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

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

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

1.    I cry all the time.

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

sleeping ezra

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

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

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

justborn

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

smiling ezra

3.    Things that don’t matter suddenly do.

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

carseat

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

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

mom&ezra

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

ben & ezra

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

sleepingben&ezra

6.    You just figure things out.

babywearing

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

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

ezra

 

 


A Letter To My Unborn Son

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cribMy Dear Son,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mom

 


Just a Vapor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


A Marriage Worth Remembering

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

“How old do you think I am?”

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

“EIGHTY-SIX!”

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

“Why are you here all by yourself?”

The smile faded from his face as he responded,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 


ON TAKING A CHILL PILL (in addition to all the prenatal vitamins)

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sweatI worry about stuff a lot. And that’s funny because it annoys me when other people worry incessantly about things they can’t control…probably because it reminds me of how silly it is when I do it.

Lately, I’ve been worried about a bunch of stuff while my husband and I were in the process of deciding to take a new job. I worried mainly about Baby G—that we’d be moving when I was bound to go into labor at any second, that I would have no idea who my baby doctor was going to be, no idea where delivery would take place, no idea if we would possibly have a nursery ready in time, no idea if we’d have time to baby-proof the house in time, no idea if I’d find a pediatrician I liked in time, no idea when maternity insurance would come into affect after the move, no idea whether we’d find a house in time to move or if we’d have to rent meaning we’d have to move TWICE with a newborn in the picture…I could keep going.

And those worries were on top of the ones that EVERY pregnant woman has, especially with her first baby—What if something goes wrong? What if I trip on my own shoelaces and fall on my stomach? What if I ingest secondhand smoke and give the baby dirty lungs? What if I don’t eat enough greens and drink too much caffeine and baby ends up having a mental disability because of me? What if all this stress about moving affects baby’s health? What if I realize after the baby comes that I registered for all the wrong stuff and not the stuff I actually need? What if I give the baby diaper rashes because I’m too lazy to use cloth diapers? WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW HOW TO BE A BLOOMIN’ MOM?!

Don’t pretend, moms. You’ve wondered all those things too.

Just today in the car with Husband, I was venting about some of the stuff about moving into the unknown while seven months pregnant (I don’t complain about stuff with everybody, but I do with him from time to time because he’s my other half and he gets me). And he just sighed and said in an infuriatingly calm tone, “First-world problems, Dear. We just kinda have to take a deep breath and deal with the little stuff. And it’s all little stuff.”

It was infuriating because I knew he was absolutely right.

Good grief, are we blessed. We’ve been praying for God to use us as He sees fit for His Kingdom, and he’s not only blessed us with an opportunity we’re over the moon excited about (read about it here), but it just happens to be in ALABAMA. That’s my home state, people! We’ll be living 2 hours away from both of our families, 2 hours from my beloved Piedaddy, as well as 2 hours from my brother who is moving to Smyrna, Georgia. We will never want for babysitters or, more importantly, Godly influences for Baby G from people who will endlessly adore him.

Notice I said him? That’s because we just recently found out that our perfectly healthy Baby G is no longer a nebulous he or she or it (the “it” thing makes me cringe, but everyone does it when they don’t know the gender—it’s an innocent “it.”). WE’RE HAVING A SON, PEOPLE!!! We were able to discover that news surrounded by our closest friends and family at our gender reveal party. It was a beautiful moment that I’ll never forget when Husband and I cut into that cake and exclaimed, “It’s BLUE!”

As I’m typing this sentence, I can feel his sweet little kicks letting me know he’s in there and boy, is he active. I can’t wait to hold him in my arms. I can’t believe God has given me this precious gift of becoming the mother of this precious soul. And even though it wouldn’t be any less of a blessing if this weren’t true, I’ve had an easy breezy pregnancy so far. Very little sickness, very little pain, very few complications.

Sometimes I have to make myself just stop whatever I’m doing and ponder how rich I am. I’ve already gotten so mad at myself when I hear myself complain about things like swollen hands and feet, endless fatigue, discomfort when trying to sleep, and other silly little things when I know there are so many women out there who would give their right arms for a child. Couples who have been trying for years to get pregnant with no success, or couples who obtained the ultimate elation of discovering they were pregnant only to lose that precious child to miscarriage months later.

And when I worry about things about the baby and moving to a different state, I have to make myself think about my missionary friends like the Evans family and the Gaines family, living in Tanzania with little children. I don’t know how many of you readers have ever been to Tanzania, but let me clue you in: There’s no such thing as registering for baby gifts. People don’t worry about nurseries there—most people have never dreamed of having a separate room for a crib. Or any extra room. The concerns with pregnancy there are not about making sure you’re eating enough vegetables, but making sure you’re getting enough to eat. Period. Nobody has opinions over there about which newborn travel system is the most convenient. I didn’t see a single stroller, and I certainly never saw a car seat, because I rarely saw a woman, much less an infant, in a car. When it gets dark, they don’t worry so much about making sure they’re on target with the baby’s sleeping/feeding schedule, but about hurrying to get inside and under a net so that baby doesn’t catch malaria from the disease-carrying mosquitoes.

I, on the other hand, live in a world where trustworthy medical help is available fast no matter where I am. I live in a world where I can jump in a car and drive on paved roads to get wherever I need to go quickly. I live in a world where deciding what to cook for supper is the biggest worry I have about food—never about having enough. I live in a world where my greatest concern about clothing is being cute and comfortable, never about making sure I have clothes at all. I live in a world where I never have to worry about needs being met for my family—only wants (which are often unnecessary wants).

And then I think about people like Paul, who, not knowing if he’d live to see another day, wrote while rotting away in a prison cell,

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. And my God will supply every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:10-13,19)

When I think about things from that perspective, the stuff I worry about, and the stuff that most everyone in this country worries about is, as my husband reminded me, all little stuff.

If you, like me, worry about little stuff, it’s time to take a chill pill. It’s time to trust that our God has a plan and He’s going to take care of all the little stuff we worry about, if we just allow Him to work in our lives (Proverbs 3:5-6, Romans 8:28).

God is so good. When you forget that, take a moment to think about someone who has a harder life than the one you have. I promise you’ll immediately feel silly, because if you’re reading this, you, like me, are so very rich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Maternal Merriment

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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)

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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!


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Love Isn’t Silly At All

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

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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).

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(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.

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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


Why I Believe in Santa (And My Kids Will Too)

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coke santa It’s my favorite time of year. No really, I’m obsessed. I love all of it—the music, the movies, the Christmas trees, the ornaments, the wrapping paper, the bows, the giving, the parties, the games—everything. But what I love most of all about Christmas is the magic. I love seeing families reconnecting, reminiscing, and reminding one another through gifts and hugs and words of the love that exists between them. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing expressions of wonder and ecstasy on the faces of children drinking in the mysteries of Christmas.

And Santa Claus. I LOVE Santa Claus. I love him because he is jolly and kind and patient and rosy and magical. But mainly I love him because he is a shining representative, or token, if you will, of all that makes Christmas so wonderful. I still write a letter to him every year, thanking him for the joy he brings to every little boy and girl who are allowed to believe. Occasionally I come across articulate articles saying that parents shouldn’t “lie” to their children about the mystery of Santa Claus.  While I disagree with them, I genuinely admire their sincere pursuit of righteous judgment. I’m here today to offer you an alternate opinion on the subject.

You see, I not only believe it’s okay to encourage your children believe in old Kris Kringle. I think it’s important–necessary, even–for them to believe in Santa. Gasp! Hannah Giselbach! Are you suggesting we LIE TO OUR CHILDREN?! Calm down. Give me a minute to explain this. Here are 3 reasons why I believe in Santa (and my kids will too):

1.    It’s Not A Lie.  

Waiting for me to admit I know he’s not real? Don’t make me do that. I love him too much. But okay, for the sake of argument, let’s say he’s not physically real. I know there are TONS of well-meaning parents who passionately believe it’s wrong to tell their children stories about Santa because they think that’s lying. They’re afraid their children would perhaps grow up with a broken trust in them because they didn’t immediately dispel the Santa myth right away in the name of loving honesty. But for those of you who believe it’s necessary to tell your children Santa doesn’t exist, have you thought about whether you can really be consistent with being so literal about everything?  If you’ve told you’re children Santa isn’t real, you should also tell your little girl when she plays with dolls that the dolls are not REAL little girls…They can’t REALLY talk. When you take your kids to Disney world, you should tell them that each character they hug is not REALLY Snow White or Cinderella or Peter Pan. They’re just young adults with really cool internships. And while you’re at it, you should tell them that none of the stories behind the characters are true, either (well, maybe Pocahontas but the Disney version doesn’t count). When you take them to a play, you should lovingly remind them that none of the people on stage are who they’re claiming to be, and the story is made-up. You should tell them they shouldn’t play with action figures unless they understand they’re made of plastic and can’t really save the world by defeating evil.

You get where I’m going with this. The thought of having an intervention every time your children use their imaginations is ill-advised and rather silly. Why, then, are we so afraid to let our children imagine and pretend when it comes to Santa Claus? Pretending isn’t always lying. One very sad and dismal day, your children won’t play with dolls anymore. They won’t run, elated, arms flailing when they see Mickey Mouse at Disney World. One day, your children will grow up and understand that all the things they used to play with and pretend with are not actually real. I beg of you, don’t take away that magic prematurely. It will happen when it happens. And I’ve never once met an adult who felt betrayed by their parents who “lied” to them about Santa when they were children. Not once! I have, however, met adults who feel deprived of a major part of childhood because their parents felt the need to dispel their belief and encourage their questioning doubt at a very young age.

Let me remind you of a heartwarming moment in America’s history. In 1897, a little girl wrote to the New York Sun asking if there was a Santa Claus. This was the reply (Go ahead, grab a box of tissues and read it all):

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. 
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. 
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ 
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

 VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
 115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. 

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Let your kids be kids. There’s plenty of time for them to be grown-ups once the fairies have danced away and your backyard swing is still. And please stop mixing up pretending and lying. There’s a big difference.

Also, from a spiritual standpoint, keep in mind that God (as our Father) has often revealed Himself to us in METAPHORICAL terms that are not literally true (shepherd, fire, rock), but these terms stand for things that are literally true. Santa Claus (we shall admit for argument’s sake) is not literally true, but he stands for things that are literally true. “Father” itself is a metaphor for God. God, in His divine wisdom, revealed himself to us in our own HUMAN language, which is capable of expressing at best a rough approximation of God’s nature. That language is true and helpful nonetheless. Santa Claus is a great way for kids to learn generosity, faithfulness, joy, kindness, and a myriad of other wonderful qualities.

2.    It’s SO Much Fun. I was one of the lucky kids whose parents made the choice to make Christmas the most magical, most mysterious, most wonderful thing in the world.  My brother Caleb and I would write letters to him together, go to the mall to get our picture taken every year (even while I was in college), set out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, and thought of him every time we even considered disobeying or talking back. It was exciting and mystifying and merry. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without that magic. I cherish those memories and always will. I always pity children who despairingly look up at me with sad eyes when I mention Santa and say, “I know the truth. My parents told me.” Christmas can still be fun for them, but never to that magical degree of happy, hopeful believing. Let your child be one of the delighted, rather than one of the deprived. There is very little fun left in the world that is not accompanied by some kind of trade-off–some disappointment–or sin. Even sports, while fun, involve disappointments. Believing in Santa Claus in theory, involves pure fun with no drawbacks. The more you believe, the better the experience. The same is true with belief in God, which brings me to my next and final point…

3.    Your Children Need to Know They CAN Believe in Things They Can’t See.  Kids are so smart. They soak in every little thing. So when you tell them (or imply, even) that they shouldn’t believe in things they can’t see, things that seem unrealistic, or things that are magical, you run the risk of messing with their belief in things you WANT them to believe. While I understand there’s no scientific evidence Santa exists—as opposed to the hundreds of scientific evidences proving the existence of God ( see www.apologeticspress.org )—when children are struck with the understanding that magic like Santa doesn’t exist, they’re probably not going to be able to make that distinction quite yet. When they feel all grown up now that they debunked the magic of Santa, they’re going to have a hard time believing in God when peers or even adults tell them that God is no more real than Santa. They might start to piece together logic (however flawed) like this: If it’s impossible for Santa to fly all over the world and deliver toys to every child in one night, surely it’s impossible for this whole world to be created in just 6 days. Or…If I can’t believe in Santa’s sleigh because nobody’s ever seen it fly, why should I believe in God? Nobody’s ever seen him.

Instead, children need to live in homes where the idea that incredible things can and do happen is allowed to thrive and grow…because, in all reality, God’s miracles are the most mysterious, most wonderful things in the universe. Your children don’t need to hear that amazing, impossible things can’t happen. Christians are necessarily believers in miracles—not just that God exists. We believe that incredible, magical things like the Virgin Birth, the flood, dead people being raised again, and all kinds of other phenomenon actually happened, and will happen again when the miracle of Christ’s return occurs. God is living proof that wonders can happen, and hearing otherwise will put doubt in the hearts of your little ones before they’re able to see the difference between real wonders and imagined wonders.

I’ve rambled on long enough. I’ll leave you with this small portion of the defense speech from the courtroom scene in the film Miracle on 34th Street (1994) which I think suitably expresses the beauty of giving children the permission to believe:

“Your Honor, a lot of people believe in Mr. Kringle. Including millions of children. If you rule against him, you won’t destroy anyone’s belief but you will destroy the man they believe in. Mr. Kringle is not concerned for himself, if he was he wouldn’t be here. He is in this regrettable position because he is willing to sacrifice himself for children. To create in their minds a world far better than the one we’ve made for them. If this is, as Mr. Collins suggests, a masquerade then Mr. Kringle is eager to forfeit his freedom to preserve that masquerade–to subject himself to prosecution to protect the children’s right to believe.”

There’s my two cents. Please understand this is all merely my opinion and it is not my intent to bind that opinion on anyone else, and please don’t misunderstand me to have said it’s a sin not to do Santa Claus in your home or any other such nonsense. Merely an opinion. But even so, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout….well, you know the rest. Merry Christmas!