I miss old school blogging. My posts reflect that, meandering from current events to family updates to long form articles. I know, I know. . . current blog gurus say Find your audience! Write in your niche! But whatever. It’s my website.
Still, you're probably here for some mommy-encouragement or theological talk. Welcome!
We attended a holiday party with some colleagues tonight and it was very lovely.
Yet this picture from the party stirs up a certain sadness, a certain nostalgia. A certain era of our family is only in our memories. This picture shows us with only A6 and H3. They are the only ones going with us to our next post.
Missing are our four young adult sons.
We’ll all be under one roof this Christmas, and for that I’m extremely grateful. Being all together is a rarity now. Each time we are I feel like it is an unexpected gift, one to treasure, one which I may never have again.
We’ve raised our children all over the world. Yes, they have some roots in Florida but not all of them consider it “home.” We’ve raised our children with the normalcy of moving every few years. It is unlikely that any of them will settle in one place for long, much less all in the same area.
Hubby’s parents have downsized through the years, and yet they have a large table in their open floorplan small home which seats ten. That is enough for them, each of their four children and their spouses. I would need a table to seat fourteen were I to have all my children and their spouses together for the holidays. My heart is heavy, because it seems unlikely that a day like that will come when we are all together in one place once they each have families of their own.
We may have given them the gift of experiencing the world, a broad view of what life can hold. At the same time it has meant sacrifices for both us and them, sacrifices of roots and place and future close proximity.
I’m happy for the lives my older children are living. I’m so very proud of them.
And seeing this picture reminds me that, yes, they really are adults now.
Things in our family really have shifted.
Charles Hodge on Romans 6
“As no man is free from sin, as no man can perfectly keep the commandments of God, every man who rests on his personal conformity to the law as the basis of his acceptance with God must be condemned. We are not under the law in this sense, but under grace–that is, a system of free justification. We are justified by grace, without works.
We are not under a legal dispensation, requiring personal conformity to the law and entire freedom from sin, past and present, as the condition of our acceptance; but we are under a gracious dispensation, according to which God dispenses pardon freely and accepts the sinner as a sinner, for Christs’s sake, without works or merit of his own. Whoever is under the law, in the sense just explained, is not only condemned, but he is bound by a legal or slavish spirit. What he does, he does as a slave, to escape punishment. But he who is under grace, who is freely accepted by God and restored to his favor, is a child of God living under his Spirit. The principle of obeying him is love and not fear.
Here, as everywhere else in the Bible, it is assumed that the favor of God is in our life. We must be reconciled to Him before we can be holy: we must feel that He loves us before we can love Him.”
My Reflections Related to Parenting
“God. . .accepts the sinner as a sinner”
I know this to be true with God accepting me, and now I want to really just ACCEPT my children as who they are. I want to provide a “safe place to fall” for my kids, where they know they are accepted as they are, even when they sin. I know my parents have lived that out towards my siblings and me.
“What he does, he does as a slave, to escape punishment.”
I don’t want my children to be doing things out of fear, simply to escape punishment.
“But he who is under grace, who is freely accepted by God and restored to his favor, is a child of God living under his Spirit.”
This is the part of the passage that first drew my attention to asking how I can relate this to me and my children, copying God as my Father.
“The principle of obeying him is love and not fear.”
Again, I don’t want it to be fear of me or fear of punishment that compels my children to obedience. But of love. Just as, truly, my obedience (imperfect though it may be) to God is out of a desire to please Him and out of love.
“we must feel that He loves us before we can love Him.”
I read a survey once that said something like 90% of kids knew their parents loved them, but only 30% FELT that their parents loved them. I want to really nurture my children, and have them FEEL loved by me and my husband.
Thankful for FS friends who gave us this Nativity set from Mexico. The season is bright.
From a Christian History Corner article:
In their teaching on the fifth commandment (“Honor thy father and thy mother … “), the Calvinist divines who authored the Westminster Larger Catechism (1648) extended the terms “father” and “mother” to cover all relations of “superior” to “inferior” persons. Like Benedict’s rule, the questions dealing with parental responsibilities and failures reflects a balanced, wise treatment of the subjects of authority and discipline…
Q. 129. What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?
A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honour to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God hath put upon them.
Q. 130. What are the sins of superiors?
A. The sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them, and inordinate seeking of themselves, their own glory, ease, profit, or pleasure; commanding things unlawful, or not in the power of inferiors to perform; counseling, encouraging, or favouring them in that which is evil; dissuading, discouraging, or discountenancing them in that which is good; correcting them unduly; careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger; provoking them to wrath; or any way dishonouring themselves, or lessening their authority, by an unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behaviour.
I find this a striking passage. Parents, the catechism is saying, sin against their children when they “correct them unduly,” “provoke them to wrath,” or slip into any other “unjust … rigorous … behavior.” Are you surprised, as I was, to see the tendency toward parental strictness (which I possess) decidedly not recommended or reinforced by these supposedly strict Calvinists? Frankly, as I read through this section of the catechism, I both said “ouch” repeatedly, and asked for God’s grace to come more closely into alignment with the biblical standard.
I’m feeling convicted.
May God enable us to parent our children with wisdom and grace.
The best family traditions often grow organically, rather than through our careful planning.
Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, our family will take a nature walk and gather “nature treasures” with which to make our Advent wreath. This tradition began when we lived in Ukraine and could not find a premade wreath of natural or artificial Christmas greens.
That year the boys were in preschool and early elementary grades. We lived on the 16th floor of a “post-soviet ant farm” high rise apartment in the Kharkivskyi Masyv area of Kyiv. We took a walk in the cold, gathered our greens, and made our wreath. I remember what a triumph it was that year when my friend Laura and I were actually able to find purple and pink candles! (The year before I think I settled for all red. . .)
When we moved back to Florida, we again made our Advent wreath from found nature treasures. We had an oak tree in our yard and a magnolia tree not far away. At first this was done as a frugality measure, but then our annual nature walk became a tradition.
It continued in D.C., Kenya, Ukraine again, and the Bahamas. . . Each year’s wreath reflecting our local fauna and the nature items that attracted the children’s eyes.
When we first began, I did not know that it would grow in to one of my most treasured family traditions and memories.
If you do not yet have your own family traditions for Advent, I invite you to join us in taking a nature walk, making a simple wreath at home, and choosing daily Advent readings and hymns. I made this Advent calendar for my sons away at college, so that they can be doing the same readings we are at home. I’m happy to share it with you.
TulipGirls’ 2018 Advent Calendar
TulipGirl Advent Really Old Archives
TulipGirl Advent Not So Old Archives
Jesse Tree Devotionals by Kristen Knox Stewart (Alt link)
Give Me the Word: Advent and Other Poems
Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Calendar
Thinking Kids Advent Calendar
DIY Advent Calendar
I’d love to see what you are doing this year for Advent!
This week I joined in some interesting conversations with other moms about parenting and Reformed and Covenantal theology.
At one point I wanted to reference the Westminster Confession of Faith and how in impacted me and my parenting, and searched through the old TulipGirl archives.
I love that I have records of my thoughts and learnings through the years because of blogging. (And it makes me sad that I haven’t been consistent with it through the years. I blame FB.)
While a lot of my archives were eaten by gremlins, some of the old posts remain. Here are links to some of the Mommy-Encouragement Files that I reread this week:
This week I had several friends share a recent HuffPo piece which, well, basically branded me as evil. And why? Because I disagree with the author on policy solutions.
According to this self-described “relatively young” author, I am without the “basic human emotion of empathy,” and “content to see millions of people suffer needlessly.” Other words used to describe me? “[D]etached cruelty,” “terrifying,” “chilling,” “callousness,” and “heinous.”
I am part of the “hordes of selfish, cruel people.”
While the author doesn’t use the word, she is communicating that she believes those who do not support her politics are evil.
You know what I find “chilling,” to borrow her phrase? Just how many people I know who were sharing this article in agreement with her perception of conservatives.
As this illustrates, the political discourse in the US has gone from “I’m right, you’re wrong” to “I’m right, you’re evil.”
The author posits that people must completely lack empathy if they disagree with what she believes are the most compassionate policies. The examples she highlighted included increasing the minimum wage to combat poverty, raising taxes to fund quality education, and ensuring all people have access to health care (the article is unclear but suggests government-provided universal health care.)
Anyone who disagrees with these policies must not care about people, poverty, education, and healthcare. Furthermore, she wants nothing to do with you, you uncompassionate, callous, cruel person.
Compassion and Empathy
With empathy we relate to what another person is experiencing. Compassion is understanding another’s pain and desiring to alleviate it. These traits are powerful and motivate us to take action in caring for one another.
And so I consider my own empathy for the writer of this piece. I hear her frustration, her anger. I know she wants to help those in poverty. She truly believes that raising the minimum wage, raising school taxes, and providing universal health care will alleviate the suffering of those around her.
These policies make sense to the author, especially on an emotional level. She feels good about a little extra from her paycheck solving such huge problems. That satisfies her drive to act. With these government-driven, tax-funded initiative, she believes she is showing compassion. And therefore anyone who disagrees must lack compassion and empathy.
This is a simplistic false dichotomy. Ignored is a third option — that someone is caring and loving, but thinks other approaches best help the vulnerable and hurting.
Problems and Solutions
The author and I have many things in common. I believe that no one in this land of plenty should go to bed hungry. I agree that all children should be able to access a quality education. The healthcare system in the US is imperfect and the poor suffer more because of it. We share compassion for the least of these and want to make things better.
There are very real problems in this country. We simply disagree on how to solve them.
I don’t support raising the minimum wage. The author is scandalized that I don’t think “fork[ing] over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac” will solve the issue of poverty.
In fact, research that evaluated the best-designed studies indicated that raising the minimum wage actually hurts the people it is supposed to help. Many lose jobs. Prices go up for basic goods and the higher minimum wage still has limited purchasing power. Because I do care about people in poverty, I cannot advocate for policies which cause more harm than good.
The author and I agree that children in the US should have a quality education that is accessible to all. Where we differ is how to best get to that goal. Most if not all children have access to public education; the problem is the quality of that education.
Raising taxes for schools, as the author suggests, is overly simplistic. I would posit that lack of funding isn’t the problem – the US spends $12,300 per student, which is 29% higher than the average of $9,600 in the industrialized, OECD countries. Perhaps that money needs to be distributed better – more to quality teachers so they stay in teaching rather switch to administration. Meeting the needs of children in attaining a quality education is complex, and our policies need to be more nuanced than simply to spend more money.
Access to quality, affordable health care is important in our country – which is another area the author and I could find common ground. I assume the author has ideas for addressing the health care crisis in the US that are beyond “pay a little more with each paycheck.” Most likely the author of this article and I would disagree on where to start addressing the problems in our health care system, and what the responsibility of the federal government should be. I believe patients should be in charge of their health care decisions, not the government.
The specifics of the above policy proposals? That’s not why I’m writing this. Instead, it shows to illustrate that reasonable people of compassion can see a problem and prefer different solutions to solve those problems.
I disagree with this author’s policy solutions, and therefore she believes I am one of the “hordes of selfish, cruel people.”
Building Bridges and Starting Dialogues
Sadly, this progressive young woman is unwilling to “have those difficult conversations.” She has written off each of us who disagree with her and is convinced we lack compassion and basic human empathy. She has rejected people who have different perspectives. She believes she has all the solutions (oh, I wish she did!)
It is somewhat understandable. She has in effect considered those who disagree on these policies as evil – and how can you dialogue with evil? How can you compromise with evil?
Unfortunately, her mentality is all too common these days.
Laboratory of Democracy
Both the author of this piece and my more progressive friends will probably be surprised to hear me say this — I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think that conservative politicians or think tanks have all the answers.
I advocate for the policies I think are best, and I base that on research, historical patterns, and the actual impact it will have on people. But I’m realistic enough to know that not every policy I support is going to work the way I think it will. I have seen the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in play.
Similarly, some policies which progressives advocate will have greater benefits than I anticipate. This is why I believe that across the political spectrum we need to work together.
One of the strengths of our system is that the federal government doesn’t have to solve all the problems. The federal government doesn’t have to have all the answers. We have the states as the “laboratories of democracy” to test policies on a smaller scale.
Massachusetts had state-wide health care reform which influenced the development of the Affordable Care Act. Seattle has raised the minimum wage to $15. Washington and Oregon were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. What has been the impact of those policies?
As citizens we can watch the experiments in the other “laboratories,” see the results good and bad. Then we can decide how our local and state governments should proceed, based on what works and not just what we feel will work.
Policies that Work
Yes, I’m a conservative. Am I lacking compassion and empathy? Quite the opposite. I care about people for whom these are every day problems. I recognize that they are individuals, and not a monolith. Our country’s problems are complex and require nuanced solutions. I’m stirred with compassion and motivated to help – both directly as well as through governmental policies.
Compassion drives me to continue acting in good faith with all people, even with those who are determined to see the worst in me. I assume progressives really care about issues—even when their solutions are ineffective.
Even when you think I’m evil, I’m willing to work together with you to make our neighborhoods, our country, our world a better place.
Because I care.
It’s hard to express just how exciting it is to see a creative project start as the seed of a “what if?” idea and then grow into an actual physical book. Thinking about how Heir to the Raven began brings back a flood of memories.
I remember when Hubby and the boys first began talking about this story about six years ago. As I remember it, we were living in Kenya and driving to Diani for a beach get away and one of the boys mused that it would be fun if zebras could be saddled and ridden.
We talked about why zebras are biologically not designed to be ridden, and then the conversation meandered into why Africa doesn’t have horses on most of the continent. What would Kenya have looked like if the tse-tse fly didn’t exist? How would the continent of Africa developed differently if horses were part of the cultures?
We all started talking about a savanna setting with horse lords and that evolved into story ideas and we spent almost all of that beach vacation playing with story ideas and plotting what has now become the Breaking of Jandaria series.
One of my most vivid memories of that trip is sitting around the living room of our friend’s beach house with a strategy game in front of us on the coffee table, unplayed. Each of the four boys, Hubby, and I were too excited about the brainstorming we were doing.
While Hubby is the author in the family, the kids and I have all been very involved at each step of the way. They have a five-six book story arc already plotted (though, quite frankly, I can’t remember all of the threads of this epic fantasy!) We’ve sat around the dining room table talking about characterization, world-building, story development.
Heir to the Raven is more than a book to me, it is a snapshot of a season of our life as a family.
To hear more about Hubby’s books, go to jwesleybush.com and sign up for his newsletter.
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