There’s Nothing Shallow About Having Standards

I just read Kat Richter’s blog “Are Standards Shallow?”  (After I Quit My Day Job) She was responding to being accused of “getting shallow” for refusing to date any man who is not taller than she is when she’s wearing heels.  Kat will probably miss out on dating some pretty terrific guys because of her preference for tall men.  That’s her loss, and it’s her choice.

Having standards is not shallow.  Physical attributes are not standards, however. They are merely preferences.  Any woman seeking a date or a husband needs to have standards.  When I was dating I had absolute standards—my line in the sand that I would not cross.  In my thirty-plus years of ministering to teen-age girls I have encouraged them to decide what their standards are before they begin dating.

For me the absolute most important standard was to date only godly Christian men.  Paul admonishes us in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” It was important that my future husband share my Christian beliefs and values.  I was not willing to risk falling in love with the wrong man, so I avoided dating non-believers.  I met my future husband in high school. I knew he was nice, but I didn’t know if he was a Christian until I saw him at my church one Sunday.  Of course, church attendance doesn’t equate to salvation, but seeing him at church gave me an opening to ask him about his beliefs.  My interest increased greatly as I realized how similar his beliefs were to my own.

Family values were next in importance.  I love children, and I wanted a man who also loves children.  As the second of nine children, my youngest siblings are considerably younger than me.  I was able to witness how a potential future husband would treat and respond to children simply by taking him home to meet my family.  From his first visit, Steve was comfortable with my younger siblings.  He spent many a Saturday afternoon taking them fishing in the summer and building snowmen in the winter. During our senior year of college, Steve and I took my four youngest siblings to a movie. They kids ranged from 10 to 18 years younger than us.  The next day one of his professors asked him about his children.  I guess he thought we got a very early start on our family.

Another standard was that a future husband prioritize family over income.  I can still vividly remember sitting in traffic on the Falmouth Bridge and Steve telling me that he wanted his future wife to stay home and raise their children. Those words were music to my ears.  Although I was in college and planned to continue my education afterward, I still desired greatly to be home with my children when they were young.  Steve added that being home when they were in high school was even more important. 

We were fortunate to be able to make that happen.  Steve worked hard, and I got to stay home. When the boys went to school, I went with them.  For the next thirteen years, they were either enrolled in a Christian school where I taught or I was home schooling them.  I cried on the twins’ last day of school (as seniors they finished up a few weeks earlier than the rest of the students) wondering how I would be able to come to school without them the next day.  I am so thankful for the time I had with my boys.

Beyond those three standards, everything else was icing on the cake. It didn’t hurt that Steve is tall—a full 9 inches taller than me—and very handsome.  But, I would have loved him no matter what he looked like. 

I maintained my standards and married the love of my life.  And there’s nothing shallow about that.

DNA Test: $400; Discovering Your True Heritage: Priceless

I never had any doubts about my heritage growing up.  My mother’s German lineage was well documented.  Her family came to America in the 1600’s and settled in Pennsylvania. My grandmother lived in Souderton and her twin sister in Sellersville.  Their father was a Souder and their mother a Seller, both direct descendents of the towns’ founders.

We didn’t have any information about my father’s lineage, although with Whitman as our last name, we were clearly of English descent.  This belief was reinforced when Dad purchased a Whitman family crest.  The documentation informed us that Whitman is an old Anglo Saxon name meaning “white man” and that the first Whitmans to come to America arrived in New England in 1635. 

I always thought that Whitman was a pretty cool last name.  “Whitman.  Like the candy,” I used to tell people when they asked how to spell it.  My siblings and I felt a special pride in buying Whitman samplers for our mother on her birthday and Christmas.  Perhaps we were distantly related to the makers of our favorite candy.  In school, I studied the poetry of Walt Whitman and read about Marcus and Priscilla Whitman, pioneer missionaries to Oregon who were killed in the “Whitman Massacre” in 1847. 

Last fall my brother Andy suggested the siblings all chip in to pay for a DNA test on our father.  Andy has been researching our Whitman family genealogy for several years.  We had grown up with the impression that we were part Native American, and we were excited when Andy discovered that one of our great-grandmothers was a Saponi woman named Red Fern. 

Andy had connected with some distant cousins, also descendents of Red Fern, who knew of other Native American ancestors in their lineage.  Wanting to know if we had other Native American ancestors led Andy to suggest the DNA test.  He researched the various tests and decided upon the saliva method.  We all contributed and the test kit was ordered.  The results arrived shortly before Christmas.

We were surprised that it detected no Native American DNA, since Andy had confirmed Red Fern as a direct ancestor.  Andy explained that the test can only go back five generations, and Red Fern was born seven generations before our father.  We were even more surprised to learn that the test identified our father as being of Jewish descent.  Andy did some more research and discovered that the first “Whitman” in our lineage was actually Peter Weideman who immigrated to America in the early 1800’s.  Although he came here from Sweden, he was most likely German.  Upon arrival his name was Anglicized to Whitman.  So much for one day inheriting the Whitman Candies Company. 

It’s been said that America is a great melting pot where many different cultures merged.  My family is more a part of that tradition that we thought.  We now know that our ancestors included Germans, Jews, and a least one Native American. Ironically, we haven’t identified any ancestors of English descent. 

It’s a bit disconcerting to find out that you are not who you thought your were.  Of course, in all the ways that really matter, nothing has changed. I’m still a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and grandmother to some of the most wonderful people in the world. I do, however, feel more of a connection to the Israelites I read about in the Bible knowing that some of them are my distant ancestors. 

So, what’s in your DNA?  It might surprise you.

I’m Posting every week in 2011!

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog once a  week for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Signed,

Susan Ball

Letting Life Get Me Down

I’ve been a bit bummed lately.  After spending more than $1,000 on a root canal and crown in an attempt to save one of my teeth, I had to have it pulled yesterday.  So, now I have a hole where I should have a tooth.  It will have to heal for several months before I can begin the process of having an implant put it.  I don’t completely understand the procedures involved; I only know that it will be about a year before it is complete.  And, it will cost me another $1,000 or maybe more, and probably some discomfort.

I will be glad when the hole in my gum heals and I can eat normally again.  Hopefully, this is the end of the pain and infection I have battled for the past two months.  It’s been a real pain.  I’m ready to be off antibiotics and pain pills.

I know it’s not the end of the world.  It’s just something I’m going through, and millions of people have had similar experiences.  A friend shared that she is missing a couple of teeth because she didn’t have dental insurance and couldn’t afford root canals when those teeth needed them, so she had to have them pulled.  Ouch! I felt guilty for whining about my situation. I’m fortunate to have great dental insurance and to be able to pay to have the tooth fixed properly. 

Francesca Battistelli has a new song on the radio called This is the Stuff.  It’s all about how the little things in life get you down. The first verse and chorus are:

  I lost my keys
In the great unknown
And call me please
‘Cause I can’t find my phone 

This is the stuff that drives me crazy.
This is the stuff that’s getting to me lately.
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I’m blessed

This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I’ve got to trust You know exactly what You’re doing
It might not be what I might choose
But this is the stuff you use

 

 

Lately, I have related well with this song.  It seems we take one step forward only to slip two steps back.  Of course, an infected tooth is a much bigger deal than lost car keys, but compared to the problems faced by many people, it’s pretty minor.  The gum will heal, and the implant procedure will be completed in time. 

Life is full of problems, both large and small.  It’s easy to get so bogged down by our problems that they become our focus.  God allows difficulties in our life to show us our need for Him.  When problems come, we need to keep our focus on God and rely on Him to see us through.  Tomorrow is Sunday.  I look forward to worshipping with others in my church.  It is exactly what I need to get my focus back where it should be—on my Creator.

Delight–Revisited

I read a blog yesterday in which the author discussed his One Word choices for the past three years and how he chose his One Word for this year.  While he remembered clearly his Words for 2008 and 2009, he was unable to recall his One Word for 2010 and had to look it up.  Interestingly, the word he forgot was Enjoy.  Enjoy seems like a pretty easy word to focus on for a year, and I was first amused that he had forgotten it.    Clearly, he was not successful in Enjoying life fully last year.

I was less amused as I read his explanation that he failed to live up to his word because he is more of a Martha than a Mary.  That observation hit close to home.  I am definitely more of a Martha.  For those of you who don’t understand the reference, this Martha was a friend of Jesus and sister to Lazarus and Mary.  When Jesus came to visit, Martha rushed around cooking and serving while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet feasting on his words.  When Martha complained to Jesus that her sister wasn’t helping her, he replied that, “Mary has chosen what is better.” (Luke 10:42)

For those of us who are doers, sitting at the feet of Jesus does not come naturally.  It is easier for us to volunteer to teach Sunday school or spend a day helping with an event than it is to spend an hour in quiet reflection in God’s Word.  We get so busy doing that, like the author of yesterday’s One Word blog, we forget to enjoy our time with God.  We may also have a hard time fully enjoying our families, our friends, our hobbies, and our work.

The dictionary defines Enjoy as “to take pleasure in; to find or experience pleasure.”  Delight is Enjoy compounded:  “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; to give great pleasure; to take great pleasure in.”

When I chose Delight as my One Word for the year, I was focused on Delighting in God and recognizing that He Delights in me.  I will now add another focus—remembering to take Delight in my everyday life.  I will try this year to Delight in time spent in God’s word, to Delight in time spent with my family and friends, and to Delight in those I minister to or who minister to me.  I will try to relax more and be fully present in each moment.  I will try to avoid thinking about everything on my to-do list and what I could be accomplishing when I should be focused on those I am spending time with.

Several years ago I read Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.  This insightful book speaks about having a balance between doing goods works and spending time communing with God.  Both are important if I am going to be the woman God has designed me to be.  Every couple of year I reread Having a Mary Heart to help me keep my focus.  It may be time to read it again.

Have you chosen One Word to focus on in 2011?  How is your One Word helping you to achieve personal growth?

In Celebration of Kristi

Yesterday I learned that Kristi DeVore Shores’ life on earth had ended. I was saddened by the news that this beautiful, vibrant thirty-nine year old woman had lost her brief battle with stomach cancer.  She was diagnosed with the illness less than three months ago.  As she fought her brave battle, family members and friends interceded with God on her behalf.  On Tuesday God healed Kristi.  It was not the healing we had hoped for, yet it was an answer to our prayers.  When Kristi’s eyes closed, her soul was transported into the presence of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My heart aches for the family she left behind:  her loving husband Ryan who dreamed of growing old with her, three precious children who are young enough to need a mother’s daily care, godly parents who set a wonderful example for their children in their marriage and their daily walk with Christ, and three siblings who have stayed close despite busy lives of their own.  From their Facebook posts, I know the family members are sad, but they are also happy that Kristi is pain-free and they are secure in the knowledge that they will see Kristi again when their time on Earth comes to an end.

There are hundreds of posts on Kristi’s Facebook page and web site.  Some friends share the many ways Kristi touched their lives, while others tell funny stories about her.  Most offer words of condolences to her family.  All loved her and were better off for having known her.

Those of us who knew Kristi have perfect assurance that Kristi is in Heaven.  Kristi is not in Heaven because she was kind or loving.  She didn’t earn her way into Heaven through generosity or good works.  She isn’t there because she was a loving wife, a caring mother, a dutiful daughter, and a precious sister.  Kristi was all those things and many more.  Yet, Kristi knew that she could never be good enough to get to Heaven on her own. Many years ago Kristi acknowledged what is true of all of us, that she was a sinner in need of a Savior.  Kristi believed that Jesus Christ died for her sins and she confessed Him as her Lord and Savior. And because she did, she is spending eternity in Heaven.

Perhaps you’ve been told that there are many roads to Heaven.  It sounds nice and many people believe that.  However, God’s Word teaches us that Jesus is the only way.  “There is no other name under Heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

Where will you spend eternity?  If you haven’t accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation, I urge you to do so today.  The rest of your life on Earth will be better, and you will receive the promise of an eternity in Heaven.

Hand-knitted Christmas Stockings: A Family Tradition

According to legend, the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings was started in the days of St. Nicholas. The good bishop, wishing to help a poor father by providing a dowry for his three daughters, tossed three bags of gold coins down the family’s chimney. The bags landed in the stockings the girls had hung by the fireplace to dry.  The next morning, the girls found the gold and, thus, were able to marry.  The tradition continues nearly 1667 years after the death of St. Nicholas.

When my older sister, Sharon, was born, my mother’s mother started a family tradition of hand knitting Christmas stockings for each of her grandchildren.  My grandmother loved to knit, and I loved to watch her hands fly as she knit booties, blankets, scarves, hats, and, of course, Christmas stockings.  She helped me to knit a pair of booties when I was seven.  I was very proud of those pink booties made with variegated wool yarn.  I wore them until my feet outgrew them.  I didn’t knit anything else until I was about eleven.  That summer my grandmother re-taught me to knit and I made a scarf.  I soon learned to knit by the feel of the yarn and sometimes continued to knit in the dark after my parents had made me turn out the light.

By the time the eighth grandchild was born, I was a proficient knitter.  My grandmother decided it was time to pass the family tradition down to me.  She gave me her patterns and taught me how to change colors without leaving holes in the stocking.  She helped me to stitch Jimmy’s name across the top. Two years later, I made my second stocking for my youngest sibling.

When I got married, I left my stocking at my parents to be hung each year on their mantle.  Thirty years later, their mantle is crowded with the stockings of their nine children and many of their grandchildren.  I knit a pair of stockings for my husband and me for our first Christmas.  Later, we added stockings for our three sons. Over the years, I have hand knit dozens more stockings for siblings and their spouses, nieces and nephews, cousins, and assorted other relatives and friends. 

A few years ago, one of my sisters commented that our mother was the only family member who did not have a knitted stocking.  Mom had a felt stocking she had been hanging up since she married.  Dad had started out with a matching felt stocking also.  However, my grandmother knit him one and sent it to him in 1968—the year he was stationed in Viet Nam and could not be home for Christmas.  I don’t know why she never made one for her daughter, and I don’t know why it took so many years for me to realize that I should make one for her.  I rectified that immediately and made one for my mother-in-law the same year.

As our sons have married, we have added stockings for their wives to our mantle, and I have made a pair for each new couple for their own homes. This year, the tradition continues onto a new generation.  I will knit a stocking for my first grandchild and proudly hang it from our mantle.  What a delight it has been for me to knit stockings for four generations of our family over the past 36 years.  It is a tradition I hope will continue for many generations through my nieces and, perhaps, one day through a granddaughter, if God so blessses.

December 23, 2010  The latest stocking is done, and my family’s stockings are hanging on the mantle.  If you would like to see them, I’ve posted a picture on my post “All the Stockings were Hung by the Chimney with Care.”

Merry Christmas!