Witnessing in the World: A Lesson from a Birthday Party

The most ridiculous attempt at a family photo in the history of photography. And families.

My sweet precious firstborn baby girl turned eight years old last week. Holy crap I’m getting old. One of the disadvantages to having kids so young is that I don’t get to lie about my age. Um, yeah, I was 12 when I had her, that’s it…

But this post is not about me, or the wrinkle between my eyebrows that I’m pretty sure Thing 1 is responsible for. Nope, this post is about my newly minted eight-year-old, her fantastic party, and her wonderful friends.

All summer long, Thing 1 proclaimed her desire for a) a Pump It Up party and/or b) a surprise party. Pump It Up is this awesome party place filled with those giant bounce house and obstacle course inflatables, then they give the kids pizza, and when it’s time to go, you gladly hand them a small fortune and one of your kidneys because you get to leave and they clean up the mess.

In order to accomplish both of these tasks, I told my 7-and-three-quarters-year-old that she could not in any way, shape, or form have a Pump It Up Party unless she got a job and paid for it herself, and that she probably wouldn’t be having a fancy a party this year, since I had a trip planned and wouldn’t be home until the day before her birthday.

A few weeks before the Big Day, I booked the Pump It Up party for the day OF her birthday. Then I sent out an evite to the parents of her entire 3rd grade class, telling them to ohmygosh please keep it a secret because Thing 1 was dying for a surprise party. Altogether we had eighteen third graders and one little sister.

On Monday morning, I reassured the birthday girl that I’d be coming to her class at snack time with cupcakes, and that Daddy would be home early from work, and she could pick where to go for dinner. She seemed ok about not having a party. My kid is awesome, y’all.

After round one of Operation Sugar Kids Up, the kids all headed out to recess, and the teacher quietly and excitedly asked me, “Is she really having a surprise party after school? The kids keep coming up and whispering to me not to tell her about her party!”

I did a mental head-desk … I wouldn’t even have told my kid about it, worried she wouldn’t be able to keep the secret. Oh well, nothing I could do about it.

Thing 1 and Friends

A few hours later, I was back at school, picking up the sweetie pie. I had gone to the store with Thing 2 to pick up cake and ice cream, which I stowed under some beach towels in the front seat. Thing 2 (age 3) happily proclaimed to her sister, “We got you birf-day cake!” And then she looked at me like I was insane when I said that we had not, but we could maybe later. “But we got dah cake,” she insisted. I ignored her and turned up the Kids’ Bop.

When we got to the party place, Leif and my mom were already there waiting for us. Thing 1 took it all in slowly… “Wait, why are we at Pump It Up? Is that Gramma? And Daddy? What are they doing here? Mommy…?”

I parked and looked at her and said, “Happy birthday, baby.”

“YOU MEAN I GET TO GO TO PUMP IT UP FOR MY BIRTHDAY???”

“Yup. AND all of your friends will be here in a few minutes for your birthday party.”

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!” I’m still a little deaf in my left ear from that scream. And will forever be amazed that her friends all kept the secret. Chickadee had no clue what was up my sleeve.

No way was I going to miss out on the fun!

So basically, I’m like the coolest mom evah, and Thing 1 died from happiness, came back to life, and then died again. But again, this post is not about me, and it’s not even necessarily about a birthday party.

It’s about how our everyday interactions affect those around us, and how living a Christ-centered life is a witness to the world.

When the kids were playing on one of the climbing inflatables, they started to get a little bit rowdy. The referee/party supervisor looked on with what looked like a worried expression. “You can totally blow your whistle at them if they’re being too rough,” I reassured him. I’m not exactly what you’d call a helicopter parent.

“No, they’re fine,” he said, “It’s just strange… I’ve never seen anything like it before… they’re helping each other climb to the top.”

“Well what do kids normally do?” Inquiring minds wanted to know.

“Pull each other down!” He said with good humor. He asked, “These kids are classmates?”

“Yup. The go to the private Christian school over the hill. They’re a pretty tight group.”

I’ve mentioned before that Thing 1 goes to a school that we like very much and sacrifice quite a bit for in order to send her there. It uses a classical approach to learning that you can learn all about by reading Dorothy Sayers’ The Lost Tools of Learning.

Anyway, there was that exchange, and one later in the ‘party room’ after the pizza had been handed out. Someone asked if they could eat, and the party supervisor said yes. “Wait!” I shouted to the kids, “what do we do before we eat?”

Time for Pizza and Prayer

“PRAY!” said every single one of those eighteen children. So we bowed our heads and blessed our food while the employees of Pump It Up looked on in amazement. I heard more than once that afternoon that this group of kids was one of the greatest they’d ever had in. I was glad they got to see the fruit of parents raisings kids in a Christ-centered life.

Parenting is rough, and some days I hold on by tenuous threads, but days like Thing 1’s birthday give me fuel to keep on trucking. They remind me of why I do this thing called motherhood – because God trusted me with these kids (for some strange reason), and it’s my job to teach them to love and honor Him in all that they do.

How we treat others and how we raise our children are our constant testimonies to the world. Show people that faith in Christ isn’t weird or backwards or inhibiting, but a way to live so that our children build each other up instead of tearing one another down.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” –JC

Raising Children of Faith

So I was reading this article over on The Stir, which talked about letting your children explore other religions to find out what “works” for them. Oh, and they’ll respect you more. After all, religion is all about feeling connected to something, right? Be it God, Mother Earth, ourselves, the collective one-ness of souls … religion to many people is an experience.

This snippet pretty much sums it up:

The important thing to me is that she builds a genuine relationship with God, not that she gets “churched,” which means mastering all of the habits and traditions — including being able to recite scripture back and forth — but never really connecting with the Lord. That would be missing the whole point.

How does one love a stranger? If some guy you were moderately attracted to asked you to marry him on the first date, would you say yes? Well maybe, but the chances of it working out would be slim. You have to get to know someone before you commit your life to him.

It is no different with the Lord. It is so much more important that my children get “churched” about God than “spiritually connected” to some nameless faceless universal power. It is only after learning about the one true God, His endless love, His ultimate sacrifice on the cross to wipe out our sins, can my children even begin to love God.

When you study the Word, and you understand the depth of your depravity, and begin to realize that there is a Father in Heaven that created you, sent His Son to cover your undeserving hiney, and left his Holy Spirit to guide and comfort you … that is when you can begin to love God.

Love has to come with knowledge; otherwise it is just a feeling.

So while my children are young, I will equip them with knowledge of the Lord. They don’t have to love God, but by golly, they will learn His Word. They will learn of his redemptive plan for His people. They will learn about their adoption into His family.

They will learn it because God has instructed me to teach them. And what is so wrong with learning Bible verses anyway? One doesn’t have to be Jewish or Christian to look at the 10 Commandments and think they’re a pretty good set of rules.

One of the first verses Thing 1 learned was 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Learning scripture isn’t a bad thing!

I will ALWAYS love my children, even if they break my heart by denying the Savior. It is because I love them that I “church” them. I believe that decisions made without knowledge only end up being correct on a fluke, so I will equip my daughters with every bit of Jesus-knowledge I can cram into their brains, so that someday when they’re grown, they can make their own real decision about where to put their faith, hope, and trust.

I Don’t Know Why Bad Things Happen: A Tornado Post

I just got off the phone with a friend discussing the horrific tornado that blew through Joplin, MO Sunday night. It only took minutes to flatten a six-mile stretch of land, destroying homes, businesses, a high school, and human beings.

The tornado also destroyed a patient wing of the St. John’s Regional Medical Center. Survivors are being transferred to other area hospitals.

Kelley Fritz, 45, of Joplin, rummaged through the remains of a storage building with her husband, Jimmy. They quickly realized they would never find the belongings they stored there. They had lost much of what was in their home after the tornado ripped away the roof. Their sons, ages 20 and 17, both Eagle Scouts, went outside after the storm.

“My sons had deceased children in their arms when they came back,” Fritz said. “My husband and I went out and saw two or three dead bodies on the ground.”

After learning of so much death and destruction, my friend asked me, “Why does this happen? I know everything happens for a reason, but I can’t understand how this is part of God’s plan.”

I don’t know why bad things happen.

I do know that God doesn’t exist to make our lives worry and hassle-free. He doesn’t exist to make us happy (whatever that means), keep us healthy, give us money, or prevent us from suffering.

God exists simply because He does. He’s the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the creator of all things. We exist because God created us.

When Job cried out to God asking him why, God gives him this answer:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Roughly translated: “Who are you to question my motives?”

When tragedy strikes, when loved ones are lost and innocence is shattered, our hearts break and we silently (or loudly) scream, “WHY?

Asking why is fruitless, because our limited knowledge of God’s universe can’t begin to comprehend His reasons. God did not let this happen or make this happen in the way that we think of things happening. Just as God does not exist to make us happy, He doesn’t exist to torment us either.

Disasters happen. Life on Earth ends. This life is a blink, and right now at this very second, God knows exactly when and how your time here will end. That doesn’t make Him mean or vengeful; it just makes Him God.

We can’t possibly understand the plans God has for us. Why would He strike a little girl blind and deaf? Because He knew how many lives Helen Keller would touch (get it? Sorry, couldn’t help myself). Why would He allow a boy’s brothers to sell him into slavery? Because without Joseph in Egypt, God’s promise to Abraham couldn’t be fulfilled, as his descendants would’ve starved to death.

He knows what He’s doing, even if we don’t. I don’t know why bad things happen, but I trust that the Lord has a plan, that he will bring triumph from tragedy, and that ultimately, I know that no matter what happens on this planet, He holds me in His hand, because I am His.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t cry or rage with grief.

I am only human.

Jenny Erikson Radio Show – Episode 0013

In which I rant about cleaning my daughters’ room, household budgets versus the federal budget, and Amelia Hamilton joins me for Conservative Chick Chat.

Koran Burner Terry Jones Is Not Evil, Just Wrong

A Florida pastor caused a ruckus late last summer when he declared that he would be burning a pile of Korans to mark the ninth anniversary of the Islamic terrorist attackon America on September 11, 2001. The controversialTerry Jones backed down on his plan … for several months at least.

Last month the preacher set fire to the religious book ofIslam, which went remarkably unnoticed by the U.S. press. Thank goodness for that — the last thing attention-seekers need is more attention to fuel the craziness.

Unfortunately, word got out in Afghanistan, and the incident supposedly sparked a terrorist attack that resulted in the death of at least 11 people, seven of whom were U.N. staffers and guards.

Being quite the argumentative bunch (democracy rocks!), we Americans hopped on this story to decide whether or not Terry Jones has blood on his hands for the deaths in Afghanistan. He may be a jerk, but he’s not a murderer. The radical Islamic terrorists are murderers.

Read the rest at The Stir

Jenny Erikson Radio Show – Episode 0011

In which Glen Asbury, Josh Gillespie, and John Brodigan and I talk Christianity in America today.

ACLU Outraged Over Optional Prayer Meeting in Baltimore School

The ACLU claims to support freedom (religious and otherwise), and in the past has advocated on behalf of jihadists, the Westboro homophobic hate-mongers, and child pornography, and opposed a bill that would require all employees of abortion mills to report suspected cases of sexual abuse. Land of the free, baby!

ACLU’s website states:

Religious freedom is a fundamental human right that is guaranteed by the First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment clauses. It encompasses not only the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs.

Unless expressing said religious freedom is in the form of a prayer meeting on school grounds, held outside of school hours, and is open to all and optional to attend.

Baltimore public school is experiencing the wrath of the ACLU after inviting students, parents, and teachers to attend an optional Saturday morning meeting to pray for the students to pass their upcoming standardized tests. Principal Jael Yon of Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School wasasked by parents to hold Saturday classes and the prayer meeting in preparation for the Maryland School Assessments. In an attempt to serve the needs of her students, this “exceptional principal” made it happen.

Read the rest at The Stir

It’s Time for the Federal Government to Stop Funding NPR

A few months ago, conservatives were outraged at the firing of liberalJuan Williams by National Public Radio for saying that flying with Islamic-looking males made him nervous on Fox News’ The O’Reily Factor. According to NPR’s head honcho Vivian Schiller, Mr. Williams had “several times in the past violated [their] news code of ethics with things that he had said on other people’s air.”

Apparently expressing an opinion based on the fact that virtually every airplane-hijacking terrorist in the United States over the past few decades has been a Jihadist is punishable by unemployment from NPR. Juan Williams did not state that he thought all Muslims were terrorists, or even that he refused to fly with them. He simply stated that it made him nervous.

Shortly thereafter, many prominent conservative pundits called for NPR to be defunded of the federal money that it receives. Private businesses can run things how they see fit, but organizations receiving taxpayer money should not be able to terminate someone’s employment for expressing a valid opinion, especially when it wasn’t even done on NPR’s airwaves.

In November, the then-Democratic House of Representatives defeated a bill to cut the federal fundingof NPR. The supposedly unbiased organization released this statement after the vote:

In an increasingly fractious media environment, public radio’s value in fostering an informed society has never been more critical. Our growing audience shows that we are meeting that need. It is imperative for federal funding to continue to ensure that this essential tool of democracy remains available to all Americans and thrives well into the future.

Fast forward to March 2011. Ron Schiller, a senior executive at NPR, was caught on tape in a sting operation criticizing the Republican party, and Tea Party Republicans in particular, as being racist, fundamentalist Christian, and fanatically involved in people’s personal lives.

**Side note: Democrats want to control our health care, our education, and what we can feed our kids, but Republicans are “fanatically involved in people’s personal lives”? Um, ok …

Read the rest at The Stir

‘Harry Potter’ Actress Beaten for Dating a Non-Muslim

We’ve all dated guys our dads or brothers didn’t like. In fact, looking back at my dating past, I’m impressed with my dad for the composure he maintained when I introduced him to a couple of my squeezes. While he may have been thinking, “No daughter of mine will ever end up with spiky-haired mama’s boy like you,” he managed a cool, “Have her back by 11. And I’m friendly with allthe cops. And I’m an attorney. Just so you know.”

I was always home by curfew.

As a teenager, I hated that my parents didn’t ‘trust’ me enough to let go of the reins, but at the ripe old age of 27, I’ve wisely figured out that they understood teenaged boys a lot better than I did. They were protective of me because they cherished me as their daughter, and couldn’t bear to see me get hurt.

It boggles my mind when I read stories like Afshan Azad’s. The 22-year-old Harry Potter star recently had to flee her home after being attacked by her old brother and receiving death threats from him and their father.  Her offense was dating a non-Muslim man.

Read the rest at The Stir

Asparagus Anxiety and Jesus Jitters: The Moral Blindness of Politically Correct Parenting

Parenting is hard. The modern mom is supposed to do it all: Help pay the mortgage, bake the cookies, and raise socially conscious, compassionate children. We are supposed to purposefully expose our progeny to all religions, lifestyles, and backgrounds in the name of diversity. And we’re not supposed to let them play with evil toys like stick poniesBarbies, or trampolines.

Tree houses? Forget about it. They’re super-duper dangerous and should be torn down immediately.

Forbes recently published a list of dangerous toys that were recalled in 2010 for safety reasons. The list includes a stick pony (long reins could strangle a child), plush asparagus (wire could poke through and cause abrasions), and a pogo stick (falling risk). Obviously parents are too stupid to check over their kids’toys for loose or broken parts, or understand the “falling risk” associated with pogo sticks.

While we’re busy cutting up our kids’ hotdogs, we are supposed to broaden their worldview and encourage their minds to open into tolerant little sponges of acceptance. We’re not supposed to care that Kevin Jennings, Obama’s Safe School Czar, promotes the sexual education of children as young as five. That’s not morally deplorable, that’s progressive!

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog