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)



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



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



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.

 

 

 



You Might Be A Liar If…

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growingnose One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are dishonest. This includes “white” lies, half-truths, and a little “innocent” exaggeration. I love, however, people who always “shoot straight,” even if it’s not the most convenient or the most exciting.

How does God feel about lying? If you grew up in the Church, you’re all probably singing in your heads the one verse you have memorized about lying (Revelation 21:8). Liars go to hell. I didn’t say it…God said it.

 But you knew that.

In fact, you’re probably pretty bored reading this so far because no one thinks of himself as a liar.  We all know lying is bad, Hannah, just like we know stealing and murder is wrong.

 But what if I told you I know you’re a liar?

You there! Reading this article right now. You’re a liar.

Or at least you have been at some point in your life. And I’m not just talking about the time you ate cookies before dinner and lied about it when you were 5. I mean in your adult life.

Gasp! How dare you?! You don’t even KNOW me, you crazy amateur blogger person!

 You’re right, I could be totally off. But here’s why I think that:

I recently read the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.  Since it’s only 11 verses long, I’ll include it here:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Until recently, I’ve always thought of Ananias and Sapphira as terrible, wicked people who deserved what they got. How dare they lie about how much money they were giving to the Lord! But lately, I’ve been thinking more about this story, and I’ve realized that they probably weren’t bad people. In fact, they were probably very admired in the community and in the church. They made a mistake. They sinned. Just like we all do. And they were struck dead immediately as an example of how God feels about dishonesty driven by greed (or by anything else, for that matter).

But why?! They were giving money to God when they could have kept all of it! Doesn’t that count for something?!

That’s not the point. It wasn’t about the money. It was about the lie.

Why in the world would they lie about that, anyway?

I can’t get in their brains or anything, but I’m sure they wanted to feel the glow of all the admiring glances and words of praise from the apostles and from all who heard of their godly generosity. They decided to do something good with part of the money they had earned. If it had stopped there, everything would have been fine. But it didn’t stop there of course. I can imagine the conversation that went down that day, or possibly in bed the night before.

 “Hey honey…you know that money we’re gonna take to the apostles tomorrow?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Let’s not say anything about how much of the money we’re giving…but if they ask, let’s say we’re giving all of it. I don’t want anyone to think we’re being greedy or anything. I mean, we need that money. We know that. But everybody else—they don’t know that…”

I think we’re all guilty of this. Ananias and Sapphira were liars. Even if that was the only lie they ever told, they were liars, and that condemned them. Here are some ways we can sometimes be like them:

You might be a liar if…

  • You go to church every time the doors are open, but that’s your only time with God during the whole week.
  • You make sure everyone sees you dropping your contribution in the collection plate, when you know that particular portion of your budget is the last priority.
  • You teach a children’s Bible class at church, allowing them to believe you actually study your own Bible at home, rather than just scanning the lesson in the 2nd grade curriculum Saturday night before teaching on Sunday.
  • You go on a mission trip and love to talk about how evangelistic you are, when in reality, that 2-week trip when you passed out fliers and sat in on Bible studies was the extent of all the soul-winning you’ve ever tried to do.
  • You bow your head in congregational prayer while your mind ponders whether you want the pizza buffet at Pizza Hut or chips and queso at Moe’s for lunch.
  • You sing out “Bind us together” while you know good and well you have not done your part to make things right with Sister Jones. You’re singing “Purer in heart, Oh God, help me to be” while, if you were truly honest, you’d see the irony in that considering the raunchy entertainment choices you’ve made this month.
  • You lead beautiful public prayers, professing your love for Jehovah God, but deep down, you know that’s the only, or one of the only few prayers you’ve said this whole week.
  • You always speak up in adult Bible class about loving one another, respecting one another, and being kind even when it’s difficult, but you apply none of those rules to your marriage (the private moments of which no one else sees).
  • Maintaining a strict, Biblical moral code is very important to you, and you make sure everyone who knows you also knows where you stand on moral issues, but when it comes to your political vote, Biblical morality comes second to taxes and healthcare.
  • You tell your friends you couldn’t make it to worship services because you were under the weather, when in reality, you were just tired and didn’t want to put real pants on (as opposed to PJ pants or sweat pants –which, incidentally, are all I wear at home).

I’m sure you could add to this list. I’m not writing this to be unrighteously judgmental in any way. I’m writing it to retrospectively ask myself (and you, obviously) if we’re being completely and totally honest before God, or if our primary goal is to appear righteous before men. If my primary goal is to look holy, and my actual relationship with God is secondary, I’m no different than Ananias and Sapphira. I’m no different than the hypocrites of Matthew 6:5 who loved to stand and pray on the street corners so that everyone would see how religious they were. I’m no different than Diotrephes, who “loved to have the preeminence” (III John 1:9-10).

At the beginning of this article, I called you a liar. If you’ve never been guilty of being dishonest before God, I apologize for the accusation. I, however, have been guilty of doing that before, and sometimes I do it without even thinking about it.

Sometimes it’s easy to fool men into thinking you’re something you’re not. I have trust issues because of all the times people have deceived me willingly. But it’s not easy to fool God. In fact, it’s impossible.

Galatians 6:7-8 reads, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

Are you just giving part of yourself to God while pretending it’s your all? Don’t be a liar. Your sin will be found out 100% of the time.