Talking to kids about their bodies and S-E-X

Parenting is a learn-on-the-job adventure, never more so than in figuring out how to talk to your kids about their bodies and sex.

Like nearly every girl of my generation, I was handed a book about sex (probably something terrifying like “Growing Up Is Beautiful”) and taught myself how to use tampons by reading the Kotex box. My sweet Mama did better than her own parents, she had no idea what was happening when she started her period and thought she was dying.

So here I am trying to raise healthy kids – boys! – wanting to do a good job teaching my kids about their bodies and sexuality, wanting openness and to avoid shame. Wanting them to be ready for this age of sexualized rice-a-roni commercials and p0rnography that is available 24-7 at the click of a button.

If we ever get to know if we’ve succeeded in this area, it won’t be until they are older, but we’re trying hard to be proactive in this area. We’ve made a few decisions and found a few resources that have been super helpful. Continue reading

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The Journey from People-pleasing to God-pleasing (a review of UNSEEN: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to Be Noticed, by Sara Hagerty)

My whole life I’ve cared more about what people think of me than is healthy or helpful. Image management has been my mode as long as I can remember, and I have a pattern of caring more about reputation than I do about reality. In my first days learning to follow Jesus I began to realize how this focus on externals and others’ opinions can infect my faith just as it infects every other relationship and activity.

I write about Jesus, I teach people about Jesus, it is my job to talk to college women about Jesus, weekly and even daily. In these things, I have to keep vigilant watch over my tendency to care more about the outside than the inside. I am called to live my faith out in the open where people can see and invite others to join me, but I need to be very careful that I’m actually living my life with Jesus rather than just talking about Him.

If my first priority is what I can see, what others can see and comment on and measure, I easily lose sight of the things that last, the things that matter, the things God cares about most. I easily lose sight of my heart, which only God truly sees and knows. Matthew 6 teaches me that if my audience is the world, then the praise of the world is the most I’ll ever get. But if God is my first audience, then I get His reward, His notice, His praise.

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding… Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. Matthew 6:1, 6 (The Message)

I have grown hungry to protect out part of my relationship with Jesus for just me and Him. And I’ve prayed and thought and worked to focus and prioritize and value the things I can’t see over what I can see, touch and measure (hence the name of my blog.)

Over the last year in particular I’ve been seeking hidden places, asking God to meet me in ways I don’t share, that aren’t for public consumption.

Imagine my joy when I learned that one of my favorite writers, a fellow blogger and adoptive parent who has consistently pointed me to Jesus, had a new book coming out called, UNSEEN: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed. Continue reading

The Prayer That Never Fails

I’m pretty picky about Christian fiction (because I was an English major, and therefore a book snob), but there are a couple of Christian series that I really love.

One is the Mitford books, by Jan Karon ,  about Father Tim, an Episcopalian priest who lives in a small town in North Carolina. They are kind of old lady books, slow and sweet. But the characters are so well-drawn it feels like I’ve been to Mitford, NC and am friends with the people who live there. When characters die (from old age, usually, these aren’t really action & danger books), I cry like it was my Grandma.

The faith of the characters and their walks with the Lord are very subtle, sweetly woven into the fabric of the story. It’s kind of cheesy to say, since they’re fictional people: But I feel like their faith and hope have encouraged my own. One of the themes echoing throughout the series is “the prayer that never fails”…meaning “Your will be done” (from the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.) Continue reading

Audio Books for your SUMMER ROAD TRIP

We are driving to Texas to visit my family this summer: About 14 hours from our door to my mom’s door, one way.

That’s a lot of time in the mini-van, people. Everyone wonders how the boys do, but I’m the worst passenger. The kids love road trips because they can watch movies and play on their devices and the time passes quickly. But halfway through the trip I’m stir crazy and driving Matt nuts (“Why aren’t you talking to me?? You don’t love me anymooooooore!” I’m only exaggerating a little.)

We’ve learned that audiobooks will save our marriage from road trips. They keep me occupied, entertain the kids if we don’t want them rotting their brains with 14+ hours of screen time in a row, and help Matt stay focused and alert while driving.

Since we make the drive to either Texas or Colorado every year, and last year we drove the 20+ road to Disney World, we’ve listened to a LOT of audiobooks.

If you’re going on a road trip this summer and looking for some audio book recommendations, I am your girl. Here are 11 audio books/series your whole family will love (plus 3 more at the end that are mostly for adult or teenage ears.) Continue reading

5 Things I learned from ONE: Unity in a Divided World

I read One: Unity in a Divided World fully intending to write a review of it when I finished. But it turns out that this was an Esther book for me, a “for such a time as this” book, a book whose message I needed desperately at this exact moment in my life. So I’m responding far too personally for a normal review. It felt like a wise and experienced friend took me by the hand to tutor and disciple me in the art and beauty of reconciliation, forgiveness, oneness with myself, others, and God.

To sum up: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I highly recommend it, and I think you should read it, whomever you are.

Here are the top 5 things I learned from reading Deidra Riggs‘ wonderful book:

#5 I have to deal with my own heart before I can address injustice or enter discussions about unity.

When I bought this book, I expected it would lead me to think about unity and diversity. I ended up thinking far more about forgiveness. Anger. The conflict in my own life.

I expected a book about the issues out there in the world. What I got was a book about the issues in my own heart, in my front yard, in my church, my friendships, my world.

I don’t have all this figured out; I’m on the same journey you’re on. I struggle with wanting what I want when I want it. I struggle with making sure my anger doesn’t guide me when faced with injustice or naysayers or angry people who try to quiet me down. I have to work at not putting other people down so that, when compared to my version of them, I come out smelling like roses. (ch. 1, A Soul that Hears Well)

#4 I need to move from the judgment seat to the mercy seat.

Our tendency to take on God’s role of judge stands in the way of our experience of reconciliation and unity. God sits on both the judgment seat and the mercy seat. But only He can see all and know all and only He can judge. He has shown mercy to us, so we can trust His judgment.

When we face a situation that makes us estranged from another person…we might consider the incident an opportunity to hear and embrace God’s invitation to us to move from the seat of judgment to the seat of mercy when viewing the other person… (ch. 3, What Do We Do About Evil and Injustice?)

I am in the midst of some pretty major conflict at the moment. I’m having imaginary arguments with real people in my crazy brain and since I’m making up both sides, I always win.  After reading this, I’ve begun picturing God standing before two chairs. I’m sitting in the judgment seat, making my case of why they are WRONG and I am RIGHT. I look in God’s eyes and hear Him inviting me. So I get up out of the judgment seat and move over into the mercy seat. I receive God’s mercy, I ask Him for help to see others through eyes of His mercy.

This has been one of the most life-giving spiritual activities I’ve ever engaged in.

#3 Brokenness is God’s way in, but we break in different ways.

ONE uses glass as a beautiful metaphor for brokenness. Hot glass will break when you put cold water in it. Sometimes it cracks down the middle, sometimes it explodes. Deidra says our hearts are like this – too much stress, pain, hurt and we either break open (making room to let God in) or break apart (often causing tremendous damage to those around us.)

When we allow the world around us to divide our attention and distract us from believing in the power of God to overcome evil, we surrender our faith to the storm. This is the true danger of brokenness. When the world – with its worries, fears, grief, and strife – presses in on us, we can succumb to the impulse to look away from God, instead of toward Him. The true danger of brokenness is that we allow it to keep us, even lead us, away from God, from others, and from ourselves…

In your own life, have your heartbreaks and disappointments served as an open door or a dividing wall? (Ch. 7 Our Breaking Point)

#2 Being agents of God’s reconciliation and redemption in the world requires the Holy Spirit and Holy Imagination

Our world is full of chaos, and evil is REAL. We can’t just join hands and sing Kumbaya. But we also can’t give in to fear, and we’re motivated by fear more than we realize. We run away, we hide, we avoid, we stick with old ways of doing things rather than asking God what new way He might be making through the fear and chaos. And without meaning to or even realizing it, we often act as if evil is greater than God, as if there is no hope. ONE invites us to “surrender our imaginations to the will and the wonder of the Spirit”:

When we see the world burst apart under the stress of terror and fear, oppression and despair, we are the ones who know this is not all there is. We reach forward, expecting that God is doing something new, even when we find it impossible to believe. We reach as far as we can, and then the Spirit of God extends our reach and transforms our perspective so that is one with His. (Ch. 8 Beyond Our Wildest Imagination)

Amen.

#1 I prioritize white voices when I read about Christian faith.

Years ago, I began intentionally diversifying what I read and watched. Some of this was the result of bringing a brown body into our family (and being embarrassed that it took that for me to see how white our books and entertainment tended to be.) But also as my awareness of racial injustice and violence grew, I realized I’d been seeing the world from a very white place. And I wanted to fix that.

As I read ONE and listened to Deidra’s depth of experience and compassion handling issues of forgiveness, I am embarrassed to admit I was surprised. I expected to learn from her about diversity, about racism, about her life and story. But I wasn’t expecting to learn to learn to see Jesus in new and deeper ways in my own life. Why was I surprised to learn so much from a woman of color (whom I respect and have already learned much from)?

Because my Bible teachers and the writers I tend toward, the writers available to me, have primarily been white. I have sought out men and women of color to teach me about diversity, but I’m realizing I wasn’t expecting them to have much to teach me in other areas. That is gross and ugly to me, but I think it’s important to confess.

Women and men of color have a perspective on all things of faith, and I want that broader perspective. But it will take work to get it. I watched a conversation on Twitter last week where multiple women of color shared that when they are asked to submit for Christian magazines or online outlets, it is nearly always and only in the area of diversity and race. I am a part of that problem.

I have much to learn.

Have you read ONE: Unity in a Divided World yet??

I wish I’d read this as part of a book club, it is a book that lends itself beautifully to discussion. Instead, I’ve talked about it non-stop to people in my life, and I’m talking about it here. Read it, and tell me what you think!

I read One: Unity in a Divided World fully intending to write a review of it when I finished. But it turns out that this was an Esther book for me, a "for such a time as this" book, a book whose message I needed desperately at this exact moment in my life. So I'm responding far too personally for a normal review. It felt like a wise and experienced friend took me by the hand to tutor and disciple me in the art and beauty of reconciliation, forgiveness, oneness with myself, others, and God. To sum up: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I highly recommend it, and I think you should read it, whomever you are.

The Power of Story: Everything I know about God I learned from kids’ books

 

I read a lot as a kid.

I read a lot now, but it’s nothing compared to how much I read growing up.

I read in the morning, I read at night, I read in between activities. I read in grade school, I read in middle school, I read through high school. In the seventh grade, not knowing what to read next, I started in the As in the school library and read every book that looked interesting to me (which is how I found Lloyd Alexander’s wonderful books, and also why I read The Sword and the Stone and Ivanhoe in middle school.)

I read books from the library, I read books my parents bought me, I read books I spent my own money on. I was picky about what I’d buy myself, wanting what I considered “real books.” Luckily, my sister was less snobby about her reading material, so when I was done with my real books, I’d read all of her Babysitters’ Club and Sweet Valley Highs.

I read for enjoyment, I read for escape, I read to visit other worlds. My best friends were Anne Shirley and Sally J. Freedman and the March girls and Meg Murray. I had a big fight with my fifth grade real-world best friend because she borrowed my favorite book and gave it back to me with the cover torn off. I’d read it 10+ times, it was dog-eared and worn, so she could not understand why I was so offended.

My mom says I was the only kid she knew who couldn’t be grounded…where is the incentive or consequence in sending me to do my very favorite thing?

I loved to read.

Thank God for all those years with my head stuck in good books.

Literally thank God, because those books were like Sunday School for me. I wasn’t raised going to church (we didn’t even go on Christmas or Easter), and God wasn’t something we talked ever about. I had a school friends who took me to church occasionally, and later to church camps. Their families talked to me about Jesus and I know they prayed for me. But in my home I had no way to learn about God or grow.

When I met Jesus face to face in college I fell in love hard, and hung on tight. I’ve often looked back and wondered how the very limited spiritual input in my childhood could have provided such fertile ground for the seed of Good News to grow.

As I have re-read my childhood favorites, I have found the answer.

I learned about God from the books I read as a child.

 

From CS Lewis, I learned about sacrifice, good-but-not-safe, character, bravery and fear, and received the best picture I’ve ever had of the danger of selfishness and greed (Eustace & the dragon.)

From Madeleine L’Engle, I learned to value mystery, love, and the power of naming and knowing people (lessons I lean on to this very day.)

From Judy Bloom’s books, I learned to explore who I am, and to not be afraid to ask questions.

I could go on and on. I am in awe of the ability of these authors and so many others to present deep, adult, meaningful reality through the power of stories simple enough for fifth graders.

I am grateful to have also had a strong theological education through the churches I’ve been a part of. I’ve studied and taught lists of truths, categorizing the information we have about God. And I like having everything Important listed out in columns and rows.

But thinking about these stories, these great books that were my first picture of God… Maybe it’s not surprising that so much of the Bible, God’s Word, the means He chose to communicate truth over the centuries, is narrative. Story.

The Power of Story

Saturdays are for Reading

I am nearly always reading more than one (sometimes more than 5!) books at once, and I try to read at least a little every day. But Saturdays are holy reading days for me, and such a gift. Here’s what I’ve been reading this week, and especially looking forward to reading today:

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I am about halfway through Deidra Rigg’s wonderful ONE: Unity in a Divided World. Deidra, through her blog and speaking, has been a tutor to me as I’ve navigated the rhetoric and reality of racial injustice, particularly in the church. I pre-ordered this book and wanted to devour it in one sitting as soon as it arrived. But I’m making myself go slower, to really digest and begin to live out what I’m learning.

This book is a gift to me right where I am today. It is speaking right to my places of unforgiveness, challenging me to lean into Jesus in order to find oneness in my particular circumstances. I love it.

God’s goal is always unity and healing, oneness and reconciliation, so he invites us to begin with mercy.

God invites us to begin with mercy because that’s what he has done for us. He isn’t telling us to move on or buck up or just get over it already. In the mercy seat rests the power of God to heal our deepest hurts. When we engage others form a position of brokenness and hurt, we risk causing more brokenness and hurt. Movign from teh seat of justice and into the seat of mercy has the power to short-circuit hatred, hostility, and hopelessness. Choosing to view a person or a situation through the lens of compassion (which is another way of talking about mercy) makes space for the possibility of oneness and unity.

Deidra Riggs, ONE: Unity in a Divided World

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I am also slooooowly working my way through Madeleine L’Engle’s lovely A Circle of Quiet. I read most of L’Engle’s fiction as a child, several of which are lifetime favorites (see below). But I’d never read any of her nonfiction. I LOVE her as a writer, and this memior-ish view of her writerly life and thoughts on family and words and being is just mesmerizing.

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My younger 2 and I are listening to the audiobooks of L’Engle’s Time Quintet (I read it as a trilogy, the first 3 books in this series are like childhood friends.) It is a limitless joy to experience them with my kids, and see them fall in love with Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace. A Wrinkle In Time is the first book, loved by all 3 of us. Now we are halfway through A Wind in the Door, meeting a drove of dragons which turns out to be a Cherubim. DELIGHT.

Ava Duverney (!!) is making a movie version of A Wrinkle in Time, coming out next year with Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon and OPRAH WINFREY as the Mrs. Ws (!!!!). It is going to be AMAZING. Please, for the love of everything good, read the book first. It is so very good. You can thank me later.

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April is National Poetry Month, and I need to read a Book of Poetry for the reading challenge I’m doing this year (Reading for Growth @ Modern Mrs. Darcy). So I’ve checked  out several poetry books from the library. I was an English Major, love words and reading, but I haven’t spent a lot of time with poetry (intimidation). I remembered loving Emily Dickinson and E.E. Cummings in school, so that’s where I started and am really enjoying them – particularly the way poetry makes you go slowly.

I also have a couple of Mary Oliver’s poetry books on hold, which I expect to enjoy as well. I’d love to read some other living poets, but don’t know where to start. Would love to hear any suggestions.

It’s a GREAT week to read, so thankful for GOOD BOOKS. What are you reading right now?

What I'm Reading Right Now

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What I’m reading right now {January}

I have an unusually long list of books I’m in the middle of right now.

Some of that is my usual schizophrenic reading personality (I have to be in the mood for what I’m reading, and I’m a prolific reader, so I am usually in the middle of several books.)

But I’m also dealing with the dilemma of requesting things from the library. And then waiting forever. And requesting other things. And then getting them all at the same time.

I am hoping that sharing what I’m reading online will encourage me to be more of a book finisher, since I’m better at starting things than I am at finishing them.

What I'm Reading Right Now

The Yada Yada Prayer Group is at the top of my stack. I never expected to be reading this book. And I am surprised by how much I am enjoying it, and how thought provoking it has been. Outside of most of Francine Rivers‘ work and the Mitford books, I haven’t read any Christian fiction in – well, as long as I can remember. As a young believer in college, I learned pretty quickly that Christian fiction makes my inner English major cranky. Continue reading