Wifely Wednesday: Remembering the Purpose of Christ's Birth…

photoAll of our children have names taken from Bible characters. It is our family tradition on birthdays to read the Scripture passage from which we chose the birthday child’s name. One unexpected blessing in this is that we have a birthday during the Christmas season, and the passage we read is from Christ’s resurrection. I love the reminder during Advent that Christ did not come to stay a little baby, but to grow up, live a perfect life, and die for us.

John 20:1   Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 So she *ran and *came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and *said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes.

11   But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

Wifely Wednesday: To Santa or Not To Santa?

A few days ago a young college friend of mine (who is full of great questions and posessing a very teachable heart) sent me the following question on Facebook: “What do you and Andrew do about Santa and the Tooth Fairy?” It was a fun question to answer, and I thought I’d share my slightly edited answer here.

Hi, Gurtrude! (Ok, so that’s totally not her name, but as long as I’m making up a name for her I thought I’d make it an interesting one.) That’s a fun question. The Tooth Fairy we definitely do, but the kids know right away that it’s us and we are just pretending something fun. With a big house full of kids, it’s important to find every possible time to celebrate the children as individuals, and losing a tooth is a great time to make one kid feel special. But, as I said, they know it’s their mom, and that’s just part of the fun. I will add that we only give them a dollar, so they aren’t exactly getting rich off of us.

Santa is another issue, though, because that coincides with the incarnation of our Savior. Our thought is, why on earth would we want to add something fake to a holiday that is already so amazing and TRUE? As I said to the kids just yesterday when they asked why we didn’t do Santa, “It would be like choosing to eat an old hot dog from the floor when someone is offering you a gourmet meal.” In other words, Christmas is so wonderful and so absolutely true that it doesn’t need anything extra. Scripture calls it “the fullness of time,” after all. At best including Santa can confuse a vitally important moment in redemption history, and at worst it could take glory away from our Savior and give it to a fairy tale.

We do have a family tradition that is similar to Santa, but happens earlier in December and is rooted in Church history as well as my Dutch heritage. On December 5 we put out our wooden shoes and on December 6 they are filled with candy and a simple gift from St. Nicholas on St. Nicholas’ Day. As with the Tooth Fairy, the kids know it’s their parents, but it’s still a lot of fun to pretend. We don’t have a problem with this little celebration because it’s not confused with any Biblical observance. And the real St. Nicholas (from whom the Santa figure evolved) was a very interesting and godly character from early Church history. From what we know of him, he was persecuted for his faith and did much good to help the poor. So on top of a little fun celebration we get to give them a dose of education, too.

Whew! That was a long answer to your question. Probably more than you wanted. These are not issues that we would necessarily condemn other parents for making different decisions about, if they made those decisions prayerfully and wisely. However this is what we have come up with for our family, and by God’s grace we hope it is honoring to Him.

Keep those good questions coming!


Wifely Wednesday: A Crashing Conclusion to the Bird's Nest Saga

A few days ago we woke to the mewling of our hand-me-down cat, who sat at the door insistent on communicating with us the exciting news that a feast had fallen from the sky. Our front steps were littered with the remains of the bird’s nest that had been on the porch light above. If you recall, this is becoming a rather gruesome pattern, however delightful the cat may find it.


Wifely Wednesday: Widows in Training

1 Timothy 5:3-16, has always been a passage I have found very helpful in practical instruction for godly womanhood. In this chapter, Paul details what qualifications a woman must have in order to be considered a “widow indeed,” and therefore worthy of the assistance of the church. I think this is an essential passage for those of us who are not widows to study, since it details how we should be living now in order to be acquiring the godly qualities we should have by the time we are older and our race is almost run. And not simply so that we will one day be eligible for a handout from the church (although that is a comforting result), but because having the title of “widow indeed” indicates great godliness of character. I think these verses can be helpful to single women as well, even verse 10 which requires that “she has brought up children.” I have been blessed by many single women who have faithfully sought to be mothers to the children God has put in their lives, including me when I was younger and my own children now. Motherhood is an activity that does not require the physical bearing of children.

So all of us who are wondering how we should live our lives now can benefit from a careful reading of 1 Timothy 5:3-16. Rather than draw out all of the applications that younger women can take from this passage, I will simply put it here for you to read and think about. What activities should you be hard at work with now? What qualities of demeanor should you cultivate in this season of your life? What actions show an ungodly bent and need to be pruned immediately?

Honor widows who are widows indeed; but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. *But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed (1 Timothy 5:3-16).

Read this short devotional by R.C. Sproul for help in understanding what Paul was referring to when he says that younger widows should not be on the list because they might be tempted to “set aside their previous pledge.” At the end there are links to his other devotionals on this passage with even more good stuff.

~Sarah Dionne

Wifely Wednesday: Pinteresting…Very, Very Pinteresting…

I used to be a Pinterest hater. In fact, I even looked down my lofty nose at all my friends who used Pinterest. Giant waste of time, I thought. So worldly, I sniffed. Well…guess what? I am now an converted user of Pinterest. It has been a great way for me to find homeschool ideas, recipes, craft plans, exercise routines, etc. My children have particularly benefited, since I now have the plans on hand to do any number of fun things with them that I might otherwise have never thought of.

To be sure, Pinterest has its faults. So I’ll get a few of those out of the way right now:

1) It inflates our already narcissistic natures. What is up with our national obsession in documenting every intimate detail of our life with posed photography?
2) It increases covetousness. After you look at 75 pictures of beautiful bookshelves, your own milk crate storage system seem a little, well, bland.
3) It can suck up a lot of time in a hurry. One of my favorite memes says something like, “Honey, please order a pizza for dinner tonight because I was too busy pinning nutritious recipes.”
4) If one doesn’t search wisely, one can see all sorts of immodest, immoral, and ungodly filth on Pinterest. No big surprise there!

Now, on to my point here. I always wonder how many of the things people pin they actually try. And of those things that they try, how many actually work? I have made it my goal to only pin things that I might realistically do. In other words, I have to have the time, finances, and practical interest in them. This way I avoid wasting time daydreaming about unattainable goals and I don’t make provision for discontent. So I’m not pinning pictures of million dollar homes, and I’m not pinning pictures of elaborate crafts that I don’t have the skills for.

I thought I’d share some pins that have been hits at the Dionne house and one that was a big loser. It’s hard to remember the losers, because I take them off my boards right away so that other people don’t repin them and have the same sad fate. But I really want to know what YOU are actually trying out on your own boards. What worked? What didn’t? Leave a comment and let me know!

Here is my short list of greatest hits (and greatest loser):

Carmelitas. Oh, so very good.

Cool 3D hand drawing. The kids and I had a blast doing this!

Embroidery tutorials. This has renewed my love for the craft and given me the tools to start teaching my daughters.

Shouting German. This just makes me laugh every time I read it. Na klar! To find this funny you probably have to have known my college German professor who stood only 5 feet tall but scared the pants off us when she shouted at us in German.

Science Experiments. These are simple enough that the older kids can do them on their own on those days when they want to be busy and I don’t have time to help.

Card holder for tiny hands. Pure genius! This has revolutionized game night for us.

Kid-tested jokes. We still giggle over these at lunch time. I won’t tell you which one makes us laugh the hardest.

Pepperoni bread. Perfect for taking to our church’s home fellowship groups on Sunday nights.

iPhone carrying case. I made a bunch of these for Christmas gifts, and they were so cute!

A quick guide to Southern grammar. Just the visual needed to explain this complicated concept.

Now the biggest loser!

Chicken pot pie muffins. These were so gross that my family named them “Barf Muffins.” I was unanimously asked to never make them again. Ever.

~Sarah Dionne

Wifely Wednesday: Better Late…

IMG_0003Well here it is, 12:30 in the afternoon and I only just now realized it’s Wednesday! I’ve been busy all morning cleaning out the homeschool cupboard. Finished text books are put on the bookshelf or cycled down to the younger sibling for next year, finished workbooks are filed away in case the great state of South Carolina should ever decide to check up on what I’m teaching my children, mini pencils and those without erasers have been thrown away, new pencils are sharpened and put in the basket, craft supplies were weeded out and reorganized. And, of course, all this cleaning had the delightful effect of making my children suddenly struck with a passion to use all the craft supplies we own. Which means I’ll get to clean it all again this afternoon.

Does this happen in your house? A newly cleaned room becomes the one room that everybody wants to play in? My attitude on this was changed radically after I read a post by Rachel Jankovic on the Femina blog. In it she said,

Imagine you spent the day rearranging and cleaning up the living space in your home. You have flowers and clean curtains and fresh throw pillows and maybe a candle. You are pleased. The right lights are on. Things are good. And then, like the wolf on the fold, the people in your life descend upon your work. They peel off socks and put their feet on the coffee table. They come from afar bringing baskets of craftiness to spread out upon the couch. They pop popcorn and carelessly munch. Someone goes so far as to get out the puzzles. In such a moment, it would be easy (don’t ask me how I know) to become shrill. It is easy to see each chin-glancing popcorn shrapnel as an insult. “Don’t you value the work I do?!” “Don’t you care how long this took me?!” “Why can’t you just not do this??” Even if you don’t say it, you may feel a little despair, a little resentment, and a little “why do I even try?”.

But the truth is, we need a new perspective. It is moments like this that should give us a lot of job satisfaction. These people are enjoying you. They are enjoying your work. But, like a great dinner all laid out on the table, you don’t enjoy it without touching it. A chef would not look at dishes coming back to the kitchen untouched as a sign of success. It would not mean great things about your work. Yet this is what we want from the work we do in our homes.

I’m sure most of you have noticed the magnetic power of what you clean. Clean the bookshelf up, and everyone wants to read. Organize the little toys, and everyone wants to play with the things they have been callously walking on for days. This is a sign that you are succeeding, that your people love your work. Think of it like food, because that is how it is getting used.

So as summer vacation takes off and our children are gathered around us, let’s take satisfaction in the pleasure they take from us and from our work. It may not come in the form of adoring praise or maintaining the pristine cleanliness of our homes. More likely it will be sticky faces from the lunch we made or elaborate forts built after we read a book that inspired their inner architect. Hooray for messy, happy summer!

~Sarah Dionne

Wifely Wednesday: Wars and the Men Who Fought Them…

We are counting down on our fingers now the remaining days of school as required by the state of South Carolina. We finished our textbooks (every last page of them) last week, so we have been doing lessons on various topics that might otherwise not be covered. Rather than take a day of vacation on Memorial Day and delay the end of school a little more into the summer, we focused on topics that were appropriate to the holiday. One of the most poignant exercises of the day was making a bar graph depicting the number of American casualties in the major wars we have fought. In comparison to all the others, the Civil War exploded right off our graph paper and required us to tape on a few more inches (a whopping 625,000 casualties as compared to its closest competitor, WWII at about 405,000).

Along the subject of wars and the men who fought them, this is a great blog post from one of my favorite bloggers, Anne. Anne is a friend from long ago, who has wisely raised a brood of children and whose words can be trusted. One of the reasons I trust her is that she doesn’t blog too frequently. Whenever a mother with children still in the home has time to educate the rest of the world via a steady stream of blogging activity, I question how much of her own words she is actually taking the time to put into practice. Not so with Anne. While I would dearly love to read multiple blog posts from her every day, I am happy to know that she is too busy being the keeper of her own home. I hope you enjoy her post, especially if you have sons.


Wifely Wednesday: On the Subject of Work

I hope that all of you who are mothers had a joyful Mother’s Day this past Sunday. And if you didn’t and are disgruntled about it, I encourage you to read what Nancy Wilson wisely has to say about our expectations for such occasions.

When one of my children commented recently on the amount of work I try to accomplish on most days, the Lord put this reply into my mouth, “But son, I wouldn’t have so much work to do if I weren’t so blessed.” He stopped to think about that for a moment and then his eyes brightened as he said, “You are right! God has given you so many blessings that you have lots and lots of work to do!” And with that he was off joyfully counting all the ways God had blessed us as a family, and increased our work load as a result: family, church, school, outreach…

Fruitfulness is good. Fruitfulness brings lots of work. Work is good. Work brings lots of fruit. It’s a lovely circle of blessing and purpose which gives us a tangible and obvious way to glorify God with our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our energy, our talents, our money, our homes, our time, and on and on. Work is not a curse; God gave Adam work to do before sin entered the garden. Work is good. It brings fruit. Fruit is good. It brings work.

So as you give yourselves to your labors today, remember that somewhere is a woman who has no work to do and would give anything to have your blessings.

~Sarah Dionne

Wifely Wednesday: Sarah’s Short List of Selfish Reasons to Show Hospitality

We all know that we should be showing hospitality on a regular basis, even to strangers. God has told us in His word to do it (Heb. 13:2), and we know that we will be blessed as we obey Him in this service. But have you ever stopped to consider some of the other perks that come along with having people into your home on a regular basis? Here, in no order of importance, is my Short List of Selfish Reasons to Show Hospitality.

1) Maid Service
Seriously, if I didn’t know that guests were arriving at my doorstep on a regular basis, I would not clean my toilets nearly as often as I do. Showing hospitality is just the impetus this lazy housekeeper needs to stay on top of cleaning. Most of the women I talk to dread the thought of cleaning more than the actual time it takes to do it. Showing regular hospitality is a proven cure for the problem of procrastination! I consider it a real blessing that I have this weekly motivation to do the chores I would otherwise ignore until they became an unpleasant burden nagging on my mind. Without it, I must admit, I would not be intrinsically motivated enough to keep up with the cleaning. Just to be clear, I could never pass a white glove inspection. I probably wouldn’t pass a brown glove inspection! But regular hospitality is a great help in forcing me to keep up with the bare minimum. So if you are ignoring a very messy house, call a family up right now and invite them over this week. I guarantee you’ll have a clean house in no time!

2) Chocolate
I love having a weekly excuse to bake dessert. While we don’t usually serve anything really fancy for guests, it’s fun to do the little extras: dessert, hot dinner rolls, etc.  Yes, I do need to spend extra time in the kitchen cooking for guests. But that means that I also get to eat more! In fact, having people over on Sunday in particular is a great time to feast in celebration of the Lord’s Day. And I certainly do like to feast. Let me be perfectly honest here; if I didn’t have people at my table regularly, that would be fewer opportunities for me to bake and eat brownies. And that, my friends, would be sad for me.

3) Nanny 911
Nothing serves to train our children in manners better than having to put it into practice every Sunday at the dinner table with our guests. We can teach the rules of etiquette to them during the week, but the rubber meets the road when their Sunday school teacher is observing how they eat soup. Of course, the fact that my husband throws dinner rolls to me across the table might be a slight detriment, but our guests have never complained. They’ve also never been hit in the face with a dinner roll. Yet.

4) Home Entertainment System
We all like to be entertained. Some people are entertained by watching other people’s lives on TV. Some people spend lots of money going places to be entertained. Some of us invite entertainment to come over and have dinner with us. Right in our dining room we’ve been able to meet the most interesting people, hear the best stories, and watch the greatest party tricks. And unlike the TV, we get to interact with our entertainment, to ask them questions, or to beg them to tell just one more joke. We may feed their bellies, but they feed our imaginations and our minds as they talk about the experiences God has brought them through.

So that’s my Short List. What would you add?

~Sarah Dionne