A Letter To My Teenage Self

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argentina2Dear Hannah,

You’re probably struggling to figure out that geometry or talking on your purple sparkly landline phone or waiting for the Internet to dial-up so you can sign on to AOL instant messenger or singing loudly into your hairbrush. Or maybe you’re cuddling with Baxter—guess what! You’re still going to be cuddling with Baxter when you’re 28! And even cooler—your SON likes to cuddle with him too! Yes, I said your SON! In a few short years, you’ll go to Freed Hardeman and have the time of your life, and while you’re there, you’ll learn a ton of hard life lessons and meet the man you’re going to marry. You’ll marry him when you’re 24 years old, and shortly after you turn 27, you’ll be having a baby. He’ll be the very best thing about you. Get excited. Oh, and when you’re 28, you’ll find out you’re having another baby! Listen girl, soak up this happy-go-lucky, very-few-responsibilities time, because it’s about to get busy fast. There will be days when you wish you could go back and be able to lay on your bed, jam out to your favorite CD’s, and read a book while someone else cooks for you and does all your laundry. :)

But here’s the real reason I’m writing you. There are some things I know now about your parents that I didn’t know then. You should know these things—every teenager with Christian parents should know these things. So if today is one of those days you’re super mad at Mom and Dad, turn down the Evanescence for a second and listen up.

Here are some thoughts I know might be going through your head right now:

They don’t know anything about what it’s like to be my age.

What I know now: Actually, they do. They know a lot more than you think they do. Whenever you feel like they are so out of touch with reality and they don’t remember what it’s like to feel like a teenager—to feel insecure and unsure and passionate and inspired and hormonal and frustrated and exhilarated and confused and scared and lonely all at the same time…remind yourself of these words—they know more and remember more than you think they do. There will come a day when you’ll realize that so much of what they said, so much of what they wouldn’t let you do, so much of what they made you do, was all for an important reason that won’t make sense to you now but will one day. One day, I promise you will wish you had listened and paid attention more, for perhaps it could have saved you a lot of frustration and even some heartache.

They are so strict about what I wear. They don’t want me to ever look cute.

What I know now: Let me tell you something you don’t realize—all the modesty rules your parents are giving you are not because they never want you to have a boyfriend. They know good and well all that business is about to start, and soon. See, your parents know (and yes, remember) what a struggle it is to keep your thoughts and actions pure when you’re a teenager—especially when you’re a teenage guy who constantly struggles with the temptation of lust. They understand sexual temptation more than you do, because, hello—they’re married, and they can do the stuff you’ve vowed not to do until you’re married, too. (I know you don’t like to think about this because ew, they’re your parents, but…it’s important). One day, when you’re married too, you’ll understand the way a man’s mind works, and you’ll understand just how very MUCH we as girls can affect the hearts and minds of the men around us, simply by the way we dress. So whenever Dad makes you turn around in a circle before you go out and he tells you to go back to your room and change because your Mudd jeans are too tight, just do it. Trust that he knows what he’s talking about—remember whose name you’re professing, and trust that your Dad really does just want what’s best for you, and what’s best for your peers, who are paying attention to you (and everyone else their age—because let’s be honest—you and all your friends are influenced way more by each other than by anyone else). Dress modestly, and don’t argue with your parents when they help you (or coerce you, whichever way is necessary) to do that. One day, you’ll be glad you were careful about this.

Why are they always all up in my business? Can’t I have a little privacy?

Actually, as much as you’re going to hate me for saying it, while you’re still living under their roof rent-free, your business IS their business. Any instant message, text message, phone call, date, or whatever else they let you do without their involvement and attention is gift of grace and an expression of trust. They have a right to any and all of your information and belongings. A little over a decade from now, when you have a child of your own, you will totally understand their constant desire to protect you and know what’s happening with you all the time. It’s because they love you more than life and they want to do whatever it takes to protect you from physical and emotional harm, and most importantly, spiritual harm. So when they ask questions about your friends, your text messages, your instant messages, and the boy that’s been calling you lately, that’s not just them being nosy—it’s love. They want to give you the benefit of the doubt by asking you personally rather than snooping around in your stuff to find answers about how you spend your time—which, by the way, they’re not above doing if you’re not willing to open up to them. This seems infuriating now, but one day, you’ll know exactly why, because you’ll feel the same way about your children.

Why do they care if my room stays clean all the time? IT’S MY ROOM, after all.

Once again, all of your stuff is also their stuff. It’s not your room—they’re just letting you use it until you move out. (Warning: Enjoy your purple Paris bedroom while you can—in a few short years, you’ll come home and it will suddenly be Mom’s sewing room. SEWING ROOM.) I know you don’t realize this now, but they’re not just making you clean your room so the whole house can stay presentable, they’re making you do it because they’re teaching you responsibility. One day soon, you’ll have a husband and a family of your own, and the sole person in charge of keeping the house clean (yes, the whole house—not just “your room”) will be you. Any cleaning your parents make you do now will be a gift you’ll be able to open again and again when you don’t have to learn how to clean because you already know and are in the habit. (Psst…this one never really stuck with you like it should…so put a little extra effort in this department okay? Your future self—I—will be ever so grateful if cleaning the bathroom wasn’t such a miserable chore. K thanks!).

Why can’t they just be my friends? Why do they always have to act like dictators?

One day, when you move out and have your own home, you will be amazed at how your relationship with your parents will change, and for the better. Those people who were always your controlling, bossy dictators will morph into your very best friends one day. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but someday, you’ll be able to laugh with them and cry with them and when they talk you will want to listen because you will know that they really do know what they’re talking about. They will one day be the first people you call when you need advice. But right now, their job isn’t to be your friends. Right now, their job is to be your parents. Parents (or dictators, whatever you wish to call them) are exactly what you need during this super impressionable, vulnerable time of your life when you’re still being molded into the person you’re going to become. They have such a short window to shape you into a Godly, responsible, happy adult. They take that responsibility so very seriously. So, be okay with them not being your friends right now. You have plenty of friends. You don’t need more friends. What you need are parents who love you enough to be nosy and yes, bossy. Appreciate them for what they are right now, and know that one day, if you play your cards right and truly live for God, they really will be your best friends one day, but it will only be because of THIS time in your relationship with them that that can happen.

They think everybody I like is bad… Just because you don’t know someone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t meet up and get to know this guy…

Once again, they remember more than you think they do. If they don’t trust a guy you’re wanting to go out with, there’s probably a very good reason for that. They see right through your friends who are fake and your friends who are hiding something. They know exactly when that guy you think is so cute is putting on a show and won’t really treat you like a lady. They can tell when a guy likes you for all the wrong reasons. If they don’t want you to go out with someone, it’s going to hurt, but if you’re too chicken to turn him down yourself, just tell the guy your parents said no and he can be mad at them instead of you. Trust me, your parents are okay with this. They love you too much to care a whole lot about what your high school crushes think of them. One day, when you’re married to a Godly, righteous man who loves you and respects you for all the right reasons, you’ll wonder why you were ever interested in that guy in the first place. Just be patient.

They don’t trust my judgment.

Well…I hate to admit it, but you’re right about this one, teenage Hannah. They don’t trust your judgment about a lot of things, and for good reason. You haven’t lived long enough to even know what sound judgment really is. Right now, you’re at a stage in your life when you actually believe that 16-year-olds know more about life and love and the world as a whole than any other people on the planet. One day you’ll see how scary that is. You have to earn your parents’ trust—do your best to show them that you’re wise enough to make right decisions, and I promise they’ll let you make more of them on your own without their input (but it’s still true that, one day…you’ll covet their input…I promise).

Do they seriously have to have a say even in how I do my make up?! How much make up I wear should be up to me at this age.

There’s something you should know. It’s going to be painful. It’s going to be unpleasant. But in the name of all that is good and lovely, someone has to say it. At age 16, when you let yourself do whatever you want with your makeup, you leave the house looking like a cross between a prostitute and a circus clown. One day, you’ll look back at pictures of yourself in that hot pink lipstick, that sparkly purple eyeshadow and that eyeliner that went halfway to your eyebrows and you will shake your head and laugh. I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you. When your parents tell you to wash your face and try again with that eyeliner, it’s not because they don’t want you to look pretty (which is what you’re thinking, I know), it’s because they don’t want you to publically embarrass yourself unnecessarily. They want you to be able to hold on to whatever dignity a 16-year-old is capable of possessing so that people don’t actually think you’re a mentally challenged clown-faced woman of the night.

Sorry. Someone needed to say it.

I’m a good kid. I don’t drink or do drugs. I don’t steal. I don’t cheat. I don’t make fun of handicapped people. It just seems like they should appreciate me more and respect me more instead of always hounding on me about things like keeping my room clean, getting homework done, texting and driving, and cleaning out the cat litter. I mean, come on…there are a lot of worse things I could do.

Give yourself a pat on the back, girlfriend, because your future self can look back and confidently say that yes, you are a good kid. You have a pure heart and you truly want to do the right thing all the time. One day, I promise it will all be worth it—the struggle to remain pure, to season your speech with salt, to dress modestly, to be kind to those who need it most, to sacrifice popularity in order to make righteous choices. You will be so very thankful you chose this path one day. I thank you.

But just because you were mostly “a good kid,” doesn’t mean you don’t have some things you need to work on and improve. Remember that your parents just have this one short window of time—just 18 years to try and help you become the very best human you can be. So just because you feel unappreciated for the good decisions you’re making doesn’t mean that your parents are not thankful for that—they are. One day you’ll see that more clearly. What they’re doing is taking advantage of every moment they have with you to truly love you and care for you—and right now, that means they will be paying attention to the details of how you’re living your life. I know it’s hard, but try not to wish the moments away. Even though you are positive there’s more to life than keeping your room clean, one day, you will miss these days.

I wish you could actually read this letter. I wish I could really show up in your room, have a seat with you on your Eiffel Tower bed, and have a little chat with you at 16 years old. Maybe I could convince you to love and appreciate your parents more—to trust that they really are much wiser than you are. But I can’t do that. What’s happened has happened, and for better or worse, I am what I am (wait, that’s Popeye). But I’m writing this anyway, because maybe there will be one single teen girl of 2016 who will read this and take it to heart. If one single girl could read this and be convinced that Godly parents are a blessing like none other, this toddler naptime I’ve spent writing will be worth every second.

Anyone who is blessed with Christian parents who love God has been given a precious gift. Don’t take it for granted. It’s frustrating being a teenager, but I promise you, it’s just a few short years and once they’re in the past, you won’t be able to believe how fast they slipped away. Next time you want to talk back and argue with your parents, take a deep breath, bite your tongue and ask yourself if your parents are actually trying to ruin your life, or if what they’re saying is really because they love you and want to help you. Next time you want to roll your eyes at them, remind yourself that they actually do know a lot more than you do about the important things that will affect your entire life and yes, your eternity.

And if you’re smart enough to have a humble spirit about all this, go give your Christian parents a hug. Write them a letter and thank them for loving you. Thank God for them right now and ask Him to help you to obey and honor them. Because you see, I’ve given you lots of reasons why you should listen to your parents, but none of them are the MOST important reason. This particular reason far outshines any other reason why you should honor your parents: God commanded it.


Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6:1-3)

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)








“I just could not go to sleep tonight not knowing.”

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11173553_825895712719_1560621178_nSo my little family—all three of us—have all been sick this past week. Sore throat, fever, runny noses, dry coughs, achy bodies. I’ve never much cared for being sick, but being sick while breastfeeding and therefore unable to take meds was like living in a Chinese torture camp rather unpleasant. I started feeling sick last Monday and finally started feeling like myself again on Saturday, as did baby Ezra. My husband, however, started feeling sick on Friday, so was pretty ill on Saturday. Our dilemma, of course, was trying to decide whether we should attend worship services Sunday morning (Ben was scheduled to preach at both morning and evening services).

After a lot of thought, we decided we would try to go. Ben would still preach, and we would just sit in the back and leave as soon as services were over in attempt to not get anyone sick. That morning, Ben announced that our Q&A session (a monthly service we have in which members can submit Bible questions ahead of time for Ben to answer with scripture) would be that night. A sweet 16-year-old named Lauren was there that morning, heard the announcement, and decided to submit the question, “How do I know if I’m saved?”

That night, her question was answered. She, along with everyone else present, heard the truth about how we become saved and remain saved. She heard about how we are to repent of all sins in which we are involved (Luke 13:3, II Peter 3:9), be baptized to wash away our sins (Acts 2:38, I Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16), and continue walking in His light (I John 1:6-8). She heard about remaining faithful to the Lord’s Body (Hebrews 10:24-26) and truly seeking first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33).

Her soft, open heart was touched by God’s Word, and she responded to the invitation. She said she had been baptized a long time ago, but not for the right reasons—not to wash away her sins and be added to the Lord’s Body. After studying with her for a little while, it was clear that she was ready to put on Christ in baptism. She called her family members, who do not come to worship, and asked them to come witness her surrender her life to Christ. She was asked to “wait until next Sunday when everyone can be there.” But Lauren understood something that her family didn’t. She understood that until she was baptized and cleansed of her sins, she was in a lost condition. She left to go home in tears and worried about her soul.

The rest of us left feeling the weight of Lauren’s burden and prayed the Lord would give her enough time to follow through with her intention to be saved. By that point it was late, and we were exhausted, but hadn’t yet had anything to eat for dinner, so we drove 25 minutes to our exit and ran in and bought a foot-long Subway sub to take home and split. Upon getting back in the car, the phone rang. Lauren couldn’t do it. Just as the Philippian jailor couldn’t wait, even if it meant risking his job and his life (Acts 16), she couldn’t wait another moment before washing away her sins. We knew then that she was ready for this commitment. If she had been okay with waiting a few days, that would be a pretty good indicator that she didn’t understand what she was doing. Lauren understood, however, that she could leave this life and meet the Lord at any moment, and she wanted to be ready to meet Him.

Our hearts rejoiced as we called one of our elders to meet us at the church building to be there for Lauren. In the car on the way there, we ate our sandwiches and it was, indeed, one of the happiest meals we’ve ever had as we rushed back to the building. While Ben drove and we ate, Lauren was texting me. With her permission, I’m sharing with you some of what she said:

“I just want to make sure if I die tomorrow I am going to heaven. I just could not go to sleep tonight not knowing…If I would have left [church services early] tonight like I do most nights I would have left not saved and could die this week and go to hell. But God kept me there for a reason and now I know why.”

That hug after sweet Lauren was baptized by my husband was wet, sloppy, and one of the happiest, most wonderful hugs I’ve ever gotten. Her smile from that moment until we all left the building was the very definition of the song I sing with my son every night—“This little Christian light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” Lauren was radiant, calm, and blissfully clean within and without. I daresay she slept better than ever before that night.

The next day (yesterday), she texted again and said, “God is so good and I am so happy I am your sister in Christ and one day we will get to rejoice in heaven together.”

I am so happy, too. Lauren’s excitement and zeal reminded me of the zealous gratitude and reverence we all ought to have in reference to salvation. I think sometimes we Christians get caught up in the day-in-day-out routine of Christianity and worship and we forget the pure magnificence of what is taking place when we accept Christ as our Savior and become one of His sheep. When we truly realize the weight of eternity, it doesn’t matter if it’s 10 p.m. or 3 a.m. Our plan to avoid people due to our sickness was suddenly irrelevant. Because when it comes to making sure we are right with the Lord, none of those earthy things matter at all. We realize that nothing else matters when we see that Someone died in order to take us to a place where there is no sickness, no pain, no dying and no tears (Revelation 21:4).

I want my heart to be more like Lauren’s, for she, like Mary, “has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

Parental Safety Concerns And Forward-Facing Kids

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carseatMy sweet Ezra had his 6-month well visit with our pediatrician last week. We praise God that he is still very healthy, strong, and happy. I’m not sure if other moms do this, but when I take Ezra for his check-ups, I also take a list of questions to ask the doctor. This time, my question list included things about tylenol dosage for a 21 pound baby (yes he’s that big), when and how to introduce solid foods to an exclusively breastfed baby, and what developmental milestones I should be expecting and helping him to meet right now. Then there was this question I had about carseats, and the answer I was given kind of surprised me in a good way.

I worded the question this way: “When is it okay to start forward facing his carseat? The law is age one and at least 20 pounds. Some research says it’s safer to wait until age two. Some says not to do it until age four. Is it really necessary to wait that long?”

He saved this question for last when perusing my list, and I think it’s because his answer for that one was carefully worded for a paranoid new mom like myself. This is what he said (I’m paraphrasing because I didn’t record it—that would have been weird—but this is as close to his actual words as I can remember):

“Okay, carseats. We live in a day where safety precautions has been crowned king above all other concerns. I grew up in a day where we were all thrown in the back of a Volkswagon and nobody even really worried about seat belts. Was that safe? Probably not. But people really just weren’t that worried about it. Today, the scare tactics used on moms is pretty intense. Would it be safer to make your 4 year old face the rear with his knees all up in his face because there’s no leg room? Yes, in the case of an accident that would probably be safest. But it would also be safest if you would stay in your house and not risk your child’s life by driving. You see, while it’s important to take safety precautions, it’s also good to use common sense. I think that the safety paranoia you see in our society is representative of the majority of people who don’t have Jesus in their lives. If this life is all there is, you’d better hold on to it and never do anything that might jeopardize it in the least because this existence is all there is of you. Make sure your children are physically safe on earth while not worrying so much about what is to come. As far as carseats are concerned, obey the law and then use your common sense after that. Ezra’s a big boy. He won’t be comfortable sitting that way when he’s 4. So, in a nutshell, yes, do your best to keep your children safe. But don’t live your life constantly in fear of what could happen.”

What he said got me thinking. It’s true that our society cares a lot about safety. I remember talking with my dad the other day about how my brother and I used to ride go-carts all the time, and now you can’t buy them anywhere because of the safety concerns. I also remember toys I used to play with like Polly Pockets that you won’t find today (except for those ridiculous giant ones) because of fear that children will hurt themselves with said toys. But is it possible that we’ve made physical safety our idol while ignoring the importance of the things that truly matter—of the eternal things?

  • Are we more concerned about making sure our children are wearing helmets when they are biking in the neighborhood than we are about making sure they are wearing helmets of salvation (Ephesians 6:17)?
  • Are we more concerned about the dangers of co-sleeping than we are about what our kids are learning during their awake hours?
  • Are we more concerned about keeping gluten at bay than we are about purposefully exposing our children to the Bread of Life every day? Is organic food more important to us than organic Christianity?
  • Are we more concerned about when we start solid foods than we are about making sure we build an appetite in our children for spiritual knowledge?
  • Are we more concerned about physical hygiene than we are about making sure their hearts remain spiritually pure and clean?
  • Are we more concerned about the pros and cons of “Attachment Parenting” and wearing our babies than we are about making sure our family unit wears the name of Christ in our community (by the way, our Heavenly Father is all about attachment parenting when it comes to the bond He has with us).
  • Are we more concerned about breastfeeding our babies than we are about feeding them the milk of the Word (I Peter 2:2)?
  • Are we more concerned about whether it’s okay to let our babies “cry it out” than whether we ourselves have cried out to the Father lately? Is sleep training more important to us than the “awake training” we’re doing with the pliable hearts of our children?
  • Are we more concerned about cloth diapering our babies than we are about girding their loins with truth as they grow (Ephesians 6:17)?
  • Are we more concerned about using “essential oils” than we are about making sure we are annointed with the Balm of Gilead?
  • Are we more concerned about when our little ones are mentally ready to be potty trained than we are about when our older ones are mentally ready to put on Christ in baptism?
  • Are we more concerned about having an all-natural birth than we are about being born of water and the spirit (John 3:5)?
  • Are we more concerned about whether or not to vaccinate our children against physical disease than we are about vaccinating our children with the Word against the sickness of sin?

It’s okay—even good—if you’re passionate about some of these physical things. I’m very passionate about some of these physical things. It’s not okay if you’re more passionate about physical safety and well-being than you are about the spiritual safety that comes with being in Jesus Christ, our Savior. Notice the root word of Savior. It’s “save.” The ultimate safety is placing your hand in the hand of Christ. We must be most concerned about saving our children in the most important way. We must be most concerned about saving our children eternally. In 100 years, none of the other things I’ve listed will matter. What will matter is that spiritual safety was our families’ primary concern.

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Q & A: Was the Proverbs 31 Woman a Career Woman?

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proverbs 31 picAfter I wrote this post, many of you commented asking about the Proverbs 31 woman. So, is there an implied endorsement in Proverbs 31 for a young mother’s pursuit of a full-time career outside the home?

Here’s the passage:

    An excellent wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her,

and he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good, and not harm,

all the days of her life.

She seeks wool and flax,

and works with willing hands.

She is like the ships of the merchant;

she brings her food from afar.

She rises while it is yet night

and provides food for her household

and portions for her maidens.

She considers a field and buys it;

with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She dresses herself with strength

and makes her arms strong.

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.

She puts her hands to the distaff,

and her hands hold the spindle.

She opens her hand to the poor

and reaches out her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of snow for her household,

for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

She makes bed coverings for herself;

her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates

when he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them;

she delivers sashes to the merchant.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,

and she laughs at the time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She looks well to the ways of her household

and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;

her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many women have done excellently,

but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands,

and let her works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:10-31)

First, it’s interesting that this example so often used comes from a passage in the Old Testament. I love the book of Proverbs, and certainly every Old Testament book contains principles that show us the heart of God. It does seem that, if the Proverbs 31 mother was a full-time career woman and if God was exalting that choice of a full-time career outside of the home, we would find some exaltation of that choice somewhere in the New Testament. It is important to note that the Proverbs were never intended to legislate, even in the Mosaic age in which they were written. On the other hand, our clear passage, Titus 2:3-5, in the New Testament is classified by the Holy Spirit Himself as sound doctrine and is to be heeded so that the Word of God will not be blasphemed. It is sandwiched between the phrases “sound doctrine,” “teach,” and “that the Word of God be not blasphemed.” It is clearly legislation and it is clearly for our dispensation, the Christian age. We must find application of all of the characteristics of Titus 2:3-5 in our lives today.

Second, this woman did buy a piece of land, she had some merchandise that was good, and she delivered girdles that she made to the merchants. She did something productive to add to the family income. With that we cannot argue. I know many women who are able to do just that even as they raise their children in the home. Everything from Etsy shops to making clothing and selling to balancing the books for their husbands’ businesses from their desks at home, to keeping children in the home, etc., all while remaining keepers of the home. To take the fact that the Proverbs 31 woman did some buying and selling and morph her into a career woman, even as the context of the Proverbs 31 woman description is overwhelmingly given to her home management, is taking liberties with that text. To call her a full-time career woman is saying something that the passage doesn’t say.

Third, the New Testament admonition is still there in Titus 2:3-5. That word “homemaker” still means “keeper of the home, mistress of the house, housekeeper, stay-at-home, a domestic” (Liddell-Scott-Jones). Thus, whatever I am, I must be that first. It is absolutely possible, even probable, that many women may be able to do something to boost the family income in or outside the home and still be primarily a keeper at home. But it is very difficult to see how a woman can work full-time, put her children in full-time daycare, be absent from them during the vast majority of their waking hours and still be primarily a keeper at home, a worker at home, a domestic, a stay-at-home, etc.. The Proverbs 31 woman was a domestic. That is clear from the context. She sewed, she gave honor to her husband, she gardened, and good home management is all over that text. But we simply do not have enough in that text to take her outside the home and make her a woman devoted to an outside career. It is just not there.

Again, let me emphasize that I know many Godly women who do something on the side to supplement the family income. I’m thinking of women like my friend Beth, who monograms clothes, towels, and handbags in her spare time, or my friend Alissa, who offers occasional tutoring for homeschooled students, or my friend Jennifer, who runs her own Etsy shop selling cool homemade crafts, or my friend Emily, who keeps a few other children in her home in addition to her own on some days. All of these women are keepers at home, homemakers, domestics, etc., but can still be financially productive on some scale, just as was the Proverbs 31 woman.

Thanks for the comments and the question. Have a great rest of the week!

Whoosh! A Comment Tsunami!

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A-comic-balloon-with-an-exclamation-mark-T-ShirtsA few days ago, my blog post (http://www.theheartofhannah.com/2015/02/02/a-stay-at-home-mom-five-hot-button-reasons/) was about the reasons I am, and love being a stay-at-home mom. Lots of you read and many commented and I am grateful for that. If I learned anything at all from this, it is that there is certainly a culture war going on about this subject. Whatever the outcome, the spoils of the war will go to or be taken from the children in our culture. Today I will share with you just a few of the comments from both perspectives. (Next up: Was the Proverbs 31 woman a career woman? I hope you can read that one, too!)

“Ugh. I thought the “Mommy Wars” were over. You made a choice; good for you. Other Christian women make a different choice; good for them. Stop trying to convince yourself that your choice is more “Godly.” Different things work for different families and it’s incredibly insulting for you to tell working women that they are blaspheming the word of God. If that is what you truly believe, fine, but keep it to yourself. You say you’re not trying to be judgmental but you’re still doing a pretty [word I don’t use-HG] good job of it. This whole post is smug and self-righteous whether you intended it to be or not. Basically, get over yourself. You’re not that special.” 

“Excellent post. For me, this job is sooooo much harder than I ever thought it would be. Sometimes do I think I’m not cut out for this? Yes. But, I know that this is where my children need me to be. It’s where I’ve always wanted to be and where God wants me to be. When I became a mother I had to learn to put my child’s needs ahead of my wants. It’s a hard job, but it’s so worthwhile.”  

“conservative evangelical Christian? Check. white middle class American woman? Check. Taking scripture out of context to prove your point and make other people feel inferior or less then you? Check. looking for an echo chamber of people who agree with you and not letting outside voices in to disagree or point out flaws in your otherwise perfect life? Check”

“A beautiful article. With some minor exceptions, before we decided to home school, I have been a SAHM for almost 23 years. My only full time job lasted 4 months because I just knew I was not where I needed to be, so I quit. I will never, ever, ever look back and wish I had spent more time “at work.”’

“Just read the comments:  


…Maybe you’ll learn that your God is bigger than you think and that what you so self-righteously proclaim is probably driving away more people from God than pulling them near Him. Oh, and get over yourself.”  

“I praise the Lord that you are wise beyond your years in knowing that this time will in fact be over in a flash! I am speechlessly thankful the Lord gave me an awesome man of God, allowed me to have my children, and to be able to stay home and to home school them. They grew up so quickly and left our nest. My baby boy is 21 today and my sweet girl is 22. They both love the Lord and they both are incredibly awesome adults – to God be all the glory! The goal was to be the example of Jesus and reflect that every day in my marriage and as a parent. You know – some days worked out better than others, but I kept the vision that I would in fact one day lay my head down at night after they were out of our home and KNOW that I did the very best I could and that I would have NO REGRETS. No, “what if’s”. And the Lord has allowed me that knowledge and that incredible peace. Thank you for your words. I want to encourage you that every single bit of it is worth it. God bless you and your sweet family!”

‘”I’m not writing this to be harsh or judgmental….”  Excuse me, but you said at the first of your list that you thought this was the biblical way. Whenever you proclaim something as biblical and imply that it is a sin to go against it, you are kinda being judgmental.”

“Being a mom is hard. I needed to read this today. Mine are 7 and 11 and I still need reminding of the true reason I am home and keep from getting caught up in what society thinks I should be doing. Thanks again.”

“after reading this, i am glad that i have abandoned the bible. anything that judges me so completely for making my own choice and not relying on words and men-shaped men to tell me how evil i am is something i think belongs in the trash.”

 “I greatly appreciate this article. My husband and I always knew I’d stay at home with the children. I don’t miss the almost 6 figure salary I could be making now. That salary won’t give me precious time with my children and husband. It won’t buy our way into heaven. I truly believe as you stated that God wants us at home teaching and training our children. It is so surprising the number of Christian women who don’t believe this. Unfortunately, I see their households and families suffer because of this. The money and time away from the family are not worth losing our children to the world. Thank you so much for writing this.”

 “these ideas somehow make it seem as though my personhood begins and ends with my submission to a husband person, with my being a mom, and nothing more. to want more is to be selfish and damn our entire household to some sort of spiritual hell. i am tired of carrying the life and spiritual safety of our entire family on my decisions. we each are people, we each have value. how that is expressed is between us, not some deity-shaped idea and a book of words.”

“After reading the other posts, I must add another thought. As a former worker-outside-the-home, I do not find this article to be any sort of attack. Also, I am saddened by some of the comments that, pardon the term, almost boast of how their homes are clean, kids are dressed, and they can even do other things. The whole point is to get our children to heaven. I mean this lovingly- if you choose to work outside the home, the goal would be to still make the time to train your child up in the Lord. Your home, clothing, and activities are irrelevant.” 

‘”The whole point is to get our children to heaven.” What a powerless god they serve, and how little they understand the theology of their own religion. Addiction is ugly, and they’re gonna seriously [mess] up their kids. No, I think the whole point is to raise the kids in a safe, loving environment…where they don’t ‘get to heaven’ anytime soon.”

“I’ve been a working mom. Busy focusing on a job and hustling around in the evenings to get bottles washed and packed back up for the next day when I would drop off MY child at daycare and cry myself to work. It was tough and I missed so much of John Michael’s first 2 years of life. I regret not working harder to find “things” to sacrifice to make a stay-at-home life work. I can’t go back and undo it or get that time back now. We decided when baby 2 came that I would stay at home. We began planning and sacrificing, finding ways to make a little here and there to help in any way. It was tough. Well, that’s an understatement. BUT, we have been living on 1 income for 2 years and our God has provided our EVERY NEED. As I look at my boys faces I sit back and say to myself “I’m thankful I gave up “X” for YOU!” I’ll never get the time back that I missed with JM. My heart really longs for that time often. I can’t go back for it. It’s too late. So for now I choose to make the most of everyday with my sweet boys, from the present onward! “ 

“After reading this, I am abundantly thankful I have walked away from religion; especially religion that tells says you’re a bad mother and living an un-biblical life if you work outside the home and don’t have a desire to fully stop. Also, what are single mothers supposed to do? How are they supposed to live “biblically” while staying fully at home and being the sole “breadwinner”? (IMO) To have that much pressure upon oneself simply to insure that you’re living according to g-d’s word would birth load of depression, stress, unworthiness, etc.”

 “Loved this. I’m hearing a lot about “choice” lately and doing what makes you happy (some people like to use the words “fulfilled” or “sane”) and I think it’s really sad. We shouldn’t make our choices based on what we think will make us happy (or fulfilled or sane). We need to base our choices on God’s Word alone. Something I’m SO glad Hannah found out much earlier than I did. It’s hard to express these feelings to people without making it sound like you are condemning them for their “choice” but I do think more moms need to be encouraged to make choices that line up with what God wants for us and not just what they think will fulfill them. One thing I’ve learned for sure in the 7 years I’ve been at home with my kids (and the 8 1/2 years of being a mom, 2 homeschooling) is that God uses motherhood to help sanctify us, He uses every bit of it. Every diaper change, every unwarranted temper tantrum, every spill, every scraped knee, every accident, every long long story, every Lego presentation, every late night feeding, everything, everything! And if you’re missing 3/4 of that time every day… You’re missing a lot.” 

“I love how she uses fake sweetness to judge and shame other mothers. Nice.”

 “I am not married or even out of school yet but I have had people pressuring me about being a working mom. Almost all my life I have wanted to be a mother and good wife, one who will teach her children about God’s word and help her husband to be a good Christian. I have never worried about money for as long as I can remember, I had always in my mind the thought that if we were faithful and good Christians the Lord would give us a way to obtain the things we needed. Your post really touched me. Many of the people around me don’t agree with my desire to be a stay at home mother, so all that you said has been very encouraging to me. I really appreciate your putting this post out.”

“Kinda concerned for that little guy. It’s not really healthy to grow up with someone hanging their entire existence and self-worth on your ability to prove they’re a good mom. Hint to hipster Christian mommy: you really need to back off a tiny bit.”

“We can try and believe that kids don’t need the same things they needed before America put women in the work place in huge numbers, but they still need the same things. I know that there are some who can work outside the home for a limited number of hours and perhaps still be keepers at home and Deut. 6 moms. I just do not personally see how a mother could ever choose to work full time, put the kids in day-care and still think she was giving the home all the spiritual benefits she could be giving it were she there more. That kind of thinking just has never made sense to me. If you chose to put only ten hours into your full time job, your boss would fire you or at least cut your wages because you can’t be as productive in ten hours as you can be in forty. I don’t get why we think that logic does not apply with the most important job. We can’t do the same thing with a few hours a week as we could with a larger quantity of time. That just has to be true.”

 Again, here are the two key passages:

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” -Titus 2:3-5

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” -Deuteronomy 6:4-7

A Stay-At-Home-Mom: Five Hot-Button Reasons

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me and ezraI recently overheard a conversation between two Christian grandmothers who were talking about their daughters’ struggles as working mothers. It went something like this:

Grandma #1: “Well, Kristen really had a hard time for the first week or so after going back to work at the bank. For a while, she would cry after leaving the baby screaming with the sitter. She would text every couple of hours to check on her. Now, she’s a pro. It’s a lot easier now for her to get through her day without constantly thinking about and worrying about the baby.”

Grandma #2: “Yeah, it’s hard for every mom at first, but it’s important for her to get back out there and feel like a real woman again. My daughter found this great Ethiopian woman who kept babies in her home. It was obvious the woman had tons of experience caring for infants, so Janie felt fine leaving the baby with her, but it was hard at first, especially when the baby cried as she was leaving, but she knew it would make little Annie strong and independent in the end, and it would mean she wouldn’t have to give up her career.”

Hearing this dialogue made my heart ache for those sweet babies as well as for our culture as a whole.

I am a stay-at-home-mom. Just saying that out loud would make some women feel uncomfortable. Our society has convinced so many women that being a stay-at-home-mom means you aren’t a real woman—that you aren’t reaching your full potential if you allow yourself to “waste your talents and abilities by keeping yourself locked away from the world at home.” This breaks my heart. I believe there are many misconceptions floating around about the reason someone would choose to stay at home with her children. These misconceptions may be why the stigma exists.

Now, let me just say that I know this probably won’t be a very popular post. I know that if I were to say any of these things on a public talk show, I would probably never be invited back (not that I’d ever be invited to a talk show to start with). I’d be ridiculed and belittled. I’m not saying any of this to be liked. I’m saying it because I think it’s important and I wish more people who believe it would stand up and say so. Also, if you’re going to read this, I hope you’ll take 5 minutes to actually read to the end, because if you’re angered or bothered by my opinion on the subject, the end may offset your desire to throw rotten tomatoes at me.

My husband and I have known since before we were married that I would only work outside the home until we had our own children, and then I would stay at home with them at least until our nest is empty again. We have our reasons for that, which I’ll include in this article. But let’s set the record straight first. I have my list of reasons for being a stay-at-home Mom, but none of the following are on that list:

1. Because we can easily afford it.

While we consider ourselves abundantly blessed by our God, we are not at all wealthy by America’s standards. We live in a smallish three-bedroom house and we drive old cars. We are well aware that we could live in a nicer house in a nicer neighborhood and drive nicer cars and use nicer appliances if we were living on two incomes. But we just knew early on that my staying at home would mean sacrifice. It wouldn’t be easy or convenient. We always knew that, even if it meant living in a one-room apartment, sharing one car, and never eating out, it would be totally worth it if it meant I could stay at home. While we are richly blessed, staying at home isn’t the easiest financial choice. That’s not why we do it.

2. Because I’m lazy.

It’s so ironic to me that people say to me, “You don’t work, right?” It’s a loaded question. I know what they mean, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In actuality, I work constantly. I think people have this idea in their heads that stay-at-home moms sit on the couch and watch TV all day. Maybe it’s like that for some moms—I don’t know—but for me, I’m constantly either feeding my son, changing my son, cleaning my son, playing with my son, reading to my son, etc. The only times I get “a break” are when he’s napping, and those are pretty much my only times to catch up on personal hygiene (yes, I’m actually proud of myself when I get a daily shower), housework, laundry, cooking, writing, or sometimes,  if I had a night like last night, collapsing on the couch to re-fuel after being awake all night caring for my child (I’m choosing today to write this blog during nap time instead of catching a nap myself—let me tell you, it hurts. Ha!). So, do we do it because I prefer to spend my day lounging around doing nothing? Nope. Not even close.

3. Because I’m not educated enough to do something else. 

While I don’t consider myself particularly smart or talented, I do believe I’m capable of doing a few other things with my life. I obtained a Bachelors degree in English, and went on to teach high school English. I’ve been a newspaper columnist. I’ve worked with special needs adults. In any one of these fields, I could have chosen a career, I think. But nothing in the world could I ever find more fulfilling than investing all of my time, energy, and passion into raising my son and any future siblings he may have.

I don’t need to be successful by the world’s standards to achieve a feeling of self-worth. I also don’t wish I could go back and save all that money spent on my education. If, God forbid, something happened to my husband and I were left alone to provide for our family, I believe I would be able to support us and thus I am grateful for my education and experiences.


I also use lessons learned from my education daily in our home and in my relationships. So I will keep on being grateful for the education—a definite blessing from God.

4. Because I’m paranoid about my child being exposed to THE ELEMENTS.

While I do try to reasonably protect my child from unnecessary illness, I’m not so paranoid that I’m afraid for him to be anywhere besides the safe confines of our home. I’m sure there are all kinds of germs all over the place in my house. If only I were a good enough housekeeper that I would never doubt that my son was perfectly free from any harmful bacteria after licking my kitchen floor. But we actually live in this house. Our reasons for keeping me at home have nothing to do with my fear of allowing my son to leave the house and be around other people, which brings me to the next false reason for staying at home:

5. Because I don’t trust anyone enough to ever leave my child with her. 

I trust several people in this area who I know would make great date-night babysitters for my son—people who will love him and protect him and cuddle with him and laugh with him—and I plan to take advantage of them very soon for said date nights (my son is only 4 months old, after all—we’ll get there!).  There’s a difference, however, between date night sitters and all-day every day sitters. Although I trust several women to babysit my child, none of those women is my son’s mother. No one else on this green earth knows him and wraps her life around around his needs like I do. I didn’t have a child so that I could give him to someone else to raise during the majority of his awake time. That’s my responsibility, my privilege, my joy. Trust another to do a great job? Yes. Abdicate and let another do MY job? No. Now for the 5 reasons I do choose to stay at home with my son:

1. Because I believe it’s Biblical. 

Bringing up children in the Lord is more than a part-time job. I believe the Bible teaches this. Titus 2: 3-5 says,

“…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things, that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

In other words, if I’m unloving, indiscreet, unchaste, disobedient to my husband…and if I’m not a homemaker, I, by my own actions, may cause the Word to be blasphemed. Directly or indirectly, I partake in this sad and sinful scenario. Other versions of this text use the words “working at home,” “keepers at home,” and “busy at home,” in the place of “homemaker.” But, according to the Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek Lexicon, in the original Greek in which this passage was written, the word is “oikourous,” which, translated, literally means “keeper of the home, mistress of the house, housekeeper, stay-at-home a domestic.”  This word was even sometimes used to contemptuously describe a cowardly man who stayed at home instead of going to war with the other men. But in reference to women, it was “used in praise of a good wife.”

In Deuteronomy 6: 4-7, God instructs His people in how they are to raise their children:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Is there any time of the day that we aren’t sitting, walking, lying down, or getting up? Is God saying that every word we speak to our children is to be a Bible lesson with no time for fairy tales or nursery rhymes? Of course not. He is, however, saying that teaching your children about the Word is to be a daily, all-day long effort. Just as we are to be a people who “prays without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17), we are to teach our children about God without ceasing, constantly taking advantage of every opportunity to show them how to love and obey Him in everything.

So many households today look something like this: both parents work a secular job all day or most of the day while a sitter/daycare/public school cares for the children without any thought or mention of the Lord; then when everyone’s finally home, there’s just enough time for dinner and a bath before going to bed and starting over with the same routine the next day. I just don’t see how either of these passages I’ve mentioned can be truly applied and executed with that kind of frenzied, spiritually lacking routine.

 2. Because I’m forced (in a good way) to depend on my husband and respect him in his God-given role.

I Timothy 5:8 says,

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Transitioning from living on my own and earning my own wage to living in a one-income household, I’ve had to learn to humbly lean on and depend on my husband who obeys God by working hard to provide for us financially.

oreoThat means we share a family budget, and, with the delegated authority he lovingly gives me, I try to respectfully use the money my husband earns for the physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of our family. There’s no such thing as his money and my money. We share everything, keep no secrets, and I reverence him as the provider and spiritual leader of our home.

3. Because I will never get this time back.

Despite this devastating heartbreaking lump in my throat and sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think of it, my sweet baby won’t be a baby long. I know that in the blink of an eye, these chaotic days of diaper changing, frequent feedings, rocking and singing and cuddling will be a vague bittersweet memory. I have heard and fear it is true that it will only feel like a few days between teaching him his ABC’s and bidding him farewell as I drive away, leaving him to spread his wings for college and beyond. There will be a last time he nurses. There will be a last time I sing “Baby Mine” to him as he falls asleep in my arms. There will be a last time he wants to hold my hand while we walk. There will come a day when I’m no longer the only woman that matters in his life.

I don’t want to miss a single thing. I want to be there for his first words, his first steps, and every other new discovery. I don’t want to ever look back and feel that I’ve squandered—lost—this precious, special time. And by the way, children spell love “T-I-M-E.” I want my son (and subsequent children) to look back when they’re grown and remember that their mother made it a priority to spend lots of real, quality, cell-phone free TIME with them every single day because they were the most important priority in her life besides the Lord and her husband.

upsTime management is hard even if you don’t have an outside-the-home job. I do my best with the housework, but at the end of the day, if I’ve given my all to love and care for my son and there’s still a pile of laundry and a load of dishes waiting to be done, I try not to be to hard on myself, because, as my mother used to sing to me:

 “The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow

But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.

So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!

I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

4. Because the rewards are endless.

Listen, y’all. I love being a mom. I mean I really, REALLY love it. We wouldn’t have decided to have a child if I didn’t expect to love this life. But we believed what God said said in Psalm 127 when he called children a “heritage of the Lord” and a “reward.” And, indeed “reward” is the perfect word for it because the rewards of parenthood truly are endless. Watching my son grow and learn and explore and love me in return has filled my heart with more joy than I ever imagined possible, and I know the swellings of pride and joy I feel in my heart will only grow as we continue raise this amazing child, and (Lord willing) his siblings to come.


Being a mom is a job. An exhausting, 24/7, no-breaks, all-encompassing career with no check at the end of the week. But the honest truth is, even if God hadn’t expressed his desire for women to stay home with their children, I still wouldn’t trade this job for anyone else’s in the world. My heart is with my family, and I’m so so thankful I get to stay where my heart is. I’m so happy I get to be the one who will have watched my son grow and develop and flourish in knowledge and understanding. I’m humbled and terrified and excited about the opportunity to shape his worldview, encourage his passions, embolden his strengths.

Like nothing else ever has, being a mom has given me an overwhelming sense of responsibility, empowerment, and humility all rolled into one big sappy emotion that makes me cry when I pray with my son, when I read to my son, when I watch my husband play with my son, when I watch Disney movies, etc… (I don’t think there’s medication for that kind of emotion.) As a breastfeeding, baby-wearing, stay-at-home mom, I’ve never in my life felt more like a “real woman” than I do now.

There’s no salary in this career path, but the perks and bonuses are out of this world (literally).

5. Because I’m guilt-free about the time I spend with my family.

I’m doing my best to live right now in such a way that when I’m 80 (if I live that long), and looking back on my life, I will have no regrets about failing to savor each moment of my kids’ childhood.


I will long to go back to this time, yes, but hopefully not regret wasting it, because it will have been savored, it will have been appreciated, it will have been cherished. I hope to know in my heart that, while my journey as a mother was strewn with various mistakes (I’m already there now), I did my best to be there for my children in every possible way.

Before you stop reading, let me just say that I know and respect lots of moms who are not stay-at-home moms. I literally grieve inside for the mothers who work outside of the home because they have no other choice. I understand that there are circumstances for some that inescapably mean that, in order to get food on the table, they cannot stay home with their children. I am truly sorrowful for your plight and can imagine the sadness you feel being away from your kids every day. This post is not for you. I also understand that there are lots of Christian moms out there who simply were not raised by stay-at-home moms and may not have thought about the importance of it. You may never have sat down and evaluated which material things you might have to sacrifice in order to make this work. You may have even told yourself that you “have to work” because you “can’t live on one income” while, in reality, you could be living in a smaller house, sharing a car, or making other small sacrifices (small in the grand eternal scheme of things, anyway) that could make this idea a reality for your family. This post is for you.

I’m not writing this to be harsh or judgmental in any way. I’m writing it to give you a little food for thought and to encourage you moms to reject the stigmas, as I have done. I have decided to ignore the labels and stereotypes the world gives stay-at-home moms and that decision has been incredibly freeing and joyful on so many levels.

In terms of eternity, it doesn’t really matter if your family is gluten-free. One day, it won’t really matter if you were into breastfeeding or Babywise or co-sleeping or baby-wearing or cloth-diapering, or baby-led weaning. What will matter is that your family is in heaven.

Kick the labels to the curb. Love your God. Love your family.

…And if you’re in my station of life, do what I’m about to do—go squeeze that baby. :)

sweet dreams

6 Things I’ve Observed About Being A Parent In The Past 5 Days

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hannah&ezraOn September 18, 2014 (that’s five days ago) at 11:45 am, I became a parent. I’m sure all my Facebook friends are completely sick of all my “hey look at my kid!” pictures I’m always Instagramming or Tweeting (sorry not sorry), but it’s because I feel like the world deserves to get a daily (or hourly) viewing of the world’s most perfect baby. Because really, he is. Lying there on the operating table (I had a C-Section), I marveled when I first saw him. I couldn’t believe God would give us something so…perfect…in every way. I know this is something probably every mother feels when she sees her child for the first time, but I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the emotions I would feel when it was my turn (nor was I prepared for the intense nausea I would feel at that moment which would, if it were even possible, perhaps dampen the moment a bit).

While it’s only been 4 days, and in reality, I still have everything to learn about parenting, here are a few things I’ve observed about being a brand new mom:

1.    I cry all the time.

Not what you think. I don’t usually cry because I’m sad lately. While I believe Postpartum Depression is a very real thing, I don’t think I’ve experienced it yet. My mom says I don’t have PPD, I have PPH (Postpartum Happiness). I cry because I am simply overwhelmed by how beautiful this gift from God is—so much that I could literally just sit and watch him sleep for hours. I cry because I can’t believe how richly blessed we are. I cry because I’m so touched by the outpouring of love by so many who have showered us with love, encouraging words, and gifts to welcome our son into the world. I cry because I am so afraid that tomorrow he’ll be bigger and different and I’ll never again have this moment to cherish (okay that part is a little sad).

sleeping ezra

2.    Things that are a big deal suddenly don’t matter.

As I was gazing, enamored, at my son, I said to my mom right before we came home from the hospital, “It’s funny…all the things that used to matter to me.” I keep having to go through my phone to delete pictures so I can take more pictures of Ezra (that’s my perfect baby’s name), and it’s crazy to me that all the things that used to be important to me just aren’t so much anymore. I have a ridiculous amount of cat pictures. I take way too many pictures of food before I eat it. I used to think an awful lot about my hair and makeup. Even in the past month, I’ve cared a great deal more about how my house is decorated than I probably ever will now. I cared a lot more about girly drama than I think I’ll allow myself to care about now. I used to think poop was gross. Okay, poop is still gross, but not when it’s in the diaper of my baby. Then it’s a celebration because I know he’s getting the nutrients he needs. I used to think urine in your face was about the grossest thing that could happen to you. Then it happened to me twice in 24 hours, and you know what? I’m still alive. And I’ve learned a thing or two about pee-pee shower prevention.

And don’t even get me started on the delivery. In many ways, it was a nightmare that pre-baby Hannah would probably need therapy to overcome the terrors of, but post-baby Hannah sees that the end result far outweighs anything it took to have it. John 16:21 says “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” and it’s absolutely true. The moment I heard that first cry, I didn’t care about the hours of labor which turned out to be for nothing, I didn’t care about the failed epidural, I didn’t care about the risky surgery—all of that was petty stuff that happened in the past. My one reality was the gift God had given me, and I was happy.


I’m still so flawed on so many levels it’s embarrassing, but your priorities quickly have a way of changing when you transition in this way—suddenly everything is about his health, his happiness, his future. Everything else is just stuff.

smiling ezra

3.    Things that don’t matter suddenly do.

But you just said…? Right. Everything flip flops. I used to not know anything, or care anything about things like diapers, pacifiers, car seats, or anything of the kind. Now I can’t put a pacifier in my baby’s mouth without researching and seriously pondering all the possible ramifications—all the ways this decision could affect his health and happiness. I can’t eat or drink something without thinking about how it might affect his breast milk. I can’t watch someone hold him without wondering what kinds of germs they may be giving him. I used to laugh about the little things about which parents got all bent out of shape. Now most of those “little things” don’t seem funny to me at all. What’s overwhelming to me is that these are all things that affect his physical health—these little things are not even comparable to the things that will affect his spiritual health–his eternity. I’m just thankful that I can go to the perfect Parent who will give me wisdom for all the decisions–big and small.


 4. I appreciate my mother more than I ever have before.

Guys, I’ve always loved my mom, but in the past few days, my mom has appeared more like a superhero to me than anything else. She has been my rock, my cheerleader, my defender, my housekeeper, my cook, my babysitter, my nurse, my sounding board, my counselor, my best friend. I simply cannot imagine doing anything I’ve done this past week without her. There’s something so poignant and beautiful about understanding firsthand what it’s like to love your own child, and now that I have my own, I see so much more why she cares so much about me, why she is so willing to sacrifice so much time (away from her husband, I might add) and energy to help me. But much more than that, I feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude for all the sacrifices she’s made for me since she brought me home from the hospital…I see now that she was completely willing to lose herself fully in order to give me a beautiful existence. I see that every decision she and my dad ever made for me was a prayerful one and often a heart wrenching one. I will understand this more and more as I continue my journey as a parent, but for right now, I simply hope I will be able to one day do for my daughter (if I ever have one) what she’s doing for me right now.  It’s truly the most loved I’ve ever felt in my life.


5.    Nothing is more beautiful than watching my husband bond with my son.

ben & ezra

I’m falling in love with my husband all over again, but in a much different way than I did in college. Watching the man who has always been afraid to hold babies begging to hold ours and rushing home to be with him every day is fascinating and, in a way, profound to me. I think God makes that change in men when they become fathers, and it’s a wonder to behold.


6.    You just figure things out.


Everyone, and I mean everyone, will try to tell you how to take care of your baby. Everyone will tell you the horrors of their own delivery, and everyone will tell you all about all the best ways to feed your baby, put your baby to bed, clean your baby, diaper your baby, and anything else that has to do with how to parent your child. But everyone has a different opinion of what is best, and you just have to take it all in, save the sensible bits of advice, and throw away the silly ones. Then you just have to do the best you can, not stress out when things don’t go according to plan, and just figure out what works for your family. I may end up doing a Babywise schedule, I may not. I may cloth diaper eventually, I may not. I may end up buying expensive special baby detergent, I may not. But for right now, I’m going to do whatever works. I’m going to do whatever makes baby happy and healthy. And I’m determined to keep my advice to myself unless solicited for it in the future. Although I have a feeling my advice will be, “Try different things, but do what works best for your family, and don’t worry about what anyone thinks about it.” The only one you have to please is God, and God will be pleased if you love your child and teach him how to love Jesus. That’s it.

I’m sure I’ll be discovering lots of other things in the days to come (at this rate, in the minutes to come), but for right now, I’m busy. I have to stare at this face for an hour or so before heading to bed. You would too if you could.




A Letter To My Unborn Son

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cribMy Dear Son,

You’ve been growing inside my womb for more than 39 weeks now, and the doctor says that any day now you’ll be making your appearance and I’ll finally be holding you in my arms and experiencing motherhood for the first time. I can’t wait to touch you and smell you and hear your first cry. I can’t wait to finally see what you look like. I can’t wait to see what your father’s face looks like as he holds you for the first time.

Let me tell you a little about your parents since you’re about to be spending a whole lot of time hanging out with the two of us outside the comfort of this womb to which you’ve grown accustomed.  Your dad and I met and fell in love at Freed Hardeman University a little over four years ago. I was a goofy blonde RA majoring in English. I was passionate about travel, reading, writing, and midnight Taco Bell runs with all my crazy friends.  Your dad worked as a youth minister at the Independence church of Christ and as a manager at a sporting goods store most of his time at Freed, but at school, he was mostly known for his skilled, over-the-top pranks. We’ll tell you all about these soon (I think my favorite was when he walked around campus in a hazmat suit putting caution tape and signs on classroom doors canceling classes due to an outbreak of swine flu—he got in a little trouble for that one!).

I know this sounds crazy, but we both thought about you on that first date at Besso’s coffee shop at that little table in the corner (I went back and got that table from the owners 3 years later—it’s in our kitchen now). Even on that first date, we both thought about what it would be like if this worked out and we one day raised a child together. Neither of us spoke about that for many months to come, but even then, as we talked about everything from our families to homeschooling to mission work to cookie dough gelato, I was thinking about what it would be like if Ben was the future father of my child….if he would be your daddy.

We dated for about a year after that, and all the while, the question I was asking myself was how I would feel about it if you turned out to be just like your dad. When I realized that I would be overjoyed if you one day followed in his footsteps of humble servitude and righteous bravery, I knew he was the one I was going to spend my happily ever after with on this earth.

When your daddy asked me to marry him, we were thinking of you then, too. I’ll never forget how I felt when I said yes, agreeing to put my whole future (that includes you) in the hands of this wonderful, Godly man. The only bad thing about all this was that I knew my future last name and yours, too, would be one we’d have to slowly spell out every time anyone asked for our name for all of our time on this earth. Sorry about that, Son. I tried to get your daddy to just take my name (Colley) instead of his, but he had other ideas. :)

We were married on July 15, 2011.  Your daddy took me to the south of Florida and also Savannah, Georgia on our honeymoon. On the last full day of our two-week honeymoon, we went to Tybee Island and your mom had a wreck on a motor bike. For about an hour afterwards, I wasn’t thinking about you, your daddy, the wedding, or anything else besides how badly I wanted to get back on the bike and ride some more. This was due to a concussion, during which I forgot who your daddy even was!! Don’t worry–I remembered shortly thereafter while at the hospital and you returned to being a happy little twinkle in my eye again. :)

As soon as we returned from the honeymoon, we began our work with the Riverbend church of Christ in Dalton, Georgia, where your dad was the associate minister. We lived in Dalton for just a little over a year. During that time, I worked with high school special education students at the high school by our house. I was involved with community theater in Dalton. I also taught Bible class at Riverbend and we had many people over to our pretty little home surrounded by huge pine trees. It was the preacher’s house that belonged to Riverbend and we were so blessed to get to live in it. We had so much fun decorating and making it ours. We even had a “Wall of Shame” in it where we framed and hung mementos of your father’s school pranks, including the large framed black and white photo of your dad PhotoShopped to look just like the formal pictures of former FHU presidents in Old Main (It hung on the wall in all its ridiculous glory in Old Chapel Hall for months before someone caught it). Your dad stayed busy in Dalton with preaching, teaching, visiting, woodworking in his A-frame workshop and updating his new blog called “Plain Simple Faith.” I also started a blog called “The Heart of Hannah.” We spent lots of fun, quiet evenings playing board games or watching movies while we cuddled on the couch, both of which we still enjoy doing together!

In October of 2012, we moved to Louisville, Kentucky to work with the Cedar Springs church of Christ, where your dad was the pulpit minister. We lived in a beautiful white house that belonged to the church and sat in the church building parking lot.  Daddy and I were both very active at church, where we both taught classes, organized events, and helped to start the Lads to Leaders program, which we had no idea would affect our lives in the way it has now! I worked as a nanny to little children like you, and thought about you all the time as I got in lots of “practice” that would prepare me in some pretty great ways for my dream of being your stay-at-home mommy one day. Your dad and I loved date nights in the city.  Your dad was ecstatic to live in a city with Skyline chili. We made some very dear friends in Louisville that we love very much and we made a lot of happy memories there. We even got to take an incredible vacation to NYC while we lived there! My favorite memory of Louisville, however, is the day I found out you would be entering our lives in about 8 months. I sat on the bathroom floor and cried and cried with pure, overwhelming joy and excitement. You, my forever dream, were now a reality, a human being—an eternal soul–growing inside me. I’ll never forget the look on your daddy’s face when I gave him the news. His eyes filled with tears and he kissed me and held me and we laughed at the very idea of us two kids becoming parents! The responsibility was overwhelming to us, but so exciting. Your grandparents (both sets) and Uncle Caleb cried when we told them, too. A lot of happy tears have been shed over you, sweet boy! Piedaddy said we should name you Hootie Monroe when we told him. You’re going to love him and his hilarious, silly sense of humor. I can’t wait for you to experience Christmas at his house this year (it was at his house for Christmas when I first wondered if I might be pregnant—I couldn’t eat Christmas dinner! I knew something was up then).  Your other great grandparents (my dad’s parents), Great Grandma Garner, and Great Grandma and Grandpa Giselbach are also super excited about your arrival!

When your mom was a little past 20 weeks pregnant, your grandparents (my parents) hosted a gender reveal party at their house in Maysvillle, AL. This is when we found out in the presence of our family and closest friends that you were a son and not a daughter! My parents got up at that party and read the letters they had written to me right before I was born—just like this letter, but a lot older. :) I pray that I will be half the parent to you that your grandparents were to me. I feel woefully inadequate as a mother, but I can’t say that I haven’t had amazing examples of what godly parenthood looks like. Your grandparents (both my parents and your dad’s parents) are incredible people who love the Lord and I know they’re going to teach you wonderful lessons both with words and their examples.  Never forego an opportunity to learn from them.

A few months after we found out we were having you, your daddy was offered a job working for Lads to Leaders. As passionate as your dad and I are about preparing young people to grow up and lead the Lord’s church toward heaven, this was an opportunity we couldn’t resist, and so we packed up and moved to Montgomery, Alabama when your mom was 7 months pregnant. Your dad also got a part-time job preaching for the Lightwood church of Christ in Marbury, a wonderful congregation that seems almost as excited about your arrival as we are! We lived in a lovely house we rented for two months from our friends Moises and Kimberley Pinedo, and it fit our needs perfectly until we found a house to call ours in Millbrook. This is going to be your house! That’s right–your crazy parents packed up and moved one last time before your arrival while your mama was almost 9 months pregnant! We’ve been living in this house for five days now, and we finally just got hot water! It was quite an ordeal house shopping, signing, and getting moved in (the moving truck broke down on the way, we realized we wouldn’t have running water for three days, we couldn’t find a non-smoking hotel room to stay in until then, among lots of other adventures!), but we are just so excited to finally have a place that belongs to us where we can make a home for you, sweet boy. Your grandmother (my mom) just left yesterday, but she stayed a few days to help us get your nursery all ready for you, and while the rest of the house may be a disaster right now, your room is ready and already filled with love and happy anticipation of you being in it! So many people have given us such beautiful gifts to help prepare us for taking care of you. You can feel the warmth of their love along with ours in your sweet little nursery.

That brings us to the present–September 12, 2014—just four days before your due date. I know that so many more blessed adventures await us in the future, and I know I’ll look back on this letter 20 years from now amazed at just how brand new and naive we were in so many ways. Things are going to be so different once you’ve been born. The beautiful thing is that it won’t just be me and your daddy anymore—we’re a family now, and I can’t wait to experience life as a family with you.

We are praying for you every day, Son. We’re praying that you will be raised in a home filled with love and laughter. We’re praying that you will be healthy and happy and responsible. We pray that you will learn to be strong but gentle, confident but humble, independent but sensitive to the needs of others. But more than that, we’re praying that you will be successful, for we know with all our hearts that true success doesn’t have anything to do with material wealth or earthly satisfaction, but that true success is living your life and going to heaven. We pray that God will give us enough strength, courage, and daily determination to be the kind of parents that will instill in you a deep love for God and for His church, above all else. The only thing that matters in life is making sure you’re going to heaven and bringing as many people with you as you can. We are going to teach you about God’s Word before you’re even able to understand what we’re saying, and will continue to do so until you have a family of your own one day, but don’t just take our word for it. Study on your own, and if anyone, including us, ever teaches you something that contradicts God’s Word, make sure you obey God regardless of what other people say.

We are also praying for the little girl you’ll marry one day, and for the parents who are going to be raising her. Choosing whom you will marry is such a hugely important decision, second only to deciding to put on Christ in baptism and live for Him daily. You will have to face so many big decisions in your life, but as long as you get those two right, God is going to bless you immeasurably.

I can’t wait to see your precious face. I can’t wait to see your little personality develop as you grow. Every time I walk in your sweet little nursery, I can’t believe how richly blessed I am to get to be your mother. You won’t understand this until you’re a parent, too, but it’s the most wonderful and the most terrifying feeling all at the same time. Some days I panic when I wonder if I even have what it takes to take care of myself, much less a human soul God has placed in my care. I am, and will always be, weak and mortal, and on some days, kind of an airhead (Sorry).  I will make tons of mistakes as a parent, and I apologize in advance for those. I will be completely and totally dependent on our God, the perfect Parent, as I make decisions that affect you. As inadequate as I feel, I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13), and that includes being a good mom.

While I can’t promise you that you’ll have a perfect mom (or anything even resembling that), I can promise you a few things. I promise to shower you with hugs and kisses all day long for as long as you’ll let me. I promise to bend over backwards, even if it means looking ridiculous in public, in order to make you laugh. I promise to love you forever and ever, even when that has to be tough love. I promise to put your needs before my own. I promise to love your daddy and do my very best to show you what Godly marriage looks like. I promise to do my very best to truly “seek first the Kingdom” (Mt. 6:33), making Christianity not just part of us, but all of us—everything we are—so that you will hopefully grow up wanting to do the same.

I love you, my sweet boy. See you soon.




Just a Vapor

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melanieSometimes it seems like life just goes on forever, doesn’t it? I remember being a preteen who absolutely couldn’t WAIT to have the teenager status—so much that when people asked how old I was, I’d respond, “twelve and a HALF” (basically a teenager, right? I hoped I’d be perceived as such, anyway). Then I remember being in high school and thinking if I could just make it through till graduation and finally get to experience the freedom of college life, THEN I’d really know what it means to live. Then I remember wishing that God would just show me the man I was supposed to marry, already, so I could just go ahead and experience life side by side with someone.  The time always seemed to just drag on and on.

But then there are days like Monday. Monday started out like any other day. It was Ben’s off day so we slept in until about 9 am (a luxury that we know we’ll likely never experience again for 120742 years now that we’re starting a family). When we woke up, we sat on the couch in our pajamas and talked about what we wanted to accomplish for the day when my phone rang. It was then that I heard the devastating news that would make that day very much unlike any other day. My friend and college roommate Candice had lost her mother and her grandmother to a horrific car accident. Two of her sisters (ages 10 & 18) were also in the car, as well as an aunt and cousin (age 7). All of them who were still alive were airlifted and hospitalized immediately. Her sister Natalie (18) is still in ICU with multiple serious injuries and it is unsure at this point whether she will survive. The other driver died instantly.

It’s moments like these when you wish you could turn back the clock and just savor each second. It’s moments like these when you wonder what’s keeping you and your family from facing the same tragedy, and you realize the answer is…nothing. There’s no reason why your life should be spared more than anyone else’s. Your life is no less fragile than anyone else’s. The reality is that even if your life lasts a good long 95 or 100 years, it’s still just a vapor. And most people do not live to see a ripe old age. Many people face death unexpectedly and far sooner than they ever planned. James got it right when he wrote,

“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)

Candice’s mom, Ms. Melanie, surely didn’t expect to leave this life so soon. But I know this much about her: She was ready. She was ready for eternity all the years I knew her. Let me tell you a little about this woman. She was faithful and loving to her husband of many years. This woman raised seven children in the Lord. All seven are faithful to God and I am confident they will always serve as a beautiful legacy of her life in His service. Melanie loved her children fiercely and I believe she would have done absolutely anything to make sure they were heaven-bound.

Ms. Melanie was the type of woman who somehow managed to show up at every spiritual event within 3 hours of her, toting a carload of kids with her. Every time I spoke at a ladies day or youth retreat anywhere close to her Kentucky home, there would be her sweet face in the audience, sharing a row with her girls who she always “made” go (I say “made” with a smile because they are all godly girls who I’m sure never needed much coaxing). Even when she was visiting my former roommate in California, she’d show up at all kinds of spiritual events, often surprising and bewildering visiting speakers from the South who were delighted as they didn’t expect to see any familiar faces.

Ms. Melanie was an encourager. I remember numerous times when she would say something to me like, “Just keep doing what you’re doing” in reference to living righteously. This was always accompanied by a warm hug and a gentle smile. I’m sure I wasn’t the only recipient of that needed support—I’m sure many benefitted from that gift of encouraging she possessed.

Ms. Melanie wasn’t out to win any popularity contests. She wasn’t afraid to take stands on moral issues that she knew would isolate her. She was constantly mindful that she was teaching her daughters (and her sons too, I’m sure) how to be respectable, how to be faithful, how to be modest in dress and conduct, and how to choose mates who would lead them to heaven. Everyone who knew her knew that these were some of her greatest life goals. She didn’t hesitate to speak the truth on these matters, and she was quick to thank and encourage others who vocalized hard Biblical truths as well.

Ms. Melanie was completely selfless with her money and her time. Their family never made lots of money, but every bit of it went to giving her children everything she thought would be best for them. With seven children and a store to run, her time was limited, and yet she somehow managed to home school her children, daily instilling in them a love for God and for His church.

I don’t know why God allowed her to be taken from this life so quickly, but I know that all who knew her and loved her are finding comfort in knowing that she’s blissfully happy in paradise right now and is sharing that bliss with both her parents, one of which she lost at a very young age, and the other who went with her to paradise at the same moment. I didn’t know Mrs. Shirley (Ms. Melanie’s mother) as well, but I know that all the wonderful things I know about Melanie are likely a result of her Godly upbringing.

Many people will miss Ms. Melanie. Many people will wish they had told her all the things they appreciated about her before they lost the opportunity. I’m one of them. But what I think she would want us to do with that regret is to turn it into a real determination to stop wishing our lives away, savor each precious second, and be ready for our time to come at any moment. Cherish the people you love. Say what’s in your heart. Don’t waste time being angry or selfish with those you care about the most.

In the meantime, please continue to keep the Hays family in your prayers. They need strength and comfort right now more than they’ve ever needed it before. And especially pray for sweet Natalie as her precious life hangs in the balance.

Don’t waste the short time you’ve been given on this earth. Wake up every morning with the same attitude as the Psalmist:

“Today is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

If you died today, what would others say about you? Would they be able to use the same adjectives I’ve used to describe the sweet soul we lost Sunday night? Would you be in paradise with Ms. Melanie? Let’s be ready like she was ready. I want to see her, along with all the others who were brave enough to live every moment in Christ.




A Marriage Worth Remembering

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carlellieoldOn Sunday, Husband and I took our coupons to Arby’s for a fancy Sunday dinner consisting of roast beef and curly fries. After we finished eating, we were on our way out and we noticed an older gentleman walking a little slowly toward the exit, so we waited so that we could hold open the door for him. After thanking us for “waiting for an old man like him,” he stopped and smiled and said,

“How old do you think I am?”

Husband and I both politely guessed a younger age, then he beamed and declared,


We complimented him on how good he looked for his age, then my big mouth got ahead of my brain and I blurted out,

“Why are you here all by yourself?”

The smile faded from his face as he responded,

“Well my wife died a year ago so I do most things alone now. We were married sixty-three years.”

We offered condolences, then his eyes got a little misty and he smiled again and said,

“Do you know what she used to do? She used to wake up just as I was getting out of the shower and she’d walk in singing the Miss America theme, then she’d say, ‘I want my coffee and I want it now!’”

He chuckled while shaking his head and said, “I’d always get it for her though.”

He then started to reminisce about the old days (all while we’re still standing in the Arby’s parking lot), and we were happy to listen. He told us of their first date, a night at the movies, and about how she always teased and said that the only reason she went on that first date with him was because he was the only boy she knew who had a car. It didn’t matter that we were strangers. I think he could have talked to anyone who would listen.

As we were getting back in the car, I said, “He’s cute” and Husband replied, “He’s lonely.” I thought about what the old man was going to do now. I wondered if he was going to go home and just sit and think about her…if he was going to talk to her, pretending she was in the room with him. If he maybe, hopefully, had plans with other people later that night, or the next day, or anytime this week. I felt sorry for him. But then I thought about the alternative lifestyle, which is what most people are going to be experiencing when they’re 86, if they live that long. There will be a day (it’s getting closer and closer) when meeting someone who was married to the same person for 63 years will be a rare find indeed. In our culture, the moment you stop feeling the butterflies you felt while you were dating, it’s time to find someone else. Marriage is just a piece of paper and a shared bed. It’s not a lifelong commitment, but just something new to try.

Who would I rather be when I’m 86? Someone who was married three times because I cared more about personal satisfaction than about selfless commitment and family values or someone who shared love and devotion with the same person for 63 years? The answer is obvious. I pity the man for the emptiness he feels now that his beloved has passed, but I envy him for the 63 years of committed adoration they shared.

I want that. I want to have that kind of forever and always marital bond with my husband. I want my kids to see that no matter what life throws at us, one thing is certain: Mom and Dad are staying together.  Their commitment to Christ and each other will always make it work against all odds. I want my kids to be totally grossed out by how in love we still are after many years of being together. I want my kids to see what a happy, godly marriage looks like just by watching their parents every day.

I often tell my husband that when we are old (if God allows us to live that long), I hope I go first. It’s completely selfish and unfair, but I really don’t want to think about living life alone without him. I also tell him that it’s okay if he marries someone else, even if I die tomorrow. I don’t want him to be lonely.

If you’re a Christian and you’re married, make it a goal to do more hand-holding this week and less eye rolling. Do more of reminding yourself why you married that person, and do less fault-finding. Do more assigning of pure motives to his/her mistakes rather than always assuming the worst. Speak in complimentary terms of your spouse to others instead of casually joining in the husband/wife bashing sessions with your worldly friends (and unfortunately, sometimes your Christian friends). Do more intent listening this week than staring at your phone while your spouse is talking. If you’re a husband, treat your wife in such a way that she will be counting the minutes until you come home at the end of the day. If you’re a wife, treat him in such a way that makes coming home to you the very best part of his day.

Make it a point to picture yourself at 86 years old more often. Ask yourself regularly if you’re making your marriage something that you will love reminiscing about even after your spouse is gone, or if you will be filled with bitter regret.

Make today with your spouse, even if it’s just in small ways, one you will love remembering.

On that note, I’m off to fold laundry and count the minutes until my man comes home for lunch with me, just like I hope he’ll still be doing when we’re 86.