Friday, March 25, 2016

Book Review: Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife

You know what I like about marriage books? I like that they keep the dream alive for me. They let me peek at what it could be like to be married.

I'm not sure why I like the idea of the work that being married entails, that being a good wife entails. I'm sure I've just idealized it in my head. As if the interpersonal relationship in a marriage would be any different than the interpersonal relationships I have with other people where I say things I regret or get rubbed the wrong way.

Or is it different? I like to think the rewards of being a husband or wife are different than the rewards of being a son/daughter, coworker, or friend. Being married is a special kind of relationship. I like to think it can't be duplicated in other relationships. There is a reason why God reveals Himself in the Father/child relationship, the friend relationship, the Almighty God relationship, but also in the marriage relationship. It must show something unique.

Ok, but enough of my waxing whatever this is. I did just watch a Hallmark. Two in fact (The Wish List and Soldier Love Story--yay, Pixl Channel on YouTube :)). And yes, I cried. Happy tears.

I asked to review this book because I respect Dennis and Barbara Rainey. I have listened to countless episodes of Dennis Rainey's FamilyLife Today radio broadcast and can attest that he loves his wife and loves marriage. He also has a heart to help men step up and become loving leaders in their homes. I admire that.

Getting this book in the mail was not like getting any ol' other book. It's a beautiful book with water colored pages and quotes in gold lettering. It even comes with its own built-in bookmark!

Mrs. Rainey won me over in the preface. She knows she is a mom of adult daughters, and she knows how to be the Titus 2 older woman without trying to be one of the gang.

Mrs. Rainey comes across nurturing and motherly (maybe even grandmotherly), but she speaks truth. Every chapter focuses on some kind of art. "Marriage is Like Grand Architecture" or "Marriage is Like Masterful Photography." Weird, right? And yet, it works! It really does. The correlations she draws are spot-on. This book is not fluff. It is a compilation of wisdom.

What else can I say? Mrs. Rainey upholds the beauty of marriage at every point, holds forth God's design and purpose, and confronts head-on the problems couples face, sharing how she and Dennis walk through the same issues.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

"How does He describe you? He sees you as the apple of His eye, adopted, as His child, holy and blameless in Christ, a royal heir, and forgiven; always and forever, He sees you and me as forgiven. In the midst of some of our darkest days when I felt very little love for my man, these lenses of faith kept the glimmer of hope alive. I never stopped believing in a God who can do the impossible, which meant my husband was not impossible, I was not impossible, nor was our situation impossible to God.

. . . So when we have conversations about our failures and disappointments, it is always in the context of belief in each other, in the truth of the gospel that we are and can be overcomers. . . .

. . . And if in the moment you can't see a single trait worthy of praising, then cling to the truth of how God sees him and you." --Barbara Rainey, Letters to My Daughters, pp. 175-177

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Book Review: Pitchin' a Fit!...and my own take-away

When I saw that Israel Wayne and his wife Brook had just finished a book on "Overcoming Angry and Stressed-Out Parenting," as the subtitle puts it, I knew I wanted to read it. Even though I'm not a parent, I am a teacher that interacts daily with little ones that are still, well, children. They are still learning how to behave. So as a teacher, I deal with frustrating situations often. Students talking out of turn? Asking for help and then not listening when I give it? Making loud, onomatopoeia noises in the middle of my lesson?

My reactions aren't always stellar.

I feel like this book has been one of God's probing instruments over the last couple weeks while I've been marathon reading it. Pitchin' a Fit (great title, right?) hasn't changed me, because only God's sanctifying power and my cooperation with that power can change my bad character. That's a process that I am still very much at the beginning of. But the book has been an excellent tool to jumpstart that process.

So can I share some of what I've learned?

But first, the book review segment of this post.

On the semi-negative side, not all of this book has to do with angry parenting. The first several chapters threw me off because they addressed anger in general and I wanted to get to the parenting part! The book also awkwardly switches back and forth between Israel and Brook's point of view.

On the positive side, Pitchin' a Fit is very straight forward. I appreciated the lack of flowery language. No rehashing or cliché fillers. I appreciated the directness and moving on. Some of it will apply, some of it won't. But you won't have to sit through thick, belabored points or irrelevant stories before you get to what does apply. The book also quotes Scripture frequently; it is not a self-help book.

What drew me in immediately was the story in the introduction. Israel shares a personal blow-up scenario involving one of his children and 25 chickens. The story made him feel relatable, and I wanted to read more (granted, my flesh wanted to hear more relatable stories of failures than the book actually provided). For those who have never heard of the authors (I hadn't until I went to the 2014 Homeschool Alumni Reunion where he was a speaker), Israel and Brook Wayne are the homeschooling parents of 9 children. They speak from both experience and the study of God's word.

Ok, what have I learned?

What sticks out to me the most is the content of chapter 7, "But I'm Not Patient!" To summarize (because you'll have to read the book yourself if you want all the supporting details ;)), patience is a fruit of the Spirit. And fruits of the Spirit don't come about because of human effort. "It is our abiding in Jesus that will bear the fruit of patience (see John 15)" (p.102). "It is not an attitude of 'I will, I will, I WILL have patience!'" (p. 103). Oh and don't I know it! Patience is something I have to seek from God, something He needs to work in me.

On a practical level, the authors also talk about triggers and ways to make space so you are less likely to blow up. For my own memory's sake, I want to note some of what God has shown me that seems to be helpful in my classroom.

-be consistent with the rules
-discipline on the first infraction instead of waiting until you can't take it any more
-send the erring child outside when you feel the frustration creep up--by the time I go outside, the frustration is cooled and I am able to talk with (vs. rebuke) the child, and do so without shaming the child in front of the class (ie. a win-win-win!)
Israel and Brook Wayne are clear that there is no excuse for anger. They cite Biblical and logical reasons why there is no excuse. They are also clear that anger does happen. But I like how they address the process of change. They treat it like a habit. You work towards it through instant-by-instant choices. I LOVE this quote on p. 104: "When you fail (sadly, it will happen), instead of falling into a muddle over it . . repent. [...] Invite fellowship with the Lord again and get going, back in the midst of life."
There's tons more content--my book is all underlined--so if you feel this is an area where you need some sanctification, I strongly suggest you get this book and open it with a heart ready to let God work. Pitchin' a Fit may not be the first book written on anger, but it is easy-to-read and Scripture-based, and that's a pretty good recommendation in itself.
One last quote.
"We often get so hyper-focused on the fact that our children need to grow up that we forget that God has a vested interest in this whole parenting journey you are on, and He wants to see you grow!" (p. 105)
I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.
P.S. If you want to listen to an interview with the authors, here's a link.
P.S.S. I just read this teacher blog post that is really helpful too!

Monday, March 7, 2016

166: intentionality and information dump

"To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven" (Ecc 3:1)

I'm really feeling this in my life right now.

Last year I taught with a friend whose word for the year was "intentionality." She wanted to teach with intentionality. That was great for her. I was just enjoying my first year feeling like I might know what I'm doing.

But my Lord seems to have led me into a season the last few months of living intentionally. Who do I want to be? Not in the future, but now? How do I want to live? Not when I have a husband, but now? What are my ideals? And can I work to attain them?

Here's how that's been fleshing out for me.

I'm exercising three days a week. That's...unheard of. I'm doing Jazzercise, sometimes with a friend, sometimes on my own. And I'm paying top dollar for membership. Money is a great motivator.... So is the thought of being able to offer an active, healthy person to my future husband, if God so brings that about. And also, this is how I want to live. And instead of being conquered by my laziness, I'm finally feeling the satisfaction of living how I want to live, even as the muscles ache and the sweat drips down my neck.

I'm trying to keep my room neater. It's embarassing how much a single girl will let the one room of the house that she has sole jurisdiction over fall apart around her. I'm not sure why keeping a neat room has never been a priority. My parents are both very tidy people. Perhaps it's been a way to do my own thing. Perhaps it's been because I'd rather do other things instead. Perhaps I thought it impossible to take charge of this area of my life and so gave in to how I didn't mind living (aka messy). Now, don't get me wrong, as I type, my bed isn't even made, and it's 8:20pm. But I have been trying more, not for my mom's sake like I used to (sometimes walking by my room would start to drive her crazy), but because I want to start living neater now, as a single. It's an intentional choice. And I enjoy the satisfaction of actually accomplishing the pick-up that isn't always easy to do in my little over-stuffed room.

I'm trying to do better at controlling my sugar and media intake. I'm failing in the latter. And I'm only just beginning to have some success in the sugar department. Little steps. Dark chocolate doesn't count. Don't judge.

I'm trying to become the person I want to be, against the desires of the flesh.

In some areas, areas I know I will fall without help, I've sought accountability. And it has helped!

Insert clarification: I am not doing nothing with my life. I am an elementary teacher with a combination grades class. It's more than a job, it's my life. It's not like I'm bumming it at home, eating brownies on the floor of a cluttered room while watching back-to-back Hallmark movies.

At least not during the school day.

In the last week I've applied for a graduate program through Liberty University. I filled out the application 3 years ago, and it went inactive from lack of follow-thru (and funds). But now I've reapplied, registered, and am about to do "financial check-in." It's finally the season to start clumping down the cash to move myself forward career-wise. I don't know, maybe the man of my dreams will propose and I'll be married before two classes are even out of the way. But I'm not being held back by my hopes for marriage anymore. Unless God directs me to wait, to not spend the money and take the class, I will be taking my first class for a Master of Arts in Teaching starting the 21st of this month. Craziness.

I'll admit, part of the motivation is so when people ask what's going on in my life, I can actually sound like I'm moving forward in some area. But I also need this degree to have better job-opportunities in the future. I'm excited to learn the content, and I've been planning on going back for a Masters since I graduated in 2009. So this is really an intentional step in fulfilling my dream.

The one area that I am not being intentional in is finding a guy. I am not doing online dating. And there's absolutely no logical reason! (Well, except that I'm not sure that's the best venue for me.) I am completely in favor of online dating. But I have no peace from the Lord that I should do so now in this season. I have no peace even to Facebook message a guy I'm interested in getting to know. Do I think that would be wrong? Not at all. But to everything there is a season. And I know today is not that season.

So that's what's been going on with me. Got to put it all out on the Internet, right? *wry grin*

Well, maybe not everything.

Incoming Selfie Alert....
There we go.