Saturday, June 30, 2007

God’s blessings

Not long ago, I came across the beautiful Eyes of Wonder blog, by a lovely lady who is the joyful mother of 10 treasured children and grandma to 1 precious grandchild. Her youngest child and very first grandchild are only 2 months apart! Now, how cool is that? She shares many beautiful photos of her home and family in their everyday soothing, simple life. I would like to thank Sherry from Lula’s Hardt for sharing the link! Sherry mentioned it after my post about dressing modestly during the summer, thinking I might want to take some tips from there.

I did love the way girls and women in that family dress. It seems they make most of their clothes themselves, and they look so pretty, modest, feminine and comfortable. But more than that, I love just taking the peak into their everyday life.

As an only child, I always wondered what life in a large family would be like. In our extended family, no one had more than 2 children. I often heard statements like for example, if you have ‘more children than you can afford’, it means you’re ‘depriving all of them’. Because if a child isn’t showered with expensive toys and taken on vacation every year he is, naturally, deprived! Something even more ridiculous is the opinion that, ‘it’s unfair to give older children the responsibility to take care of younger ones’!

Teaching children they should be responsible is unfair? Educating children in the spirit of patience, giving and sharing towards their siblings makes them feel deprived? I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me. My grandmother had 5 brothers and a sister, and not even once I heard her complain about how there wasn’t enough for everyone as they were growing up. Now we see children who have no siblings at all, or only one sibling, yet they complain all the time about not having those expensive brand-name jeans. What should it tell anyone who has a bit of common sense? Obviously, that things won’t make children happier. But somehow, people insist that having more, bigger and better is the path to bliss.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Pink geranium

Now I have two kinds of geranium, and both are blooming! Yay! Click here to see the other one.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Eggplants

I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do with these little eggplants. Maybe I'll just bake them with some olive oil and cheese... hmm. Eggplant is one of my favorite veggies!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Purity during courtship

A long time ago, after experiencing all the awful effects of 'liberated' relationships, I said goodbye to dating and welcome to courtship. Courtship to me is when a man and woman get to know each other with the purpose of marriage, and focus on finding out the potential of each other as future spouses rather than just goofing around and having fun.

However, being marriage-focused doesn't guarantee purity. We are still under worldly influences, still in danger of temptations, frustrations, immorality and imprudent behavior. Please don't think I'm talking theory here; I speak first and foremost about myself.

Judaism teaches that we need to follow a couple of good, solid guidelines during the period of courtship.

- Eliminating the physical side of relationship until the wedding day. And I mean completely. No kisses or hugs or even holding hands! I understand this might seem radical to some of you. But this is what I follow. And as someone who fell into this very trap in the past, I can tell you I'd rather do the hard thing over and over again than endanger the purity of a precious relationship.

- Not being alone together. Now, don't take it in the way that a third party always has to listen to conversations or something of this sort. Rather, it means not being alone together in a place where the couple probably won't be interrupted. For example: being alone in a room is alright, as long as the door isn't locked and there's someone else in the house; taking a walk along the beach is alright if there are even a few people who can see the couple.

- Watching our conversations and eliminating subjects which contain, or lead to impurity. This is a tough one. Words are harder to watch than actions.

Yes, this isn't easy. But I know it will pay off in the most wonderful way, knowing that I stayed pure in word, thought and deed.

Monday, June 25, 2007

This place is a mess!

Yes, yes... being absent from home during 12-14 hours every day doesn't help to keep a clean home! I would be so embarrassed if any of you saw the thick layer of dust on our furniture. I only have time to do the very basic things - washing the floors, doing the dishes, making beds, laundry. And I must say, this doesn't cheer me up at all! I can't wait to be able to do a good, thorough cleaning. I love it when the place looks welcoming and fresh, and when I'm not ashamed to receive visitors.

Housekeeping for my precious family, as I find out again and again, isn't simple. It takes talent, ability and organization. And it also takes time. Today, people don't have time to invest in their home and make it a lovely place. Many prefer eating out, even during family celebrations. Isn't it sad how the culture of family and home grows weaker? But it is in our power to preserve it, ladies!

I think I will stop my rant here. I eagerly wait for your tips and strategies on keeping house at the busiest periods of your life.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Burying our talents? I think not

Recently, a reader asked me an interesting question, which I would like to address today. So here it is:

'God gave me talents. I want to be a wife and mother, but do you think I should only be a wife and mother and waste the precious gifts God blessed me with?'

Through blogging and otherwise, I met so many gifted, talented, special, intelligent and educated ladies that still choose to be full-time homemakers. No woman, family or home is ever the same. We don't live in a cookie-cutter world and each one of us has her own special talent or ability God generously blessed her with. Do I think we should we reject His blessings and throw these talents away? Of course not!

However, here's one important point to remember: since our talents (and everything we have) are God-given, it means we should use what we were given to glorify Him. Our abilities are our instruments which can be used wisely or foolishly, and if they don't bring glory to God, the gift is turned into a curse.

Another point: if God blesses us with a family, it means we are in charge of this family (both husband and wife in their unique and complementary roles). By serving our family, we serve God. No, I'm not saying we can only serve Him through our family; we can be for example active in our community, host a charity event, volunteer in a pregnancy crisis center, start a business and so on and so forth. Do I also include work in that list of other activities we might be doing? Yes. However, our primary concern should definitely be the well-being of our family – those precious people God entrusted us with. Can we juggle our primary responsibility and other interests (including work)? I suppose it depends on how much time those interests take. Even when I worked part-time, with the traffic I was absent from home for full 8 hours in a day - the best, most productive morning and daytime hours. Very time-consuming, if I may humbly say so.

Can the workforce benefit from our abilities? Sure. But who needs us more? And what is our most important responsibility? No, it's not like we should literally never set foot outside the home. You won't hear me say "having a career is wrong because having a career is wrong, period". But before we commit to anything, be it work, community projects or anything you can think of, we should ask ourselves two questions – does it bring glory to God? And does it lead me away from taking care of my family? I don't have an answer to that. Only you can answer these questions for yourself, through thought and prayer.

If there is a certain ability you've been blessed with and you're sure you will have to give it up when you take on the duties of wife and mother, you might want to think outside the box and see how this very talent can be used to bless your own family. For example: if I have an eye for interior decoration, I can invest in decorating other people's homes, or put all of my energy into making my own home a lovely place; if I'm a gifted writer, I can travel around the world as a journalist, or I can write wonderful children's books while telling stories to my toddler; and if you want a personal example, I can spend the best part of my day counseling people about their nutrition, or invest in the health and well-being of my own family. Well, you get the idea.

So, in my opinion, the question shouldn't be, 'do we use our talents?', but rather 'how do we use our talents?' We must remember that our time and energy are limited resources and we should manage them wisely. And wisdom will come from reminding ourselves about where our hearts truly belong.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Campus cat

Isn't he a cutie? This cat was our faithful companion throughout college... he used to sit through half of our lectures, usually curled up in a chair and sleeping (sometimes we felt like sleeping too!), or passing between people's laps. Once he jumped on a professor's desk during a lecture and made himself comfortable right there. ;)

Saying goodbye to him isn't easy!

... On another note, our refrigerator broke down yesterday. With the terrible heat, that's BAD. I hope we can get it fixed tomorrow!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Breastfeeding and introducing solid foods

Yes, yes, I know – this title probably seems a bit strange on my blog, as I'm not even married yet. However I very much hope to become a mother someday, and therefore I'm fascinated by what we're currently learning in Infant Nutrition course.

Our teacher, who has a lot of experience in the field, is very much pro-breastfeeding. He keeps stressing to us over and over again the health benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mother. Mother's milk is the best, natural, balanced nutrition for a baby; breastfeeding has great benefits for the baby's immune system and helps create a strong and special bond between the mother and her child. If there are no specific reasons not to breastfeed (for example, if the mother takes certain medications), breastfeeding should always be the preferred option.

Did you know that…

… Formula babies grow faster than breastfed babies? This is often a source of concern for breastfeeding mothers, but in fact this is because when giving formula, it is more difficult to monitor how much the baby actually needs, and signals of satiety don't appear as strongly as when breastfeeding. In other words, breastfed babies get exactly what they need while formula babies are often overfed! Eventually the size difference between the two groups disappears.

… Babies might be allergic to formula? That's because most of the brands contain cow milk protein. If this is the case, they are often transferred to soy based formulas, and we know those contain phytoestrogens!

… The recommendations about how long the baby should be breastfed vary, but currently no source states a period shorter than 6 months? According to American Association of Pediatrics, the recommendations are to breastfeed exclusively until 6 months, and then, while introducing other foods, continue breastfeeding until 1 year.

… There's no need to introduce solid foods too early? Even when the baby is growing well and seems interested in eating solid foods, waiting is safer than rushing. Mother's milk is designed to supply all of the baby's needs, and we don't want to cause food allergies while the baby's immune system isn't fully mature. This is especially true for cereals, which may trigger an outburst of children's celiac; this may cause a delay in growth and development. In addition, the baby's digestive system isn't mature enough either, and there may well be not enough amylase for successful digestion of complex carbohydrates. Because of that, now it's suggested that the first solid foods should be fruits and veggies rather than cereals. However, many doctors aren't aware of the dangers in starting solid foods too early.

… When introducing a new sort of food, it's better to give one thing at a time and wait for a couple of days? This will help you notice which food is a source of allergy.

Of course, those of you who are already mothers probably know most of this stuff; I'm so happy I have the opportunity to learn! Now more than ever I'm convinced I'm going to breastfeed if God blesses me with children.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

That's the spirit on our campus

A couple of days ago, we (me and several fellow students) had a conversation with one of our teachers. Since we're about to graduate (not long now! Hang in there!), most of the students are concerned about work opportunities, salary, connections, etc. Someone asked the teacher about evening shifts in a hospital – is there more or less work than during morning shifts?

The teacher, a young woman, embarrassedly admitted that she doesn't currently work during the evenings, as she has a husband and little children to care for; therefore, she only works a couple of hours in the mornings and then rushes home to her family.
'Otherwise, I just wouldn't have time to be there for my children,' – she said breathlessly. It was obvious she was feeling uncomfortable. You should have felt the silence in the room! It was icy, ladies. And there were raised eyebrows, oh yes. A whole lot of them.

I broke the silence by saying that in my opinion, children are far more important, especially at the moment (I tried to say that pleasantly and mildly, of course). Then someone mentioned fellow students who already become Moms. And so this moment was forgotten, but I continued to go back to it in my mind throughout the day.

I think it's very sad that a woman must actually justify herself for taking more time to spend with her family.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Busy time

As my finals are drawing nearer, I'm making every effort to complete all the projects I must hand in. In addition, we're moving soon, and I'm about to start packing. But don't worry, I'm in control and I'm sure everything is going to work out! The last few months have been very stressful, but there isn't much left now.

However, I'm grateful for this experience. There are more relaxed periods in our lives, and there are times when we feel there aren't enough hours in a day. Right now I feel as though I'm trying to cram a million things into a very small suitcase. There just isn't enough room for everything. I can handle it for a month or two, but I don't think I would want to live like this all the time. And I'm glad for realizing this.

I've never been more convinced about my wish to become a stay-at-home wife and mom. No, I'm not saying the life of a full-time homemaker isn't busy. I'm not saying it's stress-free, or that it's an easy deal. I simply feel my life is such a tiny suitcase. I don't want to live my life feeling I'm cramming, cramming, cramming all the time. I want to make room for what's truly important: my relationship with God, honoring and serving my future husband, being a homemaker and a mother. These are the things that will matter in the long run.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Don’t be afraid to be counter-cultural!

I received so much wonderful response to my Modest Summer post. Thank you, ladies!

Here’s something interesting Lean Not brought up, on the subject of headcoverings:

“As far as modesty, I can see where it makes others look at you as a person instead of at the beauty of your hair, thus taking attention off of yourself and pointing attention to more important things. But in a society where almost NOBODY wears them, is the purpose defeated since it will draw a ton of attention to the lady wearing the head covering? Where I am, it would be seen as a fashion statement.”

Thank you for bringing this up! This is definitely something to think about, and not even specifically about headcoverings. For example, I see that the way I dress attracts many glances because nobody dresses this way where I live. So I suppose you could say that if I wore a pair of jeans and a t-shirt (I’m not talking about anything explicitly immodest), I would attract less attention than I do now in my long skirts. Do I think it would be the right thing to do? As you know, I continue to adhere to what I think is right.

Let’s even take one step away from our appearance. Won’t we be more culturally accepted if we adopt feminist teachings, become career women, compromise our standards of chastity, forget about having a large family… you get the idea. Just insert your own counter-cultural ‘quirk’ here. Sure, it would make many of us more popular. Maybe our lives would be easier. But I think it all boils down to one simple question:

Whose standards do we want to follow?

There are standards of human society, which change every century, decade, year, season or week. And there are God’s standards – everlasting, truthful, faithful. So which should we follow? The choice is ours.

I will leave the headcovering question open, because I just don’t think I have a satisfactory answer at the moment. But whatever we do, whatever our doubts are, our hearts should be turned to God and His word, and not to changing trends and whims of a fallen world. Just think, study and pray about it, and when you think you have the answer, do what’s right and let Him take care of the rest.

Don’t be afraid to make a counter-cultural statement. Sometimes we follow an example, and sometimes we must be the ones who set an example. Of course this shouldn’t be done in an arrogant, holier-than-thou way (“look at me! I’m so righteous!”). We should do what’s right, but we must humble ourselves and do it in a peaceful and pleasant manner (“Her ways are of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace”).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Pride and Prejudice

Yesterday I watched "Pride and Prejudice", based on the wonderful novel by Jane Austen. The movie is from 2005, so many of you might have seen it, but for me it was the first time. I watched it together with Mom and Grandma, and the three of us had a blast – especially Grandma.

… So, what did I especially like about the movie?

* The costumes, of course! I'm such a girly girl. I simply love what they used to wear back then. Not all of the dresses were what I'd regard as modest, but they were definitely much better than what we see these days. And they were all so feminine.

* There was not even one kiss, yet this is such a romantic story. Nothing like the revolting sex scenes that are usually forced on us.

* I loved seeing the family interactions: how the father is portrayed as a kind and wise authority figure; how both parents are involved in the daughters' lives; how the Bennett sisters whisper to each other in the darkness of their bedroom. Sure, they are far from being a perfect family, but the closeness – this is something that is missed by so many families today. When the daughters are finally given away by their father, this is not an expression of 'oppressive patriarchy', but of love and protection.

I also love the character of Elizabeth – so strong, wholesome and loving. She is very gentle and feminine, yet she is not a weakling and she's perfectly capable of defending herself and doing what she thinks is right.

Women of that time had many different talents, which they practiced right there, in their own home, making it a lovely place. Charlotte, Elizabeth's friend, might not have married the man of her dreams, but she still says what a joy it is to finally run her own household; not a mind-numbing burden but something she has looked forward to during many years.

I'm not saying we should go back to the 'good old days'. But there is so much we could enrich our lives with – beautiful femininity and modesty; purity as a norm in relationships between men and women; a more peaceful, quiet life, with much less rushing around and still enough time to get everything done, with stronger family ties and friendships. All of these are timeless treasures we should cherish and preserve.

* Picture: Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Returning to purity

Here is a part of a not very friendly anonymous comment I got to my post about dressing modestly during the summer:

"Just because you were sexually impure (Anna's note: I replaced the original expression with a milder one) a couple of years ago doesn't mean you have to go to the other extreme of only swimming when other people can't see you. Do you really think you can erase the past and become a pure and modest woman again?!"

First, I must say I'm grateful for two things: comment moderation and developing thicker skin. But I won't waste precious time complaining about rudeness. Instead, let us touch the issue that was brought up here.

I know many lovely, modest, pure, godly ladies (and gentlemen) who weren't always what they are today. The society we were raised in, foolish decisions we made in our youth… I mean, really – show me one person who has never made a mistake in his or her life, and I will stand up and applaud. Because this just doesn't happen, folks. We all have moments in our past we are not very proud of.

Those of you who have read my post, "Reclaiming the Gift of Chastity", know my story. I'm exactly one of those people who made grave mistakes in the past. I was ignorant, worldly, immodest and threw away the beautiful gift God gave me – my purity. When I realized how wrong I've been, I went through the following process:

1. I acknowledged my mistakes and admitted there are no excuses to my behavior. I prayed.
2. I resolved I'm never going to make the same mistake again. I prayed.
3. I started working on myself in hope to become the woman I want to be: godly, wise, modest, chaste. I prayed. I'm praying until this day.

Do I think I can change the past? Of course not. Do I want to change the past? I used to think along those lines some time ago, but it didn't help me. I'd much rather focus on the positive – that my life has changed, and that God in His grace taught me so much through my mistakes. I grew. I'm past the self-flagellation stage, and I feel I have gained something truly valuable.

I've heard something very wise – that when we do something wrong, the devil tries to lure us twice: before and after we do it. When we're tempted, he whispers to us about how nice and cool everything is going to be and how it's not bad at all and we should follow him. When we realize we've made a mistake and we regret it, he says, "once a sinner, always a sinner. There's no way you can repair what you did, so you might as well continue".

To those of you who might be struggling at this very moment, please understand that thinking along these lines is destructive. Wallowing in misery and hating ourselves only leads us to sin more. God doesn't want that. He wants us to regret, but not to be miserable. Someone who used to be a thief or a liar cannot undo what he did, but he can become a different person – someone who isn't capable of stealing or lying anymore. A woman who once rejected the precious treasure of chastity cannot turn back time either, but she can regain her dignity and yes, she can become pure, chaste and modest again. Our God is good and kind. He wants to heal. He wants to forgive. Let Him do the work on your heart.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sharing ideas for modest summer fashions

Following the suggestion of Tracy, Anna Naomi and several other ladies, I'm going to share a couple of photos of me in my current typical summer dress. These are just simple photos in my everyday clothes. All of these are made from cotton and all the skirts are ankle-length. The picture where you can see me crocheting was actually posted on my blog a while ago, but I'm sure not all of you saw that, so I'm posting it again.

If some of you ladies feel like sharing as well, I would absolutely love to see pictures of you and perhaps glean some ideas for modest, pretty, feminine and comfortable attire during the summer! Let me know so I can link to your blog. If you want to share pictures but don't have a blog, email me and I will post them here.

Also, don't miss another excellent post on Emily's blog: "Why dress modestly? Part 2"





















































Thursday, June 14, 2007

Modest summer

Summer is here again – without a doubt, the most 'modestly challenged' season! When I was in the process of changing my style of dress and committing myself to dressing modestly, I was a bit anxious about how I was going to handle the summer. Wouldn't I simply boil if I didn't allow myself to walk around with bare shoulders anymore?

My first modest summer went surprisingly smoothly, much better than I expected! I always try to keep the following points in mind:

1. The type of fabric is what really matters. I wear long, flowing skirts and blouses from light cotton that let my skin breathe. It feels so much cooler than for example a tight strapless top from synthetic fabric.

2. By the way, tight clothes feel much hotter since they don't allow sweat to evaporate! I'm not saying we should all start wearing sacks. Gently fitting clothes will do.

3. Colors matter. Light colors are much less heat-absorbent than dark ones.

4. Along with sunscreen, clothes serve as protection from the sun! Do you know how Bedouins dress for example? You don't see them walking around wearing shorts! We could learn something from them.

Summer is not an excuse to compromise our modesty standards. On the contrary! It's the perfect time to show we don't have to conform to cultural standards in order to feel pretty and feminine. If you want to make a transition from pants to skirts and dresses, I think summer is the best season to do it. Wearing skirts is more common during the summer, so you can start right now, and then just continue with skirts and dresses. I did it this way, and it worked wonderfully for me.

Swimming suits are another sore point. So far, I haven't found a truly satisfactory solution (though Wholesome Wear has some offers which are definitely better than what you normally see in stores). I only swim when there are no people at all, and when I'm pretty sure no one is going to appear all of a sudden.

Ladies, I would like to ask you something. Have your convictions about modesty changed in the last couple of years, and if so, how?

I wish everyone a lovely, enjoyable and modest summer!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The woman who gave me a bagel

Today I'm going to share with you something that happened to me a couple of years ago. This is just a simple story, but it has great significance in my eyes.

Before I started college, I had a variety of odd jobs, the last of which was working as a cashier in a supermarket. It wasn't easy, especially in the first few days. Hours were long, breaks were short, customers were rude – and on top of all that, at the end of my third day at work, I have found out that there's a considerable sum of money missing.

I said I'm going to cover it from my salary, of course, and the incident was settled. But I felt so humiliated! This might sound out of proportion to you, I know, but back then I was very young and insecure. I felt like a total failure. I started walking slowly towards the bus station, my eyes clouded with tears.

There were few moments in my life when I felt more helpless than at that moment, when I sat motionlessly on a bench. Buses came and went, but I just couldn't bring myself to get up.

And then the woman appeared. She had short dark hair and warm brown eyes, and looked like someone who is probably very cheerful and has a very large family. She was carrying a shopping bag and was obviously in a hurry; but when she saw me, she stopped walking.

- Excuse me, are you alright? – She asked.
- I'm fine, thank you, - I said, hoping my voice wasn't trembling too much.
- Are you sure? – She insisted, - Do you need money for a bus ticket?
Only then I realized I must have looked like a drunken beggar. My hair was a mess and my eyes were probably red and puffy.
- No, no, really, I'm fine, - I said quickly. – I have a ticket; I can go home anytime… I just… had some problems at work.
She looked at me very kindly and said:
- You look like such a wonderful person. Don't let anyone put you down.

Then she insisted I must have one of the fresh bagels she just bought. I refused at first, but she just wouldn't take no for an answer. She said I look exhausted and need to eat something. She gave me one of her bagels, said goodbye and walked away. I ate the bagel, and it wasn't simply delicious; I felt as though it was a magic bagel – with every bite, the pain and humiliation were slowly disappearing, until I felt almost normal again; I got on a bus and went home.

This happened over three years ago, but every once in a while, I remember the woman who gave me her bagel and the simple beauty of what she did never ceases to fill me with gratitude. She was in a hurry, but she didn't just pass by. And she wouldn't leave me alone when I said I don't need anything. She refused to walk away without giving me at least some comfort. Whenever I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes. I hope that someday, as I work on making myself a better person, I can develop even a bit of that woman's kindness and generosity.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cultivating the virtue of patience

Like every human being, I'm full of imperfections, but if you asked me to name my most serious flaw, I'd say it is impatience. It doesn't take much to make my blood boil and I lose my temper pretty quickly.

And you know what, I've reached a resolution. I decided this is going to change. Most of you probably know that during this period of my life, I need so much patience. I need the ability to wait without whining, to follow without frustration. But it's not something seasonal, of course. I definitely feel improving myself in this area will help me become a better person.

Every day brings trials – from a line at the supermarket to a conversation with someone I don't find agreeable. The temptation is always there – to mumble and grumble, to say I just can't take this anymore, to let my anger overflow and say something nasty. I always feel so bad afterwards.

So I decided that from now on, whenever I feel I'm approaching the point where I'm about to lose control, I will close my eyes, breathe deeply and make myself slow down. And I will ask myself the following questions:

Do I have a good reason to be impatient, angry, frustrated? Probably not. Most likely what makes me annoyed is just a normal, average everyday thing.
Even if I have real trials, it was all determined by God. Why can't I accept it with love and a patient smile?
If I let myself go now, will I regret it in an hour? Probably.
Do you think it is fun to live with someone so impatient? How can you ever become a good wife without cultivating the virtue of patience?
I'm thinking that this period of my life can become a blessing after all. I have so much to learn, so much to work on as I prepare to become a wife.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Uses for old milk

Does it happen to you that you sometimes look inside your fridge and discover milk or other dairy products which are not supposed to be used anymore, according to the date on the package? It sure happens to me sometimes. Here's what I do:

1. Check if it really has gone bad.
If it's only a day or two after the date on the package, often the product won't be bad at all.

2. Use it for cooking or baking.
I've found out that even if I won't add this milk to my coffee anymore, it can still be very good for pancakes or cookies.

3. Make cheese from it.
Homemade cheese is not very difficult to make and it's fun. And even if your attempt fails, at least you tried! I let it go really sour, and then cook it until it boils. I get a semi-liquid chunky mass which I then wrap in a cloth, wait, and let the water run down. And voila – homemade cheese.

4. Use it for a facial mask.
Mixing some milk with oatmeal (and maybe some honey) produces a wonderful mask, even though I admit it's a bit gross.

I'm sure I haven't discovered all possible uses for old milk. Waiting to hear your tips!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Modesty – it changed my life

Emily from "Unfurling Flower" is making a series of posts about modesty, why we should dress modestly and what modesty contributes to our lives. I'm looking forward to reading! I haven't had the opportunity to write too much about this subject so far, but I won't exaggerate if I say it actually changed my life. Some time ago, I wrote an article about it, which you can check out if you want to.

Today, I normally wear ankle-length skirts, and I don't own any shirts with sleeves that leave the elbow uncovered. As a teenager, if someone told me I was going to dress like this, I'd laugh. I wouldn't recognize myself if someone showed me a picture of me as I am today.

I believe modesty is an essential, irreplaceable part of femininity. For me, embracing modesty came together with getting to know and learning to love my feminine role. Changing my tight jeans and sleeveless t-shirts to long and flowing dresses came together with being more gentle, submissive, patient and respectful.

And you won't believe the enormous change I saw in attitude of men towards me. In the period I now refer to as my 'previous life', I noticed greedy, hungry expressions as I walked down the street. Now I see recognition and respect of my chastity. No man ever dared to say anything rude or disrespectful ever since I changed my standard of dress.

But it's not only about how others see us, of course, like Emily so wisely points out. Be sure to check out her blog!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Beware of career mentality

On the subject of women working outside the home, I've read a variety of thoughts and opinions, which ranged from saying that working outside the home is always a sin to claiming that it's irreplaceable for a woman's personal growth and development.

So where do I place myself on this scale? From reading my previous posts, you can understand I don't think working outside the home or attending college is necessary for being a happy, fulfilled, mature, educated, productive and creative individual. And while my desire is to get married and be a full-time homemaker, I don't think working outside the home is always a sin. It's not black and white. Women go out into the workforce for various reasons. Take for example a single lady like myself. I'd love to spend my single years living under my father's protection and authority and helping him, but it so happens that I have no father – therefore I'm probably going to start working soon.

I also think there's a huge difference between a woman who works part-time, hurries home to be there for her children, makes dinner for her husband and welcomes him with a gracious smile – and a woman who comes home late in the evening, ignores the precious toddler who has been missing his Mommy, and rushes to the computer to check e-mails and go through a few more work papers. Sure, both of them work outside the home, but only one of them has what I will refer to as 'career mentality'. To avoid misunderstandings, I define 'career mentality' as putting one's career, consciously or unconsciously, ahead of anyone or anything in life, including relationships with God and loved ones. The second woman I described might say she is working extra hard to earn some more money for her child, but at the bottom line, when the choice is between spending time with her child and checking emails, the emails almost always win.

So, I'm certainly not passing judgment on anyone or telling I know the magical answer to this dilemma, but in my humble opinion, women who work outside the home could ask themselves the following questions:

1) What is my top priority?
Look into your heart. If you had to answer that, I know you'd probably say, "God, then my loved ones, then everything else". Look at your life – how do you spend your days? What occupies your thoughts? What takes the best part of your daily efforts? Think again about what you said matters the most to you. Do you act accordingly?

2) Why do I work outside the home?
There's no right or wrong, black or white here. But still, think about it for a while. What would your answer be? 'Because I think I have to'? 'Because I want to make more money for my family'? 'Because I'd be bored at home all day long'? 'Because I love my job'? 'Because my husband and I had a talk and decided it would be better for our family'? Or it could be 'because I don't want to depend on my husband', 'because this is the norm in my community'… just look into your heart and mull it over.

3) Does it interfere with taking care of my husband, children and home?
No, I'm not saying women who work outside the home are not helpmeets to their husbands. I'm not saying they are not good mothers or that their homes are always badly kept and untidy. However… I don't know about you – but I only have 24 hours in my day! Suppose I sleep for 8 hours and spend 8 hours in the office. I still have 8 hours. But I also need to eat several times during the day (2 hours), get dressed, take a shower, brush my hair (1 hour), and there's commutation (right now this one eats up 3 hours in my day). No matter how you look at it, I only have 2-3 hours a day for everything else. I'm single right now, and I still feel the strain. Suppose I get married someday. Imagine having only 2 or 3 hours every day to take care of the household, cook, shop, do laundry, run errands, spend time with my loved ones, and of course – pray. It just doesn't seem enough. Remember, I'm only looking at my personal example here.

4) I'm super-efficient. I can do anything and everything. Is it taking a toll on my health?
Let's go back to the previous division of hours in a day. Suppose I only sleep for 6 hours a day, and spend 1 hour on meals, 1\2 hour on dressing up, shower etc, and 1 hour on commuting. I still work for 8 hours every day. I have 7-8 hours to do everything else! I'm a champion of efficiency! Right? I don't think so. Maybe it works for someone, but I know it wouldn't work for me. I could handle constant stress, rush and sleep deprivation for a period – but not for years. Not if I want to keep my health and sanity intact.

5) Do I avoid developing a career mentality?
I think this last point is especially important for single ladies like me. Let me explain what I mean. Suppose I start working right now and tell myself, 'this is not my goal in life. I want to focus on God, marriage, family, children. But I need to pay the bills in the meantime'. And surely I don't want to waste my single years on a boring job! I want to be useful. I want to be productive. I want to serve others. Then bit by bit, work occupies a more and more important place in my life, and when the chance to get married finally comes along and my new duties demand my full attention, I resent not having enough time to keep my job. Are you willing to give up your job if more important duties demand that, without feeling resentful, oppressed, unfulfilled? If I go through work papers while my husband needs my advice and support more than anything else, that's career mentality. If I spend more time with my boss than with my husband, that's career mentality. If my home is a mess, my refrigerator is empty and I haven't prayed for days because I don't have time – and I claim it's not too bad after all – that, again, is career mentality.

Do I have any conclusion here? Not really. These are just thoughts. But I know I don't want to let careerism and various oppportunities make me lose focus of my biggest dream, my goal, my vision - being a wife, helpmeet and mother.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Working mom = better mom?

Sheri touched an important point on her blog; she shared her surprise about the claim that women who work outside the home are, in fact, better mothers than full-time homemakers. Please note that I'm not about to say that a woman who does this or that is a better mother, but I've encountered the same claim several times, and the argumentation usually goes like this:

1. Staying at home, I would be unfulfilled and unhappy. My husband and children don't need a stay-at-home wife and mom who is unhappy in this role.

2. By going out there into the world, I'm expanding my horizons. As a stay-at-home wife and mother, what could I give my children intellectually?

3. My children need things. They need new toys and furniture and clothes, trips and various activities. Without these, they will feel deprived, unhappy. The money I earn at work can buy that, and it's my only chance to give my children what they deserve.

I think these arguments boil down to:
- Being a full-time homemaker is not fulfilling and rewarding enough to dedicate myself to it.
- Money matters more than anything I can give my husband and children at home.

Well, what can I say? Our life at home is what we make of it. It can be very happy or very miserable. The beauty of being a homemaker is that it isn't a rigid path; many wonderful and beautiful things can be done at home to make you feel creative, productive, happy, fulfilled. No two homes – or even two days in the same home – are ever the same. And about a woman's education – who said the best way to be broad-minded and intelligent is to sit all day long in a boring office with boring papers? There are endless ways to enhance your knowledge.

A child needs to grow and develop, but who said children need all the expensive things money can buy? What about having their mother at home? Think about your own childhood. What mattered most to you? What made you happiest? What did you miss the most? As someone who was raised by a single mother who had to work full-time, I can tell you I missed most having my mother at home with me. Seeing her when I came home after school. Being able to talk to her about everything that bothers me. And sure, I did miss having those new clothes and schoolbag. But now that many years passed by, do you think I still think about that schoolbag? Of course not! But the pain of not having a real family, of not having my mother with me, will never go away. The real things stay with you for as long as you live, and no money can pay for them.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

True love waits?

Ladies, those of you who are married, how long was your engagement? Did any of you have to delay your marriage for an extended period because of some reason? How did you deal with the insecurity, frustration, the feeling your life isn't really going anywhere?

Those of you who waited, what was the hardest part for you, and today, are you glad you waited?

I understand this is a personal question to ask, but I need strength and I feel I could be very much encouraged by a testimony of someone who had been through this.

PS: When I say the marriage is delayed for some reason, I mean a really valid reason. Not just because of wanting a fancy wedding or something like that. More like, for example, the man serves in the army.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Nothing to do at home?

At this point of my life, as an adult unmarried daughter living with her family, there are periods when I spend more time outside the home, and others, when I get to spend plenty of time at home. And always, but I mean always, a well-meaning acquaintance will ask me: "Aren't you bored?"

I had worked in a variety of jobs, and let me tell you something, none of them were very glamorous. The majority of jobs aren't. As a secretary, I was chained to the fax machine. When I worked as a cashier in a supermarket, I couldn't move from the cash register. I couldn't take a short break to stretch my legs and I only saw sunshine on my way to work. That was boring.

At home, the activities are so different. Yes, not all of them are exactly thrilling. For example, I like ironing and cooking, while I'm less fond of vacuuming and washing the dishes. But in a way, even what I don't enjoy so much feels satisfying, because I see the result of my work, and I work in my home, for my family, and on my time. I can make my own schedule and go out for a wee break when the weather is good, or watch a bird flying to and from her nest on the tree in front of my small balcony while I hang the laundry. If I have a free hour, I can read or write or do various crafts and projects.

At home, I'm peaceful and relaxed, and I believe this is so much more natural than always rushing somewhere. Think about it. For many centuries, people lived simple, peaceful lives, and they didn't have the amount of depressions and nervous breakdowns we have now. Doesn't it feel good to slow down?

Not long ago, I visited a friend who is going to get married soon and lives with her parents. "I'm so bored at home," – she said, - "I have absolutely nothing to do!" – And while she complained, her mother was mopping the floors and her grandmother washing dishes in the kitchen. Nothing to do at home? Maybe you're just overlooking things that need to be done?

To tell you the truth, I find it difficult to imagine a situation when there's nothing to do at home. There's always dusting and cleaning and mopping and scrubbing; laundry to be washed, ironed and folded; taking care of animals or plants if you have them; creative activities like organization and re-decorating; honestly, I currently live in an apartment so small I'm sure it would make some of you laugh – and yet I never run out of things to do, even if I have all day.

Our time at home – like pretty much everything in life – is what we make of it. We can make it useful and productive, peaceful and relaxing, meaningful and happy. We can find joy in the simple things and excitement in our everyday surroundings. I honestly believe it's up to us.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Parting of the ways

Something sad has happened to me a couple of days ago.

A good old friend asked me for something and I had to refuse. I don't think I should go into details here, but she asked me to be a witness during her wedding ceremony – which will be – how should I put it? – very un-traditional, contains parts that are actual blasphemy, and actively participating in it would go against my religious convictions.

So, very gently and politely, I told her I just couldn't do it.

I'm glad no one witnessed the scene that followed. I heard that I'm a narrow-minded religious fanatic; not a true friend; a real snake; and she won't 'tolerate my religious nonsense' anymore. She will never speak to me again.

It's sad, but I think we reached a parting of the ways. We've been friends for around 5 years and shared many happy and sad moments together, many exciting experience and just normal days. We've laughed and cried and shared and talked and each knew about every important thing that was happening in the other's life.

But I guess this has come to an end.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Pansies

The picture is a bit blurry, but you can see I actually have pansies growing! If you own a big garden with all sorts of plants, it might sound a bit funny to you, but I'm really excited! These are the first flowers I actually grew from seeds. Watching the entire process was fascinating. I love plants and very much hope to have my own garden someday.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Abuse and courtship

In his response to my post about control and abuse, James mentioned noticing abusive patterns during courtship, and I decided to share my thoughts and experience on the subject.

I strongly agree that every effort should be made during the courtship to get to know the potential spouse; and I think a crucial part is how much attention we pay to the character traits that will be important in marriage. I think that when we talk about getting to know each other, focusing on the important issues matters even more than how long the courtship actually lasts before the decision is made.

Now, I'm not saying everyone should get engaged after three dates (though I know some people who did and have wonderful marriages). But I'm convinced that abusive behavior can often be recognized early during the courtship.

In the past, I used to date an unworthy man for a long time. In the later stages of this relationship, he became verbally and physically abusive, but now that I look back, I think I could have seen it coming much earlier than he actually crossed the border between plain rudeness and abuse.

I should have noticed that:
* On our first date, he insisted on the time and place that were right for him and absolutely inconvenient for me. He didn't care about all the trouble I had to go through to get there and back.
* He always criticized me and tried to change me, and wasn't ready to accept me as I am.
* He behaved in a rude, selfish way to other people long before he lost his good behavior with me.
* He was impatient and every small thing would make him lose his temper.

Did I see that eventually? Yes. Would he have made an abusive husband? I'm convinced that he would. Could I have seen it coming? Probably.

I agree it's harder for an abuser to keep his good behavior for a longer time, and that sometimes you don't see a person's true colors very soon. However, no matter how long the courtship lasts, there's no guarantee, and sometimes we just have to trust and have faith in God. I also think that the modern type of dating, as opposed to courtship, doesn't really help us get to know the other person better. Young people go to movies, bars and clubs; they spend hours and hours together just 'having fun', without even thinking about what really matters and what they are looking for in their future spouse. No wonder it takes years to 'get to know each other'.

Again, I have no answer really about what I think is the optimal duration of courtship. People are different and situations are different, and I can't say, well, 3 months is alright and 3 weeks is too short. But I believe every woman should, of course, not be too suspicious – but not miss the alarming patterns I described earlier, either.

James also asked me about how in my opinion a man should behave when courting a woman who has been through domestic abuse. Well, James, as someone who has been there, I can tell you it's not easy. Yes, God in His grace and kindness healed my heart and allowed me to start over (He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds), but it doesn't mean the old scars are gone. I'm very careful and still have trust issues. A man who is dating a woman with a difficult past, especially someone who had suffered from abuse, needs all the patience in the world to earn her trust; he needs to show her every bit of the protective, kind gentleman he is. And then I believe everything is possible, and even those who suffered and had their heart in a million broken pieces can be healed and have a blessed marriage.