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!


Things We Say That God Never Said

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Shut Mouth

Christians say a lot of junk we shouldn’t say sometimes. We don’t mean to, but sometimes we say things to comfort or convict others that we think come from God, but they simply aren’t in the Bible. Here are five things many of us mistakenly believe are scriptural concepts.

Things God Never Said:

1.     “Listen to your heart.”

 See yesterday’s post for my thoughts on this little booger.

 2.     “Everything happens for a reason” (or, “I’m sure it’s all part of God’s will”).

This is probably the worst thing you could ever say to someone who is grieving or facing stressful trials. And it’s not in the Bible. I do not believe that natural disasters and chronic illnesses happen because it’s God’s will. I do not believe that you trip on the sidewalk and bloody your hands and knees because it’s God’s will. I don’t think it’s God’s plan when your skirt flies up embarrassingly while your arms are full and that huge gust of wind hits you. I don’t think it’s our place to say whether it’s God’s will when an innocent person dies because of someone driving under the influence. I think sometimes things just happen because God allows nature to take its course.  And sometimes things happen because there’s sin in the world. I DO believe, however, that for the Christian, all things work together for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

3. “You should accept Jesus into your heart.”

The concept might be true, because that’s obviously what’s taking place when you believe, repent, confess, and are baptized into Christ, but that phrase isn’t in the Bible, and neither is the common connotation that accompanies it—the idea that ALL we have to do is say a prayer and we’re saved forever.

4. “Take your time. Do things in your own time.”

I heard a well-meaning man say recently that if you have a problem with a brother, you should wait until you’re completely over the hurt feelings, the anger, and the frustration before you go to that brother to try to resolve it—even if that takes years. Actually, God pretty much said the very opposite. He said that if you have a problem with your brother, you should go and resolve it before you try to offer Him worship (Matthew 5:23). Otherwise, your worship will be in vain. God never said, “Wait till you’re ready” or “take your time”. We simply aren’t promised tomorrow, much less years. If you have something you need to say to someone, do it now. Don’t let the Lord come back when you still have unfinished business left to do.

5.  “If you decide to follow God, your life will be so much easier.”

God never said this. As a matter of fact, he said life could be harder if you follow Him. II Timothy 3:12 promises persecution to those who live godly in Christ Jesus. So, if you aren’t suffering some kind of persecution for the stands you make as a disciple of Christ, you probably aren’t a true disciple.

How about a little comfort for your day? You see, while God didn’t say those things you might have thought He did, the things He DID say are even BETTER. Here’s another list:

Things God DID say (and I’m paraphrasing):

 1.     Don’t Worry. I got this.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

…And while you’re at it, please take a minute on your own to read Matthew 6:24-34.

2. When you’re sad, I will comfort you.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

3. I care about you.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13).

4. I’m not going anywhere.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

“I am with you always, even to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

6.     Nothing can separate you from My love.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Don’t get caught up in the common phrases. Feast your mind on God’s Word, and let His words of comfort be your words of comfort.


Don’t Follow Your Heart

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 heart cage

Our modern society is saturated in the self-serving motto, “Just Follow Your Heart.” It’s pretty much the theme in every Disney movie ever made. It’s in all our popular music. The words are heard by thousands all over the world lying on the office couches of professional therapists and sitting across tables from dear friends offering counsel. It’s a lovely, appealing concept because it feels good. It feels good because it basically just means, “Do what feels right.” That’s why so many apply it to their own lives and decisions.

Everyone has done this sometime in life.  Every devastated teen who finds out she’s pregnant unexpectedly after thinking no one would find out. Every woman who finds herself in an abusive marriage because she chose to ignore the signs before the wedding. Every man who can’t believe he’s inadvertently traded a loving spouse, a home, a family, for a reckless fling that meant little or nothing.  Every celebrity who compromised Christian values in order to obtain his or her dream of fame. Every political leader who chooses what he knows will be the most popular rather than what he instinctively knows is right.

Indeed, I remember times in my own life when I “followed my heart”.  Like the time when I impulsively jumped in the Mediterranean with all my clothes on while in Greece (okay, that wasn’t so bad). Times in college when I chose to sit with friends in my comfort zone rather than pushing myself to sit with those who were alone.  Times when I chose to go out with the popular guy rather than the godly guy (obviously, I chose right in the end on that one!). Times when I found myself believing I could help to change an abusive boyfriend.

But “following our hearts” isn’t just a modern mistake people make. Its billions of deceived go back to the very first man, who followed his heart when he listened to the beguiling voice of his dazzling wife as she advised him to eat the forbidden fruit with her. That same faulty state of mind was inherited by Adam’s firstborn as he reasoned, “surely God would accept my gift, since it comes from my heart.” That same reasoning is seen in so many other Biblical figures who believed God would accept anything from the heart, such as the “strange fire” created by Nadab and Abihu, and the impulsive jerk reaction of Uzzah when he reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant with his hand. Most people today use the same logic (or lack thereof) when they reason, “Surely God will accept the worship that comes straight from my heart. The minute details aren’t what matters.”

Did you know that the Bible says an awful lot about following your heart? For instance, when the world says, “Go with your gut,” God says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). When the world says, “Do what feels right,” God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Obviously, the heart is a faulty source of direction for our lives, however right it may feel.

You see, God never intended for us to be led by our hearts (our feelings). He wanted us to be led by His Spirit—the will and testament He left for us when he sacrificed His Son on the cross (Romans 8:14). God made it possible, through that sacrifice, for us to be led by divine wisdom rather than fleshly emotions. Focus on these words from Galatians 5:24-25: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” But I have such passion, such deafening profundity in my feelings! Am I to just disregard how I feel about everything?! Fortunately, God gives us an alternative—an answer for what to do with our misleading hearts. He doesn’t tell us to ignore or disregard our feelings. Instead, He tells us to redirect our feelings toward Him, allowing Him to form them.

My favorite solution for this quandary is found in Proverbs 4:23, where the inspired author writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” If we value our dreams and earthly desires more than we value what God has in store for us, we can easily be led astray from what truly matters. Jesus knew this when He said, “…whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). Our Lord made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross—He gave His everything for us, and He expects us to, in turn, make ourselves living sacrifices for Him. I have to remind myself: If God asks me to give up something that I care about, it’s because He has something better in store for me.

I may not be all the way there yet, but I believe that, as I grow older, I will, with God’s help, also grow in wisdom. With that growth, I believe that what’s in my heart and what God has planned for me will grow more and more one in the same—that my feelings and God’s plans will become more aligned as I learn to trust Him more. That’s my prayer anyway. May it be your prayer as well—as you face the tough decisions with which all of us female soldiers are faced every day.

And remember to follow your heart  do what feels right  “trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 


Why I Don’t Have a Full-time Job (…and why that’s okay)

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846-02793200

I am 26 years old. I have a Bachelors degree. I have a somewhat hefty job history. I suppose I have an average amount of talent and skill. So why, you might ask, am I not employed full-time? Here are four reasons:

  1. I like to be able to spend time working alongside my husband in the Lord’s service.

One of the reasons we chose for me to not work full time is because my husband and I purposed for me to have the time to assist him in his work and to spend more time in the Lord’s service in general. Because I’m not working full-time, I’m able to teach a mid-week ladies Bible class, go visiting with my husband and others, use our home for frequent hospitality, and focus on my writing. My husband and I are currently writing a book together, and while it might be possible, it would be very difficult to make decent progress on that project while focusing my time and attention on a consuming career. And because of the flexible nature of my part-time job, I’m able to travel with my husband for speaking engagements, seminars, lectureships, and mission trips, like the African one we went on last month.

When I was teaching full-time, I felt constant frustration due to the all-consuming nature of the job. Lesson plans, grading, deadlines, parents, students, meetings, and other school related stresses were all I could think about. In the shower, in the car, while I was out with friends, when I was on a date, and while trying to sleep at night, I was constantly stressing over work. My house was usually a wreck, my meals were usually microwave dinners, and my eyes always had ugly dark circles under them. Now, that was only my first (and only) year of teaching, and I understand that it would likely have gotten easier, but I know enough long-time teachers who agree that it’s a job from which you don’t get to go home and escape.

I love the blessing of being more free to work in other areas of my life.

       2. We can live without the extra income.

Before you go thinking we are rich by the world’s standards, let me explain. My husband and I sometimes struggle to make ends meet. We don’t live luxuriously by any means. There are lots of times when we’d like to do something fun or eat out, but we just don’t. We buy our clothes at thrift stores and yard sales. But, thanks be to God, we have plenty to eat and we are able to pay all of our bills with Ben’s income as a preacher. We understand that we could live a lot easier with two incomes, but we like being able to live on just one, because…

     3. We are preparing for our future family.

You might be thinking: Well, that doesn’t make any sense. How do you prepare for your family by choosing to make less money than what you could be making?

Here’s how: My husband and I long ago—long before we even said “I do”—decided that, Lord willing, I would be a stay-at-home mom once we have children. We believe that if your circumstances at all allow it, it’s the very best plan because it’s God’s plan (Titus 2:5). It’s so important to us that we would share one car, never eat out,  and live even more simply than we do now if it meant I could stay at home and raise our children myself, rather than handing them off to a daycare or someone else who would be raising them. We also decided early on that if I were to work before that first little one comes along, we would do our best to save that money rather than spend it. We knew that if we got used to living off two incomes, it would be very difficult to adjust to living with just one after having kids.

     4. I don’t have to have a career to feel valuable.

I understand that in today’s culture, what I’m saying sounds ridiculous and rather archaic, even. This is because we’ve convinced our women today that if they don’t pursue a professional career, they are lazy and worthless. I am not given to this persuasion, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not affected by the people who are. It’s hurtful and frustrating when people make statements insinuating that you’re not working if you’re not “working” (hope you caught what I meant there!). I believe God designed women to feel fulfillment in being keepers at home, in loving our husbands, in raising our children in the Lord, and in using our skills and talents creatively to enjoy life and influence people in His name.

As a disclaimer, I want you to know that I didn’t write this to condemn anyone who views this topic differently than I do. Please do not say that Hannah Giselbach says that you’re going to hell if you’re a mom with a career. You can say, however, that I believe and am making my own decisions as if it’s a lot easier to get your family to heaven if you love the Lord and spend massive amounts of time every day putting Him into the hearts of your kids. (I got that directly from Deuteronomy 6.) I think it’s God’s design for husbands to be the breadwinners and for wives to use their talents for domestic work, for hospitality, for personal evangelism, and for child-rearing. (I got that from Titus 2 and I Timothy 5.)

I’m happy with my part-time nanny job. It’s preparing me for motherhood in more than one way—I’m learning a lot of parenting skills while saving money for the time when it’s my turn. I’m also happy with it because it’s fun, I enjoy it, and I know it’s a temporary occupation until I’m able to focus all of my attention on the most amazing job of all: Full-Time Motherhood!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I look forward to your feedback!

 


God Blessed The Work Down In Africa

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jennyWe got back from our two-week trip to Iringa, Tanzania after midnight last night. Despite my jet-laggy exhaustion and disorientation, I wanted to give everyone a quick update of how the trip went.

As a team, we spent most of our time conducting personal Bible studies and inviting over 2,000 Iringa locals to the three-day seminar we conducted downtown. I personally spent quite a lot of time at home with Magan and her three precious girls (our hosts for the two weeks) helping her as much as I could with cooking, dishes, and laundry as she became acclimated to life there (they’ve only been living there as missionaries for a month), as well as helping her with the overwhelming task of hosting four additional people besides the five you care for all the time! When I wasn’t helping Magan, however, I was out with the guys handing out flyers, accompanying them on Bible studies, or holding precious Tanzanian children, as you can see in the picture. On the day before we flew home, we got to go on a real African safari, which was pretty remarkable, to say the least.

Here are a few things I learned (or was reminded of) while in Tanzania:

1.    America could learn a thing or two about sincere, open-minded truth seeking.

As is the case with most third-world countries, we were amazed and refreshed to find just how many people were starving for Biblical teaching and guidance. The work to be done there is overwhelming, but not in a how-can-we-ever-get-people-interested kind of way, but a how-can-we-find-time-to-study-with-all-the-people-who-want-to kind of way. In America, it’s surprising if you find a non-Christian who wants to have a sincere, truth-seeking Biblical discussion with you. In Africa, it’s surprising if someone doesn’t want to soak in whatever Biblical truth you ask to share with him or her. We were amazed, in a good way, at the receptiveness of the area. We were also amazed at the crowd’s behavior at the seminar we hosted in the city library. The seminar lasted around 3 hours every day, usually with no break. When a break was offered, no one moved, but rather asked that we continue, so that they could get as much Biblical teaching as possible during the allotted time. These were non-Christians we’re talking about, people! Just awesome. Every single attendant actively took notes and asked thought-provoking questions that revealed a genuine desire to learn rather than a hard-hearted agenda to prove a point or to attempt to be “right.” It was all about what the Bible says and what we’re supposed to do about it. We had several denominational leaders in the community show up, and their humble, open-hearted questions reminded me that this is the attitude we should all have when presented with an opportunity to search the scriptures, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11).

africanbereans

2.    We’re just so rich.

 According to American middle-class standards, my husband and I don’t seem wealthy in any sense of the word. We’re that couple that shops at Goodwill and yard sales exclusively and doesn’t get to eat at nice restaurants unless we have a great coupon.  But when you get home from being with African families who live in mud huts with no bathrooms, no heating and cooling, no internet, no nice clothes, no security systems, no showers, no running water, no clean drinking water, no car, no insurance, little money for medical help, and no assurance that there will be food to eat each meal, you realize just how rich you really are. I think most of us here in America could use a good wake-up call once in a while—I know we needed ours.

africanhome —>A typical Tanzanian house

3.    Women, as a general rule, are not treated with respect in Africa.

 One of the most heartbreaking things for me to observe was just how pathetically women were treated there. Women are expected to work extremely hard making just enough money to feed their children while, in many cases, the fathers of those children are either nowhere to be found or too lazy to provide for their families. Women, never men, are told to stand up if all the seats on a bus are full and a man steps on the bus and can’t find a seat. Oh, and the reason you always see pictures of women carrying large heavy items on their heads is because you rarely see the men carrying anything heavy—always the women, and no one offers to help them with that load.  And don’t even get me started on what women have to go through to deliver a baby over there. And once that ordeal is over, daddy is never around to help with those children. It’s just really sad. I wanted to hug and comfort every woman I saw, because I know each one of them is fighting a horrendous battle just to survive.

Tanzanian Woman Barrel

4.    Children have to grow up super fast in Africa.

One of the things that shocked me the most was how many precious little children I saw having to do very adult things, like constantly care for younger siblings all day long. Even more than that, it was shocking to see the hundreds of children we saw running around all day with no parent in sight. We’re talking 2 and 3 year olds who may or may not have an older sibling nearby, but no parents. Once babies can walk, they’re pretty much turned loose and taught to fend for themselves. I never once heard an African baby or child cry or whine. They are taught to be extremely tough and self-sufficient in order to survive. And as a total side-note, I was fascinated by how small they all are. I saw so many 4 year olds that looked like 2 year olds, and 16 year olds who looked like 12 year olds. Growth is stunted there, so I was always surprised when I discovered the ages of tiny children.

africankids

5.    American women need to study African culture for a lesson in modesty.

One of the biggest culture shocks I experienced was not in Africa, but when I came back to America. This is because ALL the women in Tanzania are always covered from their necks to their ankles. It’s considered immodest to wear pants there, or to reveal your knees at all. Extreme or not, it was so nice to see a culture completely untouched by the immodesty that saturates our culture here in the states.

womenafrica

6.    Africans (even the ones who speak English) do not understand sarcasm.

It’s a completely foreign concept to them, so adapting to their humor was a challenge, especially for me.

charleslaughing

7.    When people wave at you like this, they are not really waving at you, but asking you to come toward them. If you want someone to come to you, you should definitely do it like that, instead of like this, since that would be a major insult, considering they only summon dogs that way. I learned all of this the hard way.

8.    America is really a wonderful place to live.

America is the land of job opportunities, air conditioning, safe evenings out, malaria-free mosquitoes, clean tap water, clean public restrooms with toilets (as opposed to the choos like this that you’ll find in Africa), ice, free refills, convenience stores, smooth roads, and so many other things people take for granted. My husband took me to Logan’s steakhouse for lunch today, and we felt almost guilty for all the food, napkins, rolls, and drinks we got—things most people don’t really think about. They also never have sweets over there. I had to teach most of the children I met how to open the Tootsie Rolls I gave them, as they had obviously never seen wrapped candy before. Another thing I love so much more about America is that it’s so much easier to get things done quickly, whereas, in Africa, it takes much longer to do anything. Everything is a process, whether it be due to lack of technology or lack of education. We made daily comments about how something that would take us 20 minutes to accomplish in the states was taking us several hours to get done in Africa.

tootsieroll

9.    Overseas missionaries deserve your respect and your support.

 People like our hosts, the Evans family, sacrifice all the luxuries and comforts of home to share the gospel with people in areas of the world that most Americans avoid. They face struggles every single day that most of us will never face. They need our daily encouragement and prayers more than anyone. The missionaries you know are most likely the bravest people you know. Treat them as such—with tremendous admiration, love, and support.

evans—>The Evans Family

10. Primitive Christianity works.

One thing I’ve noticed about the church in Tanzania is that it’s really no different from the church in America. It’s as though God tailor-made the church to work in every single culture and every single age. I guess that was the point. And that’s awesome. His plan for the church, and the example he gave us of that church in Acts 2 is timeless, flawless, and profoundly effective, yet beautifully simple. When you go beyond the Biblical pattern, there are so many adjustments you have to make, depending on the culture and region.

churchafrica

This list could go on and on, but it’s finally bedtime here, and my jet-lagged mind and body are so ready. But before I sign off, let me just say, in closing, that the trip was, I believe, a tremendous success, as many seeds were planted and many doors were opened for further church growth in Iringa. I believe I’m better for having gone, and my fervent prayer is that souls were and will continue to be brought closer to God because of my having gone. Thanks so much to everyone who kept us in your prayers!

Sleep well, friends! Or in Swahili….Lala Salama Marafiki!

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