How Tech-Wise is Your Family?

It’s tough to know how to parent when there are so many technological devices around. We can’t really look back to see how our parents did it or how generations before us handled iPhones and tablets and internet. In our house, my technology parenting questions are mostly a result of my son creating a YouTube channel and animating with Flash. Of course, he also wants to spend a lot of time watching and listening to things online. My girls like to watch things and play Minecraft or Prodigy or search for crafts on Pinterest.

 

Nathaniel on the computer animating
Nathaniel on the computer

 

So I am always left with questions like:

  • Once my son’s screen time is completed, is it okay for his to listen to music on YouTube with the window minimized? Or is that just for screen time?
  • Should I give him as much time on the computer as his sisters get? Or should he get more so he has time to create?
  • What should I do when I give each girl an hour of screen time and they stack it and plan it so they all get to watch 3 hours of screen time? Should I prevent them from doing that? Or is it good that they problem solved and planned together?

When I saw The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch, I was hoping the author would have some simple answers for me. Like, exactly how much time should a 12-year-old spend in front of a screen each day? Unfortunately, I didn’t get any easy answers. What I did get was something better. Andy Crouch gave 10 Tech-Wise Commitments and plenty of other thoughts to mull over about how I approach and view technology not only for my kids but for my life as well.

Here are the thoughts that especially caught my attention:

  • There is a broad definition of technology

    When I use the word “technology,” I am generally referring to a computer or TV screen used for mostly entertainment. But The Tech-Wise Family defines technology as anything that makes life easy or everywhere like electric lights, refrigerators, and cars in addition to all the amazing technological advancements in the computer age. I appreciated this and it made me feel connected to parents of the past who had to parent through new technologies. They just weren’t the same inventions that I have to navigate through. Can you imagine being a parent during the time cars were first invented? Talk about some major parenting and technology decisions! That makes navigating my kid’s Kindles seem easy!

  • Technology is not bad

    I find myself as a parent fighting against technology so much that I’ve begun to see it as bad. But Andy Crouch reminds me that it’s not bad. It’s neutral. Yes, it is often distracting and displaces our real work. He says our real work is to “become persons of wisdom and courage.” He also encourages us “to create and cultivate.” Technology is neutral in this. It can help us or prevent us from wisdom, courage, creation, and cultivation. It depends on how we are using it. I really appreciated this thought when it came to how I view my son’s time on the computer when he is animating. I used to look at him while he was doing it thinking about how I can get him off. Now, especially after I saw some of his little cartoons, I see that he is creating when he is animating. In this case, the technology is helping him become a person who creates. Now when my daughter says “that’s not fair, I should be able to watch Netflix for as long as he animates”…ummm….no. And usually when I say no, she pouts for a minute and then goes and rides her bike or plays outside or asks to help cook. And she is much happier because of it.  Andy Crouch says the question is: “Does this use of technology make me the kind of human being who could contribute lasting value to my family, my neighbors, my society, and our broken world?” A great question! And not just for the kids.

  • Arrange your home to encourage creating, skill, and active engagement

    He challenged us to look around our living room. What do we have available in these common spaces to encourage us towards wisdom and courage? Are there books? Musical instruments? Art supplies? What is in the room that distracts us from those goals? Get rid of the distractions (put them out of the room or out of sight) and purposefully bring in what encourages us.

  • Technology has changed work into toil and rest into leisure

    I appreciated the way he defined these terms. He also readily admitted that you may not be able to change the nature of your 9-to-5 toil into work, but you can take the opportunity to rest when you can and realize that mindlessly scrolling through Facebook is not rest. How much of my free time do I spend resting and how much do I cram it with leisure? He says “we simply have to turn off the easy fixes and make media something we use on purpose and rarely rather than aimlessly and frequently.”  

I highly recommend The Tech-Wise Family. Most of the time I was reading this book, I forgot that it was a parenting book. I think that any person living today that uses any kind of technology would benefit from the book.

The Tech-Wise Family

It’s an easy read and conversational. I also appreciated the reality check at the end of each chapter where Andy Crouch let us know how easy or hard that particular principle was to apply to his own family. That gave the whole book a “we are all in this together” feel knowing the author is working on these principles, too.

 

 

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One: Unity in a Divided World

Right after Christmas I started to put my kids on the bus. With some short exceptions, I hadn’t done that much in their school careers. But I no longer felt that driving them to school and back again was worth my time and the best choice for them. The bus stop was in our yard so it was in a safe place. The door handles on our minivan were literally cracking and breaking from overuse. And my kids needed some opportunities to figure out how to navigate life in an unstructured environment. I figured the 10-minute bus ride would give them that chance.

So I began to bring them to the bus stop and started to chat with the other adults who come. Two were not very talkative. But one woman began to talk with me. She was cheerful and kind and it was so nice to see her smile each morning. I found out she is a believer in Jesus Christ, too. But when she told me what her church background was, I thought, “she may be believer…but she is wrong about many points of doctrine.”

That same week, One: Unity in a Divided World by Deidra Riggs came in the mail. Diedra Riggs writes about unity and oneness within the body of Christ in addition to other life contexts.

Early on in the book, I read:

Jesus didn’t say, “I have come that they may be right.”

one quote-correct

Ouch. I was convicted by that. I was more concerned about being right in my brand of Christianity when making a new friend as opposed to respecting her journey and her story. I should have been focusing on what Jesus had prayed in the garden just before he went to the cross. John 17 says “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

Diedra Riggs delves further into this idea of oneness. “Oneness is not about conforming. Oneness is about transforming.”

Christians aren’t all going to look the same.  And I still think we need all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. But when I meet other Christians, I need to respect them as a person first and respect their journey with Christ and where they are right now.

One book cover

I’m so thankful that I read this book early in my friendship so I could change my focus. I have only known her a short time, but I since I have stopped prioritizing my desire to be right and started focusing on our common love for Christ, I have been encouraged by her testimony and her evident love for the Lord.

 

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These Happy Golden Years

these happy golden years

My copy of These Happy Golden Years has seen better days. The rest of the boxed set looks the same. For awhile I toyed with the idea of buying a new set especially when I saw a large read aloud edition. But there is something homey about reading the same copies of the books that your mother read to you when you were a kid that became the same copies you have read over and over again.

I needed something to read the other night. I wanted fiction since I had read a bunch of history lately. So I decided to read The Long Winter since it was winter. Once I had finished that, I wanted to read the end of the story, so to speak, so I skipped over Little Town on the Prairie and went right for These Happy Golden Years.

This time I did something different. I read the book in one sitting. Unintentionally. I just couldn’t put it down!

Wilder is a master at writing simple show-not-tell descriptions.

And in this book, she wraps up the series theme of going west by showing the characters who still long to go further west, but know its time to settle. She even sends some characters back east and shows how Ma’s family and Almanzo’s family has moved. All the reports of moving help Laura comes to term with the fact that her life will move on beyond the Little House.

Two other things I loved:

The courtship. Laura is naive, silently stubborn, and falls in love without her really knowing it. Not that love is mentioned in the book at all. It’s not. But again, Laura writes by showing, not telling. There isn’t even much dialogue between the two recorded for us to read about what they talked about during their hours of buggy rides. Laura tells Almanzo early on she’s not interested in him as a beau. But he patiently persists taking her on sleigh rides and buggy rides. Mary says, “why do you want to marry him and leave home?” Laura answers “I guess it’s because we just seem to belong together.”

Laura tells Almanzo early on she’s not interested in him as a beau. But he patiently persists taking her on sleigh rides and buggy rides. When Laura agrees to marry Almanzo, Mary asks, “why do you want to marry him and leave home?” Laura answers “I guess it’s because we just seem to belong together.”

The theme of independence. Laura continues to be independent in character. I love when she rides with Almanzo while breaking in Barnum, the runaway horse. They race down Main Street and see a crowd of men watch them in awe including Cap Garland who has a big grin. He was the only one who guessed Laura would ride behind Barnum. Later on, Almanzo says to Laura, “you’re independent, aren’t you?” She doesn’t really answer, but when she accepted his proposal I was reminded of Hermie from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer who said, “let’s be independent…together!”

 

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Katharina Luther’s 500 Year Old To-Do List

Katharina Von Bora had no clue she would end up as one of the most famous pastor’s wives in history.Katharina-Martin-Luther-by-Michelle-DeRusha-300x461

Michelle DeRusha recently wrote an insightful book called Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk. Mrs. DeRusha did a fantastic job piecing together a portrait of Katharina as a person despite there being very little information about her life.

While reading about Katharina’s life it struck me that although her life as a pastor’s wife began in 1525, almost 500 years ago, her life was not much different than pastor’s wives today.

Here’s Katharina Luther’s to-do list. Look familiar?

  • Work hard at home. Martin nicknamed her “the morning star of Wittenburg” since she got up at 4:00 am in order to finish her work by 9:00 pm. Sure, pastor’s wives work hard today, but Katharina had it a lot harder than us. Anyone today have to brew their own beer, raise and slaughter their own meat, grow all their other food, raise six kids, repair their old home constantly, do laundry by hand at the river, all while avoiding sickness like the plague…I mean, like the literal Plague?
  • Feed whoever is in my house at meal time. Her home was actually a former cloister. So there were lots of guest rooms. Martin seemed to have a constant fan club staying at his house–up to fifty people at a time! Some of these bachelor theologians were none too happy when she began to charge them rent for their stay. But it was necessary in order to be able to afford to feed them all!

    the black cloister black and white
    The Black Cloister, Martin and Katharina’s home
  • Build relationships with people. Not only did she feed all in her home, but she joined in the conversation around the dinner table.
  • Be a great mom. Through it all, she raised her six kids. Unfortunately, only 4 lived to adulthood. The deaths of their two children were devastating to both Martin and Katharina.
  • Protect hubby’s study time from interruption. Although one time, Katharina became concerned when Martin had been locked in a study room for several days with only a little food and he would not answer the door. She hurriedly got help to break into the room only to find him alive and well, hunched deep in thought over his Bible. I can imagine the surprised look on his face at the intrusion and the relieved but frustrated look on hers!
  • Frugally care for the family finances. She took care of the family finances since her husband would have given it all away to those whom he felt were in need. Martin also just didn’t have time to take on the responsibility.
  • Do whatever needs to be done at church even if it’s not technically my responsibility. One letter from Martin to Katharina, written while he was away traveling, shows he asked her to be part of a search committee for a new pastor in a neighboring church. What depth of trust this shows Martin had in his wife especially for a woman to take on this role in the 1500s!
  • Listen to criticism about my husband. Katharina heard constant criticism about Martin. She also heard death threats on his life. Letters from Martin to Katharina show that he encouraged her to give her worries to God.

How did Katharina feel about all these responsibilities in her life? Did she complain about them? No one really knows for sure, but Martin Luther’s letters about her are brimming with dedicated love and appreciation for her service to their family and for her as a person. I don’t think Martin Luther would have praised her so highly if she was a bear to live with always whining and complaining.

Katharina-von-Bora-und-Martin-Luther1

Katharina had a long list of work for her life. This very same list of work is the very same list of reasons her husband honored her.

This is our chance, ladies, not to list out complaints of how hard our lives are, but to list out the opportunities we have to live in service to God, the church, and our husbands.

 

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Katharina and Martin Luther: Successful Marriage through Selfless Living

Years ago I read Kitty, My Rib by E. Jane Mall and was delighted by the story of Martin and his ex-nun wife, Katharina. But I never knew what was fact and what was fiction in that book.

Until now.

Michelle DeRusha in Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk has done a phenomenal job telling the story of this world-changing marriage.

Katharina-Martin-Luther-by-Michelle-DeRusha-300x461

The book focused on both Martin and Katharina equally which was not easy to do since Martin wrote so much himself and has been written about so often. On the contrary, all we have in Katharina’s own hand is eight letters. And they are mostly business.

But I still came away from the book feeling like I knew Katharina as a person…or at least what she could have been like. Mrs. DeRusha didn’t make hasty assumptions about how Katharina may have been thinking and feeling at different points in her life. Instead, she analyzes the possibilities. How did Katharina feel when she was dropped off at the convent when she was 6 years old? Did she see it as an adventure? Or did she dearly miss her family?

I also felt like the book did a terrific job explaining daily life during the time period and how the Reformation changed the world. This enabled me to put myself in the shoes of a commoner in Wittenburg and understand what Martin’s reforms would have meant for my life.

Not many biographers are able to balance fact and analysis while at the same time keeping the reader engaged. But Michelle DeRusha has expertly done so in Katharina and Martin Luther.

Early on in the book, I wondered: how did two people who had no (or virtually no) example to watch of a godly marriage end up with a successful marriage?

Katharina

Katharina Von Bora was dropped off by her father at the convent when she was 6 years old. One less mouth to feed for his poor family! Katharina grew up at the convent, not leaving until she escaped as a grown woman. Two years after she left the convent, she married Martin Luther.

Her total isolation from society prevented her from witnessing any marriage, good or bad.

Martin

Luther, who was sent away at age 5 to a primary school forty miles from home and then to a private school one hundred miles from home, wasn’t around much to watch how his parent’s marriage functioned. When Luther was home, he faced severe physical punishments from both his parents that went over and above what would be considered normal even in his time. Although he makes no comments on his parent’s marriage, their harshness towards Martin leads us to believe that their marriage could hardly have been one filled with love for each other.

Tying the Knot

When Katharina married Luther, they barely knew each other. There is nothing in his writings to indicate he was attracted to Katharina or even that he liked her.

Katharina basically had run out of options. One potential spouse had rejected her, and she rejected another man.  She had worn out her welcome with the friends she was staying with and her family never showed any interest in her after her escape. Marriage was her only choice and Martin was her only option.

Yet, their marriage goes on to become loving, trusting, fruitful, and even fun. How did they know how to function in a marriage?

  • They already knew how to live selfless lives because of their years of life in a convent. Convent life is about community. You know how to work hard and how to do your job without complaining. Marriage is its own type of community. Add to the marriage six kids and a constant group of guests that wanted to learn from Luther (upwards to fifty houseguests at a time) and there was constant community. But Katharina and Luther were already well versed in how to do community life.
  • Neither one went into marriage expecting to have attention and love poured out onto them. Theirs was a marriage of convenience. I imagine their delighted surprise when either one gave attention and kindness to the other. How unexpected that must have been after living a life of relational loneliness to experience repeated personal attention from the same person day in and day out. What a joy that must have been!
  • As Martin and Katharina studied scripture, they studied the ultimate example of loving marriage: Christ and the Church. Their understanding of Christ’s sacrifice for the Church must have informed their expectation that a godly marriage is built on the foundation of sacrifice.

The same is true today.  A personal relationship with Christ and lifelong dedication to serving the Church is consistent with a service-oriented marriage. Selflessly serve your spouse instead of waiting to be served. Accept the service you receive with a grateful heart and you will find your marriage flourish in love.

 

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Hamilton Themed Dinner Party

I arranged the venue, the menu, the seating…

for my husband and me to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home with a Hamilton Themed Dinner.

hamilton-star

Over the past several months both of us have thoroughly enjoyed the Hamilton soundtrack.  We originally started to listen after our kids repeatedly watched Studio C’s lip sync version of Non-Stop.

Tim is currently reading the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow which inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the musical. All 700 plus pages of it.

We created the menu by including bits and pieces from other menus we found on Pinterest and adding some of our own items.

Here is the menu we created:

hamilton-menu-png

Here’s the PDF for you if you wish to print it out:  hamilton-dinner-menu

Some notes about the menu:

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pie-and-joebyschmo

  • My husband roasts his own coffee beans and brews his own specialty coffee so our espresso shots were amazing. This espresso shot was used to make an Americano. His home roasted coffee is available at joebyschmo.com.

 

  • If we were serving a group of people, we would have included more options for food like BURR-itos or perhaps A WINTER’S Cheese BALL. If we served alcohol, we would have had pints of SAM ADAMS.

 

What would you serve at a Hamilton Themed Dinner?

 

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Shalom at Home

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One late night coming home from Awana, my two oldest got into a fight. One blocked the door from the other which resulted in shouting and physical action. I yelled at them, sent to their rooms, and they lost their screen time for the next day.

After they were in their rooms for a bit, I realized, “Wait! I never really had them resolve their conflict!”

I spoke to each kid individually. I instructed them that they needed to apologize, forgive, and change their ways. Jesus had forgiven them of everything they had ever done. The least they could do is forgive their sibling for this one wrongdoing. I questioned them on what God expects from them in regards to kindness and turning the other cheek.

Then I forced them to apologize to each other and forgive. One did not want to forgive the other. Through clenched teeth he seethed out the words then stormed back into his room. I didn’t really feel like there was much resolved there. But they went through the motions of conflict resolution. So we all went to bed to see what the next day would bring.

I was shocked at their attitudes the next day. Since they had no screen time, they ended up interacting with each other kindly and peacefully! One helped the other with homework. They played Battleship together. They giggled together like they were best friends! It was amazing! It was a whole different kind of peace in our home since it was such a contrast to the night before.

What is peace?

Usually I define peace as quiet. The absence of noise. This could come at night when everyone else is asleep. Or if everyone is content doing their own thing. So basically, by my definition, peace would mean no interaction with any other human! It may be quiet, but this kind of peace isn’t fulfilling.

But that happy day made me think about a whole different definition of peace.

In this case, the peace was full of interaction. And it had started with conflict.

What is shalom?

Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. In Shalom in Psalms the author states “Shalom is more than just an emotional state of mind. Shalom also means that the abused will get justice, wrongs will be made right, menacing foes will be refuted.”  

When I read that definition, I immediately understood why that peaceful day had been so meaningful. It wasn’t just quiet or serene. But there was justice (no screen time, sent to room), wrongs made right (apologies and forgiveness, even though it was done begrudgingly), and the menacing foes had been refuted (Scriptural instructions to counter what they thought was acceptable).

Shalom in Jesus

This definition of shalom also applies to the peace believers have in God. He didn’t just shrug his shoulders about sin and say “that’s okay.” Jesus’ death was the payment for the penalty of sin. His death and resurrection righted the wrongs and satisfied the need for justice.

I will still enjoy a quiet day at home. But I will no longer call a quiet day a peaceful day.  I will reserve the term of peace for the restored relationships that come with resolved conflict.