Tag Archives: Children

You Will Forget

Have I ever mentioned that I’ve been single for a very long time?  Maybe I haven’t fully explained to my faithful readers that finally connecting with the man I believe God ordained for me to spend my life with is something for which I’m full of thanks?

Throughout my single years, I’ve dreamed about this time in my life – how I’d feel, what I’d say, things I’d do.  It seemed so far from my reality that I knew I’d be the most grateful, kind, gentle, and gracious girlfriend/fiancée/wife anyone could ever imagine.  I’ve often joked around with my family that when I’m finally pregnant, they’ll find me throwing up with a smile on my face, just so joyful to be having a baby of my own.

And yet, as I’ve settled into this relationship and this new role in my life, it feels completely natural and normal.  I’m the same woman I’ve always been, just with a new set of responsibilities and relationships to nurture.  I’m very thankful for Rick, but I don’t find myself trembling in gratitude and overlooking every little frustration because I’m so happy to have that promised mate.  In fact, I may speak my mind more often than a younger bride.  I know that this relationship is IT, so I want it to be right and good.  I don’t mind sharing my thoughts on that with Rick – setting the record straight, making my feelings known, and standing up for what I have come to know is true.

The funny thing is the near offense I have caught myself feeling when well-meaning friends who prayed with me for years to be connected to the man God had for me congratulate me, or indicate that this situation is unbelievably good.  Something inside me tenses up, wondering what they thought was so wrong with me that they now have to congratulate me for finally landing A MAN.  I want to snap at them, “Hey! I’ve turned down a number of marriage proposals.”  But I know that isn’t what they mean.  They were so gracious to listen to me whine and complain about my frustration and pain, never feeling peace that the man who was interested in me was the right one, and then dealing with my fears that God didn’t want me to get married.  They prayed for me, anguished with me, and now they are thrilled for me that the time has come.  I accept their joy and am so glad to be able to share the obvious answer to our prayers with them.

Being single this long brought with it a sense of shame and a feeling that I could be married if I would just work out whatever was wrong with me.  If I could just love God more, have a better figure, wear the right clothes, say the right things to men, and so on – THEN the magical moment would come and I could be a bride.  But that didn’t make any sense.  I had single friends with near perfect figures, great relationships with God, killer fashion sense, and great personalities – yet they faced the same struggles.  I knew married women who were terrible messes and whose husbands adored them anyway.  I rejected the idea that something about me needed to be better before the time would come for the right man to love me.  Even in my rejection of the idea, the feelings came back from time to time.  How did THAT woman find a husband before me?  Why did he pick HER and reject me?  If that woman would just fix that one thing about herself, she could find a husband.   Ugh.

God’s been leading me back repeatedly to a Scripture He laid on my heart several years ago.  It’s Isaiah 54, which begins, “Sing, oh barren! You who have not borne, break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child!  For more are the children of the desolate than those of the married woman,’ says the Lord.”

Believe me when I say I began to sing!  Every time I had an opportunity, I sang.  I sang loudly.  Sing, sing, sing!  I sang as I worked around the house, as I walked down halls at church, belting out the lyrics in services.  Judge me if you want, I thought, but my God has told me to sing and I’m not going to do it half-heartedly!  I sang and sang and sang, thinking there are more types of barrenness than just those who are physically unable to bear a child.

During my engagement, God has repeatedly drawn my heart back to this chapter.  It speaks to my heart and stirs my emotions.  It goes on to tell me not to be afraid because God will make sure I’m not ashamed.  “For you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.”

That phrase, you will forget, echoes through my mind.  God promised that I would forget the way I felt, ashamed and afraid, and He’s done it.  It’s hard to remember those feelings any longer.  I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was nothing wrong with me (or Rick), but God just had some things for us to do alone before we needed to be together.  God will make sure we have the things our hearts desire.  It’s just happening later than we expected it to, later than what many other people experience.

One final thought…  I was walking on the treadmill at the gym the other night.  There aren’t many treadmills there and they were all being used.  I kept having this thought that I was just taking up space for the real athletes as I plodded along, huffing and puffing at my slow speed.  But my heart rate was at a good pace, I was sweating nicely, and I was making personal progress even if I was moving much slower than most of the others.  I finally decided to tell the voices in my head to be quiet.  I made a choice to stop comparing my speed to the speed of those around me.  I decided just to pay attention to my own body and what I needed, do the best I could, and forget everyone else.

What I can remember about my years of singleness is that it was hard for me to make that same decision then.  It was hard to stop comparing myself, my progress, my barrenness to those around me.  Dear friends had been married for 10 years already and had gorgeous homes with handsome, faithful, hard-working husbands and several kids!  If I could’ve just told those voices to be quiet and focused on doing the best I could do, those years would’ve been much more pleasant.  I don’t think I would’ve gotten connected with Rick any sooner.  I do think I would’ve had a lot more joy in the journey to him.

I don’t want to forget it all.  I want to be able to encourage others who wait.  But I am thankful to forget the shame, the fear, and to move forward with my life.  I’m looking forward to getting married and filling our home with love and joy and yes, even at times, raised voices and challenging words.  It takes all those things to make a family.  I’m happy to have my chance.

In closing, I want to also acknowledge you all, my faithful readers.  I am so thankful for you.  I can see how many people read my blog every day, but I cannot tell who you are unless you specifically subscribe to my blog.  Then I only see your email address, so if I don’t recognize it, I still don’t know who you are.  But it’s such an encouragement to my heart when I run into someone who may have never commented on a post I’ve written, but who mentions something I wrote that touched them.  It’s such an encouragement when I see a jump in the number of typical readers in a day and I know that a group of you out there who I’ve never met are reading it together and discussing it.  It makes my day.  I haven’t been writing as much recently because I’ve been so busy preparing for married life and my upcoming move, but I plan to continue to blog and hope to have a lot more time to write once I’m a farmer’s wife.  I hope you’ll continue to read.

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The Inner Ring

There was a time in my life when I didn’t care about marriage.  I’m sure of it.  Really.  There MUST have been…  When I was younger I knew it wasn’t time yet, but I still looked forward to the day I would have a husband, when I would have that part of my future determined and set.  When my parents had my baby brother, I was nearly eleven years old.  I don’t think I realized he wasn’t my own son – until I wanted to go outside and play…  His baby sweetness consumed me and I knew I wanted to have children of my own.  As the years of perpetual singleness dragged on, my empty arms ached, longing to be a part of marriage, a family, that elusive world I couldn’t seem to join in spite of the ease with which nearly everyone around me seemed to be entering it.

One of my favorite writings addresses this issue.  By C.S. Lewis, it’s a 9-page article entitled, “The Inner Ring”, published in his book The Weight of Glory.  He addresses the reality of our human desire to get into the group we are excluded from.  We always want what we think we cannot have, want to be accepted by those who don’t accept us, want to climb over that fence that separates us from whatever is on the other side.  At times, we think there is no way we can be happy until we cross that line.  We strive and strain and turn ourselves inside out, trying to get into that elite group that eludes us.

The craziest part of it all, as Lewis points out, is that once we are a part of the group we wanted so badly to become a part of, it suddenly loses it’s magic.  After all, the group accepted us, so it can’t be as great as we thought it was to begin with!  We realize there is a better group that hasn’t yet accepted us, and so we begin seeking acceptance into the next group.  The rings never end because each time we get deeper into the inner ring, the same thing happens all over again.

Lewis’ answer to this problem is that we should forget about getting into anyone else’s inner ring.  We should do the best we can at what we have to do and soon we will be known for our excellence and be included among those who make decisions about the thing we do.  In our spare time, we should hang out with people we actually like and do fun things with them.  Then we will form friendships and without even meaning to, we will find ourselves at the center of an inner ring of our own.

I’ve been caught up in the tasks of planning my wedding, preparing to move to another area of the country, leaving my jobs and friends and church, settling into a new house, and learning to know and understand my fiance better.  Yet today I opened my email and saw a newsletter from a website for brides that provides resources to help in the planning process, and I stopped for a moment.  I stopped because I had a flash, my heart squeezing tight, remembering how it felt to be on the outside of this inner circle – the inner circle of “bride”.  I remembered the longing, the feeling that I might never belong to the group, might never experience how it felt to be chosen, loved, and accepted, and might never get to pick out the perfect white dress.

Today I took care of some precious children I have grown to love, laughed as the little one threw her arms in the air twirling and dancing, calling for me to watch her, and then helped her older sister write a story for school.  I listened as my precious niece sang me a song and felt the joy of anticipation that I get to spend time with her in a few weeks.  Motherhood now looms before me, the next inner ring that I have not yet been welcomed into.

I have to laugh at myself.  I must be still for a few moments tonight to soak it in, appreciate the tremendous blessing I’m currently walking in.  I don’t want to rush through this beautiful time in my life without even recognizing that this is GOOD. 

Tonight I’m thankful for love, even though I understand it is not the solution to every problem.  I’m thankful for the children God has given me to love at this time, in this way.  I’m thankful for hope – finally a hope I can sink into a bit – that I will one day have children of my own.  I’m thankful for the home being prepared for me, for the family that Rick and I will create, to provide that stability and security I’ve been missing.

And I pray for all my dear friends who stand outside the circle, waiting for the day when the boundary will melt away and they will be welcomed in.  If I could pull you in myself, I would.  Instead, I will pray as so many have done for me.

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A Good Day

    

I’ve been through some dark times, days when I wondered if God had forgotten I existed or had simply decided to punish me for my many sins.  I have faced depression and anxiety, rejection, loneliness, fear, hatred, being over-looked and discarded, and other negative emotions and experiences.  I have also faced days when I thought the world was crashing in because I couldn’t meet a deadline or my laundry wasn’t done when I wanted to wear that special shirt.  None of you have ever done that, right?     

One day several years ago, I got frustrated over an assignment that couldn’t be completed without the input of colleagues who were not cooperating.  After work I called a friend to complain about what a bad day I was having.  She listened to me for about 60 seconds and then told me to turn on the news.  In stunned silence, I watched the end of a report on foster parents who had just been arrested for sexually abusing the children in their “Christian” home.  When the report ended, my friend quietly told me that she was the social worker who had trained those foster parents and placed the children in their care.  She was responsible for overseeing them.  She had no idea of the abuse taking place.  There were no signs.  She was devastated.  Can you imagine?     

I’ll never forget her words to me:  “This is a bad day.”      

That situation taught me a lot about perspective.       

During one of my darker days, I longingly remembered some good days I’d had.  I had good friends and an active social life, a good job with relative calm, and there were no major problems shaking my world.  But as I looked back I realized that I had not fully enjoyed nor appreciated those days.  I had allowed worry over things like losing 20 pounds or not having enough money to get a facial to steal my joy.     

That day I made a commitment to appreciate the good days.  Using the perspective I had learned, I’d put aside temporary struggles and be thankful for the day I had been given.  I would learn to declare good days GOOD.  So these days I often stop in the middle of a day to evaluate how things are going.  There is such joy in recognizing the good days when they come.  I declare the day GOOD, thank God for it, and try to be fully present in each moment.  Rather than missing the joy of that moment because I’m fretting over something I won’t remember in two weeks, I soak it in and use all five of my senses to enjoy it.     

March, 2010 - In front of cabin at the retreat center

 

Last week I spent the night at a spiritual retreat center.  Alone in a little cabin on 225 acres in the country, I could be as loud or quiet as I wanted to be.  The weather was perfect and I had nowhere else to be.  It was just me and God, and He gave me a peaceful spirit.  I explored creeks and woods, sat by a fire, read some good books, wrote in my journal, and prayed.  I sat in the sun on my flagstone porch and listened to the sounds of nature all around me.  I disciplined myself not to dwell on my problems, but to enjoy the moment.  After leaving there, I got to hang out with many good friends in a relaxed, casual atmosphere full of celebration.  I came home happy, tired, and satisfied.    

It was A GOOD DAY.    

How long has it been since you had a good day?    

My "Hermitage" at the retreat center

 

The creek I explored

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True Religion

The home that I’m staying in tonight is located in rural Iowa. It belongs to my aunt and uncle and I’m here with my parents for a family reunion. It’s one of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever had the privilege of staying in. It’s an old farmhouse surrounded by barns and out buildings. Some of those buildings house a few animals – a couple goats, a few ducks, some chickens, dogs and cats. Once it was a working farm with cows and pigs and crops, but my aunt and uncle have retired from farming.  

It’s hard for me to describe this home adequately. On the outside it looks regular enough. You enter through a side door into a mud room with a wooden coat hanger and a place for muddy boots. Next is a dining room with a large, well-worn table and brown carpet. The kitchen, a long and narrow room with a few cabinets and some storage, is behind the dining room. The living room has large windows that overlook the beautiful countryside and give my aunt and uncle the ability to watch deer and other wild life as they wander through.  

The bedroom I’m staying in tonight is what got me to thinking of the beauty of this home. The bedroom has a linoleum floor, two small beds with colorful, tropical fish themed comforters, and matching curtains. It has an old bureau with a mirror, a lamp clipped to the top of the mirror, and another lamp near the door. There are some hooks hanging from the wall that serve as a closet of sorts. The wall is blonde paneling and above the bed I’m sleeping in is a large wooden cross with praying hands in the center of it.  

I brushed my teeth tonight before bed in the tiniest bathroom I’ve ever been in outside of an airplane. It is maybe two inches wider than me on either side and the light is on a pull chain. The electrical outlets won’t allow me to plug anything in because they aren’t three-pronged outlets.  

The beauty of this old farmhouse struck me when I walked in the door tonight. Seated at the kitchen table was a young boy, perhaps twelve years old. He wore leg braces and didn’t stand to greet me. When we were introduced, he spoke with difficulty. My uncle was playing a card game with him. For the first thirty minutes I was here, I was able to observe my aunt and uncle interacting with the boy. They understood what he was saying, they treated him with dignity, and they laughed and joked with him. Soon it was time for my uncle to take the boy home.  

The bedroom I’m sleeping in tonight was prepared with children in mind. Today the child that my aunt and uncle were caring for went home at the end of the day, but there have been countless children who have not been able to go home because their homes were not safe places. You see, my aunt and uncle have spent countless years of their lives as foster parents. To the best of my knowledge, they began 28 years ago by taking in a little blue-eyed, blonde girl who’d been neglected by her mother. They fell in love with her and adopted her. Today I know her simply as my cousin Devon.  

Trent and Devon - all grown up

 

Devon was the first in a long line of children for whom my aunt and uncle provided a home. She is the only one they adopted, but they continued to provide a home for needy children for many years. I’m sure putting a linoleum floor in a bedroom frequented by displaced children was the wisest thing to do. I can just imagine carpet with gum stuck to it and holes from the adventurous things children do.  

They were given the most difficult cases over the years because they were able to achieve such tremendous results. I don’t know many details of the children who stayed here and what was accomplished because my aunt and uncle don’t talk about it much. It’s just something they have done.  

My aunt and uncle are well into their sixties now and I don’t think they take in foster children any longer. These days they are licensed to work with special needs children. They provide care for children whose families need assistance. That is why my uncle was playing Skip Bo with the young boy I met today. His family needs help and they are providing it.  

  

There’s a wall full of children’s pictures here. It tells the story of the children who have lived under this roof. The beauty of this home is in the love that resides here. The beauty of this home is in the way two people have chosen to give of themselves to help others. The beauty in this home is in the legacy they are leaving their grandchildren. Their oldest grandchild is now in college majoring in social work. They have made such an impact on me that I look forward to the day I can follow in their footsteps and bring hurting children into my home to help them, to show them love, to teach them responsibility, and to be the hands and feet of Christ to them.  

My aunt and uncle seem to understand the command of Christ to care for the fatherless better than nearly anyone I know. I know that it has not been easy for them. Their hearts have broken many times. I have no doubt there have been times of great frustration and personal sacrifice. Yet they have continued to help. This is true religion. This is true beauty. I live near one of the wealthiest areas in the nation and am regularly in mini-mansions that are decorated with all the latest things. They are gorgeous and tasteful. They smell wonderful and have soft music playing in the background. But in an old farmhouse in rural Iowa, I have discovered true beauty. It is the beauty of a life well-spent. It is the beauty of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  

Robert and Linda admiring their newest grandson

 

Thank you, Uncle Robert and Aunt Linda, for being the real thing. I am honored to call you family.  

James 1:27 (ASV) – Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.  

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

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Ignorance is Bliss?

In a conversation I had with a woman in her late 50s who was describing the abusive childhood of a loved one, she repeated a commonly used excuse for the irresponsible behavior of the parents.  How often have we heard this phrase: “They did the best they could with the knowledge they had”?  That phrase is usually followed or preceded by a horror story of child abuse or some other atrocity.  I decided a long time ago that I despise that phrase, that excuse. 

I do realize that we often do things out of ignorance and on some level that will always happen and cannot be helped.  No one can know everything or understand any situation fully but God.  Perhaps that’s why God is infallible?  He knows everything and sees each situation from all sides.  But I don’t mean to get into a theological discussion of God’s perfection, so moving on…  As I was saying, I do understand that each person will make mistakes out of ignorance and this is to be expected.  The reason I so despise the phrase mentioned is because it’s often is used to excuse behavior that is reprehensible.  When a small child is beaten with a board full of nails for saying a curse word he’s heard his father use a million times before, then forced to “confess” by repeating that curse word and is so frightened he can’t remember it, is then forced to guess what curse word he said then beaten for each incorrect curse word he guessed until he’s nearly dead – that is inexcusable.  Don’t tell me the father didn’t know any better.  No one is that stupid.

I heard that phrase many times while I was growing up in the form of, “I’m sorry I hurt you.  I did the best I could with what I knew to do.”  And I decided I hated it.  I was not the one beaten with boards, thank God!  But in a pastor’s house, you hear horror stories every day.  People bring their problems to their pastor and I paid attention.  Ignorance was sometimes an excuse, but it struck me as totally unreasonable.

I made a decision somewhere around the age of fourteen that I would not let that be an excuse for bad behavior in my life.  If I didn’t know something, I would find out.  And I have built my life on that concept.  I’m a researcher.  It may appear that I make quick decisions and don’t take the time to think them through.  I am a decisive person.  But what many don’t realize is the number of hours I’ve spent searching for answers to questions I don’t have to answer yet, so that when the day comes that I do have to make a choice, I can choose wisely.  I rarely decide anything without much research and forethought.  When I do, I usually regret it. 

Ever since the day my brother was born when I was nearly eleven years old, I have known that I want to be a mother.  I began to research parenting and did all I could to apply the principles I learned to the children around me.  When I was in my early twenties, I finally put down the parenting books because I realized I was driving myself crazy with all this theory and no one to practice on.  I haven’t picked up another parenting book since then, but I’m a really good babysitter and aunt! 

The point is, I didn’t want to make parenting mistakes out of ignorance when the time came.  I haven’t picked up any more books since then, but I’ve been a diligent student of my friends with children.  I’ve watched how they do things, asked questions, and made mental notes for myself. 

In my mid-twenties, a friend challenged me with a unique understanding of Scripture as it relates to the end times and Christ’s return.  She walked me through the Scriptures to prove her point of view.  As she did this, I realized I disagreed strongly with her, but I couldn’t articulate why.  I KNEW she was wrong, but I couldn’t walk her through Scriptures myself to show her why.  I became furious and had to walk away from the conversation before I lost my temper.  I wasn’t angry with her, but with myself for not knowing more so I could discuss it with her.  I’d been a Christian all my life, was a pastor’s daughter, the product of several Christian schools, and had even spent a year in Christian college.  Yet I was mute before her argument.  That realization drove me nuts.

A few years later I enrolled in seminary.  The major paper I did for my last systematic theology class was on this very subject.  I was determined to understand it and refute it.  When I finished that paper, I felt such a sense of accomplishment!  I went back and talked to her about it and was finally able to explain why I disagreed with her.  I didn’t change her mind (darn it!), but I was no longer ignorant either.

Proverbs 13:15 says, “Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.”

What good would it have done for me to have yelled and shown my anger toward my friend that day when I didn’t know what to say to her, just knew I disagreed with her?  I kept my mouth shut until I had good understanding.  She had no idea I had been so worked up by what she said.  When I went back to her years later, we had an intelligent conversation about it and she was touched that I cared so much about her ideas that I went and studied the matter out to be able to answer her.  We are still great friends to this day and every once in a while have to acknowledge our different opinions on the end times.  This is done with no animosity, but respect.

Proverbs chapter four is full of admonitions to get wisdom and to make sure we understand things. 

Proverbs 4:5 Get wisdom! Get understanding!
      Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
       6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
      Love her, and she will keep you.
       7 Wisdom is the principal thing;
      Therefore get wisdom.
      And in all your getting, get understanding.
       8 Exalt her, and she will promote you;
      She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
       9 She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
      A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”

We often do shameful things out of ignorance; things that embarrass us later.  We can’t explain why we did them except, “I didn’t know any better.”  But Proverbs urges us to seek wisdom and understanding.  Instead of shame, it promises that we’ll have an ornament of grace, a crown of glory on our heads. 

I try to live my life by the words of Proverbs 4:13, which states, “Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life.” 

What would the world look like if we all sought after wisdom and understanding?  If we all tried to understand the best way to do something before we did it?  What would the church look like if just the Christians did that?

There’s no way I’ll ever know all the things I’m interested in, curious about, or need to know.  I wish I could, but when would I sleep?  I realize how little I know, which drives me to learn more and apply myself to getting instruction.  Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power.

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You want HOW MANY children?

Last night I was watching “18 Kids and Counting” – a TLC show about the Duggar family who have 18 children and are pregnant with their 19th.  All of the children are from the same parents and appear to be healthy, normal, and happy.  Their oldest son got married at 20 years old and he and his wife announced their own pregnancy within a few months.  Their child was just born, a few months before Michelle’s 19th child is due.  They are thrilled with all these children and believe they are a blessing from the Lord.  They don’t believe in birth control of any kind and feel that if they leave it totally up to the Lord, He will give them the number of children they need and nothing more than they can handle. 

When this show first came out, I watched it out of curiosity – judging them in my heart and feeling sorry for their poor children.  I felt it was a ludicrous concept and that Michelle Duggar was endangering her own health and the well-being of her children.  I was certain that many children would make it impossible for the parents to know each child and give the proper amount of attention to each one.  And I can’t forget to mention that they home school their children, the girls all wear skirts or dresses, they don’t watch television, and they have a home church.  I think all those things can make a family a little weird; however, every time I watched the show, something stirred in my heart and I found myself watching it the next week as well.  I now record it every week so I don’t miss anything. 

Surprisingly, I’ve found the Duggars to be one of the most sincere and healthy families I’ve ever encountered.  I know it’s a television show and they can edit out whatever they don’t want shown, but this family truly appears to get along with one another, to be well-educated and entrepreneurial, hard-working, creative, and sincere in their love for the Lord and their study of His word.  When asked to explain their unusual beliefs, they often say that this is the conviction of their family and not something they expect everyone else to do. 

Jim Bob Duggar, the dad, made a comment on a question and answer show last night that stunned me.  He said if he and Michelle end up having 20 children, and each of their children has 10 children, then there will be 200 grandchildren and the family will never be without young children toddling around.  It seems ridiculous – 200 grandchildren!? 

But then I think about how much I loved my younger brother when he was born.  I was almost eleven years old and I had no idea that I was capable of so much love.  He brought joy into our family in a way we never could have anticipated.  I adored him and stayed close to home in college to be near him.  And then our family had no babies for 21 years.  Christmas morning became rather boring – adults sleeping in and sitting around opening presents we’d often picked out for ourselves.  We played games and made everything look pretty, we went to movies, but we were working hard to amuse ourselves.  Then my sister had a baby – a beautiful little girl who brought immediate joy and laughter to our lives again.  She will be almost two years old this Christmas and we are all thrilled.  We can’t wait to make Christmas special for her.  She’s a constant subject of conversation and we can’t get enough of her.  A six-hour drive home feels like nothing when I know I get to spend time with that little princess.

I wonder how much joy and laughter we have missed because we think we have to wait for the perfect time, the perfect economic situation, the perfect amount of energy to have babies.  Michelle Duggar is in her early 40s and she isn’t slowing down one bit.  She is healthy and happy.  When she went on interviews early in her pregnancy and was asked how she felt, she joyfully said she was nauseous and that was a good sign because it meant the baby was healthy.  When they announced the news to their children, there was joy; none of them groaned or acted like now they were going to get less attention from their parents. 

Obviously not everyone can have 20 children.  Michelle Duggar is an unusual woman who is physically capable of having babies without difficulty and stared very young.  But I think there’s something to be said for the way they do things.  We are such control freaks in our society.  We want everything to be perfect and get out of sorts when we realize the inevitable –that life is messy.  We want to be able to buy designer clothes for ourselves and our children (when the Duggars seem perfectly happy to shop at thrift stores for much of what they need).  We want to fit nicely into a booth at a restaurant.  We want to keep things small and contained and under control. 

I find something beautiful in the lives of these people who have turned control over to God and trust Him to help them manage their humongous family.  Michelle is a very organized woman and she has systems in place for everything.  The older children help take care of the younger ones.  Everyone has chores.  They built their house themselves and made it an educational adventure.  If they didn’t know how to do something, they brought in professionals who were willing to work alongside them and teach them how to do it.  They are completely debt-free.  Their house stays clean because each child has regular chores they are expected to do.  They agreed to do a television show so they could be an encouragement to others, sharing the message that their faith sustains them and children are a blessing.  Sure, they get paid to do the show, which is a huge incentive.  They are creative in finding ways to sustain their large family and continue to be debt-free.

I’m not saying I plan to adopt their way of doing things, but I do think it’s an interesting and challenging point of view.  They seem to be doing it well and are an inspiration.  It definitely gives me something to think about.  Don’t expect me to start walking around in ankle-length skirts and perming my hair though.  And as for babies, there will need to be a husband first.  I’m mature enough to realize that this yet-to-be-seen husband will have ideas and opinions of his own.  But if that day ever comes and I’m married and pregnant, I promise to do my best to smile through my nausea and tell you joyfully that it means the pregnancy is going well.

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You Know You’re a Grown Up When…

When I first moved to Nashville at the age of twenty-two, I thought I was pretty grown up.  I had lived in an apartment for a couple years, graduated from college, and even worked a full-time job over the summer.  But I was really only a half-cooked grown up.  I struggled to go to work every day, seriously missing the ability to skip class when I felt like it.  I called in sick to work on a regular basis when I just didn’t want to get out of bed.  I had a boyfriend who took me on nice dates nearly every weekend where we got dressed up and ate at the best restaurants in town, but we had little to say to one another because we had nothing in common.  I went to church once every two to three weeks, exerting my independence after growing up in a house where I had to be there every time the doors were open. 

And then one night a friend sat on my couch and sobbed, telling me that she had caught her husband cheating on her.  They’d been married for less than six months.  My heart broke for her.  I remember thinking, this is grown up stuff.  I had no idea what to tell her.  She was MARRIED.  If this had been her boyfriend, I wouldn’t have any trouble telling her to leave him.  But he was her husband.  She had joined her life with his till death. 

I know many people who have been divorced, but a few years ago I had a good friend who decided to divorce her husband.  They had children.  It was a very messy thing and I got deeply involved in the situation.  There were lawyers and private investigators and recording devices and police…  I can’t remember how many times I thought, now I’m a grown up.  (Note to self…  NEVER GET A DIVORCE.) 

My younger brother is now twenty-three years old.  He is learning what it means to be a grown up.  He raced his motorcycle on some big race track in Atlanta last weekend, going speeds up to 155 mph.  It scared me to hear what he did, but he was thrilled.  He said that day at the race track separated the men from the boys.  He is now a man.  I smiled, realizing that this was one of those experiences for him where he said, Now I’m a grown up.

Several years ago two beloved young adults in our church died in a car accident.  It was horrible.  We all sat around for a while staring at one another in shock.  We looked to our senior pastor to know what to do.  I’ll never forget when he looked back at us and said,
     “You all think I should know what to do, but I go behind closed doors with other leaders of this church and we run around with our hands in the air asking, What do we do?!  We are clueless too.” 
He was having a moment, well into his fifties, when he realized that he’s a grown up. 

Recently I’ve had to make some very grown up decisions, walk others who are older and more experienced than me through difficult things that they could not objectively understand.  My adrenaline was pumping and I was able to handle the situation with confidence.  When the day was over, I couldn’t decide if I should curl up on the couch, go punch a boxing bag, or find some sweet, innocent children to play with for a while.  Being a grown up is harder than it looks.    

I guess we all go through those times in life when we are in a new situation and it’s truly challenging and the answers aren’t clear.  As children, we thought our parents and the other adults knew what to do.  Sometimes they did, but many times they didn’t.  We are still looking to the generation(s) above us to know the answers, even in situations that are new to them.  It seems like part of the growing up process to recognize that there are situations when even the most experienced and wise want to throw their hands up and run around because they don’t know what to do.  Sometimes being a grown up means that you evaluate the situation and make the best choice possible given the information you have and you pray to God that it’s the right thing to do.  And if possible, you go home after that, curl up on the couch, and let the tears come.

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Filed under Spiritual Life