Safety on the Road Home

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I didn’t start the day on Saturday, September ninth thinking I’d end it in a panic in the Decatur, Alabama police station.

Mom and I spoke at a teen girls’ purity day in Ripley, Mississippi that weekend. On a fluke, I decided to drive to Huntsville in convoy with Mom when we finished speaking to visit for a couple of days rather than heading straight home to Columbus. Mom had Ezra in the car with her, and I had Colleyanna with me.

During the last half of the 4-hour stretch of highway between Ripley and Huntsville, I noticed something strange. A man in a white car was traveling in the lane beside me on 72. Whenever we entered those small towns, he always seemed to be right beside me at each stoplight. He’d wave and honk, he’d smile, roll down his window, and try to get me to roll down mine. Making momentary eye contact with him, I thought maybe this was someone I knew. But I definitely did not recognize that grill or those dreadlocks. By the time we got to Decatur, though, I knew them very well.

Mom and I started communicating about the little car that was darting in between us and then in front of us and then behind us and then right beside us for what seemed like very long stretches of highway. Then we both started communicating with our husbands, who were advising us to call the police. Mom talked with 911 dispatchers in three of the little towns and officers were watching for our little caravan to pass through.

But as we exited each little town, we apparently just missed the officers and the little car stuck with us no matter the speed or direction we traveled. Once he veered way over into my lane and my right wheels were forced off the road. Once he turned off to the right only to make a very quick U-turn and come right back onto the main road and dart in between our SUVs again.

By that time, Mom was describing to the dispatcher in Decatur, Alabama exactly what was happening. The lady said,

“Whatever you do, don’t stop. When you get to the bridge in Decatur, turn right. Be sure you turn right and I’ll direct you to the police station. Even if he gets way ahead of you (and he didn’t) and even if he turns left (and he did), you do not turn left. It’s getting dark and he could stop ahead and wait for you at the boat dock. You just come here and we will know you are safe.”

We did and she did and it felt incredibly good to be in that municipal building where, incidentally, Ezra was in police-car-heaven. (Best thing about the whole weekend for him!) It wasn’t long before the report was filed and we were escorted back to Huntsville where my Dad, who was on his way to the rescue, met us on a familiar exit and took us all to Cracker Barrel, where all is (always) right with the world.

It did take a few hours, though, for me to stop feeling nervous and anxious. I felt a little skittish every time a car approached mine in the lane next to me at a red light or darted in front of me as I tried to exit. I thought of that scary drive when I’d see dreadlocks or little white Fords. But I also have thought a lot about the good things about that afternoon. It’s what my Mom calls the “blessing trail” and it’s always an open road when the “other road” gets a little treacherous. There are always blessings, even in (may be even especially in) the most difficult days. Here are some that are apparent to me:

  • I just happened to be riding in convoy with my mom when this happened. I’m very glad there was one of us to talk to the police while the other kept up with directions and Colleyanna and writing down the tag number, etc….
  • I was never afraid my car was going to break down. My husband works very hard to provide for our one-income family, so much so that we are able to afford reliable transportation. I don’t like to think about what could have happened had one of us experienced an engine failure or an overheated radiator.
  • I had just filled my car with gas when this happened, as did my mother. (I had even looked at my mom incredulously when she had pulled over for gas at an old run-down little station in Ripley. But it was there that an old-fashioned attendant had actually pumped the gas for me. That was an experience I’d never even encountered before.) Stopping could have been the only option had this not been the case.
  • My children were fairly quiet during all of this. Had they been yelling or crying or begging to “potty” or disobeying (as all kids do at one time or another), it would have been lots harder than it was.
  • The 911 responders on the phone with my mom (in three towns) were all willing to help. One was especially helpful and kind and remained on the phone with my mom as long as was necessary to get us to a safe place.
  • I was the one who was afraid rather than my being the road bully. So glad to be me and not him.
  • The police had a lot going on that night (three groups in the office when we arrived) but they escorted us to safety.
  • My dad and husband happened to both be at home that night and they answered their phones. Both voices were very reassuring.
  • My vehicle was three times bigger than the one that tried to run me off the road.
  • The night ended, for my sweet children and me, in a safe and protected place.

 

I’ve also been thinking about how the road to heaven is similar to the road home that night.

 

  • As Christians, we travel in convoy with others who are like-minded. God didn’t intend for His people to make this journey alone (Gal. 6:1-10).
  • Like a reliable car and a full tank of gas in a time of panic, we carry with us the providence of God at all times (Romans 8:28). 
  • Like the 911 responder, there are always others who are ready to rescue when we find ourselves in spiritual danger (Heb. 10:24-26). God is definitely the first responder whenever we face a spiritual emergency. (Phil. 4:6, Lk. 11:9, Psa. 34:17).
  • There is always—ALWAYS—someone trying to run me off the narrow road that leads Home (Matt. 7:13) . Because the devil is who he is ( I Peter 5:8), you and I will always be tempted in one way or another to leave the safe “pavement.”
  • It’s important not to stop.
  • Our transport Vehicle through this world is infinitely bigger and more dependable than anything that can try and harm us (I Cor. 10:13).
  • Like the children who never even knew of any danger, there are always innocent people influenced by paths I choose. May I always remember the children who will be affected by my choices.
  • There’s always a right turn. I pray I will always see it and take it.
  • There is always a Father who’s listening. He’s concerned for you, loving you, waiting to wrap you up in a warm embrace to welcome you back to safety. I’ll never forget how my dad’s embrace felt that night when my tear-stained face was pressed against him, his arms wrapped around me. I was safe. I was loved. The Father runs (Luke 15:11) to wrap us in His arms. He is always on the Mooresville exit, waiting for us. He wants to take us home.
  • Things that are relatively small when placed in the context of a lifetime can seem overwhelming in the moment. I need to think more about the bigger picture that God sees and the safety that’s mine when He is with me, even when the darkness of trials and temptation closes in for a time.

Ezra is THREE!

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Ezra Lee turned 3 yesterday. At 3 years old, he is the most energetic, most stubborn, most obstinate, and most adorable 3 year old I’ve ever known (yes, all at the same time!).

Ezra amazes me in so many ways. He is rambunctious, yet thoughtful. Hard-headed, yet tender-hearted. Mischievous, yet innocent. He moves constantly and does not slow down for a second until he’s asleep. He never stops talking. He says, “Mom” or “Dad” at least twice before he continues with his next thought.

This boy loves anything that moves–trains, cars, busses, airplanes, helicopters, excavators, bulldozers, tractors, dump trucks, garbage trucks, firetrucks, police cars, ambulances…I could go on and on. He’s in size 4T clothes and only wears BIG BOY UNDERWEAR NOW (though sometimes Mom misses the diapers).

If you explain anything to Ezra that he didn’t already know, he usually says, “tell me about that again,” after you’re done explaining it (he wanted to hear about Hurricane Harvey about 18 times before he was ready for a new topic). He loves anything that gives him a thrill– jumping off of high surfaces, spinning around till he’s dizzy, being flipped over…this kid’s going to love roller coasters. He loves Bible class. He loves his sister fiercely and is very proud of her. He thrives on praise, like any child, I guess. He loves his mama and says to me several times a day, “I want to love you” or a “I want to hold you” when he wants me to pick him up. He loves to read books, and considers it a grave consequence for disobedience if he gets his story time taken away at night. He could live solely off of chicken nuggets, “macky-macky and cheese,” pizza, and cheese dip (but how long could anyone actually live off of just that? Life is unfair).

His favorite games are the ones where you have to use your imagination and pretend you’re someone or something you’re not. He’s very into monsters, and his favorite movie right now is Monster’s Inc. (He’s going to be Sully for Halloween). He loves being outside.

His favorite Bible story is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He can quote Ephesians 6:1 (though his life-application of the verse is a little wanting at times). He is quick to forgive and never holds grudges. He is intensely passionate about everything he says and does. This makes for some pretty intense parenting challenges. Ben and I say all the time that if we can just harness that passion and point it in the right direction, this child can do incredible, courageous, God-honoring things with his life. I want him to look back on posts like these and know how much we prayed and strove for him to have a future that glorifies God and helps others go to heaven. Our little redhead is a blessing to us in so many ways. We thank God for his intelligence, his health, his passion, his heart. Can’t wait to see what year three holds for our little fireball!


To My Daughter, On Her First Birthday

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My darling Colleyanna,

This is your 12-month picture. You just turned a year old, and I truly can’t believe it. I feel like it was just a few weeks ago I was listening to your first cry. I was stunned as I touched your face by how perfect you were. And now, a year later, you’ve changed so much! 24 pounds, 2 teeth, a lot more blonde hair, eating solids, wearing size 4 diapers and sizes 18-24 months clothes, and saying that I word I LOVE to hear you say: “Mama.”

 

Let me tell you some of the things I have observed about you lately.

 

  • You love music. You stop what you’re doing and dance every time you hear it.
  • You are not a great sleeper. You are still waking up every 2-3 hours at night, and have since you were born. However….
  • When you’re awake, you’re the most pleasant, most contented baby I’ve ever known. You are just so happy to be alive, and you’re satisfied doing whatever it is we have planned and going wherever we go.
  • You are very affectionate. You love to cuddle and you lean in for hugs, even though you’re just a baby. Sometimes you press your face against mine when you’re happy in my arms and my heart becomes a puddle—it’s SO sweet.
  • You are friendly to almost everyone. You’re very much into waving and smiling at anyone who talks to you. You make friends wherever you go.
  • You love your brother wholeheartedly, and you think he’s just amazing. Nothing is more exciting or more entertaining to you than watching Ezra. Nobody can make you laugh like he can. You light up every time he walks in a room, and especially when he talks to you or plays with you.
  • You are extremely nosy. 🙂 You have to know what everyone is doing and talking about all the time. You watch everyone intently and it’s clear that you’re thinking through our every move and our every word. You’re an expert observer.
  • You love clothes. Every time you see an article of clothing, you pick it up and put it on your head. You also love going through Mommy’s make-up bag about more than any other activity.
  • You love baths. Your favorite thing is standing up and then crashing back down as hard as you can so you make a huge splash. This makes for a pretty messy bathroom floor, but you think it’s hilarious.
  • You love books, especially ones that have something you can touch and feel inside.
  • Your eyelashes are four miles long (maybe not QUITE that long, but close).
  • You hated cake and ice cream the first time you had it, but the second time around, you were much more open to the idea. You rejected it with a vengeance the first time, much to the disappointment of your birthday party guests. But don’t worry, we are laughing about it now. 🙂
  • Your brother calls you Kie-nananana. We think it’s cute so we call you that half the time, too. Sometimes I worry you won’t actually know your real name. 🙂
  • You already have a great sense of humor. One of my favorite sounds in the world is your laugh.

 

Now, when you’re older and you’re looking back on this sweet time of your life, there are some other things I want you to know:

 

  • Your parents had Bible time with you every single day. You love to pat the Bible, listen to us sing Bible songs, and you’re learning to pray. Every night you’re hearing the words, “True success is living your life and going to heaven.” We will continue this practice of family Bible time every day with you for as long as you’re in our home. We will teach you all that we can about the Bible and God while you’re in our home, but if you ever study your Bible and realize that we taught you something that contradicts the Bible, we want you to do what the Bible says, not what we say.
  • Except for when you were sick, you never missed a worship service or Bible class. When you grow up and leave home, we pray this will still be true.
  • Your parents love you fiercely. We think you’re absolutely perfect in every way. We act like fools all the time just to get a glimpse of that million-dollar smile. There’s nothing in the world we wouldn’t give to see you grow up to be happy and successful (for success definition, see above).
  • We want you to know that, while we think you’re gorgeous and perfect on the outside, what matters is what’s in your heart (Ephesians 3:3-4). If you love and obey God, we will always think you’re beautiful, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is not your friend.
  • You’ll probably go through a stage where you really don’t like me, but I hope we can always be close, as I am to my mother (who, incidentally, also loves you fiercely). I learn more from my mother than anyone else. I hope you are able to learn good things from me, too, one day.
  • Parenting you and your brother is the hardest, scariest, happiest, most inspiring thing that’s ever happened to us, and we thank God for the opportunity to raise a soul as beautiful and precious as you.

I love you to the moon and back,

Mama


The Half-Naked Preacher (and other stuff from a routine Sunday)

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So this past Sunday was just a routine Sunday. After a night of not sleeping due to a long, wiggly toddler in my bed (He had a nightmare) and a teething 8-month old who never misses a feeding, I got up early. I placed my coffee cup under the Keurig and our lunch in the crockpot. I turned it on high so it would be ready in 5 hours, and fixed breakfast for my son who has decided he doesn’t like his every morning breakfast (scrambled eggs) anymore. I got both kids in their seats with food in front of them and as it turns out, waffles aren’t Ezra’s thing either. I forced him to eat a few bites and put both kids in the bathtub. Fast-forward forty-five minutes and we were all in the car but both kids were crying and my make-up was only half-done.

We got to church and realized we were getting there later than we usually do, so I told Husband (the minister) to go ahead inside and I’d get both kids to their classes. I threw my diaper backpack on my back, got the baby out of her seat after fixing her headband she’d pulled down to her neck while pitching a fit, got the toddler out of his seat after running my fingers through his unruly hair and tying his shoes again, grabbed my Bible from the front seat, and we were off like a herd of turtles. “Did I put on deodorant this morning?,” I wondered as we scrambled toward the door. I think I did…? Doesn’t matter now.

After getting all of us to our respective classes in time, and picking up both kids from their classes afterward, we got to our pew in plenty of time to get situated before church began, which is fortunate since someone came in and told us we were sitting in their seat. The herd of turtles moved. After moving to a different seat, I realized I left the kids’ blankets in the car. The blankets are very important, as Sundays are very long days, with a two-hour service in the morning, then a quick lunch, then another afternoon service. If the kids fall asleep during the morning service, it makes for a much easier day for all of us. The blankets help them fall asleep. Thus, the blankets are necessary. I got both kids up to come with me to the car to get the blankets, but halfway up the aisle I realized I left my wallet, thus my keys, at home. I rushed back up to the front of the auditorium, where my husband was conversing with our elders, and interrupted to ask for the keys. He handed them over, and my crew went back up the aisle again to the car to retrieve blankets.

We got back and it was time for the service to begin. By the time the opening songs were sung, it was clear the baby was ready to be fed. I did my best to pacify her through communion so that I could participate, then left the toddler with a helpful Christian sister to go nurse the fussy baby. When I got back, the preacher (my husband) was halfway through his sermon and the toddler still wasn’t asleep. Instead, he’d decided today he was going to act like he’s never been taught how to behave, and that included kicking the pew loudly, spilling his snack, throwing a finger puppet across the room, and screaming when he got a spanking.

When services were over, I was visiting with members and visitors alike while trying to round up my crew to get us home to that crockpot soup before rushing back for the second service, when we realized we had some friends from out of state visiting our services, and they wanted to do lunch, about which we were delighted. Husband said, “They don’t know how to get there, so I’m gonna ride with them. See you there?” I told him we have to turn the crockpot off or the soup will burn, so he asked if I could run home to do that (we live 2 minutes away from the church building). So I picked up our pew mess, threw the backpack on my back, rounded up both kids, got us all the way to the car and realized, once again, I had no keys. So I called Husband, who sent someone to me from the other parking lot to bring me his keys. I then rushed home, turned off the crockpot, refilled the toddler’s juice cup so we wouldn’t have to buy a drink for him at the restaurant, grabbed two bibs, and jumped back in the car. At least, then, I had my wallet.

We had a great lunch with great friends, albeit rushed, since we had to get back by 1:30. We made it through the second service. My kids still weren’t asleep, but I told myself that’s okay because maybe we would all get a nap when we got home. The service came to a close and I took my kids upstairs to the nursery to play for a few minutes while my husband was in a meeting. And then I smelled it. I checked the baby’s diaper—she was wet so I went ahead and changed her. Then I checked the toddler. I put my finger in his diaper to open it and check it, but I didn’t even make it to the diaper before I realized something was wrong. Really, REALLY wrong. There was poop on his thigh. There was poop on his leg. There was poop on his Strasburg hand-embroidered outfit. There was poop on his white dress socks. There was poop on his dress shoes. It was everywhere. Everywhere, I tell you.

So I set the baby down and surrounded her with toys while desperately pleading with the toddler, “Don’t. Move.” I walked behind him and marched him carefully to the changing table, pulled him up on it while trying to get as little poop on me as possible, and realized I had nothing to put all the ruined clothes in, nor an outfit change. I grabbed my phone, still begging the toddler not to move, and called my husband, who I knew was in a meeting.

“Please come up here. I just need help.”

Husband valiantly rushed upstairs, found me a bag to put everything in, and rushed back to his meeting I had interrupted. I finished damage control of The Great Poopnado of 2017, stripped the toddler down to his shirt and new diaper. I was now carrying several bags, the fussy baby, and also helping the half-naked toddler down the steps. I found a member and asked her to keep an eye on the toddler for a second while I get the baby in the car. I ran outside and got her buckled in, ran back in to find the toddler, and by now he was not only my half-naked toddler, but my half-naked toddler on the stage of the auditorium, pretending to preach to half the congregation, still in the auditorium laughing. I told him it was time to go, he pitched a sleepy fit in front of everyone (“But I wanna pweach!”), I popped him one for pitching a fit, got him in the car with his sister, and finally, FINALLY got home and got the door unlocked with MY KEY and got us all in the house where we could finally commence poop laundry and naptime rituals.

Just a routine Sunday. That’s the part that makes life hard right now. The marathon kind of Sunday obstacle course is kind of routine. That kind of worship day isn’t abnormal…at all! My husband and I laugh about how Sundays are a marriage test for us. If we can survive Sundays, we can survive anything.

Sometimes I long for days when the only person I had to worry about getting ready was myself. Sometimes I just wish I could sit through a sermon, listen and take notes. Sometimes I wish I could sit through a meal, enjoy the way my food tastes, and participate in adult conversation without having to think about the MULTIPLE needs, messes, and noise levels of two tiny people. Sometimes I wish I could go to the bathroom or take a shower by myself, in peace.

We try to walk a few miles as a family two or three times a week. It’s kind of a hassle taking both kids, spraying everyone with bug spray, getting them buckled in the double stroller with juice and snacks, etc., etc.. But it’s quality family time, and it’s helping me finally lose the baby weight.

When we walk, we always pass a lot of other walkers, joggers, runners, and bikers, as it’s a public nature trail.

Something occurred to me as I smiled at the passersby on our walk that concluded that long Sunday.

You know the way someone looks when they’ve hiked several miles up the side of a mountain, finally get to the top and get their first look at that incredible view? Or the look two people who are in love get when they look out over the ocean during a sunset while holding hands? Or the look someone gets when they smell something wonderful that reminds them of home?

That’s how a lot of older people look when they look at my little family.

It’s not because there’s anything special or aesthetically appealing about us.

I think it’s because they remember. They remember the long days. They remember the stickiness, the noisiness, the endless chatter, the questions times infinity, the teething, the whining, the diapers, the messes, the stroller, the feedings, the exhaustion, the check-ups, the mountains of laundry—all of it. And for many of them, if they could go back and do it all again, they would.

Someday, if the Lord allows us to keep on living, my husband and I will be empty-nesters. Someday it will be us looking over at the other table in the restaurant—the one with the young family. Someday we’ll be the ones walking by the double stroller and remembering a different chapter.

Will we look back and wish we had spent less time looking at our iphones and more time looking into the eyes of our kids?

Will we wish we had done fewer quick answers and more patient listening?

Will we wish we had talked more about God and the Bible?

Will we wish we cared less about clean hair and clean teeth and more about clean hearts?

Will we wish we had laughed more and stressed less?

Will we wish we had stopped pining for the next thing (potty training completed, bigger house, sleeping through the night, etc) instead of just enjoying where we are in the journey?

Will we wish we had been a little less OCD about the EPA kind of “safety” and a little more about the ultimate salvation?

Will we wish we’d let de-cluttering the living room take a back seat to de-cluttering the life?

Will we wish we’d taught our kids to be less about acquiring and more about inquiring?

Will we wish we’d been less about sports and more about souls?

Will we wish we’d made more time for dinner table conversation, long walks and Saturday morning snuggles?

Will we look back and wish we could have known how fast the years between the delivery room and the dorm room really do escape us?

Will we just look back and wish?…Or will we look back and praise?

It was a long Sunday. But we only get a few Sundays with our children—roughly 936 each. About 150 of those have already elapsed with my toddler. I want to make the most of them. So if you noticed I’m not blogging as much these days, that’s why. My goal is to start blogging more, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s because I don’t want to miss a thing. 🙂

One day I’m going to be looking back on this frenzied, hectic, stressful, wonderful time. I know one day I’ll kick myself for getting worked up over the million little unknowns when the most important question is this—Was my family truly successful?

It was that question that ended Sunday’s chaos:

“Ezra, what is true success?”

“Living your life and going to heaven.”

If I can put them on that path, and teach them to love it enough to stay on it even when it leads them away from my home one day, all the stress, worry, sleeplessness, messiness, stickiness and noise will be 100% worth it…and more.

So soldier on, young mothers. Enjoy this particular page of this particular chapter. Because one day you will have turned the page.

Let this be your reminder every morning, as it is mine:

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

And please don’t forget…

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time…” (Ephesians 5:15-16)


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:  

https://www.facebook.com/stuffchristianculturelikes/posts/10153692329013782

…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.

cici's

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.

happybaby

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.

BedtimeCuddles

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