A Quiet Legacy

                 The youngest of three, I grew up on an acreage outside a small town in South Dakota. I had a lovely childhood where my siblings and I discovered Egyptian treasures hidden among corn fields and narrowly escaped the tomb raider enemies by pedaling our bikes through a shelter belt of trees. With nothing to fear and a world to discover, I felt a craving for adventure at a young age. In high school, I nailed down my aspirations to be a photojournalist for National Geographic. Naturally I majored in journalism my first year of college. I was soon searching for a new major after I interned for a news service at our state capital during the legislative session. During this same year, I had given my heart to the Lord and was passionately seeking to serve him through my life.  It was my dad who helped me identify that at heart, I was truly a helper.

My new major of Human Development and Family Studies could easily have led into a master’s in counseling. I loved the curriculum and my passion for family was ignited. My college career taught me I had endless opportunities for my future. I knew I would eventually get married and have kids, and I felt that leaving my career to be at home with my children was important. But motherhood stood far away, safely padded by years that I would spend realizing goals. My childhood craving for adventure was now spilling over into realistic goals. Graduate school, writing, learning new languages and living overseas were to be tackled first. After college, I lived in Brazil for three months caring for orphans and teaching low-income teens at an after-school program. I returned to the States and interned two years for a nonprofit group called the Navigators where I shared that mentors college students. I found I loved helping people more than ever. Shortly after beginning the internship, I fell in love with one of my co-workers and married him a year later. We welcomed our first daughter, Isabelle, shortly before our two-year anniversary.

                I easily slipped myself into the role of stay-at-home mom knowing that’s what I’d wanted. What I didn’t know then, was my decision would prove to be the most challenging road of my life. At the time I easily relinquished my unmet goals for our wriggling bundle of joy. Joy mixed with fear overwhelmed me as I held Isabelle in my arms.  My life would never be the same. I remember a desperate feeling as the nurse wheeled me out of the hospital. “You are just going to let me take her home?” I asked. The nurse flashed me a funny look and then laughed at what she thought was my attempt at a joke.  “I wasn’t joking!” I thought. I had no one to tell me what to do the next time she cried. No call button for help! I didn’t even have to sign a waiver of liability to take Isabelle home. The full responsibility of a human life fell into my lap that easily.

Although I had ample experience caring for babies, stepping into the reality of motherhood left me feeling scared and unprepared. There’s no retreat, and I couldn’t just hand her over to my mom and walk away. I wanted this journey and wouldn’t relinquish my responsibility to fear. The fierce love I had for my baby girl would be the motivation to do what was the bravest thing I’ve ever done, but bravery felt so far away. Never before had I felt so young, so scared. I lay on the carpet in our tiny apartment living room and wept. I prayed for God’s help, got up, and started my job as a mom.

I now have three kids aged one, three and five. My round the clock job has forced me to become a multi-tasking, energetic, and entertaining teacher. My daily goals are small, but time-consuming: feed the kids, love the kids, teach the kids, bathe the kids. My larger goals are somewhat loftier: teach them to become responsible citizens in a godless society, instill in them a strong moral belief system, ensure they feel safe and secure in my relationship with them, show them the true God and His character.

Throughout my young adult years, I felt like I needed an exciting career and great adventures to experience a satisfying life. Now as a mom with no outside career I am learning the loveliest and most fulfilling times in life are often the small things. Exploring the world through my children, spontaneous hugs, and my kids’ elated joy in little accomplishments are small but powerful experiences. I’m content to be at home and fully available to my kids. I’m leaving a quiet legacy of love and wisdom for future generations. The Lord considers motherhood a sacred role and we as believers should treat it no less. God’s command to parents is richly described in Deuteronomy 6, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” This is a lifelong tasks that demands my reliance upon Christ and His strength.

My life has turned out to be quite adventurous. Our family braved a major league baseball game that started an hour before bedtime with all three kids. Not only did we make it through the whole game, we also helped our oldest overcome her fear of fireworks. My kids love adventure, too. All it takes from me is a little imagination and ingenuity to make a mundane experience exciting. Our latest adventure was an enchanted princess world made from sheets draped over chairs. Even without my masters in counseling I’m daily using my ability to help. I find great satisfaction in helping my children learn to live. What’s more is I’ve grown and matured in ways I’d never imagined. The wide-eyed, fearful mom I was has become a stronger, less selfless woman who can tackle the unexpected with God’s help. It’s a special gift to find new adventure in motherhood.

Advertisements

Be Transformed . . .

Our society is eons away from Old Testament Bible times, but our hearts I fear may still be learning the same lessons that the Israelites did so many years ago when they entered the promised land. God paved the way for his beloved people to live in an abundant land. He asked them to honor him and follow his ways. He commanded them numerous times to never worship other gods. He made his point clear by telling them that each person’s sin will affect his family for generations, but if they chose to love and honor him that they would be blessed for exponential generations because He loved them with a covenant love! He did this to preserve them and create safe boundaries so that they would remain close to their Creator. But you may already know, that God’s beloved Israelites fell prey to Satan’s schemes. They heard their enemy whisper that what God says isn’t everything. “Take your life into your own hands,” he hissed. One by one they exchanged the truth of God for a lie. They began doing things that the people who didn’t know God did. Detestable things that would cause outrage in America today! One of the most horrid acts was throwing their children into a fire to appease a man-made idol with no will and no power.

How could their beliefs have become so distorted that they believed killing their beloved children was a holy sacrifice? What lies had penetrated their souls, that allowed a loving mother to inflict agonizing death upon her firstborn? Romans 1:25,  says “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator…just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”

One truth I believe our society exchanged for a lie is the blessedness of children. In Genesis one of the first things God asked us to do was have babies and make families and generations of people to know God! What a beautiful intention God had in his original command. He wanted to bring more people onto this earth to love! Not only that, but a united man and woman were the means to which God brought life onto this earth. What I was pregnant with Lydia, I had an amazing realization about how precious her life was to God. In Ephesians 1:4 it says “even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” That means that God has us in mind, even before he made the world. He’s known about Lydia for thousands of years, but He wouldn’t be able to meet her until 2013! The anticipation for a mother over a 9-month pregnancy brings immense joy when the baby arrives. Imagine that over thousands of years! Truly our God is abounding in divine joy when one of his created enters this world.

I often times wonder at how often God looks upon us just as a mother stares at her small infant. A mother and father find joy in just watching their little one. Think of how much joy God feels at watching this little one! It’s his intentioned creation that looks, acts, smells, moves and functions just as He decided. And think of the delight God has as this little human chooses and thinks on their own!

Such a vibrant picture of life! Somehow this beautiful truth has been squashed to conform to a selfish, tainted society where children are no longer the fulfillment of God’s command and a treasure, but rather they are a burden, time-consuming, and something that should be delayed so we can make more money. Yes, in small ways we still celebrate new life, but it’s lost most of it’s luster under the burden of lies that topple over us. Children are secondary to jobs, success, time and personal pursuits.

Just as God warned the Israelites, let me blow the shofar. “Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2. In my quest to hear God’s will for children/parenting and to not conform to our society’s beliefs, I have learned a few key things.

The first is in regards to the question of birth prevention. As Christians, we know that abortion is wrong. But let’s dig deeper into the entire realm of prevention of birth through contraceptives. God honors parenting as a sacred role, so I think we should start by asking him what he wants for our life. Then, we need to get the facts straight about types of birth control. An incredible resource that every person should read is “Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortion?” by Randy Alcorn. He tackles this controversial question with unbiased facts and clearly concludes that synthetic hormones can cause abortions. Alcorn did extensive research into multiple types of birth control and sought out pharmaceutical companies, research studies and physicians for appropriate evidence. Alcorn states that, “These birth control methods (birth control pills, NuvaRing, IUD and others) are often referred to as “contraceptives,” but they are not exclusively contraceptives. That is, they do not always prevent conception. Either sometimes or often they result in the death of already-conceived human beings.” Check out this video and Alcorn’s website as well. I know this information is heavy, but the burden of truth can feel heavy at first, but over time will bring joy and freedom! I heard a few times that birth control may cause abortion, but many people also dismissed that it does not. Not until I read Alcorn’s book did I feel like I had the proper evidence to draw my personal conclusion that birth control is outside of God’s intention for us. Aren’t you ready for a straight answer on the subject?

The second is that our minds need to be transformed to carry out the Biblical call of parenting and valuing of  our children. Our culture carries an unspoken belief the children are burdensome. An article in Life magazine this past summer entitled “The Childless Life: When Having it All Means Not Having Kids,” describes a growing belief that choosing not to have children means having more from life. The truth is that children do change everything, but God never intended us to live selfish lives. Jesus walked this earth to show us we were intended to give and love. Life is better and more fulfilling when we give our lives for another. A lovely book on the topic of the sacredness of parenting is “Beyond Bath Time” by Erin Davis (www.beyondbathtime.com).

Third, parenting is not easy. Sometimes I feel like throwing the towel in! I wonder if I have what it takes to raise kids who love and honor God and are responsible. But parenting is not about me finding fulfillment through my children, rather parenting is a self-sacrificing journey of loving, training and discipling someone from birth. It’s a perfect opportunity to trust Jesus every moment! It has also been one of the best vehicles of spiritual transformation that God has used in my life. I grow as my children grow.

I pray God transforms your mind in the area of children and parenting. For those of you who are already parents, I pray you have a source of encouragement and mentoring as you carry out this sacred role. For those who are yet to be, this truth is no less valuable for you to know.

No recipes today, just some food for thought, prayer and action. Will you join me in spreading God’s truth about the things you learned today?

Yearning for Selflessness

Of late, I’ve caught myself too often dreaming of lying on a secluded beach soaking up the rays. In an effort to transport myself to that place, I’ll listen “Caribbean Blue” by Enya in the van with noisy kids in tow. It’s an escape for me. I find myself anticipating bedtime a little to eagerly. Then there’s this sneaky feeling that causes me to carry a sense of entitlement – “I deserve a medal for all I’ve done today” it tells me. Then when my kids or husband don’t give me thankfulness due, this sense of entitlement transforms into bitterness and anger.

The message I clung to was “you are a busy mom, you deserve a break.” “You sacrifice so much for your family that it’s okay to take time for yourself.” You may be thinking, that’s true, but I fear this deadly cocktail of feelings, tiredness, lack of time in the Word and my selfishness have me drunk on . . . well me.

I resent my tasks in motherhood, and have moved away from seeing my role as sacred to seeing it as dutiful and dreary. My gentle Jesus has heard my cry for help!! Leave it to Vegie Tales to nudge my heart towards truth! There’s a Christmas special the kids watched recently on Netflix that emphasizes how giving is more joyful than receiving. Motherhood is a lot of giving, and I’ve considered some of that giving painful and joyless. Our Enemy tricks us into thinking that what we want is best for us. “If you just had less demands on your time and more margin to do what you wanted, you’d be happy,” he hisses. And our society says motherhood is second-rate to social and career-success. Sure, there’s fun diaper commercials that show how lovely mothering can be, but overall the world tells us we have better ways to spend our time. I’ve even felt this subtle message creep into the fellowship of believers. I feel the need to let people know I am not just a stay-at-home mom, but that I have “greater” goals, too. When inside, I yearn to hear that my role as mother in itself is a worthwhile way to spend my time.

Oh, Jesus, how I yearn to be selfless! To give my husband, my children, my friends more of me and focus less on me. Living with God as our center is the only place to find fulfillment. Focus on self leads to discontentment and living outside of God’s will. “By the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3) It’s not about me! In the book “Beyond Bath Time,” author Erin Davis says “to reject what the world values and embrace biblical motherhood – to pour yourself out for another – is truly kingdom work.”

Discipling my children is sacred to God and it deserves my best efforts and BEST attitude. In my heart I’ve always known motherhood is a worthy calling, but the demand and my own selfishness has cause me to question if this is a worthy calling.Thank you Jesus for intercepting my heart and ministering your truth!

“Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). So today as you my witness, I commit to change my thoughts away from selfishness and negativity to thankfulness and praise. Also, the next time I take my troop to the grocery store, instead of being impatient when they stop to inspect every canned good, I will praise God for the privilege to be the scout leader of such curious little treasures! For they truly are my treasure.

And as always here’s a recipe::

“Oven Treasures” aka Indoor Smore

  • Graham crackers
  • Reese’s Peanut butter cups (or peanut butter and Hershey’s chocolate)
  • Marshmallows

Set oven to broil. On a baking sheet assemble smore. Place 1/2 graham topped with pb cup. Flatten cup with your fingers of back of spoon. Cut marshmallow in half and both halves atop chocolate. If using peanut butter, smear on top of graham then top with chocolate and halved marshmallow pieces. Place directly under broiler until perfection occurs in your expert opinion, happens way faster than a campfire so stick close! I love mine golden brown:) Remove from oven, top with 1/2 graham and enjoy these treasures with your treasures!

“Dee – wicious” as Caleb, our two-year old would say.