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Truce for the Mommy Wars

Have you ever found yourself in the crossfire of the Mommy Wars? Whether it is the battle of the stay-at-home moms versus working moms, formula moms versus breastfeeding moms, disposable diapering moms versus cloth-diapering moms (or any other dispute you can think of), chances are you’ve read something about this ongoing battle.

Most of what I’ve read has tried to call a truce between these opposing camps. Such blogs address the issues that the opposing camps fight about, but few seem to get to the heart of the matter. While I do think there are biblical principles that have implications for how a woman lives, works, and parents, I also think there is a lot of freedom in Jesus concerning these choices. But this is not another blog post about that. This post addresses the heart behind the mommy wars, not the specifics of them.

The problem with mommy wars is that each woman is trying to define herself by what she does.

Take the stay-at-home mom vs. the working mom, for example. The stay-at-home mom says, “Look at me staying at home, value me, I’m significant.” The mom working outside of the home says, “See what I can do, value me, I’m significant.” Each person is turned inward, asking people to cherish them, notice them, and esteem them for things that they do.

Here’s what God says about that approach, and humanity has proven him right again and again: the more and more that we try to prove our own significance and self-worth, the more self-centered and depressed we become. That’s because we were not created to be the center of our life. We were made to run on the glory of God, just as cars were made to run on gasoline.

God also made us in His image, creating us to carry his likeness and extend the worship of His glory throughout the world. God is who gives us the only value and significance we’ll ever have. Our value has nothing to do with improved “self-worth” or being valuable on our own; it all comes down to WHOSE image we bear. God made us, and Jesus died for us. That’s it. That is the only reason you are valuable.

So when we begin to loudly tout our “I’m amazing because I do ____” mantra, thus pointing to our own works instead of God, we will always feel defeated and depressed. Cars can’t run on water, and we can’t run on self-praise. That means the answer is not telling ourselves that we are significant because of what we do. Instead, the answer is only found in clinging to the promise and hope of the gospel: that while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us. Jesus, the God of the universe, stepped into our mess and sacrificed His life for us. In doing so, all of the things that were broken by our sin were made whole.

In light of that truth, pointing to our own works is desperately misguided. “Pay attention to me! Value me! Look at what I can do! Affirm my lifestyle choices!” It’s all wrong, and it’ll never work. God made to reflect His glory—that’s the only thing our lives can ‘run’ on. Therefore, the way that we live our lives and go about our work (whatever that is) should say, “Value Christ; He has done everything. He is worth your life! He is beautiful! He is worth cherishing!” It is in reflecting His glory that true happiness and joy are found.

No matter what side we take in the mommy wars, we all need to stop building our identities on what we do. That’s the simple answer to the true cause of conflict in the mommy wars: stop pointing to yourself and look to Jesus. That may sound like a ‘Jesus Juke’ or trite Christian quip, but it’s not. Jesus is the only path to peace for sinful mommies everywhere

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Vote For Me!

Hello readers. Normally I do not make it a practice to ask for votes. It feels very high school prom queen. However, for the three years that I have had this blog I have been very encouraged by each of you and I thought I would ask a favor.

I have entered a contest based on Kate Conner’s new book Enough: Ten Things We Should be Telling Teenage Girls. (GO BUY IT AND READ IT)

Readers were challenged to come up with the 11th thing. Ten finalists were chosen and my entry was one of the finalists. I based that entry on this blogpost (Death By Comparison), which has been my most popular blogpost to date. All women, but especially teenage girls, need to hear the message that comparison is a prison.

If you agree and were encouraged by that blogpost, please go vote for me at this link by liking my entry. The entry with the most likes wins the contest and wins an iPad mini (which is timely because my computer is on its last life).

Go vote for me here by liking my entry: http://on.fb.me/1sVTFpL

Feel free to share the link above and encourage others to vote as well.

Thanks so much!

Christianity, Family

The Marathon

Copyright "Passenger"
Copyright “Passenger”

I was going to write another post but this one seemed more vulnerable—because it is happening right now. I’m trying to be more honest here on the blog: not in a sixth grade confessional kind of way, but in a strong but soft, feminine way. I want to be a woman who isn’t afraid to boast in her weaknesses, not for sympathy but because Christ is strengthening me in the midst of my own selfishness, and He deserves the glory for it.

Recently, I told my husband—they are wearing me down! ‘they’ being our two adorable boys—Athanasius(18 months) and Lukas (3 months).

Motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I’m speaking from my limited experience. Many have done harder things than I have, and I’m humbled by their faithfulness, but this is the hardest and most joyful road I have walked thus far.

Before we had Lukas, I remember a night where I sat up in bed telling Doug and that I knew life was going to get hard and that having a new baby would inevitably expose selfishness that had been hiding under the surface for a while. I knew that I was going to be stretched beyond what I thought my limits were and I was scared. I kind of felt like I was standing at the beginning of a new race and I wasn’t sure that I had trained well.

Since having Lukas, those things have been true—I have been stretched and my selfishness has been exposed. My heart has stretched to love another completely. My body stretched beyond what I thought I could handle with a 24 hour active labor. My emotions have been stretched to deal with the extreme exhaustion of no sleep and having a young baby and a toddler. My spirit has been stretched by the realization that I am weak and in need of profound help and forgiveness.

In all of this stretching, I have been sustained by Jesus. Do you know how I know that Jesus sustained me? Because all of that stretching didn’t break me. Before you think this is a crappy, self-praising internet meme, keep reading. I am still here, not because I’m a survivor like the Destiny’s Child song. There are many times that I want to quit. But God has kept me in the race. He has put my feet to the pavement. He has kept me moving.

Sometimes instead of being thankful for being sustained, I just want the race to get easier. I don’t notice that God is carrying me along, instead on bad days I don’t want to be in the race at all. But the race—the work that God has given me is good and great work. My children are a weighty, wonderful joyful blessing and I’m thankful God has chosen this means for my growth.

I was reading a chapter from a favorite motherhood book of mine “Fit to Burst,” and the author, Rachel Jankovick states, “I think it is common to have this mental ideal of what your days as a mother are supposed to be like. We think that if we were doing motherhood right, then it wouldn’t be this hard. Of course there are a lot of ways to improve what we do, to make things easier. But that’s like improving a runner’s form. You still have to run, and it won’t be easy. You can continue training to the point that you are no longer puking in the bushes and all red in the face by the end of the first block, but you aren’t ever going to take the running out of running.”

You can’t take the running out of running and similarly, you can’t take the hard work out of mothering. You’re not doing it wrong if it’s difficult. Sure, like Rachel writes, there are many ways you can improve yourself. Mothers of 4 or five kids are more efficient and capable mothers than I am. They have improved their form; they aren’t puking in the bushes, but they are still running. You can’t take the running out of running.

My selfishness asks for an easier race, because frankly, I loathe running, but thankfully God knows best. He is the one who sustains me throughout the race. In James 1:3 it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Right now, motherhood is my work and my test. I pray to God that it will produce perseverance.

If you feel like you’re at the end of yourself because you feel exhausted from the race (whatever yours is), don’t worry. You’re doing it right. God calls everyone to give all of themselves, their body, hearts, spirits and emotions for His Kingdom.

We can’t point to ourselves for keeping on in the race. We aren’t Destiny’s Child “Survivors.” That kind of thinking robs God of His glory. God sustains me through this race, and He will see it finished. I know because He keeps His promises: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 1:6)”

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Father’s Day Poem

For my husband:

All the world waits with breath that is baited

As their favorite teams take the field

Will this year they fail to bring home the cup?

Will the game their opponents now yield?

 

On this Father’s Day we give you a token

Of manly football match fun

With beer and meat and masculine treats

One night with your brothers alone

 

So here is a ticket not to Brasil

But a bar or a house or somewhere

You can yell and debate and get rather irate

Over whether that ref’s call was fair

 

Join the one in six who now are watching

The fame the passion and glory

Tweet pithy tweets about their great feats

Make the world cup a part of your story

 

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God Will Carry You

Lukas

We welcomed our newest son Lukas into the world a week ago. I will have to share his story in full, but  he surprised us all by coming 4 weeks early. We are so smitten and so in love. He’s adorable and a scrappy little guy, who despite his being so early is doing really well. We are so thankful.

As beautiful as new motherhood is, I’m always jarred by the vulnerability that I experience. On the way home from the hospital I looked at my husband Doug and said, “I feel so changed.” It’s rare that you walk into a place and 72 hours later leave tangibly feeling like an entirely new person. Motherhood does that to you in a fierce undeniable way. The moment that I met my son, I felt like a part of my heart was instantaneously possessed by him. Any time you love someone–it requires great risk; your heart feels so vulnerable. It’s scary, but love is worth it.

C.S. Lewis says, ““To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” “The Four Loves”

In these sleepy days, I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit who points me to truth when naturally I feel confusion, hope when I naturally feel desperate, and peace when I naturally feel anxiety. Above all I am thankful that the Holy Spirit reminds me of the great risk of God’s love for me when I am feeling so vulnerable and aware of my own weaknesses.

The Holy Spirit brought this song to my mind this afternoon, and I’m thankful that in days where I feel great soaring love one moment and severe exhaustion the next, that God loved me first. God was the most vulnerable and the most sacrificial towards me, and I can trust and rely upon his constant faithfulness.

“I Am” by Jill Phillips

Domesticity, Family, Love, Pregnancy

Humble Moments

On Monday, I sat on an uncomfortable exam table with tears welling up in my eyes as I watched a tiny heartbeat pulse on a screen. The ultrasound technician lingered and allowed Doug and I to enjoy a sweet moment watching our newest son’s heart beat steadily. In that moment, I felt so small and out of control. Normally the feeling of being out of control terrifies me, but as I watched my tiny baby’s heart beat away I felt overwhelming gratitude that God was sustaining his life, that God made my body to carry him and that Luke’s heart is happily beating. New life is miraculous and humbling.

Here’s our boy, Lukas Kanon:

Image

Christianity, Domesticity, Family, Love

Same Girl

13 - Jess and Ash

When I was in college, I used to steal away to a small chapel on our campus and pray. My favorite days were the days when it was empty, leaving the piano and me. I’d go over and play old hymns from the hymnal and sing loudly until someone entered and I sheepishly excused myself. My favorite song to sing then, was “Come thou Fount.” The lyrics are rich and it’s one of my favorite hymns.

Sometimes I look back on that time and think of it as kind of the “Golden Years” of my Christian walk. I had hours to pray and sing to God and I loved the time. As a young wife and mom of one with another large baby on the way, I do not have time to pray or sing for hours in solitude. Some days, I feel tempted to think something is wrong with my Christian walk. If only I could go back to the time in college when in solitude I could sing my praises to God.

One of the biggest complaints that I hear from women is that they are afraid they will no longer be “themselves” after they have children. There is a lie circulating that a woman’s identity will somehow be whisked away once they have a baby. I think this is because once we have a baby the things that we do—our rituals and habits—change. Babies see that routines change, because they are cute but very needy. Normally, in order to feel more like themselves women rush back to familiar routines, trying to remember who “they” are. I can empathize with these women as I gaze with longing back at my years of being able to praise and pray to the Lord in peace without being interrupted.

Taking time away from your family and doing things for yourself would be a wonderful solution if we were all defined by what we do. However, our identity is not comprised of the things that we do on a day-to-day basis. The answer for me and for other moms is not simply to get away to try to find “ourselves” again (although I love alone time and think it is important at times). The answer is realizing that although our routines, lives, and even bodies look very different, we are still the same women.

I’m the same girl who sang those hymns in the small chapel, only now I sing them as lullabies to my one-year-old. I’m the same girl who prayed for faithfulness in college only now I am begging for the strength to be faithful as my back aches from carrying a baby and a one year old for much of the day. I am the same girl who prayed that I would love others as God does only now I’m loving my husband and trying to think of his needs first. I’m the same girl who sang “Here I raise my Ebeneezer, hither by thy help I come” but now I’ve come a lot further in life than that girl, and I pray I will remember God’s faithfulness and with His help I will be faithful. (Ebeneezer, by the way, is a rock that Samuel in the Bible put up as a monument to God, which means “The Lord has brought me thus far.”) I am the same girl.

I love sacred moments with the Lord, but I’m finding that solitude isn’t required for moments to be sacred. God meant us to live in community and I love my small little community very much. One of the great things about being pregnant is that I always carry another with me. He’s with me wherever I go—talk about a redefiniton of community! I can’t ever be alone, but that shouldn’t be my goal. I don’t need to retreat to try to rediscover myself. My routines have changed, the way that I worship and serve God looks different, but I am the same woman.

I’m wiping up carrots that are ground into a high chair and praying for patience. I’m changing diapers that are filthy and praying for strength. I’m singing “Come Thou Fount” to both of my boys praising God for how far he has brought me in life thus far. I’m the same woman, and by God’s grace, I’m still singing.

Here are the lyrics to “Come Thou Fount”:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.