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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Friendships of Women, Part 3- Be the Kind of Friend You Want

Before we move on into other areas, I wanted to encourage you that one way to make friends is to be friendly. By that, I don't just mean "be extroverted" or some such thing. What I mean is to be the kind of person who you would want as a friend. Some general Do's and Don't's... feel free to add on in the comments.

DO:
- Listen
- Empathize
- Weep with those who weep
- Rejoice with those who rejoice
- Speak the truth in love
- Be transparent
- Share your successes and struggles
- Be genuine
- Live in the now
- Be humble and willing to admit wrong
- Encourage and exhort straight from the Word of God
- Work to make others feel at ease
- Be quick to pray for others

DON'T:
- Hog the conversation
- Be critical or impossible to please
- Gossip (
if you'll do it with her, she figures, you'll do it to her... no one can trust a gossip!)
- Minimize her problems
- Expect her to listen to your problems when you're too busy or unconcerned to listen to hers
- Overinflate the importance of things that are actually side issues (
i.e., the biblicality of breastfeeding, debating whether the husband or wife should oversee bill paying; See Romans 14 for freedom as believers)
- Be so wrapped up in the past or the future that you miss out on the present
- Be a pushover or a follower
- Give human advice from self-help books
- Inflate your successes but ignore your struggles
- Inflate your struggles but ignore your successes
- Get your feelings hurt easily
- Be too proud to say, "I'm sorry"


These are things that ALL of us can work on... considering others before yourself can mean all of the things on this list, and more. I'm sure you have more of these, born from your own experiences... so please feel free to add on your own thoughts for being a good friend in the comments (be sure to specify whether it's a do or a don't!).


p.s.- Don't y'all just LOVE that photo?! It makes me smile and want that kind of close friendship as an elderly woman!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Friendships of Women, Part 2- Learn From One Another

"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." -Proverbs 27:17

To me, the sharpening process-- growing and learning together --is one of the most exciting aspects of friendship. We all need to be challenged. It is easy to have friends that will let us go on in our selfish, sinful ways. But finding a friend who will sharpen you- who will challenge you to become more than you are- and who will grow along side you... that is much more difficult to find.

In the last post in this series, we talked about how to find a friend. Today, we'll talk about selecting a friend you can learn from.

DON'T PICK SOMEONE WHO'S JUST LIKE YOU
Find a woman who challenges you- someone who sees things a little differently than you do. Perhaps she has a child with a disability, or maybe she's dealt with years of infertility. Perhaps she is caring for an aging parent or grandparent, or maybe her husband is serving in the military. Don't look for a woman who shops at all the same places, wears all the same things, or decorates her house the same way you do. Look for someone who does things slightly different from the people around her. Maybe she homeschools, maybe she recycles, maybe she volunteers somewhere... whatever the case, look for a godly woman who makes you think "outside the box".

GLEAN ALL YOU CAN FROM HER
No one woman can teach every bit of biblical knowledge, every admirable character quality, or every skill. But every woman who is seeking to grow in Christ can teach you something.

If she never had children, she may not be able to share with you how to raise children... or if she doesn't have a tidy house, housekeeping may not be the thing to "glean" from her, but take time to learn the things from her that she CAN teach you. If she's seeking the Lord and has some life experience, then there are undoubtedly things she can teach you- even if she doesn't realize it, so glean all you can from this woman. Sit at her feet (figuratively, but maybe even literally) and let her share with you.

For me, it is helpful to find a friend that's in a different stage of life than you are - if you have preschool kids like I do right now, that would mean either someone without kids, or maybe a new mom with one baby, a mom of teenagers or
a woman who already has an empty nest... it seems that it makes getting together easier when you're not both dealing with the same things all at once. Another reason this is important to me is so that I don't fall into the grade-school mentality: that everyone I hang out with has to be just like me. It is important that we broaden our acquaintances to include women from the whole body of Christ and not just that little sliver of a cross-section that looks just like we do.

BE AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO HER AS WELL
I would challenge you to look around you and begin asking the Lord to show you a godly woman who is admirable, someone from whom you can learn-- a woman who will challenge you, and a woman to whom you can be an encouragement. Begin looking for her and once you find her, be willing to ask questions, get to know her, and sit at her feet and glean all you can. Not only will you be learning, but you'll be edifying and encouraging her by letting her know that you find her interesting and wise.

As your friendship grows, go out of your way to love and encourage her in meaningful ways. Perhaps she's a young mom who has just started nursing a baby- could you bring her a box of nursing pads and a good book to read while she's nursing? Or perhaps she's lonely and you could get your husband to watch all the kids while you take time to go out to dinner with her? Try to look for ways to give back meaningfully to her as well.

"Let me sum up"- Inigo Montoya (can you tell I've watched Princess Bride lately?)
Let us be women who learn from one another's mistakes and successes... I don't want to have to learn the same lessons that the women around me have already learned (if I can help it)! I'd rather hear
their stories, listen to their parenting ideas, hear about the things that work in their marriages and then implement all those things into my own life rather than trial and error from the Christian-self-help-book-o-the-month.

I want to challenge other women and be challenged by other women. To do that, I have to step outside of my natural, comfortable instincts (of only seeking out people that act like me, look like me, talk like me, and walk like me) and instead seek out women who will make me consider new perspectives, learn new things, and become a more wholly consistent person, as I am challenged to think about what I believe and why.

Questions? Thoughts?



Friendships of Women, Part 1- Beginning a Friendship

I have encountered several women lately who feel lonely and friendless and were not taught how to "do" friendship with other women... they don't know what a good, deep friendship feels like, don't know what it looks like, and aren't sure it's worth the risk of being hurt or rejected to take the time and energy to be transparent with a woman friend.

So, I'm starting a series today about the friendships of women. It's something I've been reading about over the last several months, and something I myself have learned how to do incrementally. I hope it will be a blessing to you.

Today, we'll address the question:
how do I start a friendship with another woman? As time goes on, we'll address how to select women friends, what genuine friendship looks like, how to maintain friendships, the seasons of friendship and various kinds of friendships that happen among women. I'd LOVE to have your input, stories, and insights on these things, so please join me as we discuss the friendships of women.


PART ONE: HOW DO I START A FRIENDSHIP?
If you are a woman who is like the one I described above, perhaps feeling lonely or like the last girl picked for the kickball team, I want to encourage you. You CAN have close women friends, if you want them. Perhaps you just need a faithful friend, one who will stick by you through thick and thin, like Ruth was for Naomi. Or maybe you need a friend who will rejoice with you when everyone else is judging or pessimistic, just like Elizabeth was for Mary. Could be that you've been burned by friends in the past and aren't sure whether anyone else is worth the effort. Whatever the case, I'd like to encourage you to step out and befriend another woman. In all likelihood, that other woman is probably hurting and unsure and needs encouragement, in the same way you do. Here's where I'd start:

FIND ONE ADMIRABLE WOMAN
Look around you at church, at homeschool groups, in your community, in your neighborhood and see if there's one woman who's ahead of you on the road you're on, even if she's only ahead of you in one area, and see if you could begin spending regular time with her.

For example, if you are a quilter, find someone who is an excellent quilter and is an empty nester. Ask her if she'd be willing to come over during the kids' quiet afternoon reading times/naptimes for littles and teach you a few things, or if you guys could just quilt alongside each other. If you like to think through new theories and learn about new things, look around your church and find a woman who thinks deeply... a woman who reads challenging books... and then ask her to come over one morning while the kids play in the backyard, so she can share with you what she's learning in her most recent book.

If you're a homeschooler, find someone in your area who has done that well, and invite her to come and mentor you about better ways of getting things done. Or perhaps there's a woman who has a really strong marriage, or has endured much tragedy in her life. Invite her over for lunch and to stay for conversation while the kids take a nap.

TAKE THE FIRST STEP

Sometimes you have to "put it all on the line" so to speak, and just ASK. People may not know you need a friend, and they're busy going through their lives at the same time you are. They may assume you have friends in your neighborhood, or friends through your husband's work, or friends from high school/college, or friends in your homeschooling circle, or friends through ________, and not even realize that you need a friend too (even if they're lonely and needing a friend as well)!!!

This is the way that I have made most of my best friends... by putting my fears and insecurities on the line and just making time to get to know another woman. Basically, it's Titus 2-ing but I don't expect to learn EVERYTHING Titus 2 talks about from one woman (although there IS one particularly good friend in my life that has taught me many major things in life)... but if I can learn about personality theories from one friend, about creativity with children from another friend, and learn grace and kindness from another friend, and hospitality from another one, and cross-cultural things from another one, well then pretty soon, I've not only learned a bunch of new things (from people who are good at those things), but I've also made a bunch of great friends.

DON'T LIMIT YOURSELF TO ONE, BUT START WITH ONE

For me, it all started out with one. I now have many friends with whom I share what I would call a deep friendship, with whom I can talk openly and transparently, feel at ease to "be myself" and not feel judged, and can share just about anything. But it all started with one friend like I'm describing... taking time to get to know each other. Intentionally opening up, bit by bit... and it didn't happen overnight.

But if you start with one, then soon you'll be better at being a friend and making a friend. Once you have a friend who shows you how to quilt, then you may realize that you'd like to have a friend who can help you to have a better marriage, or how to be more patient or creative with your children. The sky's the limit on what you can learn from other women! But you've gotta take the first step and start with one!

******************************

It has been such a blessing in my life to have women to learn from, grow with, be taught by, and teach. I love the women that I have shared my heart with, and know that I am loved in return.

It would be my prayer for you that you will have deep, loving friendships with other women in your life as well. That God will give you at least one other woman with whom you can tear down your walls and just be yourself. That He will bless you with a Sister who will come alongside you and share your burdens on the road of life. I hope this encourages you to think through the friendships and the depth of the friendships that you have; I'd love to hear any thoughts or stories on this topic!



Friday, May 25, 2007

Selective Murder

This article, highlighting moral issues that arise when in vitro fertilization yields multiple babies, is worth your time. A new term, 'selective reduction,' has been coined to describe the murder of babies, sacrificed either for the goal of the healthy delivery of the murdered baby's sibling, or simply for the mother's ease. Here are a few clips from this gut-wrenching article:

The Washington Post Magazine publishes an extensive report on the practice of "selective reductions," taking us into the practice of Dr. Mark Evans in Manhattan. This article is not for the faint-hearted.
* * * * * * * * * *

As Mundy reports, Dr. Evans has attempted to define his own set of "guiding principles" in terms of the ethics of his practice. At first, he refused to take the gender of the babies into consideration. Now, he does so -- allowing couples to choose to carry one boy fetus and one girl fetus, while killing the others. He also refused at first to "reduce" pregnancies from twins to single babies, because he admits that there is no danger to fetal health posed by a twin. He changed his policy on that too. When some couples want just a single child, he will now "reduce" to one.

Clearly, Dr. Evans' "guiding principles" are really "sliding principles." He is making up his ethical system as he goes along.

* * * * * * * * * * *

[During the sonogram prior to selecting which child to murder:] ...there was nothing anomalous about any of the fetuses. Greenbaum turned the screen toward the patient. "That's the little heartbeat," she said, pointing to the area where a tiny organ was clearly pulsing. "And there are the little hands. There's the head. The body."

"Oh, my God, I can really see it!" the patient cried. "Oh, my God! I can see the fingers!"

"Okay!" she said, abruptly, gesturing for the screen to be turned away. She began sobbing. There were no tissues in the room, so her husband gave her a paper towel, which she crumpled to her face. The patient spent the rest of the procedure with her hospital gown over her face, so she would not see any more of what was happening.

She can hide her face under a hospital gown, but she knows exactly what is happening. One of her babies is to be killed with an injection of poison.

* * * * * * * * * *

Read Dr. Mohler's heartbreaking article, The Revenge of Conscience, here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Show & Tell: More on Frugality

Oodles and Oodles of frugals for youdles... so let's just dig right in:
  • MAKE IT YOURSELF. Causabon's Book, pretty much the most intellectual blog I read, has been writing a series of weekly ideas to save money (or maybe save the earth?... can't tell which cause all the ideas so far have done both... hmm... interesting...) Here's an excellent recent post about why you should make your own whatever. Not, "why you should make your own?" "WHATEVER!" (said in a Clueless, circa 1990's voice), but rather, why you should make your own ___(whatever)___.
FRUGAL MAKE-IT-YOURSELF IDEAS:
FRUGAL CLOTHES IDEAS:
FRUGAL FOOD IDEAS:
  • MAKE A PRICE BOOK. This is a little notebook you carry with you when you go shopping and where you can write down the normal price per ounce, what a good sale price would be, and where you find the best deals on any given item. What an excellent way to save money on everyday groceries, by having a price guide with you to be able to tell when one store charges slightly more than another! Jenn, over @ Frugal Upstate, will tell you how to make your very own price book.
  • GROW YOUR OWN. Wanna grow your own food and just need ideas and motivation? Well hop on over to Causabon's book and get some ideas for growing your own food.
  • HAVE A FRUGAL DINNER TONIGHT. Frugal State Jenn has a great post with a wide variety of ideas for stretching your dinner budget.
OTHER FRUGAL THINGS YOU CAN DO:
With so many links, I can't verify that there's nothing offensive on any of these sites, so please exercise caution when following links off of the direct pages I'm linking to.

Blessings & HAPPY READING!

Do Not Be Anxious, But Do Not Be Idle

In this week's "Ask Anything" Quick Query, Amy described her situation:

"I have recently 'come home" from a full time job, I have a husband and 3 boys... I was under conviction about this for awhile and just took the plunge, with my husbands blessing. ...[We have] alot of [expenses] that would make it seem like I NEED to work to help... So my question is, how far do we go with these verses, Matthew 6:24-34?"

Here's the passage she's talking about:
"Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
I have several thoughts about this, Amy, somewhat in the order of how they appear in the passage. The bolded part is the main thought and then I'll do a little commentary on each point. These thoughts aren't aimed only at you, but at myself, and anyone else who would lean towards worry or anxiety in times of difficulty...
  • LOOK AT THE WORLD AROUND YOU- Consider the birds, look at the flowers. God takes care of all things. Rest in Him. He takes care of EVERYTHING (more than even we mommies take care of) and He does it well. LEAN on the everlasting arms; they're strong and they'll take care of you.
  • LOOK AT YOUR SITUATION OBJECTIVELY- Life is more than food or clothes. And anyway, God's the One Who does it all... do you really think it's your own talent and abilities that have provided for you this far? We think that way sometimes, but it is inaccurate to think that we are the ones earning the salary. GOD is the One Who graciously gives us skills and abilities, gives us favor in the interviews and in our careers, and gives us the jobs we need. Don't trust in you own ability to provide. Oh, and just in case that doesn't convince you, you're not lengthening your life any by worrying, so stop it!
  • PRIORITIES- First, the Kingdom of God. First, seek righteousness. And notice- it doesn't say, "Then, after you've done those things, you can be anxious about your food, drink, clothing, etc..." No- it says, then all these things will be added to you. So even then, we're not to worry. We're to be about our Father's business. That's where our focus should be.
  • TRUST ME, YOU'LL HAVE ENOUGH ON YOUR MIND. "Sufficient for the day is it's own trouble." Kind of a Yoda-like statement, isn't it? I haven't consulted any commentaries about this, but taking it at face value, it seems to be saying, "trust me... you'll have enough on your mind if you JUST focus on today." Don't worry about tomorrow, don't fret about the future... just rest in me TODAY. I took care of you yesterday, and I've taken care of you so far today, haven't I? Trust me enough to not worry about tomorrow.
  • DO NOT BE ANXIOUS. Did you notice he repeated this three times? Having listened to enough sermons in my lifetime, I can recall hearing that in Jewish culture, repeating something three times signifies its importance to the speaker. This is the primary thrust of the passage. Do not be anxious. Don't worry, don't stress. Seriously, don't be anxious. Take those worrisome thoughts captive.
Now, having examined all of that (I know there's much more to be gleaned from it, but to me, today, those are the main points), there are a few other things that need to be said, in order to put this passage in the context of the whole counsel of the Word of God.

IS IT WRONG TO CONTRIBUTE?
Proverbs 31 shows a woman who does not fear for her family, works hard, trades, works with her hands, contributes to her family, makes things for her home, and laughs (is not anxious) at the future.And there are other verses like these as well... my point is this: no, we're not to worry. But that doesn't mean we have to sit still while we're not worrying.

Is there a skill you have that could contribute to your financial situation? Or a talent or craft ability you have that you could make money using? Could you start a small business from home that would help pay off those extra bills? Or could you begin looking for ways to SAVE money from your normal family expenses and thus, in a way, be earning extra money for your family to pay off debt, etc.?

There are a lot of blogs devoted to being frugal. I think those would be a good place to start. Here are a couple of my favorites: Frugal Upstate and Frugal Homemaker Plus. Look for ways to cut costs from what you're already doing. The Ladies Against Feminism website has a whole section devoted to "How to Get Back Home". I know you're already home, but you could spend a few minutes reading through those articles to get additional ideas for ways to make staying home more financially-friendly for you.

YOU WILL FACE OPPOSITION
Finally, too, you need to realize that there will always be opposition to staying at home, from our enemy, the devil (who likes frazzled and guilt-ridden moms and latchkey children), as well as from the world at large who will not understand this kind of decision. "Your kids will be fine", they'll say. "Put your skills and talents to better use", they'll say. But the God who called you will use your skills and your talents in the place that He called you, make no mistake. Just seek first His Kingdom. Seek His righteousness first.

And let me encourage you, Amy: staying at home will always mean there is something else you could be doing.... something else that would drain your time but probably leave you feeling very fulfilled- whether that is a ministry, a job, or blogging. (Threw that last one in, just so you know I'm not just talking to you- I'm talking to me, too!!!) But once we become moms, we have been "hired" for an exceedingly important job- by God Himself. Being at home will mean big returns in their lives and yours.

* * * * *
The overall point of that Matthew passage is this: Don't be anxious. But- I see no reason to take Matthew 6 to mean that we aren't to ever do anything to help our situation. 1 Thessalonians 4: 11-12 says:
..."aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."
So, while we aren't to be anxious, we're also not to be idle. First, if we're called to be stay-at-home wives or moms, then we need to be workers at home, but if we can do that well AND earn a little extra income (for example, through selling dresses or hairbows or having a resume service, or whatever), then I believe it is acceptable and even honorable to do so. If there's something you can do to contribute to your family's financial situation while still operating under the conviction God put on your heart (to stay at home), then do it!

ANYONE ELSE HAVE THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS?

Slugging the Slugs!

graphic by Forrest BrownPokey asked about slug problems in strawberries. I thought the topic should be discussed in greater detail. As many of you know, I garden as organically as possible with dish soap and vinegar being about as toxic as I will use. I also grow most of my vegetables in raised beds or containers. This makes slug control considerably easier. Most slug control involves

Monday, May 21, 2007

Are You Near the Line?

If you can imagine a line beyond which a spouse would be committing adultery, I'm convinced that many couples live with their toes right up next to that line of marital infidelity. Yes, many. And yes, I'm talking about even Christian couples.

Comments and questions like these reveal a leaning toward the line rather than away from it:
"Well, it's only my husband and I. If we want to watch it, we're both adults and we can make that decision."

"Oh come on- we work together. It's only natural that we would have lunch together every now and then. It doesn't mean anything!"

"We've been friends since high school. Why would I give up such a close friend just because he's a guy and now I'm married?"


"It's not realistic to say, 'never be alone with a member of the opposite sex.' Seems legalistic to me- I know myself and I can handle it."

But the Bible puts different standards on children of God:

Not Even a Hint! (Eph. 5:3)
..."Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, because these are improper for God's holy people."

While the culture asks, "
How much can I get away with?", this standard asks, "Is there anything about what I'm doing that could cause offense or be misunderstood?" We are to be above and beyond reproach, so careful in our behavior as to preclude any possibility of criticism.

Being above reproach makes it clear that
"wherever the line is, I'm nowhere near it." If this is my standard, I'm not going to ask how close I can get to sin without actually crossing over into sin. If that's what I'm asking, then it's likely I've already crossed the line according to the standards Jesus presents (i.e., "he who has lust in his heart..."). This is not about legalism, and it's not about pouring a bucket of cold water on fun. This is about protecting the one relationship in a married person's life that is designed to represent the relationship between Christ & the Church. We shouldn't even entertain a hint of sexual immorality.

Here's a few ideas to consider about having a "not even a hint" kind of standard:
  • If you saw a married woman in your church in a car with another man, what would you think? Would there be a sliver of concern in your mind? You might try to think the best of them, but surely we'd all admit that there might be a hint of doubt about the purity of their situation!
  • If your movie choices were going to be broadcast publicly, for all the world to see, perhaps on the powerpoint slides at the beginning of services on Sunday, would you continue making the same choices? If not, then why? Is it because they might hint at sexual immorality?
  • This excellent Boundless.com article addresses what can happen when members of the opposite sex begin a "friendship" when one or both of them are married.
True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, Praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8)
Here is a lens or filter through which our thoughts ought to pass- is it true? is it noble? is it right? pure? lovely? is it worthy of admiration? could it be called excellent? is this thought worthy of praise? If it doesn't pass the test, then "we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Every affair, every sexual addiction, every action that has that "hint" of sexual immorality has started out as a thought. The Bayly brothers put it this way:
Unfaithfulness in marriage is not just a physical act; it's a way of life. It begins innocently enough--sidelong glances, the light brush of a shoulder, an offer to help put up the storm windows--all little things. But little things quickly grow until we discover we're in a prison built by our own hands. Seemingly without warning, we find that our wife or husband is no longer at the center of our heart; someone has taken their place.
Without a doubt, if this kind of behavior was stopped in its tracks at the thought level, it would never proceed into actions. They continue their warning:

I'm afraid many of us don't understand the danger of unfaithfulness today. We think we can engage in a deep and meaningful friendship with a woman other than our wife without considering the threat such relationships pose to our marriage. We think we can build an emotional dependency on a man other than our husband without introducing the danger of ending up in bed with that man. We blithely assume our marriages are indestructible. That's why too often, after our emotions have produced their physical fruit, we wake up shocked to be caught in adultery.

We fail to remember the lesson of adolescence--that emotional intimacy often leads directly to physical intimacy. [Read their entire article, "Emotional Intimacy & Adultery," here.]

Here we see it again- in terms of emotional intimacy and dependency... these are thought-level issues that bleed over into actions. If we cut them off at the thought level, there would be no illicit action. But if we entertain a little thought here, and a questionable glance there, pretty soon, we're not just to the line-- we've stepped over it into impropriety and sin.

SO, WHAT?
The point is not to come up with a list of rules and then enforce them on your spouse, although having a list you consider and pray about together and follow would be an excellent thing. The point is not to be rude to every person of the opposite sex so as to avoid infidelity, although being cautious and guarded around the opposite sex would be wise. The point is not even to avoid every movie that has a certain rating, although this too may be a prudent decision for some people.

The point is this: Let's not "toe" the line. Let's not even be close to it. Let's draw our own mental lines that keep us far away from the actual line of infidelity. Let's re-focus our minds to not focus on "how much can I get away with", but rather- "is there any
hint of sexual immorality in my life?" "Am I providing room for sin to spring up in my life by any action I'm taking or thoughts I'm entertaining?" Let's root out the sin of infidelity before it springs up in our lives.

If you have additional thoughts or stories to share on this issue, hit "comment"! (As with all sensitive subjects, feel free to leave your comment anonymously if you have something personal to share.)

Blessings on you and your marriage,

Considering Cloth?

Some of you are going to think I'm totally NUTS- but lately, I've been reading a lot about cloth diapering and I'm thinking of trying them out, now that Maranatha's going through only a few diapers a day. Coming to the place of being open to this idea has taken a process of reading about them, hearing from friends that cloth diapering isn't as difficult as it used to be, and that it's a huge money saver. It's an idea with merit that's worth more than a cursory glance.

If you're remotely interested in cloth diapering (or even just morbidly curious, which is where I was just a few months ago), you'll want to check out some excellent and informative resources I've found:
  • NEED MOTIVATION? Once again I find myself thanking Sara for challenging us in these "green" areas (that's green for the environmental perspective, not green for what you may find in the cloth diapers you use because of your environmental perspective! :) Sara has written "Choose Cloth", which will challenge you to think reusable rather than disposable in a WIDE variety of areas! (Ever heard of cloth toilet paper? No? Well then head on over to Sara's place and prepare to have your eyes bug out opened, friend!)
  • NEED CONVINCING? Here an article that explains that regular people actually still use cloth diapers.
  • NEED INFORMATION? Here is an excellent website that explores all the ins and outs, all the "why?"s, "how?"s, and "which ones are best?" kind of questions you might ask about cloth diapering. With a variety of articles, this is an excellent resource for finding out all about cloth diapers.
  • NEED RECOMMENDATIONS? Read these mother-written reviews of various cloth diapering options to get a feel for what products are tried-and-true according to mom.
  • NEED HELP SORTING OUT OPTIONS? This article, HOW DO I CHOOSE?, is helpful for sorting through all the varieties and options and getting a feel for how to start cloth diapering.
I'm in the process right now of deciding whether to buy and what to buy in this whole area. I figure right now is a great time to start, if I'm going to... I don't have a newborn, so I won't have NEAR as much laundry while I'm getting acclimated to cloth diapers as I would if I were starting with a new baby. What's more, I have a dryer here, which I won't have when we move back overseas, so it will be easier to start here and now than at some later time in some other place.

What say you? Do you use cloth diapers? Have you ever? Would you? Does the idea alone send shivers down your spine? Let me hear from you!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Value of Virginity

Samantha asked:
"...how do you deal with still being a virgin because you just don't want to sleep around? I'm 19 ... At 16, almost all of the girls have lost their virginity. Even my physician gave me a weird look ... [when] I told her I was still a virgin. My main problem is the reaction of people in my environment. Do you have any tips?"

I hate this this is even an issue, Samantha-- it just goes to show how screwed up this world has become, that the one person in a group that has self-restraint and good judgment feels strange and apologetic because they've actually maintained purity.

Here are some thoughts about the value of virginity (not by any means is this an all-encompassing list, but hopefully these thoughts will encourage you to hold your ground in this area):

(1)
While the world says that the sleep-around-single is the one "exercising his/her freedom", the virgin is the one who is truly free. Free from disease, which is a growing concern among singles today. Free from the emotional trauma that goes along with casual sex. And free to bestow the gift of purity and virginity upon their husband one day, as a precious gift, unspoiled and rare.

And this is something you can share with people who look at you crazy, by saying, "Look, I'm just trying to practice free love. Love free from shame, disease, guilt, emotional heartache, and self-loathing. Love that frees me to give a precious gift to the one who God created me to become one with."

(2)
Humans were created as both soul and body for a reason; these two elements of our personhood are meant to act in agreement with one another-- that is to say, we are not meant to believe things but not translate those beliefs into our behavior. Our behavior shows what's in our souls. In a new book I'm reading, Rebecca Jones writes:
"Sexual intimacy is so powerful that when women use it lightly, they plunge into a valley of shadow. Those shadows thicken, and women cannot escape, because the bodies they own, in which they sleep, eat, and live, are the very ones they have sullied. One way to ignore such guilt is to divide the body and soul. The body can do what it wants and the soul remains detached."
This is all too common. Sex is an activity that, when exercised outside of God's proper boundaries, divides body and soul. Rather than being an incredibly intimate experience, it becomes an incredibly isolating experience. Casual sex isolates us, not only from the ones with whom we are "intimate", but even from our very own soul. We end up trying to protect ourselves from further heartache by dividing the action from the emotional connection it was designed to cement. We trivialize it by describing it as an action to engage in for a little fun, rather than only enjoying it within the boundaries and for the purpose for which God created it, which brings me to my 3rd point...

(3)
GOD is the One Who created sex... we need to look to Him to know what it is for. A young adult looking to peers to find out what sex is for is like toddlers who look to other toddlers for clues about what's the best things to eat. They're going to place priority on candy, chips, and chocolate milk rather than on the more lasting things: protein that helps you grow muscles, vitamins that help you go strong, etc. In the same way that those toddlers need to look to their parents (who know better than they do what they need), we need to quit looking to a secular culture to tell us what sex is for, and instead look to our Father, Who, in the first mention of sex put it this way: "they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Which brings me to point #4...

(4) ONENESS is the primary purpose of physical intimacy, which is why it hurts people so bad to sleep around. It's like pulling a woman's skin away from her bones, like pulling a head away from its body. There's no question: we become one with the person we are intimate with. That's the purpose. Is procreation a purpose? Yes. Is pleasure a purpose? Yes. But the primary purpose is oneness- to show an earthly example of the oneness Christ desires to have (and will have) with the Church. We can more perfectly understand the unity Christ desires to have with us when we look at a monogamous, committed, serving-one-another, loving-one-another marriage, and see the intimacy that happens there.

David Gardner, author of Sacred Sex, puts it this way:
"Sexual intercourse, by God's description, is the way of knowing and experiencing another human being in the most intimate way possible. This "knowing" is what melds two strangers into one. A wonderful example of this is a Dutch slang word for sex, naaien, which literally means 'sewing'. Two pieces of material are put on top of each other and then attached in a way that will 'keep them secure and fastened to each other long after the sewing is over and the weaver is gone.' This idea of being sewn together in sex is a useful image... husbands and wives don't dissolve together into one shapeless blob. However, they are intricately and intimately sewn together in such a way that man should 'not separate' them (Matthew 19:6). Oneness joins us permanently, ... [and] lasts beyond the immediate act of sexual intimacy."
(5) Finally, obedience to Christ (which means sexual purity--not only in action but in thought as well) is important, even if/when we're the last man or woman standing. Just like that sign-holding woman in the picture at the top of this article, even if we feel TOTALLY alone in a crowd of people going the opposite way, we are still to obey. The Bible says "obedience is better than sacrifice." Obeying, even when we don't feel like it and especially when we are tired and don't understand all the "whys", still is pleasing to our Father.

When I say "no playing in the street", I'm not trying to deny my children FUN. They might see a parade go by and say, "MOM- all those kids are playing in the street- dancing to music, waving to the crowd, eating candy, and they're having a really good time... why can't I play in the street?" That's when I have to explain to them that the time for THEM to be in the parade is not now- it may come in the future, but this is not the time. "Trust me," I'm saying. And it's true- their obedience (which will protect them from getting run over by a car or lost in a crowd) is important and pleasing to me, even if they don't understand all the reasons that I'm telling them not to play in the street.

BE ENCOURAGED and BE REBELLIOUS
Be encouraged, Samanatha-- and any other readers who are wondering about these things... I would encourage you to think of it this way: be a rebel. Rebel against the low expectations of culture, rebel against the easy way out, rebel against the "norms"-- and instead be a radical... a radical footsoldier in the army of the Most High God, a radical example of what Christ can do in the life of someone who obeys Him, and a radical person who swims against the stream of culture in pursuit of the source of Living Water.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 says, "Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." Hang in there, Samantha, and look for your ways of escaping the stronghold of this generation- you'll be so glad you did!


(PSSSST!!!: If YOU have a question or issue that you've been
wondering about, CLICK HERE to leave your question.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rosie Defends Duggars' Quiver Full

Did I go to sleep and wake up in some kind of parallel universe, you might be asking? No- it's true. If you've been reading for a while, you might remember my appreciation for this Arkansas family with 16 (almost 17) kids. (Yes, seventeen- and no, none of them are adopted.)

Rosie O'Donnell, often on the exact opposite side of things as conservative Christians, took up for the Duggar family today, when The View's Joy Behar (might I suggest that Joy is not a great name for someone who is so decidedly caustic and sarcastic?) criticized the growing quiver full family for their use of environmental resources. (As a sidenote, I bet that between her home and work life, Joy Behar uses up nearly as much resources as the entire Duggar family, if not more. When you think of all the hair & makeup products + packaging that she uses up, not to mention wardrobe, food items, paper her show ideas are printed on, lighting to make her look her best, gas to get back and forth to all the tapings, award shows, etc... it'd be an interesting study for sure!) Anyway, here's the exchange:

ELISABETH HASSELBECK: They just had their 17th baby right? You know the Duggars? We've shown them on the show before, their sixteenth baby. All the kids begin with a letter J. The oldest kind of partners up with the youngest and they have this incredible system -- the woman can have 25 kids the way she does it her home.

JOY BEHAR: The woman has graffiti on her uterus.

[laughter]

HASSELBECK: I love a lot of kids. I think it’s great.

JOY BEHAR: Don't you think that, that's a little bit- how shall I put this- inconsiderate of the fact that you're using more energy, you're using up more gasoline.

HASSELBECK: No, you use one pot for 17 kids as opposed to 17 pots of water --

BEHAR: Oh one pot– Joint you mean.

O’DONNELL: Joy was saying is it irresponsible socially or ecologically to have that many children?

BEHAR: I think it is. I think that you're using more of the resources of the world. You can adopt 17, that would be morally acceptable, but to give birth to 17 children?

HASSELBECK: I think it's fantastic.

ROSIE O’DONNELL: I do too. But this is Joy who was an only child and who has an only child. So this is her world view.

[...]

BEHAR: It is very hard and very expensive to raise children.

O’DONNELL: But if they can afford it why shouldn't they?

BEHAR: Because, I told you why, they’re snorting up the oxygen.

... And on it goes... Read the full article: View's Behar: Multiple Children 'Snort Up Oxygen'.


RELATED READING:
(Thanks to Crystal @ Biblical Womanhood for the radio link!)

As always, I'm fascinated when I read about this family. I'm not saying I'm ready for 17 children.... I'm just saying that I can't help but be intrigued, and that I'm encouraged by the way that they cherish children in such an obvious and salt-of-the-earth kind of way.

Strawberries

Strawberry BloomsMay 15, 2007My experience with strawberries is they are very hardy. My June bearing strawberries are now in bloom so it won't be long. The majority of them are housed in a 8' x 10' raised bed. The bed originally was planted with strawberry plants I moved from our old house, planted in a temporary bed then moved to the new raised bed the following year. I do not know what

Monday, May 14, 2007

Balancing Plans with Reality

Someone recently posed this question to me:
"I believe God has led me to do X. Life circumstances seem to be stacking up against X. How do I make it through? My heart is in X, and yet, looking at this situation realistically, it seems nearly impossible. What's going on?"
Of course, there are several possible answers to this:
  1. God didn't lead you to do X. You misunderstood Him. His ways are not our ways, and He's got different plans for you than this.
  2. He led you to pursue X because He had something to teach you in the process and the plan never was for you to actually do X.
  3. He's going to come through in time and you'll get to do X. He's going to show off how awesome He is.
  4. You're going to have to wait. You may not see X come to fruition for quite some time. It will happen... just not according to your timetable.
If number one or two, there would be some serious prayer and soul-searching that would need to take place to figure out the next step. If number three, then you get to walk obediently and faithfully, learning the lessons He has for you there in X.

But if it's number four, well, I have some things to share about that. ;) People here in the States often won't understand anything but a carefully-planned life. They don't understand waiting-- even if they are Christians-- even if it's waiting on the Lord. So don't look to other people for encouragement while you're waiting, because I can almost guarantee it won't happen.

Instead, if we're the ones God's causing and calling to "wait" for a season of life, then we've got to get our theology straight. We've got to be sure of Who we say God is, alligning our faith and practice with the Word of God. For me, during this waiting time, that has meant remembering these two things:

(1)
God is faithful- -and He will do exactly what needs to be done when it needs to be done, in the way it needs to be done. He is fully reliable and I can count on Him to be doing the perfect thing, even when I don't know what in the world He's doing. I don't have to worry, I don't have to fret.

(2)
God's ways are unsearchable- -and if I try to "plan" it out, or always understand everything, I will be disappointed. At some point, my "expectations" (which might even sound like they are "according to His will") will collide with His will for my life. If not today, tomorrow. If not tomorrow, next week. If not next week, next year. At some point, my expectations and plans will collide with God's plans, if for no other reason than that He can teach me to wait on Him and to help me more greatly identify with Christ in His sufferings. No matter what happens or how long it takes, He is still good.

But if I've heard a word from Him about my future, then it is my responsibility (and no one else's) to keep walking in obedience to that until and unless I hear something different. I must walk in God-confidence, even if others deride or discourage me because it's not all happening on a Franklin-Covey kind of timeline, or because it's not a Merrill-Lynch kind of financial situation, or because "it's just clearly not the Lord's will, cause there have been difficulties."

Here are some passages that have been really helpful for me, as I've been waiting on God to act in our situation for the last 5-6 months:
  • James 4:13-16 -putting man-made plans in God-sized perspective
  • Psalm 62-an excellent Psalm about waiting on the Lord
  • James 1:2-5, 12 -what suffering produces in us; what we can focus on learning in the midst of trials

That doesn't mean it's easy. But He is faithful. Look to Him!!! If you're going through a trial or a time of waiting, I pray that you'll be encouraged, and that your perspective will adjust to whatever it needs to be to walk in God-confidence through this next trial. That you won't just have all your hopes pinned on some future time when everything will be just the way you're dreaming it will be, but that you will walk obediently right here where you are. And that He will teach you great and unsearchable things right there in the midst of the struggle. I know it ain't easy, but I know He is good.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Show & Tell: Dealing With Difficult People

Normally, I don't do back-to-back show and tells... but this is my blog, and I have something else to bring to Show & Tell this week! :) You may have already figured it out, but Show & Tells are my method of compiling interesting links for whatever topic is on my mind at a given time. Hope they're helpful for you, too.

After feeling deflated today, having been around a very discouraging person, I began looking into this topic of dealing with difficult people. In researching, I came across many various ideas and methods for different kinds of difficult people you may encounter:
  • "DIFFICULT PEOPLE ARE GOD'S GRINDSTONES": This blogger, Seth, offers an interesting point of view that we don't really want to think about when we're facing difficult people... namely, that God has them in our lives for a reason. Could be that I need to learn patience, self-control, gentleness... (hmmm... I seem to remember a list that goes something like that... ) and that this difficult person is God's gift to me so that I might learn that lesson through my interactions with her.
  • HANDLING & HELPING A DIFFICULT PERSON IN A GROUP: This is an account -by NavPress- of how a small group leader & his wife helped one difficult person who continually caused problems in their class. While acknowledging that this is not a cure-all, these were their steps for loving, helping, and holding accountable a woman they call "Liz":
  1. Assign a personal discipler
  2. Set clearly understood limits and consequences.
  3. Make the person responsible for her actions.
  4. Expect change.
  • TIPS FOR HANDLING TROUBLEMAKERS: Rick Warren has nicknamed several varieties of difficult people: The Sherman Tank, The Nit Picker, The Bubble Buster, The Volcano, and others... and suggests these steps for responding biblically to difficult people:
  1. Realize you can't please everyone-- even Jesus couldn't!
  2. Refuse to play games-- lovingly speak the truth.
  3. Never retaliate.
  4. Pray for them.
  • Last, but certainly not least, I want to point you to three excellent articles that all come from a website called "Conquerors in Christ".
  1. DO YOU CARE TOO MUCH ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK? Here, he deals with how to respond to unfair criticism, or when others see us in a negative light.
  2. DON'T GET ENTANGLED IN THE ROPES OF REVENGE. When I know God and put my trust in Him, I will feel less "need" to respond when people hurt me, knowing that God "has my back".
  3. REMOVING YOURSELF FROM THOSE WHO SOW STRIFE: When we've done all we can do, is it biblical or right to withdraw from a relationship?
As always, please don't take these links to mean that I agree with everything posted on every site referenced. I just thought the included links would be good food for thought for anyone dealing with difficult people.

And finally, one final word --from the source that
is perfect & without fault-- to encourage all of us: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." (Romans 12:18) Many blessings & HAPPY READING!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Show & Tell: Simplicity & Frugality in Various Forms

I've got some really interesting reads for you on the topics of being frugal and simplifying your life... please choose several- you'll be so glad you did!
  • First up... did you ever read the Berenstein Bears book when Brother and Sister have the "Gimmes"? Well, Sara got the Gimmes when she went to the mall, and then rattled off this excellent post about "Wanting" and how we as Christians can keep from getting sucked into this stuff-saturated culture.
  • This is an interesting website, called "The Miniature Earth", where they have taken the whole earth and shrunk it to just having 100 people on it, but with the same proportions as are in the real world. 13 are Africans, 33 are Christian, etc... it's very interesting, and has some eye-popping figures about poverty, illiteracy, and the staggering needs around the world. Seeing it in terms of percentages instead of millions of people makes such a difference. Go ahead- CLICK HERE to watch the Miniature-Earth video (just click on the word "English" and it will start right up).
  • Finally, Sara (who continues to challenge me, the more I sift through her archives) is such an example of how much money can be saved (not to mention having less waste products) by switching from paper to cloth... you don't have to do it all, but I think her wide variety of options may challenge you to find new ways of doing things around your home too.
Blessings to you & as always, HAPPY READING!

Random & Possibly Strange Facts about Jess

Thanks to my bloggy buddy over at Musings of a Housewife for this meme. Here are the rules. Each player starts with seven random facts about themselves. People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about the seven things and the rules. You need to choose seven people to tag and list their names. Don't forget to leave them a comment that they have been tagged and to read your blog!


Here are my seven facts:
  1. I used to want to adopt at least one child from every inhabited continent, in addition to whatever biological children God would give us. In my more adventurously-thinking moments, I still do.
  2. I dream about what Heaven's going to be like, without apology, because I know I can't out-dream what God can do. One of my favorite things to think about, just because I know God is the one Who created fun, and because He loves to thrill us, is what kind of water park could be built if Jesus Himself was the builder (think John 14:2-3) -- for example, having some kind of incredible substance that's a mix between plastic, rubber, and silicone to build all the slides out of. Stuff like that... with or without the water slides, I'm totally excited about Heaven!
  3. Just this morning, I noticed that that my oldest son has gotten into a habit of placing more importance on watching videos than being kind to his siblings during those videos. Right about the time I was going to begin talking to him about it, the Lord convicted me that I have, at times, made this computer more important than him. For example, he has come over to tell me something important to him, and instead of turning to look at him and actively listen, I have brushed it off with an "uh-huh, OK, go keep on playing". So my four-year-old and I took a walk together and made a pact: we're going to work together on consistently and intentionally making people more important than stuff.
  4. I have a wide variety of music that I love. I love music from Steve Miller, Coldplay, U2, the Beatles, Waterdeep, the Dixie Chicks (yes, I know...), James Taylor, and Sting. But I just need one moment of your time to confess that this week, I purchased Weird Al's "Amish Paradise" off of iTunes. Yes I did, and the song totally cracks me up.
  5. I used to think that God made me the way He did for me to be a Senator or a leader in my community. Not that that won't ever be a part of my life in the future (clearly I have a political side), but right now, I'm aware more than ever that God built me the way He did for His purposes: which right now include primarily being a wife and mother.
  6. I am so thankful for God's grace. Though you may look at this blog and see someone who "has it all together", I must tell you that, like Paul claimed, I am the chief of sinners. Jesus rescued me from the pit (one of my own making, through sinful habits and rebellious choices) and has set my feet on a high and spacious place-- giving me more than I ever would have given myself because I would never have thought I deserved it. His love for me is so amazing, and I have never earned it or deserved it. He gives it to me just because that's the kind of God He is! Now I try to live as a rebel against the world, for Him.
  7. I believe children are a blessing, and I'd be thrilled if God gives us more little punkins.
OK. I'm never very good at following rules. I've seen memes like this on other friends' blogs... so I'm not going to pick, cause I don't want to make someone re-do something they've already done. But if you've never done a "random facts about me" blogpost, and you'd like to, well then doggone it- consider yourself tagged! (And be sure to leave a link where we can find your lovely little meme.)

Hope y'all will still read, even though I'm sure some of these (especially that bit about Weird Al) put me in a category all by myself...

Attacting Birds to Your Garden

Ruby Throated HummingbirdMay 10, 2007Look at my new garden visitor! Isn't he just adorable? This picture was a real fluke as the feeder is hanging on the back porch so I can see any activity from the kitchen window. Well there he was flitting around so I had to grab the camera and take several shots. I should have taken a video clip as well but I was so excited, I didn't think about it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Beltway Beat #3- Electability?

Right now, the conversation going on among a lot of Republicans goes something like this: "I don't really like the field of Republican candidates, but we have to have someone who is electable. I don't like _______, but I fear he may be the Republican candidate. And at least he's better than Hillary."

There are several problems with this, not the least of which is that we are listening to the liberal media concerning who the Republican candidate will be. They are telling us who is electable, but we are the conservative voters who will have to live with that decision.

Additionally, if we had no other candidates, Giuliani or McCain still would not be good choices for the Presidency, because they wou
ld shift the center of the Republican party and the center of American politics to the left. Simply put, people would begin thinking more liberally because the most prominent conservative voice would no longer be conservative. It would almost be better (for Republicans) for Hillary to be elected than for one of these liberal Republicans to be elected President, because at least a liberal Democrat would cause Republicans to reorganize and come back stronger than ever.

Just this week, it has come out that both Rudy Giuliani AND Mitt Romney, two of the three media-deemed top-tier candidates, have donated to Planned Parenthood, the organization responsible for more abortions than any other in America. Or rather, um, as both campaigns are spinning it, both of their wives donated to PP. These men and John McCain might appeal to the liberal media, but they will not gain wide support among the conservative base of the Republican party. Which will mean a loss to the Democrat, no matter who it is.

Without an energized base, the voter turn-out will be pathetic. Which is why we need a true conservative to run for the Republican candidacy. And not just a true conservative, but a man who can merge his politics with his faith and his faith and politics with his lifestyle.

Enter Mike Huckabee. This candidate, whom I have personally met and worked for (scroll to the bottom for a picture of the college-aged me with the pre-100-pound-weight-loss-Huckabee), is not only extremely electable (as evidenced by his twice-over re-elections as the Republican Governor of a Democratic state), but he is also a consistently conservative. Says Mark Thornton of the Mississippi Star-Herald, "I am convinced that Huckabee would be the GOP nominee if more people got to know him."

His Christian roots, which run strong and sound, not only inform his political positions but also have formed his entire life. He is an unapologetic Christian, which showed up clearly in the recent Republican debate, after which, Huckabee was called "presidential" and a true conservative by MSNBC.com.

Green Mountain Politics, a site that supports McCain, ceded this week that Mike Huckabee is the candidate for true conservatives. A few excerpts from their great article:
"The former Governor of Arkansas (10 successful years) has solid compassionate conservative credentials. In fact, they're sterling. ... Huckabee doesn't have to "fake" (like several other candidates, 2 in the top tier) his social conservative credentials in order to pander to the Republican base. Huckabee is a social Conservative with a capitol "C"! But he's also Compassionate with a capitol "C"."
(See??? This is what I've been saying!) They continue:
..."the more we listen to Mike Huckabee, the more we think that he's the type of leader who will do the 'right' thing no matter what the 'right' thing is.

That counts. That counts a whole lot.

Which means that if you're a Republican Primary voter still shopping for the 'right' candidate we think you should take a good hard look at Mike Huckabee.

We think you might really like what you see."
And so do I. (Continue reading Green Mountain Politics' "Case for Mike Huckabee" HERE.) Not only is he conservative, not only is he truly show Christian compassion, but he also has consistently held his positions throughout his adult life. Pro-life, environmentally consciencious, and with a strong record on education, he is not a wishy-washy ear-tickler, as many others are (see above, regarding Planned Parenthood donations made by two men who have said they "hate" abortion). Mike Huckabee is the real deal.


For further reading:

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