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Quick Thoughts
A few things on this Tuesday morning:

First, my  daughter bought a ukelele yesterday, with the money that she makes from teaching piano. That's four instruments she has (not counting the piano that is mine): a keyboard, an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, and now a ukelele. She's really quite good at all of them. And it makes me so proud.

I need to brag just for a moment: for the first time, last Sunday she led worship in church from the piano. I missed it because I was speaking at a retreat, but my husband videotaped some of it for me. We've had her in music lessons since she was 4, and I always prayed that she would use music for God. And now she can. She leads her youth praise team, too. It's just so fun to watch them grow up.

As for the ukelele, immediately after she bought it she was playing it while we were walking down the street downtown in our small town. She figured out "I'll Fly Away" pretty fast, and Katie and I were singing harmony. It was pretty funny. Three part harmony while we're walking downtown with a ukelele. She figures a ukelele is a great way to meet people at youth conventions, because who can forget a ukelele? And it's portable. She has this imitating a geek thing down to an art.

Okay, next item. I figured out what was really bothering me about my post yesterday, about the woman who had an affair, married the guy, and is now back in ministry.

It's this: I have no problem with people being restored and peaceful and joyful DESPITE sin in their past. What I have a problem with is people feeling peaceful and joyful BECAUSE of the sin in their past. And she talks over and over again in the book about how happy her marriage is now, and how happy the kids are, as if she is happier than she would have been had she not done what she did.

That's what makes it seem as if she is an advertisement for having an affair, despite the steps at restoration that she took, and that's what makes me uneasy. Again, I'm not saying that she shouldn't have a ministry; she isn't involved in teaching per se, and she does have a gift. And God does forgive. So I haven't completely figured it out, and I probably never will. But that's what bothers me: the fact that she is happy because of the sin, and that doesn't seem like a good message to be giving, even if you're also saying that you did wrong.

One other thing: I appreciated all the comments yesterday, but Mary's really made me think. She said that the idea that all sins are equal is a modern theology. Jesus distinguished between sins, and the more I think about it, the more I think she's right. Jesus said teachers will be judged more harshly. He said towns in Israel would be judged worse than Sodom and Gomorrah because Sodom and Gomorrah did not have the Messiah with them. He said that those who cause a little one to sin are in worse shape than others.

I think there's a mistaken idea about sin, because we confuse two doctrines. There is no doubt that everyone is a sinner. We all sinned, and those who break one law are guilty of breaking the whole law. Absolutely. But that does not necessarily mean that all sins are the same. All sins, even what seems like minor ones, are enough to make us in need of salvation and unable to get into heaven on our own. But some are more serious. That does not mean that Jesus' blood is not enough for those big sins; it absolutely is. Yet there are some sins we are especially warned about, like sexual sin and divorce and hurting children. I just find that interesting. I'm not trying to draw any conclusions in this case; I'm just pondering it today.

So I guess I'm no closer to figuring out how to become a more gentle and less judgmental person! Sigh. Maybe I'll just concentrate on listening to Becca play the ukelele and try to forget all these moral dilemmas.

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Thoughts on Gentleness, Growing Up, and Black and White Thinking
Scales of Justicephoto © 2011 Eric The Fish | more info (via: Wylio)
I have always been a very black and white thinker. It's who I am, and I don't think in general that there's anything wrong with that. Most opinion columnists (of which I am one) tend to be black and white, because you almost need to be to have opinions.

Nevertheless, there are times I'm not very proud of myself, and one of those times was last week. I fear I was snarky to a commenter without meaning to be. Part of it was simple logistics; I was trying to reply to a comment from my Blackberry, and I can't type very fast on it, so I just wrote the bare minimum, which sounds snarkier than I actually feel.

But part of it is also that I do see things in one way, and I'm not the biggest fan of being challenged. That, I think, is the weakness part of it.

God is both justice and mercy. He is the perfect blend of each. I remember once doing a personality test which asked me which one I liked better. I picked justice, but I know many of you would pick mercy (including one of my daughters). It's just which way we are more bent towards.

But it also leaves me seeming perhaps more judgmental than I really am, and for that I am sorry. So let me tell you a story of one of my conundrums, and maybe some of you who lean more towards the mercy side can tell me what your solution would be.

This weekend I skimmed through a book I picked up at a Christian library at the retreat I was speaking at. It was a story I've always wondered about: a well-known Christian artist has an affair and gets divorced, loses much of her ministry, but then is restored by her church. She confesses her sin before the church leadership, she apologizes and repents to all she hurt, and she finds God once again. She is now married to the man she had the affair with, and her ministry is taking off once again.

I had heard the story but I had never heard her side, and I wanted to, because I confess I has always been uncomfortable with the fact that she was returning to ministry. And I leave after reading the book really torn. Our God does restore; we serve a God who did not stone the adulteress. We serve a God who said that everyone could come to Him and confess and be forgiven. And divorce is NOT the unpardonable sin. And yet I still struggle with someone doing something that wrecks two families, and then apologizing, and then marrying the guy anyway and now being perfectly happy. Isn't that saying that God's design for marriage isn't the right one? That sometimes divorce is the right thing to do if  you're unhappy? And I just can't believe that.

And yet I know there are people who have walked through very difficult pasts, and have made mistakes they can't change now. Am I to say that they need to live with those mistakes forever, since turning back the clock is impossible? Am I to deny grace?

I don't want to, and yet I also fear that we are becoming far too lax in accepting divorce. We have a culture which preaches that happiness is king, and that you should follow your heart, even if that leads you to splitting up your family. And the divorce rates in the church are still far too high. Even if this woman is happier now, what about her kids? Sure, they may have recovered, but would they not have been better off if the parents had figured things out first?

I really don't have a good answer. I don't want to tell people that there are some things they did that are just too bad that they can't come back to God. But I also don't want to say that divorce doesn't matter; that you can be fully restored and go on as if nothing happened. And how do you find the middle? I can't do it. Perhaps I should just be glad I'm not God, and if I remembered the fact that I wasn't God more often perhaps I wouldn't be so judgmental and frequently snarky.

If someone could please tell me how to navigate this I would so appreciate it, because God has been speaking to me lately about how, in little things, I lash out too much. I need to learn more gentleness, and more grace, and more forgiveness. He is molding my personality to be gentler, and I know that I must allow that. But part of me is fighting, and the reason is that I can't find the way in this woman's case. But perhaps we're not supposed to. Perhaps that really is the mystery of grace.

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Let It Go
angryphoto © 2008 A of DooM | more info (via: Wylio)
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. This week's was really more regional in nature, so I thought I'd scour the archives for another one to print you probably haven't read. Here's an oldie but a goodie:

Recently we received a ticket in the mail from the Toronto Parking Authority. It seems we parked one evening at midnight in a no-parking zone, and we owed them $40. There was just one minor detail they overlooked. It wasn’t us. Sure, that was our license plate on the ticket, but we were nowhere near Toronto that night. My husband was working in the Emergency Room, and I was home with the kids two hundred kilometres away. No problem, I thought. I’ll just clear this all up.

That was easier said than done. There was no email address on the ticket, just a regular phone number (not even toll free) to phone during business hours. The only other way to deal with it was to go in person. So I phoned. It was busy. I tried for three days. And then, miraculously, I got an answer. “You are number 24 in line. Your wait will likely be 38 minutes.” So I waited. And waited. Number 17. Number 8. Number 3. And finally, number 1. And as I was being transferred, I heard—a busy signal. I had been disconnected.

In desperation, I called some traffic ticket specialists, figuring they could help me. They told me that if I didn’t pay the ticket on time, the authorities would double the fine, and it would cost me more than $40 to fight it. I could take them to small claims court, they explained, but again, it would cost me more than the price of the ticket. I may as well just pay it. “But it wasn’t me!” I told her. “It’s the principle of the thing!” She told me she understood, but there was nothing I could do.

How could the government just do this to me? I was really steamed. I told everyone my story, and actually found other people who had received similar tickets. “What did you do?” I asked. “We paid.” they said. “We could never get through on that phone number.”

So after a week of worrying about this, doing little else, I finally realized there was no point. Sometimes you just have to let it go.

A lot of life is like that. We choose to hold on to our grudges, because it’s the principle of the thing. Bitterness, though, doesn’t pay very good dividends. Someone once said that anger is like a poison that you take yourself. It doesn’t do anything to the person you’re angry at, but it hurts you. You go through life always testing, always suspicious, and never at peace.

Letting go isn’t easy, but it’s a lot better than driving yourself nuts. I could have fought that ticket on principle, but it would have cost me more. Bitterness often costs us more than forgiving would, even if forgiving doesn’t seem fair. Forgiveness, of course, doesn’t mean that we ignore problems or subject ourselves or our kids to harm. It just means that we choose not to let those problems consume so much of our emotional energy. We let the anger go so we can enjoy the rest of life. Dwelling on such problems and seeking revenge, even if only in your head, only hurts you. You spend your life with such negativity that you don’t even notice to see the good around you.

I know someone whose wife left him for someone else. It wasn’t a pretty situation. It certainly wasn’t fair. This man, though, now uses his kids to get back at her. He won’t buy them clothes, school supplies, or toys. He tries to minimize his child support payments as much as possible so she has very little money to live on so that she can’t spend on herself. He’s punishing her, he thinks, but really he’s hurting his kids and himself in the process. He’s losing out on his relationship with his children because he’s still so hurt over her.

She did betray him. She did hurt him. But sometimes you have to let it go. It isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always pretty. Chances are, though, that life will be much easier on the other side. The principle of the thing isn’t always worth it. People are. Sometimes that’s hard to swallow, but it’s the best medicine there is.

After finishing this column, I gave that phone number one last try. To my amazement I got through, and they cancelled the ticket immediately. It felt great, but not nearly as wonderful as giving up that anger in the first place.

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Reflections on My Birthday
Birthday Cakephoto © 2010 Will Clayton | more info (via: Wylio)
I turned 41 yesterday.

I didn't notice it was my birthday until I had been awake for about an hour. It just isn't really that big a deal to me.

Last night my husband was on call and my kids had a big youth event, so we went out to dinner the night before my birthday anyway, and it was fun. I didn't receive any birthday presents; I'm really not into them. Honest. What we did do was to buy stuff I had recently lost (my iPod and my Blackberry charger) and recently broken (my blender). My husband was really upset that he was buying me a blender on my birthday, sure that that made him a bad husband, but I told him that's what I wanted, so we went out and chose one. So I still received stuff, even if I bought it myself. It was just my own fault that I didn't have those things in the first place, and I felt a little guilty replacing them until my birthday.

I'm not a gift person. It's so down the list on my love language test that it doesn't even register. For Mother's Day I just asked the kids to write me letters, and they did, and that meant more to me than anything they could buy.

But nevertheless, presents or no presents, birthdays inevitably are times to reflect. And reflect I did.

You see, I have now past that milestone that is 40, and when I was in my early 20s, I made several goals for myself that I would reach by 40.

Let's just say that I haven't reached any of them.

But that's not failure; it's just that my priorities have changed. When I was younger, I thought I'd be this fabulous entrepreneur, starting a huge company. Or I thought I'd be a big university professor, or somebody "important". What I failed to realize is that once I had kids, I'd deem what was important to relate to them, and them only. All the rest was merely a sideshow.

This last year has been a good one for me in many ways. I finally landed the big book contract I'd been waiting for for eight years (The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex will be out in January). I started more speaking tours. My blog has grown a lot! (Thank you all my loyal readers).

But best of all, I've had such fun with my girls. And they've both made our international team for Bible quizzing, and so over the next seven weeks, as I have to get the edited manuscript in to my publisher, I'll be primarily practising with my girls and their teammates, and immersing myself in teenage land again. And I can't believe how much I really, really enjoy that. I just love my kids' friends, and I love getting to know them, and I love the competition, and the laughs, and figuring out how to calm everybody down.

I think that's more important than what I originally had planned for myself.

I heard the country song "Nineteen Eighty Something" on the radio yesterday. It's quite clever. A few years old now, it recounts all the things that happened when we were growing up in the seventies and eighties, and includes this line:

"Now I've got a mortgage, and an SUV, and all this responsibility. And sometimes, makes me want to go was nineteen eighty-something..."

I wouldn't trade these days for anything. You couldn't pay me to go back to my teenage years, with insecurity, and wondering about my future, and wrestling with God.

Or even my early twenties, trying to figure out marriage, and having heartbreak with miscarriages and deaths.

These are the good years. Everyday I wake up happier than I was the day before. And that's all I could possibly want for my birthday.

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Wifey Wednesday: When Sex Hurts

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 on Wifey Wednesday I wrote about what to do when sex is just ho hum. I received some comments asking about what to do when sex just plain hurts, and I thought it was time for a Wifey Wednesday on vaginismus, the condition when the vagina tenses up and makes sex very painful.

If you're finding that it hurts, but you don't have a full-blown medical condition called vaginismus, this post by Hot, Holy and Humorous covers the subject well. But I want to talk to the 5% of women who have actual muscle pain that makes sex either impossible or very, very difficult.

For those who are tormented by it, it’s horrible indeed. Many of these women can’t insert tampons or handle pelvic exams at the doctor’s office, either. One respondent to the survey I put together for my upcoming book, The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, who is 29 and married for eight years, says “vaginismus put an end to sex years ago.” Today she and her husband make love less than once a month.

Before you start panicking, let me assure you that most women who experience pain when they make love don’t actually have vaginismus. It’s simply that they’re a little nervous, and so a little bit more tense than they usually would be. When you're a newlywed, rest assured that some women do feel more than just a little sting when the hymen tears. If the couple has sex a number of times over the next few days before that tear has healed, the pain can be aggravated. It will, however, subside with time.

The medical condition of vaginismus, on the other hand, is caused when the muscles at the top 1 ½ inches of the vagina tense up (or the bottom, depending on how you look at it—it’s really just the 1 ½ inches closest to the opening). If you’ve used a tampon, you’ve probably encountered these muscles without realizing it, because once you get the tampon passed that first inch and a half, it glides in much more easily.

These muscles tense involuntarily; you’re not doing it on purpose. Reassure yourself and your husband that if you’re having this problem, it certainly is not deliberate! In fact, it’s rather difficult to get those muscles to un-tense. But you can!

The best route to a cure is to identify the underlying reason for this condition. For some it’s caused by a childhood trauma, like sexual abuse. For others, it’s a relationship issue: you just don’t feel safe and able to relax. If you take things slowly and work on why you don’t feel safe, and talk to counsellors or mentors if any past abuse issues are a factor, you’ll likely find that the pain will subside as your heart is healed.

Unfortunately, for many the causes just aren’t clear. Even worse, there isn’t very much a physician can do. But that doesn't mean it's hopeless. What you can try to do is to train yourself to control those muscles, and thus learn to relax them. Here’s how:

When you’re peeing, try to stop the flow of urine. Feel those muscles? They’re the pelvic floor muscles, the same ones that tense up when you have pain. Everytime you pee, try to tense and relax, tense and relax, three or four times so that your body learns how to relax.

Then, when you start to make love, have him enter you just a little way until it starts to hurt, and try the same thing: tense first, and then relax. You may have to spend a few minutes doing this (try to treat it like a game, and for him it will probably feel nice, anyway, because you’re squeezing him), and eventually you’ll likely find that it doesn’t hurt as much. Other treatments include progressively larger “vaginal dilators”. This sounds absolutely horrible and clinical, but it’s just another way of saying “putting increasingly larger things in there”, building up to something which is about the thickness of an erect penis.

Gynecologists and family doctors who specialize in this field often provide small silicone devices of various sizes to use, but if you really don’t want to go to a doctor, you can be creative. Just make sure it’s safe, and that you use safe cleaner afterwards to avoid infection. You can use this as part of your foreplay, too, and see if you can handle narrow things, building up to thicker things.

When Debbie was married, she was afraid she’d have issues because she had never been able to use tampons, and she had been sexually abused as a child. Sure enough, she found sex very difficult. Her husband Max was extremely patient with her for the first four months, taking time to play around with her and get them both more relaxed. Then, when they finally did try intercourse again, she found that the pain had gone away because she felt so accepted and loved.

If it’s hurting, tell your husband that story. Sure, it’s hard to be patient. But being patient will often be what helps her to be able to relax and release her real sexuality! For most women, vaginismus is a head thing. Our muscles tense up because we’re scared, threatened, or worried, but it’s completely involuntary. You can’t make yourself stop. If you put pressure on yourself, though, and feel badly about it, the pain will likely last a lot longer! The only thing you can do physically is to train your body to relax, and emotionally to learn to feel more comfortable in your relationship. A great resource for this is the vaginismus website, with lots of testimonials and lots of help.

One more thought: communicate to your husband that you dream of a great sex life, too. If he knows that this is still your goal—even if you don’t know how you’re going to get there—it’s going to be much easier for him to be patient than if he thinks you’re resigned to staying this way for the rest of your life.

Now, what advice do you have for us today? 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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Your Husband Trumps Your Children
DSC_0074-2photo © 2010 Joelle Inge-Messerschmidt | more info (via: Wylio)

Last week I guest posted on "A Martha Heart", writing about how to keep your bedroom a sacred place for you and your husband.

The first commenter really took me to task for one of my points. I had said that co-sleeping--inviting the children into your bed--even when they were toddlers, was not good for one's marriage. It hindered one's sex life, and most men resent the kids' presence. And men's feelings should matter.

The woman said that was ridiculous, because "while you can divorce your husband, most women wouldn't dream of divorcing their kids." Therefore, the kids should come first.

I'm always amazed when I read this so blatantly. Do people not understand what they are saying? So I thought perhaps this needed its own post.

First, it goes without saying that having the attitude that "you can always divorce your husband" is a seriously bad idea. That means when he starts to really bug you, or consistently seems to ignore your needs or not listen to your feelings that you could think about leaving rather than trying to fix the problem.

But there's a bigger issue, and it's this. The best way that you can love your kids is to love your husband. What kids want, more than anything, is to feel that their home is stable and secure. That security gives them the wings to grow and explore in safety. That's not to say, of course, that all marriages can be saved or that marriage, no matter what goes on behind closed doors, is best for kids. Obviously there are cases where you need to leave to protect the children. But that is rare, and I believe most marriages that break up do so for far less.

Do you remember that scene in the movie The Incredibles, where the two older children are huddling in the cave, wondering what to do to rescue their parents. The little boy is tickled pink with all the excitement around them, while the more mature teenage girl tries to kick some reality into his little head. "Don't you realize that our parents' lives may be at stake?" she yells at him. "Or even worse, their marriage?" To kids, divorce is just about as bad as death.

Never think that you are doing your children a favor by prioritizing them over your husband. You're not. And yet what often happens is that the overwhelming love that we feel for our children makes our husbands seem selfish if they want something from us, too. Doesn't he understand that the kids need to come first?

After all, every one of us would die for our kids in an instant. But who would die for your husbands? Chances are you'd have to really think about it, because you know that your kids likely need you more. It's not a straightforward question, is it? And yet because our love for our kids is so primal and so different, it's easy to push our husbands out of the way and build our lives around our kids.

Don't. Your kids don't need you to be with them every single night. They would benefit from you taking a break and going on a date with your spouse. They would benefit from having their own room, so that you and your hubby can relax together in your bedroom. Your children will thrive when you learn how to resolve conflict with your husband, how to form a real team, and how to put him first.

After all, the Bible says that the husband and wife are one flesh, not the kids and the mom. They may come from us, but we are united with our husband, not our kids.

Husbands often feel very put out when children are born, because they take over everything. We're exhausted, and we need to feed the babies every 3-4 hours, so our husband's needs fall far down the list. I think in the newborn period this is only natural. But, honestly, don't let that persist. He is not wrong if he still wants to spend time with you, or wants to have sex with you! He actually is doing the right thing; he's prioritizing the right relationship. He's not being selfish.

Let me ask you: how do you navigate the muddy waters of everyone's conflicting needs? Do you sometimes feel like your husband is putting too much on you? How do you put him first? Let me know!

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The War on Work
Stamford Hurricane Barrier on Dirty Jobsphoto © 2006 CorpsNewEngland | more info (via: Wylio)

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

The school year will be winding up soon, so high school seniors are planning their futures. And the default for many students is university.

Now university is worth it if you’re aiming for a specific job. And learning is certainly a worthy endeavour on its own. Nevertheless, I worry that we’re pushing so many kids into the university stream without giving them other options.

It seems that every parent yearns for that university degree for their child, but I know many credentialed twenty-somethings currently working in Chapters or fast food joints. Not too many jobs exist for History majors or Sociology majors or English literature majors. And meanwhile the kids have spent close to $100,000, and foregone the income they could have earned some other way.

It’s that other way that Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy from the TV series, wants people to start thinking seriously about. Dirty jobs can be incredibly rewarding, physically fun, and get us back in touch with the world around us. We live our lives with iPhones and Blackberries, trying to keep connected to each other. But in the meantime we’ve lost touch with the physical side of life; we don’t use our brawn, thinking the brain is all that matters.

And we forget that the brain is actually involved in many dirty jobs. In one video I recently watched of Mike Rowe, he was working on a sheep farm when it came time to castrate the male lambs. The farmer showed him how to do it: you stick the testicles between your teeth and let ‘er rip.

Rowe was appalled. He knew the correct and humane way to do it (based on research he did on his Blackberry) was to put an elastic band around said body part until it swelled up and fell off on its own.

The farmer invited him to do it, and so he banded the lamb. The lamb soon became immobilized with pain and fell down, panting. On the other hand, the lamb who had undergone the bite and rip procedure was already trotting off with his companions, as if nothing had happened.

And Rowe realized that much of what he knew about the world was wrong. He called that moment a turning point. What we have done, he says, is to assume that the people that work in front of computers are smart, while the people who do the real work out in the world are dumb. And in reality, it’s the people who do the real work who actually often understand the world better.

What we need, Rowe says, is a PR campaign for manual labour. We need a PR campaign that says hard work is actually beneficial, and fun, and rewarding. To climb into bed at the end of a day feeling as if you have done a good day’s work isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s something to be proud of.

Our society seems to believe that hard work is something that one must avoid at all costs. We must have cushy jobs that are inside, in front of a computer screen, accompanied by tons of meetings. For most university students, that is what their futures will be. For many that will be a good life. But not for all.

Our high school students need to know that a life of manual, skilled labour is something that can be very rewarding psychologically, physically, and financially. It isn’t something to steer clear of. And maybe if we began to praise those dirty jobs more, we’d get back to our roots of what’s really important, and we’d stop being such pretentious snobs. It’s worth a try.

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A Walk Through a Disaster Zone
This week I'm touring the southern United States. I was supposed to speak in Tuscaloosa, Alabama last night, but three weeks the tornado hit and obviously the engagement was cancelled. Tonight I'm in Jamestown, Tennessee, but yesterday we had the opportunity to walk through Tuscaloosa.

I have never seen such devastation.

On April 27, a tornado ripped through a portion of the city. It didn't hit everywhere; but where it did hit, whether houses or stores, it destroyed everything.


In this McDonald's, for instance, the people hid in the bathroom and were fine; the cooler was destroyed. In the McDonald's across town, the people hid in the cooler and were fine; the bathroom was destroyed.

When you start driving through the residential areas, though, it's the trees that first hit you.


Even where houses aren't hit badly, the trees are uprooted. (That sign says, "We are coming back!")

Here's First Avenue, one of the worst hit.


That car had steel bars wrapped around it and door handles broken off. How does that happen?

I have tons of pictures here, but let me show you one story:


This house belonged to the grandparents of a friend of the woman who toured us around. They lived on First Avenue, which was levelled.

This eighty-something year old couple huddled in this closet when the tornado hit:


They were in the bottom of it, and they got out fine. The bathroom on one side of them was destroyed:


And here's the kitchen on the other side:


Here's the whole house:


The family have a great attitude. On Mother's Day they went with lawn chairs and had a picnic on the lawn, holding American flags and smiling. They finished a bag of chips and the grand-daughter didn't know what to do with the litter. The grandmother grabbed the bag and tossed it in the pile, saying, "I've always wanted to do that!"

Beside them lived a single mother with her two children. Here is all that is left of her house:


The back of the house is worse. And yet apparently all three survived without injury.

As bad as this all looks, it's better than it was. At least the rubble is all in piles.

Here's an incongruous "Happy Birthday" balloon in the middle of rubble:


It's hard to explain how bad it is. My friend was saying that as she was driving around for the first time after the tornado she just started to weep. Her 8-year-old son tried to comfort her. "I know what it's like to lose some place you love," he explains. "The Chuck-E-Cheese is gone."

And it is. All that's left is piles of brick.

Nevertheless, you can see people's positive spirit all around the city. They are already rebuilding. People are determined to reoccupy their neighbourhoods. And everyone is pitching in.

Often we forget about tragedies within a week of them happening, but it's been three weeks now and it still is devastated. It reminds me of how quickly life can change, and how we have to remember never to trust in stuff, but in God.



Life doesn't stop.
Wifey Wednesday: When Sex Doesn't Feel That Great

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 on Wifey Wednesday I encouraged you all to have more sex! Use it or lose it, I said. When you have sex more, you actually charge your libido!

But then some of you commented, what do you do when it just doesn't feel good at all?

I posted a video about that. Watch it again here:

But let me offer some more encouragement today. First, for many women sex does not feel very good at the beginning of their marriages. In fact, based on the surveys I did for my upcoming book, The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, it looks like most women have rather ho hum sex in their first few years of marriage. They don't reach orgasm. They don't like it that much.

That's because, as much as we may talk about sex being "totally natural", we don't just figure out how to do it easily. So many things are tied up in sex that making it work like clockwork isn't actually that easy. You have to feel safe. You have to feel relaxed. You have to feel willing and not ashamed. And that takes time to build up trust.

So just know that if you're in the first, let's say, 7 years of your marriage, and it still isn't working, it likely still will! Hold on to that!

The second thing is that I am totally convinced that most women do not know their own bodies. And men certainly don't! Men may "know", at a head level, that women need to be touched longer before they're ready for actual sex, but they don't necessarily know how to do that touching. Men and women like to be touched in entirely different ways. Men like it rougher; women like it much gentler. Most men, then, when they do try to touch, do it completely wrong.

And what's our response? We often don't tell them. We put up with it, because to ask for something else seems embarrassing, and if we're not getting aroused with what he's doing, then we figure there's something wrong with us.

But there's not! It's probably just that he doesn't know what to do, and he'd really, really like to learn. He may be rushing through it, so you may get the impression that "he really doesn't want to do this", but he's probably rushing through it because he doesn't understand the importance of foreplay and he doesn't understand how to touch you anyway, so what he's doing doesn't seem to be having much effect.

So, ladies, here's what it comes down to: if you are going to have a good time in the bedroom, you are going to have to be an active participant. Tell him what you want! He wants to make you feel good; for most men, that's the ultimate prize. When they know that they can make you feel good, they feel like real men. They feel wanted and desired. So he wants it to work, even if he's rushing through it. He just doesn't get it.

Here's a good way to make him get it: suggest that you play a game where all you do is touch for 15 minutes. Just have him touch you, and when he does something right, tell him. When it's not quite right, move his hand or lead him to some place better. You don't even need to use words if you don't want to. But show him what feels good, and in the process you'll probably learn yourself!

Believe that it can better, and take control of it. If you're one of those women who has just never felt that aroused, you probably have to do this a whole bunch of times to learn how to relax and just feel pleasure. But you can do it! So dare yourself, and maybe you'll find that you're one of those women who finally figures out what all the fuss is about--even if you're seven years into your marriage!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? 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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Thoughts on Being Overburdened
I took down a post today. It was up for about an hour, and several commenters rightly took me to task for being too hard on someone. So I decided it wasn't worth keeping online. I may comment on it again later and explain my reasoning, but I'm sitting in the Charlotte, North Carolina airport right now, and I haven't eaten all day, and I'm probably not in the right mental place!

But I am having a series of thoughts that all seem to flow from the same place, and so let me pose a question:

We are called to be Good Samaritans, and help our neighbors. We are called to make use of opportunities to bring God to people. But here's the problem: the opportunities are limitless, and we are not. How do you choose?

I was challenged today, for instance, that I hadn't taken enough time with someone who wanted my help. I understand the criticism, but let me tell you another story that is currently happening to a good friend of mine.

My friend married a man with no family except for one aunt, whom he feels responsible for. This aunt has more than enough money to get by, but she is a "taker" and not a "giver". She expects to be invited to everything; to be deferred to; to be pampered; but she never says thank you, or offers to help in the kitchen, or anything. She is extraordinarily lazy.

This aunt is now experiencing health issues where she really can't care for herself anymore. She can't clean, and she can't manage her finances. But she won't hire a housekeeper and she won't move to the city near my friend and her husband. Instead, whenever she runs into a particularly bad pickle she expects my friend to drop everything, including her three children, and come and clean her house. She does not reimburse my friend for gas money or for cleaning supplies.

My friend doesn't mind helping, but dropping everything when you have a baby and children who need to get picked up from a school bus and soccer that needs to be practiced is very difficult.

So here's the question: how much are you expected to help? Should she just "suck it up" and keep helping, or is it okay if she says, "I will help if you move closer, but I can't keep doing this?"

I don't have a good answer for her, but I'm curious as to what you all think.

I often feel pulled in many directions. I deal with "help request" emails everyday, and spend about an hour a day answering mentoring emails. I don't mind the ones to do with marriage--I can usually turn them into blog posts, so I find them actually helpful sometimes when I try to come up with new posts. But when you combine that with my work with the youth at my church, and wanting to get together with my nephews and niece who could really use us, and seeing my in-laws and my mother, and meeting our neighbors, and still homeschooling my children and making dinner, it gets difficult.

At some point, I think you need to say: this is the ministry that God has given me to do. And even if someone asks for help, or even if I have the opportunity to show God to someone, that doesn't mean that I have to do it. I can't burn myself out.

Is that fair? I try to pray and ask God that He will show me the opportunities I'm actually supposed to follow, but I'm at the point where I can't say yes to everything. And I'm not sure I'm good at hearing God (as is evidenced by my bad judgment today).

So how do you all juggle it? How do you shine as a light to others without blowing out your own wick? How far does our responsibility go?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

And now I need to go board a plane....

We Have a Winner!
I had a draw for a copy of the book Don't Make Me Come Up There!, by Kirsten at We are THAT Family. And we have a winner!

There were 42 entries, and the random number I chose through was 37, which led me to Cara of One Young Homemaker. So thanks, Cara! You'll be receiving your book in the mail!

Here's more info on Don't Make Me Come Up There, a pick me up and encourager for moms. And if you didn't win, you can always purchase it here:

Thanks so much for entering, and I'll do some more book giveaways soon!


I'm Just so Proud I Could Burst
I am absolutely exhausted but totally proud and happy this morning.

I spent the weekend up at a youth camp for the final tournament of our Bible Quizzing for the Eastern Canada district, leading 17 kids from our church. And three of our kids (including my own two daughters) made the international team! I know this doesn't mean a lot to all of you because you don't know what I'm talking about (I'll try to post a video soon), but these girls have spent this entire year, since September, memorizing the book of John. And then they quiz in teams of four against two other teams at the same time to see who knows it best.

"Will I make it?" wonders Becca.

The officials get ready.

The coaches are nervous. (Do you like the socks I knit?)

Here we go!

My three girls getting ready for a question.

Rachel when she realizes she's in!

"I made it!"

It's great fun, but the best thing is that they get Scripture into their hearts so thoroughly.

It's very stressful when you spend a whole year preparing for something, and you want so much to make the team, but you know you may not. Do you hope for it? What if you're really disappointed afterwards?

The three girls were all struggling with this, but in the end, they came out in the top 5 (they only needed to make the top 10) and all is well! And some good friends made the team, too.

Last year I tagged along with the team and watched everything, but this year I'm actually going as a coach, which I find very exciting. What I'm really looking forward to is just getting to know each of the teens better and figuring out how to motivate them and how to help them and what makes them tick. I just love getting to know my kids' friends, and honestly, I find teens a lot of fun.

There's so much negative hype in the media about how difficult teens are, and how disrespectful, and how lazy, but that's not true for this group of teens (and I'm not sure it's true for teens as a whole, either). And it's so interesting to be a part of a kids' life and to start to see what God is molding them to be.

So for the next eight weeks I'll be up to my elbows in the book of John, and coaching 10 kids to learn it inside and out. And I'll be dealing with nerves and disappointments and teenage crushes and all that stuff that happens when you get kids together in a large group (at internationals there'll be about 150 kids). But it's going to be great!

I've always been one of those parents that's been super-involved in the things that my kids get involved in. I've never quite figured out parents who are content to let their kids do something intensely, but not really watch or care very much. I dive right in. I just like being part of their lives, and I like getting to know their friends. And on the whole, I think their friends like me, which is important. They like hanging out at our house. So it's going to be an amazing June and July!

How do you feel about today's teens? Do you like working with them?
It's Not Fair!
Day 39: Jelly Beansphoto © 2011 Theodore Lee | more info (via: Wylio)

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's! Sorry for the Canadian slant for my American friends, but I think you'll understand anyway:

Before children understand the birds and the bees; before they can make their beds or tie their shoes or choose clothes that match; even before they venture forth to school, they have already grasped one simple concept: fairness. If Jimmy gets cake, everyone should get cake. M&M's should be shared equally, as should jelly beans and gummy bears. In fact, it's this attempt at fairness that's usually the impetus for many children learning how to count beyond ten.

Yet as they grow, their definition of fairness often changes. If one child saves his allowance for months so that he can buy a new video game, and one child squanders money on chocolate, it’s not fair that the first child should have to let the second child play said video game. If one child practices piano, and one never does, it's not fair that both get to watch equal amounts of television. If you don't follow the rules, you shouldn't get the rewards.

Thus, fairness can be defined in different ways. It certainly can mean that everybody gets the same number of gummy bears, but it can also mean that people receive rewards commiserate with their effort. When people work and study harder, they get more. When they work less, they get less. And interestingly, the two definitions of fairness are ultimately diametrically opposite. Tell a child who has just purchased a packet of M&M's with her chore money that she must share them with her sister who goofed off and didn't get any allowance and she'll cry, "That's not fair!" But tell a union leader that seniority should be based on merit rather than just years of service, and he or she will cry, "That's not fair!", too. We may use the word "fair", but we mean entirely different things by it.

So which definition of fairness do you agree with?

That's essentially the debate that our country had last week. The difference between left and right usually boils down to concepts of fairness. The left thinks everybody should have equality of outcome; we should all have basically the same amount, and it's not fair for some to have much more. The right, on the other hand, thinks that people should get what they put into something. We should be responsible for our own actions.

Looking at the new map of Canada, surprisingly divided into blue and orange with only dots of red, it's interesting to see where the colour lines are. The one province of the country that is always clamoring for the government to do more--Quebec--is almost completely orange. The one province of the country that just wants the government to leave them alone so they can work hard and grow, all on their own--Alberta--went pretty blue.

Perhaps I'm being too simplistic in drawing the political lines like this, but I think the difference between left and right isn't just about spending; it's about philosophy. What is the role of the government? And what is the role of citizens? Personally, I think the more government does, the less citizens do. We start relying on the government too much, and it distorts family relationships, economic decisions, and even, in my view, the moral health of the community.

The problem the Liberals had was that nobody was quite sure what they stood for. In the next few years, the Liberals are going to have to pick a side: which vision of fairness do they stand for? Do they want everyone to have the same, so they stand for higher taxes, more regulation, and more government, or do they want people to be responsible for their own outcomes? And the rest of us should ask the same question, too. It's only fair.

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VLog: When Sex is Ho Hum
After some of the comments on yesterday's Wifey Wednesday, I thought I'd better address this!

So here goes:

In a nutshell, if sex isn't that great for you,

1. Believe that it can be.

It's meant to be! If it's not now, that doesn't mean it never will be. Tell yourself positive messages!

2. Get used to paying attention to your body.

Often we tune our bodies out because we're embarrassed by them. Stretch. Exercise. Breathe. Get used to enjoying how your body feels!

3. Reawaken your sex drive.

The best route is through this post, but I talk about it more in the video, too!

Hope that helps! I'll try to address this in more detail soon!

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Wifey Wednesday: Use It Or Lose It

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!

oil change againphoto © 2010 Sarah German | more info (via: Wylio)
I've found a great new blog called Hot, Holy, Humorous, where a woman writes very openly about sex in a Christian marriage! And a while ago she wrote a really insightful post about "maintenance sex". She said:

As much as I wish that our every sexual encounter was a long and soulful experience, sometimes we’re relegated to what my husband once termed Maintenance Sex. Perhaps you can only fit in a 10-minute quickie before breakfast. Maybe you have to schedule a half-hour into the calendar because otherwise it won’t happen.

But that maintenance can be very important. Think about it this way: It’s fun to make home improvements. New carpet, fresh paint, kitchen or bathroom renovations are exciting and satisfying. But we can’t ignore the minor repairs that the keep the house going –steaming the carpet, painting touch-ups, cleaning those kitchens and bathrooms. Both are good for your home.

The same with sex. We married couples might wish that our sexual encounters were as spectacular as the community fireworks display, but shorter encounters can be fun too, like playing with sparklers. They’re all firecrackers, baby.
She's so right! And I think maintenance sex is important for another reason. It keeps the juices flowing, so to speak.

Here's the awful truth that many wives discover as soon as they're married: sex sometimes is kind of blah. In fact, it's a lot more blah than she ever thought it would be. But in the movies and in magazines it's always presented as something breathless, rapturous, and amazing. We get the impression that that is what sex is supposed to be like. It's always going to be an amazing, earth-shattering experience.

Then, when we know that we're not really in the mood for an amazing, earth-shattering experience, we feel like it would be lying to go ahead and have sex. And so we don't do anything at all. We roll over and say goodnight and wait for a night where we might actually be panting and wanting it--even if such nights only occur about every six weeks, if we're lucky.

But here's the truth about female libido: normally we aren't panting until we start making love. Our libido isn't like men's, when we feel "hot" before we even start. We usually need some stimulation to help things get going. And interestingly, the more we have sex, the easier it becomes to get aroused. The less you have sex, the harder it is to become aroused. It's not like we deprive ourselves for a long time, and that makes it even hotter. It's actually the opposite. The less you do it, the less you want to do it. Your body just forgets about its sex drive.

So maintenance sex is not just about pleasing him; it's sort of like making love as a promise to him and to yourself: I'm doing this because sex is important in our relationship. I'm doing this because I believe sex is great, even if the earth doesn't always move for me. And I'm doing this because I know that the earth will move for me soon, even if it's not tonight.

Now, if the earth NEVER moves for you, stay tuned, because in future Wifey Wednesdays (and maybe even in a vLog) I'm going to explain how to make the earth move. But in the meantime, remember that maintenance sex helps him feel good about the relationship, keeps you connected, and helps your own libido. So don't forget about sex until you really want to. Make love regularly. It doesn't have to take a ton of time! Just throw yourself into it, and you'll likely find that your improved attitude makes it a lot more fun!

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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When People Won't Admit Their Problems
Lonelinessphoto © 2009 Bert Kaufmann | more info (via: Wylio)

In pretty much every church I have ever gone to, I have always started off those first few years in a honeymoon phase: you look around and everybody looks so together, so Christian, so loving. Then, bit by bit, you hear whispers. So and so had an affair and the marriage is reeling. So and so moved out, but they don't want anyone to know yet. So and so has an alcohol problem.

In most of these cases, the vast majority of people don't know. It's all happening below the surface, below the smiling faces and the giggling but slightly dazed children and the pageants and the dresses.

And it makes me so sad, because it's hard to help people who don't want to ask for help. When you know a couple is struggling, and you want to help, how do you approach them when they haven't actually told you that they're struggling? That's impolite. Once we had a couple over for dinner that we know were having problems. They weren't admitting it, though, so we just started sharing about all of our problems. We told them how we had struggled when we  had first married, hoping it might get a response, or a "oh, we do that, too". Nothing. We told them how lonely we felt in the marriage. Nothing. All we got was a "thanks for a great dinner," and a thank you card afterwards. They divorced a year later.

At the marriage conference Keith and I spoke at last month in Banff, one thing I urged all the couples to do was to find a mentor couple: a couple that was at least a few years older, with a solid marriage, with whom they could occasionally bounce things off of and talk things through and ask for prayer. They should look for a couple who knew how to keep things silent, and who were there just to help. Many couples said they were a little reluctant, because people might feel it was a burden. And here's what I told them:

Any mature couple in your church would be THRILLED to have someone ask them to mentor them; to have someone ask them to actually talk about real issues. Do you know how much we long to help with real issues, but those who obviously need help don't ask for it? I watch couples I know are struggling, and I pray for them, and I ask in an around-about way how things are going, or if they want to talk, and they smile and tell me no. I know that's not true. So if someone actually came to me and said, "We love each other, but we're really struggling with something. Could we confidentially just come over and talk to you and your husband?", I would jump up and down for joy! 

And I would! But I find that the vast majority of people who are having problems won't ask for help.

Now, in many Christian circles I've heard this turned into a blame game. "Well, they can't ask for help because then people would judge them, because churches are so judgmental." That may have a kernel of truth, but I can tell you that in every church I've ever belonged to, there would be a lot more respect for a couple who asked for help than for one who one day just up and divorced with no warning. And most people, I think, are like me. They desperately want to help, not because they think they know everything, but because they know how hard marriage and parenting can be, and they don't want others to hit brick walls. They want to see families thrive.

So I think the whole "people are judgmental so I can't share anything" is a cop out. I'm talking about finding ONE couple, who is older than you, that you can talk to. Surely in every church, even a judgmental one, there is ONE couple. And if there isn't, you need to find another church!

Most people don't ask for help for one of several reasons. First, they believe they genuinely don't need it. They are completely in the right, and so they don't need anyone's advice. Often one half of a couple feels this way, and the other doesn't. If you're married to someone who feels this way, you still need a mentor! Find a woman you can talk to and pray with, even if your husband won't.

The second reason is because they've talked to others before, and those people have told them that they are in the wrong or they need to compromise. I'm thinking of one particular woman I know who broke up her family recently. She was sure she was right; when she started talking to people in the church, though, they didn't take her side. So she stopped talking and did what she wanted to anyway.

And that brings me to number three: often people don't ask for help because they've already made up their minds about what they are going to do. They're going to leave their spouse and split up their family, and they've convinced themselves they're in the right. But they know deep down that perhaps they're not, and so they don't ask for help in case they're convicted.

I don't know where you are today. I don't know if you're having marriage issues or parenting issues or anything. But I do know that so many people do desperately want to help. My husband, a pediatrician, once participated in a community parenting course. It had tons of advertising from the Children's Aid Society, other physicians, and more. Doctors were telling their patients with problem kids to go. It was on the radio. And three families showed up.

I have another friend who is a nutritionist. A few years ago her office put on a seminar called "2 can dine for $1.99" to teach lower income people how to cook well on a limited budget. The only people who showed up was the entire homeschooling group from her community, who thought it was a great educational opportunity. All the people at the welfare office, and at Children's Aid, who were told about it, did not go.

Why do I tell you this? It's because I firmly believe that help is there if you want it. People want to share their knowledge and their experience. But the vast majority of people don't ask for help and don't take it until it is too late.

Every couple, everybody, should have a mentor that they can talk to when things get difficult. I have a mentor, and I am somebody's mentor. My husband has a mentor, and he is also somebody's mentor. This is so important especially for couples in the ministry, where it's hard to talk about your personal issues. But that makes it all the more crucial to have a safe place to go for help. So don't wait. Just ask for help. If more people did that, I think we'd see fewer families splitting up.

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Why I Blog: Live Deliberately
Tons of blogs vie for your attention. You can find blogs on organizing, cooking, cleaning, parenting, getting close to God, renewing your marriage, and so many more.

So why do you read this one?

Over the weekend I began to think more about why I write, and what the main message is that I'm trying to convey. After all, I don't just want to write so that I entertain you, or so that you all boost my traffic numbers. I want to write to challenge you--and at the same time to challenge myself, because through blogging and writing I often clarify my own goals and thoughts.

What am I trying to do? Let me start by telling you what my primary purpose is NOT. I am not trying to teach you how to clean, or get organized, or parent, or even how to be married. I am not even trying to teach you how to get closer to God (though I hope you do that through this blog). There are so many blogs that specialize in each of these things, and do it better.

What I am trying to do is to spur you on to live deliberately; to challenge what other people have told you you should do with your life. I want to ask those questions that open up our minds to the possibilities that God really does have for our lives, and see how things could be richer, more fulfilling, more meaningful, more intimate.

That's the meaning of the name of the blog: To Love, Honor and Vacuum, which was originally the name of my first book. Sometimes we get into this groove where it feels like most of our lives is a job, an endless assembly line, and we can't get off. But life isn't like that. You always have choices, and those choices can take you closer to God's heart, and thus closer to true joy.

I firmly believe that our culture works directly against that as it seeps into us, even when we don't want it to. And that culture teaches primariliy three things: laziness, selfishness, and dissatisfaction. It teaches laziness because it says the most important thing is to be entertained. We aren't to try hard at anything; we are to find the shortcuts. Get away with the least effort possible! It teaches selfishness because it says that the most important thing is to be happy, rather than to be purposeful. We are to find happiness, and if we don't have happiness, we should dump what we're doing. And it teaches dissatisfaction because it's always showing us how we could be doing a little bit more, trying a little bit harder, and finally achieving success. Except that it's always that little bit more out of reach.

I don't want to teach you how to work harder; frankly, I think most of us are busy enough. I simply want to teach you how to think differently about how we live. Most people, I think, go through this life of being a wife and mommy without giving it real thought. What am I building? Are we growing closer? Does my family love God? Are we spending time in a meaningful way? A lot of us don't have time for these questions because we're so busy trying to get laundry done and chauffeur kids and head to work, because we've bought into the idea that life has to be that chaotic. It doesn't.

Yet we won't see those possibilities unless we stop drifting through life. That, I think, is the modern malady. We are drifting, allowing the stream of our culture to push us where it wants us to go. We are working for more and more stuff. We are sending our kids into more and more activities and not seeing them enough. We are busy so we don't connect with our spouses. We expect our spouses to meet all our needs. We feel dissatisfied, but we can't identify why?

Now please understand; I do not have all of this figured out. That's one of the reasons I write! As I blog, I remind myself what I should be doing, and should be focusing on. But these are things I have thought deeply about. My husband and I had to work to get our marriage strong, because it did not start out that way. We had to fight to stay strong when our son died, and everyone told us that our marriage now faced a crisis. I had to make the decision to give up what would have been a lucrative career because I wanted to watch my kids grow up. And my husband is right now struggling with how much he should work, given that the kids will be out of the house in four short years.

We live in a poisonous culture, and I don't want it to poison me or my family. And so I challenge everything we do. Why am I doing this? Is this necessary? I want to make sure that at the end of my life, I can look back and at least say, for better or for worse, I made choices to do what I did. I'm not blaming anyone else; I deliberately thought about it and prayed about it.

So that's who I am, and that's why I blog. I want to live deliberately, especially in my marriage, in my parenting, and in my home. I hope in these writings that I will both inspire you on towards purpose and meaning, and give myself the occasional kick in the pants, too. I want us all to live for God, not for our culture.

From now on, then, when I write a post, I'm going to ask myself, does this fit? Am I urging people to live deliberately, to stop drifting? And if I am, I'll post it. If I'm not, I may leave it. I want you all to know who I am, so that you know what you'll get when you come here.

So that's me. Now, who are you? Why are you here? What do you like? I'd love to know!

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Mother's Day Collection
Mothering on a Weak Stomach
(my 3 kids all grown up! Well, 2 are mine. The boy's my nephew. But I still love him!)

Happy Mother's Day! May all of you who are brought soggy cereal in bed, carried by little hands and accompanied by joyful smiles, manage to get that soggy cereal down!

I thought in honour of Mother's Day I would reprint one of my old columns, especially for the occasion.

And so, here we go, from 2004:

I have often marvelled at the fact that my youngest daughter is so healthy. At first I chalked it up to homeschooling, since we shelter her from germ factories. But thanks to Austrian lung specialist Dr. Friedrich Bischinger, I now have the real answer. It turns out that picking your nose and eating it boosts the immunity.

This is one of those things that, as a parent, you would rather not know. And as I was pondering this piece of research, a few questions occurred to me. Does Bischinger have nothing better to do with his time than worry about nose picking? Perhaps he should come do a shift or two at Canadian hospitals and fill in for some of the overworked internists here.

Even more importantly, how does one measure this particular experiment? You have to compare the pick-and-swallow kids with something. Do you arrange for a group of pick-and-stick-it-on-the-side-of-Grandma’s-couch? Or a group of non-pickers? In our family the question may be moot anyway because we have actually cured my youngest of this habit, at least in public. According to Bischinger, of course, we should just let her rip. Somehow I just don’t think I can find the stomach for it.

Stomach fortitude, though, is something I have discovered in a whole new way since becoming a mom. Grown women venture out with other grown women, only to find the conversation turning to the consistency of toddlers’ fecal matter. Two or three years earlier many of us wouldn’t even admit we had fecal matter. Kids, of course, don’t share our squeamishness. They know body functions are taboo, but these still cause gales of laughter. They are the source of the most outrageous insults and humour they can imagine. (Typical joke told by a four-year-old: “Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Fart!”, followed by everyone collapsing on the floor laughing). Recently, when our family was considering renting a particular movie, I refused since it had swearing in it. Rebecca, our oldest, leaned over to her younger sister and whispered, “that means it has bum words.”

The odd thing is that children have no concept of what actually is distasteful. They think nothing of barging in to the bathroom at that particular moment when you really want privacy, but should they see you and your spouse kissing, well, the screams you hear are enough to think we had been the ones nose-picking.

Meal times are perhaps the worst for these expressions of disgust. I actually enjoy cooking, but my meals usually have vegetables and meat—I know this will be hard to believe—mixed together. This is a major faux pas in my children’s eyes, and worthy of several choruses of “eeeewwwws!”. If everything is not confined to its own hemispheres on the plate, it’s not worthy. And don’t even get me started on sauces.

Yet I am not the only source of squeamish stomachs in our family. My daughters cause plenty of nausea, too. One of them, who has never met a sauce she likes, thinks nothing of picking up the gum she stuck on her dresser before dinner to finish it afterwards (we’re working on curing her of that, too). And why is it so hard to get kids to remember to flush the toilet?

It seems that motherhood is an inauguration into new challenges for the stomach-challenged, which is probably why it begins as it does. When I was pregnant with Rebecca the only thing I thought of, for the first five months, was food. I dreamed about food. I daydreamed about food. The only thing I didn’t do was eat food. I was so nauseous that every waking minute was dedicated to trying to picture some food that would stay down—an apple? A hard boiled egg? Definitely nothing with sauce.

One day I will have the bathroom to myself, I will be able to kiss my husband whenever I want, eat whatever I want, and ignore the consistency of everybody’s toilet habits. I think I’ll miss these days. And that’s why I still cherish the mushy kisses and mushy cereal I’m presented with every Mother’s Day morning. I hope you all had a wonderful day Sunday, too.

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Wedding of the Century
Royal Wedding of William and Kate +23photo © 2011 Jens Rost | more info (via: Wylio)

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

The hats were plentiful, colourful, and unforgettable. The guests were delighted to be included. The participants were nervous--except for the best man, who looked like he was having the time of his life. And the spectators, at least on this side of the pond, were bleary-eyed and coffeed up.

It was a wedding to be remembered, of which I only watched highlights, because my dedication to cultural moments only goes so far. Nevertheless, I did find the wedding lovely, especially Harry's whispered, "wait til you see her" to his brother, who was staunchly facing straight ahead, just as he was supposed to, while the eyes of two billion people were on his bride.

Her image will now adorn not just books but plates and mugs and spoons and teacups forevermore. And yet as over the top as much of the coverage was, I can't say I was altogether sorry to see a million people lining up to catch a glimpse of the couple, or billions more tune in to see the vows.

We have lived through turbulent days. As I'm writing, our country does not yet know who will win the election. We have witnessed tornadoes and floods and earthquakes and tsunamis and wars and disasters. So it seems fitting that we should, for a time, focus on something as seemingly mundane as a wedding.

After all, the best remedy for much turbulence, I think, is weddings. It is family that keeps our society functioning and strong, even when all around us is falling apart. Government can't do that; it is only family that gives you the sense of belonging, love, and constancy. So William and Kate have the right idea. It is a good thing to find someone to spend your life with, not just because you love them, but because you vow and promise that you yourself will stay true. That commitment changes us, and has ripple effects through the whole culture.

Unfortunately, these effects are growing slimmer as more people eschew vows altogether. Though in the United States 83% of the upper middle class are currently married (and tend to stay married in huge numbers), less than half of working class adults are currently married, and those marriages are less stable. Much of our society no longer believes in the dream of marriage because they have not seen it work. This does not mean that people have given up on love; they have just given up on the thought that love could last forever.

I think that's a tragedy, because marriage brings huge rewards. Married people have the best sex. They're healthier. They live longer (especially the men). The women are less likely to be victims of crime or even domestic violence. They earn more money. They're far wealthier.

Their children are happier, healthier, better adjusted, and more likely to go on to higher education and marriage themselves.

And a society where kids are healthy and make good decisions, and where adults are in stable relationships, is a society where people can use their limited resources, time, and emotional energy to focus on their neighbours, on their communities, on their jobs, and on their hobbies, because there is not as much dysfunction in their lives.

I know not every marriage is perfect, and not every marriage is worth saving. But marriage is still a worthy goal, and for a brief moment last week the world was captivated by it. If that causes a few more little girls to dream of their wedding day again, or a few more little boys to start thinking about the girl that they're going to see walk down the aisle, then maybe the monarchy has proved its relevance once again.

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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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