Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Parenthood Should Have a No-Return Policy

Motherhood was not something I aspired to as a youngster. I had no starry-eyed illusions about raising children--because I was a selfish creature, I assumed any offspring I produced would be selfish as well, and would thus require something I really did not want to give...my effort and  energy, and quite possibly, the putting aside of certain dreams and ambitions. This was something I understood as a teenager.

As a young married adult, I sensed that God was changing my heart about motherhood. By changing my heart, I do not mean that I suddenly grew rose-colored glasses. He softened me to the idea that perhaps what I wanted so badly--a career--was not His best for me. He had a deeper, richer future for me as a wife and mom first, career second.   

This was not an easy change for me. Nor was it a one-time decision. There were several times where I doubted my abilities to parent well, or struggled with leaving the career-track. Sometimes, the idea of taking a long vacation from parenting seemed really tempting--but since I missed my children when  away just one night, ditching them long term was never going to happen. And after a short season of restlessness, God would always give me an event or sweet reminder that I was chosen to be the loving mom to three precious lives. I was on the right path, even though it was not always smooth.

So, the other day I read--with probably not a little judgment-- about grown women increasingly choosing to shirk motherhood because the choice they originally made is “not a fit” for them. These include women with college degrees, many who were no doubt proclaimed to be among the best and the brightest.  I was barely out of puberty when I could see the writing on the wall of the childbearing years, and these mothers are surprised by the work and sacrifice of parenthood? The real challenge these women face, of course, is not motherhood: it is the self. She looks in the mirror and sees the One Who Truly Matters. Narcissism is the plague of our times. 

Peggy Drexler wrote on CNN.com about mothers leaving children permanently in the care of fathers or other caregivers, describing the phenomenon as if it were some kind of emotionally detached science experiment: “American culture ... is still conditioned--through the media and pop culture--to believe that many women’s greatest desire is to have a baby. When mothers abandon their children, it’s seen as unnatural.”

What can be “natural” about leaving your child? It is not the same as changing a career or moving to a more desirable location. Children are not things, they are complex, feeling little beings deeply attached to their parents. An absent parent--be it mother or father--leaves a void. The CNN piece, by the way, ignored the fact bad fathering even exists: if the mother willingly leaves her children, the writer seems to assume, it must mean the father is the better care-giver, and therefore the child will be okay.

According to writer Deborah Moskovitch, “a parent's rejection of a child or a parent's inconsistent presence could drastically affect a child's self esteem ... [but] one good parent who is loving and nurturing can overcome the negative affects of losing the relationship with the other parent.” 
This assumes there is a good parent or caregiver left behind as well.

Motherhood is a gift. Just ask any woman yearning to have a child. A gift can be returned if it doesn’t fit, or if you already have one like it. But parenthood should have a no-return policy. Our children need us. If you are struggling as a parent, get help. Join a support group, surround yourself with emotionally healthy people who care about your family, communicate honestly with your spouse about your struggles, speak with a trusted counselor. You are a gift to your children, one they would not choose to return.

"I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends." John 15:13.

In anticipation of mother's day

Dr, Joyce
For the next few weeks, in honor of Mother's Day, we are going to be talking about Godly women.  First, those Godly women in our lives who shaped us - could be our moms or other women whose love and influenced help make us who we are.  Next week, our focus will shift to the heroes of faith in the Bible who are female.  We'll look first at those from the Old Testament and then those from the New Testament.

While writing has been slow by your KBers, and we apologize, let me give you a brief update.  I finished my doctoral degree completely - no more hoops or obstacles, I'm Dr. Joyce now.  My graduation ceremony was last Saturday and on that day we had a HUGE banquet type party to celebrate that, and our 35th Wedding Anniversary that is actually in February.  I've been exhausted.  And no break from work, so, I apologize again for being slow with writing.  I got to see all my children and hold for the first time my two great granddaughters, the twins.  I also got to see again one of my other great granddaughters - the other two great grandbabies couldn't make it -- Most of the grandkids were there as well!
Super Nana Joyce

Linda is here with me in Tennessee.  I've exhausted her as well.  Hopefully she'll recover enough to resume writing this week.

Jenna is taking a break from KB.  She is going to be using her time for other writing efforts.  We will miss her strong positive outlook and fun approach to life.  We wish her all of God's best in everything she does.

Rather than write a new post, I invite you to read a former posting about Godly women - you can read about her here.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Benny Hinn Was Not the Reason I Went to Conference

For about 10 years, I attended an annual Christian women’s conference. As a state and local leader, I was expected to attend the national conference (it was international every other year) and the time and dollars required were substantial for a stay at home mom of three like me. The sacrifice to make the trip included my husband having to take on the care of the household and the children, sometimes having to take time off from work.

The value in attending these conferences was not just my husband’s grateful embrace upon my return (stepping into a spouse’s shoes for five days goes a long way in understanding the value of what he or she does in daily life), the speakers (we had several Christian “celebrities” in the nineties like Joni Eareckson Tada) or even visiting a new city (we had very little time to see the sights; my favorite place was Nashville and watching a show at the Grand Ole Opry). It was the opportunity to connect with my local team in a deeper way, away from the daily grind, and to experience teaching and worship with over 3,000 women and men from across the nation and around the globe.

For believers who belong to megachurches where thousands are gathered each weekend, perhaps that is not such a big deal, but for a girl from New England where the average church size is around 60 people, it was awe-inspiring.  Also, this was not a gathering of one church or even people from one region. These conferences were a blend of dozens of different denominations who laid down theological differences at the door to embrace the mission of helping to spread the Gospel throughout the world.

God showed up in a special way at these conferences and the music/worship was powerful. I really don’t remember many of the speakers (Benny Hinn was at one conference, but I have no recollection of what he said, which is probably for the best), but I will never forget God’s presence in the worship. These women were free in expressing their love and adoration for Jesus and He was lifted up as the only reason we were gathered. It was not about the speaker that would soon approach the podium, it was about our Lord who had gathered his warrior women who wanted to make a difference in their communities and countries.

Attending conferences may not be fruitful for everyone. Depending on the organization, conferences may be more concerned with generating income for the organization than actually providing a deep benefit for the attendees. I would attend events expecting God to show up, to speak something through the speakers, special sessions, or the worship, to help grow me up in Him and expand my understanding of what was happening around the globe, and He never disappointed. Over the years, I have found that attending smaller, more intimate gatherings can be just as impacting and special. And guess what? God shows up.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Esse Quam Videri

This week the Kingdom Bloggers will be reflecting on a conference that was life changing.  We'd love to hear from you how a conference might have affected your life as well!

I've been to lots and lots of conferences over the years.  I've even spoke at some.  I love them!  I love to get away with fellow believers.  For me the fellowship is always the best part.  Sometimes the teaching or speaking gets a little long...  I have a hard time sitting still in hard chairs (or benches) squeezed in together with people - that's the part of the fellowship I don't care for.

As I reflected on our topic for this week, I have been stuck.  It was the life changing part that has me stuck.  That's a pretty high benchmark.

If you've been reading Kingdom Bloggers for a while, you remember I headed off to graduate school to get my doctoral degree three-years ago.  That first summer, I was required to spend 10 days in a dorm room and go to class day and night - literally!  Okay, I know that's not a conference, but it was a bit like an extended conference/seminar.  AND IT WAS LIFE-CHANGING!  And God was there.  At least I found Him there.

During that summer, I learned that I could survive and keep up with people half my age and less.  I was up for the mental and physical challenge.  Okay, I was probably more exhausted than the others, but I made it through.

But what was life changing?  Two things - one, I re-learned the message of being response-ABLE.  That I was actually in control.  I didn't have to be victimized by stimulus around me.  I had the ability to choose my response.  That was huge!  I've often been subject to the whims of others and allowed them to effect my mood, feelings about myself, and choices - rather than choosing for myself.

The second thing was that all I have to do is be... being me is enough!  It's okay! It's okay to be.  Esse Quam Videre means to be rather than to seem.  Being authentic AND knowing it is okay to be authentic, to be me is all I am required to be!

It is hard to put into words how much internalizing and moving forward in this messages has changed me.  Know I teach some of these messages to my students - and every time I teach it something happens that forces me to once again stop and choose - to practice being rather than performing.

Sometimes, we think we need to run to a conference for a life changing experience.  That's true - but it is also true that God uses all sorts of things to transform us into His image.  Right now, I'd love to get away with Jesus at a conference, but I also know He is right here in my living room and His power to transform is always there.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Angelina's God Book by Jenna Vick Silliman

How does a child view God? This is our theme for Kingdom Bloggers this week and today is my day to post a writing. My little friend, Angelina, age 8, graciously gave me permission to share some of the entries she has written in her "God Book" as she calls it. Children know more than we realize sometimes!

Angelina wrote:

God is amazing. God is GOOD.
There are hearts open for God.
I love God.
The Bible contains the mind of God.
God, the kingdom is the best.
Love love…sing to the love.
Put your heart into it. –God
God  MOM  DAD  family  LOVE.
The Lord is the best thing I've ever seen in my holl and tire life. Good thing He’s HERE.
I love the King…..He is so beautiful.
God, I am Yours.
Angelina’s sword is from God.
The heavens open yes they do.
My mom and dad are into God.
I love GOD just the way he is.
God is love to me.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Next Book by Jenna Vick Silliman

If I were to write a book, what would be the genre? I choose Health and Beauty Aids. Hahaha! Sounds like a department at the Drug Store! Seriously, that’s my area of interest. I’m a teacher type, so I write instructional or informational manuals. Wow, that sounds really boring, but I can’t help it—that’s what I write.
I have to add, however, the word “another” to the first sentence. If I were to write ANOTHER book? I’ve already written and self-published and sold several different books—or booklets. I have to laugh again—hahaha! My daughter’s voice and she just reminded me that the accurate description is a chap book and NOT a booklet. I guess that is what they call them now.
My first one is called “SOAP Handbook” and I wrote it about 16 years ago. It is the history, chemistry and old time craft of soapmaking. It includes my own recipe for making homemade soap in your blender. (No, not the Vita-mix—you need to use some cheap blender from a yard sale!) I used to speak and do soapmaking workshops and I sold my soap through mail order and at the street fairs. I still have the big wooden soap molds, but they serve to decorate the walls of my laundry room. I haven’t made soap in many years. My boys hated the fragrances of the essential oil that clung to everything in the house when I made soap. Even your sandwich would smell like lavender oil. Hahaha! Not too appetizing, eh?
I wrote a little book called “Home Remedies” and another one with a collection of poems and stories called Mama’s Story Book. I wrote one with Twenty Lists (everyone likes my lists) and one called “Say Yes to  Life” which is a long poem about welcoming the children God might want to add to your family. I also wrote one that was more substantial than a booklet called “Breastfeeding and Fertility” for new mothers that might be interested in that topic. It was published with a spiral binding by my friend, Nancy Campbell, editor of a mother’s magazine called “Above Rubies.” It is for sale in the back of the magazine, available by mail order and over the websitewww.aboverubies.org and also at the Above Rubies retreats. I’ve written several articles for the magazine to encourage mothers. One of my booklets started out as an article for “Above Rubies Magazine” and also was published in “Vibrant Health” and later grew to 40 pages. It is called “Raw Victory” and it is the story of how I lost 75 pounds eating raw vegetarian. It is also a “How To” or instructional type of book.
Next I want to re-write, update, re-title, and add to “Raw Victory.” Again, I will self-publish and distribute it on my own. My dream, however, is to be published and have a book with a spine, sold at bookstores everywhere. Maybe, just maybe, I will graduate from “booklet” to “book”. Now is the time to get to work and go for it and see my dream become a reality. So, to answer the question, my BOOK is about healthy living. Thanks for asking! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meet the Author(s)

It’s Monday and time for another full week of writings from your faithful Kingdom Bloggers.  Tony is taking a sabbatical, and Joyce (that’s me) has rejoined us.  Joyce is taking the lead each week with the Monday postings.  

This week, we return to a topic we’ve done before: if you were to write a book (or are writing a book) what would you write, what would the title be, would it be adult or children’s, etc?  We might surprise you, there might be some changes AND we have some new voices on Kingdom Bloggers, so you are sure to enjoy this week’s writings.  

We write for the glory of God and hope you’ll add us to your regular reading and tell your friends about Kingdom Bloggers.

I’ve been talking about writing a book for FOREVER.  When I was in High School, I read an essay in our textbook.  I have no idea what the essay was, or who wrote it.  What I do remember was writing a reflection on it.  In that reflection, I said that I liked the essay because it was about a writer and that was what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Well, I guess I haven’t grown up yet.  That’s good because I hate the thought of being old.  Recently, I had to write something for graduation about what I learned in the doctoral program.  I said that I learned that age was a number, it didn’t define me, or limit me.  That means there is still time to write and be an author.
Once upon a long time ago, I was very much involved in children’s ministry.  One summer, our theme was Psalm 150.  It’s a great Psalm that serves as the finale crescendo to the book of Psalms.  It sums up all the praises and laments of Psalms with three words:


To help with teaching the children about praising God and the book of Psalms I had a little finger puppet – he was a field mouse named Selah.  I told the children that there was a funny word in the book of Psalms.   No one knew for sure what it meant – I told them it was a secret.  The word really was the name of a field mouse that King David found when he was a shepherd boy.  When David was praising God, he’d call Selah.  David carried Selah with him everywhere.

What a great children’s storybook series I thought.  Selah, the mouse in King David’s pocket would tell the story of the life of David from the eyes of a field mouse.  That was my book.  A children’s book!  Somewhere, I might still have the beginning manuscript for that book.  Someday, maybe I’ll still try to write it.

Since then, I’ve developed several deeper theological type books in my mind.  One was on a fresh look at those verses most women love to hate – or at least wonder about – The Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31.  I did a paper on this and developed the idea that this could also be interpreted as a look at the mature “wife” or church.  That was my next idea for a ground breaking book.  A book quickly followed this on the difficult passages in Genesis surrounding Hagar and Ishmael.  I preached a sermon series shortly after 911 on the Intercession of Hagar.  I thought it would make a great book and later did a lot of theological work and even translations of Genesis 16 from Hebrew to English.

There have been lots of books; all in my head.  I recently finished my dissertation, soon I’ll get a bound copy of that and I guess then I can say I really wrote a book.  But the book that is yet to be written is a book about my life. 

I have had several working titles and none I really like – but my story is one of being a high school dropout who every one saw as a loser – of being a welfare mom living in a trailer – of being a single mother after being beaten and abandoned by her husband – of being a child bride and so much more who through the grace of God has had a marriage of 35 years to a wonderful husband, bore and raised 8 beautiful children, had several successful careers and now is getting her doctoral degree. 

That’s the story I am compelled to tell and will.  The day will come when I will be an author.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Imitation of Life by Linda Maynard

An old favorite movie is “The Imitation of Life”

I saw the 1959 version with my mother. We were both quite moved, especially a few specific heartbreaking scenes.

After losing her daughter at Coney Island, Lora, a widow and budding actress, seeks to find her daughter Susie. She is frantic, understandably so.

She eventually finds Susie eating ice cream, with another young girl, Sarah Jean. Sarah Jean’s mom, Annie was watching them. It is noteworthy that Annie is black and her daughter’s skin is light.

Lora actually thought Annie was Sarah Jean’s mammy and is surprised otherwise.

Annie is homeless and proposes to help Lora and her daughter. Lorna cannot pay her to help, but invites her to stay one night.

Annie was loving, selfless and patient and most of all had a great love for her daughter. She does allude to the color issue, talking to Lora, “How do you tell a child she was born to be hurt?”

She was black, but the father of her daughter was light colored.  Annie says “She favors her father” (meaning in looks).

As Sarah Jean grows her anger and embarrassment at having a black mother escalated.  She does not accept that she is black. She eventually runs away from home. She makes wrong choices and even gets a beating from a boyfriend when he finds out she is black.

Lora’s career takes off. Susie, in the meantime resents that she was always second best to her mother’s pursuit of a career. Annie ends up raising Susie as Lora pretty much rejected her

Years later, Annie realizes that Sarah Jean is working in a
scandalous place. She visits her daughter in the rooming house, saying that she just needed to see Sarah Jean to make sure she is OK. In this heartbreaking scene Sarah Jean venomously belittles her mother for coming. She yells “I am white!” Her mother however reiterates that she just want to see Sara Jean one more time. (Her health was deteriorating) She said that she cares for her and wants everything to be ok. She even asks Sarah Jean, that if she needed anything, would she be willing to contact Lora? (She knew her time was short)

As the mother is leaving the room, she tells her how much she loves her. Sarah Jean’s hard facade diminishes. She is conflicted and distressed. She starts to cry and as they hug, she whispers “Mama”

Her roommate came in, she said to Sarah Jean, after Annie left, “So honey chile’, you had a mammy?” Sarah Jean replies “Yes all my life”

Annie, eventually is bedridden and being cared for by Lora.

She dies of a broken heart and was given a funeral she requested. It involved a large crowd, gospel singers and a horse drawn funeral carriage.

Sarah Jean returns to town. She must have been informed of Annie’s death. Just as the Funeral procession was leaving, she runs after and falls on her mother’s casket crying “Mama…please forgive me!”

I feel that Annie represents the Love that the Lord has for us. We are His, “no matter what” He realizes that we will have to go through hard times (being in this world but not of this world). In spite of how much we reject Him, spew anger at Him, and try to run away from Him…His love remains the same.

When we go astray, He goes after us, trying to woo us back Home. We can still be filled with rebellion and reject His overtures of Love.

We can be like the Prodigal who went to live out on His own. His father (our Father) knows where that will end up, but I have often thought “In LOVE…the father let him go”…He never forces us to stay.

However, deep within her heart, Sarah Jean loved her mother. She just went so far away…she may have not known how to get back.

Lora to me represents a person with selfish ambitions. Pursuing a dream, in and of itself, is not wrong, but she sacrificed her daughter on the altar of self. Her daughter suffered.

I think it was honorable that Annie stepped in to raise Susie, but what I thought of was the term that is thrown around recently “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” Like so many things, on the surface, it could sound good, but I don’t want my children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews to be “raised” by a society that has very different views than I do. For the most part hate God and hate Christian values. 

Of course, God doesn’t die with a broken heart in the way we understand, but it IS broken and poured out with a Love that is true.

In essence you could say the life, in the natural, without God, is truly an Imitation of Life.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fairy Tales, Fantasy and Films

Sharing your treasured films with others can be risky: “One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure,”  "Do not throw your pearls before swine," and other sayings come to mind as caveats. But we still do it. 

I remember lending one of my favorite films, Ladyhawke, to a friend, and was stunned by her reaction: “I am surprised that you of all people would like a film that has stuff like that.” The ‘stuff like that’ was, I suppose, a curse that is placed on a young couple by an evil archbishop in 13th century France. “It’s a fairy tale!” I replied. I scratched my head over this fellow believer’s passion for Bruce Willis’ Diehard franchise yet her taking offense over the dark themes in Ladyhawke.

Fairy tales, fantasy and science fiction films can be great tools for telling meaningful stories. This medium puts us temporarily outside of the gravity that holds us down: anything seems possible, beauty is in Technicolor, evil personified, and incredible challenges to be surmounted by our heroes. 

Here are some of my favorites, primarily chosen for their themes of sacrifice, overcoming adversity, love and taking on evil head-on. When Jesus walked this earth, he was in the business of confronting evil, loving people, sacrificing his entire life for others.

The Matrix: “The matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes.” Read 2 Corinthians 4. "You cannot die because I love you." Read John 17. This film is unfortunately given a bad rap because of the supposed connection to the Columbine shootings (black coats, etc). In actuality, the film is a powerful story of good and evil, conversion, sacrifice and a willingness to confront evil. (Thanks to my friend Steve Froehlich for his insights into this film.)

Chronicles of Narnia: “’Aslan is on the move’.... At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer” (selection from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). Narnia is based on this amazing tale from Lewis, one of Christendom’s most treasured thinkers and authors.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy: “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Director Peter Jackson’s brilliant depiction of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels. I watch this trilogy about every six months and it always affects me emotionally and spiritually.

LadyHawke: What I love about this film is the determination of friends to see an innocent couple released from a terrible curse, even in the face of resistance and unbelief by the couple--they no longer have hope for themselves, so the help from friends to confront evil is crucial. Or, if an evil Archbishop giving himself over to the devil’s work offends you, go see Diehard

Pan's Labryinth: Guillermo del Toro's very dark melding of fairy tale and reality, this is a film that will disturb and move you. Again, a confrontation of evil is afoot, and the courage and imagination of a child unhappy with her reality over which she has seemingly zero control.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Secret to Life

This week your Kingdom Bloggers will be writing about a movie that spoke to them spiritually.

One of my favorite movies is City Slicker with Billy Crystal.  I love Billy Crystal.  Maybe it is the New Yorker in  me that relates to the New Yorker in him.  I love his movies.

I actually remember the first time I saw the movie at the theater in 1991.  Mitch Robbins, played by Billy Crystal is having his mid-life crisis and decides to go on a cattle drive.  During the drive, he means Curly, raspy cowboy played by Jack Palance.  I grew up during the days of Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, Wyatt Earp, Rawhide, Bonanza, Big Valley and a host of other "cowboy shows."  I had a holster, a six shooter (shot caps), a cowgirl skirt with fringe, boots, and a hat.  I wanted to be Annie Oakley. I had the right middle name - Ann.  I tried so hard to learn to twirl and shot or spin a rope.    This movie had everything.  Comedy, relevance, and a flashback to my cowgirl childhood.

I literally held my breath and gasped when Curly tells Mitch the secret of life.  Curly held up his "pointer" finger and smiled.  Mitch said what? your finger?  Curly said ONE THING.  Instantly my thoughts went to the scripture in Luke 10:42.  This is the story of Mary and Martha.  You know, the one where poor Martha is so busy trying to be a good servant but gets frustrated with her sister's lack of help.  She asks Jesus for help and instead of sending Mary to the kitchen, He reminds Martha that one thing is needed and Mary has chosen it.  I have always felt sorry for Martha in that story and have a lot to say about that story, but not this time.

Eventually Curly says to Mitch that he has to find that one thing for himself.

I thought "that'll preach."  And it has.  I can't tell you how many times I've started a sermon with that scene from City Slicker.  Here it is:


Sometimes I go to Luke and talk about the one thing being worship - other times I go to the story of the
"Rich Young Ruler" in Mark 10:21 and focus on compassion for the poor and the ministries of social justice. But my favorite is to go to the second chapter of Luke. The birth of Jesus is followed by his presentation at the temple.  There are two people that we don't hear much about in this story -- the first is Simeon, the second Anna.

Both of these people had one thing - for them it was to see the Christ.  Both were moved by the holy spirit - both were advanced in years.  Both had been waiting a very long time.  Anna had been a widow after seven short years of marriage, she was now 84 years old.  She never stopped worshiping at the temple.  Probably ignored by the throngs of important people, perhaps shooed away by the priests - nevertheless, she knew there was one thing she had to do, one thing she'd see and experience before she died.  Same with Simeon - both blessed the Lord, prophesied about Him, and were forever remembered in the pages of scripture.  That gives me hope.  I don't think I've had that one thing yet.  I'm still waiting.  Not as faithfully as Simeon and Anna, but still waiting, hoping, praying.

One thing - sometimes I wonder if my life really is reduced to one thing.  I don't know.  I do know I am still waiting for something.  I know Curly is right - there is one thing and when you find it, you are satisfied and all the puzzle pieces of life fit.