Friday, March 27, 2009

Book Review: Cross and the Switchblade

So along with reading the Boundaries book, I have been reading other things (because I really just can't read one thing at a time...that would be boring!).

The Cross and the Switchblade is one of those books. I had heard of this book before but had never actually had an opportunity to read it. Then, a few months ago, my boss brought me a copy back from a meeting he was at, and so, as it is an autobiography, I settled down to read The Cross and the Switchblade during my Lenten fiction-fast.

The Cross and the Switchblade is the story of David Wilkerson and how he came to start the ministry of Teen Challenge. This book really made me stop and think. While the picture painted of the gangs in New York (the original purpose and focus of Wilkerson's ministry) is heartbreaking and gruesome at times, the part that really stood out to me the most is the total dependence upon the Holy Spirit that Wilkerson and his team had to have throughout this experience.

During the first few years of the ministry, Wilkerson literally went day to day without often knowing where he was going to sleep, how to get food, or where even to find the people he needed to find to fulfill the call of God that he felt. And yet he simply prayed. And prayed. And prayed. And somehow, God always came through.

In true confession, there is part of me that feels I don't have that kind of faith, and never wants to be tested to see. But then there's another side of me that yearns to have that kind of faith. But what would I have to go through to get there?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Boundaries Part 7

The last section of Boundaries is on actually how to develop good boundaries. There were a couple of points that really stood out to me in this area (well, truthfully, the whole book is really good!).

1. The first quote I've going to give you below is one that just made me laugh. Ever since I'm been on this whole life-changing, gluten free thing, I've had a lot of people talking to me about how I'm able to just give up so much. And I've had something reinforced for me that seems very basic but a lot of people don't really seem to recognize the truth behind it. To change, you have to really want it. Otherwise, you won't change. It's not worth it to you.

"The driving force behind boundaries has to be desire. We usually know what is the right thing to do in life, but we are rarely motivated to do it unless there's a good reason. That we should be obedient to God, who tells us to set and maintain boundaries, is certainly the best reason. But sometimes we need a more compelling reason than obedience. We need to see that what is right is also good for us. and we usually only see these good reasons when we're in pain. Our pain motivates us to act."

I'd never though of this food struggle for me as simply as just calling it a boundary I'm establishing in my life, but the reality is that a boundary is the only name for it. I'm protecting myself from things that hurt me, and opening myself up to those things that are good for me. For years I've thought that Chris and I should really make some changes in our lives--eat better food, etc. But I never had the motivation to do. Now I do. And my whole world is being turned upside down, shaken apart, and then being put back together piece by piece.

2. The second quote (it's kind of long) I'm going to give is an answer to a question(s) I've had for quite a few years now. It is a question that has haunted me for the last couple in particular. I've even written about it here. What is forgiveness? And more particularly--how do you forgive someone who doesn't seem to want to be forgiven or even get the fact that they've hurt you? And even more specifically from that--how do you forgive someone who doesn't "get" how they've been at fault and thus you are placing yourself back under them in a way that you're almost guaranteed to get hurt again?

"Many people have a problem determining the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. They fail to deal with external resistance because they feel that they have to give in to the other person again or they are not being forgiving. In fact, many people are afraid to forgive because they equate that with letting down their boundaries one more time and giving the other person the power to hurt them again.

"The Bible is clear about two principles: (1) We always need to forgive, but (2) we don't always achieve reconciliation. Forgiveness is something that we do in our hearts; we release someone from a debt that they owe us. We write off the other person's debt, and she no longer owes us. We no longer condemn her. She is clean. Only one party is needed for forgiveness: me. The person who owes me a debt does not have to ask for my forgiveness. It is a work of grace in my heart.

"This brings us to the second principle: we do not always achieve reconciliation. God forgave the world, but the whole world is not reconciled to Him. Although He may have forgiven all people, all people have not owned their sin and appropriated His forgiveness. That would be reconciliation. Forgiveness takes one; reconciliation takes two.

"We do not open ourselves up to the other party until we have seen that she has truly owned her part of the problem...True repentance is much more than saying 'I'm sorry'; it is changing directions."

I think I have some answers now.

3. The final quote goes right along with the above thought. This particular section was dealing more with how to handle unresolved grief and loss:

"The basic rule in biblical recovery is that the life before God is not worth holding on to; we must lose it, grieve it, and let go so that He can give us good things. We tend to hold on to the hope that 'someday they will love me' and continue to try to get someone who is unable to love us to change. This wish must be mourned and let go of so that our hearts can be opened to the new things that God wants for us...Giving up boundaries to get love postpones the inevitable: the realization of the truth about the person, the embracing of the sadness of that truth, and the letting go and moving on with life."

And thus endeth my posts on Boundaries. If you've been bored to tears, you're probably not reading this. If you've been reading these posts, I hope they've maybe given you some interest in reading, what I found to be, an amazing book.

I will be reading this book again...relatively soon, most likely. But I know that regardless of when I return to it, there are areas of my life--spiritual, physical, and emotion--that have been and are going to continue to be greatly impacted by this.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

GF Cooking Forays

My life has settled into a regular pattern of experimenting with food, trying new recipes, and all in all becoming far more adventurous (and in many ways, I think, more skilled) in the kitchen than I ever used to be.

Some of my newest attempts (and some brief reviews) are below:
  • Kefir is my new found love in the dairy food line. For those unfamiliar with what Kefir actually is, check out these explanations here and here. In general, it tastes like yoghurt (though is much runnier - definitely a drink). It makes fantastic smoothies (it's what I use for all of our smoothies now), and is really easy to make (once you have the starter). Of all the things I've been introduced to in the last year, this is definitely on the list of top three good ones!
  • For my birthday, Hillery bought me a waffle maker. I've never had a waffle maker before. She seemed to feel this was a great deprivation I was living under, and so very kindly procured me one. As she is also on a GF quest in her life, and I like to share birthday presents when possible, last week, she and I got together and we made waffles. Three kinds of waffles: Belgian Waffles, Quinoa Waffles, and Gingerbread Waffles. The first recipe for the Belgian Waffles came from The Gluten-Free Homemaker. Sad to say, we were not impressed with this recipe. The other two recipes came from Bette Hagman's The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods. Both were excellent; although, the Gingerbread Waffles were very much more of a desert than a breakfast item--I felt. Excellent when smothered in cream cheese and strawberries!
  • Shrimp Frittata was my latest attempt of last night. This one came from my faithful Susan O'Brien cookbook. It was....okay. Not bad. Not great. I won't make it again because there are enough other good recipes out there that I truly love, that it's not worth it for me to remake an "eh" sort of one.
  • Another new attempt though, also from Susan's book, was Creamy Pesto Pasta. Sort of an Alfredo. Really good! Definitely a keeper for future meals.

Soups: I've been trying to expand my repertoire of soups lately. I've discovered soups to be something I find quite challenging. Logically, they shouldn't be that hard. But for some reason, finding a recipe for a truly delicious soup, has proved to be surprisingly hard. Below are some of my attempts in this category:

  • Butternut Squash Soup. Not a good result. Perhaps if I liked squash more this one would have tasted better? It's like oatmeal. I want to like squash, I really do. I think they look good, smell amazing, and then I eat them and my stomach turns. It's very sad. I do like spaghetti squash and zucchini, though. So at least squash is not a total loss.
  • White Bean Stew - This one I liked. Chris said he could eat it once he added chicken. Not a bean person. Which is very sad because they're cheap and good for you, but if you have to add in meat to make them palatable--you take away the whole cheap side! (Susan O'Brien strikes again)
  • French Onion Soup: This was my most recent attempt. And it turned out good. Really good. Good enough that I will double the recipe the next time I make this because it was that tasty!

Fish has also been a newer area for me to explore. I've tried fish in the past, and I found one recipe that both Chris and I liked tolerably well. And then we got food poisoning, and since then, making fish has been disastrous. However, over Christmas we had some fish which we both enjoyed and didn't feel ill from (totally psychological that part!), so I decided to start attempting more fish recipes again. And I've had a couple of successes (although I can't remember the technical name of either recipe; they do both come from Susan O'Brien--sensing a theme here?).

  • The first one I tried was basically a grilled fish smothered in a pesto sauce. I love pesto. I'm beginning to make a lot of things with pesto!
  • The second one I've attempted is roasted salmon baked with red onions. Delectable! (although it does not mix well with Greek lettuce wraps!).

I'm going to attempt a new recipe tonight. Basically I've realized that most of my Thai curry pastes are not, at the very least, soy free and are often not gluten free. And so I'm embarking on the challenge of learning to cook Thai food entirely from scratch and not cheating with a pre-packaged paste. And since I'm all about diving headlong into these things, I'm going to attempt a potentially hard dish (in terms of Thai food): Tom Khai Gai - a creamy, coconut chicken soup. One of my favorite Thai dishes ever.

Friday, March 20, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 5)

#1 - I learned about something new this week that I thought was pretty cool! As I have delved into the world of gluten free living, I believe I've mentioned in the past that I've found a lot of the best prices on goods (particularly pastas and flours) to be on Amazon (especially if I buy in bulk). Well, as I was stocking up on some supplies this past weekend, I ran across a brand new program through Amazon that I had never heard of before, and it made me pretty happy! Perhaps you know about it, but I thought I'd share in case you'd never heard of it either. It's called: Subscribe and Save.

Basically, Amazon has certain items available under this program that, if you know you're going to order them regularly, Amazon will give you an even lower price on, always give you free shipping for, and which they will then regularly deliver to you every few months (you specify the time) without you having to do anything more. And you can cancel the subscription whenever without any fees or anything. For someone like me, this is a brilliant program because there are things that I know I'm going to be ordering semi-regularly, and this gives me an even lower cost and saves me some hassle! I love it!


#2 - As I pulled out my bike a few days ago, I was startled by a bunny zooming by me at top speed to hide in the bushes at the edge of our yard. There is a family of bunnies that live under our neighbours shed. I've decided they are slight dare-devils as they seem to revel in playing in our backyard, always risking being caught by the dogs!


#3 - On the subject of bunnies, it's turning into Springtime, and the ants have begun marching two by two through our house. And while they are annoying, what is even more annoying (for me) is that the spiders have begun appearing again one by one in our mail box. Now, as I've had several discussions on this topic, you no doubt know that I love getting mail. Checking my mail box every day is something I love to do.

I do NOT, however, enjoy the dreaded experience of opening up the mail box and finding a big, fat, ugly spider sitting inside or crawling frantically away from me. BLEAGH! Takes away some of my mail box pleasure. And that, my friends, is just not right. They need to go find somewhere else to live and quit pestering me.


#4 - Our Netflix movie last week was "The Red Violin." Now, first things first, this is an "R" movie, so please do not let your kids watch this movie. It's "R" primarily for one series of scenes with some sex in it. Just had to give the warnings!

Having said that, this is a very interesting movie. This fictional story follows the life of a violin - a Red Violin (based off of the Red Mendelssohn currently being played by Elizabeth Pitcairn). It's fascinating because at the beginning of the movie, a woman has her fortune read to her, and you think that what you're seeing is how that fortune plays out for her. Except it's actually the fortune of the violin. The entire movie follows the path the violin takes for about 200 years of history. It travels to a number of countries, and, because it's supposed to be a nearly perfect instrument, the violin gets picked up by all sorts of interesting characters from monks in Austria to virtuosos in England, to Western music lovers in Communist China.

And the sound track is really beautiful (if slightly haunting sounding).

This is actually the second time I've seen this movie. The first time was about 9 years ago, and I remembered liking it but wanted to see it again (you know how your tastes change or what struck you as good initially you can watch again and despise!). Still like it, want the sound track, but please keep in mind the R rating!


#5 - Green Smoothies: I make smoothies a lot of mornings for breakfast for both Christopher and I. Last week I tried something new. The resulting email conversation last week went something like this:

Me: So how was your smoothie?

Husband: Not as good as usual. It had a slightly odd aftertaste and there was weird green bits floating in it.

Me: Oh darn. I was hoping you wouldn't notice! I wanted to try a Green Smoothie and get some extra vegetables in and so threw in some spinach. I liked it.

Husband: Cheeky!

Well, cheeky or not, I kind of liked my Green Smoothie and fully intend to keep throwing the spinach in on my half of the smoothie at least. If you like smoothies and are trying to figure out ways to get those extra servings of vegetables into your life, try it. If you're not anti-green bits like some people are, you might really enjoy it! (I love you husband of mine).


#6 - I am intrigued by a new concept (my husband is groaning as he reads this). This past week, I can't remember originating from where, I came across the concept of Square Foot Gardening. I'm not a good gardener. I like gardens, I really do. But green things seem to die when I'm around them. But I would like to have a garden. I wonder if this is something I could manage? I've also thought of maybe starting with something like the ideas found on the Better Homes and Gardens website for "Simple Salad Gardens".

From those who can actually garden without killing things - thoughts?


#7 - This makes me laugh (has for years now) and is a picture that I regularly rotate in as the background for my computer. Right now, it feels like my job in a nutshell. And it goes along with the Spring theme of late. So I thought I would share.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shopping Blogs and such

I haven’t done a shopping blog for awhile, so since I was rather proud of this week’s CVS trip, I decided to go ahead and do one. Plus, one of the reasons I haven’t done a shopping blog for awhile is that I hadn’t really been doing a whole lot of deal shopping. I was a little busy (because it does take some time and planning) and feeling somewhat unmotivated. And that’s okay. When you have a good stock of supplies, it doesn’t hurt too much when you’re unmotivated for awhile because you’re still not having to pay full price for items. Such a comforting thought!

While at first glance the deals at CVS this week did not appear that amazing, with a little delving into the facts and figures of it all, I totally wound up scoring :)

Money-maker! Buy 1 Irish Spring Body Wash at $4.99 - $.75 coupon = $4.24 - get $4.99 in ECBs . Final cost: $.75 profit!

Money-maker! Buy 1 Colgate Max Whitening Toothpaste at $2.99 - $1.00 coupon = $1.99 - get $2.99 in ECBs. Final cost: $1 profit.

Candy: Yes, I know I don’t eat much sugar any more. And I know that all of these have soy in them making them a double-avoider for me. However, my husband does eat chocolate (in small amounts) and so this is for him. Because I love him and have to keep him happy, don’t you know.
Buy 6 bags of Hershey’s Kisses: $1.88 each = $11.28
Buy 4 other bags of candy for $1.25 each = $5
Total: $16.28
Use two $1.50/3 coupons for the Kisses
Pay $13.28
Get back $5 in ECBs
Final Cost: $.83 per bag!

Bic Soleil System* Buy 1 at $6.99 - $2.00 coupon = $4.99 get $3 in ECBs
Final Cost: $1.99

*Random side note here. I’ve realized that as long as deals such as this occur, buying razor refills are a thing of the past for me. Because stores so rarely run deals on refills but nearly always runs the coupons and deals on new razors, buying refills no longer saves me money. Part of me finds this sad as it feels somewhat wasteful. But when I’m not paying $8+ for a box of refills, the sadness somewhat dissipates.

Buy 1 box at $3.29
Buy a second box at $4.49
Use two $1 off coupons
Total: $6.48
Get $3 in ECBs
Final cost: $3.48

Right Guard deodorant: Buy 2 at $2.99 each, use $1/2 coupon = $4.98, get back $4 in ECBs. Final cost: $.98 for two!

Dove (not the chocolate): the deal on this one was spend $15 on various Dove products and get $5 in ECBs. Now, for those of you who are actually reading this and wondering why in the world I post these deals, this is why.

What I thought I did was buy $45 in Dove products, used $12.25 in coupons, and receive $15 in ECBs making my total for each of 9 products, $1.97.

However, my math was off (always check your receipts!), and so what I actually did was buy $38 in Dove products, used $12.25 in coupons, and received $10 in ECBs making my total for each of the 9 products $1.75. A good deal, yes. But nearly $.32 each more per product expensive than if I had bought the 11 products needed to get the extra $5 in ECBs. And, to think of it a different way, nearly $.77 per product more expensive than if I hadn’t bought the extra two items that bumped me from $31 to $38.

But I think I’ll live. This time. Maybe. I might wind up going back and fixing it. Or maybe not. I’ll decide later. Just let this be a lesson to you – checking receipts is a good thing. And that is one of the reasons I do these posts; it forces me to recalculate and check what I bought.

Grand Totals?
$83.01 of products
- $10 off $50 CVS coupon
- $22 in coupons
- $23.99 in ECBs
Total out of pocket: $27.02 (before tax)
Get back $32.98 in ECBs!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Boundaries Part 6

The next section of the book Boundaries (to see my posts on the first section of the book to here to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5) delves a little more into specific Boundary conflicts. While many of the ideas overlap, each chapter focuses on a specific type of relationship: Boundaries with your family, friends, spouse, children, work, self, and God. While there is much that I have actually written on some of these areas, I will only be sharing a few pieces of that here (for, I hope, obvious reasons).

In Chapter 7 - Boundaries and Your Family - I found this chapter to be fascinating (especially given the recent history of my husband and his parents).

The first tidbit that really made me stop and start questioning my life was the following: “…boundaries define someone’s property…[People who make outside choices but not inside emotionally free choices do not really ‘own themselves’]. People who own their lives do not feel guilty when they make choices about where they are going. They take other people into consideration, but when they make choices for the wishes of others, they are choosing out of love, not guilt; to advance a good, not to avoid a bad.”

The first thing I started questioning of course (since this chapter is about family) was how I felt this applies in my life. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again…I feel like my parents did a pretty good job in allowing me to set boundaries in my own life. The reason I feel that way is because the few times where I feel that they did push my boundaries, really stand out to me in my memories. Most of the time, I remember feeling comfortable and that I had a good degree of personal freedom. Obviously that was within reason, and they did help shape my boundaries, but they also let me establish them for myself. (Thanks for that, btw, APs of mine!).

So, my parents, not a problem. Now, having said that though, that feeling of not “owning” my own life, is one that I have experienced. And so that really made me kind of sit and pay attention as I have been trying to pinpoint with whom I feel that my boundaries need some work.

In Chapter 9, which deals with Boundaries and the Spouse, I found this statement to be very powerful: "...a boundary always deals with yourself, not the other person. You are not demanding that your spouse [or friend, co-worker, family member, etc] do something--even respect your boundaries. You are setting boundaries to say what you will do or will not do. Only these kinds of boundaries are enforceable, for you do have control over yourself. Do not confuse boundaries with a new way to control a spouse [or other person]. It is the opposite. It is giving up control and beginning to love. You are giving up trying to control your spouse and allowing him to take responsibility for his own behavior."

I know I've talked about this a little bit in earlier posts on this book, but I still think this concept is the most pivotal one of the book. Boundaries can't control other people. Boundaries allow you to "own" yourself - control yourself. You set your limits, you make your own decisions, and you deal with the resulting consequences hence forth.

While I am not going to say that I have a perfect marriage, my husband and I have worked very hard together to try to set boundaries with one another. I don't think we ever termed them boundaries before, but we have always worked towards trying to be honest with one another, communicating clearly and fairly with each other, not expecting the other person to fulfill the unspoken need. Now, as I shared with a friend a few days ago, I don't always succeed at that! But we do work towards that end. He cannot fulfill me. He also cannot read my mind and know what I need. And it is unfair of me, unloving of me, to punish him (be angry with, sulk over, etc) for that.

Chapter 10 is a chapter that I think I will be revisiting quite a bit once we start our own family as that is the one dealing with boundaries and children. While I've known a lot of this before, I don't think I've ever had anyone really connect some of the dots for me as clearly as this book has. It's more like I've known a number of somewhat unrelated yet very important points in various relationships that are finally becoming clearly related for me. They all deal with boundaries.

In Chapter 12 which deals with Boundaries and Self, there was another idea that I just have to throw out there. The authors' are talking about how, since the Fall, man's instinct is to withdraw from relationship to deal with things ourselves when something goes wrong. The authors' challenge this idea because our relationship with God is also just that, a relationship. In withdrawing from relationships, we withdraw from Him. And at that point we're depending on ourselves - not the greatest of ideas!

A second idea that really stood out to me in this chapter was this notion of just telling yourself "no" when dealing with personal out-of-control boundary problems. "Just say, 'no', Choose to Stop", "Make a Commitment to Never do it Again." These phrases aren't that helpful. "The problem with this approach is that it makes an idol out of the will, something God never intended. Just as our hearts and minds are distorted by the Fall, so is our power to make right decisions. Will is only strengthened by relationship; we can't make commitments alone...If we depend on willpower alone, we are guaranteed to fail. We are denying the power of the relationship promised in the cross. If all we need is our will to overcome evil, we certainly don't need a Savior."

Once again, can I say, "Ouch!" Self-reliance is definitely an approach to living that is pushed by our society. But I can't, if I call myself a Christian, be truly self-reliant. Because my "self" is flawed, fallible, and broken. And it is only with a relationship that I can succeed. No wonder we're all falling apart.

The last chapter in this section, Boundaries and God, also deals with this concept of being dependent on God. In one of my earlier posts, I addressed this a little bit, but here in this chapter, it comes back even more. God sets boundaries. God respects our boundaries. It is up to us to open up our boundaries to include Him. But in doing so, we also have to respect His boundaries.

"Boundaries are inherent in any relationship God has created, for they define the two parties who are loving each other...boundaries between us and God are very important. They are not to do away with the fundamental oneness or unity that we have with him, but they are to define the two parties in unity. There is no unity without distinct identities, and boundaries define the distinct identities involved.

"We need to know these boundaries between us and Him. Boundaries help us to be the best we can be--in God's image. They let us see God as he really is. They enable us to negotiate life, fulfilling out responsibilities and requirements. If we are trying to do His work for Him, we will fail. If we are wishing for Him to do our work for us, He will refuse. But if we do our work, and God does His, we will find strength in a real relationship with our Creator."

And that is one of the most powerful concept of being in a relationship with God.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Springful Insanity

Spring is in the air and I feel slightly insane. I can’t help myself. There’s just something about this time of year when the weather starts getting warmer, the trees start budding, every day I have to keep my eyes wide-open because plants that looked dead are all of the sudden alive and beautiful, and there’s just this general feeling of aliveness that pervades the air….it makes me giddy!

I even find myself thinking I’m capable of understanding such nonsense as Alice’s quotes on life and worlds because suddenly anything seems possible and the sluggish cobwebs that have tried to wrap my brain into gooey messiness throughout the winter are suddenly snapping and I can think clearly again. Or not so clearly, depending on your perspective. No idea what quotes I’m talking about?

Read and analyze this one (if you dare!). “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?” - Alice in Wonderland

Makes perfect sense to me. At least in Spring it does.

What does Spring do to you?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Boundaries Part 5

For this next part, I'm just going to throw a couple of quotes out there that really stood out to me from chapter 5 (The Ten Laws of Boundaries) and chapter 6 (Common Boundary Myths).

1. Biblical views of Responsibility: "[We are commanded to] 'love each other as I have loved you' (John 15:12). Anytime you are not loving others, you are not taking full responsibility for yourself; you have disowned your heart...[However], we are to love one another, not be one another....The biblical mandate for our own personal growth is 'Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose' (Phil. 2:12-13). You are responsible for yourself. I am responsible for myself...[I am] responsible to give to [your] needs and to put limits on [your] sin. Boundaries help you do just that."

2. Biblical view of Respect: "We fear that others will not respect our boundaries. We focus on others and lose clarity about ourselves...We judge the boundary decisions of others, thinking that we know best how they 'ought' to give, and usually, that means 'they ought to give to me the way I want them to!' But the Bible says whenever we judge, we will be judged....If we condemn others' boundaries, we expect them to condemn ours. This sets up a fear cycle inside that makes us afraid to set the boundaries that we need to set...'So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you' (Matt. 7:12). We need to respect the boundaries of others. We need to love the boundaries of others in order to command respect for our own. We need to treat their boundaries the way we want them to treat ours."

3. On evaluating the effects of boundaries on others: "You need to evaluate the effect of setting boundaries and be responsible to the other person, but that does not mean you should avoid setting boundaries become someone respond with hurt or anger. To have to love a purposeful life...We need to evaluate the pain caused by our making choices and empathize with it." (But that doesn't mean we change our boundaries because of it--it just means not walking blindly through life disregarding how other's might feel because of our boundaries that we've set.

4. On being proactive in life (ontologizing!) and the power that comes with that: "Proactive people show you what they love, what they want, what they purpose, and what they stand for. These people are very different from those who are known by what they hate, what they don't like, what they stand against, and what they will not do...Power is not something you demand or deserve, it is something you express. The ultimate expression of power is love; it is the ability not to express power, but to restrain it."

5. On being active (or purposeful - again ontology!): "Human beings are responders and initiators. Many times we have boundary problems because we lack initiative - the God-given ability to propel ourselves into life...Passivity never pays off. God will match our efforts, but he will never do our work for us. That would be an invasion of our boundaries. He wants us to be assertive and active, seeking and knocking on the door to life...The sin God rebukes is not trying and failing but failing to try. Trying, failing, and trying again is called learning. Failing to try will have no good results; evil with triumph."

6. On being honest about our boundaries: "...boundaries need to be made visible to others and communicated to them in relationship. We have many boundary problems because of relational fears...Because of [our] fears, we try to have secret boundaries. We withdraw passively and quietly instead of communicating an honest no to someone we love...The Bible continually speaks or our being in the light and of the light as the only place where we have access to God and others. But, because of our fears, we hide aspects of ourselves in the darkness, where the devil has an opportunity. When our boundaries are in the light, that is, are communicated openly, our personalities begin to integrate for the first time. They become 'visible'...and then they become light."

7. On Stewardship vs. selfishness: "We are our own responsibility...We are to develop our lives, abilities, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Our spiritual and emotional growth is God's 'interest' on his investment in us. When we say no to people and activities that are hurtful to us, we are protecting God's investment."

8. On obeidence and not being bound by fear: "The Bible tells us how to be obedient: 'Each of you must give us you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver' (2 Cor. 9:7). ...God has no interest in our obeying out of fear [fear of a real person of a guilty conscience] ...God wants a response of love. Are boundaries a sign of Disobedience? They can be. We can say no to good things for wrong reasons. But having a 'no' helps us to clarify, to be honest, to tell the truth about our motives; then we can allow God to work in us. This process cannot be accomplished in a fearful heart."

9. On identifying good relationships: "Boundaries are a 'litmus test' for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries love our will, our opinions, our seperatesness. Those who can't respect our boundaries are telling us that they don't love our no. They only love our yes, our compliance."

10. On the role of boundaries: "Boundaries are a defensive tool. Appropriate boundaries don't control, attack, or hurt anyone. They simply prevent your treasures from being taken at the wrong time. Saying no to adults, who are responsible for getting their own needs met, may cause some discomfort. They may have to look elsewhere. But it doesn't cause injury."

11. On boundaries and the legitimate needs of others: "Even when someone has a valid problem, there are times when we can't sacrifice for some reason or another. Jesus left the multitudes, for example, to be alone with his father (Matt. 14:22-23). In these instances, we have to allow others to take responsibility for their 'knapsacks' (Gal 6:5) and to look elsewhere to get their needs met."

12. Boundaries and "owing" others: "One of the major obstancles to setting boundaries with others in our lives is our feeling of obligation...The idea is that became we have received something, we owe something. The problem is the nonexistent debt. The love we receive, or money, or time--or anthing which causes us to feel obligated--should be accepted as a gift. 'Gift' implies no strings attached. All that's really needed is gratitude. The giver has no second thought that the present will provide a return. It was simply provided become someone loved someone and wanted to do something for him or her. Period....What do we owe those who are kind to us, who have genuinly cared for us? We owe them thanks. And from our greatful hearts, we should go out and help others...We need to distinguish between those who 'give to get' and those who truly give selflessly."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boundaries Part 4

As I read chapter 4 of Boundaries, I was really struck by one major concept that, while it makes total sense, I'd never really thought about before, and that is how children should be (but obviously aren't always) taught boundaries by their parents and that these same boundaries can begin to be established from extremely young ages of development. Boundaries help define an individual to themselves and to others.

But then Cloud and Townsend make a really good point that is kind of frustrating at the same time--"You can't develop or set boundaries apart from supportive relationships with God and with others." What, then, happens to the non-Christian who has no relationship with God and no supportive relationships with others? How lost they must feel.

"Our deepest need is to be belong, to be in a relationship, to have a spiritual and emotional 'home.' The very nature of God is to be in a relationship: 'God is love' says 1 John 4:16. Love means relationship - the caring, committed connection of one individual to another....We are built for relationship. Attachment is the foundation of the souls' existence. When this foundation is cracked or faulty, boundaries become impossible to develop...[because] when we lack relationship, we have nowhere to go in a conflict...[and] we are forced to choose between two bad options:
1. We set limits and risk losing a relationship...
2. We don't set limits and remain a prisoner to the wishes of others."

What a choice to have to make: Do you want loneliness or oppression?

The authors', very early on in the chapter, define the intentioned meaning of Proverbs 22:6 ("Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not turn from it"). "The way he should go" is defined as God's way and not the way parents think a child should go. I know I've been blessed by parents who, I feel, have not forced me into going any particular way just because they felt it was what they wanted to see me do but rather taught me to seek God's will and then encouraged me in following through on that (even when it meant letting a barely 14 year old girl go to Uzbekistan for nearly 3 months with five Thai Buddhists to further her ballet training!). Were my parents perfect? No. (Sorry, Mum!). However, from my observations of the many people with whom I've had contact since I first stepped into the adult arena of my life, I can clearly see the damage that has been done by those who were given even less or no development of boundaries.

And then I have to pray that when Chris and I start our own family, may God help us to actually help establish these boundaries in our children's lives....because they are vital.

Monday, March 9, 2009

On Bubble Wrap and Binder Clips

Apparently this was the birthday of the weird presents. First I received paper clips, binder clips, and push pins from Amber and then I got bubble wrap from my brother and sis-in-law (all wrapped up in a pretty bow, I might add!).

Fortunately I like office supplies (especially purty ones) and I love popping the bubbles on bubble wrap (thus why it was gifted to me!), so really, it was a pretty good birthday all around (if a little odd). Add to that mix a cool new cake pan (so I can make chocolate torte that doesn't fall apart), a gift certificate to one of our health food stores in town, and a new bike (plus various accessories) that was primarily from my husband but has also been contributed to by a number of other people...and I think I made out like a bandit!

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who helped contribute--both via gifts and via company--to a fun birthday this year. I feel very loved.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Not confronting our fear[s] denies the grace of God and insults both his giving of the gift and his grace to sustain us as we are learning. - Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Boundaries Part 3

Apparently, I am compliant avoidant. As I delved into chapter 3 of Boundaries, I found much of interest in there, only two points of which I will discuss here: The compliant and avoidant persons.

Compliant people are ones who say “yes” to things. They “have fuzzy and indistinct boundaries; they ‘melt’ into the demands needs of other people. They can’t stand alone, distinct from people who want something from them….They minimize their differences with others so as not to rock the boat. Compliants are chameleons.”

The first thought I had about this is that I would love to do a case-study of TCKs and find out how many of them fall into this compliant category. After all, we are the masters of being chameleons. We flit from culture to culture, group to group, somehow needing to find a way to fit in…and being a chameleon is often the easiest and least painful way.

“Compliants take on too many responsibilities and set too few boundaries, not by choice, but because they are afraid.”

Have you ever seen the movie “Mean Girls”? Lindsay Lohan is in it (when she was still cute and not slutty). That movie cracks me up and also makes me cringe simultaneously. If you’ve never seen it, the short synopsis is a TCK moves from being home schooled in Africa all her life to going to a public school in the US. The movie is about her struggles with finding a way to fit in and discovering the lengths to which she is willing to go to fit in, particularly with the popular crowd. It makes me laugh because there are lines in it and pieces of it that are just my life. Her confusion about pop culture references and such is very realistic. It makes me cringe because, although she goes to the extreme, her strong need to fit in and her chameleon act to do so are very familiar.

The second thought I had is that, on retrospect, while I do have tendencies towards compliancy, I think it’s also something I have fought against being for a long time now. Sadly, that fight often leaves me feeling uncomfortable because I then find myself standing away from the crowd, but I always feel more secure about myself when I’m not pretending things just to make other people like me. If I’m really being honest, I think the person I am most compliant to, at least at this point in my life, is myself—or at least my rather strict, overly critical conscience. I thank the Lord for a husband who has really helped me overcome this, but it is something I struggle with on a regular basis.

“People who have an over strict, critical conscience will condemn themselves for things God himself doesn’t condemn them for…Afraid to confront their unbiblical and critical internal parent, they tighten appropriate boundaries. When we give into guilty feelings, we are complying with a harsh conscience. The fear of disobeying the harsh conscience translates into an inability to confront others—a says yes to the bad—because it would cause more guilt.”

Now, those of you who have ever been on the receiving side of my temper know that there are times I have no problems with confronting people. But the truth of the matter is that I reign my temper in very sharply, and I think in some ways, that has actually hurt me. I’ve learned to (mostly!) control my temper, but I don’t think I ever learned (although this is changing of late) the balance of still being able to really confront others when necessary. I need to learn what the authors called “Biblical compliance.” Essentially, biblical compliance is to be compassionate (or compliant) from the inside out not compliant outwardly and resentful inwardly (sacrificial).

Hand in hand with the whole compliancy issue is that of those who are avoidants. People who are avoidants tend to struggle with asking for help, recognizing their own needs, and letting people in. “Avoidants withdraw when they are in need; they do not ask for the support of others.” I know that this is something that I do. It’s something I’ve tried to learn to fight against, but my first tendency when I’m struggling is to just internalize it and deal with it myself.

But, as the authors say, “God designed our personal boundaries to have gates. We should have the freedom to enjoy safe relationships and to avoid destructive ones. God event allows us the freedom to let him in or to close him off (Rev. 3:20).”

So, there you have it. An honest confession of where I think my boundary problems stem from. Now the question is what to do about them?

For those interested, the other two boundary problems described are those who are Controllers (manipulative and aggressive – they do not respect other people’s boundaries) and those who are nonresponsive to the needs of others.

Friday, March 6, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol.4)

#1 - My dearest of husbands sent me a quote from a tongue in cheek article about how one video game is better than a different (very popular) game. Here's the quote: "Killzone 2's controls are better because of reasons, and you can't argue with reasons."

This charming quote has opened up a whole new world of reasoning for me. For example, when talking to my husband:
"Sorry dear, I have reasons for why I’m right and you’re not, and you can’t argue with reasons."

It's a flawless argument! I always knew video games were useful for something.

#2 - It's my birthday tomorrow. I'm beginning to feel old. And I'm finding more and more white hairs on my head. I'm finding that rather hard to cope with. But the real question I find myself facing is - will I dye my hair?
#3 - On the note of birthdays - I'm making a cake! Well, it's technically more of a brownie. But it's good either way! We went to a GF foods tasting at one of the health food stores last week and found three wonderful items:
Boxed macaroni and cheese (thus far I can't make a good homemade cheese sauce with rice milk and the only GF mac'n'cheese I'd found was a frozen kind by Amy's. Very good and very expensive. This box is also expensive but not as much, and it tastes GREAT!)
The delicious brownie/cake that you would never know was GF and (mostly) sugar free! Much happiness! And so I will be baking it for my birthday!
Good bread. Really good bread. Both the bread and brownie/cake recipe came from the same local lady who has published her own GF cookbook. Tasty stuff, let me tell you!
#4 - On a random life note in general, Chris and I have been trying out a new church. Thus far, we've really enjoyed it. It's not very large and it's not very fancy but the people are caring, there is a wide range of age-groups that attend, and you can't miss the geniune nature of those who are there. And, for a novel change (at least for us) it's only 5 minutes from the house! We're used to drive at least 15 to 20 minutes to attend church; it's really kind of fun only having to plan on 5!
#5 - Chris and I have been slowly (or not so slowly!) working our way through the Scrubs seasons. I wasn't really sure if I would like the show or not but I'm finding I it a pretty entertaining show. Good mix of serious with silly (but not a lot of slapstick)...always a nice combination in a show.
#6 - I've been racking my brain for the last few days trying to put together pieces of a puzzle that have been slowly sent to me by Amber. She bought me a present for my birthday and has then proceeded to torture me with it! What is purple, circular, tangled, quadrant, bent, can flip, is treble, and she and I would both like it although Donald apparently thinks its a weird gift....I'm lost and thoroughly confused.
#7 - It's warm today. It's gloriously warm today. I seriously think I become more alive when the weather warms up. I feel spikes of energy and enthusiasm that just haven't really been around much the last few months! I even snuck out of work an hour early today just because I so desperately wanted to get outside (fortunately I work longer days Monday through Thursday, so I already get off a few hours early on Friday). If only it will just stay warm...that would be really, really nice. I feel like I've been given a birthday present by the weather...and it's supposed to stay sunny at least until tomorrow night. Such happiness!
I have all the windows in the house wide open, and as I write this I'm munching on Greek lettuce wraps (amazing new recipe I tried this week), and I'm contemplating the best way to sneak in a walk between cleaning the house, baking my cake, and getting ready for company tonight!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keeping our Brains Healthy

Go play this fun game called The Color Test that's supposed to be good exercise for your brain and is the kind of thing you're supposed to do to help avoid Alzheimers. I don't know if that part's true or not, but the game is kind of fun! I got 38% the first time and 100% every time after that.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Boundaries Part 2

Chapter 2 of Boundaries is basically a definition of what boundaries are in every aspect of life. The chapter talks about physical boundaries, boundaries that you set via your words, physical distance, emotional distance, time, etc.

While there is a great variety of interesting points that stood out to me in this section, there were a few in particular that really made me stop and think.

First, they discuss the boundaries set by words, especially one word in particular, the dreaded “no.” If you’re like me, you’ve read/heard a lot about the necessity for using the word, “no,” not being a door-mat, etc. However, the authors made a point about this particular word that really brought the use of the word “no” into a new perspective for me.

“The Bible also warns us against giving to others ‘reluctantly or under compulsion’ (2 Cor. 9:7). People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes the real needs of others. They feel that if they say no to someone, they will endanger the relationship with that person, so they passively comply but inwardly resent. Sometimes a person is pressuring you to do something; other times the pressure comes from your own sense of what you ‘should’ do. If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your property and are not enjoying the fruit of ‘self control.’”

Does anyone else feel a sting from that? I know that I definitely pressure myself into feeling guilty for saying “no.” In fact, I can look back on my life and see a lot of really hard times that I’ve been through that would have been a lot better had I just said “no.” I had never taken that thought to the next level that I am actually hurting myself spiritually by not establishing my true boundaries.

Continuing in that vein of thought, this chapter also gets into personal responsibility:

“Feelings should neither be ignored nor placed in charge. The Bible says to ‘own’ your feelings and be aware of them…Feelings come from your heart and can tell you the state of your relationships….But the point is, your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to.” It doesn’t nullify having the feelings, but it does put them into perspective and takes away the excuse to respond poorly to other people because of how I’m feeling.

In short, it comes back to another topic I’ve dealt with a lot over the last two years – choices. If I choose to set a boundary, I have to take responsibility for that. If I choose to react just with my emotions and allow them to own me, then I have to take responsibility for that. As the author’s put it: “You are the one who must live with their [the choices’] consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with.”
After all, as is later addressed, you can’t set boundaries for other people. You can only set limits for yourself. I can’t change someone else, I can’t choose for someone else. God doesn’t even do that. He has standards and He limits His exposure to those who do not follow His boundaries, but He doesn’t force people into certain behaviors. They choose for themselves. He is taking a stand against things that destroy love – because He is love – but He does not force people to accept His boundaries.

And then came the real kicker for me. “What we value is what we love and assign importance to. Often we do not take responsibility for what we value. We are caught up in valuing the approval of men rather than the approval of God; because of this misplaced value, we miss out on life.”

How many times in my life have I been so concerned about other people “liking me” or “approving of me” that I’ve done things I really didn’t value or believe in? And I’m not necessarily just talking about sinning here but rather doing/saying/living things that I don’t really find important or even a correct reflection of myself. Rather than seeking God and only God’s approval, I’ve sought the approval of mankind, and I’ve been hurt because of it. I’ve failed to set a boundary on what I value, and so I’ve compromised and then had to deal with the aftermath of not liking myself because of my own choices. And then sometimes, when I have set a boundary, it’s caused a lot havoc because people don’t know how to respond to the suddenly established boundary.

As Townsend and Cloud put it, “Our minds and thoughts are important reflections of the image of God. No other creature on earth has our thinking ability. We are the only creatures who are called to love God with all our mind…[therefore] we must own our own thoughts. Many people have not taken ownership of their own thinking processes. They are mechanically thinking the thoughts of others without ever examining them. They swallow others’ opinions and reasoning, never questioning and ‘thinking about their thinking.’” At the same time we have a responsibility to “grow our knowledge and expand our minds” and to “clarify distorted thinking.”

In truth, I have had to laugh as I yet again have been dumped into the concept of ontologizing. Conscience living, consciously setting boundaries, choosing values, interpreting feelings—all a part of ontology.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Boundaries Part 1

So the first book in my pile of nonfiction that I’ve picked up to read is Boundaries by Doctors Henry Cloud and John Townsend. From the very first chapter, I’ve been fascinated (and a little in pain at times from the major “ouches!” in the book).

The first point that really stood out to me as I started the book was the following quote from chapter 1: “Made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what is our job and what isn’t…Any confusion of responsibly and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries. Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.”

The authors then go into a description of how many Christians struggle with understanding that boundaries can be biblically appropriate.

I think people in general, unless they are completely devoid of a conscience, struggle with setting boundaries because they are afraid of hurting other people, being seen as selfish, etc. As Christians it does seem to be an even bigger issue because of how much we are taught that it is our responsibility to love our neighbors, help others, save the world! And while that is true, there is still appropriate and inappropriate (if not downright dangerous or wrong) methodology for doing so.

I work in a Christian environment, and while there are many aspects to that fact that I love, one of the biggest most frustrating issues I have had to experience since I’ve been here is that people seem to be afraid of telling other people, “No.” It’s like because we’re all Christians, we don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and so regular workplace issues that should be dealt with and addressed are left alone and thus cause regular problems. Boundaries are not established because it might hurt somebody’s feelings to do so and therefore, as in the quote above, there are issues with “confusion of responsibility and ownership”. People cannot say what is and is not their job or responsibility all the time because it isn’t dealt with. But I digress…

As I got into the second chapter this issue of what a boundary is got further explained. To quote, “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me…God designed a world where we all live ‘within’ ourselves; that is, we inhabit our own souls, and we are responsible for the things that make up ‘us.’ [Anyone else sensing an emphasis on ontology in that last statement?]…We have to deal with what is in our soul, and boundaries help us to define what this is….Boundaries [also] help us to define…what we are not responsible for. We are not, for example, responsible for other people.”

For me, I feel like the last couple of years has been all about learning that last statement. “[I] am not…responsible for other people.” Reading that statement was very relieving to me. So often I tend to give myself guilt trips because of other people’s choices and reactions that relate to me. But I’m not responsible for them. Such freedom in those words.

Before I could get too carried away with that thought though, the authors did nicely bring that statement into focus for, “We are responsible to others and for ourselves. ‘Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.’” (Galatians 6:2).

They then go onto do a little defining of some Greek words that make a very big difference in understanding scriptures which talk about our responsibility towards carrying other people's loads. There are times when I really wish I read Greek!

Basically, while we are asked to be “responsible to” and “show the sacrificial love of Christ” to others who have burdens that are too big to bear (i.e. They are lacking strength, knowledge, resources, etc and need help), each person has their own responsibilities that only they can carry. As in, “pick up your cross and follow me.” Not, dump your cross on your neighbor and trot along merrily beside them telling them how they should be walking faster and responding more quickly under their double load!

And this clarification of ideas does make sense. Because a lot of problems that I at least see or experience myself can easily be identified as coming from one of two things:

  1. People trying to carry to much themselves and not stretching beyond their boundaries to ask for help from others (somewhere in all this, the authors talked about permeability of boundaries – i.e. it’s a boundary but it doesn’t shut you off from the rest of the world nor does it necessarily stay always in the same place). Yes, yes, you can quit pointing fingers and laughing at me now.
  2. People who too quickly dump onto other people not their burdens but their regular loads for which they should be personally responsible.

More to come on this topic!

For those who wonder why I’m outlining all this here, when I study I really have to talk/write ideas out otherwise I don’t learn or truly understand them. As I do feel that this is a very important book for me to read, I really want to make sure I’m not just reading and forgetting it but really thinking through and absorbing as much as I can.

Monday, March 2, 2009

New Year Resolutions

As I said last Wednesday, one can't have a new year without some kind of resolution. After all, that would be breaking sacred laws of time, space, and humanity or some such.

The truth of the matter is that I'm not really a big resolution person, namely because I'm very much a realist and I feel that if something is worth making into a resolution, I see no benefit in waiting until a specific day to start making it happen. And trying to suddenly change your entire life's habits in just one day's time is setting yourself up for complete failure. Thus the never-ending joke of New Year Resolutions.

However, I did happen to decide upon a resolution this new year, and it is one to which I will stick in with my new and improved new year. In words, it is a relatively simple one to say. In action, it is proving to be quite complex and comprehensive.

You see, there is a dream that I have been holding very close to my heart for some time now. And it is a dream that I can't start acting upon yet; however, my husband and I hope to start acting upon it in the non-to-distant future. But what I can do is to start preparing for that dream.

The short version of the resolution: To prepare myself in every way possible for the fulfillment of my dream. In the longer version, this encompasses a lot--preparing myself-emotionally, spiritually, physically-my home, my life, my finances, and my husband (so far as he wants to get involved!) so that when I can start acting on this dream, I will not suddenly look around me and be dismayed by the number of things I should have done and would then have to be scrambling around to do them.

I guess it's just another form of Ontology. Only this time is not just living my life consciously with the more general goals and tasks of life behind it, it's consciously living my life with one very specific goal ahead of me.

One Year Ago Today

On this day, one year ago, we completely changed our lives. We drove away from jobs and home and loved ones to a new adventure of the very m...