It’s crazy to think about the days in which we live. Most parents out there are giving a lot of thought to what kind of world their kids will inherit. Though it could be the biggest downer right now, it’s encouraging to remember that all people of every society that ever existed faced their own special set of challenges (Sodom and Gomorroah, Babylon, Rome, etc.). But, BUT. . . God is faithful.

That being said, having a counterattack, or “preventive” response to life in general is always good, especially for the young ones we are raising. To think that most of their lives they will look us in the eye makes it apparent that a) time is of the essence, and b) what we do/say/think/ etc. can all play a part in creating the kind of home we really want.

Being again the practical one, I thought I’d share some ideas I’ve gathered over the years that seem to help my husband and I keep our priorities straight.

1. God First: Home has always been, and will always be, God’s original idea. He started a family with two, and set up circumstances for many families over the eons to come to know and bless Him. So, home can’t be what it was always intended to be without His breath and fingerprints.

2. Run the Circles: Started by my hubby (yes, he’s a preacher, but every husband and daddy are the perfect ones to do this for their own family), we do what we call “run the circles.” Lorenzo has written about this and talked about it (a lot) but in a nutshell, it means we talk (a lot) about upcoming decisions. If you asked one of our kids (without any prior warning) if we discuss things (a lot) you’d win a nickel each time. Even if it’s with rolled eyes, they’d probably all respond in the affirmative. And the “circles” represent capacity, core values, and calling. Capacity is how much time, money, etc. are available, core values means will this decision line up with our beliefs and convictions, and calling refers to our mission statement and direction we feel God has asked us to go. If an idea or upcoming decision doesn’t line up with all of our circles, we usually don’t go forward. Yes, lots of talking is needed but it always pays off.

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3. Family Table: This is one of our favorite things to do as a family, yet one of the very hardest to pull of consistently. (We aim to make it happen at least four or five days/week.) This can be around a meal, but not necessarily. It’s a cue to everyone to gather around and be ready to pay attention. We might read a devotional, discuss the events of the day, ask for feedback for a decision (run the circles), or talk about some kind of current event. Basically, it’s our time to “huddle” and rekindle a team spirit between all of us, young or older. :) Our idea for family table was inspired by a statistic I read many years ago about the National Merit Scholar Contest. Nationwide, the top common factor between all of the winners wasn’t schooling, economics, or IQ. The winners all shared the distinct advantage of eating supper around the table with their family on a consistent basis. Powerful. Eating together, facing each other (and not technology), discussing the day and interacting with each other is a very enriching habit. It teaches children communication and patience as well as plain old etiquette and manners.

4. Sabbath Rest: Everyone’s schedule can get crazy. So just as we schedule church, events, games, date nights, etc., we also try to weekly have down time. It’s not a strict Sabbath in the Jewish sense but an effort to relax, take a nap, turn off phones and media, and enjoy being together. Amazingly, it really recharges everyone, especially the parents!

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5. Family Projects: We love to pick out a project like a big cleaning job or painting a room and plan a day for it. Especially if it’s a tough job, the more we involve everyone the merrier it can be. And we always plan for the reward after we’re done. Pizza, the park, or a special movie. It’s super-motivating for everybody and gets some work done at the same time.

6. Watching Our Words: I had a magnet years ago that gave lots of ideas for things to say to our children, like “You’re beautiful, Way to go! and How did you get so smart?” It seems silly to need a reminder for something like that, but the truth is we can be nicer to perfect strangers at the grocery store than our own precious family. Through the good, bad, and ugly, keeping our words positive and loving will go farther than we can ever imagine. This includes teaching our kids to say “I’m sorry, I was wrong” as well as being able to say it ourselves! The words we speak are like starting a garden. Over the years we can reap a bountiful harvest in the relationships we cherish. And just like that garden and the ugly weeds that “grow roots to China” without water or fertilizer, unkind or harsh and ugly words can try to choke out the harvest we’re hoping for. It takes a lot of focus and it’s frankly a God-thing but just takes practice and more practice. And since I haven’t attained a perfect record yet, practice and more practice! :)

Bad moments happen. Just like any “group” we’re ever a part of, problems are real and they exist. THERE IS NO PERFECT FAMILY. It’s easy to believe that lie and feel we can’t make any progress. But don’t give up. My husband and I have had so many moments of tears, despair, fear, you name it. More than I could count. But if I put all the bad moments in a basket, it wouldn’t compare to just one of our beautiful moments. And over the years, those beautiful moments build the thing we call a family.  And even when we hit the grandparent stage I’m sure it will still be true that the days are long but the years are short. Each family is unique and wonderful in their own right. Every day is precious and can’t be taken for granted. None of us will look alike and we all have our unique contribution to give.

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Tonight or in the morning, hug the people you love most and hold them close. And keep up the great work. God’s mercies are new every morning. For every family, every child, and every mom and dad.

Jennifer :)

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WARNING: This post contains information and references about married sexuality.  It is wholesome and appropriate for the context of marriage. It is geared mostly towards women, but could be helpful for men as well.

When I was a few months away from getting married at the young age of 21, a special woman named Anna asked me over for coffee.  She had a wonderful porch swing we liked to sit on for long talks. That day, I wasn’t expecting the turn our conversation took.  But twenty years later, living in the middle of my dream for a family, I still can’t thank God enough for her advice.

Leading up to the wedding, the last thing on my mind was imagining a time I would want to refuse my husband’s advances.  I still laugh thinking about it.  No, I certainly wasn’t about to embark on our honeymoon with a big, fat, stop sign on my face.  But that’s where my friend’s excellent advice began . . .

Be available: You’ve probably heard the phrase “Women get married for love, and men get married for sex.” Though it may be a bit blunt, there’s truth to this statement according to how males and females are wired.  It’s silly to get married and be crazy about your husband and fighting being all over each other before you get married, then expect that desire in him to change.  And the covenant of marriage is the awesome and holy place for this to happen.  It’s blessed and precious, and that’s a mindset change in this crazy society. So ladies, that means our hearts should try be open to receive our husband’s advances, even if it’s the last thing on our mind.

Be engaged:  So you have the grocery list and the kid’s calendar of games running through your mind, along with what’s for dinner and the pile of laundry on your bedroom floor.  Shocking as it is, all of these trivial things can inch up to the top of our priorities.  Real-life circumstances like these are out to keep you from being a great team.  And all of those “things” grabbing your attention won’t matter anyway if everything falls apart between you. (Yes, they’ll have to be done, but you get my drift.) Placing priority on your husband’s needs can completely erase the workload off of his shoulders, resulting in a calmer and sweeter atmosphere in your home.  And when he trusts that your open to him, being tense and grumpy can become a thing of his past.  Hey! What about our workload and stress? Well, don’t forget, I’m a woman writing this, so more on that later.

Be passionate: It’s easy to get down in the dumps doing the seemingly mundane everyday.  It’s also easy to forget what we have.  I’m sure those who have been married many years would look back and see that they never imagined their lives flying by so furiously.  My hubby and I like to say “NOW is the good old days.” (I know, bad grammar, but I like how it sounds!) Maybe those significant moments, the ones that take our breath away, need to happen more often.  Sending a love note (or text, lol), taking a trip, or even prettying up your bedroom can all help create a special, passionate moment.

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Be playful: My very favorite quote ever is from the newer Sabrina movie: “Sometimes more isn’t better, sometimes it’s just more.”  Though this sounds contradictory to my previous thought, they both work for different seasons.  Even if you’re eating mac and cheese instead of steak, you’re still eating.  So, making the most of a little time without high expectations can really help.  Hanging off the chandeliers is great when it works, but it could be a bit uncomfortable on a consistent basis. . .

Be a pursuer:  This thought is my favorite revelation on our subject.  It’s one thing to be available and engaged as a response to your husband, but it’s another thing entirely to actively pursue him. How did we act walking down the aisle? What were we thinking about riding away from the crowd that day? Hopefully, you were thinking about jumping his bones! How do movies and Nicholas Sparks novels and 1980’s love songs keep your attention? Someone is in hot pursuit! Surely the beautiful connection given to us in marriage by God Himself can exceed those cheap imitations! You were pursuing him with all of your heart (and body) at one time not so far back. Why not run that race again?

The trick of nourishing a husband and wife relationship is retreating in our minds to our landmarks and dwelling on the sweet memories until, amidst all of the stuff that makes up life on earth, we can go back to that place our covenant was struck. This means forgiveness of wrongs, taking the high road when we’re hurt, and being willing to be open and vulnerable. And let me add here, that means we girls would be extremely grateful to see a hubby giving the kids a bath or washing dishes, or volunteering for a grocery trip or Wal-Mart run (ugh).  It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg and which came first. Either one of you can make the first step, so why not be the one that does?

No, keeping our marriages on the right track isn’t for the fainthearted.  But it’s worth it. Every day.  Every year. Until forever.

Jennifer :)

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With our twentieth wedding anniversary quickly approaching, along with our first daughter’s high school graduation, my hubby and I decided to take a bit of inventory.  (Marriage inventory, that is.) Add in to the mix my forty-second birthday and a fun supper date with a young and sweet thirty-something couple and our wheels really got to turning.  Which direction they are turning . . well, that remains to be seen.

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The truth be told, during our inventory I realized I am a bit disappointed.  See, I thought that we’d be better at it by now.  You know, at being married!  Thinking like the oldest child, type-A, overachiever that I am, the list I had in my mind of my heady expectations of perfection is shot full of holes! (Not bullet holes, mind you. And no hating on type-A’s please.  We cannot help being the children of first-time parents, can we?)

I guess you can see where I’m headed. In short, my dreams for the ultimate utopia of married bliss are dashed.  After twenty years in the game, I don’t know much at all, but I do know better than that.

I no longer want what I hoped for.  Why?

I’ve got something better.

Maybe my mom and dad are laughing right now reading this.  Being married forty-five years next month, they already know.  But they were the same kind of love-struck kids in 1970 and they probably had the same problem.  But they’ve lasted, and we will, too.

The problem?  Wishing and hoping and counting on a relationship without issues.  Without challenges.  Smooth sailing.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Can’t you see the glassy ocean carrying a beautiful cruise liner into paradise? Ahhhhhhh.

And suddenly, there’s a bump here and there.  Then the wind starts howling.  The rain starts pouring. And an iceberg the size that tripped up the Titanic starts to rear it’s ugly head.

Wow, I thought we were SOOOO much alike! I thought we always agreed!   Deciding on a restaurant was our favorite thing to do! Our ideas and principles lined up like missing puzzle pieces and we finished each other’s sentences (or “sandwiches,” if you have a little girl who likes “Frozen”)!

Here’s the real problem.  Smooth sailing doesn’t exist.  It might exist for stretches of time.  Certain seasons of our relationship can feel easy and stress-free.  But we will never appreciate those seasons without the times of hellacious (is that a word?) scrambling for dear life.  Not. Going. To. Happen.

Accepting that (that marriage isn’t always smooth sailing) has been the beautiful reward of twenty years. My new and improved picture of wedded bliss is a couple of fiercely committed lovers, scraped up and worn out, with a look of triumph in their eyes and holding on to each other for dear life.  (Oh, and I forgot, the boat is also full of our life’s work so far . . .eleven beautiful and perfect offspring. But I must talk about them in another post . . .)

So, since you know I’m the practical girl, I want to share here one of my favorite revelations for we married people.  Here it is.

A great marriage usually includes a flag. And a flagpole.

Let me explain.

Remember that part about being “on the same page about everything?” Liking the same things, even the same movies and restaurants (speaking of the trivial)? Well, yes.  But, that is B. M. (Before marriage, before you think I meant something else!) Yes, before the knot is tied, it’s EASY to agree.  But the challenge comes once the covenant is struck.  Then, a very wonderful thing begins to happen.

We realize how very different we are. Politics, religion, family dynamics and dysfunction, children and in-laws, you name it. While trying to sort all of these things out, one spouse will most likely start to resemble a flag.

Flags are easy going, extroverted, charismatic, dreamy, visionaries, never sit still, fly by the seat of their pants, you get the idea.  But here’s the downside for the flag.  They can literally fly off into oblivion and you never see them again.  They can be flighty (literally) and lack commitment.

Enter the flagpole.  

Flagpoles are solid.  Centered.  Stable and self-directed, disciplined, “rhythm and bass” at it’s finest.  But before you think the flagpole is the one who saves the day, they can also be rigid and real sticks-in-the-mud. (And if you’re still wondering which one I tend to be in our relationship, let’s just say I’ve been described by my hubby (in public) as “gray and boring.” Yes, he meant it as a compliment.)

I know you can see the big picture at this point.  The flag needs a flagpole.  The flagpole needs a flag. You’ve never seen a beautiful flag or nice, stable flagpole operating all by their lonesome and getting anything done.  In fact, you’d never see a darn thing.  The flag would be off in Never-Neverland, and you’d walk right by the flagpole and never even know it was there!

So, I must repeat myself (I hope you’re still here).  What I hoped for would have fallen completely short of what I’ve been given. Supporting my flag (and him supporting me) has given us guts, victories and more “muscles.”  Yes, we’ve got a few scars as well.  But who doesn’t?

I hope you’re hearing the “Eye of the Tiger” in your head by now.  If you’re a husband or wife in the throes of a storm, don’t give up.  Know that your differences only make you stronger.

Flags, keep flying high. And flagpoles, keep holding them up. It’s worth the ride.

J and L 4th of July

After twenty years, I can say that.

Jennifer :)

 

 

 

 

My husband and I were eating in one of our favorite restaurants here in small town western Oklahoma (i.e., there’s not a lot of choices out here).  Even though the variety of places to go is limited, we love knowing most everyone in the couple of really good places to eat.  And all wives and moms know getting a meal out that you didn’t cook already (deceptively) makes it taste better!

If you know me, you know that I might ask odd questions.  It doesn’t bother me a bit and I try really, really hard to sound respectful and polite.  Even though Lorenzo would rather die a thousand deaths than inquire about some of the things I do, it doesn’t mean I can’t ask a question, right?

Oddly enough, I have asked THIS particular question in this specific restaurant five times now.  It’s been a bit of an experiment.  And let me say, I LOVE every single girl and guy who has helped us as a waiter so PLEASE know, regardless of the turn this story takes, I promise, we’ll still have date night at your eating place!

So, yes, it’s been a question I’ve asked five times, with trepidation, curiosity, and especially, because I want and need a truthful answer.

Here’s the question:  Do you have REAL butter for my sweet potato?  

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(homemade butter from Jersey grass-cows, yum!)

Do you see any reason for my husband’s alarm?  I mean, that’s an easy question to answer, right?

You’d be surprised.  And remember, I said I still love this restaurant and the people there, I just want to make a point!

Here’s some of the different responses I received.

1.  Sure!  (They brought me margarine.)

2.  Hmmm.  Let me check and I’ll let you know.  (They did check and they said they didn’t have any and they brought me margarine.)

3.  I think we do! (They did check and they said they did have some and they brought me margarine.)

4.  One person asked me why I would want butter.  She wasn’t aware there was such a thing. (Just kidding.  She knew there was such a thing, but was not sure why it should be in the kitchen of their restaurant.)

To be fair, I am inserting a teensy-weensy bit of sarcasm here, but for the most part, everyone who helped us those five date nights seemed to have literally no clue there was even a remote difference between butter and margarine.

So what’s the big deal, Jen? WHO CARES??

Hence, this blog.

Let me give you a short history of butter.

(And just as a disclaimer, remember I’m a mom of eleven and I’m not prone to 48 hours of research per blog, just a couple here and there. But seeing as we all have the internet now, we can cut to the chase pretty efficiently when digging for information. And I’m not a doctor either . . .just wanna throw that in there.)

Butter has been around for thousands of years.  The word “butter” is derived from two Greek words, bous (cow) and turos (cheese). For these past few thousands of years, butter was a natural result from carrying milk and cream(pre-refrigeration/ice boxes, which have only been around about 200 years) in saddlebags where they were jolted around by horses or camels or whatever else they were riding (pre-cars, yep, only around 100 years . . .see where I’m going with this?).  Butter (or cream, rather) has been considered a wonderful delicacy to different cultures worldwide, and can evolve into other delicious forms such as sour cream, whipped cream, and creme fraiche (which is the French’s favorite form of cream and I’m sure they think we Americans have no clue what is.)

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Anyway, though I’m far from being a fantastic cook, I can get an undercurrent here, and that is the fact that butter has obviously been in a longstanding place of honor for eons of time.

Margarine (originally called oleomargarine) was commissioned financially by Napoleon in the late 1870’s to enable the masses to be able to afford something in butter’s place because of inflation. The French chemist Hippolyte Mege-Mouries created the margarine (spurred on by the large financial gift) and he made it out of beef fat, milk and salt.  As margarine made it’s way to America, it’s make-up was changed from beef fat to vegetable oils.

(Anyone ever wondered why oil from corn and soybeans is called VEGETABLE oil? Ahem.)

So America literally went through about a hundred year tug-of-war over butter vs. margarine (not excluding the present).  This included lobbying by the dairy industry, taxes, and regulations on margarine. This included laws that prohibited margarine-makers from dyeing the margarine a yellow color similar to butter (margarine was somewhat similar to the color of paste).  Some states forced them to dye it pink.  Guys, I am not kidding here.  Oh, and I forgot. Other margarine companies packaged their margarine with an orange capsule of food coloring that you squeezed out and mixed in to create nice, yellow-looking margarine. (Eew.)  Plus, they (whoever “they” is) said this stuff was GOOD for us.  (Moms of the 60’s and 70’s, I am not criticizing you.)

Why the long, maybe somewhat boring history of a food item, for Pete’s sake?

Again, I want to make a point.  

This little blog might not amount to a hill of beans where politics, legislation or butter/margarine makers are concerned.  But maybe, somehow, it will help change a paradigm, slowly and surely.  I want to make it simple enough that even one of my little ones can get it.  No, I’m not out to crucify margarine eaters, far from it.  I just want to see if there’s something we’re missing that might help us.

Butter has been around.  It doesn’t have any chemicals/vegetable-grain oils/food coloring capsules/junk in it.  It taste good.  It works right when you cook with it.  It can actually go bad, which is a good thing.  It can’t sit on a shelf for 40 years and remain unchanged.  And all of that to say, that probably means it’s good for us to eat! No matter where you get your information, especially about what you eat, at least take a second to hash through the garbage and find something that makes sense.  Oh, that too.  Butter makes sense. :)

Yes, I know it’s a little more expensive.  But we’re not talking about brand name jeans or a movie ticket here.  We’re talking about our bodies and what we put in them. They need the right fuel.  Just to shock you, we go through 15 pounds of butter a month (plus what we get from our Jersey cows).  And I’m a budget girl and a bit of a tightwad, but the butter category is money well-spent.

I could go on and on about the nutritional components of butter (you NEED healthy saturated fat!) or the craziness of authority figures in our country telling us what we should eat and what’s good for us.  I won’t. (By the way, I do eat non-real food sometimes, so please don’t honk at me if you see me pull into Sonic!)

I just want our food to taste good. And I want it to be good for us. And it’s obvious by now.

 

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  

Jennifer :)

 

P.S. One of the motivations for margarine is it spreads easily.  For butter that spreads easily, keep it in an airtight crock or Pyrex dish and store in a dark cabinet.  My German friend taught me this trick and she was shocked I didn’t already know it! :)

P.S.S. Here are some of my sources for the history of margarine.  Also note this nice quote from the American Heart Association.  (Really?? Very interesting. Bold type is my emphasis)

Recent studies on the LDL cholesterol-raising effects of trans fat have raised public concern about the use of margarine and whether other options, including butter, might be a better choice. Butter has a high amount of saturated fat and some trans fat, whereas many hard margarines contain a high amount of trans fat in addition to saturated fat. Both of these bad fats can raise your blood cholesterol and contribute to atherosclerosis. The best choice for your health is a liquid margarine or a soft margarine in a tub. These are made with less partially hydrogenated fat than hard stick margarine. Look for margarines that are free of trans fat.

http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2014/08/13/the-butter-wars-when-margarine-was-pink/

http://ourheritageofhealth.com/the-war-on-margarine-and-the-history-of-margarine/

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Know-Your-Fats_UCM_305628_Article.jsp