Fall colors and God’s word – a good end to a Monday

image

One of the reasons I went back to work full time last fall was because ten acres of land across the street from us popped up for sale at a reasonably good price and we were thinking of making an offer on it.  We inquired of the selling agent and emailed back and forth over six months, but my husband was not willing to pay what was being asked after taking a walk on the land.  There were just too many marshy areas interspersed with little islands of dry land for what we wanted to do with it, which was build a pole barn and fence in an area for some critters (horses, goats, and the like).  There was one good area on the far western edge that a structure could be built on, but we sort of dragged our feet for awhile and eventually the land sold.

We finally found out who bought it.  One of our down-the-road neighbors was driving by one morning on his tractor while my husband was down by the road and he stopped to chat.  Apparently an older man around the corner has a big chunk of land and large home and wants to downsize, so he bought this little 10-acre plot and will build a small house on the dry portion.  Good enough!  I’m a little sad that it didn’t work out for us, but at least it’s going to be kept relatively natural.

The autumn colors are in full glory around here.  All I want to do is be outside, working and walking and looking and listening.  How magnificent is our God, that He made all this beauty for our enjoyment and gave us dominion over it!

A few photos…nothing special, just snapped with my phone while I was out tramping around with the dogs early one evening:

The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

imageimage

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

image

Sumac makes me happy all year long but especially in the fall.

You can see the new hunting blind in this picture if you look very closely at the tree in the center.

image

Deer, deer everywhere, bouncing off unsuspecting high schoolers’ cars at 7:00 a.m. and startling me when I take out the trash after dinner, but never around when you want to put one in the freezer… 🙂 Or so says Jamie, the guy who plows our driveway in the winter and who has been spending his free time perched in the blind with his bow.  We are awaiting firearm season

A very old hunting platform just off our driveway…

imageSome red berries and the view from the pond looking up the hill toward the house:

image    imageimage

imageimage   imageimageimage

A hoary old tree in a part of the woods that has a sort of mystical feel about it…image   image

Standing on the eastern edge of our woods looking out over a neighbor’s farm fields:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

image  image

image

Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who alone works wonders. And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen. (Psalm 72:18-19)

May the rest of the week ahead be peaceful and blessed for you and your household, dear reader!

Advertisements

The Worst Mother-in-Law

I’ve just finished reading Mychael’s post Monster-in-law at Scott’s new blog, Morally Contextualized Romance, and skimming through the comments.  There are several good stories there about the positive role a mother-in-law can play in her daughter-in-law’s life, but the question asked was how to avoid becoming a MONSTER-in-law to your (potential) daughter-in-law.  I’ll never have a daughter-in-law since we have only daughters and no sons, and (despite some tensions early in our relationship) my own mother-in-law is not a monster, but I do have a thought on what would make a terrible mother-in-law.

I think a terrible mother-in-law is someone who seeks to influence important decisions in her son’s and daughter-in-law’s life according to her own agenda.  Equally important would be the problem of the son who seeks to involve his mama in marital decisions overly much.  Allow me to provide an example that I have mulled over for years.

Two years ago, the self-help author Susan Jeffers, a not-infrequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, passed away.  She was born Susan Gildenberg, got married young, had two children, and decided that she was meant for “more” than “just” raising a family (her words).  So she went back to school, biding her time until her husband was making enough money to afford daycare, and then divorced him, giving him full custody of the children so she could pursue a full-time career as a psychologist and self-help author.

After getting divorced, she changed her name to “Jeffers” because she liked the way it sounded.  Among her many words of bad advice for women, one of them is that as soon as they are old enough, women should randomly pick a surname of someone they don’t know and change their name to that because to keep their fathers’ names or take their husbands’ names is sexist and implies that the woman is owned by the men in her life.  In her view it is better if the woman is just disconnected from everything and everyone, I guess.

“Jeffers” first popped on my radar one morning back in the early 2000s when I was watching the Today! show (back when we still had TV) while feeding one of our daughters.  There was some segment on the Mommy Wars with careerists squared off against the stay-home mom crowd.  I’ve always found that debate tiresome, but I watched it idly.  Jeffers asserted that women should NOT have children but if they are stupid enough to have them, they should never, ever have more than one, because it would limit their career success, and their careers should be the most important thing in the world to them. I thought, “What an awful woman.”

But a week or so later I was at the library when I saw a book she’d published in 2000 entitled, I’m Okay, You’re a Brat.  The book claimed that it would debunk harmful myths about raising children, so on a whim I grabbed it and read it.  It was an absolutely disgusting piece of trash, it turns out.  The book grumbles over all the challenges of raising children, but the real gist is that “Jeffers” did not like being a mother and therefore believed that most women probably dislike being mothers and instead should devote their entire lives to their “careers”.

But one anecdote she told in the book horrified and disgusted me at the time and has stuck with me these some ten years or so.  At one point, Jeffers’ son came to her and told her that he and his wife were thinking about having a child and asked her if they should do it.  I wish I could find the direct quote of what she said to him, but the gist of it was that she told him that he and his wife were fools to even consider having children, that they absolutely should not, that they would hate every minute of it, and if they had children, to understand that they should never imagine that she would want to take care of their child for them for even a moment.

Now, I don’t know why a man would go to his mama to ask her whether or not he ought to have kids; one would hope that by the time he is a husband, he is a big enough boy to make decisions like that for himself.  But for heaven’s sake, what kind of mother would give that kind of advice to her son?  It’s none of her business whether her son and his wife have children or not!  I felt sorry for Jeffers’ daughter-in-law, and I would say Jeffers epitomized the Monster-in-law in that example.

My advice to young single women would be Don’t marry a man who can’t seem to make decisions without asking his mommy first.  My advice to mothers would be Don’t raise your son to be the kind of man who runs to Mommy for advice before he makes decisions for his family.  And my advice to wives would be Don’t set yourself up as some kind of authority over your husband such that he feels like he needs to get female permission before he makes decisions for his family (go to Dalrock’s blog and search “mother-in-law” for a good post on that topic).

In terms of how to treat a potential daughter-in-law when first meeting her, though, I think Mychael pretty much has it right when she says:

I have told Scott that what I would like to do is really pour on the sweetness and submissive attitude toward him, in the girls presence so she can internalize “this is what my guys mom treats his dad like. Does he expect that of me?”

And then maybe give the girl a chance to ponder that.  It may be the first time she’s seen a woman who treats her husband with a sweet, respectful attitude and she may very well be intrigued but unsure.  Gently influencing her (potential) future daughter-in-law with her good example is likely to be the most helpful thing a mother-in-law can do.

When Daddy gets home.

I was working with a child yesterday who has a language delay and somewhat limited vocabulary.  We were working on creating mental semantic webs for words by generating items in categories.  We had gone through a few – name three things that live in the ocean, name three things that are blue, name three games that you play with a ball – and were on the last category – name three things that make you happy.

Her adorable little face puckered with concentration.

“Uh.  Uh.  Candy!”

“Good!” I said.  “What else makes you happy?”

Furrowed brow and deep concentration.

“Um.  Uh.  Oh!  Cookies!”

“I like cookies, too.  One more, now.  What really makes you so happy?”

She was quiet for a moment, and then her face lit up like the sun was shining on it.  An enormous smile blossomed and she began to wiggle like an excited puppy.

“When Daddy gets home!”

Tears stung my eyes at the simple sweetness of her response.

God never made an ugly landscape.

IMGP0747

“On a drive into Hereford I take the cross-country route, hoping to avoid the traffic bottleneck.  (Some hope.)  Despite the sparsity of population, I count at least five houses where the inhabitants have strimmed their roadside verge to within a centimetre of its life.  Internally I rail at the suburbanity of such an aesthetic (why move to the country if you want to turn it into Hyacinth Bucket’s Blossom Avenue?), and rather more honourably deplore the ecological holocaust.  Roadside verges are often remnants of ancient meadow – and in some areas, the only remnants of ancient meadow – and are flora rich, and the sanctuary of wild animals.”

From Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field by John Lewis-Stempel

image

Yes!  So many times I have railed against this same thing!  It’s not that I don’t think people have the right to do what they want with their own private property, it’s just that I am so mystified by it.  I don’t understand the thought process that causes someone to look for land in a rural area, pay a lot in order to live in a natural area, and then mow it all down flat and install a 3-acre ChemLawn.  It’s one thing when it gets mowed down and turned into gardens, fields, or pastureland.  Yet it seems suburban refugees come here to the rural areas and then go for the exact same sterile look.  It’s really a mystery.

IMGP0343

As for me, I’m in accord with John Muir…

IMGP0144

“God never made an ugly landscape. All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.”

-1897

IMGP0333

How Great Thou Art

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee; How great Thou art!
How great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee;
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

All photos in this post copyright 2015 by Philip Thiry

When you’re dying inside, remember you’re not actually dying.

Having reached the age of six months, it was time for that dreaded day, the Day of Neutering and Spaying for the pups.

image

If Professor Diggers could talk, he would assure you that he is, in fact, dying inside…this cone.

image

All he NEEDS in order to be happy, he would explain, is for his humans to listen when he says:

“Humans, I’m not happy in this cone. Here’s why. Let’s change it.”

image

Alas, Professor Diggers is not alone.  After her spaying surgery, Miss Ruby developed a hernia and had to have a second surgery a few days later to repair it.  She has to spend 10-14 days in her kennel except for when we walk her outside to go to the bathroom:image

She lets us know by doing her high-pitched Shiba Inu scream at top volume that she is lit-er-al-ly dying inside her kennel while the Professor is out of his.

And truly, I believe the pups are unhappy and feel like they are dying.  What they don’t understand is that we placed that cone on Professor Diggers not to harm him – despite how truly miserable it makes him – but to help him.  His persistent licking and biting at his stitches was preventing healing that needed to occur; if he will obey us – stop trying to tear off his cone, stop biting at his stitches – he will be freed in due time.  And we placed Miss Ruby in her kennel because she was tearing around the house at top speed, jumping over furniture, and ripping open the suture site.  Eventually she will be freed, but when is not her decision to make because she lacks the wisdom that we possess.

For someone who is in a marriage where there is little emotional intimacy or perhaps little physical intimacy, the suffering is real.  It feels terrible, and a lack of intimacy in marriage does not reflect the one-flesh union God designed marriage to be.

However.

Let me address the sisters here, and leave the brothers to someone else.

Sisters –

You are not literally dying if your marriage lacks intimacy.  A woman does not NEED emotional intimacy in order to honor her wedding vows.  Never – not even once – does the Bible say that if there is no emotional intimacy, it is permissible to divorce your spouse.  Rather, this is what the Bible says:

And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband (1 Cor 7:10)

Does that mean a woman without marital intimacy is not suffering?  Of course it doesn’t.  She IS suffering.  Just like Christ suffered upon the cross of Calvary, the same Christ who said:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

What does following Him entail?  It involves obeying him even when we are suffering emotionally.  Do you think Jesus cannot understand what it is to obey God while suffering?

And being found in human form, [Christ] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)

You are not being asked to die physically (and if you are in physical danger, then physical separation is probably reasonable), as Christ was, but you are being asked to be obedient to Him while suffering emotionally.

Sometimes life involves suffering.  If women are so strong, can we not then endure the heartache of an emotionally-unsatisfying marriage and obey God’s direct command not to divorce or even to threaten to divorce?

We can.  And here is one reason why we should:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

The words “light and momentary troubles” were penned by St. Paul, a man whose troubles included being beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, going hungry, and eventually being martyred.  A lack of emotional intimacy in marriage is very painful, but under direction from God, St. Paul penned the letters to the Corinthians explaining that the sufferings in this world are light and momentary compared to the eternal glory we receive for obeying God even when it’s hard as hell.

Sisters, I don’t write this as someone who cannot empathize.  Trust me, I can.

If your husband rejects you or ignores you, it’s okay to feel hurt.  It’s okay to tell him how you feel.  You might also try asking him if there is some particular reason why he doesn’t want to connect with you emotionally.  But there may not be any reason other that his own sin.  So be it.

You don’t have to (threaten to) divorce him.  Fix your gaze on God instead and understand that while a marriage that lacks intimacy does not please Him, your obedience to Him despite feeling so alone DOES please Him.  Obeying God means not divorcing, not threatening to divorce, and treating your husband with respect regardless of how you feel.

Instead of griping at a hard-hearted husband, pray for him instead. God can and will do miraculous things when we ask Him, and things may change.  But even if your husband stays hard-hearted toward you, pray for him anyway, every day for years if need be, and ask God to fill your emotional needs, just like a widow asks God to meet her physical needs.  He can and He will:

And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. (1 John 3:22)

You may not understand why God commands you to remain in a marriage that does not reflect how He designed marriage to be.  But just like I have wisdom my dogs lack, God has wisdom that we lack, and He uses our obedience to transform us more and more into His Son’s likeness.  He can bring good for us out of an unhappy situation:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

We women can honor our wedding vows and treat our husbands with respect out of obedience to God, regardless of what our husbands may or may not be doing.  And if we want to please God, we must obey Him.

Apples from Lesser Farms!

This past Saturday we dropped by Lesser Farms to get apples.  If you live in this area, I highly recommend Lessers.  The family has been in the Chelsea area for a number of generations; I saw in the paper that old Mr. Lesser recently passed away in his late 80s and had farmed in this area his whole life.  His sons and grandkids farm around here now, and one of the Lesser farms is within walking distance of our house.imageimage

It’s not a fancy place; it’s a real, working farm, diversified as small family farms tend to be, with a little bit of this and that, but of course a whole lot of corn, too.image

image

One of our daughters paying for the Cortlands and Honeycrips we bought.

Fruit sales happen on the back porch:

imageimage

Fresh eggs and their own honey are always available on the side porch of the house.  It’s help yourself and self-pay on the honor system.  Our daughters discovered the joy of eating honeycomb last fall thanks to the Lessers.

image

Lessers grow their apples conventionally, which means they are sprayed several times during the growing season.  During one of the aerial sprayings this summer, my husband and one of our daughters walked over and hung out with the Lessers to watch their new crop duster guy, who was some kind of winged madman.  My husband said one of the Mr. Lessers was just shaking his head in amusement as the little crop plane whizzed back and forth at a ridiculously high speed.  Everyone was amazed he didn’t crash.  Our daughter amused herself by trying to catch one of the barn kittens, which Mr. Lesser said she could keep if she could catch.

image

Yesterday I cooked a traditional Sunday dinner and invited my mother-in-law to join us for a big pork roast with maple syrup glaze (made with syrup from Jane Kelly’s farm in Dexter), mashed potatoes, and butternut squash from our garden, and I made two big apple pies for dessert from the Cortland apples we’d bought.  Cortlands are my favorite pie apple by a mile:

imageimageimage

Here is my favorite pie crust recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 2/3 cups lard
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add 1 2/3 c lard.
  3. Cut in lard until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together water, egg, and vinegar.
  5. Pour into lard mixture and stir until dough is thoroughly moistened and forms a ball. Divide into 4 portions (if you like a thicker crust, I recommend only dividing the dough into three portions instead of four) and wrap tightly until used.

Here is the pie filling recipe I used:

  • Enough Cortland apples to fill 9-inch pie plate (heaping)
  • ¾ c sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of salt
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 T butter sliced over the apples
  • Mix one egg with 2 T Half n’ Half and brush over top crust. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 350° for one hour or until crust is golden brown and apples are tender.

Of course, if you are going to go to all the trouble of making a homemade pie, I recommend making two.  A slice of bacon, a sliver of leftover apple pie, and coffee with cream makes an awfully nice breakfast on an oh-no-it’s-the-start-of-another-hectic-week Monday morning.

Start with respecting him in public.

On my old blog I would have taken some time to write up a well-worded essay on this topic, but in the present day, I will never have the time to write those kinds of posts, so I’m going to put this very simply.

I was picking something up at the local pharmacy several days ago, and as I was walking back out to my car, a heavy set woman of about fifty-something was walking past me into the pharmacy, saying something over her shoulder to the man in the car.  He appeared to be her husband.  She was saying something to the effect of, “Because that’s how you treat people with honor!  That’s called being honorable!”  She then walked back to the car, which was parked next to mine, and gave him a little piece of her mind even though I was standing right there.

Ephesians 5:33 says:

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

For Christians, this isn’t just a good idea; it is a requirement.  You either obey God on this matter or you disobey Him.  And notice that the verse says “let the wife see that” – clearly He anticipated the fact that women would try to hedge out of it by saying, “Oh, I will respect him…when he behaves in a way that is respectable.”  The verse doesn’t give a commandment to the man there, it gives a commandment to the woman; it is her responsibility to make sure she is respecting her husband with her words and actions.

Fine.  That should be pretty straightforward. However, this verse is also wise advice for the non-Christian woman.  No husband likes to be spoken to or treated with disrespect.  No one likes to have snide comments made about them or be the butt of jokes (“But I was only kidding!”), especially in public.

I don’t know what the husband at the pharmacy may have done or said prior to what I overheard his wife saying.  For all I know, he may have been acting like a total jerk or have done something that caused a real problem for his family.  But I do know there is never – not ever – any reason to berate, humiliate, disrespect, mock, or bitch at your husband in public.

Occasionally I’ll hear people say that telling someone to treat his or her spouse well in public is encouraging them to put on a mask, put up a false front, or act like they are better than everyone else.  I guess those folks think everyone should just let it all hang out all the time and involve the whole world in their personal business or something, but I disagree.  Social mores exist in part to restrain poor behavior by individuals at the community level.  There’s nothing “real” or “authentic” about acting badly in public, and there is nothing “fake” about telling women to put a cork in it in front of other people.

Whatever disagreement or dispute the couple at the pharmacy may have been having in the car on the way there should have ceased the minute her feet hit the pavement.  Should she have been treating him with respect even when they were alone?  Of course she should.  But disrespecting him publicly added an extra layer of humiliation for him; it’s bad to disrespect your husband when you are alone but it is even worse to do it when you are in front of other people.

If you are a woman who has recently come to realize that something is amiss in your marriage, and you suspect you have been treating your husband disrespectfully, and you want to make a change but don’t know where to start, I encourage you to start with this.  Whenever you are in front of any other person, whether they be family, friends, church members, or strangers on the street, treat your husband with respect, regardless of what he may be doing or how he behaves. Here is how to do that:

  1. Speak to him politely.
  2. Keep your voice calm and quiet when you speak to him.
  3. Never make a joke at his expense.  Never, ever, ever.
  4. Do not refer to any of his faults in front of others.
  5. Do not put him down, judge him, or blame him in front of others.
  6. Do not argue with him.  No point that you need to get across to him is that important.  Let it go.

What about when your husband is not present?  How do you still treat him with respect in public when he is not there?

Last year I was having lunch with a group of women – and I am going to be very vague here because these were real life women and I write under my real name, so I don’t want to embarrass anyone – and one of the women told another woman present (who was engaged to be married) that after she and her fiance got married, she would probably feel like she made a mistake and sort of hate him for a while but not to worry about this because it was normal.  Another woman agreed and then added that after the birth of her child, she particularly hated her husband.

The two women then proceeded to spend a good five minutes talking about how stupid they had thought their husbands were after they got married and how much they had hated them directly after the birth of a child.  I suppose they were joking around and trying to be funny, but I wanted to ask, “Was there a time in between when you liked and didn’t hate him?” but I could not bring myself to participate in the conversation.  A pregnant woman sitting next to me said to me, “I didn’t think I made a mistake after I got married to my husband,” so I said to her, “Don’t worry.  I didn’t hate my husband after having a baby.”  I have an imperfect, human husband, so it’s not that I didn’t hate him because he’s so much more awesome than anyone else, and I assume the pregnant woman I was talking to has a real-life, human, imperfect man as her un-hated husband as well.

But you know what?  Even if you loathe your husband, do you need to share this with the ladies at lunch?  Why would you do that?  There was no moral to their story; it was just a complain-and-mock-husbands session.  I can’t imagine what any men overhearing that conversation in the restaurant must have thought.

So I would add this behavior to my list above:

7. Do not gossip about him when he is not there.  If you can’t say something good about him, don’t say anything at all.

That’s not “trying to project” an image that you and your husband are better than everyone else.  Rather, it’s simply human decency.  No one truly wants to hear your dirt except for other women who want to get down in the dirt too.  Don’t do it.

You have to start somewhere, so start here:

Always treat your husband with respect in public, whether he is present or not.