Friday, June 15, 2012

It's not about you

I've heard it said (and probably said myself) that having kids forces you to realize that it's not about you anymore. More and more I believe that having kids should force you to realize that it never was about you.
One thing that was impressed upon my husband and I when we got married was the idea of selflessness. We were reminded to put each other first. Even for two like-minded Christians, one of the hardest parts of marriage is consistently putting the other first. I think it takes a marriage, with all of its vows and public commitment and promises made before God Himself, to truly nudge a person closer and closer to selflessness. It doesn't happen instantly or automatically, but I believe marriage is intended to cultivate selflessness over time.
Isn't this why Jesus compares the marriage relationship to that of the church and Himself?

 Ephesians 5
22  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Our highest calling is service and submission to God, and the Bible tells us our entire lives are to be lived as a sacrifice.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

That doesn't sound like a magic trick that turns ordinary, selfish humans into reverent worshippers. It sounds more like God working on our hearts as we strive to live as He would have us to live. My point being, God wants us to see our lives as a living sacrifice long before marriage and children are involved. But I do think these things help teach us the concept of sacrifice like not many experiences can.
Certainly, if marriage has not yet caused you to take the focus off yourself, having a child will do it. Especially as a woman, pregnancy itself puts a tiny life inside of you, forcing you to consider even more carefully what you eat, drink, slather on your skin. Your body changes without your direction or input. Feet and elbows eventually find resting places between your ribs and hips. You may be tired or emotional or sick. And then this life that you have guarded is born and continues to be completely dependent upon you for every need. All of this is joyfully received by most mothers because babies are wonderful and we love them. Not much thought is given to what mothers are sacrificing to care for their babies (and toddlers and children, etc.) because what choice do they have? It is a sacrifice, but it is one that we are blessed by God to be able to make.
I could go on about all the hilarious ways that mothers are forced to realize that it is not about them (anymore) like the lack of uninterrupted showers, meals, trips to the bathroom... slightly embarrassing bodily functions, spit up on your favorite shirts, a restricted schedule... These are the things that well meaning friends and family members who do not have children tend to recoil at. And I always want to say "yeah, well once you have kids you'll realize it isn't about you anymore. And that will be ok, because you'll have this wonderful child to love."
What I really find myself wanting to tell them is that it already isn't about them. Maybe they wouldn't be so apprehensive about curtailing their weekend activities, and getting up a little earlier, not always getting to wear the latest style, not having the body they used to... if they knew that stuff already doesn't matter. Not that I think everyone needs to hurry up and have kids. But the transformation in my heart that has been so directly related to having children is so important to my spiritual well being. There is no worldly thing that I would take in exchange for the spiritual growth that I have experienced by having children. I know not every spiritual person gets married and has kids, and I'm sure God has other things in their lives that help transform their hearts in much the same way.
I am so thankful that God designed us so that we are always pointed back to Him. The monumental things in our lives turn us to Him. How much easier it is to be a living sacrifice when you know it isn't about you!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Distractions

You might think I'm about to go on about the evils of television and getting sucked into the Internet for hours at a time. Not exactly.

The last few weeks have brought a lot of heavy issues to the forefront of our family's attention. I won't go into too much detail as these things affect many members of our extended family.

I will note (politically incorrect as I may be) that our families are your fairly typical middle-middle class folks. Probably right about average as far as dysfunction goes. Maybe it's just been a rough year. Our families are professing Christians of one denomination or another, a few skeptics thrown in. Overall there is a fairly non-biblical, universalist, hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" vibe about them. Don't get me wrong. We love these people dearly. I'm just being frank.

Some of these problems have been percolating for some time and my husband and I have had numerous discussions regarding how to approach them. Some came to a head over the course of one or two weekends lately.

Here's what happened that changed our perspective completely on all of this:

On the Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend, we were visiting some of our church family who were camping together. An annual tradition and we came for the giant communal breakfast. We had only been there for an hour when the sheriff's car pulled up to deliver the news to one of our dear friends. Her husband had just been killed in a motorcycle accident on his way to the campground. He was 47. As the rest of their family was called to her side, we were witnesses to the news being broken all around us. That entire day became dominated by offering prayer and support for the family. Dealing with the shock of the tragic news. The only consolation being that our friend who lost his life that day was a faithful follower of Christ.

The rest of that weekend was also riddled with some of the issues I mentioned above. I remember mentioning to my husband that I suddenly felt like all those horrible things were distractions, even though they are things that need fixing. In the wake of our friend's sudden death and his family's grief, we were being bothered with someones repeat offenses in "name your sin." Losing someone you know so suddenly truly forces you to think about the brevity of life. None of us is guaranteed another day on this earth. If we aren't putting the kingdom first we are wasting our time.

My family, my husband's family, your families... there are thousands of problems out there. If we tried to address each of those problems individually we would have to become rather knowledgeable about several subjects such as addiction, legal statutes, psychology, etc. We would have to be fighting a battle on many fronts, with many people. And let's not forget that we have our own shortcomings that need attention.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

If we aren't changing people's hearts with the Gospel, we aren't helping anyone. The world has ways of getting people to change their behaviors to fit society's standards or legal standards. Why do we want to do what the world can do? If we have Christ, and seek Him first, we can do much more than the world can do for our families. It isn't our job to "fix" people in the world. It's to spread the Gospel of Christ so that He can work in their hearts and help them overcome their problems. It's about eternal life with God or eternal death without God. 


The death of our friend is still a sore wound. His family still grieves and misses him dearly. But they have the strength to continue because they know where his soul is. He didn't leave them any doubt. I don't want my children to have any doubt. I really struggle with the spiritual state of our loved ones. If any silver lining is to come from a tragedy, one silver lining can be that my husband and I have resolved to stop wasting time on the distractions that this evil world supplies and focus on the hearts and souls of the people in our lives.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

There is always a choice

Few issues evoke such heated debate, as do the “Mommy Wars” as some call it. Is it better to be a stay at home mom, or to be a working mom? And under that umbrella is a whole slew of other mothering choices from breastfeeding to sleep training and beyond. When you think about it, why shouldn’t these issues be important? After all, everyone has a mother. Everyone is a product of his or her upbringing. Shouldn’t it matter at least a little bit? The answer is yes, and of course most people understand that. Hence the heated debates.

Considering the above, it might come as a surprise that someone (a woman, even) on national television would dare to assert that a mother of five boys who chose to stay home to raise them “has never worked a day in her life.” Even a slightly chauvinistic man would say, “Lady, you are poking a hornets nest with a comment like that!” As expected, the response to her careless comment was fierce. Many jumped to the defense of Ann Romney (including Ann Romney herself) on Twitter and the resulting controversy has prompted commentary from many.

President Obama made comments regarding a “lack” of choice in a speech last Friday.
“…And we didn't have the luxury for her not to work… And I know when she was with the girls, she’d feel guilty that she wasn’t giving enough time to her work,” said Obama. “And when she was at work, she was feeling guilty she wasn’t giving enough time to the girls. And like many of you, we both wished that there were a machine that could let us be in two places at once. And so she had to constantly juggle it, and carried an extraordinary burden for a long period of time.”

While I feel for the pain many working mothers must feel as they experience similar emotions while attempting to juggle work and family, can we be honest here and admit that in more than a few of these juggling acts the mother is CHOOSING to continue to pursue a career or similar goal despite her struggle? I realize Michelle Obama (and countless others) would be giving up something that they long viewed as a life goal to stay home with their children. That is significant. But having children is a big deal too.

In a recent post on this subject from the blog "To Love, Honor and Vacuum"  Sheila Wray Gregoire points out “In polls of what childcare arrangement people think is best for the child, a parent caring for the child always exceeds all others by far. We all know that parent care is the best care, unless you’ve got a really sketchy parent. So what Hilary Rosen is really saying is that even though parental care is best, and even though the child would do best if the mom were at home, and even though in this particular case Ann Romney didn’t need the income from a job that she would have, she should still work. So children’s welfare comes way down the list of priorities.”

In her own defense, Hilary Rosen said the following posted on CNN’s opinion page:
“It is a wonderful luxury to have the choice. But let's stipulate that it is NOT a choice that most women have in America today.”
First of all, I find it hard to believe that it is not a choice for “most women.” That seems rather subjective, at best. There are certainly some women for whom staying at home is not an option. But for more women, it is simply not an acceptable option.

Let’s be honest- there is ALWAYS a choice. It may not be a simple choice. In my personal life, the choice is based on what we believe to be God’s will for us. We understand the Bible to teach that the role of wife and mother is an all-encompassing one that is to be honored and respected. We didn’t have to do any “soul searching” to decide that I would stay home with our children. But even if the choice is simple, the solution is often complicated. “How will we afford it?” Again- simple answer, complicated execution. In order to afford to go from two incomes to one and raise a family, sacrifices must be made.

Maybe we can’t eat out at restaurants every week (or at all). Maybe we don’t shop for clothes at the mall, but at the thrift store. Maybe we don’t look like we belong on the cover of a magazine. Maybe we live in a small-ish house and our kids share rooms.  MAYBE we need to adjust our idea of what wealth looks like.
Guess what?  If your family income is $10,000 a year, you are wealthier than 84% of the world. If your family income is $50,000 or more a year, you make more than 99% of the world. Check out this calculator http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/resources/how-rich-you-are.php to see how rich you really are.

There is also the idea of missing out on opportunity and success. Despite my strong conviction that my intended role is that of wife and mother, it was bittersweet to leave my job. I enjoyed my job. I felt important in a way that other people in the world could see. Telling people that I am staying home with the kids unfortunately seems to require an explanation or an apology. In our society I have to justify and defend my choice to do the job that I believe God wants me to do. Not to everyone, but apparently to many women who choose to pursue careers outside the home, I am not “playing along.”  And simply by making the choice (based on my own convictions which I would not presume to force on anyone else despite what statistics might show is preferable) I am somehow shaming any woman who chooses differently. Might there be some existing guilt to be so readily offended by hearing that I am making the choice to stay home?

I will agree that it is more difficult to raise a family on one income than it used to be. Forgive me for not having statistics at the ready (I’m just a stay at home mom, after all) but I’m sure most people have anecdotal evidence that their parents and especially grandparents were able to make it work on one income. I believe this was due in part to the fact that fewer women were marching into the workforce and there were more jobs to go around. Additionally, since it was customary for the women to stay at home with the children, a living wage was considered one that could support an entire family. I’m not so sure that is still the case, since so many households are assumed to have two incomes. As women began entering the workforce in earnest and especially entering into management, the workforce nearly doubled, but did the jobs? Did the money? Could it be that it is more difficult for a father working to support his family on just his income now?  Could it be that the feminist goal of getting women their “fair share” in the workplace just sort of diluted salaries? Again- I’m not delving too deeply into this side of the issue since I’ve not done any extensive research into the subject. But it stands to reason that the feminist agenda could easily have made the choice to stay at home a more complicated one by first seeking to get women out of the house, and then regretting that they “just can’t afford to go back.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Knit together


Is this a crafting post? Am I about to wow you with my knitting prowess? No and No. I do know how to knit, but no one would benefit from my instruction on that subject, as I have several unfinished projects laying around. But.... speaking of a lack of commitment....

I am writing about divorce.
I realize most people who happen to read this are probably already in agreement with what I am about to say, but when this metaphor occurred to me I thought it worth putting out there.

Mark 10:2-9
"Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

The Bible tells us that in marriage, God "joins us together." I can relate that to knitting, where yarn is joined together to form a continuous fabric. "So they are no longer two, but one flesh." 

If you look closely at a knit piece of fabric, you will notice that it does not unravel. Knitting interlocks the stitches one to another to form a resilient fabric. If we compare marriage to a knitted fabric, then a divorce (even a scriptural one) is attempting to unravel or "undo" the knitted fabric. I have worked on many knitting projects that resulted in my making a mistake and having to pull out several stitches and start again. While a common occurrence in handiwork, this is not at all a desirable solution in marriage. Imagine asking God to "undo" the fabric of your life. Imagine the sadness of watching years of your life unravel before your eyes. Maybe you don't have to imagine...

Maybe you've experienced divorce in one way or another. Notice how the yarn, the people, still show an impression of the stitches that once held them together. Crimped in places all over with memories, milestones, joys and sorrows. 

God said "let no man separate" what God has joined together. He does not ever want that result for us.
The hope is here: If God has joined you together in marriage, it is His skill as a "knitter"- His handiwork, that will hold you together. We need to trust that He is strong to save. The strength of our marriages is defined by God's strength to maintain the integrity of what He has already joined together. Do we trust Him? 

In Ephesians 5:22-33 we read of the comparison of the husband and wife relationship to the Christ and His church relationship. The husband is to love and give himself for the wife as Christ gave Himself for the church. The wife is to respect her husband and be subject to him as the church is to Christ. God has shown us this comparison to help our marriages, but it should also sober us to the thought of divorce. In what state would we be left if Christ were to leave His bride? We would be without salvation. And what would it do to God if the church left Him? The Bible tells us that "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:7 Also, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" Matthew 16:26 These verses show us that even just one soul is worth more than the whole world, and that one soul repenting causes much joy in heaven. How sad it must be to God, then, when man takes that deal and trades his soul for the "whole world." And because of the comparison to marriage, we see that a divorce is not to be taken lightly. 

I've seen the residual pain of divorce. Most have in some way. Every choice we make affects someone else. God is willing to put in the work to keep knitting you together. Don't ask Him to unravel it. Trust His handiwork. You've seen the flowers and trees bursting into beautiful bloom outside this week. He made those too. He's really good at what He does. The best.

"What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Getting there

I realize it has been entirely too long since I've posted here. You see, I am a "ducks in a row" person. I like to fool myself into thinking that once I get various aspects of my life under control, then I can really dig in and write, blog, teach, whatever...
I know there is no such thing as "arriving" in this life. As frustrating as that can be for someone like myself, I know I need to start jumping in and taking baby steps towards the life I am visualizing for my family. So many changes have taken place already in one way or another. I am working really hard to try and make these changes habit, so they stick.

I hope to go into more detail in individual posts sooner or later, but for now here is a list of some of the new "habits" I am trying to form:
1. If it takes less than one minute to do, do it NOW. (I didn't invent this concept, but I've been working on it and it really does result in fewer major clean ups and fixes throughout the day)
2. Stop eating sugar. No really. I think all my teeth are sweet teeth, but almost two weeks ago I decided to just stop eating obvious sugars and it has been a really positive change.
3. Make more foods from scratch. This is a complicated one. There are SO MANY THINGS that can be made cheaply and fairly simply at home. It's just the TIME thing! This is one area where I know I'm going to need lots of practice and give myself lots of grace. This is new territory for me.
4. Live in the moment with my family. Cut out distractions whenever possible. (hint: put the laptop away!) This is hard for my multi-tasking brain to accept.
5. Spend time in the Word. This might be a good time to mention that this list is not in any order of importance or priority. If I truly believe that what builds me up into a better Christian, a better wife, mother, a better PERSON, is the Word of God, then I had better spend more time in it. Period.

Anyway, there is more. There's always more to say when you're talking to me :) But for now, I need to tend to some baking before this day gets away from me. I just wanted to pop in and show my blog that I haven't forgotten about it. Maybe someday people will even read it.





Meanwhile, we've enjoyed such a mild winter this year that these park photos are from sometime in February! I can't complain about it other than I will miss having a chance to play in the snow with my kids.