Halfway Blessings, Halfway Thanks

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This is Part 2 of a two-part post. If you haven’t already, you may want to read Post 1 before reading on…

If you remember, we left off here:

My run involved ten minutes of semi-dodging wheelies, one sweaty hand holding my cell-phone timer, one hand scrolling through all 34 chapters of Deuteronomy before I could get to the next real song (which was a slow one anyway), and one jogging stroller running into the grass while I tried to push it with my forearms…

This was the routine that continued for a couple of weeks. One afternoon, after a 25-minute run, I was making my way back along the busy road to our home. Every ten feet or so I would have to pull off to the side of the road while a car or two came speeding by in the lane closest to me. Lydia was eagerly asking to get out of the stroller to “run with you!”, which can’t happen until we are off the busy road and closer to the house. I was hot and tired and wishing for a longer stretch between cars so I didn’t have to keep exerting all my energy to roll the girls into the grass and wait for more traffic to pass. I wanted to get home, get clean, and get some water.

Then I saw in the distance a red truck pulling a noisy trailer. I continued walking along the side of the road with my eyes glued to the truck, waiting until the last minute to pull off into the grass again. Just as the truck closed in on that particular distance when I have to turn off my path, the driver changed lanes. He turned his big truck and trailer into the left-most lane and zoomed by at a safe distance so that I wouldn’t have to pull off into the grass.

He made my day. I was so happy I didn’t have to do any wheelies or take any breaks. I just kept walking on that skinny bike lane on the side of the road. And, as I rejoiced in that little blessing I was struck by my attitude change. I was still making an inconvenient trek from the trail where I could safely run, but I was rejoicing in a blessing instead of sulking over the inconvenience.

There were so many factors about my runs that I was considering “halfway blessings”.

The stroller that allowed me to go running…but didn’t maneuver well.

The cell phone that kept time…but was hard to see and couldn’t strap to my wrist.

The charged mp3 player that gave me good running music…but a whole lot of other content too.

The running trail that allowed me to run without stopping for cars…but the distance I had to walk to get to it.

The sidewalk that made my trek a little easier…but was only five houses long.


The red truck with a trailer that came zooming by…but changed lanes so I wouldn’t have to stop.

It is so easy to focus on the half of my circumstances that aren’t what I want them to be. But how much happier it is to focus on the “blessing half”. Isn’t that true all throughout life? The grass is greener on the other side, where the stroller wheels swivel and the sidewalks don’t end. But watching that “greener” grass grow does nothing but leave me grumpy and unthankful.

Thankfulness. It’s been a theme lately, and I feel like I’m just learning the same lessons over and over again in different ways. But even as I write this I think…

I’m learning to be thankful…but I’m just going to have to learn again.

I’m so glad God doesn’t give up on me.

Not Home Yet

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Last Thursday Dan called at around 6:00 in the evening to let me know that we’d be moving that night. I had nothing packed except for a bag of the girls’ clothes. Sometimes life feels to crazy to be for real.

Yes, this is our fourth move in a year. And, no, we don’t particularly enjoy the moving process. That’s not why we do it. Each and every one of our moves was for a perfectly good and logical reason, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. This time we had to move because our apartment building was filled with lots of smokers and the various forms of smoke were filling our apartment and making us sick. The real concern, though, was for little Abby. As an early preemie, Abby is already considered high-risk to have chronic lung problems and second-hand smoke was only adding to her risk factors. After seeking some advice from our family and doctor, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk to stay out our lease.

It took a while, but eventually our apartment management released us. We thought we had another place lined up for the move, but once we got out of our lease and gave the landlord a call we realized it wasn’t going to work out after all. With two weeks left to be out of our apartment we still didn’t have a place to go.

Sometimes I look back at the things that have happened to us in the past year and I can’t believe it. There have been so many unexpected emergencies, changes, and a lot of waiting too. I can’t help but wonder what will happen next.

So, with two weeks to homelessness, a generous family from church welcomed us into their basement for as long as we need to stay. In a flurry of an evening we packed up everything we thought we might need for the next couple of days and drove off through the night to our new temporary home.

I never did get to that laundry room.

As we’ve adjusted to our new situation and discussed where to go from here, it has struck me over and over again how not in control we are. It doesn’t matter how much planning we do, what security nets we lay out, what advice we seek, God can change our lives in an instant. It would be scary, except that we are His children.

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.
Romans 8:14

In church this Sunday we sang a lot of songs that were quite fitting to our current situation. One that I especially liked is called “Behold Our God”.  It makes me think of the last chapters of Job.  Job’s life had completely fallen apart but God came in and reminded Job of how small Job was and how big God is.  God is on the throne.  God created the world.  He is above all things.  Again, it would be scary if Job wasn’t God’s child too.  So, this song reminded me of those chapters in Job and the message they contain:  God is the one seated on the throne, making decisions, leading His children, doing the impossible.

Dan and I had a lot of plans last year. I think God changed all of them. And, by His grace, I’m ok with that. I know His plans our better. So now we’re pressing on, seeking His guidance again, and letting Him lead.

Who has held the oceans in His hand?
Who has numbered every grain of sand?
Kings and nations tremble at His voice
All creation rises to rejoice

Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of His Words?
Who can teach the One who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?

Who has felt the nails upon His hands
Bearing all the guilt of sinful man?
God eternal humbled to the grave
Jesus, Savior risen now to reign!

Behold our God seated on His throne
Come let us adore Him
Behold our King nothing can compare
Come let us adore Him!

Meijer Meltdown

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A couple of days ago I decided it would be nice to get out of the house. So I packed up my girls and we headed out for a morning walk to Meijer. I’ve had a couple of small projects in mind for a while now and wanted to check out some prices. So begins my story, but first allow me to fill you in on some necessary background details.

A couple weeks ago, during another Meijer trip, I introduced Lydia to Sandy. Sandy is the brown horse ride every Meijer seems to have that only costs one penny. I told Lydia that, if we found a penny on the ground, we could use it to ride Sandy. We did not find a penny. We found a nickel. So you all know what that means, right? Five rides on Sandy. No, not all in the same day. I don’t know how it is at every Meijer, but the Sandy we know and love is in very high demand and it would be inconsiderate to take more than one ride in a row. Anyway, Sandy was a hit and has since become an almost necessary part of every Meijer trip. Lydia loves her, and for only a penny, how could we say no?

The second thing you need to know to thoroughly appreciate this story is that I have been pondering two small projects for a while now. The first is a “Bible Memory Book” for Lydia. She has done so well learning her verses (she’s up to five now), that I thought it would be fun to document her work. I was looking, on this particular trip, for a sturdy blank notebook. Whenever Lydia learns a new verse, I plan to record the verse and the date she learned it, then let her draw a picture. Just think how much fun she’ll have looking back at that ten or twenty years from now.

The second project I’ve been thinking about is a “Mommy Book”. I wanted a pretty journal to start recording special moments with my kiddos, birth pictures, inspiring notes and verses, that sort of thing. When I get stressed out or frustrated, or am just having a hard time doing my job, I can pull out the book and be reminded of how much I love my job and my munchkins. While Lydia won’t enjoy the project directly, I think she’ll benefit from its fruit.

So, back to my story. We headed to Meijer and all was going well. The air was cool and fresh and it felt good to be outside. As soon as we got to Meijer, Abby started crying. She cried through the aisles and all the way to the notebooks. Lydia wandered off to the end of the aisle where there was a collection of children’s books, while I priced out notebooks and journals and tried to keep the stroller moving so Abby would quiet down.

Then a lady asked, “Is that your baby screaming?”

“Uh, yeah…” I started to feel uncomfortable.

After she left, more and more people began to walk by. Maybe it was just my self-conscious imagination, but I was sure they were all annoyed at the crying baby and thinking me an incompetent mother. So I decided, sadly, it was time to leave without the notebook or journal. I grabbed Lydia’s hand and moved out of the aisle only to find myself with two very upset children. Lydia didn’t want to go home. So I decided it was really time to go and turned around to return the children’s books that Lydia has snuck into my basket. Then she really lost it. She wanted those books!

We hurried through the store, me pushing crying Abby and holding screaming Lydia. Oh dear. When we got to the doors the ruckus got even louder because Lydia realized she wasn’t going to get to ride Sandy. The rest of the morning was an absolute nightmare. Lydia wouldn’t put on her coat without riding Sandy. I wasn’t going to reward her outbursts with a Sandy ride. So I tried to get Lydia’s coat on, while the girls cried in harmony. Every time I put an arm in, Lydia took the other one out. Then she tried to unbutton it. And I’m sure every one within hearing distance thought I was just a monster for refusing to let my child ride the one cent pony.

The amazing part of the story was that I never lost it. By God’s grace I made it home completely unflustered.

After we were home again and the shoes and coats were put away, I started to think a little more about that trip and God showed me a lesson for my own life.

I am Lydia. I want those children’s books and I want to ride that pony. I don’t want to walk any farther and I don’t understand why God is taking me down a boring aisle to look at notebooks. I want what I want and I certainly can’t imagine that whatever He is doing is something I could possibly appreciate any more than that pony ride and those children’s books.

Let me break it down a bit more.

Lately God has taken Dan and I through changes we never wanted. Job changes. Housing changes. NICU changes. And we follow Him and I think of all the nice things I want. A nice house that we get to live in for more than a few months. A job where Dan can be home all of the time and love working at more than he loves playing baseball. A baby that makes it to a full 40 weeks and only spends two days in the hospital. And, as God takes me where He wants me to go, I look at all these other things and think how lovely they are, and I ask God for them. Meanwhile God is elsewhere working on something else that I don’t understand at all. But, like my projects for Lydia, I know that God’s plans are better, longer lasting, and for my own good. Someday I will look back and appreciate the trip we took and the gifts He was preparing. Someday I will be grateful that He didn’t do what I wanted and just give me a kid book and a 30 second ride on a pony.

I’ve been continuing my project: one year of thankful, but I’ve realized something more. While noticing blessings along the way will make the trip more enjoyable, the thing that makes the real difference is trusting that God has something good planned, something better than my own plans. Good for me. Good for my family. Good for Him. Good for His kingdom.

Kids have meltdowns in Meijer. It happens. And I’ve totally learned not to look down on a parent when their kid is crying because he didn’t get to ride Sandy. But grown-ups have meltdowns too. Sandy will always be a reminder to me, to trust God’s plans. They are better than the 30 second pony ride I think I want.

Romans 8:28
And we know that God causes all thing to work together for good to those who love God,
to those who are called according to His purpose.

One Thing Christians Should Keep Saying

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Dan was on the phone with an old friend the other day. After chatting about the long winter and the latest developmental milestones of their children, his friend turned the conversation to work.

“How’s work these days?”

For those of you who don’t know, Dan is trained in math and computer programming. He says the buzz word for his work is “data scientist”, but everyone I’ve ever told that to has never heard of a data scientist. So now I just tell people he sits at a computer all day doing hard math.

Dan answered his friends question,

“I’ve been really burdened. As luck would have it, last year was the most prosperous yet for my company. And it looks like this year I’ll be making even more money.”

The words came out of his mouth without much thought. It was like brushing his teeth in the morning or “Goodnight” after tucking Lydia in to bed.

No, this didn’t really happen. And, no, that is certainly not what Dan would say.

I’ve noticed an article floating around Facebook lately called “The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying”. Now, I don’t make a habit of clicking on every link I see posted on Facebook because I would spend my whole day reading articles of questionable value. But when I see the same link posted over and over by people I know, I tend to skim through it. This particular article was one such example, but as I read through it I started to feel disturbed. As I talked it over with Dan, we both came to agree that the writer, Scott Dannemiller, has missed the point.

You can check it out yourself, it’s not very long. The thesis of the article is that we need to stop referring to our material prosperity as a blessing from God.

He makes the following points:

– When our businesses prosper, we shouldn’t announce to others that our year was blessed.
– When “material windfalls” come our way, we shouldn’t automatically credit them to God.
– God doesn’t give us material things as a reward or incentive for our faith.
– Calling ourselves blessed for our “stuff” can offend poor Christians and promote the “theology of prosperity”.
– The beattitudes (
Matthew 5:1-12) and claims that Jesus is defining the word, “blessing” by his list (the poor in spirit, meek, pure in heart). – – In fact, those who do prosper in this life aren’t blessed at all, states Dannemiller, they’re burdened.
– Our ultimate blessing comes from knowing God, not having stuff.

There are certainly some important points brought up in this article. God does not guarantee material prosperity or a comfortable life to His followers. (Second Timothy 3:12 says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.) And we are to find our ultimate joy and satisfaction in God, not money or stuff.

But nowhere in the Bible does God tell His followers to seek poverty, discomfort, or persecution. God wants to give his children good things, and, yes, those things can be material. God rewards Job’s faithfulness with an abundance of material possessions. Joseph suffers throughout his life and God brings him to a place of authority and prosperity. Solomon, when he pleases God by asking for wisdom, is promised wealth and honor in addition to wisdom.

And, while the Bible doesn’t teach a prosperity Gospel, there is often an earthly blessing in following Godly wisdom and principles. The Proverbs offer advice on acquiring wealth (work hard, practice generosity, and don’t cosign on loans). Nations that repent and turn to God are protected. Nations that turn against God suffer judgement, including pain, suffering, and famine.

The thing Christians need to remember is that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, and giving or taking, He is to be thanked and praised. When our country prospers economically, we should thank God and give Him credit. When crops do well, the weather cooperates, milk and honey abound, and businesses prosper, we need to give Him thanks. These things are not “material windfalls”. They are not mystical or random. God is sovereign over all things, and He is not happy when people forget that all good things come from Him.

As for the beatitudes…I would argue that Jesus is not defining the word blessing. Blessing means happiness. Jesus doesn’t need to say, “blessed are the rich” because nobody needs to tell them that. They have their blessing already and they know it. He’s challenging our thoughts and encouraging His followers. God is sovereign in all situations, plenty or want, sickness or health.

Psalm 107:8-9
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Romans 1:21
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Deuteronomy 8:10
And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

Jeremiah 5:24-25
They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you.

So, no, don’t expect to prosper just because you are a Christian. Don’t promise new believers an easy life. But, yes, give thanks to God for the material prosperity that He gives. Call it a blessing from God when you can afford good food for your family and a soft pillow to sleep on. Yes, give God thanks when life is happy and easy and comfortable. And continue to thank Him when things get hard, you lose your job, or babies are born two months early. Be responsible and generous with your abundance. But don’t forget where all good gifts come from, who they come from.

2013 in Review

One of our favorite things to do at the end of each year is remind ourselves of some of the year’s highlights. Originally I intended to post the “Top 10 Blog Posts of 2013”. However, as I looked at what those posts were, I realized that most of them were the first Abby updates. Rather than include ten Abby updates, I’ve edited the list slightly to give a fair view of some of the favorite posts of the year:

10. Wasted Seasons

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This is one of Dan’s favorite posts of the year.

9. Anniversary Date

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A sweet story of a special date just days before Abby was born.

8. Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

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Some thoughts on the lessons I’ve learned this year about suffering.

7. Ten Things I’ve Learned in Three Years of Marriage

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An anniversary post.

6. Abby is Home!

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This was the highlight of our year!

5. A Letter from Abby

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Abby hijacked my blog one day and wrote this sweet letter of thanks.

4. Abigail’s Birth Story

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A detailed account of the day Abby was born.

3. The Birth Story I’ll Never Tell

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In this post, I shared why we will never have the birth story we had always hoped for, and how God helped us to accept the situation.

2. Abby Update: 66 Days Old

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This is the day Abigail was transferred from St. Joe’s over to UofM Mott’s Children’s Hospital due to her excessive spit up and weight loss over the past several weeks.

1. Introducing Abigail Faith

 photo pregnancies_zps233c3fe6.jpgWas anyone surprised? This was the first post published after Abby was born announcing her early birth at just 28 and a half weeks.

Wasted Seasons

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Two and a half years ago, after Lydia was born, we missed the best weeks of summer. They happened while we passed our time in the hospital. After Abby was born I kept hoping she would come home while the weather was still nice. I love fall. And I wanted to really enjoy it with Abby at home.

Instead, the days, then weeks, and even months passed and the season went with them. Occasionally, during a drive to pick up Dan from work, I would notice the brightly colored trees lining the highway. Those were the in-between moments when I was able to enjoy fall…just a little. There was no apple picking, no pumpkins, no walks in the crunchy leaves for us. I kept telling Abby, “You have to come home before it gets cold.” She didn’t.

Somewhere in there I was having a conversation with a friend at church. She had just gone through her own share of troubles that had “interrupted life”. It was after this conversation that I noticed a running theme. A lot of people were going through different difficulties that were interrupting their life. Mold problems in the home, sickness, hospital stays, unemployment…and our lives were all put on hold until the troubles passed.

And I realized that day that I have to stop putting my life on hold, because what I thought were interruptions in life were actually the seasons of life slipping away while I neglected to enjoy them.

So I made a renewed effort to make the most of my season. I tried to enjoy the leaves during our in-between drives. I took Lydia to the hospital garden and watched her balance as she walked along the short stone wall. And I captured a precious moment in the picture above when Lydia marveled in one of the first snows of the year while looking out from Abby’s NICU window.

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I realized that three months in the NICU were not a chunk of my life just wasted. Life is too short for me to decide certain seasons are “interruptions” in the real thing. “That’s life”, as the saying goes, and I have to make the most of it or it will slip away from me unenjoyed.

Now we’re in a new season. It’s a lovely one. Abby is home and Christmas is coming. But, like all seasons, it has it’s own difficulties. For now, though, I’m remembering my lesson. If I was too absorbed in the difficulties, I wouldn’t have time to enjoy this cuteness:

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Life in Chaos

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Last April, Dan graduated with his Master’s degree and we were both so excited to move off campus, get settled, and begin life without school. In May, we moved into a spacious two bedroom condo that was conveniently located right next door to Dan’s work. It was wonderful. After a while, though, we realized that there was a serious problem with the condo (mold was our guess) and it was making us, Dan in particular, sick.

In one week we searched for another place, any place, that could take us immediately and that brought us to the lovely town of Plymouth. While our Plymouth home is beautiful, it has its downsides too. It’s a long commute for Dan to get to work, especially when he already has to sit at a computer for eight hours a day, adding on another hour or two of driving hasn’t gone too well.

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My biggest struggle, though, has been the unpacking. This place is fully furnished, which means there’s just no room for all of our stuff. Well, that’s not true. We have found room for all of our stuff, but there’s not room to unpack and really move in. So all summer, I have felt like I’ve been living in chaos.

The laundry room, stairwell, and corner of the living room are full of boxes. Lydia’s room, which is actually an office, now looks like an office that got into a fight with a playroom. Half of our clothes are unpacked, and a lot of them are sitting in piles on open shelves in our bedroom, in boxes on the floor, and on top of storage containers on the floor of our closet. I can’t get to my cleaning supplies, my measuring cups, or our water pitcher. I can’t find the iron. Oh, and my nice organized collection of very important documents ended up in storage.

To add to the chaos, I’ve been off of my routine ever since my first trimester, when nausea prevented me from doing much of anything. I thrive on a schedule, but my schedule went out the window back in May with the first move. Without it, I was getting nothing done, and getting frustrated in the process.

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Time for a Change

So, I sat down a while back to pray about things. And then I set some goals to tackle one at a time:

1. Go to bed earlier
2. Wake up earlier – pack Dan’s lunch and get him breakfast, and actually see him before        he leaves for the day
3. Take shorter naps
4. Get outside at least once a day with Lydia
5. Unpack one box a day

How did it go?

Well, it has been about a month since I set my goals. So how have I been doing? Well, I tackled the first one and started getting to bed earlier. About a week later I asked Dan to start waking me up when he’s getting ready in the mornings. We’ve settled into a lovely little routine to start each day, which makes the schedule-dependent-mommy in me happy. I succeeded at shortening and sometimes even eliminating my naps, but that one feels like cheating because I’ve been feeling so much better in my second trimester anyway. Lydia and I get outside almost every day, unless it’s raining. In fact, our day up to lunch has become pretty predictable, again, making me happy. As for unpacking, well, I gave that one up long ago. There’s just no point. Once I got things clean enough to host Leslie’s bridal shower, I decided it was good enough and that I’d just have to suffer through the rest of the chaos until we move.

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How much longer?

I would love to know the answer to that one! Dan and I have a signed lease at some nice Ann Arbor apartments and we are tentatively scheduled to move in on September 6. However, we have also applied for a mortgage through our bank and are waiting to hear back from them. If it’s a “yes”, we’ll begin our search for a house, stay where we are until we find one, and then work our way through the complicated process of buying.

In the meantime, I’m sticking to my routine – even if it isn’t as regular as I like. I’m using Mr. Jenkins’ (our landlord) old plastic liquid measuring cup (with half the numbers worn off) for all of my cooking measurements. And I’m continuing to remind myself of the ways God has provided – this home, and all of our previous ones! I’m thankful for a flexible landlord, and a diligent husband who works hard to find us a place that will really feel like home. So life goes on, more chaotic than I would like, but completely in God’s control. We’re, as always, learning to trust as we wait.

Midnight Meeting

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During my Junior year of college I lived by myself in a cute little one-bedroom apartment on campus at the University of Michigan. While there are ups and downs to living alone, I enjoyed that transitional year and am grateful for it. I have many priceless memories of spending time there alone with God; sometimes in prayer, singing, or reading the Bible. One of those occasions happened to be about five months after Dan and I had started dating. And, while I enjoyed that time alone with the Lord, I started to panic as I thought about the possibility of getting married and giving that time up. I had heard how busy it is to be a mom, how you’re always tired and the work is unending. I had heard that it becomes impossible to have significant quiet times alone with the Lord. I also knew that just being a wife was, in a way, a sacrifice of the freedom that I had to spend time alone with the Lord so often without interruption. So, by the end of this particular evening, I was seriously questioning whether or not I ever wanted to get married, even to someone as wonderful as Dan. However, after a few weeks of serious prayer, thought, and a helpful book I felt let to read, I decided that this was indeed the direction in which God was leading. So, sacrifices or not, I obeyed.

Fast forward to this past Friday evening. Dan and I were talking, as we often do, about our future. Where would we live? What sort of career will Dan have (long term)? What are we supposed to do about all that right now? And, as is often the case, we weren’t coming to any solid conclusions. This evening, though, I was getting frustrated and impatient. So, as Dan ran into a store, I took the moment to pray through some of my unhappy thoughts. It’s not really ok to be angry at God, despite what our culture (even the Christian culture) tells us. I knew that I was getting angry, but God was gracious enough to offer me some clarity and comfort during those short moments in the car, and I was excited and grateful.

That night, I woke up earlier than usual. (In recent weeks of this pregnancy, I’ve been waking up once a night, around 3:00 AM to get a drink of water and go to the bathroom) I thought that was a bit odd and was soon fast asleep once more. Then, I woke up again. Now that is really unusual. That time, I couldn’t fall back asleep. So after tossing and turning for a while, I decided this was another one of those evenings when God was waking me up to meet with Him. I shuffled out to the living room, made some tea and a snack, and settled down to read my Bible.

I have been flying through the Gospels lately, and I found myself starting off another one, the Book of John. Different things have been standing out to me from each book, but I haven’t been doing any in-depth studying, just reading. In John 1-4, the thing that stood out very clearly to me was Jesus’ interaction with and care for individuals, one at a time. Andrew. Simon. Philip. Nathaniel. Nicodemus. The Woman at the Well.

Each person, Jesus already knew, before they knew Him. Each person, He told to “follow”. And, for all except Nicodemus, each person went and told others. And in the case of the woman at the well…

“Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.’”

As I sat under the cozy light from the lamp perched on a ledge above our couch, I enjoyed this uninterrupted time of Bible reading. No laundry to fold, no dishes to wash, to toys to pick up, no diapers to change…just uninterrupted time to sit back and read. I thought about how my name goes into that list of individuals. Like Philip, I have heard the call, “Follow Me”. Like Nicodemus, I was up during the night to meet with Jesus. Like the woman, I have had moments of discovering my own sinfulness, only to realize that He already knew. Throughout my childhood I heard about Jesus until I too could say, “It is no longer because of what you said that I believe, for I have heard for myself and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

I thought, more specifically, to the Friday night before, and how patient God had been with me and my frustrations. I thought about that night in my apartment alone when I was so afraid that I would never get any special time with the Lord once I was married, and certainly not once I was a mom. But those rumors I heard, about how moms just don’t get to spend any time with the Lord, I have found them to be false.

True, I don’t often have hour-long daily quiet times. True, I can’t just drop everything and sit on the floor and pray when I’m feeling emotional, sad, tired, anxious…and, true, I have a larger number of important priorities now than I did back then. But what is also true is that God gives us the spiritual food that we need, sometimes only one day at a time (or hour, or minute!) and sometimes only in small moments. But He feeds His sheep. We shall not be in want. He makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters.

I have heard an analogy that God feeds us in the same way a baby is fed milk. Some newborns take hours to eat a meal, only to need another meal an hour later. As babies grow, however, they eat faster. Even though their stomachs are bigger, they still get all the food that they need, but in a shorter amount of time. Sometimes our Bible times after dinner are my only “food”. Other times I get a few minutes, or half an hour, to spend with the Lord. But sometimes, God wakes me up in the middle of the night and asks me to spend a little time alone with Him.

So, what’s the take-away from all of this? God gives Christians everything they need. God cares about individuals: me, you. God is gracious, and likes to give us good gifts, and loves to have special alone time with His Beloved. And the peace, and contentment, and hope, and joy that I have in this moment don’t come from a perfect life, or a well-planned future, or a sweet baby girl, or a wonderful husband. They are gifts that God delights to give His children. May you experience those gifts today.

My Flock

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The only signs that are left from Leslie’s Bridal shower this weekend are a vase full of flowers and a “wall of streamers” that we put up to hide our packed boxes in the stairwell. As I look back, this whole shower, and the planning process that led up to it, all feel like one big whirlwind.

I remember lying in bed one night, very shortly after Bob proposed to Leslie, thinking about this great idea I had for a Bridal shower talk. That’s probably how it all started. It was one of the many ideas I propose to Dan, and then brace myself as I expect him to tell me why it’s actually not a good idea (usually the case, sad but true). This was one of those ideas. However, this was one of the few that Dan approved, which led us to the Bridal shower that happened this weekend. I’m planning to tell all about the shower on Wednesday, so those who are interested will have to stop on by later to hear more about that.

This post is about the talk I gave at the shower, and even more so, it’s about the aftermath of that talk. As one of the hostesses of this shower, I was given the go-ahead to share a little talk on “How to be a good wife”. This was based on the Bible, and not just my own experience, because I really don’t have that much experience! (Three years at the end of the month, but that’s nothing compared to some of the other ladies in the room) In my talk I had the chance to tell some of my own stories, share advice from other wives, read a couple Bible verses, and even explain the Gospel message as an example of the beauty of submission (Jesus’ submission to the Father). I think it went really well.

After spending so much time preparing, praying, and finally giving a talk like this, I can totally understand why so many stay-at-home-moms seek more ministry opportunities. However, after my own little ministry experience, I feel content and assured of the flock that God has given me.

Let me back up a little. A few weeks ago, at Hope Group (which is what our church calls its Bible studies which happen throughout the week), our Pastor was reading to us from a book called Signs of a Healthy Church. There was a bit of an aside in the book in which the author addressed pastors. He was warning against a common desire for pastors to have a bigger or more important ministry. He told of a nineteenth-century pastor named John Brown, who had a young friend that had recently begun to pastor a small congregation. In a letter to his friend, John Brown said,

“I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ at his judgment seat, you will think you have had enough.”

Even though John Brown and the author of this book were talking to pastors, the parallel to my role as a stay-at-home-mom was clear in my mind. How easy it is for a mom to look at her kids, and the daily grind that she goes through, and long for a different ministry. How many other people could she reach if she wasn’t busy all day changing diapers and potty training, homeschooling and preparing snacks, disrupting sibling arguments and teaching her toddlers not to say “no” to Mommy?

In fact, I wrestled through this myself not too long ago. I emailed a few other Christian ladies, asked for book suggestions, and had long talks with my husband. Was I really doing everything God wanted me to, or was I settling for a simpler, easier, more comfortable, and certainly more “normal” Christian life? I would read about missionaries from long ago, and missionaries who are still living, and wonder if I could have reached more people if I wasn’t “just a stay-at-home-mom”. And then, to make things worse, many of my resources seemed to imply that toddler-raising is a season, after which we women are freed up for more meaningful ministry. But that’s wrong. It is noble to be a stay-at-home-mom, and not just so that your kids can grow up to be missionaries.

What finally ended the search for me was when I realized that family is God’s primary method for ministry, and it is (I do believe) the most effective. Before I go any further, I better explain that I do support missionaries, and I do believe God calls different men and women to serve in alternative ways, and that is a good thing. However, the discipleship relationship that very many Christians wish they could have is really just an imitation of what a parent-child relationship was designed to be.

So, while I am happy for any opportunities that God gives me to minister to others, I am also happy with my own little flock: Lydia (and soon Baby #2). Together with Dan, I am content to spend my time, my prayers, my experiences (and hopefully wisdom!) and Bible knowledge with our precious little Munchkin who still can’t understand most of what I’m telling her.

Maybe the days aren’t always exciting. Maybe potty training is really unpleasant. But when I comfort Lydia because she scraped her knees on the sidewalk and “it hurts!” (pronounced in a very touching, tear-filled toddler voice and also without the ‘r’, which is still to difficult for her to pronounce, so it sounds a bit like she has an English accent), I am demonstrating God’s love to her. After all, is it so different? Our little problems, our temper tantrums, our anxieties must seem so small in His eyes. And yet, He tells the children to come.

So, I can honestly say that I am happy with my little flock. It doesn’t feel like too much for me, but I know that it is. Yet, I know and can stand confidently on the truth that this is the assignment God has given me and He can give me what I need to do a faithful job. So this is my ministry. This is my flock. And on judgment day I know that it will have been more than enough.