Monday, May 23, 2011

Working Women Still "Keepers of the Home"

When it comes to choosing a spouse, there is so much to consider – not the least of which includes role expectations within household duties.

It seems like everywhere I look lately, I’ve been getting the same message: when it comes to being a “keeper of the home,” women have still got it – whether they want it or not.

Shawn Bean deals with this topic in a recent article from Parenting magazine titled “Help Has No Fury”...

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Trip West: Day 4

My dad's old house is near Porterville, California.

We’ve been driving through California since yesterday afternoon.

For most of today, we’ve been driving through towns with names I’ve heard as long as I can remember. Modesto. Madera. Fresno. Sacramento.

Last night, we ate at a pizza parlor my dad frequented as a teen. This morning, we drove by his old home. Orchards now cover the ground that once supported his family turkey farm. Fields stretch out where barns once shaded the earth.

As I write this, we are driving north to my mom’s childhood home. My family has moved many times during my life, but my grandparents have lived in the same house since 1964. I remember the way their cement walk felt under my 5-year-old toes.

Driving into California is almost like coming home. It’s the first place I identified with. It’s the first home I located on a map. California held the first chapters of my parent’s stories, and it’s where mine began.

And yet, it’s not a home where I belong anymore. It’s like finding an old glove that, when I slip my hand inside, I realize doesn’t fit the way it used to. I’ve grown and it has aged. We are old friends, but we don’t know what to say anymore.

But for the moment, it’s fun flexing my fingers in the old leather, looking my old friend in the face, retracing my steps back their beginning.

I don’t want to go back, but I don’t want to forget. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Trip West: Day 2

Today we took a small rest from our break-neck pace to enjoy the wild beauty of Arizona. The seemingly endless vistas reminded me of a somewhat recent article from Transpositions titled "Natural Beauty, Frontiers, and God" by L. Clifton Edwards:

Despite all of humankind’s progress, we have never lost our desire to dwell in the ever elusive frontiers of beauty and knowledge. And for Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the entire sensible and knowable world is a ‘frontier,’ a ‘horizon,’ that catches us up and includes us within its own being and purpose.
Perhaps it is with good reason, then, that Augustine called creation ‘divine art.’ In theConfessions, Augustine also said that he posed his questions to the world in the form of his attention. The response that he received from the world was its beauty. If nature can speak in such a way, then Wordsworth was right to view it, as he said he did, with ‘pregnant vision.’ Does natural beauty speak to us symbolically of the divine, through images of beautiful order, repose, and boundlessness? Do our natural frontiers speak to our spiritual destinations? What if the experience of the poets, and our own experience of the world, whispers rumours of God and a human destination revealed in the naturally beautiful?

 What do you think?

The Painted Desert

The Badlands of the Painted Desert

The Tepee Mountains of the Painted Desert

An ancient tree in the Petrified Forest

The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Trip West: Day 1

Somewhere in Oklahoma

We headed west yesterday morning. After staying up until nearly 1 a.m. and not being able to sleep until at least 2 a.m., I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to pack up the ice chests and pile into the minivan with the other six members of my family.  

The day started with the radio threatening to give out, but it pulled itself together enough to fill the morning with several hours of ‘70s tunes. Once again, I have found it true that the best memories are made to the sound of James Taylor.

Yesterday’s route took us through Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, and across New Mexico. As I watched the Ozark Hills fade into rolling plains, level into prairies and then rise into rugged desert mesas, I kept thinking of my great-grandmother. Lavola Jean Mills was raised in the Petty Jean Mountains of the Arkansas Ozarks, a couple hours south of where I live now. She left the hills as a young woman when she ran away with my great-grandfather to California where they worked in the shipyards during WWII.

Though I have lived in three different states and traveled quite a bit, the drastic change in climate and terrain repeatedly took my breath away. What must my grammy have thought? She, who had spent her whole life in one place, who would have had very little access to photographs of the west?

Thinking of my great-grandmother, I felt as if I was viewing my country through the perspective of physical as well as temporal distance. I watched the same earth roll past my window, but I was driving much faster than grammy would have been in a Model A. And the country farmsteads she surely would have seen are now falling into ruin, a silent testament to another time. The pastoral beauty of the 1940s is passing away, marred my progress and industry. Today, miles of giant windmills stand far above the once giant barns and oaks, their constant motion reminding me of time which never slows. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Meditations on Spring Cleaning

We discovered this Dust Doggy under my bed during a spring cleaning.

Over the past two weeks, I (along with several family members) have been in the process of spring cleaning our house.

It never ceases to amaze me how much dust, clutter, and general mess finds its way into forgotten corners of a house. Typically we deep clean the house every six months, and regardless of how tidy everything looks at the outset, the end result is that the house was much worse than I originally thought.

So too this spring.

As I vacuumed flocks of dust-bunnies from beneath beds, I thought to myself that dust is rather like sin. It is almost simple to keep things tidy on the surface. Repentance for obvious wrongs is like feather dusting the furniture -- things always seems quite clean. Yet, it's all too easy to get lax about what is hidden, to forget about the closet corners and back rooms of our minds and hearts.

A good spring cleaning is necessary for both a well-kept house and well-kept heart

Monday, May 9, 2011

Are Women Really That Complicated?

A few weeks ago, a friend posted a link on my Facebook wall to a photo titled “Man and Woman in Computer Form.” I clicked the photo thumbnail and found myself looking at two control panels. One, labeled “Man,” contained an on/off switch. The other, labeled “Woman” contained 40 colored knobs and buttons, complete with blinking lights.

You’ve probably seen the picture I’m describing. It has come through my Facebook feed several times in the last weeks. On StumbleUpon alone, it has been viewed over four million times and received over one thousand comments. Apparently, something about the old “women are so much more complicated than men” cliché really resonates with people...

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Patiently Holding Out

This spring, I’ve taken up jogging. That may not sound like a big deal, but it is to me.

I gave up on running at the age of 10, simply because I was not good at it. I tried. I failed. End of story.

I’ve never thought of myself as a quitter. When I was growing up, my mother would often quote the proverb, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” In most areas, I have done my very best to prove that statement true. Whatever the goal, I would persevere...

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Foundation of Marriage: Friendship vs. Eros

To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it...

~ C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

As I was battling boredom this afternoon, I decided to get caught up on Boundless. In today's article, "Making A Good Marriage," Steven Garber argues that friendship is the best foundation for marriage. The idea certainly isn't a knew one, but Garber argues it beautifully. 

I was committed to trying to be different, to trying for the first time in my young life to enter into friendship with the young women of my life with no other motive than to love them unselfishly. In a word, to be a friend.
That required that I repent of the language that had so skewed my relationships through adolescence, particularly the notion that categorized some girls as "friends" and some as "girlfriends." They were different kinds of girls; everyone knew that, and never the twain should meet.
Instead, as I tried to think christianly about girls and about friendship, my deepening convictions led me to wonder about the possibility of redeeming friendship, to see what it might be like to believe and behave as if friendship was not second-best, after all. In fact, to act as if it was God's standard, His expectation, for unmarried men and women whether they were 20 or 60. As I began to question more and more of my cultural assumptions — feeling the tension of living in, but not of the world — I found myself less willing to go along with "the dating game" and all that it implied about exclusivity and intimacy outside of marriage. And for most of five years, I lived like that. Never perfectly, always struggling with and for integrity, yet all along the way learning the virtues of friendship.
What happened between that commitment and the decision five years later to commit myself to one friend, Meg, — now my wife of 22 years — is another story. We never had what would be called a "dating relationship." ...
Years later, after watching many marriages, good and not-so-good, healthy and not-so-healthy, I am surer than ever that it is friendship that marks marriages that keep on keeping on. Marriage turns out to be a long friendship in the end; surprise of surprises, it is not a long date after all...

As I read Garber's words, I was reminded of C.S. Lewis' comparison of friendship and eros in The Four Loves:

The co-existence of Friendship and Eros may also help some moderns to realise that Friendship is in reality a love, and even as great a love as Eros. Suppose you are fortnate enough to have "fallen in love with" and married your Friend. And now suppose it possible that you were offered the choice of two futures: "Either you two will cease to be lovers but remain forever joint seekers of the same God, the same beauty, the same truth, or else, losing all that, you will retain as long as you live the raptures and ardours, all the wonder and the wild desire of Eros. Choose which you please." Which should we choose? Which choice should we not regret after we had made it?

Where Lewis suggests friendship as the best answer, Garber states it explicitly. 

There is something about friendship, a redeemed friendship, that makes it possible for those outside of marriage and within marriage to care about the qualities of companionship, camaraderie and collegiality, characteristics that sustain relationships anywhere and everywhere. To put it another way, friendships that are marked by the gospel of the kingdom, formed out of fidelity to a biblically-informed worldview, are ones in which friends care more to serve than to be served. Thinking Christianly about relationships begins, and maybe ends, there.

There are many ways into marriage; each story is unique, including ours. But there is only one way into a good marriage, and that is through the vision and virtues of friendship.