this glorious maze

because life is full of twists and turns

Month: April 2014 (page 1 of 6)

the best of the month: APRIL



Last month I started a series called The Best of the Month where I share my favorite articles and blog posts from the past month.  Each day I read multiple articles so when I come across one that I really like, I save the link.  At the end of the month I sort through all the links, divide them into categories, and share my favorite from each one.  Hope that you enjoy these reads as much as I did.


PARENTING

Jessica at Jessica Lynn Writes: Hope For My Military Child

This morning I was holding my newborn daughter, and for the first time I felt a twinge of sadness. She didn’t choose this lifestyle. Her dad will deploy in the future and leave her for months at a time. Through her tears, I’ll have to explain why he left and comfort her when all she wants is him. I love that she’ll grow up experiencing new places, but it absolutely breaks my heart that she’ll see her family’s faces more on a computer screen than in person. 

This may be the life I chose, but I didn’t necessarily choose it for her, so I hope I can show her the positive aspects of this military life and I hope they’ll outweigh the negative just a little bit. I hope the friends we make across the world will become her surrogate family, giving her the physical hugs, kisses, and playtime when her real family is far away. I hope my husband and I will be a good example as parents so when he jets off for the sandbox she’ll know he’s coming back to a family bound by love. I hope, whether we move across the world or down the street, that she’ll understand—as cliche as this is—that her home isn’t defined by an address, but by where her heart is planted.


BLOGGING

Laura at Hollywood Housewife: Blogging is My Favorite: When I Blog

Your favorite bloggers – those that write well, post frequently, or photograph recipes, fashion, or crafts – are spending a lot of time on their blogs. They’re not squeezing it in during naptime. If they don’t have some sort of help…or kids in school all day, I guarantee you that they’re getting up extra early or working late into the night. Solid blogging takes a lot of time. The content itself takes hours, but then if you want anyone to see it you have to have a presence on social media, respond to reader and professional emails, and deal with various backend issues.


FEMINISM

Sandra Glahn at Her.meneutics: The Feminists We Forgot 

This “new woman” is not an invention of second-wave feminism either. Betty Friedan did not start the “woman movement;” Christians did. Motivated by the belief that men and women were made in God’s image to “rule the earth” together, these pro-woman, pro-justice believers sought to right wrongs for those who had less social influence.


HEALTH

Eve O. Schaub at Everyday Health: Our Year of No Sugar: One Family’s Grand Adventure 

 I wanted to see how hard it would be to have our family — me, my husband, and our two children (ages 6 and 11) — spend an entire year eating foods that contained no added sugar. We’d cut out anything with an added sweetener, be it table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave or fruit juice. We also excluded anything made with fake sugar or sugar alcohols. Unless the sweetness was attached to its original source (e.g., a piece of fruit), we didn’t eat it. 

Once we started looking we found sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread, and even baby food. 

CHRISTIANITY

(I’m including two from this category because there were SO MANY amazing choices – I finally narrowed it down to these two)

Rebecca Wohl at Commission on Biblical Gender Equality: I Can’t Change My Spots

I took her hands even tighter into my own and led her to a chair so we could talk. Her sweet spirit and kind words moved my heart, and I could tell we had more to chat about. 

“Well, after all these years of believing that women shouldn’t be in the pulpit, I just can’t change how I feel about that. But your – ,” she hesitated again.

I smiled again and tried one more time, “Sermon?”

 “Ok, for lack of a better word, yes, your sermon was really one of the best sermons I have ever heard, and it challenged me in my faith – imagine that, after 80 years of walking with Jesus.”

I was very humbled and grateful for her generous words, but wanted to push further…  “Ah, thank you so much! It was my true honor to bring God’s Word today. I’m so thankful that the Spirit ministered to you. So you are not sure if women should preach, but you think that maybe, I’m an OK preacher though?” I pushed further.

“Oh yes! The best! But that’s just you honey, I don’t know about any other woman out there.”

“So, if I’m a good preacher, and I am a woman, isn’t it possible that there are other good preachers out there who are women too?”


James Hoskins at Christ & Pop Culture: “God’s Not Dead” and the Angry Atheist Professor: That Was Not My Experience 

…I’m concerned that the movie God’s Not Dead perpetuates a false stereotype: that of the bully atheist philosophy professor who is out to destroy every Christian student’s faith. I’m sure there are some of those professors out there. But I doubt that they are a majority. Even if they were, though, I don’t think caricatures and stereotypes are helpful. When we uncritically accept a caricature of someone, we become less gracious people. Instead, we become more dismissive, presumptuous, and defensive. We also become more likely to misinterpret an honest challenge to our faith as an “attack,” and react in a way that is less than winsome.


MILITARY

Kim at She is Fierce: The Sound of a Silent Doorbell

All I could do was wait to see if my doorbell would ring. 

When morning came and it hadn’t, I received a phone call confirming that Dh was OK.

What I felt then was almost harder than what I had experienced the entire sleepless night.

 It was the guilt that follows that moment of relief.

Because it wasn’t my love, but it was most certainly someones.

It wasn’t my heart broken, but the hearts of 4 other families.


MY WRITING

What Kept Me in Church Was Communion

When my eyes locked into the lay minister’s and he said, “Christ’s Body, broken for you,” I believed him.  When I dipped that scrap of bread, humble yet holy, into the communion wine, it sent shivers down my spine.  “Christ’s blood, spilled for you.”  This was the Gospel, simple and true.

It wasn’t a fancy program or a new method to “reach my generation.” It was following the example of Christ when He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  And I did: I remembered Him.

When the cynicism of Christianity scabbed over my heart, the simplicity of the Gospel ripped it open again.  In my remembrance of Him, the offenses I held against the modern Church faded away.  

What is the best thing you read (or wrote!) this month?

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What Kept Me in Church Was Communion

What Kept Me In Church Was Communion
(Featured image is: “Do This” by Matt via Creative Commons license on Flickr)
 
 
I am one of those Millennials who seem to be leaving the Church in droves (at least, according to everything I’ve been reading in Christian books, magazines and blogs).  
 
I grew up in the Church, was home-schooled and spent two years working with a Christian ministry before heading to a Christian college where I met my husband.  The perfect (American) Christian story, it seemed. 
But I am also a critic.  
 
When I left college, I took a long, hard look at Christianity.  I used to believe in all of it.  But I was no longer sure.  I had seen plenty of people who were Christians in the same way that other people are golfers.  It was their hobby; it was how they made friends, how they chose their reading material and it dictated where they spent their Sunday mornings.  
 
But I knew that if I was going to stick with this Christianity thing, it had to be something more.  Like so many of my generation, I wanted to be a Christian not because I was raised that way, but because I was convinced that I couldn’t live an honest life apart from Christ.
For a while I wasn’t sure where I would end up.  After twenty-four years of weekly sermons and four years of daily chapel services, I didn’t miss preaching.  I found community other places (in our case, with fellow military families).  I listened to beautiful music, saw beautiful art that spoke to me and propelled my soul into states of worship. To be unflatteringly frank: I didn’t miss Church.
But we kept going.  
 
And, like I assumed proper for a believer, I used small talk and a smile to dam up my doubts. 
Eventually, we started attending a new church.  They had good preaching and music.  The community was strong.  But what struck me was the fact that they practiced Communion every week.  I’ve attended many churches in my life, but this was the first time where Communion was an integral and expected part of each service. 
The first time I took Communion there, I was left shaken.  “Why?” I wondered.  “I’ve taken Communion so many times and never felt particularly moved.”  There were small differences, actual loaves of bread and goblets of wine, instead of stale wafers and tiny cups of grape juice.  But there was more.   
There was something in Communion that I couldn’t deny.

When my eyes locked into the lay minister’s and he said, “Christ’s Body, broken for you,” I believed him.  When I dipped that scrap of bread, humble yet holy, into the communion wine, it sent shivers down my spine.  “Christ’s blood, spilled for you.”  This was the Gospel, simple and true.
It wasn’t a fancy program or a new method to “reach my generation.” It was following the example of Christ when He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  And I did: I remembered Him.
When the cynicism of Christianity scabbed over my heart, the simplicity of the Gospel ripped it open again. In my remembrance of Him, the offenses I held against the modern Church faded away.  
 
Had I seen Bible verses spewed as weapons against those we were supposed to love?  Absolutely.  But Christ’s Body was broken for me.  Was I disgusted that some Christians (including myself at times) acted like a person’s love for Jesus could be determined by their hemline or haircut?  Yes.  But Christ’s blood was poured out.  For me!
Each week it was the same.  I appreciated that our Church had good music and preaching.  And I learned and I grew from those.  But what brought me back each week was Communion.  I couldn’t wait until the end of each service to migrate from our seats to the stations at the front.  Each week I went away affected, changed.  It never got old.
Shauna Niequist writes in Bread & Wine,

 “Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater – mystery and tradition and symbol.  Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely.  The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.”

Growing up Protestant, I somehow got the impression that I shouldn’t take the Lord’s Supper too seriously.  “It’s just a sign, a symbol, after all”, said the voices in my head.  But I stopped caring about those voices.  I wasn’t sure what was going on as I partook in Communion, but I knew that it was changing me. 
In her spiritual memoir about converting to Christianity, Lauren Winner writes how, before she was even eligible to receive communion, she insisted on attending a church that practiced it each week.  “I didn’t understand what it was, exactly, or how it worked, but I knew, deeply, that the Eucharist was somehow essential, that it was the heart of what we do in those spired buildings”.  
 
Her words resonate with me: communion isthe heart of what we do, which makes me wonder why many churches practice it so infrequently.  Why have preaching and music been elevated to a weekly status, but communion has been pushed to a monthly or even quarterly occurrence?  
 
It’s as if we’ve somehow decided that God can reach people with words (preaching), but He doesn’t really use actions (communion).  
 
But sometimes I wonder if there are others like me in the church; people who have heard enough words and really just want to see Jesus. 
And that is what I love about communion: it is so clearly about Jesus.  
 
In spite of my cynicism, I couldn’t deny Him when faced plainly with the truth of His sacrifice: His body, broken, His blood, spilled.  It is Christ, and him crucified (I Corinthians 2:2).  
 
And after seeing so many programs aimed at “reaching people”, I appreciate that communion is free of gimmicks.  It’s eating and drinking, and yet it is so much more.  Each time I partake, I remember that Jesus Himself established this act and that the church has practiced it through the ages with these same words and these same elements.  Amazing. 
Each week my soul is rattled anew as I receive Christ’s body and blood.  What that even means I’m not even sure.  But C.S. Lewis reminds me that the command, after all, was Take, eat: not Take, understand”.  
 
And so, I take and eat with joy.  And hope that one day, perhaps, I’ll understand.     
 
 
 
 
 
 
**another post on communion: broken and spilled.

 

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Product Review: eShakti Dresses!



Four Warnings to Accompany This Post:

1.  It is completely frivolous.  
2.  It will be very long
3.  It will be very honest
4.  It will contain substandard pictures (neither of us are photographers and we snapped these pictures before we left for Church on Easter because I was actually wearing mascara AND lipstick – an Easter miracle!!  Also, I am an uncomfortable model) 🙂

I have very mixed feelings while writing this review, but I’m committed to being honest so fasten your seatbelt for a long post.

When I first heard about eShakti I thought it was a fabulous idea.  They say that fashion should be for all sizes and I agree!  Their dresses come in sizes 0-36 and for only $7.50, your dress can be made to your exact measurements.  Add to this the fact that all the dresses are adorable and comes with pockets??  I was sold before I had even tried them out!

I was elated when I was picking a dress to review – there were so many wonderful options!  I narrowed down my original list of nine dresses to the one that I wanted, submitted my sizes and waited.  And waited and waited.  

The short version of the story is that there was a mix-up with my dress and I didn’t get it for seven weeks!  And that was after I made multiple attempts to contact them about it!  The yellow dress below is the one I picked to review.  I warned you about the pictures and the model, remember?


 


The dress looks pretty cute, but I am not thrilled with it.  The neckline is too big which means I have to be careful about bending over.  This means it is a terrible option for the mother of a toddler.  Additionally, the fabric is too fragile to wear everyday.  I’m sure that I’ll wear this dress a few more times, but it will not be an everyday option like I had planned on it being.  I was very disappointed.  🙁 

But…

I decided to give them another try.

Mostly because I wanted to be able to write a GOOD review and I really do like wearing dresses.  Because of my erythromelagia I am limited to shorts or a dress from about April – October so I need a good inventory of dresses on hand.    I like wearing dresses all sorts of places – to Target, to the playground.  I want dresses that I can be active in and not have to worry about wearing.  

The second time I bought two dresses for myself and bought one for my sister as well.  She had used eShakti once in the past and had a GREAT experience.  

Again, my dresses took longer than projected to arrive.  This might not have been their fault – I think it came from the shipping service.  But it was still disappointing.  I had to call multiple times and they kept assuring me that this was uncommon.

I want to note here that each time I called the customer service people they were very kind.  One lady in particular (I wish I could remember her name!) worked quickly to resolve my problem.  She was gracious and actually listened to me and followed up the next day.


The dresses arrived and I knew right away that I didn’t like one of them.  I’ve since returned it and am waiting for a refund.  I have mixed feelings on this navy dress on the left.  It is very comfortable and easy to wear, which I love.  This dress is cotton which means I can wear it to church, or to meetings, or to take my son to the playground – my favorite type of dress!  But even though I gave my measurements, it is a bit too big.

I’m going to have to pay out of pocket to have a seamstress fix a few things.  The cross-over part at the top wasn’t sewed shut.  I’m not sure why they wouldn’t sew it (perhaps to accommodate different bust sizes?), but I tried safety pinning mine and decided that I actually need it sewn.  

Additionally, the dress hangs to the bottom of my knee – NOT what I was expecting.  There was an option to have the dress above the knee, but I read a reviewer who requested that and got a dress that was shorter than the average mini-skirt.  So I asked them to leave the skirt length as shown (which I thought was the top of the knee).  I will have it altered to be a bit above my knee, which is where I prefer it.  

While I still love the idea behind eShakti and have heard of many people who have positive experiences, I can’t say the same for mine.  The dress I received to review is not my favorite – I would have returned it if I spent my own money on it because I probably wouldn’t have gotten enough use of out it.  I am disappointed that I spent much more money on the blue dress than I normally would have, but I STILL have to pay to have them altered.  For a family who doesn’t have a lot of extra cash on hand, this experience has been frustrating.  I am not sure that I will be using eShakti in the future.

So there you have it: my honest opinion.  Have you had any experience with eShakti?  Or do you have any dress recommendations for me?  


**In exchange for sharing my (very) honest opinion, I received the yellow dress for free. 

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