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Choose your battles

How many times have we comforted ourselves with our decision to let something go by reminding ourselves that we’re still in control, citing that ever-popular saying, “I’m choosing my battles?” We say, I chose not to engage in this battle. I will choose another battle. I am commander-in-chief of my house. I am the alpha.

I'm in charge here!

If it's on a mug, it's the truth.

I mentioned to my husband the other day that I was choosing a battle with my 17-month-old over some trivial issue – I’m pretty sure it had to do with some bath toy and bringing it, soaking wet, out of the tub to carry around the house – and that’s when it struck me: why am I considering this a battle … and why do I have to choose one?

As I began really thinking about choosing battles, I started to get frustrated at myself for buying into the hype that there have to be any battles between my family members and me. Why is that saying ingrained in my head, and why do I believe it? Do I really look at my parenting, my marriage, and my daily interactions with people as a bunch of battles? Moreover, do I look at myself as the center of this battle-filled universe, so important and all-powerful that I can actually choose which battles will happen?

Don’t get me wrong – I understand the underlying goodness behind the quote – the fact that we can choose not to become angry or frustrated at a loved one, or fight over inconsequential things. But to me, that is simply being kind and loving and patient – you know, allowing for the fruits of the spirit to shine through our sinful nature.

Splashing in the fountain

A tempting choice for a battle ... he was drenched all afternoon long!

I decided that I don’t like the idea of choosing battles, simply because it implies that you will inevitably choose one. Why choose any? Why do there have to be battles at all? I firmly decided – chose? – that I would no longer view being kind to my family and friends in the face of frustration as choosing not to engage in battle, but rather simply being human and engaging in life. There would be no “next times.” When we love each other, we live by 1 Corinthians 13, which specifically states:

“4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

How can we keep no record of wrongs, but choose our battles, which insinuates we will be picking a fight in the future, based on skipping a potential one in the present? These two ideas can’t co-exist. And as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

Living in bondage

Recently I was perusing tumblr, looking at random, funny photos and basically wasting a few minutes of my day, when I stumbled across a video clip from a much larger documentary about a guy my age who was imprisoned in a North Korean gulag since birth. What floored me was that he didn’t know anything existed outside those walls. He assumed that was it, that was life, that was all there is to this world. He never thought to hate the guards who imprisoned him and his family.

“From the day he was born in 1982 in Camp No. 14 in Kaechon until he escaped in 2005, Shin had known no other life. Guards beat children, tortured grandparents and, in cases like Shin’s, executed family members. But Shin said it did not occur to him to hate the authorities. He assumed everyone lived this way.” The New York TimesBorn and raised in a North Korean gulag*

Tears filled my eyes and I wanted to march into North Korea and fling open the doors of the prisons and let these people know that there’s more. There’s more than the tangible things they see with their eyes. There are beautiful trees and gorgeous lakes and endless amounts of food and water. There are family units that live together and love together. There are schools and businesses and opportunities and beaches … there is so much more than you know! I want to grab the five-year-old kids working in the mines and experiencing hard labor and run away with them and show them what life is really about outside of the gray prison they’ve been in since birth – the only thing they’ve ever known.

Shin Dong Hyuk
Shin Dong Hyuk describing the gulag, courtesy of the DailyNK.com

I took a nap that day (!) and had a dream that somehow I collected enough people to burst through those stone walls and rescue the families trapped in bondage. I couldn’t imagine a life in the darkness like that. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that they couldn’t know something else existed. Something better. Something different. That torture and pain and suffering wasn’t normal.

“I thought it was natural that I was in the camp because of my ancestors’ crime, though I never even wondered what that crime was. I never thought it was unfair.”

When I read this sentence, this quote from Shin, I started thinking about this prison a little differently. We are suffering in this imperfect world because of our ancestors’ decisions. A lot of us don’t think it’s even unfair. Heck, some people assume sin is natural and do not think they need to be delivered from the bondage of their sins – from these imperfect, imprisoned lives they live as slaves to sin.

All those thoughts, those feelings I had about these people stuck in prisons, not knowing the outside world, not knowing that something better exists, a bright world outside the prison walls … that’s us. That’s all of us. That is my neighbor and my classmate and Hollywood stars and grocery store cashiers. They go through life just assuming this is all there is. This is as good as it’s gonna get. This is the best that your life will ever be. It’s natural and normal and it.

Paper or plastic
“Paper or plastic?”

As Christians, we know this isn’t true. We know that there’s more than these “prison” walls of our lives. There’s a spirit world, and we will be there one day. We will exist in a place without sin, without pain, without grief or suffering. Why are we not (figuratively) bursting through the doors of our neighbor and friends’ houses and hearts and exclaiming this good news? We should be shouting from the rooftops.

“Everything he told me about the outside world – the food, China – was fascinating,” Shin said. “I loved his stories. Once I heard about the outside, I thought I would go crazy. I wanted to get out. I couldn’t focus on work. Every day was an agony.”

THIS! This is what we should be exclaiming. This should be our attitudes as Christians. As Scotty Smith said this morning on Twitter, “Our chief end in life isn’t to have people “get” us. It’s to glorify God & enjoy him forever. Let’s “get” that.” Honestly, we should be glorifying God every day. We shouldn’t be ashamed to let everyone know what He’s done for us and that something better exists. We should be going crazy, longing for the revelation of God’s glory.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. -Romans 8:18-22

I challenge you then, as I am challenging myself, to not hold back in sharing your faith. Fling open the doors. Tell everyone the Good News. Why would you keep the knowledge of such a world – a perfect and sinless world – hidden from those who are suffering?

*All quotes regarding Shin Dong Hyuk/North Korea in this post are taken from this The New York Times article.

Out of context!

Don’t you just hate it when you’re misunderstood? As a person who, despite my outgoing attitude, is really quite insecure on the inside, I always sincerely have a person’s best interest at heart when having a conversation. When someone misinterprets the meaning of my words, whether due to the fact that I have chosen my verbiage poorly or whether from their preconceived notion of what they think I think, being misinterpreted just plain sucks. I absolutely, utterly, thoroughly, loathe having my good intentions misunderstood/misinterpreted/misanything.

misunderstood-spider

Poor, misunderstood spider.

I also feel the same way about scripture misinterpretation.

Let me begin (well, I’ve already begun, but let me continue my post and begin my new paragraph) by saying that I am green, at best. I do my best to read and study and ask questions and learn as much as I can about scripture and who Jesus is and what He desires of His disciples. I don’t pretend to have all the answers and try to approach each biblical conversation with an open heart and a student’s mind. But I do notice when scripture is blatantly taken out of context. I not only hate it, I don’t understand it.

Most things that people take out of context in the Bible are, dare I say, easy, even for me, to understand correctly, when read it context. Why are so many people taking verses out of context, parading them as truth, and somehow getting hundreds of thousands of people on the bandwagon? At first I assumed it was merely due to the fact that many out-of-context verses provide reassuring, sweet notes of love and acceptance and warm fuzzies. Then, nope, there’s the whole Armageddon thing. Then I think, maybe it’s just people who don’t really attend church and just read things online. Then, nope, it’s people who, in many cases, are part of a congregation of believers. Some (gasp) even in the theology-is-paramount denomination of the PCA.

So today, when perusing the blog of Rachel Held Evans, I came across a post where she blasts fans of biblical womanhood, stating that what they are really supporting is 1950s, pre-feminist America, and in doing so they are misinterpreting the scripture (mainly the story in Esther).

1950s supressed woman

What a loving, 1950s husband!

While I believe many of the points she makes are valid, she pushes her view by naming things she lists under the definition of “biblical womanhood”:

“Technically speaking, it is biblical for a woman to be sold by her father to pay off debt (Exodus 21:7), biblical for her to be forced to marry her rapist (Exodus 22:16-17), biblical for her to remain silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), biblical for her to cover her head (1 Corinthians 11:6), and biblical for her to be one of many wives (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).” Rachel Held Evans, Esther and Vashti

I had to do a double-take. Since when do we call the Old Testament laws biblical, as in, “we must follow these laws today to be considered a biblical woman and that’s what ladies mean when they say they want to be a biblical wife?” I think Romans 1:17ff does a good job of blasting that idea out of the water.

I am hoping I am not misinterpreting Ms. Evans here, and I invite anyone reading to show me a new way to understand that paragraph of “examples” of biblical womanhood, because to me this is one of those take-the-Bible-out-of-context-to-prove-my-point kind of moments. If I am, my heart breaks over misinterpreting my Christian sister in her own quest for understanding what the Bible is teaching us about being the type of wives that Jesus instructs us to be. But I have a sneaking suspicion these verses are just being thrown out to “confirm” her opposing beliefs of Ms. Driscoll and her quest of discovering biblical mandates for Christian women.

retro women kitchen

Can't we all just get along ... in the kitchen ...?

Ms. Evans concludes her post with this comment: “The real story, it seems, is much more interesting than the ones we invent.” I would say, a thousand times over, isn’t that true about the verses you blatantly plucked out of context to prove your own point against Ms. Driscoll? How amazing is it to put those Old Testament laws together with Romans 1 and study the enhanced meaning behind the reason that information is in the Bible? It doesn’t exist there simply for us to gloss over and say, “Hey, that was then, this is now. Obviously those are just a cultural reference and are not meant for us today.” Instead, it is written so that we may see how their foolish hearts were darkened and God gave them over to their sinful ways, and how much more then we need our savior Jesus! That is much more powerful than throwing the verses out with a simple that-culture-doesn’t-apply-to-us-modern-biblical-women umbrella.

Comments and discussion encouraged and welcomed!

Just the other day (tangent: I always say “the other day” when I mean “something that happened in the past,” from birth til this morning, but really this just happened like two days ago). SO, just the other day, I overheard my husband telling his mother something about our son Joshua, and he concluded it with, “You know how that kid is.”

Joshua after bath

Thumbs up for silly hair!

It got me thinking about how unique Joshua is. From birth, he had a personality all his own – the reactive looks he gave us and his surroundings, the things he found funny, the items that he found fascinating – all of those things are the product of an individual mind, a unique perspective of beauty and a special heart that is all his own.

I like to read. A lot. I read and read and read. I educate myself through research and tend to err on the side of “too much information.” When I found out we were expecting Joshua, I started reading everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and babies. What I found is an underlying theme that most babies are cookie-cutter. All of them do this or act like that or think in these ways. I can agree only in the most general of terms: all babies should be shown love, be on schedules, feel secure, and get ample food and sleep … after that, I find that no two are ever the same in what they need and want! It’s something that really started to bother me about all of these baby experts.

Joshua and Santa Claus

It is a requirement for all children under the age of two to be properly frightened by a mall Santa Claus.

Then I discovered the “What to Expect” forums. They have forums for Working Moms and Stay-at-Home Dads and Preemie Mommies and Mommies of Multiples and September Babies and Aries Babies and Houston Babies … I’m telling you, there is a forum for anything and everything. What I noticed in these forums is that many posts start off as, “I know the book says this, but my baby is doing this. Anyone else experience this?” These posts are met with dozens of responses about how different each baby is and how each one responds to the “recommended solution” differently.

The thing I found ironic is that these message boards are on a site that’s based on a book that tells you what all babies are like. But I digress.

So I find myself really marveling in what God has done in Joshua’s life. All the tiny little details that He wove together and orchestrated just so to make him one unique and amazing person. I have grown up hearing that everyone is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and how He numbers all the hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30) and how His hands shaped us (Job 10:8). I started praying in a different way for my little man last night … meditating on these verses and the realization at how marvelous he is as a creation of God, in His image, but completely independent of any other person on this earth.

I thanked God for his sense of humor – how he has already decided doing “impressions” of people are funny.

I thanked God for his kind heart – he has started “feeding” his stuffed animals lunch each day.

I thanked God for his sweet temperament – he tries hard to understand his parents and obey without (much of) a fuss.

I thanked God for his love of people – he waves, smiles, and blows kisses at people who engage with him, even strangers.

I started naming little things – like the way he gives me a big, cheesy smile when he sees the camera flash, or the way he sweetly says, “Mama, please” when he wants to read a book. And the fact that he loves reading books with his mommy! I thanked God for the way his hair curls around his ear, for his pretty blue eyes, for the way his toes smell so bad even if he just had a bath hours before (it provides a fun gigglefest each time Mommy or Daddy smells them). The list went on and on, until I woke up this morning and realized I fell asleep praising God for the uniqueness of my beautiful baby boy.

Joshua reading

Reading in the car takes a lot of concentration.

I encourage you, then, to thank God for all the tiny, little things about your kiddo, your spouse, your siblings, anyone in your life – you’ll find that you’ll never be short on things to be thankful for, and it is good for your heart because you’ll wake up appreciating that person in a whole new, tiny yet significant, light.

Happy praying!

On blogging

Wow, it’s 2012 (is this post cliche yet? Have you stopped reading?) I’m serious though – I can’t believe it’s the New Year. I haven’t even gotten adjusted to the Old Year – moving to Ocala, returning to Orlando again, having a child, leaving a career path, starting a ministry, becoming a step-sister, and church planting. Did all that really happen in the past year or so? I feel like I’m on a roller coaster (more cliche blogging!). But I really do. I’m still spinning and free-falling and loop-de-looping. This year really has been full of things.

Joshua Plugging His Ears
Stop talking about roller coasters, Mommy, I’m getting dizzy.

I started to write adventures there instead of things. But really it’s not anything different than what most people go through … births, deaths, moves, new family members, fights, falling in love. Life in and of itself is an adventure, and the things that go on inside of it make up our own “Choose Your Own Adventure” journeys.

I checked out my Annual Report from WordPress … what fun to read through my stats over the past year. I realize I haven’t been blogging since we moved back to Orlando. I think it’s been too long. At first I was overwhelmed – there’s so much to say! So much has happened! But blogging is about the present, mostly, and I didn’t feel the need to fill you in from birth til May last year, so I’m guessing my faithful readers (all 7 of you?) will forgive me if I just pick up with the current and let it flow from there.

Joshua and Daddy
Enjoying a walk in our new Orlando neighborhood.

I’ve been busy doing freelance transcription work in my “spare” time – during Joshua’s naps and at night – and I’ve been enjoying the stimulation and also bringing in a bit o’ income. Lately I’ve been transcribing sermons, and I’ve fallen in love with the preaching of a certain pastor who has been encouraging his congregation to really seek the Lord’s will for their journey. He speaks with a lot of illustrations and stories but also educates with the Greek origin of the words and uses other scripture as commentary. I feel like my walk with God is inadvertently growing deeper through this project, and I have been working on keeping an even more positive outlook on the next chapter in my family’s adventure.

Mark has been working diligently on his new ministry, The E3 Initiative – providing worship programs for churches that can’t afford it. Could you imagine not having worship music at church? To me, it is essential, and to Mark, it is a calling. So, from here on out, we will be poorer, but richer, because doing God’s work is so much more fulfilling than I ever could imagine. The work is harder than I thought, but I’ve found that I don’t really mind that. I’m happy to do it. I strongly encourage you to consider giving to this mission. Yes, it’s a mission – but a mission to the people here in America who are hurting and in need of a complete church service and the passion and emotion and heart-stirring that music brings to the soul. If you want to eat out one less time this month, or you have some Christmas cash, feel free to head over to Mark’s website and send in a donation to help fund his good work in the churches in central Florida.

E3
The E3 Initiative logo, designed by my talented hubby.

So I will continue blogging this year, and I won’t beat myself up if I don’t post often enough; nor will I stop if the days stretch too far in between entries. That is my resolution to myself and I’m going to stick with it! I’ve also decided I won’t box myself in with just Mommy posts or Church posts or Whatever posts … I am going to write about what I feel like getting off my chest, and hope that you enjoy it as much as I do contemplating it!

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas
Merry (belated) Christmas from the DeHaven family!

If you want to peruse my Annual Report, I’ve opted to make it public. You can find it here.

Told ya so

Aren’t those the best words to utter? Even if you never actually say them out loud, just smiling to yourself, knowing that you were right … it’s a proud moment.

Today I was feeling a healthy dose of “I’m so smart” as I deleted our Netflix account. Months ago I had been casually talking about Netflix in conversation with friends, and how I think they’ll split the two services (streaming and mailers) and sell off the mailers portion of the company for a significant profit. No one believed me.

I. Was. Right. (!) Except that Netflix is keeping their mailing service in-house for now, but with a different CEO, and calling it the oh-so-stupid Quikster.

Not that I’m happy about being right; in fact, I wish they would have kept it as-is for a little while longer. In my opinion, it’s just too early and there’s not enough decent quality on the streaming end of things to stand alone … and the doubled price to keep the same service we all have currently is insane. The blend was beautiful, and they ruined it!

Blockbuster, here we come!

Can I graduate?

I recall this song, Graduate, by Third Eye Blind (that has nothing to do with actual graduation; it focuses on graduating from being a “punk”) as I reflect on all of the graduations taking place this year.

I remember attending my younger brother’s graduation from middle school (he’s 24 now) and how all the mothers were dressed up, the kids were in their Sunday best, and they received diplomas and awards. Heck, back when I graduated from fifth grade I was awarded with “The Fruit of the Spirit Award.”

(That’s right — I’m loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and have self-control. I even got a trophy!)

I recently attended my younger sister’s graduation and marveled at the largeness of the ceremony (post here).

When did this all start? I honestly feel like it’s a newer thing, but I remember graduating from fifth grade. I know there are kindergarten graduations out there, and I know my sister had a pre-school graduation ceremony back in the late 90s.

Gerber even has milestones (baby, sitter, crawler, toddler, etc.) and the food that toddlers eat are called “Graduates.” So I guess now kids can graduate from sitting to standing, from standing to walking …

…and speaking of Gerber, here is my cute kid in the most recent Gerber contest. He didn’t win the scholarship or the modeling gig, but I think he’s adorable anyway.

Have we always “graduated” our kids from inconsequential things? Do we throw around the term too loosely? Is it getting out of hand, or has it always been that way?

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