Friday, January 31, 2014

Reality: On the Loss of an Unborn Child

I kind of hate this time of year.  There are too many reasons to remember things that sometimes feel much better being forgotten.

I have been pregnant three times.  Each time, I found out in late December/early January.  Life is funny (or actually dreadfully unfunny) that way.  Each of my last two pregnancies have ended with a baby to snuggle.  Each have arrived in late August/early September.  Both are wonderful joys.

But not my first.

My first ended with no baby to snuggle.  The first time I was pregnant, I found out on January 11, 2010.  By February 24, 2010, our child had died.  Now, all those days constantly remind me of what was.  I remember my husband kissing our belly and saying, "I love you," when we first knew of our child's existence.  I remember walking hand-in-hand to our first ultrasound, joyous to see a heartbeat...which we never saw.  I remember feeling robbed of a life we had started planning.  I remember people trying to say the right things, some succeeding...most failing.

I remember.

My whole body remembers.

It has remembered every detail with each of my two subsequent pregnancies.  They followed the same timeline, same due dates approximately, same milestones.  Every ultrasound a terrible reminder.  Every heartbeat heard with joy and sorrow.  Every child born with the hope I would never stop remembering and yet dying to forget.

I know I have the hope of the resurrection.  I know I do not mourn like those who have no hope.

I know those things.

When friends I know have lost children or I am told of a miscarriage, I answer with those things.  Those words are needed.

But so is the freedom to just mourn.  This is a freedom our culture tries to steal away from parents who have suffered through miscarriages.  I refuse to let them steal it away from me.  I will cry.  I will remember.  I will talk about it.

My child deserves to be remembered.  Every child does.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Womanhood: Honoring the Men

You don't have to be married to honor men.  Sure, as a wife you are expected to submit to your husband, the head of your household.  But as any woman, married or single, you can honor those who deserve honor.
So, who deserves honor?  Does any man earn his own honor?  Does he deserve the respect of women?  No.

The man who deserves honor does not deserve it in himself, he receives it through his fear of the Lord.  As women in today's society, we have to start praising the God-fearing men.
All women together.
We must.
Hold them up as the honorable men they are - not because of their good deeds but because of The One they look to for their forgiveness.

If you have been united to one of these men in marriage, thank God for him in your prayers, honor him by listening to him, and don't let others speak ill of him in your presence.  And never speak ill of him to others.  Just never.

If you hope to be united to one of these men in marriage, ask God to prepare you for him, honor him by praying earnestly for God's will to be done in his life, and don't let others speak ill of marriage or husbands in your presence.  And never speak ill of marriage or husbands to others.  Just never.

And whether or not you are united or ever will be, honor all the God-fearing men He has put in your life by respecting them, listening to them, praying for them, and insisting others do the same in your presence.

We have failed at this.  I have failed at this.

I am not saying, "Hey, Ladies, let's pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and start doing better and being better."

I am saying, "Hey, Ladies, let's start praying God will fill our minds and mouths with honorable words towards our husbands and all God-fearing men and give us the strength to stand up to those around us who speak ill of them."

Just as men are not honorable in themselves, we are not either.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reality: Socialization Obsession

"Aren't you afraid your child needs to learn social skills?"
"I fear my child doesn't have enough socialization."

We are obsessed with creating kids who are "social."

Don't get me wrong, I want my kids to know how to interact in the world.  I want them to know what is culturally acceptable and how to decipher between culturally acceptable and actually acceptable.  I want them to love others.  I want them to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and be able to recognize others' as well.  I want them to be polite and kind.  I want them to be forgiving.  I want them to be repentant.  I want them to share their blessings with others.  I want them to be content in their lives.

I want all those things for my kids.

I just don't believe the best way for them to learn them is by focusing on social skills and putting them in a room with other toddlers so they can figure it all out together.  Are there benefits to those interactions?  Of course.

But just stop obsessing.  Please.

Social skills and norms will come as children watch their parents (for the better or worse).
When you go to the grocery store, the gas station, the church, the restaurant, and the dry cleaners -
day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

The repetition of how you treat others and interact with others in the world - that is socialization.  You don't have to plan out how to teach it or think your child won't get it outside of daycare or preschool.  You just have to go out in the world and act like you want your children to act.  They are watching.

Our culture would benefit greatly if we all started focusing a little less on teaching the social skills we obsess over and a little more on teaching the social skill we don't even talk about -

You know, the one where we learn to sit and be quiet even while we are bored?
Yeah, we need more lessons on that one.
Instead of questions such as -
"Has my child had enough play dates and time with others today?"
Start asking -
"Has my child sat still and quiet without TV or electronics at any point today?"

Still, please go on the play dates.  Momma needs some socialization (probably more than any toddler).
Just don't obsess over the social skills.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Womanhood: The Nursing Mother Church

I am blessed with a husband who reads.
Then, he turns to me and says, "You would love this.  Read this."
He is always right...

well, about this.

He introduced me to the writings of John Kleinig (a Lutheran pastor in Australia).  I haven't found one that disappointed yet.

This blog post was spurred by one of his writings found here -
John Kleinig's "Mother Zion - Mother Church"

You really should read it, because it is an amazing description of visions in Isaiah.  God uses women in so many important roles through His Word.  For people who question whether women are given any respect in the Christian writings, I would especially encourage them to read this article.  Women and their role since creation are vitally important and held to such a great and mighty position.

There is so much to say about this article and the role of women, but this post is going to be a shout-out to all the nursing mothers of the world.  Isaiah (and other passages through the Bible) illustrate the Church and Her members as a nursing mother and her infant.

As a nursing mother, here are ten illustrations to describe why I find this picture so incredibly awesome:

1.  A nursing mother provides all of the nourishment needed for her infant.
     The Church provides all of the nourishment needed for her members.

2.  A nursing mother's milk supply is given at a rate that is needed for her infant.
     The Church's Gifts are given to her members as they are needed.  A pastor knows his people and feeds them at a rate they are able to handle.

3.  A nursing mother and infant need each other.  The infant to survive and the mother to avoid pain.  They are the only ones who can do this for each other.  A nursing mother longs for her infant who has been separated from her.  She hurts without her infant.
     A church and her members need each other.  The members to survive and the church to avoid the pains of an individual church dying.  They are the only ones who can do this for each other.  The Church longs for her members who have been separated from her.  She hurts without her members.

4.  A nursing mother's milk can be tainted with what she consumes.  She must avoid addictions.  She can build a tolerance to substances and think she is giving nutrients to her child.  Instead she is giving them drugs and addictions which can kill.  An infant has no knowledge of this, and is unable to see the damage being done.
     A church's teachings can be tainted with what it consumes in this world.  A church must avoid addictions and tolerances that will be fed to her members.  False teaching kills.  Church members often have no knowledge of the false teachings.  They are not able to see the damage being done.

5.  A nursing mother's milk carries all the nourishment and vitamins needed for an infant to grow, even when the mother doesn't take in enough.  She gives of her own to sacrifice for her infant.
     A church's Gifts are given with all the life-saving nourishment needed for her members to live and grow, even when the church is not receiving enough funds to survive herself.  She gives of her own to sacrifice for her members.

6.  A nursing mother wakes at the call of her infant.  She doesn't think about time or location.  She feeds when it is needed.
     A Church and her pastor wake at the call of the members.  She [the Church] and he [the pastor] don't think about time or location.  They feed when it is needed.

7.  A nursing mother is the lone place of immediate comfort for her infant.
     The Church is the lone place of immediate comfort for her members.

8.  A nursing mother's milk meets the individual needs of her infant.  It acts as medicine and preventative care.  It gives antibodies for illnesses that are real and local to her infant.
     A particular church and her pastor meet the individual needs of members.  The Gifts are medicine and preventative care.  The Church dispenses Gifts that fight real and local sins.

9.  A nursing mother can give more milk at any time - a matter of supply and demand. She can even give her milk to another baby, not born of her.
     The Church can give more Gifts at any time - a matter of supply and demand.  There is always enough.  The Church can even feed those not born of the Church.

10.  A nursing mother's milk can eventually dry up when there is no longer a child to feed.
     A particular church's Gifts can eventually cease to be given when there are no longer members to feed.  However, the Church lives on and so do Her members.

How awesome are nursing mothers?
So, the next time you get nervous about nursing in the pew -

Just remember, we are all nursing infants.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Womanhood: Loving Life

Our first mother was given the name Eve from her husband.  "The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." [Genesis 3:20]

The first of all women was created to love life.  There is no denying it.  She was the mother of all to come.  She was the mother ancestor of our risen Lord.  A mother loves her offspring.  A mother cherishes the offspring of her offspring.  A mother is delighted to live long enough to love the offspring of her offspring's offspring.

A mother loves life.

In all the books of the Bible, there are no godly women described as killing children or hating pregnancy.  In fact, it is FULL of stories of godly women hiding their babies in baskets among the reeds to save them and longing for pregnancy into years far past childbearing ages.

A woman loves life.

A woman loves life so much she hurts.  She cries out for mercy for every child.  She watches her tears fall for the loss of her own child in utero.  She watches her tears fall for the loss of her young or old child.  She watches her tears fall for the barrenness of her sisters.  She watches her tears fall over her singleness and wonders if God will bless her with a husband with whom to become one.  She watches her tears fall for the baby created and then killed in less than ideal circumstances.  She watches her tears fall for the millions of baby girls never given the chance to love life as a woman.  She watches her tears fall for the millions of baby boys never given the chance to love life as a man.

Her soul cries out.  She was made to feel this pain and hatred of death and love of life,
because she was made in the image of God.

You cannot be a biblical woman and be pro-choice.
You cannot be a Christian woman and be pro-choice.
Well, okay, you actually can, but it is a sin.
Unrepentant, don't-judge-me, blatant, sign-holding sin deserves judgment.

Oh boy (or should I say "Oh woman?"), I just made a really harsh statement toward a whole bunch of women.

I am thankful the story doesn't end there.

Thanks be to God -
He created a plan to save us from the beginning.  This plan would use the pregnancies of many women (from Eve to Mary) to bring forth the Life to save all lives - all the lives He created in wombs of women throughout history.

For every sin we have committed.
For every time we have not loved life and defended it the way we should.
For all those things, He came.  He forgives.

A woman may love life so much she hurts,

but He...

He loves life so much He died...

that we may live.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Womanhood: Beauty Springs Forth

Read: Proverbs 31:10-31

The world teaches us to seek beauty in ourselves - on the outside or on the inside.  It is just too bad we can search forever and all we will ever find within ourselves is not beautiful at all.  It is actually the opposite of beautiful.

When referencing the Proverbs 31 woman, so many will say, "Look, this is what I need to do to be a biblical woman!  I have the answer.  I am a wonderful, beautiful, strong, busy woman when I act like her."  Or some who see it say, "Those crazy Christian women are so old-fashioned.  How could they let men treat them like they have to do all this?  It is so demeaning."  I will give them this - it does seem like a checklist.  When I first started thinking about this reality series on womanhood, I considered addressing the Proverbs 31 passage one verse at a time.  I fell into the trap myself.

Then I read.  I read.  I read. I read the Bible.  I read Lutheran stuff.  I read the opposite of Lutheran stuff.  These are my conclusions on beauty in reference to the Proverbs 31 woman.

This passage is a man describing his wife.  He sings her praises in public.  He goes verse by verse describing her amazing qualities in business, in home, in family, and in faith.  He speaks of her as if he were Christ describing His bride, the Church.

A marriage depicting Christ and His Church - who would have ever thought of that concept?

I can assure you the original Proverbs 31 woman was a failure in as many ways as you and I are.  I can only assure you of that because there has never been a perfect woman.

So, what is up with the fact that she seems so darn perfect?
It is all in who describes her - her husband.

You don't see Christ standing before God describing all the Church's faults.  You see Him singing Her glories, presenting Her as blameless.

I don't mean to turn the Proverbs 31 passage against husbands, but there is no denying their role in this perfect woman.  Husbands, if you want a Proverbs 31 woman, start treating her like a Proverbs 31 woman.  Sing her praises in public and in private.  Teach your children to sing her praises.  Talk of her grace.  Talk of her faith.  Watch your words help her become your blameless bride.  Watch your words help your eyes to see her differently.  You are to her as Christ is to the Church.  You are to her as this husband is to his Proverbs 31 woman.

I also don't mean to turn the Proverbs 31 passage away from a checklist.  There is so much to learn from the Law when it is applied rightly.  The Church honors Her Husband, Christ.  She does Him no harm and only good all the days of Her life.  So shall we as wives.  Wives, you can't be the perfect Proverbs 31 woman any more than the church on this earth can be blameless.  Does that mean you ignore the goodness found in this passage?  By no means!  You just have to recognize the passage for what it is...

Where does the Proverbs 31 woman find her beauty?  She fears the Lord.  Through her fear of the Lord springs forth a whole passage of good deeds to her husband and family.  Through her fear of the Lord springs forth generations of women singing her praises.

The fear of the Lord springs forth beauty.  Just as flowers springing forth in a field do not dress themselves, you don't either.

A woman's beauty is not today, nor will it ever be, found within herself - outside or inside. Her beauty is given from the same source as the flower's beauty.

If you would like to read more about the Proverbs 31 woman, I would recommend:

Proverbs - Concordia Commentary by Andrew E. Steinmann (It is rather expensive just to read this section.  You could also go visit a Lutheran pastor and ask to borrow it - I bet they would be really happy to help you.)

The Lutheran Study Bible (references to Proverbs as a whole and to Proverbs 31).  You should just go ahead and buy this one.  It is awesome.

I would not recommend googling "Proverbs 31 woman" unless you want to be really overwhelmed.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Reality: Affordable Care Act

It seems impossible for some people to understand why some other people would be against providing birth control for women.

Let's try a comparison -
Go with me here...

Let's say you have been a die hard, avid, crazy Colts fan your entire life.  Your parents raised you the right way and taught you to cheer "Go Horse!"  You lived this love throughout your life.  It really impacted everything for which you stood.  You spent your life educating others about the Colts and why you believe being a Colts fan is what is best for them.

And you happen to be blessed enough to live in a country with a founding principle of freedom in all things football.

Then, someone told you, "You know what.  Actually being a Patriots fan is really important and necessary for other people.  Even though you are a Colts fan, you are going to have to start providing Patriots jerseys to others."  WHAT?  You cannot believe someone would be so bold.  "Why would I be expected to provide something I am so against?"

So, you decide to fight it.  And amazingly, the other side seems to agree with you slightly...for a moment.

They say, "Hey, we get it.  You don't want to provide Patriot jerseys to others because you have loved the Colts all your life.  So, here is our generous offer -
You actually don't have to provide the jerseys.  We are going to let you sign this paper that says you don't believe in the Patriots.  Just sign right here and authorize someone else to provide the Patriot jerseys.  No skin off your back.  Somebody else will do it."

At first glance you think maybe this is ok.  You don't really have to think about it after you just sign that line.

Then, wait...

Hold on...

A question is brewing here.

You look up and say, "OK, so I don't have to provide them, and this other third party will.  So, who will pay for these Patriot jerseys?  Will that third party do it out of the generosity of their pocketbook?  Do they really love the Patriots so much that they are willing to do that?"

"Oh.  Ummmm.  Well, the Colts hats and t-shirts you buy...yeah, they will just cost a little bit more."
"So, I am paying for Patriot jerseys?"
"No.  Of course not."


Then, the most important point comes up.

"Well, I am free to act in all things football.  This has been granted to me through the government."
Government responds:  "Oh, that's not what we meant when we said "all things football."

Comparison over now, and not because I think I have a perfect comparison...

Because there is no comparison good enough.

We are talking about religious beliefs held for much longer than 2000 years.  Religious beliefs held through governments which have come and gone long before the United States of America.  Religious beliefs held through dictators, tyrants, kings, prime ministers, and presidents.  Religious beliefs that will continue to stand long after this court battle is over - no matter who "wins."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Womanhood: Confessions From a Career Unfinished

When we found out our youngest child was a girl, I was more than a bit shocked.  I don't really know anything about being a girl.  Sure, I am one, but on the girly scale I pretty much rank near the bottom.  The only thing that keeps me from the depths of the bottom is my very girly fear of anything resembling a spider.  Oh, and my total inability to open any jar from the shelf.

How was I supposed to raise a girl?  I had two boys already, and I was even beginning to handle the occasional spider sighting.  This was not something I had prepared myself for.

I used to have a career.  I used to say I wanted to be a college president in the future.  I was pretty driven.

Then, my husband and I decided it was the best thing for our family if I stayed home.  And when I say "my husband and I," I do mean it.  There was no force from him.  There was no pushing.  I went willingly - very willingly.  I had been away from my young children too much already.  I desired to be with them and to make our lives more manageable.  (Albeit, less lucrative.)

So, one day I went to work, wrote my letter of resignation, and came home at 10 AM.  I picked my kids up, and we went home.  Just like that, I was a homemaker.  That evening, I celebrated with a toast and a margarita with my stay-at-home-mom friends.  I knew I was going to kick butt at this mommying thing.

I had spent many years in college pursuing a bachelor's and a master's and working in assistantships.  Then I ventured onto a post-graduate career for four years.  All of those things were leading me down a path.

This was not that path.  I soon learned - I didn't know how to do this.

Has anyone ever told you that you actually have to learn how to be a homemaker?  Provocative, I know.  I have never been one to judge stay-at-home-moms as being unintelligent or lazy, but I also didn't know how smart you needed to be.  You just had to be smart in things I wasn't smart in.

Like most women my age, I grew up in a generation that only added an egg to a box to get a cake.  Quite frankly, the lack of an egg in my refrigerator was usually the cause of a considerable amount of frustration for me.  "Why don't they come up with a mix that doesn't need an egg?"  I have said that phrase many times.

Women my age have always known we could be anything.  We have always seen women in the workforce.  We have not known a world where women made homes; we have known a world where women made careers (and tried to make a home after work).  We have upon us the cultural guilt of a former generation of women who say, "We fought for your rights to do this.  Now go do it."  When we choose not to do it, we seem ungrateful or held down by old fashioned men or worse - seem old fashioned ourselves.  We live in a culture which preaches its own awesomeness at standing up for the next generation, when in reality, we are only awesome at standing up for ourselves and our own interests.  Being a parent forces you into a life of putting someone else before yourself.  Being a stay-at-home-mom puts you in that life full-time.

Not that being a stay-at-home-mom is the most godly vocation of them all (as I fail daily and much and every vocation given by God is inherently godly), but it is one where the entire job description is about the next generation and their interests.  There are no awards.  No pomp.  There are very few self-esteem building moments (aside from your child using the potty correctly for the first time).  However, there are plenty of moments, hours, days, weeks, and years to raise God-fearing, repentant sinners.

All of this is not a statement against working women.  I understand the desire.  I understand the need in certain circumstances.  I fully recognize there are situations in the world when women choose to work AS a sacrifice for their children.  But those situations should not be our points of argument.  My heart hurts for women who must work against their own desires to be with their children. I was a working woman, and I don't totally rule out being one of you again someday.  This is a statement against the world (and quite frankly, usually women) saying making a home isn't enough - either by blatantly saying it to another or by saying something like - "I just couldn't do that...I need to be out working and doing more."  The implication of those statements is that staying home is less important.

When the ultrasound tech said "girl," I knew if God chose to bless my daughter with a husband and children someday, I didn't want her thinking she HAD to do more than JUST be a wife or JUST be a mother.

Perhaps the greatest commandment we have as parents is given to us by God in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." [ESV]

Those are the words I hope my daughter knows she HAS to do.
Those are the words I pray about doing each day.  

When I say these are confessions from a career unfinished, I don't mean the career I had a lifetime ago.  
I am talking about the one left unfinished each day here with my husband and my children.
That is my career unfinished.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Womanhood: The Reality Series

The reality is - I don't really want to be typing this.  I am a bit scared of the world.

But, alas, I keep getting my mind drug over it and through it.  I suppose I should listen to the voices inside my head sometimes.

In 2014, I will be writing a reality series concerning biblical womanhood.
The reality is - you might hate what I say.
The reality is - you may love what I say.

Either way, I am sure it will spur some thoughts.

Hope you enjoy the ride.