Sunday, September 30

Where's that Warning Label?

Okay, folks, this is addictive.

From Blogger Buzz: "Blogger Play will show you a never-ending stream of images that were just uploaded to public Blogger blogs" (read more here).

They do warn: "[W]e use many techniques, including Google’s SafeSearch technology, to keep the images clean. Nevertheless, on rare occasions an image that you may find vulgar or obscene will slip through our algorithmic filters."

No lifeguard is on duty. Surf at your own risk.

Thursday, September 27

God and How He Works

Morning has started early today, though I'm not really sure why. I woke up about 6:00 and just feel rather unsettled. Probably "anxious" or "worried" is more accurate. I'd decided to search through Bible Gateway to see if I could find some reassuring passage about worrying, and how not to do it.

Instead, I found Matthew, chapter 6. It's a pretty familiar passage, all about how God gives the birds of the air and the flowers of the field everything they need, so why should we worry that He won't give us everything we need?

I switched back and forth through a couple of versions, just to see some similarities and differences in the language. A particular phrase caught my attention in The Message paraphrase by Eugene Peterson, "People who don't know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how He works" (v. 32).

That got me thinking ... do I really? I mean, if I really knew God and how He works, wouldn't I be able to say, as Paul does in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." And yet, my life seems to exemplify the opposite pole of living. I have learned to worry and be anxious, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have completely missed the secret of being content in any and every situation.

I have mentioned previously that Adam is out of work. It's been 3½ months now. When he was let go from his last job, we had no money saved up in the bank. Unemployment pays just over half of what he was making, and I felt like our budget was tight then. Yet, we're paying our bills, and we've even had a few extra dollars here and there to go out to eat on a Sunday or pick up a book I've been wanting to read. Doesn't that exemplify how well God's taking care of us? Why is it then, I can't get past this feeling that it's my job to figure out where the money is going to come from?

Before we were married, Adam and I had a very interesting discussion about birth control. We talked about the different views, from trusting God, believing that He does not allow any "accidental" children, and making no attempts to prevent conception to taking full responsibility, carefully planning for the season or month of each child's birth and using some method of contraception to ensure that children are not conceived outside the plan.

In the midst of that discussion, I didn't really know where to draw the line. And not just in this one arena, either. It seems like there is a line in between trusting God fully for His provision and taking responsibility for your own life. Take grocery shopping, as an example. If I trust God to provide food, does that mean I shouldn't go to the grocery store, but should subsist on twigs and berries and whatever people drop on my doorstep? That seems a little silly, doesn't it? I think most people would agree that we have some responsibility to take care of ourselves. But the question remains, just how much does God expect from us? How much is He willing to do if we don't take responsibility?

Deuteronomy 31:6 states that "God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you." How far is He willing to go, though? How much of my life is His concern, and how much is mine? If I'm looking for a job, I shouldn't expect one to simply fall into my lap, but how much searching is reasonable? Do I look at one job a day? Ten? Twenty? Should I be spending 40 hours a week polishing up my résumé and sending it to every company within a 10 mile radius? What about taking this opportunity to spend more time with my family? Going to the zoo during school hours when it's not so busy, window shopping at the mall, checking out the new playground down the street. How much of my time should I devote to that while still making a reasonable effort to find gainful employment?

I'm stuck, you see. Stuck in the unwritten rules and regulations of a legalistic background that I'm not sure how to untangle. Relationships are messy. They aren't based on rules and precedents and performance incentives. They're not about trying with all your might to fulfill one another's expectations. God sure doesn't see any need to try to meet mine. He just continues being God. That's who He is. But, here I am, like a gerbil on a wheel, trying desperately to be enough: good enough, smart enough, busy enough, responsible enough. If I relax, I'm afraid I'm not doing my part. Even if I keep busy, though, I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up. Stuck.

Adam tells me I'm a verbal processor: I don't know what I'm thinking until I hear it come out of my mouth. The birth control discussion I mentioned--that was more than three years ago, now. Since then, I've been noticing all the areas where this line of responsibility is an issue for me. For the first time, as I was writing the last paragraph, I have begun to recognize that it's really symptomatic of a deeper issue. I don't have the answer to that problem. I'm still caught in the legalistic muck. Yet, somehow, I'm really encouraged. I'm not stuck forever.

Thursday, September 13

You Know You're Watching Too Much TV When...

Adam's story:

He was giving our daughter a time out, holding her still in his arms. She was fussing and fighting, as she often does. The television was on in the background and a new show started. As soon as she heard the theme song, she stopped fighting, turned her little head toward the sound and commented, "Oh, that show!"

My story:

We were reading a picture book about animals. As I turned the page she pointed to the photo and said, "Kitty cat."

I corrected her, saying it looked like a cat, but it was actually a fox.

"Oh, FOX," she said, thoughtfully, "Like TV!"

Saturday, September 8


Trust is a pain in the hindquarters!

I never did very well learning my lessons about trust and security as a child, so God's been going over them again (and again, and again) lately. Apparently, it's back to school time for this mom this month, too.

The thing about trust is, you have to keep doing it. You can't (or, at least, I can't seem to) just trust once and for all and let that be that. I keep wondering if I've made the best possible choice.

Really, why can't God just be more like me?

Makes me wonder if He's up there thinking, "Why can't Amy just be more like Me?"

Deep down somewhere, in that place I've already learned to trust, I know that God understands better than I do. He knows I'm still just little and need to grow up a bit more.

Growing up is hard work. I should remember that next time my daughter frustrates me.

Saturday, September 1

Random Thoughts on College Education

I was about to get sucked into a totally off-topic discussion on one of the childbirth sites I visit, when I realized my thoughts would be much more appropriately shared here on my blog. The gist of the thread was: Why wouldn't you pay for your kids' education, if you could afford to?

When I first applied to colleges, I was living in Westchester County, New York. I don't know where it ranks now, but at the time, it had the second highest cost of living in the country, right after Orange County, California. Because government assistance and need-based loans were figured at the national level, rather than calculated by region, my father's income fell well above the cut off. Keep in mind, at the time, he worked for a local Christian not-for-profit organization--not the sort of place known for paying unusually high salaries.

However, even if he'd been a wealthy man, my father has told me he would not have paid for my college education. He felt it was important that I see the value of my schooling--and figured I would truly know its value if I was the one coughing up the funds every semester.

Now, I do have to add that it was understood I'd have a portion of my bill paid by academic scholarships. And, while they certainly did help, I still went into debt to pay for college. I attended a state school with in-state residency, so my costs were kept to a minimum, but I finished school with about $15,000 I needed to pay back.

I didn't find it an unreasonable burden to carry. I did have to seek out financial aid, as well as work part-time (10-15 hours per week) my entire college career. That seemed like a decent exchange to me. I did know exactly how much my education was costing me because I saw the bills coming in and wrote the checks going out.

What I also noticed was a large percentage of my friends who partied and blew off their class work didn't have to pay anything towards tuition or room and board. I felt that paying my own way made me a more serious student. I was much less likely to waste my time when it was costing me so much!

Would I do the same for my kids? I don't know. I definitely believe that students should contribute to some of their educational costs. But what if my kid wants to go to a private liberal arts school that costs $30,000 a year? Should she have to raise all that money herself?

Now that I'm married to a man who went to a private college on his own dime (or at least, his own signature on the student loan forms), I know what it's like to be in my 30's and tens of thousands of dollars in debt. For the cost of Adam's monthly loan payment, we could be driving a pretty nice new car.

So, is it worth all that? I'm not entirely sure. For now, at least, we don't have a college fund set up. What money would we be using to put into it? Maybe we should start the test-taking strategies early and make sure our daughter does really well on her PSAT. National Merit Scholarship, here we come!

Eh, maybe it can wait until she turns three.