Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Our fellowship

It has come to my attention that i should probably explain a bit about our fellowship, as that will make understanding some of what i post about easier.

My husband belongs to and we all attend a very conservative fellowship that meets in members' homes. The group is getting just big enough that it is getting awkward to meet in homes but many of the men are reluctant build/rent a building, as that makes it harder to fly under the radar.

So what is so different about the fellowship that we try not to draw too much attention? Well, it is very conservative in its outlook, especially in terms of male/female relationships.

As far as I know, all the members physically correct their wives. Not a popular or politically correct practice. The fellowship had been larger but split several years ago over the issue. The two resulting groups were about the same size 4 years ago - now ours is easily twice the it was and the other (non-punishing) group has pretty much withered away and stopped meeting. Draw what conclusion you wish from that.

Technically, only men can be members. Related females can kinda/sorta affiliate. In other words, females can place themselves under the covenant, with its expectations of behavior and such, but don't have any membership privileges. And only females under the care of a male can place themselves under the covenant, as females join as (in may case) 'sunjong, a female in the household of K' -- so that when i signed the covenant book, i signed it as sunjong, wife of K with no last name, and He signed next to me giving His permission for me to be under the covenant. There are two females old enough to join who are not under the care of a husband or father -- one is a widow, who joined as a member of the household of her grandson, and the other is a young female (early 20s) who lives with a family in the fellowship and joined under that man's authority.

The group meets about every two weeks - sometimes two weeks in a row, or occasionally going three weeks between meeting, depending on the schedule the elders set. Right now, there 14 families, with 2 new families joining during the extended fellowship meeting this weekend. Plus, k's membership will be moved from her father's household to her new husband's. Three of the men serve as elders, with another three as overseers. The elders run the services, while the overseers are more concerned with overseeing compliance with the covenant.

On meeting days, morning services go from 9:30 to 12:30. The men continue meeting until 1 while the females prepare lunch. The men and older boys are served first, then the young boys and all the girls, then the females (those married or old enough to be). The men meet again in worship and/or in a governance meeting from 2 to 3:30, while the children nap and the females listen to a lecture by one of the men, or sometimes a tape if someone has found one that is regarded as sound. Then a snack is served, followed by another worship meeting - focused on singing and praying, rather than the teaching that happened in the morning. If more time is needed for the governance side of things, then the men meet for a bit more before everyone goes home.

Starting in September, one of the new understandings has to do with defining what the New Testament prohibitions on females speaking in church (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11, and so on) apply to. Originally, the females had been able to chat as we desired, as long as it didn't interfere with worship. The we had about a year when we were told that the prohibitions on speaking applied whenever there were more than one man in the room. Now, the overseers have decided that to a great extent that the whole day is church -- so that the females should not talk when any man is in the room unless directly addressed and that we should keep foolish chatter to a minimum when the me are elsewhere. It has been a bit of a hard change, as for many of us this is the only time we leave our houses (except fort he women who are allowed to run errands and such), but even after such a short time we are seeing a decided improvement in the spiritual level of the fellowship days, as the females mind their tongues. Idle chatter is more likely to bring us down than to lift us up.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Changes are afoot....

Anyone reading this is probably beginning to understand why He felt the need this summer to work on how talkative i can be.......look what a little rest and free time does for my output here ;-)

There's a new family (husband M, wife l, 17yo daughter s, 14yo son, and two younger children, 5 and 7, iirc......) in our fellowship. They starting attending in the spring, having been looking for several months after leaving a previous church. Both of them had been unhappy with the church they had been attending for years, but neither had confided in the other, as each thought the other was more than happy with everything. After a long heart-to-heart at the beginning of the year, they realized that neither could stand what they were seeing in that church, partly based on changes there and partly based on how they'd changed. They were not finding any depth to the teaching, and both felt the various leaders were glossing over what the New Testament clearly teaches.

Last fall, their oldest child (a girl, whom i'll call s) started at a new school, as the previous school she'd been going to had some problems. At the new school, s got involved in a Bible study group that led her to a position even more conservative than where her parents were heading - but at the same time didn't provide any of the tools for actually living a life compatible with those beliefs.

So, anyhow, last spring, they started attending our fellowship and have gotten to the point where they agree in prionciple with where most of the families are, even moving here a couple months ago. But their former life in mainstream evangelicism hasn't prepared them for the lifestyle they wish to lead.

So why am i typing all of this out? Well, when my Lord arrived home this afternoon, He told me He had invited them for supper this evening and that He has agreed to have me help s and her mother. s is in her last year of high school, and one reason she has accepted the changes so wholeheartedly is that she has always felt called to be a wife and mother. One reason she'd struggled at the previous schools is that she had no desire to fit into the pressure of a rigorous college prep program, which was the expectation in the prosperous suburb they lived in before.

So they are homeschooling their children for the first time this year, and l is feeling overwhelmed, as even basic housekeeping skils aren't something she has ever spent time on until the last couple months.

So how will this all work? Well, based on what they saw with how we did things with the recently married k, s is coming to live with us this week for several months. Her mother l will spent parts of two days a week with us, to learn how to keep a house and to have help with the whole homeschooling gig.

i'm sure working with s is going to be much harder than k (homeschooled and in a fellowship like ours for years) was. s is struggling with not wearing pants anymore and some other things like that - she wants to change to what she sees as what she should be but the actual practice is hard for her. So i'll be teaching her housekeeping and wifely skills as well as the homeschooling subjects. She says she's never made a real meal in her life.........so this is going to be a task.

After supper, He, M, and s's intended had chat about their goals for s for the year. i was even allowed to sit in on the parts that i needed to hear ;-) So between now and Thursday, when s will move in, i need to set up a curriculum and send it to them for approval. So i'm feeling a bit overwhelmed as well, as grade 5 subjects are the highest i've prepared for (k came with everything in place already) ..........I've just sent Him a list of what she should bring, for Him to approve before sending it to M and l. Over he next couple days, i need to generate a list of rules, plan lessons for her high school subjects, and figure out how to teach someone who doens't know how to boil water how to cook for a husband who likes a good meal.

And i'm a bit nervous about teaching l as well, as she is older than i am. He has reminded me that she is younger in the Lord but that isn't as reassuring as i'd like it to be. And, worrywart that i can be, i hope things aren't moving too fast for them. i so understand wanting to get ahead and push ahead to the end stage of where one sees oneself headed........having been there, done that!

So, if anyone is still with me, i'm open to any help i can get:

Getting ready for teaching s:
a. if You are a Man: what do you think a female should be taught before she gets married?
b. if you are female: what should you have learned before getting married?

And getting ready for workign with l:
As you changed from an egalitarian relationship to a relationship including Male dominance and female submission, what was hard for you? What didn't you know that would have made life easier if you had known it?

More bits and pieces

Sometimes, He is more romantic than i am. He very sweetly seduced me last night, then this morning presented me a good-sized package (various books and fabric & yarn and stuff i'd been wanting). Why? Well, today is the anniversary of the day we met. The significance of the day had completely slipped my mind, but He wanted to let me know how important that day was to Him, and how important i am in His life.

And an even bigger present, at least in some ways: He said it was my choice to go to church, or i could stay home with just the baby and He'd take His other children for the day. Since (as much as i love my life and Him and His children) i do miss 'me time' -- and it happens so rarely! -- i took Him up on the offer to stay home (almost) alone. And it has been wonderful - read one of the books, sewed a little, played with the yarn, and had a nap when His baby did. His children are mostly quiet introverts like He and i are, but en masse they do generate a fair bit of noise, so a quiet day is a wonderful present!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What a summer!

It has been a while since i've had time to sit at a computer. My Lord has taken His sons on an outing, giving me a bit of very precious free time. So bits and pieces of my summer:

First, my Lord's sixth son was born as planned. He is a very happy and healthy baby, growing by leaps and bounds. While intellectually i know that genetically my Lord determines the sex of His children, on a gut level i feel a great pride when i find out that the new baby is a boy......it's one of many areas where an emotional reaction may not be based in 'reality' but is just as real as anything can be. While we love His daughters as much as His sons, i do have that irrational reaction that i've done something special (better?) when the child i carry for Him is male.

The other big news is that we had two weddings to plan this summer. Our nanny of several years married a young man in our fellowship, plus the young woman who was living with us to learn to be a wife/mother got married, also to a young man in the congregation. The nanny's parents still live in Asia, so we ended up planning everything (they did stay with us for 10 days for the ceremony), and the other young lady's family lives several hours away, so we had the joy of doing much of the arranging that as well.

In the nanny's case, my Lord has conveyed the young man's request for her hand when in Asia on business. The other young woman had come to live with us when her father had accepted a marriage proposal for her -- but neither she nor i knew who the young man was (although my Lord had conveyed some of the groom's wishes on training to me).

The nanny's new husband bought land near here, and they are living in a small house he had built this summer. He is letting her continue to work for us part-time, while she and i train our two new nannies, cousins from a traditional Asian family distantly related to her. But she's now expecting (married 7 weeks, 6.5 weeks pregnant!), so her husband has made it clear that workign outside the home will be ending very soon.

In k's case, her parents came for a visit (the first wedding) and it was at our house the next day that they invited the intended over, at which point he and k spent some time talking, along with several visits over a few days. Before her parents went home, her father asked if the proposed marriage met with her approval. Since k likes and respects the young man (i say that, then realize he is only 4 years younger than i am!), she agreed with her fathr's judgement and we proceeded with the wedding plans. So that was last weekend.

Good practice for when His daughters are old enough to marry. K in particular needed a lot of guidance; she'd been homeschooled and not allowed tv staring when she was in grade 2 (and had gone to a conservative Christian school for 1st grade), so she really didn't know much about the world or male-female relationships -- which is what we are hoping for for His daughters. k's mother is a wonderful person, but she freely admits that she wasn't able to handle lots of this (that's why they sent k here in the first place!), so the training and education fell to me. And that was good for me -- to articulate what/how/why i do things. i'll admit to real curiosity about how things are going - they get back from the wedding trip on Monday, and i know the new husband has already scheduled for k to come over some time this week for a debriefing [grin].

With the new house (almost a year here), we have much more land, so we had a larger garden this summer. It gave the boys some chores (since He feels they shouldn't do female work inside), and it kept me busy, as well as producing lots for us to eat. One of His things He insisted on this summer was a season of physical labor for me -- I've always been active (what mother of many isn't?) but He was much more demanding/specific it this summer, in the context of training for me. So, in addiiton to the regular gardening, i built (as much as i could without his help) a shed and a small greenhouse, as well as expanding the deck and patio. He told me that i had to carry as mcuh as i could by hand -- no cheating by using a wheel barrow or such. His reasoning for all of this: that i needed the reminder that all of me -- my intellect, my labor, and so on -- belongs to Him. Since i don't work outside the house to turn a paycheck over to Him, this was a summer-long reminder for me. For the most part, i was quite happy with the arrangement - time outside (more than the past couple summers) and i got things done that are quite useful to have. i wasn't sure i liked pullig the plow that His oldest son was guiding when we went to start expending the garden even more, but i very quickly understood that that was my pride surfacing, so He dealt with it swiftly (he's good that way [grin]).

He's also gotten much more direct in His control of the boys' homeschooling. He gave me a detailed outline of what He wanted for the year, which i was directed to turn into week-by-week lesson plans (He has me plan by the week, to allow for a bit more flexibility than day-by-day schedules), then made extensive changes/corrections to that. He also had new school letterhead printed, with our new address -- and it now lists Him as principal and teacher with me as classroom aide (i was the asst. teacher on the older paper). But as His sons get older, He wants to be much more involved in direct oversight.

Life is good -- on our anniversary this year (10 years!), we took some time to reflect on our lives and the changes we've made. On one hand, it seems like we've come so far -- but i realize how often and how far i fall short of where i know i should be in obedience and submission, getting frustrated and eager to go too far too fast. One thing that i frequently need to remind myself is that (as we look back) He is almost always the one who is right about the pace and order of changes; whenever He has taken a suggestion from me about moving faster or in a different direction, which hasn't been often [and is less often the further we go into this journey], it has quickly become apparent that we should have done things His way. Yet another reminder of why He is in charge..........

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Weekend details

Yesterday, my Lord took His sons to a play park and for a bit of shopping, while i stayed home (with His two daughters) mostly, to prepare for the party for His oldest son's 9th birthday party but also because He is very careful about how often i leave the house.

[Am i really old enough to have given birth 9 years ago? Yikes. Guess i am. And how much has changed in my life since then; but it is so much better now!]

His daughters aren't really old enough to help but the 3.5 yo tries, and she is at the point that she can do some things. Since my Lord is firm that His sons won't be doing female work, i do look forward to her really being able to help. [One advatage to the new house is that it has a large woodstove, so His sons can deal with the wood as well as outside chores. Female work is out but they shouldn't get spoiled/lazy, either!]

The party went well. It is always nice to have our families here, and A. really enjoyed his presents. The cake i made came out well; it usually does but i always w0rry, as i want to look good for His family. They've accepted me but i know that they were disappointed that He didn't marry someone Korean. It is funny that one reason they were concerned it that (being very traditional) they thought i wouldn't take good enough care of Him, but they now think that i do -- and His brother even wishes that his wife would learn to be more 'mannerly' (meaning deferential) from me.

Today was our church fellowship day, and it was a bit of a struggle to sit through services, as He had beaten (for His fun/amusment, not my punishment) me quite nicely last night -- and the wives sit on wooden benches at the back during the services. Very hard not to squirm or decide to go stand in the kitchen, both of which would have gotten me a punishment beating, both tonoight and then again the night before the next services in 2 weeks.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

How things work

A friend of mine wrote this (and i'm posting it with her approval) but it describes my Lord's thoughts as well:

While I do think there is a difference between submission (inward desire or willingness to be under another's authority) and obedience (the outward actions of doing what another tells one to), I see the Scripture telling women very clearly that they need to be both obedient and submissive towards their husbands 'in every thing.' In the Greek, the same word is used for the obedience of wives and children, so such distinctions are hard to maintain. Plus, I think that a truly submissive attitude will lead to obedient actions, and I have always had a hard time understanding how a wife could submit inwardly without outward obedience.

My husband expects me to both obey and submit, quickly and completely. End of story.

He often asks my opinion on decisions he has to make, when he thinks there is a good reason to, but we are both clear that asking is part of the overall information gathering process, and he asks because he knows that I often have information that will be helpful in making that particular decision. He is not asking because I have an equal say in the decision that needs to be made, and he just as often doesn't ask me, sometimes because he has decided that I don't have additional helpful information and sometimes just because.......

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an incredibly non-PC view of the sexes

In the beginning, God created everything.
The heavens and the earth.
Night and day.
The oceans and the lands.
The plants.
All the animals.

ANd then He breathed life into the pinnacle of His creation: man -- Adam.

But He saw that Adam was lonely.

Adam was high above the animals.
And way below God.

So God created woman -- eve.
Not as high as the pinnacle of creation -- man.
But not as quite low as the animals, either.

A help meet for Adam.
Help = servant.
Meet = fit, appropriate.

This in-between in status is the female's natural state. Not a result of the Fall or the fall-out from the Fall, but the way life was intended to be.

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