Friday, April 27, 2012


It came into my head after every baby was born.  First, that overwhelming love.  Well, honestly, first the overwhelming relief that he finally popped out and the whole labor marathon was nearly over.  But then, looking at the squalling, slimy newborn flailing before me, I fell in love with the puny little thing.
On the heels of that love, though, came the panicked thought, "What am I supposed to do now?!?"
No manual popped out after he did.
Daddy went back to work and for hours at a time it was just the baby and me.
A year and a half later, another baby.
A year and a half later, and another baby.
A year and a half later, and another baby.

And I'm still asking the same question.  "Lord, you gave me these kids.  I love them.  But how do I do this mommy job?  You know me.  I can't keep the houseplants from slow, agonizing deaths.  Why did you entrust me with these precious little lives to raise?"

Does He have some confidence in my abilities that I just don't have?  Should I, like all the Disney movies tell me, just "believe in myself" and I'll intuitively do it right?
If that's the case, I think my intuition is broken.  There have been a few nights, a few, when I have come down the stairs after getting the kids in bed for the evening, and collapsed in an exhausted crying puddle on the sofa (after pushing the books and pokey plastic insects out of the way) in bewildered frustration at my lack of Proverbs 31 skills.
I read through I Thessalonians recently, and was struck with the parental tone of the letter to a young church group.  It could almost - almost - be the manual I need as a parent with young children.

What is the mark of a parent of young children?

"Recognize those who labor among you."  In the notes, my study Bible renders this, "Those who work even when weary."  
I Thessalonians 5:12
"Let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober."
I Thessalonians 5:6
"Remember [we were] laboring night and day."
I Thessalonians 2:9

Those all sound like they epitomize the early days of parenthood.  I remember getting up to change a newborn diaper in the middle of the night once and forgetting to put a fresh one on after getting him cleaned up.  That terrible exhaustion haze at 2 a.m...!  I had no idea what it meant to be tired before children.

Need some guidelines for parenting?

"We exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children."
I Thessalonians 2:11 
Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.  See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone... Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks."
I Thessalonians 5:14-16

That covers a lot of my job description on a daily basis.  Seems like someone is constantly rendering evil for evil to another brother.  Maybe I should duct tape their hands in their pockets to keep them from swinging at each other at every provocation.  Paul didn't say specifically...

 So how do we parent in a godly way?

"Night and day praying exceedingly for you."
I Thessalonians 3:10
"You also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands."
I Thessalonians 4:11
"We were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives."
I Thessalonians 2:8

That last verse initially summed up the job of mommy hood in my head.  I'm supposed to pour out my life - happily - in this, the great work of parenting.
Well that sounds truly righteous and holy and great.
But impossible.
To give my own life up to another - especially for an ungrateful, snotty two year old who willfully disobeys me - does not generally "well please" me.
In fact, it goes completely against my own selfish, willful nature.

"As we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak."
I Thessalonians 2:4

You may not know me like my kids do.  I'm on the job with them 24/7 for at least 18 years.  They will know how un-God-like I can act by then.  My qualifications for being their parent are not based on my prowess as  Susie homemaker or Supermom.  Obviously.

What's the criteria God used for approving me to be entrusted with His word and the kids who need to know Him?

"For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise."
I Corinthians 1:26-27

Because He has called me to this, He is enabling me - in spite of me - to fulfill the work.  I have a manual in 1 Thessalonians and I happen to know the manual Writer.  That is good news.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Now and then

Twenty years ago...

...I would see a field and run across it.
Now - I drive around.

...I thought Prince Charming rode a horse.
Now - I realize he rides a used purple minivan.

...I thought being "grown up" was going to be the best.
 Now - I realize those carefree childhood days were endearingly sweet.

...I thought boys had cooties.
Now - well, now I know they do.

...I thought politics were confusing.
Now - somethings don't change.

...I thought my parents were made of money.
Now - I just wish my husband was.

...Staying up past bedtime was such a treat.
Now - early bedtime is a luxury.

...I thought my aunts and uncles were old.
Now - the "aunt and uncle" are my little sister and brother.

...Vacations were fun.
Now - vacations are exhausting.

...If I wanted to know what my friends were doing, I had to wait until the next day at school and have a conversation to find out.
Now - I just open Facebook.  Or send a text.

...I thought date nights involved fancy restaurants while still unmarried.
Now - some of the best date nights were in the past 10 years, with good ice cream, on the sofa, with my husband, laughing freely, in sweat pants.

...Supper just appeared on the table.  My laundry got clean.  The bathroom cleaned itself.
Now - God, bless my dear mother for her years of thankless service.  I get it now.

...I envisioned being a ballerina or a single journalist living in an apartment with a couple big dogs for company.
Now - I'm a homemaker and mom.  Its the best.  (Most days.)

...I envied the slender shoulders and smooth hips I saw in magazines.
Now - I'm glad my arms are thicker because I carry children and hips are rounder because I bore them.

...I thought wrinkles meant you were old.
Now - I think wrinkles are symbols of earned wisdom.

...They told me God was good.
Now - He doesn't always make me happy; He hasn't made me rich.  But He's loved me at my worst and never left me there.  His good is so much better than I imagined 20 years ago.
They were right.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Ever imagine what it would have been like to have been born in another time period or place?  I wonder why God chose here and now for us.  Why did God choose this era of expensive gas, ridiculous political jargon, frustration over health insurance, too-busy lifestyles, consumerism, and cable t.v.?  Why didn't he choose to have us exist 100 years ago, or 1,000?  What if we'd taken a different road?

I don't know. I won't know.

Certain things might have been very good in a different time.  
I would probably be more prepared to run a home and family if I'd been raised for that specific purpose.  
I'd be better at making bread.
There would be far fewer distractions.
I wouldn't own so much stuff, or feel the need to.
I'd be ok with being dirtier.
I might know the worth and the cost of knowing God, and be closer to him.

But today I am thankful.

Long ago, I wouldn't have been granted an education.  I might not know how to read.
My vision would be so terrible without glasses or laser surgery that I'd barely be able to see.
My teeth would be crooked.
If I'd been born in China, they might have bound my feet.
If I'd been born in India, I might live in a garbage dump.
If I'd been born in parts of Africa, I might be circumcised and married by adolescence.
If I'd been born in the Middle East, my arms and legs would always be hidden from the light of day.
I would never have traveled far.
I wouldn't have friends all over the world.
My parents would have chosen someone else for me to marry.
My youngest would have died soon after birth without surgery.
Without antibiotics, my four year old might have died when the splinter in his finger got infected.
My husband might have died from dehydration when he got a bad case of the flu.
I wouldn't know how to drive.
I wouldn't know how to blow a bubble with bubble gum.
I might not know how to swim.
I wouldn't have named my blog Teenage Mutant Ninja Toddlers.
I might be burned at the stake for owning and reading a Bible.

We are here, now, for a reason.  I could sing the shoulda, coulda, woulda's.  I could wonder "what if?"  But I could be content; get on with living.  Purposefully and fully.  And I've had my morning coffee.  Praise God for the era of morning coffee!  Time to go live the day.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Exhale sharply

My two year old fed my one year old baby a piece of his bread and jelly.  Baby was sitting on a library book.  On the rug.
I sighed.

Somebody unrolled the toilet paper to find their perfect piece.  It was apparently at the end of the roll.  I re-rolled it.
I sighed again.

There was dried yogurt on the window.  The baby got stuck under the piano again.  Three pairs of muddy boots were shaken off on the freshly vacuumed rug.
I breathed out in despair.

My husband asked me if I could make him a cup of coffee as he sat down to start a homeschool lesson with the kids.  Navigating blindly behind the ample laundry pile in my arms, I responded with a muffled "Uh-huh."  Sure I'll  be the good little housewife and add one more thing to my to-do list in the next five minutes.  He caught the exhale that followed.
"Sigh!" He mimicked emphatically.  "Your life is so miserable, huh."

I frowned as he hit the nerve, but let the sensation linger.  I was sounding pretty depressed with life.  A few minutes later, bearing a warm mug of coffee as a peace offering, I plunked down next to the boys as he finished reading their Bible story.  He accepted the cup, eyeing me gently.  "You didn't spit in it, did you?" he smiled at me.
"No." I returned.  "I guess its not so bad."
"Bad?" One of the minions questioned.  "Its bad to spit?!?"
"Only outside!"  Mommy started the etiquette lesson and the day moved on.

Do not grow weary in doing good.  2 Thessalonians 3:10
I read it this morning; it was a reminder, but I should have taken it as a warning to be more careful.  I know sighing can be destructive and sapping.  I sigh to celebrate a pity party.  It robs me of joy as well as anyone else who is the recipient of my attitude.  And I let it.  

My home should be a peaceful haven for my family.  Its not always happy, light and bubbly.  Its definitely not always (well, ever) quiet and clean.  But I can, and do, set the mood of the busily humming life within these walls.  Its my great and sacred purpose as a housewife to be the heartbeat of the home.  Thats not easy, but it is a wonderful job description.  I am not a slave or a prisoner in this house.  I am Mom, and I wouldn't trade that title for any position, wealth, or power.  
But if I forget how noble and sweet even the menial parts of my work are, bitterness seeps in.  Eventually, it seeps out too, and it poisons the whole atmosphere of my home.  No matter how much laundry I do, or diaper changing, or vacuuming, or homeschool teaching, or meal planning, or even planning quiet evenings with my husband, it is not particularly helpful if my home is still full of bitterness, unrest, and oppression.  
Jesus, the king of the universe, served His friends and family daily, in menial ways.  Was he any less a king because he washed his disciples' grime-crusted feet?  He touched the lepers, the dead bodies, filthy demon-possessed men, the bleeding women, the snotty children.  He hung out with smelly, sweaty fishermen.  Did they feel his bitterness at his servanthood?  
No, he didn't sigh at their neediness.  Daily, even when he was tired, hungry, hot, frazzled by the crowds, he loved them.  He served them.  He died for them.

I should be able to re-roll toilet paper and make my husband a cup of coffee with a joyful heart.  Jesus would do it for me, King of heaven, Lord of all men.  I, queen of my castle, can do it for my own ankle biters.  And I get to teach them to spit.  Who else can?  That's just special. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

To lie down under his smiles

I thought of her the other day as I wrangled all four boys through a multi-specialist doctor visit for the baby.  We survived, so did the doctors, though the hearing test was a bit difficult with my two year old knocking on the door of the not-so-sound-proof booth.  Still, I was proud of my little brood for not having any meltdowns, or critiquing any strangers too loudly, not running too fast in the halls, and not licking the glass of the doctors' fish tanks.  They aren't that bad, as kids go.  In public.  On Wednesdays.  In a leap year.
But I've been thinking of a woman who served the Lord by raising 11 children in the years before running water, electricity, antibiotics, minivans and educational public television.  I am humbled by the enduring example of Sarah Edwards.

The power went out as I started to write this.  Appropriate; get me in the mood as I type on battery power on my laptop; I'll have a taste of how her evenings must have felt.  Blogging by candlelight, keeping the fridge closed to retain the cold; relegated to snacking on old chocolate bars in the pantry.  My respect for her hard life is growing even now.  Can you imagine life without ice cream in the freezer?!?

In 1727, seventeen year old Sarah was married to a young preacher named Jonathan Edwards, pastor of a church in Northampton, Massachusetts.  He was an intense man, brilliant, philosophical and introverted.  By his own admission, he was not full of social graces.  He had graduated from Yale at age 19 to begin preaching.  The Great Awakening, a revival that spread throughout New England in the mid eighteenth century, began in his parish.  He wrote many forceful sermons which endure today, including "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," and "Religious Affections."  His life ended in 1758, shortly after he accepted the position of president at what would become Princeton University.
Sarah, a thinker in her own right, was his opposite and perfect counterpart, outgoing and gracious, and the consummate hostess to the steady stream of visitors which flowed through their parsonage.  She carried the bulk of the job of raising their eleven children, disciplining, clothing, and feeding them all, cleaning and maintaining the home, caring for their farm, entertaining guests and filling her marriage with love and spiritual insight which her husband highly valued.  She freed him to study, write, and attend to his congregation.  He normally spent 13 hours daily in his study, though he always set aside one hour of the day to engage with his children.  Sarah was responsible for the rest.
(At first I didn't think that sounded like much, but I stopped to consider it.  A daily, guaranteed full hour together with no t.v., phones, or internet, not spent catching up with the bills, or reading, or in the garage working on some man project, would mean a great deal of interaction and conversation in a family.  It sounds quite nice, actually.)
There is fair evidence to show they did their job.  A study was done in 1900 on John and Sarah's descendants.  By that year, their marriage had produced:
"13 college presidents
65 professors
100 lawyers and the dean of a law school
30 judges
65 physicians and the dean of a medical school
80 holders of public office, including:
3 US senators
mayors of 3 large cities
governors of 3 states
a vice president of the US
a controller of the US Treasury
Members of the family wrote 135 books...edited 18 journals and periodicals.  They entered the ministry in platoons and sent one hundred missionaries overseas, as well as stocking many mission boards with lay trustees." (You can find this in a book called Marriage to a Difficult Man by Elizabeth Dodds, pages 31-32, which I have just started reading and want to share a bit.)
The study went on to list all kinds of industries and businesses that descendants of the Edwards owned or had charge of.  "There is scarcely any great American industry that has not had one of this family among its chief promoters... Has any other mother contributed more vitally to the leadership of a nation?"

Talk about a legacy.  I'm glad at the end of the day that my descendants are still alive and the house is still standing.  Maybe I should set my sights a bit higher.  I will grant myself a bit of leeway; after all, she had a servant or two, and her five oldest children were girls.  Those facts probably decreased some of the mayhem.  But she didn't have flushable toilets or grocery stores down the street either... Or a dishwasher, washing machine, central heating, electricity, a local hospital, a government, a car, a computer, a refrigerator, or Facebook.  And she left an impact.  I don't want to be raising cain; I want to be raising the bar.  I think it is right to be challenged by her example.  It is all for God.  I want to make the effort count!

Her husband once quoted her (I read this first in Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper),
"Oh how it to work for God in the day-time, and at night to lie down under his smiles!.. But worldly business has been attended to with great alarcity, as part of the service of God... it being done thus, it was found to be as good as prayer."