Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sandra's Great Response

Sandra's Great Response

Read it and you will see why I post the link here. Well put, internet friend!

Quick Thoughts on Family Devotions

Okay, I've not got much time so be extra tolerant of bad spelling, punctuation and/or unclear sentence/paragraph structure, please. n_n

Reading Quivering Daughters has given me much to think about concerning the practice of family devotions. Standing by my own husband as he begins to deal with the emotional fall-out of having been raised in an extremist fundamentalist evangelical environment is also causing me to reconsider much of what I believed about Christian practice, Christian parenting, etc.

I hear echoes of my own daughter's heart in some of Hillary's journal entries. It makes me wince. I never meant to bring pain to my children, or saddle them with guilt. I didn't intend on making anyone feel that they could never measure up. No! No! No!

I thought I was always telling the gospel of grace, and emphasizing the great love of God. I was mystified when my daughter would say things, "I just want you to be proud of me!" or "I'll never be good enough for you."

Usually she would say this right after I found out about some action of hers that was in direct contradiction to all I thought I was teaching her! I would think, but not say, "If it matters so much to you why don't you DO things that will make me proud? Why are you defying me?"

Well, smack me upside the head with a two-by-four! I see know that all that emphasis on right living, behavior and thought added up to INTENSE PRESSURE TO BE PERFECT! In all my personal religious instruction, I failed to see what I was teaching from the eyes of a child.

That breaks my heart.

Of course my daughter would feel I was impossible to please. I wasn't continually building her up for all the good she said/did/thought. I didn't praise her for her acts of service, kindness and compassion. Not like I should have anyway. And here's why: I set up a world in which "obedience to God" was to be the norm, not a commendable extra, but a demanded least level of performance.

How did I do that? Through those well-intentioned daily devotions. I read them as an adult, an adult who needed constant reminders to act as a mature Christian should. I was after all, a fully formed person at that point.

That's fine for an adult like myself who has good personal emotional boundaries. I needed to be reminded that frequently. But my children, who were just starting out in life, were getting an entirely different message. I was hearing "keep trying", they were hearing "anything less than perfect isn't good enough". I forgot to listen with the heart of a child.

My daughter was hearing put yourself last always, and set out to do that very thing with all the earnest determination of a pure heart yet untouched by cynicism and selfishness. Whereas I was being pulled back from being too selfish, she was hearing "your self is bad, your self doesn't matter as much as other people, other people always matter more and that's how life should be..."

Oh, I thank God I did disagree with them at times, and say so, and sometimes ask my children what they thought, and let them disagree, but still...moral instruction every single day? For me, as a fully formed adult with my ego strong and vigorous, I needed to be reminded to think of others needs, be gracious and loving, etc. But those precious children, just starting out in life, did NOT need that all day, every day!

I think that Deuteronomy 6, the verses that tell us to "talk about" the Word of God as we go through our day, were talking about the spontaneous conversations that naturally spring up as we spend time together. I had those conversatoins with my Grandma growing up, and the neighbor lady across the street. Those meaningful little starbursts of glory breaking into everyday life are still with me today. They were life-giving.

But that is a far cry from deliberate, planned, canned moral presentations handed out like cod liver oil to obedient pliant children. It may have tasted awful, but they dutifully swallowed it out of love for mom. And along with that daily (and for those using overtly Christian curriculum, hourly!) dose of law, cheerfully endured by loving lamb hearts, came the ministry of condemnation.

You know the warning, don't you? God has made us all able ministers of the new testament: not of the letter, for the letter ministers death, but of the Spirit, because the Spirit gives life. The new covenant is written in our hearts by the Spirits. When we speak spontaneously, from what is written in our hearts, then it ministers life.

But the letter, the commandments, the rote, regular predetermined by the will of man presentation of the letter of the law- it kills!

How did I not see that before?

Am I saying I don't believe in canned family devotions? Yes, I think I am.

I think I am saying exactly that. It's kind of scary, but, yes.

I think that when we switched to fun books rather than devotionals at night, it was way more important than I realized! I wish now that I had done so many more things for joy, and not let fear rule so many of my decisions.

A time where we all pray together? Yep, that I would not change. A time to remind the children of God's great love and His thoroughly attractive nature of goodness and joy? Yes, in fact that's what I would replace all those canned devotionals with, stories from the life of Jesus! Just a smidgen at a time, the story of the ten lepers, the widow's mite, the healing of the man blind from birth.

Jesus said if he was lifted up, he would draw all men to him. Yep, looking back, that would have been the much wiser course, and a truer interpretation of Christian parenting. Deuteronomy 6 was given to those under the Law, the letter that kills.
What we all need is the Spirit that gives life.

Well, I may change my thinking on some of this as these thoughts have more time to distiill. Right now I have to go. See ya!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quivering Daughters

Quivering Daughters website

I am busy devouring my copy of Quivering Daughters. It just came in the mail today. I only put it down to do my daughter's laundry and get her room ready for her homecoming this weekend.

Even though I am not QF, and I have only read four chapters so far, I feel it is already making me a better parent. It is so eye-opening to read about these family relationships from the perspective of a teenager (the book includes journal entries from the journal the author kept during her teen years).

Kudos to Hillary for the courage, perseverance and sacrifice it took to bring this book to print. She is so transparent, humble, vulnerable in her writing- it makes me want to bring her a warm blanket and a hot cocoa and pull her up on my lap in a rocking chair. Crazy, I know! It's a heat index over 100 degrees Farenhiet outside! 0.0

Brace yourself, friend, for the feedback! This book is sure to stir up much discussion in the home school world. I am right now wondering where I am going to get the money for the multiple copies I would like to purchase as gifts. It is that good.

Well, back to the book, er, laundry and cleaning. (Aw, we all know the book will win out over housework, Who am I trying to kid here? =)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mourning into Joy

Things are going really well around here, in spite of all the emotion swirling around these days. Very early in my Christian walk I learned to objectively detach from my emotions while still processing them. Emotions have important things to teach us. They should be respected and honored. But emotions should never be in charge! At least, that's how I understand my inner life and it's working for me. =)

One of the recurring emotions that has been hanging around in my heart lately is grief. I am grieving on a personal level, and I am grieving for my husband. There's more than enough sorrow to go around these days.

As I learn more and more about what it meant to a child to be left at missionary boarding school, I am at times overwhelmed. I read one survivors quote who likened it to losing your entire family in an automobile accident. Every summer the family is resurrected, only to be torn from your life again in a few short weeks.

Wow. The depth of that pain still stuns me every time I think about it.

Quickly it is followed by anger at the fundamentalist mindset that sacrificed the hearts and lives of HELPLESS INNOCENT CHILDREN in order to make themselves heroes of the faith. Zeroes of the faith is more like it. Any missionary who put their young children in boarding school is worthy only of censure and shame, imho. It is not heroic to build your ministry on the unwilling sacrifice of dependent children. And the great shock of it is: it is still happening today!

Oh dear readers, if you (like me) are financially supporting any tribal missions, ask after their policy regarding children. If they demand that parents send their children away at an early age, I implore you to cut off your support. These missionary children are meaningless to the mission boards. They are so focused on the mission of Bible translation that they have forgotten that LOVE is the main focus of Christian ministry. They are blind and hard-hearted to the suffering they cause, with few exceptions.

Find a mission that allows for home schooling. Support missionaries who have chosen a life of celibacy, whose children are grown and gone, or who have adopted children from their culture of ministry. Do not be partakers in the sacrifice of missionary children in the name of the ministry!!

(For more information, go to M K Safety Net and/or New Tribes Mission Abuse Storie. I recommend reading the books suggested at the web sites above. Also on one of the link was a dissertation paper on missionary kids that was phenomenal. I have purchased the DVD All God's Children but haven't summoned up the courage to watch it yet.)

Not only am I experiencing sorrow and anger on behalf of my husband, I am grieving the passing of the husband I thought I had married. I love the man I am married to now, don't get me wrong. In fact, I think I have deeper feelings of compassion for this man than for any other person I have ever known. My love for him is not just a pity thing either. What can I say, we have chemistry together. He turns me on. And I probably respect him more now that I know the hell he has been through than I have in years.

What I mean is that the man I married- the marathoner, captain of his soccer teams, expert rating in chess, super-star at work- that man is gone. I thought I was marrying a man with far greater emotional stability than I had. I thought he was super-spiritual, for a guy anyway. (Sorry for the sexist comment but I don't know a lot of men who really love the Lord! Peace to those of you who do!) He was a missionary kid! I thought since he was a person of excellence, he could pass that same encouragement and joy of living on to our children that we would someday have. Many times, when I was discouraged with my own personal shortcomings, I would think "At least I have married wisely and my children will have the father I never had."

But the abandonment of his early childhood was like a time-bomb, hidden away and unnoticed until the trigger came. That first trigger was the birth of our son. When our son reached the age that his daddy had been abandoned, my husband checked out on us emotionally. If only we had known what was really going on! We could have found real help so much sooner. So much suffering on my part, his part, on our children's part could have been avoided. What a waste. I am grieving that loss, too.

These are just emotions. They are important emotions, and I can't skip them or suppress them. They have to be experienced. But I will get through this time, and walk in newness of joy. Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. I believe that.

As far as my marriage goes, this new insight has changed a lot for me, and yet until the healing process is through for him, there will still be challenges. At least I know now that when he disassociates, it has nothing to do with me. He's not toning me out because he doesn't value me. He's hiding from all the pain inside. In doing that, he often misses out on all the love that's waiting in the here and now. But I know it's not personal, and that helps.

When he is irritated for seemingly no reason, or angry with me out of proportion to the reality of the situation, I know it has to do with his past and all the unresolved anger and pain. So far he seems to be getting that too. We have had three minor issues between us in the past week, but each one of them has been resolved relatively quickly. In only one incident did he regress to his primitive brain to the degree that it was blatant. But, he took some time out to pray and go over materials from that 26 week course last week, so all's well that end's well. I call that a win.

This time of mourning will pass, and we will be stronger than ever. The trauma counseling is helping tremendously. As my husband heals he will be more fully available to our teens and that in turn will bring healing to their hearts as well. We are going to make it through his recovery as a couple and as a family. I see joy ahead for all of us.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hesitant Good News

I need to share with all of those who have been praying for me and my family. I hesitate to share, because I don't want to jinx the good thing going on. But since I'm not superstitious, I'm going for it anyway. n_n

It's been over two weeks since my husband has acted implacably unhappy with me or anyone/anything else. It was two weeks this past Sunday since a PTSD episode, as I am learning to understand this craziness.

The precious man I married in the first place is making his way back to the present. He is thoughtful, kind, and genuinely concerned for my heart. He is talking, not about anything deep, but talking.

We are doing things we enjoy together. It may help that the World Cup is going on right now. All you TCKs know the importance of the World Cup! ;-) One of those things we enjoy doing together is watching exciting soccer. We are also taking walks, more frequently and longer. We are trying new restaurants and doing things like going to Shakespeare in the Park together.

I am going more places and making more social events happen for myself personally and for both of us, and he seems happy with both experiences. I am also reading (online and from books) more and more about the missionary kids real experience. I am praying for him with more understanding now, and also reevaluating my beliefs and expectations about who he really is and what the true motivations are behind his actions. So maybe it is partially due to my efforts.

But I asked him last night what he thought was making the difference. He believes that all he has been learning for the past year and a half is starting to gel in him and it's getting easier to put into practice. That is probably a huge factor in the improvement no doubt. Information is power: one of my life's mottos. :)

Based on my own experience, I think coming out of denial about his family is probably the single biggest factor in his new happier self. He no longer has to bear this burden of shame that somehow he has failed a Christian man. He is beginning to believe that the things required of him were not God's requirements at all. He is beginning to believe that he responded to the damage being done to his heart with the only tools available to little children who are demanded to comply with outrageous circumstances and crazy-making religion.

I am so happy he agreed to trauma therapy. Though he does not share with me what goes on in his weekly sessions, I am very encouraged by the more relaxed, loving human who is sharing life with me because of them. It is looking as if my hopes will all be fulfilled in time.

I hesitate to write this because my time with the therapist doesn't really support such hope. She is telling me that things will get worse before they get better. My husband really hasn't started remembering traumatic events yet, and much of his past remains hidden in forgetfulness. She keeps hinting at separation as an option, once talking about permanent separation. That's not what I want! I want us to be healed and live happily together in mutual love, respect and understanding.

She thinks that the traumas he doesn't remember will trigger huge rage, but I am not necessarily in agreement. After reading up on the missionary kid experience, it is possible that my husband was bullied, humiliated, violently assaulted, sexually molested and/or even raped. These things have happened at missionary boarding schools all over the world.

The bullying and humiliation happen at every single missionary boarding school in the world. Emotional/spiritual abuse in the form of making kids keep quiet about their unhappiness, stuff their rage, and be grateful for their parents who abandoned them; loading them down with false guilt for the eternal damnation of the natives, having "wrong" feelings and fears, as well as punishing them for a myriad of other "crimes" like speaking with a lisp or being sick or not liking oatmeal- this abuse happened in each and every missionary boarding school. That the violence and sexual molestations/rape happen at all is horrifying, but more and more MKs are coming forward about having suffered in this way too.

Our therapist thinks that I should be prepared to discover that my husband has suffered the worst abuse possible, but based on what I know about being victimized I don't think he has suffered as violently as she does. I think the abandonment, emotional and spiritual abuse are more than enough to account for his depression! 0.0

I am also sure that bullying, confusion, and ridicule by the other missionary kids was a part of his experience. Compound that with the reality that unlike public school bullying, there is no home to retreat to at the end of the school day. Your bullies have access to you 24/7. He also probably has guilt at remembering that he likewise bullied others. He tortured animals as part of the pack of angry boys aat boarding school. It is not unthinkable that he tormented other children emotionally as part of the pack too.

All that is horrifying enough! There is no need to mentally jump to to a worst-case scenario to account for his PTSD.

Anyway, the hesitancy to publish this good news is mostly based on the therapists cautions and counsels. It is also based on my own hard experiences of being married to what seems like two separate: good husband/bad husband. But is is still good news, and I wanted to share it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day

I hope that my husband had a wonderful day yesterday. He seemed to enjoy it. One of his favorite sporting events was on television, played by his favorite team and they won! That's always a nice thing to have happen for a sports fan on a special day.

After the game, my son and I took him to Best Buy to buy some CDs. He wanted albums off of the list of the twenty top selling rock albums of all time. The ones he was most interested in were not available. He settled for some greatest hits compilations instead- Queen, Boston, Styx.

Styx was way more hippie-dippie than I remembered. I wanted to get him the Grand Illusions album but no such luck. Boston was rocking. And Queen? Amazing musicians whose work would never have been appreciated in his fundamentalist household. But as far as that goes, neither would any of the other two bands, so whatever.

We rode around listening to music blasting on the stereo. I drove and my husband told me where to turn. We went all over the county, at one point stopping to pick blackberries. I believe Styx provided the soundtrack for the berry picking.

After an hour we wound up at an ice cream stand my son knew about, way out in the country, called Dollar Cone. He bought us all ice cream. Thanks, son!

On the way home, my husband made a comment that was very touching. He said, "I've noticed that most music is about feelings. It's almost like these people have feelings all the time." It was a feeble attempt at humor. It broke my heart.

Yes, he had a happy day. Everyone in his world went out of their way to love him and treat him special. Even current events lined up to bless him with one of his favorite sporting events this Father's Day. And yet the depression was still hanging around like an unwelcome guest, casting a dull veil over the day's events.

Missionary boarding schools are possibly the worst idea organized religion has ever come up with, after burning people at the stake. The more I learn, the angrier I am about every penny spent supporting traditional missions.

If people understood how abysmal the system truly is, how all the progress on the field comes at the expense of the mental/emotional/spiritual/physical health of innocent, needy children, support for missions would dry up immediately. And well it should!

The whole idea behind missionary boarding schools is that children are in the way, a distraction from the real work. Their souls/hearts/minds/bodies were expendable. The God of tribal missions hates missionary kids, apparently. Only indigenous peoples interest that God.

And so mission boards (this includes close relatives on my husband's side of the family) gave no thought to the needs of missionary children. They were simply warehoused. Dorm parents had no training in the developmental needs of children. Dorm parents were more like warehouse security guards. Anyone could fill that job with minimal training, and personal mental/emotional health was not a requirement.

In fact, they put people in the position of warehouse security guard when they were considered unfit to do anything more important. Broken-hearted? Broken in body? Disillusioned? Depressed? Ready to retire? Warehouse security guard, er, dorm parent, was the assignment.

One reason home schooling appealed to me was because I hated the pack mentality of public school. The socially strong attack the weak, sometimes non-stop. The problem of bullying in public schools is very real. I have met several parents who mercifully began home schooling to give their children a respite from bullying.

Everyone makes excuses for bullies: they are rejected at home, they have been victims themselves first. It is doubly true for missionary kids. The youngest are prey for the older kids, as they take out their hidden anger on those who are weaker.

And where are the dorm parents? Nursing their depression, practicing the disassociation from reality that the missionary kids will all become so adept at practicing themselves. In some cases the adults themselves are the bullies, though I don't know if that was my husband's experience or not.

Actually, I have no idea what my husband's experiences were like. He tells me precious little. Almost all I have learned I have learned from others, yet when I bring it up to him he says that it sounds about right. He is still hiding from me, still holding back. It makes me sad that he doesn't trust me with his secrets- me, the one person who has proven loyalty to him over and over for twenty-three years.
He has so much shame wrapped up in his secrets he can't even share them with me.

His own father? How was his Father's Day? To be honest, I could not care less. Let the hero bask in the glory of his own self-importance. If he were to get a hundred fold return on the love he showed his son, he used that up a long time ago. Let religion comfort him now in his old age, since he chose religion over the hearts of his children when they needed him.

Oh, and for any self-righteous ideologue wanting to take me to task about loving my enemies, I say "blah-blah-blah". Words without love are useless. You want to bring healing to the body of Christ? Stop lecturing and start loving. You roll your sleeves up and start meeting real needs rather than telling others how to live. It sure would have been a much better course of action for my in-laws to have taken.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Sense of Self/Teenage Liberation Handbook

I loved sociology class in high school. The first sociology class I took, back in 1978, was "Contemporary Social Issues". The teacher was amazing. She taught in a class discussion format. Since I love words, this was my dream class.

She was radical in other ways. She took our class subjects from the headlines on the news and from current non-fiction best sellers. She encouraged us to scour magazines, music, television, movies- really any and all forms of human communication-in our search for truth on any social topic.

Since our subject was "Contemporary" it made sense to look for just-published material. Since our subject was "Social" it made sense to include all aspects of our society. Entertainment being a popular form of human expression, we were encouraged to look there as well as newspapers and news magazines for the answers to our questions.

She also asked for our opinions, as members of contemporary society, and listened with respect to our answers. Now that I am the age she was then, I realize how important that was and how hard that must have been. Apologies to younger readers, but many of the ideas we thought were original had been discussed (perhaps even practiced) throughout ages past and discarded as unworkable. Since this class was not a history or philosophy class though, she didn't point that out.

She let our class argue all the points out ourselves. Teenagers are smart and opinionated and if given a chance will jump right in there. We jumped. The rare times class would be coming to a close and an alternate opinion, criticism or favorable argument had not yet been raised, then and only then would she offer it up as a question, "Has anyone considered this....?"

She gave me respect that I rarely received, and an example that I still try to emulate. She showed me that I should listen to teenagers even if/when I don't agree, and to try to do it without correcting them. Reality will come along and correct most errors in logic that a teenager may be making. Whether that reality comes in the form of the opinions of other teenagers, reading about the lives of others, or a dope slap upside their head in a personal course correction offered by life itself, my sociology teacher was determined to let it come from some other source rather than to personally hand deliver it.

I appreciate that example, even though I don't always live up to it. (Sorry about that, kids.) I appreciate that example, even though as a parent I can't always live up to it. (You're welcome, kids.)

Which is why I think I love the two books I am now about to recommend. Both authors show great respect to teenagers. They are worth reading, even if you the reader winds up disagreeing with them at times. I found both books invaluable in bringing healing to my depressed daughter's heart and reminding me why I started home schooling in the first place.

A Sense of Self by Susannah Sheffer is an excellent book. Ms. Sheffer wanted to find out how home schooled adolescent girls felt about themselves, home schooling and life in general. She chose her questions carefully, and posed them to fifty-one teenage girls who were being home schooled at the time.

It is a wonderful book because so many of the questions are open-ended, letting the teenagers express themselves in their own words. That alone makes it worth the price of the book. I wanted to sample my copy and give my readers a tasted of how worthy the book is, but I have loaned it out. I do that alot.

The other book I highly recommend for parents of teenage home schooled girls (especially if you are leaving behind fundamentalist control and looking to inject some real freedom into your home high school) is The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn. It is a fascinating book that truly treats teenagers as worthy of real respect, in spite of their inexperience, because, well THEY ARE!

Now for all of those devout fundamentalists reading my column (LOL! Yeah, right.) I feel I must warn you. You will not agree with everything that Ms. Llewellyn writes. She is writing to teens, and her message is that they are capable of making decisions for themselves. So far so good. She encourages them to know themselves, and to discover that by actually living their lives. I agree with her on the major points.

On the other hand, as a Christian parent and former party girl, I both disagree with her and unfortunately prove her point. Her point, that in order to know what you really believe you need to get out there and live, is true for me. No one can convince me that "casual" sex harms no one, because it damaged my self-esteem and broke my heart. The exception: when it was truly meaningless to me I wound up damaging the self-esteem and breaking the heart of someone else. There was no win-win in my experience. Someone was always the loser.

Unfortunately, since I came through the whole experience without a crippling STD or an unwanted pregnancy, my experience seems to support her contention that experimenting with sex need not have permanent consequences.

The same is true of her opinions about experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I have had many wasted nights and bad experiences to show for my party days, as well as some good memories. I would be a liar if I did not acknowledge that it was sometimes fun and fulfilling. And truly, my opinions about drugs, alcohol and partying are definitely my own, won through hard experience. It's highly unlikely that anyone can change my mind about these things, knowing what I know.

The fact that I did not become an alcoholic, or a drug addict, or go to prison for possession of an illegal substance, would seem to support her view that a little experimentation with drugs will not cause lasting harm.

Of course as a responsible parent I can't support that view! Experimenting with teen sex and/or drugs and alcohol are just too dangerous. It's not the odds of experiencing a bad consequence that should determine your decisions. It's the depth of harm that a bad experience could cause that needs to be the deciding factor. At least that's how I make decisions.

I wear a seat belt every time I get in the car not because I am playing the odds of having an accident and I think they are too high to flaunt. I wear a seat belt because if I am in a high speed accident, being thrown through the windshield and out into the street is almost certainly fatal. The consequence is not one I can live with; therefore it does not matter how small the odds are that I will be in an accident that day. The seat belt goes on.

Having pointed out these two areas where I disagree with Ms. Llewellyn, I still recommend the book. Whether or not you give the book to your teens to read or not is a judgment call that depends on the teen and their level of maturity. But I think all parents should read The Teenage Liberation Handbook. It will remind you very much of what it really is like to be a teenager, and how most of them will respond in ways that will make you proud if you give them the opportunity.

These two books are a great antidote to all the Christian pablum out there about how Christian teen girls SHOULD think, act and feel. Both of these books deal with teens as they actually ARE. Parents who care about their girls hearts would do well to listen to the hearts of the home schooled teens who have graduated before them in A Sense of Self: Listening to Home Schooled Adolescent Girls. Parents (and teens) who want to understand their teens as people in their own right, capable of making their own decisions and willing to accept responsibility for the consequences, should read The Teenage Liberation Handbook.

In reading these books, at the very least, you will have learned something from people you would never otherwise meet. Where you disagree, it would be good practice in logic for you to be able to formulate why you disagree with enough clarity to satisfy your teens. That will win you much more respect than the "because I said so" or even than "because the Bible says so". God is the author of reality, so it stands to reason that there are real reasons behind what the Bible says. Exploring and articulating those reasons which support wise counsel from the Bible in no way detracts from the authority of scripture, but supports it.

Jesus is, after all, the Logos ( i.e. the logic) made flesh...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Learning, my daily thrill

One of the many values I hope to have transmitted to my children is a life-long love of learning. I mostly learn through the medium of words. I love words.

By far the most common modality through which these words reach me is reading written text. I also access words by listening, as in listening to the lyrics of popular music, religious and secular. I listen to the people in a box as well, the fictional character and the news anchor. My favorite is listening in conversation to all the wonderful people I know IRL. Finally, I write something every day. Writing is my way of processing all I have learned and fine-tuning it so that I can either share it with others or enjoy it all bundled up for myself.

Words rule my life.

I am a voracious reader. I read fiction (American, foreign, novels, short stories), biographies, autobiographies, poetry and non-fiction. Plus I read the Bible, which has all of the above (parables count as fiction =). I read every day.

Right now I am reading two newer books on theology (one new release The Jesus Manifesto, one a year old, The Myth of the Christian Religion) and older book on theology (Kierkegaard, 1968), a self-published autobiography by an MK, and a book about supporting partners with depression.

I sample the magazines that show up in the mail: Rolling Stone, Reason, National Review, a local interest magazine, Enjoying Everyday Life, Charisma and Psychology Today. The Economist and The Christian Science Monitor are too expensive to subscribe but I love to pick up copies when I travel. Some of my subscriptions are set to expire and I will change out to new magazines. There are so many perspectives to learn from in the world!

I downloaded on my nook all three books by Stieg Larssen plus a couple by Ted Dekker (catching up on the Lost Books series) last month. I am thinking of downloading The Scent of Rain and Lightning. I love that title!

I read online everyday. I catch up on the news at Yahoo!, visit for a laugh when I need it, and check up on all my facebook friends a couple of times a week. I have twenty-one blogs bookmarked on my computer and I visit half a dozen daily, and all of them at least weekly.

I learn so much! I love learning. I am so limited in my own experience of life: limited by time, space and my own perspective. Learning from other people enriches my life in ways that I could never achieve on my own! I believe my life is enhanced by experiencing as much of other peoples thoughts, dreams, perspectives, art, imagination and wisdom as I can manage to acquire.

I can't imagine a life where my personal experience and thoughts were all that mattered, all that I was able to learn from. That, in my perspective, would be tragically limiting. Seriously, I am so glad to live in the information age!

I can watch the Wold Cup being played on the other side of the world, listen to birdsong on my own back porch, learn from the hard won wisdom of those who have gone before me from a book, interact with people all over the United States who have touched my life in one way or another via facebook, enjoy conversation and affection with my immediate family members, and have unlimited imaginative access to all I have ever read, listened to, watched, or experienced from the rich treasure of learning I have stored up in my brain.

Sometime during the day (like right now) I will write. I might write a letter, an e-mail, a journal entry or a blog entry, but I will write. I will write about some of the many things that have been on my heart that day: experiences, meditations, memories, struggles, blissful moments. Writing is a gift that I give myself, and I sometimes share with others. Words are a gift.

Words are what binds us all together in community and learning. Some people get a lot of comfort from sitting in silence together, and that has its place. But in order for us to experience a real connection, words must be present or at least have been/will be present in the relationship at some time! Words connect us, one human being to another.

Twice recently people I know and respect have said dismissively, "I don't understand how people have time to read!" One added that she also didn't understand (read :looked down upon as less than) people who blog. She certainly didn't have time for either reading or writing!

How tragic. Possibly, it is just a generation gap. She is much older than I. As for the other person, he laughingly admitted that it was really a matter of preference not time. That person spends much of his time avoiding people and relationships through Sudoku, Solitaire and other solo electronic pursuits. Perhaps he just has lower social needs than I have. shrug At least he is open-minded enough to listen to my perspective and see that I obviously love words and the human connection they represent! I appreciate that he does not feel superior to me because I read and write everyday.

Is it the reading? Is it the writing? Or is it the learning that is my daily thrill? I think it's the learning: learning from others by considering their words, learning about myself by allowing the words to flow from my heart to the outside world (paper or computer keyboard).

Learning, my daily thrill. =) May the joy of learning by yours too, dear readers, as you fill your own days with words: The word of God through writers from days past,the word of God through his people today; the words of humanity in all its various forms and experiences; the words formed by your own heart in response to this rich world of words.

Live (and learn) loved!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


It was hot yesterday in Graceland. =)

I have been writing a lot lately about the short-comings of the perfect Christian home school family that I set out to create. It's laughable to type that sentence (who did I think I was, anyway?) but there was a time I earnestly had that as my goal. Oh, I wouldn't have put the word perfect in the description. That would not have been humble. But it was lurking unspoken in my "vision statement".

Yes, I actually made a little hand-made card with a family photo that stated our reasons and goals for our Christian home school. It was not my idea, but I complied like a good little sheeple. It was lofty and verbose like those ridiculous corporate vision statements that businesses were coming up with in the nineties. And just like those completely irrelevant corporate vision statements, it didn't mean much when it came to day to day living. I was setting goals far above my ability to bring to pass. I was setting goals for God, my husband, and my children and not even thinking twice about the audacity of such a "vision".

Oh my. How the mighty have fallen. Hindsight is twenty-twenty. Life is what happens when you're making other plans. Pick your own applicable pithy saying and insert here. =)

Yesterday I was all set to write about mangoes and hope and the way looking at beauty fills me with contentment. Graceland has its perks. But the Holy Spirit took my day in a different direction, and so that blog entry did not appear.

Instead, I wound up crying with my son and apologizing for the way he was neglected for so many years during my daughter's depression. Actually, I now see clearly there were two depressed people in the house: my husband and my daughter. I am sure that the two are connected, as middle school is an important time of opposite gender parent identification. So much for the perfect Christian family scenario.

But at that point I was totally befuddled, confused and alone. I was trying to live whole-heartedly for the Lord yet meeting almost continuous resistance. It was continuous, quiet resistance from my husband; continuous, contentious resistance from my daughter. I prayed and cried many hours on many days in anguish over this reality.

It worked like this: I would start out trying to live with my family in a loving, joyful Christian community. I would greet my daughter, maybe my husband, with a chirpy "Good morning! I love you."- arms open wide for a hug. I would encounter either silence, a hateful glare, or possibly even a sarcastic "What's so good about it?" :\ If I was feeling strong, I would ignore the first resistance and plow cheerfully on, hugging the stiff person and trying again with more enthusiasm later.

But eventually I would cave. I would start out calmly explaining why this resistance was frustrating me and why it was not right. I reasoned carefully, laying out all the reasons they should cooperate with me, patiently following every rabbit trail they laid out and carefully guiding the conversation back to the main point. Before long I would be desperately pleading for cooperation from my resistant daughter and husband. Eventually I screamed back in frustration, giving as good as I got in the hateful, cruel words department, sometimes even upping the ante. Crushed and defeated, I retreated back into my room to sob and pray some more. This was the scenario several days each week for years.

The other days were good days. Those were the days I would just ignore my daughter's resistance and hang out with my son. Those were the football days, the laser tag days, the hanging out at a friend's house days. Those were the field trip days and the read-good-books-aloud days. Thank God for those days. Those mother-son days were a blessing from God for both my son and my self.

But there were no father-son days. Dad was only home three days a week, and those were the days of contention and resistance. On those days, my son would quietly slink away and watch cartoons, play video and computer games, and eat. Food was his comfort. Gaming was his refuge. I am glad he found comfort and refuge somewhere.

Well, fast-forward to today. Everything is starting to make sense. My husband has been depressed for years, and was working out all his unresolved childhood conflicts with mommy on his clueless surrogate mom wife. Who knew?

Fundamentalist uber-earnest striving to be the most sincere, the most committed, the most worthy Christian is the sickness behind all of this pain. It crippled my husband with emotional pain. It is the sickness behind my daughter's pain. It isolated my son and made him invisible. In my own life it was the reason it took me so very long to say, "WTF! This is bogus!"

Lolz. Seriously, laugh out loud multiple times! None of that matters here in Graceland.

It doesn't matter why, when, where or how I woke up to the folly of my self-righteousness and misguided goals for my life and my family. It no longer matters how long I stumbled in the dark, confused and hurting. What's past is past and there is no going back.

All that matters is Jesus! Looking at his marvelous love for us, the greatness of his grace and his determination to bless me and my family, I can leave the guilt behind and laugh as I dance in the Spirit with my Savior.

That's Graceland for you. Yesterday I came fact-to-face with my failure and lack, so that today Jesus could comfort me with the truth that He is more than enough in every way. He makes up for my lack. He makes up for my husband's lack. He is above all things and tbefore all things and through all things and without Him nothing can exist that exists.

With one glimpse of the reality of His person, Jesus can heal my son's heart and fill him with enough joy and strength to last a lifetime.

Jesus took our sin upon Himself, that *we* (sucky parents that we turned out to be, in spite of my lofty vision!) might be made the righteousness of God *in Him*! My sins are more than forgiven, they are wiped out. They are removed from me as far as the east is from the west.

Jesus presents me holy and blameless in the Father's sight. Jesus grafts me in Himself! He is the vine, but he has given me the grace to be a branch on that vine. Not by works of righteousness that I have done, but according to His mercy he has saved me!

Here in Graceland, I can cease from my works. (At their very best they were only comparable to used menstrual pads- ewwwwww! Isaiah 64:6, look up the word for rags in the Hebrew!) They only get in the way.

In Graceland, Jesus is all that matters. The more I meditate on Christ, the more peace and joy I experience. The more peace and joy in my heart, the less bothered I am by the sins of this world: those sins against me, those just out there, even my own sin.

When Jesus is all I see, repentance comes easy for me and his mercy washes over me and I KNOW I AM LOVED! When Jesus is ever on my mind, it is easier to forgive others, because I know I am guilty of the same things. It is impossible to accuse, because I know that I am not the Holy Spirit. The more conscious I am of the greatness of Jesus, the more self-aware I am of my own smallness.
"He must increase, I must decrease." John 3:30
Mrs. B. P. Emmanuel wrote that in my Bible at Red Rock Canyon summer camp when I was in fourth grade. I like it in the New International Version better:
"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30

How's that for a vision statement? And no, I don't mean that in the Churchianity way of I should talk about Jesus more, read about Jesus more and lecture about Jesus more. I don't mean it like John meant it, either, that Jesus would become more popular while my time on earth was coming to a close.

I mean it at the most personal level possible. Jesus, live through me. Jesus, love through me. Jesus, remind me that I am little and insufficient but you are more than enough. Jesus, show me your love today. I need your love today. *I* need you, Jesus. As much as I ever did, I need you today. Jesus, come and make up the lack. Jesus, you build your church. You do it, Jesus.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. I John 5:13-15 NIV

That is the work I am called to: to ask according to His will. Sounds pretty simple. He came to seek and and save that which is lost? Seek my son's heart, Lord. Save that lost and neglected child from rejection and loneliness.

Jesus went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil? He is the same yesterday, today and forever? Do good to my son Jesus and heal all that is hurt and oppressed in his heart.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly? Give abundant life to my son, Lord. Be it unto Him, according you Your will. Give to my son a glimpse of the reality of You, Jesus! You are sufficient to heal my son's heart and fill him with enough joy and strength to last a lifetime.

You do it, Jesus. I can do nothing, but You can do anything! I believe Lord; help my unbelief!


I really, really like it here. =)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Depression Fallout

Sheffield, Anne. Depression Fallout. HarperCollins Publishers. New York. 2003.

I am grabbing onto everything I can in an effort to save my sanity, along with my hopes and dreams for my life and my marriage. You already know this, but I thought I would share about the latest branch I've grabbed onto. The book is subtitled The Impact of Depression on Couples and What You Can Do to Preserve the Bond.

My husband has been depressed for a long time, possibly his whole life, maybe fifteen years, maybe ten years, clearly the last two years. He was diagnosed last August and started on anti-depressants, but they stopped being effective a while ago. He is seeing a specialist for a possible change of medication/dosage, and he recently started EMDR.

This book outlines five stages of depression fallout, or five stages of affect on the non-depressed partner. First stage, confusion. Check, that would include 1998-2002. Second stage, self-blame. Check, that would cover 2002-2005. Demoralization, 2005-2007. Resentment, stage four. 2008 to the present. Stage five is described as "a longing to be free of the unhappiness and of the person who is its source".

This book is giving me hope. It is truly a great thing that my husband is seeking treatment. It is possible that he may be able to conquer depression and find resolution for all the lies and bad memories that hold his heart hostage.

I think it will take longer than I want it to, but I can hang on if I know for sure there is an end in sight. He seemed pretty happy about his appointment today.

I have ordered some books and a video about missionary boarding schools and problems that others have faced. I will keep the book and I don't know what to do with the video. I'll ask the therapist this week. I get to see her too. =)

I want to be able to disengage from the rotten mean vengeful child persona, without having to permanently disengage my whole heart from the whole man. Would you pray that I can find that place?

Thanks, internet friends. The world feels safer with you in it.

24 Witnesses to Foolishness

(This blog entry is another diary only. It will only be up for a few hours. I write this to myself to remind myself of REALITY, a concept I have ignored for far too long!)

My husband was not a drinker when I met him, that I knew of.

Within the first month of our marriage, he drank at a friend's house while watching golf, came home with beer on his breath and I flipped out. He challenged me to search the scriptures on drinking and I found he was right- tee-totaling is not required by the Word of God. Drinking on social occasions, to celebrate friendship and good fortune, is actually lauded in the Bible.

And so way back when, in the very earliest days of our marriage, we found a place of compromise that showed compassion for my feelings and liberty for his feelings. So, here's what he agreed upon SO VERY LONG AGO.

He agreed to never drink alone.

He agreed not to drink to get drunk.

He agreed to limit his purchase of alcohol to what will meet his immediate needs.

He agreed to never drink alone. He has broken this rule somewhere between two and six dozen times in our twenty-three marriage. I originally gave a little leeway here back in 1996 because a glass of red wine a day is supposed to actually be good for you. However in the course of a few weeks time that glass of wine turned to two and then more until he was actually drunk in front of the kids! I was so angry. He promised to stop drinking red wine everyday, and he kept his word for a long time. But not forever. He will occasionally start drinking every day again, making me bring up the subject and force him to keep his word. *sigh*

He agreed not to drink to get drunk. Now he more of less kept to this rule for the first seven years of our marriage. There were only two exceptions: once, at a social situation, he drank past tipsy up to drunk. And another time he came home drunk from a bachelor party. One of my girlfriend's has a motto: Moderation in all things. including moderation. I can live with occasionally overdoing it in a social context. That's understandable.

Of course the best way to guarantee you won't get drunk alone is to limit your purchase of alcohol to what will meet your immediate needs. Do you want a cold beer on a hot day? Buy a cold beer, or if you have someone else to share it with, a six-pack. Is someone coming over for dinner? Buy a bottle of wine to share with friends.

When he started drinking the red wine, he bought a bottle a week. By the third week he was buying it a gallon at a time. It was about the fourth week of his new habit that he got plastered.

Looking back, I can see that this is when the dynamic of our marriage changed. It went from two grown adults, partners in life, to a bad child/angry mommy/vengeful child model. I miss the man I married so much.

In hindsight I think that the point of buying wine was to freak me out so I would correct him- move into the mommy role. It didn't faze me when he bought a bottle of wine a week, so the next week he bought a gallon of wine. I expressed concern but I still didn't freak out. Not until he was drunk in front of my kids. Then I put my foot down. Mommy was not happy.

There was a pointless argument that night. At one point the Lord reminded me not to answer a fool and that arguing with mockers only gets you stripes. So I just stopped talking to him. It was the first, but far from the last, time I was put in the mommy box and then the revenge on mommy could begin.

The man is a master at obsfucating the issue (to totally obscure with non-germane information in a verbose manner, with the intent to provide a non-answer, and provide total befuddlement)withholding whatever words/actions are needful, doing and undoing simultaneously (say "I'm listening" while turning his back and walking away)> He can take a conversation in which two people of good will could resolve a conflict and be reconciled in ten minutes, and he can stretch it into an hours, even days long strife fest- where the person of good will is continually blocked, then led on to believe there is a common goal, then blocked, then teased into trusting and reaching out again, only to be blocked.

This first PAPD fight between us lasted only one night. The next morning he was so remorseful. He dumped out the wine and swore it would never happen again. I was encouraged, because I believed my husband to be a man of integrity.

This was really the end of our grown-up relationship. It signaled the beginning of his "rebellious little boy-punishing mother-resentful child" head games that our marriage has deteriorated into endlessly playing out. I do not want to play anymore. It appears the only way to get out of it is to leave the relationship. I'm still not ready for that, but I am moving in that direction.

I do not drink alone. I do not drink to get drunk. I do not make provision for my flesh by buying large quantities of anything that is not good for my body to ingest in large quantities. I have no problem living by our agreed-upon house rules for alcohol. And yet I am the one with the background that would give me an excuse. Isn't that ironic?

As a teenager I regularly drank to excess. I started partying when I was twelve years old, and I didn't quit until I was nineteen. My job out of foster care was bar maid at a beer joint, and I worked full-time. When I quit I completely quit. Until my husband opened the door to responsible drinking for me when we were first married. I didn't touch alcohol. And even now, I don't have a problem with responsible drinking. I am not tempted to over-indulge.

Yesterday my husband bought a case of beer. For those of you who don't drink, that's twenty-four cans of beer. I can only drink one can of beer without buzzing. My husband weighs almost twice as much as I do, so that would mean he should stop at two drinks (per hour to be technical)to keep from buzzing hard. He has promised me to live by that limit, so that I do not have to fear that he is slipping back into drunkenness.

Obviously, if you buy a case of beer, you intend to drink a case of beer. He bought that entire case of beer to watch one soccer game with one other person. That is clearly planning on getting drunk, and possibly more than once. He wound up only getting to stay at the game until half-time (45 minutes) by which time he had already drunk three beers.

This morning, I asked him to dump it. I reminded him of his promises to me, his promise to our counselor to not drink at all while he was depressed, and he dumped all the beer down the sink. I should be happy, right?

I'm not.

He put me in the mommy box again.

He put me in the position of co-dependent, giving me the responsibility for his drinking habits, as if he is too weak and childish to control himself.

This gives him an avenue to resentment. Rather than be a man who keeps his word and lives a life of love and integrity, he gets to be a resentful little boy whose "mommy" spoils all his fun.

I hate this marriage. I feel so deceived by this man, who I thought was a man of God.

This compulsion he has to play out this "mean mommy" scenario with me disgusts me.

For all the comps who claim a man is due unconditional respect, I say poppycock. People who live lives worthy of respect will be respected.

Do I respect my missionary kid/preachers kid/lifelong Christian husband for playing the foolish baby brat with no integrity or self-control? NO, I do not.

It would be one thing if I had married an alcoholic, or encouraged drinking, or drank myself. Then I might have cause to really respect him for pouring out a case of beer. Hallelujah!

But this whole scenario- bad boy rebelling, mommy punishing, so that bad boy can hate mommy- this is the sickness that is killing me. He married me to have a mommy to hate.

Interestingly enough, there is only one way for ME to stop this merry-go-round of mentally disturbed abuse in my life. (He could stop it by changing his ways, but that is clearly not happening today.) The ONLY WAY for me to stop being put in this position is to leave the relationship.

He seems pretty insistent on keeping things the way they are. He will quickly point out that he's going to counseling. Yeah, but you still break your word and live like a child. What good is counseling if you don't keep your word?

There are twenty-four witnesses to foolishness in my recycle bin. Well, twenty-one if he left the empties at his friend's apartment last night. Twenty-one witnesses to my husband's lack of integrity. Twenty-one witnesses to his disrespect for my comfort as a Christian wife. Twenty-one witnesses that he is still playing me for the punishing mommy. Twenty-one witnesses that I am a fool for trying to have an adult relationship with a man who is inwardly a rebellious little boy.

So who's the real fool here? Him? Or me?

Friday, June 11, 2010


Actually I had contacted this counselor two years previously about EMDR, when I found myself in a rare social situation of an unescapable PTSD trigger. Hearing someone yell or scream trips my symptoms. I can't listen to any speaker, religious or otherwise, who yells. Even if they are yelling positive things, I can not stay in the auditorium. I feel agitated, uneasy, nervous, anxious and if I don't leave- angry.

Honestly that's a pretty easy trigger to avoid. Other people have triggers in life that are impossible to avoid. (Recently it appears that one of my husband's triggers is the sensation of someone walking away from him quickly. But I get ahead of my story.) However, this particular time it was inescapable. A coach scremed in my son's face- SCREAMED so loud that everyone at the school grounds stopped what they were doing and looked for the idiot who was screaming. He screamed a sexist insult- told my son he played like a girl. But the words were not the issue.

Suddenly, I wanted to KILL that coach.

I began to pray for self-control. I picked up my cell and called the head coach and told him in no uncertain terms that what had just happened was completely unacceptable. He agreed and told me that he would take care of it. I used my words wisely, telling people that I was extremely angry. All of the other mothers agreed that they would be angry too. I paced agitatedly. I went to the parking lot, to pace and pray. I just wanted to get my son and get out of there.

Now as a kind and gentle Christian mother, I do not generally want to murder people. This was a full blown PTSD response, and I should have left. I told the other moms I should leave. I told the head coach I should leave. And everyone, not believing that I really meant it, told me to stay. I did stay. It was not a good idea.

I believed I was under control. I was waiting for my son to come off the field when the offending coach, a friend of mine (at least his wife was my good friend) came walking toward me with his young sons. I told him not to come over, that I was too angry to talk. No one ever believes me when I tell them that, I am not sure why. He continued to come towards me saying that he wanted to apologize.

I was shaking. I literally wanted with every fiber of my being to physically attack him. I told him, quite believably, not to come near and that if I had a gun I would blow his f******** head off.

He stopped coming towards me. His face was shocked. He had his two sons with him, my friends little boys. I love those little boys! Never in a million years would I purposely hurt those boys in any way! They were and still are precious to me.

That's PTSD for you. The therapist explains that when we have been through a trauma, the memory is not stored in the cerebral cortex where the rest of our memories go. The stress chemicals coursing through our brain when we are under attack stimulate an entirely different area in our brain. That would be the part of the brain where agression is created, in an effort to ensure that we will move to protect ourselves should we be threatend in that way again. It is instinctual, biological, emotionally overwhelming and completely bypasses conscious thought.

I took my son, went home, cried, poured my heart out to God, wrote furiously in my journal and after an hour or so of venting and processing what had happened, the stress hormones cleared out of my body and I was myself again.

I was filled with remorse. I felt such regret: regret that I had not gone home when I realized what was happening with me, regret that this coach did not honor my request that he leave me alone for the time being, mostly regret that I threatened to kill someone, and that I did so in front of tender hearts that I cared for. I also feared for my friendship. I did so love their mother!

I sent a bouquet of flowers to her at work, with a sincere apology. And to my great surprise, she called me right away. She started out admitting that she was angry that I said that in front of her boys, to which I could only agree that she should be. But then she expressed her understanding, and by the end of the brief (she was at work) conversation she was laughing and joking with me and telling me not to worry about it.

I was amazed at the kindness and generosity. None of the Christians I knew would ever forgive someone cussing like that in front of their children, much less threatening violence. She is a wonderful friend and I am indebted to her forever for her understanding.

I relate this story to show that when I say I understand PTSD triggers, I mean I know how overwhelming the feelings can be. While a person can mitigate the damage they do to themselves and others by leaving the scene, journaling, praying, meditating, yoga, etc. they still must process the flood of stress hormones that is in their brains/body. Until the hormone rush recedes, the person will be upset.

My husband is apparently suffering from PTSD when he flips into the hateful, cold-hearted jerk that is his alter ego. I can believe this. It makes sense. I'm not sure my husband believes it fully though. He still throws around words like "insecure" and "overly-sensitive" about me, so I am wary of the idea that he truly understands. Yet so much hinges on this point.

If he understands, that his huge hormone rush that makes him so hostile and mean is from his own past pain, then we can make some progress. If he is still blaming even the tiniest portion on me, then I am still not safe.

Another huge difference is that I had no wall of denial to tear down. I know my young life was filled with violence and abuse. The abuse was overt and hard to deny.

For my husband, the abuse took the form of abandonment, rejection, ignoring his needs, refusing to allow him to express feelings- all quiet abuse. There was no yelling, just walking away and leaving, shutting him out or ignoring him. There was violence, but those "spankings" were God's will. It was explained that he was spanked because he was loved. All of the shaming and shutting down, it was all for his own good, and God's will to boot!

I don't know if we are going to make it. My husband had another incident this past Sunday, out of the blue. Then on Tuesday when I discovered a passive-aggressive act of forgetting that meant my trust in him was foolish, I unloaded on him!

I am so angry at him. I am angry at all the broken promises. I am angry at all the times he swore he would treat me like a queen but then ignored me and later turned on me with hostility. I am angry at myself for continuing to care about him and want to be in relationship with him.

This post will come down tomorrow. I was hoping this blog would be the saga of a man who found healing in Christ and saved his marriage, and the woman whose faithfulness was rewarded with the same kind of partner in Christian living that she herself had been for him. The statistics are grim, and I am wary.

Jesus, how did I wind up here?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Three Fingers Pointing Back

You know, I am guilty of overkill in the early years. =(

I didn't realize it at the time, but I too was trying to raise the perfect Christian children. My daughter was as earnest as I about always doing what was virtuous- thinking, feeling, and acting in Christian love by the strictest standard.

Not only did I use Christian curriculum (which I modified on occasion because it didn't coincide with what I believe to be accurate about Jesus) but at first I used only devotional books for our night time readings.

I don't want to name names, but we often had to disagree with both the story presented and the proof-text scripture they would always have at the end of each story to back it up. I don't mean every time, but at least once a week. As we got into later volumes, it seemed more and more lessons were religious tripe that actually went against the doctrines of salvation by grace and sanctification being the work of the Holy Spirit and not of the believer. There were heavy burdens in those devotionals, ones I couldn't carry and surely didn't want my children to carry. So we chose to lighten up a little with some fun reading instead.

The first fiction we decided to read together at night was Johnny Tremain. Oh, it was so much more enjoyable to come together as a family at bedtime! My children were really taken with the part where young Cilla gets tipsy, and I remember we talked about how different countries have different laws about what age is appropriate for alcohol. I love history and sociology, so I never miss an opportunity to point out that things here were not always the way they are today, nor does the whole world live like Americans. But I digress. Again. *sigh*

So while we were loosening up at night, we were still reading the Bible together in the daytime, though by fourth grade my oldest was reading her One Year Daily Bible on her own. She would write the date in the corner at the end of each day's reading session. I would have my own time with my son while she was reading. We would memorize scripture together, using big muscles groups to act out pantomines to help us remember long passages at a stretch. It was actually pretty fun for all of us.

But while I was earnestly trying to be the total Christian woman, and to raise devoted Christian children, the world kept going on in all its ugly messiness. In middle school it blew up in her face. (I have read that middle school was a time that many home schooled daughters cracked under the pressure.) Here she was, striving to always do the virtuous things, and her friends dumped her anyway. Middle school girls can be so cruel, and a dose of religion makes them worse, not kinder as you would expect.

As these problems would crop up in our life, we prayed together. She was the most loving, tender-hearted child. She had deep compassion for her friends, and when she found out they were cutting, researching Wicca, things like that, she told me and cried and prayed with me. And when she shared her concern with her friends, they dumped her. Mercilessly and without regret. They did their best to isolate her, getting everyone to leave the room when she came in, and if she followed, to run back inside and ditch her.

She's always been introverted, but this almost destroyed her. She became even more withdrawn, almost catatonic, while I was beside myself trying to help her. She wouldn't talk to the counselor we signed up with, and I was desperate to help her.

So I gave her a lot of freedom. I started reading unschooling books, and loosened up on just about everything. (Ironically, the book that inspired me the most during this time was the children's book I'll Love You Forever.)

She found a friend from a family that I didn't approve at the time (embarrassing to admit) and I was so desperate for her to be well that I let the girls hang out together. Her friend introduced her to role-laying on Neopets. I didn't "believe" in letting kids on the internet, but I sucked it up and gave her the freedom to pursue this new hobby. She was hurting, and I was helpless to stop the pain. If neopets helped, then she could role-play on Neopets.

(Neopets turned out to be the best language arts program I had ever utilized! She wrote for hours and hours. She would correct other role-player's grammar, spelling and punctuation. I printed off her story at the end of the year and a lawyer who lived next door was astounded. She felt like it had to have been written by a college student majoring in creative writing.)

She started going to youth group with this other home schooled girl at her church. I still didn't approve of the family (what a snob I was!) though. I was just happy my daughter was being invited places again. She was still a hurt and angry little girl, so no surprise that she got into Goth style clothing. She started wanting to wear lacy black and lime green. I allowed her to express herself with clothing, as long as it wasn't sleazy.

Life doesn't happen in a vacuum and my daughter's broken heart and crisis of faith was not the only heart break I was dealing with. My husband was withdrawn, sullen, unkind. He was not at all supportive of me and the huge problem that I was having with my daughter. I didn't know it at the time, but he was also depressed. He and my daughter fed off of each other, taking turns hurting me in some sort of sick sport. I was too earnestly still trying to be the perfect loving, forgiving Christian woman to get a handle on what was going on. I just cried more and prayed more and tried being more supportive and loving. That didn't improve things any.

Dad was not really a good dad at the time nor any kind of true Christian role model. Oh, he was morally upright but lukewarm in faith- sleeping through church, no personal devotional life- and mean as a snake, but always in sneaky ways. His cruelty was more often expressed in omission and other passive aggressive ways of stabbing people in the back. Raised a devout Christian fundamentalist, he is expert at ways of revenge so subtle that you can't point to and say "That's clearly wrong!".

All this time, my daughter was still very angry and depressed. The sweet little girl I once knew was replaced by a bitter, resentful child. It was clear that she was hurting, but she would not let me or anyone else help her.

And so all my efforts at having the perfect Christian home school family ended in failure. We were still home schooling, but it was plain as day that our life would never be featured in a BJU Press reader! I had followed all the rules. I prayed with sincerity of heart! I read my Bible daily! I was kind and earnest and worked diligently to model Christian charity. But I cracked too.

I did the best I could with what I had. I sometimes wonder if the middle school freeze out would have hurt my daughter so much if we hadn't been SO EARNEST in our love, SO SINCERE in our faith, always striving for the HIGHEST and the BEST. Maybe it wouldn't have been so shocking that other people will screw you over, that other Christians will gossip and ostracize and back-stab. Doing such things would be unthinkable for us, so fervently did we seek to please the Lord at all times. We were totally shocked and devastated.

From my daughters point of view, the whole thing (Christianity) was a ruse. We were the only ones trying so diligently to love, forgive, do good, etc. And because of that, we were the ones getting screwed. She was just facing facts. No wonder she got so deeply depressed. No wonder she stopped trying so hard to do what's right.

She did not walk away from Jesus, but she did walk away from even attempting any works of righteousness on her own. She was mostly rotten to me and her brother. She didn't even try to be cheerful and kind anymore. It was hell living with her during those years.

But in the end, I am glad for the way things turned out. She pulled the mask right off of our gospel of works. I may have talked grace, but I was clearly going about to establish my own righteousness. And not mine only, but my children's as well.

So as a pastor once said, when you point the finger at someone you have three fingers pointing back at yourself. I partook of the dangerous home school vision too, that I could nurture the perfect Christian family. But Jesus loved me too much to leave me in my delusion.

And so here I am in Graceland. =) There are no pat answers here anymore. Everything is up in the air and who knows how it will all come down? I say "I don't know" a lot more. I am living in reality now, where people are messy and inconvenient and sometimes even ugly. I live in the real world where everyone else lives, where people cuss and fight and laugh and only Jesus has to die on the cross for the sins of the world. This world that He loves. I can't add to his work. His work is finished. He is our sanctification.

Thank you, Jesus!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Show, Don't Tell

I have always maintained (and still do) that my decision to home school is separate from raising my children in the Christian faith.

Being a believer in Jesus and a devoted follower of His is who I am.

Home schooling is a method of educating my children outside of traditional institutional education offered by society, both public and private. Home school is one of the things I do.

If I were to choose institutional education for my children, or they were to choose it for themselves when they were older, I would still be a Christian. That would not change. I would still be that "living epistle known by all men", especially my family who has no choice but to read me every single day.

I am not leading my children *to Christ*. The Holy Spirit draws all men to the Lord. I am living out my Christian life in front of them.

I am not discipling my children *for Christ*. They are disciples of Jesus, and He is responsible for their discipleship. I am merely one (albeit extremely influential one-they live with me for the first eighteen or so years of their lives) fellow disciple who will share the faith walk with them in the course of their lives.

I am their sister in Christ, responsible to love them, encourage them, exhort them, pray for them, laugh with them, cry with them and always point to Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd. I'm just an older sheep.

Here is a list of things that would not change, even if we did not home school:

*I would still pray with my children every night together as a family. I pray on my own many times during a typical day, personally. Since they are home they see it more than they would if they were at school, but they would still see me pray daily. It's unavoidable.

*I would still read to them at night (sometimes devotional literature, but always good, uplifting stories like the Redwall series, Chronicles of Narnia, pretty much any Newberry Award book, etc.) Now that they are teens we are doing more theology stuff. Currently we are reading The Myth of a Christian Religion by Gregory A. Boyd.

*I would still talk to them all the time about what was going on in my life spiritually. I do that to anyone in my sphere of influence. =)

*I would still be excited when they share with me what is going on in their spiritual lives.

*I would still be diligent to keep our relationship on solid ground so that they would trust me enough to share what's on their hearts! (That is trickier than you might think. A parent must tread very carefully here.)

*I would still volunteer at church and in the community, make meals for people facing surgeries or new babies, sponsor a child through World Vision, and generally respond to needs that arise in my world with as much compassion and generosity as ever. Growing up they accompanied me because they had no choice. Now they do have a choice and often (not always) they choose to come with me.

Because I live this way, I find it completely unnecessary to have religion in every subject of my home school. Can you say "overkill" boys and girls?

I love writing fiction, and one inescapable truism of good writing is "Show, don't Tell".

I think that is also a great rule to follow for Christian parents. Show by the way YOU live, oh parent, what it means to follow Jesus. Don't continually tell, tell, tell what others should do/not do.

That's what the Christian curriculum is, a constant tell, tell, tell. We don't need that here. We have the real thing in living color showing every day what a Christian life looks, feels and tastes like. Mmmmmm.

And for the record, yes I know Christian parents who send their children to public school and do all the things at home that I do. Their children are doing about the same as mine, which is thriving. They are good students who have goals and dreams and live clean lives.

They are conscious of God and love Him, but they are not sanctimonious or super-spiritual. They have lots of friends, and their friends all know the teens and the family are Christians. Sometimes some of them ask about their faith and they are happy to talk with them. Sometimes some of their friends will come to church with the family.

They are normal Christian teens, which means that sometimes they feel lazy. Sometimes they are snippy or rude to others. Sometimes they don't eat right, or keep their rooms clean. They even make some pretty bad decisions on occasion, but the Holy Spirit is with them to redeem them from the bad and teach them some good from the harsh realities of bad choices.

Teens from both families sometimes exasperate their parents, but we the parents still love and accept them. They like music we don't like, watch movies we would never pick, and even say things that would embarrass us if they said them in front of the neighbors. Sometimes we even learn from these teens of ours, who are exploring the world outside and translating for us when they get home. It's an adventure, that's for sure.

In short, they are redeemed lambs of God, who are called holy and blameless in His sight. Keep that in mind, parents of Christian teens! They are not called to perfection, they are just called to Jesus.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Comment Moderation

Comment moderation is on for a season. Seems some adherent of family integrated churches wants to engage me in a debate.

For the record, I think family integrated churches are cults. (Actually, I think a lot of Christian congregations have cultish tendencies, but that's not today's topic.)

It's just another way for home school families of that stripe to dominate their children through continuous presence of parents, to limit their children's opportunities to associate with their age peers or to eliminate any associate with others who are not doctrinally pure by the parents standards.

All this (and more) to ensure that these children grow up thinking and behaving exactly as their parents think they should think and behave.

Family integrated churches are started by home schooling families who are too opinionated and legalistic to fellowship in an established Christian community. They isolate themselves and allow in only those who are willing to buy into their lifestyle: home schooling, patriarchy, YE creation science, courtship: the whole package.

As a libertarian, I used to take a very "live and let live, to each his own" philosophical approach to such home schools. But now, seeing the pain caused by fundamentalist dogma in my husband's life and reading the painful personal stories of so many, many home schooled students who have come from such homes, I am not going to be casual about this.

Unequivocally I am against patriarchy, family integrated churches, "sheltering" teens, courtship, isolation, milleu control and other cult mind control/crowd control techniques.

I am for home schooling, public schooling, private schooling and all parenting that loves and nurtures children while allowing them the freedom to grow and learn more and more independently as they mature.

Now that I've cleared that up, I am going to go enjoy my son. He wants to show me something on the Mac.

Depression and DV

Readers following the ongoing saga of my relationship with my husband in my crappy home school marriage know that recently we began counseling with an EMDR trained licensed clinical social worker.

I made the decision to call this counselor for myself. I am unfortunately familiar with PTSD. I grew up in a household run by a personality disordered parent. There was much drama and much trauma in my life at home. And since as a teen, I found some relief from the emotional, psychological and physical abuse by partying, I suffered outside of the home too. (Poor kid. I was doomed coming and going. *sigh*) When my husband would initiate an abusive incident, I not only had the present to deal with but all the PTSD from the past. I need to at least clear out as much of the past trauma response as I can.

As I was talking with the counselor to make the appointment for myself, she compassionately opined that my husband sounds as if he would benefit from trauma therapy. This was in response to learning of his background as a missionary kid who was abandoned and rejected by his parents in favor of "ministry" to Stone Age tribal peoples.

He agreed to begin treatment himself, and in the course of doing his intake it became apparent that he is still very depressed. =( She suggested that the dosage of his anti-depressant might be too low. She also recommended many other avenues of attack for the depression: nutrition, exercise, sleep, building a social life, etc.

As you might expect, I have been researching depression. I especially was interested in how these medications work. I found these links HERE and
HERE to be of great value.

I was completely floored when I read that depression is literally an atrophying brain! That sobered me up about the seriousness of depression. It is as serious and can be as deadly as cancer. AN ATROPHIED BRAIN IS NOT A SMALL THING!! Your brain cells shrink. Literally. Yikes!

Turns out the serotonin uptake is NOT what makes antidepressant helpful, though that is what they were designed to do. They help by facilitating healing of atrophied brain cells.

Let me repeat that: Anti-depressant medications work by facilitating the recovery of atrophied brain cells. If you are depressed, do everything you can to heal your brain! Meds are not shameful! They are not the whole answer, but they do speed recovery. So please don't be afraid of getting diagnosed if you have been struggling for a long time. It could be a key component in saving your brain!

I am very concerned for my husband. If, as the intake indicates, my husband has been depressed for as long as fifteen years, he is in serious trouble. The longer depression goes untreated, the greater the damage to the brain.

What damage? Personality changes (check). Impaired concentration (check). Lowered work performance (sad to say, check). Oh my. Increased irritability (check). Apathy resulting in poor self-care (check). Hostility (check). Damaged relationships (CHECK!).

But medication alone is not enough. It only helps in the recovery of atrophied brain cells. There are other things necessary for healing your brain. Exercise, sunlight and nutrition are IMPORTANT!

Regular exercise is nature's natural anti-depressant, which may explain why my husband did not experience depression during his college years and the early years of our marriage. He was a long distance runner and avid soccer player for many years. When he began to travel for a living, regular exercise fell away rather quickly. :\

Sunshine helps in ways not fully explained, so exercise outside and in daylight when you can. Yard work is healing therapy for atrophied brain cells. =)

Nutrition is far more important than most men will admit. Seems like some have been raised to believe that bad nutrition is a manly ideal. (Get those fresh fruits and veggies into your diet, please!) My husband, I am elated to report, has accepted that the closest a food is to its natural state, the better it probably is for you. This is a new idea, so I am hopeful it will be of great benefit in the weeks and months ahead.

Laughter is IMPORTANT! The act of laughing releases chemicals in our brains that facilitate healing as well.

Friends are critical to healing both because they help us talk through our problems and they make us laugh! Friends are twofers! =)

Of course reparative measures are no good if you don't stop the source of the stress. One must relieve the issue that has been flooding your brain with cortisol on such a regular basis that your brain cells are atrophied. In my husband's case, that means working through childhood traumas. If you don't eliminate the cause of the stress hormones flooding your brain, you can't even begin to heal. Good psychotherapy is critically IMPORTANT!

I could not be more serious about my husband's physical health if he were diagnosed with cancer. This is a physical ailment! It is a debilitating, crippling physical ailment. YOU NEED YOUR BRAIN!

Plus I need to protect my brain and my son's brain. Living with depression affects the whole family. In this way, it can be contagious. Remember the skit persona Debbie Downer of SNL?

I am relieved that now I have things I can do, both to help my husband, my self and my son. I am going to vigorously work for a full recovery for all of us, with all my strength.

I was talking about these issues with a friend yesterday, and it led to us discussing men, depression and domestic violence. According to one of the articles I read yesterday, marriages in which one spouse is depressed are nine times more likely to divorce. That is a telling statistic.

We thought about the murder-suicides you read about. Those brains were not functioning healthily! In my family, I know women who gave up on husbands because the men just didn't care about life, didn't bathe regularly, were hostile and unhappy all the times. Sounds like depression to me. My friend thought of similar situations, and there were many that came to mind. Hmmmm.

Your thoughts, dear readers?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bait and Switch

When I first met a home school mom, she was so full of enthusiasm and information. She touted the many benefits of home schooling, such as:
* "the world is your classroom"
* you can tailor studies to your student's interests (delight directed learning)
* plus they will have the freedom to learn at their own pace
* you are only limited by your creativity as to how you teach/what you teach/when you teach

The first home school convention I went to was filled with speakers lauding these advantages and others:
* no undue amounts of peer pressure
* freedom in the school day to go to the bathroom without seeking permission in a public forum
* freedom to choose whatever PE and/or art your student was interested in, or none if it was not their aptitude
* more relaxed family time, less rushing to make the bus/bell on time
* less overall performance anxiety that so many children needlessly suffer from
* you could touch on all learning styles in your classroom as each child had need
* you were not limited to lectures and workbooks like classroom teachers

On and on it goes. The advantages all had one theme in common: liberty!

But at those same conventions, and oddly enough sometimes promoted out of the other side of their mouth by the same moms who raved about the Colfax's and Konos and delight-directed learning, were the boxed curriculum vendors. You all know them if you home school: BJU Press, Abeka, Rod and Staff, Alpha Omega, etc.

The appeal of these types of curriculum probably depended on the person. I can only speak for myself. I used them at the beginning as a sort of multi-vitamin, to make sure that my students didn't miss out on anything I might be weak on in my unit studies. Also, on a day mom wasn't feeling well, or a student wasn't feeling well, the workbooks ensured that some learning was still happening.

But let's be honest, all of these canned programs are religious in nature. Now I'm a religious person so that didn't bother me much at all in the early years. In fact I wanted to teach respect for all people, regardless of religion, and that no matter your branch of Christianity we have things in common. The problem is that all the boxed sets are from a strict, fundamentalist doctrinal position. At least all the ones I found were. (I have heard that the Catholic home schoolers have their own boxed courses. I haven't ever seen them so I wouldn't know.)

For the first year readers, it was not that big of a deal to me that all the women in the pictures and stories wore dresses. It was easy to explain to my young daughter that dressing that way was a religious requirement, not a Jesus requirement. I even used some Anabaptist materials for Bible, simply skipping the chapter on the importance of "being plain". But as they grew I used the canned stuff less and less, relying on secular materials and using real books from the library instead of carefully chosen readers.

And it wasn't only the religion on the side that was objectionable. I picked up a workbook set for high school that was supposed to be Biology. It was abominable! It talked about animals in anthropomorphic terms you would expect in an elementary child's story book. And it was extremely simplistic; not at all acceptable for high school science. Yet I knew more than one family that RELIED on this provider for their entire school year, all subjects!

In fact, many of those women who had touted home schooling as this great nurturing, learning adventure into freedom were instead relying more and more on boxed curriculum. I think that was because they kept having more and more children, and so the exciting adventure of learning together that they set out on was not possible anymore. They were too busy with nursing, baby care, more laundry every year, more mouths to cook for every year and not one more hour in a day than they had when they started out.

They also began to be stricter about their families dress, what they could watch, and what they were allowed to participate in as far as community programs. Creation Science became a sort of sub-religion, not just one possible reconciliation between reality and the creation account in Genesis but THE TRUTH!

Many of the home school families I knew were becoming choosier and choosier about what was acceptable and what was not. Far from freedom and acceptance, they started circling the wagons over all sorts of non-essential issues. Talk about your bait and switch. These same people would still list all the liberty leaning benefits of home schooling while defending it publicly. But at home, they were practicing just the opposite!

There was a great educational resource in our community, but because the museums they toured contained statements that dated the earth and the existence of humans as older than Creation Science teaches, people not only didn't go, but complained to leadership that it was even promoted as an opportunity!

Our monthly skate was already limited to playing only contemporary Christian music, bot others boycotted skating because they thought we should only play hymns or classical music. They made a point of letting leadership know why they would not be attending.

When my children were little, G rated Disney movies were wonderful family fun. Now if you mentioned one, or wanted to plan an outing to a Disney movie, it would be a source of huge contentious debate. On the one hand, there were all sorts of arguments against the moral fiber of whatever the movie was, and on the other hand, you were considered endorsing homosexuality as a Christian norm if you were not boycotting Disney!

And then as our children aged, there was the courtship/dating controversy. Oh my! Many of these young men became arrogant and opinionated, puffed up with oversize egos because they knew they were the prize! A Christian home schooled man was the only acceptable choice for those in the courtship frenzy. And the boys knew that they were the ones who got to choose from all of the available girls- what power! (Yuck! Dear God save my daughter from such a horrendous fate as being married to one of those courtship only home schooled "men"!)

The gap between the kind of home schooling I was sold on, and the reality that was being practiced by the Christian home schooling community just kept getting wider. I knew which side I wanted to be on, and so it was inevitable that the Christian home school community and I would have to go our separate ways.

I haven't been to a convention since, oh, 2004? I went to a retreat for home school moms in 2005, and what was actually taught openly was really good. It was all about relationships in the family, and how important it is to be loving to your children.

But the personal practice of the speaker was Creation Science only, family integrated church, dresses only (though she allowed herself make-up) and I'm pretty sure courtship, patriarchy and keeping adult daughters at home. She talked a great talk, but I could not reconcile it with her walk.

Are there any other Christian home school moms out there who feel like I do? Who feel that they were brought into Christian home school support groups with bait and switch tactics? So many of the women who started out around the same time I did have wound up in very different places- in reality the opposite of what they set out to accomplish.

Or is it just me? =)