DON’T READ THESE BOOKS!

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Here is a list of books you absolutely should NOT read.  Only a FOOL would read these books!  I’ll tell you why!  You can even click on the titles in bold to see what all the reviewers say about these DANGEROUS books!

 
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The 12th Girl in Heaven

This book has kissing in it – and the couple does it because they’re dared to do so by a sorority! What is this teaching your college student?! Also, the book contains depictions of unwanted showers! I was horrified!

 

Angel-Lover2D

Teenage guy visits a church for the first time and feels like puking! What a message to give your teens going to church! Also there are sermons with passages from Isaiah! Who even understands Isaiah anyway? Plus, the blonde on the cover isn’t even an angel. What a rip-off!

 

2DHeartsick

Just too creepy. First girl doesn’t work out for the moody stalker guy. So he finds a second girl who looks like the first and tries again…

 

The Hotline GirlTheHotlineGirl_1850

The heartthrob is a burn victim, while the actual good-looking guy is an egotistical pervert. Who wants to imagine the kiss scene including a guy without lips? *shudder*

 

2D - CopyLucent Sylph

A boy keeps an unclothed female alien in his room as a pet! So indecent!

 

Dashwood Avenuedashwood

It has teenagers running through a grocery store being chased by a guy with a gun! Too scary for your kids! Also, a girl gets called by the name of a vegetable the whole book! Just insulting!

 

astoundebookAstound: Cultivating a Wonder and Love for God in Your Kids

And this one’s the very worst!  It calls your young sweet children wicked sinners! My poor innocent baby’s self-esteem!  Don’t read it!  Don’t be a fool!

 

HAPPY APRIL FOOLS DAY, ALL.  😉  😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Threadbare!

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My best friend and editor, Bethany A. Jennings, has published her first short story!  This young woman is a prolific writer, but her stuff hasn’t seen the light of day until now, as she prefers to hold on to and hone her works in secret for a while first.  😉

But I tell you, she’s MY editor, and all of my works of fiction on Amazon are as highly rated as they are because of her help.  So you can be guaranteed that anything she writes herself is amazing.

Check out the premise of her heart-warming and exciting short story available for a buck!

What happens when your gift turns against you?

All her life Bess has known the magic streams around her, waves of power she can draw from to wield the gift of magical threads. Now the youngest member of a team of Anchors, she helps protect the city streets from Drifters—energy thieves who prey on the life force of ordinary humans.

But when a battle leaves Bess’s threads in an irreparable tangle, she is faced with an agonizing choice: sever her threads and lose her magic forever—or be slowly consumed by her own power.

Check it out here on Amazon!  I loved it!  ❤

The Birth of Liliella Violet Conte

The birth of baby #3 was going to be my second – and last – attempt at a VBAC.  If I couldn’t go into labor naturally on my own, this time around, I was going to commit to c-sections – in order to protect my scar and not risk rupture.  I had had two emergency c-sections already (both for legitimate reasons – and different reasons each time), but I didn’t want to be stuck having c-sections if I could help it.  There were only two hospitals in the entire Seattle area willing to try the VBAC with me, and Swedish Edmonds seemed very competent and confident that it could be done.  They still made me set an “end date” though, and didn’t want me to go over a week late.  However, because there was a scheduling snafu, they scheduled me for 9 days late.  I found the arbitrariness of it amusing and frustrating.  But I had 9 days to work with, so I prayed it would happen! I had never gone into labor on my own before though, so my hopes were low.

I had had many contractions over the last few weeks, and they seemed more frequent and more painful than the last two pregnancies, but I still didn’t get too excited.  As I passed the due date and went late, I knew I was following the same pattern.  Saturday night, February 18th, at 8 pm, when I was 4 days late, I started having painful contractions – but they were anywhere from 15-30 minutes apart.  They weren’t getting closer together, but they weren’t stopping.  I could function and talk and do normal activities through them, but, during the contractions, which were at least a minute and a half long, I had to stop and breathe.  And I definitely couldn’t sleep through them.

At midnight, I called the doctor to let them know what was happening, just to keep them informed.  They had told me they didn’t want me laboring at home, and this didn’t seem like labor, but I thought I’d let them know.  They told me I should come in if they even got to being 7 minutes apart for an hour, just because I was a VBAC-er.

After being up until 6 AM that first night, I was miserable enough to go take Tylenol and get ice packs.  It was my back that felt the contractions the most, so I put the ice packs on my back, with one on my front.  I was exhausted from being up all night.  Since the contractions were about 17 minutes apart, every time I’d start to drift off, another one would wake me up.  With the ice packs, I got them about 45 minutes apart, and finally went to sleep – for about four hours total.  I woke up the next day utterly exhausted.

But the contractions didn’t stop!  They continued on, all day, at an average of 12 minutes apart.  It was frustrating.  We didn’t go to church that morning so I could sleep in, as well as pay attention to the contractions and be closer to the hospital.

Brad and I both used our phones’ timer options where we pressed “lap” any time a contraction hit.  They just weren’t really getting any closer together as the day went on.  They weren’t fun either, as every single one hit my back with some lengthy pain.  I walked, took a shower, and even a lukewarm bath.  Nothing helped.  I was so tired.

Finally, by early evening on Sunday the 19th, I lost my mucus plug in two bursts.  I thought I had lost my mucus plug with Rachael and Rosalie, but this proved I hadn’t.  I had never seen anything like this – like a giant bloody slug.  *shudder*  Getting hopeful, I called the doctor again, and this time got Dr. Randolph Bourne, a male doctor in the practice who happened to be on call that day and the next.  He was supposedly great with VBACs, but I had decided against using him during the pregnancy, as I had never had a man doctor and didn’t feel comfortable with it.

He told me that it was a good sign but, unless I was feeling sharp terrible pain in between contractions, had bright red blood, or they got to being 5-7 minutes apart, to go ahead and remain at home.  *sigh*

That evening, we were eating our 10 pm meal, and I was trying to figure out HOW, on earth, I was going to get to sleep another night in a row with non-stop contractions, and we were watching a favorite episode of Stargate for fun.  My back was so tired out from the pain, at this point, but I knew the contractions HAD to be doing something.  Part of me still thought they’d suddenly stop and come to nothing.  I didn’t want to hope I was actually going into labor.

During the hour that we ate, I finally hit 7 minutes apart, and then the last couple were 4 or 5!  Getting excited, we called my parents, who drove the 20 minutes up from Kirkland to stay with the girls.  It was 11 PM at that point, and I was so done.  Wanted to actually be in labor and have this baby! The girls were in bed, but not asleep.  I said bye to them and opened the door to my parents, telling them they could use the spare bedroom to sleep.  Everything had been packed for hours, so I grabbed it all, and Brad and I headed out the door.

We got to the hospital around or just before midnight.  Before doing anything else, a male nurse hooked me up to the non-stress test to watch Liliella’s heartrate through the contractions.  I was sitting up and leaning forward to take the pressure off my back, but that was cramping her during the contractions, and her heartrate slowed way down.  That gave Brad and me bad memories of Rachael’s birth (her heart dipped and stopped and started and they took her by c-section because she was being strangled in her cord).  They had me lie back and Liliella did much better, but they still wanted me to stick around for an hour to double check.  I was fine with that, and told the doctor so, explaining my history and how nervous her heartrate made me.

I wasn’t comfortable with the male nurse doing a cervix check, so they sent in a sweet older lady.  She said I was only 2 centimeters!  TWO?!  After 28 hours of labor???  I felt like crying.  However, since they wanted to monitor me for an hour, she said she’d check me again after that hour to see if I could hit a 3 and stay at the hospital.  I was horrified at the thought of being sent home to spend how many more days without sleep and in pain.  Plus, I was having contractions every 5 minutes, so I had a hard time believing I wasn’t dilated further.

After an hour, Liliella’s heartrate sounded fine, and I promised myself I wouldn’t bend forward any more in this process so as not to compromise her any.  (But, because of my back labor, this was MISERABLE.)  I was still only 2 centimeters after an hour (although 80% effaced!), and so they sent me home, telling me to come back if the pain got to a point I couldn’t bear it, if my water broke, or if I started bleeding.  I tried not to cry as I gathered my things.

“How am I supposed to put up with this for another night?” I asked.  It was past 1 AM.  “This hurts in my back a lot, and is coming every 5 minutes!”

“What you have is back labor.” The male nurse told me I could go ahead and do a c-section if I wanted one.

“Oh, man.  What a shame that would be.  I’ve come this far, and I might actually be going into labor.  I wouldn’t stop now!”

Misinterpreting my word “shame,” he argued, “No shame in a c-section!  You’ve already done what half the population can’t do: grow a baby.”

I appreciated his encouragement – and there was NO way I thought a c-section was shameful!  Had had two beautiful ones myself already! – but I wasn’t going to give up, even if this labor went on forever.

“We could give you a shot of morphine,” he said.  “It will take thirty minutes to call that up if you want it.”

Morphine scared me.  I’d never had it before, and it sounded extreme at this point.  “Did taking Tylenol yesterday slow down my labor?  Could I just try that again?  It took the edge off the back pain yesterday.”

They promised me it wouldn’t slow down true labor, and gave it to me on the spot.  Stupid me – at this point Tylenol wasn’t going to do a thing.  But I didn’t know that.  😛

Brad and I drove home, and I just sobbed.  I was so exhausted, and disappointed with how slowly I was progressing.  In my head, I envisioned an infinite number of days without sleep, and in constant pain.

By the time we got home, I was just miserable.  I tried sitting in the bath again, but just sitting was miserable.  I was trying so hard to be quiet because my parents and the girls were fast asleep.  Brad told me to take my safe antihistamine sleep aid, thinking that would put me out even though I was in increasing pain.  I took it, but that just made me drowsy AND miserable.  I tried to lie down with the ice packs again, but couldn’t stand lying in a bed.  I flung the ice packs off and paced the room in torture.

“We should’ve gotten you the morphine,” Brad said.

“I know!  I’m an idiot!” I cried.  Not knowing I was in some sort of transition, I thought I still had hours of being at a 2 in front of me.

Brad called the hospital back and told them to order the morphine – that we were coming back in to get it.

“I’ve wasted our whole night.  I’ve wasted time and ruined your night,” I moaned, over and over again.  Pacing, in the midst of another contraction, I felt a gush.  “My water broke!” I exclaimed, feeling hope. “Now they HAVE to admit me!”

We drove back to the hospital, having only been home an hour(!), and this time I wept the whole ride, my back killing me sitting there.  Brad wanted to drop me off at the front, but I didn’t want to be alone.  As he grabbed my stuff out of the trunk, I put my forehead on the car and cried.  I hurt SO badly in my back and bottom.  But I wanted to walk.  Walking made it bearable.

Not even caring that I was crying, we stumbled back into the ER.  Brad thought I wouldn’t want to walk all the way to the maternity ward, so he barked orders to the lady behind the desk. “Get us a wheelchair now!” I’ve never heard him so authoritative.  😛

He rolled the wheelchair after me, but I ignored it, preferring to march down the hallway myself, finding that ever so slightly more bearable.  I just about collapsed in the elevator though as the pain ripped through me.  It felt exactly like someone was beating my lower back with a metal baseball bat.  It was the worst pain I had ever felt, especially because it went on and on, with almost no breaks in between.

I could barely open my eyes because of my exhaustion and the sleep aid, and yet I was in terrible pain and couldn’t sleep.  The nice older nurse helped me into a gown, and asked me to lie down on the hospital bed.  I’d try, then pop back up again and begin walking in place moaning.  Lying down was HELL.  Yet they kept making me lie back down.

I was dilated to a 4 1/2!  And rapidly dilating further.  I most likely hit a 6 or 7 before I got the epidural.  After over a day of getting nowhere, now my body was moving FAST.

At this point, I dropped all pretense of politeness.  My voice got very soft and rapid.  I kept moaning, in a soft weak voice, “Please!  Please!  I can’t do this.  Make it stop.  Can I get an epidural now?  Where is it?  Is it coming?  I can’t do this!  My back!  My back!  Please!”

Brad ordered people about and kept trying to comfort me.  I really didn’t want him or anyone else to touch me, and I didn’t want to lie down.

The nurse kept saying, “Come on, Rachael.  Lie down.”  They wanted to keep the monitor on me to watch the baby’s heartrate through the contractions, but I wasn’t even paying attention to the fact that I was having a baby at that point.  I felt like I was dying.  I told Brad, “This is what dying feels like!”

The only time I remember feeling irritated is when the nurse said, “You have to do this, Rachael.  Every other woman does.”

That wasn’t comforting.  😛  Otherwise, everyone was very nice.  And they were hurrying fast.  I was moving very fast, and they wanted to get that epidural in for me.  The only good thing about the excruciating back labor was that I wasn’t once worried about my scar and VBACing – because I felt no pain in the front of me!

They started an IV with some sort of pain med, but it did absolutely nothing.  Finally, thirty minutes later, but it felt like three hours, the anesthesiologist with the epidural arrived. I couldn’t even sit still on the bed to get it, and he had to insist I sit back down quickly in between rapid contractions.  They had Brad sit in front of me, and he started breathing hard.  He hates needles.  That was the only time I snapped out of my exhausted moaning, and turned to him.  I felt like I snapped into clarity worried about him.  “Are you okay, Braddy?” I kept asking him.  He insisted he was, and they put in the epidural.

Unfortunately, at first, it only worked on one side!  “My right side! My right side!” I murmured a bunch.  They had me roll to the side and I prayed it would fully kick in.  Finally, I only felt the pain very low in the front, so I upped the level once.  Other than that, it worked beautifully, and all pain left me!  HALLELUJAH!  That’s when the shakes started, which were obnoxious, but I get them every time I give birth – even with c-sections – and I can’t stop them.  Just a hormonal reaction I can’t control.  I shook until I had to push.

I was only in labor about an hour or two before I was fully dilated and ready to push.  They called the doctor and broke down the room.  From the ceiling, they pulled a giant object that looked like the steering wheel of a ship.  “What’s that?” I asked, feeling like a subject in an alien spaceship about to be probed.  They told me it was a light.  That thing was HUGE.  😛

Randolph Bourne, the man doctor, was still on call, so I realized I was being delivered by a man after all.  Oh well!  There were like five people in the room – I felt like I was on display for the whole world!  The man nurse, the man doctor, and like three other nurses, all crowded around staring at me, all propped up ready to push.  *groan*

The pushing process only took 45 minutes!  And, during it, we sat and chatted.  Seriously.  The mood was so calm and relaxed.  He asked me about my hobbies.  I told him about my books on Amazon, homeschooling my kids, and teaching piano!  Hahaha!  They wanted me to wait to push through contractions, but my original older lady nurse would get excited and have me push too early, and the doctor would tease her for it.

“I’m VBACing.  I’m doing it!” I said to the doctor, as it suddenly hit me with delight that I was having a baby.

“You did this all yourself.  No Pitocin.  Good job!” he replied.

That was a pretty good feeling!

I could feel Liliella dropping into the birth canal lower and lower, but there was no pain.  It was fascinating.  Like having a bowel movement.  😛  At first, I wasn’t pushing quite right, because I couldn’t feel myself push whatsoever.  I also would let out my breath when I pushed instead of holding it.  I explained I had weight-lifted since I was 12 years old, and always let out my breath when lifting a weight.

“You’ve been pooping even longer,” the doctor quipped.  “Do it like that!”

Brad held a leg and the nurse the other, and I got it right.  Then I pushed great!  Only 45 minutes later, she crowned.

“We see blond hair!” someone called out.

I felt shock at that moment.  “She’s BLONDE?” Never had I imagined, with Brad’s dark hair genes, that we’d get another blonde!

“Do you want to see with a mirror?  Or reach down and feel?” they asked.

“Noooo,” I shuddered.  Ignorance is bliss, in my book.  😛  Brad said later that there was a lot of blood.  I’m glad I didn’t look.  Haha.

And then she was out!  At 7:04 AM!  With a cry – that went on for twenty minutes (Baby was grumpy from the getgo  😛 ) she was there!

“Do you want me to put her on your chest?” the male nurse asked.

I had NEVER had that option with the c-sections before, so I was stunned and took a second to speak.

“We’ll clean her off,” he reassured me.

Horrified that he’d think I didn’t want to hold my baby if she was bloody, I quickly said, “No, no!  I don’t care about that!  Of course I want her on my chest immediately!”

And there she was!  Brad cut the cord, and my tiny blond baby was put on my chest.  She didn’t want to nurse for a bit, but I tried.  She was so precious!  Praise the Lord, I made it through 35 hours of back labor, got the VBAC I had prayed for, and had my beautiful, wonderful, miracle of a third daughter!  I instantly called my girls in to meet their sister.  All the joy!

Liliella Violet – born February 20th, 2017, at 7:04 AM, 7 lbs, 2.8 oz, 19 inches

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Favorite Love Confessions

Posting a day late – but I thought of this only after midnight, Valentines Day 2017, had passed.

Do you have a favorite love confession/profession in any of my books?  Post it in the comments – but don’t spoil which book its from!  Or a favorite love confession from a different book?  Let’s fill up the comments with beautiful romance.  🙂

Here is my favorite from all of my books! (Not spoiling which books and which characters!)

The tears in his eyes rose yet again, spilling out of his lower eyelids and down his nose. He wiped them away absent-mindedly with his cold clean hands. How he loved her. It filled his chest. It filled his head. It filled every part of him. He felt like he was made entirely out of love for her. He imagined the feeling reaching out of his heart into her limp body and warming her from the inside out. He could see his love like a hand that reached for her hair, caressed her face, and soothed her painful sleep. It truly was selfless. There was no him in the equation. All that mattered was her.

He loved her.

This is what had replaced the lustful obsession. He loved her with an intensity that surpassed anything he had felt for anyone but the Lord Himself. The last time he had felt something as overpowering as his love for her was when he received his salvation. But this was different. It felt like… like…

Destiny.

He was always meant to love her. He knew it now. He didn’t fight it any more. His infatuation for her had drawn him to Jesus. His obsession had ultimately saved him. And now, his love would enable him to save her. She had saved him first.

Your turn to post a favorite love realization or confession!  

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ASTOUND!

Do you remember that I mentioned starting my first non-fiction project a few posts back?  In “Your Child Doesn’t Love God,” I talk about dealing with an ongoing behavior with one child, and feeling the call to write a booklet on the gospel, God’s love, and His greatness for preschool through young-elementary-aged children.

That booklet is complete!  And will be on Amazon in a matter of days!

The Lord has really grown and stretched me through writing this 29-page, pocket-sized booklet, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to write it!  My husband helped immensely, and an amazing team of beta readers has critiqued the thing’s socks off 😛  until it’s shiny and as perfect as it can be.  🙂

An old California friend, and fellow Christian mom, also graciously offered her services to provide artistic touches throughout, and you can check out the whimsical watercolor artist, Kelli Hoekendorf, on her Facebook page here.

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the first pages of the booklet with her adorable art!

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The booklet has been endorsed by fellow Christian non-fiction author, Bruce Ray:

“ASTOUND is a big concept (sanctification) simplified for little hands and little feet. In these few pages RJ Conte avoids the big traps of legalism and lawlessness and tells children (and their caregivers) that the way to become holy is by learning about God and loving him so much that you don’t want to displease him. Easy to read, but big ideas!”
~Bruce Ray (pastor, police chaplain, author, and grandfather)

and by author, editor, and #WIPjoy creator, Bethany Jennings:

ASTOUND is packed with beautiful, thought-provoking doctrines
for young hearts to ponder, written in a way that makes them
easy and accessible for parents to discuss with their little
ones – Bethany Jennings (mother of 4, author, and editor)

Be watching for the announcement that the ebook version is available later on this week!  (The paperback pocket version will be available in the following weeks.)  Please be in prayer that God would use it for His glory!

Also please be in prayer for me.  I will hit 38 weeks, in this pregnancy, on Tuesday.  I’m getting over a cold, and am still wanting to attempt a VBAC after two c-sections.  I’d love prayer for a safe delivery and healthy baby!

Thank you, everyone!
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Top Posts of 2016!

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It’s time for the list of the top 10 posts of the year!

This was a slower year for me, mostly due to pregnancy and all that comes with that, so I only wrote almost half of the amount of posts of the previous year.  In 2015, I wrote 93, and this year I wrote an exact even 50.  BUT, even with half the posts, I actually, just barely, got more views and visitors this year than last year, meaning that my posts are bringing in more readers than ever!  Hooray for that!

This year, I had 11,687 visitors to my blog with 16,043 views and ended the year with 118 blog followers.  *cheer*  (To follow this blog, click FOLLOW on the right hand side of this page) 

Without further ado, what were the most popular posts of this year?  Well, not all of them were even actually published on this blog this year – some have remained super popular from previous years, and have lived on with lives of their own all over the Internet.

Sitting at #1, by far, with no competition, and with around 35 hits A DAY is:

Anime Characters by Myers-Briggs Type (with 7,164 individual views this year!!)mami_tomoe_render_by_moeblueberry1771-d5evnl7

This post is also #1 on any Google search for “anime characters by Myers-Briggs type and continually brings in guests to my blog.  Kind of exciting, even if it is very niche.  So if you like anime AND personality typing, this is the post for you.  Identified by name, show title, and picture, I have anime characters from various shows in neat little groups according to their types.  🙂

 

The Day I Met Job (with 996 individual views)PCOS Challenge Infographic

This makes me so happy that it’s #2.  This is the deeply personal testimony of what God did in my heart and life last year after suffering with secondary infertility.  It is also about my best friend and her daughter, an appreciation of my mother-in-law, a nod to a fellow author, and mostly a testimony about a hero of the faith I met last year.  Please read the article.  I hope my vulnerability and sharing of God’s greatness touches your heart!

 

An Open Letter to My Pregnant Sister (with 460 views)beautiful-wedding-tiara

Still going strong.  This is a writeup I did for baby showers that I first composed for my sister 2 1/2 years ago, and have tweaked a few times since to share with other expectant moms.  There must be a need for this, as people continually search for this online and find my site.  🙂

 

Tied with “My Pregnant Sister” is: Setting up the Romance Ship (with 460 views)austenland-holding_13254521245

How fun that my breakdown of the smart secret to writing a winning romance story did so well!  I thought this one was a bit obvious until I read (and watched) many people miss this key point to setting up their relationship story. Thinking I had nothing to lose, I threw my own theory out there, and it did very well!

 

Should Married Women Vote Against Their Spouse? (with 349 views)your_vote_counts

This one was a hot button when I first posted it a few years ago, and it continues to be something people search for and find through my blog. Read at your own risk…  🙂

 

Could You Love This Genderless Person? (with 287 views)5

Maybe it was just a catchy title, but this was a very niche article about genderbender dramas that I posted. A “genderbender” is when a guy dresses up and pretends to be a girl, or vice versa, and the opposite sex falls for them.  I explore this trope and why it means so much to women, and maybe what’s spiritually at the heart of this “forbidden romance” story.

 

In Memory of Victoria Mercy Conte (with 262 views)conte-052

A year and a half after the sudden and tragic passing of my husband’s baby sister, this post, written by *him* not me, still makes the top 10 on my list.  Please read my husband’s beautiful, tear-jerker tribute to a lovely life that sits very dear to our hearts.

 

NAME THE BABY! (with 221 views)namebabygirl02

I’m legitimately shocked that this made the top 10!  Last year I teamed up with lovely author Melanie D. Snitker to do a giveaway and promote each other’s books.  Readers named the baby that her main couple was pregnant with, and we got some great responses.  I need to do more on this blog with fellow authors next year!  In the meantime, check out Melanie’s very successful books on Amazon.

 

Asian TV for the American Newbie Viewer (with 188 views)patemainverted_dvd-f

This is a fun list that I kept on my sidebar.  Always hearing me talk about anime and kdramas but have no idea what’s safe or good to watch or where to start?  Not sure you’d even like Asian TV?  I put together a “starter” list of Asian TV for people who don’t like Asian TV, so to speak.  These are storylines and shows that I think any American could love without feeling too “eastern” in the storytelling style.  Give any of these shows a chance, and let me know if they did not disappoint!

 

And last but not least: Sarcastically Realistic Movie Descriptions – Name That Movie!2a3

This one also surprises me that it made the list.  This was a funny little game I posted on my blog a while ago, and it’s done well recently.  Someone must have reposted them.  If you’re looking for a comedic way to describe popular movies, as a game for a party you’re hosting, this might be the post for you.

 

So which blog post of mine was YOUR favorite this year?  Leave a comment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Which I Say the Big, Bad C Word: Courtship

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Courtship…

…is a hot button these days, and I’m not always sure why.  Some Christians have been the victims of dictatorial, patriarchal homes, but most don’t even have a clue what the word actually means. As a society, I think we’ve swung back and forth so many times on relationship norms that most of us are dizzy.  I think every generation “does it differently.”

Recently, my uncle, Richard Briggs, in an author Q and A query, asked me about my own ideas on courtship (I had a very successful and happy one!) and how it plays into my writing love stories.

Since we’re raising a new generation of children – my own included – and I’m seeing the pendulum swing again to “get rid of courtship altogether,” I’d like to say to look past the big, bad C word.  What even IS “courtship”?  Every single group I’ve ever been in defines it differently.

Let’s just talk relationships on the whole. My girls are young now but it is NEVER too early to start planning for and being aware of this.  You are raising children not just to be obedient kiddos in your home, but to be godly adults out in the real world.  Your home is just a stepping ground for all of life and, let’s face it, most of our kids are going to get married. So that relationship with their spouse will last the rest of their life, and be the most important relationship in their life.

So what are my views on courtship?  Here’s my succinct personal definition:

Committing to love, serve, and honor God by being intentional in doing the best for others and looking at relationships through the lens of future marriage. Being future-mindful and Christ-centered in your relationships, not selfish in your physical affections and giving into lusts, and not causing anyone else to sin, including yourself. Eschewing the worldly, selfish ideas of playing around before finding a spouse.

Beyond that, my ideas are so simple, and yet so foundational.  I think, when you muddy it up with more than this, you get into legalism. Let’s leave out all the common sense physical rules like what’s your curfew, if you’re chaperoned, if you kiss before your wedding day, etc. etc.  That’s up to your home and your child. My husband and I haven’t set any of those in stone. We’ll see what we decide when the time comes and where the child’s heart and temptations are.  And our “common sense rules” may be different from yours – and there should be no judgment from house to house on those types of safety rules.  But honestly, that’s not what I’m thinking about or looking for when I’m training my children to be spouses.

I want only three things.

A. I want them to so love God that they’re committed to honesty, morality/godliness, and Him most of all.

(See the previous blog post in the link above.) It’s why I’m seriously, seriously addressing sneakiness and dishonesty and selfishness and other traits now.  My child lies to me or selfishly hoards me or is disloyal to friends?  He’s going to be those things to his spouse too.  They don’t just disappear in marriage or adulthood.

B. I want to so strongly have my kids’ hearts – be such good friends with them and be so close to them that they trust me and communicate with me.

It takes two to tango on this one.  I can only do my part, and pray that God leads them to value me as their mother and counselor and friend.  ❤

C. I want them to so love others and think much less of themselves that they’re committed to protecting and doing what’s best for the opposite gender always.

At the heart of the “courtship model” that I know is protecting others because you value them so much as fellow human beings, and you love and care about their safety, their hearts, and their emotions.  Leading the opposite gender on when you have no intention of marrying or committing to them – whether it’s through mass dating or just being too affectionate as friends – can injure them greatly.

At the heart of relationship values that I was taught was protecting and loving others as better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)

This starts in just sharing toys as toddlers and choosing to go last to getting your piece of candy.  These foundational things prepare them for why they choose what they do with the opposite gender in the future.

 

2DRJ Conte is a Christian, realistic, issue-driven fiction authoress with six books on Amazon, including the novel, Heartsick, for young adults. In Heartsick, the main character, a homeschooled college student, who has devised a picture-perfect courtship model with her father, turns her back on it to get entangled with a guy who has a very mysterious and dark past.  The novel has been likened to A Walk to Remember meets Hitchcock, and is recommended to any young Christian lady starting out on her own.

$2.99 on Amazon.com

 

Your Child Doesn’t Love God

I have a child, a young child, who is currently actively rebelling and deceiving me daily.

It breaks my heart to watch it happen over and over again, even in the face of constant correction. Sure, she’s very young – not even a teenager – and so her mistakes are small in the grand scheme of things, but sneaky deception and disobedience are not small issues, even if it just involves hiding her toys that she was playing with when she was supposed to be cleaning her room.  No matter what her age or offense, watching your child do these things is always crushing.  But I get an opportunity NOW, while she’s very young, to tackle some of these issues at their root, before she becomes a chronically lying young adult like her mom was at one time.  I have been convinced, up to this point, that she is a born-again Christian, so my tactics with her can be very specific to a baby believer.

At first, I lay in my bed mulling over what this meant about me.

“How could she do this to me when she sees it upsets me every time?”

“Does she not care about her parents?”

“Am I just a terrible disciplinarian?”

“Where have I failed?” etc.

But if you ask yourself these questions when your child struggles in an ongoing sin, you’re probably missing the mark.  Sure, as a parent, it’s important to make sure we’re setting a good example, leading in Scripture and prayer, and being consistent, loving, and patient, but the truth is, your child isn’t sinning because he doesn’t love you.

Your child doesn’t love God.  

Not like she should.

It hit me, as I prayed and mulled and thought last night over discipline tactics, that nothing was quite right.  I thought about assigning her Bible verses to write and/or memorize on truthfulness and obedience.  I thought about taking away any TV watching for a week.  I thought about giving her more chores.  But everything felt so superficial, like they were tedious activities that wouldn’t actually speak to her heart.  Yes, she needs to have a consequence for her ongoing disobedience, but then what is the training I can start to incorporate?

The root problem is that she doesn’t know God enough to be intimately in love with Him and want to obey Him.

That hurting Him breaks her heart and that His commands are precious to her, like gold and silver. (Psalm 119:127).

You say, RJ, this is a big task.  I, as an adult, don’t even love God like I should, or want to obey Him like I should.  I know!  Me too!

So maybe, in preaching to her, I can preach to myself.

51r9pfxl22bl-_sx327_bo1204203200_The first book I thought of, that really cultivated a love for God in me, a book that spoke so highly of God, His character, His plans, and His love for me, and my should-be love for Him, is Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Because He Loves Me – a fantastic book that describes the high grandeur of the gospel in new ways you’ve never thought of.  Makes you truly love God for who He is and what He has done!

But much of the writing might go over my little one’s head.  How does one cultivate a high view of and passion for God in an young child?  Or an elementary student?  Why is almost nothing written to kids that give them a higher view of God?

I’ll never, ever forget what my best friend in CA told me while I was out visiting her last month.  She said, “The thing I can’t stand about most Sunday schools and programs for Christian kids is that it revolves around the child.  That they are the center of the universe and God just wants to dote on them and love them and that they are just perfectly wonderful little balls of perfection.  That, from a young age, we aren’t showing kids that they’re one cog in the great wheel of God’s plan.  That He’s sovereign and powerful and mighty.  That He demands our obedience, and we are desperate sinners, but He loves us immensely.  That we are called to love and pursue Him and have a relationship with Him.”

Our children’s faith can be so intellectual.  So rote.  So tedious.  So dry.

Our relationship with God, even as children, shouldn’t be dry.

Who among us has seen a child light up with absolute passionate wonder at a fireworks display?  When meeting Santa Claus?  When seeing a magic trick?  When decorating the Christmas tree?

There is so much wonder and awe in children, and yet it is either snuffed out, or completely ignored when it comes to the most Wonderful Being in the universe: their God and Savior.

So, as of this moment, I’m ditching all of my other writing projects for this new one.  I had so little motivation lately anyway, and maybe this is why.  I’m writing a pamphlet.  A booklet.  For my child.  For me.  And maybe for your child too.  And it’s going to be on the amazing wonder that is our God, and the fact that we get to love Him!  Like Elyse’s book, it will be on how the cross is applicable to daily life, but it will be in the language of children.

Pray for me and my children.  I will pray for yours!  Pray that this is a God-led project that I can do to benefit and convict and excite and cultivate God’s love, not only in my daughters, but in myself even more and more!

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Philippians 1:9

 

Being a Minor Sufferer

I have the most mediocre, run-of-the mill trials.

I mean, really.thinkstockphotos-469098080

And, since I know You’re listening, Lord, that doesn’t mean I want them ramped up to a Daniel or Job on the scale of suffering!  Just making sure You know I’m okay with my Mary and Martha level.  I’m good with that!  😉

Unlike my Job-like friends I talked about in this article, I’m kind of this mediocre sufferer.  My trials are always highly obnoxious, only a little scary, and a bit sad.  Not real earth-shattering.  Let me make a “RJ’s Suffering List” in a Paul-like way.  You remember the Apostle Paul’s list, right?  Involves a lot of beating, people trying to kill him, and even a shipwreck? AND his list is all stuff done in the name of Christ!  Like real persecutions for his faith.  MY list is just regular life woes.  Would only count as “thorns in the flesh”!

So, that disclaimer being said, RJ Conte’s very vulnerable, honest, and pretty complete list would go something like this:

Separated her shoulder and ankle ligaments – twice each

Had hormonal imbalances.

Had a doctor perform the wrong test, which scared her senseless for a bunch of years

Had to deliver two healthy babies by emergency c-section – couldn’t have her perfect births

Lost relatives to spiritual and physical death

Went through 18 months of infertility after having two children successfully 

Lost some cartilage on one side of her knee 

Has chronic environmental allergies to everything, including most animals

Gets pneumonia or some other respiratory infection once a year from colds

Has a couple ex-friends who won’t talk to her due to her infuriating stupidity in her young adult years

Has had other friends get caught in serious sins

Has occasionally been treated selfishly and not loved the way believers should love one another

Has a daughter with a massive amount of food allergies – none that are life-threatening, but all that lend itself to obnoxious hives and maybe vomiting

Has had to move a little bit often, and leave churches a couple times

Doesn’t make money on her novels…

Because her novels are overtly Christian, and the world isn’t quite down with that

Had to have Accutane because the acne went on FOREVER. And, even now, in adulthood, some of it has come back

Has been insulted on her physical appearance…

Maybe because she’s never at a perfect weight, but always has those last 15 pounds she’d love to lose…

And what do you know? Finds out she has gestational diabetes in her recent pregnancy, and probably some insulin resistance, which probably caused her infertility to begin with…

Therefore, has to give up regular Mountain Dew  *sob*

 

Woot!  That’s my LIFE Trial List!  I put ALL of those on there so that you can hopefully identify with one or two or five or all of them.  See?  I’m a normal human being like you. Please tell me Paul isn’t laughing up in glory. No offense to anyone whose list is identical to mine, but it’s kind of measly.

What do you do when you’re the “normal friend” with the normal, daily life trials?

The person who doesn’t have much to say or help to give out because you’ve not gone through much of anything that interesting – or that every other Christian hasn’t gone through to some extent?

And sometimes you wish you could trade in the whole group of the small guys for one big, God-glorifying trial that’s over a few days after it begins but makes you this awe-inspiring Christian with a great testimony?

And then you’re ashamed of yourself for saying so, because the Elijahs and Jobs of the world look at you like, “You’re thirty years old, for grief’s sake, and have it all.  Seriously?”

Okay, maybe they don’t do that, because they’re freakin’ Job, for goodness sake, and have so much love and compassion and godly character that they could drown you in it.  But you’re convinced they probably are tempted to think that way about you.  That they’re secretly wringing their hands at home, staring at your Facebook posts, and hating your guts. Right?

I have a dear person in my life whose short years are littered with a few, scattered, mediocre trials.

“I kind of had a crush on someone but they didn’t like me back.”

“I have some big fears.”

“I didn’t make the grades in college that I liked.”

“My managers didn’t treat me well.”

“Someone close to me moved away.”

But this person has completely walked away from the Lord. They can’t see beyond their own suffering, which they see as horrendously awful, even though very few in their life have any clue what would warrant their dramatic, victim response.

The little ongoing things are REAL, folks.  They’re sneaky.  They creep in and go on and on and on, making us think our life is less than perfect, will never BE perfect, and drive us crazy with their prickly itchiness.  Sure, we may not have lost our entire family to death or been tortured for our faith or be stricken as a paraplegic, but things are still NOT RIGHT.  And, as pathetic as we can feel, those things linger day after day after day and break down the joy that we’re supposed to have.

I’m going to introduce a radical concept: all trials are trials.

Call out!  Ask for help.  Reach out.  Ask for prayer. Get godly advice. Don’t be ashamed.

Sure there’s some validity to saying, “Wow, I’m a stupid, babyish ninny.  Get a grip and move on with life, and don’t let these little things bother you.” But I really don’t think that’s always helpful or productive, and few human beings are in that kind of place. And God totally gets that.  You don’t hear him calling us “stupid, babyish ninnies.”  God only gives us the trials He knows we can survive and also come out the other end (1 Corinthians 10:13). So for some, those may seem “smaller” but there’s no belittling comparison scale in the kingdom of God.

And His GRACE is sufficient for ALL of them.

If you or I are really struggling in a little Martha trial (“My sister drives me NUTS, Lord.  Make her clean house and play host with me!”) chances are, that’s where my spiritual idols are.  And the feeling of being used as a slave by one’s lazy sister, whether the right perspective or not, has the same capacity of driving us away from the Lord as the massive shooting of one’s whole family does for someone else.

DON’T let that make you feel small, pathetic, or worthless.  All things that make us believe that God is making a mistake (Martha: “Jesus, why are you letting her SIT there?  Jesus, do something differently!”), all of those things that make us doubt that God is good, drive us from Him.  And, before you know it, your “mediocre list” has become a gigantic battleground for the devil.  It’s a fight for your very soul.

Can I highly, highly, highly recommend One Thousand Gifts, which I’m re-reading for the51vwntxh1sl-_sx347_bo1204203200_ 2nd or 3rd time? Ann Voskamp is a very, very average homeschool mom and housewife.  She had her one “big tragedy” in young childhood when she was hardly old enough to even get it. But, besides that, her trials have been run of the mill.  Compared to anyone else maybe.  However, Ann saw that bitterness, ingratitude, and a coldness to God were sneaking in right under her nose while she washed dishes and did laundry and made dinner for the millionth time day after day. And, in beautiful, poetic words, she explores the beauty of all of life – everything God gives – the great and the impossible. And how her entire life’s perspective changed.

This Christmas I asked for butcher paper.  Yep, this giant, larger-than-life roll.  My sweet mother-in-law, without question, went and bought it for me, and it sits under my tree like a giant possibility of gleaming white.

I know what my very first use of it is going to be – the making of a floor to ceiling list.  Of gratitude.  That the Conte family can walk by and add to at any time.

So that those little bugs don’t get in the way – my shoulder is aching again as I type this, and I’m really, really hankering for a piece of holiday pecan pie that I shouldn’t eat.  (Man alive.  Die, taste buds, die!  You cruel villains!) Because those little bugs grow and grow and grow in our hearts to become the most giant of Godzillas. To become life or death to our souls and our First Love (Revelation 2:4).

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This guy has it all.  Pure happiness in liquid form, baby.  😛  😀

So no one is a “minor sufferer” at all.  Even giving up the Mountain Dew can be a giant
battle that leaves you a little breathless, a bit bruised, and more surrendered for the kingdom of Christ.  Hey, if you’re going through a sugar detox, come to me, and I will WEEP with you, bro!

 

It all matters in the Great Fight that is this Christian life.