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I'm B-A-A-A-C-K!!!
I've been in San Francisco this week at a conference with my agent. More on that later. I have some cool pictures of me with other mom bloggers!

But I don't like to publicize the fact that I'm going away. It's like saying: Hi everybody! My husband and I are taking a vacation and the girls are home alone in the house with a baby-sitter! Why don't you go visit?

You know what I mean?

I love the internet, but a lot of people who read my blog and read my Facebook know where I live. They know who I am. And I'm always very cognizant of my daughters' safety.

So I can never announce when I'm gone.

I came home to an internet connection that isn't working, a lot of jetlag, and a ton of work to get ready for a one-day marriage conference I have to do tomorrow with my husband.

I'm kind of tired! But I'm looking forward next week to getting you all caught up with everything I learned and did on my trip. And boy was the weather nice!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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The Gremlins and the Princesses
Every Friday I write a syndicated parenting column that appears in a bunch of newspapers. Here's my Hallowe'en one!

Interestingly, the first hate mail I ever had was on my premier Hallowe'en column seven years ago. I wrote about how much I hated spending money on costumes kids would only wear for one night, and a woman wrote in saying I had no right to say that since my husband was a doctor and I was a stuck up snob. And thus began the glorious tradition of having idiots write in to criticize me every week. I have learned now to delete them without actually reading, once I ascertain the tone.

Anyway, hope you like this week's offering!

Jeff Foxworthy once said you know you’re a Canadian when you design Hallowe’en costumes to fit over snowsuits. I think he’s got a point. One year I stuffed Katie into a white turtleneck covered by a huge pink sweater, and then added two pairs of heavy white tights, a pink ballet tutu, a magic wand, and a pink tiara. In terms of layers she probably resembled a linebacker more than she did a princess, but at least she wasn’t shivering.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been an issue if I had let her dress as a ghost. She could have donned a woolly parka under that sheet and nobody would have been the wiser. But ghosts have never been my thing.

Hallowe’en revelers tend to fall into those two camps: the gremlins and the princesses. Either we celebrate Hallowe’en as an excuse to play dress-up, or we think of Hallowe’en as a time to scare ourselves silly. I’ve never liked being scared, except when it could cure me of hiccups, so I’m more the princess type.

What is this fascination we have with fear? It certainly isn’t unique to our culture; almost all cultures have some sort of celebration of the dark side of life. And one glance at our entertainment fare reveals how much our culture is preoccupied with the gruesome. Our TV shows depict the most perverted murders. Slasher films are still popular. And take the gore away from the video games and very little would remain. An alien watching our media would easily believe that murder is a raging epidemic, rather than a thankfully rare occurrence.

With our fixation on this dark side of life, then, it’s hardly surprising that Hallowe’en has become the second or third biggest party of the year, still behind New Year’s but competing strongly with the Super Bowl. But maybe there’s something deeper going on beneath the surface. The Hallowe’en imagery, it seems to me, is all about trying to stare death in the face. Grim reaper, ghosts, gremlins, and demons abound. And if we can laugh at death, then maybe it’s not so scary.

Perhaps that sounds too philosophical for an evening whose primary aim, to most, is to fetch as big a haul of candy as possible, but I do think those are the roots of the Hallowe’en tradition. And therapists have been using this desensitization method for years. If you’re scared of something, the thought goes, you just expose yourself to ever larger doses of it until it loses the power to render you weak-kneed and weak-bladdered.

While this may be a good idea if your fear is something that debilitates you in everyday life, like a fear of the dark or a fear of spiders, I’m not sure it works in the truly scary situations.

Ultimately the really hard things can’t be prepared for in the traditional way. When my son was gravely ill, one of the worst parts of the whole ordeal was how the diagnosis kept changing. I spent all my time trying to prepare for all these different scenarios, yet in the end the one that played out wasn’t one that we had foreseen. All that worry had been for nothing, and it made it harder to enjoy the twenty-nine days I did have with him.

Lots of terrible things can happen in our lives. We can choose to focus on these, or we can choose to focus on love, on faith, and on character. You can never prepare for every contingency, and quite frankly, who knows how you will handle anything until the time comes anyway? How much better to strengthen your inner reserves now, before hard times come, rather than focusing on all the crises that may befall you.

Whatever you do this Hallowe’en, I hope you get lots of chocolate! But when it comes to life, live it as a princess and not as a gremlin. Why try to prepare for every evil that may lurk around the corner? After all, the best way to deal with darkness is to shine some light, and that’s what I’d rather do.

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A Bit of a Rest...
I have to wait to post my podcast this week, and to upload a new video I have, until later this week. I'll explain in a few days, but I will be back!

I have a few posts in the queue that will appear automatically, but in the meantime I thought I'd leave you with a clip of an interview I did titled "Are Kids Worth It?". Hope that tides you over until I'm back!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Works for Me Wednesday: Listening to Podcasts

It's my impression that most people who are on this blog aren't that tech savvy. They know how to read blogs, but only because they stumbled across a mom blog one day. They follow links on people's blogs to discover new blogs (like Works for Me Wednesday!). They have watched a few videos on YouTube that people showed them, and that's about as far as it goes.

They may or may not have an iPod, but if they do, it's only because their kids or their husband added songs to it for them. Sure there are exceptions, and some of us really know what we're doing, but I think most of us are still getting used to technology. We're happy that we know how to get on a computer, we're happy that we've figured out some of Blogger's functions, but we haven't explored much.

But I'm beginning to think that the internet, in five years, is going to replace other media completely. We don't have a TV, and yet I'm better informed than most of my friends because I spend my life reading political blogs (though I'm trying to cut back. I'm Sheila Gregoire and I'm a political junkie. I've been clean for threee days and haven't surfed in that time...)

I've downloaded TV shows and watched them off the internet, which is a whole lot cheaper than getting satellite. I've used interactive sites around the internet to educate my kids when I need a break and can't homeschool them really well. Almost everything we need is at our fingertips.

But the one area that hasn't been explored yet for many women is podcasts. I think it's like we're sitting on top of this mountain, and inside that mountain is a diamond mine, but we don't know where the entrance is. So today, I'm going to tell you. It's honestly not that hard.

If the words "download" and "burning" sound like some sort of a disease that isn't talked about in polite company rather than something that might actually be fun, don't worry! You're not alone. But it's amazingly easy.

Do you love certain teaching programs, like Focus on the Family or Joyce Meyers? Do you love certain political shows, like Rush Limbaugh? Pretty much anything on the radio is available for download. And it's not hard. If you go on their websites and follow their links to the podcasts, you can download them onto your hard drive, or you can listen to them right then and there. But can I suggest downloading them? Create a file specifically for downloads, so you always know where they are.

But there's an even easier way to do it. Go to It's not scary, believe me. And download the iTunes software. It's safe. Now you can go into their store and search for podcasts. You can search for Christian mom podcasts, or for knitting podcasts (I've listened to a ton of them!). And then you can subscribe. When you subscribe, every time you open iTunes it searches those podcasts and finds the most recent one, and downloads it for you.

Now, if you have an iPod, you can just plug it in at this point and copy all the new podcasts onto it. Then, next time you go jogging, or go for a walk, or even do your dishes, you can listen in! It makes life much more interesting.

I even started podcasting myself! If you go to iTunes, and search for "To Love, Honor and Vacuum", up I pop! If you hit subscribe, iTunes will save each podcast for you which you can then burn onto a CD.

If you just want to listen to it online, you can subscribe by just going to my podcast here and clicking on the links. Then you can just listen to whichever episodes are up when you look at your feeds.

Speaking of feeds, do you all know how to subscribe to them? If you look at the top of your browser button, you'll probably see a little orange box with some scribbly lines in it, that looks like this:

If you click on that link and the arrow beside it, you can subscribe to that blog. The computer will save it under your feeds, which you can usually access through your favorites folder, and then you can stay up to date with all your favorite blogs! It's really fun. I have way too many feeds that I'm subscribed to, though! And you can even subscribe to mine by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.

Anyway, just try it. Download some podcasts. Subscribe to some feeds. You'll find this great new world out there, and it's way better than TV!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Weird Things Are Happening
For some reason my header has disappeared again, and my polls aren't working (see the posts below). Or at least they seem to come in and out.

I think this is a Blogger issue. If the polls happen to be working while you're on this site, VOTE! I want to see the results! Thanks!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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The Ultimate Marriage Poll, part 3
I don't think my poll worked the other day. I set the post to appear on a day when I wasn't going to be at home, and then when I just checked the poll isn't there.

So here's me trying again!

What do you think? Tell me in the comments, but please vote! I want to write about this soon.

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Asking for Help
After my mini-nervous breakdown last week when I just realized I can't do everything on my plate, and I needed to take some time to concentrate on getting things done that I had let slide, I realized something else, too.

Not only had I put too much on my plate; I had also tried to do it all myself.

It's time to start asking for help.

As some of my long-time readers may know, I often feel like I take care of my whole extended family. I'm sort of the rock that holds both sides together.

But that's not the fault of the other people; it's also my fault, because when I need help I don't ask for it. Part of it is because I don't know if the others have time to help me, and they have their own problems. But another part is that I think I have this image of myself as the saviour of everyone, and that's not right.

So last week I started asking for help. Someone else is now going to drive the kids to hockey and skating every week, which gives me an extra 2 1/2 hours to get some work done.

I'm starting to enforce, once again, the kids' chores, so that they're responsible for the dishes and a lot of the laundry. Not all of it, because my 13-year-old just can't master how to fold a T-shirt. But a lot of it!

And I've started asking my mother to chauffeur to youth group activities a little bit more.

It's a start.

I do have family members that are here that can help me, but I often don't ask. Or I don't mind chauffeuring other people's kids around, if I'm going that way anyway, but I rarely ask others to take mine.

There are times when we just need to speak up, and I am at one of those times. I can't do everything alone, and yet I feel called to four very important things: being a wife & mom; my speaking and writing ministry; homeschooling my kids; and homeschooling my nephew. I know God is behind all of these opportunities for me, so He will give me the resources.

But I mistakenly thought that all of those resources were going to be mine. They're not. Sometimes He'll send others to help me. But I have to speak up and ask. So I am.

It's wonderful to realize you're not all-powerful! It's liberating! I suggest you try it, too!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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The Marriage Poll: Part Two
A week and a half ago I asked you all a question, and the poll results have come out very close to what I thought they would.

Today I'm going to ask a follow-up, because I want to address this in my next Wifey Wednesday post.

Think about this question and then answer this poll. I don't want to talk too much about it because I don't want to influence what you'll pick.

Please vote before you look at any comments!

And then leave a comment and explain your pick. I'd love to have some of your thoughts before I write my post and tell you what I think!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Introduction from your Neighbour to the North
For all my American readers who have been burning with curiosity about what life is like up here in Canada (yeah, right), I have some information for you!

Here's Jeff Foxworthy (who does not live in Canada) on life in Canada. And he's amazingly right on:

If someone in a Home Depot store
Offers you assistance and they don't work there,
You may live in Canada . (I don't know why Americans think Canadians are so polite. I find most of us obnoxious!)

If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time,
You may live in Canada . (this is my youngest daughter's winter uniform).

If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation
With someone who dialed a wrong number,
You may live in Canada .

If you measure distance in hours,
You may live in Canada . (Oh, yeah baby. We live 2 hours from Toronto and 2 and a half from Ottawa).

If you know several people
Who have hit a deer more than once,
You may live in Canada . (Typical dinner conversation: The first time I hit a deer....)

If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C'
In the same day and back again,
You may live in Canada . (did that today)

If you can drive 90 km/hr through 2 feet of snow
During a raging blizzard without flinching,
You may live in Canada . (I've never mastered this. But my husband has).

If you carry jumpers in your car
And your wife knows how to use them,
You may live in Canada . (I do!)

If you design your kid's Halloween costume
To fit over a snowsuit,
You may live in Canada . (Did this every year when the kids were young!)

If the speed limit on the highway is 80 km --
You're going 90 and everybody is passing you,
You may live in Canada . (Who's he kidding? The speed limit is 100 and I go 125).

If you know all 4 seasons:
Almost winter, winter, still winter,
And road construction,
You may live in Canada . (Oh, yeah).

If you have more miles
On your snow blower than your car,
You may live in Canada . (Hint: we call them kilometres).

If you find 2 degrees 'a little chilly',
You may live in Canada . (It's not too bad).

If you actually understand these jokes,
you must be Canadian!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Things I Can No Longer Do two bowls of ice cream in a day without worrying about the scale. a movie in which any child is hurt or kidnapped. Forget that. I'm a parent now!

...spin a double pirrouette on pointe. Or not on pointe. Or even barely on my tip toes. Even with something to hold on to.

...put my foot behind my head.

...hold on to my foot and then stretch out my leg without letting go.

...sit on the floor with my legs in a V and then bend. Even 20 degrees. I just can't get down there. No flexibility whatsoever!

...ignore politics. Everything just seems too important now.

...forget someone's birthday without feeling guilty.

...go a day without a Diet Pepsi. It's pathetic.

...use a curling iron and have my hair look good. How come we don't like curls anymore?

...look down on someone just because they don't have a university education. Now I live in the real world, and I understand what real smarts are.

...have hope that the government can make the world better. Only God can, and we are His hands.

...Watch TV. It's just too dark.

...Spend a day without knitting. It grounds me.

What about you?

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Take the Plunge
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a number of newspapers across North America. This week's was written with two people in mind. I have two friends who have been dating wonderful men for several years, both expecting a ring that hasn't come. They are both Christians. They are both lovely. But the men seem not to have stepped up to the plate.

But I know the men read my column! (I don't think they read this blog!). So I wrote it in the hopes that it may nudge them. I didn't want to make it too obvious, but see what you think:

Earlier this fall my oldest daughter participated in a soccer tournament. She’s never played before, but her aggressive streak emerged as she challenged any opponent who dared to venture near their net. She even sprained her thumb at one point—and went back in the game! All this from a child whose favourite accessory at the age of four was a Band-Aid. Any little boo-boo had to be babied. No more.

My youngest daughter, however, doesn’t like to step outside of her comfort zone. She refused to play soccer, and I relented, since as a child I used any means necessary to escape from the evils of team sports in gym class. I felt for her.

But we all need to learn, at some point, to venture out of our comfort zones. Many of us develop these ruts in our lives, whether they’re at work, or with relationships, or with family. We like things the way they are, so please don’t move the furniture or change the brand of margarine. I’m happy because I know what way is up, I know what’s expected of me, and life is easy.

It sounds blissful, but I’m not so sure it is. Is easy really the best we can hope for in life? Besides, the danger of living in a comfort zone is that you become your number one reference: I am happy, ergo, things should stay the same way.

That has a selfish ring to it, doesn’t it? Whether or not we like to admit it, we are not islands. What we do impacts others. And maybe others aren’t happy in your comfort zone. Maybe they can see that there’s so much adventure ahead: adventure that you would probably love if you just took the plunge and jumped in.

Plunging, of course, isn’t easy. When our family stays at hotels, the first thing the kids go for is the pool. They love it, and so does my husband. They jump in and splash and play Marco Polo. Meanwhile, I’m glued to the top step thinking how cold it is. Occasionally I descend down to the floor, standing on my tip toes. After counting to three about fifty-one times I may actually jump in, at which point the kids are ready to get out because they’re prunes. If I had just jumped in initially, I would have had the shock over with quickly and then I could have played. Instead, I missed the fun.

Do you miss the fun in your life because you won’t take the plunge? You’re afraid to try for that new job, or to go back to school. You’re afraid to launch that new business, because you’re comfortable where you are. But maybe comfort isn’t as great as it’s cracked up to be. Maybe adventure is much better.

When it comes to relationships, plunging is even more necessary. How many times are people stuck in a dating relationship, when one wants to move forward and the other is happy the way things are? Why mess up a good thing? But what if by settling for that good thing you’re missing out on something great?

Or maybe the plunge is about kids. Your spouse wants them and you don’t. Or your spouse wants more, and you’re happy with what you have. Why disrupt the family when it’s going so well?

But what if that baby you’re missing out on is the one who would bring you the greatest joy and happiness? Besides, is it fair to say no to someone you love now, just because you’re comfortable? What if they’re not? And if they’re not comfortable, your own comfort zone is all an illusion anyway. It’s time to open your eyes.

A funny thing happened at that soccer tournament. My youngest daughter saw first hand what she was missing. And by the end of the day she was kicking the ball to help with drills, and she’d already signed up for next year. She regretted clinging to her comfort zone. She’s ready to take the plunge, because she knows it’s far more exciting.

I don't understand why some people won't commit. I could have written more about the blessings of commitment, but I had only 700 words, and I chose to spend them this way. Another time I might write again about why commitment gives you a better relationship, though it's a theme I've flogged a lot already.

I don't think dating is fair unless people have marriage in mind. Otherwise, what's the point? I know a woman who dated a man seriously from age 25 to age 41, when she finally realized he was never going to marry her. He always talked about the future, but he never proposed. So she left him, but meanwhile she had wasted all her child-bearing years on him.

I think women in that situation almost need to give him an ultimatum: either we go somewhere, or I walk. Because if he's not serious, why waste your time? And the sad thing is, it's him, quite often, who is missing out.

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Why Women Aren't Like Slow Cookers
You've heard the expresion that women are like slow cookers, and men are like microwaves, right?

Well, I've never really bought that. It implies that a woman will eventually heat up. But the truth is that God made sex for us to be almost entirely in our heads. If our heads aren't engaged, our bodies won't follow.

No wonder our sex drives are so different!

I speak about this a lot, and I have a treat for you today.

First, you can watch this little clip from a marriage conference my husband and I spoke at.

Did you like that? If so, I've started a new "Download of the Month" program! Every month, a different one of my talks is up for download for only $2!
This month I'm featuring my talk "Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood", which is based on my book. I gave it to a large MOPS group, and we women had a great time! It's 45 minutes long, and you're sure to enjoy it!
You can download it to your .mp3, iPod, or you can just save it on your hard drive to listen while you surf, or burn it onto a CD to listen in the car. You can pay by VISA or Paypal, and it's super secure!

Just click here!

And if you want to see more of my talks available for purchase, go here!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Works for Me Wednesday: Going on Strike

I'm being facecious in the title, but this week I am, in a way, "on strike"! And it's been great.

Let me explain. We homeschool. And I have a busy schedule speaking and writing. So it can be very difficult to balance. But what I've found over the last few years is that I've become too busy. Too many things have not gotten done, and it's been weighing heavily on me. I just have so much to organize in my files, in my computer, and to get ready to sell at my next speaking engagements.

I was trying to do everything at the same time, and I discovered I just couldn't. There is only so much balancing this one little woman can do, and I was at my limit.

So instead I've decided to take two weeks off. Two weeks off of homeschooling, and all my other responsibilities, just to get myself caught up. Because there are times that we are so hopelessly behind that we're in no emotional or mental state to actually be effective. I couldn't teach the kids properly because I was always thinking about what I should be doing.

The amazing thing is that I thought it would take three weeks, but as I've been working for the last few days, I've realized that it won't take nearly as long as I've thought. If I give this just another week, I should have everything done. And then I'll be able to maintain it.

Sometimes, though, things just get overwhelming. The house is too much of a mess to tackle, and everything gets out of control. You have too much to do in some other area of your life. And the truth is that's one of the times that God just says, "STOP!". Stop doing everything and deal with the big problem. Then all your little problems will fix themselves!

That's harder said than done, of course. My kids are older (11 & 13), and so for me to go on strike it's easier. I've had to separate them and send them to their rooms for a while each day just so they don't bicker while I work, but on the whole we're not doing too badly. They're doing some work by themselves, a lot of piano, and they're goofing off a bit. But they're also cleaning more, and that's great! That was our bargain: Mom stops being Mom for a few weeks, and you guys pick up the slack. But then when Mom gets back, she'll actually be here. She'll be able to give you her undivided attention. She'll make better meals and snacks. And she won't be so distracted!

If your kids are younger, think about hiring a baby-sitter for a week. I know it's expensive, but there are times we just need that uninterrupted work time just to get our houses into shape, or our filing cabinet into shape, or something. And if you're someone who doesn't know how to organize, get a friend to help! I have so many friends I would love to help if they just asked me! Most organized people love organizing, and hate seeing friends in their chaotic mess. But they're not going to step in and volunteer. That would be rude. But if you ask them, they'd love it! It's like asking someone to help you with a makeover. What gal wouldn't do that?

And speaking of that, maybe that's what some of you need! You need to take two days and get your hair done, and get a facial, and get some new clothes and shoes, and get rid of all your old ones, because you're sick of being frumpy. But you've never had the time before.

So my advice to you, ladies, after struggling with all the stuff that needed to get done and not getting anywhere, is to go on strike. If something is building up and building up, you just have to deal with it. Don't let it explode. So spend some extra money if you have to. Your sanity is worth it. And take a week, or a few days, or even a few weeks, and get yourself under control. Work hard with a purpose. And suddenly your life will be so much more manageable!

It's amazing how much stress we have when we let things build up. It affects everything about our lives. So deal with it. And then see how much lighter you feel!

Thanks for visiting! Why not stick around? I have tons of posts on marriage, family, chores, and more!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Wifey Wednesday: More on Handling Difficult Decisions

Last week on Wifey Wednesday I asked the question, "What do you do when you don't agree on something big?". It was a really interesting discussion, and I thank everyone who participated!

I think it warrants some follow-up, however, and that's what I'm going to do today.

If I can summarize, the basic consensus was that we should submit to our husbands and follow them. The sooner you learn to do that, the better. And that is certainly Scriptural, and there's also a certain logic to it. God has placed the man with increased accountability for the relationship, so even if they make a bad decision and we go along with it, it is the husband who bears the responsibility for its outcome, and not us. So in a way it's a weight off of our shoulders.

That can be very difficult to do, however, with issues near and dear to our hearts, especially with children. Earlier in the week I promised that I would share some very difficult dilemmas that had come through this website lately, and this is one of them. One woman wrote in with an extremely sad story. Let me recount it here, with some embellishments, because I'd like to comment on it today.

She said that when she married she assumed they would have children. He'd always talked about wanting children. But almost as soon as the ceremony was over he announced that he didn't. And so now, almost a decade into their marriage, they are still childless. And she is trying to come to terms with this.

First, I think this was an incredibly selfish and cruel thing for a husband to do. But I'm also not sure it's right. So that's what I want to throw out today as a question: is it okay to refuse to have children at all, especially if one partner wants kids? I think it is all right if you're not a believer, but if you are a Christian, is it all right? After all, God did say "be fruitful and multiply". Now most of us limit that, and may only have two or three kids, but on the whole we follow it.

Is it okay not to?

I think if God has called you to something specific, like a ministry in missions in dangerous places, or something that requires a lot of travel for Him, then you may forego it. But on the whole, is this okay?

I tend to think it's not. Children are a blessing, and they do change our orientation to life and our attitude as soon as they are born. They make us far less selfish and far more invested in the future.

So this, to me, is a perfect example where submission is really difficult, and where I have a hard time just telling this woman she needs to submit. Imagine if your deepest dream were to be a mom, and your husband was taking that away. It's one thing to have to give up your dream to infertility, but even there at least you can choose adoption. But to give up your dream simply because of a husband's selfishness is way worse, in my opinion.

How I would counsel this woman, I think, is that marriage counselling is a must, and she should go to the elders of her church and ask them to intervene. That may sound drastic, but I think there's a spiritual issue going on in the husband here that needs to be addressed. I don't think I would just tell her to submit, because quite frankly, her biological clock is ticking.

I had two friends who were planning on never having kids, because he had had a really difficult childhood and didn't want to be a bad father. Then, at 35, she got pregnant by accident, after using birth control for 16 years (they'd been together since she was 19). Not wanting to have an only child, she had another one at 37. And they're both blissfully happy with the situation now.

I don't think I would advise simply to forget to take the Pill, though, because that is being deceitful. And you should never be deceitful with your husband. But I do think that this is an issue that is bigger than submission.

So what do you think? Submit? Get pregnant anyway? Or do something about it? And if you say do something about it, can you spell out why you think having children is an important thing to do? That's an argument I'm still trying to make a little more clearly from Scripture, and if anyone has any good insights, I'd love to hear them!

P.S.: I don't really want this discussion to get into whether or not it's all right to use birth control. Let's just deal with the main issue: what should she do in this one situation? And why? Thanks!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Why are Our Sex Drives so Different?

My podcast of the day is a really funny one!

The last few podcasts I've been playing interviews I did with Focus on the Family. But this one is all me, and I tell it like it is when it comes to our sex drives! It's a pretty funny one, and includes gems like how the contents of one's refrigerator can ruin the mood!

All women are sure to relate, so come have a listen! It's seven minutes long, and I'm sure it will leave a smile on your face.

The full talk is also my featured Download of the Month, which you can purchase for only $2! There, I include some more serious bits about how to honestly love our husbands in ways they understand, and how to figure out what marriage--and intimacy--are really for. Plus I leave us with even more laughs along the way! Find out more here.

And you can always check out Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight: the book!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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God Saved Me Vs. God Spared Me
Last night my 11-year-old announced that she is ready to be baptized. There was much rejoicing.

But this has been a bit of a humorous journey for her (or at least it's been humorous for me). Last year, when her sister was baptized, she told me afterwards that she'd like to be, too, but she's afraid of having to give her testimony.

"I really don't have anything to say yet. Maybe I should wait until I'm twelve."

To which I replied, "What are you planning on doing between now and 12?"

So she's decided to take the plunge. So to speak. But she's still nervous about having to give her story.

I tried to explain to her last night how there are two types of testimonies: the God saved me ones and the God spared me ones. I have heard the girls explaining to their grandmother, who attends a church with infant baptism, that at baptisms you get up and say how you used to be addicted to drugs and then God saved you. It's like a script: at some point the drugs come up.

But I told Katie that that's not true for everyone. Some people do have a God saved me testimony: I did all kinds of bad things, I was on the wrong path, but God plucked me out. And we love those testimonies because they're so exciting. And they show what a difference God can make in a life.

I think, though, that the God spared me testimonies are even better, even if they're not so flashy.

Katie tried to put this into words last night. She said, "So it's like I was raised in a family with God at the centre, and now I want to declare that I believe it, too?" And I said yep.

Isn't that a good testimony? To say that you were spared the drugs, and the rotten roads, and the confusion and the pain, and you knew Jesus from a young age? I think that's beautiful.

It's too bad we often glorify the God saved me testimonies, because I think it's every parent's prayer that our children will end up with a God spared me one. Isn't it? I rested in God's arms as a child, and it was there that I stayed. That's a beautiful image. And it's my prayer that before Katie has to explain it, she understands how precious it is.

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Major Reader Dilemma #1: Adoption
A number of major dilemmas from readers have come through the comments (some anonymously that I haven't published at their request), and they're really toughies.

So I thought I'd throw them out there to all of you, in the hopes that through our collective wisdom we could help! I'll do them one every few days, because they're pretty deep.

Here's the first scenario (some details have been changed): Imagine you have adopted a little girl into your family and you love her to death. She even kind of looks like you.

But the reason that she was put up for adoption in the first place is that the mom was raped. So your beautiful daughter is actually the product of a sexual assault.

As her new mom for life, what should you do with this piece of information? Presumably she will eventually find out, since when she's older she can meet her biological mother. So how do you tell her? When do you tell her? And how do you deal with it?

Let me attempt to give my point of view, but please don't take it as gospel truth. I've been praying this one through lately, and here's what I've come up with:

We had a "what do I tell the child" situation in our extended family, too, that had to do with adoption. In that case, the question was, do you tell a child that he or she has siblings they don't know?

My policy was always tell them everything, because they're going to find out anyway. Instead, though, this child didn't find out about the siblings until later, because the information was not shared. And it was a big shock.

Now that's not the same thing as finding out that your father is a rapist. That can be truly devastating. So how would I deal with it?

I think I would stress, even before they could understand the words, that they were chosen. They were chosen by their adoptive parents, chosen by their biological mom, and chosen by God.

As they got older, I may gradually start teaching about how God often brings the most beautiful things in life out of a difficult situation. And keep that as a theme that you tell your kids constantly. When you see soil, you can say that it only comes because stuff rots. And yet it supports roses! When you hear of an earthquake, you can talk about those who were rescued, or about how the God's people moved in and brought beauty out of it. How beauty is often most noticed when it comes out of something difficult. Make this something you are constantly on the look out for.

And you can start talking about these types of things even as young as 4 or 5. Ask them to notice beauty. Tell them that they are beauty to you! That God chose them and they are beautiful. Share your story, about how it was in the worst things in your life that God made you beautiful.

Then, slowly, as they are older, you prepare the ground. Tell them that their biological dad made a mistake. That sometimes people do that. But your mom didn't, and she chose life.

So let them grow up knowing that the dad did make a mistake, so you don't have to spill the beans all at once. But do it in the context of God having His hand on the child. And also you can talk about how sometimes people do bad things, but they themselves probably have very good things about them, too, that can be hidden. But they are there. And even if the dad did something wrong, the dad may have had parents himself who were loving. The whole branch of the family tree isn't necessarily rotten.

Eventually you tell the little girl the whole truth. But if the groundwork is laid, I think it will be okay.

Two stories come to mind. The first is about Gianna Jesson, who is only here with us because she survived an abortion. Her mother tried to kill her, the nurse saved her, and then she was adopted into an amazing Christian family. Just watch this:

The second is from Heather Gemmen, the book "Startling Beauty: From Rape to Restoration".

It's interesting, but I only remembered Heather's name before I looked up the book. So all the stuff I wrote up there about beauty I thought of before seeing her title. So that's obviously a theme that works!

Heather was raped, but she kept the baby and they have raised her. It's really a moving story, and a great read. She was pressured, even by Christians, to abort, and she just couldn't. Initially she was going to give the baby up, if I remember correctly, but she couldn't do that, too. But her rapist was black; she and her husband are white. So they had to tell the child the truth from the very beginning. It was obvious. And so that may be a good book to read for her perspective.

That is just my opinion. I've never believed in keeping secrets that are fundamental to someone's identity, and I think Jesus' love and grace are big enough to bring healing. Just listen to Gianna talk!

But I know there are alternate views out there. So what do you think? A faithful reader of my blog wants to know, and she checks in here everyday. So do share your thoughts in a constructive way. What should she tell her daughter? And how, and when?

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My Header Has Disappeared!
I have no idea why my header to this blog has disappeared. It just up and went a few days ago.

Do any of you still see a header? The sidebars seem to be working, but no header.

Can any of you see it? Or do you have any suggestions?

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Election Round Up
Now that I've had a few days to digest what happened in Canada's election, I thought I'd leave my take for those of you who are interested, since it isn't always what the media portrays.

Stephen Harper, our Conservative Prime Minister, won another minority government. We have a multi-party parliamentary system, which means that whichever party has the most seats forms the government. But in this case, and before the election, the Conservatives were short and didn't have a majority. So they couldn't automatically pass anything.

They won pretty big, though, up about 17 seats I think. They're a lot closer to a majority now than they were before.

They gained seats in the crucial 905 area (the area code surrounding Toronto, where they needed to break through), a few in Vancouver, and in New Brunswick and Anne of Green Gables land. They just hit a wall in Quebec.

We have a weird system where Quebec, which has a quarter of our parliamentary seats, votes overwhelmingly for a Quebec separatist party to represent them, even though they don't actually want to separate. It's very strange. They just want a strong Quebec voice in Parliament. We were hoping the Conservatives could break through in Quebec (they do have 9 seats now, I think), but the big breakthrough didn't come.

It's too bad, but that's Quebec.

The main thing is that nobody wants another election, so the opposition parties will likely support a lot of what Harper is doing. And right now our banks are the strongest in the world and our country is bearing up well under the financial crisis.

So I'm very encouraged. That's probably going to work out to at least three more years of Harper appointing fair judges (rather than overly liberal judges), three years of Harper appointing key Conservatives to the ministries and the Bank of Canada; three years of Harper running the military. Even if he never passed another law or budget, that's a big legacy you can leave in a country.

One of the key responsibilities in both the U.S. and Canada is appointing these key people. That's where you make your mark. And let me say, that given who Obama's friends tend to be, I would much rather be in my position where Harper is appointing fair judges than in the position that the United States may soon be in when Obama is left to appoint his allies.

But that's just me needling you guys about your election! Sorry about that. Can't help it. I'm going to stay away from any more election news for a while because I can't handle it. We came through our own election quite well, and for that I am grateful. God has given us a good government.

But no matter who runs Canada, or who runs the United States, God is still in charge. And whichever party wins is still a whole lot better than what most countries of the world face. So I am counting my blessings, and praying for a continually better world.

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99 Ways to Get Ready for Winter!
You know it's time to get ready for winter when you notice that your younger daughter is still wearing shorts when you're donning a leather jacket and shivering. Of course, said daughter was born without nerve endings, apparently, and never gets cold. But it's appearances that matter! What are other parents thinking of me? How did I get so negligent, etc. etc.

So the clothes must go.

The other sign that your house is not yet ready for winter is when you notice that your skin is remarkably dry. And you keep putting moisturizer everywhere but you can't figure it out. And then you realize that your daughters, to whom you gave the job of emptying the dehumidifiers in the summer, are still diligently completing that job, not noticing that THERE IS NO NEED FOR IT ONCE AUTUMN HITS! Agh. Is my tummy ever itchy.

So we obviously need to get out the humidifier and put away the dehumidifier.

But according to Homemaker Barbi, ninety-seven tasks still remain! I've only got two listed here, but you can see her whole checklist. It's pretty cool, and is sure to give you stuff to think about.

Just reading it through made me want to curl up in her house. She keeps hot drink mixes on her dining room table! Yum. And the flannel sheets are on her bed. How cozy.

Of course, life would be cozier if my husband agreed to put the thermostat up above 55 degrees at night, but he won't consent. Luckily we have a warm comforter.

She talks about that, too. So head on over and check it out, and make sure you're ready for Jack Frost!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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The Ultimate Marriage Poll!
Tomorrow I'm speaking at a Women Alive conference near Toronto, on the topic "Affair Proof Your Marriage". Some of it will be funny (especially when I talk about sex), some of it will be sad (like when I talk about loneliness), but I hope all of it will be challenging (like when I talk about how marriage is to make us holy perhaps more than it is to make us happy!).

But as I was preparing, I remembered a survey that was done a while ago with some interesting results.

So I'm going to ask you the question. Take this poll please, and then we'll see if my assumption is correct!

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Accentuate the Positive
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in several papers across the country. Here's this week's Reality Check:

One of the perks about public speaking as much as I do is that I get to travel. And when I travel, I stay in hotels, which have intriguing things like “dial a beds” where you choose how hard or soft your mattress is, or three pillows creatively draped on king size beds. Who is the third pillow for, anyway?

But to me, the greatest luxury is the television. We chucked our TV a decade ago when I felt I was becoming too addicted to it. In a hotel, though, I can watch it guilt free. That’s when I like to catch up on things. And a few years ago I decided to sample the show CSI. Unfortunately, the episode being aired that night featured a woman traveling alone in a hotel room, only to discover a corpse under her bed.

Once I recovered from being scared silly, I reflected on how dark television had become. When I was young we watched WKRP in Cincinnatti, and Donny and Marie. I graduated to The Cosby Show, and Family Ties. And now children and preteens watch CSI, which depicts bodies being dissected in grisly detail, as stunningly beautiful police investigators discuss the myriad of fluids that may remain at the scene of the crime. No thank you.

Why has life grown so dark? Last week, while I was away speaking, I switched on the television only to catch this sentence: “Police believe the missing man may have been eaten by alligators.” Why did I have to know that? I really didn’t want that picture in my head, so I rapidly switched the box off, and that’s how it remained.

It seems like everything we see or hear in our media is negative. Whether it’s about the banking crisis or various elections or wars overseas, all is gloomy. We’re heading into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, if some pundits are to be believed, though personally I don’t think it will be that bad. What is worse, to me, is all the demonizing during the election campaigns. I hate campaign commercials that complain about a candidate without mentioning a single policy. If you want to criticize cutting taxes, or raising taxes, or abolishing taxes, fine. But don’t just say someone’s scary because they’ll ruin the economy, without elaborating. That’s just attacking and I hate it. And they’re at it south of the border, too, so we can’t escape it.

Media, and even elections, seem to be driven by fear. The bigger the crisis—or the bigger the alligator—the better. I guess negativity sells. Recently my husband and I decided to rent a movie, so I ventured to the video store to see what was new. One was a movie called Pigs, featuring college-aged men engaged in degrading behaviour. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t their target audience, but I couldn’t find any movies that would target me. Another offering was aptly titled Inside, since it featured a slasher cutting up bodies to reveal the innards. I turned around and walked out.

I am sick of negativity. I know the world isn’t perfect, but have you seen the leaves lately? They’re gorgeous. The sky is setting outside my window as I write this, and the orange is glowing, painting a warm light across the sky. It’s breathtaking. My children are chattering in the next room, and we’ve just eaten a great meal.

Sure my investments have lost value over the last two weeks, but that doesn’t mean they won’t go back up. And even if they don’t, I have two daughters who love me. We have clothes in our closet and food on the table. Do we really need more than that?

Much of the world is on the wrong track, so it’s no wonder everything is bleak. But ultimately that doesn’t matter. I’m happy living on the opposite side of the alligators and CSI. They can stay in their little corner; I’m going to live in mine. I’m going to enjoy my girls, munch some freshly picked apples, love my husband, and let everything else fade away. Who wants to join me?

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum


Do You Feel Guilty About Chocolate?
They say that women's number one emotion is guilt--at any particular time we're feeling guilty about at least one thing. And if you don't think you're feeling guilty right now, if you think about it I'm sure you can talk yourself into it!

And the number one thing we feel guilty for, if surveys are to be believed, is our weight.

Here's a clip of a talk I gave recently on women and weight. I think it's pretty funny, but you can be the judge of that! I know that it's good to stay healthy, and I do say that in other parts of that same talk, but the main point I'm trying to make in the rest of this talk is how to keep our eyes on what is really important--namely receiving from God, and then passing His blessings on to others.

So here it is! Hope I make you chuckle!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Do Your Kids Help Clean Up?

If you're like most moms, you're probably at your wits' end trying to figure out ways to get your kids involved in keeping the house under control.

Today on my podcast, I give some quick thoughts about why it's important to get kids cleaning! actually has a spiritual dimension!

The last in a four part series I did with Focus on the Family, this is just a quick 5 minute thought into how we can make sure our homes focus on God's best in relationships, instead of just trying to run on autopilot!

You can listen in here.

And to see more of what I've written about kids and chores, just click on the label at the bottom of this post that says "chores". A ton more will pop up!

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Works for Me Wednesday: Tracking Your Blog

I've written a bit lately about how I track people on my blogs, and people keep asking for a better explanation of it! So here goes.

First of all, you can use sitemeter to tell you how many people come and which websites refer them. It's free, and it's fun! You can upgrade to a more professional program, but I don't find it's worth it. And many other programs run on sitemeter statistics, so it's a good one to have.

Just go to and sign up, and follow their instructions. You'll have to modify your template a bit, but that isn't that hard to do, and they explain exactly where to paste the code. Now you can count your visitors!

I also signed up with blogtopsites, which is how I get that rank on the left hand side for Top Parenting Sites. It relies on sitemeter stats, and it's kind of fun to see that rank go up and down. It starts at 0 again every Sunday, so it's your rank for just that week, so if you have a post that is linked to a lot, you can see yourself skyrocket!

You can go find Blog Top Sites here.

Now, if you have Google Ads and you want to track how they are doing, or if you want to track how people come to your site with a little more accuracy than Sitemeter, I like Google Analytics. They come up with slightly different numbers, but they're both good. Google Analytics is what I use to figure out which blog has referred to me the most in this month, and which search engine terms people are using to show up here.

And so far this month, I have a new winner for my book giveaway contest as to which blog is referring me the most traffic! But it's only the 15th, so I won't announce it until the end of the month! If you want to win one of my books, just blog roll me, and I'll announce it early in November!

It can be really addictive to check your stats constantly, but it is fun to see where people are talking about you. Another great one for that is Technorati, which tracks all the incoming links from other blogs to your blog. So you can see what your rank is! You can find that one here. Again, it's just a way of seeing who is reading you and talking about you. And if people are commenting on your posts, and linking back, you can see what they are saying.

So I hope that helps! Sign up for some of them, and see what happens!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Wifey Wednesday: What if You Disagree on Big Things?

You get married with dreams of having four kids and staying at home with them. You assume he wants the same thing.

And then you a few years pass and he says two is more than enough, anything is else is too expensive, and by the way you better get at least a part-time job to help pay for all this.

Or you decide on two, have them in your early twenties, and then you hit 32 and really want another one. But he's happy to have the baby years over with. What do you do?

Maybe it's not about kids. Maybe it's about moving. He gets a job offer on the other side of the country, and you don't want to uproot the kids and take them away from grandparents.

What do you do when you have a really difficult decision to make and compromise isn't really an option? How do you compromise on whether or not to have kids? And how do you compromise on whether or not to move? No middle ground is readily apparent. You either do or you don't. So which is it?

For many of my friends children was never an option because they believe in letting God plan their families. One of our friends had their thirteenth and fourteenth children two weeks ago (they had twins). I have others with eight or nine.

But most of us aren't like that. We don't necessarily want big families, and we do use birth control.

I know that speaking from the other end of it I wish that I had left more of my childbearing up to God. After I had Katie at 27 I thought I never wanted any other kids. We planned to adopt. And I'll tell that story another time. But I wish that we had had more before it was too late.

I really don't have any easy answers for these types of issues. I know that in the case of children, it would be easier in a way without birth control! Then we wouldn't have fights about these sort of things! But because we do, we won't always agree.

I also have two friends who followed their husbands when they had job offers far away. They were not enthused. For the first few years they hated it. But they've adjusted, and I think they're quite happy now.

The key thing I believe is that when you do make a decision that your husband wants, you have to do it wholeheartedly. You can't reserve the right to be angry later. We have to give up the bitterness, otherwise we're not really deciding in his favour. We're just acquiescing, and that never works. It's horrible for your marriage.

So, to sum up, I just don't know. These issues are really hard. But I'd love to know what you think! Leave some comments, and tell us how you settled these difficult things. Have you ever gone through something really hard like this? And how did you settle it? Maybe we can help each other through some of these hard times.

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Impromptu Family Road Trip
Hi everybody!

I'm on an impromptu family road trip, so I'll be late uploading my podcast this week and late for Wifey Wednesday! But never fear, they are coming, and I'm hoping to catch up by Wednesday night!

Happy election day to all fellow Canadians!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Tomorrow We Make a Big Decision
Tomorrow Canadians go to the polls. Our election was called six weeks ago, so we haven't lived through two and a half years of an election circus like most of you readers; we have only lived through six weeks of it, and that's enough for me.

Currently we have a Conservative minority government, which means that the Conservatives have the most seats in our Parliament, but they don't have enough to guarantee that anything they want passes. So they've had a hard time getting their agenda across. The called the election hoping for a majority; at the time, the polls seemed to support it. Today it looks much more bleak.

One of my favourite columnists, Michael Coren, wrote this about our election, and I think it applies to the American one, too (just insert "America" rather than "Canada"). So I give this to you to muse over today:

It's about people who bemoan the lack of public childcare as opposed to those who know we already had the best childcare and it's called parenting.

It's about those who feel Canada as a home and a heart as opposed to those who think of Canada as a concept and a social experiment.

About those who view taxation as a necessary evil to be used to help the most unfortunate as opposed to those who want to use taxes to change the very nature of Canadian society.

About those who believe that Canada is public broadcasting, state education and the Charter of Human Rights as opposed to those who see it as pioneers, personal initiative, sacrifice and courage.

About those who want a clean environment for the sake of their children as opposed to those who want a clean environment because they prefer the planet to its inhabitants.

About moms and dads rather than caregivers and nannies, about real communities as opposed to artificial communes, about having a thick skin and a sense of humour as opposed to being constantly oversensitive and complaining about and demanding an apology for any remark that offends your politically correct sensibilities.

About a Canada based firmly on our traditions and values as opposed to a Canada destroyed and then rebuilt on notions that are entirely foreign to our way of life.

I'm always amazed by people who switch back and forth between parties at each election. I suppose if you're truly in the middle it doesn't matter. But most of us have a concept of how life should be; we either want more government to take care of the problems, or less government so that fewer problems are caused in the first place. You must fall on one end of the spectrum or the other! I think it's just that people don't always realize which side of the spectrum the political parties fall on, because they don't always articulate it easily. But it is simple: Republicans (and Conservatives) in general want less government and more personal responsibility; Democrats (and Liberals and the NDP) want more government to solve our problems. So which are you?

I know that's an overgeneralization, and that Republicans have done little to curb spending, but that is the ideological framework the parties fall under.

And I think of it like this: the main way that people learn is through consequences. There's a reason for that, too: God set up the principle "you reap what you sow". It's present in nature; and it's present in human nature, too. We are supposed to reap what we sow, and that is how we learn.

That's also how we turn to God. The Prodigal Son returned to the Father after he had reaped what he had sown. When he had completely hit rock bottom he realized how much he needed the Father. He repented. And he returned.

When we interfere with the whole reap-sow continuum, I think we interfere with a very important part of human nature. If we try to seal people off from the consequences of their actions, it's highly unlikely they will learn from them. And it's even more likely that they will develop a victim mentality, where everybody is supposed to fix my life for me. If things go badly for me, people should pick up the pieces. And that's not right.

But there's another philosophical problem that divides the two parties, and it's this one: which is the basic social unit, the family or the government? Does it take a village, or does it take a family to raise a child? I believe it takes families. In fact, I believe that without families, villages will fail. The basic social unit must be the family. It is how we were created, it is where our allegiance lies, and it is family that keeps us rooted.

Not all families are great, of course, but we have the ability to form new families as adults, and to escape dysfunctional ones. But who should we rely on in times of trouble: the family or the government?

Right now the government is getting so large and failing so miserably because it is attempting to do things that the family should be doing on its own. So many family functions have been offloaded onto the schools. Many health issues have been taken up by the government. And so on and so on. And it's no wonder that families are now very fragile.

If the family is the basic social unit, then people's outlook towards government and society is one of responsibility. I am responsible for myself, and I am responsible to act appropriately. If the government is the basic social unit, on the other hand, and it solves all problems, then people's basic outlook towards society and culture is one of rights: you owe me, you can't criticize me, I have the right to do whatever I want.

Now rights, of course, have their good sides, just as government has its good side. I realize that I have painted a very black and white picture here, and I know it's not as simple as that, but this is a blog, not a treatise on government.

That, however, is what informs my political views, and it's why I'm voting Conservative tomorrow in Canada's election. I hope more Canadians join me, but I know that ultimately every election is in God's hands, and He knows the outcome. He sets up kings and deposes them. I have to keep telling myself that right now as I look at both elections.

I feel so privileged to be able to vote. And as much as I disagree with the other parties, all the parties we have to choose from are infinitely better than the governments that run many of the world's repressed countries. We are truly blessed.

And since today is Canadian Thanksgiving, that's one of the thing I'm saying Thanks for. Thank you for the freedom to vote; and thank you for our good, though imperfect, political system. We are blessed indeed.

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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And Even More on Tithing: Where Should It Go?
I never really meant to post on tithing, but it keeps coming up, and then in the comments people ask questions, so here we go on another post!

Now we're dealing with the question: Does the whole 10% need to go to my church?

Please keep in mind that what I am about to tell you is my understanding of Scripture. It is not Scripture itself, and many smart, godly people have views quite the opposite of mine.

But nevertheless, this is my blog and I get to tell you what I think!

In the Old Testament, when the tithe was instituted, everybody took their tithe to the tabernacle, and later the temple. These were the places where God literally dwelled, and where all the work of God was carried out in the entire world. It was the only organized vehicle for God's work on earth. The welfare system was run from the temple. Evangelism, such as it was, was run from the temple. Everything was located there.

I don't think you can compare the local church with the temple. God does not dwell in your local church; He dwells in you today. He once lived in the holiest of holies in the temple; now He lives in your heart. So there's nothing mystical about the building, except that it is the primary place for fellowship and accountability and growth that we have today.

As such, it needs much of our tithe. But I don't think it needs all of it. Today, God's work is not only done by the local church. It is also done by organizations all over the world, and even here at home. If we're to forward God's work on earth, I think we need to be considering those organizations, too.

Our church gives about 20% of its money to overseas missions, so it's easy to say that if we give to the local church alone, the local church then takes its tithes and distributes them as it sees fit, and you're done. But I guess I've never believed that, because 80% of the money still stays in North America. And quite frankly, the work of God needs more money on other sides of the world, in my opinion, where Christians are being thrown out of their homes, tortured, or simply starving.

So we try to give half our tithe to our church, and then we divide up the rest between local missions and overseas missions, with an emphasis on the overseas. We try to give to organizations that we personally have contact with, so we know the money is being used well. For instance, my family has visited an orphanage in Kenya, and a lot of our money goes directly there today. We gave money to build a water system, for instance, and the next time we go back we will be able to physically see it. We also gave money to start up some entrepreneurial ventures in Kenya, and when we go back we can visit those, too. So it's very tangible.

I know many disagree, and many preach that the entire 10% has to go to your local church, and the offerings above and beyond that go overseas. I feel that we should all be giving at least 10% (we give more than that), but I just don't think the church is the same as the temple, since God is working in many ways today.

So that's where I stand.

And in answer to another question, yes, I think we should also tithe our time, but that doesn't mean that we don't have to give money! (which I don't think the commenter was implying; I'm just making the point). I think we just simply need to have an attitude of generosity, where we hold everything we have--our money, our time, even our kids--in an open hand, realizing that they come from God, and they're not intrinsically ours. Let's not become so burdened by things on earth that we fail to rely on Him. Let's not hoard His blessings. Let's share them so they can multiply.

That's just my attitude towards life. And when you do share, you feel a whole lot better!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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What to do About Tithing
In the comments below, one woman asked what to do about tithing when you really want to tithe, but your husband isn't on board.

That's a toughie. Personally, I believe that God blesses you in many ways when you tithe, especially financially. You're putting your trust in Him, and He rewards that. I also think the Bible very clearly teaches that our money is not our own, it is His. And we need to give at least 10% away.

But if your husband doesn't agree, you can't just go and do it on your own. I think marital unity demands more.

What you can do, though, is tithe the money that is in your control. So if you follow my advice and budget for clothes, and groceries, and health & beauty, and gifts, etc., and you have control of that money, you could take that and tithe it. I have a friend, for instance, who has $280 a week to spend on all household expenditures. She gives away $30 of that, because it's already in her control. Her husband has agreed that as long as she purchases what they need, the money is hers. So she gives away based on that.

$30 a week may not be much, but she's still trusting God that He will provide, and she's still honouring Him first. And you can do that.

The other thing you can do is tithe your things. If you have children's clothes that are too small, or a lot of food in your cupboards, you can be generous with that. You can be generous with your time, or with your ability to bake or make home-cooked meals. You can cook for a single mom who needs a hand, or for an older couple in the neighbourhood.

You may not be able to tithe on your income, but you can share what God has blessed you with. So get creative about it, and don't get too upset if your husband isn't on board. It's not up to you to change him; that's up to God. So do what you can and focus on that, rather than on what you can't do. And I do think that when we start trying to be creative about how to share with others, God smiles!

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In Love with Freedom
Every Friday my syndicated parenting column appears in a variety of newspapers. This week's is a little more philosophical than usual. It's focused a bit on the Canadian election, but the points are the same for the American election, too. It applies both sides of the border. See what you think!

We love freedom. Indeed, one can sum up the history of humankind from 1750 onwards as the quest for freedom, most ambitiously first in the United States, but followed quickly by demands in Canada in 1837 and in Europe especially in 1848. Over the next century the colonial world followed suit. Then, of course, we banded together to fight the tyranny of Nazism and later communism.

For the last four decades, though, we have fought for a very different kind of freedom: not freedom from tyranny, but freedom from responsibility.

Today, when we think of the word freedom we don’t tend to think of mundane things like ballot boxes or secret police; we think of the freedom to do what we want without other people telling us what to do. If I want to have sex with fourteen different partners, and have children by three of them, that’s okay. If a man wants to sleep around regardless of the multiple women he impregnates, that’s okay too, as long as he pays child support. If a woman wants to leave her husband and take the children with her because he doesn’t excite her anymore, no problem.

But let’s not be naïve and claim this type of freedom lacks consequences. Just look at the education system to see the effects of our quest for freedom. Today kids’ test scores are abysmal, and politicians are wringing their hands trying to figure out what to do.

So they spend more money, build bigger bureaucracies, and require more tax dollars, all to achieve less than what my mother’s rural Manitoba school did fifty years ago. They also take on more roles that parents used to fill, from teaching children about puberty to teaching kids to keep physically fit. We can’t trust the family to do these things anymore because the family, as we know it, no longer exists.

In late January, the Toronto school board passed a vote to start the city’s first black school. The impetus was admirable: teens of Caribbean descent have a 40% drop out rate, and the Board wants to correct that. What was omitted in most press accounts of this new school is that in this community, fatherhood is almost non-existent. So schools expand, spending millions more dollars, to try to make up for where the family is dropping the ball.

It’s not just schools, either. Family breakdown also causes more health problems, leading to more government. It’s directly related to crime rates, again causing more government as we build bigger prisons, courts, and hire more police. It requires more subsidized day care. Without the family to take care of each other, we turn automatically to the government. And the bigger the government gets, the more money it needs, to the point that we don’t actually start earning for ourselves until June 16, tax freedom day in British Columbia. Up until that date, we’re just working to pay the government.

It’s not just in monetary terms that we have lost out, either. The demand for freedom from responsibility also leads to a demand for non-judgmentalism, which then leads to speech codes in universities, governments, and the media. No one should make any sort of moral judgments against anyone’s behaviour, all of which leads to even more bureaucracy to monitor everybody else. Political freedom is so yesterday; freedom from absolute morality is today.

What saddens me is that we have lost this idea that we should be a responsible citizenry that is capable of governing ourselves and building a decent democracy. We’ve replaced it with a citizenry interested in pursuing their own happiness, because the government will pick up the pieces. And that is why freedom from responsibility ultimately hinders political freedom.

I doubt this is the kind of freedom that Mackenzie and Papineau were dreaming of during the rebellions of 1837. We have a social obligation to love our families, to be loyal to our families, and to keep our promises. We owe it not only to our spouse and our children, but also to our neighbours, our community, and our country. In this election, we’re often focused on what we can get from the government. Maybe it’s time we all collectively asked what we can do to make Canada a better place. That sounds old-fashioned, but let’s remember that freedom from responsibility is ultimately no freedom at all.

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Why Kids Need to Pick Up Their Own Stuff!
I have a new video up! It's from an interview I did with Chuck and Jenni on At Home Live a while ago. My hair looks better now, I think. But I still sound pretty much the same!

Anyway, you can watch it below. It's focusing on To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and one of the issues I really get into in this interview (and in the book) is what it means to serve our families appropriately.

I think serving always points people to God. It shouldn't point people away from God. But while women instinctively are servants, I don't think that necessarily means that we serve appropriately.

When we do things for our kids that they should be doing for themselves we teach them to treat us with disrespect. We teach them to ignore their responsibilities. We teach them to rely on others, and that they are entitled to an easy life.

And none of those things is good. Those are the exact opposite of character traits we want to instill. But how many times have we cleaned up for our kids because it's easier than requiring them to do it? How many times do we say "okay, you don't really have to do your chores, or you don't really have to listen to what I say," because it's easier than to follow through on our consequences? We may tell kids "clean up your room or you can't go out", but if they don't clean up, do we let them go out anyway? Do we let them argue with us so that they can clean it later (and by that time we've forgotten about it?).

I don't think we should be tyrants. I think it's better to issue very few commands to kids, and then follow through, than to have a whole list of rules that you never enforce. And there is always room for grace! If your daughter is exhausted, helping her with her chores this week is fine. Helping her every week is not.

What do you think? Do you find it hard to follow through? Do you make your kids do chores? And how do you enforce it? Watch below, and then tell me what you think!

If you struggle with getting your kids to help clean, To Love, Honor and Vacuum is for you! Find out more here, or click here for Amazon.

You can also download
an hour long humorous talk that Sheila gave on To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

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Who Should Be in Charge of the Money?
Interesting comments on my post about budgeting below, and I wanted to follow up with some thoughts.

First, as far as I'm concerned, if your husband has tithed on the income, and then he gives you some, you don't have to tithe. That's not your "income". That's simply money that he's put in one of his "jars"--in this case, the jar marked "Wife". So it's not new income.

But I want to get back to this idea of allowances. I actually talk about this in To Love, Honor and Vacuum in a whole chapter, but I have to agree with the commenter below who said that allowances for wives made her nervous. They make me a little nervous, too.

Let me explain. In my philosophy about marriage, and I think this is biblical, once you are married you are one. Everything is shared. There is no "his" and "hers", and there's no concept that he made the money so it's his and he can decide how to spend it. The money is yours together. He may have earned it, but you're working in other ways, and the money is for the family, not for him.

If together you both decide a budget on how much you will spend on household expenses a week, since you're the one who does the grocery shopping, etc., that's a smart thing to do. There's nothing wrong with that. But what gets me nervous is this concept that it's him handing over the money, because frequently that means that he has access to the bank accounts and she does not.
That is not a safe situation to be in. What if you need money for an emergency? Or, more importantly, what if something happened to your husband? If your name is not on the bank accounts, and he is in an accident, you cannot get access to it without a lot of legal wrangling. Even if your name is on the account but you have no bank card or no credit card it's not easy to get to in a pinch.

And do you know anything about your family finances? Do you know if you have savings, or debt? Do you know what your retirement fund is invested in? Do you know if you have disability insurance (which everybody should, especially when you have young children)? If he wants to be the one to primarily look after the money, and you don't mind, that's okay. But you still need to be familiar with all of it and you need to be able to get your hands on it if you need it. It's just common sense, and it's protecting you and the children.

Philosophically, though, I do think that the husband having control over the money and doling it out to his wife as the husband sees fit is not a picture of oneness in marriage. Decisions about money should be made together. I have a sister-in-law who, as of Saturday, is no longer my sister-in-law. She married my brother-in-law, they divorced, and on Saturday she remarried.

But money was one of the big issues in their marriage. He felt that since he made it it was his. He would give her money for groceries, but he would monitor what she spent. If she spent too much on herself he'd get upset, but he could play all the golf he wanted. It wasn't an equitable relationship.

If your husband is unwilling to give up control of the money then getting an allowance is probably the best you can do. Make it as high as possible so that you can take some of it and save it for things that you know you and the children will need in the future.

On the whole, though, I think both partners should have access to the money, and both partners should decide how much you both will spend on things. It's fine to give you an allowance for household items if that's what you've decided on and if you still are firmly in the financial decision making loop. But does he have an allowance for his spending, too? Or is it only you who has to control herself?

Even if he doesn't budget for himself, of course, that doesn't remove the obligation for you to be responsible with money, and budgeting is always a good idea whether or not he does it. But if he doesn't do it, and he's asking you to, then it means that there is a mistaken idea fundamentally about the nature or marriage. Both of you need to come to the realization that what you have is shared completely. That's the way that God intended.

All of that being said, I know another woman whose husband recently took away her bank card and credit card and put her in a strict allowance. But she needed it. She had issues with spending too much and she was endangering the family's well-being. She laughs about it, and feels that he was right. And it has changed her habits. Last week when her son had to be do a project for school, she would have normally gone out and bought a project board. Instead she rummaged around the basement for an old one, took all the stuff off of it, and voila!

So I am not saying that allowances are always bad ideas. I am just saying that such decisions need to be reached mutually, and that the wife should always be knowledgeable about the financial situation with the family and have access to all the finances.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Not harsh enough? How do you divide the money? I'd love to know!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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