The Slavery of Secrets

John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In grade school you’d hear it when you and a friend were caught whispering and giggling to each other— “secrets don’t make friends!”  It was a chastising idiom that reminded you to not exclude others.  Because when you lifted your hand to hide your mouth as you whispered into someone’s ear, while throwing glances around to see who was watching, you automatically gave the impression that you were hiding something at best, or at worst, stirring up trouble.

It’s one thing to keep someone’s confidence and trust.  Those kinds of secrets can build relationships and lend silent support when someone who trusts you is going through a challenging time.  But, what I’ve noticed recently about American culture is that we tend to hide too easily.  We are very good, especially in American Christian spheres, about putting on our makeup, our best smiles, and pretending that our lives are perfect while we struggle privately.

And I know why we do it.  We don’t want to look weak.  Sometimes our struggles are too painful and personal to discuss.  Perhaps they are too embarrassing and reveal parts of us that we’d rather not show.  Maybe we know that our problems are not easily fixed or could last a while.  In some cases, we may even secretly enjoy something that we know we shouldn’t enjoy, and speaking of it would require us to acknowledge a sin that the Lord needs to remove from our lives.

The snow has been falling steadily today as I’ve written this.  It collects little by little—just tiny flakes that settle on the ground, lawn chairs and children’s garden toys until they are a nebulous conglomerate of snow that turn recognizable objects into unidentifiable lumps.  It’s hard to know or remember exactly what’s covered up by all the snow.  When the blanket of white is that thick, it can be dangerous to walk around my own backyard because I might stumble over a rock or root that I can’t see anymore.

Secrets can be just like this—they disguise the truth of what’s under the surface.  They cover up our flaws with a pleasant, soft layer which is far more fragile than we want to acknowledge.  They can turn familiar ground into dangerous, sensitive territory.  Sooner or later, they must melt away, and we must acknowledge the raw and real materials left behind.

In the last couple of years, many of my friends have experienced great trials in their marriages and families.  I have grieved with many over the shock and loss of peace in their home, and have rejoiced with others as they’ve experienced restoration that only Jesus can bring to their lives.  But in the moments when they revealed their secrets, two things happened: 1) They talked about loss—loss of peace, safety, security and belief in someone or something.  2)  I felt compassion for them—a need to pray for them and a desire to help in any way that I could.

This is what honesty and openness does—it brings people closer.  It breaks down façades and walls and reminds us that we all struggle.  It provides opportunities for us to show compassion and love.  Being vulnerable is risky, but it also gives us the ability to admire people without idolizing them and assuming they “have it all together.”

And it’s also this openness that shows us how much we need a Savior.  Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  I am grateful for those people who have allowed me to enter their mess, because it strengthens the bond of community that we have as people who need the healing, restorative work of Jesus.  I’m glad that I don’t believe that lie that anyone is perfect, because then Jesus would be inconsequential and unimportant.  And once we allow Him to shine His light onto our darkest secrets they stop looking so scary and destructive.  They lose their power and we begin to take steps in freedom.  What was once a secret that enslaved us becomes a testimony of hope and deliverance.

This happened for me lately too.  I was keeping something to myself for about a year and a half.  I wrestled with something, prayed about it, tried to pretend it wasn’t a big deal, until I was faced with it again and realized that keeping it private was making the problem bigger than it really was.  I was afraid to confess to my husband, fearing his anger and rejection.  But a beautiful thing happened when my silence began costing my peace—I sincerely asked God for a way out and He gave it to me.  I told my husband about it, in tears, and he showed me compassion and grace.  He prayed for me and comforted me and expressed understanding, not condemnation.  His reaction did two things: 1) it made me more grateful to the Lord and more aware of the power of confession, and 2) it reminded me of why I love my husband so much—he freely offers me the forgiveness of Christ and loves me just as I am.

So, let’s say that your life suddenly changed yesterday, or three months ago, or last week.  Or maybe it will tomorrow, or five months from now because of someone’s poor choices, disregard, sin, negligence, distraction.  Maybe it’s your own problems that got you into a mess.   If you’re tempted to hide and stew over your anger and sadness and shame—don’t.  Let God shine His holy spotlight onto your secret.  I know from experience—it won’t seem as daunting once it’s exposed.  Watch your secrets melt away under the warmth of His love.  You’ll be amazed by the beauty they uncover.

Raising a Man

As this year closes, the news has been full of reports of allegations of men abusing and mistreating women.  I’ve been reading these headlines, while also spending the month of December fundraising and bringing awareness to the global money-making shame of human trafficking.  And it all has me thinking a lot about the kind of man I want my son to become, the hopes that I have for his character.  I have been praying for my son since the day he was born.  My prayers have been very specific for him as a male.  I pray for strength, a heart for the Lord, a heart for justice, a kind spirit and most of all, integrity.  This is a personal trait that is becoming more precious, more valuable, and rarer every day.  It’s defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.  And almost every time I check the headlines I see men lying about their actions, making excuses for their misdeeds and expecting people to serve their whims instead of recognizing when their whims subject others to abuse.

And I look at my son, who is now only three, but who will soon have desires which will be admirable and gracious on some days, yet embarrassing and selfish on others.  How do I begin to teach him to care about his choices and the impact they have on other people?  How do I begin to explain to him that girls outside his family will always deserve the same respect and kindness that he shows to his sisters?  How will he learn to sacrifice his creature comforts for the legitimate needs of those less fortunate in his path?  How will he figure out how to use his strength to fight injustice?  How will I coach his behavior so that he doesn’t become another woman’s disgraceful memory or headline?

Much of this he will learn from his father, who is a kind and generous man.  He teaches our son that his job is to protect and never to harm.  Much of it he will learn from me, as I demand that he minds his manners.  I require him to say “please” and “thank you,” to ask me nicely for things instead of expecting me to get what he wants.  Much of it he will learn from his female siblings as they ask for his help and show him familial love.

But there’s a message passing through our culture that I don’t want him to hear: and that message is that there is nothing special about him as a male.  Because when women start emasculating men, men stop caring about women.  When we tell them they don’t matter, that we can live without them, they don’t see the need to practice integrity.  Why would we as women expect kindness and respect from men we don’t respect ourselves?

I want my son to know that his God-given strengths and tendencies are valuable.  I want him to see his maleness as the other half of the beautiful design God created in humanity.  When he notices the differences between himself and girls, I hope that the mystery produces a sense of awe and wonder in his mind, and not lust or greed.

I will continue to lift him up in my prayers even when I can no longer lift him in my arms.  I will speak for him until, God willing, my prayers become his own.

Bigger Clothes, Bigger Problems: Hot-Button Issues with My Daughters

girlsIn the very first days after my eldest daughter was born, I remember grieving my loss of sleep and discussing my exhaustion with my mom.  She empathized with me and then said something that has stuck with me as I’ve navigated the twisted roads of motherhood.  It went a little like this: “When your kids are very young they need your energy and constant attention because their problems are frequent but small.  They are easy to fix but they happen repeatedly.  When they’re older, your kids need your wisdom and your heart because their problems are fewer, but they’re bigger and there is less you can do on your own to fix them.”

Vivienne turned seven this month and her younger sister Georgia recently turned five, and although they still have many years head of them, I’m astounded at the depth of our conversations at this point in their lives.  I’m always a little sad when I realize they are old enough to comprehend that the world isn’t perfect, that some people are mean or that I can’t give them every answer to soothe their tender emotions or settle their confused minds.

All moms are familiar with the gut-sinking-bitter-sweetness that comes when you discover that your kids have outgrown their clothes and need an entirely new wardrobe.  There’s a double-whammy that hits while weeding out old clothes and buying new ones for our children.  The first punch goes to our checking account—time to budget for clothing this month!  The second punch goes to our hearts—our babies are getting bigger.  And bigger.  And as their bodies grow so do their minds.  Their brains fill with new information, new concepts.  Their eyes notice behavior and social structures.  Pretty soon these children start to ask very good questions, very challenging questions that make us stop and consider, “Hmm, how am I going to answer/handle this?”

And what complicates this for me even more is that my girls are SO different.  They have shared a room since my younger daughter was five-months-old, a bed since she was two, and they are the best of friends.  But they could not be more opposite if they were characters in a story.  Often a tactic or method or even tone of voice that I use with one does not go over well with the other.  I must get creative with tailoring much of my mothering-methods to each of my three children (because my youngest is a boy—talk about different!) and their personalities, while maintaining the convictions and ideologies that my husband and I feel are important for our family.

My night-and-day daughters have tested me lately in my ability to succinctly yet thoroughly answer their concerns in a way that will assuage their fears, teach truth and be considerate of their immature emotions.  My oldest daughter is very into science and dinosaurs.  She has just learned to read and will devour any text about dinosaurs that she can find.  But not all these books agree about exactly when dinosaurs existed, how long they lived and how they became extinct.  My husband and I are Christians and believe in Creation, but we are old-Earth Christians, so we tend to agree with scientists who maintain that the earth is much older than the 6,000 years that the new-Earthers claim.  We happen to own a book about dinosaurs by one of these new-Earth apologists, Ken Hamm, that we picked up from our local consignment store before we realized its angle.  He claims that dinosaurs were roaming the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  But just last week, Vivienne came home with a book about dinosaurs from her school library which supports the traditional scientific view that dinosaurs predated humans and even evolved into birds!  (An entire blog-post could be derived from this example about different schooling options for Christian families, but I’m not going to go there right now).

vivi dinosaur

You can imagine Vivi’s confusion when she read these two conflicting accounts.  I pointed out to her that the school library book was aging the earth at millions of years old, whereas Ken Hamm’s account ages it at around 6,000 years.  I asked her what she thought.  She said she agreed with the library book from the school because: “There’s no way people and dinosaurs could have lived at the same time because the dinos would have crushed or eaten the people!”

(Amazing the logic of little kids sometimes.)

So, I ended up encouraging her to take a faith-filled posture on this one.  I explained to her that there are some things we will never know this side of heaven.  But what we do know is that everything comes from something.  Every creation has a Creator, and the timing is mostly irrelevant.  We believe that God created all things for His glory and purpose, and that science helps us to learn about His creation and to reveal Him within it.  She seemed satisfied with that.  I believe her very words were, “I know that Mommy.”  And then she waved me away so she could continue reading her book on her own.

Georgia’s interests are not in science.  They are in performance, dancing, play-acting and looking pretty.  I think that this is a confusing are for girls and women in our current climate.  On one hand, people spend way too much money and time worrying about being beautiful.  Just the number of YouTube make-up tutorials, Pinterest pins and beauty products is overwhelming.  On the other hand, there is a growing movement among feminists which is telling females that beauty is shallow and unnecessary.  This perspective suggests that beautiful women who take care of themselves are enslaved to some patriarchal system, and that they are brainwashed ignorant bimbos.

I believe both groups are wrong.  I believe that my God loves beauty—it’s all around us in the animals we admire, the gardens that we cultivate, the mountains upon which we gaze, and yes, the diverse patchwork of humanity across this globe.  So, my task with Georgia is not to squelch her interest in beauty and the pleasure she takes in looking pretty.  My task is to put beauty in its proper place, to encourage her to focus more on cultivating a beautiful spirit and heart than on wearing an outfit or a hairstyle that others will notice.

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She threw a fit the other day when I would not allow her to wear her play make-up to school.  Now, the child is five, so it’s not like she was going to be in full super-model make-up anyway.  But I know that she sees me wearing make-up most days, and she has asked me why I do it.  I must be very careful about my answers because I don’t want her to ever think that her value lies in her beauty.  And she is lovely—she has creamy white skin, big blue eyes and light blonde hair.  She is blessed with a lean, muscular frame and her muscles are well-defined without that much physical effort.  But I know that God created us in His image, and all beauty is ultimately there to point to Him.  It’s nothing we can claim on our own because it was given to us.  I also know that nothing spoils beauty in a person like an ungrateful and selfish heart.

More questions and explanations are sure to come.  I hope that God gives me enough wisdom to communicate what He’s taught me, and that He’ll help me to tap into His grace when I get things wrong.  Please pray for me as I continue to nurture these feminine souls, knowing the struggles and expectations that are waiting for my girls as they grow.  Now my son, Roman, well…he’ll be an entirely different ball of wax!

What Entertains Us? Thoughts on Weinstein and Pornography.

Yes. Me too.  I was abducted at gun point, robbed and sexually assaulted when I was 21.  I can assure you that being assaulted changes your life in a heartbeat.  Those are the testimonies that we’re hearing from these women who were bullied and assaulted by Harvey Weinstein.  Listening to the now infamous audio tape, it seems that he liked scaring them, wielding his power in the business over them, threatening their future.  And many of them walked away from “the industry” at that point.  They realized that they couldn’t participate in a game where their success depended on their willingness to surrender their morals.  As Weinstein said in the audio, “everybody does it.”

And apparently everyone knew about it.  From the jokes about Weinstein on shows like 30 Rock, to jabs at award shows, it truly seems as though this behavior had been happening for quite some time.  As one person was quoted as saying, “it was the most open secret in Hollywood.”  Yet the Weinstein Company and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences are just now expelling Weinstein to distance themselves from his soiled reputation.

This tells me one thing, and I think we need to be reminded of this:  Hollywood, powerful people, entertainers—they did not care about those women or their futures or they would have stepped in long ago.  And guess what?  They don’t care about you, or me, or our kids.  They care about us insofar as we pay their bills, and that’s all.

So what can we do to stop sexual assault and harassment from happening in America alone?  I believe that sin and selfishness are going to drive this sort of mistreatment until the end of time, but there is one thing that I do believe could help in stopping the endless flow of damaging sexual images, ideals, and practices into our own homes and minds.

If people really want to see a better future, I think we need to start asking ourselves some tough questions: Although we may tell our children how to treat others, how to respect them, give them space, are we following that up with what we allow to pass from our eyes or ears to our brains as “entertainment?” Weinstein is a movie producer after all–how did he get so powerful? His very pockets were lined by us! He has produced some 80 films, and many of them are blockbusters.

What we pass off as entertainment is damaging business and relationships and teaching our children harmful messages about intimacy.  What music, TV shows, and films are we hooked on which promote casual, dangerous, selfish physical indulgence? It has been proven that pornography rewires the brain and viewing it releases dopamine which satisfies that “seeker” habit, however, after a while just watching isn’t enough, and the viewer must act out their fantasies. I wonder if this is what happened to Weinstein? And did you know that the pornography industry made $4 billion last year alone? That is symptomatic of a serious problem because it reveals a “need” that is feeding this business, and also because real people don’t respond to sexual advances the same way that actors do.  It is not “normal” for people to watch porn–it’s destructive, plain and simple, and I don’t know a single man who has had a problem with pornography and is recovering from it who has ever been proud that he was exposed to it.

Here’s something pretty pornographic (and I apologize in advance but I felt this was important).  A billboard hit about three summers ago contained these lines:

“You’re the hottest bitch in this place…”

“I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.”

The song?  Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke and Pharrell.  And it was featured on Jimmy Kimmel, The Voice, So You Can Think You Can Dance, played over the radio all summer (we heard it over and over again while living in Luxembourg), and who knows what other TV shows.  Teens were listening to this for months and months.  They were being taught, through music, that it’s appropriate for men to tease women in this way.

I was going to post a photo of Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus when they performed the song together on MTV in 2013, but it was just too gross.  Perhaps the most disturbing part of those images is while Miley is twerking all over Robin Thicke, young fans are reaching up worshipfully, in complete support of the perverse mess happening right in front of them.  It’s no wonder Thicke’s wife Paula Patton divorced him after that.

Mainstream TV and movies, Netflix and Amazon originals are not much better. What people defend as artistic license appeals to the most carnal instincts in a person and is inherently damaging. When our children are little we want them watching educational television that will stimulate their brains, but as adults we entertain ourselves with tawdry trash that feeds perversion in people like Harvey Weinstein.  I’m not blaming the public for his indiscretions. He of course is responsible for his actions, but I can’t help but think that the growing obsession with sex and self-gratification and lack of accountability in this country largely contributes to the twisted reasoning of people like Weinstein, and helped keep his secret quiet for a long time.

I think that it’s time we back up our words with our choices.  This may require us to give up our favorite shows, to walk out of movie theaters or be a little less cool.  So be it.  Let’s stop lining Hollywood’s pockets when they don’t care enough about us to stop abuse.

I’d like to leave you with a picture of a man who did care.  He was a champion for a woman who was being harassed and whose very life was being threatened.  She had exercised poor judgment and cheated on her husband.  A group of powerful men laid most of the blame on her and we have no mention of whether her lover was tried at all.  But they dragged her into the street and prepared to throw rocks at her until she died.  That’s when Jesus stepped in front of her and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” (John 8:7).  The crowd, in its shame, dispersed, and the woman presumably learned from her own mistakes and walked away unscathed, her future ahead of her.  So I don’t want to wholesale lay the blame on men and patriarchy.  There are great men who follow Christ’s example in their fair and noble treatment of women.

In contemplating people’s indiscretions and sins, I think we should mourn the pain and loss that one miserable person caused, but we should also pray for them and search our own hearts, ask the Lord to reveal how we can contribute to change.  It will take humility and grace to heal what has been broken.

Hope for Today

Is it just me or are there more causes and criticisms than ever before?  Oh, how I wish for simpler times.  When there wasn’t such a need for instant information, when there weren’t ever-changing windows into others’ lives, when we weren’t voyeurs watching for something better than what is right in front of us.  (When the temptation wasn’t so great to do all of the above).

Is it any wonder that children are happier and more content than adults?  Is it any wonder that once young people are handed a smart phone they tend to become more rebellious, meaner, and depressed?

People poise ready to attack–anticipating being criticized and judged.  People compete for attention and fame.  People elevate their causes and their rights above compassion and empathy.

We don’t concern ourselves any longer with how our actions and words affect others.  We shock intentionally, and more and more, just to get attention.  Nothing is ever good enough for us.  No ONE is ever good enough for us.  We dismiss and discount and insult without a second thought whenever someone dares to disagree with us.  This imperfect world will never satisfy–no matter how many times we protest, march, complain, fight, debate.  And if we do win a court battle, if we do see legislation change, it will only pacify our greed for a little while, before we find another perceived weak spot that we feel needs to change so that our lives can be “fair” or “better.”

Whatever happened to contentment?  The notion that things aren’t perfect but that it’s okay because that gives us the desire and opportunity to help, to contribute, to work instead of take.  Not everything is supposed to be given to us—that makes us lazy and selfish.  Instead of giving up on each other in friendships, marriage, government, communities—we’re supposed to give grace.

We elevate ideals above people.  We obsess over problems.  We go straight for huge issues that have already polarized a nation, instead of building bridges in our own communities—one relationship at a time.  We yearn for change that may or may not prove to be healthy instead of acknowledging the goodness that exists here and now.

I want my kids to enjoy and appreciate this life.  I want them to look back and say that their childhood wasn’t perfect, but it was good.  I want to see them content in the life they are living now.  I want them to be grateful to God.  I want them to see other people as fellows and contributors to their current joy, not as battles to fight, causes to push or stepping stones to nebulous dream.

I want to look my friends in their eyes, hear their voices and remember their hearts.  I want to remember that behind each typed word is a deeply considered thought and a memory, an experience.  I want to listen to what they say, to pray about it and let the Lord work out the truth.   I want to try to understand.  I really want to try.

Yet, there is hope in this jar of clay.

One day I will be no more.  Maybe my words will live on (this is one of my personal dreams), but they may not.  But I do believe that I will leave a legacy, and above all I want it to be one of faith, hope and love.  Tests will come and go that will shake my faith, but if it fails and disappears like a vapor, it was never faith.  Jesus has proved Himself to be true and trustworthy, and although I am occasionally untrusting, I can always hope to see His hand move.  I can always hope that one by one, lives will be changed and hearts will be changed when people know Him as Savior.  I can hope that as people go from sin to righteousness, from despair to joy, from idolizing themselves to worshiping Jesus, that the world will be different.  Love has been minimized to simply a feeling and an acceptance of everyone and everything, when in its purest form, it means sacrifice and elevating others’ needs above your own.  This self-sacrificing, submissive and encouraging love is one that the world at large does not know.

The joy of Jesus is not a promise of ease.  Christians are not meant to bury their heads in the sand and pretend like all is okay, like the world doesn’t have problems, that there isn’t true injustice.  But we are meant to identify FIRST with Him and His glory.  We are not meant to hold our personal banners and causes, our races and genders and occupations and educations above Him.  All those things are subject to Him.  All those things are meant to point to Him, to celebrate His kingdom and glory and His perfect love.  We are meant to hold our banners up to Him and see that He is still higher.  We are meant to walk through our struggles with Him leading the way.

Oh, that I could love and hope like Jesus.  That is my deep dream.

Until Now: Mothering Moment to Moment

I’ve been ruminating lately on how much of motherhood is moment-to-moment.  When they are very young, our children’s needs are immediate and small, yet they can quickly fill up a day.  From the minute they are born, they start changing rapidly.  Every day brings a new development, a new milestone or challenge.  So much of their questions as they learn to communicate, first with grunts and then single words and then phrases and eventually complex sentences, are about what they want or need from moment to moment.  Mine are always asking what we’re doing.

“Mommy, what can I do NOW?  What are we having for dinner?  What are we doing tomorrow?”

museum kids

They see in small slices of time.  There’s no long-term vision for the future in these little minds.  Therefore, I started to think like this not long after becoming a mother.  In these busy moments of mothering, I am often putting one foot in front of the other and thinking of what needs to be done NEXT.  What diaper do I need to change now?  What sticky liquid must I clean off the floor now?  What meal do I need to prep for next?  Who needs to get dressed?  Who needs a ride to school now?

Busy-ness does not provide much space for dreaming or for long term vision.  So as a mother I easily became entrenched in what was happening in my life daily, focusing on the fine details–not so much the beauty and great significance of the fact that my child can NOW hold their own spoon or get themselves dressed, but that it finally happened and freed me from their dependence on me for basic needs.  I was often overcome by these little, immediate needs.  I felt so smothered at times that I inwardly scoffed when older people with independent children would remind me how much I should be appreciating mine…right NOW in THIS moment.

me&kids

I brushed their comments aside, knowing they were right and silently acknowledging that one day I will most certainly be in their shoes, feeling compassion and sympathy for a young mom struggling with her tiny brood, while also feeling a pull to make her aware of the treasure that she has in her young family.  I brushed their comments aside because although they are most likely correct, what they said did not change the fact that in those moments, I was the one struggling.  I was the one yearning for a moment alone.  I was the one wondering when I’d get a good night’s rest again.  I was the one wanting to put on a nice outfit and not have it covered in food stains and snot.  I was the one covered up in moments and lacking vision or the hindsight to see how these moments could come together.

Until now.

Just a few days ago I was sitting at the kitchen table with my two-year-old son.  His older sisters have just begun their school year, and I’ve been looking forward to the days that I’m going to have alone with my son, my baby, who has had the least amount of quality time with mommy of all my children.  We were alone at the table and I was kind of focused in on his round cheeks when it hit me.  I am about to begin my final days as a full-time stay-at-home-mom.  Over the last seven years my husband and I added three little people to our family and every day I was swept up in their now needs.  It was hard for me to lift my head up higher than their faces to see the changes on the horizon, to see that the future was not “now”, but it came sooner than I anticipated.  When I was home with all three of them, or even just two of them (when my oldest started kindergarten last year), it was easy for me to see all these moments as an endless stream of my reality.  Like this was going to be my life forever, which is silly, because we all know that children grow up.

So NOW, when I look at my son, I see a boy who just yesterday was an infant, and tomorrow will be a kindergartner.  Every time he kisses my arm or my cheek, every time he tells me he loves me and demands a response, every time he asks me to carry him or runs to me in tears with a boo-boo, I wonder if it will be the last of these moments of childhood urgency.  Because moments have passed with my other two.  I can no longer carry my six-year-old.  My helpful five-year-old won’t be home in the afternoons to assist in putting her brother down for a nap.  There’s less and less need for mommy’s help right NOW, and more that they can do without me.

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Two nights ago, my five-year-old daughter was exaggerating about her speed and claiming that she could outrun me.  I told her, “Yeah right, I’m way faster than you!”  Then I thought for a moment and said, “But, there will be a day when you’ll be faster and stronger than me, honey.  Then you really will beat me.”

Sometimes I think that I, and moms in general, could benefit from learning how to procrastinate, just enough to help us put off the trivial tasks that seem like they need to be done right NOW, to savor more of these moments.  Later, our laundry will still be sitting in a pile on the floor, but our children will be running ahead, eventually too fast for us to catch them.  Let’s lace up our shoes, take a swig of caffeine, and chase these moments when we can.

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What I Do And Don’t Know About Motherhood

When my husband and I were talking about becoming parents, man, were we clueless. Especially me, I was the clueless one.  Bryan has always been more of a practical realist; me–I’m more of a dreamer.  I tend to get lost in thought, stare out windows, go way deeper into conversations than people really wanted to.

I’ve learned so much since the quest of motherhood began–mostly that things are never going to go the way that I expect them to go.  That motherhood is full of profound, disgusting, heart-melting, terrifying, glorious, silly, unpredictable surprises.  Beginning with two miscarriages, then two healthy births of two beautiful girls on opposite sides of the country, to an overseas move, to expat life and pregnancy and yet another miscarriage in Europe, to the birth of my baby boy, to a visit to the American Embassy to get his citizenship requirements in the middle of a winter storm when he was ten days old, to another overseas move from hell with a four year old, three year old and ten month old, to staying in two AirBnBs before moving into a house, to beginning kindergarten and first grade….whew, it’s been a hectic eight years.  Eight years since our first attempts at becoming parents!

Somewhere during that pregnancy with Vivienne, our oldest, I decided that I was against pregnancy books–except for the baby development week to week.  The reason was because I was already recovering from fear and anxiety left over from losing two babies in a row before her, and all I found when I read these pregnancy books was more fear, more “what ifs,” and illogical, crippling reasons to suspect that something was wrong with my perfectly formed and developing baby girl.  I decided to trust God because that was the take-away lesson that He’d taught me through my miscarriages anyway.  There was nothing I could do to prevent them, nothing I could do to change what was happening to me, and worry and fear would do nothing but steal the joy I was experiencing during my pregnancy as I felt my baby grow and move inside me.

This aversion to asking for and giving advice as a mom has carried over into my years of mothering infants, toddlers, preschoolers and now elementary-aged children.  There are not many people that I will ask for advice.  Sometimes I ask my own mother because she knows me, she’s completed her journey of motherhood successfully and I know she doesn’t judge me.  Sometimes I ask my sister, and of course, I ask my husband what he thinks.

But mostly I pray, I ask God for help and watch for His answers, His way of leading.  I’m not saying that I’m always a great listener, but I try.  I try this tactic or that one and see which yields success.  You see, each of my children is different and the same approach does not always work for each one in every scenario.  Their moods, likes, dislikes, feelings and fears change around the clock, and if my OWN children are so diverse in their personalities, how in the world can I offer advice to other moms on what they should do when their child won’t eat this, has an allergy to that, doesn’t sleep through the night or has extreme separation anxiety?  Occasionally other women will ask me for advice, but I really do my best to frame my answer as, “this is what we tried” not as “you should do this.”  The word “should” is one I don’t think is good for most moms to hear–it usually brings a lot of guilt.

Another reason that I don’t give a lot of mothering advice is because there is so much I don’t know, and so much that just doesn’t interest me.  I do not care about eating organic food.  I do not craft.  I don’t know how to sew, although I “should.” I don’t garden.  I am not a huge fan of Disney-related stuff.  I don’t send my kids to preschool.  So basically, if you want to know about kale recipes, DIY Halloween costumes, how to grow fist-sized tomatoes, where to get the best Disney passes (I don’t even know if that’s the right way to say that), which preschools in the area are the highest rated, I am not your girl.  I’m aware of the areas where I lack knowledge or skill.

What I do know as a mom is that these years go by so quickly.  I do know that it’s okay to tell your children that you don’t have all the answers to their questions.  I do know that it’s okay to cry and be real in front of them.  It’s okay if you yell and lose your patience, as long as you’re willing and ready to say that you were wrong, ask for their forgiveness and follow it up with a big hug and a heart-felt “I love you,” and try, really try, to do better next time.  I do know that your kids think you are so much more wonderful than you believe or imagine.  I do know that they think you are wicked smart.  I do know that it’s okay to lock your self in your room and cry out to God.  I do know that it’s okay to tell them “no” or “not right now.”  I do know that going for a walk with them, playing “doggies” with them as my kids love to do, or eating popsicles with them on the front porch will make just as big of an impression on their little hearts as a day at Disney World.  I do know that they love the sound of your voice and the feel of your arms.  I know they think that you are an incredible artist.  I know they think you’re pretty.  I know they love to dance with you.  I do know that you’re tired and your brain feels short-circuited, but if you take the time to answer their questions honestly, you have a chance to impact their lives forever.

I know motherhood is probably not exactly what you had in mind.  I know that there are moments that you wish that you could stay in bed, or go on vacation, or be able to finish a mediocre blog-post without a pint-sized person crawling into your lap.  (I know that if you are afforded the opportunity to do any of these things, you actually really miss your kids after a while and just want to go home.)  And when you start to feel guilty about having these escape fantasies, don’t buy into the lie that a “better” mom wouldn’t want to get away.  Instead, recognize that you love your kids enough to care!  That hesitation/elation that you have over an opportunity to go somewhere without your kids (the supermarket, a hotel, the dentist!) is a sign of a devoted and caring mother who is working hard and doing her best.  Accept the things that you DO know about being a mother, the things that have served you and your family well.  Capitalize on your strengths and the knowledge that you have that works.  (Preaching to a one-woman choir here ladies.  Sometimes we ALL need a talk.)

And never forget that there’s One who knows YOU.  When other advice fails, when you’re on your fourth round of trial-and-error, remember that He has limitless patience and all the right answers.  Sometimes we just have to ask the right person.  And put on some make-up–that always makes me feel better. 😉

 

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Godliness Over Girl-Power: Setting Priorities of Identity

Last night I went to see Wonder Woman with a girl-friend.  To be honest, I’m not really into superhero movies, and especially not ones with a female lead because they are usually even more far-fetched than superhero films with male leads.  But I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by this film.  Yes, Wonder Woman was strong, and fast, and GORGEOUS–deflecting bullets with her wrist-guards, leaping hundreds of feet in the air and flattening villains with her supernatural power.  But there were things she was NOT, which are worth mentioning.  She was not selfish.  She was not vengeful.  She was not easily discouraged or offended.  She was not a man-hater.  She was not prideful.

It was intentional for the story of Diana Prince (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) to be set during the 1920s when the War was amping up and women’s suffrage was a controversial issue. To see Diana in her tiny uniform barely hidden by her cloak, taking advice from corseted secretaries in their prim-and-proper dresses with buttons to their throats was quite ironic and comical.  But as I watched the interaction between the two primary female characters: one a dowdy receptionist and one a beautiful, warrior goddess, I found myself becoming grateful.  I’m grateful to be able to celebrate the freedom as a Western woman who benefits from the battles won for women throughout the 20th century.  But I’m most grateful that my worth as a woman does not come from what I can earn.

I know that I can celebrate my femininity because God gave it to me.  In some way, I am able to image Him.  This gives me meaning as a woman, and the fact that His son rescued me from sin and gave me new life gives me freedom.  It’s an ultimate freedom that has already been won and need not be proven by marches, by protests, by wearing my female-ness as a prideful badge.

Everywhere I look, there’s a groundswell of women on a mission to prove themselves. There’s an idolatry of gender that offends more often than it helps, alienates more often than it unifies, and embarrasses more often than it encourages.  And for Christian women, this is especially dangerous because the risk is that we begin to hold our cause higher than the cause of Christ.  Do we want to be seen first as women or as children of God?  If our goal is to have equal treatment, then we would be best served by remembering these words:

Galations 3:28, There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight for women who are marginalized or oppressed. There are women all over the world who are raped, enslaved, mutilated, ignored, abused, and mistreated in a number of ways.  These are real problems.  This is true inequality.  What I am saying is that as a Western, Christian woman, my goal is to be grateful for what I already have and to look for opportunities to glorify God in this body and in the feminine way that celebrates His goodness, not to complain that my life is different from a man’s.

The cause of Jesus Christ is my banner, my march.

Wonder Woman showed some Christlike characteristics: grace, generosity, a recognition of who she was, not what she didn’t have, perseverance, hope, LOVE.  In these ways, she is certainly a superhero that my daughters and I can admire.  But she is also fictional. There are real women who have made a mark on history, on the world, women who were heroic in their faith and strength–Hannah, Ruth, Mary, Priscilla, Elizabeth, Esther.

Theirs were voices of peace.  Theirs were hearts of love.  Theirs were hands of strength. Theirs were spiritual battles of heaven and earth, which they won without picking up a megaphone or a sword.

May we be women of faith, strength and gratitude.

 

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