Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Greatest Concession in all of Christendom: The Story of Halloween

There have been many rumors circling the Church of the true origin of Halloween and it's particular practices. So many, in fact, that I decided, as a Christian parent, it would be a good idea to research these things myself before making a definitive statement one way or the other to my children. I have spent the last few weeks immersed in history and ancient Church literature, as well as my husband having learned some of this from a Church History professor here at his school, and my findings have been shocking, to say the least. 

So, where did we get Halloween and it's customs, particularly dressing up, receiving candy or other food, and jack o'lanterns? To answer that question, we must go back to the Middle Ages....

Back in the Middle Ages in Europe there existed one singular church. One of the peculiarities of said church is the practice of honoring Christian saints both in the loose term of the word: anyone who is redeemed by Christ, and in the stricter sense: a particular saint who's true or supposed works have, in the eyes of the Church, earned them a special place in Heaven. The custom of sainting someone became so popular that, soon, the Church ran out of days on which to hold festivals in their honor. The solution? All Hallows Tide: a three-day celebration to worship all the saints in all time. The first day, All Hallows Eve, served to honor those of the saints (loose-term) who had died in the last year, leaving behind the church militant (those still on Earth, fighting against the Devil and his darkness) to join the church victorious (the saints in Heaven who have won the victory by remaining faithful to the end). This day was a way of bringing peace and honor, also, to the families of the saints who had died. 

Another one of the peculiarities of the Church at the time is the teaching of purgatory: the place where one goes after death to pay the penalty for sin before going to Heaven. Different ways of shortening one's time in purgatory were presented to congregates: pilgrimages to holy places, touching a relic of a particular saint, or, later, indulgences: literal payment for sin. This teaching was highly condemned at the end of the Middle Ages, by Martin Luther.... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

To celebrate the lives of their now-deceased family members, children would go from door to door collecting soul cakes: small round cakes baked with a cross on the top, and bring them home to their parents. These cakes were not eaten, but rather left out in memory of their saint until the end of All Hallows Tide, when they were discarded. Hence, the giving out of food on Halloween (the shortened version of All Hallows' Eve).

While the children were collecting these cakes, their parents would carve out turnips in the shape of their saint's face and put a candle inside to remember them and wish them a swift passage through purgatory. A prime example of a turnip carved with such a purpose sits in the Museum of Country Life in Ireland. Hence, jack o'lanterns, though the name came along later, which I will speak to.

And now we come to the most distinctive custom of Halloween: costumes, particularly those costumes of creepy ghoulies and wicked witches. All Hallows' Eve, as already mentioned, served to honor those saints who had remained faithful till the end, therefore victorious over Satan and his minions. The next morning/two days served to honor, additionally, all the Saints of the Church and their lives of devotion to the Lord, and, vicariously, God and all He had done through His Church over the course of history. Such a glorious celebration it was, dispelling fear of Satan and bringing hope and confidence in the Lord, that an additional custom was added: that of taunting the Devil for his failures, of his lack of ability, of his puniness (if you will) in the sight of the Lord and the Church. The celebration gave the people such a radiance of joy in the Lord that the Dark Prince suddenly seemed insignificant, irrelevant, childish. And, consequently, propelled the Church on to cast aside his wiles and schemes to cling to the Lord, just as their family members had done, for another year.

So, the children began to dress up as Satan and his minions as a means of mocking and chiding him. To declare to the world they weren't scared of him, and that his work was child's play compared to the glory of the Lord. Now... such boldness might understandable in an adult... but a child taunting Satan? Where did they get such confidence?

Well, children were taught that God accepted them as sons through adoption when they were baptized at a few days old. They were taught that they now belonged to the Lord, and no longer had need to fear the Devil and his schemes. They were taught "greater is He that is in me than he who is in the world." So, with childish faith and fervor, they clung to the promise of God, that He would protect them and that He was greater than anything the Devil could throw at them. Consequently, as is a typical child's practice, they taunted him who was weaker than they by dressing up as him to humiliate him and threaten him with God's power and wrath.

And that, is how Halloween and it's customs started. But, that is not all of the story.

Fast forward a few hundred years to somewhere around 1930 in America. The Church is no longer unified, as, in his attempt to reform the Church back to Scripture, Martin Luther was excommunicated and a church body believing as he did, who called themselves "Lutherans" (much to his chagrin...he wanted them to be called Evangelicals, which is the German custom now), started their own congregations, therefore starting a new church, something which hadn't been done since the split of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church hundreds of years before. At about the same time, a whole other group of believers split off, calling themselves the "Anabaptists", and so began a long and painful history of split after split in the Church, creating the Church as we have it today, fractured and differing in doctrine and truth. As orthodoxy (clinging to the old faith/customs/liturgy in the Church) became more and more unpopular, Church holidays were, for the most part, abandoned. Exceptions to that exist mainly in Christmas (which actually does have pagan origins and all of it's customs also stem from paganism) and Easter (which started out Christian, but is mostly overrun by paganism today). Them, and curiously, Halloween. By 1930, very few people knew why they celebrated it except that it was a tradition handed down by their immigrant ancestors. Most assumed it to be of folk origin, but fun and. mostly, harmless. 

Enter the Wikkens: a demonic cult which teaches that, in the beginning, the world was at peace through worshiping "The Mother Goddess" and that discord came when people began going off and worshiping male gods, who were necessarily violent, and creating wars. Wikkens focus on empowering women through demonic practices, sacrifices, spells, and incantations. In order to validate their claim to be  returning to an old and universal belief, they had to find some way of making it believable to the public so as to increase their already growing appeal (especially due to their beginning around the same time as woman sufferage). (Note: I am not in any way inferring that feminism is Wikken! I am simply stating that Wikka was and is attractive to many feminists due to its' focus on empowering women). And look what they found ripe for the plundering: Halloween! They quickly made it their sacred day, and asserted that Halloween predated the Church because a similar custom called Samhain was practiced by the Celtic Druids, and that the carved pumpkins actually stemmed from another Druidic custom named after a legend of "Jack" who was kicked out of Heaven and Hell to roam the Earth. Actual historians can tell you that the similarities are only consequential, except where a few immigrants mingled the two towards the end of the 19th century due to ignorance of the differences.  

Because the people no longer celebrated All Hallow's Tide (with a few exceptions), and the reason behind it had been lost in the splitting of the Church, such a claim made sense to them. Educated and uneducated, and especially Christians, accepted this faulty assertion, and some even began to abandon Halloween altogether. Most (shallow) history sources will now tell you that the origins are unknown, but will list Samhain as the most viable suggestion. The lie was swallowed hook, line, and sinker.

Now, it is true that Wikkens perform all kinds of nasty practices on Halloween. Now, it is true that the darkness is slowly and steadily claiming this Church holiday for itself. Now, it is true that demons walk the Earth on this night that used to put them in their place. Now, the Church is losing. 

Wow! It may have taken him hundreds of years, but Satan officially took a holiday that stomped him into the ground under the feet of a faithful Church and turned it into something that worships Him. Well... that is... if we choose to believe his lies.

Satan: 1 

But it doesn't have to be that way. We can, once again, take a stand on the power of Jesus over the sin and the Devil! We can, once again, teach our children that they are redeemed and have naught to fear! We can tell Satan that we are no longer afraid of him and that he has no power over us because of the blood shed on that Cross on our behalf! Whether or not your children go so far to spit in the Devil's face as to dress up like his minions, or just go out as princesses and cowboys, they are still taking a stand for the Lord on this night. 

And.... grandmas love it. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Letter to Extended Family: 5 etiquette tips to maintaining a good relationship with a post-modern generation

Have you ever felt like you're getting nowhere in your relationships with the younger generation? Like they aren't really listening or worse, are resenting you? generation is totally full of themselves. Who's to blame, I don't know. But, there are some good things about us, too... Like we can help you set up your new smartphone or navigate around a city that doesn't look like it did last time you were there. Most of the time, we really do love the older generations, we just stink at relating with you. And, one could argue, it goes the other way around. 

So, here are some tips as to how to love your post-modern relative.

     Post-modern kids are overladen with information and people telling them how to do things. One person says one thing, another person says another. We don't know who to listen to, so we quickly get overwhelmed and end up listening to nobody. And this leads me to:

#1. Unless we're asking for it, we don't want your advice. 
                   We want your example

     Honesty, openness, and relationships are the most important things to us. If you are living one way, and talking another, you immediately get written off. And if you portray yourself as perfect, we'll run away screaming. We know that all people screw-up because we screw up. What we need are people who are open about their flaws and lead by example. And your advice won't mean one iota unless we know you really truly care about us and will love us even if we don't listen,
   My advice? Love us unconditionally and lead by example. Then, when we see you succeed, we will want to know how and ask about it.

#2. Don't try to fix us
      Show us a better way

   Again, unconditional love is a rare commodity in this world, and we all need it. You need us to pour into you, and we need you to pour into us. Don't get upset that your grandkids don't ever come talk to you if the only thing you talk to them about when they come around is how they need to shape up. Correction is an occasional need, but love is always needed. The question they are asking is, "Does he/she really love me, or they just see me as a problem that needs to be fixed." 

#3. Don't give us gifts with obligations
      Give with love in your heart for us and what is best for us

    Ok, so here's the situation I see all too often. Grandmother sees something at the second-hand store that they are sure their loved one will treasure. They bring it home, wrap it up, and wait with anticipation as they open it. So far, so good. Then, the teenager takes it home, only to realize..,. it doesn't fit. Or it is flawed. Or someone else would appreciate it more. So, they give it away to a friend who loves it and is super excited to have it. It's not that the teenager didn't appreciate the gift, just that they wanted to be generous just as Grandma was. So far, so good. Then.... Grandma calls to see if they are using their gift. DON'T do that! If we are loving the gift, we will tell you. I can't remember how many times I have called one of my grandmothers to tell them how much I loved this or that item. But, if we didn't like it, or if someone else needed it more, suddenly we feel guilty. And Grandma is mad because we're not appreciating their gifts. 
  This is especially true if your loved one is a mom. Moms have soooo much on their plate. They were living the life of a single lady, shopping and on the town, and suddenly there's a sticky little person whining for their attention all day long. There's diapers to change, baby food to make, baths to give, clothes to wash... and that's not even mentioning housework. Then, their loving mother-in-law gives them a toy that the baby's Daddy used to play with. Now Mom has to worry about keeping the toy safe, and clean, and often baby doesn't like it just because different baby's like different things. Or it's some precious keepsake, like baby shoes or a teddy bear. Babies can't tell the difference between this shoe or that shoe. All they know is that looks really good to chew on and tease the cat with, and...oh... wonder what happens when you flush it. Now you have a ruined toy, a stressed-out Mom, and a livid Grandma.... I can tell you I appreciate my parents' baby shoes way more now than I ever did as a baby. Even if it's not a hand-me-down, sometimes the toys just make life harder in ways grandmas don't anticipate... like noise toys are great, until there's 3 going off at the same time dischordantly, or a toy police siren going off at 2 in the morning, 
   You need to give without strings attached, or be prepared for some very frustrated daughter-in-laws/grandkids. Which do you love more, the gift or the person?
    And if we've never told you the things we have gotten are appreciated, it probably has more to do with the gifts themselves than the people. If your daughter-in-laws/grandkids ask for matchbox cars and you give them balls of yarn from Salvation Army... they're probably not going to appreciate your gifts.

#4. Don't get too stuck on the old ways
      Try something new

I know, this one is scary. It is so easy to get into a pattern of doing the same thing the same way for your entire life, and trying something new can totally throw you off. But, one thing to remember is that you grew up with stirring everything by hand and listening to the radio, and so it is not only the way you are used to it, it is also nostalgic. In the same way, we grew up with KitchenAids and TVs, and it is what we are used to. Add to the that the adventure of youth, and relating to teenagers means trying new things. And don't say this wasn't true for you. Try to remember when you were a teenager: trying new lipstick and fashions, going out with your boyfriends to dance to Elvis and Frank Sinatra, and regularly scaring your parents/grandparents silly with your shenanigans. I'm not downtalking that at all.... in fact, I personally wish I was raised in that time instead of this, but you need to remember that you were a teenager once too. 
   So, listen to a little of the music your grandson loves, or watch a chick flick with your niece. Live a little in their world, and you will understand them so much better,

#5. Don't try so hard
      Remember we love you, too.

Whereas you may have your issues communicating with us, we're just as bad if not worse. Teenagers have no idea what you want, or what you want from them. They don't know how to show you love any better than you do to them. Be patient, and let's hope we can be patient back.

Baby on a Budget: 5 steps to save a boatload

My husband and I are 22 with a soon-to-be six-month old; on the young end of our friends with kids. Consequently, we have people say things to us like, "Babies are expensive...but I'll bet you could tell me horror stories about that." Actually, we can't.

With hubby being a full-time student, he can only work about 20 hours a week, and I'm a stay-at-home mom. Yet, we're paying off college as we go, eating a healthy satisfying diet, and have an adorable little chunker to boot! How do we do it?

I intend to write further posts when it comes to budget/groceries, but today I'll just answer the baby aspect of this question. But, first, I want to make two things clear.
       1. Though this is how we do it, there are many ways to go about things and I'm not about to tell you how to raise your child or live your life. If you both want to work and put baby in daycare, that's your prerogative. Every family is different and you need to be able to make your decisions without some bossy newbie mom telling you what to do.
      2. The #1 thing that has helped us is our strong support system. We both have wonderful, loving, and generous families who have helped us in so many ways, friends who are there for us, and a church that supports us and our values. Without these things, I don't know how we could make it, in fact, I doubt we could. We have been so blessed, and I hope that we will be able to turn around and bless other young families in the same way.

Now, on to business. :)

The numbers for how much a baby costs in the first year, according to most sources, is close to, if not in, the 5 digits range. AH! There is no way we could make it that way. But, with some minor changes in how we think, we brought that number down drastically. Here is the "How-to's of Baby on a Budget":

1.Midwife vs. Hospital
$30,000 (1) vs $2,000

  Due to a lot of extraneous circumstances, we decided to do both our prenatal care and delivery at home with a midwife versus going to a hospital or clinic. Obviously, this choice isn't for everyone, but I would encourage you to look into the research behind it and see if you can find someone who has gone that route before totally writing it off. Midwifery is an ancient well-versed practice that is becoming more and more viable due to extensive training resources available. Caution: midwife-assisted home deliveries are illegal in some states, so you will need to look that up.
   Also obviously, we did not make this decision primarily due to finances. The safety of the baby and I was first and foremost in our minds and, ultimately, why we made the decision.
   That being said, our midwife works on a purely donation basis, asking only that we cover her gas costs, anything else being up to us. She said that her clientele usually pays from $500-$2000. Because we could, we opted to pay closer to the top of her price range because we were so pleased with her services. This included all prenatal care, the delivery itself (and cleanup), and three follow-ups (24 hrs, 1 week, and 6 weeks) as well as the ability to contact her 24/7 (which extends to this day). She is so wonderful, and I was so pleased with the experience I fully intend to do it again (granted we have another child)
    The only prenatal care we received outside of our midwife was an ultrasound at 20 weeks. Usually, this comes with a pretty hefty price tag, but the local pregnancy support center provides them for free, as well as birthing/parenting classes in which one can, on top of learning these things, earn points for the "store" within the center. If you are expecting, I would highly recommend looking around for such a place, as they are very helpful.

2. Gently Used vs. New
     I am not the kind of mom who has an "everything goes" attitude. It is important to me that my family looks well provided-for, because we are. Holes, stains, and severely outdated clothes will not do for me, and just because something is free doesn't mean I'm going to take it. I have high standards.
     That being said, I am not at all opposed to getting things secondhand. A lot of parents end up with boatloads of barely-used baby items and no way to get rid of it. Who says it had to be brand new? If it is clean, durable, and functional, I'm all for it. The best way to find these things are on Craiglist or a Facebook Garage Sale Group. These save the hours trolling the neighborhood for deals and possibly finding nothing that fits your high standards. Caution: always check over items before making the final sale! Make sure to check for things like smoke or animal odor, holes, or broken/missing pieces. Some people try to get away with stuff on these sits.  For example, I got:
   -A car seat that the previous owner had bought brand new and only used for three months. That was $25 vs.the $200 I would have had to pay at Target. This came with all the parts and a base.
   -Same lady and situation sold me a nursing pillow. $10 vs. $40
   -Same situation on a playpen complete with raised bed, bassinet, changing table, and noisemaker. I decided to go with a playpen vs. a crib for 3 reasons: 1. Seperation anxiety. I had a little sister who hated to sleep away from home. She was used to her crib, and as soon as she was in a playpen she screamed... all... night...long. Not fun. But, my parents transitioned her to a playpen at home and she slept soooo much better away from home after that. 2.SIDS. No one really knows how this tragedy happens, but we do know enough to know that playpens, with their thin breathable (and wipe-down) mattresses are much safer than the traditional crib/mattress. My son could sleep on his stomach in a playpen and I wouldn't need to worry as there is not enough give in the mattress to block his airways. 3.It doubles as a play-yard that I can roll out into the living room to keep the baby contained but in sight while I do dishes or vacuum.
 Anyway: $50 vs. $450 ($150 each for crib, mattress, and changing table)
  -I found a brand-new, in the box, breast pump for $50 instead of the typical $250 at a garage sale!
  -Same garage sale: stroller for $10 vs, $100
  -same could be said for clothes. Admittedly, I haven't had to buy clothes for him yet, due to the generosity of our support system. But, I have budgeted $20 a month for him which is more than enough having looked around, which could come to $240 a year vs. $60 a month (2) and $720 a year.
   Add that up and it's $385 vs. $1760!

3. Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable.
$125 (startup cost (3) + extra detergent) vs. $600 (plus, you won't have to get more for the next years)
     I remember that I used to say that I would never ever do cloth. But, that was because I was used to tri-folds with vinyl pants. Yuck! That baby felt and smelled wet all day long. I don't really appreciate the aroma of urine, do you? But, then I discovered snap-over covers/fuzzibunz. Trust me, there are tons of options out there that leave baby and mommy quite happy both comfort-wise and washing-wise. The start-up cost kinda kicks you in the butt, but they're reusable! You don't have to go out and buy more every week, let alone for the second baby! I use old washcloths for wipes, so they really didn't cost me anything. My mom's youngest was just potty-trained when my buddy was born, so I got my diapers for free, but that is what it would cost.
  I want to add to this that I don't use cloth when travelling. I find asking friends/relatives if I can wash diapers at their house embarassing/rude. But, I was given one Pampers box in each size, and even with long trips, I still don't get all the way through before he needs to move up to the next size.

4. Homemade vs. Store-bought baby food.
   very little vs. $300
   Store-bought baby food, is, in my opinion, one of the greatest wastes of money out there. My baby food costs consist of taking whatever piece of fruit or vegetable is starting to get too ripe, cooking it, running it through my $3 grinder, and feeding the baby. I really wouldn't say I spend more on groceries now that he is eating solids since he eats the produce that I would probably end up throwing away anyway. Not that I give him bad stuff, but I end up throwing away probably an average of 1 piece of fruit or vegetable a day, which is how much he eats. As he is getting introduced to new things, his diet gets more complex, until he can eat with us. Since our meals don't consist of wheat or peanuts or other dangerous things to feed to a baby, I doubt it will be long before that happens.

5. Nursing vs. Bottles
   $50 (bras/pads) vs. $2000
   This is a biggie. I know not everyone can nurse, and I totally get that. But, man! It is a blessing! No worrying about clean water, no warming it to the right temperature, no buying formula, no hassle of formula allergies... There is literally no prep time with nursing! Baby's hungry? I sit down with the baby and a cover-up (usually whatever blanket is closest to me), and feed him. Badda bing, badda boom. Done. Yes, I do eat more, but it's not enough to really influence my grocery bill. And nursing is also super beneficial to both baby and momma! Read more here:
I love how healthy and easy it is, plus it is literally sucking away my baby weight!

There are a lot of other things I do too, but most of them are more life decisions than ways to save. Things like I'm stay-at-home (so no daycare), I'm allergic to vaccinations so he doesn't have them either.... things like that.

Good luck to you in preparing for your baby!!!!