Motherhood & Family, Taking Heart

You Don’t Become Superwoman Overnight

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My daughters are not good eaters but I can’t complain, because apparently I’ve never been a good eater either. My dad tells a story of when I was an infant, and how my mom called him at work in frustration after I threw up all the food she’d painstakingly fed me over the course of an hour. I like this story because it gives me a plausible genetic-predisposition excuse for how my girls eat, but more so because it gives me a glimpse of my mom as a first-time momma.

If you knew my mom, you would probably agree with the man who stopped me a few weeks ago at church to tell me, “your mom is a superwoman.” Her capacity for working to serve others and enduring difficulty is super-human. That’s why it’s strange for me to imagine her calling my dad at work about a feeding session, and that’s why I enjoy the Faith-was-a-terrible-eater story so much. It reminds me my mom didn’t become superwoman overnight.

Some of you may be in the thick of learning how to keep a home, be a wife, or survive as a mom. You may be looking at the superwomen in your lives— your own mom, a godly older woman, or a friend with more children— and hang your head in shame for being so weak and struggling so much. I know how it is. Today, I want to encourage you to remember, these superwomen didn’t get there overnight and they didn’t get there on their own.

As a mom with three littles, my daily agenda most days is still usually “make it through the day.” So the just-married and first-time mom stages aren’t so far behind me that I don’t remember how hard they were.

I remember, as a newlywed, being surprised at how much time was spent on food. Pre-marital counseling prepared me for a lot, but I did not expect meal planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning to be so taxing. Three meals a day, seven days a week– and repeat again with no end in sight!

I remember the terrible morning sickness of my first pregnancy. I remember being sad because I wanted to have more kids but didn’t think I’d ever be able to make it through pregnancy again.

I remember the never-ending day that was in actuality the first few weeks after the birth of our eldest. The theme of my days were “I need Thee every hour!” because truly, I didn’t think I could make it through the next sixty minutes.

And I remember the struggle of figuring out the dynamics and choices involved with having children and being a ministry family. 

A few months ago though, Jeff and I joked about going on vacation with the baby when my parents took the girls away for a few days, and I wondered at the fact that five years ago, we’d never have thought “Wow, we just have one kid at home— how relaxing!” We are still young parents and far from being out of the woods, but even in the last six years I’ve noticed one important theme as a homemaker and parent— God grows our capacity over time. 

Some may see the repeating tasks of homemaking and child-rearing and wonder if it’s monotonous and mind-numbing doing the same thing day after day. Yes, there is an aspect of repetition and it is important to maintain perspective in the mundane everyday tasks that make up our days. (I’ve written about it here and here.) But I’ve also found great satisfaction learning that though the tasks of keeping a home and caring for children do repeat, over time, we get better at them. In other words, in doing our daily tasks of service over and over, we become more effective and efficient in doing them and grow in our capacity to do more good to love others.

Over time, in the kitchen, our hands move a little less clumsily at the cutting board and we get better at throwing together a meal for last minute guests. At the changing table, we become able to wrestle down the squirming poop-er deftly enough to continue our conversation with the two older kids about speaking kindly to one another. In matters of the heart, we learn to engage our children better, and discern more quickly whether they need a hug, a swat, a nap, or all three (not all at once of course). All of this doesn’t happen because some people are born with super-capacities– it comes because of all the time spent each day in the kitchen, at the changing table, engaging the heart.

To use gym language, God is the perfect trainer and the daily tasks involved in housework and caring for children are our reps. Our Trainer knows exactly how to push us a bit (a lot) past what we feel is possible or pleasant, because not only is he enabling us to serve others now, he is preparing us for the good works he’s planned ahead. God increases our capacity not so that we can gain mastery and control, but because as we do our tasks in love for those around us, he has other tasks and training lying ahead.

Day by day, God is training us in the work he’s called us to not only physically but spiritually. In putting us in positions of weakness, he gives us a chance to recognize our need for his strength and grace in our work. He gives us a chance to see his grace at work in the day-to-day and his wisdom in ordering our days and seasons as homemakers and parents. I think one reason he does this is so that we can testify to his sustaining presence and comfort to give courage to others, even after we have moved to the next struggle.

So, for the newlywed fumbling around in the kitchen or the first-time mom wondering how you’ll get through the next day, know that there is grace for you today. Grace from God to sustain you, and grace in how he is teaching you skills and lessons you will be able to employ in the future for the sake of serving others. It may be hard, and in a sense it’s supposed to be, but trust your wise trainer and gracious sustainer. The same One who has given daily grace to those you look up to is the One who is training you today.

And to the one who looks like superwoman to another, would you consider testifying to her that you didn’t get to where you are overnight? Is there a way you can speak grace and truth into a younger person’s life, apart from the “just you wait and see how it gets worse!” the world seems to offer? Would you remember how God showed you grace in the past, as he continues to do today?

“By the grace of God, I am what I am and his grace toward me was not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:10).

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)

Motherhood & Family

A Not “Lessons 5 Years Into Marriage” Reflection

Chang426
Yay! The one time a year where it’s legit to post up old wedding photos.

This month, Jeff and I celebrated our five year anniversary. I was thinking I ought to write something reflective, like “Lessons 5 Years Into Marriage” and would have if I had anything particularly insightful to say. But in light of some heavy topics that have been on my mind, I have had occasion again to feel deeply how grateful I am for my husband, and now as he puts the girls to bed, I am blogging about him.

It was twelve years ago this weekend that Jeff and I met. It wasn’t until years later that we’d date, but in the time between, he would have won me over with his kindness and humility. When he led worship or spoke publicly or interacted with me, the thing that would strike my heart most often would be the reality of God’s grace, the aspect of my Christian life that I had the most trouble believing and living in.  It wouldn’t be just words either; it happened enough for me to notice that I’d consistently experience God’s grace tangibly in my life through Jeff. He gained my respect without knowing it as I watched him walk through one of the toughest seasons in his life with godwardness and faithfulness. And as I saw him respond to my frequent unkindnesses, I knew that I felt safe around him.

The respect and affections in my heart grew over years without me consciously keeping track of them, but if there were an Aha! moment, for me if would be during a message I watched. The pastor said something about how we ought to date a man who was like someone you’d want your sons to grow up to be or your daughters to marry.

And so we dated, and God brought healing into my life as we did.

Jeff fought for me; letting me know I was beautiful to him, and still treating me with purity, having vowed never to put himself in a position to take anything from me. He spoke God’s forgiveness into areas of shame and guilt and God used him to shed gospel light on my duty-bound heart. He wasn’t (isn’t) perfect, no, but I got to see up close confession and asking for forgiveness and repentance and change. When I wondered aloud about our relationship and told a friend that I believed that at least “he loved me the best he knew how”, she asked “what more could you ask for?” And she was right. My respect for him only grew as long as we dated and were engaged and now, five years post-I-do, it continues to do so.
Continue reading “A Not “Lessons 5 Years Into Marriage” Reflection”

Motherhood & Family

9 years ago…

Nine years ago today, Jeff & I met when I was checking out fellowships as a college freshman. He shared about “the wheel” and I ended up not going to the fellowship, but we met afterwards because we’d had mutual friends in Staten Island who told me to look out for him.

How do I remember the date?  I went to the ice cream social of his fellowship and put my name on a list. Later, students that were part of the fellowship showed up at my dorm to deliver little flower pots filled with potpourri and a toothpick with upcoming fellowship dates. I found this after we started dating and I have no idea why I kept it (it’s now inside a scrapbook- look at the yellow arrow!):

We didn’t start dating until a little more than five years later, but isn’t it amazing that God knew at that time where we would be now? I’m so thankful for his faithfulness to us throughout the years. He has poured out grace upon grace in our lives. I’m so thankful that neither of us are who we were back then and for the miracle of his working out Christ in our lives. I’m so thankful that nine years from now, because of Christ, we will not be the same people we are today.
In other news, we also celebrated our second anniversary last week! We went out and had a nice lunch with each other and baby. Then we worked on a scrapbook- Chang Chronicles vol. 2!
Motherhood & Family

Passion & Purity

“Purity means freedom from contamination, from anything that would spoil the taste of the pleasure, reduce the power, or in any way adulterate what the thing was meant to be.”
– Elisabeth Elliot

Passion & Purity is one of my favorite books ever. I love Elisabeth Elliot’s books and Passion and Purity in particular has been used by God to speak to me in key times of my life. (Elisabeth Elliot was the wife of Jim Elliot- the missionary who was killed by the people he was trying to reach before they even could really talk to them. Elisabeth Elliot and others ended up ministering to that tribe later on where many became Christians, including those who had attacked the missionaries. She’s one of my heroes!) For those who haven’t heard of it or read it, it’s basically Elisabeth and Jim Elliot’s love story (an amazing one!) and contains a lot of godly wisdom about the process of waiting on God, particularly in the area of relationships.

It helped me during the season of waiting in singleness and gave me practical advice on what to do with the deep longings and desires of my heart, but not in a way that stifled those desires in an unhealthy manner. Rather than saying things like “dating/sex/etc. is bad! so don’t do it!”, she helped me to see God’s perspective on intimacy, love, loneliness, and marriage. Things that she wrote in it spoke to other areas of my life as well, like when I was uncertain about my future and needed to learn to trust God to be my good shepherd. The book contains letters from Jim Elliot- a hero in the faith and an example of being all out for God- where he honestly expressed his desire for Elisabeth while wrestling with God’s call and will. His expressions of commitment to God and passion for her were timely for me to read at a time when I had started to wonder if my desire for a relationship/marriage meant that I lacked a desire to do God’s work wholeheartedly, and it helped to seeing that both could not only coexist but were meant to be mutually beneficial.

The world is constantly telling people that they are missing out on the best that life can offer if they choose to do things God’s way. The thing that makes me sad is that as Christians, we so misunderstand/misrepresent God’s heart for us that we either 1) believe the world and do what they do or 2) obey out of fear/guilt by our own power while believing the world in our hearts. That’s why I’m so so thankful for godly people and resources in churches that have an amazingly refreshing Biblical perspective on purity, relationships, and marriage. One person shared with me before that in their struggle in purity, what helped was hearing God’s perspective on intimacy- and not just in a “no!” kind of way. The Biblical understanding of God’s design displaced the way the world had portrayed it and took from the luster of sin.

I’ve been feeling so thankful lately to have a man who I know fights for my purity and honors me deeply. It’s not that I deserve it and I’m a naturally “pure person”. God has shown me so much grace and forgiveness to cover over me in the ways I have compromised in the past and part of that grace has been extended through Jeff. But in our relationship I am seeing experientially not only that passion and purity can go hand in hand but how they must, and how wonderful it is to know I am honored and desired at the same time. Some of you know the boundaries that we have set in our dating relationship, and now, a few weeks from our wedding, I thank God that we have them. Rather than making me feel stifled by legalism, those boundaries have affirmed me and allowed me to experience the truth that to walk in God’s ways means true liberty and joy. God is so good to us.