Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Valentines 2015

The day before Valentines we made our decorations. Last year we hung paper hearts on the wall, this year I have other things hanging in that spot, but Drew still wanted to cut out paper hearts and decorate with them. So I thought about hanging them from the ceiling... then thought what about a heart mobile or chandelier... which led to the idea of using embroidery hoops, ribbons and paper hearts, which led to this adorableness :) A very in-expensive project (embroidery hoops are a dollar something each) and it can be customized for anything... you could make a mobile for a nursery, other holidays, change the colors or shapes you hang from it and it can be used as a cute addition to just about any party. We just hung it from the ceiling using scotch tape because it's so light weight. The boys had so much fun helping to make this too :) 

 We had a tea party lunch this year. I love the idea of a high-tea, and my three tiered stand was perfect for the occasion :)
One story about our day... Drew remembered that in years passed I have gotten them all heart balloons. About two weeks ago he started talking about heart balloons every day. And when he gets excited about something he starts drawing it and cutting it out and carrying the drawings around with him everywhere. Thousands of little heart balloons have been drawn with great care, cut out just so, taped back together if he accidentally snipped into it while cutting, sat on his bed side table at night so they could be near him while he was sleeping, carried in his backpack to school, taken to his grandparents to show them... he made one for everyone in the family and wrote their names on the back, he cut out big ones and small ones and some with short strings and some with long strings... the heart balloons were driving me mad, because they were all over the floor, the counters, the buffet, the table... but it was adorable so I tried not to get annoyed. ;) Then finally, Valentines was here, I made a special trip to the store to get our lunch supplies and pick up three balloons for my boys. When we had been at the store the previous week Drew saw that there was one heart balloon that was bigger than all the rest and said that was the one he wanted. I told him I was probably going to get him a normal sized balloon, but then when I went to get them I decided to surprise him with the biggest one. He was ecstatic. He ran all around the house with it, and pointed out all the sharp corners to Isaiah and advised him to be careful lest his balloon touch a sharp corner and be popped... Then while Drew was upstairs playing with his balloon, and I was in the kitchen making our lunch, all of the sudden there was a loud POP. And then there was Drew, walking slowly down the stairs, his lip quivering, his balloon dragging on the ground, and then came the torrent of tears as he begged me to go back to the store to get him another one and I told him I couldn't do that. Isaiah made me so proud, because as soon as it happened he told Drew that he could have his balloon. And then Drew made me so proud too, because I took him to his room, held him, and gently explained to him that he could let the popped balloon ruin his day or he could think of all the other good things that were happening and that he could be thankful for and he could make the choice to be happy anyway. And although it took every ounce of his will-power, he stopped crying and he made the choice to be happy anyway. We got out tape and we taped his giant balloon to the wall (it looked much less sad that way than when it was lying on the floor in a shiny popped pile). And so that is the story of the giant heart decoration you see hanging on the wall behind them. 
Our menu: 
fruit cup (watermelon, strawberries, raspberries and red grapes)
Sweet bologna & cheese rolls
Pretzels with strawberry cream cheese
Hot tea

It was ADORABLE watching my boys drink hot tea for the first time. I got out my china tea cups, taught them how to let the tea bag steep, we used tiny cream pitchers and sugar bowls, they stirred so carefully and they sipped so cutely. The elephant cream pitcher was Drew's favorite and the photo below is my favorite. 
Jaden didn't get his own china tea cup this time, but he happily stuffed his face with fruit and pretzels and cream cheese and generally just made a pink and red mess. :) 

Everybody Sipping :) 

I love my boys so much, so thankful that even though I don't have girls we can still have a tea party :) I hope they are romantic men to their wives some day and know how to always make her feel special and celebrate love. :) 
The moose head was their valentines gift from us, Drew has been asking for a moose head to hang on the wall for awhile and was thrilled with that surprise. :) 

That night we had a candle light dinner of roast chicken with carrots//potatoes//onions and green beans and apple sauce. We used heart plates which were super special to the boys and easier clean up for me. Win-win. The pretty roses on the table were delivered in the afternoon from my dad :) 

I love celebrating love. After all that celebrating as a family Shaun and I put the boys to bed early and had our own Valentines celebration. It was such a beautiful Saturday together, making life at home special and memorable. 


Thursday, February 5, 2015

50 shades

You guys... I know I am just another voice, another opinion in the endless sea of opinions out there. I wondered if I should say anything at all... I don't seek to cause confusion, I don't seek to condemn, I don't seek to spread judgement or hatred. But I do seek to spread clarity, to bring forth light, to speak the truth in love. And so with the hope that maybe my voice will bring clarity even if it's just to one person, I'll go ahead and weigh in on this crazy controversial topic.

50 Shades of Grey. Maybe you've read the book. Maybe you want to see the movie. Maybe you plan to hold a picket sign outside a theater. Maybe you know nothing at all on the topic. While I don't plan to hold a picket sign or shout from the rooftops "turn or burn!", I also can't remain silent to this monumental game-changer that is playing out in our culture. I mean, 100 million copies have sold. In fifty two languages. People are eating it up, people I know, and I can't just ignore it.

I haven't read the book. I don't plan to see the movie. I've read lots of articles on both and I've read wikipedia's description of the plot. What I see is the enemy of our souls being oh so sneaky. The main character is named Christian. Christian Grey. While it seems blatantly obvious to me that his very name is designed to subtly pull in those that erotic fiction has never had a hold on before, maybe it's not so obvious to all. We even have a feminine character with the name Anastasia Steele. Feminine and strong. What we all hope to be, right? Not mistakes or coincidence, purposeful manipulation to get you hooked at any chance. The implications of this book and the timing of its release are not arbitrary or random. In the war being waged against the human race by the father of lies himself, they are perfectly timed. I'll tell you why:

As women, have you ever been in a relationship that was emotionally or physically abusive before? How did it feel, having someone manipulate your feelings, control your actions, force you to do things that were degrading, embarrassing, or disgraceful? How did it feel to live in fear? Even worse, what did it do to your picture of love if the person being violent toward you was someone you thought you loved, or who you thought loved you? A deep well of hopelessness and depression is the result of being abused by someone who is supposed to care for you. It leaves you confused, desperate, broken, with little, if any, self-worth. It calls up a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Have you seen the movie Taken? (If you haven't seen that, you really, really should.) Kind of the other side of this whole coin. One that shows true love in stark contrast to the egocentric, manipulative, self-serving, hatred filled twist on sex that comes along with bondage and sex being bought and sold. In Taken, you see a father whose virgin daughter was ripped out of a european apartment, drugged, sold to the highest bidder, about to be raped by a disgusting man, and you see true love go into action, stopping at nothing to get her back, to set her free, to take her out of the grip of power-hungry ravagers who see a woman's body as a means to satisfy their own perverted and ravenous appetite. A father whose love is pure and genuine and REAL. Those girls, those children forced into a lifestyle of submission, fear, humiliation, bondage, hopelessness, death... those are the girls whose call is finally being heard as the voice begins to cry out to STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING. We as the human race are finally beginning to step up to the plate and do something about this horrific injustice...

And then we have Mr. Gray step into the picture to muddy the waters. Suddenly we are swept along with his emotional affair and manipulation, wondering if maybe being beaten and controlled and dominated are equal to being loved and wanted. How is it so that the sly way this book is written has caused women everywhere to suddenly be enticed by the very life that those who are entrapped by it are trying desperately to escape? Oh, we have a sly enemy indeed. What good will we be in stopping the buying and selling of young children and women into a market of violent, twisted, rape and abuse as a way of life if we suddenly think that lifestyle looks appealing? Probably not much good. Not much good at all. What happens to a godly marriage when pornography is introduced? Does it feel good to have your husband thinking of another woman when he's making love to you? Does it feel good to know that you alone aren't enough to turn your husband on anymore? Does it feel good to think that you might be more appealing to your man if you give him permission to physically hurt you? There are lies that are believed by millions today... that you can somehow have a counterfeit, easy, fake sex life that replaces a true relationship between a man and a woman. NOTHING can replace it. And the lie that is being bought by so many doesn't just leave you empty and depressed and confused and disgusted, it ruins the real thing if you had it.

Soul ties are a real thing. Emotional abuse is a real thing. For whatever reason, this book, this movie, make emotional manipulation look like something to be desired. The darkness of this fantasy sweeps people along, their hearts pounding in a deadly rhythm... It takes you down a path that distorts your mind and makes you think that something that will eat your soul alive and leave you wounded and bleeding will actually give you a life that's "adventurous."

Guys, people believe that women who've read this book are learning new ways to experience intimacy in relationship. Pure craziness. Do you know what intimacy is? It's trust like few of us know anymore. It's being 100 % vulnerable and experiencing love, acceptance, and vulnerability in return. Can I just say that my husband is my hero? You won't find me sharing deep and personal things about our marriage publicly, but I want to testify that having a God-centered marriage is something you could write a best-seller about. The pure and real and raw and deep passion of a love that is holy and sacred and uplifting and values the other person and is based on a commitment  (not a contract) by both people... one that says, "regardless of where you are, I'm all in." One that says "I see you on your worst day, and still I choose to love you." One that says "I place your needs above my own, and I will stop at nothing to see that you know your immeasurable worth." Our marriage isn't perfect, but by God's un-ending grace and compassion toward us I have literally been changed from the inside out on this lifetime journey with my husband. I tell him all the time, IT ONLY GETS BETTER! Just when you think you've reached a mountain top that can't possibly be surpassed... you go to new heights you didn't know existed. But here's the real testimony: Even in the valleys that love is ever present. Love does not abandon. It does not bail out when times get hard. It always believes. It always trusts. It keeps no record of wrongs. It doesn't manipulate or control. It always perseveres. LOVE NEVER FAILS.

So when you feel the hot breath from the turn of each page of a book like 50 shades, when you feel the trembling and the rush of standing on the edge of that dark cliff, that high that comes just before you fall, the inner chills of messing with darkness and thinking it's powerless over you, only to find yourself falling and terrified, imagine the high of standing on a mountain top and watching the sun come up. The soft, cool whisper of the early morning breeze, the first light streaking the horizon, then that brilliant, dependable ball of fire coming blazing up out of nowhere, lighting the entire world in its magnificence. Imagine the rush of spreading your arms wide and soaking in the sunlight from a height that doesn't threaten the fall, but is only filled with beauty. And imagine the warm quaking inside, the awakening of a love that grows a smile from the soles of your feet to the creases on your face... a love that makes you laugh. A love that brings with it incredible freedom. True freedom. Please. Please choose the sunrise. Choose light and not darkness to give you that rush. Choose the source of life. Don't be sucked in by the manipulative message of 50 shades of gray.

Stats aren't always the most powerful tool to convey a message, but the stats related to reading this book are incredibly alarming. This is a direct quote from wikipedia's description of this book: "A second study in 2014 was conducted to examine the health of women who had read the series, compared to a control group that had never read any part of the novels. The results showed a correlation between having read at least the first book and exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, having romantic partners that were emotionally abusive and/or engaged in stalking behavior, engaging in binge drinking in the last month, and having 5 or more sexual partners before age 24. The authors could not conclude whether women already experiencing these problems were drawn to the series, or if the series influenced these behaviors to occur after reading by creating underlying context. The study's lead researcher contends that the books romanticize dangerous behavior and "perpetuate dangerous abuse standards."

If you have friends who have read the book or are planning on seeing the movie, or if that's you, I encourage you to reconsider. What is motivating you to see it? Will it have a healthy affect on your life, or a harmful affect?  I urge you to know your worth, to see what this movie stands for and the far-reaching affects it has on those who have read it or accept it's behaviors as normal, and to not allow it access to your life. Don't be taken in, there is absolutely no "real love" portrayed in it's story. It is a cleverly disguised impostor. One that will leave you broken and hurting. 

The best news ever is that Jesus comes to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim release to the prisoners, and to shine light and that which has been hidden in darkness. If you are hurt or broken or allowing things in your life right now because someone told you that abuse is actually love, Jesus wants to set you free. You are not alone, you are loved, you are worth more to Him that I can ever say, and He will stop at nothing to see you free, to see you redeemed, to see you healed and whole and knowing your immeasurable worth.