This was Allegra's first time out of the Basic Skills class and she did great. She's a natural performer and you can totally see her hours of ballet training. She skated to a selection of songs from The King and I.
Monday, April 22, 2013
The Boise Ice Classic this past Saturday (4-20-13) was Hero's first "big" competition where she competed outside the Basic level. Apparently the first competition you have where you have to land an axel is a big deal! She was nervous but she stayed up on her feet and made a respectable showing. In being on the competition committee I discovered that I really enjoy the sport. It was a lot of fun (although I still don't know half of what I'm supposed to be watching for).
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
This was one of those "investment" parenting moments. We tell our kids no a LOT. I don't want them to grow up to think that their folks never let them do anything fun and slightly crazy. So, hopefully we'll earn some interest on our investment years down the road - we have a new pet. James was working onsite on Saturday, and had brought Ian along to get him out of the house, and in the sprinkler box he found a curious creature. The homeowner was grossed out and did not want it in there. So, the logical choice to do with an unidentified, slimy, underground creature is apparently to put it into an Eggo box and bring it home. When I walked in the door from skating and was told that there was a "thing" in a box, I thought it was a joke. James can be a bit of a jokester. But, no, no they were not kidding at all. In a box on my stove was a very strange-looking creature. James and I were promptly informed by Hero that that was a newt - thank goodness for recent biology lessons in science class, I guess. After a bit of research, we found out that we were the new foster parents for a tiger salamander. Tiger salamanders are pretty popular pets, because they are very easy and very safe. We needed time for a "mom and dad conference" and took a drive to talk about what we should do with him (we have no idea if it's a him or a her, so we went with him). Said drive ended up at the pet store and $60 later we were the proud owners of a terrestrial salamander set-up (basically a really long 20 gallon aquarium, a soaking bowl, coconut fiber bedding, and refrigerated wax worms). As we drove up to the house, there were literally twelve sets of little eyes staring out the window at us, to see what we'd decided. Even Hero dropped her normal teenage nonchalance when we walked in with the supplies. So, Augustus (affectionately called Augie) the tiger salamander has officially been adopted into the Merry Band of Fife. Because we were running a bit low on the crazy, of course. What a life!
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
When my mom passed away last year, I wasn't sure what to do with my blog. My blog was started as a way to keep a long-distance Grandma who was passionate about her grandkids in the loop. I mostly recounted family activities and special days, with lots of pictures. Now that's she no longer with us on this earth, my blog has evolved into something different. I still share stories of major family events and pictures of my kids (lots and lots of pictures), but this blog has become more of a personal outlet, where I share my reflections on modern life and spirituality. Because our personal experiences and circumstances are partially responsible for our opinions, getting a window into a blogger's life is very interesting. Sometimes I'm prone to "Wizard of Oz" syndrome. I enjoyed writing academically when I was in college, so sometimes a narrative, personal touch is missing from what I write and it can become pedantic. And that's no fun, so, here's a look behind "the curtain".
My name is Melissa and I am 34 years old. I grew up in Wisconsin and still identify strongly with my roots there, as well as my upbringing in the Lutheran church. I was so blessed to grow up in a Christian home that was shored by my parents and blessed with three children, myself and two younger brothers. I met God's life-partner for me, James, when I was 18 years old and preparing for college. In a scene that was completely out of character for steady-and-responsible me (which is no surprise, because it was surely God who brought us together), I agreed to marry this 21 year old man on our second date! Six months later, on May 23rd, 1998, we tied the knot - just a couple of crazy, madly in love kids.
My "first" family - Mom, Dad, and two brothers. This picture was taken at my mother's surprise 50th birthday party in February 2012 (I flew out as an additional surprise) - two months before she unexpectedly went home to Jesus and the last time our entire family was together
Spiritually, James and I were weak in our first decade of marriage. We both certainly professed belief, but the fruits that that faith bore in our life were puny and anemic. God worked through personal and financial trials to bring us closer to Him, and, for the last three years, we've become true Christ-followers. We attend an amazing bible-following church that believes in the Baptist distinctives. Every day we pray diligently to find ways in which we can lay down our life and pick up His cross. The Word is our sustenance and our delight. We strive to be a Godly couple with a God-honoring marriage. We've learned so much from the fine example of mature Christians, and as we grow we hope to provide the same kind of model for new believers. For me, a shy introvert in person, blogging has been the most amazing gift to use my God-given skills in outreach and just plain old personal growth.
So, I'd like to thank you for making it through my little autobiography of sorts and I'd love to have you join me in the journey of following Christ in heart, mind, body, and soul. Comments are such a blessing to me, and I appreciate them so much - sometimes they serve as a gentle correction, and other times it's an encouragement to know that others feel the same way I do. Go with God today, and always!
Monday, April 15, 2013
Your adornment must not be merely external-- braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4 NASB
You see the emphasis, in the scriptural discussion of modesty? While there is a component of physical dress, it's greatly overshadowed by the workings of our heart and mind. I think that holy "imbalance" is important. If you tilt too far in setting up your own standards of modesty as tests to "true Christianity" and proudly judge everyone by your own standards, attempting to shame those who dress inappropriately (whether it's categorically inappropriately or a matter of small differences), perhaps you are not following in the Word.
Old Navy 2013 - the sweet red toddler/preschooler dress is vintage-sweet and would look super cute with a pair of yellow cropped leggings underneath, and the older girl's knit maxi dress could work all year-round with proper layering.
Friday, April 12, 2013
I finished two secular books (both happened to be from my mom's library) - the first was A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein. I was not a fan. The writing was taut and engaging, but it felt like it was trying too hard. It also had a bit of a complex that I couldn't move past; was it trying to be a version of The Cider House Rules or of Misery? It also relied on typical archetypes in which religious folks are crazy whack-a-dos who just don't get it. That's intellectually lazy and a huge pet peeve of mine.
After that I finished Anita Shreve's The Pilot's Wife. I call her work "literature lite". Her actual writing certainly holds some literary value, but her plots seem made for light entertainment. This was an easy read and would make a good summer book for Mom while the kids are at the pool.
I also finished a pair of Christian books - the first was a loaned copy from our pastor of Christ in the Passover by Ceil and Moishe Rosen. This served as a nice accompaniment to our Passover festivities and our deepening interest in Jewish festivals. And then I had a copy of Angela Thomas's 52 Things Kids Need From A Mom that I picked up from a sale table at my local Christian bookstore because it was inexpensive and looked like it would be perfect for my short snippets of reading I do at the table or while cooking. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. There were some great tidbits in there, and they were shared in a way that were never prideful or overbearing (how hard it is to accomplish a balance between sharing tips and not appearing like a know-it-all, but Mrs. Thomas manages to carry it off). This is a short snippet that especially spoke to me (and a trend I notice amongst Christian women), in her chapter titled To Teach Them to Not Be Easily Offended.
Every weekend I have the privilege of meeting women from all over the world. Several years ago, I realized that too many of the women I was meeting were living in ongoing bitterness. I understood why they felt entitled to bitterness because of divorce, health issues, or the loss of career, opportunities, friendships, and children, but at the same time, I kept asking myself, Aren't we supposed to life differently than this? The Bible says:
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:15).
According to the Bible, bitterness is dangerous because it can take root deep inside our heart and grow, spreading its poison into our minds and emotions before we even realize what has happened. The person who is easily offended has given their heart permission to let the root of bitterness grow. Holding on to resentments. Counting their grievances. Building grudges and bad feelings. Whenever I meet a woman who has learned to find comfort in bitterness, I quickly pray, Oh, Lord, keep me from such a miserable life.
10. 52 Things Kids Need From A Mom - Angela Thomas
9. Christ in the Passover - Ceil & Moishe Rosen
8. The Pilot's Wife - Anita Shreve
4. The Magician's Assistant - Ann Patchett
3. Twelve Extraordinary Women - John MacArthur
2. The Merchant's Daughter - Melanie Dickerson
1. Gideon's Call ~ Peter Leavell
Thursday, April 11, 2013
The death he died, he died to sin once and for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
I'm a decently educated woman. I attended a secular college and, having a liberal arts focus on my music degree (rather than a strict performance or teaching focus), I had the opportunity to take lots of upper level history and philosophy classes. I cannot fully articulate the gratitude I give to God for guiding me down that path. I think so much fear, rigidity, and oppression I see in fundamentalist Christian circles is due to a lack of a broad-based education. Humans are programmed to fear that which they don't understand. And that fear sometimes turns into an extremism. That extremism has manifested itself in many facets, and so broadly that I can't tackle it in one post, hence I plan to do a series on the subject (that was positively God-inspired, because the thought didn't even occur to me prior to this morning). Today, I want to tackle the umbrella issue - The Fundamentalist Christian's Straw Man. I am a Fundamentalist Christian. But probably not in the most understood sense of the term. I believe in the fundamentals of faith. I'm an absolutist. I wholeheartedly reject any doctrine that smacks of relativism or universalism. But beyond those things, I reject the label as holding any meaning about my lifestyle, my politics, and my view on American culture. In doing so, and in combination with my education, I view things through a slightly different lens than many of my Fundamentalist Christian sisters (and brothers). And what I see is often not good.
Another danger that lies in the propagation of the Straw Man is that it inevitably involves deceit. The internet and social media especially allows a half-truth (or even a blatant lie) to spread like proverbial wildfire. I've been on the receiving end of many a forward email spreading false information or wild conspiracy theories, and have seen innumerable malicious memes posted on Facebook by folks who purport to be Christians. This cannot stand! If Christ-followers will not stand for Truth, then who will? In 1 Thessalonians 5:22, we are commanded to avoid even the appearance of evil. What a heavy responsibility! Do you want to know what phrase is not biblical? "The end justifies the means". That's the spirit of Prince Machiavelli, not the Prince of Peace. Think twice about reposting that cutting meme that fudges statistics or misinterprets Scripture because you agree with the general sentiment. God is not half so righteously angry with the coarse language of one of the lost as he is with the lies coming from the mouths of His children.
The Straw Man is hazardous to our Christian life because it puffs us up with pride. We've spent time constructing him stitch by stitch to conform to and confirm our deeply held misconceptions and prejudices, and, like any good maker, we know intimately his weaknesses. So we strike accordingly, heaping scorn and derision on the Straw Man. We beat him to a pulp and stand on the deflated effigy and declare victory in the name of our Lord. But what a cheap victory it is - a victory by absentia. Because the Straw Man is our creation. Nothing more. How meaningless that is to the Lord of Hosts! And then comes the real danger. We extrapolate our nefarious, patchwork Straw Man onto actual people. Random strangers, our co-workers, our friends, even our family assume all of the evil-bloated characteristics of our creation. And, we've already established, in our heads and in our circle of likeminded and "like-lifestyled" devout Christians, that the Straw Man is hopelessly, irredeemably immoral and degenerate, which means that the entire American culture is a lost cause. But cultures don't exist in a vacuum, as much as we'd like to pretend otherwise. At its simplest, culture is merely a term for a group of people who share a specific spot on the map. So, we cannot demonize American culture without demonizing American people. And that, my friend, we are expressly forbidden from doing. That right belongs to God alone.
Plainly put, a war is a means of gaining and strengthening power. A culture war is no different. But what is power to a Christ-follower? Power is meaningless. 1 Peter 2:23 says "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." We are to die unto ourselves to follow Christ. In his divinity, he demolished the ancient code of laws and regulations that was but a shadow of how to life a godly life. Now we must simply follow his example - what freedom and lightness, just as He promised! There was no need for Christ to gain power, in the temporal sense, and there is no need today for his followers to be so utterly and completely occupied with power. My fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, lay down your Straw Men. Lay down your sharp tongues and deceitful weapons. You are not called to be a cultural warrior. "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." James 3:17-18.