Word is getting out. I’m pretty sure the sign in our front yard has something to do with this occurring. Yes, we have put our house on the market, and we are moving; more specifically, we are moving to Tennessee. It’s crazy how it all came about but then again our life is some kind of crazy so what’s one more insane thing the Ronnes do? Right?

004

For years one of my favorite movies has been the Johnny Cash story portrayed beautifully in the movie Walk the Line. In the film, Mr. Cash resides at a sprawling ranch in the hills of Tennessee overlooking a wide river below. In one scene he serenely sits on his front porch and breathes in the view all around, content and peaceful. Every time I watched this movie I would think, “That would be my dream setting” but it always seemed a bit out of the realm of reality.

Last summer, one warm night while Ryan and I watched this movie together, I mentioned this very thought to him, and I was surprised to discover that he too had always dreamt of living in Tennessee; something he had also considered his “dream life,” with hunting, fishing, and other manly activities that could be accomplished in a state like this. As the conversation continued it quickly turned from an unrealistic idea that we could never pursue and progressed into a “Why not?” thought. That very night we got out the laptop and began searching for what we considered to be our perfect home. Incidentally, we landed upon it immediately.

Throughout the years I would scan this particular website that offered hundreds of remote homes around the country with lots of land. I always wanted to live out in the middle of nowhere with beauty and tranquility surrounding my every turn. I’m not much of a city girl, and I luckily married a man who is a bit of a hermit as well. Upon reaching the site we were after, we plugged in our search options; Tennessee, 20 + acres, five + bedrooms, and a wood burning fireplace. About three homes popped up. One we were both drawn to immediately, even remarking in that moment, “If that house is as good as it looks on paper, that’s the dream,” up in the hills of Tennessee, overlooking a river, sprawling, beautiful home with lots of land. We committed ourselves to praying about it over the next year, and we also continued to check on its progress often, watching it come down considerably in price over the next 365 days.

As people have heard of what seems to be our rash decision, they have openly asked, why would you want to move? First, we never felt like we were going to stay in Michigan forever. This was a good starting point, Luke was very established in the medical community and in his school here, and it was a bigger town so everyone didn’t necessarily know my story or our story and Ryan could remain somewhat incognito. We had an element of privacy in Michigan that we appreciated. That being said, there have been small issues that have been hard on him while living in my homeland. For instance, everywhere I go with him, I generally have a memory of that place with another man, my late husband. Ryan has been yearning for us to be able to explore and discover something completely new that only we as a couple will be a part of, and I completely understand and respect this issue. I am also ready to spread my wings a bit, get out of the familiar I’ve always known, meet new people, explore unknown lands, and just be a big girl and step out in faith to something I really feel excited about. Finally, I believe this will be a great adventure for us to accomplish together as a family. Until now, we’ve accomplished everything separately. I moved into the house with my four kids, Ryan moved to Michigan with his three kids, now we, the Ronne family, will be tackling this big, grand, scary, new adventure all together as one family unit. We will be forced to rely on each other and have each others backs like never before, and I believe it will only strengthen our bond and resolve as a family.

Back to how it came about….This January, we said to each other, if we can find a sitter to watch the kids over spring break and if the house is still on the market, we are going to drive down and check it out. We reached out to a few people about watching the kids but no one was able to commit. We viewed this as a closed door for the moment and decided to let it go until….

I received a text message from a dear friend about two weeks before spring break, “Hey Jess, do you still want a sitter?”

We accepted her up on the offer and made the 9 hour drive to what we hoped would be our forever home. We took about 2 steps onto the property and both gasped. It was stunningly beautiful, exactly what we had envisioned it would look like. The house was also everything I ever wanted, old, full of character and life, such peaceful tranquility as if we were the only souls around for miles. After a few phone calls that confirmed Luke’s options for care and school, we decided to put an offer on it and it was accepted. Our house went on the market yesterday. Now it’s in God’s good timing. Our kids are excited. There was one child that needed some time to wrap her mind around the idea of moving again but now she can’t wait. If you think of it, pray us through this summer, it’s going to be crazy. We don’t have a date in mind yet and we’d really like our house to sell before we officially move and that task in and of itself is going to be an adventure with 7 kids!

 

Just Keep Livin!!

I enjoy reading interesting takes on the controversy surrounding the same sex marriage debate.  Lately the typical Christian stance has gotten a bit stale because often there are blissfully ignorant people throwing out the hell fire and damnation verses of the Bible without truly researching how or whether or not those verses are actually applicable in light of what is really going on politically when we talk about same sex marriage rights in America.  The other day I read a facebook status from a friend that caught my interest and peeked my curiosity.  He is a Christian, and he broke down the argument without using any of the Bible to support his case and I respect that.  Not that he doesn’t believe what the Bible says, I actually don’t even know his stance of that part of the issue, but he had enough of a sane, coherent argument without going there Biblically so I asked him to be a guest writer for the day and he obliged.  Thank you Wes.  Here’s his take. 
 
In the past few weeks, due to the Supreme Court hearing a few controversial cases, Facebook has lit up with people changing their profile pictures to one icon or another in support or opposition of same-sex marriages. While I view it as a good thing to stand up for what you believe in, it has been a source of frustration for me to see how many people get off track arguing about the wrong things.
 
There is a certain group of people who are distorting the same-sex marriage debate into a matter of “people should have the right to ‘love’ whoever they want”. This is misrepresenting the real issue and extinguishing rational debate, because people using this argument are characterizing anyone who would disagree with them as “anti-love”. If you start an argument by intentionally offending your opponent, you really can’t expect to have anything more than a shouting match. Of course, that holds true for both sides of the issue.
 
To borrow a line from a song by Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?” The facts are: You have that already. Let me reiterate that: If you say that people should have the right to love anyone they want, you’re absolutely correct, but you’re arguing for something that you already have. The government does not and cannot put any restrictions on “love”. Love is an emotion; the government can only restrict actions. In the past, governments have tried to control people’s thoughts and emotions through things like propaganda, but if one person is determined to love another, those attempts almost always backfire. That said, even though the government has the ability to regulate what people do, when it comes to actions related to love, our country imposes surprisingly very few restrictions; in the vast majority of the U.S., two consenting adults are free to perform just about any sexual act they can imagine behind closed doors, as long as no money exchanges hands.
 
Another common argument I see is that same-sex couples deserve “equal rights”. Again, this is a diversion from the real issue, because a marriage does not convey any additional human rights beyond what an individual possesses. If you don’t agree, take a look at a <a href=”http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/marriage-rights-benefits-30190.html“>list of marriage benefits</a> and tell me which of those things you think should be considered an unalienable human right. For example, it is not a human right to receive Social Security benefits for a spouse. It certainly is a nice perk, but it’s not an unalienable right.
 
The real issue at hand is that same-sex couples are petitioning the government to provide them the same benefits and privileges that it gives to married couples. To have a sane discussion about this, I think we need to examine why the government gives benefits to married couples in the first place. The government generally grants benefits to groups of people to encourage them to provide a resource or engage in an activity that the government needs, like alternative energy or farm subsidies. If you choose to spend your life making mud pies in your back yard, you’re free to do that, but you’re not going to get special benefits from the government. In this case, heterosexual couples, as a general rule, produce more taxpayers. Of course, a formal marriage isn’t needed for that, but a stable family environment generally produces taxpayers with less emotional issues, so it’s in the government’s best interests to subsidize this. My question is then, what does a same-sex couple provide, over and above what they would provide individually, that the government should provide benefits that encourage the practice? To me, this seems like getting upset that you don’t qualify for farm subsidy when you don’t own a farm.
 
Inevitably, when discussing the fact that a heterosexual couple can produce children, while homosexual couples cannot, the topic of adoptions enters the discussion because it is typically the primary method that a same-sex couple seeks to transition from a “married couple” to a “family”; which some people feel would qualify them for the same benefits used by the government to promote healthy families. However, even though a same-sex couple has the potential for raising a child, they do not have the potential for producing a child. For men, then must adopt; for women, they must involve a donor or adopt. In both cases, the child was produced by a man and woman and then transferred to the care of the same-sex couple. To re-use my farming example, I’m unlikely to get a farming subsidy for my concrete parking lot just because I can go to a local farm and bring back a corn plant in a pot of dirt.
 
One last thing; I did say that a stable family unit that includes a married mother and a father generally produces children with less emotional issues. This is not to say that a same-sex couple is not capable of achieving the same results, or any judgement on their parenting ability. There are all sorts of broken family situations and there are all sorts of good people who make the best of less than ideal circumstances. There are single parents that are better parents than some married couples. However, there is a lot of historical data that points to the fact that having a father and mother both engaged and involved in a child’s upbringing is the is currently the best possible arrangement for the child’s welfare. That is why the government is encouraging it; even if there are examples of it not working, it statistically still has the best chance of working out. There is simply not enough data available to make any comparisons to same-sex parents. Since same-sex parenting is a historically new phenomenon, a handful of success cases is not enough data to establish a pattern.

 

These past few days aren’t exactly putting my former pastor Rob Bell in the running for any popularity contests amongst most evangelical Christian circles.  In fact, while meandering around the Facebook scene or any worldwide internet search for that matter, it almost appears as if he’s been thrown a cross to carry, headed up the hill of Golgotha, and the righteous leaders of the day are looking on in stoic determination and smug pleasure.   Granted, he has taken a rather liberal/light footed stance on the issue of gay marriage while also saying that our traditional Christian beliefs are often archaic in nature and not always relevant or applicable in light of the 21st century.  

 
He said, and I quote, “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.” 
 
I personally don’t take this statement as a glaring declaration of his absolute belief that homosexuals should marry; in fact, I don’t really think this statement is ultimately about that at all, and he’s chuckling as people become so wrapped up in the idea that he is for gay marriage.   I think, as it is with most statements attached to Rob Bell, there is an element of suspense and layers to unfold as he dances around what the issue really is. He is for marriage.  He is for fidelity, He is for Love, (Everything God is and encompasses is Love, so that works for most of us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16 ). He’s for love between men and woman and then comes these words, 
 
A woman and a woman, a man and a man.
 
Oh my – this is where the evangelical church is about to stone Rob Bell, these 9 little words, “a woman and a woman, a man and a man.” Is Rob Bell saying that women can love each other and men can love each other?  Because that is Biblical in a love sense at least.  I have many women whom I love and many men have deep, loving relationships with other men, or is he actually saying here that a woman and a woman and a man and a man can have an intimate loving relationship that may lead to marriage?   Again, I think the statement is hidden in layers, not saying specifically what Rob Bell believes because I don’t think that is the intended underlying message of his words in the first place. As we read further into this we get to the last sentence in which he says,
 
 I think this is the world we are living in”
 
Yes, I would agree, there is no denying that this is our reality in the 21stcentury. We have women in intimate marital relationships with other women, and we have men in intimate marital relationships with other men – that is the reality of our life whether we want to hide under a nice, cozy, evangelical rock and pretend like it doesn’t exist or we want to own up to the fact that this is happening here in our culture, just like abortions are happening, child slavery is happening, and people are dying all over this continent because of starvation; it’s all happening, period.  
 
“We need to affirm people wherever they are.” 
 
This is the key, the true guts of what he is saying; the heart of his message – in my opinion.  This was the heart of Christ’s entire earthly ministry.  He did not go about advocating specific lifestyles; working mothers versus stay at home mothers, blue collar workers versus white collar workers, those who drink alcohol, those who don’t, smokers versus quitters, those who are unequally yoked together with unbelievers and those who aren’t, those husband and wives who don’t fulfill their sexual duties to their spouses (ouch….) “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband” I Cor 7:3, versus those who have a rockin sex life in their marriages and those who love the same gender and those who love opposite genders. Christ, God of the Universe, did have an opinion on this stuff but these sins, these lifestyles choices, were not the focus of his ministry; nor should they be the focus of our ministry as evangelical Christians reaching out to a lost and hurting world.  
 
Christ did not focus on STUFF.  Christ focused his ministry on meeting people precisely where they were in whatever situation or emotional state they were in, and he loved them.  He met the Samaritan woman at the well, he met the blind man at the pool of Siloam, and he met the disabled man at the pool in Jerusalem.  His first recorded miracle at the wedding of Cana shows him meeting the people right in the middle of their need, and if we’re honest, it’s not only kind of a silly need but it’s also kind of a sinful need to most church theologies.  In other words, the party goers needed someone to make an alcohol run.  These people were having a party; a big, ol, inebriated, days and nights of drunken bliss and hangovers sort of shin dig and they ran out of wine and Christ met them in the middle of that need. He cared so much about their need that he didn’t make some cheap, $10 box of Franzia wine to meet the need, instead he made the equivalent of an  Italian vintage wine causing the master of the banquet to proclaim to the Bridegroom, “You have saved the best till now!” John 2:10. Huh……???
 
 I wonder if the same crucifiers of Rob Bell would have been able to handle a party like this?  Or would it have made them so uncomfortable with the obvious sinful nature of it all with the wine and the dancing and the celebrating that they would have balked on out of there rolling their eyes in religious disgust and dismay at such outlandish behavior.  
 
Would you have been able to hang with Jesus and the bros?  Or would the discomfort have been too much for your religious piety?   Would you have been the one handing out tracts to the party goers as they left outlining the steps towards accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? Would you have handed Jesus Christ a tract?   Would you have been too uncomfortable to be where Jesus was?  John Eldredge, author of Beautiful Outlaw says, “If you can’t take your church culture and language and drop it in the middle of a bar or a bus and have it make winsome sense to the people there, then it’s not from Jesus. Because that is exactly what he would do.  That’s what made him the real deal.” 
Rob Bell often reminds me of someone else I know, someone who instead of answering the accusations of the religious leaders of his days could be found drawing in the sand with a quiet proclamation of, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone” John 8:7.  Rob Bell may have impure motives.  Rob Bell may be following exactly what his Lord asked of him and that is to meet everyone right where they are.  To meet the lesbian in her lesbian marriage, the wrung out coke addict on the street corner shaking and cold as he comes down from a high, the drunkard, smack dab in the middle of a bar in all his desperately drunk and needy state, the beautiful homecoming queen at the mall as she’s picking out a dress for her painfully thin, anorexic body that never looks good enough in her eyes, or the Bible thumping evangelical in his Perry Ellis suit and tie, perfectly pressed and put together in his heterosexual marriage and two kids, yet yearning for something resembling a relationship with the God he rants and raves about.    Why can’t we all be where Jesus is, right in the middle of the action, right in the middle of the desperation, right in the middle of the gay community, right in the middle of the wedding at Cana?   
 
Who will reach people with hate?  Jesus met the centurion on the road, he met Peter in the middle of lake, and he met the disciples on the beach after his resurrection.  Jesus drops his divinity and his Lordship right in the middle of our needs – always. Wouldn’t it make sense then if we are becoming more and more like him to do as he does and meet people right in the middle of where they are?
Jesus came to abolish the law, not to create law upon law upon law that no one can possibly live up under.  If we are going after gay marriage than we, as believers, need to attack so many other things with just as much vigor.  Slander, gossip, strife, those who are unequally yoked together in marriage, our teens involved in sex outside of marriage (yes, even the actions that aren’t penetrating in nature; although I know the “good” kids slide on that one quite often) wives who withhold sexual affection from their husbands, husbands who treat their wives like slaves, those who wear earrings and display tattoos (the Old Testament is allowed, correct?) My point is, the endless list of can’s and can nots will not end.  We are saved by the unmerited, undeserved, and unwarranted grace of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. 
 
That, 
 
to me,
 
 is Rob Bell’s point.  
 
Meet people exactly where they are, don’t point fingers unless you want someone pointing fingers at your life, and remember, that it is through Christ’s blood and blood alone that we ALL have access to the Heavenly Father.
 
Just keep livin!!
 

 

I follow a few marriage blogs pretty consistently: www.sexwithinmarriage.com, www.tolovehonorandvacuum.com, and finally, www.hotholyhumorous.blogspot.com.  They are all primarily dedicated to sex related topics within the confines of a Godly marriage relationship. It is interesting to me that this once very taboo subject, regarding hot, pure sex within a Christian marriage, is coming to light with the dawn of the internet age which is enabling women to chime in and ask questions on a very public forum in a very private way.  I’ve decided to jump on the band wagon and offer my two cents on this delicate, yet always interesting subject.  Ironically this will probably be the blog post that gets the most hits, not the ones about 7 kids, nor the one where my late husband dies, or the one about the adoption, or being married to a former widower, but this one where the mom of 7 kids tackles some sex issues. I have a unique perspective on this topic, I think, having had two healthy marriages within a 12 year time span.  The first marriage was the one where all of the children were produced and if my late husband had not gotten sick, we would have been at a pivotal crossroads point soon in our relationship where many couples find themselves after the chaotic birthing years are over.  We would have been faced with the decision of going forward as couple and rediscovering the spark that once connected us to each other that IS so often lost in those frenzied years involving pregnancy, babies, and small children, or we would have shut down the relationship part of our marriage and invested every ounce of energy and resources into our children to avoid connecting on an intimate level once again. We then would have either moved forward like this for the next 20 or 30 years in a completely dead and stagnant posture or we would have ultimately walked away from it all with a divorce.  In my second marriage I found myself in a unique situation in that there were not going to be anymore pregnancies or babies to distract me, and my husband took priority immediately because we didn’t have the time or the chaos invested in pregnancies or babies to loose ourselves in. Therefore, sex in my two marriages was viewed very differently from my womanly perspective.  In the first marriage it was more often about procreation, and in this second marriage with no procreations planned, it is purely about enjoyment.  Going into my first marriage I understood that men, very regularly, wanted sex more than women did – key word in that statement being wanted.  That was the way I understood it.  I did not understand any of the physiological, emotional, or physical meanings behind them wanting “it.”  And, if men only wanted sex then it could also be expected that they were very capable of waiting or adhering to a woman’s agenda for something she was expected to participate it.  In my young, immature mind I related it to wanting my bedroom repainted or wanting a $70 dollar pair of jeans or wanting to go on a vacation.  All wants, not needs, therefore through self-control and some savings, I could, if I wanted to, hold out for these desires.  What I did not understand as a young married woman that I understand now is that for a man sex is NOT a want but it is indeed a need.  Yes, a man can wait, yes, it is a very uncomfortable wait, yes that wait most likely and most often will turn into a man either turning to pornography and/or masturbation or the worst case scenario – turning to another woman.  What I also did not understand as my younger self was that my husband equated the amount of sex he was getting with the amount of love he was feeling.  Men feel loved through sex.  Men feel wanted through sex.  Men feel respected through sex. These are all basic needs for a man with the number one need being respect, and if a man is having sex consistently with the woman he has vowed to love, honor, and cherish until his dying day he is feeling a level of respect from his wife; the number one person from whom he needs to feel respect from.  A man does not open up on an emotional level with most people and most of a man’s relationships are pretty shallow.  Occasionally he will go deep with a man but you, as his wife, know him in a far deeper, more personal, more intimate level than anyone else on the face of the earth will ever know him.  You know his weaknesses, his accomplishments, his hopes, his dreams, his failures, his faith, and you know him in the most intimate way of knowing another human being; that being sexually.  He needs to feel that you respect him enough to validate his need to feel loved by you through sex.  Yes, he is capable of waiting but why, through our own selfishness, would we require that of the men we love?  I understand that there are times when we physically MUST wait, such as pregnancy or after the birth of a child, or that time of the month, but there are alternatives that can be explored during these waiting periods as well, but generally, why do we as women strip our husbands of the respect that they can only obtain through us by withholding one of the most essential ingredients from them to be able to rise to the stature of manhood, fatherhood, and husbandry that God has intended for an awesome Christian marriage?  Why do we as women do this? What do you think?
Just keep livin!!