Motherhood & Family

Excerpt From My First Book

Written a few months ago and self-published, it’s based on true events and is semi-autobiographical. It deals with themes of patience and trust when our desires are denied or deferred, dependence on God in our obedience, repentance, loving others in our treatment of them, and turning to God in community for help in times of need.

And here it is!

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And here is the promised excerpt:

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Sorry if I psyched anyone out! But thought it’d be fun to post one of the “books” (thus far there are two) that I put together for my daughter. Technically, this is my fourth book after “Hammy the Hamster”, “My Mom A V.I.P.”, and “The World’s Greatest Dad” (approx. titles) –all written in elementary school. When I wrote this, I was trying to teach her about waiting, fussing, and obedience. I actually wrote and drew it on looseleaf as I made up and told the story to her and decided to type it up later for fun. It’s silly and simple, but she enjoys it (who doesn’t like a book when they’re the main character?) and it’s been helpful for us. I heard her the other day talking to herself and saying “I will wait!”

A few thoughts though on parenting that contributed to putting this “book” together…

I’m challenged to be intentional about the instructive side of discipline. It’s the thing I slack on most when I’m tired or distracted since it’s easier sometimes just to wait until there’s disobedience to correct it.  But discipline isn’t just about correction, but instructing and helping my children learn obedience and succeed in it.

I’m learning to know serve my daughter as a unique individual. The idea to put it together came because she loves to read and she loves Dr. Seuss’ rhymes. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost reading blogs about another parent’s ways of teaching and raising their children and then feel like I should be implementing the same systems, activities, and routines as them. It gets overwhelming after a while since I end up feeling like I should be taking all that I’m learning about the activities and decisions of multiple families and combine them into a massive schedule for my own! While it’s helpful for me to learn from others, I need to learn what it means to love my children well. (Similarly, regarding marriage, one of the most helpful things I heard when prepping for marriage was that though wives can give advice to others about how they love and respect their husbands, the best way to know how to love and respect your husband is to ask him!) As a new mom, an older mom advised me to pray to God to help me to know my daughter well. I want to know my children well– how they are uniquely wired, their strengths, their weaknesses– so I can love and teach them well. This is an expression of the Greatest Commandment and my calling to love my neighbors and not someone else’s.

I’m learning to apply what I know about my need for God’s help to obey when asking her to obey. Sometimes, it’s so easy to feel like my daughter needs to “just obey”. Like it’s only a matter of her knowing what the right thing is to do and then getting to it. But the reality is that I need help from God to obey him when it’s hard, and I need to extend that truth in teaching my daughter. So, I want to teach her that it’s okay to be sad and upset when your desires are denied, but you bring those desires for God and draw strength from him for obedience. Of course, this is easier said than done on my part, but we are learning and trusting God will answer all the prayers we are lifting that she will “obey from the heart.”

I’m enjoying being creative and using my gifts to love my family. I enjoy going to other mom friends’ homes and seeing the way that they are uniquely expressing their gifts in the service of their family. One friend was trained as an architect and made this amazing cash register out of cardboard for her boys. I saw it and it looked like one of the models I’d see at the architecture studio at USC! It was so obviously put together by an architect. I love that it’s an expression of her gifts used in service to others! If you come to my house, you’ll see a “stove” and “microwave” in the kitchen for my daughter that’s two boxes stacked on top of each other covered with a piece of paper and tin foil. In fact, I’ll attach a picture of it to this post. It probably would be classified as a “Pinterest Fail” but she uses it to “cook” with flour and water as I cook next to her. When I looked online at other cardboard kitchens for ideas, it amazed me at the skill of other parents. And that’s great, that they use the talents they have (and I obviously lack). I just need to remember that just as I am called to love my neighbor,  am called to love my neighbor– in a way that is uniquely expressed through the way God made me!

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Behold said kitchen!
Motherhood & Family, Truth & Orthodoxy

What A Daddy-Daughter Moment Taught Me About Fear And Our Father

During my second pregnancy, my struggle with anxiety led to sleepless nights and terrible nightmares. Though all the things I feared were hypothetical futures, I couldn’t help being anxious about the health and wellbeing of our baby. One night, as I lay in bed, there was a crash that came from the other room. I don’t remember what it was now but at the time, I knew it wasn’t a big deal. My daughter on the other hand, woke up and started to cry loudly for us. I saw her daddy (my heroic husband!) run in, scoop her up in his arms, and hush her back to sleep. That night, I recognized that I had just seen a small parable to God’s care for me and there was a paradigm shift in the way I handled my own fear and anxiety.

Though Jeff knew that our daughter was not in any danger and there was nothing to fear, he rushed to comfort her simply because she was scared. 1 Peter 5:8 was brought to mind, where we are told to cast our anxiety onto God because he cares for us. Up until that point, I had been trying to fight my own anxiety through telling myself reasons why I shouldn’t be afraid. First, there was nothing that indicated strongly that there was something wrong. And secondly, as a Christian, I trust that even if my worst fears came true, God would still use it for good, God still loved us, and he could be trusted. But still, I was afraid. Seeing my husband respond to our daughter even though he knew that the source of the scary sound wasn’t dangerous, I realized that the comfort offered by Scripture is not only that God cares about the things we are anxious about (i.e. that he knows what we need and will take care of us), but that God also cares about the fact that we are afraid. In other words, God does not only address my anxiety and fear by telling me why I should not be afraid, but he invites me to bring my fear and feelings of anxiety to him as his child.

I think that often, the way people (myself included) address fear and anxiety is inadequate because we think we can command ourselves or others out of being fearful.  Or we think that we can just logically reason our way out of it.  Or that having “enough faith” means being unafraid. In this, we miss the fact that life is scary. And we miss the tender words that God has for those of us who are easily afraid.

Jeff didn’t sternly correct our daughter when she cried because hearing a huge crash in the middle of the night and not knowing what it is when you’re only two years old — that is scary. In the same way, living in a broken and fallen world is scary. The world is not as God made it to be and is not yet what it will be when he returns, and so there is sickness, disease, suffering, pain, and death inevitably weaved somehow into all of our futures. Knowing that health and long lives and physical safety isn’t promised to those we love is scary. Stepping into relationships with sinful people who can (and will) hurt us is scary.  Having our eyes open to the fact that any sense of our own security in terms of physical safety, health, financial stability, etc. is really an illusion is scary. And, “don’t be anxious, just trust God more!” though well-intentioned is not always the most helpful thing for those of us with fearful hearts to hear.

It’s true that oftentimes, I need to see that my anxiety is stemming from illogical or unbiblical thinking. I may need to remember that “non-information is not information” (as my husband has told me) because I tend to fill in unknowns with worst-case scenarios. I may need to preach to myself from Matthew 6 about  how worrying doesn’t accomplish anything, how God provides all we truly need, how he cares for even the sparrows, and other precious truths such as these. But sometimes, though what I fear may not happen and I know God would pull me through it even if it did, the very fact that it could happen fills me with dread. In these moments, knowing and believing the truth doesn’t necessarily take away the fear I feel, and I am learning 1. that’s okay, and 2. what to do with the fear that remains. I am seeing that sometimes the most comforting thing is not  hearing why I shouldn’t be afraid, but knowing that when I am afraid, my Father is near, he loves me, and he’s got me.

In a short video, Is It a Sin to Be Afraid?, Ed Welch talks about the fact that the New Testament addresses fear not as a sin, but a given in a scary world, and how the fearful are tenderly called to turn to God in the midst of their fear. I love how he describes the passage in Luke 12:32 here:

The imperative form in Scripture has a little more breadth than we give it credit for…The passage in Luke ‘Don’t be afraid. Don’t be anxious,’ sounds as if it is a command and then it ends with this wonderful sort of conclusion. “Don’t be afraid”– there’s the command form, then it says “little flock” And as soon as it says ‘little flock’, it gives a completely different sense of the command. It’s “I know that you are vulnerable, I know that you feel defenseless and out of control in a very very difficult world.” “Please realize,” Jesus says, “that our God is a generous God who is not sitting far way while  his children are in distress. He’s the God who wants to give us the very kingdom itself.”

[…] There is an assumption that we are going to be afraid because there are perilous kinds of things– and there is one prominent question: When you are afraid, where will you turn? Will you immediately try to strategize to keep the fearful thing at bay, or will you turn to the Lord and simply offer some version of ‘Lord, help’?”

Indeed, one of the most comforting things we could ever know is that whether or not our fears come true, and whether or not we are right to be afraid, we have a Father who loves us, cares for us, and responds to our cries with his presence.  He calls us to call out to him with our fearful hearts. And what a comfort it is to know that our obedience to the instruction “Do not be afraid,” is not about keeping a stiff upper lip, but is simply our response as dear children to a Father’s loving invitation.

Motherhood & Family, Truth & Orthodoxy

We’re In the Same School or “Dealing With Mommy (& Kid) Guilt”

When our older daughter was an infant, someone said to Jeff and me, “I don’t know if you’ve experienced this yet, but as a parent there are so many choices to make and you don’t always know if you’re making the right one.” Two and a half years in, I have probably prayed more for wisdom in these last two weeks than I have my whole life. I have never felt like I didn’t know what I was doing on a daily basis like I do now and with this new awareness of my own need, I have come to cherish the Scriptures more for the way it informs our parenting and gives us a firm place to stand.

These days, one way I am seeing Scripture shape our parenting and bring clarity is in dealing with sin — both my own and my children’s. A friend recently observed that on Facebook, she often sees posts by friends complaining about their kids and that it seemed like the same friends often felt guilty, posting about how they were bad moms. Guilt-ridden confessions were then usually followed up with reassuring comments from friends. I am thankful for more seasoned moms who can tell me what I don’t need to feel guilty for — like when I needed to supplement with formula, or needing to nap or sleep in, or not being able to constantly present educationally stimulating material to my toddler and infant. And in the same way, I’m thankful for godly moms who can let me know what kind of behavior is normal for toddlers and I don’t need to worry about. But what about the so-called mommy guilt that comes from things that I do that are actually not okay, but wrong? Like losing my temper or being impatient? And what about the kind of behavior in my child that comes not because of childishness, but from a heart of rebellion and selfishness? In other words, how do I approach and deal with our sin? It’s not enough here to just hear “it’s normal.” It is comforting in a way to know that others struggle with the same thing that I and my children do but that doesn’t justify the way we sin against God and each other in our actions.

The biblical understanding of the process of sanctification and how God works in the hearts and lives of believers to make us more Christlike has been shedding light for me in terms of how I think about sin in the context of parenting. One illustration that has really helped me is from Doug Wilson’s series on parenting. In it, he says:

“Godly parenting is a function of becoming more like Jesus in the presence of little ones who are also in the process of becoming more like Jesus…It’s like a school of sanctification with the parents being in the upper grades and the kids being in the lower grades…Where the kids are, the parents once were. And where the parents are now, the children will be.” (Why Children Matter #4)

Here are some ways that understanding that my children and I are in the “school of sanctification” together as we walk through life is changing and challenging the way I think about their, and my, sin:

1. Not “you”, but “we”

When I was taking a counseling course with Ed Welch, he often said that you make progress and breakthrough with a counselee when you learn to say “we” and not “you.” He referred to finding the  “normal in the abnormal” because in counseling, there will be issues that at first seem uncommon until we see that at the heart of the struggles are things that we all deal with. I am learning to say “we” when I see sin in my daughter’s life. Yes, I may not throw temper tantrums in the same way that a toddler does, but in my heart, do I ever complain? Or fuss? Am I ever impatient and demanding? Am I selfish? And am I doing these things at the very same time I am trying to correct my daughter?

I was reminded of this in seeing a friend after instructing her child saying “yes, I know it’s hard. We all want to be selfish and keep everything for ourselves.” It is a humbling place to be in, and I am finding that the very behaviors and attitudes I correct in my daughter, often show up in me at the same time. When I keep in mind my own process of being sanctified– that I have been there and in many ways am still dealing with the same flesh that my daughter does, I am able to sympathize with her weakness. It doesn’t mean that I excuse it, but in remembering that sanctification is not easy, my tone and prayers will change. I of all people ought to understand that it is hard to deny myself, to submit to doing what is right, and that obedience does not come naturally and easily.

2. Not discouragement, but joy

After a particularly hard day last week and much frustration (on my part) I started to feel really down. I was starting to see how dealing with sin in my own life and in my little girl’s heart is tiring and can be really discouraging. Then, it hit me: this is what parenting is about. I don’t have to be discouraged that discipline is involved and needed in our lives because parenting is all about being sanctified and bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).  If I see each revelation of sin as an opportunity to be brought up into maturity in the Lord, I can rejoice at the end of the day that I am doing what I am called to do as a mom and that God is continuing to do his work in me.

3. Not perfection but progress

Similarly, the fact that there are battles with sin does not have to lead me to anger or despair when I think about the fact that as Christians, we understand that sanctification will occur throughout our lifetimes until we see Jesus face to face. Though we are declared righteous before God and he no longer holds our guilt against us when we are in Christ, in this life, we will fall and sin and struggle with our flesh. Or as Luther said, we are simul justus et peccator at the same time righteous and sinners. If I expect there to come a time when my children and I no longer need correction or discipline in this life, then at best I’ll be constantly discouraged when I see our sin and at worst, I’ll be constantly angry or given over to despair.

Instead of looking at whether or not we are still sinning, understanding that we are in the “school of sanctification” means that we can look together for signs of progress, not perfection. I can rejoice that my daughter isn’t struggling with the same things that she did a few weeks ago and thank God for his grace in her sanctification. Rachel Jankovic writes about this in Loving the Little Years,

“If you have been faithfully disciplining your children, I guarantee you that there are many, many problems that they no longer struggle with…Oftentimes we don’t even notice that they aren’t doing it, because something else has replaced it. Try to notice these little mile markers on the path of sanctification. If the sins have changed, it can be a sign of growth. It is not as though our children are going to emerge from heir current problems into perfect holiness only if we give them enough swats. They are going to emerge from one set of problems into the next, and that is good. that is the way of the Christian walk. (21-22)

In my own life, I can thank God that he has freed me from the hold of certain sins that I never thought I could be free of years ago. And in our family, we can rejoice together that although we continue to wrestle with sin in our lives, they are not the same ones that we did in the past. God has brought us this far along and we can be encouraged to see evidences of his grace.  I love how Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:15 that he is to immerse himself in obedience to the things commanded so that all can see his progress. We can look for the same.

4. Not mommy, but Jesus

It hit me sometime during my first year or so of parenting that the hardest fact for me to accept is that my sin most deeply affects those I love and want least to hurt. It scared and deeply saddened me to think about and see the way that my sin could do damage to my family. But in that moment, I was reminded that the most important thing that my daughter (now daughters) could learn from me is the gospel. They need to see and know the gospel through my life. They need to see it when we correct them and teach them, as Jeff says, the “language of repentance” by  helping them say sorry to us and turn to Jesus in prayer after we discipline them for disobedience. They need to see it in my admission of sin to them when I lose my patience. (This is so hard for me!) And they need to see that where there is sin, grace abounds so much more in Christ.

This is the lifeline that I am clinging onto and trust that I will be coming back to again and again in the next 20+ years: As much as I love them and by God’s grace will give my life to serving and loving my children, I am not the hero, Jesus is. Jesus died for their sins and mine. Jesus rose again and broke the power of sin over their lives and mine. And in faith, we trust we will one day stand before him, washed clean by his blood, presented blameless before him with great joy. (Jude 1:24)

Pray for us

I struggled in thinking about whether or not to write this post because the lessons are so fresh and I am so new at the whole parenting thing. In the end, I decided to share it because it is wisdom that I didn’t come up with but learned from others and am being blessed by. I am still working all this out in real life and it is hard. With the arrival of our second daughter has come more diapers, tiredness, joy, laughs, and repentance (on my part) as I see more and more of my sin and need for grace. God is gracious and I am thankful to be reminded through my children that he is still working on me. Prayers would be much appreciated (and needed) for our family as we go through school together!

Church & Ministry, Motherhood & Family, Truth & Orthodoxy

Salvation Testimonies & Growing Up Churched

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with one of my close friends as our daughters played together. As she talked about how her daughter will grow up knowing the gospel in a way that she herself didn’t, and how her daughter will never have the memory of hearing it for the first time, she asked me about my experience of growing up in church. It got me thinking as I reflected on God’s work in my own life and later came across two blog posts, one about not having a dramatic testimony, and one sharing a testimony of a fifth generation Christian.

Here are some thoughts regarding salvation and growing up churched that I’ve had in light of considering myself and now our girls as they grow up in church:

1. Churched-background or not, salvation is about being brought back from the dead.

Being delivered from Satan, sin, and death is anything but average or boring. Having your sins forgiven and being redeemed and made alive is mind-boggling. The idea that anyone’s testimony of blood-bought salvation could be uninteresting or unspectacular is a defamation of the work of Christ…No testimony that involves the Son of God bearing your sins on the cross in order to bring you to God  could ever be mundane or boring. (65)

Gloria Furman, Glimpses of Grace

 

I had the gospel explained to me for the first time I remember when I was around 7 or 8.  And though I do have experiences in my life that marked drastic growth in my desire for God and understanding of his gospel, I don’t remember ever not believing in God. When I was younger, I used to wonder if that would mean I wouldn’t ever be passionate about his salvation or as grateful as other people who were more of the “younger son” in the prodigal story. But as I have come to know and continue to grow in knowing God more through the ordinary means of studying and hearing the Scriptures, my sense of awe and gratitude at his saving grace has grown too.

Because I know that I, by nature am a rebel against God, sometimes when I come to understand more deeply how great God is, how sweet his promises are, or how true his word is, I remember that without his intervention in my life to open my eyes, I wouldn’t be able to see any of it– and I am absolutely floored. The outward changes in my life may not seem so dramatic to others, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that without his saving work, I would be blind to his worth and reject his word, and I thank God that by his grace alone I am not and do not.

2. My salvation is much grander in scope than a story about me and my conversion experience.

Michael Horton writes in an article challenging the emphasis on individualistic, one-time, “radical” decisions in thinking about salvation:

So then, to queries concerning our salvation, we ought to reply:

1. When? Before creation, at the cross, in my lifetime, and in the future. Let this replace, “On July 10, 1965, during the eighth verse of ‘Just As I Am,’ when Brother Fred held a revival at our church.”

2. How? By God’s electing grace, redeeming grace, calling, justifying, and sanctifying grace, and by his glorifying grace (Rom.8:29-39). This can take the place of, “By raising my hand, going forward during the altar call, and praying the prayer after Brother Fred.” As John Murray writes, “It is necessary to guard against a wrong use of introspection. It is not by looking within, in the attempt to discover the movements of God’s regenerative grace, that faith is evoked. It is preoccupation with the glories of the Saviour that constrains faith. We do not rest upon that which is done in us, far less upon that which is done by us. Faith does not feed upon the saving experiences that it evokes” (Col.Writ.,vol.2, p.259).

3. Where? In the church, where the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) unite me to Christ and to his people. This is a more biblical response than, “In the privacy of my own heart.”

4. From What? From the guilt and control of our sins in this life, and from the presence of sin in the next. This stands in the place of, “Lack of self-esteem, unhappiness, sickness, etc.”…

5. Why? In the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Let this replace, “So I could enjoy the happiness of the victorious Christian life,” or other explanations which have oneself at the center.

 

My testimony isn’t about a day “I decided to accept Christ.” And it isn’t even about my parents “raising me right” or my church doing a good job. It about the God who is able to bring dead people to life for his glory– of which I am an example. He chose me before I knew him, he worked in me before I could believe, he is continually saving and changing me, and I will be saved on that day when I see him face to face.

3. God is faithful not just to individuals, but to his people. 

Michael Horton writes in the same article:

As the apostle Peter assured his audience that the gospel promise was still “for you and for your children,” so too we must challenge any conversionistic evangelism which ignores the covenantal context of conversion.In this way, the anxiety of Christian children about being converted or born again is removed. They are called to deepen their understanding and experience of God and their inheritance with the saints, but they are not to turn inward, searching for that one radical change in their behavior which they brought about one day when they decided to follow Jesus.

And Rachel Jankovic in the blogpost I mentioned at the beginning:

All of us who have faith have it as a gift – and how humbling it is to know that the very fact of your faith, as well as your life, is part of God’s faithfulness to others…My Grandpa Jim gave us all Valentines roses this year, my girls too, and in his very formal but increasingly shaky hand, right before he signed off, he wrote, “You are part of Exodus 20:6, ‘But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.’”

My faith is a story of faithfulness – the faithfulness of our God. It is a story of God doing what He promised He would do. My life and my faith and my prayers for my children are all part of a beautiful and intricate story of God’s faithfulness to His people.

Today, Jeff asked me what I thought were the 10 most pivotal events of my life. I asked him if I had to answer limited to events that happened within my lifetime. He didn’t let me answer things like God’s choosing us before the foundations of the earth, creation, Christ’s life, death and resurrection, etc. etc., (can you tell I was giving him a hard time?) but allowed for out of those ten events to have happened before my birth. Both his and my first answers went back to when either our parents or great-great- great(?) grandparents first came to know Jesus. God has been faithful to them and we are a testimony of his faithfulness.

4. Boring testimonies are testimonies of his grace in forgiveness of sins as well as in his grace in being kept from sins.  God’s grace in keeping us from sin hit me when I first read Augustine’s Confessions. In it, he writes:

Thou hast forgiven me these great and heinous deeds of mine, and hast melted away my sins as they were ice. To Thy grace I ascribe also whatsoever sins I have not committed ; for what might I not have done, who even loved a sin for its own sake? Yea, I confess all to have been forgiven me ; both what evils I committed by my own wilfulness, and what by Thy help I committed not.

The sins I have committed are pardoned because of his mercy and grace. And the sins I have not committed, I was restrained from by his mercy and grace.

How We’re Praying

Jeff and I are praying that even now, God would grant new life to our girls and that it would show in their lives as the fruit of faith in the coming years.  We are praying that their testimonies would be a wonderful demonstration of God’s faithfulness to keep his promises to believers in generation past, and of his mercy to grant them new hearts to live in grace– grace to forgive them for and keep them from sin. We are praying that our girls would have a “boring” testimony that they would understand with all their hearts and minds is anything but boring. 

Motherhood & Family, Truth & Orthodoxy

My daughter is precious to God

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Mark 10:13-16 (ESV)
My junior year of college, I took a course on community psychology and outreach where we learned about social needs and dynamics of communities. One lecture, we finished the material early so the professor decided to close the books and ask “Why do we even care? Why should we care about poverty and violence in these neighborhoods?”  People answered along the lines of “There is a great need and social programs can make a difference in society” and “The welfare of these neighborhoods end up effecting other neighborhoods.” The professor kept pushing, “But why should we do anything?” and no one could answer him adequately. I sat there getting increasingly frustrated at these answers until I couldn’t take it anymore and the burning in my heart overcame the fear of speaking up in this huge lecture hall. I raised my hand and was passed the mic, and probably shaking because of  how strongly I felt about this, I said (something like) “The reason why these answers are all missing the point is that there is no deeper foundation behind what people are claiming. I’m a Christian and I believe that the reason why these issues matter is because individuals are valuable to God- they are people who were made in the image of God and loved by God enough to die for.” The professor in turn, smiled and said that was the kind of answer he was pushing for. He then went on to misrepresent what I said, saying he disagreed that it was because of some kind of religious imperative or command, but that when we help others we better ourselves. Then I think he dismissed the class, and just so you don’t think I’m super brave, I chickened out and ended up avoiding eye contact with most people on the way out.

In the same way that my professor was pushing the “why” question onto the class, over the last year, I have been seeking to sift through different reasons people give as to why motherhood and taking care of children matters. There is no shortage of people that are willing to take a firm stance on the value of staying at home with children. I have read many answers- from Christians and non-Christians alike. I have found many that are based on the assumed value of secondary things like the money that stay-at-home moms save at being all things at once – you’re a chauffeur, chef, baby-sitter, teacher, maid, and more! I have also read citations of amazing stories about how one mom’s prayers and efforts (like Mrs. Wesley or St. Augustine’s mom) were used by God to raise children who had enormous impact on large numbers of people. I read about women who open their families and homes to others and thus lead many people to Christ. But while it is encouraging for me to know that I am not making a financially ruinous decision by staying at home and that God can still answer my desires to disciple other women or reach unreached people groups as a mom, these reasons are not vast or deep enough for my heart.

Justifying staying at home as a mom by only answering potential good and even godly things that can come out of it (children who love God, discipleship of others, etc.) is not enough to help me  understand the value of the day-to-day grind of diaper changing, clingy-to-mommy days where I can’t get any housework done, days past of feeling like a functional “milk machine” (someone else said that, not me!), and sleepless sick nights. In some ways, it also functionally reduces my daughter to what she potentially could be and ascribes value to her today because of what she might or might not become in the future (e.g. “You are raising a world changer!”) This isn’t to say that people who have strong convictions of these things don’t value their children (no way!) just that answers alone about the benefits of staying-at-home and raising children aren’t, in my assessment, the kind of ultimate and fundamental “why” that my professor was pushing for and I needed. I had been struggling because in my case, I could have free childcare (nearby grandparents!) and wasn’t necessarily saving money by being at home and because my daughter’s not talking yet it’s not like I’m directly instructing her heart, right? So is the chunk of my time that is important the time I spend discipling other people while she is napping or just the prayers I pray for her and not the time I spend playing with her that she won’t even remember?

The passage of Jesus welcoming children to him has been important to me recently. I was convicted a few weeks ago of not valuing my daughter in the way that God does. (It was actually through reading this article about ministry to women.) I had been trying to find worth in what I did because of the potential impact it would have in measurable, seen ways. And because of this, in many ways I was frantically trying to get other things done while making sure she didn’t hurt herself and wasn’t dirty or hungry like caring for her was a side job. I realized that feeling like I would feel more justified to stay at home if I had more children was reflecting a heart that didn’t value her as one individual- why would having more children make it more important for me to stay at home? I repented of this perspective and God opened up my eyes to let me see that she is loved by God and valuable to him  today and that my calling is just to love her in the same way. It actually made me a bit sad that I haven’t had this perspective earlier and all that I had missed out on already because of it.

The heart change God is working out in me changes the way I wake up with purpose to a needy toddler. It changes the way that I respond to my daughter when she, for whatever reason, is super clingy for a day and I don’t get the things done that I had hoped to around the house. My call is to love her- all 2 feet 7 inches of her made in the image of God. I engage with her when we play because I love her and want to show it. I am getting to know her- her tendencies, her heart, her temperament- and how God has made her uniquely for himself. I pray that our home would be welcoming to others and she would get to see people transformed by God because I love her. I don’t feed her so she’ll get big and will one day make a difference in the world. I feed her, change her, bathe her because I love her. And I pray that her life will glorify God and make a difference in the world in whatever way he chooses- not because that will somehow justify the work I am doing, but because I love her and she is precious to me and I know she was made to glorify him.

To be clear, I have seen that in little ways, the things that I do are affecting my daughter’s heart and behavior- and these affirm to me that the work that I do at home is not only seen by God above, but also in the mystery of God’s way, is actually being used to shape her. She gets clingy when she knows I’ve been sitting at the computer for a while and even at around 9 months, she would get upset at me when I was at the desk and wanted me to sit with her so she could play around me. She imitates me in surprising ways and searches my face for how I respond to her when she does things she knows she shouldn’t do. Because we sing to her, she recognizes the tune of “10,000 Reasons” and the chorus of “All I Have Is Christ”! God in his wisdom has made mothering a hugely important and impactful calling. Still, these are things that I praise God for because I love my daughter and even if I could not see the fruit and impact of my work today- as I couldn’t when she was just one month old and barely opening her eyes- what I do to serve her is because I love her and she is inherently valuable to God and to me. God has called me to love her and I believe that when I do, it brings him pleasure and glory.

The longer I have been a Christian, the more convinced I have been that the Scriptures are the only source that provides a working framework large enough for all of life- in general sweeping ways and in its all its particularities. It is big enough to answer questions about the purpose of not just my life but the whole universe and I believe it’s also extensive enough to give me perspective on the everyday things that make up the majority of my life. I know that my daughter is made in the image of God and God in his grace loves her. She is precious to me because in my heart I know and see this value, and I learn from Scripture what it is to love her well. Thus the work I do today as a stay-at-home mom matters because my daughter matters to God today and I have the privilege of welcoming her into my arms just as Jesus would have and still does.

Pray for me as I learn to be a mommy and that I would see her as God does.