Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One Foot In Front Of The Other

He hangs and swings from the high cupboard door impulsively and down it comes, heavy, hanging on just a hinge. I rush forward, holding it, grieving.

Why does he do these senseless things?

The same day he hangs his jacket, a nice one from Burlington, on the fence. Retrieving it with a yank, it rips ugly down the back, exposing down batting.

It all weakens my spirit, these and other annoyances. My emotions run high on hormones, besides, and I feel like crying.

I tell him he must clean the entire playroom by himself to help pay for the jacket. This brings torment and fits of anger, for the room resembles a cyclone.

He fusses long that he can't do it. It's too messy and he simply must have help.

A mountain of clothes taunt me from the couch. Dishes on the table, the counter, the sink, remind me of my inefficiency. Visible crumbs and debris shout at me from the floors and carpets.

I feel like my son...it's too messy and I don't want to do it and I. need. help.

I'm now treating eight pink-eye infections, two eyes per victim, and the three times daily drop schedule exhausts me, along with Beth's medicine and Peter's medicine and my own headache medicine.

The dryer threatens to go out and I raise my eyes to heaven as I'm apt to do when it all goes wrong at once. One day no heat, another day the timer won't advance, another day it works seamlessly. When can we even get to the used appliance place, with all these illnesses raging?

Peter's fussing from the playroom detours my thoughts. Self-pity, I shout at myself. Stop the self-pity!

"Peter, I have dishes and laundry and crumbs screaming at me and I feel exactly like you do. How can I do this to the glory of God, when all I feel like doing is crying?"

"The answer is the same everyday, Peter. We can do nothing apart from His strength. We're going to pray right now."

"Dear Father, help us to obey you and do our work for your glory. Help us to remember, before we fuss and complain, to come to you for help." 

Nothing changes immediately. We still feel like crying and Peter says it didn't work.

But in half an hour Peter makes significant progress and I have the dishes cleared from all surfaces and in the dishwasher, now humming away. I remind both of us to put one foot in front of the other and keep going...a long obedience in the same direction.

In no time the work completes itself as we mold our will to His. And we don't cry after all. 

"It worked, Mommy. Jesus is helping me. Look how much I got done."

I praise Him and agree that yes, Jesus helped us.

He always does.

My mind settles on this thought: Put one foot in front of the other and parent these children and suddenly, one day, as fast as the dirty dishes, they're gone.

And my eyes pool. Because I love this job and I hate this job but mostly I love this job.

And He whispers it.

"It's not about the dishes, the clothes, the crumbs, the broom. It's not about the chores, any of them, ever."

It's about the heart...yours and theirs.  In the mundane, in the moments, in the process, show them what journeying with Me is really about.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Is He Your Lord?

I need to write something to a fifty-year-old, previously widowed Christian woman who filed for divorce from her non-Christian husband of 3 years. Her reasons? He won't go to church and he's too fat. He wasn't a Christian when she married him either, mind you. The husband's developed a belly but don't picture a nightmare of a weight problem. He's not obese and even if he was, her conduct is reprehensible.

The real problem is that this woman, like so many Christians, never had the benefit of discipleship, either because of her own stubbornness or because the Christians in her life couldn't be bothered.

The letter will be long and I don't really have the time. The laundry isn't caught up and the floors need mopping. Books are on hold at the library and need to be picked up.

Oh, sure. I could let it go and not get involved. My hands are full here already and didn't she make her bed by marrying a non-Christian in the first place? What makes me think she'll listen to biblical counsel anyway? It's a waste of my time.

Isn't it?

And what right do I have to be acting like a counselor? Teachers are not counselors...I'm not equipped.

Right? (Hint: If you have knowledge of the Word and love in your heart for the student, then you're equipped. God disciples through us, not because of us.)

Here's the shameful part, in the form of a confession. Three years ago when the pair contemplated marriage we knew it was a grave mistake on the woman's part due to the prospective groom's non-Christian status. I'm related to the groom and I like him, though for most of my life I didn't know him. That means I didn't and still don't have knowledge of what kind of husband he makes. But none of that matters, for these were issues of the Word only. 

Do not be unequally yoked, the Bible says. Pure and simple Scripture that needed to be impressed upon a baby Christian woman who had never made Jesus her Lord. Jesus was Savior to her only and that's what He still is today.

We should have stepped in and privately counseled her three years ago, as the Holy Spirit prompted. Obviously we both feel terrible about this. Responsible for it even, in a small way--a responsibility we share with other Christians, for she was a churchgoer and didn't keep this relationship a secret.

We were conducting our busy lives and didn't want to upset other members of the family. It just seemed easier to let it go and pray for them.

Going back three years, here was the scene: We arrived at their small wedding reception just in time to see them greet the last of their guests. It appeared they were in some sort of an argument by the time we, the last in line, shook their hands and congratulated them.

We drove home feeling like cowards, knowing the scene in the coming months wouldn't be good.

The next day they drove to California, where the groom resided at the time; it was a long-distance, mostly phone relationship prior to the wedding. (They've lived here for eighteen months now, however.)

Out of sight, out of mind. I mostly forgot to pray for them because Beth was a tiny baby and I wasn't a prayer warrior back then.

How many times have you failed to get your hands dirty for God, for fear of this or that consequence?

The Gospel offends. The word obedience offends. The word sacrificial offends. All the words necessary to disciple another Christian, offend.

I will write this woman that though she married a non-Christian, she still must obey God and stay with her husband unless he decides to leave her. Her husband may never attend church with her or become a Christian. He may never lose weight or support her in the fashion she desires. Yet God still calls her to treat him with respect and let him make the important family decisions. 

What must happen in her heart, for these words to penetrate?

It's the same for all of us, isn't it? 

In order to obey God, we have to give up our sense of entitlement. We aren't entitled to happiness.

The Cross is enough, period

And yet if we submit our will to His, God gives us even more. When we make Him our Lord, and not just our Savior, we're given a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Life eternal in Heaven. Peace in our journey here. Are you rejoicing yet?

If not, ask yourself about a sense of entitlement. Do you have one, in regard to your home, your spouse, your children, your friends, your family, your possessions, your health?

Throw that sense of entitlement away. Get on your knees and give thanks for what you do have.

It is enough. Far more than you, than any of us, deserve.

Disclaimer: It certainly might be a valid point that someone who hasn't made Jesus their Lord, really isn't saved in the first place. I don't pretend to know if the two must exist at the same time, but I do know that many people who claim Jesus as Savior, haven't been discipled. Discipleship happens through us--through Christians. We have a responsibility to guide new believers, even if it means offending them. God doesn't need us to do this. The God of the universe doesn't need us to do anything for Him. But I think one believer guiding another--called discipleship--is His preferred way to grow the Church.

Think about your sphere of influence. Who can you disciple right now, other than your children? Our first commitment is to those under our roof, but He will prompt us to do more at times. And we must obey. We must make time for Kingdom matters...for the eternal over the temporal

photo credit

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Counting My Blessings

~ Our sweet barber gave Peter a copy of Birds and Blooms magazine. It didn't take long for him to fall in love and wonder how he could obtain his own subscription. I awoke this morning to find this notice taped to the cupboard:

Peter's Propotey Mantanence

- vacuming
- weeding
- digging
- planting
- transplanting
- folding
- dusting
- raking leaves
- making beds for other people
- organizing
- dead heading
- I can trim some things

Job prices depending on size of job.

I kissed him on the cheek and told him how precious this was to me. He smiled and said, "I thought you would think that. My first draft was terrible. You wouldn't have liked it."

Getting him to do second and third drafts is a nightmare, so just knowing he improved it on his own made me silently thank God for his faithfulness to me, a homeschooling Momma desperate to help an unconventional learner like Peter! I needn't fear; He is with me! 

Whenever you fear, this might help. It's an excerpt from Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, p.161.  She imagines God having this conversation with her:
All fear is but the notion that God's love ends.  Did you think I end, that My bread warehouses are limited, that I will not be enough?  But I am infinite, child.  What can end in Me?  Can life end in Me?  Can happiness?  Or peace?  Or anything you need?  Doesn't your Father always give you what you need?  I am the Bread of Life and My bread for you will never end.  Fear thinks God is finite and fear believes that there is not going to be enough and hasn't counting one thousand gifts, endlessly counting gifts, exposed the lie at the heart of all fear?  In Me, blessings never end because My love for you never ends.  If My goodnesses toward you end, I will cease to exist, child.  As long as there is a God in heaven, there is grace on earth and I am the spilling God of the uncontainable, forever-overflowing-love-grace.

~ As Beth nursed at bedtime last night, I could feel my body relax from the day's stress. Several minutes into it I said softly, "I love you, Beth." I could feel her body relax further and then she put her head up and returned, "I love you too, Mommy." Then she continued nursing, only to stop again and put her head up, telling me, "I really do, Mommy." 

Sometimes it takes a whole day for a moment like this to arrive. This mothering thing can seem so hard. But then God sends these graces, these gifts. I really do believe they are His words, tucked into a child's vocabulary. For the moment I hear them, I am certain being a Mommy is exactly where God wants me to be

The world's voice can be a cacophony in our heads sometimes. A woman should do this or that important thing, not spend 24/7 with her kids. But God asserts His voice above it all, from the mouths of the babes we nurture. And then it becomes clear, crystal clear, once again.

~ Another moment of purpose clarity came with Mary at bathtime. She seems so wise all of a sudden, like the Holy Spirit's begun to dwell in her: 

"Mommy, sometimes when I cry it looks like I'm sad, but I'm really happy." 

"Yes. That's true. We cry when something touches our hearts, not just when we're sad." 

"I think it's God that touches our hearts, Mommy." 

Yes, child. That's exactly it.

~ A cold, snowy Saturday meant no outdoor play so we made sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies while Daddy worked his half-day shift. When Daddy arrived home he noticed the chocolate chip cookies first thing and munched away. "These are so good. Thank you, Honey."  His love languages are quality time and physical touch. I've known this since the first year of marriage. But the true way to his heart--something I've learned in the last couple years? Food. He's 5 foot 8 inches and 158 pounds. Don't ask me where it goes, but he does work very hard 55 hours a week!

~ Mary and Beth are best friends. They even share their pink-eye infections. They're happy about it too, since it means they can keep playing together. Let's hope there are enough drops in that minuscule little bottle, because every time we go back to the doctor we come home with some new and uninvited germ, no matter how much hand gel I slather on. Tough February for illnesses; we're on round 2 with colds, too.

Have a blessed Sunday, friends. Fear not, count your blessings, and know that motherhood is the highest calling.

Friday, February 24, 2012

4 Ways To Love Your Neighbor

We all know this command by heart:

Mark 12:31
 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” source

But how many of us really know how to love our neighbor as ourselves? What does it look like? My husband and I discussed this a lot recently, based upon the times we've felt unloved. Those discussions led to the four How To Love Your Neighbor points I'm sharing today:

1. Acknowledge Your Neighbor 

The first step in loving your neighbor is to acknowledge your neighbor. Don't drive by your neighbor without waving. Say hello to fellow employees and churchgoers in the halls. Shake hands with newcomers at church. Greet the check-out employee, the meat workers, the produce workers, the mailman, the custodian, the support staff at hospitals and cafeterias. If you're shy like me this doesn't come naturally, but that's no excuse for leaving these simple, loving gestures out of our social repertoire. God created us to need love and the first step is to be noticed

Did you know that 60% of Smart-phone users are addicted to their phones? (A fact gathered from the John Tesh radio show featured on my Christian radio station.Do you go to the library with your kids and see all the moms with their eyes on various electronic devices, rather than on their kids? That tells you a little about the human need to be noticed. Are they checking e-mail or social networks? Some of them are self-involved to a fault, but others are isolated daily with their kids and simply feel unloved. They're looking to see who acknowledged them.

In the past people lived in one place longer and interacted with their neighbors more. Mothers were mostly homemakers and they networked around the neighborhood. We've become more mobile and more diverse, but our love needs haven't changed. It's just that now we meet our needs in other ways, such as online. This method comes with drawbacks, but used wisely it's a blessing.

2.  Acknowledge Their Pain 

I sent Christmas letters out last year to friends and family, some of whom hadn't heard from us in two years. Simple information about Beth's arthritis diagnosis was tucked into a paragraph. Even though we got reciprocal letters or cards back, not a single person acknowledged that my daughter suffers from something painful. Not a single person said they'd pray, even. My husband took it in stride, but I was hurt. Beth's life changed drastically, as did our whole family's, and it meant nothing to people, or so it seemed. Pain is an expected part of life, but it still smarts. It still needs to be acknowledged.

Recently I've come across a few well-written blog posts detailing an individual's or a family's pain and suffering. Countless comments mentioned how inspiring the stories were, but very few people added, "I'm sorry you've experienced such terrible pain...I'm sorry your husband left you...I'm sorry you deal with chronic pain...I'm sorry you're suffering from a broken heart, etc.

When we comment that a story is inspiring, we're writing from our own perspective. We're focusing on how it helps us. It's a nice thing to say and the writer will feel glad they've taken the time to recount their story, but will they feel loved?

If someone loses a baby, a spouse, a job, a home, mention it in conversation. Ask how they are doing in the grieving process. Dana, who lost her son when a dresser crushed him, mentioned early on how it hurt when people skirted around the death of her son in everyday conversation, as though the topic were taboo. Nothing hurts more than saying nothing. If you can't find the words, simply give a hug and whisper "I'm praying"; or send a card that says, "I'm so sorry you're hurting. I am praying for you." Nothing elaborate or poetic required.

Usually the people who acknowledge pain are those who've experienced pain. If you've been spared serious personal pain, you'll have to try harder to acknowledge the pain of others. Pray for a compassionate heart. Pray that you'll not judge, but love

3. Lend Your Support 

~  Don't ask the new mother just home from the hospital if she needs anything. Of course she does. She needs meals, diapers, babysitting, grocery runs. She also needs laundry folded. If she knows you and trusts you, just show up at the door and tell her you love her and want to be her maid or babysitter that day. "Don't worry about the house", you add. "I've been there." 

~ If you know someone is having a surgery, bring a meal. Or call and ask how it went. Pick up some milk, bread, and fruit for them and drop it by. People don't often ask. Maybe they're too overwhelmed or too disorganized to know they need help, until it feels too late. 

~ If someone lives alone or is still single, invite them to your home. Or stop by and visit. Give the gift of your time, especially to those with little or no family around. The sense of isolation can be terrible for them, but they may be too ashamed or proud to articulate it.

~ If someone is struggling with infertility, don't ask if they're pregnant yet, but do ask how they're doing.

~ Participate in a prayer network and really commit to praying. Or start a prayer network if your church or friend group doesn't have one.

4.  Learn The Love Languages

Have you heard of the Five Love Languages? We all have a primary and a secondary way we'd like to receive love--quality time, physical touch, acts of service, affirming words, receiving gifts. We tend to express love the way we'd like to receive it, rather than the way our neighbor needs to receive it. I encourage you to learn more about the languages by clicking the link and having each person in your home take the love language quiz.  Apparently we all have an apology language too.

So there you have our two cents on loving your neighbor

1. Acknowledge your neighbor 
2. Acknowledge their pain 
3. Lend your support 
4. Learn their love language

What have we left out? Please share what's been important to you over the years.

photo source

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Blessings To Count

~ Girls who will finally let me fix their hair with bows and ties. oh the joy.

~ Miss Beth's eye inflammation, associated with her arthritis, did not return.  What a weight off our shoulders for now! We go back in three months for another check. She's sleeping much better but her weight is dropping fast; that's still a huge worry. The eye doctor mentioned that cancer and inflammation patients can get incorrect "I'm full" signals from the brain. He suggested I ask the rheumatologist about appetite stimulants, or possibly getting a referral to an endocrinologist. She's skin and bones only and looking at her is so painful! The rheumatologist thought the weight loss was due to her medication so she changed it six weeks ago.

~ Miss Beth telling the eye doctor that when she grows up, she will be a doctor like him. Next, Mary said she would be an animal rescuer, a cowgirl, a farmer and a mother. Doctor giggled. Peter said he would be a farmer and Paul promptly added that he would be a teacher. So there you have it. The future is planned and I get to spend lots of time at a lovely two-sibling family farm, which is just what I've always wanted. I kid you not.

~ Miss Beth crawling between us on Sunday morning and hugging us both, telling us we're her "best frens forever."

~ Miss Mary praying for Hunter's fat, injured lip at dinner. "He's not my friend at AWANA but I just like being nice to people. His lip looks just like Paul's did when he hurt it."

~ Paul, age 8, telling me during bath time, "Mommy, I just don't know if I will have a happy family when I grow up."  "Why do you think that?" "Because there just aren't any girls I like. Boys like to do things I like to do, like wrestle and be wild." "Well, Honey, you just aren't at the age yet for God to give you an interest in girls. You don't need to worry about this. When you're older you'll find the perfect girl and she won't care about wrestling and that will be just fine with you. You'll appreciate her gentleness. I am certain you will make a wonderful husband and father and have a happy family. Do you understand?" "Oh, yeah. You're right Mommy."

~ A husband to hold after a bad dream. I was running in a parking lot, chased by a stranger. I awoke while struggling to get my keys into the car door's keyhole before the stranger overtook me. 

~ A freshly vacuumed rug. Always a welcome sight. 

~ Fresh strawberries and blueberries in the store now.

~ Miss Mary planning a butterfly class and making a chart to record who would attend. When class started we circled which of her drawn insects were butterflies; each of us had our own handmade worksheet. Next we colored our butterflies. Then we had circle time, consisting of a hot potato game with teddy bears (because we don't have stuffed butterfly toys you know). Then we had snack, consisting of our regular breakfast food--oatmeal or shredded wheat squares. Then recess and later today we'll finish with other activities. Paul, intrigued by the idea, is now planning a ladybug class.

~ Peter with his head in nature garden books for days, planning a container pond, with a promise from Daddy that when Beth gets older, we'll have a bigger one. My hard-working would-be farmer dug that big whole all by himself! He also peruses nursery sites pining for a colorful maple tree. Our three large maples turn a boring light yellow in the fall, but provide plenty of summer shade. No, Peter, we cannot chop down all our trees so you can replace them with a more colorful variety. 

~ Daddy took the boys to a college basketball game for the second time. Mary went this time also and had a wonderful time, despite my concern that she'd get fidgety. She's been cheering for the college every day since then. Our township is small, without even a post office or its own zip code, but nearby is a college town that affords us some perks. 

~ Cuddling with Paul and Beth in the easy chair first thing in the morning.

~ Miss Beth awoke at 3AM because her legs got caught in the sheet and they were too sore and stiff to untangle on her own. I went into her room and untangled her and cuddled her. She asked to nurse but nursed only a few minutes before putting both her hands around my neck, lovingly stroking my skin. The moment was so sweet I marveled at the blessing she is to me! She fell asleep with her hands still cuddling me. Then I fell asleep and dreamt that a black menacing cloud was an impending tornado. I tried to shout at the children to get in the hallway, but my throat couldn't get the words out. Then I woke up, noticing that Beth's hands were tighter on my throat. 

~ My yearly perm, long since due, makes me feel like a million bucks! Who cares that studies show straight-haired girls get the most dates! My stylist sported the loveliest curls so I complemented her, only to have her laugh and thank me and say that she usually straightens her natural curls. We always want what we don't have, she marveled.

Click to see a larger image of The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones~ We've begun to reread the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones at dinner and we're still lovin' it. Even the boys get a lot out of it.

~ At the hair salon I started reading Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark. I've long wanted to take writing-craft classes but there's no time or money. Writing is a some-day dream--something I hope to do instead of going back to teaching. My teacher's retirement will help us a lot after I hit 55 years old (it will make the house payment), but I'll need some side income. Husband will likely retire in about 15 years. 

So far I've learned I use too many -ings. It's best to stick to simple present or past tense and avoid the progressive. I also write too many short sentences. Ideally, long, medium, and short sentences should be mixed. Too many commas interrupt flow and irritate the reader. (Yes, I know. I use too many commas.) 

Fear not the long sentence, he opines. 

I also learned that J.K. Rollings, one of the very few writers who actually makes a full living at it (she's very rich in fact), writes in juvenile fashion, using too many silly adverbs. He provides examples from just a few of her pages:

"said Hermoine timidly"
"said Hermoine faintly"
"he said simply"
"said Hagrid grumpily"
"said Hagrid irritably"

I long ago learned that adverbs should be cut unless they change the meaning of the verb, like "she smiled sadly". And I guess I've known that the best writers aren't necessarily the ones on the bestseller lists, but this is discouraging. I haven't read J.K. Rollings and don't plan to. A good storyteller can sell books even if she can't craft the best sentences. The opposite is not true.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Married With Children: A Healthy Marriage Bed, Part 2

1 Corinthians 7:3-4
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 

Scripture teaches that once married, we do not have authority over our own bodies--our spouse does. That means we come together when at least one spouse has the desire. That would seem to indicate spontaneity? 

However, when children come spontaneity flies out the window unless you employ maids, nannies, and shoppers. A mother's nurturing instincts coupled with a child's biological needs, would indicate not spontaneity, but planning. Parents can nurture children, day and night, and enjoy one another in the bedroom. They're not mutually exclusive. You may find it works best to schedule your lovemaking days.

Forgive me for a little diversion here regarding the night nurturing of children. 

We enjoy nurturing our children at night starting with story time, then as we tuck them in we spend time cuddling, praying, talking about their day, dealing with any sin (ours or theirs), praising their hard work, and generally sending them off to slumber with their cups running over. Some days can be so busy that cups fail to get sufficiently filled. As a result, the next day can go sour. Spending a little one-on-one time before bed, or another time of day, prevents a lot of family-dynamics problems.

When families grow it can be harder to give babies and toddlers the amount of cuddling and individual attention they need. As I've mentioned before, when discussing what God desires for our marriages and families, we have to look at Scripture together with the divine design of our bodies. 

Research seems to imply that babies and children need parents who respond and nurture during the day and at night. You may hear that if you don't let your children "cry it out", your marriage will suffer. It's often the number one argument against attachment parenting styles. As a long-time night-nursing parent, and one who is there for my children at night, be it bad dreams, stuffy noses, pain, bedwetting, etc., I disagree. My husband appreciates my commitment to nurturing and he'd have it no other way. His support is key.

Dr. Allan Schore of the UCLA School of Medicine has demonstrated that the stress hormone cortisol (which floods the brain during intense crying and other stressful events) actually destroys nerve connections in critical portions of an infant’s developing brain. In addition, when the portions of the brain responsible for attachment and emotional control are not stimulated during infancy (as may occur when a baby is repeatedly neglected) these sections of the brain will not develop. The result – a violent, impulsive, emotionally unattached child. He concludes that the sensitivity and responsiveness of a parent stimulates and shapes the nerve connections in key sections of the brain responsible for attachment and emotional well-being.

 Researchers at Yale University and Harvard Medical School found that intense stress early in life can alter the brain’s neurotransmitter systems and cause structural and functional changes in regions of the brain similar to those seen in adults with depression

 Decreased intellectual, emotional, and social developmentInfant developmental specialist Dr. Michael Lewis presented research findings at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, concluding that “the single most important influence of a child’s intellectual development is the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby.”
Researchers have found babies whose cries are usually ignored will not develop healthy intellectual and social skills. 19

Dr. Rao and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health showed that infants with prolonged crying (but not due to colic) in the first 3 months of life had an average IQ 9 points lower at 5 years of age. They also showed poor fine motor development. (2)

Researchers at Pennsylvania State and Arizona State Universities found that infants with excessive crying during the early months showed more difficulty controlling their emotions and became even fussier when parents tried to consol them at 10 months. 15

Other research has shown that these babies have a more annoying quality to their cry, are more clingy during the day, and take longer to become independent as children 1.

Most of the world keeps babies and toddlers close for some time, thanks to the use of slings and close sleeping. Studies show that this closeness benefits children, possibly best approaching what God desires for a child's development. 

Many Americans parent far differently; there's formidable pressure--especially from older folk like mothers and mother-in-laws--to force a child into independence. Strong feelings abound about these issues and I have no desire to engage in mommy wars. Instead, I just wanted to present research that might give us some clue as to God's desires. For the sake of other readers, feel free to leave opposing research links in the comments. All moms give these issues countless hours of consideration and I don't seek to change anyone's carefully crafted views.

Moms who have high sleep needs often have to make tough decisions. The same is true for working moms or those with other difficult circumstances. Husbands and wives don't always agree on parenting issues; if your husband has different ideas, abide by his wishes and pray for a change of heart? My heart goes out to you.

Every family's needs differ--just don't assume you have to shortcut your children to satisfy your husband. 

If you decide that scheduling lovemaking is a good idea, start preparing for lovemaking days first thing in the morning: 

Prepare your mind and heart: Get your mind ready to be one with your husband that night--recall your favorite passionate memories from special times of old. Perhaps read from the Song of Solomon. Anticipate the passion, knowing that no matter how tired you are, once you're in his arms, it will be breathtaking. If there's anything to forgive him for, do it early in the day. Pray for help with this if you need it. 

Prepare your children: Plan for dinner, baths, and nighttime nurturing by starting everything early on these days. Can you bath them before you start dinner? Can you read a number of stories after the bath, and save just one for before bed, along with prayers and a bit of cuddling--or whatever your routine? By planning ahead we've never once been interrupted by our children, in all these years. Babies have cried and needed soothing right before, or right after, but never during. God has been faithful to preserve this time, and allow us to be responsive parents.

Don't be selfish with your time: Many moms have an outlet that potentially steals time, be it reading, writing, sewing, social networking, etc. Strictly control your interests on lovemaking days. If chores get behind on these days, it will give rise to crankiness, leading to the same in the children. They feed off of our emotions. Be as efficient as possible on lovemaking days. Avoid scheduling shopping or multiple errands on these days so your energy remains high.  

A word about the quality of lovemaking: If it's still early in your marriage and you don't know each other well yet physically, try discussing technique out of the bedroom, if this works better. Society leads us to believe that lovemaking happens naturally and that fireworks explode on that wedding night, as though you've known each other for years. The truth is that a honeymoon can be awkward. We don't know our spouse's body, or even what our own may need. 

We would do well to prepare our children for this, just before their own honeymoons. The anticipation of that night can lead to disappointment if they expect their best lovemaking right away.  

Without communication honeymoon awkwardness can continue, causing trouble in the bedroom. Your husband wants you to feel unbridled passion. Discuss what you need even though it may be uncomfortable. In the long run, meeting your needs is what blesses him most

Nursing is another God-designed activity that doesn't happen naturally. Like lovemaking, it takes time and patience and self-sacrifice, and in the end, the process blesses and matures us in and of itself. 

Pray for your love life, that it will be all that God designed

Later as changes happen, either because of illnesses or surgeries or childbirth, continue praying, knowing that God will never forsake you! Give this area over to Him, just as you would every other area of your life.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Married With Children: A Healthy Marriage Bed

In presenting material about marriage, or any other Christian topic, it's important to contemplate both God's Word, and his design of our bodies and minds. Looking at all the clues, what is God's desire for marriage?

The next question is, how closely are we adhering to His design, and lastly, how can we honor Him more in this area?

This article lists a number of Scriptures pertaining to marriage, though we won't discuss all of them today.  Today's topic will focus primarily on the marriage bed.

Western culture presents a battleground for any Christian, especially in the area of purity. Immodest clothing alone causes many a men to give up on holiness. They're not even free from the visual battle on a Sunday morning in church, thanks to the tight and baring styles teens and young women covet. Even among the Christian population, defiled marriage beds are the rule, not the exception, when you consider the wandering eye and mind. Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

A married couple should frequently check in with one another concerning purity, especially after children come along and intimacy becomes less frequent. Though difficult, this topic cannot be ignored. Naivete, like secrecy, invites trouble.

God designed a husband's passion to center around the visual, while a wife's passion centers more around her feelings--feeling safe and unconditionally loved in a committed marital relationship. Husbands might have more of a purity battle in the confines of marriage, but both spouses, especially when working outside the home, must take care to avoid emotional bonds with the opposite sex. These bonds are always a mistake. They defile the marriage by dishonoring the emotional bond it represents, eventually leading to ingratitude and infidelity.

When children go through especially needy periods, such as the baby, toddler, preschool, and teen years, it's harder to remain emotionally bonded to a spouse. There may be more opportunity to talk to the woman or man at work, then to one's spouse. Avoid alone time with the opposite sex at work or church, and when that's not possible, keep the doors ajar. We must guard our hearts and minds and our eyes.

Remember that God always provides a way out of temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

I can't emphasize enough that communication becomes especially important after children come and distractions abound. A naive husband or wife is dangerous. Understand the pitfalls in order to avoid them. 

What's also dangerous is a spouse with a low standard of holiness. Husbands can come to believe that since all men look at attractive women, it's okay. It's normal and healthy--part of being a man, in fact. Check in with your spouse's heart in this area. What is his standard for holiness? Is it a biblical standard?

An important question to be asked is this: Has he learned to automatically avert his eyes from another woman's body? If he hasn't, he could be comparing his wife's body--specifically, her post-baby body--with what his eyes feast on daily. When God blesses a couple with children, great joy results. But there are sorrowful things as well: post-baby bodies can be less visually appealing. A mature Christian man expects this and takes it in stride, feeling grateful for his wife's amazing body. Malachi 2:15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

Learning to bounce the eyes is one tactic holy men use to keep their hearts and marriage beds pure. Kristen Welch's husband, addicted to pornography for years, used this tactic to gain freedom.  I urge you to read this link. No man is immune until he develops fighting tactics. Sadly, most affected men began their addiction in the middle school years.

We are more likely to be satisfied with what God has given us, if we avoid comparison. And as always, counting our blessings keeps our hearts thankful

Women are not immune to focusing on the physical. An acquaintance of ours recently revealed, concerning his failed marriage:

"We haven't had relations in a year and a half because she said I was too fat and she couldn't stand to look at me."

Sadly, it was a Christian woman who uttered this grievous insult...to her non-Christian husband.

While it's always a good idea to care for our bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit, weight control is harder for some people, and harder for all of us after age forty. Our genes determine, to some extent, how quickly we gain weight and how easily we lose it. Stress and a busy lifestyle contribute to weigh issues. 

When a spouse is confronted about weight control, that only adds stress, which makes the battle even harder. The best approach is to be thankful for all of our spouse's good points, and then to pray that both spousal bodies remain as healthy as possible. Loving one another unconditionally contributes to physical and emotional health--there's no question about that.

Scripture teaches not to deny one another "except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." Scripture also teaches that men must "live with your wives in an understanding way." Something between these two Scriptures is what God desires for the frequency of marital relations. If a wife nurses a baby every two hours for weeks, or nurses the entire family back to health after a nasty illness, her husband should look upon her with compassion, allowing her time to recover before approaching her for relations.

God designed a woman's body such that breaks in marital intimacy are inevitable. After childbirth, during menses (depending on the couple's preferences), and during morning sickness, are just a few examples. 

During the first eight to ten months of nursing, a woman's secretions dry up, causing pain during relations. The presence of pain, possibly designed to make relations less frequent, coupled with the dryness which prevents a man's seed from traveling easily up her body, make it more likely that babies come with a healthy spacing. A woman's body needs to fully recover before carrying another baby. God designed us so that our developing baby's health, and our own health, are maximized. Nursing and childbearing are integral parts of that divine design: women who are fruitful, and those who nurse, are less likely to get female cancers.

Though a man should dwell compassionately with his wife, understanding her body and her emotions, a woman must communicate with her husband about his needs. If he's already struggling in the area of marital purity, the wife should give of herself sacrificially, despite her exhaustion or the presence of pain. 

How overwhelmed moms can hope to meet this expectation is a topic for another day. This post is Part 1.

The key ingredients for a healthy marriage bed are holiness, communication, compassion, and sacrificial love.

Hebrews 13:4
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Genesis 2:24
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

1 Corinthians 7:1-40
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. ...

Thessalonians 4:3-5
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

Malachi 2:15
Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

Matthew 5:28
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

1 Peter 3:7
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Genesis 1:26-28
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 

Thursday, February 16, 2012


"Even though we've never been together, and may not be until heaven, you feel like family. We love you."

How my heart needed these words!

A missionary couple came to visit us today. They'd just visited a supporting church in Indianapolis and were on their way to Liberty. 

Such nourishing, dear people. I miss them terribly already.

I'd been corresponding via e-mail with the wife. She's been a short-lived, but lovely Titus 2 influence in my life. I'd never met her before today, but my husband knew her while in his teens. My husband's father, Luther, worked for her grandfather as a farm hand in PA while in high school. He was given room and board and treated as part of the family. 

Luther's own mother and his sister were mentally disabled. He left home in his teens, to work and live with this family and be closer to the high school. His disabled mother never forgave him and there was no further contact with her. Sad. So sad were my husband's beginnings.

Though a Christian, Luther doesn't know how to love. Any real love and nurturing he'd received was too short-lived. Somehow, his relationship with the Lord didn't penetrate his heart deeply enough, perhaps due to his own stubbornness.

All this makes my husband's heart a miracle. He loves so deeply. So genuinely. He lost his mother at age sixteen, but in those sixteen years, her heart taught him much.

The missionary couple are in their mid-sixties. They've been working in Brazil for 38 years and they love it, though recently they spent a year in the States caring for aging parents. Now a brother takes that over and our friends return to Brazil next month.

I have weekly e-mail contact with my mother, and less often with my sister and brother, but since all my family are non-Christians, except for my father's sister here, there's a hole in my life. My husband and I cling even tighter to each other because of the support holes in our lives, and that's a blessing. Leaving and cleaving proves quite easy when the emotional ties to family are weak to begin with.

But the holes still hurt. Every holiday is spent alone; just the six of us, which tugs at all of our hearts. My aunts here have their own families to accommodate in their small homes on holidays. One spends the winter in Florida. 

My friend's words nourished. I will remember them long. She won't have e-mail in Brazil, but I'll put pen to paper and stay in contact, hoping we can bless them in some way. The kids will love corresponding with them, too. Having real missionaries in their home today ticked them so much. 

"Even though we've never been together, and may never be, except in heaven, you're like our family. We love you."

Each time my children lament about not having family around, I remind them that when they grow up, they'll have three sibling families to share holidays with--families with the same values and love for Him.

Praise God for that! Warms my heart just thinking about the blessed holidays and gatherings they'll enjoy. I pray that life closely knits their hearts and miles don't separate them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Married With Children

She appeared at church, alone.

"Jack and I are separated," she offered. "I'm living at my mother's."

Three years ago they planned their wedding. Betrothed to a non-Christian, the bride hoped their romance would be just the thing. The impetus to push him toward church, and to the Lord. Their first major argument occurred at their wedding reception.

They just spent a year and a half renovating a fixer-upper. She picked white carpet. He wanted beige. She's at her mom's. He's at the house with the white carpet. He thinks she loves her dog more than him. Maybe she does. She thinks he complains too much.

Maybe your own marriage isn't as troubled as theirs. Maybe you haven't spent a single night at your mother's house. Maybe you're equally yoked.

But still, a thought will come to you sometime during marriage: "He isn't who I thought he was." 

It may take seven years for this to surface, or seven days, but surface it will. Maybe children will bring it out, or a crisis. He will disappoint you; and you, him.

What's next then? Do you spend the balance of your days in misery? Or do you cut your losses and move on?

Stay put, the Lord says. Forget about who you thought you married, and love the person in front of you, stinky socks, morning breath and all.

But I want to be in love! I don't want just a roommate. Is obedience to God worth it? Living in a loveless marriage for the rest of my life, while everyone else is happy? Isn't he a forgiving God? Can't he forgive me for divorcing, so that I can remarry? I won't make this mistake again!

The world is full of lonely people, Christians included, who just couldn't bring themselves to live the gospel.

Marriage exists, in part, to grow us in Him. It's about agape love mostly; eros love less so. Eros refers to romantic love, philia to brotherly love, and agape to sacrificial love...His Cross love.

It's been twelve years since I uttered it shy: "I do." Some days I look at him proud, certain he's the best man alive. Other days I lie next to him and feel nothing. Rarer, I even hate him. I believe all these emotions exist in healthy marriages.

When the children come and time alone is once a year or less, the marriage is especially vulnerable. Husbands want more intimate nights and wives just want to sleep through the night. She may understand her husband's needs, but she feels overwhelmed at all the obligations, intimacy included, in addition to mountains of laundry, endless cooking and cleaning, grocery shopping, nursing everyone back to health, and managing paperwork. 

It's only Tuesday. Johnny made Sally cry twice before lunch. In the throes of potty training, Sally peed on the floor and the living-room carpet. Johnny wet his bed four times this week, causing all other laundry to pile up. James can't write his name like all the other kids in preschool. What's wrong with him? The bank account's overdrawn because when the whole family had the flu last week, no deposits were made. The baby still nurses every three hours at night, though she's ten months old. Sally turned on the outside water faucet and no one knew. The water bill rose $100. Momma signed up to help in the nursery and then missed church for three Sundays because someone was sick or another crisis arose and she couldn't get in the shower in time--she could only get everyone else ready. None of these Sundays were her's to work, but what will they think of her?

The husband says on Tuesday night, "Can we be together tomorrow night?" Tomorrow night comes. James throws up twice by midnight and has a fever.

The husband says on Friday, "Can we be together tomorrow night?" Tomorrow night comes. A friend calls to say he's getting a divorce. Husband talks to him for two hours. The wife falls asleep and then at 11:00 PM, she gets up to change another wet bed.

The husband, off the phone now, makes advances. Frustrated by all the bed wetting and night wake-ups, she's not in the mood. He gets mad. She feels guilty and has insomnia.

Intimacy feels wonderful, but getting there is a battle for the overwhelmed mother.

When the husband has some time off to observe the chaos that can be child-rearing, his empathy for his wife increases. But vacations end. Time lapses and he forgets. When intimacy is the last thing on her mind at night, his heart grows resentful, or at the very least, sorrowful.

Without regular intimacy, including talking, misunderstandings pile up. A couple can lose touch, while not wanting or meaning to.

How does a couple survive the child-rearing years? That's the question. 

Happy Valentine's Day, by the way! If you're like us you'll be blessed to have one date in the next year. Valentine's Day becomes just another day, save for chocolates and fun for the kids. But don't despair. This season will pass all too quickly. Before you know it, you'll entwine in a romantic booth once again.

I plan to do a couple posts on marriage this month. But understand: We don't all have the same circumstances. These posts may be irrelevant to you and yours. I read a post from Ann Voskamp this week about marriage, and though I thought it splendid, I couldn't relate. Husband and I have never felt insecure in our marriage. We never wonder if we're loved enough. Each couple's background and challenges are unique; one size doesn't fit all, save for Biblical mandates on love, respect, and submission.

Jennifer Dukes Lee, an Editor for The High Calling, put together a linky on marriage this month. Highlights will be published on The High Calling on February 15th. Here is Ann Voskamp's marriage piece, published at incourage. Perhaps something on these sites will resonate with you and your marriage.

My advice on this Valentine's Day? Read a few chapters from the Song Of Solomon today. Your passion will bless him more than anything else.

photo credit

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cherish His Word

JOHN 14:23-24 Rieu
23 Jesus replied: 'If anyone loves me he will cherish my word; my Father will love him and we will come to him and make him our abode.
24 He that does not love me neglects my words. Yet the word you hear is not my own but that of the Father who sent me.
scripture source

John 14:23-24 NKJ
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.
scripture source

Do you love God? Show Him. Cherish His Word. Open your Bible today, friend. Only the enemy is standing in your way.