we do it. It's impossible to walk past the dining room table in my parents' house without hearing in my head the sound of my father saying grace and my grandfather before him.

We gather together...

Husband and wife - As we gather together, just the two of us, we pray and pour out our hearts to God and to each other. By laying our marriage, our hopes, fears and confessions before God, we invite Him into our lives each day. And as we gather in His presence, we are renewed and marriage is strengthened further with each passing day that we have truly gathered togther.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Keepers at Home are Necessary


For my last post this week, I wanted to tackle one of the dangerous myths about at home wives, and that is the persistent idea that we are not necessary. I’ve heard everything from the theory that machines and gadgets have replaced the need for much human labor in the home(and I'm sure all these machines are very nurturing) to the notion that it’s lazy for wives to be home if small children are not present. Feminists, especially in the second wave of feminism, have portrayed home as a prison for women and demanded vehemently that women go into the workplace. Those who do not have been labeled lazy or childlike.

The ideas of the more extreme feminists have become so entrenched in our society that even many Christian men and women look down on those who stay home unless they have infants or toddlers. After all, how many times have you heard someone discuss a woman staying at home while saying, “I don’t know what she finds to do all day. Her children are in school! You think she’d at least get a part-time job,” or “Did you hear she quit her job when she got married? They don’t even have children yet!” And just check the comments on many career-life balance articles online. The balance often skews heavily in favor of women who can’t imagine staying home and in recent years, I’ve noticed more men stating that they would be unwilling to financially support a wife or that they expect any woman they marry to pull her own weight. I’ve even seen at home wives described as parasites. If I’m expected to do all the same things that my husband does and “pull my own weight” financially, how is that a marriage? How would we complement each other if we don't have different roles to play? Not only do the world's ideas run counter to what Scripture says but this school of thought also seems to operate under the fallacy that men and women are exactly the same.

Perhaps after hearing years of propaganda from the feminist movement, there are those who are starting to see the role of the homemaker as unnecessary, but nothing is further from the truth. Most importantly, the Bible states clearly that God intends for married women to keep the home. In Proverbs 31, the amazing wife praised there is one who runs a very well-ordered home and in all of the work she does, benefiting the home and family are her focus. Guess what? Homes don’t order themselves! Running the home and providing for the family whether there are young children in it or not takes a lot of work. Currently, I am transitioning to be at home with my husband and just keeping up our home, caring for our animals and then reaching out to connect with our new community really can be a full-time job.

And then there’s Titus 2. In that passage, married young women are admonished to be "keepers at home." Titus 2:5. It does not say, "Oh, just keep at home when the kids are little." Oh no. It says simply "keepers at home", and the older women are instructed to mentor these younger women. And it's not just a mild suggestion either; We are told to be keepers at home. Keeping the home may look different in different homes due to individual circumstances, but the duty is still there. I know women who for various reasons must both keep the home and work outside at least for a season, but for many of them, that longing to be in the home doesn't go away.

And indeed, one can find plenty of necessity in keeping the home. Children need their mother's guidance even when they are no longer infants and toddlers. Imagine what would happen if teenagers, for example, were simply left to find their way with no mother at home to guide them. I know people who send their children to public or private school and some have had good experiences, but I frankly do not agree with much of what is forced on families by the schools, especially the government schools, and so if I had children, there would be homeschool or possibly a carefully chosen Christian school if one is available. Homeschool would obviously require that a parent be in the home, but even with children who go out to school, someone needs to supervise their education and assist them with homework. If no one is keeping the home, who will school the children? There needs to be a keeper at home to guide and educate children of all ages.

For women who do not have children, I can say from personal experience that helping my husband and taking care of our home are both necessary endeavors. Our lives suffer if I do not obey God and fulfill my role. I know some women for whom staying home full-time simply is not economically feasible. My job does not lend itself well to part-time status and I am fortunate in that, with some major simplification of my lifestyle, I can leave it. I simply do not have enough hours in my day to work full-time, run a house, and accomplish both of these things effectively. Homes do not keep themselves and families do not bind together in common purpose to serve God without grace and intention. Having seen the alternative, I know as I do my work that I am needed here or our house will not be a home.

And keeping the home is in fact a ministry and witness to God. I will admit that I did rebel against it for a time and bought into the lie that we would need two full-time incomes in order to survive not to mention that working outside would somehow be more fulfilling than keeping home. Boy, was that wrong! However, God has shown my husband and I both the error in that thinking and as I've started transitioning home, I certainly have wished for another group of keepers at home mentioned in Scripture - the older women. Older women keeping home who can mentor those of us coming behind them truly are necessary and God has given them a very important part to play. I only wish there were more of these women out there!

Keepers at home - we are necessary and we have a challenging calling in life. Even more importantly, as children of God, we have a part to serve in the body of the church and that is something special to glory in!

Linking up this "oldie but goodie" post with The Modest Mom. If you're visiting from The Modest Mom, I hope you'll check out some of my more recent writing, too. Welcome!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Keepers at Home Don't Have to be Gourmet Chefs Every Day

One of the churches we have visited has a coffee break between Sunday School and church. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a group of women and one of them exclaimed, "You're so lucky you get to stay home! If I could do that, I'd be able to pull out my cookbooks and make multi-course dinners every night."

Hmmmm. I love to cook, and I've even been told I'm good at it. And on special occasions, when I make up something fancy, my husband appreciates it. However, I also know for a fact that I have days when I'm lucky to get soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on the table by dinnertime. Four-star restaurant, this is not. While I have some complicated recipes in my repertoire, I'm also glad to have learned more than a few ways to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less. Below is one of my favorite quickie chili recipes. It's great for busy days or for those summer days when your family craves chili, but you don't want get your kitchen baking hot while you simmer something all day.

Vegetarian Bean Chili
courtesy of America's Test Kitchen - Winter 2010

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 T. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
3 T. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
3 minced garlic cloves
2 16 oz. cans of beans (I usually use pintos or red kidney beans, but anything along this line will do.)
1 T. canned minced chipotle chiles in adobo
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
salt and pepper

1. Pulse tomatoes in food processor until coarsely ground.
2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat until just smoking. Cook onion until softened, about 5 min. Stir chili powder, cumin and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, beans and chipotle and bring to boil. Reduce to medium and simmer uncovered until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in corn and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Note #1: This chili is really good if you top it with sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, avocado and/or shredded cheese.

Note #2: This recipe is designed for 4, but it doubles and triples easily. I once used it when a family of 8 dropped in unexpectedly, and it worked just fine.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Keepers at Home Really Are Well-Read - Midweek Links

And here's today's myth - stay at home wives don't read and let their brains atrophy and turn to mush. Au contraire. Just as a doctor reads medical literature to stay up to date in the field or a banker follows the financial news and regulations closely in order to better advise customers, a keeper at home needs to constantly educate herself on her field. To that end, I talk to those who have gone before me and I read everything from cookbooks to gardening treatises to articles on cleaning solvents.

I have other interests, too, and I certainly keep up on those to the extent that I have reading time. Here is a roundup of some places I've been reading this week:

1. I blogged earlier about what I saw as the disastrous vote going on in the Presbyterian Church(USA) to amend the constitution and take out language requiring that clergy be faithful within marriage or celibate in singleness. Even within the Presbyterian Church(USA), reaction to the decision to change the church's constition and remove language requiring that all clergy either be faithful in marriage or both single and chaste met with negative reaction. The Presbyterian Lay Committee issued this statement.

2. During the Congressional budget debates, Planned Parenthood may have presented itself as a benign organization bent on providing healthcare to needy women. Anyone wondering about their stance on abortion or their political involvement should check out this story of what happened when a Kansas prosecutor took them on.

3. And while I'm talking about Planned Parenthood, this article about Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood's early history with churches and the eugenics movement bears reading. The manner in which she played the church in order to further some very un-Christian ends is a sad cautionary tale.

4. Ashley at Putting God First Place had a blog piece about prayer walks last week that I really liked. Prayer walking is also this week's Titus 2 project over on At the Well. I've been on prayer walks in other cities while on church mission trips, but she talks about how to bring this practice home and use it to minister to your own neighbors. I walk through my neighborhood already, so I'm definitely going to try what she suggests!

5. On the homemaking front, this Good Housekeeping guide to removing all kinds of different stains has saved my bacon this week! I am trying to keep a good home, but I'm still a klutz at times.

6. Also on the topic of homemaking, this article by Lady Lydia (Lydia Sherman) on the topic of homemaking when there are no children in the home really spoke to me. I do not have children of my own and while I generally have much to do, there are times I definitely struggle. Her encouragement and suggestions were wonderful to read and I plan to apply some of this to my own household.

Happy reading and have a good week!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Keepers at Home Don't Just Sit Around

After I wrote yesterday's post, I thought about it and I realized that I could probably go all week on the various misconceptions people have about the life of a wife at home. So, I think I will - my first series!

In addition to the folks who think I must be a brainwashed zombie, I've also heard from those who think my life must be nothing but free time. I could go on and on about how it's really not, but as every writing student has ever learned, it is better to show than tell. My camera is down, so no housekeeping photos, but when I saw this Homekeeper's Journal linky over at Christian HomeKeeper Network, I thought it would come in handy.

So, here is my life in a nutshell!

This week in my kitchen - We're going out to dinner one night with a missionary friend who's on furlough, but otherwise I'm cooking every night. I'm also making a big pot of Weed Soup to get us through several lunches, and I'm baking and freezing rhubarb pies for various people. If I can get enough free time, I will be putting up strawberry/rhubarb preserves this weekend.

My gardening thought this week - Gardening has been my challenge for the past 3 years. The first garden was awful. Last year's garden gave out lots of tomatoes, but not much else. This year, I have strawberries which are coming in nicely. I have also planted cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant. So far, everything is still coming along nicely. I'm far enough away from the massive storms to avoid flooding, but close enough to get some good rains that help get it all established.

What I'd like to can, freeze or put up this year - I want to put up as much tomato sauce and juice as I can because I cook with it so often. I also have a recipe for preserving eggplant and I'd like to try that if my eggplant crop works out well.

My plans for my home this summer - Wow! Talk about disruption! The house was a fixer-upper when purchased and I have slated the big job for this summer. I need to refloor and repaint the main living area. I'm already starting to research and plan out that job. Technically, the patio could use some love, too, but I don't know how much I can commit to taking on in one summer.

This absolutely, positively has to be done to my home this year - I am fortunate that I don't really have much real emergency work that HAS to be done. However, one of my screen doors is getting to the point where we can't repair it any more, so that really does need replacing.

So, who wants to take a wild guess as to how much time I spend sitting around staring off into space while I eat my bonbons? ;-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Keepers at Home are Not Stepford Wives

I did at one point work outside the home full-time (more than full-time,really) and when I first started to have some uneasiness about this and to worry about whether this was the right choice, the decision to transition home was not an easy one for my husband and I to make. We feel firmly convinced that this is the right and Biblical way to order our lives, and I have to admit that I am a much happier person now than I was when I worked in an outside office 50+ hours per week giving the bulk of my time and energy to someone other than my family. I think I'm now a better wife, a better follower of Christ, and I feel like I spend my days doing more that is of lasting use than I did in prior years.

I'm sure anyone reading this is not wholly astounded to learn that there are those who would look at my life and not see it as I do. While some folks have been truly encouraging to me, others most definitely are not. What truly stings in all of this is that some of the critics proclaim themselves Christian. I know that no two people have a Christian walk that looks the same, and while I stand up for my beliefs, I would not want to personally belittle married women who work outside the home. In some cases, I may not agree with someone's choice and I may, with people I know well enough, try to engage them in a discussion one on one, but that does not mean that they are a lesser grade of person and I have no right to treat them as such. In addition, there are some circumstances under which women may have to, in addition to keeping the home, work outside the home on at least a part-time or temporary basis.

One of the criticisms that I heard over and over again was that I must be a "Stepford Wife". I hadn't seen the movie, but I've heard this phrase often enough to know that it's meant to denigrate stay at home wives. So - I went on a little research expedition.

It turns out the the Stepford Wives are a group of zombie-like, doormat wives who cater to their husbands' every whim. The docile women in the movie turn out to be lifelike robots.

Pretty chilling stuff - and certainly not like my life. I may be a wife who seeks to model the type of marriage that the Bible instructs us to have. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I stumble like the imperfect human that I am. However, submission to one's husband in marriage and being a keeper of the family home is not the same thing as thoughtless conformity. My husband is no abusive tyrant, he is a man who values my opinion and cherishes me. And I certainly have not lost free will or the ability to formulate a thought. Femininity is not a synonym for blind subjugation.

Even though I learned all kinds of homemaking skills from my family, I still find keeping the house far from mindless. Every day, I feel like I'm learning something new and the challenge of making the house feel like a haven keeps my mind sharp. The insinuation that a wife at home is somehow stunted in her development or lacking in intellect upsets me because this is a modern feminist notion that simply is not true.

While I found The Stepford Wives interesting, it's impossible to miss the message of the movie. Wives in the home are dumb robots while women who work outside have full lives. A pretty direct jab at the stay at home wife's beliefs and lifestyle, isn't it? It's not the first time popular media has attacked traditional ways of life and I'm sure it won't be the last, but I do wish the popular thinking of our time was not so dominated by these ideas. It's actually gotten to the point that not only women embrace feminism, but I have heard plenty of men state that they would never want to marry a "Stepford wife".

I knew plenty of highly intelligent women working outside the home and now that I am not chained to a desk for hours on end, I have had the opportunity to meet many other very intelligent, well-read ladies. The main difference I see is that the ones who are staying at home often seem more content than the ones working outside. They also seem to spend more time educating themselves on topics of their own interest and those of their family rather than working for the vision of some outside entity.

In fact, when I think about it, I have to wonder which is the more thoughtful behavior - seeing what the culture of the world does to families and trying to think of ways to confront it or simply accepting what the media feeds us about women in the workplace?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Little Things

My husband loves good fruits and vegetables. He is also continually amazed by the endless array of plants in God's creation. Growing up in an overseas mission field, the fresh produce of his childhood came in somewhat different forms than what one finds in this country. Whenever I bring in something unusual from our garden, I save it aside for him. I just knew he would smile to see the massive strawberry from this morning!

Friday, May 13, 2011

*Sigh*

The Blogger hiccup of yesterday apparently ate my much longer post about all the sad goings-on in the PC(USA). Though I was raised PCA and hold religious beliefs more conservative than what has been sloshing around the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) for decades, I am sad to see what is happening in this and other mainline denominations. Rather than standing strong against some of the unbiblical, sinful ideas being thrown at us by the world, some churches are now preaching the world's values instead of God's. It's a terrible witness, and it makes me very sad to think that some people may think that not standing for anything and simply changing with the whims of worldly times is what Christian faith is all about.

For those who are curious, more information about what the PC(USA) has done with regard to opening the way to ordination of clergy in homosexual relationships can be found here and here.

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On an unrelated note, the Blogger hiccup also ate my first ever blog comment. :( But I got to read it before it vanished into the ether, so thank you, kind soul!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Politically Correct USA?

Before I start, I should probably tell you a little bit about my own faith tradition so that you know where I'm coming from. I come from a Reformed tradition theologically. I was raised in a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) church. I joined this church as a teenager and have attended PCA churches my entire life until very recently. I now live in a town with no PCA church, and am actively seeking fellowship. I am primarily familiar with the PCUSA through research and speaking with friends and family members who are/have been members (in many cases, very concerned members) of PCUSA churches.

I was very sad to read in the news today that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is removing its celibacy requirement for unmarried clergy. This is being done primarily to open the way for ordination of gay clergy, but that is far from the only problem I have with this move.

First of all, the Bible clearly speaks against the homosexual lifestyle. This begins with the command in Genesis 2:24 that, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife..."(emphsis added). The Bible is clear here. Men are to become one flesh with their wives, not with some other man.

In case that wasn't clear enough, the law makes it even clearer in Leviticus. At Leviticus 18:22, it is commanded, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." And in Leviticus 20:13, the statement of law is expounded upon even further as the Jews are instructed that, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." This doesn't seem terribly ambivalent when I read it, but apparently the PCUSA reads the Bible a little differently.

To my astonishment, I heard a radio commentator say that the New Testament does not speak to homosexuality at all. I've heard this misconception before, but it's very plainly laid out otherwise in Paul's letters, which are very much a part of the Bible. In Romans 1:26-27, Paul speaks of homosexual relations with condemnation and in 1 Corinthians 6:9 he states, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders..."

Given what Scripture has to say on the subject, I think that homosexual relationships are sinful. When the PCUSA waters down its church constitution, it is bowing to the dictates of worldly culture rather than standing up for the faith and for the teachings contained in Scripture.

However, the consequences of the new language in the Presbyterian Church (USA) constitution go beyond same-sex relationships. As the article reports, the ordination prerequisites for clergy require that they live "in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." Now they will only have to, "submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life." Um...squishy and vague just a bit here? Taking out this language not only paves the way for ordination of clergy who are homosexual and not chaste, but also for ordination of those who are engaged in intimate relationships outside of marriage which may involve premarital sex or adultery. These are also clearly contrary to Biblical teaching, and I find it sad that this denomination is bowing to the ways of the world rather than upholding the ways of God.

I know that this is a move that has caused great upheaval in the PCUSA church and I feel moved to pray for believers in that church. I pray that the PCUSA would examine Scripture prayerfully and turn away from what they are doing here, and I pray also that others would not be moved to stumble in their faith from seeing this example placed before them. This is a very sad day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Midweek Links

I read a lot around the internet and this helps me to organize links. It helps me because I can keep things all in one place, and hopefully anyone reading my blog will find something here, too.

1. I've run into a fair number of friends offline who are excited about the movie Soul Surfer. By now, I imagine most know that the girl whose story is told in the movie is a Christian and I've even seen churches advertising group outings to the movie and Bible studies based upon it. I have nothing against movie outings and I certainly have no problem with Bible study, but I do question whether this movie is the best witness. Stacy McDonald and Carmon Friedrich have written a couple of pieces that really sum up my issues with the movie far better than I could. You can find them here and here.

2. Over at CBMW, this Mother's Day piece manages to celebrate mothers, glorify God and find a reason to reproduce the words of The Battle Hymn of the Republic all in one place. I may be a Southerner born and bred, but that hymn gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

3. My grandmothers taught me how to cook and part of those lessons included learning how to waste nothing of the bounty we have been given. I'm always on the lookout for creative ways to use up my leftovers, and list of ways to cook with leftover ham is going into my recipe binder.

4. A dear friend lost a close family member suddenly this weekend. We have been in touch with this friend, and she is understandably grieving deeply. I've been finding this article very helpful in terms of explaining grief as well as explaining how, as a Christian, to comfort those who are grieving.

5. Last but not least, I found this cooking with cast iron article on the Christian HomeKeeper to be very helpful. I'm a fan of cast iron cookware, especially my old cast iron skillet, and it's good to have the care instructions nicely laid out in one place.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Hospitable Recipe

This is an easy recipe to use for entertaining that always gets lots of raves. It's a classic for football season, but I'm finding that it makes guests happy year-round!

Buffalo Chicken Dip


1 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

12oz. bottle hot sauce (I use Frank's Red Hot - use whole bottle or just half, depending on how spicy you like your food)

2 8oz. pkgs. cream cheese (can substitute low-fat but don't use nonfat or dip will be runny and taste awful)

16 oz. bottle of bleu cheese or ranch dressing

2/3 cup chopped celery

3 cups shredded cheddar or monterey jack/cheddar blend



1. Heat oven to 350.

2. In large bowl, mix chicken, celery and cheese.

3. In saucepan, over medium low heat, combine cream cheese and salad dressing and stir until smooth. Mix in hot sauce. Pour mixture into bowl with chicken/cheese/celery. Stir until blended well.

4. Pour into 13X9 inch pan. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until bubbly. Make sure top doesn't get brown and dried out. Take out of oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Serve warm with veggies or tortilla chips.



Note: Recipe feeds about 30. If you have a small group, you'll want to cut this in half.

Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays

Being Sympathetic


I was inspired to try this week's Titus 2 project over on At the Well for two reasons: (1)As I move into my role as a keeper of the home and transition out of the workplace(oh boy, THAT could be the subject of a blog or two hundred), I've been studying Titus 2 and other passages in Scripture more and more, and seeking discernment and (2) the call to be sympathetic seems especially appropriate this week.

A friend of mine lost a close family member suddenly. Not surprisingly, this is a very sad time for her (I'll just call her "Monica" as I don't feel entirely comfortable using real names when it's not wholly my story I'm telling here). I, along with other old friends, have been trying to reach out to her. The funeral is taking place out of state, then Monica will be coming back here. I spoke to her before she left and I've been praying about how to be there with Monica, in the midst of her grief.

I have sent flowers to the funeral, and I left Monica a little coupon book on her doorstep that I decorated and filled with coupons for meals, errands and things like that. I also have marked on my calendar to call her and perhaps see if she would like to get out for lunch. And of course, she is daily in my prayers. It is a very weighty thing to get down into the valleys of life and prepare to walk alongside someone and build her up. I don't have lots of experience with it, but I pray that God will give me the right things to say or at least lead me to be there when my friend needs company even if I don't have anything at all to say. I know when I've been grieving losses in the past that sometimes you just want someone there but you don't necessarily want them to do anything.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Looking for Home


Yesterday I went to church, which has lately been an interesting prospect. We moved fairly recently, and have prayerfully tried a few churches but still seem to be looking for a real home. Most of the churches near us are major mainline denomination churches and while folks have certainly welcomed us, we have had trouble finding solid Biblical teaching. Much of what we encounter seems to be simplistic theology that does not care to venture far beyond the safety of "God is love," for fear of offending, and liberal ideas about gay rights and feminism abound.

For those who have had to do this, how does one find a good church home? When we moved, we were prepared for what we encountered because my husband and I met with our pastor before moving to ask him which church/churches he would send us to. Unfortunately, the closest church he knew of to which he would send people lies more than an hour away from us.

As we have gone through this process, my husband and I have come up with a list of things that we would like to see in a church and here is what we have so far.

- It must uphold the Bible as authority, the unfallible Word of God.

- Related to this, the church must be Christ-centered and preach the gospel. Preaching and instruction should be fully in line with Scripture. In addition, I look for teaching that has some meat to it rather than something light that merely skims the surface.

- Though we have not yet been blessed with children, we pay attention to how they are treated in the church. Are they welcomed? Are parents encouraged and adminished to raise their children according to Biblical precepts?

- How does the church address marriage? Does the church support and preach biblical teachings on marriage, or are they indistinguishable from a secular worldview?

- I look for hospitality within a church. Does this church welcome newcomers or are they cliquish? We visited one church where not only did no one greet us, but one woman even remarked, "I've been going here for years and I really don't have time for newbies." Ouch.

- In addition to hospitality, I try to get a sense of how members treat one another within the church. This is hard to do even after visiting several times, but my husband and I both come from churches where members encouraged and supported one another in their Christian walks, and this is what we would like to find again in our new community.

- I also look to see how the church engages with the community and the world. Does the church support missions and show a real heart for it?

- The leadership of the church should conduct itself according to the principles laid out in Scripture. This applies not only to gender roles, which is how I most often see scriptural leadership defined, but also in how leaders in the church are selected and how church discipline is handled.


I hope this list does not make me look too picky, and for those who have had experience in trying to find a new church home, I would love to hear your stories and recommendations on what to look for in a church. My husband grew up overseas as his father spent 30+ years as a missionary in Africa and then in a closed country, so he always worshipped at the mission. I grew up in a wonderful small but very strong church and when I got married, my childhood pastor sent us to another truly wonderful church, so our experience at settling into a new church home is quite limited.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Finding My Place at Home

I come at blogging from a different place than many of the women whose blogs I read.  As a Christian, I continually seek to understand and follow God's will for my life, and I am blessed to be married to a wonderful Christian man.  However, we cannot have children - a fact that has caused both of us pain and which has at times made it hard for me to know where God would  have me serve.  I spent years preparing and praying over a future role as a wife and mother at home.  And when there are no children, what does one do?
 
At first, the idea of serving at home when we have only myself and my husband there seemed self-indulgent.  God had given me gifts and our lack of children seemed to be driving me to use those in the workplace.  However, while the jobs I held taught me much, God put the idea on my heart more and more that I should consider a different path.  I saw little things at first.  For instance, keeping up a welcoming, inviting (goodness - I'd even have settled for basically sanitary!) home became almost impossible.  The hours devoted to employment forced me to choose between keeping the home and working; I simply had neither the time or energy to do both.
 
This issue caused me to start thinking and I even found myself talking about it one day with a trusted friend.  She gave me a copy of The Way Home by Mary Pride; and as I read that book, I found myself marking passages that really resonated with me.  Even more importantly, I found myself checking that book against my Bible and reading Proverbs 31, reading Titus 2, reading those passages where God gave us women guidance on how He wants us to serve.  I came to realize that when I thought of women at home, I saw either women with small children or the coffee klatsch wives of 1950s lore.  Reading Proverbs 31 as well as Pride's book opened my eyes to a different, more productive and God-centered way of serving at home.
 
I'm still a work in progress.  After all, I spent several years out in the workforce and it would be wrong to just drop everything and leave others in the lurch.  For that reason, I have spent the past six months gradually transitioning out of my work.  Currently, I am home 2 days during the week and that will shortly become three.  By 2012, I will be home full-time.  Given that my in-laws are getting older and my own parents have had some minor medical issues, God's timing as always has been perfect as my transition home has come just in time to allow me to be there to assist the aging members of my family.  I am also so very thankful that my husband has been quite supportive of what I am doing and believes in it as well. 
 
I will probably blog more on all of this in the future, not to mention some of my attempts at learning to be a keeper at home, but that's a brief little explanation of how I came to be here.  I have been reading various sites and blogs over the past year ("lurking" if you will), and the online world has been a great source of encouragement to me.  I'm now very excited to join it!