"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Black and White or Endless Shades of Gray?

I should probably start out by saying that I haven't read the book(s).  I actually had no idea what the big fuss was about until I finally did a Google search and discovered it on Amazon.  After reading the short description and then skimming a few of the reviews (all of which happened to be negative, despite the rave reviews I've seen posted by my friends on Facebook), I closed down the page.

Before I could walk away from the computer, I found myself looking up the author. The first thing I noticed were the words "Romance ~ Suspense ~ Erotica" at the top of the webpage. 

My heart sank.

I closed down the site and let all of this new information sink in for a while.  Then, after tucking the kids in bed, I asked Buddy if he knew anything about this new, popular book.  When he confirmed that he hadn't, I filled him in on what I knew.  His reaction was very much like mine; his face dropped in disappointment and he agreed with me how sad it was that this kind of thing is so common.

Here's the thing...I can totally see the appeal.  I don't want anyone to think that I am trying to be all high and mighty, looking down on anyone who is reading (or has read) the book.

I'm not.

I get it.  Real life love stories don't always seem like the page-turner that this book claims to be.  Real life has its ups and downs.  And the truth is, even the "up" moments in your life probably don't involve you having an orgasm just because you hear the sound of your name coming out of your husband's mouth.  (I'm not sure if that actually happens in the book, but it was in one of the reviews that I read.)

Real life is messy.

And I'm not talking about we've-had-sex-ten-times-in-one-night-and-the-bed-is-really-wet kind of messy.

I'm talking about REAL life.

In real life, you walk around smelling a bit funky all day because in your mad rush to get dressed before the kids destroyed the entire house, you forgot to put on your deodorant.

Real life involves late night laundry because you know the kids don't have any clean underwear for tomorrow.

Real life sometimes means working so hard that you can barely remember to kiss your wife goodnight because your eyes are closing faster than your brain can comprehend what's missing from your routine.

Real life is messy.

Not always, but at least for me, I'd say it's messy most of the time.

So what's the harm in losing yourself in a romance novel that also promises some suspense and erotica?

Everything.

Like I said, I can totally see the appeal, but if you really allowed yourself to think about it (and pray about it) you'd realize that reading this stuff isn't going to improve your life or who you are as a person.  Just like you should try to surround yourself with people who encourage you to better yourself, you should also fill your mind with knowledge on how to become a better person.

It seems to me that this kind of book might just be the exact opposite of that.

I'm not saying that you should only allow yourself to read self-help books, but I do think it's important for us to read books that have characters who possess traits that we can actually admire.  If you are going to let your imagination wander, why not make sure it's wandering around in a safe place?  One that will encourage you to improve yourself, rather than lose yourself?

I really try not to allow myself to indulge in the "What's the harm in it?" mentality, but to be honest, it's always a battle.  I still watch TV shows with characters having casual sex.  I don't agree with it, but I've somehow convinced myself that I'd have nothing to watch if I didn't overlook certain things, and I need TV.

(Yes, I am aware that that's not actually true.)

When I first read the synopsis of the book, it seemed so obvious to me that it was (for lack of a better description) a trashy romance novel, that I was kind of shocked by the number of people who were promoting it as being so wonderful.

These were good people.

They were people that I loved and respected.

So why didn't they see what I saw when reading the description?

Why didn't they notice the potential harm in immersing themselves in this story?

Because we live in a world that no longer sees things in black and white.

We live in a world that has created endless shades of gray. 

We live in a world that constantly promotes false beauty.  Girls are taught from a young age that being beautiful means that you must be tall and skinny, with perfect hair and sparkling white teeth.  Photos are touched up and then plastered all over magazine covers in checkout lines, ensuring that none of us can escape the lies that they promote.
 
We live in a world that pornography is shared among young boys faster than fleas can jump from one dog to the next - and that's just when it begins.  These same young boys quickly grow into men, and by that point, their minds are filled with so many of these graphic images, it's hard for some of them to even comprehend what real love is all about.  And if by chance these men do find real love, they are left to battle the inner demons that are ingrained in their minds from years of buying into these pornographic lies.  Worse yet, the sad truth is that some of them will hold on to their addiction, naively convincing themselves that it isn't causing anyone any harm.

We live in a world full of lies, where the truth can only been seen if you are constantly searching for it.

When it comes to my search for the truth, I fall short just as much as the next guy.  I get lazy and allow myself to wade in the gray water of lies that surround me.  I watch shows that don't promote the truth and I read books that don't always tell stories of reality.

But that needs to end.


So here's my challenge:

If the book you're reading isn't helping you become a better person, stop reading it.

If the TV show or movie you are watching starts promoting behavior that you know in your heart to be wrong, turn it off. 

If you or someone you love is addicted to pornography, take the necessary steps to help break the addiction.

When you get dressed every morning, promote modesty with your wardrobe.  Lead by example.

Take the time to examine your life.  Pray about the gray areas that you are struggling with, and ask God to make it clear to you what needs to change.
 
Even if it seems like you are taking baby steps to correct your path, take them.  Don't allow yourself the excuse that it's too hard to make the right choices, just start making them.  Little by little, you will notice that you are coming closer and closer to where you need to be.

Remember that baby steps are still steps.  Don't stop moving in the right direction.

Be sure to encourage your loved ones to do the same.

And don't judge one another, because we all struggle.  We are in this life together, so we need to stand together to fight against these shades of gray.

We must always remember to seek the truth and to speak the truth, because we truly are one body in Christ. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Broken, but Forgiven

My kids eat Cheerios every morning, but they also love my cereal.  (I eat Quaker Oatmeal Squares, in case you are curious.) On any given morning, it is not uncommon for them to ask me if they can have a bite of mine, and every so often, I will put a square in each of their bowls.

This morning happened to be one of those mornings when I decided to share.  I was almost finished eating when they asked me, so after sharing with them, I only had a few bites left in my bowl.  As I scooped up one of my last bites, my son dumped a spoonful of his cereal into my bowl.

As much as I hate to admit it, in the moment, this made me furious.  I fussed at him.  I scooped up his offering, dumped it back into his bowl, and explained to him that he shouldn't do something like that without asking me first. 

His head fell in defeat, and he broke down into tears.

All in one stupid, thoughtless moment, I had broken his little spirit.

I scooped him up into my lap and listened while he gave a voice to his cry.

"Mama, I just wanted to share with you and you made me really sad.  You made my heart hurt inside."

As I held him tightly, I apologized for hurting his feelings and begged for his forgiveness. I admitted that I was having a bad morning and I ended up making a bad choice because of it. 

With his arms wrapped around my neck and his tears soaking my shirt, he said, "I forgive you."

The best part is, he really did forgive me.  After a few more minutes of snuggling, I wiped away his tears and we started over.  He didn't hold a grudge, and he didn't make me "pay" for my mistake all morning long; he just forgave me and moved on. 

Sweet Jesus, help me to forgive like a child.

Help me to love like a child.

Help me to break away from my grown up tendencies to snap too quickly and hold on too tightly to my anger.

I am so broken. 

Fill me with Your healing love and help me to start over each and every time I make a mistake.

I have made so many mistakes already, and unfortunately, I know there are more to come.

Remind me of Your healing grace.

Help me to not only forgive others quickly, but also to forgive myself when I don't measure up. 

Teach me to love as You love, and help me to remember that although I am broken, I am also forgiven.

All I have to do is ask.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Peace Be With You

We are *only* on baby #4 and yet I can't tell you the number of times people look at us wide-eyed and question our methods as far as family planning.

"Did you actually PLAN for this to happen?"

"You are finished after this one, right?"

"How many more do you want to have?"

"How can you afford all of those kids?"  

"You live off of only one income?  How is that even possible?"

I hear these questions (plus some) often enough to know that many people in this world are lacking one simple but essential detail in their lives.

Peace.

Now I'll be the first to admit that when Buddy and I began our married life together, the idea of using Natural Family Planning filled our minds with anything but peace.  We still had one semester left in college, so it seemed almost absurd for us to even consider something so...ineffective?  Especially when using birth control seemed so simple and effective.  At least, that's what the world was telling us.

Birth control = Normal.

Natural Family Planning = An effective tool for people who are ready to have a houseful of kids.

Am I right? 

I'm going to go ahead and assume that we aren't the only ones who have ever gotten this impression.  And to some extent, it's not so far off from the truth.  These days, using birth control is normal, and many families who openly support NFP do actually have larger families.  But if there's one thing I've learned on this journey, it's that the people who use NFP seem to have a greater understanding of what it means to have peace.

Now just because you pop a birth control pill in your mouth everyday doesn't means you aren't happy or that you never experience peace.  I'm just saying that from my experience, the families who use NFP seem to have a greater understanding of what it means to trust in God and His plan for their lives.  Because of this understanding, they experience a sense of peace that many BC users may never know.

As far as my own personal experience, Buddy and I always talked about having a big family.  We dated for 7 years before we got married, so we had plenty of time to discuss our dreams.  We got pregnant right away, and even after that (exciting but somewhat scary/stressful) first year of parenthood, we knew we wanted more.   Then, after having two babies within two years, I started to question how many more we would have.  My hands were full when Buddy was at work, and I constantly felt like I was running in two different directions.  Baby #2 also gave me quite a bit of trouble with sleeping through the night, so that also played into my fear of having more children.  But when Buddy was ready to have another and I could not deny the feeling that God was waiting for me to trust Him, I prayed.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  I offered up my fear to Him, and He replaced it with peace.  Peace and baby #3.  Now we are going on 7 years of marriage and I'm pregnant with #4.

We are fully aware that many people think we  a.) are crazy, b.) don't know how to use NFP, c.) are irresponsible, or d.) all of the above. 

But you know what?  We don't care.

God has given us the peace that we need to control the crazy feelings we (or I) sometimes get when people say rude comments like, "You know what causes that, right?" He reminds me in those moments that I am following Him, not them.  He calls us to be an example of His love, and I feel like our openness to life is a something that He wants from (and for) all of us.  (Not that we all have to have "large" families, but we should all be open to what His plan is for our lives.)

I'll admit, there are days when I do think we might be a little crazy, but I know deep in my heart that I am following Him, so it makes sense to me that the road I'm on won't always be easy.

"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."                                                                               Matthew 19:24

I still have moments (or entire days) when fear creeps in, but I'm only human, so I don't really expect that to completely disappear.  But I can tell you that as crazy as it sounds, my fears of having more children are actually becoming less and less with every child.  It has become very natural for me to stop and pray about my fears and offer up them up to Him because I know that He always provides me with the grace I need to overcome them.

He gives me peace.

And the best part is, that peace overflows into the rest of my life.  By trusting Him with my family planning (which is something huge), I have slowly learned how to become more trusting with everything else.

Peace.

It's good stuff!

Learning NFP isn't hard to do.  It takes time and effort, and it's ideal if you learn it by taking a class before you are married, but if you are even considering inviting God into this part of your marriage, don't let anything scare you away from it.

I promise, it is so worth it.

Pray about it.  Open your mind and your heart to what God has to offer.  He created us.  He knows us.  He made our bodies work exactly the way He wanted them to work.  He has a plan.  Trust in His plan and you might just find that you've become closer to Him and to your spouse.

And in this closeness, you will find amazing peace.
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