Sunday, February 19, 2017

My View from the Front

Tap. Tap.  "I want to sit with Ms. Sue.  Can I have my notebook?"  Five-year-old son runs back to his favorite pew with a couple who have adopted him into their pew on Sundays.  They snuggle him, bring him little gifts, and all around love on him as if he were their own grandson.

"Mommy?" followed by a silent point.  "Ms. Cyndee!"  Off the three-year-old daughter runs to her adopted pew with two couples and their elderly mother, whom they provide care for.  There she is cuddled, led to Communion, and all around loved on as if she were their own granddaughter.  

Glance forward to the front pew.  The two service helpers are standing in the first pew dressed in white robes.  Two adult members of the congregation with developmental disabilities (the woman has Down Syndrome) who are given the role of acolytes so they may serve the church in an important way each Sunday.  
They fill the role with pride.  
You can see it in the way they carry themselves, with the respect to which they step up to the Altar, with the joy in their faces as they sing.  
The man is not able to read or find the correct number in the hymnal.  Each week, the woman with Down Syndrome lovingly takes his hymnal, and trades it for hers that is already on the right page.  He can't read it, but he takes it with joy and sings along to a surprising number of hymns that he knows by heart.  

More times than less, a tear finds it way down my cheek about now, while I watch them interact.  My mind wanders off to our culture's hatred of people with disabilities, particularly shown through the way they fight for the right to kill people with Down Syndrome before they are born.  I thank God that this woman is in my life and in this church, serving her neighbor by caring about him in the pew.

Christ's love shown through this very important and very joyful person.  She loves her life and I do, too.  As the service goes on and they both quote it without missing a beat, I thank God for the historic Liturgy.

My husband begins his sermon.  I grab the milk cup to appease the 17-month-old for a few seconds...maybe a minute.
Oh, that law hit hard.  A sermon about weakness.  I got a lot of that.  My children show me my weakness everyday.  I glance at our six-year-old, who spent his toddler years kicking, thrashing, and spitting at me during church.  There he sits quietly looking through his new book from his Godparents, quoting the Liturgy during some parts, off in his own wonderland during other parts.  How God's grace has been sufficient in weakness during his six years would blow the mind of most adults.  

OK, mind, back to the sermon you go.  

The sincerity by which my husband speaks of weakness catches me off-guard.  "...felt weak..."
My mind flashes to some friends of mine who have just lost a child in miscarriage.  Lord, have mercy on Stephanie, I say in my mind.  
Mind wanders to our miscarriage - our child that is not with us in our pew or an adopted pew throughout the church, but with our Lord on the greatest pew imaginable.

Flash back to real time.  
The soothing Word of Gospel.  
My husband preaches it so boldly.  
I am free.  I am clean.  I am forgiven.  I am righteous.  Thanks be to God.

A constant rolling hum and occasional scream of children is heard constantly through the service.  Children are here.  Thanks be to God! 17-month-old rolling around on the floor beneath my feet.  The thought of "how could she possibly be getting anything out of this" flashes through my mind.  "Why do I bring her in here and fight her every week?"
The Lord's Prayer.
I look down and she has crawled onto the pew next to her oldest brother, hands folded.  "Amen!" she says at the end.
I smile.  OK, God, I hear you.  She is getting it.  She belongs here.  Thanks for the reminder. 

"Solomon, time for us to go up for Communion."  
"OH YES!  Time to receive Jesus' BLOOD!  My favorite part!"
Smile.  Yes, son.  The confession of children is bold and accurate.

Glance over during Communion and see a family next to us, bringing their children to this place to receive Christ's gifts together.  Sad thought of them moving away soon, followed by a fun thought of rejoicing in the WHOLE Christian church gathered around at Communion, and how that will connect us over many miles.

Back to the pew, and I watch our other two children walk up to Communion with their adopted pew friends.  Joy in the family of Christ.  People pass by, and thoughts of the beauty of the Christian church flash through my mind.  
I watch children pass by who are brought to the Altar by their faithful grandmas and grandpas. 
I see children who grew up without a father but have been taught about their Heavenly Father through others around them.
I see the disabled.
I see the elderly.
I see babies.
I see children who were babies when my husband baptized them, and now they are walking around talking about Jesus.
I see husbands.
I see wives.
I glance up and see my husband's eyes catch mine.  He grins at me, and a few chills run down my spine.  My husband still gives me chills...even in church...even in a collar...even while serving Communion.  God has been gracious to me.
I see widows, and I remember to pray for them, as I am sure they miss those chills.
I see the young man who was baptized on the same day as our youngest daughter.  He was a teenager and she was a newborn.  I flash to a memory of him holding her that day.
I see people who are poor.
I see people who are wealthy.
I see people who are black.
I see people.who are white.
I see people who are mixed race.
I see people.

I see the masks of Christ in this world.
This is Christ's flock.  

Church isn't about a feeling.  I don't need to feel the Spirit move to know God is present in His Word and Sacraments.  I don't need to be brought to tears to know my heart is changed by the Word.  I know these things because He promises these things in this place.

But when the Lord gives the feelings, the memories, and the tears, I am thankful for that, too.



Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Life that Changed Mine

I wanted to share with you about a person who changed my life.
She challenged me to think beyond myself.
She caused me to spend more time thinking about someone else and less time thinking about my problems.
She brought me to my knees in prayer more often than any single person ever has.
She made me realize the love you can have for someone you have never even met.
She made me see that every life has a purpose.
She made me more fully appreciate that people with disabilities cause the rest of us to be better.
She didn't even live three days outside the womb, but her life accomplished all of this in me.

Let me tell you about my friend, Matilda.

You see, our dear friends were pregnant when they discovered their child had down syndrome and a severe heart defect related to the disorder.  As time marched on, it became clear the heart defect was probably going to take Matilda's life.  But thanks be to God, our friends were able to hold firm to their view of life being God's choice, not theirs, because had they followed suit with 90% of parents who find out their child has down syndrome, Matilda would never have had the opportunity to change so many of us who spent our days and nights humbled to God in prayer for her.

Constant praying for another's welfare changes your soul.

Matilda's short life was not without a purpose.  Her time in utero was surrounded by the prayers of her fellow Christians.  God preserved her life long enough to be born into the loving arms of her parents.  He preserved her life long enough to be washed in the saving flood of Baptism.  He preserved her life long enough to change the hearts of those who knew and loved her.  And finally, He preserved her life in eternity where we plan to see her.

When emotional stories of women who chose abortion for their disabled child come up, I hurt for them.  I cannot imagine the pain involved in discovering your child may die in utero or shortly after birth.  I weep with these parents.  We lost a child in utero through a miscarriage of our first child.  I understand a little about the pain, but I have never been faced with the knowledge that my child in utero was sick before he or she died.  To hold that information is gut-wrenching.  We have watched Matilda's parents do it, and it is no easy task.  Women and men who have endured this type of pain need our prayers.

We live in a culture that teaches us death is better than hardship.

So, when parents hear their child will struggle or possibly die sooner than one hopes for their child...
When they hear they themselves will struggle with raising someone with this disability...
When they hear that there is going to be real pain involved for their child and for them...

Sometimes they succumb to the death is better option.  Lord, have mercy.

Death is never better, friends.  Matilda is only one person, but she taught me in a really personal way that death is never better. It has been almost four years since my friend Matilda fell asleep in Christ, and her impact remains with me - reminding me of the importance of every tiny life, reminding me of the importance of humble, selfless prayer, reminding me of the importance of treating all people with disabilities with respect and dignity, reminding me of the importance of showing empathy to mothers and fathers who are given the great responsibility of a high risk pregnancy, reminding me of the importance of speaking out for the defenseless.

In your honor, Matilda.  Your life made a difference here.  I look forward to meeting you soon.





Thursday, July 21, 2016

Reality: Nine Quiet Years, My Love

It is 8:15 pm on July 21, 2016.  Nine years ago on this day I married the man I can now say I barely knew then.  Standing up at the altar is a much bigger deal than you think it is when you are there.  Years later you look back and think about how you knew so very little about...well, about everything.  The oath I took with my husband means more today than it ever did nine years ago.  Words become action throughout the years when you actually experience the richer and poorer and the sickness and health.

I don't expect my husband to be home for a few hours, as Thursdays are his very long days.  In fact, I haven't seen him much at all today.  This day went on like most others do, serving each other through work at home and away, and serving our neighbors through the daily work we have been given.  I can't speak for him, but my day was full of the regular frustrations and sins - on my part and on the part of our children - and the regular joys and humor - mostly on the part of our silly children.

There was nothing too fantastic about my day.
It was a quiet day as a wife and mother.

In a world that devalues marriage to such a high degree and in such a loud voice, I find our quiet regular day of marriage on our anniversary quite bold.  There is nothing flashy about our life.  We live, we work, we love our neighbors, and we sin against each other.  Man and wife together raising children in a home that is full of laughter (probably not enough of that), yelling (definitely way too much of that), and forgiveness (always overflowing with that).

Sometimes I think I should be doing more to speak out in this world about marriage and family.
Then I remember my boldly quiet life.

Don't for one second ever be ashamed of your quiet, virtually unknown existence.  You are noticed by the ones God has given you in your life, because Christ makes His Light radiate from your very bones. Quiet lives shine boldly in the darkness of the loud world.

The hard work of changing a culture is done one home at a time.
It isn't a work that will garner you awards or praise, and that is quite good, because it isn't a work you do anyway.

When He stood with man and woman at the altar, He knew exactly what He was getting Himself into.  He knew He would watch husband and wife hurt each other, refuse to serve one another, and defy each other's wishes.  He knew He would allow some of the worst tragedies ever imagined to send shock waves through the marriage.  He also knew He would work on hearts through this union.  He would bring husband and wife to repentance toward Him, toward each other, and toward every person touched by this union. He would roll up His sleeves and do the dirty work of changing the culture of sin in that home.

He does it everyday in our home.  Whenever I get a little too proud and think to myself, "Wow, that culture out there is awful," I am gently reminded that He is still working on the culture in my own heart, as well.

And so, our quiet life marches boldly onward.
Happy Anniversary, My Love.
May God bless us with many more quiet years.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reality: Our Son, Made in the Image of God

Today is six years since the day you were due to be born, our son.  Six years ago God had almost completed the process of growing you in your birthmother's belly and in our hearts.  Two days later, it came time for you to grow in our arms and in her heart.

I love you so deeply that at times it feels as though my heart could burst.  I know the same is true of her love for you.  Whereas our sacrifices in loving you will be vastly different - her in choosing parents for you to run to with open arms and leaps of joy with shouts of "mama and daddy" while she watches from afar, and me in the daily chaos and pains of raising a child with the knowledge that as much as I will be an excellent mother to you, I will fail you more often.  The sacrifices are not the same, but they are sacrifices nonetheless.  Sacrifices mothers make for their children.

In a culture that says life before birth is not worthy of protecting, I relive memories of receiving your ultrasound pictures from the hand of the mother who grew you - the woman who chose life for you.  I trembled as I flipped through them everyday for months, sometimes every hour, as we waited for you.  We would nervously call to check on you, never wanting to intrude on her yet basking in every new feeling and heartbeat check.  We are so thankful for you and for the mother who bore you and for the parents who raised her.

You, our son, have been loved for your whole existence.
A precious gift from God.
In a situation the world would call less than ideal, He made you.

This isn't to say you are some picture perfect poster child for choosing life.  Well, no, actually you are.  You just aren't the only one.  Every single life is that poster child.  What you have already contributed to the world in your short six years is magnificent, not because you are better than any other person, but because you were made uniquely in the image of God, our son. That is why life matters.  Because when God creates, it matters.  

When I look at you, I see a life that matters as a six-year-old boy.  I see a life that mattered as a six-week-old embryo.  I see a life that will matter as a sixty-year-old man, God willing.  You were no accident.  It is in this knowledge that we will raise you to be bold in your confession of life and Who gives it.  No matter how many sacrifices your birthmother or we make for you, it falls flat in comparison to the sacrifice your Jesus made for you.  In His image you were made, and in Him you were redeemed.

As you grow, your physical features will continue to make you look different than we do.  The world may see what it wants and judge how it sees fit.  But you, son, will know that your image is not the one they put on you, but the one Christ put on you in Baptism.  In that way, your image matches perfectly to ours - the One in which we were all made and then redeemed.

We are so thankful God made you, and humbled He chose us to care for you.  May God grant us the patience, gentleness, and steadfastness to see this work through to the Resurrection, when everyone will see the amazing Image in which each life, yours included, was made.



Monday, June 20, 2016

Financial DADisms You Should Know

There are so many directions I could go in a post about my father.  He is a pretty cool dude who spent his early years driving motorcycles far too fast to mention and traded them in to pay for his daughters as they came along.  That makes a pretty great start to a dad, for sure.

The most important fatherly duty of any man is to take his family to church.  My father and mother did that.  But today I am going to talk about the financial dadisms my sister and I were taught in our life.  In a world full of people who spend too much, save too little, and basically run amok with their purse strings, I want to shout from the rooftops about the dad who taught us what's up with money.

Here's to you, Dad.

1. "I never spend a dime!"

You know those 10 gallon jugs of pretzels?  My dad can finish off one of those in two days flat.  Our first daughter thinks the words "PopPop" and "pretzel" are synonymous.  Well, anyway, growing up he would barrel down, finish up a couple hundred pretzels, wipe the plastic container clean, and start his newest collection of dimes.  He literally never spent a single dime he had.  He always says he chose dimes to save because they are small enough to take up very little space and yet add up pretty quickly.  The perfect coin in his mind.  And so his collections marched onward throughout the years.  At first he said he was saving them for each of his daughters, then he met those goals.  So, then he moved onto his grandkids, of which he currently has six.  Each of them have a pretzel jar of dimes, too.  And when he says they add of quick in a small space, he ain't kidding...a few thousand dollars in each of those extremely heavy jugs.  I don't know if I could actually ever cash mine out at this point.  Those jugs have more emotional weight than they do financial weight.  They teach me about the repetitive nature of saving.  They show me that small steps add up.  They scream to me about the love of a father as he dropped a dime in there each day and thought about the future grandkids he would bless with those jugs.  Ain't nothing better than that, folks.

2.  "Got some electrical work to do at that church."

Watching a father give to the church is of unspeakable value to a child's life.  My parents were/are consistent tithers.  My dad does not hide the fact that in the course of our lives, there were times when he and my mother had 13 cents in their checking and savings accounts (plus a hundred bucks in untouchable, dimes, of course).  They were not wealthy people, but they never failed to give monetarily to the church.  But that wasn't the only things they did.  My dad is an electrician, and I cannot count how many nights he spent hanging fans, replacing electrical boxes, putting in new lights, and flipping switches at the church throughout my childhood.  He gave of himself and his talents.  Money first, talents next.  Give to the church.  Give to others.  Be generous.  Even when you are poor.  Be generous.  Even when you barely have a dime.  Be generous.  God has overflowed on you.  Return to Him part of what is His.

3.  "No daughter of mine won't know how to drive a stick shift."

When I was 13 years old, my parents ran across an opportunity to buy a little convertible for cheap.  It was a manual, and my dad said it was the perfect first car for me.  I just had to watch them drive it for a few years first.  My parents weren't of the mindset that we needed to purchase our own vehicles, although I see the merit in that parenting choice, as well.  But they were of the mindset that we didn't need anything fancy or new.  More importantly, they believed we certainly needed to know some basic skills, like how to use a clutch.  It may seem strange that I would include this in a list of financial dadisms, but the point was that his daughters were going to learn to drive from their father.  They were going to learn how to balance a checkbook from their father.  They were going to learn the basics of how to run wires through the walls in a house from their father.  They were going to learn how to fix their bikes from their father.  They were going to learn how to save a barrel of dimes from their father.  Notice a trend?  From their father.  That meant he spent time with us.  He, along with my mom, experienced whiplash when I dropped the transmission one too many times.  A mother and a father together raising two daughters to be self-sufficient, law-abiding citizens who knew how to handle money and a manual transmission.

4. "If you don't have it, you shouldn't have it."

My dad is vehemently against credit cards.  He did have to break down and get one just a couple years ago, because you can't even function in today's society without one as a means of booking certain things.  But rest assured, his balance is at 0, his credit limit at like nothing, and if it is ever used, it is most certainly paid off in 30 days or less.  So, this meant that when we were young, we learned that if we didn't have the money, we didn't get the thing.  Seems like a pretty simple lesson, but our society has trouble with simple lessons.  My parents pay cash for everything, even vehicles.  One time my parents bought a vehicle with...yep, you guessed it, DIMES!  The only loan they ever had was their home loan, and they paid that off 10 years early.  They both recently retired, they own a home, two vehicles, a camper, and they owe no one anything.  And their financial stability is not due to excess wealth.  It is due to knowing that if you don't have it, you shouldn't have it.

5.  "You can't have a job."

There are a lot of parents who insist upon their children working as a means to learning about money and the value of a dollar.  My parents were not one of those sets of parents.  I hated not having a job.  I asked to get a job lots of times, to no avail.  They did allow me to teach oboe and saxophone lessons later in high school, but only because it was a way for me to hone my playing skills while helping others.  They were against me earning money, because they always said, "You already have a job, Kelly.  Your job is to do well in school.  Our job is to pay for you to do that.  You earn scholarships.  That is how you can work."  And work, I did.  In honor of parents who worked so hard for me, I was compelled to hold up my end of the bargain.

6.  "Mmgghh, here!"

No, my father didn't speak a foreign language.  This is my best attempt at spelling a sound he often makes.  It was a bit of a grunt, but in a soft teddy bear sort of way.  It went something like this: "Dad, can I have $10? I want to get pizza with my friends after school." Pause.  Reach for billfold.  "Mmgghh, here!"  Or like this: (As he settles down into the couch after going to the basement for a bowl of ice cream for himself) "Oh, that looks good, Dad!"  Pause.  Put the spoon down.  "Mmgghh, here!"  I am not sure "cheerful giver" would be the right words for this spirit in my dad, but it certainly was "constant giver."  I rarely remember my dad saying no to me.  In today's world, you might think that is the recipe for a spoiled brat who gets anything she wants.  But somehow, that is not the daughters he helped form with this constant giving nature.  He and my mom modeled a life or giving to others and living on less.  So, we didn't think to expect extravagant things, but we knew to expect all they could give.  And that spirit lives on in them to this day.  They inspire those around them to be more giving even in a "Mmgghh, here!" sort of way.

Fathers get a pretty bad name in our culture.  So, to all you dads out there with some "isms" (whether it be financial or any other area of life), thanks for loving the mothers of your children.  Thanks for loving your children.  Us grown-up daughters wouldn't be the same without you.

Thanks, Dad.  I love you.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Reality: One mom's dark place

The past nine months of my life have been the hardest to date.

To go into all the details would be too time-consuming and quite irrelevant to the point of what I am sharing today.  The point is that Satan has been attacking me hard.  Now, I don't know that he is attacking me any harder than any other Christian mother, but this isn't a contest.

I don't need to share the details of my particular burdens for you to just know, because most moms will know.
You know because he has attacked you, too.
He has burdened your conscience.
He has sent life events to drown you.
He has taken births of blessings and turned them into the darkest moments of your lives.
He has looked at your repentance and told you it isn't enough.
He has seen what makes you angry, and he uses it against you.
He has led you into temptation.
He has encouraged you when you start to question why God would do these things to you.

My dark place is ever-going at the moment.  Nine months and going strong.  A constant battle to just choose to try again the next day, with the knowledge that another day of crushing blows is probably coming.  I tend to be a positive person, which actually makes this so much stranger for me.  I still tend toward positive thinking, and yet I can't seem to get that pesky Satan to stop crushing my spirit. He is good at it, because he has tons of practice.  I am sure he is well practiced on you, too, my friend.

Sometimes as a pastor's wife, I say Satan is that much worse, because let's be honest, there is a bullseye on your family's back when your husband faithfully preaches the Law and Gospel to souls.
And then, getting pastoral care from the man who knows your every fault can be intimidating.  I sinfully shun it at times.
But today my pastor husband came home with the letter below.
Thanks be to God for faithful shepherds to soothe a sinner's heart.

I share it here for my own benefit, as I will be able to read it in moments when I need it.
I share it here for your benefit, as you can fill it in with your children and be reminded of Christ's work through you.
I will be honest, though.  It doesn't mean your life will be better.  Satan will keep attacking you.  Life will continue to be hard.  But in that, know that I am praying for you, all Christian mothers, that you may be filled with joy in your blessings, given comfort in your repentance of sins, and strengthened to stand firm against the darts of Satan (while knowing they were already thrown at and destroyed by Jesus for you).


To my wife, the mother of our children:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! (Psalm 126:5)

The wicked earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward. (Proverbs 11:18)

It is so very easy to grow weary in doing good, especially because we think we don’t see results.  We too often sow and desire to reap in an hour, a day, or a week.  However, Scripture uses these terms wisely and for our encouragement.  We are called to be patient like a farmer.  As seeds take time to sprout, so the good that we sow to those around often takes time to give testimony.  Sometimes, we won’t see them at all, but that doesn’t make God unfaithful to His Word.

Meanwhile, the devil calls us to impatience and weariness.  He magnifies our sins and judges us harshly.  He weighs us down with despair and unbelief that God could use such a sinner as I to bless others.  While it is indeed a work of the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin, it is the work of the devil for us to be convinced that God wants to stop there.  We grow in love of others by growing in the knowledge and peace that He first loved us.  We begin to understand what it means that Jesus died for our sins by becoming increasingly aware of how many sins we actually commit in thought, word, and deed.  It seems ironic, but is true, that we are made holy by becoming more sensitive to the depth, not the shallowness, of the accusations of the holy Ten Commands. 

Jesus doesn’t want you to grow weary and become burdened so that you stay weary and burdened.  He calls you to come to Him for rest – true rest of conscience and peace with God and man.  He is gentle with you.  Learn from Him.  He has borne the yoke of your sin and then gives you His yoke – love one another as I have loved you. 

I desire for you to begin to see the love that Christ has shown to our children through you.  Through Him, you have sowed (sometimes in tears!), and in Him there has been true, visible results – a wonderful reaping.  Consider only some of the results shown since your 2015 birthday:

Solomon

Solomon has completed a second year of attending Classical Conversations (and he is only 5 years old!).  He has learned countless (!) songs by heart that have taught and will continue to teach him about God’s gracious hand in history, science, math, and language.  This, his second year, was his first year without you in the room.  He showed respect and love for his teacher – who adores him.  He learned, listened, gave speeches (often without much preparation…let’s be honest!), and showed kindness all on his own. Because you gave him this opportunity to be a student by himself, you also learned that he sometimes sins against his teacher and classmates even when that teacher isn’t his mother and his classmate isn’t his brother.

Solomon has grown in both attitude and aptitude in reading, writing, and math.  He completed his 100th reading lesson with you.  Can you reflect on the aptitude and attitude of lesson 1 and begin to see that God is faithful to His promises – you sowed in tears and now are reaping with joy, though I’m not discounting that you continue to sow in tears at times!  His desire to read grows stronger every month.  He asks about signs on the road, on walks and parks, and on titles of books. 

He expresses himself better, is more self-controlled, sleeps better, gets dressed quicker, is able to handle small chores, entertains himself longer, and has grown in playing with his brother.  He applies knowledge learned in school, library books read by you, from random play, and watching Daniel Tiger to real life situations.

Most importantly, he has repented of his sins countless times and received absolution both from God and from others.  He prays on his own, knows more of the Bible, has memorized more hymns, more parts of the liturgy, and now freely asks very difficult questions about his God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Henry

Henry has completed his first year of Classical Conversations.  He has learned countless (!) songs by heart that have taught and will continue to teach him about God’s gracious hand in history, science, math, and language.  He was introduced to public speaking (at the age of 4!) and at times showed amazing aptitude in it (remember the Christmas program at church?).  Can you begin to see that God is faithful to his promises that those who sow in tears will reap in joy?  He grew in friendship and playing with others.

He was given the greatest gift he never asked for when God gave him another new baby sister.  He loves, laughs, and cares for her so intently partly because he models your love, laughter, and care.  He applies knowledge learned in school, library books read by you, from random play, and watching Daniel Tiger to real life situations.

He is an amazing builder of Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys – all new from Christmas 2015.  He speaks clearer, counts better, recognizes and creates patterns, knows much of the alphabet and their phonetic sounds and can actually read some whole sentences!  He sleeps better, falls asleep on his own easier, gets dressed on his own, and continues to learn to control his crazy emotions that God gave him through you and me. 

Most importantly, he has repented of his sins countless times and received absolution both from God and from others.  He prays for others, knows more of the Bible, has memorized more hymns, and more parts of the liturgy.

Dorothea

Dorothea has recently exploded in her ability to express herself.  She has an immense vocabulary and realizes that because she is loved by mom and dad, she can speak freely about everything.  She has learned so much simply by being present in situations where teaching, reading, and singing has occurred.  She has learned countless (!) songs by heart that have taught and will continue to teach her about God’s gracious hand in history, science, math, and language.

She now consistently plays by herself and with others.  She has begun to learn what she loves and has been encouraged to grow in that (“Mommy, can I color?”).  She sleeps in a big girl bed, shares a bedroom with her baby sister, and actually sleeps very well.  She wears 3T clothes that were gathered and organized by you (Thank God for the gift of clothes from others and for the countless hours spent by you organizing all of our children’s clothes!).  She eats incredibly well without much complaint. 

Most importantly, she has repented of her sins countless times and received absolution both from God and from others.  She prays, blesses, knows more of the Bible, has memorized more hymns, and more parts of the liturgy.

Josephine

One year ago, Josephine was still being created and formed by her Heavenly Father in your womb.  Josephine has been birthed and also been given the gift of new birth by Water and the Spirit.

She now crawls, laughs, eats solid food, shows love and is receptive of love.  She expects comfort because she has received so much comfort.  She now sleeps in a crib and sleeps relatively well (says I in ignorance!)

Before the age of 1, our little Josephine has heard in her ears and soul countless confessions of sin from her father, mother, and siblings and countless absolutions from God and to each other.  She has heard so many prayers, so many blessings, so much of the Word of God, so many hymns, and so many parts of the liturgy.  She sings, she folds her hands, and she crosses herself.

Conclusion

So, God is faithful to His promises.  You have sown in doing good and because of His grace, you can begin to see the good reaping.  Don’t grow weary.  Keep commending yourself and children to God with the patience of a farmer.  You have received rewards here in time and are promised even greater rewards in eternity.


There is still more love to grow in.  Your faith and hope constantly need to be strengthened by the healing Words and Sacrament of our Savior.  The holy Ten Commands will continually be calling for us to fulfill them, so take heart in this, one of your fathers in the faith – “All God’s commandments are fulfilled when whatever is not done, is forgiven” (St. Augustine).

Love,
Your husband


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reality: A letter to my daughters and daughters-in-law

If a day comes that my daughters or my daughters-in-law are blessed with children, this is the letter I will give them.

My dearest daughters and daughters-in-law,

Everyone has an opinion about your life.  Many will decide to tell you about their opinions through light-hearted jokes or hard-hearted stabs.  Both can seem like arrows to your soul at times.  The weight is heavy as a mom of young children.  You carry with you the guilt of every mistake you will make...and you will make them.  I made them with you, my daughters, everyday.  I made them with my sons, your husbands, everyday.  The world and your own consciences will tell you all the things you do wrong and some things they think you do wrong.  You don't cherish every moment.  You discipline in anger.  You want nothing more in the world than to be alone for an hour and sometimes you despise your children for not allowing you that time.  You don't feed them homemade food for every meal. You don't always want to take them to church.  You feed them too often.  You let them cry too long. You don't do enough.  You do too much.  You have too many kids.  You, my daughters and daughters-in-law, will be judged by the world and by yourself.  The world will tell you being a mom is not enough.  You are smart and educated.  You could be doing so much more.  Your heart will believe these comments sometimes, because there is truth to them.  You are smart.  You are educated.  And you will want to bolt out of your mom role.  It will happen.  And worse, when it happens, you will feel like you can't express those feelings because everyone out in the world was waiting for this moment - the moment when you finally woke up and realized they were right all along... You have too many kids.  You want more than this life.  You can't let yourself say the reality of a hard life with kids because everyone out there seems to hate kids.  How can you, who loves children and the blessings of them, honestly say that sometimes you just want to run away?  The burden is heavy.  You will fail more times than you ever care to tell the world.  You will hurt the ones who love you most and they will hurt you.

But my dearest daughters and daughters-in-law, should you be blessed to have a life like mine, let me tell you want I want to remember for the moment that this pain hits you -

I want to say I understand.  You can be honest with me,and you can be honest with your Jesus.  Because it does not matter what anyone's opinion is about your life.  God gave you this life.  In His infinite mercy and knowledge, He chose you as the mother of these children.  He will fill your heart at times with such great joy that you feel you may burst.  The love He gives you for your children is enormous. But when that joy and that love seems to be seeping out of all the cracks caused by the daily chaos, constant touching, endless needs, and constant interruptions, know that He will restore it, my dears.  He will restore your joy and love.  Everyday is hard - particularly between the hours of six in the morning until six in the morning the next day.  I mean, I get it.  When people make well-meaning comments about your "full hands" or when they seem to stab you with a dagger of hatred about the kids being "all yours?!?!," know that every person, even that person stabbing you, is fighting a different battle in their life.  Do your best to respond in kindness, because their cross is no lighter or heavier than yours.  Maybe your kindness will be a pebble in their shoe to remind them of that one woman who had lots of kids and still seemed joyful.

But more importantly, my dears, when you DON'T respond with kindness (and there will be times you won't), know that your Jesus bore that sin, too.  You don't live a life full of laws from God to keep you perfect.  You don't live a life to earn your way to heaven.  You live a life full of forgiveness that sets you free.  Free to love your children.  Free to love your husbands.  Free to love your neighbors.  Free to love yourself.  The freedom provided from the cross of Christ is the only cure for the crosses you bear in this life.   You will never be enough, but Christ's cross will always be enough.

My dearest daughters, by birth and by marriage, know that I may forget this time in my life by the time you get there.  God will have re-filled my joy and sealed my mom-of-littles cracks.  There will be new cracks, of which I don't know anything about now.  So, be kind to me, too, and help bring back some of these memories so that I may help you bear the burdens in joy.  Find this letter and gently say, "Mom, remember when..."  I will probably smile and say something ridiculous like, "Oh, I miss those times.  Cherish every moment."  Have mercy on my aging soul as I remember a time when I felt fully needed.  I may not always feel that way, and I am certain I will miss that part...someday.

Love,
Mom