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Monday, March 31, 2008

Start Your Seeds Between the Sheets


If you save your garden seeds from year to year and wait expectantly to see if they'll germinate in their peat pots, there's a way to make the process easier, faster, and less expensive.

Start Seeds Between Sheets of Paper Towels

For the last few years, I've started my questionable (older) seeds between sheets of paper toweling, and then transferred them to starter pots once I was sure they

Pondering Parenting: Avoiding Getting Sucked In

Ever been to Ikea? If you're trying to avoid spending money and prefer to just browse, going into Ikea is like walking into an extra-overloaded minefield with clown shoes on... it's next to impossible not to be stopped from your mission without getting blasted (i.e., it's next to impossible to walk out of Ikea without having purchased something).

In my mind, that's similar to what's happening in our culture... our children are getting blasted from the excesses of our culture- and it's extremely difficult to avoid having them "buy in" to it. They are growing up amidst more overt materialism and rampant immorality (from Enron execs to NY Governors to Colorado mega-church pastors) than any generation in recent memory.

And yet many parents continue to sit back, send their kids through the cultural "machine" and then seem surprised to find themselves with a Matthew-McConaughey-"Failure to Launch"-type-kid -- an over-grown child who doesn't ever grow up and go out into the world to find a wife and a life. These "kidults" or "adultescents" have been talked about many times, both here at Making Home and many other places, before, so I'm not going to go there today.

But I want to "rewind", so to speak, and just consider one thing, asked by a thoughtful mother in Rod Dreher's book, "Crunchy Cons":
"It's hard enough for an adult, mature in faith and with a coherent moral and political philosophy, to withstand the barrage of sexuality and materialism she encounters every day. How can we begin to hope that our children can sift through that on their own and come out unscathed?"
It (sometimes) shocks me to see the way Christian parents buy into this have-it-all, 'have-it-your-way' culture for their children but then expect their children to turn out differently. When I hear (or read) Christian parents say things like, "you can't fight it-- every kid has x, y, and z, so we bought one for Blake too.", or "Every kid these days watches moves like blah-blah-blah; Brenna would feel left out if she didn't get to see it.", I find myself wondering: whatever happened to parents who said things like, "if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?" Where did those parents go? Are we so intimidated by and entrenched in this "Disneyland" of American culture that we feel powerless to stand up against it?

Dreher also quotes E.F. Schumacher who noted, "It takes a good deal of courage to say 'no' to the fashions and fascinations of the age..."

So my question for you (and for me) today is this:
What are you doing in your family life to instill in your child(ren) the courage to say "no" to the fashions and fascinations of this age? And what things are you intentionally not doing in your family life to instill in your child(ren) the courage to say "no"?

Or, in other words, why would your children not get sucked into indulging in materialism and immorality? Why will they be any different?


It's not necessarily about eschewing video games, TV, or personal laptops, cell phones, iPods, and Wii's for every child in the family, although it might include avoiding or limiting some of those things. I'm not aiming to compile a list of rules-- but rather, I'd like to hear from you what your family philosophy is about materialism and the morals presented in American culture. What are some of the (specific or broad) ways that you seek to instill different values in your own children?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Herbal Astringent Skin Treatment With Sage

Sage is a natural antibacterial and makes a good oily skin astringent that helps deep clean and tone.Sage Astringent1 Heaping tablespoon fresh sage chopped fine¼ Cup white vinegar¼ Cup boiling waterSteep fresh sage in boiling water until the liquid cools to room temperature. Strain carefully and add vinegar.Apply to clean skin with a cotton ball twice a day. Pay particular attention to the T-zone

Saturday, March 29, 2008

May Wine, May Punch

In order to make traditional May wine, you need to infuse dry white wine, often Rhine wine, with dried woodruff.Recipe for May Wine with WoodruffAdd a half cup of dried woodruff to a bottle of dry white wine, seal, and store in a dark place (like a cupboard), shaking occasionally, for two weeks to a month.A few hours before serving, strain, add six tablespoons of sugar, shake, and chill.When

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thoughts on Lemon Balm (Melissa)



Flowering lemon balm


Lemon balm is one of my favorite herbs. It has a light, sweet, lemony fragrance that can be used in many ways in your cooking and crafts. It is also easy to grow.


Lemon Balm Potpourri

One of its traditional uses is in potpourri, where it works well with lavender, rosemary, and rose petals. Be sure to use a fixative to prevent the fragrance from dissipating to quickly.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sage Tips and Facts

Sage is a very handy herb. When used as a seasoning for game, it evens out the strong 'wild' flavors. It adds depth to sausage and other fatty meats, and minced fresh, enhances the flavor of creamy cheeses. Sage will usually compliment most foods that contain onion as a major ingredient, and Sage is a good companion for ginger, both in the garden and in cooking.In the medicine cabinet, sage tea

INSIDE LOOK: When Rules Are Equated With Righteousness

My good friend Tamara (who, incidentally, made the most beautiful quilt for my newborn son) has many interesting and unique stories that she could share with us. When I approached her about writing an article to share with Making Home readers, we both felt most interested in having her share about her upbringing in a community that was similar to Mennonites.

I hope her experiences and memories shared here will benefit you as you seek God in your own life, and seek to relay Him to your own children accurately and biblically.

Growing up in a very conservative culture yields a person a unique perspective that is not easily explained to others. This writing, however, is an attempt at doing just that.

When I was little, my parents were a part of a conservative Christian denomination called the Wesleyan Holiness Movement. By the time I was born, my parents, who were once your typical worldly young couple raising typical children in typical American fashion, were firmly entrenched in a denomination that called its members to a strict interpretation of being “in the world but not of it.”

The little church that we attended when I was small was a quaint and serene little building with an unassuming name, set up on a hill, far back from the road, surrounded by trees and flowers that the pastor’s wife had planted. Three times a week, my little buckle shoes padded up the hill to the front doors of the church, my frilly hand-sewn dresses allowed me to slide precariously down the wooden pews, my chubby fingers turned to the appropriate page of the hymnal. There I learned memory verses each week and was rewarded with a sticker in Sunday school before I raced my cousin up the stairs, where we sat with our parents who would tolerate no “foolishness” in church. When I was of school age, I attended a little school sponsored by the same denomination.

But there was much more to our faith and practice than those simple, expected routines of Sunday morning services and Christian education. The Wesleyan Holiness tradition expected much more of their parishioners. A call to come out and be separate was taken to such an extreme that what we often were was a caricature, rather than examples of holiness. Women did not cut, or even trim, their hair. By the time a woman was married, she was expected to only wear her hair pinned up. No jewelry of any kind, including wedding rings. Women wore only dresses, never pants or shorts. Sleeves had to come below the elbow, dresses well below the knee. No one in our church or school owned a television. Family Life Radio, an extremely conservative Christian broadcast, provided our news and entertainment. We did not solicit restaurants that served alcohol. (I remember my mother gasping audibly when our pastor suggested a place for lunch that he did not realize served alcohol.) The list of man-made rules went on and on.

It is probably not hard to imagine what such rules induced. It was easy to tell who was “one of us” and who was not. While the church had a strong sense of community, that quickly carried over into judgment of those who did not fit the mold. This was especially true at our school, where gossip ran rampant. While the ladies there appeared outwardly feminine and passionately pursued their vision of Godliness, they were very quick to slander and judge anyone outside their community. While I look back on my old church with some fond memories, I have no good memories of my experience with the school I attended. As I grew older, I was subjected to more and more outrageous legalism, and I could not find a balance between what I was told was righteous by my authority figures, and what I read in Scripture.

I grew up feeling like a spectacle. One time when I was about 12, a lady in our church said she considered it an honor that people stared and whispered when she walked through the grocery store, because she knew she was being a martyr for Jesus. I wondered then if you could be a martyr for circumstances of your own making. I dreaded going out in public, because I was ashamed. I was ashamed of the attention that we drew in public, and I was ashamed of the bitter and judgmental scowls that my mother cast towards all the “worldly” people we encountered while out. As I became an adult, I have had to fight (sometimes not so successfully) self-consciousness and even reclusiveness.

As I look back on my growing up years in this regard, I would be dishonest if I said nothing good came of my early church experience. Several ladies at my church were great examples of femininity. All of them were homemakers whose homes were inviting and well-kept. The examples of hospitality within our little church were abundant. To this day I remember with fondness the smells of baking and candles that I associate with those ladies’ homes, the different ways each family made popcorn for an after-church fellowship, or the chocolate cake with sprinkles that one family always brought to church pot-lucks.

But there are so many examples of sin and self-righteousness that come from that experience as well. For years I listened to gossip and slander, saw looks of self-righteousness cast about the room, listened to completely unbiblical teaching, and watched as people attempted to prove themselves more holy than others. By God’s grace, I have overcome, or perhaps still am over-coming, the negative impact of it all.

When I was 16 and finally attending a different school, a teacher of mine who by divine Providence was also a Baptist minister, pulled me aside to talk to me. On that day I began to know a truly loving Savior, one who does not look on the outward appearance, but on the heart. I had been pin-balling between losing my faith completely, and wanting so desperately to know the God of Scripture and not the God of man’s design. I don’t know if that pastor knows it or not, but he was instrumental in my walk with Christ and in who I am today.

I struggle now as I write this. I struggle even as I think back to those early days of my Christian upbringing. I want to make sure that I am not disparaging, and yet at the same time I feel that I must be forthright and honest. As I have grown older, the stories have come back to me, of children who grew up there and now have completely abandoned the faith. This has been especially true of members of my own family who are very dear to me. They had nothing to hold them there, no truth that ever resonated with their spirit. They were taught a form of godliness that in the end could not withstand the pressures and temptations of life. Perhaps this is one reason why I am so adamant now that we simply must have Biblically sound teaching, Biblically sound reasons why we do things, else our man-made ship will not withstand the testing storms. We must cast off every sin, not just the sin of pride in our appearance or of not being “of the world,” but the sin of slander and gossip, of self-righteousness and legalism.

Having seen the effects of a more extreme form of putting words in God’s mouth, I often feel like I am constantly sounding an alarm to people who would stray even slightly from His Truth. And perhaps that is why, in His sovereignty, He placed me where He did growing up, and why He put godly wisdom in my path just before I could have easily drifted away. After seeing so many fall away from a faith that could not sustain, I am humbled and grateful each day that my Savior has used even these circumstances to draw me to Himself.


To read more of Tamara's musings and thoughts, you can visit her blog, Of Noble Character. She and her husband (good friends of ours) have four homeschooled and very pleasant & fun children. Native northerners, they wised up ;-) and moved to Texas, which is how we all met and became friends.

Wife, mother, teacher, quilter, reader, wonderful cook, student of the Word, political activist, and more, Tamara's a great "Titus 2" example for us all!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Growing Rosemary


Growing rosemary can be a breeze in warm climates. Since it does well as a houseplant, it can also be grown easily in colder climates if brought indoors in winter. Check out my article on rosemary for more details: Growing Rosemary. There are now also frost tolerant rosemary varieties that are hardy to Zone 5. For some modern, cold hardy cultivars, take a look at my post: Growing Rosemary in

Monday, March 24, 2008

Laying out Your Herb Garden

Preparing the soil and selecting the plants or seeds is only part of the adventure, now comes the layout. Let's recap for a moment.

You have prepared your soil by amending it and working it to a depth of at least six inches. The site you have selected has at least six hours of sunlight each day, and does not sit in a boggy area or in a spot that's riddled with tree roots. Great start!

Now

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Gardening!Garden Gnome©2007

Saturday, March 22, 2008

HAPPY EASTER!!!



Happy Easter to all my friends and family! That's me on the left in the Easter coat that my Grandma made! My sister Annette is next to me and my brother Eric (on the chair) looks like he has other plans than to get his picture taken! Maybe he sees an Easter egg we missed! April 1963~~the good old days! I would turn 4 in June!

Easter blessings,

Shelley

Falling in Love Again...

Here's the first picture of our new son, Silas, just minutes after birth:He was born at 8:36 pm, Thursday night (March 20). Weighing in at 7 pounds, 9 ounces, he arrived three days before his due date on Easter Sunday. Contractions has been on and off for several days, but started coming on stronger around 5:30pm; we went to the hospital at 7pm, and he was born just 90 minutes later, completely naturally (which is what we had been praying for)!

Proud daddy:
Excited brothers Ethan & Baxter:
SO many kisses from big sister Maranatha:

The new family of SIX:
Praise the Lord for Silas' happy & healthy arrival!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter Thoughts

With Easter coming up, I thought I would make some recommendations about how to celebrate this holiday in a way that will help make your family more ecologically aware. Please visit my holiday blog for thoughts on how gardening can educate a new generation about environmental issues: New Ideas for Easter

Be Still My Heart

Hello everyone~~long time, no blog! Wow, what a week I've had! As I said in my previous post, there are a lot of irons in the fire around here what with preparations for the Texas trip and MOST importantly the impending arrival of my new granddaughter. You know, I realize now that I never appreciated the feelings that an event like this can inspire. I must say that my heart is overflowing and I have fallen madly deeply in love with an 8lb 2oz little darling who arrived at 9:23am Saturday March 15th. Her name is Auriana Tessa Turner and she is beautiful! Allow me to share with you her picture at just one day old. And check out that head of hair! Suri Cruise has nothing on this girl!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Soil Considerations for Your Herb Garden

Although herbs can tolerate poor soil, the addition of organic material and good drainage are important for the growth of healthy plants. Stressed plants are more susceptible to disease and insect attack. The preparation of good soil will go a long way toward guaranteeing a healthy herb patch.Good garden soil contains at least 25% humus. Humus is organic material that can be compost, manure (use

Herb Locations

Like real estate, important considerations for plants are: location, location, location. Areas that are exposed to high winds, brutal heat, constant heavy shade, abundant shallow tree roots, and standing water are not good choices for most plants, and certainly not for herbs. If you have problem spots that need planting solutions, there are specialty selections that will help you deal with these

Thoughts on Being Wife & Mother: A Letter to My Daughter

While I'm sharing about childbirth and labor experiences, I thought I'd share a letter about these things that I recently wrote to my daughter, in her celebration book. (I don't really keep a "baby book", per se, for her. I started a memory book for her to record her major "firsts" and anything I or others want to share with her for her to read as she grows to be a young woman.) So here's the letter I wrote a couple weeks ago, as I began to prepare for the end of this pregnancy:

*******
Being a wife and mommy, Maranatha-- there is NOTHING like it!

I'm no expert. I've been a wife for almost 8 years and a mom for almost 6-- but I'm telling you- WHAT an adventure! This silly "modern" world will tell you that 'you can do anything a man can do'-- and to some degree, they've made it so that that's true (although men still have the corner on being daddies!). :-) But here's what they don't tell you: you can do some things, Maranatha, that NO man can do.

If God allows it, you can carry a baby inside your very own skin- feeling his or her little feet and fists and knees draw circles on the inside of your belly. You can lay in bed and marvel at this precious child inside of you in a way that no man will ever know. You can nurse a little one-- and know the joy of being used by God to nurture and sustain the life of a darling little human, created by God in His image.

Oh, and Maranatha-- there are so many things God teaches us through these roles of wife and mother.
  1. These roles connect us to God. *When you've literally given up your name and identity to submit and be a helper for the husband God gives you, what a picture that is of how we should be all the more submissive to and identified with Christ! *When you've poured out every drop of energy, sleep, breastmilk, love and attention that you possess for a little person who (at 3-4 weeks old) still doesn't even smile at you-- you have a sense of how much God gives us, though we do absolutely nothing for Him. *When your child is sick or in danger, you begin to comprehend how DEEPLY God loves us. *When you have a second child, you begin to understand how God can love each of us SO intensely, though we are all so different from one another.
  2. These roles connect us to Jesus' birth and life. *How sweet it is to have a baby growing inside of you and reflect on what Mary must have felt and dreamed for the baby Jesus in her womb. *How amazing to consider that this young Hebrew girl didn't have babycenter.com or "What to Expect When You're Expecting" or parenting classes at the hospital-- and yet, God gave her a cousin to assist through the labor & delivery of John the Baptist, so that she (a virgin) might be ready for this pain and work of bringing a baby into the world. *How sweet to nurse my babies, inspecting each hair swirl and toe and gazing into their eyes, and try to identify what Mary must've felt as she did these same things, knowing that THOSE hair swirls, toes, and eyes were formed, NOT by two humans' intercourse, but by GOD! * And I don't yet have a 33-year-old son, but I imagine I will one day be able to reflect all the more on Christ's death by considering Mary's anguish as a mother at the cross.
  3. These roles connect us to the Word of God. As a wife and mother, we are so connected to these stories of the women of the Bible, and can far better understand so much of the Word of God as we grow as women. *Hannah's longing for a child, *Sarai's quickness to "fix" the problem of not having a son, followed by her rage and jealousy towards Hagar, *Hagar's sorrow for Ishmael, when she thought they would die in the desert, *Rebekah's nature of trickery and manipulation on behalf of her son-- (your love for your children -if you don't submit that to God- can cause sin in your life!), *Rachel's intense jealousy and hatred of her own sister, all over children and jealousy (you'll see when you get to be a mommy one day-- comparisons KILL!), *Song of Solomon--what a wonder it is to love a husband and be able to draw insight from the Word about human and divine love, *Verses that compare God to a mother caring for children or nursing her baby.
Precious one, there is so much this world wants to 'teach' you, and there will be so many things that will vie for your heart and mind-- but I would urge you with all of my heart and mind to seek out the ways of God instead.

Instead of trying to be like a man, be the whole and complete woman that GOD MADE YOU to be! And Maranatha, that may or may not include being a wife. It may or may not include having biological children. It may or may not include breastfeeding. These things are all precious gifts from God, and they are indeed what women are designed for.

But, baby girl, whatever God crafts you for-- do it with ALL your heart and ALL YOUR MIGHT-- as a woman who longs to better know and please God through your experiences in this sinful (but still beautifully created) world.

Don't buy the lies that your worth is found in "breaking down barriers" of gender. Trust the way God designed you and let HIM direct your path. Oh how I love you, precious one. I can't wait to see what God will do with you in your life.

All My Love,
Mommy

p.s.- There are many woman who have been faithful in their service for Jesus Christ who have not known what it is to be a wife and/or mother. And yet they were and are gloriously designed by God and used for HIS purposes. It is not these roles which I seek to praise-- but GOD! His designs and purposes for us are perfect-- whatever they do or don't include. I praise Him for His design of women- married and single alike. He has wonderfully made us!

But I share all of this as a caution for you-- don't listen to the world and its goals for your life. Seek God and HE WILL make your path straight, darling girl. He is faithful; the world is fickle. TRUST HIM!
*******

And I pray God's blessings will rest on you, as a woman, wherever God has you on this path of womanhood. His plans for us are amazing and we will do well to trust HIM no matter where it leads.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Garden Gnome© 2007

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Birthing Children, Part Two

This is the second of our "birth" stories... click here to read the first.

ANOTHER BOY ON THE WAY
Though we didn't find out our first son's gender before he was born, we opted to find out the gender of our second baby. We were so excited when we learned that we would have another son. I know many people desire "a girl for me a boy for you and praise the Lord we're finally through"... but we have always wanted more than the average number of children (even from our early days in dating, this was something that confirmed our "rightness" for each other). So having our first two children be little boys that would grow up as buddies so close in age to each other, and who could grow to be young men who will challenge each other in their walks with the Lord-- this was a wonderful thing from our perspective.

"ALL-NATURAL" VS. PRACTICAL DESIRES
After the intensity of the experience of our first son's birth, you can imagine how wary I was to be adamant about waiting for our second son to come on his own... that decision had come back to bite me!

As we discussed our concerns with my doctor (physical, financial, and emotional), he suggested that as long as everything seemed normal and healthy, we could induce a week early in order to avoid the possibility of re-living anything similar to our first birthing experience. We still prayed and asked others to pray for a natural experience, and I believe God answered that prayer-- just not by bringing him on his own. (Heck, I even tried giving a little "help"-- I took castor oil in large doses two different times in the week leading up to the induction date... still, nothing happened except having to go to the bathroom a lot!)

AND SO IT BEGINS
We scheduled an induction (one week before his due date), and I went into the hospital in the morning, and they started the IV drip of pitocin (a medicine that causes contractions) at about 8:30/9am. Contractions began immediately and my body responded well to the medicine. Though my cervix tends to dilate E-X-T-R-E-M-E-L-Y slowly, things were progressing, and by noon, things were advancing quite well.

It was such a different experience from our first... peaceful and quiet, with a young and sweet nurse who made us laugh when she did have to come in, and generally left us alone when it wasn't necessary that she be there. I was able to breathe through contractions and talk with friends and family in between... it was such an enjoyable labor.

Around 3, things were getting intense and I knew it was almost time to push. See, this time, I didn't get an epidural, and I actually *knew* what my body was needing to do. What a difference it made to be able to work with my body rather than feeling like it was the enemy! (And for the record, I'm not saying epidurals are wrong or bad-- they're just definitely not good for me.)

When they checked my cervix for dilation, they found that I had very quickly jumped from a six/seven to a NINE (ten is when you can push)... so suddenly, the scurrying began- getting the tables set up, running to call the doctor, etc. Very quickly (within one contraction, I think), I knew it was time to push. I told Doug, "Tell them I'm pushing-- I can't help it" (hey- your body really DOES know what to do when it's time). Of course, the nurses came in and told me not to push, but --seriously, come on!--what's a girl to do? I kept right on pushing. The doctor sprinted in the room JUST in time to catch his head, and to me, once the head's out, the rest is a breeze. He was born a little after 4pm. He was given to me, and I was able to hold him for a while and just look at him. We were able to nurse right away, and my small tear required minimal stitches.

After nursing, Doug went with him to the nursery and I was able to get down off of the bed, and walk to my room, stopping at the nursery to watch as they weighed and measured him (he weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces... nearly two pounds lighter than our first).

ABSOLUTELY NO COMPARISON

It's funny-- with as adamant as I was with our first to do everything "natural", here's how it came out:
  • required pitocin anyway
  • got an epidural (TWO, actually)
  • I was in a mental fog and physically in a wheelchair for the first 12 hours, too weak from the entire experience to be otherwise.
  • Doug didn't get to hold him for 3 days (I held him only for 15 seconds right after birth)
  • didn't get to nurse him for 4 days
  • in the NICU with medicine and wires galore for 7 days because of infection
And with our second, though I was "scheduled" for his birth, the only real "unnatural" thing was the use of pitocin.
  • No epidural (I did get a dose of stadol, a pain reliever, the last 30 minutes of labor)
  • held him and nursed immediately after delivery
  • I walked into the nursery and back to my hospital room on my own
  • no meds, no interference for him, etc.
After what had been a horribly emotional and trying first birthing experience, this one was completely a blessing... I felt so free and blessed to be able to hold him all the time, to be able to snuggle in the middle of the night in our hospital bed, to be able to check out every little amazing part of his body and stare at his feet, his hands, and his perfect little face.

Though it wasn't technically a fully "natural" experience, it sure FELT like it! And I am still so grateful to God for giving me that contrast and teaching me how different each labor/delivery experience can be. And I'm so thankful for this funny and sweet little man that God has put in our family-- he makes us all laugh and has such a precious personality. He'll be four this summer, and is a delightful son to us and brother to his siblings.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Birthing Children, Part One

Well, here it is... the first of three "about my labors" posts I've been hinting at.

Starting out as a young pregnant woman, I was pretty intense about wanting to have all-natural deliveries. No induction, no epidural, no episiotomy, no c-section, nurse right after delivery, etc. ;-) Perhaps you can already see where this is going. Best laid plans and all that...

BIRTH #1
A little less than 6 years ago, my co-worker had the (audacity?) brutal honesty to tell me I looked as big as a house. And, to be honest, I really did (still, it was rude of him to tell me that, don't ya think?).

We were so broke back then that I had, in my largest stage of pregnancy, run into a Ross discount store and hoped for a good deal on something that would be appropriate to wear to the office. (I had only worn suits prior to being pregnant.) What did I find but a big, purple, big-flower-printed dress? For a ridiculously low price. And nothing else that even came CLOSE to fitting or being appropriate for office-wear in June in Washington, D.C. So, we got the purple dress. I felt like Barney. I hated that dress. Anyway, I really was big. And so was the baby I was carrying, and though I didn't know it at the time, he wouldn't be coming out until I was even bigger.

Back to the labor story. I, being the natural-focused momma that I was, tried everything from driving bumpy roads, to walking like a maniac at all hours of night, to eating strange foods, to "doing what we had done to get him in there, to get him out." ;) Still, 10 days post-due-date, no baby.

So. I was scheduled to be induced the next day, when my water broke at a little after midnight. I called the hospital, and they said that I didn't need to come in until my contractions got bad or 8am, whichever came first. At 6:30, being the eager young mom, after not sleeping hardly at all, we drove to the hospital with virtually no contractions.

Mrs. All-Natural's compromise #1:

Well, by 1 o'clock in the afternoon, I still wasn't having any contractions. This is problematic, of course, because infection could begin to set in if you don't have a baby within 24 hours of your water breaking. So, I said, "OK, give me the pitocin. But only on the lowest setting."

Mrs. All-Natural's compromise #2:
Around 5pm or so, I asked my husband to ask for the anesthesiologist, that it was time for an epidural. He did all that I'd asked-- asking me if I was sure, trying to give me back rubs, etc., but in the end, I ended up with that huge needle in my back and spent the rest of the evening sleeping between contractions that seemed to be progressing far too slowly.

By 12:30 AM, I was finally dilated to a ten, but I couldn't. feel. anything. Dad-blasted epidural. They kept telling me to lift my torso up off the bed so they could do that fancy mechanically-miraculous change from the normal hospital bed to the delivery bed with those terrible foot stirrups. And I was trying, by golly. But I apparently wasn't even up an inch off of the bed. Did I mention that getting an epidural was a terrible decision? Somehow, between me, Doug, and the nurse, we lifted me up enough for them to do the bed transformation.

A little after 1 AM, he arrived.

First surprise: it's a HE! We have a son!!! :-) (We had opted not to find out his gender, which made for a fun post-delivery surprise.)

Second surprise: he didn't start crying. They're suctioning and whispering. Something's wrong. He aspirated (breathed in) meconium (the first bowel movement, which was passed while in utero rather than once he was out of the womb). After more than a minute, he started crying-- phew. I got to hold him for something like 15 seconds before they whisked him away, giving me a whole extra dose of the epidural because apparently I'm bleeding and passing too many clots, and suddenly I'm alone, confused, in and out of consciousness, with the doctor stitching me up for what seemed like hours, because I'd had a serious tear.

Hours later, around 4 or 5AM, I finally woke up (they really must've knocked me out) to learn that my son (who weighed a hefty 9 pounds, 2 ounces by the way) is in the NICU (newborn ICU), has all kinds of tubes coming out of his face, and oh yeah, "he could die" from this. Way to break it to me, Nurse Ratched. I know, medical lawsuits and all that, but seriously-- have you ever heard of a bedside manner?!

The emotional fog and pressure in those hours were (still to this day) the worst I've ever experienced.

In an effort to DO something, I start pumping milk, in hopes that I could still go on to breastfeed, but goodness-- it's been HOURS since the delivery-- is it even going to be possible to nurse him?, I wonder. I learn that they will go ahead and feed him whatever I can produce, but that if I can't produce a certain amount, they will begin formula feeding him after x amount of ounces. Have I told you how much I was determined to do everything all-natural?

RECOVERING
As the fog lifted, and I began pumping, it seemed that the NICU nurses thought *they* were his mother. It was all I could do to make them allow me to be the one to feed him my breastmilk in a bottle, through the little arm holes in the side of the bassinette he had to stay in (with oxygen-regulated air). It was all I could do to convince the doctors not to supplement with formula in the three days following his birth. It was all I could do to talk them into letting him nurse once he came out from the bassinette and could breathe natural air. I lamented to Doug many times in those early days that I feared he would be more bonded to the "stupid nurses" (sorry if you're a nurse, that's just how I felt in those highly emotional days) than he would be to me.

Now, that seems silly to me, but at that time, it seemed like such a legitimate concern.

Thankfully, the hospital had one room that was available for families to stay in, free of charge, if they had a baby in the NICU, and thankfully, for the seven days he was in the NICU, no one else requested the room, so we were able to stay for the duration of his stay. I lived and slept across the hall from him, nursing him round the clock on their schedule (as a sidenote, I'm generally a routine-feeding mom... but it's funny how anti-scheduling many mommies on the internet tend to be, and yet these NICU nurses were WAY rigid about feedings... more than I ever would have been at home).

Anyway, I had to wake up every 3 hours on the dot and feed him, or else they were going to immediately give him formula. I knew if there was any way my milk supply would ever match his needs, supplementation at this stage in the game was not an option. So though I am an *EXTREMELY* heavy sleeper, I managed to wake up every 3 hours so that they wouldn't give him formula. (And sometimes, I would walk in just in the nick of time to keep the snippety nurse from thrusting a bottle of formula into his mouth... they were serious about the every-3-h0urs thing.)

I should say, however, that I'm so thankful for one amazingly wonderful nurse, Dorothy, who never made me feel threatened. All the rest of them tended to be snide towards me and resented that I had to do things differently (by not just letting them use their formula and get on with feedings), but this one nurse was just so gentle and encouraging. She praised me as a mother, encouraged me in nursing him, and was such a breath of fresh air. I'm still SO grateful for that precious older woman and her gentle ways of dealing with me at the most difficult emotional time of my life.

THE END RESULT
We suffered through that week with the (mostly) rigid nurses, the harsh doctors, and -far more sadly- not getting to hold our son until the third day, and not getting to nurse him until the fourth day. And we made it. We went home with him, fully released in good health on the seventh day, and I went on to nurse him for over a year. And now, he's in Kindergarten, he's almost 6, and he is such a joy to us!

It all seems like a story from long-ago, but I can still feel every emotion when I stop to put myself back in that place and time. So that, friends, was my first labor & delivery experience, and it definitely affected how my next two would go. I'll share more about those next time.


(Because this is such a long story, I'm separating it from the other two stories, but the other two aren't near as eventful or lengthy as this one... so, if you made it this far, I'm amazed... and I can just promise that the other two stories won't be near as long.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Plant Terms Defined

Before we start discussing plans for an herb garden, let's define some terms. Herbs and vegetables fall into three broad growing categories that will help you understand what type of future you can expect from them.Annual Herbs DefinedPlants that complete their life cycle in a single season are said to be annual. That season often starts in the spring and ends with the first frost, but with a

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Finished With Time to Spare...

I just finished Silas' baby blanket a few nights ago and wanted to share pictures with you all! :) It's crocheted, and I took a picture with my foot at the very end so you could get an idea of the relative size. It's the longest baby blanket I've made, but I'm pleased with how it turned out... and I kind of like the idea that he'll still be able to wrap up in it when he's 10 years old if he wants to.

Here's a close-up of the detail work (a dark blue "post" stitch") and the border:
He's due in 10 days, on Easter Sunday, so I'm glad to have finished it. I've made a blanket for each child, and (heck, why don't I just post a picture of all of those too?)... I don't think I've ever shared my crocheting with you guys, so why not take this opportunity? They've been lovingly used so they're not as in pristine condition as Silas' currently is. But here are pictures nonetheless.

This was my first blanket to make- for our oldest-- Ethan:

I took the quilt-ish crocheted squares idea from a Martha Stewart Baby magazine... and adapted the colors for my gender-neutral needs (we didn't find out gender with our first pregnancy). Here's the detail for that one:

Here's Baxter's blanket... we DID find out we were having a boy our 2nd go-round, so I chose fun, bright colors and just made his blanket from an idea in my head. It's no longer "blocked" (even on all sides), but that's all right-- it is well-loved. :)

And the detail for his:

When I found out our third child was going to be a girl, I went off the girly deep end. I was so ready for a break from navy, denim, bugs, and dinosaurs. I went shopping and bought dresses and sweet things galore. She also got a totally girly, totally frilly blanket, and for the record-- she totally loves it. She wraps herself up in it at night, uses it like a queen's cape, and it really suits her. Here's Maranatha's fru-fru pink blanket:

Here's the detail. Hers is the only blanket that I have used varying styles of yarns for, and it works in this case. It was worth it for her, but I'm not sure I'd attempt it again.

I was having contractions last night, but they went away after about an hour... bummer. :-( I'm hoping to still get around to a "how all my different labors have gone" post... we'll just see. I'd actually be quite pleased if he decided to arrive and didn't give me time to do such a post. But now, regardless of when he comes, he'll have a blanket from mommy to be bundled in. Hooray!

Living Like a Traveller

I've been reading this book called "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment", written in 1648, by a man named Jeremiah Burroughs. Aside from the Bible, I'm not sure I've ever read (I mean actually reading, word for word, in entirety) a book this old. Anyway, I have been having to plug along a couple pages at a time because it's so utterly meaty and full of wisdom and insight that to read any more would cause brain overload for me (And, for the record, I'm OK with that... I don't want to act like a brainiac when I know that I personally would miss major points if I tried to breeze through a book like this!).

I came across this passage (p.94-95), and just had to share it with you. I hope it does for you what it did for me: made me think and really challenged me about how I view this world and my time in it.
While I live in the world my condition is to be but a pilgrim, a stranger, a traveller, and a soldier. Now rightly to understand this, not only being taught it by rote, so that I can speak the words over, but when my soul is possessed with the consideration of this truth, that God has set me in this world, not as in my home but as a mere stranger and a pilgrim who is travelling to another home, and that I am here a soldier in my warfare, I say, a right understanding of this is a mighty help to contentment.

For instance, when a man is at home, if things are not according to his desire he will find fault and is not content; but if a man travels, perhaps he does not meet with conveniences as he desires-- his diet is not as at home, and his bed is not as at home-- yet this thought may moderate his spirit: I am a traveller. ...If a man meets with bad weather, he must be content; it is traveller's fare, we say. ...When you are at sea, though you have not as many things as you have at home, you are not troubled at it; you are contented. Why? Because you are at sea. You are not troubled when storms arise, and though many things are otherwise than you would have them at home you are still quieted with the fact that you are at sea.

...
Thus it should be with us in this world, for the truth is, we are all in this world but as seafaring men, tossed up and down on the waves of the sea of this world, and our haven is Heaven; here we are travelling, and our home is a distant home in another world. ...Though we meet with travellers' fare sometimes, yet it should not be grievous to us. The Scripture tells us plainly that we must behave ourselves here as pilgrims and strangers: 'Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul' (1 Peter 2:11). Consider what your condition is, you are pilgrims and strangers; so do not think to satisfy yourselves here. .

..So let us not be troubled when we see that other men have great wealth and we have not. -- Why? We are going away to another country; you are, as it were, only lodging here for a night. If you were to live a hundred years, in comparison to eternity it is not as much as a night, it is as though you were travelling, and had come to an inn. And what madness is it for a man to be discontented because he has not got what he sees there, seeing he may be going away again within less than a quarter of an hour?

Wow. So this stop here (wherever "here" is for you) is barely a blip on the screen. It can all seem so monumental, but I think Burroughs is highlighting a very important part of contentment: that we put our present concerns in light of the length and importance of eternity.

It definitely helps me (in terms of contentment) to think of myself as a traveller-- what say you?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Garden Visitor

BuggsMarch 10, 2008Mr Buggs is a rather persistent visitor to my new gardens and visited often last year. He tucks up under the bushes and the lilac tree to watch what is going on in the house. I can tell he is already smacking his lips in anticipation while watching me pour through the seed catalogues. Last year's visits were not so much of a problem as we moved too late for a vegetable

Monday, March 10, 2008

What's the Difference Between an Herb and a Vegetable?

Herbs differ from vegetables in that they are primarily used as an accompaniment and not served alone. Vegetables can be eaten alone, cooked or raw. Many herbs can be raised with vegetables, and they can make good pairings to promote a pest free growing environment. Herbs are commonly resistant to pests because they have strong flavors and aromas that many pests avoid.Because they are hardy and

What's the Difference Between Herbs and Spices?

There is some overlap, but the basic difference between an herb and a spice is that spices are considered tropical or semi-tropical in origin. They can be composed of leaves, bark, roots, dried fruits, seeds, or nuts. Almost all spices are imported, and can come from vines, shrubs, or trees.

ADVICE & ANSWERS: Time Management with Little Ones

Shannon sent this question in for your consideration and advice almost 3 months ago (yes, I'm just now getting to it...sorry, Shannon!):
I need some advice on time management with my toddler and almost one year old daughters. I too often set the girls in front of the T.V. so that I can get my chores or other projects done. My two and a half year old is very dependent and does not like to do activities on her own. I have tried to give her little craft projects (painting, coloring, gluing, etc.) and sometimes I will sit and help her, but other times I need to get to some chores or unfinished projects. She usually gets frustrated with the activity after only a few minutes unless I am helping her. And then I do not have enogh time to finish the things I need to get done! The only activity that entertains her long enough is T.V. or a movie. She can sit and watch for hours if I let her. I have been trying to limit her time to one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon and I still feel like this is too much time in front of the television. So how do you do it? How do your readers do it? How can I manage my toddler's time so that she can stay entertained (while learning) long enough for me to get my chores or projects finished?

I want to teach her and use every opportunity to do so. I have tried to include her in my chores, giving her little tasks to do, but sometimes she gets bored and just asks to watch T.V. I usually give in because then I can finish up whatever I need to do. What do you/your readers think? Is two hours of T.V. too much for a two and a half year old? Also, what are some things that can keep an 11 month old (note from Jess: now 14 month old) entertained and help her development?

So what wisdom and tips do you guys have to share with Shannon?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Secret to Happiness (Re-Print)

[Note from Jess: I am reprinting this post, from April 2007, as it's something I needed to re-read and take to heart. I hope it will be a blessing to you as well.]


"Nothing betrays our deepest theories more eloquently than our practice.
"
-R.C. Sproul,
Knowing Scripture

There are many Christians who make comments like, "I don't need to know doctrine, I just want to know the practical stuff." The problem with this is that when we don't have a solid foundation, the walls we build aren't sturdy. These "practical" walls are walls that buckle when the winds of opinion shift. When someone else comes along selling a different version of common sense, built not on the Word of God, but on men's opinions, we'll fall for that, because we don't know our faith well enough to tell what's from God and what's not.

This kind of Christian inwardly groans when challenged to begin diligent, intentional study of the Word of God. Sproul called this person a sensuous Christian,
"one who lives by his feelings rather than through his understanding of the Word of God. [This Christian] cannot be moved to service, prayer, or study unless he 'feels like it.' His Christian life is only as effective as the intensity of present feelings. ... He constantly seeks new and fresh spiritual experiences and uses them to determine the Word of God. His 'inner feelings' become the ultimate test of truth."
While Christianity is not merely an intellectual and thinking faith, it is that. We are not meant to enter into faith solely through emotions and strong feeling. We are to approach faith in Christ with our hearts AND brains fully engaged. Sproul puts it this way:
"The Christian life is not to be a life of bare conjecture or cold rationalism; it is to be a life of vibrant passion. Strong feelings of joy, love, and exaltation are called for again and again. But those passionate feelings are a response to what we understand with our minds to be true."
THE "SECRET"
Recently, Oprah and others have lauded a book called "The Secret," which is really no more than an overhaul of age-old New Age and Pagan beliefs. But the Bible identifies something other than following human feelings as the key for happiness. {Edited to add: Check out this clip of Oprah sharing her beliefs about Jesus.}

Sadly, among Christians, and even pastors, we will find advice dispensed that is people-pleasing, but entirely contrary to the Word of God... "Yes, Mrs. Jones, go ahead and divorce your husband despite the fact that you are without biblical warrant, for I am sure you will never find happiness married to a man like that."
"If there is a secret, a carefully guarded secret, to human happiness, it is that one expressed in a seventeenth-century catechism that says, 'Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' The secret to happiness is found in obedience to God. ...How can we be obedient if we do not know what it is we are to obey? Thus, the top and the tail of it is that happiness cannot be fully discovered as long as we remain ignorant of God's Word."
Our happiness rests on our knowledge of and obedience to the Word of God. The more we stray from it, the more our lives will be in disarray; and the more we cling to it, the more our lives, even if full of challenge and suffering, will be characterized by a contented happiness that only God can give.

Most Holy God, give us a desire for your Word. Help us to make it a priority today and every day. Let us hear it and learn it ourselves so that we can teach our children and encourage others with it. Give us a passion to know and obey Your Word.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Over~Achievers Anonymous

As if it isn't enough that I am spending every spare moment getting ready for Marburger in April, I finally persuaded (okay I begged) Mr. Sweet Pea to take on a project at home that is long overdue. When we bought our house in 1995, all the ceilings had the dreaded popcorn on them. The living room actually had~~get ready~~glitter mixed into the popcorn! All together now~~Eeewwwwww!!!! A nod to the disco era of the 70's when the house was built no doubt, but nonetheless it all had to go! So over the years we have scraped it off all the ceilings except the master bedroom. We had done other renovations to the room, but for some reason we just never got to that and the room really needed a fresh paint job too. So, in addition to running the shop,getting stuff together for Marburger, and a turn and burn to Vienna Ga. last Sunday to get MORE stuff for Marburger we took on the bedroom project. Am I crazy you ask? Well, in a word~~slightly!

Okay here's the deal. Have any of you ever just wanted to get rid of everything and start over decorating your home? Or at the least just edit a significant amount of stuff and lighten up? Well that's how I've been feeling lately, and it occurred to me this morning as I was putting some of the furniture back what is going on. You see, in about a week I am becoming a first~time Grandma! Thought I would make it to 50 before that happened but didn't. Anyway, I digress. I have realized that I am actually NESTING!!!! Anyone out there have this experience? I am making the house just so for these new little babies about to come into my life. What? Babies? Yes, I said babies~~plural. You see, I am being blessed twice~~a granddaughter next week and then in May we are getting a grandson! Apparently there is something in the water at my house!

And so, the nesting continues... I am in the home stretch and will post some pics of the finished room in my next post. Here's a hint~it's kinda Ralph Lauren. Chocolate brown walls and lots of white with hints of blue. But for now, I promised new shop pics in my last post so without further hesitation here they are. Until next time, stay creative!

Shelley










Wednesday, March 5, 2008

ADVICE & ANSWERS: Sexual Problems in Marriage

Has your marriage survived or worked through significant sexual problems? If so, please ponder these questions that were left in the comments of the recent "Being Sexy For Your Husband" series and consider leaving your thoughts for some commenters in need of wisdom and encouragement.

Specifically, there are three that have been left in the last couple of days, and I'd be grateful for your biblical, loving responses to them. Here are snippets from each:

#1- THE PROBLEM OF PORN:
On Part FOUR, anonymous left this comment on March 1, 2008 at 8:16AM:
"In recent months, my husband has expressed that he's bored in bed and joked about his desire in watching me and another girl. I clearly said "no" and explained why such practices go against our spiritual beliefs and wellbeing. ...But then today, I found a few links to videos of lesbi@n porn [on our computer]. Now I'm concerned that he's turning to porn for sexual satisfaction. First of all, how should I approach him about this issue and what should I do about it?" CLICK HERE to read the entire comment.

#2- THE PURPOSE & NATURE OF SEX:
On PART FIVE, anonymous left this comment on March 4, 2008 at 6:25AM:
"I refuse to believe that sex is a pure act in a fallen world. ...Even in a marriage, sex is a "necessary evil" because there is no other way to propogate the species. The fact that some people "burn" is just another indication that it is sin and God has provided an outlet, almost as a concession that it's better to use a spouse to "get off" than to engage in more egregious sexual sins. All I know is that sex has always left me feeling used and dirty. ...Woman are nothing more than a creation for man. How could a holy, loving God do that?" CLICK HERE to read the entire comment.

#3- LACK OF DESIRE ON THE PART OF A HUSBAND:

On PART FIVE, on March 5, 2008 at 3:39PM:
"Hi there. I have read through your posts because sexual problems have been a continual problem since I got married 7 years ago. ...My husband is totally not what this world portrays a man to be aka 'tiger'! ...He has never once initiated sex and now we have not been'one' for months. I find it very depressing. ...The problem is that we have talked about it over and over again............and then nothing. ...I don't even want to have the 'but it's so important to our marriage and me' conversation as I feel like a record going round and round and nobody is listening. Sigh." CLICK HERE to read the entire comment.

I'd ask you to prayerfully consider if you might have some specific insight or information to share with any of these women, and if so, please leave your thoughts for them as they weigh these serious heart issues. You may choose to leave your comments here on this post, but please identify whether you are referring to #1 (The problem of porn), #2 (The purpose of sex), or #3 (Lack of husband's desire).

I debated with myself about how to handle these, and decided that since they were left recently and many of you may not be back to check the comments on those threads, AND since they are all left anonymously and thus will not be putting anyone "on the spot", that I'd bring them to your attention here, and ask for your input.

Thanks for considering these difficult but real-life problems in this area of biblical sexuality in marriage.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Growing and Harvesting Ginger





Ginger (Zingiber officinale) grows from a spreading, tuberous rhizome. It does well in moist fertile soil in warm winter areas. If you've seen ginger in the grocery store, the root looks like a flattened, beige, segmented bulb. The foliage is tall and dark green in color, springing from upright, rigid stems. Even in areas that experience a hard frost, ginger can be grown in large pots and

Heads Up

For those of you who are interested, Amy (of Amy's Humble Musings) has just put up an interesting post called Thoughts on Contraception and the Quiverfull Movement. It's an interesting discussion, so you may want to hop over and check it out.

Other stuff you might find interesting (all about babies):

Monday, March 3, 2008

Starting Garlic From Cloves

You can start garlic from the bulbs you buy at your local grocery store. This is true of regular and elephant garlic. Here's how.

Starting Garlic from Cloves

Separate the cloves and let them dry on your counter for a few days, but don't peel the paper off. Prepare potting soil to which you have added sand or another loosening agent. If you are planting garlic directly into the garden and have

Quick Query #25: What Did Your Parents Do RIGHT?

As human beings, it's part of our nature (I think) to examine what our parents did & didn't do, and (because they, too, are human beings) come up with things that we didn't like so much about our upbringing. I'm sure we could each name something.

Today, though, I just wanted to share with you one thing that my parents did RIGHT, and invite you to do the same. I should say up front that my parents did lots of things well, the most important of which was introducing me to Jesus Christ and teaching me to love and serve Him.

But here's my answer that I was thinking about today (which is why I'm asking the question):

Growing up, my parents instilled in me a firm belief that I could do anything I wanted to if I worked hard enough and put my mind to it. This wasn't in a feminist, "you can be just like a man" sort of way-- but it applied to everything; I really believed that whether in school or with friends or athletics or life goals, if I wanted to accomplish something and worked hard, I could do it.

When I wanted to go to Russia when I was 13, they helped me raise money to go. When I wanted to play junior varsity tennis (despite not being a very athletic teen), they bought me a new racket (with purple strings) for Christmas and encouraged me, and I really enjoyed playing and did well at many tournaments for a year or two. When I switched college majors multiple times (from vocal performance to english to political science), I don't remember ever hearing a, "Give it a rest, Jessica". They cheered me on and let me try things, and (even if I didn't "win" or wasn't "#1") I never felt like I would fail if I gave something a good, honest try .

What this has meant in my life is that when I decided that I wanted to start learning how to be a better cook, my cooking skills rapidly increased. I had confidence that recipes and culinary experiments would turn out all right, and they did and generally do. When I wanted to learn more about crocheting so I could make more interesting projects, I bought a book and dove in-- and now each of my kids has a very unique blanket (I'll post pics of Silas' blanket once I finish!). When I want to learn about something, I know I can set my mind to it and get a good grasp on a subject within a reasonable amount of time. When I've had languages to learn because we've lived overseas, I've not hit a "I can't do this" wall. These are some of the practical, everyday ways that my parents' love and support has affected me. I'm so thankful that they "believed in me" and taught me to work hard to learn about the things that are important to me.

So, today's "quick query" is this:

What's something YOUR parents did right? And how does it affect you in your life today?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Being "Sexy" For Your Husband? (part five)

This is the last in a 5-part series examining if and how Christian wives should be "sexy" towards their husbands. Click below to read previous installments:

PART ONE: Should a Christian wife be enticing or seductive towards her own husband?
PART TWO: Where does the standard of "sexiness" come from?
PART THREE: What is definitely off-limits for Christian marriages?
PART FOUR: Should there be a difference in our attitudes, countenance, and the way we carry our body in public and in private?


In this final post, I want to examine the question: How important is this in a Christian marriage?

While the actual specific degree of importance of intimacy may vary from one marriage to another (at various ages, stages of life, and with different levels of desire), across the board, we can broadly answer, "extremely important".

* BIBLICALLY, marital sexual intimacy is deemed important.
The fact that physical oneness was given by God as one of the original purposes of marriage, and the fact that the Apostle Paul (a single man who generally took a high view of celibacy and singleness) wrote about the importance of regular physical intimacy between marriage partners, as well as the fact that one entire book of the Bible speaks about the love relationship between a man and his wife, tell us that this is indeed an important part of the marriage relationship.

* CULTURALLY, marital sexual intimacy is clearly important.
Our own culture and its struggles with sexual sin speak to the importance of this relationship. (Frankly, having lived in or visited many different cultures around the world, I have personally seen that this is a universal HUMAN problem.) Yes, sexual sin can happen without any problems in the marriage relationship, but many, many marriages struggle in this area, and the Bible itself tells us that deprivation or problems in this area of intimacy can lead to sexual sin (1 Co. 7). Because of the growing problem of porn and the rise of divorce and affairs (including in the church), we must be even more vigilant to guard and work on our marriages in this area of intimacy.

* RELATIONALLY, marital sexual intimacy is extremely important.
Just as communication is a key factor in a close marriage relationship, physical oneness is another key area for maintaining the strength of a marriage. When a husband or wife is consistently refused or denied intimacy, it can produce bitterness, anger, humiliation, self-consciousness, and can encourage negative or sinful behaviors in the spurned spouse.

WHAT IF SEX ISN'T IMPORTANT TO ME AS A WIFE?
Sadly, I have heard many wives speak of the weekly "obligation" with a tinge of disgust, and some just see it as an undesirable but unavoidable need of a silly husband. Each case is different-- some probably feel this way because they picked up this attitude from their mother or from society; sometimes, a lack of sexual freedom and excitement in intimate activities can contribute to boredom or the feeling that it's unimportant; and sometimes the marital act has been linked in a wife's mind with sexual sin and thus is morally repugnant to her. A recent commenter in this series on intimacy expressed her own difficulty in comprehending why sex is so important in the marriage relationship and received good biblical responses from many other women about this issue. Seeing sex as unimportant or undesirable is not an uncommon feeling, but it is an unbiblical attitude towards God's gift of intimacy.

If you've struggled with not comprehending the importance of intimacy in the marriage relationship, I'd encourage you to examine why that is, and what might be changed in order for you to begin to view intimacy in the proper, biblical light. Perhaps a good manual with specific tips on mechanics might help. Perhaps reading a book like "Sheet Music" or "Intimacy Ignited" could give you more insight as to the biblical view of marital sex. Perhaps taking full advantage of the freedom in marriage (and enjoying more than just the same-old, same-old) might give you more interest. But I'd encourage you to work to find ways that this can become more than a routine or tainted act for you.

WHAT IF THE WIFE WANTS IT AND THE HUSBAND DOESN'T?
This is a frequent problem, but is rarely, if ever, addressed in our culture because of cultural views of men and women's sexuality. If you read the cultural messages, it's clear that men are supposed to be like sexual tigers no matter what, but this simply isn't the case. Sometimes it's a medical issue, sometimes it's because of a porn or sexual addiction that keeps his interest elsewhere, and sometimes it's a genuine lack of interest, but regardless of the reason, the husband in this marriage is every bit as wrong to withhold himself from his wife as a wife would be in the reverse situation. 1 Corinthians 7 makes it clear: "your body is not your own". This applies to the husband OR the wife. In fact, Paul's first command in this area is to husbands, in verse 3: "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband."

So what should a wife do in this situation, if her husband is withholding intimacy from her? To be honest, I've wrestled with this question for some time now, and I'm not entirely sure. Certainly, she has "conjugal rights" that ought not be denied. But I wonder if others have thoughts on this? Does Matthew 18 apply here? Should she involve others and/or pastoral authorities? Should she just set up a doctor's appointment and see if there's a medical reason, thereby forcing the issue? How do you think a wife should biblically address this with a husband who is disinterested in sex?

A KEY ISSUE FOR HUSBANDS
Even considering the problem of the previous section, a majority of men still rank this as the primary issue of importance to them. As one friend pointed out to me, this could be because so many men are being denied regular times of intimacy. Perhaps it would not be seen as so crucial if they were receiving enough of it. But just as some wives feel conversationally deprived, many, many husbands feel sexually deprived. The difference, of course, is that we can make conversation with anyone we please. (I'm not trying to give husbands an "out" on communication-- it's a VERY important part of marriage. I'm just pointing out the difference between conversation and intimacy, as the primary needs of men and women, generally speaking.)

However, we as wives are the ONLY ones who can biblically meet the sexual needs of our husbands (and, conversely, they are the only ones who can biblically meet our sexual needs). When we do not do so, we risk not only sin but the decline and destruction of the marriage relationship. Many books have pointed out that a husband who is sexually fulfilled would be willing to do sink-fulls of dishes while walking on burning hot coals to please his wife if she so desired... but that when a man is not sexually fulfilled, it breeds depression and discontent unlike any other unmet need. The Bible itself makes clear that sexual regularity is a key to preventing sin from creeping up in the marriage.

SO, ULTIMATELY, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT?
My basic point is this: Considering that the marriage relationship is our primary relationship in life behind our relationship with God, and considering that intimacy was given by God as a gift to us (not a curse or a sin), and considering that the health of a marriage relationship is very often linked with the health of intimacy in that relationship, this is an EXTREMELY important issue for Christian wives. We need to be aware of it, we need to make intentional efforts in this area, and we need to strive to love and serve our husbands in this area. (And frankly, not just see it as an act of drudgery, but work to take delight and joy in this area of relationship with our husbands.) We can do even this "as unto the Lord", as an act of worship and submission to God in our lives.

I don't in any way want to sensationalize this issue or focus on it in an unhealthy way, but I am personally convicted that this one issue, if dealt with biblically within Christian marriages, could keep many from sin, could prevent many future sins of our children, and could give glory to God by making Christian marriages all that they should be as a picture of the love relationship between Christ & the Church.

I'd love to hear any additional thoughts you have about this. Is this an area where you struggle? Do you or have you struggled to see the importance of this issue in your marriage? Do you have a hard time meeting these needs because of the view and education you've been given of sexuality and intimacy? Are you a wife struggling with a husband who is disinterested? Do you have insights as to how a spouse can deal with this issue if they are being refused intimacy? As always, leave your comments (anonymous comments OK on this series!).

I hope you've enjoyed this series; I know I have enjoyed brushing up on learning about these things, and I've really enjoyed your comments.

{FYI: I'm contemplating doing a follow-up post or two about porn, but it's such a difficult subject, and it's so personal, AND it's affecting so many Christian marriages in so many ways. Let me know if this would be of interest to you, or if you have any good links/resources in this area that I can highlight. Thanks!}

Graphic ("Painting" by Alphonse Mucha) from allposters.com

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