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50 Most Important Bible Verses to Memorize

Last week I wrote a post complaining that we are "dumbing down" church and school, and don't require kids to learn mastery of anything anymore. I asked what we could do about it.

And I decided maybe it was time I did something, rather than just complain. And so I've put together this list of the 50 verses I think are most important to memorize. I know many families want to memorize verses together, but they don't know where to start. Here you go. One a week for a year. Even if this is all you ever memorize, you will have God's word in your heart for the most important verses, I think, in the Bible. I'm going to type the list with the verses first, and then at the end include a list of just the references, if you want those to just copy and paste.

Why not make little memory verse cards out of 3x5 cards, and keep them at the dinner table? Then every night you can go over this week's verse. By the end of the year, you'll have all of these memorized!

I chose these because they're a cross-section of doctrine, promises, and comfort. You may want to add others, or to substitute. Feel free. Consider this a starting point, not anything definitive. I hope you you find it useful! All verses are from the NIV.


Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 40:28
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Revelation 3:20
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”

Ephesians 2:8,9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Isaiah 40:30-31
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart ,and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Christian Life

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Psalm 37:4,5
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will do this.

Proverbs 3:5,7
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

James 1:22
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

James 4:7
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Luke 16:13
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

1 John 4:7,8
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Philippians 4:6,7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:11
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out, so that you can stand up under it.

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Matthew 25:40
The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 28:19-20
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Bigger challenges:

If you want to memorize whole chapters, here are my top 5:

Isaiah 53
Psalm 23
1 Corinthians 13
John 15
Psalm 139

These chapters are all important; I have left them out of the top 50 verses because I couldn't choose just one or two verses from any of them. The whole thing is great. So if you're up for a family challenge, memorize all of one of them!

Look at it this way: if you spend one year memorizing the fifty verses, and the next year reviewing those fifty and memorizing a chapter, and then go back to those fifty verses again to make sure you have them down, and then the next year go back and do a different chapter, and so on, over the course of ten years you'll have 50 verses and 5 chapters so committed to memory there is no way anyone could ever forget it.

And I think knowing fewer verses, but knowing them inside and out, is sometimes more beneficial in the long run than trying to make yourself learn a verse a day or something.

So print this out and use it with your family!

Now, here are just the references if you want to copy and paste:

1. Isaiah 9:6
2. Isaiah 40:28
3. Genesis 1:1
4. John 3:16-17
5. Romans 3:23
6. Romans 6:23
7. Revelation 3:20
8. John 14:6
9. Ephesians 2:8,9
10. 2 Corinthians 5:17
11. Romans 8:28
12. Isaiah 40:30-31
13. Romans 8:38-39
14. Matthew 11:28-30
15. Psalm 27:1
16. Jeremiah 29:11
17. Hebrews 13:8
18. 2 Peter 3:9
19. Lamentations 3:22-23
20. 2 Corinthians 12:9
21. 2 Corinthians 4:18
22. Psalm 37:4,5
23. Proverbs 3:5,7
24. Philippians 4:13
25. Galatians 2:20
26. James 1:22
27. Colossians 3:23
28. 1 Corinthians 15:58
29. James 4:7
30. Luke 16:13
31. 1 John 4:7,8
32. Galatians 5:22-23
33. Hebrews 12:1-2
34. Acts 1:8
35. Romans 12:1-2
36. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
37. Psalm 19:14
38. Philippians 4:6,7
39. 2 Timothy 3:16
40. Psalm 119:105
41. Psalm 119:11
42. Hebrews 4:16
43. 1 John 1:9
44. James 5:16
45. 1 Corinthians 10:13
46. Micah 6:8
47. Matthew 25:40
48. Matthew 28:19-20
49. Matthew 5:16
50. Ephesians 6:12

Happy memorizing!

If you believe that memorizing God's Word can bring real change to families, then can you help me get a wider audience for this list? Just hit "Share" on Facebook below (you can hit the Like button, too, but the Share button posts this to your newsfeed), and then more people will see it! Thank you so much!

UPDATE: A reader pointed out that I only had 49 verses, so I added another one! Sorry! The list is complete now.

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A Slice Into My Life...
I noticed lately I've been sharing a lot more about what I think about things rather than what actually happens in my home. Part of it is privacy concerns--I get a lot of people coming her to my blog who read me in the newspaper, and I'm always a little conscious of what I share about my children.

But I thought I'd share one little slice of my life with you.

My mother and I are both avid knitters. We've even started some micro-businesses with girls in Kenya, teaching them to knit with knitting machines.

Recently my mother decided to take a machine knitting course offered locally, and she sent this report to her sister:

Decided to take some machine knitting classes now that I have a little time. (a long story but not that interesting). Had my first class this past Tuesday. Asked the instructor how I am supposed to transport the machine to/from once assembled/clicked into place. She told me that the women use gun cases!

I then took a second look and realized that is what they were. However, never having seen one before how was I to know? So - headed to Canadian Tire yesterday and discovered a part of the store I never even knew existed.

The two guys behind the counter were more than a little amused when I said I needed the case to carry my knitting machine! One of them suggested - rather tongue in cheek - that I should paint mine pink so people didn't get the wrong idea when they saw me carrying it around.

I thought it a good idea so headed down to the paint department. There some customer with long hair and missing teeth saw me looking at some bright wine coloured shiny paint. He warned me against shiny paint in the woods because the animals could see it. When I explained to him what I wanted the case for - well you should have seen his face! Will wait for some nicer weather before trying to paint it.

Now, full disclosure: my mother grew up in rural Manitoba, where hunting is common, and in the part of southeastern Ontario where we live, long gun ownership is probably higher than most parts of the U.S. But my mom is a city girl and hasn't had that much exposure to it.

Anyway, this sort of thing is quite typical for my family. We're always doing weird things. I like to tell my girls that when they grow up, at least they will never have to say their childhood was boring!
Government Isn't the Parent
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's, which was inspired by a blog post I wrote last week.

In San Francisco, many formerly happy children are now very sad. A few months ago, the Board of Supervisors decided to ban Happy Meals, because they offer toys to entice children to eat something unhealthy (never mind the fact that McDonald’s offers milk and fruit as an option). All restaurants that offer toys as incentives for unhealthy meals must now cease and desist.

Personally, I don’t think Happy Meals are great nutritional choices for children, either, though the occasional one will do no harm. Nevertheless, what concerns me more is this propensity of government to step into what is essentially a
parent’s job.

Society works best when the family is the main social unit. Even dictators across the ages have known this, since one of the first things they do to increase their control is to weaken the family. In Mao Zedong’s Great March across China, female soldiers who gave birth on the 6000 mile trek were encouraged to leave their babies with peasants, for the good of the revolution. Today China forces women to abort second and third children, for the good of the country. In the Southern United States, during slavery, children were sold away from their parents to sever bonds. Dictators hate the family, because families form allegiances tighter than the ones we have to the state. And then we’re less likely to listen to what the state tells us to do.

For a society to be strong and free, then, the family has to be strong. But the more society starts doing parents’ jobs, the less parents will feel the need to do them.

To use another example, Michelle Obama, in her quest to slim the waistlines of America’s children, has expanded the feeding program for poor children, so that now up to 2,000,000 children will be eligible not just for school breakfasts or lunches, but for three meals a day, 365 days a year. The government will feed your kids!

Isn’t feeding children a rather basic responsibility of parenting? Besides, you can feed a family of four on $150 a week, if you cook from scratch, don’t buy cereal and ice cream, and plan carefully. And food banks are available to make up the difference.

Yet Ms. Obama thinks the government would do a better job. Has she considered the cost? It’s not just the people preparing the food, buying the food, and serving the food. It’s the army of nutritionists who plan the menus. The consultants hired to figure out what green vegetables kids will eat. The commodity experts hired to give their opinion on what prices will be in a few months. The state bureaucrats hired to lobby the federal government for a greater share of the pie. The federal bureaucrats hired to oversee the budget and decide what states get it.

Or we could just ask parents to feed their kids.

Lest you think this is just an American phenomenon, our own premiere is expanding kindergarten so that parents don’t have to care for their children barely out of toddlerhood, either.

Some parents are really and truly awful. But the more the government steps in, the more we tell those parents, “You don’t even need to try.” More and more, governments are doing what parents should do. They are teaching kids about sex. They are teaching them values. They are baby-sitting them. And yes, they are feeding them. And then we wonder why parents don’t step up to the plate.

We can’t afford a society where parents aren’t responsible. We can’t afford it fiscally, and we can’t afford it morally or socially. So I think it’s time we say to parents, “You’re the parent. Act like it.” I wish some politician would say that. That would be a politician I could get behind.

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What's the Worst Advice You've Ever Received?
I'm busy working on my manuscript for "A Good Girl's Guide to Sex" today, so I don't have time to write a real post.

So instead, I want to ask you to write something!

I'm putting together a column on "The Worst Advice You've Ever Received". So let me ask you: What's the worst advice you've received? Let me know, and I'll choose one respondent to win a copy of my book, "To Love, Honor and Vacuum"!

I'll make the draw next Tuesday! Thanks for your help!

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Wifey Wednesday: How to Support Your Husband

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Men thrive on appreciation and admiration. They withdraw when they feel as if we don’t respect or value them.

So the question is: do you respect and encourage your husband? We're in the middle of a six-week challenge to make our marriages better by doing these five things:

1. Thank your husband once a day for something (try to make it something different each time)
2. Compliment your husband to your mother, your children, your friends, whatever, within earshot of your husband, every chance you get.
3. Do not nag.
4. Do not give the silent treatment.
5. Make love with relative frequency (say at least 2-3 times a week).

Those first two are better categorized as "respect" or "affirmation". They're part of that whole support thing that we owe our husbands. But how do we manage that support?

Many women feel, “well, I’d respect him if he deserved it”, but this can be a bit of a circular argument. When we respect him and value him, he is more likely to act in a manner that we would respect and value. When we fail to respect and value him, he is more likely to pull away. So waiting for him to change and withholding our respect is not going to help.

One of the best examples of respect and support I have seen recently is in the amazing movie, The King’s Speech. We tried to go see it the second Tuesday after it was open, and the 5:45 showing was sold out (even though it was over the dinner hour). So we went on a Sunday afternoon, and the theatre was still packed. The movie is doing so well. It makes me wonder why Hollywood doesn’t make more great movies that uphold our values. But that’s a subject for another blog post.

If you haven't seen it, watch the trailer:

What I want to talk about here is the marriage relationship between the two main characters: King George VI, and his wife Elizabeth, better known to us as “The Queen Mother”. The movie follows the true story of Bertie (King George VI’s real name was Albert) overcoming his stuttering as he is thrust into the role of king unexpectedly when his brother abdicates. The king must find his voice to inspire and rally Britain as the war opens. And, with the help of an unusual speech therapist, he does.

But it is his wife who I was really drawn to. Helena Bonham Carter plays her wonderfully, but I noticed two main things: she supported and encouraged him to find help, but she never once babied him or showed him anything other than, “I believe you can do it, and that’s all there is to it.”

She was very matter of fact about the whole thing. Before he went in to give a huge speech, she wouldn’t hold his hand and say, “don’t worry, Bertie, no matter what happens, I’m still here for you!” She gave him a quick kiss and said, “you’ll do great.” It was that simple.

And she told him, throughout the movie, why she admired him. He was a great man. He was a kind man. He was an honourable man. When he was ready to give up on speech therapy, she managed to make him keep going. When he quit, she managed to get him to start again. We don’t see all these conversations on screen, but I can imagine the way she handled them. She would say, “I see something wonderful in you. And I want others to see it, too.” When a therapist was ridiculous, she put a stop to it immediately because she didn’t want her husband to go through that. But she always believed in him, at his core.

I think there are two mistakes women make when it comes to supporting our husbands: the first is that we fail to do it at all. We notice all his inadequacies, and focus on those, rather than noticing what is good about him.

The second mistake is to baby him, to try to support him by constantly offering our “support”, but we phrase it in such a way that we could be talking to a 4-year-old. That doesn’t make him feel supported; that makes him feel like you think he’s a child who can’t handle this without you. That’s not real support; that’s pity. And he doesn’t want pity.

Let’s turn to lack of respect first. If you don’t support your husband because he doesn’t deserve it, you’ve got a huge problem. Your marriage is only going to get worse. It will collapse. You have to have an underpinning of respect in any marriage for it to work. And so I ask you: what did you respect about your husband when you first were married? What drew you to him? Those things are probably still there. Notice them again. Thank him for them. Draw them out. The more you talk about them and mention them, the bigger he will feel, and the more he will want to participate in the marriage.

Maybe he is doing things you disapprove of. Maybe he does spend too much time playing video games, or not enough time talking to the children. These things do need to be addressed. But they are far more likely to be constructively addressed in a relationship where you respect him and he feels it. If you start trying to fix him before giving him respect, he will withdraw and the relationship will become worse.

The woman I know who most radiates admiration is my pastor’s wife Marilyn. Every Sunday, she sits near the front of the church and looks at him, the whole time he’s speaking, with a huge smile on her face. She looks like she adores him—and she does. I often wonder, does my husband know I feel that way about him, too? Do I? No one can miss how she feels about him, and it makes all of us respect him more. If his wife feels that way about him, he must be pretty amazing!

But then there’s the other kind of encouragement—the kind when we think we’re affirming him, but we’re really giving him the message, “I don’t think you can handle this.” The Queen Mum (well, she was just Queen Elizabeth back then) always just patted his arm or gave him a quick kiss and said, “you can do it.” He felt that she believed in him (because she did).

Maybe your husband doesn’t stutter, but he might be out of work and worried if he’ll find another job. Or he may have a horrible one where people put him down. Do you treat him like a 4-year-old, or do you communicate, “I hear you, I want to listen, but I totally believe that you can handle this because you’re awesome.” He wants to know you think he’s awesome.

So give him the key to success. Admire and affirm him, but don’t treat him like he’s 4. That’s what a queen did, and it worked on her king.

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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Are We Losing the Ability to Think?

Last week I took four teenagers (two were my own) down to New York for a Bible quizzing tournament. That means twelve hours, in total, in a car with these girls over the course of the weekend. And we got into some really interesting conversations.

One of the girls is a senior in high school who is very bright and very motivated. She finds it really difficult to process the fact that so many of her fellow students just can't write. She reads their papers, and thinks, "But you've been speaking English your entire life. You can speak a sentence. Why can't you write one?" She once got into a conversation with her English teacher about this, and her teacher said that there is a school of thought that in 100 years, tenses will disappear from our language. We're getting so lazy in the way we talk and write that difficult grammatical usages will slowly disappear.

We have more technology than ever, but people don't seem to know as much.

Around the same time as this conversation, I received an email from a university friend with a link to a Grade 8 final exam from 1931. It's got Geography, Civics, History, Literature, even Penmanship. Check it out. It's HARD! Way harder than we teach kids today.

I often get rather depressed at the lack of education kids get nowadays. I know that makes me sound like a fuddy duddy, but I think, with all of the problems we have to solve in the world, how can we do it when people can't handle more than a soundbite? When they don't know history to put things in perspective (ie. they don't know that Jerusalem actually has always had Jews living in it, for instance, and was the capital of the Jewish homeland basically forever). Or how can we attempt to even think about how to handle dictators today when most people do not know about Chamberlain's "peace in our time" speech?

But it's easy to attack the school system. My bigger issue, though, is that the church is doing very little to combat this. You would think that church would be a place which would emphasize learning; traditionally we have. Indeed, many denominations were born to be more "intellectual" compared with the "common people". Higher learning was originally all theology; everything flowed from that. It was assumed that to be a Christian meant that you were slightly more educated because you read the Bible and thought about it. And since Christianity encompassed all that you could know about God's creation, then higher learning all flowed from that theology.

But today in church we don't really require thought. We focus more on emotion. I find it difficult as a speaker to get past this; I do a much better job at weekend retreats when I can get more in depth into a subject than I do at the one-time events. But it is a challenge because people don't always WANT to think. And yet at the same time, our generation thinks that we are smarter than previous generations (despite that Grade 8 Geography Test).

One of my daughters' main complaints about Christian education, whether it be at church or at camp or at retreats, is that it always focuses on the same stories: David & Goliath, Noah's ark, Joshua, Joseph, Jonah. Rarely do you require kids to actually think. And the Bible stories are NEVER put in context. I read a study done recently of the incoming class at Moody Theological Seminary, I believe it was, and less than half could put these four events in chronological order: Moses, the exile of Judah, David, John the Baptist.

People just don't know the basics--even people who have been Christians their whole life.

And if we don't teach context, whether it be with the Bible or with history, then we aren't raising children to be really educated or to really be able to think. You'd think the church would be spearheading this, focusing on Bible memory and real Bible understanding, but instead we focus, too, on shallow things and entertainment. And then we wonder why twenty-somethings lose their faith.

I wish I knew the solution, but I don't. I think we were far smarter before there was TV and when families read together at night.

My only solution is for my own family: we don't have a TV, we homeschool, and we make our kids memorize. But that won't help the society at large. So what do we do? I really don't know. I'm at a loss. Anyone have any ideas?

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A Parent's Most Basic Responsibility is to Feed Their Children
Grayson, our granddaughter, eating a Georgia  peach and enjoying every bite.
Photo by Bruce Tuten

There's been a lot of talk over my post last week criticizing the 3 meals a day, 365 days a year feeding program Michelle Obama is attempting to expand. I said it was terrible, because government was taking over a parent's job.

In the comments, some agreed, some didn't, and some were noncommittal. The issue for many was, what else are we going to do? We can't remove kids from their homes, and we have to feed them.

I agree, but I want to step backwards for a moment to see why this is the wrong thing to do.

First, I think this idea--that poor people can't feed their kids--is extremely insulting to poor people. My mother was abandoned when I was 2 years old. She had to get an apartment, get a job, and work her way up the ladder. It was tough. One month she didn't have enough money for rent. The church found out and lent her some. The next month she paid it back. She refused to accept charity, and she wanted me to know that she raised me herself.

She grew up in a house with no running water--even well into the 1960s. And yet she did well for herself, as did her sisters. Her parents coped.

There are readers of this blog who are on food stamps. I know some of their stories. One month one woman was desperate because the food stamps arrived late and she was worried. But it never occurred to her to not feed her kids. She visited a food bank temporarily, and then all was well again. They're getting back on their feet after a period of unemployment.

I have another friend who is in subsidized housing with her five children. Her money is extremely tight. But she cooks from scratch and they never, ever go hungry. They may not have cable, but they have food.

Many studies have shown, too, that those with the least disposable income are not those on welfare or at the bottom of the income scale. It's the "working poor", those who don't qualify for welfare, and thus don't qualify for Medicare in the US or the drug/dental plan in Canada. They don't have the government income supports, so they have to pay for everything. And they end up with less in their pockets than many who have such subsidies. But they press on because they want to raise their children themselves.

To say that the poor, who have access to welfare, food stamps, food banks, and churches, cannot feed their kids is excusing the poor from a basic responsibility. Our main responsibility, as parents, is to feed our kids first. And the income supports and charities are there, if one is motivated enough to find them. To not feed your kids is to not do one's most basic responsibility. It is not a problem of poverty; it is a problem of culture.
I am reminded of some of the prophecies in Isaiah, where Isaiah repeatedly says that the famine will be so bad in the city that people will eat their own children. When I was a child myself and a teen reading that, I thought, "Oh, my goodness! How could anyone ever be that poor?" You see, I thought the passages were a description of their economic hardship.

What I only realized later, once I became a mother, was that those passages were not meant to describe how poor they were but how depraved they were. Honestly, would you ever be poor enough to eat your children? Nope. Inconceivable. If they were, the problem was not their poverty but their culture (which is probably why they were being judged by God in the first place).

We are in the same situation now. The problem is not income but culture. People would rather let the government feed their kids because then they have money for other things that they want more. And the more this happens, the more it becomes ingrained, "I do not have to do basic parenting functions. That is up to the government."

If people stop doing some basic parenting functions, what makes you think they won't stop doing more? Once you stop thinking of yourself as primarily responsible for your kids, and think that the schools are, or the government is, then you will stop doing all kinds of things that kids need you to do.

Being poor is not a crime. Most people who live in poverty do care for their children, and to say that the poor can't feed their kids is an insult to the very hard-working and proud people throughout our continent who are struggling in this horrible economic time, but who are not giving up on their role as parents.

The culture is the problem. And by doing these feeding programs, we are only ingraining a culture that says, "somebody else should raise my kids." How is that good for children?

If government stopped, people would be forced to feed their children again and take over some basic responsibilities. And if they didn't do that, then yes, I think government should step in and take those kids.

Perhaps that's stupid of me to say, because I know there aren't enough foster homes, and I know many foster homes are horrible (although all the foster parents I know, and I know quite a few, do such a great job that the kids want to stay). But until there are consequences to not doing a basic job as a parent, we are not going to see the culture change.

A better idea, I've always thought, is to stop giving money in welfare cheques to single/teen moms, and instead set up homes where women live in community, with social workers. Say 10-15 rooms, with a woman and a baby in each, where they learn to cook together, balance the budget together, and play with their kids together. They would get some job training, too, and then after a few years they would be expected to fend for themselves.

To give a 17-year-old a welfare cheque that allows her to live in her own apartment if she gets pregnant is just stupid. If a 17-year-old knew that if she were pregnant, she'd have to go live in a home and actually work, maybe we'd see fewer kids becoming single mothers.

But that's just my idea, and perhaps that's naive, too. I don't know what the solution is. But I do know there is something sick in our culture when the government thinks it has to feed 2,000,000 children 3 meals a day because parents can't/won't do it. That's not a poverty issue. It's a cultural issue. And we must, we simply must, change that culture.

UPDATE: A reader sent along this link for a volunteer group that's not just running a soup kitchen; they're teaching lower income people how to prepare produce, to help learn healthy eating. I think this is a far better model (private charity) than government help, and if someone were to individually want to help, this is a great place to start. I just don't think government should have a role in it.

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Demography and Destiny
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

During the last election, one of my very conservative friends took off of work to vote. When he arrived back after lunch, his rather liberal co-worker was joking with him that they both could have saved the bother, since his vote cancelled out the other guy’s.

“Not for long,” my friend chuckled. When the co-worker looked quizzical, my friend replied, “You see, buddy, I’m raising eight voters. You’re only raising one.”

And it’s true. That particular friend has eight amazingly behaved children. I have another friend with nine, several with eight, and a couple with seven. My girls are even friends with two sisters who are growing up in a family of fourteen. I always bring the average down when we go anywhere with these families, with just my measly two.

But it occurs to me that perhaps my friend is right about the impact of demographic trends on our culture. For instance, the reason our fertility rate in Canada has dropped below replacement level is not because families over the last few decades are shrinking. It’s that fewer women are actually having children in the first place. Of the women who do have children, the number of children is actually creeping up slightly.

We’re diverging into two different cultures: one that has children, and one that does not. And those who are likely to have many children are also those who were more likely to come from big, intact families. While there obviously are exceptions, such as the very dysfunctional mom who has six kids with five different men, on the whole the nuclear family is growing where there is a commitment to it.

So the question is: which culture will end up ahead in the days to come? Will the conventional family make a comeback, or will marriage and childrearing continue to be devalued?

Our culture is betting on the latter. Media tells us that children are a drain—they cost money, emotional energy, and time, and they rob us of the fun we could be having! When friends like mine go out in public with their brood, they get the dirtiest looks, as if having a pile of kids is somehow wrong (even though none of these families is on social assistance).

Yet let’s think about this logically. The next generation will be made up of those who are not yet born. Where will these kids come from? They’ll be born to the people who are actually reproducing. The next generation is likely to resemble the people who are actually having the kids, not the people who are making the movies.

People who don’t value kids and don’t value the nuclear family don’t tend to have children—or if they do, they have very few. People who do value children do tend to have children—and they tend to have more. And then this is repeated. That’s one of the reasons why studies in the United States, for instance, have shown that attitudes against abortion have steadily hardened since Roe vs. Wade was decided in 1973. Prolife people tend to have more children, and so their values have been passed on more frequently.

This does not mean, of course, that the children of large, intact nuclear families will necessarily turn out well. It’s just that statistically they’re likely to be wealthier than average, more likely to get married, and less likely to end up in jail. That culture that values family, that passes on family traditions, and that yearns for a lifetime commitment has great staying power.

So perhaps my friend with the eight children is right. The traditional family may look bleak now, but I think it’s set for a comeback. And I’m gearing my own girls to be ready for it.

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Government Isn't Your Mommy

I heard a news article this week about how Michelle Obama's Healthy Kids Initiative (or whatever it's called) is aiming to feed 2,000,000 children three healthy meals a day, 365 days a year. No longer will it just be breakfast during the school year; they're going to feed kids all the time in a push to reduce childhood obesity.

The analyst was praising this initiative.

I have to ask, "are you nuts?!?"

Let's think this through for a moment. How many government bureaucrats is it going to take to feed 2,000,000 children three meals a day?

1. All the people who cook the food
2. All the people who serve the food
3. All the people who purchase the food

But it doesn't stop there. There's also:

4. The nutritionists hired to create menus. They'll have meetings, and conferences, and mega phone calls to discuss all the different things they should serve.

5. The consultants hired to study which green vegetables kids will actually eat.

6. The university graduate students hired to actually conduct these studies.

7. The professors hired to analyze the results and share them with the consultants.

Then let's not leave out the finance guys.

8. The commodities experts hired to give their opinion on which commodities will be relatively more expensive by the end of the year, so that menus can be altered to reflect the cheapest, healthiest food.

What about government bureaucrats?

9. The accountants hired to oversee the program.
10. The managers hired to oversee the accountants.

And let's not forget the states:

11. The bureaucrats each state hires to lobby the federal government for more share of the federal dollars for the state meal programs.

12. The federal bureaucrats hired to analyze the submissions by the state governments and decide how to divvy up the money.

And it goes on, and on, and on.

Let me be really radical here. I know food is expensive, but on a relative basis, it is cheaper today than it ever has been, as a proportion of one's income. If one is thrifty, and does not buy prepared food, cereal, or ice cream, one can feed a family of four on $125/week (in the U.S. anyway; up here in Canada dairy is way more expensive).

Food banks are available for those whose money is really stretched.

If you cannot feed your children, you should not have your children.

Isn't feeding your kids one of the most basic parenting responsibilities? If the state starts feeding the kids, then what are parents supposed to do? We're absolving them of the necessity of being parents. And then we wonder why kids misbehave.

I understand the rationale for breakfast feeding programs; kids who are hungry don't learn as well. That doesn't mean I agree with them necessarily, though. If a parent doesn't feed a child breakfast, that should be grounds for removing the child from the home.

So Ms. Obama, I agree kids need to eat more healthily. But this is not the way to do it. How about we get back to the idea that parents feed their kids? I know it's radical (actually expecting responsibility from parents), but it would do a lot of good.

And it would cost a whole lot less money.

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Wifey Wednesday: How to Forgive Your Husband

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Last week I wrote a rather strongly worded post about how the reason that some men may not meet our needs is because we're not really considering theirs, either. And I encouraged you to take a six week trial period where you honestly did these things:

1. Thank your husband once a day for something (try to make it something different each time)
2. Compliment your husband to your mother, your children, your friends, whatever, within earshot of your husband, every chance you get.
3. Do not nag.
4. Do not give the silent treatment.
5. Make love with relative frequency (say at least 2-3 times a week).

I hope some of you took me up on it!

Today I want to address one of the roadblocks to meeting his needs: lack of forgiveness. It's hard to act out in love and to be nice to someone you're ultimately angry at. So what do you do when he's hurt you?

I received this letter recently:

There have been things that have happened in the marriage that have caused me to not trust my husband. He has apologized and admitted he was wrong but I can't let go and forgive. I want to. And I know that once I can release this anger and fully forgive we can be happy. How do I do this?

Do you ever feel that way? In marriage we have a lot to forgive on a daily basis. A while ago I cut my finger quite badly. I paged Keith, who was on his way home, and he said he'd look at it (he's a doctor). But when he got home he checked on our sump pump connection at the side of the house before coming indoors to check on me! I was livid.

I did need stitches. And it was hard letting him off the hook! It's such a little thing, but still. He delayed twenty minutes, and that was twenty more minutes I had to wait to go to the hospital.

But what if it's something bigger than that? What if it's an affair, or gambling, or pornography? Then how do you forgive?

Here's what I told this woman:

First, you have to be sure in your mind that the offense is truly in the past. For instance, if he had an affair, are you sure that this is not going on now? Has he demonstrated that he is committed to not doing it again? If not, then this is the issue that needs to be dealt with first if his infraction was something that could damage the marriage (like affairs, pornography use, or other addictions).

If, however, he has shown that he is sorry and has tried to show you that he won't do it again, the ball is now in your court. So let me say a few things about forgiveness.

Remember that no matter what he did in the past, he can't make up for it now. There is no way for him to erase what happened. If you continue to hold it against him, it is like you are asking him to make up for it. You're asking for the impossible. At some point you have to realize that what is past is past, and you can't change it. You can't ask him to change it. It just is.

If you keep your anger towards him, you end up punishing both of you. It is impossible to function as a unit and to have an intimate relationship if you are harbouring resentment for him.

So what do you want from your marriage? Do you want someone you can love and cherish who cherishes you back? Do you long to feel loved and unconditionally accepted? Then you need to work on achieving that in your marriage, and that means letting this go. You will never get what you want and yearn for if you stay angry.

Of course, it may not be fair that you forgive. Forgiveness never is fair. That's not the point. It is not that forgiveness is fair; it is that it is freeing. It frees both of you. He doesn't have to make up for the past, and you don't have to stay angry. You can both concentrate on the here and now and learn to love one another again.

Finally, if you're finding it hard to forgive, remember that someone has already paid the price. God already paid the price for all the rotten stuff that people do when Jesus died on the cross. If God's already paid for it, then someone has been punished. It wasn't your husband, but someone has paid. So your husband doesn't have to. Jesus also paid for all the stuff you've done. He did it so that you could have a relationship with God without being hindered by all the sin and ugly stuff in our lives.

So if you ask God to help you understand how He has forgiven you, maybe you will also be able to extend that forgiveness to your husband.

I know that takes time. When an affair has taken place, for instance, you can't just rush in and pretend like it didn't happen. You have to rebuild trust, and that can take a while. I have a friend whose husband had an affair, and she moved out for a year. They went to counseling, they went on a retreat, and only then did she feel like she could trust him again. But they did rebuild, and today they're rock solid.

The problem is that just "moving back in" doesn't mean that you've forgiven. It has to be a heart thing. And that means that you have to promise yourself that when you get angry again, you won't think about it. If you've chosen to forgive, and then you get angry, it isn't his problem anymore. It's yours. He's not the one who has done something wrong; it's now you.

So when you're struggling to rebuild, and you feel yourself getting angry, pray instead. Sing instead. Do anything to stop thinking about it! Don't let yourself plot revenge, or brood, or even talk a ton to your friends about how you're feeling. Take it to God and don't entertain it. The more you let yourself think about it, the more you'll stay angry.

Once he has shown he's repentant and he isn't doing it anymore, and once you've decided that you want to rebuild the relationship and move forward, you have to then give up your right to be angry and pull out that infraction everytime he does something wrong in the future. It needs to stay behind you. I'd even recommend you each writing letters to each other: he promises not to do it again, and you promise that you won't bring it up again or harbour resentment about it. Then, if you do start yelling at him about it, he can pull out that letter and confront you. And if he slips back into a negative pattern, you can pull out yours.

Instead of thinking about all the bad things he's done, spend that emotional energy rebuilding your friendship. Do stuff together. Exercise together. Play a game together. Cook together. It's hard to stay angry with someone with whom you're building memories with.

Need to forgive? Take those steps. And then keep working through our six week challenge! You'll find at the end you have a whole different marriage.

Finally, here's a clip of an appearance I did on 100 Huntley Street once talking about the issue of forgiveness:

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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More on Chinese Mothers, Parenting, and Verbal Abuse

I really hate the term "verbal abuse". It came into vogue in the 1990s when studies show that children who were yelled at repeatedly had just as poor outcomes in many cases as some who were beaten. The thought went, then, that since yelling is just as bad as beating, we can call yelling "verbal abuse".

But that's not necessarily true, and verbal abuse is such an amorphous term. I have known women who have left their husbands who justify it, saying he was "verbally abusive" towards me and the kids, because the church allows you to divorce for abuse. But when questioned what they meant by verbal abuse, they would say that "he picked at little things all the time", or "he never said anything nice to me", etc.

I've seen other cases in my husband's pediatric practice where a divorce has occurred, and one parent has claimed "verbal abuse", convincing their children that their dad is abusive because he gets loud. And they start cowering in front of him.

So I'm not big on the term. I do agree that words can be as damaging as blows in many cases, but to me, context matters. If a person has a short fuse, but they're also really affectionate, then we're not going to interpret what he says in those moments when he's angry as really reflecting his feelings. On the other hand, if that's ALL he ever said, then it is abusive.

And so, with that background, I'd like to revisit that whole "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" thing, because some really interesting things came out of the comments last week. For those of you who didn't see that original post (and you really should read it), here's the low-down: Amy Chua, a Chinese mother, published an editorial saying Chinese moms are better because they push their kids towards excellence and don't accept laziness or failure.

I said that doing anything without God is wrong. Our job as parents is to equip kids to do what God wants them to do, not what we want them to do. But we do need to equip, which means teaching things and expecting their best effort. Chua's problem is that she's expecting "success" defined very narrowly, and basing worth on that.

Anyway, others smarter than I have commented on this essay, too, and I want to draw your attention to just a few things before making a larger point about parenting styles (and verbal abuse!). First, Kejda Gjermani writes in Commentary that Amy's whole parenting style seems to breed socialism/communism. It's really interesting, but it boils down to this:

To be the master of oneself and one’s passions, to understand the rightness of one’s moral law and to obey it out of a sense of inward affinity to what’s good and natural; to practice virtue as its own reward, freely; to view one’s sense of duty serenely and make it one with one’s will and desires; and to stand firm in the face of hardship or even annihilation, without bending to coercion from tyrants or losing oneself in any frenzied mob — this is the ideal of discipline that cuts against the grain of the Chinese method, which, despite the good intentions of many of its practitioners, must be recognized for what it is: i.e., the relic of an authoritarian and collectivistic, however stable, culture and a tool for the perpetuation of the same.

Wow. That's just one sentence long. That's a very DEEEEEP and LOOOONG sentence. But what Kejda is saying is this: The Chinese method doesn't produce beauty and grace and virtue; it produces obedience and a lack of creativity, the very opposite of what we want. And then we wonder why China lives under a Communist government.

That's the intellectual critique. Now let's go for a more practical critique, by Katie Granju. She writes:

I reject Chua’s assertion that her children are necessarily “superior” to their classmates being raised in a more relaxed, western fashion. That’s because Chua’s definition of success for her daughters is extremely narrow, focusing as it does on music (classical only, and only on acceptable instruments), academics (specifically math and science) and complete acceptance of parental domination. The only way Chua’s hypothesis of superior parenting producing superior children is if you accept this very limited definition of success.

So true. The only success Chua thinks counts is academic and classical music. She is the dictator demanding what the kids must do.

Which brings me to a larger point, and back to verbal abuse. In one particular instance Chua recounts in her essay, she had to bully her young daughter to perfect a piano piece for a recital. She called her names, yelled, stole toys, and threatened. But the girl got her piece right, and Chua sees this as success.

Is this verbal abuse? I don't know, but it does seem like in other areas of her life Chua is affectionate, so I'd hesitate to call it that. Context matters. But what Chua is doing is trying to use Power to force her children to do what she wants.

We can operate, as parents, from a position of either Power or Authority. Power makes a child do something; Authority makes them want to do it. When someone has moral authority over you, they may not hold any strings over your life, but you want to live up to their expectations. You want to do the things they want you to do. When someone has power, they can make you obey, but they can't touch your heart.

God has ultimate Power and ultimate Authority, but He chooses to lay aside His power to exercise His authority. He could zap you when you do wrong. He could compel you to do right. But He doesn't. He would rather we freely choose it.

As parents, that's what we need to be working towards, too. We start out with power, yelling, "No!" and slapping a wrist if a toddler walks too close to the stove. But as they get older, we use raw power less and work on developing a relationship so that we have moral authority.

If we exercise only power--constantly grounding kids and punishing kids and yelling at kids--then when they leave home, they're very unlikely to go in the direction we want because they haven't internalized any of our values. They've been made outwardly to do things, but not inwardly to want to do them.

We must parent with a mixture of power and authority, and as children age, the power must grow less and the authority must grow more. That doesn't mean that we don't discipline; only that the environment in our house must be about a free exchange of ideas, so that children feel as if they are free to choose their path, and free to explore what God wants for them, outside of what we want for them. They shouldn't be under our thumb, in other words.

Ms. Chua doesn't give her children any choices, and I don't think that's healthy. It may not be abusive, but it does rely too much on Power and not enough on Authority. The problem is that authority takes a long time to develop. You have to spend time with kids, show you love and value your kids, show you want what's best for them, so that they want to follow you. When you haven't built up that relationship, all you have to go on is raw power--and that's when parents and teens get into these power struggles, where the teens go off the rails, and the parents try to clamp down really hard. They have no other leverage.

Don't do that. Don't try to control your kids like Amy Chua does, because you lose your authority. But also spend time really getting to know them, showing you value them, and leading them to God. Then you do have authority. It has to start when they're very young, but the more you do that when they're 2-5, they more they'll listen to you when they're 12-15.

Parents, do not exasperate your children, as Paul wrote in Ephesians. Love them and lead them. Don't force them into a mold. Don't ignore their feelings. And you just may find that they WANT to follow where you lead.

UPDATE: I've been getting some comments that I'm being too hard on Chinese culture--they have to be strict because there is no leeway in their society. You fail as a teen, and your life is severely restricted. I understand that, and I understand the need for discipline. I just want to reiterate, as I said in my first article about this, that I don't consider myself a "Western" mom, I consider myself a Christian mom who probably leans more towards the Chinese model than the lax Canadian one. I also consider my Asian brothers and sisters in Christ closer to me than the North American parents who buy into the consumer mentality. So this isn't a West (ie. Me) vs. Them thing--it's just a comment on culture without God, which both the West and Asia currently have.

I should also note that I have plenty of Korean/Chinese friends who came to Canada to escape the pressure on their children. And my own half-brother is half Asian, raised in similar methods to Amy Chua. So I am not trying to make a racial judgment, only a cultural one. And I speak as one who does not consider myself really part of Western culture in particular, but part of a bigger global culture, which encompasses my Chinese/Korean/Japanese brothers and sisters.

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Planning a Daughter's Future
I have been thinking a lot lately that the majority of my main parenting role is behind me. And I find myself mourning the loss, a little bit.


You see, last week my husband took my daughter out driving for the first time (and she did quite well!). She's turning 16 this week, and she'll be out of the house in two years.


I've found myself waking up in the middle night, dreams of my girls as toddlers (and of the baby boy that I lost) dancing on the edges of my brain. It's really hitting me that they will be launching out on their own soon.

And so perhaps it's been natural that I've been thinking and praying about what to launch them to. Now perhaps the title of my post is not a fair one, for I do feel that children should decide their own future, and not necessarily do what their parents tell them. But at the same time, our job is to advise, and so I am thinking about how to advise them.

When I was growing up, we were so focused on "what you want to be", by which we meant "what job you want to have", as if that was all there was to life. You had to settle on a career, and then other things would fit in around it.

In retrospect, I find that extremely silly. I married a doctor, and we have seen family members and friends also go into medicine, with its at least eight years of training, and nonstop studying and stress, and then find out that they just don't like doing call and being away from their families so much. And so they try to work part-time, or cut back, and find it's really difficult. But how do you give up on a career you spent eight years training for--eight hard years?

What matters to you as an adult is not what career you have as much as the kind of life you have, and where you want to spend your time. Some careers demand much more of you than others. They may also pay more, and let you have a certain material lifestyle, but they eat you up and spit you out, too.

Planning your life based on what career you're suited for, then, doesn't necessarily make you happy or fulfilled. It is so much more important to figure out what your values are, and where you want to spend your time, and what kind of family you will want, and only THEN figure out what job you want. Because for most of us, family will come before job.

Unfortunately, schools and universities spend almost no time talking about how you will build a family and all their time instead preparing kids for entrance tests and pushing them towards certain careers. But what if kids don't want those careers?

And so, coming from a highly educated family, I have begun to ask if I really want my children to be as highly educated--or, if so, what the purpose of education really is. And what do I want to advise them to do?

I'm raising girls, and so my advice list is very different than if I were raising boys. This doesn't seem fair I know, but I think it is reality. Most women want to stay home with their children. Most men do not. When they take surveys of working people and ask, "would you rather work less so that you can have more time with family?", the vast majority of women say yes. The vast majority of men say no. If most working women are unsatisfied, should this not count for something? Should we start asking about why and how we push girls into certain careers, then?

Of course it would be nice if everyone could work less, but practically it doesn't work that way usually. Someone has to make the money, and someone has to stay with the kids, and it's just easier if one person does one thing and the other does the other. I've known couples who have each worked half time, and that's great, too. But it's not that common.

And if most women want to stay home with their kids, and if we agree that a parent at home is superior to day care, then surely this must influence how we raise our girls?

Therefore, I'm considering these factors:

1. My daughters may have to provide for themselves for a time, or perhaps forever if they don't marry. Even if they do marry, they may have to support that husband while he's in training (I did), or be the sole support during times of unemployment or illness. Also, not to be pessimistic, but many women marry believing their husbands will love them forever, only to be abandoned. Therefore, they must have a skill that they could use to make an income. They must be trained in something that they enjoy, that they are suited for, and that matches their Christian values in some way.

2. At the same time, they should not train for a skill that would, if practiced, make it virtually impossible for them to stay home with their children. They should not spend years and years in training for something that they would, by nature of the job, have to quit if they wanted to stay home with their children. Therefore, dentistry, medicine, even teaching aren't necessarily high on the list.

3. Instead, we should steer towards jobs which are flexible and which allow part-time or even at-home work. Things like pharmacy, accounting, optometry, nursing, counseling, speech therapy, clinical psychologist, etc. etc. are closer to what they might do, because all of those jobs have part-time options (you could work a few nights a week if the family needed the income, or you could work from home).

4. University should be seen as a place to make good friends that will likely be lifelong, and so university should thus be chosen based on the type of student that is there far more than the quality of the particular program, since in the long run, who one marries and who one's friends are are of infinite more importance. For instance, I'm looking at universities for my daughter, and we're concentrating on cities with amazing churches for college & career groups, that offer shuttle services for church. We're looking at universities with strong Christian groups on campus. We're looking at places close enough that she could come home occasionally.

5. Any higher education should not assume an inordinate amount of debt, because then you have to devote your first decade of working to paying off that debt, rather than saving for a house so that it's easier to stay home with kids.

6. Entrepreneurial skills are extremely undertaught in schools, and necessary in life. Probably the best option my girls have is to figure out some sort of business they could do from home, so steering them in that direction is another thing I'm doing. We're looking at what skills the kids have, and what interests they have, that could turn into a business (after all, that's what I've done with my writing and speaking).

How would this differ for boys? Because a boy likely won't choose to stay at home as readily as a girl will want to, he could go into other careers like medicine more easily. But the other things are pretty much the same.

One last thing: it pains me to say that I am steering my girls away from certain educational opportunities, simply because they are girls. But my girls also agree. The number one thing they want in life is to marry and have kids. Most girls are the same way. And yet schools, and many parents, tend to turn to these girls and "pooh pooh" these desires and tell them they should aim for the sky anyway in terms of careers.

If my daughter honestly felt called to be a doctor, I would of course encourage her, because how do I know God isn't calling her to that? But since neither feels that calling (perhaps because they see how hard their dad works), I'd rather steer them towards a career goal that will mesh with their desires for a family, and their calling as mothers, which I still believe is different from a calling for fathers. I don't see men wrestling with the question of whether or not to work the way women do. It's time that culture admitted this and helped girls make smarter choices, before they wind up $200,000 in debt to train for a career they ultimately don't want.

I have seven years of university behind me, and while I don't exactly regret those years, I also didn't really use that education in what I'm doing now, and I'm not sure how useful much of it was. I met some amazing people (and married one of them), and I learned how to write. But I have learned much more since leaving university (I didn't realize how anti-truth universities really are until I got there and learned that "everything is relative"), and I know so much more about history and culture and literature and life just in my own reading than I ever learned at university. I had so many friends in the Ph.D. programs at those universities, and of them all, I can tell you that the men are still working in their fields, while all the women, with the exception of one, are not. They stopped working to stay home with their kids, and then found they couldn't keep up with the research demands a career in academia had.

I think we push women far too quickly into career decisions without giving enough thought to what kind of life they really want to lead. If a girl wants to stay home, is that so wrong? And should that not be factored in?

And so I am here, thinking about what will happen when my baby is a mother, because, at 16, she is closer to her years of having babies than I am to those years past. This is a strange position to be in--I am closer to my grandchildren as babies than I am to my children as babies, most likely. And so I look ahead, and pray, and plan.

What do you think?

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Practice Makes Perfect
dining room
Photo by Cody R

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Last night I was cleaning up my kitchen while my 15-year-old practised piano. At one point I paused from my scrubbing, and just listened as her fingers danced across the keyboard playing a deliciously difficult piece.

I love moments like that.

Nine years ago, when she started piano, she did not sound very lovely. She would sit on the bench, her feet dangling over, as she tried to pick out the notes to This Old
Man. It was cute, but it wasn't beautiful.

Over the years she has spent countless hours perfecting her skill. And now she can sit down whenever she wants and play a song she heard on the radio. She's had experience.

We instinctively understand that when it comes to instruments. We get it when it comes to most hobbies. We know it’s true of driving, too: you get better with time and effort. I don't think, however, that we give enough credence to the idea that this phenomenon could also apply to other parts of life.

When my children were very small, Keith and I were invited over to dinner to the home of a couple who was then in their late forties. They served a wonderful meal with a beautiful centrepiece and a delicious dessert. Music was drifting in the background. The house was immaculately decorated. Our hostess made the meal look effortless.

The next day, when I looked around my living room to see the mismatched couches, and the toys scattered over the floor, and the distinct lack of dining room table (we ate in the kitchen and had allowed the children to take over the dining room for their craft projects), I felt like a failure. I couldn't have hosted a dinner party even if I had wanted to. I wouldn't know what to make. I wouldn't know where to seat people. And my furniture was terrible.

Fast forward twelve years, and life is very different. I can host a dinner party now, because I have a dining room table again. My 13-year-old makes great centrepieces. I can cook much better (though last year's Christmas dinner was a disaster, but that's another story). My house isn't a mess.
And the reason is because I've had practice.

When I think back to that woman in her late forties who entertained us, I think she, too, had simply learned how to be a good hostess. When she was in her late twenties, she had three boys under four. I'm sure her dining room table wasn't huge and spotless. I'm sure her furniture didn't all match, and toys likely littered every surface. But over the years they could slowly afford to buy better furniture. She had practice cooking. The toys were packed away. And life got easier.

We have a tendency, I think, to compare our abilities to keep a nice home, cook a good dinner, balance a chequebook, or manage investments to those of other, older people, like our parents. Perhaps it's time to stop. Your mother's home may have been quite a mess when her children were the age of your children, even if her home is spotless now. Your boss who is so careful with investments may only have learned to be that way because of mistakes and lost opportunities in his twenties. Your father’s ability to grow grass probably is not instinctual; he learned it over decades.

If you're not there yet, relax. Practice makes perfect. We don't learn basic lifes kills overnight. It takes a while to get used to it. So let’s enjoy the journey, rather than always beating ourselves up for not having arrived yet.

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Passport to Confusion

While the big news is still the tragedy in Arizona, another story hitting the airwaves is the change in passport applications. No longer will there be Mother and Father, but Parent 1 and Parent 2, reminiscent of Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat.

Well, while you Americans are gnashing your teeth, we Canadians went through this three years ago. And I dug around and found the column I wrote on the occasion. I thought you might enjoy it (it's still one of my favourites).

This week I joined the frenzy of Canadians applying for passports. With our southern neighbour’s change of rules, multitudes are scurrying to secure the over-priced blue booklet, complete with the photo in which one must not smile, but must attempt to look like a terrorist. I didn’t think the process would be that difficult, as I am not new to such applications. But this time around I found myself rather perplexed by some of the questions.

Name and address: so far so good. But then they started getting really nosy. How much do I weigh? they wanted to know. Well, that depends. Am I PMS’ing, or not? And do they want to know how much I look like I weigh, or how much I actually weigh, because the two are not necessarily synonymous. I can hide stuff pretty well.

Nevertheless, I filled in my weight, rounded down to account for wishful thinking over the next five years, and then moved on to height. I’m 5’5”. How many centimeters is that, anyway?

Having to record my daughters’ heights, though, was an exercise in futility. My oldest has grown an inch and a half over the last month. Her height right now will not be her height when the passport office finishes with our applications. I really think you should be allowed to put down ranges on height and weight. At least it would be closer to the truth.

Nothing, however, prepared me for the next line of questions. They wanted to know my hair colour. That is a dangerous thing to ask a woman. This is an Official Government Document, so I have to be accurate, but the truth is I have no idea what my hair colour is. Do they mean natural hair colour? I think I’ve forgotten. If they want me to be precise about my colour right now, some of my highlights are Wella #5RV, and some are Wella Bleach Blonde, but I’ve always wanted to try Wella #5RR, and sometime in the next five years I’m bound to. But all that won’t fit in their little box.

They want you to write “Blonde”, “Brown”, “Black”, “Red”, or “Grey”. I think a man wrote the passport applications, because men think in black and white terms, so to speak, when it comes to colour. For instance, most men will call navy, indigo, aquamarine, teal, turquoise, cobalt, and azure all “blue”. But women know that’s far too constricting. It’s the same with hair colour. My one daughter is blonde. My other is not. But your guess is as good as mine whether she’s closer to blonde, brown, or red. It really depends what light she’s in. Maybe I should just take some leftover Wella Bleach Blonde and pour it all over her head and then we could be done with it.

As mystified as I was by these questions, though, I was really thrown through a loop when I came to the “parent” section of the children’s applications. It used to be “Father” and “Mother”. Now it’s “Parent” and “Other Parent”. So I am officially “Other Parent”. Just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Mommy”, does it?

In all government paperwork, the words “wife” and “husband” have been stricken in favour of “spouse”, and “mother” and “father” have disappeared in favour of “parent”. But I am not my children’s “Other Parent”. I am their mom, and I have the stretch marks to prove it. Besides, mom is personal. It means loving, and caring, and hugging, and kissing boo boos. Parent does not. I know that family forms are changing, and the government wants to accommodate them. But it seems sad to me that my unique relationship with my children is now officially erased, and turned into something generic.

When I arrived at the box where I had to state my relationship to the child for whom we are applying, I was supposed to write “parent”. But I didn’t. I wrote down “mother”. I may not know my hair colour, and I may be in denial about my weight, but I do know who I am. I’m a mom, and I always will be.

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Wifey Wednesday: Why He Won't Meet Your Needs

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Angry pouty pretty bride
Photo by Chris Willis

Today I want to address a common meme in marriage literature: if you want to get your needs met, then meet your spouse's first. Figure out what his primary needs are, and meet them, and then you'll get your needs met!

Of course, as Terry noted earlier this week in her blog Breathing Grace, that's not really love. If you love just because you want to get something, you're ignoring 1 Corinthians 13 exhortation "love is not self-seeking". She explains:

In other words, our expressions of love should never be filtered through the lens of “What have you done for me lately?” or “I have needs, too.” My needs do matter, and it is perfectly acceptable for me to express my needs to those closest to me, but my responsibility to love selflessly remains constant whether I receive what I think I need or not.

Even so, though, there is truth to the addage that the more we care for others' needs, the more our own are met. The key here is motivation: if you care for someone's needs in order to get something in return it's manipulation, and they will sense it and it will backfire. If you care for someone's needs because you love them, then that love by itself will change the dynamics of your relationship, and you will be more likely to get your needs met.

But here's the central issue, girls, and I'm about to be very hard on our sex today: I think this works far better for us than it does for our husbands, because quite frankly too many of us don't consider their needs at all.

Let me give you an example. About a year or so ago my husband and I were just overwhelmed with busy-ness. I was speaking a lot, and he was working a lot, and we weren't connecting. Two nights in a row we didn't make love because I was preoccupied. Then I was away speaking. When I came home it was the middle of the night and we didn't, either. The next night I was still tired, but neither of us slept well because both of us were feeling that something was wrong in our relationship. The next night we did.

And then he bought me flowers.

Sex flowers.

I got mad. I interpreted it like this: "He wants me to make love more, so he'll reward me when we make love, and punish me when we don't. He'll be distant when we don't make love deliberately so that I will start putting out." And I got really frustrated.

And then it hit me: maybe the reason Keith bought me flowers was simply because he felt closer to me and lovey towards me. I thought what was going through his brain was this:

"I need to manipulate my wife into doing what I want."

What was really going through his head was this:

"I love my wife. I think I'll buy her flowers."

You see, my friends, men are really quite simple. They need two things: respect and sex. Just two things. Respect can be more easily defined as both affirmation and appreciation. When we affirm what they do and show them appreciation, they feel ten feet tall. When we make love to them, we affirm their manhood and they feel loved. And when they feel loved, they tend to feel less antsy, more compassionate, and more eager to keep pleasing us because they feel like the relationship is something they do well.

Men tend to want to put in effort in areas they feel they are good at. That's why if a man feels he's lousy at marriage he'll start working more, or playing on the computer more. He retreats to areas of competence. Make your man feel incompetent and irrelevant, and he'll retreat. It's as simple as that.

Now, of course, some men are louts, and it doesn't matter how much we try to please them, they're going to retreat and be insensitive. Absolutely. But I think the number of honest to goodness natural louts is far fewer than the number of men who currently ACT like louts. I think many men act like louts because that is how they have been treated.

Too many of us have virtually no respect for what a husband really needs, but we have unlimited respect for our own needs. And we're not only hurting our husbands--we're hurting ourselves.

Let me talk about another couple that's been married for 35 years now. I watch them every now and then, and while I know they're not splitting up, I don't see a lot of tenderness. She snipes at him and criticizes him every chance she gets, and he bristles and walks out of the room. Every now and then he retaliates, but not often. She isn't showing him that she appreciates him; she's showing him that she doesn't think he's good enough. He's always wrong. And it's no wonder that he doesn't act tenderly towards her!

If you take that same couple at year one of their marriage instead of year thirty-five, though, and his wife started thanking him for his contribution, and asking about his day, and making love to him with relative frequency, and respecting his opinion, I bet at thirty-five years they'd be a lot more affectionate and a lot more tender.

Men really aren't complicated. Do those two things: appreciate him and make love frequently, and you'll likely find that he starts being nicer to the kids. He helps with the dishes. He phones if he's going to be late. He feels competent and appreciated, and he wants to keep excelling in the family sphere because it's something he does well. Make him feel like he's not doing it well, and he will start to wither.

Why can't we just give to our men this way? Because we don't work that way. Remember the book "Sex Begins in the Kitchen" by Kevin Leman? I know it was written by a man, because only a man would think the sexual relationship was that straightforward. He's thinking the way men do, and then reversing the equation. When a man gets his primary needs met, he tends to reach out and start meeting a woman's needs. So Leman assumes that women act the same way: when we get our need for affection met, and when he starts helping around the house and caring about us, we'll start to make love more.

It's not true.

I've known many men who are saints at home and their wives aren't helping at all, because we tend to question men's motivations. We think either that they're trying to manipulate us, or we come up with other things they're doing wrong. Or, perhaps even more likely, we think to ourselves: "I'm glad he cares about me, because I work really hard. I need to take a break now so he can carry more of the load", and we don't think of returning the favour much at all.

We women are far too focused on what is "right" and what is "fair". We're asking ourselves, how much did he care for the kids today? How much housework did he do? Did he let me talk? Did he care? And if the answer is no in any of these areas, we tend to hold it as our right to pull back from him until he improves.

We don't tend to feel all lovey dovey towards him when he does something right. We don't feel ten feet tall when he does the dishes or takes care of the kids. We simply think, "that's what he should have been doing anyway".

So the adage, "meet your spouse's needs, and they'll meet yours" has much more of a chance of working for women than it does for men. If you put yourself out and really show him appreciation and make love, he will, more than likely, become a different person over time. On the other hand, if he does the same thing, there is no guarantee that you will change, because we don't work the same way. What he needs is sex, and so many of us are so focused on being exhausted and not having time that we don't think that maybe, just maybe, we should consider his needs for a second. In our way of thinking, our husbands often impede on our ability to enjoy our life, what with all their demands, and frankly, they're far too much like animals, anyway.

And then women wonder why, fifteen years into marriage, their husband seems so distant and so insensitive.

Is it women's fault if men don't care about our feelings? If they don't help with the kids? No, it's not, because men are morally obligated to do these things anyway, whether or not we return the favour. But here's the thing: just because you can't be morally blamed for it does not mean that you could not have taken steps to make your marriage better.

Women, we have it so easy. We honestly have an easier deal with marriage than men do because men are so relatively simple (and I don't mean this in a derogatory way; we're just made differently). Give them appreciation and make love, and they will feel tenderly towards us. We, on the other hand, are far more complex, and we're not easy to figure out. Men actually have it harder.

I know this isn't popular to say. I know a lot of you are mad at me right now, and thinking what an idiot your husband is, and how I'm blaming you for not having sex with an idiot. I don't walk in your shoes, and it could be that your husband really is that horrible. But then, if you don't mind me asking, why did you marry him?

When you were dating, he probably was nice to you, and that was probably because he did feel ten feet tall. You appreciated him. You affirmed him. You "made out" with him and seemed so hot for him! Then you got married and he didn't feel like he had to woo you, but you also stopped with your affection, too. The difference is that you justify your behaviour; he often doesn't notice his. And as the months and years pass, your relationship takes on a different dynamic. Maybe the problem is not your husband, but the dynamic of your relationship.

You saw something nice in your husband once. I believe those attractive qualities can come out again. So, please, ladies, even if you don't believe what I'm saying, can I ask you to suspend your disbelief and try an experiment?

Commit for six weeks (it has to be a long enough period of time) to do the following things:

1. Thank your husband once a day for something (try to make it something different each time)
2. Compliment your husband to your mother, your children, your friends, whatever, within earshot of your husband, every chance you get.
3. Do not nag.
4. Do not give the silent treatment.
5. Make love with relative frequency (say at least 2-3 times a week).

At the end of six weeks, see if you feel differently towards your husband, and if he is acting differently towards you. I bet you will! Just the act of being nice to him will make you start thinking more nicely about him.

And as you make love more frequently, you will feel closer to him and you'll feel more goodwill, too.

I know you may not believe me, but so many marriages would be saved if we women would just learn how to love our men.

Will you try?

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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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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