Piper Joyce, PJ, Peej, Piper Jo (“Baby Jo”, as Stephen calls her)...my redheaded girl turns one this week! To be honest, this year hasn’t been a breeze for me emotionally, but Piper Jo has been such a joy to our family and I have a lot of fun with my two kids. I still don’t regret the life choice of getting married and being open to children, by the way, in case anyone thinks being a stay-at-home-mom is a waste of ambition. Here are some things I love about my Piper so far.
I love how she was an easy baby. I could tell she would be easier than Stephen in literally the first five minutes after she was born. Even from the first night she only woke up about 3-5 times (Stephen pretty much woke up hourly for the first two weeks.) Of course I love them both the same, but Piper relieved me from sleepless-zombie status, and that was nice.
I love how she’s so social. No matter who you are, if you smile at her she will probably smile back. Her delight in your attention helps the ol’ self esteem.
I love how she likes books! A lot! She doesn’t pay much attention to toys, but she will sit with the box of books and carefully examine the pictures. I didn’t know baby hands were capable of turning pages but her delicate little fingers get the job done.
I love how she toddles around holding clothes. Any cotton item she can get her hands on---be it pajamas or a shirt or undies---is her new security blanket.
I love her independent spirit. She started walking at 10 months. She rejects snuggles from her brother if she feels it’s too much. She would much rather look at books than be read to. (But she definitely wants you there with her because she’s such a people person.) I see a lot of ways this feistiness can be dangerous, but I also see a lot of ways that her personality is really a gift.
I love how she loves dirt. She prefers it.
I love her mouth. It’s my favorite physical feature of Piper's (yes, even more than her hair!) She purses her little lips in the most teasing and playful ways.
I love how she is crazy about animals. She almost falls out of the stroller when she sees a dog on the sidewalk; she spends all her might leaning towards any furry beasts whilst making loud and passionate “ooooo!” sounds. She gives more attention to our poor pet rat than any of us.
I love how she loves risk. She cackles in glee when we call her a package or a sack of potatoes and throw "it" around. I think that if she could be upside-down all day, she would.
I love how she lets me kiss her. She doesn't like to lay her head on my shoulder, but she permits as many kisses on her tiny little lips as I want.
I love how she's been enjoyable as a baby. I feel like I was always trying to get Stephen to move on to the next fun trick or developmental milestone, but with Piper I just let the baby be a baby, and it was fun.
I love how she has stolen the heart of her brother. And the hearts of all of us, really.
Happy Birthday, Piper Jo! We love you!
(You can watch the G-rated birth video here!
You can also read Things I Love About Stephen, Year One and Year Two!)
There has been a beautiful revival of thirst for God's Word in the past decade, and a slew of books recently published on this topic even in 2014 alone. In the cheeky promo video for Can I Really Trust the Bible?, author Barry Cooper jokes that you should read his book because, weighing in at under 100 pages, it's shorter than all the others. Though he said that jokingly, that point is very compelling to me, a mom of two very young children with little concentrated time to read.
I was captivated by this book on every page. Mr. Cooper wrote with tremendous skill and his deep-down knowledge of the subject matter allowed him to write clearly and concisely. I would quickly give this book to a non-Christian because he asked all main the questions non-Christians ask then gave very convincing answers from scripture and common sense. I'm grateful that all the defenses are laid out right there so I don't have to keep watching Voddie Baucham's "Why I Choose to Believe the Bible" sermon on YouTube repeatedly. My affections for the Word were stirred as I became more obviously convinced of the Bible (and the God of the Bible!) that I already believed.
I love the reverent heart behind the book. In chapter 1 we are charged to read or listen to the Word in anticipation because "The fierce power that summoned and sustains the universe is about to be unleashed again in our hearing." I also loved his answer for when people ask if the Bible is "out of date": "If we feel discomfort at some of the Bible's teaching, is it really because the Bible is a product of its time, or because we are?" Later he added, "Wouldn't it be suspicious if [God] always said what we wanted him to say, or if he always confirmed the views of our particular culture, in our particular moment of history?" This just struck me with the timeless beauty of the Bible.
I love the Bible, I'm staking absolutely everything on whether the Bible is true, and this book confirmed that by so doing I'm putting all my hope into an absolutely steadfast Truth. I recommend you buy and gift this book.
Disclosure: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Yesterday I listened to Emma Watson’s much-adored speech to the U.N. and as a woman, I was utterly insulted.
I felt very similar last month on my Washington, D.C. trip when I went to the 3rd-most visited museum in the world. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History dehumanized me at every turn, reducing mankind to mere members of the animal kingdom. All the brilliance and beauty that I have seen men and women from all time produce---including the tear-inducing Leonardo DaVinci painting I saw at the nearby National Gallery of Art---is degraded to the evolutionary need for survival. Nothing else. No beauty for the sake of beauty.
Emma Watson’s speech struck a similar cord as she pushed for “equality” between genders. In her call to perceive gender as a “spectrum”, she wishes to make gray what can be such a powerfully vibrant contrast. Just because genders are distinct doesn't mean they have to be combative. They just function well together, like a right hand and a left.
I’m offended by her speech because I embrace the fact that there are many things that I as a woman can do a whole lot better than men can. Women, we are belittling ourselves when we try to equalize the roles instead of strengthen them.
When my husband plays with our kids---wrestling, tossing, tickling---they respond in a delightful way that I cannot easily duplicate when I try those things. But when I comfort my children---holding them, loving them, having compassion on them---my husband watches in amazement, knowing that no one---not even he---can comfort these babies like I can (especially when it comes to breastfeeding!)
Even in our not-so-sweet days, we can welcome our differences and both shine in our respective roles. Of course I play with our kids too and Peter comforts them as well, and I’m not trying to make an argument for women being homemakers (I wrote more about this theme in How Feminism Sells Itself Short), but I wish we would all take a step back and think...what makes men and women strong? What makes them beautiful?
In today's culture, selfishness is seen as strength. Having a high self-esteem is almost the same as being considered a good person. Ms. Watson received great applause when talking about her rights over her own body (referring to abortion.) Haven't we always thought of taking an innocent person's life to be the epitome of selfishness? But now it is seen as brave, noble, and strong. The only reason such positions have continued to hold up is the collective, willful ignorance of the masses. I hope we all start realizing this and wake up from our narcissistic coma!
I would argue that the strongest thing any man or woman could ever do is sacrifice. This is what a beautiful strength looks like. Selflessness. You know, love. Does anyone even know what that means anymore? Our culture seems to suggest that “love” is merely an undeniable feeling. Again, that definition is insulting to me. After being married for three years (or even just one month!) almost anyone can quickly admit that if that’s all love is, it’s very easy to deny at times! But of course we can’t just give up. We must continue to sacrifice for the other person, dying to our immediate desires, and eventually the feelings will follow, now flowing from a richer and deeper relationship.
I agree with Ms. Watson that men are led to believe that they cannot be sensitive. They often overcorrect that stigma by putting on a macho, misogynistic persona, which is devastating to them and anyone else in their wake. Those domineering, make-me-a-sandwich men are missing the picture as well. I don't think our culture has any idea what to make of gender and offers either false dichotomies or an opposition to any definitive gender at all.
Ms. Watson and our culture speak of "submission" as if it is a bad word and there's no right way to do it. On the contrary, a person who is to humble enough to submit to another's leadership possesses great strength. A submissive person is willing to lay down his/her own desire for control for the best interest of others. Could she take charge? Probably. But she is secure enough in herself that she doesn’t need to.
When I see a woman like Emma Watson, I see a bright and talented young lady who is a gifted actress and a compelling speaker. Surely she does charity work and gives a portion of her money to worthy causes.
But then I think about some women I actually know, one friend in particular. When I look at her, I see a strong woman. She has four children---two of whom she and her husband adopted from very hard places---and she is involved in helping people in countless other ways that I’m sure I don’t even know about.
She cares for the prostitutes in our city---something her husband cannot do in the same way; he drives and offers protection.
She reaches out to her neighbors, to wounded women who would not develop the same rich and trusting friendship with a man.
And she takes in foster children when there is a need.
That, to me, is what a strong woman looks like. She is someone who actually gets into the lives of others and sacrifices her wants for their needs. She is someone who goes beyond hashtag activism and actually gives up her free time to let someone cry on her shoulder. I want women like her to be teaching me what being a woman is all about.
So as we hear "ground-breaking" feminist messages like Emma Watson's, may we begin to think for ourselves about whether the feminist view of strength for women (or anybody) is really very strong at all. May we instead consider what true strength is, for men or for women: sacrifice.
I remember so many moments as a child, saying "Are You sure it worked, God? Did I say everything right? Here, let me try praying the prayer again just in case. Dear God, I admit that I'm a sinner..." I wanted so desperately to have assurance that I really belonged to God---or that there even was a God, or that He was the only way---but doubts kept coming back and I didn't know what to do with them. Thankfully, as I've grown in my relationship with God, now I can usually silence my doubts pretty quickly with scripture and with reason. But I really could've used a little book like this one in the Questions Christians Ask series by The Good Book Company.
John Stevens addresses a lot of questions regarding this topic of doubt, and he did a great job laying out scripture to provide clarity. Doubt isn't a bad thing, but Stevens emphasized on multiple points that we must deal with it so it does not develop into unbelief. As Stevens pointed out, even Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by satan to doubt---His identity, His protection, His mission---and He sympathizes with us in our weakness (Heb 4:15.) I had never before noticed that Jude 22 says to "be merciful to those who doubt." When we or someone we know asks hard questions, there's no need to accuse or belittle. But it does need to be dealt with. This book really helps with why and what that looks like.
The most impactful part for me was when he talked about how to know if we are really a Christian. I've struggled a little because I have no idea when I became a believer; I know that I know Jesus now, but shouldn't going from death to life have had more of a noticeable change in me at a specific point in my history? Stevens made the point that "God does not promise equality of spiritual experiences to His people." What happened for one Christian doesn't mean it's been promised to happen to me as well. We can be assured that we have the Holy Spirit through such unremarkable instances as: "Every time we are disgusted by sin, every time we are grateful to Jesus for what He has done for us, every time we hunger to be more holy, every time we choose to follow His ways rather than our own---these are experiences of the work of the Spirit in our lives, and signs that we truly belong to Him."
It's a good book, but I felt it was a little dry at times and I think the author would've done well to share more stories or illustrations as this book didn't keep my attention as Jeramie Rinne's book in this series did (my review here.) For a more thorough book on assurance, I recommend Paul Washer's book Gospel Assurance and Warnings (my review here.)
Disclosure: I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Eschatology is one of those topics in which---in my experience, anyway---Christians might err in either avoiding or overemphasizing. I’ve heard some good dialogue on the topic during my year at Bible college, by watching An Evening of Eschatology, and by participating in our church’s recent 4-week class on end times, but I was still longing for a resource that would clearly lay out the scriptures and offer some application (though Wayne Grudem’s chapter in Systematic Theology was very helpful.) I wanted to know how to think about end times in a more God-centered, worshipful way than presentation and arguments for or against the 3 main views of the millennium. I wanted to know how this should change my life. Jeremie Rinne’s little book How Will the World End? definitely helped.
Refreshingly, only one of the chapters talked about the 1000-year-reign, and he presented all points with their strengths and weaknesses fairly. I honestly couldn’t figure out which view he holds to, so the presentation of the views was very fair. He wrote with a lot of grace, humbling my condescending disposition towards people who hold some particular views.
I was most shocked by how much Jesus said about end times. It was helpful to realize that we are in the end times---we have been for 2000 years---so things aren’t going to get better anytime soon; world peace isn’t going to happen; injustice won’t just phase itself out. But Jesus is with us and He is coming back for His people. He insightfully contrasted Hollywood’s view of end times (natural disaster) with the Bible’s view of end times (moral disaster.) This book drove me to prayer and reminded me to adjust my expectations of how life will be like for us. It mobilized me to tell as many people as I can about this great news of the gospel so they don’t have to endure the terrible judgment that is to come for those who don’t believe.
A lot of the Christians I’m close to don’t read a lot of books and they’re not impressed with all kinds of footnotes and citations of other sources. They just want to know what the Bible says and what we’re supposed to do about it. But I would definitely give them this book (I already have.) No matter your interpretation of Revelation you will agree with and benefit from almost everything he says in the book because it’s clear, concise, readable, and most importantly, biblical. As a mom of 2 very young children, I’m all about books that only take a few quick sittings to read, so I thought this was a great resource.
Disclosure: I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews and The Good Book Company in exchange for an honest review.
I've only been a mom for 2 years (not counting pregnancy), but so far I've had no trouble finding out that parenting can be really frustrating sometimes. Yet even in my limited experience God has been doing a huge work on my heart and lately I haven't been nearly as frustrated as I was at the beginning. I've found that the advice "It's just for a season" isn't all that comforting because I hope to have lots of little kids, so this "season" might be a decade long. Nor am I always encouraged by "just keep your head up" or "You've got this, girl!", because a lot of times I find myself laying facedown on the floor, crying into the scratchy carpet, realizing I don't got this. I need deep encouragement about God's character---from scripture---ingrained on my heart when I'm going through something hard, and that includes when I'm going through frustrating moments in parenting. I'm a firm believer that there are no unworshippable circumstances. So here are 8 yucky parts of parenthood and how we can worship God through them.
When we see messes around the house, we can praise God that a living human being with his/her own thoughts and goals---as simple and/or devious as they may seem---made those messes. A little mind decided to move a roll of toilet paper from one room to another. A living being’s own hands picked up LEGO’s and managed to scatter them throughout every nook and cranny of the house. Psalm 128 is a beautiful picture of blessedness in which “your children will be like olive shoots around your table”...making messes, no doubt. What a gift liveliness and youth is! Proverbs 14:4 encourages me as well: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.“ There are productive, wonderful things going on in our sub-tidy homes. How amazing!
If Satan had his way, there would be no crying because there would be no babies. Can you imagine how horribly silent the towns or villages would have been in the days of baby Moses or baby Jesus, when Pharaoh and Herod commanded all babies to be killed? We can praise God for the life that produces those tears. (Russell Moore’s chapter called “Joseph of Nazareth vs. Planned Parenthood” on this topic in Adopted for Life and a blog post by a similar title really drives this point home.)
3) Unwelcome Wakings and Boo-boo’s
As Abraham Kuyper has famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” Or, as God’s own Word says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” The sovereignty of God is a precious truth to me; not because I’m a stuck-up Calvinist but because I need to know that every nighttime waking, every sickness, every skipped naptime, every ER visit, and all the other unwelcome surprises come to me from my God who was not snoozing and is not bummed about it. He is the perfect Father working everything together for our good. Even small and frustrating life events may not be for our immediate happiness but they are definitely for our greater joy. (By the way, Romans 8:32 has been one of the most deeply meaningful scriptures to me for many reasons, one of them being that my son didn’t start sleeping through the night until he was 2.)
4) Missed Quiet Times
I’ve talked to a lot of Christian moms about this and one prevailing observation I have is that our babies apparently don’t want us to get in the Word. Knowing that we need to spend time with Jesus every morning, we’ll set our alarm for 6:30 and one of the kids will get up at 6:25. We’ll set the alarm for 5:45 and baby will start crying by 5:46. So we have the privilege of, by necessity, making the most of every bit of our time. Hour-long prayer walks in solitude are usually not an option, so we must learn to try to pray while we walk our kids. We need to learn how to glean from the Word in 5-minute segments throughout the day (for a season) when we’d much rather be able to sit down with our commentaries and journals. We get to work really, really hard on our spiritual disciplines. What a refining privilege! (But, boy, do I long for the privilege of uninterrupted time in the Word again!)
5) Naughty Behavior
God is kind to provide means of discipline. One of the biblically supported methods of driving away foolishness from a child---when done correctly and in love---is a gift from God and we must see it that way. If I wasn’t a Christian or if the Bible didn’t speak so bluntly about this subject, I would never dare to discipline my kids in this way. However, now I see that if that were the case, I would have absolutely lost my mind trying to figure out how to parent my strong-willed child. I would yell at him all the time and loathe his rebellious little self. But when I’m actually consistent with discipline, everyone (including my child) is happiest. A right understanding of who's in charge is most peaceable for everyone. I’ve seen John Witherspoon’s saying to be very true: “Those who keep the strictest discipline give the fewest strokes.” How kind of God to give clear direction in how we can discipline our kids.
6) Missed Opportunities
Since there are now so many limitations on how we can serve others, we might feel ineffective for the kingdom. Going on a mission trip when our kids are small is usually out of the question. We can’t be very involved in the ministries we might be quite interested in because we have a family and naptimes to worry about. It’s not easy at all to just meet up for lunch with someone. But we must remember that God’s hands are not tied by our situations! (And He actually considers children to be gifts!) He’s not saying “Drat! I had so many ways I wanted to use you, but you’re too busy changing diapers and doing puzzles.” He will accomplish His purposes for us (Psalm 138:8) and we will walk in the good works He’s prepared beforehand for us (Ephesians 2:10.) It might just look different (and probably more boring) than we imagined for a season.
7) Embarrassing Moments
Before I had kids I was already an awkward person quite prone to embarrassing moments, but blush-worthy occasions have multiplied exponentially since my womb got filled. I’m not sure if---as a mom---I have ever walked into a room looking cool, calm, and collected. I either have a huge snotty-nose stain on one or both shoulders (and pants, sometimes), or I’m trying desperately to pick up my screaming child up off the floor while attempting to stay modest. But in these moments we can praise God that He alone is who we are trying to please. Of course we need to care about others and seek a good reputation for His sake, but we can do that flowing from a solid understanding ofHis acceptance of us through Christ and a knowledge that He knows far more shameful things about us than our peers ever could...yet He still presents us before the presence of His glory without fault and with great joy (Jude 24.) Embarrassing moments from our kids helps us get over the fear of man and directs us to a right fear of God.
If I had to describe parenting in one word, oftentimes it would be “?”. A big fat question mark. I have no idea what to do. I thought I’d be a pro by Baby #2 and I’m definitely figuring things out better this time around, but nope, after countless conversations with experienced mamas and even after reading over 23 books about this new stage in my life, I’m verifiably a parenting noob. I think everybody is. Yet it’s wonderful to find ourselves in a place where leaning on our own understanding absolutely got us nowhere so we have no choice but to trust in the Lord with all our hearts. When we come to the end of our own wisdom (which parenting quickly does), we become much more quick to cry out to Jesus, in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3.) We end up begging the Holy Spirit to show us what to do. We look to our perfect Heavenly Father to see what parenting should look like. And it’s beautiful.
I hope keeping these thoughts in mind helps lead you in worship this week!
Discussion in Christian circles has been buzzing over the upcoming movie, Believe Me. For once, Christian filmmakers are actually satirizing Christian organizations instead of exalting them. In place of the happy-ending Newsboys-as-product-placement concert in God’s Not Dead, Believe Me approaches Christian concerts and charity events from a quite different angle, highlighting that sometimes the leaders of such organizations are charismatic non-Christians hoping to make a buck. “Why do people go to charity events?” one character asks. “Because they want to help people,” another character offers. The lead swindler’s response? “Wrong. They want to feel like they’re helping people.” I think that’s a pretty thought-provoking perspective that Christians should consider.
Last year Christianity Today reported that Christian giving is on the rise, as the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) reported $11 billion given to their accredited organizations in 2012. I praise God that Christians are giving, and that overseeing organizations like ECFA exist, but I think it’s time Christians examine our heart’s intentions for how we steward our money and time. I’d like to argue that more often than not, the most effective and humble ways to serve are not tax-deductible and they do not count for community service hours.
Churches minister best when the service is organic and not mechanistic, when it’s people and not programs that are doing the work. Organic service to others---stemming not from an organization but from the individual or the local church---is usually the kind that goes unnoticed. At the end of the year when you’re organizing receipts and looking at the highlights of your year, it always feels good to say “I spent $500 on the child I sponsor, went on mission trips to Honduras and Ukraine, and I gave $100 worth of food for hungry American families!” Indeed, those can be great ways to give of one’s resources.
It’s harder to quantify evidence of babysitting for the single mom in our neighborhood or sharing the gospel with the guy next to us on the plane or buying some groceries for the unemployed family in our church. Everyone loves posing for a before-and-after haircut picture when making a donation to Locks of Love, but there’s nothing to post on Facebook about when we make dinner for an acquaintance who has cancer.
Sometimes I think about the support letters missionaries send out when they say what they’ll be doing in the new lands to which they’re moving. I then wonder what I would say if I was raising support to do what I am now, in the suburbs of Tampa. Regrettably, I feel like if I had that official “missionary” title, I’d have a much longer list of things I’m doing intentionally to show Jesus to the people in my city. In that case, people would be knowing about my prayer-walking and relationship-building and time-giving. But in my life now, people won’t see the time I spend talking to a hurting neighbor; they might only notice that I neglected to clean my house that day. Thus, without the praise of men, I don’t have as much motivation to do what Christ has called me to do.
A lot of times we might also think our only responsibility is to get people into the church building’s doors. An invitation to church is all too often the first thing we offer people we meet; we should first invite them into our lives. That’s what Paul did with his ministry: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (2 Thess 2.) Ephesians 4 says the purpose of pastors and evangelists is not to magnetically attract all the local nonbelievers and struggling Christians and preach a sermon that will change their lives, but “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” We as Christians have one ministry---not 5 million---and that is to make Jesus known.
Mission trips, block parties, and big rallies can hardly be as truly transformative and effective as plodding along in the mundane. Indeed, I’ve gone to some great conferences (I cannot wait for the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference this weekend!) but no message I’ve heard from a speaker---and trust me, I’ve learned a lot from speakers---has impacted me as deeply as exhortation I’ve received from the women in my own missional community. Their encouragements from scripture might be more simply stated but I’ve seen their lives and I know their struggles. Hearing someone I know stumble through reminding me of the gospel speaks much louder and deeper to me than a famous speaker’s eloquent and practiced sermon tends to.
I’ve met a lot of people who might say things like “I spent a summer in India”,"Oh, what'd you do?", "We reached out to the community and did discipleship." But here in their everyday, their professors and bosses are unimpressed with their shoddy work ethic, and their classmates and coworkers are put off by their I-wish-I-wasn't-here attitude. We can just become so compartmentalized. We think that mission was something I did for a season of life or is something that I want to do sometime. We don't think it’s something that happens every day, through inglorious means such as handing a tissue to a weeping friend (or a boogery toddler.)
May we press on towards true discipleship of others, even though it’s time-consuming, messy, and oftentimes discouraging. How much lasting, persevering disciple-making can really take place in a one-day event? We like the “go to the nations” part of the Great Commission where we can say “Six people prayed to receive Jesus today at the orphanage!” but we don’t like the “make disciples” command where we have to sit with and encourage the believer who doesn’t feel like getting in the Word anymore. Christ’s aim for the kingdom is disciples, not decisions, and actual disciple-making is a lot harder.
But that is so the character of God. The least will be the greatest. The goal is for Jesus to be known, and He’s the one who is causing us to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). We are just ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor 5) bringing rebels back to their creator. It’s a glorious mission, our commander is always successful, and we have the Holy Spirit powerfully working within us.
So may we give of our time and money to organizations, camps, conferences, etc., sure, but may we also look for where there are needs in our own neighborhoods and local churches. (I’m sure grateful that the women in my church gave their old baby clothes to me and not to Goodwill!) Instead of dishing out money to tons of missions organizations, let us give money and M&M's to the missionaries that our own church is sending out (and we may we talk to them and pray for them too!) May we joyfully follow this command to the church in Galatians: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” We already have plenty of opportunities; let’s just humble ourselves and make the most of them.
I turned 22 recently, and a few days later I became aware of the song by Taylor Swift about this very age. After about three seconds into the song I realized that, at least by Taylor Swift standards, I have no idea what it means to "feel" 22. I don't have time to dress like a hipster or make fun of my exes...I'm too busy trying to get spit-up out of my clothes and learning how to communicate with my husband.
Many people from my class graduated this month, and it felt kind of weird because I was supposed to be among them. When I was a senior in high school and was flooded with inspiring "Follow your dreams" advice and speeches, nobody ever said anything about starting a family anytime soon. How many parents want their little girl to get married and pregnant her first year out of high school?
So I write this as a reflection on being a really young mom, in case anyone is curious what the past few years have been like.
Some moments are literally like this:
It's 7 pm. Peter should be home in 20 minutes---an hour and a half later than expected; I'm hungry---and there is much last-minute tidying to do. Piper is laying on her playmat and screaming, over-tired since I planned her naps poorly today. Stephen comes into the bedroom with a box of chocolate graham crackers---which means he went into the prohibited kitchen---and dumps out the entire box over his head onto the carpet. I put him in his crib and he falls apart emotionally. "I'm not mad at you, I love you, I just need you to sit still while I clean up the mess you made," I weakly reassure him. As I vacuum the seemingly ubiquitous crumbs, I wonder where he learned to be like this. Is it because I let him watch some TV today? Did Arthur teach him this? I then become aware that I am indeed allergic to my earrings, ouch. I check on Piper and she has snot all over her face from crying so much. While quickly trying to comfort her, I notice some liquid on the floor and hope it's water...but chances are good that this puddle happened during that period of time earlier today when Stephen removed his diaper and I turned a blind eye. Loud voices in my head faithfully remind me that I am a failure, and that plenty of other moms---mature moms---have more children than I do but their houses are cleaner and their meals are yummier and they lost their baby weight faster...This job is not for me.
Even besides moments like those when I'm battling my own selfishness, there has been a lot of socially-wrought pain in my asking God for children in this season of life. It's very counter-cultural in America for women to have kids at a young age, especially on purpose. In only one year, when I went from single to dating to engaged to married to pregnant in a period of only 8 months, I turned from a social homecoming queen to almost completely irrelevant to my friends and acquaintances. (However, many of the fizzled friendships were my fault, and there were a handful of truly supportive friends and grown-ups whose encouragement meant the world to me! You know who you are!)
More than one person said that I can no longer be a role model for their daughters.
One relative told another that I should get my tubes tied.
My parents had to defend me to one concerned adult after another as they asked personal questions about me and made all kinds of assumptions about my life choices.
The bitterness and pain have died and I've been trying not to consider too deeply what others have to say about me, but from what I've been told, a lot of people who heard about my marriage and pregnancy at 19 think I really went off the deep end. It breaks my heart that getting married young and being blessed with a child shortly after was cause for my whole reputation to be marred.
I say all this not to pity myself but to mourn over our culture's sickeningly condescending view of families...even "Christian" culture (though I have found nothing but encouragement and support from Covenant Life.) Ambitious people aren't supposed to start families first thing. I think that's extremely ironic, since I can think of nothing more ambitious than creating a legacy that will last beyond one's own generation...by raising children (through pregnancy and/or adoption.) I'm not saying everyone needs to get married and ask God for babies right out of high school. But I do wish to challenge the stigma that this kind of trajectory is a pitiful or irresponsible one.
Here's another glimpse into my everyday:
It's 7 am. The morning sun is shining through the window just right as Stephen and I are snuggling on the couch reading a particularly enjoyable Curious George book. I love watching his eyes scan the page. I love how he answers my questions and predicts what will happen next. He reminds me---in his own language or through sound effects---of an inside joke we had from over a month ago, and I just look at him and marvel. After we finish, I teasingly ask him if I'm supposed to hold him by his ankles (which I then do) and through cackly giggles he says "Nooo..." "Oh, am I supposed to carry you around like a log?" I ask as I grab him by the torso. Same tickled response. Then we hear a sound from the other room and we look at each other with a smile. We run into Piper's room and see her laying on a blanket on the floor and kicking her feet in that energetic way only babies can. I pick her up and lay her on the bed, and when she sees Stephen and I, her eyes dance. Stephen scrambles on top of the bed, nuzzles into her and makes high-pitched baby sounds, which is so cutely ironic since he's only 20 months older than her. I make up a song called "We Love Piper", and after I'm done Stephen imitates me as best as he can, singing sweetly with incomprehensible words and sporadic hand-claps. Piper's mouth is wide open and her face is shining as she receives all the attention. I just glow. My children are worship leaders, I think as I praise God for these sweet gifts. I love this job.
So yes, my life is messy. Yes, sometimes there is nothing I would rather do than pick up a backpack and sit in a classroom, forgetting everything but my friends and my studies. I love school, I am so happy for all my friends who are in school or have started careers, and I do hope to go back someday. Yes, I was really sad to be in my early twenties to find my body permanently wrecked in some ways by two pregnancies. Yes, sometimes I feel shame---misplaced shame---for how my youthful years have turned out.
But I could not persistently entertain dreams of trading anything in exchange for my kids. And for my kids right now. There is no way I would rather spend my youthful energy than in giving piggyback rides or reading Amelia Bedelia books. There is no way I would rather use my rapidly-processing 22-year-old mind than in figuring out how to best nurture and discipline my children. This is the prime of my life, and there is no way I would rather spend it than with stinky, sticky, silly, surreally sweet little ones.The cost is great but the reward---real, live, human beings who think and feel and create and grow and love---is immeasurably greater.
I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22. And I love it.
My friend was doubting whether she was really a Christian. I was shocked, since I’d known her for years and had seen her serve with children and read her Bible. I didn’t know what to say, so I told her “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” and assured her that she was saved and she didn’t need to hear the enemy try to convince her otherwise. As the months progressed, her profession of faith continued to debilitate from blurry Christian to a complete denial of all things religious. I don’t blame myself for her falling away, but I do wish that prior to our conversation I had given more biblical counsel than misusing scripture to give her false assurance. In Gospel Assurance and Warnings, Paul Washer’s third book in his Recovering the Gospel series, one of my favorite preachers of all time has picked up the pen to aid in just that.
1 John 5:13 says “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” In Gospel Assurance and Warnings, Paul Washer spends a great amount of time going through the tests 1 John provides for discerning whether you are truly in Christ. I didn’t know how thoroughly one could explain how to discern whether you are a sheep or a goat, but Paul Washer blew me away with this almost exhausting volume. What I most appreciated about this book---and about Paul Washer’s teaching style in general---is that he takes scripture very seriously. Even what we would consider “obscure” passages in the Old Testament about the wrath of God are esteemed as truth that should teach us about God’s character today.
Gospel Assurance and Warnings is a sobering plea to professing Christians to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Paul Washer’s passion for the purity of the church---and more, the renown of Christ’s name---is what drove him to write this book, and I’d consider it a great gift to church leaders and laymen alike (though this work will probably be overwhelming for the average reader!) I’ve seen so many harmful responses from pastors to people who are struggling with assurance, and I think Gospel Assurance and Warnings will equip Christians for how to counsel others and how to struggle through this ourselves. What I appreciated most about this book is every page is full of footnotes citing Paul Washer’s sources---but probably at least 90% of them are purely scripture. On such a life-or-death subject as one’s own salvation he did not want to just take man’s word for it. I have never seen the whole counsel of scripture utilized as well as I did in this book. I highly recommend it.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.
I was talking to an eleven-year-old the other day and he was telling me about how he loves his Action Bible. He's too old for The Jesus Storybook Bible but the actual Bible is still a little overwhelming to him for daily reading. So a massive graphic novel based on the Bible has been a great fit for him.
But now The Good Book Company is coming out with something that I would say is even better than The Action Bible because it uses exact words from scripture in the HCSB. The Third Day is a sweet little volume that portrays Luke 22-24 in graphic-novel format with no supplementary verbage or glorified gore. I loved it, and I most certainly expect that kids in the preteen/teen age bracket will eat it up even more.
The art was skillfully crafted by Alex Webb-Peploe. I think he beautifully captured the aspects that Luke intended to emphasize: How foolish the disciples looked when they were arguing about who was the greatest. The agony and weakness during Christ's prayer in Gethsemane. The ugliness of Judas's betraying kiss. The brutality of the crowd demanding Christ's crucifixion. The desperation of the thief on the cross. The ecstatic amazement of the women who found the empty tomb. The wide-eyed surprise of the disciples when they realized it was Jesus walking with them on the road to Emmaus.
The Third Day is a wonderful depiction of the most important event in all history, and I very much look forward to the rest of the straight-from-scripture graphic novels in this series. At less than $7 each, I can definitely see myself giving these out to kids I know.