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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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.”

Posted on

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)



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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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.

 

 

 



Maternal Merriment

Posted on

pregnant-woman-silhouette-clipartSince my recent post in which I shared my frustration with all the negativity surrounding early motherhood, I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the FLOOD of encouraging comments, Facebook messages, emails, text messages and in-person encounters–all assuring me of the beauty of motherhood. To those of you who took the time to contact me for this reason, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your lovely words were medicine for my mind and spirit, which, at the time, were ill at ease.

While I loved every single message I received in response to the post, my favorites were that of my mother (you can read it here), and this one from a dear sweet friend named Andrea Wheeler. Andrea is the stay-at-home, homeschooling, godly mother of five, who has always inspired me in countless ways. Her little children (all under the age of 9) love the Lord and serve Him gladly, obey their parents without argument, respect everyone they encounter, and are simply a joy to be around. While I could never hope to be as good a parent as Andrea and her good husband Jon, her advice gives me hope and motivates determination. I’m sharing it here (with her permission) because perhaps it can do the same for you:

I thought I’d pass along a few thoughts.  Feel free to delete the entire email, or take what helps and leave the rest.
Honestly, with five (pregnancies, births, babies) children, I still don’t feel like a “seasoned mother”.  Maybe that feeling comes with hindsight?
I LOVE being a mom!  It is the BEST JOB EVER.
Yes, the hours are a bit long, and it is messy work Emoji, but what person with a really great job can’t say the same?
We live in a culture (and it has seeped into the church) where our values are upside down.  My OBGYN is fabulous.  But she works all the time and her kids are raised by a live-in nanny.  The nanny even goes on their family vacations, to look after the kids.  Isn’t that heartbreaking?  But if you ask anyone, she is VERY successful (and I am not).
Women LOVE to talk birth.  Mine were easy.  FUN!  It was the most EXCITING day imaginable, and it never gets old.  The nurses fuss at me for getting too excited, as it raises my blood pressure. It is wonderful!!  There is pain (it is bearable) and there is discomfort, but you get to have a BABY.  You get to SEE that sweet baby- your husband’s eyes and your grandfather’s hairline…
The fact that people dread it is hard for me to fathom.
Even if you are one of the few with a horrible birth experience, it is ONE day, opening up on a lifetime of joy!  My experience has always involved a lot of chatting and laughing, but I like it a little more quiet when the labor gets intense.  Epidurals are my preference, and I have truly enjoyed every minute of every birth.  The nurse turned my epidural off at the end with Emily.  Even that wasn’t too bad.
I sleep, nap and rest more AFTER babies, than I do before.  Every mama, grandma and husband will encourage you to rest- and you should!  It is an expected period of rest.  (I am not a napper and I have to MAKE myself nap).
You may be completely exhausted, but you won’t mind getting up at night.  You will savor every moment.  And all of my babies slept 4-6 hour stretches.  Even with five kids, I can sneak in a nap. Jon and I have always wanted our babies with us, and we have “dated” more during those post-pardum days.  Newborns sleep through everything.  Nursing in a dark theater is a piece of  cake.  And you will quickly figure out their “pattern” and know when to run out for a bit, when you need a break. Even today, with FIVE children, I have more people offer to babysit than I’ll ever use.  My kids are a joy and I LOVE having them with me (most days). We have a few close friends and family that we will leave the kids with.  We’ll drop them all of and sneak off for a quiet dinner, movie, walk around the garden center, etc.  We enjoy our time together, and come back anxious to see our brood.
We put our kids to bed pretty early.  This allows us to watch a movie, eat a snack, or just spend a couple of hours together in the evening.
 I expected to love our baby.  I expected Jon to love our baby. What I did not expect was the extreme joy of watching Jon love and cherish our baby.  It is simply breathtaking. You will be shocked at how your love for Ben will grow, with the addition of this sweet babe.
 I think finding the joy in motherhood comes down to perspective.  I have spells of feeling smothered and overwhelmed.  I resent getting out of the bathtub to deal with conflict and I become frustrated with extra laundry.  When it comes down to it, I find that the root of my “funk” is selfishness.  It slips in slowly, but it takes a hold.  When I refocus on my goals- on raising these sweet blessings- it becomes joy.  It doesn’t make it easy, but it is joyful work. I think most people miss the fact that motherhood is goal-oriented work.  If it is a job of drippy noses and dirty floors, why would anyone want to be a mother?  But it is about little hearts and minds, and training and teaching.  It is about building the foundation for the rest of their lives.  And you will be richly rewarded with giggles and wet kisses and a heart that swells with joy!
I often have people stop me and say “I couldn’t stand being home with my kids all day”.  And I think, “I wouldn’t want to be home all day with just any children…”.  My kids are a joy to be around.  We have hard days and rough patches and we are constantly working on something, but training produces results.
Your children will be a delight!
Thank you, Andrea. And thank you to everyone who loved me enough to send me something similar. God bless the women who are brave enough and strong enough to accept and embrace this beautiful role He’s designed for us!


Gloom and Doom (A Post Where I Ask You for Something Different)

Posted on

grumpycatAbout three years ago, I was busy making last-minute preparations for one of the most important days of my life—the day I became a wife to my best friend. I was excited, happy, ecstatic, joyful….but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I was scared because as a Christian, choosing the one you’ll marry is the second most important decision you’ll ever make in your whole life (the first, of course, being to give your life to Jesus). When you understand what God’s Word says about marriage, you are absolutely certain about the gravity of this decision. It’s not just a fun, spontaneous rash decision that you can rethink and get out of later if it doesn’t work out (although many today view marriage that way)—it’s forever. It’s an all-in commitment that means when you say those vows, you’re not just making a promise to your new husband—you’re making a promise to God.

But I’ve always known all that.

What surprised me was how many people talked about marriage like it was going to be SO hard. I heard story after story about how hard the first couple of years is, how marital strife was inevitable, how we were going to realize we didn’t know each other at all. Now, as a disclaimer, let me just say that I know and appreciate that all of those people who warned me about all the scary parts of marriage had my very best interests at heart, and sincerely wanted to help prepare me for this mega commitment. And I thank them. But what I’ve discovered since then is that they were right about marriage being hard—it is super hard sometimes—but it’s also fun, rewarding, enlightening, and cozy in all the best ways. Yes, it’s different from dating. Yes, it’s a learning process. Yes, it’s probably the biggest adjustment you’ll ever make. But it’s so worth it. When you marry someone who loves God more than He loves you, the bond you will develop will be stronger and deeper than anything you could have imagined while you were dating. When I look back on the trials my husband and I have faced together–all the times we hurt together and cried together–and I consider how we’re still able to laugh until we can’t breathe when we’re hanging out together, I know that God knew what he was doing when he designed marriage. More than anything, it’s a friendship, deeper and richer than any other.

See…those were the things I would have liked to have heard more about before saying, “I do.” But even with all that gloom and doom I heard while engaged to be married, I hadn’t seen anything yet.

I thought that was bad, but now that I’m pregnant with our first child, the gloom and doom warnings are disheartening and daunting, at best. These are some things I’m hearing over and over from well-meaning people:

  • Nap when you can now, because you’ll never get a good nap again for 18 years.
  • I hope you have a good delivery, because I sure didn’t—this is what happened to me…[insert horror story here]
  • You’ll never have a normal body again.
  • Try to do fun things with your husband now, because when the baby comes, your marriage is pretty much over. Date nights will be a thing of the past.
  • Breastfeeding will hurt so bad you’ll cry every time your baby’s hungry (which is all the time).
  • You’ll cry other times, too, because you’ll probably have PPD disorder like I did. 
  • Get used to wearing poop and vomit for hours at a time.
  • Good luck EVER traveling again. 
  • You’ll never have a normal grocery shopping experience again. It will be a nightmare every time.
  • Oh, and enjoy that shower because once the baby comes, you’ll never have time for a good shower….or any bathroom privacy time whatsoever. You can forget the bubble baths. And pedicures. And any other luxury you enjoy.
  • Finish that whole book, because you’ll never have time to read anything once the baby’s here.

I could easily keep going…and don’t even get me started on general parenting warnings (“You just wait…you think you’ll be a great parent NOW…”). Once again, let me say that I know good and well that all these warnings are legitimate and necessary. And I’m sure I need to hear all of them.

But sometimes…I need to hear some good things, too.

Because right now…I’m starting to wonder why in the world people have kids. If it’s this miserable, why am I even going through these nine uncomfortable months? Why am I signing my life away to trade my easy breezy independence for the motherhood prison?

I’m just a little discouraged. You see, I LOVE naps. I LOVE laughing with my husband. I LOVE traveling. I like alone time sometimes. I like long showers. I LOVE bubble baths. I like going to the bathroom by myself. I like reading.

So if I’m going to trade in all the things I love for this little kicker in my womb, I need to know why it’s worth it. I figured all that out with marriage, and I’m totally at peace with the little things I gave up for marriage life and I feel blessed beyond measure to have made that decision and completely undeserving of this abundant life I obtained when I married my husband. And it could very well be that I have to wait before I’ll discover the same is true of parenthood. Hard, sacrificial, scary—WORTH IT. I’d just selfishly like to expectantly feel that now, rather than 3 years from now. That might be unrealistic.

Anyway, this post obviously isn’t poignant or profound or even necessary. I just feel like I’m speaking out for not just me, but for the thousands of us pregnant-for-the-first-time gals out there who could use a little encouragement.

So, if you took the time to read my morning ramblings, I hope you’ll also take a second to leave a comment for me and all other preggo girls who want to hear about things to which we can look forward, not just dread. We still want/need your warnings. We still need to hear all the tips/advice you can share to help us figure out how to navigate our way through all this new crazy baby stuff. But, for the sake of our sanity, make sure you qualify the gloomy doomy warnings with a little sunshine.

Speaking of sunshine, it’s 60 degrees here in Louisville, so while baby’s still in my belly, I’m gonna get out there and enjoy it today. Kids or no kids, I hope you get a chance to do the same before the day’s over!



Love Isn’t Silly At All

Posted on

My hand shook as I stared at the faint pink line on the home pregnancy test I was holding.

photo-1

My eyes widened and my heart rate quickened just as it did the 5 other times I beheld yet another test result that day (just to be sure). I even called my doctor just to confirm that 6 positive home pregnancy tests actually meant I was pregnant. I remember sitting down on the bathroom floor and having a little cry fest party for one, for I knew no other way to handle my sudden elation. There on the bathroom floor, I thanked God over and over for the gift He had given me and my sweet husband (who still didn’t know).

With red lipstick, I wrote “Congratulations You’re a Father” on the bathroom mirror for hubby who would be home any minute for his lunch break. I set up a candlelight lunch on our first date table (the table I begged for from our first-date coffee shop for three years until they finally caved and gave it to me).

photo-3

(This table was his Christmas gift from me)

 

When Husband came home, he kissed me while I was stirring our soup, and I, unable to contain my excitement, said, “Hey, guess what! I cleaned the bathroom! It’s sparkling. You should go look!” And as he walked toward the bathroom, I tiptoed behind him and shrieked for joy when he stopped in his tracks, staring at the mirror.

photo-2

After a few seconds of silence, I wondered if he was actually happy. Then he turned toward me, tears in his eyes, and without a word, took me in his arms and kissed me for a long time. By the time he pulled away, I could see a tear or two had escaped his wonderstruck eyes and he whispered, “I’m a dad?”  All day long, he would touch my stomach and say, “There’s a baby in there.” We two could have died of pure happiness.

The next few weeks of having to keep our joy a secret was agonizing, for me especially. When we finally got to tell our parents the news (read about telling my parents here) our shared euphoria lifted us clear into the heavens. The excitement only escalated as we told grandparents, friends, and eventually posting the news on billboards all over the world (i.e. Facebook).  To all of you who gave us kind words of congratulations and encouragement, we thank you.

So now that my husband and I have shouted our news from the rooftops, I’ve just now stopped to think about what’s made this such a monumental event for us. It’s love. Love is what makes me cry every time I think about holding my unborn child in my arms in 30ish weeks. Love is what makes seeing my child move on the ultrasound screen and hearing that heartbeat the most incredible feeling I’ve ever experienced. Love is what makes me terrified and more prayerful than ever that we will raise our child to be happy, to be healthy, to serve God wholeheartedly, and to never doubt for a millisecond just how much he/she is surrounded by–you guessed it–love.

I’ve just described feelings that many of you readers have felt. If you’ve experienced this kind of love, I hope it strikes you as it does me that that’s how God feels about us. The kind of love that never wants us to hurt. The kind of love that cringes and cries when we are taught a necessary lesson that hurts. The kind of love that is worth dying for.

Yesterday, my husband and I went to an emergency ultrasound that was in-between our regularly scheduled appointments. I had experienced something irregular that prompted me to call the doctor and she insisted I come in right away to check everything out. This was an altogether new sensation for me. I had experienced all the pleasure and thrill of my baby’s existence—I had yet to experience the chilling fear that my baby was somehow hurt. I couldn’t hold down my lunch before the appointment, and I cried all the way there in the car while my supportive husband masked his own trepidation and assured that he was sure everything was fine. I didn’t know how I’d ever be able to handle losing my precious unborn child. The very thought was a foreign and horrifying feeling for me, and I don’t want to ever feel it again.

Fortunately, everything was fine. The baby is growing and thriving just as he/she should be, and all of my blood tests were perfect. But once again, I’m struck with how much God must love us.

Here I was losing my mind over the slight possibility of something being wrong with my child who I’ve never touched with my hands, had a conversation with, or seen except for vague outlines on a screen, and yet my God spent an eternity with his Son. He had all the feelings of love I have for my child, and yet He sent his precious Son to this rotten, sin-filled earth, knowing He would have to die. He had to listen while His child begged Him to make it where He didn’t have to die. But God knew the only way all of us humans could be saved was if His only Son were to die.  What drove him to allow something so heinous to happen to his child? Love. That’s the only thing in the world powerful enough for Him to make a sacrifice that devastating.

We’re just beginning this journey of parenthood, but I think this experience will help me in my understanding of God’s love. I’m learning that love for your offspring is the most powerful, most wonderful, and most terrifying feeling in the world. Maybe that’s why he put the desire to reproduce in people…so that we could better understand what he went through for us.  In this the Love of God was made manifest among us, that God send His only Son into the world, so that we might live…In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (I John 4:9-10).

Next time you look at your child, whether it be on an ultrasound screen or while tucking him into bed tonight, think about how much you love that little one, and remember that God loves you like that. Pretty amazing.

baby



Different

Posted on

Recently, I heard a Christian say in reference to impure forms of entertainment, “Well, Christians should be careful, but I think that we should not just completely remove ourselves from worldly entertainment, because then we won’t know how to relate to people. If we don’t watch the same TV shows and movies that everyone else does, we will lose our influence because we will just look like out-of-date sticks in the mud.”

I immediately started thinking, “Okay, so I guess that means we should all be having extramarital sex, so we’ll relate to the world better. I guess we should all start using profanity so we’ll be up-to-date with everyone else—we’re watching it on TV anyway. I guess we should stop trying to make it a point to dress modestly—people will think we’re just old-fashioned.”

I didn’t say anything right then, because I was afraid it would be said out of anger instead of out of a loving, gentle spirit. I went home, frustrated, and thought even more about what she said. You see, God didn’t really beat around the bush when he told us to be different. He was very specific in His word about wanting his bride to be  “without blemish (I Peter 1:19),” “a peculiar people (I Peter 2:9),” and “not conformed to this world (Romans 12:2).” Not once did he say, “Be careful that you don’t avoid sin so much that people think you’re weird.” Not once did he say, “make sure you participate in enough sinful activity to fit in so you can influence people.” God has made it painfully clear that he wants us to stand out. The only way that we will ever influence others for Christ is if they can see Christ when they look at us. Good luck ever trying to convert someone to Christianity after you’ve willfully participated in the same sinful activity as the world.

And as fuddy-duddy as it sounds, God wasn’t silent about our entertainment choices, either. No, they didn’t have movies, TV, or radio when any part of the Bible was written, but he was pretty clear about the kinds of stuff with which he wanted us filling our minds. “Abstain from every appearance of evil” (I Thes. 5:22) type verses are not exactly blurry.

I would love to say to all young people making an effort to live righteously: You’re doing the right thing. Christianity is an all-or-nothing endeavor. Don’t let anyone bully you into thinking that a full overhaul of self in order to fill yourself with Christ is “too much.” It’s not too much. It’s exactly what Christ asked of us.

I’m reminded of a poster that hung on my door all through high school and college and reminded me of why I was different. This is what it said:

I am a part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” The die has been cast. The decision has been made. I have stepped over the line. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense and my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, love with patience, live by prayer and labor with power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable and my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up or slow up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up and spoken up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My banner is clear: I am a part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.”

Don’t just be a part-time Christian. Make it real. Make it everything.

Don’t let others confuse you. Don’t make excuses. Just live for God. Give Him all of you. 100%. If you don’t feel different, and if you don’t feel somewhat persecuted at times, you’re doing it wrong (II Timothy 3:12).

Isaiah 5:20 says this: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

Don’t get the two mixed up.

 



A Note To Preacher’s Wives

Posted on

I’m a preacher’s wife. It has a few drawbacks with which I’m sure all preachers’ wives can relate but overall it’s a blessed and exciting life. It’s not something I planned for my life—in fact there was a phase I went through in which I next to swore I would never marry a preacher. I got over it, obviously, when I fell in love with a sweet guy that happened to be a preacher.

Anyway, my handsome preacher husband delivered a lesson tonight at church that got me thinking.  The topic was gossip and, while he was diplomatic as always in not making it a lesson for women, let’s be honest, it was a lesson for women. I say that because we all know that women struggle with gossip 110% more than men do. Not that men don’t or anything, but if they do, I’m not really aware of it, God love ‘em.

I’m not going to write a blog about gossip and why it’s wrong. If you don’t know gossip is wrong, perhaps this isn’t the blog for you. What’s on my mind is gossip as it relates to preachers wives. I discussed this over dinner at Los Palmas (our Sunday night tradition—a good one) with Husband and he said that he doubted very much I was alone in how I felt about this, so if you’re a preacher’s wife, humor me by reading this and letting know what you think.

Here goes:

I struggle with gossip. As much as the next girl—I really do. But I don’t think it’s the same kind of struggle for me as it is for most girls. I think the fact that I’m a preacher’s wife makes it harder for me than it should be.

Bear with me.

What most people don’t know about preacher’s wives is that close relationships don’t come easy to us. I don’t know if it’s in the How To Act Around Your Preacher’s Wife For Dummies book or if preachers’ wives just have an ugly green alien aura about them that repels people, but generally speaking, I think it’s hard for us girls to form close, intimate relationships with other women. I know you’re thinking I probably feel that way because I’m just socially awkward, and well, you’d be right, but I think it’s more than that. I think preachers’ wives crave real, solid friendships with other women with whom they can relate. They crave it because it’s a precious rarity for whatever reason.

Okay, what does this have to do with gossip?  Let’s think about why gossip is a struggle for girls in general. Because it gives us a feeling of power to know something other girls don’t know, because it makes us feel important, because it makes us feel popular, because we feel like it helps us make friends. Bingo. That last one is why I think preachers’ wives struggle with gossip.  It’s not a popularity trip for us, or just because we can’t shut up, necessarily. It’s because we’re so hungry for intimate conversation with someone we can sincerely call friend that we feel compelled to gossip, creating a counterfeit feeling that true, warm camaraderie is taking place. For me personally, I want so badly to hear, “Oh, I know just how you feel,” that I grasp for the one big thing we might have in common—which, in this scenario, is a general dislike for someone else, meaning my selfish desperation for intimate conversation is at some random person that’s not even here’s expense. (Ignore the horrendous grammar—blogging is for writing exactly how you would say it out loud to a girlfriend, right? But of course she’s just hypothetical for obvious reasons.)

I’m only a little bit bitter about not having close girlfriends that I can call up at 11 o’clock at night because I finally figured out how to clean my baseboards with dryer sheets or how to put my hair in a bun with a sock (all Pinterest inspired, of course). The beef that I have is with myself. How shallow does a girl have to be to fall prey to the temptation of gossip simply because she wants to feel close to someone other than her husband?

I guess I just want to know…am I the only one? Do other preacher’s wives struggle in this way or am I just a freak? My husband thinks I’m not the only one. I’d like to think I’m not the only one. And if I’m not, I just want to make you—preacher’s wife reader—aware that just because we’re relationship deprived (in our heads, anyway) doesn’t mean it’s okay to instigate fun, intimate conversation at someone else’s expense, no matter how substantiated it makes us feel.

I’m determined to ask myself, with any given information I’m tempted to share, three questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it kind?

If not, it’s not my business to share it—preacher’s wife or not.

After all, Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Now that I’m aware of the temptation, maybe that whole keep-your-mouth shut mental note will get easier.

Thoughts?