Why I’m Not a Country Snob

 

country snob graphic

 

You don’t get any more country born and bred than than me. I milked cows and goats, grew a huge garden and canned what we grew, put up chickens my dad slaughtered, and gathered warm eggs from the henhouse. I love my country heritage.

Still, there’s one country attitude that I just can’t accept, and that’s country snobbery. It’s the notion that country people are inherently better than city people, that city people should be pitied and looked down upon for their ignorance of country customs.

A country boy can survive and city folk can go suck eggs.

It’s the idea that city ways are automatically to be disdained and city people moving to the country should be scorned and possibly even ostracized because their ideas will change the way we do things in the country.

Have you ever heard a country person derisively refer to someone as a “city slicker?” That’s what I’m talking about. Often country snobbery demonstrates contempt for higher education and culture (usually because they claim that the highly educated and cultured are, uh, snobs.)

Here are a few reasons I’m not a country snob.

Cities are full of people.

My life purpose is “Love Jesus, Love People.” There are a lot of people in the country, and a lot more in the city. Cities are overflowing with beautiful, amazing treasures of the human race. It’s where much of the world’s population is concentrated. Cities aren’t just so much concrete and steel and smog, they are centers of humanity made in God’s image.

My kids were raised in cities.

As much as I love the country, life had us in cities and towns for the past 14 years. There’s nothing wrong with that. My kids love the country too, but they are not country kids. It’s not their fault. So when country people demonstrate contempt toward them, call them city slickers, or look down on them for their ignorance of all things country, it just makes me mad. Yes, it’s personal.

Cities are fun.

Where are zoos? Book stores? Parks? Museums? Theaters? Target? Hello! In the city.

Cities rule the world.

For all their contempt of city folk and city ways, country people sure have no problem buying products and enjoying an economy birthed and maintained by city slickers in the city. It takes all kinds, y’all. Without cities and their people, country people would be living in caves. Give credit where credit’s due.

God loves cities.

I grew up around a surprising number of people who would point-blank say, “God hates cities.” Actually God loves cities. The first church (a mega-church I might add) was born in the city. Heaven is called The New Jerusalem, not The New Farm. If God loves cities, that’s good enough for me.

So I don’t care where you hail from. I lived in town for a long time and that’s OK. I’m in the country again, for the time being but maybe not forever. Down with snobbery, no matter where you live!

Do you have a story about cultural snobbery?  Share!

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What I’ve Been Reading: Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther

 

ee cover

 

Girl at the End of the World tells of Elizabeth Esther’s upbringing in The Assembly, a fundamentalist cult begun by her grandfather. It takes us through her childhood and early married years in the group, through her escape, and to the present day.

 

 

 

I’ve read Elizabeth Esther’s blog for years, so I was already familiar with her voice. I knew this book would be poignant, but I was unprepared for how deeply emotional it was. I suppose it was especially intense for me since I spent years in a cult and cultic movements. Much of what she said felt breathtakingly familiar.

 

 

 

The cult in which Elizabeth grew up focused on community living, control-based authority, external evidences of holiness (strict dress codes, for example), and “redeeming the time” (aka working so hard and so much that you don’t have time for anything outside the cult). These are all common attributes of cults. Elizabeth’s story, however, brings these attributes to life in vivid color. She’s a gifted storyteller.

 

 

 

The books title derives from The Assembly’s hyperfocus on the coming return of Christ and the end of the world. Their end-times theology was fueled by fear and the group made extensive plans for how to survive in any last days scenario—such as a secret meeting places and passwords.

 

 

 

Elizabeth describes how all of this affected her. As an emotional, imaginative child, The Assembly’s intense, spiritually abusive, fear-based belief system left her broken. She talks about what it was like to navigate the world while still trying to please her parents, what it was like to fall in love in a cult, and to begin a family there.

 

 

 

What I admire most about Elizabeth is that she knew her own mind and even as a teen planned to escape. In spite of how far The Assembly pushed her, she still had the inner strength to secretly break the rules until she was able to get out.

 

 

 

I also admire Elizabeth’s forceful voice against abusive child-training techniques espoused by The Assemby and others in many fundamentalist belief systems. She’s a strong woman who is using her horrific experience for good.

 

 

 

There were a couple of things with which I disagree. One is that Elizabeth states that what makes a cult is its practice rather than theology. Although The Assembly’s doctrine of salvation would have passed muster in evangelical circles, it was their spiritually abusive practice that made it a cult. However, having been in a cult myself, I fully believe that doctrine is just as key as practice in determining whether a group is aberrant. What we believe informs our actions. Abusive treatment of others by a church is always rooted in bad theology.

 

 

 

The other thing that leaves me a little sad is that ultimately Elizabeth gravitated toward a church with a theology of works-based salvation. I’ve observed that typically people who leave cults have one of three responses: They fully embrace salvation by grace and all that comes with it; they reject Christianity altogether; or they go back into a differently-flavored but still works-based religious system.

 

However, there’s no denying Elizabeth’s passion for her topic and the poignancy with which she writes. This book will provide excellent insights for anyone who has family members in a cult, who’s been in a cult and is seeking to recover, who is interested in a religious organization but senses some red flags, and for those who simply wish to find greater understanding of extreme fundamentalism and spiritual abuse.

 

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. This post also contains Amazon Associate links.  This simply means that I receive a small commission from anything you order through the link.  Thank you for your support!

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Beautiful Art: Little Girls

Art Girls graphicJessie Wilcox Smith

There’s no way I can share all of the lovely old art I’ve found here on my blog.  But from time to time I do want to highlight a few favorite pieces and I hope that you’ll visit my Pinterest boards to view many hundreds of pieces of old art.

art_children Mary CassattMary Cassatt

art_children Marie WunschMarie Wunsch

art_children Carl LarssonCarl Larsson

art_children Nicolae GrigorescuNicolae Grigorescu

Here’s my Pinterest board entitled Art: Children.  Which one is your favorite?

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How to Cultivate Meaningful Conversation With Your Kids

 

conversation table graphic

A while back I asked a friend what her parents had done to successfully raise their large family to be the fabulous adults I know they are.

One thing she said is this:

Her mom continually looked for ways to encourage deep conversation.

 

 

I will be honest: When you have a lot of small kids, this is something that’s easy to overlook.

 

 

We’re so caught up in the mechanics of running a family (Walking feet! Brush your teeth! Don’t hit your brother!) that cultivating more substantial conversation can feel like an impossible joke.

 

 

If our sole goal is to keep our households running smoothly and to raise kids who know how to do chores and practice good hygiene, then these instructions might be sufficient.

 

 

But if we want our kids to listen to us when they are teens and to be our friends as adults (and yes, I absolutely believe this is a worthy goal), then the time to build that relationship is now, when they are small.

 

 

I’m in the trenches still. Only 1 of my 5 has hit the teen years, so I can’t tell you I’ve arrived by a long way.

 

 

But I’ve grown in this area, and maybe what I’m figuring out will help those of you who are walking alongside me. Here are two of those things.

 

 

1. Eat together

 

 

In my opinion, family meals are indispensable. Depending on your family situation, this may not be possible at every meal, but history and common sense tells us that they are important.

If that isn’t enough, studies tell us about both the physical and emotional benefits of eating supper together. Here’s one. Here’s another.

 

 

What if supper isn’t possible? Get creative! Family supper can be in a restaurant or a picnic before soccer practice. I know of one family whose together-meal is breakfast before school, even though that means they have to get up earlier.

 

 

If you can never find time to eat together, maybe it’s time to cut some activities out of the schedule and make time for each other. Less makes room for more!

 

 

The reason I feel that family meals are so essential is because that’s when we slow down enough to actually talk—even if it’s just for 15 minutes. We have to eat anyway, so it’s already built into our schedule.

 

 

2. Ask good questions

 

 

For years in our family we’ve finished our meals with the question, “What is the best thing that happened to you today?” (Some families include a worst thing. The dedicated purpose of this exercise in our house was to curb negativity and complaining, so we skip the worst thing. Include it if it works for you.)

 

 

Recently I added another question during the meal. “What’s the most interesting thing you learned today?”

 

 

Not only does this spark some great conversation around a wide variety of topics, but it reinforces the value of lifelong learning that I hope to instill in my kids. I often tell them, “Every day is a learning day even when we don’t have sit-down lessons.” Learning isn’t restricted to school days and hours.

 

 

The answer to this question is sometimes profound or school-related but often it’s not. Sometimes it’s, “I learned that William McKinley was the second president to be assassinated,” and sometimes it’s “When I was at the pond I learned that bream sometimes school in the shallows. I didn’t know that before.”

 

 

Billy and I join in with our own answers. Our kids need to see us sharing and learning too.

 

 

A few basic guidelines: Don’t let one person dominate the conversation. Don’t put up with ridicule or shaming, and don’t use the family meal time for discipline. Allow for differences of thought and opinion.

How will your kids ever learn to work through real issues of life if home is not a safe place for them to share and be heard? Family meals and the conversations surrounding them are the perfect opportunity to both listen and to gently lead and guide our kids.

 

 

 

Mealtimes and simple questions are certainly not the only times to talk to our kids. True relationship goes much deeper than that. But for those of us with small ones, I think it’s a good place to start.

 

 

One day I trust that my kids will look back on their childhood and remember our family meals and the conversations that accompanied them. My hope is that as we pour ourselves into this time each day, we’ll build bonds that will last for the rest of our lives.

 

 

Do you agree or disagree? How do you cultivate conversation in your family, or how did your parents? What keeps you from engaging your kids in meaningful discussion?

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{art: Albert Anker}

 

 

What I’ve Been Reading

 

unstoppable

Nick Vujicic’s book Unstoppable showed up in the mail at the perfect time.

 

Nick is a young Australian man who was born without arms and legs.

Throughout his early life he had times of depression and despair as he felt worthless and angry at God for allowing him to be born limbless. At age 10 he attempted suicide. But ultimately he began to understand that God had an amazing purpose for his life.

Today he travels the world and has spoken to countless people about their inherent worthiness, and that there is always hope no matter how dark their circumstances seem.

 

Unstoppable gives the same encouraging message. It came at a time when I had kind of tanked and was asking God, “What in the world are you doing?” Nick’s words about God’s plan were just the encouragement I needed at that moment, although I have to admit that my challenges are nothing compared to what Nick and others have faced. It was a little jolt back to reality: others have it so much worse.

He describes how faith is both believing God but also that faith puts action to belief. He talks about how vital it is for us to not just sit around, but to actively pursue what we believe God desires for our lives.

 

 

He addresses challenges that many people will face: tragedy, bullying, suicidal thoughts, regret and mistakes, relationships. With each one he gives gentle but powerful encouragement. He affirms over and over just how precious, loved, and valuable each person is, and he gives practical tools for moving forward and overcoming.

 

 

This book was great for me as a Christian and Nick isn’t shy about his Christian beliefs, but it would also be a good read for those who aren’t Christians. Nick isn’t obnoxious or pushy about his faith.

His story is inspiring, his words will build you up, and you can’t help but come to love the guy.

 

 

This is a book I highly recommend if you need a good dose of encouragement.  Go buy it!

(Unstoppable was sent to me free from Watermark Multnomah. I wasn’t required to give a positive review.)

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Beautiful Art: Mothers

Art Mothers graphicJoaquín Sorolla y Bastida

There’s no way I can share all of the lovely old art I’ve found here on my blog.  But from time to time I do want to highlight a few favorite pieces and I hope that you’ll visit my Pinterest boards to view many hundreds of pieces of old art. 

(On all of my Art boards, I make sure that the artist has been dead for at least 70 years or if not, that the image is clearly in the public domain.)

Here are 5 of my favorite pictures of Mothers.  I had such a hard time choosing.  I hope they make you smile as much as they did me.

Mothers bassinetTheodore Robinson

Mothers whiteBernhard Gutmann, Mother and Child (White Mantel) 1912

Mothers kissAlice Barber Stephens

Mothers sleepingAnna Nordgren (1847-1916) – Rest

Mothers teachingHappy Days by Elizabeth Nourse (1860 – 1938, American)

Here’s my Pinterest board entitled Art: Mothers. 

If you take a peek, please tell me which one is your favorite!

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How Can I Love Jesus and Love People Well?

table

For many years my life purpose has been summed up like this: Love Jesus, Love People.

 

 

I have a much clearer perspective of what this should look like for me after a couple of challenging years have recalibrated my heart. I have a new viewpoint about what’s important.

 

 

I don’t want anything to encumber me or get in the way of loving Jesus and people.

 

 

I want my life to be streamlined and fluff-free so that my schedule is open to obey what God wants me to do and to invest in others, human beings with eternal souls made in his image.

 

 

This extends to every part of life.

 

 

I want a simple home that’s easy to manage. I don’t want to spend excessive time cleaning or maintaining my house that I could spend reading to my kids or having friends in my home.

I don’t want to have too many things that require time to purchase, store, maintain, declutter, organize, and purge. I want to be able to spend this time with people—my family and those in my church and community, and those I love who are far away.

 

 

I want a simple schedule, or as simple as it can be. I don’t want it filled with things that won’t matter in 20 years, at the cost of relationships today. When people want to build a relationship, I don’t want to say, “We’re too busy.” I don’t want to make it difficult to impossible to get together with people because our weekends and evenings are so overscheduled.

Will we have things on the calendar? Sure. But alongside sports, classes, and parties, I want to have campfires, evenings chatting with friends on the porch, and conversation-rich family meals.

 

 

I want simple hobbies, and I want them to mesh with real life. Don’t get me wrong, the world needs Michaelangelos, people who pour untold hours into their craft. But at this juncture, I want whatever I do for relaxation to not require so much time and energy that I shut people out to pursue it. And when I do pursue it, I want it to be something that furthers my goals of loving Jesus and loving others.

 

 

I want to allow margin in my life to take care of myself, recharging so that I’m physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally able to be at my best for others.

 

 

I usually caution against the words “I want.” It’s too often an indicator of self-willed desires rather than surrender to God—and for Christians, surrender is essential. But our wants can be right and powerful when they align with his. Love Jesus, Love People…those align.

 

 

Seasons of life ebb and flow. The limits I put on my life now won’t be the same limits I put 20 years from now. In fact, they will change day by day, year by year. My limits won’t look the same as your limits. That’s the beauty of this organic relationship with God…it’s a personal, growing, unique journey, no two exactly the same.

 

 

It’s good, though, for all of us who claim to be Christ-followers, to evaluate if our lives allow us the freedom to live like Jesus—invested in people and our relationship with God.

 

 

Do you agree or disagree? Do you feel that you have a life purpose, and if so, what practical measure do you take to accomplish that?

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(art: Knud Erik Larson)

 

How Much Time Should Kids Spend Outside? (& 3 Ways to Get Them There)

Outdoors graphicMy kids and I were outside for 5 hours this afternoon, and then the kids played outside for a couple more hours before bed.

 

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that days like this happens more and more often for us. We currently have several places we can go and just enjoy the outdoors without pressure, and I am loving it.

 

Charlotte Mason says that young children should have four to six hours a day for unstructured outside play. She says, ““Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.”

(For those unfamiliar with Mason, she was a British educator around the turn of the 20th century whose revolutionary methods turned education on its ear. She’s been a profound influence in my philosophy of education, alongside a host of other homeschooling families.)

 

 

Does four to six hours seem like a lot to you? I don’t think it is, honestly.

I can see how my kids unwind and take time to explore the natural world when they have significant chunks of time in nature. They get sunshine and exercise that they’d never get indoors. They’re calmer and more focused. It’s good for both their bodies and their souls.

Recently I read Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.

 

Louv points out the overwhelming evidence that kids are spending less and less time outside, which has catastrophic results, both to our kids personally and to the planet. He says that one study shows that 70% of mothers today say that they played outside daily when they were children, but these same moms report that only 26% of their own kids play outside every day. To me those are astounding numbers! One day soon I want to review the book, but I have to say that I have noticed this too. Many children today just don’t play outside that much, and some hardly at all.

 

 

When I was growing up as a homeschooled student on the farm, we often spent whole days outside. It was good for us. It makes me sad to think that children today have lost that opportunity.

 

 

As our culture becomes less and less friendly to unstructured time in nature, we have to make an effort. Here are three easy ways we can work more of the outdoors into our daily lives.

 

 

1. Picnics

It may seem like a no brainer, but how often do we eat inside when we could eat outside? Even just in the back yard? What about breakfast on the back porch? Take your meals in the fresh air!

 

 

2. Replace one activity a month with something outdoors.

Instead of shopping, going to the amusement park, or Chuck E Cheese, spend your day at a public campground or national forest. There’s no need to schedule your time there. Push through the boredom and soon you’ll find that your kids are skipping rocks, chasing leaves, and using their imaginations in fantasy games.

 

 

3. Do an indoor activity outside.

Journal. Drink coffee. Fold clothes. Read to your kids. Play board games…but do it outside.

 

 

It takes a change of perspective and priorities, and a lot of effort to swim upstream in this area. But I believe it’s worth it. Have you seen the meme that says “Kids don’t remember their best day of TV?” But they’ll remember walks in the woods and breakfast by the bird feeder. Let’s give our kids those memories.

Do you agree or disagree?  Is spending time in nature difficult for your family?  Are you satisfied with the amount of time your kids spend outdoors?

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{art: Alberto Pla y Rubio}

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5 Minute Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream With Dairy Free Hot Fudge Sauce

produce ice creamWarm weather is coming and soon we’ll be wanting cold, creamy treats. 

I’m an ice cream fiend, and yet I have honestly come to prefer this healthy homemade ice cream over its sugar-laden commercial-dairy twin.

Not only do I feel soooo much better after I indulge, but it tastes amazing too.

 

 

Ice Cream

 

4-5 very ripe bananas, frozen

Coconut milk

 

2 T honey

 

1 T cocoa powder

 

Place bananas, honey, and cocoa powder in blender. Add just enough coconut milk to blend the bananas. The more powerful your blender, the better luck you’ll have. Blend until mixture is the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Top with hot fudge sauce and nuts, or eat all on its own!

 

Hot Fudge Sauce

 

½ c. honey

 

½ cup coconut milk

 

1 T coconut oil

 

2 T cocoa powder

 

Boil together in a small sauce pan for 3-4 minutes or until mixture looks thick and syrupy. Stir frequently and watch for burning. Let cool for a few minutes, then pour over your ice cream…Or eat it with a spoon. Shhhh, I won’t tell!

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How Time in Nature Helps Our Emotions

nature trees

A lesson I’ve learned over the past months: the powerful restorative benefits of time in nature.

I’m not going to quote studies or statistics.

But I’ll say this: Daily time outside has done more for my emotional well-being than anything else.

nature trail

I “exercise” I suppose. It’s more like a stroll.

But the fresh air, the quiet, the privacy, the soothing palette and symetry and sound track of the outdoors…I’ve grown convinced that it’s God’s antidote to so much stress and anxiety we experience in our fast-paced, synthetic, glowing world.

nature feather

I grew up outside on the farm, but in recent years my time outside has been more constrained.

Over the past months I’ve forced myself outside, no matter how much I have to do, or how much I don’t feel like it, and no matter what the weather (pouring rain excepted).

Number of times I’ve regretted it? Zero.

nature pond

It’s my time to contemplate, daydream, and pray in solitude.

You’ll be reading more about this here, because the more time goes by, the more I believe in it.

nature mushroom

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to walk!

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