mommy wars: on being a conscientious objector

{Edited to add: The comments and discussion happening at this post are truly insightful.  I hope you'll read the whole thing over at Red and Honey.}

  Get the epidural?
Breast or bottle?
Cry-it-out?  Co-Sleep?
Work or stay home?
To spank or not to spank?

Parenting is difficult, for sure, but the way decisions and philosophies polarize mothers is certainly among the worst parts.

May I let you in on a secret?    

The Mommy Wars cannot be won.

For what are we fighting?  Peace, community and contentment were never won through comparison, competition or judgment.  I'm laying down arms, smoothing lines in the sand and confessing to you this:  

I've no wish to fight you, mama.  Mothering is hard, and we need allies, not enemies.  In the Mommy Wars, I am a conscientious objector.

redandhoneyI am guest posting today for the lovely Beth at Red and Honey. as part of her series: 31 Days of Real Housewife Confessions.  Please click over to her site to read the rest and share your experiences in the comments.  Spend some time with Beth and you'll glean wisdom about all aspects of natural, holistic, God-honoring living.


i will give you rest

Snow has a way of muting the noise.  Blanketing the clutter.  Smoothing rough edges.  Though an uncommon sight during Pennsylvania autumns, it's strangely fitting during this time away.
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength."
I'm cherishing a long weekend in Harrisburg at the Relevant conference.  Putting faces and voices with hearts I've loved across the miles is a blessing.  Being among women who love words and the Word is a rare gift indeed.  I can't wait to share it with you when I return.



kind of hard to beat brinner

We're eating brinner.  Or rather, I am.  The kids run amok.

Jim is in the woods somewhere.  Up a tree with bow and arrows.

Cinnamon pear pancakes, maple syrup and just-whipped cream are all I've managed tonight, but I suppose that one can do worse than this comfort food on an October evening. 

You are not excused.  Come back to the table, please.  Finish your pancakes.

Rinse.  Repeat.

Mom, you're being bossy, Dylan informs me, her manner matter of fact.

I am the boss, I remind her.

No, you're not.  Dad's the boss.

I pick my jaw up off the sticky table.  We're both the boss.

Ohh.   She pauses, the information washing over her face like rain.  I didn't know that.

A rare moment of clarity, it was.  A glimpse into the universe, right there at the brinner table.


i'll know my name as it's called again

Exhaustion quenches Spirit-fire.
Deep calls to deep, but
I'm scratching the surface,
neglecting my roots.

If we're on the same team, why does it feel like
Them vs. Me?
The odds are terrible--they number twice as many and
fight hard with tireless youth.

Wisdom makes her appeal:
Set your heart toward my door.
In the waiting and the watching
I hear whispered my own name
and I remember.

but you go on

You snuggle in closely as the tractor roars and the trailer lurches, and I am thankful again for a babe content to be slung.

You point to the hillside.  "Cow!  Mama, Cow!"  Goldenrod grows wild along the path and we watch the fog retreat into the valley.

"On your bottom" I tell Dylan at least a dozen times, her little body bobbing excitedly.  It is her first field trip.  Most children sit quietly with mothers and dads, but her joy is fierce and no hay bale will anchor her small soul.  She swaps cheerful stories for smiles all around.

Magical days must be tasted in gulps.

Or savored sweet and slow.  Most moments find you twice as busy as she, but not this fleeting one.

You'll be two in a blink, but this warm October you are small enough yet to wear by my heart.

It is full indeed.


media literacy & christian worldview: why sheltering won't suffice

One of the reasons that Miss Representation is striking such a chord in me is because of the way it seeks to identify harmful media messages aimed at women and all of us--so that we can challenge and change them.
Media literacy is the ability to sift through and analyze the messages that inform, entertain and sell to us every day. It's the ability to bring critical thinking skills to bear on all media— from music videos and Web environments to product placement in films and virtual displays on NHL hockey boards. It's about asking pertinent questions about what's there, and noticing what's not there. And it's the instinct to question what lies behind media productions— the motives, the money, the values and the ownership— and to be aware of how these factors influence content.  (Media Awareness Network)
If we want to succeed in the task of raising children to become competent adults, then we must strive to teach them how to think instead of what to think. Media literacy is a crucial component of critical thinking and a skill that must be taught now more than ever.  

Sheltering kids is not enough. It is an impossible goal, first of all. The movie claims that teenagers consume a staggering 10 hours and 45 minutes of media every day. We simply cannot protect kids from every harmful message, no matter how many limits we impose. Besides, we know how appealing the illicit becomes: draw the reigns too tightly, and you almost guarantee rebellion. That is a war we will lose. 

What if instead of drawing lines and saying "no," we engaged media alongside the young people we influence? What if we provided fewer answers and asked more questions?

  • Whose message is this? Who created, paid, and why?
  • What products and ideas are being sold?
  • Who is the intended audience/consumer? How do you know?
  • Which lifestyles, people, and values are glamorized? Are any demonized? Absent? What does this communicate about value and worth?

  • What's the text (the at-face-value message)? What's the sub-text (underlying messages)? Do these match? 
  • What in this message is true? Are we being sold any lies? What are the results of believing these messages?
  • How does this compare to what you believe? How does it compare to what our family/ community/ scripture teaches?

Training kids to engage critically with media seats them in the powerful position to become change agents. Engaged consumers are a force to be reckoned with. Empowering young people to make their own informed choices (when the time comes) is far better than their being steered either by profit-motivated markets or well-meaning Christians operating in fear.

Too many young people have a faith that is a mile wide and an inch deep. They will graduate from high school and Christianity, because they do not have a Christian worldview that infuses their choices, values, and lives. A faith unrooted in scripture, practice, and relationship with Christ and community will fade. Truth is, after all, a Person to know, not a set of answers to memorize.

A Christian worldview is developed like muscle, through intentional training. It doesn't happen through rote memorization, pew-sitting, or youth retreats but through knowing the Jesus revealed in scripture and learning to follow his lead in our lives in practical, tangible ways. 

Media is a powerful and pervasive influence in all of our lives. Having kids "opt out" of culture isn't possible in the long run, nor is it even desirable. If we are to be the ones inaugurating God's Kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven," then Christians should be at the forefront of making and shaping culture--not hiding from it.

We cannot transform cultures with Kingdom values through disengagement, abstention, or by positioning ourselves alongside the mindlessly entertained masses. To consume without reflection is to be part of the problem, and to shelter and insulate is retreat.

Young people won't engage the world through a scriptural lens--or transform it with the gospel--unless we train them to engage both the Bible and culture for themselves. Media literacy is tool that can help young believers put their faith into practice and grow them into people who will infuse the world with the grace of God.


this is a man's world {on shining a light}

Sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of, right?

But what makes a woman?  A cursory glace at any newsstand or television reveals our cultural value quite clearly:

Sexual availability and impossible beauty are two sides of the same losing coin.

They're lies, of course, promising everything and delivering shame, depression and disorder.

We are not our weight, faces or bodies.  We are not defined by our sexuality.

We are not the object in a story told by a man.

Scripture tells another Story, in which our value comes from being created in the image of God.

Each of us.  All of us.

{Even if you can't believe it yet.}

We are strong and thoughtful.  Kind and wise.  Passionate and funny and sexy in ways that can't be commodified.

We are created in the image of a creative God to reflect his glory and goodness and creativity in ways that are unique.  In ways this world thirsts for.

Our daughters need us to realize our identity as image-bearers of God.  Our sons need it, too.  God knows Hollywood, Congress and the Church are crying out for transformation--even if they don't know it yet.

Expose the glossy lies for what they are.  Where Light shines, shadows flee.

Inspired by this trailer for the documentary Miss Representation.  If it doesn't light a fire in you, you might be dead inside.

We all need to become more critical of the media messages we consume daily--and those fed to our children.

So, who wants to host a community screening?


alma mater {the grace of awake}


James isn't sleeping through the night.  Not every night or even most nights.  No one asks, like they did with Dylan, so I don't feign politeness at unsolicited advice.
"You know, if you only stopped breastfeeding that child..."
He turns two soon.  Quiet moments shared are few and far between these days of go go go and Mama, look!  I drink them in, nestling him close.  His eyelids flutter while breathing becomes heavy and regular.

His quiet nursing and a lone car engine are the only sounds that stir the night.  My heart turns to mamas with empty arms, and I lift them high in prayer.  The mothers who know the searing pain of loss.  Who grieve for what could have been and never was.

Why is the path to parenthood such a hard road for some?  {Why was it easy for me?  What will be our lot to suffer?}

I pray for mamas-to-be, waiting.  Those enduring shots and procedures, filing mountains of paperwork and making room for babies heart-grown.

Jesus, fill their arms.

Tears fall hot. Smoothing James' cornsilk hair, I lift high foster mamas praying for keeps.  The ones who pour out love without guarantee.  Theirs is love-parental.  Love sacrificial.  Love without condition.

The love of a mother.  The Love of a Father.

Bind up the brokenhearted, Lord.

Thank you for the grace of awake with a child when the world is darkness.

For mercies new every morning.

{shared with heather for just write and emily for imperfect prose.}


local, seasonal: rustic almond pear tart

Saturday was our last farmers' market of the year.  It's a shame since there is still so much produce growing locally, but I'm grateful that we have it at all for as long as we do.  So many communities have little access to fresh foods, and I don't take ours for granted.

We bought peppers for another batch of pepper relish and came home with an overflowing half-bushel of organic pears for only three dollars. I knew right away that I wanted to make this rustic pear tart.

I often clip recipes that I never make or try once and never go back, but this tart remains a favorite that I return to every autumn.  This isn't a food blog, but I wanted to share it anyway because it's fairly simple, seasonal and a crowd-pleaser for dessert or brunch.

1-1/3 c flour (I haven't, but I'm sure you could use half whole wheat flour)
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
7 Tbsp cold butter, cubed
2 to 3 Tbsp cold water

3/4 c sugar (could reduce or substitute a smaller amount of maple syrup or honey)
1/4 c slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 c flour
1 tsp lemon essence (or a bit of freshly grated lemon zest)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
4 medium ripe pears, sliced (I leave peels on, especially if pears are organic)
1 Tbsp butter

1 egg white
1 tsp water
1 Tbsp coarse sugar

1/4 c confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 tsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c slivered almonds, toasted

Combine flour, sugar and salt and cut in butter until crumbly. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Roll into a 14-inch circle and transfer pastry to a baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, almonds, flour, lemon essence/zest and cinnamon. Add pears and toss to coat. Spoon over the pastry to within 2 in. of edges; dot with butter. Fold edges of pastry over pears. For topping, beat egg white and water. Brush over pastry; sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake at 375° for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown.

For glaze, combine sugar, milk and vanilla and pour over warm tart. Sprinkle with almonds. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy.


in case you need to feel better about yourself

our basement is scary-as-hell and a person in her right mind wouldn't darken its door volitionally--except for the dang chest freezer housed therein.  the cellar opens off of the kitchen, and on its door hangs a giant calendar--true vintage grandma goodness.  it's a highly trafficked place in our home, and i open that door several times a week, ducking my head and praying hard against critters, creepers, squatters, and serial killers.

i tell you this because i have no excuse whatsoever for what i discovered there today:

i know april only has 30 days. you're supposed to disregard that.

today is october 8th and april was six months ago.  seriously, how did neither jim nor i notice this in HALF A YEAR?

we sat down the other day to go over calendar stuff.  i had to think really hard where mine was since i hadn't touched it since last spring.  sure enough, its pages were blank onward from may.

we hunker down and go into survival mode during summer camp, and september is more of the same.  at the end of the month, we finally got away for a glorious vacation, but it's now it's full-steam ahead october and we're just catching our breath and getting our bearings.

also, my cell phone touch screen died sometime in june and i cannot access texts or voicemails.  i am not ignoring you. i'm just copping to the disorder that is my personal life.

i did a bit of pile-decluttering today, and guess what i found?

an unfinished thank you note started summer '10 (!) and two un-sent christmas cards.

seriously, can anything short of a sister-wife help me turn this around? 

{any takers?}

Life: Unmasked

shared with joy.


in praise of a faith without litmus tests

At five I asked Jesus into my heart like a proper pint-sized evangelical.  Jesus saved me from my sin and the B-I-B-L-E was the Word of God.

That was what it meant to be a Christian. Sure, what came next might turn your life upside down, but being a Christian itself was pretty straightforward.

Believe in the Bible?  Check.

Believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life?  Great!  Now let's reveal God's love and make disciples of every nation.

Christianity was a big tent.  If you loved Jesus and wanted to serve him, we were on the same team.  Team Jesus!  Faith or belonging never boiled down to infant baptism, evolution, women's ordination, dancing, predestination or denominationalism.  It was never about politics, either.

I thought evangelicals were those who believed the good news of the gospel--all Christians who took their faith seriously.  Only more recently did I realize that some American churches have narrower ideas of who's In and who's Out when it comes to having real faith in Christ.  To them, I would never even have had a place as the Table by virture (vice?) of having grown up in a Mainline denomination.

The internet and our own communities are bursting at the seams with stories of the walking wounded:  Christians and others burned by churches and believers.  Those made to feel unworthy because of questions or doubts.  People who walked away--or were chased off by lack of grace.  People who love Jesus but couldn't accept what other Christian tacked onto "orthodox" faith:  Jesus AND a Young Earth.  Jesus AND complementarianism. Jesus AND the Republican party.

I'm learning that my story is different than many.  The Church has been kind to me, even when I didn't toe the line.  She has loved, challenged and supported my faith and growth, and my heart breaks that my experience is rare in certain circles.

I've worshiped and served in myriad churches, youth groups and campus ministries.  I've worked in camping ministry and been in more bible studies and small groups than I can count with believers of varied denominations and demographics.  We made it work, together.  Redemption and a shared love for Jesus were stronger than any theological nuance or political position.

Christians far more conservative than I have loved me fiercely and humbled me with their generosity and hospitality.  Though I long for kindred spirits and peers at this place in my life, I've never been made to feel second tier among Christians because I didn't fit their mold. 

None of us was created to image God in the same way.  God's Truth will not be hemmed in by any one school, denomination or figure.

We have so much to learn from each other.

The broken, beautiful Church is full of sinners who do--and will--get it wrong.  We will miss the mark and hurt each other.  But we are also a beautiful Bride, and the Kingdom of God is growing in, through (and despite) us sometimes.

The ideological and theological differences that separate pale in comparison to the common heritage we find at the foot of the cross.

Jesus prayed that Christians would become one and said that our unity would draw the world to faith: 
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Let's dispense with the litmus tests and lines in the sand.  May love be our legacy as we follow after Christ.

How good and pleasant it is
   when God’s people live together in unity!

 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
   running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
   down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
   were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
   even life forevermore.
                                                  (Psalm 133)

shared with emily's imperfect prose.
{image source}


beneath the surface {creating communities for which our hearts long}

are you coming to girls' night tonight? she asked with a smile.

my only plans involved my couch. where? i wondered, heart expectant. was this my chance to finally connect?

ohh. she paused awkwardly. she invited so many people, i just assumed...

and that was that.


it can be so hard to break in, can't it?  it's not like people wear signs around their neck saying Have Enough Friends, Thanks or Too Busy To Get To Know You.

or Lonely, for that matter.

sarah wrote a blazing indictment of women's ministries that struck a chord with many:
We are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, not churchified life hacks from lady magazines. Some of us are drowning, suffocating, dying of thirst for want of the cold water of real community. We're trying really hard - after all, we keep showing up to your lady events and we leave feeling just a bit empty. 
how do we move beyond chitchat with acquaintances to real intimacy, friendship and understanding?  how do we find and create the kinds of places where we feel free to let down our guard?  how can we become the people who welcome and love and serve and dig in and grow together?  the women who live grace and ask hard questions and answer truth and share our very lives--not just the shiny parts?

it's not easy with little ones afoot.  someone's always crying or demanding and it's time to go and we've barely gotten past hello. seasons turn, another year goes by, and we don't know each other any better.

creating community is no easy task, but it's not an impossible one.  i can't wait until my kids are grown.  although weary of trying, giving up is the worse choice by far.


the smitten word | 10.1.11

 {reads and favorites shared}

across the interwebs:

hyacynth, undercover mother
But there was warmth found beneath jackets and blankets, in the creases of fingers strapped together in a clasp of unity and in arms wrapped around shoulders, face buried into chest, soaking tears into cotton and skin.

It was our life, together, -- the Chicago autumn, in all of it's unpredictableness and uncertainty, like romance in the middle of busy lives with kids. And the beauty beat into the grayness
kristin tennant, halfway to normal
It seems to me that if we buy this rags-to-riches, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, look-what-I-did—why-don’t-you-get-off-your-butt-and-do-it-too attitude, we’re fooling ourselves. We’re not admitting all of the help we’ve received along the way, and all of the opportunities we’ve been given.
amber haines, a deeper story
What makes us normal, and is the norm the right, the more holy? I testify that Blemish is Beauty. There are some things we’ll just not understand on this side of the veil, but I do know that the love of God pouring into and out of special needs children across the globe is something at the very heart of Christ.

on my nightstand:
i am reading Playful Parenting, recommended by sarah, and though just a few chapter in, its wisdom is transformational.  it's about using play and silliness to (re)connect with kids and help them work through difficulties.  the simplest suggestion to draw into--instead of recoil from--a child who is acting unpleasant has made a radical difference. we're spending less time frustrated and more time enjoying one another.

thomas keating's Open Mind, Open Heart is about centering prayer, a practice i began to learn years ago and haven't done much since the babies were born.  i look forward to digging in anew and being more intentional about creating space to be still and know.

i tend not to pick up fiction unless someone recommends a title, and then i remember the girl who inhaled books like airwould you share a favorite, please?

on tv:
last year we started having friends over to watch Glee and the one we call "The Yelling Show" (perhaps known to you as Parenthood.)  this year we decided to have Family Dinner beforehand and enjoyed the company of four friends and staffers over chili and show choir;)

i've been streaming Mad Men and was so happy to see it win the best drama emmy. last season was truly artful.

on screen:
while my whole family was together at the beach we watched The Girl in the Cafe. everyone enjoyed this quirky british gem about the unlikely couple and the G8 conference.   jim watched Babies with james who LOVED every minute of this nearly wordless documentary about four babies and their life in four diverse countries.  milk! eat! baby! dada, cat!  he was in heaven.

in my kitchen:

today jim came home with a bag full of pawpaws, a tropical fruit that ripen in pennsylvania (and more northerly points) in october.  i had never heard of or tasted this fruit before: a cross between a pineapple, mango and banana, with hints of coconut and a consistency similar to an avocado but custardy enough to eat with a spoon.

in short:  magically delicious.

this month jim picked grapes and we made jelly.  he also canned pepper relish and shot and grilled up a few geese.  {i told you this was the life bucolic.}

i made a lot of tomato soup and my roasted balsamic tomato basil sauce.  at the beach, jim made chocolate mousse with raw cream and our eggs and mercy, was it good. 

in my ears:
i am hardly on the cutting edge of music anymore, but our decemberists pandora station gets a work-out and blisses me out on the daily.

on the horizon for october:
a certain boy-babe turns TWO.  a certain relevant conference and meeting sweet friends like hyacynth and kamille.  our town's three day festival, replete with crafts and crowds, a parade and food.  dylan's first field trip--to a pumpkin patch.  more mild weather and hikes like this with the wee set:

playing along with SortaCrunchy's What Are You Into? and sharing my poem commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with Elizabeth Esther's Saturday Evening Blog Post
death is a gaping wound that fifty years won't heal
this side of heaven.
time never warmed a bed or walked a daughter down the aisle.

innocence lost, too
and we mourn that.  it may be the rose-colored glasses, but did we
love each other better then, before we knew how different we were? 
{are we really all that different?}
[click to read the rest of lost and found here]
what, dear friends, is capturing your attention of late?

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