Christianity · family · Mama · Uncategorized

The Simple Post

*I wrote the following to myself because I can’t seem to remember it.  Maybe if I publish it, I’ll feel too much a hypocrite to forget it again.

wild

The only thing children need is love.  If we want to prepare our children for what really matters, then we will love them unconditionally.  We will forgive them.  We will see the best in them.  What truly matters will always matter and the only thing that will always matter is love.  “The greatest of these is love.”  “Only love will remain.”

If it is possible to love too much, then we do not know God.  God loves when it is stupid to love.  God forgives when no one would forgive.  The reason we are alive, that we even exist, is because God loves when it is stupid to love.  Of course, I’m talking as a man.  Men think there is a line where love should not cross.  God doesn’t know about this line.

romans

The thing that homeschoolers talk about, think about, obsess, blog and read about is how to prepare our children for the future.  But we forget that the future is God.  We can’t push love aside and take care of it after the scholarships are earned and the mortgage is paid. Those things don’t even exist.  Not really.  We will not be grateful if we forget love and pursue these things.  We will not say, “I’m so glad I took care of that.  Now I can bother with the religious stuff.”

If handwriting or math or saying, “yes, ma’am” is the focus of every day of my children’s lives then they will grow up and they will not know that God is love.  If the focus of every day of my children’s lives is coerced prayers and forced readings of Scripture and “keep quiet during church”, then they will grow up and they will not know that God is love.  And they will not believe me if I tell them, though they might believe it if God tells them.

If the only thing I did all day, every single day of my children’s lives was love and forgive them, that would be enough.  That would be everything.

por

 

christian · Christianity · family

Why, Part 2

So, as mentioned in the previous post, God completely rocked my world for no reason at all and I, in return:

a) became a saint;

b) didn’t become a saint necessarily, but altered my life drastically;

c)  was a total jerk and changed absolutely nothing about my life.

If you answered c, you are the winner! And clearly don’t think very highly of me, thanks A LOT.

It wasn’t until about 4 years later that my life truly turned around.  My sister, recently graduated from college, and I, recently dropped out of college (go ME!), decided to go on a backpacking trip through Mexico.  Which meant one thing to this deeply sensitive soul: FIESTA.

Bailar, burritos, and borracho todos las dias (how many of you just sang “Bailamos” in your heads?).  Imagine my dismay when my sister, my supposed partner in crime, suddenly became alarmingly (in my mind) devout about one week before our trip.

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I remember on the plane ride down she was gently trying to talk to me about God and how much He loved me, and, at one point I looked at her and said, “So what? I’m lovable.”

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Please PLEASE someone invent a time machine so I can go back to this moment and slap myself in the face. PLEASE.

It’s a credit to the saintliness of my sister that she didn’t abandon me at the customs gate after that, but, thank God, she didn’t. She actually went out with me, never having more than one drink or so herself, just to keep an eye out.  Waking up, hungover and miserable, and seeing her drinking her coffee, journaling her prayers, filled with a happiness and peace that had become totally alien to my life, was an incredible witness. The contrast between her and I was overwhelming.  Embarrassingly so.  I was not happy at this point in my life, how could I be? But I had come to accept it as part of my growing up.  Joy, innocence, zeal for life, those were things for children.  So how was it my sister suddenly seemed so joyful?  So innocent even? She was older than I was, after all! It wasn’t long after that I followed in her footsteps, trading in my drunken nights for her holy mornings.  It was a shockingly easy thing to do.

Looking back now at how quickly my conversion was completed while traveling alone with my freshly illuminated sister, the Parable of the Sower comes to mind:

“The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed…(some) seed fell among the thorns;  and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.”

For most of my life, I was the seed among the thorns.  Friends, fun times, parties; these were my thorns.  Once they were removed, those precious seeds planted by my parents and by God Himself grew quickly and nearly effortlessly.  I’ve tried to think back, to pinpoint exactly what it was that changed me, but it wasn’t a what. It was a Who.  The Holy Spirit finally had more than a crumb of my attention, He had two or three crumbs. Luckily for me, He doesn’t need any more than that.  He changed me from the inside out.  A total 180.

To be honest, it was a fairly traumatic experience.  Day was suddenly night. Down was up. Church was good.  Beer was bad (ok, ok, beer’s not bad but maybe it shouldn’t be our main hobby?) I’d always been a person with a weak moral compass. Rather than due North and South, my compass fluctuated between Fun! and meh.  This didn’t necessarily change just because I was suddenly a card-carrying Christian (where is that card?), I was simply made aware of it.  Scripture tells us that repentance is a gift, and it is, certainly, but it can be a pokey gift.  How can I describe this?  I suddenly saw the world through the eyes of Love, and the difference between how He who is Love saw things, particularly people, and the way I saw things, was stark.  I did not love people.  Let me say that again.  I did NOT love people.  It’s funny how non-Christians often view Christians as unloving and judgemental.  We certainly can be that, and probably have earned that view, sadly, but God, God is NOT unloving and judgemental.  God loves to the breaking point.  God loves so much more, and on such a deeper level than any man, though some come closer than others.  God loves on a level that men find insane.

I remember walking through the streets of some Mexican city, looking at the street vendors, and seeing clearly for the first time what I thought of all these people.  I won’t go too deep into the actual words that went through my mind, but they were not loving words.  Btw, this wasn’t some racist, I don’t like Mexican people thing.  Mine was a very inclusive kind of dislike.  All people groups were included.  Even the people I thought I surely did like, even love, I was often cruel and petty toward.  While I was having this self-realization, or, I should say, the reason I was even having this realization, I was becoming aware of God’s feeling toward these people.  Unlike me, He liked them.  He more than liked them. He LOVED them.  He had flooded the Universe with His love for them.  All of them.  The two knowings, side by side, His nature next to my own, was more than I could bear.  This God I had decided to follow, this Jesus I now proudly confessed, I was NOTHING like Him.  And the knowledge of this absolutely and totally crushed me.

George MacDonald, in one of his Unspoken Sermons, talks about how God told the Hebrews not to even touch Mt Sinai while He spoke to Moses or they would be destroyed, and, according to MacDonald what He meant was, everything they thought they were would be destroyed.  Everything that Egypt had taught them to value would be destroyed.  Everything that they had learned to identify with as their very selves would be destroyed.  And this is what happened to me.  I valued bawdiness.  Christ is pure.  I valued cruel humor.  Christ is kind.  I valued conceit.  Christ is humble.  I had come to see myself as all of these things, had come to believe that these traits were what gave me value. Gave me personhood.  Because who would like me if I didn’t possess all these things?  Not my friends. Not the boys at my college.  And, if they didn’t like me, why would I like myself?

He did just as I feared, you know.  He made it impossible for me to live that life anymore.  He made me uncool.  He fully WRECKED MY LIFE.  He loved me enough to do that.

Jesus-Wrecked-My-Life

christian · Christianity · orthodox · orthodoxy · Uncategorized

Why, Part One

Since I am nothing if not original, I’ve decided to follow in the footsteps of my BFF’s Jenna and Blythe (why, no, the fact that we’ve never met and they don’t know I exist hasn’t hindered our friendship at all, why do you ask?) and write out my Conversion Story.  Excited? Maybe? A little?  Stick with me.

I planned to have this be about why I converted to Orthodoxy from Evangelical Protestantism, but changed my mind and decided to go waaaaay back and explain why I am a Christian in the first place.  Because the two really go together.  It’s been one path, not two, after all.

I was raised in a Christian home (my parents actually met in Bible college) but, at age 9, my parents split up and my siblings and I moved with my mom to SoCal while my dad remained up north.  My mom still loved the Lord and believed in Jesus as the Son of God, but she was going through a searching period and certain things fell by the wayside. (I hope you’re cool with me writing this, Mom!  Love you!)

~Side Note: My mom is very much a Christian these days and actually converted to Orthodoxy about 1 year after our family did.~

 

Fast forward to 15 years old.  My dad, who was still very much a devout Christian, took me and my sister to Italy on a summer vacation.  As I mentioned, my faith at this time was not at all what one would call foundational.  I still prayed, and had even had a few experiences with the Lord, but my worldview was far from Christian.  I was very much a southern California teen, who valued bleached blond hair, my best friend’s rad new car, and losing just 5 more pounds over such laughable things as sanctity and chastity.

One of the stops on this trip was St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  I’m pretty sure I knew who St. Peter was but this stop was nothing more than a tourist attraction in my mind, like a museum or a cannoli cart.  I have some pictures that I took right before we went into the Basilica.  They’re a bunch of selfies (I was taking selfies before selfies were cool) where I’m pursing my lip-gloss soaked lips and trying to look coy, or seductive, or I don’t know what.  It’s hard to look anything more than sad when you’re a short, underdeveloped, semi-anorexic kid posing for the camera, but I was trying with all my might.

rome

(I taught Kylie everything she knows.)

So, eventually, my dad pried the camera out of my red-nailed fingers and we went into the church. My dad mentioned that St. Peter’s bones are supposed to be buried under the church and that tradition holds he asked to be crucified upside down so as not to steal any glory from Christ by emulating His death.  I’m listening, maybe half listening, and I say something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t think he’d like all this then,” referring to the utter magnificence of the Basilica named in his honor.

And then it happened.

Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say, He happened.

God showed up.  I really don’t know how else to describe it and I certainly don’t want to be one of those people who describes a holy event by just repeating, “It was indescribable!  Indescribable!” But it really was. They say that for a reason.  The best way I can present it is by saying that the One who knew all, who knew me, and loved me, on a deeper level than any person had ever come close to knowing or loving me, wrapped me in an invisible embrace and said, “I know you. I forgive you. I love you.

Real quick, before I go on, I want to be clear that I HAVE NO IDEA why God gave me this gift.  I don’t think it was some confirmation that, yes, St. Peter is, in fact, stewing in Heaven over how much he hates his Basilica and someone give that girl a cookie for finally saying so.  I’m Orthodox, for goodness’ sake.  No one loves fancy churches more than Orthodox people. I think it was just…grace.  The whole thing still just stuns me.  I probably think about it every week, if not every day.  The thing that blows me away most of all is I that did absolutely nothing to deserve it.  I wasn’t praying.  I wasn’t reaching out to God in any way and probably hadn’t in quite a while.  I wasn’t living a holy life or even a halfway decent life. Frankly, I wasn’t a decent person.  I was a mean, popular, superficial teenage girl who alternated between drowning in self-hatred and self-adoration.  I was the worst.

Yet, God loved me.  He saw me.  He knew me.

I’d love (so so much) to be able to say that my life changed after this blessed event.  That I went home, threw away all my hidden packs of cigarettes, put away my oil-slick-thick eyeliner and started living my life for Jesus.  Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.  My life changed very little, on the outside.  But a seed, a very powerful seed, had been planted and, when it finally was given a little air to breathe, it would begin to grow.

Christianity

Christian Unschooling

There are some people out there who hate labels.  They just read the title of this post and did a flashmob eye roll.

Honestly, I kind of like labels.  Not in a, “Oh, you’re German? Nazi-cough-cough” kinda way.  But in a, I could tell you I love Jesus and the early Church and the Nicene Creed and standing for long periods of time and especially of saying, “Kyrie Eleison”, ooooorrrrrrr I could just tell you I’m Orthodox.  So. Much. Easier.

So, yeah, I’m an Unschooler.  More than that, actually, I’m a Christian Unschooler. I’m an Orthodox Christian Pisces Year of the Ox Disneyland Lover Unschooler. Label it, baby.  (For all those I just scandalized by mentioning the horoscope stuff, don’t worry.  I’m actually a Taurus. Pisces’ be ca-raaaaazy.)

I wanted to write a post about the Christian-ness (yes, you may use that adverb, Will Shakespeare) of our unschooling because I belong to a handful of of homeschooling groups (unschooling as well as other methods) and every now and then an email will pop up in the non-unschooling groups that reads like this: “I’m at the end of my rope.  I either have to beg or punish my kids to get them to finish their insert subject here.  Sometimes I think I should just give unschooling a try, but isn’t incompatible with Christianity?” Of course, I respond quickly with “No! Unschooling is great! It’s beautiful! It’s a gift from God!” but my little love note is usually lost in the raging sea of unschooling is from hades replies.

And I think I know why.

Most unschooling resources out there are not Christian.  They’re secular. Now, that being said, I have found some to be very inspiring and am indebted in many ways to their authors.  But. But. But. I’ve been scared pantless by some too.

cat(I don’t know why I do these things)

One of the blogs I follow, that I love, recently published a post about how pornography is just great.  Well, she didn’t exactly say it was great but it wasn’t a big deal.  Sure, guys, check it out.  Unschooling sex ed.  High five. Just lock the door, k?

That really freaked me out.  More than that.  It made me sick.  It made me question my decision to unschool.  Which is ridiculous because that kind of thing would never happen in my house.  But it made me feel like the kid standing next to the kid that just ripped one during Silent Reading Time. Like, I need to get as far away from where this person is as humanly possible.

You, an unschooler, let your sons watch porn?  Where did I leave that copy of The Well Trained Mind?

thinking-gorilla(but i can’t read)  You guys didn’t know I was a gorilla, did you? Surprise! Jazz Hands!

A huge part of the desire to write this blog is to tell people that you can unschool and also be a Christian.  You can acknowledge that there is good and evil.  That some things are edifying and some things are sinful and damaging.  Because that’s kind of a hook of the non-Christian unschooling world, right?  That everything is good.  That there are no moral absolutes.  No black and white.  Just grey zones as far as the eye can see.

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And now you know why I kicked you out of the Christian Unschoolers co-op, JT.

I’m going to tell you my inspiration.  I read this thing from this book (the organized lady without 4 small children writes title and page of said book here______) that described the style of a very successful tutor.  She was a retired school teacher who volunteered to help a few hopelessly behind students catch up, and was wildly successful and popular with the kids.  This was her method: she brought them into her house.  And let them do Whatever They Wanted.

Here’s the catch.  She only had edifying things in her home.

Chess boards

Books of poetry

Literature

Atlases

CD player with beautiful collection of music

Books of art

Mathematical books and games

Clay

Paints

You get the picture.  Some people are reading this and are all, “Well, who are you to decide what’s edifying and what’s not?  Let the children decide!  Don’t limit them!  What if they play video games all day but grow up to be a programmer?  Or listen to hip hop and become a DJ?  Or watch Spongebob and mature into a pretty tutu wearing whale?”

Pearl

(If only Mom hadn’t held me back)

And I get that.  I’m not endorsing a bubble boy situation where nothing from the outside world is let into the house (Return to the hell from whence you came, Power Ranger! ) What I am endorsing is freedom within limits.

Kids need freedom.

Kids need limits.

Unschooling can have both.

I put off my decision to unschool for a long time because I thought it meant no limits.  It wasn’t until I met some solid Christian unschoolers that I saw I was wrong.  The ironic thing is when kids have a healthy freedom, they don’t need that many limits.  That’s been my observation, anyway.  So many issues I had with my oldest disappeared when I gave her the freedom she craved.  When I started learning alongside her instead of teaching her.  The child who barely tolerated me reading to her a year ago is now bringing me books for her to read to me.  

I started this homeschool journey a few years ago and have seen many, many families give it up along the way.  I suppose this whole post is a reply to that desperate email.  I would just say to that mom, and to anyone else in her shoes, give unschooling a try.  It’s more than what you think.

*PC footnote here: This post is a shout out to the burnt out mom who would like to try unschooling but feels it’s a violation of her Christian faith, not a declaration that all methods save unschooling are doomed to fail. I don’t believe that.

*PC footnote numero dos: I don’t believe all Germans are nazi’s.  I actually am a little German.  german_garden_gnome

This is me.

 

 

Christianity

John the Baptist or Auntie Em?

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I have a problem.  I love to get angry.  Not just run of the mill ‘Donald Trump’s hair is so stupid’ angry, but righteously angry.  The good and juicy kind.  For an INTP like me, the world is my oyster. There are just soooo many things to be good and pissed about.  Things like shady vaccine manufacturers, organizations that rhyme with Manned Marenthood and Me W, and the misuse of the phrase “Hakuna Matata”.

But, here’s the problem, I’m a Christian.

Well, that’s not really a problem.  That’s the solution of all solutions. But it leaves me feeling kind of Auntie Em at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz when the Witch (before she’s the Witch, she’s just the neighbor who wants to kill Toto) is over at the farm, demanding Toto on a silver platter and Auntie Em’s all full of righteous indignation and she starts to lay into the witch, “I’ve been wanting to say something to you for 20 years!” and she’s pointing and you’re all like, Get her, Auntie Em!  Screw that Toto killing witch!, and then Auntie Em drops her finger and says tremulously, “But I’m a Christian woman so I won’t,” and runs out the room after Dorothy.

That’s basically me.  I am Auntie Em.  You might think that a person who originally titled her blog, “The Gentle Way”, would be, well, gentle.  But I’m not.  Not really.  I want to be.  I feel like I need to be.  But I need encouragement.  That was what the blog title was meant to be.  Well, maybe not encouragement, more like a scheme to ensure I’d feel like a total hypocrite if I wasn’t more gentle.

I’m trying, people.

Ok, moving on.  As we’re speaking of silver platters and all, there’s another side to this dilemma.

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This guy.  (It’s John the Baptist, you heathens. Just kidding I love you)

This guy was not Auntie Em.  Can you imagine if he had been there on the farm when the old witch was trying to sacrifice poor Toto? (Yes, I realize this is a ridiculous hypothetical.) It would have been on.  

And Jesus, let’s not forget about Jesus!  I believe the correct word for what He did is Upbraiding.

Jesus-Money-Changers-in-the-Temple

It’s not like He said, “I’ve been wanting to say something to you moneychangers for years!  But, I won’t, because I’m God.”  That might not have been quite as effective.

I feel like ever since I became a Christian in earnest, I have been striving to become quiet, meek, humble.  Believe me, this is not a task I worked very hard on when I was not a Christian.  But, sometimes I wonder, am I meek?  Or am I just politically correct?

I want to please God.

I want to be like Christ.

I don’t give a damn about being politically correct.

I read about a bazillion blogs (rough estimate).  My two favorites are extreme examples of what I’m discussing here: Penelope Trunk and Stories of An Unschooling Family.

Penelope Trunk is so raw.  I’m pretty sure she would hate me if we ever met but I don’t care.  I love her.  She calls out people left and right.  She obliterates so many of the stupid pc ideals that I hate.   Of course, it helps that she basically has the same values I do (aside from the fact she’s not a Christian) and hates most of the things I hate.  I always like that in a person.

Stories of An Unschooling Family is the total opposite, and I love her, Sue Elvis, for the opposite reason.  She’s so soft.  So gentle.  She never tries to come off as an authority or expert.  She’s like, this works for me, maybe you should try it?  As far as I know, she’s never taken the trouble to call out some figure for their idiocy.  She’s just nice and kind and I am certain she would love me if we ever met.  She’s not Auntie Em.  She’s Glenda.

(I hope that paragraph doesn’t seem cheeky.  I really do love Sue’s blog and try to emulate her in my own home.)

So my question is this: can you be both?  Is it possible to be meek and humble, submissive to man and God while also confronting evil head on?  Is that the answer?  To be wise as serpents and gentle as doves? In my pre-Christian life, I was a serpent with little to no dove qualities.  Since I have become a Christian I have struggled to be all dove, hiding my fangs under my feathers each time they poked through.  I don’t feel like either of these positions is what God is calling me to embody.

If I could read people’s minds and hearts, like Christ,

or if I were just really, really smart, like GK Chesterton,

then maybe I could do it.  Be a clever snake/bird.  But, half the time, I’m not even sure if what I think of as evil is truly evil.  What if I’m wrong?  Or what if I’m right but I drive people away from Christ because they think I’m a jerk and I’m a Christian so all Christians must be jerks?  What if God wants me to not care if people think I’m a jerk?

These are all the questions swirling around in my mind today, and most days.  If you have any insight, I’d love to hear it.