Thoughts on Life and Loss

Today, October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. I have many friends who have lost babies, and I grieve with them. I cannot imagine the pain they feel, and my prayers are with them. Sweet friends, (and you know who you are,) I love you and I can’t wait for the day you when will be reunited with your babies in heaven.

But today, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, my thoughts have turned to loss of another kind. My mind has been occupied not only with those babies we mourn, but with the babies we do NOT mourn.  Because how can we mourn the loss of children through miscarriage and still celebrate their loss through abortion? How? If this life that is lost through miscarriage is indeed a life to mourn, then isn’t the aborted baby also a life to mourn? Why does one life matter when another one does not? What is the difference between the two? Certainly, it isn’t gestational age. Many of these miscarriages we mourn occur earlier in pregnancy than abortions do. Is the only difference that one baby is wanted and another one is not? And can we not see the fault with this reasoning?

This language of life and loss is not just evidence of a divide between Christians and non-Christians, or the pro-life and pro-choice crowds. It is even evidence of a great inconsistency in secular culture and media. Why is a celebrity pregnancy referred to as a baby but the language is changed to fetus if the conversation is about abortion? If our culture is truly persuaded that life does not begin (or does not count) until birth, why then do the headlines rave about the latest celebrity baby bump? Shouldn’t they say “fetus bump?” Can they truly not see the inconsistency of their language, or their logic?

The bottom line? Please, please do not post a status or make a comment grieving Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day if you believe that abortion is morally acceptable. Either it is a baby to mourn or it isn’t. Either it is a life that has ended or it is not. You cannot mourn miscarriage yet support abortion. Ever. Period. End of story. And if you are pro-choice yet have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss, I believe you need to take a sober, careful look at what you believe. If abortion does not take a life, then what are you mourning? What have you lost?

I believe our culture is quickly losing its grip on the value of life. Another example of this has been in the news and all over social media recently. Brittany Maynard is a 29-year-old with terminal cancer who has chosen to end her life on November 1. Through doctor-assisted suicide, which is legal in Oregon, she will take her life and go on to “whatever is next.” And reading that sentence broke my heart. Because I know that “whatever is next” for someone who dies without a relationship with Christ is an eternity in hell. I have been praying fervently for this girl, who is about my own age, and for her heart. I have been praying that the Lord would intervene. That He would send Christians to her to share the Gospel with her. That He would bring her into a saving relationship with Himself. That He would give her new life — life eternal — even as she is facing death.

My heart is not only broken for Brittany and the state of her soul, but it is broken for our culture and our disregard for the sanctity of life. I have been absolutely appalled at the Christians I know who have applauded her decision and celebrated her “bravery.” Dear Christians, do you realize what it is you are applauding and celebrating? Have you forgotten the VALUE of life completely? Have you forgotten God’s Word?

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39

“The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.” 1 Samuel 2:6-7

GOD gives life and He gives death. Who are we to think we can control life and death? Who among us is qualified to decide who gets to live and who does not? Is the doctor administering euthanasia? Is the mother choosing abortion? Is the politician pushing an agenda? Are you? Am I?

My heart is heavy tonight as I pray for my friends who have lost babies, and I grieve for the 56.6 million babies who have been aborted in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade, and I intercede on behalf of Brittany Maynard, and I mourn for our culture which has lost the understanding of the value of life.

To those of you who hold a different worldview than I do, I beg of you: Spend some time examining your opinions about miscarriage, abortion, and euthanasia. If you believe in the value of life in one case, can you not see the value of life in every case? If one lost life is to be mourned, is not every lost life worthy of mourning? Is not every life valuable?

And to my fellow Christians, I beg of you: As people who believe God is sovereign over life and death, let’s fight for life. Let’s fight against abortion and euthanasia. Let’s fight for the unborn and terminally ill. Let’s fight for the sanctity of life at birth, at death, and at all points in between.

Meet Millie

I haven’t updated the blog since May, but I promise I have a good excuse!

Blog, meet Millie.

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(Bella Baby Photography)

 

Amelia Ann was born on Friday, June 28th at 1:47 pm, only three days past her due date. After a relatively easy labor and delivery, she arrived weighing 7 pounds 8 ounces, and measuring 20 inches. We were surprised by how big she was, considering her big sister (who was also overdue) weighed only 6 pounds 6 ounces. But what surprised us even more than her weight was her head full of black hair.

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Piper was very excited to meet her sister, and even though she had gotten up at 4:30 that morning and then skipped her nap, she was very sweet. I had taken her to most of my prenatal checkups, and after seeing the doctor listen to Millie’s heartbeat, she would practice putting her toy stethoscope on my belly to check on Millie. So the first thing she did when JD brought her into the delivery room was borrow a stethoscope from a nurse to listen to Millie’s heart. It was so sweet and funny, and I wish I had a video of it!

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(Bella Baby Photography)

 

Millie is pretty vocal, and is a lot noisier than I remember Piper being. She can scream like a banshee, but more often grunts and grunts and grunts until she is gets her way. She doesn’t cry excessively, but she makes lots of noises and little sounds. Lately she has been cooing, laughing, and squealing. Piper will say, “Millie’s making noise!” like it’s the most amazing thing in the world.

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At her two-week checkup, Millie’s doctor asked, “What are you feeding her, fertilizer?” And I really don’t think she could grow any faster if I was! She is in the 90th percentile for both height and weight, and has grown so very fast. While Piper was always petite, Millie is a chunk. She has wonderful rolls and several chins, making her so squishy and fun to hold. Dressing her is challenging, however, as she grows out of her clothes as fast as I can put them on her!

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Overall, Millie is an easy baby. While it used to take Piper 30 minutes to nurse, Millie is done (and full) in 5. And Piper never liked the swing, but Millie loves it and naps in it several times a day. I knew Millie would be different than Piper, but I just couldn’t imagine how. Now, I often think that she is trying to prove just how different she is from her sister.

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(Britt Farris Photography)

My big sweet girl is three months old now, and the time is flying by. She is a joy and an answer to prayer, and our little family is so blessed to have her.

A Mother’s Day Confession

Yesterday as I told my mom, “Happy Mother’s Day,” she said, “You’re the one in the trenches of motherhood right now!” And you know what? I am. I am deep in the trenches of motherhood. I have a two-year-old daughter and I’m 33 1/2 weeks pregnant. Temper tantrums and meltdowns? I deal with those. Scraped knees and bumped heads? Check. Third trimester insomnia and exhaustion? Yep. Heartburn and an achy back? You bet. And while this may not be the easiest stage of motherhood, it is so blessed. Sloppy kisses and spontaneous hugs? I get those. Giggles and little girl squeals? Constantly. Baby kicks and nudges? Happening right now.

What do I, from my post deep in the trenches of motherhood, need to hear to be encouraged this Mother’s Day? I’ll tell you what I don’t need to hear. I don’t need to hear a to-do-list in the form of a sermon based on the Proverbs 31 woman. I don’t need to hear about perfect mothers who never make mistakes. I don’t need to hear about those saintly women who never lose their cool. I definitely don’t need to hear about moms who have it all together all the time. I don’t need to hear perfect. I need to hear real.

So many times we moms hide the mess, sweep it under the rug, and present a “perfect” face to the world. Social media seems to exaggerate this — I mean, who instagrams their sink full of dirty dishes? Or their filthy toddlers wearing mismatched clothes? Who tweets about their parenting failures? Or posts a Facebook status about their fight with their husband? We try to present our “perfect” families to the world, but all the while feel guilty that our real life doesn’t match the perfection our friends are presenting. Comparing our behind-the-scenes, un-aired footage with others’ highlight reels leaves us feeling inadequate and guilty.

So here is my confession this Mother’s Day: I don’t have it all together. Not in the least. My sink is almost always full of dirty dishes. I never catch up on laundry. (Sometimes I even forget a load of clothes in the washing machine only to find it wet and smelly a few days later.) I definitely don’t mop my floors often enough, and I only dust before my weekly piano lessons so my students’ parents don’t judge me. My bed doesn’t get made up every day, and my sheets don’t get changed every week. The inside of my car is filled with discarded toys, empty cups, and lots of crumbs. I sometimes find smelly milk cups under the couch or in the toy box. I occasionally let Piper eat popcorn for breakfast. She doesn’t eat many vegetables, but she gets a popsicle almost every day. If she’s not cooperating when we’re out shopping, I bribe her with a sucker. Sometimes I overreact to something she does and make her cry. I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing when I discipline my child. In our battle of wills, she often wins. I don’t bathe her every single day. She gets away with more than I should probably let her. I allow my two-year-old to watch TV (maybe more than I should.) I haven’t made sensory bins or busy bags for her to play with, and I don’t plan to. Her baby book is still unfinished, and I never did get around to mailing out her birth announcements. Instead of boutique and handmade outfits, I dress my daughter in clearance rack and consignment sale clothes. I love to cook, but I’m lazy and don’t put much effort into it. I get excited for summer so that JD can grill and I don’t have to cook as often. I cook with real butter and sugar, and don’t care about the calories. I don’t buy organic apples. I eat dessert at least once a day (often twice). I don’t enjoy exercising, so I don’t do it often enough. I feed my unborn child sugar, french fries, and the occasional caffeinated drink. There are unfinished sewing and craft projects in almost every room of my house. My closets and bathroom cabinets are a mess. Most days (at least lately), I take a nap during Piper’s nap time instead of getting my house work done. I spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, where I see the “perfect” lives others are presenting to the world and start to feel guilty about the mess I live in.

Whew. How’s that for real? And trust me, I could go on for days.

But despite my mess, my failures, and my short-comings, I know I’m still a good mom. I always have time to cuddle. I stop what I’m doing to read a book or play a game with Piper. She is happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. My husband and I have a great relationship and enjoy spending time together. Somehow we’ll manage to add a newborn to the mess and chaos in a few short weeks, and we’ll make it. It won’t be perfect, but it will be blessed. Because it’s here in the middle of dirty dishes, temper tantrums, and morning sickness that God speaks to me. He teaches me about his patient love and forgiveness as I patiently clean up yet another spilled drink. I learn to rely on His strength when I’m exhausted and at the end of my rope. I realize the depth of the grace He has shown me as I try to show grace to my toddler. Motherhood is sanctifying me, and while I’m far from perfect, God is molding me to be more like Him little by little and day by day.

This Mother’s Day, let’s stop pretending to have it all together and admit that motherhood here in the trenches is hard and messy. Instead of seeking encouragement in Hallmark cards and empty platitudes, let’s find encouragement in the real-life messes and successes around us. It sure is freeing to admit that I’m not perfect and don’t have it all together, and I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not. Won’t you join me in celebrating the real and shunning the “perfect” this Mother’s Day?

A letter to Baby #2

Dear Baby,

Your mommy, daddy, and big sister are so excited to meet you. We love you tremendously already. You, sweet little one, are an answer to prayer. (Many, many prayers!) We can’t wait to add you to our little family.

Well, I take that back. We CAN wait. You see, Baby, God is already teaching us and sanctifying us through you! And one of the things He’s teaching us is to wait. We waited months for the news that you were on your way, and it was hard. Every time I realized we had to wait another month, I grieved. I grieved for a potential baby that was lost. I grieved for the time that was lost. I grieved (more selfishly) because I wanted something and I didn’t get my way. I know many families wait and grieve like this for months and years, but I’ve learned that it’s hard whether it’s a month or a decade. God had a plan for our family, and His timing was specific. While we were waiting, He was teaching us to trust Him and rely on His plan. God didn’t want to just give us a baby; He had a specific baby for us. This specific baby required specific genetic material, and any different timing would have resulted in a totally different baby! God had us waiting for you, Baby, and you’re absolutely worth the wait.

The waiting wasn’t over, however, with a positive pregnancy test. Oh no, the waiting had just begun! We had to wait for the first doctor’s visit, the first ultrasound, hearing the heartbeat for the fist time, and finally feeling you move. We’re still waiting to find out whether you’re a boy or a girl, and we have months to wait before we can meet you. But I’m learning to enjoy the waiting. Instead of being impatient and looking forward to the next milestone, I’m trying to enjoy the here and now. I’ve loved every minute of being pregnant, and I want to enjoy it without rushing through to the end. I know now, as a second-time mom, that it all goes WAY TOO FAST! If I rushed impatiently through this pregnancy, I would also be rushing through your sister’s toddler phase. While I may be anxious to have you in my arms, I am in no hurry for her to grow up. So we’re taking things slowly, enjoying milestones as they come, and focusing on the present instead of keeping our sights set on a due date.

Waiting patiently is a valuable lesson, but it’s not the only thing God has taught me in the last few months. I’ve been learning to trust His sovereignty more and worry less. I’m not a worrier by nature, but motherhood has changed that! I never spent too much time meditating on Jesus’ teachings about worry, because I needed His help with other sins more. But lately He’s shown me that I do harbor worry in my heart instead of trusting Him. When I was expecting your sister, I didn’t have as many concerns and anxieties as I do now. Now, several years later, I know much more about miscarriage and infertility. I have close friends who have experienced loss. I’ve read more about pregnancy and potential complications. And this increased knowledge has increased my worry. It doesn’t help that my children (I’m talking to you, baby!) like to scare me senseless. At twelve weeks, both you and your sister hid from the doctor so she couldn’t find your heartbeat. Do you know how long the walk to the ultrasound room is when you’re not sure if your baby’s heart is still beating? Do you know how long it seems to take for the ultrasound tech to get everything ready? Do you know what a relief it is to finally hear that heartbeat? No, I guess you don’t, or you wouldn’t have put your mother through that! At least those long minutes leave plenty of time for prayer. It’s not easy to choose trust over worry, Baby, but God is teaching and I’m learning. And you’re helping with that process, for which I’m grateful to you.

Baby, we are praying for you. We’re praying that you will grow strong and healthy. We’re praying for your character, and that you will value honesty, kindness, integrity, patience, diligence, and perseverance. But, Baby, most of all we’re praying for your heart. You see, in our family, Jesus is most important. We’re praying that you would grow up knowing and loving Jesus, and that you would trust Him as your Savior at an early age. Baby, we want you to have a heart that above all else loves and treasures Jesus. We pray that you would grow up to care about God’s kingdom and His mission. We want you to live your life for Jesus, and not only for yourself. Baby, God has you in his hands and He has an amazing purpose for your life. Follow Him. Love Him. Serve Him.

Your parents are so thankful for you, and the blessing you have been to our family already. We love you and we’re so excited that God chose us to be your parents. In only a few short months your mommy and daddy (and sister, and grandparents, and aunts, etc!) will get to hold you in our arms and kiss your cheeks. Until then, grow strong; and thank you for teaching us and drawing us closer to our Father.

Planning to be a Stay-at-Home Mom

When I was five and someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would tell them about my plans to be a missionary/movie star/artist. (I wanted to travel to distant places to film movies, where I would paint the sets and tell people about Jesus while I worked.) When I was in sixth grade, I thought that maybe I should look into becoming a courtroom artist. (I still laugh about that one!) In high school, I wanted to be a doctor. By the time I got to college, I was smart enough to realize that I had no idea what I wanted to be. I considered international relations, nursing, and law before I finally settled into the education department and began preparing for a teaching career.

But all along, from the time I was young, there was a tension and a conflict that kept me from deciding on a future career. You see, what I really wanted was to be a mom. A stay-at-home mom. And I knew that my desire to stay home with my children was in conflict with all of those careers I was considering. But high school teachers and college professors don’t think much of a girl’s desire to prioritize a family over a career, especially if that girl is an honors student with a bright future ahead of her. I was told that I needed a high-paying job and a prestigious career to fulfill myself. I needed to be able to support myself. I needed to “do something meaningful” with my brains. I needed to make something of myself.

When I was a freshman in college, my dad, my sister, and I drove to Macon, Georgia to meet with a scholarship counselor. She was supposed to help us find other sources for scholarship money, but instead it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experience. (A different blog post for a different day.) However, as we talked with her, she asked me what I wanted to do after college. When I told her that I was leaning toward teaching, she asked me why. In that moment I had a quick internal debate – should I tell her what she wants to hear, or should I be completely honest? Against my better judgment, I decided to be honest. I said that I wanted to be a teacher because I really just wanted to be a mom, and teaching was the career that seemed least in conflict with that desire. Well, boy was that the wrong answer! She went off on a tirade against my reasoning, told me I could do better than teaching, and mocked me for wanting to be a stay-at-home mom. I just sat there and tried to hold back my tears.

Her attitude, however offensive, was not abnormal – I encountered it everywhere. No one seemed to think that motherhood was a “career” to plan for. Everyone tried to push me toward a career that entailed years and years of school and long hours of work. At the time I didn’t realize that the battle I was fighting was actually against our post-modern culture. Feminism has spread so far and so deep, and it has greatly devalued the role of wife and mother. Few modern mothers prioritize their children over their careers. Call me old-fashioned, but I didn’t want to compromise in this area.

So, I kept my ultimate goal of being a stay-at-home mom in mind as I made decisions in college. When faced with the option of taking on a lot of debt or transferring to a different college, I transferred. I continued with my plan to become a teacher. JD and I got married, I graduated, and I wanted to go to graduate school. But grad school meant debt, so I put it off. I taught for a few years in two different schools – one job I LOVED and the other I HATED. And when we were ready to start a family, nothing was standing in our way. We didn’t have any debt. No student loan payments, no credit card debt, nothing. We were able to live on JD’s salary. And I was able to stay at home with Piper, which I wouldn’t give up for all the money or prestige in the world.

My best friend, Chrystal, has taken a different path but is still working and planning to be a stay-at-home mom when the time comes. When she finished college, she wasn’t dating anyone and honestly thought she’d never get married. So she started pharmacy school, but before long was dating a great guy and making plans for the future. They got married a few years later, and Chrystal graduated from pharmacy school in May. Most young couples with two (very good) incomes would be living it up – vacationing, buying cars and a house, enjoying the fruits of their labor. But Chrystal really wants to be a stay-at-home mom as soon as possible. She and her husband are living modestly off of his income and throwing all of her salary and any extra money they have toward her student loan debt. In a few years they’ll be debt free, accustomed to living on one salary, and prepared for Chrystal to stay at home with their children.

I write all of this as a reflection on my journey to becoming a stay-at-home mom, but also to encourage other young women. If you desire to be a stay-at-home mom, plan for it. Keep yourself out of debt. Make college and grad school decisions with your end goal in mind. Don’t listen to anyone who thinks motherhood is not a good career choice. Ignore the pressure to find success and prestige in a degree or a salary. Our culture says motherhood has little value, but don’t listen to that. It’s the most important job, and the most rewarding. I promise you, if being a stay-at-home mom is your desire, you won’t find fulfillment in any other career.

The Hardest Part of Being a Pastor’s Wife

I love my husband. I love that he loves Jesus and the Church. I love that he spends his life for the sake of the gospel. Every Sunday as he preaches from the Word, I am proud of him. I love being a pastor’s wife, and I consider it a high compliment when I am called Mrs. Preacher.

However,  alongside the joys of being a pastor’s wife, there are many struggles, and these struggles have been heavy on my heart lately. And what’s the point in having a blog if I can’t use it to reflect and process personal struggles from time to time? So, here is my countdown of the hardest struggles I’ve faced as a pastor’s wife.

(Before I begin with my list, however, I need to clarify that my husband has prioritized his family and ministry responsibilities to keep me from facing the main struggle of most pastors’ wives. Many (if not most) wives of full-time ministers have to sacrifice time with their husbands in the name of service to the church. Many (if not most) full-time ministers wrongly prioritize their ministry to the church above their ministry to their families. One pastor’s wife I know and love told me once that she often felt like a single mom. I’m so thankful I haven’t had that experience. JD has committed to make his ministry to our family a higher priority than his ministry to his church, and he sets clear boundaries between family time and church time. He spends ample quality with me and Piper, and I am incredibly thankful for a husband who keeps his priorities in line.)

With that major struggle averted, here is my list of the hardest challenges I’ve faced in seven years of marriage to a full-time minister:

5) Unrealistic Expectations. Once upon a time I was a young, newly married youth pastor’s wife. Within a week of moving to a new church in a new city, I was (quite aggressively) asked to lead an interpretive dance ministry group, made up of about a dozen 40 to 60 year old ladies. They told me they were so excited that JD and I had come to their church because they needed a new leader and God had sent me to them. I was caught completely off guard, but thankfully had the presence of mind to stammer some excuse about needing to settle in before I made any commitments.

I might have gotten off the hook for that one, but I’m really not good as saying “no” and I’ve had to do many things I never wanted to. For example: 1) Choreographing youth Christmas musicals. (Even though I’ve never had a dance class in my life.) 2) Playing the keyboard in Easter programs. (I really tried to say no to this one. Several times.) 3) Confronting two middle school girls who were making a college-aged guy uncomfortable with their flirting. (Apparently neither the guy nor the moms who called me to do this could handle it themselves.) 4) Teaching a kids’ Bible Drill class. 5) Babysitting choir-members’ kids during the Easter program.

That’s just a small list of things I didn’t say “no” to. Here are a few of the requests I’ve denied: 1) Helping with an all-day kids’ sports camp (when I had a five-month-old baby.) 2) Teaching sixth grade VBS. 3) Joining the choir. (I’ve said no to this one more times than I can count!) 4) Enforcing modest dress among female church members.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love to serve in the church. I have taught youth Sunday School and small groups, mentored girls, led Bible studies, organized tutoring programs, spoken at Missions’ events, gone on mission trips, played in a hand-bell choir, etc. I even worked as JD’s assistant for a (short) season! But please, church members, if you love your pastor’s wife, let her choose how she serves. Don’t pressure her into serving in ways you think befit her position.

4) Unjust Criticisms. When JD is criticized, I take it much harder than he does. He is my hero, and I know the motivations and thoughts behind his actions. I understand his personality, his priorities, and his philosophy of ministry. When he is criticized unfairly, I get angry. Really angry.

Once, we were new to a church and spending time getting to know people. Instead of returning that favor, several people made a rash judgment about JD. They went to the senior pastor and complained that JD was arrogant. Those of you who know my husband will know how ludicrous that is. Introverted? yes. Arrogant? heck, no! Apparently he made a quick stop by an after-church party, said a general hello to everyone, spoke with the person he came to speak to, said a general goodbye, and left. Therefore, because he didn’t spend a hour engaging every person in the room in in-depth conversation, he was arrogant. In addition to this rash (and false) judgment, the complainers didn’t have the courage to address JD with this issue! Needless to say, when I heard about this I was irate. I’m still mad thinking about it. And I wish this was the only time in our ministry that JD was unjustly criticized, but it’s not, and dealing with this is a hard struggle.

3) Unnecessary Drama. There are some issues that are important and worth fighting for in the church. We can fight to protect sound doctrine, we can fight to remove prejudices, and we can fight sin. But there are some issues that simply are not worth fighting over. Those are the issues that (at least in our years of ministry) seem to cause the most trouble.

At one church we fought about doughnuts. Yes, doughnuts. Krispy Kremes, to be exact. We fought about doughnuts on multiple occasions over the course of several years. The debate got very heated and people took sides. Over doughnuts. Can you see me rolling my eyes here? If you’re going to fight for the church, fight over an issue that matters! Fight injustice, fight poverty, fight modern-day slavery, fight abortion. Fight for the spread of the gospel. Fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. But for goodness sake, don’t you have something better to do than fight over doughnuts?

2) Unsaid words. Over the years I’ve learned that one of the most essential skills of a pastor’s wife is the ability to hold her tongue. In good and bad circumstances, there are things I want to say that I can’t. I want to defend my husband against criticism. I want to explain why he does things the way he does them. I want to tell people to back off. I want to tell people what I think of them. I want to debate. I want to fight.

A part of my “flesh” that I’m continually trying to overcome is my desire to argue and debate. I enjoy it, and I’m good at it. In an English class debate I once made a girl cry. I often make up conflict scenarios in my head and think about the words I would use to make my case. (That’s not weird, is it?) When we’re facing drama or criticism within the church, my mind fills with arguments, debate points, stingers, and put-downs. But can I use them? No. Do I ever wish I had? Occasionally. But 99% of the time I’m so thankful I kept them to myself.

There is one past conversation that I wish I could return to and say what was in my head. But in that moment, I was so hurt and so mad that I was on the verge of tears and couldn’t say anything for fear of breaking down. Those tears, I truly believe, were God’s way of keeping me from saying something I would regret; and I’m sure that if I could return to that situation, He would send me those same tears of frustration. I just have to learn that, as hard as they are to keep in, there is grace in unsaid words.

1) Unfinished Ministry. By far the hardest thing about being a pastor’s wife is leaving a church. We’ve left four, and I miss people from every single one of those churches. Saying goodbye to people you love is never easy, even when you know God has ordained your move.

A friend and fellow pastor’s wife recently told me that she has needed to put up a wall between herself and the people of her church to keep herself from getting too attached. She and her husband have moved many times, served in many churches, and left behind many friends. And while I hate to admit this, I know I’ve been guilty of the same thing. If I don’t get too close, it won’t hurt as much when we have to leave.

This wall-building, however, never lasts. We can’t help but develop close friendships with the people who serve in the church alongside us. And honestly, we want and need those friendships badly. So we let down our walls and enjoy a season of life in community with those friends and pray that we won’t be called to move on. (At least for a long time.)

Thank you for praying for your pastor and your pastor’s wife. I really do love my position in ministry and I’m thankful for the things God is teaching me through these struggles. So, fellow pastors’ wives: what would you add? What are the hardest struggles for you?

The Salary Package of a Stay-at-Home Mom

Confession: I’m just not that into Twitter. Think what you will, but it’s about my fourth favorite social media outlet. I halfheartedly read my twitter feed, rarely tweet, and almost never open a twitpic or link. But on a rare occasion I’ll see a headline that grabs my attention and I just have to know more. Like this one that I read last week: “@drudgereport: Germany debates plan to pay stay at home moms.” What?! (Well played, Drudge Report. You actually got me to read an article instead of just the headline.)

I didn’t regret opening and reading the article, either. I learned that most childcare in Germany is government-funded, but the government childcare programs cannot keep up with demand. Next year there will be a childcare shortage of 150,000+ places. What’s the government to do? The conservative coalition wants to pay moms to stay at home with their children under 3 years old to free up spaces in the childcare system. The moms would be paid the equivalent of $190 per month. Of course this is very controversial. “[…] critics fume that it takes an antiquated view of women’s role in society, betting that women would prefer to stay home rather than keep a career if there were some money to facilitate that choice.” Antiquated? Really? Then there’s this: “‘The childcare allowance is contrary to modern family politics,’ says Ms. Dörner of the Green Party.” Well, maybe my family values are antiquated after all! Nevertheless, as a stay-at-home mom this is very interesting to me, and I’ll be watching to see how this issue is resolved in the next few months. After I read this article and returned to casually skimming my twitter feed, the thing I kept thinking about was “$190 per month.” Who came up with that number? How did they decide that amount? Is that what a stay-at-home mom is worth? Only $190 per month?

As I was thinking about this, I recalled another article that I had read a few months ago. Every year Salary.com calculates what it would cost to replace a stay-at-home mom. In 2012, that figure is $112,962 a year for 94.7 hours of work per week. “If a stay-at-home mom was ever handed a pink slip, dad would have to hire a nanny, a driver, a cook, a janitor, a psychologist, a laundry-machine operator, and a myriad of other professionals for the odd jobs moms do on a daily basis.” Working moms put in 57.9 extra hours of work a week, valued at $66,979 above their salaries. If that’s not a reason to have a good life insurance policy, I don’t know what is!

I much prefer to think that my value as a stay-at-home mom is $112,962 per year than $190 per month. It’s a more flattering figure and makes me feel better about not contributing to my family’s income. But here’s the truth: No one is going to cut me a check. The government isn’t going to put me on a payroll (and I don’t want them to.) As a mom, I have to learn to find my value in something other than a number on a paycheck or a balance in a 401K. But in our status-driven society, that’s not an easy task. I think many moms struggle with feelings of worthlessness because we can’t define our value with a number.

Thankfully, God has something to say about this. In Proverbs 31:10, He tells us what a good wife (and mother) is worth: “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” I’m not worth $190 per month. My value is not $112,962 per year. If I’m seeking God and godly character as I serve my husband and my children, my worth is far above jewels. And while I may not have the satisfaction of seeing that value spelled out in a salary package, it’s no less real. As a stay-at-home mom, I am valuable to my family. But most of all, I am valuable to my God. And that, more than a number on a check, is what matters.