Monday, March 30, 2009

Happy Birthdays!

In God's amazing providence, two of my best friends from college (Jenny and Jaclyn, pictured to the right) were also pregnant these last 9 months with me. Both of their girls have now made their entrance into the world, and I can barely contain my excitement (seriously, have you ever cried reading a text message before?)

Happy Birthday, Lilian Ruth and Anna Elizabeth! Caroline (and the rest of us) can't wait to meet you both!

Friday, March 27, 2009

1 week already? and other thoughts from the field

First of all, can I just say that the last two nights have been amazing? After getting around 1-2 hours of sleep on Monday and Tuesday nights, Caroline woke up only two times the past two nights and went right back to sleep after her feedings without any fuss! That, my friends, is an act of God, just another of those "small-in-the-grand-scheme-but-huge-to-me" answers to prayer. I have never before felt myself so reliant on prayer, particularly on the prayers of others. I thank God that I have precious friends and family who check in on me and with whom I can be vulnerable and who will actually go before the throne of grace on my behalf. Keep it up, friends, because He hears you!

That said, as I sat in the semi-dark living room during the 2am feed Wednesday night, I found myself thinking, "Hm, here I am, actually living through what I have merely been preparing for all these months. How is it going?" Several things came to mind.

First, it's a lot easier to be dependent than I thought it would be...primarily because I am so incredibly weak! Nothing makes you dependent like a cocktail of surgery, hormones, breastfeeding, sleeplesness, 3 year olds and an infant. And while I'm incredibly grateful for the strength that comes 3 straight hours of sleep (among the 7 combined!), I'm also thankful for my weakness because His power and care does shine through more clearly in it.

Second, God is incredibly merciful and kind. I think that Caroline (at least so far) is one of those so-called "angel babies." She is rarely fussy and only cries when she needs something, plus her cries are very distinct and easy to read. Recovery from surgery has also been easy. As I told a friend the other day, I think God must know how weak my faith is because He only

Third, a well-stocked iPod is a nursing mother's best friend. Seriously. I used to get so depressed and discouraged during the late night feeds when Katie was an infant. What is it about being alone in the dark that makes having "perspective" so difficult? Listening to worship music on my iPod this time around has made those late night feeds a completely different experience. Can you believe that I actually have experienced joy and gladness in the middle of the night? So, nursing moms out there....do your soul a favor and use your iPod!

Fourth, after the two rough nights on Monday and Tuesday, I was really battling fear and anxiety, particular regarding the coming nighttime and how it would go. I had tried to take a nap that afternoon but was so overcome be fear I could not even lay down. God provided some relief and comfort through a friend of mine who both listened and sympathized but also spoke truth about God's grace towards me. Later that evening, Adam and I took advantage of the beautiful weather and our awesome new double stroller and took the girls on a walk. As I pushed Caroline and watched Adam and Katie run around the track at our apartment complex, a line from one of my favorite Caedmon's Call songs (Sacred from their Overdressed album) came to mind: "My cup runneth over, I worry about the stain." How much did that apply to my fears? God has overwhelmingly blessed me with an amazing husband and two beautiful and healthy daughters, and I was choosing to worry about "stains" from the overflowing cup of blessings.

Finally, later that night, after I had just fed Caroline at 10pm and was about to lie down and hope for the best, the Lord graciously brought to mind Psalm 4:9, "In peace I will both lie and down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." I love how David distinguishes his need for peace in both the act of lying down and the act of sleeping. Just as I could not even lie down that afternoon because I was so anxious, David looked to God to give him the grace to do that as well as the grace to actually sleep. The second part of the verse spoke to me afresh of God's control over everything that would happen that night--He has complete sovereign rule over every cry, sigh, and hunger pang that Caroline experiences. He has ultimate say over how much sleep I get or don't get. He knows my frame and remembers that I am dust, and I can trust Him as my good Father to do what is best for me. I praise Him for giving me the faith to embrace that truth and both lie down and sleep in peace, regardless of how many hours that includes!

I can't believe that Caroline is one week old already. It's amazing how much she has changed in that time and how our love has grown for her each and every day. I hope to post some more pictures soon. Until then, here are some random things about life with CG:

1-I find myself calling her "little monkey," "monk," or "milk face"
2-she has the greatest "milk coma" faces
3-she loves to be held (ya gotta love warm babies)
4-she hates having her diaper changed (but it's a sure-fire way to wake her up if she falls asleep while feeding!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

CGM update

Thanks to everyone for their kind comments, well wishes, and (most of all) your prayers! We got home from the hospital on Monday, and things have been going well. ("Well" is actually a relative term, meaning life is crazy and chaotic but normal for life with a newborn.) While CG has her unique quirks and issues, I think that in general she is a more "textbook" baby than Katie was...and maybe the fact that I have a little experience helps too.

Caroline's first doctor's check-up was today....she weighs 8 pounds (a 5-ounce gain since Monday) and seems to be doing "perfect" according to the doctor. Sweet words to a mama's ear!

You can pray for us that we would have grace, strength, wisdom, and patience to endure these first few weeks of hormones, sleeplessnes, and figuring Caroline out. Thankfully, the day times are fairly predictable, but each night seems to be a different adventure! We have already seen the Lord answer many of our prayers, even in the "small" things that seem to be too little for the God of the universe to care about. What motivation to continue to cry out to Him in all things!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Caroline Grace McCulloch was born on Friday, March 20 at 11:51 am. She was 8 pounds, 8 ounces and 20.5 inches long (same exact measurements as Katie). Enjoy the slideshow!
It is currently 4:50 pm and All Things Loss welcomes a special guest blogger...Adam McCulloch. This is my first blog post in almost 2 years since by last post. My blog lasted a total of 4 posts...Mary's has about 4000 so hers is definitely more successful.

The reason for this guest blogger is that Mary is recovering from having a C-Section earlier this morning. There will be a more thorough post later on, but for now I've posted a couple of pictures. Thank you all so much for prayers and concern.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Baby watch

I had my final ultrasound and doctor's appointment this morning. My doc had requested that I get an ultrasound every week these past few weeks since Katie had been induced due to low amniotic fluid levels. Even though there was nothing that indicated my levels were low this time around and Katie's low levels were likely due to the fact that she was 41 weeks, the doctor wanted to play it safe. I didn't complain...I love seeing that baby! This morning's ultrasound was super fun though because the ultrasound tech did a 3D ultrasound. Let me tell you what, Caroline Grace is SO chubby! She has the fattest little cheeks and the pudgiest little fingers (which were in her mouth). It was so exciting to see a real shot of this face we're about to meet in just 2 days! According to the ultrasound, she's weighing in around 8 pounds, 6 ounces...which means she actually weighs between 7lbs6oz and 9lbs6oz. Whichever end of the spectrum she ends up on, she's not hurting for meat on her bones!

Grandma Sue (Adam's mom) arrives in the 'Ville this afternoon and will be staying for a couple weeks. My mom will then come out in early April for about 10 days, and the rest of the grandparents will be here at other various times in April, May, and June. We're so thankful already for all the help that our moms are going to be!

The surgery is schedule for this Friday at 11:30am. For Louisville folks, we would be happy to have visitors on Saturday or Sunday, just call before you come (we'll have both our cell phones).
The hospital has wireless internet, and Adam's been eagerly looking forward to guest blogging, so keep checking back here for updates and photos!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Idol factories

“The human heart is a factory of idols…Everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” John Calvin

Idolatry has come up quite a bit in my conversations with Katie recently. As we read in her children's Bible, she is quick to point out when people are worshipping "fake gods." She says, "That's silly...there's only one real God." We've also gotten into the 10 commandments part of her catechism, so the two questions we've worked on this week were: "What is the first commandment?" and "What does the first commandment mean?" (Answers: "You shall no other gods before me." and "Worship God only.")

But our conversations have not been mainly theoretical. No, unfortunately, idolatry has become a rather personal issue. We've recently had a lot of battles over Katie throwing a fit when we have to turn off a movie she's watching...even when she's been given fair warning and we've reminded her not to throw a fit when we have to turn it off. I've tried to help her identify the heart issue at hand: "When you throw a fit when we turn off the tv, you are being like the people in the Bible who love fake gods more than the real God. You are choosing to love a movie more than you love God. God wants us to love Him by obeying Him and one of the ways you obey God is by obeying Mommy and Daddy with a happy heart." It's scary to see the truth of what John Calvin said so clearly in the life of my own daughter. I am praying that God would give her a heart for Him SOON and so save her many years of pursuing broken cisterns.

But I've not been observing the truth of Calvin's assessment of the human heart in Katie's life alone. No, the issue of idolatry has hit home even more personally as it's come to the surface in my own life. For several days I had been experiencing great anxiety and sadness as I thought about the life change we are about to experience. I cried on Saturday morning thinking of how it was the last normal Saturday I would have in a while. I've been anxious about the difficulties we may face in the coming weeks, and I fear the freedoms I will have to relinquish. Clearly, there is much selfishness and unbelief at play here. But what I failed to see at first was the underlying issue of idolatry. I had been finding my joy in many things besides God (things like orderliness, sleep, predictability, my own agenda). I was feeling anxious and sad because my ability to possess and enjoy these other things was being threatened by Caroline's arrival. If I were truly finding my hope and joy in God, I would not be anxious because, even when she does arrive, He's not going anywhere and He's not changing! Plus, the hardships that I fear are the very means He wants to use to draw me closer to Himself, to experience more joy in Him. He is not content to let me sit back and "play with mud pies." No, He wants to use the birth of this child to restore REAL joy to me, joy that is in Him and that exists even when all other crutches are removed.

One of the main ways He revealed that all this was going on in my heart was by bringing to mind a song from my college days, "Enough" by Chris Tomlin. I am making that song my prayer now and longing to return to the place where I can sing these words from my heart.

You are my supply, My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know
You are my reward, worth living for
And still more awesome than I know

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough
You're my sacrifice Of greatest price
And still more awesome than I know
You're the coming King, You are everything
And still more awesome than I know
More than all I want, More than all I need
You are more than enough for me
More than all I know, More than all I can say
You are more than enough for me

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A reward for your patience

You have been very patient readers these past few weeks...putting up with my motherhood musings and political rantings. So, to reward you, especially you KJM Fan Club members (Blake B, Jeff K, and Ben B), here are a few photos and videos of Katie from the other Saturday when it was 80 degrees in Louisville!

(Unfortunately, the mic on our camera has started to act up, so you may want to mute the volume on the videos. Sadly you'll miss most of my hilarious commentary.)

Katie finally figures out how to ride her tricycle (albeit a short-lived attempt)
video

You can have fun imagining what we're actually saying in these:
video

video

Playing fetch with Katie (who needs a dog when you have a 3 year old?)
video

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Charged.

This post is about controversial political issues. Just wanted to warn you.
Seeing as I have only 6 days until my world is radically different and I will no longer have what some like to call "discretionary time," I'm trying to take care of some things I've been meaning to get to for awhile but basically needed a deadline to make them happen. This post is one of those things.

Back in 2008, I composed a couple posts about the election, Barack Obama, and the issue of abortion. I never actually posted them because I was wanting to make sure they said exactly what I wanted them to say before going "public." I've since given up on "perfecting" them and finally just clicked "publish post." You can find those posts here, here, and here.

This past week Barack Obama made a significant decision that I feel compelled to write about...or at least post links to articles written by people more articulate and knowledgable than myself.
http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=3393

The bottom line for me is this. I am sad and angry that my husband's hard-earned tax dollars are now going to fund what we believe is murder. And for an end that is not yet even proven to be effective!

Friday, March 13, 2009

JOY

This is the final post in my little series on motherhood and is dedicated to the many women in my life who are about to receive children into their homes (Jenny, Jaclyn, Megan, Lorann, Lisa, Sarah, Christina, Lindsay, Laura, Ashley, Malini, Alison, Jayna, Shaelynn, Laurel...). I wanted to end with something that is central to the Bible's teaching on children but is easily forgotten.

Children are a gift! Although they are a gift that requires some work on our parts, God desires that they be a source of great joy in our lives.

As Carolyn Mahaney writes, "What words or images come to your mind when you think about your children? Are you inclined to think: work, responsibility, sacrifice, burden, more work?" Then commenting on Psalm 127, she writes, "Look at the words the psalmist used to describe children: heritage, fruit, reward, arrows. Then he followed with this exclamation: 'Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!' Our speech and actions are shaped by our thoughts. Therefore, we must think Psalm 127 kinds of thoughts about our children."

So, mothers out there, at the same time as we strive to rely on the Lord in the midst of difficult days, let us not forget that our children are gifts. Make every effort to enjoy them to the fullest measure!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Preparing to Depend

So how does a Christian "prepare to depend?" I'm still trying to figure that out, and I suppose that will continue to be my occupation for the rest of my life. And not only preparing to depend, but actually depending! I'd love for you all to comment about practical ways you develop dependency on the Lord in daily living.

As I've prayed about this question and asked God to show me how I can prepare to depend on Him, I think I've been half-expecting some amazing new revelation or insight into the Christian life. Really, it came down to three familiar things: pray, know and trust God's word, and lean on others. God keeps it simple for us, doesn't He?

I know that, for a lot of Christians, leaning on other people is a challenge. At this stage in the game, I like to think that I don't have a problem with this, but we'll see what happens when the rubber hits the road! For now, one way I'm preparing to depend on Jesus is by relying on the generosity and help of family and friends. I have not shirked back from welcoming grandparents to come to Louisville to help out during the transition. I already have formed in my mind a list of willing friends I can call who can watch Katie for a couple hours or just speak words of wisdom and hope on rough days. God is honored when we humble ourselves and seek His help through the people He has placed in our lives. Plus, it gives other people the opportunity to experience joy through sacrificial service...don't steal that chance from those around you!

It's funny that something as central to the Christian life as prayer can easily be sidelined when life gets tough. In fact, it's quite silly (foolish, stupid, etc) how quick I am to turn to my own feeble resources instead of to my almighty, kind, and gracious heavenly Father. God Himself has invited us to come to His throne of grace about absolutely anything (Hebrews 4:15-16, Philippians 4:6, 1 Peter 5:7)! We are fools if we do not take Him up on this invitation that was purchased for us by Jesus' own precious blood. I know that the Lord wants me to depend on Him during this season (and every day) by coming to Him regularly and frequently, at planned times and spontaneously, pouring out my heart to Him, asking Him to do for me what I can't do for myself.

As for knowing and trusting God's word, this entire series on motherhood has been a sort of exercise in reminding myself what God has said in order that I might cling to His truth in dark times. I will need to know and trust His promise that His grace is sufficient for me on days when my emotions are wacky and I'm on the verge of losing it. Even more, I will need to know and trust His promise of lavish forgiveness in Christ when I actually lose it and sin against my family or wallow in anxiety.

One other thing I've been doing is imagining likely scenes of future failure and rehearsing what a Christ-dependent response would be. So, for example, let's say that Caroline is 3 weeks old (which means I'm sufficiently sleep-deprived and starting to feel the effects) and she is not falling back asleep after her 2am feeding. How do I depend on Christ when I feel myself start to slip over the edge? Depending on Jesus might look like depending on people...waking up Adam to pray with me or letting him stay up with the baby so I can get some rest. Depending on Jesus would be praying and asking Him to help Caroline fall asleep, to give me wisdom about what to do, to encourage my heart and bolster my thoughts and emotions. Depending on Jesus would mean remembering Romans 12:1 about being a living sacrifice or Hebrews 13:5 and finding comfort in the reality of His presence with me at all times.

But the beautiful thing about Jesus Christ is that even if I fail to do any of those things, and I run headlong into despair and selfishness, His love for me and His promises of grace do not cease to be real and active on my behalf. The good news about Jesus is that He holds onto His own when they lack the strength to hold Him.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Realistic Mothering

So with all of this meditating on motherhood and attempting to prepare myself for the months ahead, I managed to get myself pretty keyed up (surprise, surprise). The Lord certainly does search me and know me, however, and is familiar with all my ways because both the morning sermon and the evening devotional a few Sundays ago spoke directly to my state of heart and mind.

Somewhere along the line, my (perpetual) tendency towards self-sufficiency and achievement crept into my mental preparations. Through both sermons the Lord reminded me of this certain fact--I am going to fail. The Lord knows that truly coming to grips with this certain truth is THE most fundamental thing I need to do to prepare for the months to come.

Ourpastor was finishing up a series through the Book of Jude and was preaching on that awesome benediction:

"To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen."

One of the applications he made from this passage was to entrust your failures to God. Jude wrote this letter with full awareness that the people to whom he wrote were not yet glorified and would struggle as Christians on this side of heaven. In fact, the majority of his letter is warning them against stumbling in major ways--because they were being seriously tempted to do so. But he ends the letter with a massive dose of encouragment: "Even though you are facing tremendous trials and temptations, God is committed to you! He will present you before his glorious presence without fault." In other words, your failure is not the end of the story. God's faithfulness to you and to His promises is the end of the story, and that is what you should put your hope in, not in your ability to perform perfectly every day of your life.

And just in case I didn't get God's message to me that morning, the Sunday evening devotional was on Luke 22:31-32:

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

Wow. As Piper likes to say, "It is sentences that change lives, not books." And what sentences we read in Luke 22:31-32. Look closely at what Jesus says. First, Jesus tells Peter that He has prayed that his faith would not fail. And yet the very next thing Jesus says ("When you have turned back") implies that Peter's faith will fail. Yet it is also clear that Peter's faith will not fail in an ultimate way because Jesus says that he will turn back and then tells him what to do when he has done so.

Interestingly, immediately after Jesus says this to Peter, Peter vows that he will follow Jesus to the death. Jesus then informs Peter that, in fact, he will betray him three times that very night. As we know, Peter does deny Jesus that night, even within Jesus' earshot ("Just as [Peter] was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him...And he went outside and wept bitterly." Luke 22:60-62). But as we also know, this is not the end of the story. In John 21 we find Jesus going to great lengths to "reinstate" Peter, and the Book of Acts shows us a Peter who is an entirely changed man following Jesus' resurrection and the filling of the Spirit.

So what can we as mothers glean from this? First, as I said before, we (like Peter) will fail, and the Lord knows this. In the coming weeks I will snap at my husband, I will be annoyed with my three year old, I will groan when I hear the baby crying, I will panic about some baby issue, and I will complain about sleeplessness. For all my good intentions and mental preparation, I am still going to sin! But just as failure wasn't the end of Peter's story, it's not the end of my story! For Jesus not only prayed for Peter, but He has promised to pray for us: "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." Hebrews 7:25

Peter's mistake in Luke 22 was that he put his confidence in his own ability to keep from stumbling. What Jesus was telling Peter and what Peter eventually learned is that the only safe place in which we can place our confidence is in Jesus' own promise to preserve us. And so, my goal now in these last 10 days is to prepare myself to depend--not on my own strength or ability but on the promise and power of my Savior.

Tomorrow's post is entitled Preparing to Depend, and in it I hope to share some of the ways in which I am seeking to do so. And believe me, this entire series of blogposts has been more for my own sake than for anyone else's!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

An opportunity to become more like Christ

The last part of my post the other day on thinking of motherhood as being a living sacrifice reminded me of a more general Christian truth that came into clearer focus for me a few weeks ago--namely, that we should delight in every opportunity that gives us the chance to be more like Jesus.

I was convicted about this several weeks ago when I found myself often grumbling and complaining in my heart (and sometimes with my mouth) and grudgingly going about service to my family. I was perturbed when Adam or Katie would ask me to do something for them, I muttered as I washed dishes and vaccuumed floors, etc. Somewhere along the line, the Holy Spirit mercifully intervened and opened my eyes, not only to my sinful attitude, but also to the beautiful opportunity that I was missing out on. Specifically, He reminded me of Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..."

Now, in no way do I find any modicum of equality when I compare the tasks of homemaking to the suffering that Jesus underwent for our sins. And yet...in a very, very, very small way, I do think that the Lord was/is calling me to consider the tiny deaths I die to self when I serve my family as a minute way of sharing in Christ's sufferings. And this sharing in His sufferings is meant to be a thing of JOY, for it means FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST! Oh, that I would delight, then, when my husband or child asks me to do something that will cause me to sacrifice in some way, because in that moment I am being given the chance to draw near to Jesus and fellowship with Him, the Servant King.

"He who prays for holiness will one day praise for happiness!"
Charles Spurgeon
"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
John 13:14-17
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Matthew 20:25-28

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Guest blogger

My friend Hannah's blog is one of my favorite blogs out there. Her post today was too good not to direct you to it. So, thanks, Hannah, for guest blogging for me today (even though I never asked your permission).

http://murraysonamission.blogspot.com/2009/03/is-this-joke.html

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Mother--a Living Sacrifice

I'm just finishing up the Beth Moore study called Living Beyond Yourself (you can check out the DVDs that accompany it from Southern's library!). When I was watching the final session on Wednesday, the Lord once again used the Scripture on which she was teaching to show me something new about motherhood. Beth was talking about how while the overall teaching of the Bible is that God is concerned with our hearts, that does not mean that He is not also concerned with our physical bodies and how we use them. Among the many passages she could have pointed to in order to demonstrate this point, she chose these:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

1 Thessalonians 5:23b
"May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Romans 12:1
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship."

My mind was immediately drawn to motherhood. Mothering is a physical job. Mothers (very literally) give their bodies to their children. For 9 months, our bodies are no longer "home" just to us but also to another person (or people!). And, let's be honest, no matter how much you work out, your body is never really the same. Once the children are born, our bodies are designed to be their main source of life and sustenace. In the early months, our bodies are used for this purpose at least 8 hours a day. 45-60 minutes, 8 times a day....nursing is a full-time job! Not to mention that our hands, arms, legs, voices, ears, eyes, and even our sleep are devoted to caring for them the other 16 hours of the day. And that just describes the first few months of their lives, let alone the next 17 years!

It's easy to see how mothers can easily become resentful--even towards their precious and helpless children. But the Christian mother need not fall into this destructive sin. For she is not ultimately laying down her body on the altar of her children. Rather, her Lord and Master has chosen her for this task. Her body is not her own, she has been bought at a price and belongs to Another. And He has called her to present her body as a living sacrifice--which is her spiritual act of worship.

Therefore, mothers, as you give your body for the good of your children, you are presenting it as a living sacrifice to the One who gave His body for you. As your body feels the effects of serving your children, remember that your physical labors are actually a spiritual act of worship, holy and pleasing to God.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Preparing for your real career

As I've written these blog posts and talked with friends about the difficulties we often have in transitioning to motherhood, one thing has become very clear. None of us were really prepared for what motherhood actually involves. The reasons for this are manifold. Some women had mothers who worked full-time and never had an example of what a stay-at-home mom does. Even those of us who had moms who stayed home, however, seemed not to have absorbed quite as much as we should have. Moreover, anything we might have picked up from our moms somehow seems to have been erased by the college experience. While I loved my college and am so thankful for the years I spent there, I can't say that it really did much to prepare me for the real career that now faces me. Even the churches and Christian ministries with which I was involved in college seemed to ignore the fact that most of the girls attending their meetings or volunteering with their ministries were not going to be in college forever nor be devoted to full-time Christian ministry. And so, thousands of Christian girls graduate from college each year, heading out to some exciting new endeavor--a new job, graduate studies, overseas service. Five (or so) years later, most of them find themselves in a very different place--married, with a baby, sitting at home, wondering, "This is what I said I always wanted, but how on earth did I get here? And now what the heck do I do?"

This post, then, is aimed at my female readers who are not yet mothers or wives, who may be in college or pursuing that exciting post-college endeavor. If this is you and you are hoping that one day you might be a wife or mother, take this word to heart--start thinking now about how you are preparing for your real career.

Read these articles and do what they say. You future self will thank you.
http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001979.cfm
http://www.cbmw.org/Journal/Vol-11-No-2/Homemaking-Internship
Also, on the Girl Talk blog, they are doing a series on making the most of singleness. I highly recommend reading through these posts as well.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Motherhood as mercy ministry

One of the consistent struggles I have faced as a mother is the battle of thinking that what I’m doing at home is not “real” ministry. Too often, my home and family have taken a backseat to my pursuit of what I view as actual Kingdom work—discipling women, teaching a Bible study, providing meals for others, doing evangelism, etc. This should not be. I think this is a particular temptation for women who, prior to marriage and children, were involved in full-time Christian ministry or who feel impassioned and equipped to serve in more overtly Christian work, like mercy ministry or teaching, etc.

It’s a tricky balance, however, because I do think that in our American context, Christian women are often tempted to live lives of self-absorption and comfort in the name of “family ministry.” It’s far too easy to justify not sacrificing time and energy for evangelism, discipleship, and mercy ministry in the name of “putting our family first.”

We can find some assistance in looking at the life of the oft-despised “Proverbs 31 Woman.” In Proverbs 31:10-31, we find a woman who was completely devoted to the well-being of her family and yet whose life was also marked by tremendous influence for good outside the realm of her home: “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hand to the needy” (31:20). We can glean from her life that the balance between domestic responsibilities and service to the world is not an “either/or” decision. But yet, I still regularly struggle with what this balance looks like in the context of my life.

The Lord shed some light on this for me a couple weeks ago when I was watching a Beth Moore DVD. She was speaking on the topic of good works in the Christian life and was highlighting the beautiful truth of Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” As she put it, this verse reminds us that “we have a divine to-do list, written in God’s handwriting.” This was a huge encouragement to me in my marriage and mothering. For right now, God has written “Care for Adam, Katie, and Caroline” at the very top of His to-do list for me. The tasks associated with caring for my family are the good works that God has prepared beforehand for me that I should walk in them, and they are no less sacred or important as other good works such as visiting the widows and orphans in their distress (James 1:27).

But what she began to teach on next was where the real surprise came. She had us turn to Isaiah 58, which for me is the classic text that challenges me to pursue social justice and mercy ministry. I have often held up this passage as the ideal Christian life and that I could have assurance that I was really following Christ if I were spending myself on behalf of the poor and hungry and loosing literal chains of bondage and injustice. To be sure, this passage does describe and exhort us to these kinds of ministry, and there is something wrong if there is nothing in our lives that supports these kinds of endeavors. However, as I read the chapter that evening, I couldn’t help but see the tasks of motherhood also written in those lines:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6-7

Every day as a mother I am feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and providing shelter and safety. These hungry, naked, and homeless ones are not strangers but rather my own children. Were it not for my labors, however, they would be hungry, naked, and homeless! Likewise, my children are bound and oppressed by the bonds of their own sin, and I have been charged with the grave task of holding out to them the good news of God’s liberation in Jesus Christ. As these thoughts came to me as I read the verses, I was a bit skeptical about applying Isaiah 58 to motherhood until I read the final line of verse 7—“and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.” Yes, God is reminding us that all humans are our own flesh and blood, and we are commanded to extend mercy and justice to all as if they were our own family. But surely these verses also include caring for those under our own roof?

To begin to view motherhood as mercy ministry was extremely encouraging for me, and I hope it will be for many other Christian mothers as well, especially those who (like me) often feel that they must get through the childhood years in order to get back to the “real” work of the Kingdom. There will come a day when our children are grown, and we will have more time to pursue the kinds of ministries that we feel passionate about—but do not be deceived. If you are a Christian mother, you have a very real and powerful ministry going on in your own home every day. You have a ministry of feeding and clothing the weak and helpless, and, as one godly woman once said to me, “What more intense discipleship relationship can you imagine besides the one you can have with your children? Talk about life-on-life discipleship!” May Isaiah 58 remind us not to neglect the poor and needy—even the ones that live within the walls of our home.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Songs for my children

For today, a brief hiatus from the Meditations on Motherhood...mostly due to the fact that I haven't been able to finish the ones I am working on because Katie has suddenly decided to stop napping! Great timing, kid! So instead I'll share with you this window into my life....

A while ago my friend had a blogpost about the song she and her husband had chosen for their daughter. It was a precious post about how they sing "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus" to their child every night before bed and how clearly comforted she is by that song whenever she is troubled.

I couldn't help but smile, however, as I thought of the songs I have for my children....

  • Even though she isn't even born yet, Caroline already has one, and I bet you can guess what it is. (You'd better be hearing Neil Diamond singing in your head right now... )
  • If we ever have a boy, his song is already picked out too. Adam is set on the name James for his son, which I'm okay with because it means I can sing this song to him.
  • No song with Katie's name in it has ever popped into my head, but I often adapt songs to sing to her by replacing her name in them. The song that has eventually become "hers" is pretty random, and I'm not actually sure how it came to be "her" song. Are you ready? Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby."
  • And just so you don't think I'm a total pagan, I do have a song that I've sung to Katie every night before bed since she was an infant. It's the Barocha, the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26. And I'm pretty sure she even likes it more than "Always Be My Baby."