May 24, 2016

The Meaning of Mom

Note: this guest post is different from our usual fare (starting with the fact that it's written by, well, a man), but I thought our readers would enjoy it. ~Anna

By George Fields

It is difficult for me to believe that motherhood has become a controversial issue as of late, but the Internet assures me that it has. There are those who have determined childbearing to be the primary obstacle in the way of women achieving their self-actualization; across from them there seem to be mothers who, quite to the contrary, view it as the height of self-fulfillment.  

Both of these arguments seem to me a big wide of the mark. The argument for motherhood is not that it is a plausible route to the fulfillment of the self; it is that without motherhood, there would soon be no more selves to fulfill.

It seems the world has forgotten a certain matter, which is the matter of mortality; and having forgotten mortality, they have missed the meaning of “mom.”

If one knew nothing of revealed religion, one would find it impossible to avoid the conclusion that man is an unwelcome stranger in the fact of this world. All his days he labors to retain life, and death is his final punishment for having dared exist; for having dared to run from the unthinking darkness and meaningless black which preceded his presence in the universe, and will succeed it as well. “Living a meaningful life” is nonsense, for death renders all our labors and strife and achievements absurd. No matter what great art, or music, or business, or monument we create, the Abyss will un-create it.

Saturn, the Roman god who ate his children, lest they overthrow him, is the pattern of this world; for as soon as the world gives birth to us, it is eager for nothing more than to consume us. Time devours all.

May 21, 2016

Survey Results

Thank you so much to the readers who answered our survey! We really appreciate the feedback and the kind comments. It is encouraging to see what a faithful core of readers we have--over 40% of you say you read nearly every article, and a flattering 35% of you claimed that if you don't finish one of our pieces, the most likely reason is that something near you burst into flames.

We should sell these:

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On to the stats:

May 20, 2016

Marriage, Motherhood, and the Mona Lisa

By Nicole King

There are days when I feel the urge to create—accompanied by the complete lack of genius that normally attends such urges.

I am a writer by trade. That is, when I do make money outside the home, I do so by writing. In this, I feel enormously blessed. I hold degrees in English and political science—hardly the best combination in the rat race of “getting a job.” And yet, I now actually have a job that pays me to do what I love to do—research and write.

But there are those writers who are endowed with special creativity: Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Charlotte Bronte, Wendell Berry, to name a few favorites in no particular order. And then there are those of us who write, but who perhaps lack that wandering, roving, madly brilliant spirit that the world typically ascribes to any who bear the title “writer.” We can analyze, we can describe, and when we drink enough coffee and write long enough, we can even hit upon something profound every now and then. But Lord Byron, we ain’t.

I have always bemoaned my lack of creativity in my writing. I would love to be able to sit down and pen brilliant fiction, something that simultaneously entertains and enlightens, something that captures its reader with the beauty of its prose while ever so gently nudging across some kind of great truth. Something that compels the stay-at-home mom or busily working dad to stay up past bedtime reading.

Alas, no. Not a bit.

May 17, 2016

Serving Our Neighbors When They are Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

Facebook’s algorithm has apparently decided that I like to be discouraged, because my newsfeed is filled with headlines about assisted suicide, late-term abortion, and transgender politics. Even worse is when I see one of my friends “liking” something ugly, like a brash joke in support of Planned Parenthood’s grisly activities or a statement that Christians must be content with freedom of thought and stop letting their faith get in the way of the world’s progress.

It can leave me with a sick feeling in my stomach. I know, of course, that the world holds radical liberal activists. That is not what worries me. The part that is hard to understand is the way so many nice, normal people have accepted the beliefs of yesterday’s radicals. How can they really think that this insanity--so cruel, so destructive, so dysfunctional--is the way to make the world a better place? Not only that, but how can they really think that people who oppose these things, people like me, are bigots who should shut our mouths?

There is a part of me that wishes they would all just be quiet. Just keep their thoughts and angry memes to themselves. Yet when I recognize this wish, I can’t help but see that it makes me just like them. Neither of us is comfortable with living among people who challenge our core outlook. It’s a metaphorical kick in the shins, a scrape against verbal asphalt, to know that other human beings look at our beliefs and call them bad.

May 14, 2016

Off-site Highlights: Moms, Bodies, and Bar Songs

(Compiled by Anna)

1. Our society has a puzzling attitude towards mothers and motherhood. Stella Morabito argues that by it's very nature, motherhood bars the path of those who wish to isolate the individual and make way for statism. I've never read a piece that was so disheartening and yet so encouraging at the same time. It left me feeling that every potty chair I empty, every spill I dry, and every misdeed I correct is a way in which I do grand deeds for goodness.

A Little Mother Prevents Big Brother by Stella Morabito 
Motherhood is the first and last line of defense against totalitarianism. If you think this statement sounds over the top, you ought to ponder why the family has always been the ultimate target of tyrannical systems of government such as communism. Advocates of cultural Marxism tend to view families as akin to subversive cells that get in the way of centralized state power. MORE.

May 10, 2016

Feminism vs. The Fixer Upper

By Laura Vandercook

I was watching an episode of Fixer Upper on Netflix the other day when the husband described a house in this way: “It is in our budget, works for our family, and makes my wife happy.” You wouldn’t think that a little comment like that would catch much of anyone’s attention. It is such an ordinary way of looking at things, perhaps even too simple for television. However, it is in a statement like this that we see the male headship of the family working well. The husband cared so much for his family that he made sure that they were both well taken care of and that his wife was happy.

Feminism has been a prominent conversation in my household lately. It is from these conversations that I continue to see the importance of teaching both my son and my daughters the importance of male-headship. As I explain to my children how a woman respects and honors her husband and how a husband cares for his wife, my children look at society and see that this isn’t how it works. They point out instances that they’ve seen and wonder how the biblical view of marriage works in a culture that ignores it.

My eldest daughter came home from school one day asking her little sister what she wants to be when she grows up. It is such a typical question to ask children, but it is one that comes with more baggage than we often recognize. When my youngest child answered that she wants to grow up to be a mom, the older daughter asked what else she wants to do. Here we see that feminism has ingrained in us the idea that being a mother and wife isn’t good enough, that these vocations are beneath us. The implication is that if the different jobs of a husband and wife are placed on a scale, and if they do not equal each other, that somehow someone is less human or less important to the family and even to society.

May 6, 2016

Sometimes The Onion is Right

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

A while back, The Onion, a satirical site with lots of fake news articles, ran this headline: "Woman Comforting Friend Just Going to Throw Compliments Against Wall and See What Sticks."

"BILLINGS, MT—In an attempt to console her distraught friend following a recent breakup, local woman Janet Hendrickson told reporters Thursday that she was just going to throw a bunch of compliments about the woman against the wall and see what sticks."

There's truth in the joke. Women have a reputation for seeking affirmation from their friends ("No, you're a great mom!" "He's lucky to have you!" "No, that dress looks really flattering on you!"). Reassuring each other is one of the ways that women bond.

Intelligent husbands also learn quickly to step into the affirmation breach and say nice things to their wives.

Yet the mood-boost of a good compliment doesn't last forever. No matter what our friend or husband has told us in the past, we want to keep hearing that we are smart, pretty, right, or skillful. The surface compliments reassure us that we are loved and valuable.

The Onion's post reminded me of why we go to church over and over, week in and week out. We humans live within time. Our bodies require a nearly constant stream of food, sleep, and shelter. Our emotional needs must be met repeatedly. Our souls, too, must hear the words of Law and Gospel over and over.

The piece in The Onion concludes,

"At press time, Hendrickson had thankfully found a means of discontinuing her scattershot barrage of compliments by telling Fitzgerald that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought about her as long as she believed in herself."

In real life, of course, believing in ourselves is a dead-end street. Which of us is without sin? Yet it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of us as long as we believe in Christ. The tremendous beauty if it all is that we don't have to muster up this belief for ourselves. He gives it to us. Let us, then, go to church, and receive. There we find true comfort.

May 3, 2016

She Called Me Like She Said She Would

By Rebekah Theilen

We planned a phone date for the afternoon.

Even after all these years, time hasn’t changed the strange phenomena of The Phone Call.  I’m convinced there’s a special place in hell for the demons who sit around waiting for the phone to touch my ear. It doesn’t seem to matter when the call happens or how much you anticipate it: as surely as an infant knows the second your body relaxes into the bed, the children become intensely aware of their own acute need for adult interaction as soon as mom is on the phone. You have this happen enough times and I'm sure the whole thing becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Many-a-phone-call has never happened simply because I knew the certain demise of the phone call’s future.

This time, though, I was determined not to let The Phone Call phenomenon deter me. The kids and I had a small talk about how I was going to talk with my grandma for a little bit and that I needed them to play or work on something quietly while I was on the phone. They scattered about the house and joined up with books and Legos while I snatched a moment to myself to finish getting ready. I heard my husband calling for me then. Floorboards creaked out my name as he walked from his office down the hallway to find me. “I’m in here,” I said, trying not to shout. He was on the phone. “Oh, can she call you back in a few minutes?” he asked the person on the other end of the line. It was my date. Grandma called while I was in the bathroom.

I called her back as soon as I could. She answered right away, like she’d been expecting me. It was good to hear her voice. God only knows how many times we’ve crossed invisible paths on social media and never said a word. Every time we talk it’s like time has never passed and we pick up right where we left off. I told her all about the recent rainy day and I heard how she and Grandpa were feeling better and she’d been cleaning in the basement. She had found an old Bible story flannel graph and wondered if I wanted it.  I imagined the felt of my past being handled with care to tell the stories of Jesus. I told her of course I wanted it, that I’d love to use it with the kids, as she had done with me.   She said she’d get it in the mail sometime soon.  

Apr 29, 2016

Romance is Like a Kale Salad

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

When I was a kid, my friends and I would tell each other stories. We liked to describe the final feast with which the triumphant heroes were feted. “And then the serving men carried out great platters covered with meat pies, and six maids followed with a gigantic bowl of grapes and pears, and then the twelve page boys each carried in a different flavor of ice cream….” Those stories left us feeling ravenous.

Then, one day, one of the families began a specific diet. Their children had no interest in hearing about foods they could not themselves enjoy, and they were so tired of acceptable dishes like rice that they didn’t want to hear about those, either. The game was dead. It was the first time in my life I realized that people’s relationship to food could be complicated.  

As a chocolate-loving adult who also wants to fit back into pre-baby clothes, I now know a lot more about the tangled web we weave when we venture into the kitchen. It’s not just that I must balance between the enjoyment of food and the exercise of self-control. I also have to decide whom to believe. Is milk necessary to skeletal health, or is it basically white death? Must my butter be grassfed? Should I live on fermented beans? Is sugar going to kill me? A quick skim through my Facebook feed can leave me wondering whether I should just skip lunch and eat chocolate-covered almonds instead.

It strikes me that the American relationship to diet is so complicated that it’s as bad as our relationship to love and marriage. In fact, the two are remarkably analogous. Learning how to navigate one is helpful for dealing with the other.
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