Saturday, August 30, 2008

Assumptions and Presumptions

I hate it when people make assumptions about what I'm doing or why I'm doing it.

Given the life I live, which isn't quite what most Christian young women my age are doing, I've been given lectures and rebukes and disapproving looks plenty of times from well-meaning friends. It seems like most of the time when someone has actually said something, those were the times when I didn't need a rebuke! Those were the times that I actually felt confident that I was doing what God wanted me to or the times when I was doing exactly what I could and should to the best of my abilities. On the other hand, there have been plenty of times when a loving rebuke would have been quite appropriate and no one said anything!

I'll never forget the time when a friend rebuked me for something it looked like I had been doing. In actuality, what I was accused of had not even crossed my mind. I was shocked and hurt. What?! I was too embarrassed to even try to defend myself and explain what the situation really was. But it taught me a lesson to think not once, not twice, but several times before I decide to correct someone or presume upon their motives.

Well, I thought I had learned that lesson.

I recently found myself greatly humbled when I realized that I had presumed on a friend's very noble motives.

To me, it looked like this friend was motivated by a great deal of pride and selfishness in several major decisions that they had made. This wasn't one of those situations where one should just not form an opinion because one doesn't know the whole story. No, indeed - in this situation things looked very obvious. It appeared that such choices could have no other root than selfishness itself. This person even made several comments about why they were doing such things, and it confirmed what I had suspected.

I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about my friend's motives or worrying about their choices for life, but when someone else commented on what a sad choice this person had made, I agreed and added something about unselfishness being a virtue of which most people have much to learn.

And then I heard something from someone else. This friend was making these choices, not because they wanted to or would have chose such a course for themselves, but out of honor to parents who wanted something different. And they hadn't wanted anyone to criticize or dishonor their parents, so they had done the best they could to take responsibility for what they were doing and move forward, trying to enjoy what they were embarking upon.

I was speechless...

I hope I'll remember for a long, long time that even if it looks like I see the whole picture, I probably don't.

Esteeming others as better than myself means that I will be more likely to dismiss their shortcomings and errors and make excuses for what they do that I would my very own self!

Ummm... I have a long way to go!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Those Blessed Books!

I'm finally, finally studying for the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) exam that is one of the final steps towards becoming a Certified Professional Midwife!

I've dearly wanted to study for the past four years, but my obligations at the Capitol have had to come first, so I've barely cracked a book in years.

But now we've legalized the midwives in Missouri, so I can really and truly become one! I can't wait!

Since I am now free to study, I am trying to carefully guard a few hours of day to do just that. Some days tomato canning consumes the whole day, but other days I actually retreat to my bedroom and pile of books. I don't usually get as much done as I aim for, but it feels wonderful just to be sitting in a pile of books and papers and folders and forms!

Teratogenic effects of drugs, neonatal infections, placental sufficiency, sickle cell traits, endometritis, cystoceles, rectoceles, fetal tachycardia in labor.... and even words like suboccipitobregmatic diameter... All of these need to be far more than words and definitions in my head.

I'm learning again... finally. And I love it!

I hope I am sitting for the NARM exam next August and a CPM by the end of next year!

The Eternal, Unchanging God

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men:”
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

-Isaac Watts (1719)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"You are as holy as you want to be."

This past week I've been thinking often of Keith Daniel's saying, 
"You are as holy as you want to be."

Yes, people can disagree with that statement, or clarify, or whatever. (And, yes, I know that it is only by God's grace that we can do anything right... that's the other side of the coin, but not what I'm posting about tonight!)

That statement is far more true than many of us would like to admit. We lament because we have habitual sins in our life that we haven't conquered, because we just keep having the wrong priorities, etc...
The truth is, usually we don't want personal holiness bad enough.

People decide to go to college and get a degree. Many don't want it that badly, and they quit short of the goal. But for many, it doesn't matter what obstacles land in their way or how unfairly life treats them - their eyes are fixed on the goal  - and they do it! I could think of numerous examples of people who are determined to do something, regardless of the pain, sacrifice, cost, and discomfort but set their mind to who/what they want to be and do it!

Many Christians talk about stopping their anger or bitterness or lust or pride or immodesty or dishonesty or slander or dishonor of authority... or throwing away those magazines, that music, whatever brings them back to sin. They really do want to stop it. But they don't want to bad enough. So they don't quit or they just stick the music or magazines under the bed for awhile to pacify their conscience.

I know, because sometimes that's me. Impatient with a little sister again, I want to repent, confess it, and do better next time. But did I need to act that way this time? No.

As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he, the Bible says. I am a goal-oriented person. I make and follow to-do lists, and I prioritize what I want most to get done each day. I don't always get everything done that I want to, but I try hard, because it matters to me.

Does being holy tomorrow matter to me? Of course, it matters. But does it matter enough to make it to the top of my list, above all of my other goals?

My personal holiness depends on how bad I want it. I have no other excuse for my life. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


All of the girls together, plus an extra - our friend, Suzanne

Tonight at our ladies' Bible study/prayer group, we found ourselves discussing a chapter out of an old book that we had read. The book talked about the need for young women to cultivate piety in their lives.

Hmmm... Piety. That's kind of an old-fashioned word. What does that mean? we all wondered.

So, we pulled out Webster's 1828 dictionary. I found a lot of food for thought.

Piety 1.) Piety in principle, is a compound of veneration or reverence of the Supreme Being and love of His character, or veneration accompanied with love; and piety in practice, is the exercise of these affections in obedience to His will and devotion to his service. 2.) Reverence of parents or friends, accompanied with affection and devotion to their honor and happiness. Piety is the only proper and adequate relief of decaying man.

" of His character..."

I thought back to a recent visit with my friend who I was trying to explain something to. I knew that she doesn't believe what I do. I was trying to explain a Biblical doctrine to her that she had asked about. She is someone who has always had a very negative view of God, and is finally taking baby steps towards recognizing that God is God and He is good, and he deserves her respect and love whether or not she likes everything that He does. These concepts seem so hard for her to grasp. She seems so easily offended by the hard truths of the Bible, and yet little by little, I see her mind opening to truth, even hard truth, a tiny bit at a time.

So, I explained the part she had asked about. I carefully avoided getting into another related subject, knowing that it probably wouldn't go over well if I told it to her like it is. She would need the "mild" version or would need to wait for another day to hear all of those hard truths... so I didn't even go down that trail with her.

But, I stopped myself this evening. I should have a love of God's character. If I LOVE God's character, why would I cringe to tell her everything of God's character? Why would I think that perhaps she wasn't ready for all of this just yet?

Somehow I believed that my human character could better portray the Truth than the way GOD said it?

I stand convicted.

I must love God's character enough to tell it like it is unabashedly not just to most, but even to my most sensitive friends.

God's character is good, through and through. There is no reason to hold any of it back.

It's GOOD. I should LOVE it! If I love it, I will find it strange if other people find it offensive.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Stuff that happens to people with too many veggies

Ever heard of Veggie Tales?

I've never voluntarily watched them, but this week, Veggie Tales started happening in my very own living room - live!

I'm afraid that some family members and close friends have experienced too much vegetable saturation in recent weeks.

They are now attending Veggaholics Anonymous, so for that reason they also will remain unnamed in this post. But enjoy the picture. This is called therapy, when you are hot and just plain tired of cutting up tomatoes. And can't think of any other way to maintain a good attitude....

(They highly recommend this type of therapy, by the way.)

Baked Squash Casserole

Just in case you have an abundance of squash, here's something new for your menu...

Baked Squash Casserole

8 medium yellow squash, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup cracker crumbs or dry bread crumbs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cook squash and onion in a small amount of water for 5-7 minutes. Drain well. Cream squash in food processor, blender or mixer. Combine squash mixture with remaining ingredients. Mix well and spoon into lightly greased casserole dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Makes: 8 servings

If you like to waltz with tomatoes....

The tomato production around here is... insane! We've been canning dozens and dozens of quarts of spaghetti sauce almost every day of the week!

Mom and I started picking tomatoes before 8 am this morning. We brought one van load home to the other girls, who started processing, then we went back to the garden, and picked a few more bushels, only to return around lunch time to the whole house covered in tomatoes. (All the pictures for this post were taken today.)

Tomato sorting -
This one to process immediately...
This one to ripen for tomorrow...
This one to sell...

Steve making tomato paste...

Liz and Joanna, busy with spaghetti sauce in the makings...

Dad just finished screening in our back deck and turning it into a summer canning kitchen! YEAH! Now instead of heating our whole house while we cook down things like spaghetti and apple sauce, pots can be simmering on the wood stove out there. The thermometer read 117 degrees out there when this picture was taken!

And now it's 12:20 am... There are 54 quarts of spaghetti sauce cooling on the counter and another 20 quarts still simmering. We'll finish those first thing in the morning... And hopefully we'll also sell the 8 crates of nicer tomatoes stacked in my office!

Liz wants me to remind anyone reading that you are always most welcome to show up with a couple extra kettles and a paring knife! : ) We can't promise to look impressive or be in the best mood, but we'll be thankful you arrived!

If only we were vegetarian...

Seriously, if we were vegetarians, we'd probably think that we were in Paradise! The amount of produce to harvest, to process, to EAT is astounding! We feel overwhelmed with work, but we know that we are blessed! And we're gladly trading help with harvesting and processing for a share in the bounty! Anybody want to spend a day digging carrots? Or winnowing wheat?

There are always new ways to do things at our house.
Above: Liz and Julia (a neighbor girl) picking peaches from 'Zaiah's backhoe scoop!

The beginnings of peach preserves

Our onions usually do well. So we planted a lot.
Well, this year they did better than usual, so we have onions drying in long, long rows
in one of the neighbor's 250 ft. long barns!
And when we get bored, we sit around and make onion braids...

We've discovered a solution to part of our produce "problem" - a local Amish produce auction where they sell your produce to grocers, etc for a small commission. We also find it a good way to acquire some of the items that we didn't plant this year (like zucchini!). We took half a car load of produce to get rid of and came back with a car stuffed from floor to ceiling, plus an extra $100 to boot! Who can resist a case of 25 organic eggplants for $3.00? Or 50 organic bell peppers for $4.00? (Now that our 600 bell pepper plants are producing, I know better than to think we'd ever need to buy another pepper!!)

... And then there's watermelon. For as long as I can remember, watermelon was a special summer treat we had a few times a year. This year, the Anchor boys' home that my brothers work for decided that they would plant a field of watermelon for the boys to work in! That results in 'Zaiah's red truck pulling up each week with 300 watermelons on it. After unloading them in a huge pile in the basement, he smiles as he drives away saying, "Well, I hope that you can figure out where to sell them this week... I'll bring another load next week!" So we sell watermelons to grocery stores, and neighbors, and at the auction, and... then when nobody else wants to buy them and another load is about to arrive, we all have generous pieces!

(Above: When Sam's friend, Ben came to stay for a week and help us in the garden, they decided that they would each try to eat a whole 25 pound watermelon a day! They came close to reaching their goals. Needless to say, for once, they didn't need much lunch!)

Hay Balin'

Among the many, many things needing to be done around the farm, one of the most important is putting up the hay - cutting it, raking it, baling it, picking it up in the field, stacking it in the barn...
It becomes an all around family affair to get the hay done, as we all pray for the rain to wait just till it's all inside the barn!

It's about 100 degrees, but as long as you work fast enough, you don't notice!
Yeah, right!

Everyone is hot, prickly, sweaty, and ready to be DONE!
To be completely honest, I wasn't home this day, so I did not experience it, but I heard plenty about it when I got back!

Jemima managed to paste a smile on for the picture!

Sun is setting... hurry, Sam! Let's get the last of the hay in!

Don't ask me who had the time to capture the moment in photographs...
but I suspect it was Liz or Ruth!

Play Dough

I'm off to babysit the three little ones (cousins) that I nanny for from time to time. Since they are all six years old, I need lots of ideas for entertaining them and keeping them happily busy.
Making play dough is always a hit.

Here's my recipe:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup salt
4 cups water
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup cream of tartar (helps it stay fresh for a long time)
Food coloring, if desired

Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan. Cook and stir over low/medium heat until play dough is completely formed and no longer sticky. (Really, it will cook up to a nice play dough consistency as long as you watch it closely and keep stirring!) Mix/knead in food coloring, if you want colors! Allow to cool at least part way before beginning to play with it! Store in an air-tight container or a zip-lock bag.

Something lasting for something fleeting...

I've posted this before, but it's worth re-reading, and it fits with my most recent post...

Compromise occurs when I sacrifice

something lasting for something fleeting

the holy for the unholy

the heavenly for the earthly

the eternal for the temporary.

That which I gain in so doing will never

be worth the price I have to pay for it.

-Shirlissa Harris

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Myself - My Deadliest Foe

Note to younger readers: This blog post contains some sensitive topics – please ask your parents to check it out before reading. Thank you!

This post has been in the works for several days. I’m still reeling from the news of the fall of a “good” man.

I don't know why I'm surprised when I hear than any human being has failed miserably. But I am, every time that a friend stumbles into grave and ugly sin. Adultery, divorce, abuse, anger, bitterness, rebellion…. now child rape.

"How could they?!" I ask myself over and over again.

And then I remember that it could have been me.

This time it was somebody from the Capitol who I respected as a Christian man who was purposing to live a life of integrity and love his family. Sure, I knew he wasn’t perfect – far from it. Sometimes I saw him make decisions that were politically motivated more than they were completely about justice. I didn’t know him that well, but several of my really dear friends at the Capitol considered him one of their best friends and respected him as a man of integrity, morality, and character.

I have a hunch that Representative M. went to the Capitol, originally purposing to do some good in the world. I think he loved his wife and boys. I think he was a "good" man (by our human standards) who never would have dreamed of doing what he has been charged with.

I'm sure that as he was logged into the Cole County Jail the other day, he wondered what on earth had become of him and the man he planned to be. I sure he asked himself a hundred times why he had been so stupid; why he had ever thought that his sin wouldn't find him out.

*** *** ***

I still remember the day four years ago when I met Representative M.

I was totally new to the Capitol, trying with a friend to find my way around to the twelve offices of the committee members who would be hearing our bill in the morning.

I don't remember much of our exchange except that he took my information and listened. As we were getting ready to leave, he asked us where we were from and somehow seemed to assume we were Christians. He smiled pleasantly and said, "It's so nice to meet people like you up here. I was raised in a good Christian home with wonderful parents, and now that I have two little boys back at home I realize what a big responsibility I have to raise them up with Christian values in world like we live in today. It's a lot of work, but my wife and I love them to death, and I'd do anything for them. You know, it's really hard to kiss your family goodbye and leave them every week. But the reason I first decided to run for office was to make a better world for my boys when they grow up. So, it's worth the sacrifice to my wife and I when we remember that we're doing this for them."

I liked him there on the spot. Most of the politicians I had met were very business-like, but Representative M. seemed transparent, like you could glimpse a bit of his soul when he talked.

The next week, I was talking to the Committee Chairwoman about our bill, which Representative M. was not supportive of at the time. She had nothing but good things to say about him. I remember her looking up from her desk over the top of her glasses and saying, "Representative M. is one of our very best and brightest in the entire Missouri legislature. We all go to him for advice and I'm sorry to say that if he has a problem with a bill, then I have a problem with a bill. He's just of the caliber that makes you take his opinion seriously... and I listen to him on any bill that comes through my committee. He’s really a good man, with a tender conscience and a principled set of values."

That was four years ago.

*** *** ***

The years passed, and I saw Representative M. frequently. He wasn't supportive of our bill most of the time (he had a strong constituency who opposed it), but I still liked him and respected him in many ways, even when he refused to vote with us.

He was one of those guys who, unlike many politicians, seemed to exercise self-control and realize that life was about more than just living for today.

He always ran up the three flights of stairs, instead of taking the elevator that was just down the hall from his office. He was pleasant to people he didn't like or agree with, and he seemed to avoid some of the ethical breaches that many legislators found themselves falling into. He was willing to work hard and smart and earned himself an influential place - including hanging out with the Governor on private excursions. The moral conservative lobbyists made him one of their go-to guys because of his firm commitment to family values issues. Some legislators were known for their partying and wheeling-and-dealing. Representative M. was known for his strong conservative principles, his willingness to stand firm on his beliefs, and his ability to communicate effectively.

He seemed wise – one of the rare people who realized that every decision he made today would effect his tomorrow.

He was considered one of the rising stars of the conservative Republican Party - he was young, bright, articulate, personable, handsome, rich, and had impeccable credentials. A few people called him "The rich kid from St. Louis," but most people seemed to envy and admire the way he had everything and had it all "together."

On the House Floor, during debate, Representative M. was brilliant, witty, and nearly always on target with his comments. Even the Democrats found themselves smiling at the analogies he thought up on the spot. Whenever I saw him rise to a microphone, I would tell myself, "This is going to be good..." And it always was. I was either in stitches, or saying to myself, "Wow! Some people in government still use a lot of common sense!"

Since he was friends with several of the legislators who I was closest with, we frequently ended up in the same offices and the same conversations.

*** *** ***

Three nights before the legislative session ended this year (May), I was watching a legislator's children in a Capitol office, when Representative M. strolled in and asked what was up. The little girls began chattering away eagerly and Representative M., as usual, obliged them with funny stories and tales about his boys. I asked him how his family was, and he happily told me all the details of what his wife and boys were doing these days and how glad he would be to be back home and take a vacation with them over summer. Once again, I found myself impressed with him – he really seemed to love and miss his family, unlike many of the other guys at the Capitol.

Session ended a couple of days later. I went home. Some of the legislators stayed over and partied late into the night. According to police reports, sometime during the wee hours of the morning, Representative M. raped a 14 year old girl while her mother witnessed the incident. The girl's mother was a former legislative staffer who Representative M. had been having a secret affair with over the past year.

When the news was first reported a couple of days ago, as Representative M. was booked at the Cole County Jail, I found myself feeling disbelief.

Him? I could see other people at the Capitol doing that, but not him!

I texted a couple of my friends at the Capitol, “What?!”

They all replied, “Shocking… we can’t believe it either. He was a man who would have never dreamed of doing that to a girl. How? Why? We don’t know what happened to him either.”

The political blogs have been filled with comments about how Representative M. should be shot, beheaded, stoned, or locked in prison with the key thrown away. There has been an outpouring of angst against him, with many people saying, "These 'family values voters' Republicans that supposedly care about morality go around doing this?! We knew they were hypocrites all along! They don't approve of homosexuality, yet they do worse things!" and on and on...

Beyond the disbelief, rage, and calls for him to resign, I have to hope that Representative M.’s sad legacy will imprint itself deeply in the minds of not only the sleazy politicians, but the “best and brightest and most principled.”

As one of my lobbyist friends remarked yesterday, “It goes to show that no one is immune to sin, anywhere, and especially not in the Capitol world…”

I’m only speculating here, but I can only imagine that most likely this awful situation started out so innocently. The devil rarely appears with horns and a pitchfork in any of our lives.

I’m sure that it wasn’t an affair at first, just a pleasant staffer who he enjoyed being around..

Then it was adultery, but I guess he (and she) had some way of justifying it, and feeling certain that it would just be something between the two of them that would never be found out and would never hurt anybody.

He got used to living a double life – coming home to his wife as though he had been faithful throughout the week.

…Continuing his friendships with people who would have been appalled if they had any idea that he was living in adultery.

He had started out with the reputation of a “good man” – he had to maintain that front, and maintain it he did.

The final day of session, when Representative M. got up and headed back to the Capitol for his final day of work this year, I’m sure he would have been appalled if anyone would have suggested that he would rape a child before his day was over.

After all, he had been busy pushing legislation to allow the death penalty for child rapists.

I don’t know what happened or how it happened (other than that alcohol was involved, according to the police report), but I’m sure that when Representative M. headed back home to St. Louis the next morning, he had to wonder what kind of a person he had become.

He abruptly announced three days later that he would not seek re-election, and said that he and his wife had actually decided such “back in January, but didn’t want to tell anyone till the session ended…” What a load of guilt he must have been carrying. The girl hadn’t even reported the incident to the police yet, nor had her mother.

*** *** ***

I don’t know what will eventually happen to him. It looks like he may be facing up to 7 years in prison, if convicted (he’s already been indicted by a grand jury).

Whatever the case, I hope that Representative M.’s story will remind all of us “good people” who would never think of doing something like that, that we are all prone to fall in the most awful ways. We may shudder at what he did. I can assure you that a couple of years ago, he, too, would have shuddered at the thought of anyone doing such a thing.

I think of the story of David and Bathsheba… and Nathan the Prophet’s story of the poor man with the one little lamb. As David’s indignation rose in him, Nathan pointed the finger and said, “Thou art the man!” So, often we are doing the same things we condemn others for, but until God points the finger back at us, we don't see the deceitful, self-righteousness of our own hearts.

We have no idea of the depths of depravity lurking within each of our hearts. Especially if we’ve been raised in a “good” family, and never done anything “terrible.”

Representative M. was also raised in a "good Christian family" and lived a clean life and wanted his boys to grow up to do the same.

Martin Luther’s famous quote came to my mind: “I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all of his cardinals.”

I am more afraid of my own heart than I am of the devil, of worldliness, of wrong influences, of humanism, or anything else. The battle for sin is won or lost there. It is I who chooses day by day if I will flee from sin or if I will embrace it little by little.

I would like to think that I would never succumb to unthinkable evil like Representative M, but I know myself a little too well. I know that “little” sin leads to big sin. That my mind can justify anything, a little bit at a time. That I can convince myself that something is necessary or acceptable in my circumstances. That my conscience can become dulled to the gentle promptings of God’s Holy Spirit, saying, “That isn’t holy like I am.”

I think the first step towards preventing us from finding ourselves in place like Representative M., is to realize the deceitfulness of our own hearts, and live wisely according to that knowledge.

That means confessing and repenting while things are “small.”

It means being accountable.

It means accepting God’s authorities and their wishes in my life, regardless of how uncomfortable I may find them at times. Rebellion starts when I think that I know what is good for me, better than my authorities do.

It means never allowing myself to become comfortable with a little “pet sin” in some back corner of my heart that I think will never hurt anyone.

It means knowing that my freedom in Christ will allow me to go places, to do things, to participate in activities, but that those things are not expedient for me and could lead my heart to places it should not go, and therefore I will not do those things.

It means living life humbly, realizing that “If not for the grace of God, there go I…

Myself, arch-traitor to myself;

My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,

My clog whatever road I go.

-- Christina Rossetti

Hot Summer Days and No Time for Rest!

My blogging seems to be getting more and more infrequent these days. It certainly doesn't mean that nothing is happening in my life - rather quite the contrary!

In recent days life has been filled with lots and lots of company, canning spaghetti sauce and peaches, sharing the gospel at the fair, campaigning across the state, and long sweaty days in the garden. Usually, those things all kind of run together. Like, picking tomatoes at 7 am, canning peaches at 10 am, then leaving for the fair to do an afternoon shift at our gospel tent, picking up a friend or two along the way who needs a ride back to our house to stay for a few days, then hammering in some yard signs, and door knocking with some campaign fliers, then coming home to sisters frantically setting the table for several families who have spontaneously showed up for dinner (this summer we've been averaging about 5-10 people per day stopping by for a visit!), washing dishes, visiting with whoever is hanging around, canning some more, finding sheets and beds for whoever decided to spend the night, frantically replying to a few emails at midnight, starting a couple of loads of laundry, and then dropping into bed!