September 2010

When folks get married these days and recite their vows, often what they really mean is they will love their spouse when it’s convenient; when they are feeling loved or respected in return; when they feel like it; when all is well; until it gets too hard; until I change my mind.  I actually had someone tell me once that when he got married, he didn’t want to lie, so he didn’t say, ‘until death do us part’ but rather, ‘until irreconcilable differences.’  I don’t know if he was serious about changing the vows, but he was quite serious about his view of marriage.  Needless to say, the marriage didn’t last very long.

There is a divorce epidemic in this country that reflects the selfish hearts we all possess.  Our culture no longer sees marriage as a covenant but a contract, and contracts can always be broken…half of the time they are.  It may seem like the easy way out to bail when things get hard, but the effects are far greater than anyone can foresee.  Sadly, kids are often in the middle, and no matter how ‘cordial’ the divorce, and how strong they are or how well they seem to be doing, divorce has a long-lasting, negative effect on kids.

In recent days, weeks, and months I have come to appreciate all the more the commitment my husband and I have to be together for the long haul.  Not that we are facing any extreme challenges.  We’ve had our share of argu-ahem, disagreements over the years, but as we face new challenges with our three kids, I see why some moms and dads sometimes bail.  As he patiently deals with an angry child for the umpteenth time, calmly trying to handle the temper tantrums, I look at him and think, “‘how easy it would be (in the short-term) for him to say, ‘I can’t handle this, I’m outta here.'”  But he never does, and I don’t think he ever will.  That produces such a trust and security.

I don’t live in fear that if something gets too hard, I’ll be on my own.  I don’t ever wonder if he’s going to decide not to come home one day.  His commitment to the children and me isn’t dependent upon his mood that day or how easy life is.  His commitment was determined the day we stood before God, entering into a covenant sanctioned by Him.  There is an underlying submission to God, and a trust that even when (not if) difficulty comes, it is part of God’s work of sanctification, shaping and molding us into the image of His Son.  The very trial that seems like the absolute worst possible scenario from an earthly perspective may very well be the best thing from an eternal perspective.

Knowing that the outcome of any particular disagreement will not alter the nature of our relationship, we are able to face things head-on.

To quote one of my favorite preachers, Voddie Baucham, ‘If you ever leave, I’m goin’ with you.’  If more couples would adopt this perspective, with a commitment to then deal with the issues and not bury them, I think we might just have a renewal of marriage.


So life has gotten a bit more hectic in our household.  School is back in session which means I am up at my old high school 5-6 days a week coaching soccer.  I coached last year and had a blast.  I was looking forward to this season, but that excitement has quickly diminished.

Maybe it’s the added drama of disgruntled parents that I didn’t experience last year. Maybe it’s the way the varsity coach and I did NOT hit it off on the right foot.  Maybe it’s the added driving time, since we live farther that last year, which means added time away from my family.  Or the fact that we have someone watching our kids 5 days a week now, instead of just 2 like last year.  Or maybe it’s the mild, but constant pregnancy induced nausea I experience from the moment I open my eyes in the moment until the moment they close, at 8-8:30 each night.  The paycheck is a big help, but I’ve been wondering if it’s worth the tradeoff.

Whatever the reason of my discontent, I’ve become a whiner.  I woke up this past Monday thinking about the phone calls that likely await my return (from unhappy parents of kids that were cut) or some drama that may occur with the other coach, the hectic afternoon of packing up the kids to get them to the babysitter, etc, all these thoughts within 10 seconds of consciousness.

And as quickly as these thoughts came, I shut them down.  My thoughts switched to my husband who wakes up every day long before me and is on his way to work before the sun even rises. He works as many as 80 hours a week, then comes home and helps with the kids.  Instead of spending his one day off each week (which is often really a half-a-day, since he sometimes works at night) sleeping and lounging around the house, he is up with the kids, cooking breakfast and playing with them.  He does all of this without complaining,  but willingly, even joyfully.  So I told myself, ‘self, suck it up!’  And besides, my unhappiness ends in a short 7 weeks…the countdown has begun.

I am a night owl, always have been.  I am much more able to stay up late than to get up early.  And these days it seems that nighttime, after the kids are in bed, is the only real time I have to myself.  It’s quiet.  For the most part I know my ‘mom-ly’ responsibilities are done for the day.  Sure, there may be that occasional, little voice calling, ‘mommy, can you tuck me in?’ (again, for the umpteenth time!).  But in general, I can fully relax.  The problem is, I enjoy this quiet time so much that hours pass, and by the time I get to bed, any hope for a full night sleep is out of the question.

What I know in principle I need to put into action.

I need to first care for myself, that I may more effectively care for them.

I used to hear women speakers talk about the need to care for yourself, and wrote it off as their way to pursue selfish ambitions, yet in recent months I have come to see this advice from a different perspective.  Sure, some women may use this as an excuse to be selfish, needing endless amounts of ‘me time,’ but when put into a proper context, I finally see the truth in this.

When I just had one child, balancing life was fairly easy.  If I was tired, I could take a nap with her, or even take a nap while she played.  It was only one little voice requesting mommy’s attention, and man-to-man was a fairly easy defense.  The second came along, and I still managed pretty well.  My first born is a natural helper, and a neat-freak, so that combination made my life a LOT easier as we welcomed this new child.  As our third child reached one-year and became a walker, I felt like my world was turned upside down.  I simply could not keep up.  He had endless energy, and seemed to make a mess every where he went.  I constantly found myself short on proper rest, which effected my level of patience.  Looking forward to the fourth child we are expecting, I am becoming more and more aware of the necessity to care for myself.

This may look different for different women, although I suspect the same principles would apply.

For me, a tired mommy is a cranky mommy….a very cranky mommy.  Caring for myself means that I need to get to bed at a decent hour.  Some nights, that means I go to sleep at 8:30pm, even though it makes me feel like an old grandma!

A hungry mommy also makes a cranky mommy physically and spiritually.   This means that I need to get up, showered and dressed before my children arise so that I have time to read my Bible before their day begins.  When I begin to neglect the Word, it reveals itself in my disposition and often become monster mommy.

Getting up early also allows me to prepare breakfast prior to their little bellies, and my big belly grumbling with hunger.  Having breakfast ready before we all have ‘hunger-grumps’ helps get the day going on the right foot.  It also gives me time to engage them at the breakfast table, going over their Scripture memory and catechism questions without having to rush.  When we get a late start I am often making breakfast while they are fussing (due to hunger).  By the time we sit down, I am stressed out about the to-do list, wondering if it’s all going to get done, and am rushing them to ‘just eat already.’  As a result, I can often neglect the most important task of nourishing their souls.

Caring for mommy means that I am feeding myself nutritious foods, that provide sustaining energy without the mood swings I get from certain things.

Caring for mommy means that I guard my afternoon quiet time.  After lunch the kids all have nap time, during which I will often nap, or sometimes get some works done, such as bill paying, etc.  My oldest likes to ask a lot of questions from the top of the stairs in an effort to avoid falling asleep.  It is important for my sanity that I keep this quiet time as quiet time so that my body can get adequate rest to sustain me the rest of the day.

Exercise has always done wonders for me.  I good run clears my mind and refreshes my soul.  I can leave the house exhausted, frustrating, ready to scream, and come back from a brisk walk or run refreshed and energized.  Sometimes this happens during the day, with the kids, and sometimes it happens after my husband returns from work, and I ‘escape’ for a little while.  Either way, keeping a diligent exercise routine is part of the way I care for myself, and it does indeed benefit my family.

What are some ways that you care for yourself, for the benefit of your family?

The Bible often uses food as an analogy for our spiritual walk.  We are to hunger and thirst after righteousness.  The Word is called food for our souls. We are to move past spiritual milk and get into the meat of the Word.

When hunger strikes us in the natural sense, we can reach for chips and candy or we can reach for fresh fruits and veggies.  Both may fill our hunger for the moment, but the former will not sustain our strength nor nourish our bodies.

I have recently made some extreme (as least for me) changes in my normal, everyday diet.  I am purposefully eating more fresh, raw fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds.  The first few days, it was a struggle as I bypassed the carb laden foods for healthier alternatives.   By day four my natural hunger no longer wanted sugars or breads, but instead craved a nice plate of raw vegetables with a little dressing on some lettuce leaves.  And believe me, never would I have guessed that I would crave ‘rabbit food.’

I was able to watch my kids devour the pancakes I made without any desire to eat them myself (and I make good pancakes!!).  I also noticed that I was eating a lot less food, yet felt more satisfied.  Being full with nutritious foods, I had no room and no desire for junk.  In contrast, in times past I could eat an endless amount of ‘junk food,’ or even just nutritionally void foods like breads, and still not be satisfied.

I find the same to be true in a Spiritual sense.  When I fill myself with the food of the Word, I have little desire for the junk of the world, yet when I neglect the Word in lieu of worthless things, I am never satisfied and forever discontent.

There are a handful of TV programs that I enjoy watching.  They aren’t ‘junk’ in the sense that they aren’t filled with lust induced story lines or profanity, but they also aren’t necessarily beneficial for my soul.  Fourty-five minutes of a program may be a fine way to unwind, but I do not walk away edified or more secure in the truths of Scripture.

So when the kids go to bed at night, I have two choices: I can open my Bible or turn on my computer. When I chose the computer, I can easily fill the time with TV programs, Facebook and web surfing, but never feel ‘full.’  When I do finally shut it down, I have little appetite to pick up the Word.  My natural desire craves more of these worthless pursuits, yet those pursuits never satisfy.  However, if I first chose the Bible, I can easily spend the night nourishing my soul, without any desire for those worldly entertainments.  And if I do engage in some sort of media, I am content to shut it down after the program ends, without any ongoing craving for more.

One of my favorite movies is “Fireproof” and my favorite line from that movie is, “And don’t just follow your heart, man; ’cause your heart can be deceived. But you gotta lead your heart.”  How many times do we do, or don’t do things because of how we feel? How often do you plan your meals around what your feeling like that day?  I know I’ve been at a restaurant and said to my husband, ‘I don’t know what I want to eat,’ to which he may respond, ‘what do you feel like?’

Why are we so obsessed with feelings??  Why not decide things based on ‘whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.’  Why not eat foods because we know they are healthy, rather than because we crave them.  Are we becoming slaves to our cravings?

Why not read our Bibles because we know we should even through we feel like zoning out in front of the television or on the internet?  We don’t let our kids get away with that.

Mom: ‘why did you hit your brother?’

Billy: ‘I felt like it.’

That doesn’t fly, so why do we allow ourselves to make unhealthy and unwise choices based on our feelings rather than based on truth, whether in the natural sense or the spiritual sense?

Our congregation is celebrating an unexpected, amazing adoption that has taken place this past week.  A dear couple who has been unable to have a child of their own took home their brand new baby boy just a few days ago.  They began pursuing adoption a few years ago, but nothing ever came of it, until about a month ago when they received a call out of the blue.  A mother was due with a child in early September, and for various reasons, was unable to keep the child.  Years of prayer by, and on behalf of, this couple were answered just this past week.

In our worship service this morning, as a community, we recognized God’s amazing kindness shown through this adoption.  As our pastor was sharing the story, I couldn’t help but reflect on my adoption into God’s family.  And for years to come, as we see this boy grow, we will all be reminded of the adoption we each received, from sons and daughters of disobedience into the royal court of the Lord.  What a vivid reminder, what a blessing.

This couple was not in attendance today, due to ‘being up all night’, as recounted by our Pastor.  I chuckled as I thought of the ‘blessing of sleeplessness’ this couple is now enjoying.  When one is adopting, they can predict some of the trials that come with being a parent.  Sleepless nights is a gimme.  Trials in training and disciplining are inevitable as this boy grows and begins to exert his own will.  I’m sure this couple will be testing and tried, as we all are when we embark on parenthood, but the specific heartaches that await them are a mystery, and maybe for their own benefit.  It’s easy to think in general terms of what a parent will endure, but it is impossible to know the exact difficulties that await.

Yet God knew those exact difficulties when He chose to adopt me, yet He chose me nonetheless.  He knew the disobedience that would come, the selfish pride that I would exert, and the multitude of other sins that would inflict punishment on His beloved Son, in order to purchase my forgiveness, yet He chose me anyway.  I will never get past this amazing truth.

The excitement of being a parent can sometimes cloud logic, in a good way.  If we really knew all the pains, trials, and troubles that a particular child would create, we might think twice (and also might forfeit the blessings that would come).  God was not love sick when He chose me.  He was not blinded by optimism.  No, He knew EXACTLY what it meant to chose me to be His own.  He knew EXACTLY the price that would be paid to purchase my redemption, and did so anyway.  Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me!

Adoption can sometimes hold a negative connotation.  Folks sometimes try pick out the adopted kid.  They sometimes ask, ‘which ones are yours’ as if the adopted child/children aren’t really yours.  Much of this comes from ignorance as to what adoption really is.  In the truest, Biblical sense, people do not fully understand adoption, even within the church.

Sitting in the pew today, I was thinking about how I would explain this new baby to my 4 year old.  Trying to think with a 4-year-old brain, she knows this couple, and she knows the Mrs. was not pregnant (no big belly, a dead give away), so how does she have a baby?  How would I explain adoption so that a 4-year-old could understand?

I am still developing my explanation, but one thing I know is that this is a wonderful opportunity to remind her that God choses and adopts us for His family.  However I put together the words for her, I will be sure to NOT miss this golden opportunity to share with her the Gospel of salvation!