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“As hard as it is to parent small children and to deal with the many crabby dealings that come along, there are the flashes of time that suspend themselves in saturated colors, kites, high above the rest of it all, bobbing and swooping and pulling at us so that we can hold fast and keep running in the grass with a laugh and a squint and a welcome sunburning bridge of the nose.” Mollie Campbell Greene
Sometimes mothering experiences sprinkle down upon you like a gentle rain, the shirt-spotter kind of rain and nothing more. Other times we are overwhelmed and things “come in threes” as my grandmother used to predict that they would. I will never forget my initiation into the world of multiple sick children, a flash flood upon my garden of pre-school parenting, my grandma’s words making sense to me for the first time. My older three children were 4, 2, and 1 when they came down with chickenpox within hours of each other.
The sweltering July heat and Illinois humidity grows bumper corn crops and even bumperer rashes. I don’t believe there was a single crevice on those miserable little bodies that wasn’t affected! Having air conditioning in only one room of our old farmhouse, I set them up on the hideabed with fans blowing the air around them and a baking soda paste covering them from head to toe. I rationed out the Benedryl and fed them popsicles while we watched endless episodes of Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow. Why wasn’t that the week Mr. Rodgers did a special on skin and childhood diseases? And we all waited, day after long day, for Dad to get home from work!
When our children are sick, the world seems to stand still. They are needy and restless, they are not easily entertained and our hearts break for them because they are feeble and cannot understand why they feel the way they do. I remember thinking of Psalm 103: “for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.
I was so blessed by my conversation with Kathie Kordenbrock as she talked about this “dust factor,” the physical limitations of children and the importance of mom’s remembering how children’s bodies work and the needs that are unique to them. As moms, we often forget that children need lots of time for physical activity and just as much if not more time to explore the world around them without being encumbered by “seat work” and pre-scheduled lessons. They need time to think and process the new experiences they have and they need to continually be introduced to new thoughts and ideas as well.
It had been a long time since I taught anything to a 5 year old but while I wandered through the natural history museum with my granddaughter, I consciously bent down to look at the exhibits from her eye level, to see what she was seeing, to answer the many questions she had about the animals and plants we were discovering together. As she talked to me, I realized that it was comforting to her when I explained what we were looking at, for a grandma to know answers to so many things that were new to her. I could feel her small hand relax in mind as I told her about the buffalo and the raccoons and the huge skeleton of the whale that hung above our heads. Children need the assurance that they are being mentored by people who adore them and that no questions are silly and all are worthy of real answers. They need to feel that both their bodies and their minds are safe.
Children also need the comfort of having a family meal time where the food is nutritious, delicious, and almost as satisfying as the conversation around the table. In our American culture, people eat meals in between their other activities; it is the half-time refreshment. We have much to learn from other countries where the meal is the main event and begins with choosing the best ingredients, preparing the food in the kitchen, often together as a family. The culmination is the relaxed time of eating and discussion, the coming together after a long day, each sharing their own day’s experiences.
As my children have begun leaving home, I have come to realize that there was a certain comfort for them around the table. They could count on the fact that, no matter how bad the day had been, supper time would be spent enjoying a meal mom had prepared with them in mind and that we would all be together. And that relaxing time was spent talking and listening to each other, laying the groundwork for greater talking and listening yet to come.
A very important part of feeding our children is making a space for those great thoughts and exchanges to take place, an opportunity for children to stretch their ideas and impressions in a safe and relaxed environment while the whole family is participating in something they enjoy. After all, Ronald Reagan was correct when he said “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”
We also need to remember that comforting a child’s soul is a responsibility we have been given and we ought not to take it lightly. While we spend many hours helping our children memorize Scripture or the catechism and even more hours in actual Bible instruction, comforting a child’s soul, one of our greatest responsibilities as moms and dads, happens when we spend lots of time with them, walking alongside them every single day.
Back when my first children were toddlers, the phrase “quality time vs quantity time” was all the rage. I can remember Phil Donahue blathering on and on, assuring moms that they didn’t need to worry if they were away from their children for 12 or more hours every day as long as the time they spent with their children, no matter how little it was, was “quality” time. This seemed as nonsensical to me then as it does now. It is like saying “well, I can only give you one little bite of food so I will make it steak instead of a bite of a jelly sandwich.” How satisfying would that be? Children need both quality time and quantity time and giving it to them is a duty that God has given to us as parents. Nothing comforts the soul of a child as much as time with a parent who loves and cherishes him. And nothing is as important…no job, no ministry, no special interest, no hobby.
There are various reasons that young adults who were raised in Christian homes abandon their faith but research repeatedly shows that a nurturing, open, and comforting relationship with someone older who has invested lots of time in them is what keeps children true to the Lord.
Organic, natural family life is lived in the presence of comfort and nurturing of both body and soul, giving bread and not a stone to our precious children, turning our hearts to them as unto the Lord.
During the past few months, my Sunday blog stats have shown that many people have arrived here after having done a search on the family integrated church model. Since this seems to be a popular topic presented at homeschooling conventions, I am guessing that many of these visitors are looking for more information than they received the day before at a conference.
I also often receive e-mails from people asking specific questions after they have read the FIC articles and they express their concerns that they have stumbled into abusive church situations themselves. Last week I had several of these inquiries and thought it might be helpful to share these remarks from a spiritual abuse website that contains lots of good information.
You also might want to listen to the series of podcasts I did a year ago with Dr. Cindy Kunsman and check out her blog for more information.
The following was based on Ken Blue’s book Healing Spiritual Abuse:
Are you still wondering if your church is showing symptoms of being an abusive group? Are you talking yourself out of leaving because your church may have virtues that seem to compensate for its possible abuses? You may not be able to see right now how being in a controlling, abusive system is affecting you, but it will damage the central core of who you are. And I can assure you it will affect your children at some point. To help you make a clear assessment, here is a review of the symptoms of an abusive religious group according to Jesus in Matthew 23:
1. Abusive leaders base their spiritual authority on their position or office rather than on their service to the group. Their style of leadership is authoritarian.
2. Leaders in abusive churches often say one thing but do another. Their words and deeds do not match.
3. They manipulate people by making them feel guilty for not measuring up spiritually. They lay heavy religious loads on people and make no effort to lift those loads. You know that you are in an abusive church if the loads just keep getting heavier.
4. Abusive leaders are preoccupied with looking good. They labor to keep up appearance. They stifle any criticism that puts them in a bad light.
5, They seek honorific titles and special privileges that elevate them above the group. They promote a class system with themselves at the top. They desire to be number one and they require everyone to refer to them as “Pastor” or “Dr.”
6. Their communication is not straight. their speech becomes especially vague and confusing when they are defending themselves.
7. They major on minor issues to the neglect of the truly important ones. They are conscientious about religious details but neglect God’s larger agendas.
So, a week into artisan bread baking and I am totally hooked! I have tried to allow the dough to chill overnight before I bake a loaf, as it is much easier to shape and it almost takes on a slight sourdough quality. I never could have imagined having fresh bread every single day with such little effort! I have been mixing up the 13 cup of flour batch, which yields 6 one pound loaves and intend to get my fridge organized enough that I can have several different types of doughs stored so I can bake different ones on different days.
I have also discovered that my oven doesn’t hold the steam as well as I would like so I have been spritzing the loaves with a water bottle every few minutes during the first 10 minutes of baking. Other than that, it truly takes less than 5 minutes to shape a loaf and then take it out to cool after it bakes. 5 minutes of hands-on time a day!
The website has so many great ideas, too, and more recipes. AND, they are coming out with their second book in October which looks like it includes some gluten free recipes. Tonight I plan to try the crusty hard dinner rolls. And I must buy a pizza peel when I get a chance.
I baked the rye recipe yesterday and it was fantastic. We had BLT’s last night with garden fresh tomatoes and this bread…it was awesome. Here is the recipe exactly as I baked it:
2 cups lukewarm coffee
1 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 TBS granulated yeast
1 1/2 TBS coarse salt
2 TBS molasses
1 1/2 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup rye flour
5 1/2 cups white flour
whole caraway seeds
cornstarch wash (1 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in about 1/2 cup water)
Mix together first 8 ingredients in container and cover. Allow to sit on counter for 2 hours. At this point can be stored in fridge. Pull off grapefruit sized piece of dough and shape by hand. (instead of flouring hands, rinse with water so dough doesn’t stick to them.) Place on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal. Allow to rest uncovered for 1 hour. Preheat oven at 400 degrees with baking stone on top shelf and a pan in the bottom for water. Slash tops of loaves with knives and brush with cornstarch wash. Sprinkle with seeds. (Next time I will place a TBS or so in the dough itself, too.) Put loaves in oven. Pour 1 cup water into pan on lower shelf. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9