It's a little scary when your firstborn turns five. That age seems kind of old! I feel like I should’ve taught him so much more, that I should’ve grown in so much more maturity as a mom by now. But God is gracious and this kid is a major gift, so overall I am blown away by who he is and how God has changed me through him. Here are some of my favorite things about my boy!
-He is easily the most tender and compassionate person in our family. If he can tell I’m a bit stressed out, he will say “I’m sorry this is a hard day for you, Mommy.”
-He is humble and repentant. If he does something wrong, he works hard until he makes it right.
-He is truly funny. He hasn’t figured out how knock-knock jokes work, but a lot of times he says things that are so witty I’m utterly taken aback. Though there's plenty of typical-5-year-old-silliness, Stephen is working on a high-quality sense of humor. When his sisters burp or do a toot, most of the time he doesn't respond and just politely pretends it didn't happen. Just to be safe, though, I can never show him a movie like Minions, ha!
onl-He really listens, comprehends, and remembers. Anytime he’s in the workshop with Peter, he comes back telling me exactly what he did and how the machines work and it's so technical that I only understand about 10% of it. When I’m teaching him truth from God’s Word, he’s always asking questions or giving supplemental examples. He just gets it. It’s not like we’re excellent communicators or that we've passed on brainiac genes, because we get a lot of blank stares from the other kids, and that’s okay. Stephen is just naturally a philosopher.
-He knows when someone needs a hug and he gives it. If I'm feeling tired or sick, he loves to rub my head and play music for me until he's convinced I'm asleep. I think part of that, though, is he's trying to get rid of me, because he is constantly insisting I take a nap.
-He’s the king of inventory. If we lose something, he can almost always find it. (That’s probably because he’s the one who had a special plan for the item and hid it somewhere. This has happened with wallets, glasses, laptop chargers, etc.)
-If we lose something and even he can’t find it, he literally stops and asks God to help us find it. He has such a robust theology of God's sovereignty that he knows God knows its location and it's pointless to find something apart from Him. I do not have faith like that.
-He is a fairly extreme introvert, but seeing him grow in bravery this past year has been incredible. It takes guts for a shy kid to look an adult cashier in the eye and say “thank you,” but he is learning to do it even when he feels scared. That is strength, and I admire him for it.
-I love how he loves to match. He always wakes up with an agenda for the day, and he dresses for the occasion with much intentionality. If he wants to be an army guy, he will wear a camo shirt, camo pants, and camo underwear. If he wants to be a superhero, he will wear a Spider-man shirt, matching pants, and Spider-man underwear. Even the unseen details are important to him.
-He has the hope of heaven seared onto his heart. Whether he's hearing about hurting people or a discouraging political situation, he's always talking or singing about the peace and glory to come when Jesus returns and "makes all things new." He loves the reality that there will be no more suffering and only joy, and I'm grateful he reminds me of it.
-I love how he cleans his room. Though he’s inherited my I-hate-cleaning gene, he really applies himself when he actually tidies. He sets out a blanket at his front door as a welcome mat. He hangs clothes and backpacks off any knobs or hangers he can find. He makes the bed beautifully. And he is so proud when he presents his room to me at the end.
-He still prays for ISIS every single day. I think he started this about two years ago and continues to faithfully ask God to change their hearts.
-He treasures his sisters so much. He talks sweetly with them, he comforts them, he tells them what he perceives to be correct math and word pronunciation...he truly cares for their hearts and helps them become better young women. If one of his sisters is crying or whining in the car, he will say something like "I know what that's like because I used to do the same thing...but there's a better way." And his sister will listen to him! When he's gently counseling his sisters, he often knows what to say better than I do!
-I love how he loves to cook. He loves to get out his cutting board and butter knife and make fruit kebabs or special mixtures of various foods. He'll proudly announce, "I'm making Chef Stephen's Best Fruit Salad!", which consists of apples, bananas, and bits of whole wheat bread. I asked him to cater a party and he took it very seriously.
-I love how he is always pondering, always processing. We'll be driving in the car and he'll ask a question like "So does the sun reflect off the moon or does the moon reflect off the sun?" I've definitely become much smarter just trying to keep up with him, ha!
-He's shockingly self-sacrificing. He's one of the most loose-fisted people I know. One time we were leaving Costco, and as soon as he found out it was raining, he immediately removed his jacket and covered Piper with it. I dream of the kind of servant-leader husband he might be for his future wife someday, Lord willing.
-He loves to tease. (You can probably tell this by how silly so many of his pictures are!) Though he can be very serious and has quite weighty matters on his mind oftentimes, he's also lighthearted and enjoys poking fun in the way that makes others feel loved.
-I love how he respects the privacy of others. If he walks in on someone using the restroom or changing clothes, he immediately squints his eyes shut and rushes out of the room. So much modesty and character on that kid.
-I love his skills on the ATV. (I don't love that he's on an ATV, but I do love that he has so much control over the vehicle and some pretty impressive skills on that thing!)
-He has such an awesome entrepreneurial spirit. Whatever his business, he throws himself into his work and tries to give his customers the best experience possible. I ended up wayyy over-tipping him on my foot massages because he was giving me a blanket, pillow, stuffed animal, snack, water, book, music, and more...and he was hiring his sister and paying her generously. He painted his own business cards for his leaf raking business and is constantly trying to sell his artwork to family members and offering them "a special price" such as 2-for-1's or "75 cents today only."
-I love how beautiful he is. He's just a gorgeous child. A genetic marvel, given the brown-eyedness of his parents.
-I love putting him to bed each night. He usually sings me a song he made up, and they're quite amusing if not profoundly theological. He asks incredible questions and he's always making me think.
There is so much more I could say about this precious child, but I'm getting a bit emotional and I'm thiiiiis close to going to his room and waking him up to hang out with me even though it's 1 am as I write. There is still so much room for growth in his character and most of all in my parenting, but I'm so grateful to walk this road with him and be his mama. He is an amazing little person with a huge heart and a brilliant mind.
4Another month down! This was definitely a harder month for me. There were lots of opportunities to be strong, and I was very surprised at how much stronger I am now than I used to be! In fact, at one point I felt like so much of a heroine that I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and decided to cut my own hair. Yes, just like in the movies. Yes, it was totally cathartic. And yes, I like how it turned out. (The CreaClip is amazing and I’ve been cutting my own hair for over a year. #Empowerment!)
Anyway, here are the highlights of my month:
-March is strawberry month here, and we sure did take advantage of it. Our family eats a scary amount of fruit. (For example, my husband literally eats a pound of frozen cherries each night. Eh, there are worse possible addictions than that.) This was the first time I made going to u-picks a priority for our family, and I’m so glad I did because it’s such an enriching and delicious time. Plus, u-pick strawberries only cost 50 cents a quart, so we picked over 14 pounds of strawberries for only $7. Sometimes I really wish I lived somewhere other than Florida, but not in March. I love Florida in March.
-The kids and my mom and I also got to visit my homeland, Ohio, for several days. I haven’t been there in six years so it was nice to be back and see all my family there. And Winter Storm Stella decided to visit while we were there! Stephen (who is 4) prayed and prayed for snow, and I learned so much from his faith. I bought him a snow shovel from Walmart for $1, and seeing him frolic around in the snow was truly the happiest I’ve ever seen him. The white-frosted pines were so gorgeous and all of us were just gazing out the window and shocked by the beauty of it all. (People who lived there, of course, were tired of winter, but we felt like God made it snow just for us.)
-We’ve just had a lot of happy moments at home. The Lord has been growing some friendships much deeper and showing me the joy of plodding along. He knows what I need, because I—in typical millennial form—always long for faster, newer, more exciting…but, as G.K. Chesterton has said, “One cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.” There is rich joy to be found in investing, enduring, persevering, savoring. I hope to grow in that this year.
-Oh, and we visited the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. The modern art, baroque art, circus museum, and horticulture were all gorgeous. I’ve got to go back.
-One of the trickiest parts of motherhood is the lack of solitude. So I asked my friend Heidi if she would do a kid swap with me; she watched my kids for three hours so I could go away and pray alone for a bit, and next week I'll watch hers. Being alone with Jesus, unhurried, in beautiful creation (and then at a bagel shop) was such a sweet and necessary experience, and I hope to make this a regular habit.
What I Learned:
-I’m so prideful. This month God was kind to humble and convict me in so many specific ways…not so that I tend to despair and self-condemnation, but so that I slow down and realize my sin so the gospel is good news to me again. Do you even know how freeing it is to be able to face my sin and failure head-on, call it what it is, and then say “But really, Jesus died for that and I have new life in Him.” The pastor who is counseling me each week wisely told me, “Jesus didn’t die for our ‘mess-ups.’ If you spill milk, you need a rag and some carpet cleaner. But if you sin against the holy and living God, you need a Savior.” Calling my sin what it is frees me up to find true healing through the Jesus who buried my sin in the grave and rose victorious over it.
-I need to remember this when I discipline my kids; they’re not just having “bad behavior” that is remedied by distractions or time-outs. They are sinning and need to know that God takes that seriously. If they don’t know this, how will they see their need for Christ? I was so intentional with my first child, but I’ve gotten quite lazy in my care for my second child and shockingly so with my third.
-I’ve really been enjoying Joshua Becker’s blog Becoming Minimalist. He’s a Christian who was interviewed at length in the Minimalism documentary I saw on Netflix, he’s a fellow member of Samaritan Ministries (my healthcare alternative), and he’s written some books. I read his book Living with Less--which I didn’t realize was targeted to teens, so it was super super easy to finish—and he made some really helpful points. His blog is extremely insightful and well-written, not just about living with fewer things but about becoming a more selfless and wise person in general.
-Caroline Cobb’s album The Blood + The Breath has been my music of choice this month. She is a really gifted singer-songwriter who has a unique storytelling style. (Check out the Passover Song; that last verse is crazy exciting.)
-Ol’ Faithful our vacuum cleaner has been decreasingly faithful, so I found a Groupon deal on a Roomba and it’s been fantastic for our family. Our yard is basically a dirt playground, and we run around in it multiple times a day, but as a result our floor is nasty, and I don’t have the time—and especially not the desire—to constantly mop 2500 square feet of floors. So sending the Roomba to do some daily sweeping has been a huge gift. The lazy-rich-person-stigma I previously had regarding Roombas is gone; robotic vacuums for the win.
I'm back in Luke and it's been lovely. 18:29-30 is super sweet: And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” As I said earlier, there was some tough stuff I dealt with this month and there were some moments I felt quite alone. But this verse helps me see that I have been adopted into a family that is larger than biologically possible, especially when I consider Christians from all nations of all time for all eternity. My church family---and especially some particularly sweet friendships---has been such a blessing and encouragement. On a night when I was struggling, I sent out an S.O.S. text to some dear friends asking for prayer, songs, and scripture, and they flooded me with truth. I felt so carried by God. I love my parents and extended family, don't get me wrong, but I'm finding more and more how much of a gift it is that I have this eternal family whose bond with me runs so much deeper than blood, even if we've never met. I'm so grateful to be a part of this beautiful community.
Best Articles I Read:
The Deeper Reason Why We Can’t Remember People’s Names by Joshua Becker
Remember Saint Patrick by David Mathis
4 Things Beth Moore Taught Me About Writing by Joy Beth Smith
The Hidden Strength of a Weak Mother by Tim Challies
7 Pieces of Financial Advice That Forever Changed My Life by Joshua Becker (I was surprised by point #2 but agree wholeheartedly!)
Stuff I Wrote:
Slugs and Bugs: Best Minivan Music Imaginable
I’m working on an enormous project with my friend Alexxus that I will reveal later, and I’ve been working through some pretty important personal issues, so the blog just hasn’t been priority. It helps that hardly anyone reads it, ha!
So that's all for this month! I hope you've had a great month and that April is filled to the brim with joy!
About three years ago a friend and I were blubbering on about our mutual appreciation for Andrew Peterson when she asked me if I knew about the children's music to which he has contributed. She sang its praises and sent me off with instructions to watch "Tractor, Tractor" on YouTube, and well, here we find ourselves. Since then we've been listening to various Slugs & Bugs albums in the van repeatedly and have yet to grow tired of them! Randall Goodgame, the genius lyricist and eclectically-skilled musician behind it all, has a major gift and is using it well.
I'm not being compensated for this article or anything; I just truly love Slugs & Bugs!
Here's why I love Slugs & Bugs and think you should vigorously consume this music as soon as possible:
1) There's a time to be silly and a time to be serious...and somehow a time to be both.
It always surprises me how Randall Goodgame navigates all this beautifully. Some songs are based purely on sweet scripture (such as "Masterpiece"), some songs are 100% goofy and have nothing to do with anything ("Mexican Rhapsody"), and some songs are a little bit of both, such as "God Made Me", which sings of baby seals and how Jesus makes us new. These songs glorify God with their reverence and their lightheartedness, like how Dracula and Frankenstein teach us the Ten Commandments.
2) They don't get old.
This morning when I was picking up my kids from Sunday School, I heard Steve Green songs in the background...I listened to the same exact songs 20 years ago when I was four, and they still sound pretty good! The words, of course, are still 100% relevant. Timeless treasure. I would venture to say that Randall Goodgame is the next Steve Green...combined with the silly-song prowess of Larry the Cucumber?
Anyway, I've heard some trendy kids music, even well-made music, that is so flashy and pop-sounding that in ten years it will make everyone's ears bleed. I don't think Slugs & Bugs will be lame in twenty years, especially since the first album came out in 2007 and still rocks hardcore.
I think the main reason that I can manage to listen to the same children's CD every day for weeks on end---even if the kids aren't in the car---is because they're so well-done. Musically diverse, lyrically beneficial (or at the very least worthy of giggles), full of themes such as adoption or being strengthened by raisins...and in my opinion, each album is even better than the last!
3) My kids truly love this music.
Our family has been enjoying Slugs & Bugs since my kids were ages 2, infant, and not-yet-existent. Now they're 4, 3, and 1, and at an even better age to giggle and sing along than ever. I can't count how many times they've referenced the Bible verses or asked me to sing them one of the sweet lullabies...or how many times they've requested the Alien song. The older kids are even well on their way to memorizing the names and order of every book in the Bible!
A couple weeks ago we went to a Slugs & Bugs concert---I didn't know anyone even did concerts aimed at little people!---and my children were so enriched and grateful for the experience.
I hope I'm not exaggerating the awesomeness of Slugs & Bugs, but this music is genuinely a gift to our family and I praise God often that such awesome resources for discipleship and family bonding are available to me. I have amassed my collection mostly by buying directly through the website, but now is a great time to get some albums because there's currently a Slugs & Bugs Kickstarter campaign!
They're seeking to make a Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible Vol. 3 and a second Christmas album and, as a stretch goal, a third silly-song album! I think I was a backer on the first day and I recommend you do the same before the campaign ends on March 28th.
Anyway, I just wanted to take the time to recommend Slugs & Bugs because I have pretty strong views about how important it is to feed yourself and your kids with excellent music, and these albums definitely fit the bill! Check them out!
February has had some rough patches, but overall this has been a sweet month. I don't think I've ever seen so many answered prayers in such a small amount of time; God has been proving over and over again to me that He hears me and can change hearts (including my own) like a light-switch. So good.
-Thankfully my husband and I have both been on the same page about simplifying our lives, and as a result we've been so much more freed up to focus on what's important. As a stay-at-home mom, I'm the primary culture-maker and life-planner each day for myself and three little people, so revamping a lot of the ways we are doing things has been transformative for everyone. This month the kids and I slowed down a lot and enjoyed walking around downtown or sitting together doing Play-doh or giggling at the breakfast table. Most importantly, we've been able to invite people into our lives more. I hope we only grow in this in the future. We also went on a blind playdate; I even had to text the other mom a picture of us so she'd know what we look like!
Here's us on a family walk. I love how over-the-top my husband is:
-Eating outside for as many meals as possible (especially when we eat rice/quinoa/something messy, which is all the time) has been so lovely...and helpful for me because it's so easy to clean up! Florida weather is just so beautiful in February. After we eat, I love bouncing on an exercise ball and trying to read a book while the kids dig holes in the dirt. Happy, happy times.
-One of the big highlights of the month was when my husband took me on a really crazy date! The kids were at grandparents' for the night so at 8:30 pm Peter asked me if I wanted to go out on the boat. I laughed nervously but he was serious. Riding on the Alafia River and Tampa Bay is a wee bit scary when the water is black and you know there are some terrifying creatures down below. The tide rose significantly on our way back and we almost got stuck underneath a train bridge. Best of all, we docked at a riverfront restaurant to get some onion rings and were totally naiive to the fact that it was 10 pm on a Friday night and this place was a total bar, just like in the movies---bikers playing pool and everyone yelling---and an intoxicated middle-aged woman held her hand in front of Peter and suggestively told him to "slow down" so she could get a better look at him. That's the kind of date that I love. The weirdness of it is so us.
-The best thing that happened in Februrary, though, is that one of my friends came to know Jesus! Last time I met with her she was content in her lifestyle and completely shut off to anything about God, but through various recent events she was very quickly, in her own words, "hunted down by the hounds of heaven." God was wooing her with His love for her. (By the way, there is an amazing poem titled "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson and a short film by N.D. Wilson that's a modern take on it. Check 'em out!) She's so much happier now and excited about life, and that increases my joy tremendously. I'm telling you, Jesus really is everything. It's so awesome being able to say to someone, "Wow, I can't believe I'm having this conversation with you! You're a different person!" and for her to agree in happy surprise! Praise God.
What I Learned
-Living with less has made my life so much better! Pictured below is my entire wardrobe (minus undies and pj's.) It's been way easier to pick out my clothes each day because I know that I like everything that's in my closet. I still plan on writing a post about all that I've learned from minimalism and how awesome my house looks now! I never thought I would love being at my house because it's always been a disaster, but I think I'm finally getting the hang of it and a peaceful home is the best feeling ever. I just had to get rid of 2/3 of my stuff, ha! I've been so deceived by commercialism, not just in the craving to buy individual items but in my perceived need for stuff in general.
-I've been continuing to get counseling from one of the pastors at our church and it's been so healthy. He helped me see 1 Corinthians 13 with an eternal perspective; perfect love is what reigns in Heaven. There will be a day when there is no need for faith or hope because my King will have come and everything I'd been waiting for will be realized. But love? Love will remain. When we love well now, we are glimpsing eternity. So that's been pretty big...I shouldn't just love others so that those relationships function better, but because love is the biggest and most lasting thing. What a grand idea that God had! And how He has so liberally drenched His people in love through Jesus.
-I'm not gonna lie, we've been listening to a lot of Baha Men's Greatest Movie Hits in the van. Piper even readily admitted that she is the person "Who Let the Dogs Out."
-Bethany Barnard came out with a new album called A Better Word and it is absolutely incredible. Upon hearing "Covenant" I instantly knew that it was one of the best songs I've ever heard about marriage, but the rest of the album has blown my socks off as well. "High & Lowly", which is reminiscent of Isaiah 57:15, praises the loftiness and humility of Christ. It's glorious.
-I finally heeded my brother's advice and started watching Studio C on Youtube. Best and worst thing that's ever happened to me. They're like a wittier, clean version of SNL, and catching up on 6 seasons has been nothing less than addicting. As with all sketch comedy, some skits are better than others, but for starters I enjoyed Stranded on a Desert Island, Worst Teacher Ever, and of course Scott Sterling.
-We also discovered an amazing new board game called Codenames! It's the kind of game that's actually fun to play in teams; it stretches your mental muscles and makes you feel like you have a super-deep connection with your friends when they actually knew what you were trying to communicate with your one-word clue.
-I've been thinking a lot about the happiness of God. Psalm 119:12 says "Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!" The fact that God can be "blessed" is a little overwhelming, especially when we consider the other verses in scripture that talk about His happiness. He is "well pleased" with Christ (Matthew 3:17) and His soul "delights" in Christ (Isaiah 42:1.) God does what He does for His own sake (Isaiah 48:11) and because it pleases Him (Psalm 115:3.) Christ endured the cross "for the joy set before Him" (Hebrews 12:2.) God is the happiest being in the universe. He did not make the world because He was lonely but because He was spilling over in love and happiness in Himself. (For the same reason, I do not have children because I am lonely but because I want to welcome other people into my joy!) May He show me the way to be happy!
Stuff I Wrote:
Hobbies, Habits of Grace, and Hanging Out With Toddlers
Judging Others is Too Easy
What I Wish I Knew As a Teen Bride
So anyway, that's my month! I look forward to knowing and loving Jesus more in March!
My husband and I got married on May 22, 2011, when I was barely nineteen. I've learned some things since then, and I'm sure in several years I'll have thoughts about "What I Wish I Knew As a 24-Year-Old", but here are some reflections on things I've learned, of varying levels of importance.
Your husband will severely disappoint you in marriage. You will severely disappoint yourself in marriage. Stop expecting so much from either of you and look to Jesus.
Don’t underestimate the power of meaningful church membership. You don’t need a job in “ministry” to be useful to the church; simply being a part of a healthy church is hugely important. And if the whole church culture is committed to Jesus? You have no idea how amazing biblical community can be.
I have no idea who told you that you’re supposed to put used matchsticks in the kitchen disposal, but no. Just no. That will break it. Common sense, dear self.
It’s nice that you’ve been able to stay thin even though you're addicted to sugar and you never exercise, but that will not last. At some point, you will gain weight and people will notice. But, more importantly, it is so good to be healthy and strong. So strive for fitness now, whether your teenage physique needs it or not. Perseverance and discipline now will pay off not just in your physical strength but all areas of your life.
Some people can handle social media use, but you are not one of them, and that’s okay. I promise you will be so, so much happier when you quit Facebook and focus on real life. Trying to uphold a respectable internet version of yourself is going to harm who you really are.
You’re never going to “graduate” to a level of wisdom and greatness beyond love. Love is the best thing. Never give up on loving others. Never forget Christ’s love for you.
I know you think homemaking isn’t very important, but it’s like your base of operations. Prioritize creating a thriving home environment and it’s amazing how rich your life can be.
You’re entering a completely different life stage now. God doesn’t see you in categories, but people do, and most of your friends are either going to treat you differently or drop you completely. That’s okay. You're going to really hurt some people as well. Show them grace—you need others to show you grace—and seek friends who are outside your life stage. It’s healthy to have friends from all ages and situations. The aforementioned healthy local church is critical for this.
Prayer and scripture memory will never ever be a waste of time. Pursue Jesus hardcore and you’ll never once regret it.
Hospitality is the best way to show people Jesus. Open your home.
You should really buy food storage containers that have lids attached to them. It will make your life so much easier.
In a few months, someone is going to introduce you to this magical wonderland called Pinterest. It’s amazing, but just make sure you guard your heart from comparing yourself to others…and you should actually do stuff, not just pin it to your board and feel productive.
People you love are going to say incredibly hurtful things to you. They can't say anything about you that the gospel can't cancel out. Know Christ's love for you and devastating criticism won't be quite so devastating.
I know you think Romans 8 is awesome now, but it’s only going to become significantly more awesome. Never think you can move onto deeper truths than the gospel. From time to time, you’ll remember that Jesus loves you and you’ll be so pleasantly shocked.
Regularly read good blogs, and get a subscription to The Atlantic. Thoughtful articles have the power to change your life.
In a couple years your family income is going to increase dramatically. Don’t let it destroy you. Invite others into your life to keep you accountable. You might think you’re the last person who can fall prey to materialism and ego, but you are not. More money, more problems!
You finished pre-marital counseling, awesome. But pre-marital counseling has such limited capabilities because, well, you haven’t been married yet. Don’t be afraid of getting marriage counseling after you’ve been married.
This is a biggie: I know you haven’t thought too much about being a mom someday, but (spoiler alert) you’re about to have a bunch of kids really soon. Your daily life is going to look about 5% how you always envisioned it. But guess what! God’s plans are better, and eventually you’ll conclude that motherhood is extremely important…probably the most important job on the planet. So consider that role a world-changing privilege.
Humility's the goal. It doesn't matter if you're right or not: if you're not teachable, you're wrong.
Now that you’re a wife, the facts that “God is enough” and “you are the bride of Christ” are not suddenly irrelevant. Whether your dream has been fulfilled or not, God must be enough. Whether you have a husband or not, the Lord is your husband.
Finally, take a cue from Colossians 3: "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
What do you wish you would've known when you were nineteen? Leave a comment below!
About nine years ago, I found myself sinking in a quagmire of my own self-righteousness. I deemed myself “discerning” and looked down upon people who didn’t see things the same way I did. Was I right about what I believed? Yeah, I think so, and after much research and experience I still believe most of those things. But was my heart in the right place? Not at all. I would walk up and down the aisles of the Christian bookstore with my like-minded friends and giggle and snort about the ridiculousness being written, marketed, and—worst of all—sold. I would eye-roll at nearly every preacher I heard and disregard most things that those who loved me said. I put people in blanket categories that God never compartmentalized. I was a “cage stage” theologian by every definition of the word, and it left me feeling so very empty. I remember consciously thinking “This is too easy.” The vacuousness of being judgmental made it quite obvious that this isn’t what I was created to do.
I’ve felt that way multiple other times since then, and parenting has opened the gates to all kinds of new shortfalls. Five years ago when I first started learning about natural childbirth and breastfeeding, I got involved in a group that strongly advocated those things as well—and who respected me for my level of commitment as a “crunchy mama”—and I had trouble seeing how other moms could possibly choose differently for their kids. Then, a couple years later, I started really believing in the value of family, and I simply could not grasp why people didn’t want to have kids right away when parenting is so awesome. Most recently, I think I’ve become even more opinionated than ever and I just really wish in general that everyone in the world would think and act exactly like me. Yikes. Lately I’ve been experiencing that same feeling as I did a long time ago when I was snickering over other people’s bad theology. It just feels way too…natural. I’m going along with the vicious tide of my self-exalting nature and trying to ignore whatever is harmed in the aftermath.
I still advocate reformed theology, natural birth, breastfeeding, the value of families, homeschool, etc. And even in the midst of my most judgmental seasons, I have had genuine love for people who disagree with me. I think it would be an insult to the God who is changing me if I admitted to always being a total loveless monster and hypocrite. That said, I don’t think I can really overstate the badness of my natural disposition. Who I am without Jesus is truly a terrible person. And when that person oozes through this new person that I’m becoming, it’s a bad thing. I need to expose it, I need to kill it, and I need to be overcome by something better.
At root of being judgmental is, of course, pride, but I’m pretty sure it’s the kind of pride that is wearing a sneaky disguise: insecurity. I can reflect on all my most judgmental seasons and see a girl who wasn’t sure of herself and needed to drag others down to elevate myself…if not with my words, I would belittle people with my thoughts. Little judgmental thoughts are like taking bites of a candy bar that help me feel better about my own insecurities. I make a mistake or a poor choice, I start to feel bad about it, but then I remember, “Hey, so-and-so does this all the time and worse!” or “At least I’m still better at this than most people.” That, my friends, is toxic thinking.
So…what’s the solution? Whelp, I’m convinced it’s not “loving myself.” At risk of sounding judgmental, I’m going to firmly disagree with the popular notion that the cure for insecurity is telling myself I’m awesome. Here’s why: self-focus in one way is not going to be cured by self-focus in another way. Self-focus, whether it’s arrogance or insecurity, is going to be destructive. I am so very finite and have so many problems and so many weaknesses that “finding myself”, “loving myself”, etc. can only have, at best, severely limited results. There is only so much “greatness” to peer into, if any, and I have so little to offer myself. Historically I’ve only gotten myself into trouble. Aren’t we all this way?
I’m only ever becoming more and more convinced that the key way to grow in self-confidence is to grow in confident humility. Say what!? I am privileged enough to know some of the happiest and most awesome people on the planet, and guess what! They care so much about others that they don’t have much time to think about themselves. And that is not to their detriment. When we’re not seeking approval from other people (or ourselves), we are freed up to love recklessly. And, of course, the only way we can see ourselves rightly with a sense of confident humility is if we behold the Greatest thing, the only being in the universe who does not need to be humble (because there is none greater than Him) but who willingly chose to humble Himself and become a servant. Jesus said that anyone who wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all, and He has exemplified that in His birth, His life, His ministry, the washing of His disciples’ feet, His prayers, His death, His resurrection, His Church, and then there’s that gloriously mysterious verse in Luke 12:37 in which Jesus suggests He will have us recline at the table and He will serve us. (What!?)
This weekend I heard a speaker say something quite profound: Christianity isn’t rocket science. It’s simply good news. I need a Savior, God has provided a Savior. He changes me. Notice that little children aren’t fretting about insecurities; they’re not thinking “Wow that person is so weird” or frequently comparing themselves to others (unless we train them to do so.) They know their parents love them and that's all they need to know. They’ve got too many holes to dig and Play-doh snakes to make to worry about if they dig more holes or make better snakes than most kids do. Why can I not learn from them?
So, to summarize:
Being judgmental is an easy but empty way to live.
As we get older, we should grow in graciousness; we must not mistake “crotchety” for being the same as “wise.”
Confident humility and loving others recklessly will free us.
There is no true humility without knowing Jesus and beholding God.
Let’s become like children and live in delightful assurance of being truly, deeply loved.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude and raising three little people ages 1-5. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today