Speaking of Oil

Seed oils, even.

As many of you know, my husband is afflicted with chronic pain, both head and neck, and is frequently confined to bed. It’s been more than 15 years now, and we are accustomed to running our family much as if dad were in the military or traveling for work a lot. He’s here, but…well, he’s not here. Whether it’s illness, or travel, or long hours at work, many young mothers find themselves both alone and lonely in their role. Motherhood, even with the best of husbands, is still a very solitary job. Even with help from husbands, friends, and older children, nobody else is Mommy. This life makes for hard days and long nights, and we do have to go through these things alone sometimes.

When my fifth child was about 11 months old, Get Along Husband had been having the headaches for a few years. I had become used to him coming home from work, going to bed, and having at most only one good day every week or so, but I had not found peace with that routine yet. I was usually able to contain my tears, never having been much of a crier, but one night, after a particularly busy and eventful day, I found myself crying into my dishwater over it all. I was so tired, and the kids still needed to be put to bed, and I was late getting them fed.

“Lord, I don’t think I can do this anymore. I’m so alone.”

Just that minute, I heard a little bitty splat behind me. I turned around to see through my tears that my little guy had crawled into the kitchen and stealthily loosened the lid on a gallon of vegetable oil. I had put it down on the floor when I’d brought in groceries earlier, and my baby was now slipping and sliding and slapping in a gallon of soybean oil, quite happily!

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Or this child’s timing.

Then that still, small voice came through. “Are you sure you can’t handle this any more, Cindy?”

Oh, Lord Jesus, why?

Still boohooing, I scooped that baby up, warned the rest of the children to stay out of the kitchen, and took him for a bath. Then I put all of the children in front of a video and somehow cleaned that whole gallon of oil off the floor. By the time I was done, of course, I was no longer crying. You really can only cry so much, even when you’re as tired and lonely as I was that night. But as I sopped, then squeegeed, and then soaped that floor, I had a talk with Jesus. It was not the task of a few minutes, so it was a very long talk.

I do sincerely believe that God Himself put that baby and that oil in the floor that night to show me just what I can take. I’ve never wondered since that episode whether I could handle the hardships of mothering alone. As I said in my last post, all I had to do was pour. That day, I poured my little pot of oil into my family by keeping my temper and just doing what had to be done. God just kept filling up my reserves until the job was done.

When I woke up the next morning, my self-control was restored, and my floor was clean, and my children were just fine. Jesus did that. I cannot take any credit at all! I was so tired. I did not have the wherewithal to handle myself in that moment. But He did.

I was never alone. 

If you’ve never been a young mother with lives dependent on your very body for sustenance, it may sound like I was crying about absolutely nothing that day. But you who are mothers, you know. I still tear up every time I think about it. I’m crying as I write. It was such a hard day, after so many other hard days just like it.

Thank God, I’ve never felt since that day that I could not do it anymore. The days didn’t get any easier for a very long time. But God showed me how to pour myself out that day. It wasn’t long after that that our family was in a car crash, and we nearly lost my husband. What I learned that day with the baby and the oil carried me through that emergency, as well as many more that have followed in the 11 years since.

If there’s one thing I want you young mothers to know from this story, it is that you are not alone. You are doing it humanly alone sometimes. There’s no getting around that. But God is truly, literally, powerfully working through you. Don’t despair the way I did that night. Don’t give up on your husband, or your kids, or your Savior, or yourself. Don’t be bitter about whatever circumstance has you so lonely and so tired. Even if you’ve been wronged somehow, and that’s why you’re so alone and tired, don’t let it make you bitter. Know that you are being refined and made into the kind of Mother that gets written into hymns. You are doing important work.

Just keep pouring.

Poor People Should Not Have Children

And other stupid things smart people think.

Got into a little bit of a discussion with “the smartest man in the world” on Gab, whose childhood was miserable, he thinks, because he was poor. He wishes poor people wouldn’t even have children.

Of course, since I’m a Christian, I have a different take on it: Blessed are the poor.

Since I don’t have a lot of time to write a new post, and I already addressed this more than a decade ago, I thought I’d just drop a chapter from my book, ConDeceived, which was really just a collection of blog posts on the same topic, to do the rest of my arguing for me. Self-plagiarism FTW! Here you go:

Lie: Children are too Expensive

Those darn kids sure are expensive, aren’t they? Too expensive to have!

This comic from xkcd just happened to come to my attention the day after I found out I was carrying our fifth child, who at the time was about the size of a sesame seed, and for whose prenatal care and delivery costs we appeared to be woefully short. How that shortfall came to be is a long story. Suffice it to say that we were not feeling flush.

After rearranging some priorities, working to earn a little extra money, and eating a few more meals of beans and rice to bulk up our savings against the day of delivery, we found that God didn’t even need our help. The money was there, and then some! If we’d made a “decision” based on whether our bank account looked flush, we’d be short one very energetic bundle of hazel-eyed joy. And we’d probably still have less money, because we wouldn’t have gone into emergency mode to cover the looming (imaginary) financial difficulty.

The financial burden that children impose upon their parents is a lie our culture continually tells, and even Christians fall for it, hook, line, and sinker. I’m not going to pretend that it costs nothing to feed our children, but I will say that the financial costs aren’t anywhere near what “experts” tell us. In fact, chances are that you’re going to end up about as wealthy as you were going to be whether you add kids into the mix or not. Wealth, especially in a country like ours, has less to do with how many mouths you’re feeding and more to do with your willingness to work, your skill-set, and your ability to save rather than spend. In fact, a quick search of the web reveals several studies that have shown that men tend to earn more once they’ve added children to the home. Nothing lights a fire under a man’s behind like having to feed a houseful of people. I can add from personal experience that stay-at-home motherhood can be quite a spur to frugality, as well. 

Practically everybody is familiar with the Duggars—Jim Bob and Michelle, and their 19 kids—through their reality television show “19 Kids and Counting.” I’ve only watched a few episodes, so I don’t know very much about them. But you know what? They don’t look poor to me. Of the large Christian families that I know personally, some are wealthy, and some are decidedly not. They are all, however, fed, clothed, and lacking nothing essential. Maybe they don’t have anything fancy, or their shoes are a bit scuffed, but they are taken care of. I also know families with two kids, or none, who are in dire financial straits.

Financial peace in the home has more to do with a couple’s relationship with money than it does with the number of people requiring new shoes at any given moment. Knowing this, and having lived it, I really don’t see how we can blame our children for our financial situations. Family size has very little to do with the long-term wealth of a family.

But what if it did?

Let’s stipulate that having children does, in fact, mean you’re going to be less wealthy. Pretend that every child you add to your family really does remove hundreds of thousands of dollars from your future purse. Does that mean preventing them from even coming into existence is the best way to secure your future?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (and, I might add, where the Fed does not inflate away–ed.). For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

–Matthew 6:19-21 

Christians, these are the only treasures you can take with you!

Our culture sets parents against children, and present children against future ones, telling us that they’re a money-suck, and the only thing standing between us and a comfortable retirement. (And isn’t comfort the real purpose of living?) Even in the church, financially strapped parents are led to believe that their money troubles are partly due to the existence of their children and advised against having more…unless the money is there.

Is this how God thinks of children? Does He think of them as consumer goods, to be “bought” only if we can afford to “pay for” them?

In God’s economy, children are wealth! Look at just a few of the things the Bible has to say about children:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

—Psalm 127:3-5 

You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock.. —Deuteronomy 7:14

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,

    who walks in his ways!

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;

    you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine

    within your house;

your children will be like olive shoots

    around your table.

Behold, thus shall the man be blessed

    who fears the Lord.

The Lord bless you from Zion!

    May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem

    all the days of your life!

May you see your children’s children!

    Peace be upon Israel!

 —Psalm 128:1-6

And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”

—Genesis 33:5 

Children are not consumer goods. They are people made in the image of God, and a heritage from the Lord. 

We Christians should allow the World to go ahead and worry about how much it “costs” to have kids. What they have on this Earth is all they’ll ever have, so it’s natural for them to plan accordingly. We who know better ought to look forward to rejoicing in the fruits of our labor when we are old—a living legacy of Godly children.

At the end of my life, if God wills that I should live to old age (which, given my driving abilities, seems like a longshot), I will probably die in somewhat less well-appointed circumstances than I would have if I’d focused more on storing up treasures here on earth. That could be in part because of the amount of money I’ve “wasted” raising my children–people whose existence I could have prevented with just a quick visit to the doctor.

It is vaguely possible that the cost of my kids’ education, clothing, and healthcare would have been put into a savings account if those little people just didn’t exist. But those people will be there when I’m old, and when I die they’ll be sorry I’m gone. I doubt whatever is left of my retirement fund will feel so strongly about my passing.

Who is your provider?

Of course, we do have to pay for things like food, shelter, and clothing for all these new bodies we keep adding to the census every 20 months or so, don’t we? Have you ever worried about how you’re going to feed your next baby? Or maybe it’s your neighbor whose family size has you worried. There seems to be a lot of that going around these days. 

An older lady—the greeter at Walmart, actually—once stopped me and asked me how “all these young mothers” thought they were going to pay for “all these” kids. (I’d have borne the insult gracefully if I’d thought she meant I looked too young to know what I was getting into. Alas, she didn’t seem to be including me in her definition of “young mothers.”)

If it were just one lady whose age appeared not to have fostered wisdom, I probably wouldn’t bother writing about it. But it’s not just her. Daily, internet searchers come to my website wondering why Christian families are having children they can’t afford, along with Christians who are wondering how they’re going to afford the blessings God is sending their way. Strangers on the street tell me that they don’t understand how I can afford my kids. My own grandmother wants me to stop having kids because they cost too much! (And they have never cost her a dime!)

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.–Proverbs 15:17

What these questioners overlook is the fact that we’re talking about Christian families.

Christianity is the key. Searchers who ask why Christian families think they can afford so many children answer their own question. I propose that the reason that they can afford the large family lifestyle is because they are Christians.

Stay with me for a moment. I am not saying that Christians are wealthier, smarter, or somehow less expensive to feed and clothe than non-Christians. We come from all walks of life, after all. However, the Bible does provide a great deal of financial wisdom for those who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to take advantage of it. The rest of the world kinda-sorta knows these things, as the large number of secular personal finance blogs indicates, but Christians often literally take their faith to the bank.

People who take God’s word seriously concerning family structure and His love for their offspring are equally likely to believe biblical truths about earning, spending, borrowing, giving, and saving. Believing these things, they are more likely to live by them, however imperfectly, than those who haven’t heard the word of God. Not every large family has the best grasp on these principles, it’s true, but it has been my experience that larger Christian families are much more likely to be debt-free and financially independent than even most smaller Christian families or childless couples.

In fact, what looks like scarcity to our credit-driven culture is often just a different set of values. My shoes aren’t always in the best condition, we live in a less well-appointed home than many would think acceptable, and our cars are never new, but we’re debt free and building our savings. And yet, our neighbors seem to think we must be broke!

Some of my large-family friends are (by my lights, anyway) filthy rich, and others are struggling to keep the lights on, but none of them show any bitterness toward their children when the bills come due. This is because they know that the mere presence of children hasn’t done anything to change their financial situation. Even if their children’s needs were breaking the bank, they don’t measure people in dollars and cents.

God provides. For all Christian families, whether large or small, it always comes down to this: God provides for His children.

My father often used to talk in his sermons about a time when his daughters had no shoes, and he had no work boots. He cried out to God for help, and what do you know? My grandmother dropped by with shoes for both kids (note that our family was a “manageable” size, and yet we were poor), and he found by the side of the road a new, unworn pair of boots that were the size he needed. My father was working as hard as he could, but it was a bad economy, and he came from a poor family himself. He was doing his part in trying to provide, and it still wasn’t enough for our family’s needs at the time.

But God had enough for us!

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.—Psalm 37:25

So how are we doing it? How can we hope to keep this up, baby after baby, in an uncertain world? God certainly does provide, and He gives us the ability to do many things to help ourselves.

As I said before, despite the frightening numbers that “experts” in the media are constantly pushing on an ever more gullible public, children are not expensive. It’s lifestyle and material expectations that cost so much. In this wealthy nation, many of the things that we deem essential to a happy and productive existence are really just icing on the cake. 

Our cake has less icing.

We can afford to raise our kids, but there are a lot of other things we can’t afford:

  • A housing-bubble priced house. Our family has been priced out of buying our first home for the last ten years, thanks to all the geniuses buying and selling houses as if they were some of those new-fangled tulip flowers. We never felt comfortable with the prices, so we just didn’t bother. Thanks to that big POP! you heard a while back when reality hit the real estate market, we’ll be able to buy a modest home soon. We hope. In the meantime, we rent.
  • A room for each child. Our kids share bedrooms. Small ones. This is unthinkable in a society where everybody has not only his own bedroom, but his own TV to keep him in it. I grew up that way, my dad grew up that way, and I don’t see any reason my kids shouldn’t grow up that way. I find that my kids like each other more because of the close proximity.
  • Nice, new cars. A beat up 2006 mini-van and the little Kia to get Jesse to work will do just fine. We’ll need a bigger family vehicle soon, but we’ll still be buying used and, most likely, ugly.
  • Expensive clothing, food, etc. I do most of the shopping, and I have to admit, I’m not the best bargain shopper. I usually miss the best deals, forget something on my list, or pay too much for something. I minimize the impact of my inability to shop well by shopping as little as possible, eating plain food, and buying the good-enough-for-the-likes-of-us brands instead of name brands.
  • Cable television. Honestly, we wouldn’t pay for that anyway. We have the internet and Netflix. That’s plenty.
  • Dates, live entertainment, eating out. For fun, we look for free and cheap things to do. Mostly, though, we just hang out at home and with our extended families. It’s OK. We like each other. I budget for a couple of nights of take-out a month, also, but that’s something we could do without if we had to.
  • Vacations We cheat a little bit on this one. My in-laws take us to the beach with them sometimes. If we had to do it for ourselves, we’d do without.
  • College funds. Judging from the comments I’ve seen about this elsewhere, not sending your child to college is tantamount to child abuse. If my children want to go to college, they’ll have to do it on their own dime. My plan is to pay for all of their living expenses as long as they need to in order to save enough money (starting with their jobs as teenagers) to attend college. It is my hope that they can do it debt free with community colleges, scholarships, and hard work. I don’t consider college to be necessary to happiness or success, though. There are lots of ways make an honest living. 
  • Debt. We absolutely cannot afford to pay banks or individuals for the use of their money.
  • The admiration of more materialistic people. No names (obviously), but there are people who have treated us rather poorly because we wear the wrong clothes, drive the wrong cars, and eat the wrong foods. Frankly, this makes me glad we don’t have much in the way of material goods. It weeds out the insincere. We can’t afford those kinds of friends.

It could be that if we didn’t have our children, we’d have more of these things I’ve listed. We might have a fatter savings account, less financial stress, fewer grey hairs. It is also possible that, lacking the frugal mindset our children give us, we’d be squandering our money on all of the above things and would look and feel wealthier, but our bank accounts would remain essentially the same.

It is my belief that children, in the long run, have a pretty small effect on a family’s finances. Our financial habits and earning potential seem to me to have a great deal more influence on our net worth than the number of mouths we have to feed.

While the math (not to mention my stress level) sometimes goes a little bit wonky, I’ve found that there is always a way to stretch the budget to feed one more—whether it’s one more child in our family, or one more family coming over for dinner. The One who provides for our family does so abundantly, even when the bank account doesn’t look so good.

My husband and I (before we had kids) spent some time in penury, so I’m not saying bad things can’t happen. I am saying that no matter how lean or fat the times are, it’s not my job to try to predict the cost of the children God places in our care. Nor is it my place to complain if our material circumstances aren’t precisely what I wished for. It is my place to work, pray, be realistic in my expectations, and trust God to provide.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

–Matthew 6:25-32 (NIV)

You Keep Using that Verse…

I do not think it means what you think it means.

Within the space of about a month, I’ve had three different people tell me that there is a Bible verse that not only justifies the use of birth control within a Christian marriage, but that actually seems to demand it in certain circumstances. That verse? 1 Timothy 5:8: 

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Since that verse has come up three times, through three different people, who appear to have three different agendas, a more superstitious person might take all those threes to mean that Triune God Himself is on the line, and trying to get through with a very important message. And I admit that I considered that possibility, albeit briefly.

The first two times I’d been read this verse in this way, it came from commenters on my blog, Get Along Home. The third time, it came from a preacher on the radio while I was on my way to Atlanta for a weekend retreat for Christian homeschooling moms. The preacher said, essentially “Yes, the Bible says that children are blessings, but it also says (1 Timothy 5:8), so we should consider that very carefully when making our reproductive choices.”

Well, I thought I had the answer all worked out, but here’s a real minister who says differently! I was perturbed. What if I’ve been steering people wrong with all my talk of the blessing of children? This certainly seems like a pretty strong sign, doesn’t it? Suddenly lacking the surety I thought I’d reached, I prayed for guidance, right there in my car. The answer I got was, as usual, silence. God doesn’t normally speak audibly, after all. 

After my initial panic, I remembered that the Holy Bible knows nothing of numerology and personal signs from Heaven for hillbilly mommy bloggers. Given that fact, I thought it might be more reasonable to take a look at the actual context of the verse than to attempt to intuit what God was trying to tell me while I was careening down the interstate, desperately searching for signs of an available restroom.

(Incidentally, bathroom calls are incredibly close together when you’re carrying a nearly full-term baby in your womb, and I-85 doesn’t seem to be built with the expectant mother’s bladder in mind. I really don’t recommend driving from Boone to Atlanta in this condition. Ever.)

Anyway, here’s what we read in 1 Timothy, chapter 5:

3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. –1 Timothy 5:3-8

And it goes on to speak more of how widows should conduct themselves under different circumstances.

Would it be disrespectful of me to joke about hitting a preacher with a clue-bat? Yes? Well, I won’t do that, then. But I do have a hint for The Rt. Rev. Radioman:

Any time you find yourself using the Bible in a way that requires you to say “Yes, God said Abut He said B over here.” where B directly contradicts A, you need to check your premises. You’ve missed something.

The correct way to phrase it is: Yes, God said children are a blessing, and God said 1 Timothy 5.

In 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul is instructing a young preacher (and the young Church) on how to order the Christian community. Concern for widows and orphans is writ large throughout not only this passage, but the entire Bible. This chapter in particular speaks to the responsibility of a man to provide for—wait for it–his widowed relatives. Why? Because if a widow has relations who should be taking care of her, the church’s resources are best spent on widows who are truly widows , i.e. elderly women who have no relatives who can take care of them, nor prospects for remarriage or self-sufficiency.

So who is worse than an unbeliever here? The man who doesn’t provide for his widowed relatives! This chapter says absolutely nothing about whether a financially shaky man should have children with his wife.

What it does say is that he should support not only his own offspring, but his grandmother, mother, and most likely any aunts or nieces who might come along to make a claim on his paycheck. Is that a hard thing to ask of a common man trying to eke out his living by the sweat of his brow? Oh, yes! If you don’t believe me, you can ask my parents, who are right now enduring the trial of caring for my grandmother in her last years, and who are making any number of financial and personal sacrifices to do so. God requires us to work to care for our family members.

Somehow we’ve gone from taking a plain reading of a very straightforward passage about caring for widows to condemning a man as worse than an unbeliever for being foolish enough to impregnate his wife without first having enough money–whatever “enough” means. That’s a pretty harsh judgment to pin on someone just for being numbered among the poor, don’t you think?

I can almost hear the objections now: OK, so this verse doesn’t actually say anything about making babies, but why can’t we use it this way, anyway? Obviously many do! But that isn’t how we use the Bible. Not if we’re interested in taking a faithful read of it, anyway. We need to measure scripture by scripture. Going now to 1 Corinthians 7, written by the very same apostle, and inspired by the very same Holy Spirit, we find this:

“For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” –1 Corinthians 7: 4-5

The only exception to continued marital relations that Paul admits is to allow for times of prayer, and then husband and wife are instructed to come together again and do the thing that makes babies. Abstinence being the only method of contraception at the time (as far as I know), this would seem to imply that the apostle expected married people to procreate without regard to how many gold coins they had hidden away under the rug to pay the midwife. If this weren’t so, you’d think that somewhere in this passage on marriage and family, Paul might have seized an opportunity to let us know that a man should stop sleeping with his wife if he felt too poor to provide for the likely result of their union.

With only a little further thought, we can reasonably conclude that 1 Timothy 5 affirms the opposite of the lesson that some are taking from it. 

I know what you’re thinking. Now who is reading things in that aren’t there? If the passage doesn’t state that a husband shouldn’t father children whom he may end up too poor to support–and which of us can say for a certainty that he will never come to desperate ends?–then it definitely doesn’t say anything about anybody needing to have kids!

But read again:

4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. –1 Timothy 5:4

Answer me this: How can we expect children who don’t exist to provide for us in our old age? It seems to me that the blessing of children is most needed in old age, when it’s too late to figure out whether they would have been a “good idea” or not.  While there is no literal command to procreate in this verse (though the Bible is chock full of them elsewhere), it is showing us a clear advantage in doing so.

In 1 Timothy 5, as elsewhere, the Bible is wonderfully consistent in speaking of children as an asset, not a liability. All this time we thought we were being presented with a dilemma, but God has handed us a solution instead! 

Often, especially in the Proverbs, the scriptures contain conditions for its principals. “Answer not a fool according to his folly,” but “answer a fool according to his folly.” How can we do both? It seems clear that there are times when we’re expected to discern which principle applies. Answer a fool? Don’t answer him? It depends! 

I’ve heard Christians say that we are expected to use our brains when “deciding” whether to have any more children, as if this were simply another situation where “it depends.” I never can get these same Christians to point out where this principle is outlined in the Bible, though. Instead, I notice that there are no times where God has provided a counterpoint to the idea that children are not only a natural, but a desirable consequence of the marriage bed. This passage in 1 Timothy is the closest thing that anyone can dig up, and it is provably incorrect, the widows’ children being the remedy for a dire financial situation, rather than the cause of it.

“Children are a heritage from the LORD.” has no opposing “Children are sometimes not a great idea.” In fact, childlessness is considered a curse for rich and poor alike, and large families are promised as a blessing to the faithful. 

While the Bible says all of these positive things about children, there is absolutely nothing to cancel those blessings out by providing a “balanced” look at the topic of family. The Bible not only assumes marital procreation for both rich and poor, but promotes it as a blessing. It doesn’t speak of babies as a lamentable side effect of sexual pleasure, but as the natural and beautiful result of the union of man and wife. Though there are many, many exhortations to raise our children well, and stern condemnation for parents who don’t raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, there are no instances where it is even hinted that it could be a better choice not to have them–even many of them–at all. 

 

Plain Food

Healthy kids.

One of my teenagers recently told me of a conversation with his coworker. He was talking about our family’s food habits, and told her that I often serve plain, crumbled ground beef with no seasonings.

“That’s child abuse!”

Now, first of all, it’s not like I’m forbidding my children the use of all seasonings. Salt and butter they have in abundance, and they can usually have salsa, sour cream, worcestershire sauce, or several other condiments they like. But we do eat a fair amount of undressed, un-sauced food, and I do this very intentionally. It is not out of laziness, or meanness, or even because I’m a bad cook. I serve most of our food unadorned out of a sincere belief that this will teach my children to have a healthy relationship with food.

When I first started eating a ketogenic diet, I went into it with the mindset that this diet was just for me, because of my particular health problems. I was still stuck in my old way of thinking, brought on by frequent contact with Western medicine, that my problems were genetic, irreversible, and unique to me, so I didn’t feel that there was a need to drag my perfectly healthy (or so I thought) children along for the ride. I was just trying to keep my blood sugar under control, not change the world.

I continued to make the family’s usual “healthy” foods and just made a little something different for myself. But as I delved more into the topic, and especially as I began to go fully carnivore, the realization set in that sugar wasn’t even the main reason I shouldn’t be eating plants. I began to understand that the principles I was applying to my own health could and should be applied to the health of every human being. I had thought at first that keto/carnivore was going to be just a me thing, but I saw after several months that I didn’t just look better. Not only did I have better blood-glucose levels, but all kinds of health problems had become faint memories, rather than daily realities.

Joint pain, brain fog, anxiety, social phobia, trichotillomania, hidradenitis supprativa, asthma, eczema, seasonal allergies, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff I’ve just plain forgotten were all GONE. (I still sneeze a little during ragweed season.)

Having realized that, I began to accept that my children were also having some of the same problems I was, and likely for the same reasons. Were they really doing fine, as I’d thought? One of my children had the trifecta of allergies, asthma, and eczema, as well as the disturbing beginnings of an OCD (brought on by a viral infection). Another had been showing symptoms of IBS for at least a year. We had already discovered long ago that still another child loses all symptoms and behaviors of autism as long as we don’t include grains and dairy in that child’s diet. What else might I be able to do for them with an appropriate diet?

Seeing all of this, I couldn’t any longer keep my children on even a “healthy” normal diet. While I didn’t take them all fully carnivore, I did begin to make all of their meals heavily meat-based. I allow them no more than two servings a day of either fruit or a starchy vegetable. They can have some leafy greens, though not kale or spinach. I eliminated grains, seed oils, and all refined carbohydrates completely, allowing for seeds and nuts or beans once a week, and only for the children who tolerate them well. For the two with the most obvious problems, we went 100% carnivore for a time. Both of those children are able to incorporate only small amounts of some “safer” plants, though still not daily.

It’s pretty restrictive, and we’re fine with that.

Now, I know (or hope, at least) that my son’s coworker was joking when she proclaimed our plain fare to be actual child abuse. But let me tell you what looks a lot more like child abuse to me:

  • 8 year-olds who weigh 150 pounds
  • teenagers with Type II diabetes
  • children who can’t go more than an hour without begging for a snack
  • children who can’t behave themselves because of food colorings, sugar highs, malabsorption of nutrients, and proteins that are incompatible with the human gut

That, and not thoughtful application of dietary principles, is child abuse. I am certainly not accusing parents themselves (most of them, anyway) of abuse, but our overall food culture is abusive. Because of dishonest science, hatred of self-discipline, and the greed of big food corporations, nobody knows how to eat, or even that food has an impact on all areas of health. That is an absolute shame, and we have to put an end to it. Now, once a person knows he should do something, and doesn’t do it, we might begin to put the blame on that person. It might become abuse, or at least neglect, if a bad situation is allowed to continue.

The foods that I used to serve my children were very tasty. I took a lot of pride in being a good cook. In fact, I inadvertently did to my children with my “healthy home cooking” the exact same thing that wicked big food corporations are still trying to do to all of us. By introducing the biggest and best flavors I could manage–every day, nearly every meal–I was spoiling their palates and their health, and (much worse) setting them up for food addictions later in life.

Hyper-palatability is that quality of sweetness, saltiness, and fat that processed (even home-processed) foods possess. When we eat these foods, that powerful combination of flavor and mouthfeel bypass all hunger and satiety signals that our hormones send when we are hungry or full, causing us to both overeat, and eat the wrong food. Food corporations spend millions, maybe billions, on research finding the best ways to keep customers eating long past the point of satiety, and to keep us coming back for more. Even though the body’s nutritional needs are not being met by these foods, our entire bodies wantonly crave them, and reject plain food in favor of that dopamine high. There’s a word for this. It’s called addiction. My constant attempts to please the palates of my family were creating raging addicts in my home. I had to face that fact and do a hard thing.

I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it is not. They actually acted like a bunch of little addicts when I stopped letting them have the candy and gold fish crackers! They were somewhat depressed, unhappy with everything I fed them for a while, and though they are typically well-behaved, there were a some bad attitudes for a while. Thankfully, it didn’t take them long to adapt. They are children, after all, and very impressionable. After a few months of eating real food, not too fancy, they learned to reject (for the most part) foods that do not nourish them. Kids do want to do what is good for them, but we have to enable them to do it by removing the stumbling blocks in their way.

Don’t we ever have fun with our food? Sure! Our family does still occasionally have food that can be considered hyper-palatable, like this keto or carnivore pizza or carnivore waffles. But I keep these things mostly to special occasions. There’s nothing wrong with having a treat every now and then, but to expect every meal to hit all of those pleasure buttons in our brains is gluttony. Dare I use such a harsh word to describe probably most of the people who are reading this blog? Yes, I do.

American, you’re most likely enjoying your food a little too much, and a little too often. That is gluttony.

Do your children a favor, moms and dads: Give them plain food 95% of the time. Salt it, of course! We actually need salt. But use sauces and seasonings less frequently, and get the processed foods out of your house entirely. It is a hard lesson to learn, but teach your children to be content with meat that just tastes like meat, fruit that just tastes like fruit, and veggies that just taste like veggies. I can promise that if you do this, you will be improving not only your children’s overall health, but their behavior and moods, and even their emotional connection with you and each other. Far too many children who appear healthy but have behavioral issues are struggling because they just don’t have the energy to fully engage.

Help them.

You might fear a mutiny if you do what I did, but you are the parent. They can’t drive themselves to the store and override your decisions. (Well, a couple of mine could have, actually.) If you do not give in to the addictions that you have created, it won’t be long before the crying is over, and your children accept that this is just how it is for your family. I know you love your children. I know how much I loved mine when I was feeding them the exact same way! Now put as much thought and effort into their nutrition as you do into every other aspect of their lives.

If you find that you need help with a transition to a healthier (not necessarily carnivore) diet for your family, get in touch with me on SG or MeWe and I’ll send you a link to my diet coaching page. Or just shoot me your questions and I’ll get to them directly if at all possible.

 

 

Can You Stay at Home Too Much?

A friend on social media asked how often she should be getting her children out of the house, and I remembered this post from my younger days, when I had things all figured out. My answer is simply this: You do not have to be out all the time to be busy. You do not have to be outside the home to be productive and engaged and happy. In fact, being outside of the home for play and education too often can really hamper your family’s peace. Small children are happiest in a quiet home with family for 90% of their waking hours.

Having lived eleven more years in the same way, and with a couple of older teens to show for it now, I can affirm the truth that your children will be well-adjusted and socially normal people (unlike public schooled kids, alas) on a diet of just one or two contacts a week with non-family members, and sometimes a whole lot less than that. We didn’t really even have that many playdates. Social contacts have been natural relationships– family, neighbors, church friends, etc.–for the most part, not groups that we cobbled together out of fear of not having enough “socialization”.

Staying Home (Originally posted October 11, 2011)

I mentioned once in a different post that my first reason for homeschooling, chronologically speaking, was a desire to avoid the typical American “real life is everywhere but home” attitude. A lifestyle different from the one I grew up with just sounded good to me, so I did it.

A commenter, as people on the internet frequently do, thought that from that single post she had learned everything she needed to know about me, and accused me of “projecting” my introversion (some people seem to think introversion is a mental illness instead of a personality trait) on my kids instead of letting them live real lives like other kids do. You know, full, active lives spent behind desks, on school buses, and standing in line.

The problem with blogging is that a single post is all some people ever read. I have many good reasons for homeschooling my kids, but even if that were my only reason, it would be good enough. You see, I have a right to live my life the best way I know how, and to provide for my children whatever lifestyle I think is best. I think it’s best if we live quieter lives at a less hectic pace than most Americans seem comfortable with. If anyone doesn’t like that, then that person is free to live some other way!
While I don’t think my preferences are necessarily the best for everybody, they are wonderful for my family–a realization that asserts itself anew every time I spend more than a few days in a row doing something “out”. We’ve been on the go for the last week, without a single day just being at home, and my life has gotten away from me! My schedule is still doing its job, getting us back on track as soon as we get home, but I’m so tired I could cry. Not just tired, though. Tired, I can deal with.

It’s the lack of time for thought that’s killing me.

I used to wonder why people don’t seem to apply much thought to, well, anything that they do, really. Well, I’ve figured it out. The average American lifestyle (and homeschoolers, this goes for a lot of us, too) leaves absolutely no time for reflection. We’re busy, and we like it that way. Busyness means never having to think uncomfortable thoughts. It means scurrying past the little, but important things to do the urgent, less important things. Even if we accidentally end up with some time on our hands somehow, there’s always the mindless entertainment offered by the idiot box to help us in our quest to avoid introspection.

One of the frequent defenses I hear from homeschooling moms and stay-at-home moms is “We don’t stay home at all! We go everywhere, all the time!” May I gently suggest that we concede too much in giving such an answer to those who think we’re not “working” or “socializing” enough? As if there were something wrong with staying home all day!

Having spent the last several days with an outside-the-home obligation at least once every day, I’m more convinced than ever that the typical American lifestyle is extremely unhealthy in its pace. There’s no need for me to join in the madness.
Repeat after me, homeschoolers:

Home is a good place to be, and I’m not missing anything if I stay there four or five days a week. 

Trust an old mama on this, ok?

Mom Down!

No need to call for reinforcement.

I’m stuck in bed with a massive head-cold. I can’t hold my head up on my own, but I can still type, so let’s see what we can find to talk about today!

I had planned to take this day off from our usual homeschool co-op to do some extra academic work. After a week of administering superfluous state-mandated standardized tests, I really thought we needed the extra time for our own curriculum. Well, I’m sick, but that doesn’t mean we can’t a lot done, thankfully! Schooling when mom is sick, recovering from having a baby, or even just needing a rest from the grind, is, while still not as pleasant as just playing video games until you recover, very easy if you’ve laid a solid foundation of daily habits. While I’m nowhere near fully Charlotte Mason in my homeschooling approach, I have heartily adopted the CM philosophy on habit.

“Habit is ten natures.”

I get a lot of comments on how “good” my children are. By good, people mean that they are responsible, quiet, hard-working, self-correcting, and obedient. These things are all basically true, but my children are not innately any better than other children. What they are is trained, habituated, to do daily the things that go into being “good”. I don’t have to be present for them to continue their daily routines of chores, school work (though they do need some teaching), and self-care. They’ll start their independent work without me after the breakfast dishes are washed and the chickens and dog are taken care of. I’m still here to help in a lighter capacity than usual, but they’ll mostly figure it out on their own and help each other.

Get Along Husband and I were able to take an trip a couple of years ago for our 20th anniversary, leaving the children at home with their grandmother to keep them company. When we came home, she marveled at how little babysitting she’d actually had to do. It was like she was on vacation. They took care of her. She was basically just there so they’d have somebody to drive in case of emergency. And for fun. My goodness, she’s fun! They cooked the meals, cleaned up, did the household chores, took care of the smaller kids, did a little light school work, and she never had to lift a finger.

Am I bragging? A little bit, honestly, but not on myself. I’m absolutely delighted with my children! But I know that any group of kids that includes at least a couple of teenagers (my oldest boy was 15 at the time of our first trip) ought to be able to live quite comfortably without an adult for a week. Er, not that Nana isn’t an adult, but…well…you know what I mean.

I do feel like we’ve accomplished something, thanks to good teaching from the Bible, other godly parents, and early application of some of Charlotte Mason’s principles. Being able to come home to a smoothly running household with no drama, especially when you consider that the older ones were caring for small children down to the ages of two and three, is a very gratifying feeling.

It was as if we’d never left. Not even a little messy!

That wasn’t by accident or probably even good genetics. Though I’m told my husband was a wonderfully behaved, exquisitely polite child, I’m sure my wild hillbilly genes mitigate that somewhat. It has required a lot of hands-on training, and a lot of careful thought about what each child should be able to do for himself, and when. It’s not something I can really take a lot of personal credit for, though. I wish I could! I did put in the work, and I’m pleased that I was able to, but at the end of the day, I am an unprofitable servant. I’ve only done what all parents should be doing. And there are a lot of parents who are doing far better than I am. I’ve taken my example from them, and I congratulate them, also.

I look around and realize that there are a lot of parents who haven’t been blessed with either the Bible, good example, or such useful books as Laying Down the Rails, and their kids are absolutely lost every day without somebody telling them what to do every twenty seconds.

There are some commonalities I’ve noticed among these families that I think should be addressed. This post is starting to get a little bit too long, and I feel like a nap, so I’ll break the rest of my thoughts off for another day. My kids are delightful! I would love for every mom to be able to say that as whole-heartedly as I do, so I hope this post will turn into something useful, rather than the stream-of-consciousness exercise it set out to be.

Want to discuss? Send me a warm get-well-soon gif? Meet me on SG, MeWe, or Gab.

Lie: A Child is a Choice

This post is a chapter from my ebook, ConDeceived. I want to republish it sometime, but I’d need to rework a great deal of it. Guess who has time for that? Not me! But it was a useful little work. I might dust it off. If you want a copy, let me know and I’ll share it with you directly.

Lie: A Child is A Choice

“How many kids do you want?”

This is often the first question a newly married couple will find themselves answering. In fact, it is often the first question they ask each other before even agreeing to tie the knot. It is, after all, the height of irresponsibility to go into our marriages without a clear idea of how many years will be taken up in diaper-changing and face-washing. These things must be planned for, lest we end up in the poorhouse! It’s right there in the Bible in the twentieth chapter of…oh, wait. No, it isn’t.

The idea that that having children is a big decision and one not to be undertaken lightly is so common in our times that it has become cliché. Thanks to the language of the contraceptive culture, no responsible couple ever just gets pregnant. No, we talk about getting pregnant, then we think about getting pregnant for a little while longer, then we research getting pregnant, and then, if we don’t let our anything scare us out of it, we decide to get pregnant. After the birth, we research the best ways to stop this traumatic thing from happening to us again until the next time we decide we want to do this.

All of this sounds perfectly reasonable to non-Christians, as it should. They walk alone, and it is understandable that they feel a need to control their futures in this way. The once-born think they’ll only live once, after all, and after that, oblivion. They don’t want to mess up their one shot at perfect happiness with the wrong number of kids!
Unfortunately, this has also come to sound perfectly reasonable to a large majority of Christians.

One of my favorite quotes–at least, it used to be, before I gave it ten seconds of sustained thought–is this:

“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” –Elizabeth Stone

I have a daughter. She has my dirty-blonde hair, my mouth (in both looks and loudness), and my insatiable appetite for red foods. The only fight we’ve ever had was over the last spoonful of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. She is also my husband’s daughter, and resembles his side of the family in a hundred different ways. She is a blessing to us, from the tip of her pretty head to the toes inside those ballet flats she’s always wearing.

But she is not primarily our child. She exists, physically, because my genes and my husband’s had a happy meeting and intertwined to become a unique set of DNA. However, she does not exist because we willed it. She exists because God willed it, from the foundations of the world. If you think that one can ever really choose to have a child, ask someone who suffers from infertility how much of a choice she has had in the matter.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. -–Colossians 1:16

God exists outside of time, eternal, so this verse isn’t just referring to the beginning work of Creation. This verse means that Christ created everything that ever will exist, too. From the moment He spoke the words “Let there be light” to the Last Trumpet, He created it all, including the children that we humans like to pretend we choose to make.

My daughter does not exist for my pleasure. I enjoy her. We play dolls and talk about things that boys would never understand. She and I are great friends (unless there is cranberry sauce on the line). Barring some tragedy, I expect her to be a blessed part of my life until I die. Of course I enjoy her! I can’t even summon the image of her little face to mind without getting a thrill of joy all the way down to my toes.

If she existed for my pleasure, then whenever she failed to please me in some way, I would have the right to exact whatever harsh punishment I like. Or to end her life. After all, she would be violating the purpose of her own existence by displeasing me.
But she exists for God’s pleasure, not mine.

My daughter does not exist for my purposes. While there are many joys and material improvements that flow from the blessing of having children, she does not exist for the sake of my own purposes. There are many benefits to having a tightly-knit, loving family, but if those benefits are dampened by the effects of the Curse (illness, death, financial difficulties, stress, etc.), that still wouldn’t give me the right to reject her. She is not here simply—or even primarily–for my sake.

Does she at least exist by my will, then? Since technology gives us the option of not having children, hasn’t it finally become a big decision that we make, as the Elizabeth Stone quote says? Because we have this power, shouldn’t we use it to make the best possible world we can for ourselves and whatever children we decide to have?

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
–Revelation 4:11

In this verse, the twenty-four elders are singing to God about his command of the whole universe. All things are created by His will, even when we think we’re doing it ourselves.

The language of choice has convinced us that that we, ourselves, hold the keys to our own future. The cultural attitude that springs up from this “choice” mentality is one of ownership of our children, as if they were merely expensive pets, rather than eternal souls whose existence is for purposes that we can’t even fathom. We’ve wrested the power of Creation from the One who rightfully controls these things. But we don’t really control as much as we think we do. Only God is worthy to hold the power of creation in His hands.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps. –Proverbs 16:9

So now we have kind of a conundrum on our hands, don’t we? If God is really in control of all of this, then why do we have this ability to resist participating in that creation? If God willed this child into existence, then didn’t he also not will those lives we’ve decided not to risk forming, for whatever our personal reasons are? And the answer is, I think, yes.

And there is no good news in that answer. He has willed this generation to have that choice, and He has willed us to take it.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate
–Psalm 127:3-5

The father of many “shall not be put to shame.” In contrast, when God’s judgment falls on a people, He takes away their sons and daughters.

25 “As for you, son of man, surely on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their soul’s desire, and also their sons and daughters…

–Ezekiel 24:25

Our unfettered control over the creation of our children is a judgment, not a happy technological boon that God has granted us. He has handed us over to our selfishness, and we are already beginning to reap the bitter fruit of that childlessness in this generation, as the demographic time bomb ticks down to zero. The next generation, the one that was supposed to carry on where we leave off, hasn’t shown up for work.

We’ve taken our Godly heritage, which is clearly explained to us in the Bible, in the very language of Creation (It is good.) and smashed it against sharp rocks, breaking it into bite-sized pieces for our own personal enjoyment, instead of taking it in its full wonder and meeting its challenges with joy and thanksgiving. We are paying for this now, as a nation, and we will pay for this in the future.

Please note that I don’t speak of any individual’s heart, as I don’t know anybody’s heart–often even my own. This is, at this late date, a collective failure of understanding. I’m speaking of a massive confusion that many well-meaning Christians of our generation have stumbled into due to a lack of confident and fearless preaching on the subject. However, collective guilt is built on individual guilt, and we must own our faults when we see them in our own hearts.

Christians don’t really, as a culture, believe any of these verses about God’s hand in creation (or procreation) anymore. We don’t seem to believe that God is in control of much of anything anymore, if He ever was. If we did, we’d beg Him to let us participate in the procreation of His own favored work: Mankind.

He has “crowned him with glory and honor”, and here we, Christians, are behaving as though people are a scourge. He has given us the blessed responsibility of nurturing these relationships, and we are treating them as if they are a burden, even to the point of preventing their very conception.

Our lifestyles may impose burdens. Our broken hearts and bodies create burdens. The brokenness of our children even imposes burdens. But our children themselves are never burdens. They are gifts. We should receive them as such.