Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How a Baptist Preacher's Daughter Became a Lutheran

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be a Lutheran by my early 30s, I would have given you a blank stare and probably thought something like, "Okay, crazy person, aren't Lutherans like Catholics?"

That's kind of embarrassing since I grew up in a very religious environment.  It's embarrassing that I didn't know enough about what I believed to have any idea what the difference was between Catholics and Lutherans.  Sadly, I grew up knowing religion but very little about the grace and true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 I grew up in Baptist circles where my life was touched by some very kind people.  Some of them truly showed the love of Christ to me and my family.

However, the message conveyed to me for 3 decades was not really the Gospel.
Even the call for salvation is to ask Jesus into your heart.
Where is that in Scripture?  Which disciple asked Jesus into his heart?  Which sinner did this?  Did the thief of the cross?

I've never found anything to support this.  Yet, I believed it, felt the pressure as a very young child to pray the "sinner's prayer" and get other people to do it, too.  I did become a Christian as a young child, but I never knew what that truly meant until recently.

I learned at the age of 31 that I don't have to do anything.  No, it's not about me!  It's about what Jesus has done.  I grew up hearing this at times, but the expectation was that I do something.  I had to hear God's prompting.  I needed to walk down to the altar.  I needed to feel my sinfulness and ask Jesus to come to me.

Guess what?  He's already there.  He doesn't need us to parade our pridefulness with a cloak of so called humility.

There was always a big to do about knowing the exact time and place when you asked Jesus to be your Savior.  I find this kind of comical now, because Jesus already was my Savior!  Why did I need to do anything in order for that to happen?

It's silly when you think about it.  It's like my daughter asking me if I will be her Mommy. Well, of course I'm her Mother.  She can reject that fact and turn away from me, but that doesn't make it untrue.

I also grew up feeling that I had to validate myself to those in the church.  I felt I had to keep doing things right in order to earn their approval.  I grew up always doubting.  I was always guilty and never felt like I had done enough.  Yet, I never realized I felt this way.  All I knew was that I carried an immense burden around that I couldn't seem to shake.

I believed that I could somehow be a "better Christian" if I didn't smoke, curse, drink, do drugs or have sex before marriage. Be as abstinent as possible basically.  I didn't get the memo that I wasn't going to hell if I had a beer.  I thought I was good if I gave to others, was at church all of the time, and associated with other "good" people.

So, I tried, and of course, I failed.  When I failed, I hid it.  I hid it because the message had been received since I was a small child that good Christians don't do bad things. 

That is an oxymoron.  What Christian is good?  Isn't that why we need Jesus so desperately?  We are all filthy sinners, but by his grace and sacrifice on the cross, we are made whole.

I knew how to be "good".  If the church doors were open, we were there.  If there was a choir to sing in, a team to go witnessing or a mission trip to go on, I was there.  I had scripture memorized, even chapters at a time.

I knew the rules.

Ah, but I was SO miserable.  I was chained not truly knowing the freedom that's in Christ.  Yes, there are rules to be followed, but not the dos and don'ts that I once thought would lead me to acceptance. I didn't realize I was already accepted-wholly and fully.  Only after my first daughter was born and we began attending a Lutheran church did things begin to change.

My husband really wanted us to raise our children in a doctrinally sound church where the truth was preached and taught.  I was very hesitant in the beginning.  It was extremely different.  It was very ordered and liturgical.  I found it stuffy.  Where was the praise band?  Where was the high energy preacher with lots of funny stories?

I found myself getting upset.  I didn't hear judgment every Sunday.  I heard forgiveness, and that scared me.  I didn't know how to be a Christian without that weight of judgment on me.  I didn't know what to do if expectations of my performance were not the focus of the sermon.

Time passed, and I began to accept the free gift of Christ's forgiveness as we took communion.

I remember thinking, "This is it?  My sins are forgiven?  But God, I did the most terrible thing this week.  I said something horrible to my husband."

It didn't matter.  My sins were forgiven.

That is a truly humbling experience.  To be knelt down at an altar taking the body and blood of Christ knowing that he died so that my sins could be forgiven.  The sins I blatantly commit.  The sins that I defend.  The sins I don't even acknowledge.  He's forgiven them all.  He sees me.  He sees the need of me and the rest of the world.  How desperately pitiful we are!  How we need a Savior!  He loves us without strings attached.

That's why it's so amazing and you find so much freedom from hearing ALL of the gospel.  Not just the law.  Yes, we are utterly condemned, AND we are eternally saved.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God...not just certain verses that suit us but the entire Bible.

I have never been less guilt ridden and felt more freedom.  Thanks be to God.  I think I'll go have a glass of wine. :)

Monday, February 8, 2016

What it's like to be a Truck Driver's Wife

Being a truck driver's wife is something you can't comprehend until you are in that position, but I guess that's how it is with just about anything in life.  I know I will learn valuable lessons from this time in our lives.

Right now, this is my life.
The life of a truck driver's wife...

It's waking up, looking over and putting your hand on a cold pillow.

It's counting down days, hours and minutes until he returns.

It's praying with your kids every night that he stays safe.  That he is alert.
That other people don't put him in danger.  That he comes home in one piece.

It's thanking God for his sacrifice while simultaneously asking God if there is anything else he could do to provide for the family.  Anything that would keep him home at night.

It's being glad to see him but finding it hard to change up a routine that has kept you sane while he's gone.

It's burning inside from sadness that he has to go again.

It's loneliness.  That he's gone.  That you have no friends that can relate.

It's being a single parent day and night while he's gone.

It's trying to be positive and strong when your are exhausted and missing him so much.

It's a yo-yo of the heart as he comes and goes in the blink of an eye.

It's feeling guilty that you don't make enough money to keep him home.
Or that staying home with your kids means he sacrifices time with them.

It's short phone calls and video chats that become the highlight of your day.

It's anticipation and dreaming of him walking through the front door smelling like diesel fuel.

It's disappointment and let down when traffic or mechanical issues delay him another day.

It's little presents he brings home, because he's been thinking of you.

It's a surprise early homecoming that gives you a long weekend.

It's a man doing the best he can to do his job to provide for the family that he loves.

It's tears in his eyes as he leaves and wiping them away before he pulls out of the driveway.

It's being loved by a man like that.  One that has long days and short nights.

It's knowing that his job is not driving his truck.  It's being a good husband and father.
That's what it's like to be a truck driver's wife.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

God, I Don't know if I can do this; The Pressure of Parenting

I was standing in front of the dishwasher assembling sippy cups yesterday when the most pleasant warm feeling, like a ray of sunshine from the inside, came over me and erupted on my face in the form of a smile.  What was so amazing about those sippy cups?  Nothing, really.  They are just your ordinary princess cups that are similar to those used by 2 year olds everywhere.  But the 2 year old living in my house uses them.  That makes them special.

I can honestly say that nothing else in the world- no job, no good or bad experience- nothing has taught me more than parenthood.  I'm still a novice, but the years I've spent caring for little lives has changed me.  There's no more me, really.  Not the way there used to be.  Parenthood has freed me from the sentence of self in so many ways.  Of course, I'm still human and selfish in many ways...but after being given the title of "parent", the self I once knew is no more.

The journey really began 6 years ago when I found out I was pregnant with a baby I would miscarry a few months later.  That's when it all began.  That's when I started loving someone God mysteriously created.  That's when I realized the heart wrenching pain of loss that only a parent understands.  From then on, I started learning how to love more completely and fully.  It's a love that differs from that of a spouse.  This love cannot and does not give back the way a spouse can or does.  Yet, this love gives back just because it exists.  This love needs you.  This love depends on you.  This love literally cannot survive without you.

I was talking to my husband a few months ago about the adjustment we've had after the birth of our second daughter and my new role as full time stay at home mom.  I told him how much I love being with our girls, but how stressed I had been.  I realized that underneath the mom face, deep down, I was really scared.

I felt this immense pressure.  If they didn't eat, it was because of me.  If they didn't feel safe, it was because of me.  If they got hurt, they needed me to help them.  They needed me to help them to take a bath, to help them watch out for cars when crossing the street, to help them with toileting...they needed me.  And for most of the time, day and night, Mommy was heralded to fix every problem-from a dirty diaper to a meltdown over not having the kind of lunch that was expected but never voiced.  I said aloud in tears several times, "I don't know if I can do this."

Having a baby and a 2 year old to care for most of the time by myself taught me more than anything else in my life.  I have cried more, prayed more and had more temper tantrums.  I have also loved more, laughed more, and felt so much satisfaction and peace.

I read something recently that reminded me to cherish this job I have been given.  The article discussed how we always want to know what God's plan is for our lives.  What career should we try? What person should we date and marry?  The point of the article was that we should just live our lives without worrying so much about those decisions, because what God wants for us is salvation. Live satisfied with that knowledge.  His salvation is the point of life.  It's not a box we check off.  It's a way of life.  His love.  Himself.  We have been given his eternal gift of life, and he wants us to live!
I am at home with these two miracles every day, and I need his salvation!  I need him more than ever, or I will become completely overwhelmed raising these little humans that require so much from me.  I want them to see that their mommy is human, yes flawed, but forgiven.  I want to extend the same grace to them that God gives to me.  They bring me joy that I never knew existed.

There is always room to grow.  No matter how old you are.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Letter from the Mom I am Now to my 50 Year Old Self

Dear Me,

I'm writing this letter to you to remind you.   I want to remind you of what it's like to have young children that you are home with 24 hours a day.  Right now, your younger self often hears people your age say how they've forgotten what it's like.  I want to refresh your memory, so that you are able to help those moms you encounter with tiny, precious ones-primarily your own daughters.  Hopefully, this letter brings back memories of the days you lived 20 or 30 years prior.

Do you know how it is when you're really tired?   It's hard to concentrate, pay attention or even be friendly.  Well,  that's what it's like for you every, single day now.  You haven't slept through the night in years, really.  Once the first started sleeping through the night better, you were pregnant again getting up to pee every few hours or just too uncomfortable to stay in one position too long.  So, when those mothers of little ones don't give you a warm smile or seem zoned out, give them a break. Better yet, go over to her house and entertain the kids while she gets a nap.  Even 30 minutes makes a huge difference.

Right now, your younger self often hears older people say, "If you ever need a break, let me know!" Well, you do need a break, but there is way too much for you to keep up with to try to coordinate another person's schedule.  You have two little ones with appointments every week while you try to run a household pretty much by yourself while your husband works.  You don't really want another person telling you that you need to call them.  A better option would be to ask the mother what day of the week and time you can come over to help her by watching the kids, cleaning or bringing her a meal.  She will be so grateful that someone is helping her with something...anything!

It can feel completely overwhelming and lonely to be home all of the time with small children.  Don't forget that.  Don't get so caught up in your life that you let your daughters get to a point where they feel they might break.  It is hard for your younger self to admit right now that you need more help.  Your daughters or other young mothers will most likely feel that way, also.  That doesn't mean you take over, but give her the opportunity to vent and talk to you about how she is doing.

Here's a biggie older self...don't judge!  Yes, you may have done things a certain way with your babies, but things have changed.  Let others raise their children, as long as they aren't harming them, the way they see fit.  Be supportive!  It is not just physically exhausting to have young ones.  It is mentally and emotionally taxing in a way that nothing else ever will be!  So, give words of encouragement and be her biggest cheerleader!  Let her know you are there for her, and let her come to you with questions if she wants.  Your job isn't to raise her kids.  It's to be a support for her.

The most important thing you could do is pray for her.  She has the weight of the world on her shoulders.  Everyone needs her 24/7 right now.  Pray for her and with her.  This is a season, and yes it will go by quickly as many people your age tell me right now.  However, it doesn't always feel like that.  Not on days when the 2 year old disobeys all day long and the baby has been crying nonstop because another tooth is coming in.  Saying it won't last long doesn't make her feel any better.  It makes her feel like she's not allowed to say she's had a rough day.  Remember to be a cheerleader.

Let her know that if she wants to go out of her way to make super cool cupcakes and decorations for a birthday party, that's okay.  If she has a house that has unfolded laundry and toys all over the place, that's okay.  She shouldn't feel guilty for either.  Often, your younger mom self reads articles subtly bashing moms who want to be creative and also making it seem like their kid's rooms need to look like something out of a catalog.  There's a lot of pressure on us moms from society, too.  If she seems stressed that she needs to do what everyone else is doing or not doing, give her words of affirmation and point out everything she's doing right.

It's taken me weeks to have the time to write this to you.  Both kids are actually napping at the same time.  Yeah, a miracle.  I'm sure you will have great wisdom to bestow having raised kids.  Remember to give your adult children space to raise their own families, but the closeness and love they need to make it through the rough days with your help.  It's all about balance.

See ya in a few decades. :)


Jenn


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Musings of a Guilty Mother

I'm guilty.

I'm completely and utterly guilty.

As a mother...

I'm guilty of losing my patience, yelling, complaining, pushing my own agenda on my children, wishing they would just sleep and leave me alone...

I'm also guilty of loving my children with a ferocity that only motherhood birthed.  I'm guilty of having an innate need to protect them from harm and lead them to know the Truth.

My children have changed my life.

I'm no longer able to go out with friends whenever I'd like, or even my husband for that matter.  I can't go sit in a coffee shop and relax while people watching.
I'm no longer able to get up in the morning, before I talk to anyone, and have the quiet solitude that my personality thrives on.  I don't always get the luxury of a shower every day.  I'm always tired.  I can never seem to catch up to all of the work that needs to be done.

I'm not able to live the life I once did.

Now...

I wake up to coos and calls for mommy.  The highlight of my day is gazing into my children's eyes and hearing them laugh.  I play with dolls and toys that move and light up.  I'm often cleaning up bodily fluids and wearing them, too.  I watch purple dinosaurs and princesses on television.  I read stories about going potty and how to share.  I often have a baby strapped to me and spend my days and nights feeding and cuddling with her.  I reheat my coffee 3 times in the morning, because I'm kissing boo-boos, rocking a little one and squeezing in housework.

I try to teach lessons I often feel I fail at myself.  I apologize to my 2 year old almost every day for my failures and pray with her daily that we would both learn to love one another better.

I'm guilty of being human-of having a sin nature.  And I want my daughters to know that none of us are perfect, but we don't have to be.  We serve the God that is our perfection.  I want them to see a mother that will fail miserably, but repent, to God and to them, and keep pressing on so that Christ's transforming power is evident to them.

I look at them, and it astounds me.  It astounds me that I had something to do with their existence.  God allowed me, an immensely flawed and sinful person, to be a part of the creation of two of the most precious beings I've ever laid eyes on.  Granted, there are days when all I want to do is sit in that coffee shop by myself, but overall, I can't help but give God the glory for the immense mercy he gives me.  And even beyond.  He uses the fire of circumstances and people, good and bad, to refine me.

I can't help but be grateful tonight.  For the way my life has turned out.   I can't help but praise the God that I continue to learn about.  My God.  Jesus Christ.  The one and only Son and maker of all.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Holding a Dream

I'm holding a dream.


When I look down at her,
I see hope manifest-
I see prayers I can touch.
I see my daughter.

Her little fingers and toes-
Her eyes and her nose,
Perfectly formed
by God's own hand-
Masterfully molded
where once there was naught,
Created, designed
in the midst of loss.





She is His handiwork,
a being like no other.
Sent by God in his timing
to help heal this mother.




She is a light
that shines brighter than most;
For hope is more radiant
The greater the cost.

God is so good,
and merciful and kind.
This child is his,
Not mine.

Yet, he entrusts me
with this most precious gift,
To love and teach her
who He is.

My heart is full
as I reflect,
on the journey we've traveled
to sit where we sit.

Surrounded by graciousness,
Prayer and support-
Our baby girl
is a product of love.

Dear God above,
we give thanks.
For you are magnificent,
and greatly to be praised!





Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How we Named Our Rainbow Baby

Just months ago, I was unsure that this pregnancy would progress to the point that it is now.  But here I sit...typing over an 8 month pregnant belly.  Thanks be to God.

Once we knew the gender, I immediately started researching names.  I really wanted this name to reflect what this little girl means to us.  I wanted it to be a reminder of the hope that can still be possible after devastating loss as we had miscarried just one month before becoming pregnant with her and thought we were going to lose her several times.

I've always liked the name Lydia.  I knew that she was mentioned in the Bible.  I knew that she was a woman who was most likely very smart and a business woman in her day.  She heard the Gospel, and the holy spirit changed her.  She shared it with everyone she knew, and the news of a Savior spread even further because of her belief.  She was also known for her hospitality towards the apostles and believers.

I looked up some other meanings.  I found two very contrasting definitions.

Lydia means travail-strife, heartache, agony, labor.  It also means beauty or light.  I thought this very fitting.

This little girl was conceived at perhaps one of the most stormy and dark periods of our lives.  Her life, a beautiful light, braved the storm.  Though the circumstances were dire, God saw fit that she should enter our lives becoming the unexpected rainbow in the midst of darkness.  Just like the rainbows we see in the sky, she seemed to come out of nowhere when we were still cowering from the storm.  And sometimes, it seems that something so gorgeous just can't be real.

She is a miracle of God.  He healed my womb.  He kept her safe and healthy.  She has already given so many hope before she is even born.  God has already determined that her life is one that others will know, and in turn, know him. 

We chose Elise for her middle name.  This means oath or promise of God.  How fitting as God made the rainbow a sign of promise in the Old Testament after the worst storm in history.  It reminds me of the hope God gives us.  We have life because of death.  

And it's the same with this little girl.  Though our other baby died, life still followed.  And we believe that baby is in heaven with Jesus experiencing life that we have yet to taste.

I thank God for every day with Lydia.  For every elbow in my rib and hiccup in the middle of the night.  I know she is a gift that I am astounded God is entrusting us to parent.

Thank you all for your support and prayers.  It means so much to feel your love.  We're almost there!