Having another child often causes moms to reflect. Reflect on things that have changed, things that are better, things that are worse. So much joy comes with the addition of a new child, and so much change as well. Often people share birth stories of how their new bundle came into the world. You don't want to hear my birth stories - I'm one of those annoying moms who had relatively easy labors. My longest was 6 hours, I never pushed for longer than 30 minutes, and I LOVE epidurals. There's the summary of my births. I know I was blessed, and for that I am grateful. So instead of sharing detailed posts about my births (which for any of you who share your birth stories, thank you! I love reading them), I share detailed posts about my thoughts as I transition between each child.
If you scroll down a few posts, you'll find my post from when shortly after Ali was born. I titled it raw moments. If I were to give you a raw moment or thought from having three, it would simply be "help!" When Hosanna was born, Emmet was not yet two and a half. I had three children under two and a half. It's a lot of work. I have three different sizes of clothes in the closet, three different sizes of diapers in the cart, three little bodies to get dressed in the morning and bathe (whenever I actually remember to bathe them), three little mouths to feed, and three little hearts to nurture. There are mornings when I have changed 6 poopy diapers in a total of 30 minutes, and then moments of pure bliss when we've managed to get all three of them asleep at the same time. I am so beyond thankful for my husband. He cooks, he cleans, he bathes the kids (because frankly, the reason I forget to bathe them is because I simply hate bathing them), he changes diapers at 3 am, he takes all three of them on a walk so I can get a moment to myself. He's incredible and amazing and I'm so glad I'm doing this with him. But three under three is a lot of work.
I went grocery shopping a week ago. It was the first time I had taken all three kids by myself to go actual grocery shopping. Since Ali doesn't walk yet, she was sitting up front in the cart, Emmet was sitting in the back of the cart, and I was wearing Hosanna in an ergo. We managed to make it through the store with very little meltdowns, and checked out. Since we were at Winco, where you need to bag your own groceries, I paid for my groceries and then began to put them in bags. This couple was standing behind us in line and as the grocer began to ring up their items, the woman came and asked if I wanted help bagging my items. My first reaction was to say "no, I got it - thank you though!" But in the last second, I caught myself and instead I responded "you know what, that would be really helpful, thank you so much." Because it was helpful. My food was in my cart in half the time and it was really nice to have the help. And it was so very kind of her to offer.
I left the grocery store that day and began to realize that having three under three has taught me to accept help. I'm an independent person in an independent culture. Typically, in American society, we don't like to accept help. We like to "do it self!" (as Emmet would say), and often feel the need to prove ourselves, to either friends, family, or society. We got it, we are adequate, we are equipped, we are able. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with being able to "do it self!" Except, that sometimes, we "can't do it self".
The funny thing is, that as Christians, we can't do it self. We need Christ. Even as a missionary, I have been struggling a lot lately with remembering why I need Christ. I know all the right answers, but if I'm honest, sometimes I feel I can do just fine on my own. I know that's not true, but that's definitely how I feel. I forget how incredible the Lord is and how despicable I can be. And when I forget about my depravity, I have a hard time remembering why I need Him. For this reason, there is beauty in weakness. And I think this is part of why the Lord gives us difficult times - to remind us that we are nothing without Him and we need His help. Which He readily gives in such amazing and incredible ways, we just need to ask for it.
I shared an article a few days ago on Facebook titled "God will give you more than you can handle". It was written by a man named Mitch Chase. In short, the article was fantastic. You can find the entirety of the article at the link below, but I've included an excerpt that I found particularly challenging.
Trials come in all shapes and sizes, but they don't come to show how much we can take or how we have it all together. Overwhelming suffering will come our way because we live in a broken world with broken people. And when it comes, let's be clear ahead of time that we don't have what it takes. God will give us more than we can handle - but not more than He can. The psalmist asks, "Where does my help come from?" (Ps. 121:1), and we must be able to answer like he did. We must know and believe, deep in our bones, that "My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth" (121:2). When trials come, trust that the Lord's help will come. This news is helpful to sufferers since we're saying something true about God instead of something false about ourselves...God will give you more than you can handle so that His great power might be displayed in your life...[He] will give you more than you can handle, but the coming weight of glory will be greater than you can imagine.
In no way am I saying that children are the equivalent of "overwhelming suffering". But I do think that three under three can constitute as a trial. And I cannot do it alone. It has become such a tangible example of my depravity and simple incapability to do life alone, but to rely on the Lord. And He has given me help in so many tangible ways - the lady at the grocery store, the man who gave me his cart last week at a different store, both of our parents who watch our kids so we can go on a date or have a morning to rest, the countless friends who have talked with me when I'm at wits end or met us at the mall to play so I can get the kids out of the house. Motherhood is done best in community, among women who are living similar trials, and striving together to find blessing amongst the difficult nights and trying temper tantrums and embarrassing episodes in public. Ultimately, as Mitch puts in in the article above, "God will give us more than we can handle - but not more than He can". And I think the biggest thing that I have learned from having three under three is that I simply "can't do it self". And I don't need. to.
As we approach the Christmas season, I began to think about our Christmas letter. I love Christmas letters. I love writing them, I love receiving them. It's a chance to connect with friends, both old and new, and get a brief glimpse into their life, which is why I will continue to send them, even though I do believe the tradition is slowly dying. Anyways, as I thought about our Christmas letter, I began to think about our year. It's been a great year, though hard to believe it's almost over. Our daughter was born 10 days before 2016 started, so most of her life has been lived this year, and it's crazy to imagine life without our dramatic and energetic baby girl. Emmet had the flu twice this year, as well as it was the year he turned two. By the end of 2016, two more of our siblings will have gotten married, as well as we've traveled a bit to visit family and train students for mission. It's been an exciting year, and a year full of adventure and new things.
It's also been a year of something else. If we had to highlight a theme for the year, we would say it was a year of walking out life with those around us. We have had many instances this year where we have struggled in a relationship, had a hard time understanding someone, had friends in crisis situations, or been given opportunities to extend grace to a friend while they work on an area in their life. It's been a year of recognizing humanity, a year of recognizing sin, a year of valuing faithfulness, a year of understanding grace. We have given grace, and we have received it so much more, simply being thankful for what relationship looks like when we are committed to look beyond the quirks and faults of one another. I have been reminded so often of when Jesus looked at the crowd and said "you who is without fault may throw the first stone". It's been a year of recognizing that humanity will fall short, every single time. We make mistakes, we hurt people, we say mean words, we are careless, we are thoughtless. I am all of these things in so many ways, and so are the people around me. Even with the Holy Spirit, people will still fall short. We are not perfect, and the Holy Spirit does not make us perfect.
One of the things I have found to be beautiful this year is our depravity as humans. We are desperate, we are messy, we are incapable, we are lost. But it's in the darkness of our depravity that Christ's sovereignty and perfection and forgiveness and salvation shines so much brighter. I don't know if we can fully recognize how great He is until we realize how inadequate we are. There have been so many times this year where I have been driven to my knees in tears, simply crying out to the Lord because I don't know what else to do. We have watched dear friends experience crisis in their lives this year, and we have seen those crisis' simply drive them, and those walking through the crisis with them, to Jesus because there is nothing else to do. In a moment of such emptiness, we are made aware of everything that Christ is and how our lives are so much more about Him and His glory than we often remember.
We experienced this when we found out about our third pregnancy in June. Contrary to our other two children, we did not experience excitement when those two pink lines showed up - rather, we experienced dread, fear, and incapability. As I began to accept the fact that we would have three children under two and a half years of age, I found myself in such a place of inadequacy. The words "I can't" came out of my mouth so many times during the week that followed those lines, until it drove Joe and I to our knees by week's end, simply crying out to the Lord and asking Him to equip us, because we couldn't imagine how this was going to work. I should add, we are now very excited to meet her in February, and that the Lord has helped us to adjust and prepare. It helped to find out she was a girl and give her a name: Hosanna Noelle. What I find funny is that we picked her name because I really liked how it sounded. So, Joe, being the good seminarian that he is, informed me that while we often use it as a term to praise the Lord, like in Palm Sunday, it actually is a cry that means "Lord, please save us". Noelle fits perfectly, since that represents Christmas, which is when our precious Savior is born. We did not pick her name because of our year, but have come to realize her name acts, in a way, as an alter and testament to our year.
One of the other things that has been trending this year is the hashtag #allthefeels. Usually, as far as I've seen, this hashtag is used to describe moments of emotional overwhelming, either with joy, mixed feelings, sadness, etc. In some ways, I feel like I could describe those moments of total depravity and total hopelessness as #allthefeels moments. It's the moments when sin, pain, and hurt are so great that it's hard to see beyond to anything else. It's those moments, those painful and dark and overwhelming moments, that should drive us simply to the foot of the cross to cry Hosanna, to cry out to the Lord to save us. It's in those raw moments that all we can do, and sometimes all we want to do, is to praise Him, focus on Him, cry out to Him, because He is so much bigger than us. 1 John says that God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything. Everything. So in moments when we can't see a millimeter further, God can see the whole 5K. And because of this, I have learned to love the moments of depravity, because it's in those moments that I get a glimpse of the true and unveiled greatness of our Father and Savior.
This past weekend, one of my best friends lost her dad in a tragic and completely unexpected dirt bike accident. In a matter of hours, her world was turned upside down and will never be the same. I'm thankful that her father knew our precious Lord, and so He is now home, but that doesn't lessen the impact of the pain and the shock and the shear fear that hit Saturday night. So many times I searched for words of encouragement to text her, and came up empty. In the end, I simply texted that "God is good". Because He is. I have been so amazed as I have watched her and her family deal with this extreme grief, and yet continue to say "God is good, God is faithful, God is sovereign". It still feels so unreal and so impossible that I do double takes every time I see something on Facebook that mentions his passing.
So, near the end of 2016, I am left saying we serve a great God. We serve a God who can be found in darkness as well as in the light. We serve a God who is faithful to us when we struggle, and equips us to be faithful to others when they struggle. We serve a God who mourns with us in times of grief, and rejoices with us in times of joy. We serve a God who is bigger. We serve a God who deserves to be praised. We serve a God who saves. We serve a God, who in His infinite knowledge and sovereignty, has designed us to desire to praise Him in the moments where we don't know what else to do. I am reminded that life is so much bigger than me, than my schedule, than my family, than my relationships. Life is about Him and making Him great, and I pray that when trials and crisis' come my way, I am able to remember to praise Him. It's been a year of letting #allthefeels drive me to #hosanna.
I was putting my laundry away this morning and convinced Emmet to help me with a few items. As we walked back towards I room, I began to hear rumblings of Ali waking up and Emmet heard them too. He took off running into our room yelling "isthy! isthy! ISTHY!". He clambered over to her pack-n-play, trying to get the blankets off of her as fast as his little hands would go. He finally spots her head and yells "isthy!" with a huge grin. As I looked down to see how she would handle such an enthusiastic greeting, she saw her brother and her whole face lit up. Emmet was beyond excited that Ali had finally woken up, and Ali was delighted to see her brother first thing in the morning. I almost cried. I don't think I can quite explain the joy I find in watching my children enjoy playing with each other, to watch them become best friends!
I immediately called Joe to tell him this tale. And my mom. I was just so excited. And it was such a cute story.
You never would have guessed from this story that Emmet also spent the ENTIRE NIGHT whining and fussing and crying. Seriously, I think he slept all of three hours last night. I think he wasn't feeling well, but it was one of those not-feeling-well-ickiness that I can't do much for, he just needs to wait it out. And it stunk. He didn't sleep. We didn't sleep. But Ali did - she only woke up once! Figures.
In today's day and age, with all the social connections, we share lots of things. As moms in my generation, we especially share lots of pictures - usually pictures of our kids. Since I had my son nearly two years ago, I think that about 90% of my instagram feed is of him or Ali. I just was on a friend's instagram feed the other day and her bio read "basically, this is all my son. all the time", or something to that effect. And that's great! We love sharing about our kids. Especially as moms with young kids, our kids pretty much take up our life. So it would make sense that that's a chunk of what we talk about.
Typically, the photos I post look like this:
I choose photos like these because they are happy, the are cute, they are adorable, they portray our family as happy and joyful and fun! They represent us well. They are good moments.
Occasionally, I post photos that look like this:
Usually, if I post photos like this, it's because I am able to laugh at my child. Ali, who's on the right, has the greatest pout and I have a hard time not chuckling when I see it. The picture in the middle came from when Emmet had a meltdown because I asked him to eat a grape (which he liked...). The one on the left is Emmet too, and I can't remember what he was so angry about. But it's a great face :) I don't post photos like these often, but sometimes will because I think they're funny. They aren't good moments for my kids, but aren't stressful moments for me.
But there are moments that don't get posted. I don't post a picture of my son throwing the 15th temper tantrum that day. I don't post a picture of him screaming at me as loud as he can. I don't post about when I lose my temper with him and scream back at him. I don't post about when I was so frustrated with my daughter I had to set her down and leave the room. I don't post about when I stand sobbing in the shower because I wish I could just hide in there all day long. I don't post about the days we sit and watch Daniel Tiger all day long because I just don't have the energy to do anything else. I didn't post about the day I fed my son pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Those aren't the pretty moments of parenting. Those are the moments I'm embarrassed about. Those are the moments I want to forget. Those are the moments I'm afraid people will see and think I'm a horrible mom. Those are the ugly moments. But the truth is that those are real moments too.
I like to post cute pictures of my children because I think they're cute. But more often than not, I post pictures because for once, my kids are getting along. For once, they're behaving. For once, Emmet is playing joyfully instead of screaming passionately. For a moment, I'm enjoying motherhood. I feel like the good pictures tend to be reminders to myself: look, your kids are great. They are fun. They are cute. The good times way outweigh the bad.
In Genesis 35, we find the following:
And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.
Throughout scripture, we find altars being built. Most of the time, they were built to recognize something that the Lord had done, a place to remember His great work. In this story, Jacob had built an altar to commemorate that the Lord had revealed Himself to Jacob. I love the idea of altars, because it helps us remember the good times and the times that the Lord works. I've spent lots of time trying to figure out how to build an altar in my own home to remember what God has done in my life and in my marriage and in my parenthood.
In some ways, I feel like I use Instagram as a way to construct altars. I share the good moments to remind myself of the good times in the hard times. I remind myself of the joy that comes with parenting in the moments where I want to quit. I remind myself how He is faithful to equip me for this job of being a mom, especially in moments where I can be so frustrated with Emmet but see a picture where he is so happy and instantly be overwhelmed with love for him at the same time.
God is faithful. He is just. He is sovereign. He works. He works in our lives, and in the lives of our children. He provides. He equips.
So the next time you see another instagram photo by your "mom-crush" (you know, that mom who seems like she's got it all together because her house is always clean and her kids always look cute and she always looks put together and she does cutesy, artsy, educational activities with her children), remember that she is portraying her best moments. She may be capturing that moment because it's rare too. Rejoice with her in that momentary success, because you don't know how often that success comes. Turn jealousy or envy into joy as you celebrate a good moment with her. And remember that you have good moments too. You have happy moments. And you probably are someone else's mom-crush.
Motherhood isn't a journey that should be done alone. It takes a village, but most importantly it takes a sovereign and faithful God who walks every step of mothering with us and equips us for the task He has called us to.
As I finish writing this, I just looked up to find Emmet had crawled inside Ali's carseat, he has fingernail clippers in one hand and snot dripping out of his nose, and Ali is next to me protesting loudly because she has rolled onto her tummy and can't roll back. I think this classifies as a "don't-post-on-instagram" moment.
I've seen this look many times over the past few weeks. It usually involves Ali crying because Emmet did something: tripped and fell on her, hit her in the head with a toy, tried to shove her paci in her ear or her eye, etc. And as Ali cries, and I come and swoop her up, Emmet just looks at me like "I don't understand why she's upset". And so it begins. In these moments, my first reaction is to be upset with Emmet. And then I try and remind myself that he was simply trying to help. Emmet has such a huge heart and is a great helper, but often his helping is more of hurting. If he was close enough to trip on her, he usually was just trying to kiss her. If his toy bonked her head, often it's because he was trying to share it with her. And he simply loves trying to give her paci back, but it frequently ends up anywhere but her mouth.
Needless to say, being a mom of two is rough, as I'm sure any mother out there would agree. Most days, I feel like I just get one settled and happy, only to find the other one upset about something. And I've only been at it for 3 weeks!
I'm probably writing this post more to process my own thoughts than to share anything with anyone.
A few weeks ago, I was having coffee with a friend and she told me the following:
Sometimes, it, may feel like all you do is feed kids and change diapers. And that can cause you to ask the Lord, "Is this all there is?". And the answer is yes! This is the role that the Lord has given you for now, to mother and be a mother to these two sweet children. There will be time for other things later, but you only have these kiddos for a short time.
When I seek the answer to the question, "is this all?", many times I am met with things like "no, you are so much more than just a mother" or "you have no idea the significance of what you do" or other answers that make me feel like I have significance somewhere. And I often have made comments about how I wish I could just get away from my kids for one day to feel like my life is making a difference somewhere. So when my friend told me this, it was a good fat slap in the face. And one that didn't make me feel so great at the moment because it wasn't something I wanted to hear.
But the reality is, the Lord has given me the role of mother: being a mother to two of the sweetest and most adorable kids I know (sorry, I'm a bit biased). And many days, it really does look like all I do is feed them and change them. And that's okay. My life is making a difference simply by loving on my kiddos. It's okay that I'm not using my degree in a formal setting, and it's okay that many days I don't change out of my PJ's. He has given me the blessing (I specifically chose that word, because many times it doesn't feel like a blessing) of loving and caring for and training and teaching the hearts of both Emmet and Alethea, and if that's all I do for the next 18 years, then I am still being faithful to what the Lord has called me to.
I am reminded of Mordecai's words to Esther in Esther 4:14: "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" Obviously, I'm not going to be a queen who is called to save her entire people, but I am a mom who has been called to raise my children in the way they should go (which is no easy task, by the way), and teach them to love the Lord with all that they are.
So for my fellow mamas who have two, or are about to have two, or will have two someday. It's hard. It's so much harder than one. You do get less sleep, whoever said to sleep when the baby sleeps obviously only had one kid. And there are times where you will be tempted to love one more than the other at that moment, usually the older of the two. And it can be hard to feel like you are starting over in some aspects, because now you have to go through sleep training and discipline and teaching baby sign all over again. And there will be days when you did nothing other than feed and change your kids. But it's worth it. And you have been called by the Lord to be the mom to your kids. You will make it, it will get easier. And the Lord will sanctify you through it and make you to be more like Him. What more could we want?
I have also seen this moment many times over the past three weeks. Aren't they the cutest?
This Saturday, my son will be 14 months old. It seems nearly impossible, and yet also seems as if time has flown since I first held him in my arms. How did we go from
in a mere 14 months? And yet while it seems so fast, it has taken my about that long to even begin to adjust to life as a mom. Anyone who has talked to me in the last few weeks knows that having a teething, screaming, active toddler is not my cup of tea. I hate putting him down for naps, dreading that the next hour will be filled with him vocalizing his displeasure at a myriad of octaves. I often hide in the bathroom, just to get two minutes of peace (though recently, he has taken to pounding on the bathroom door, eliminating that as an option). In fact, even now, I am sitting at the kitchen table attempting to remain as quiet and inconspicuous as possible, hoping that he continues to play and doesn't notice I'm trying to eat lunch. He stresses me out. I wasn't ready for him, and often still don't feel ready for him. I envy the wives who only have to worry about their husbands, and have time to go get coffee without their child saying "bye bye" to every person he meets. I envy those who have time to actually do their hair and take a shower more than every three days.
And yet, this morning, I was reminded why. As Emmet and I sat in the kitchen over a bowl of cereal, Joe came in and mentioned he was leaving for work for the day. My sweet little boy looked at his father, whom he adores beyond the moon, and with a mouth full of cheerios shouted "bye bye", waving his hand as he did so. And my heart melted.
It has taken me nearly a year and a half, but as of this morning, I could firmly say I love being a mom. While I don't love the sleepless nights and the constant mess and the tempter tantrums, I sure love the little boy who causes them. I love watching him learn, watching him explore, and even that look of mischief he gets when he's doing something he know's he shouldn't. I love seeing him squeal with delight and then shake his head back and forth because he can't contain how excited he is, even if it's by something as simple as a good snack. I love getting him up in the morning, when I find him standing in his crib with his pacifier in one hand and the blanket in the other, just waiting to get up and explore the world.
A friend told me a few weeks ago that children are the hardest and yet most rewarding life experience you will ever have. And I'd have to agree. Yet they are the biggest blessing our Lord could have given us. They refine us. They sanctify us. They teach us. And we are given the responsibility of loving them as He loves His children - a responsibility so great and so grand and so humanly impossible that we can only do it by walking with Him in grace and love, and even energy sometimes.
So mamas out there who are in the midst of the rough times, there are beautiful times too. And I would encourage you, just as I have to remind myself often, focus on those beautiful times. Realize that with the pain and the heartache and the frustration comes joy and love and and overwhelming sense of purpose. We are given this little ones to mold and to shape and to share our Jesus with them, and that is such a great responsibility and a noble cause. And remember - you aren't in this alone. You have mama friends, your husband, and so many others who are doing this with you.
Be still and know that He is, and you are not, and your moments with your babies will be gone before you know it. Enjoy them. Treasure them. The good and the bad. Because they only grow up once.
And with that, he noticed I'm eating something, and is asking to share it. Well, I got twenty minutes to myself :)
I feel like a fifth of a decade sounds better than two years. But in whichever way you look at it, whether a fifth of a decade, 2 years, 104 weeks, 730 days, or 17,520 hours, today marks an occasion - I have had the blessing and the privilege of being this man's wife for that amount of time.
marriage is not compiled solely of special and fancy and in-love moments, but rather a bunch of small moments, ugly moments, boring moments, messy moments with a few special moments thrown in-between. The key lies in this - learning to find special moments in the small ones. As someone who thrives on big moments, on special events, on looking forward to something, I find it challenging and difficult to find joy in simply living together through the small ones. But it's those small moments where your friendship grows and your hearts are knit closer together. Like playing a game. Or making dinner. Or doing the dishes. Simply living life. And then, you still get the blessing of those special moments like when a special date comes along (we have one tonight that I am so excited to prepare for) or the birth of a child or the purchase of a new car - those are big and beautiful and milestones in our marriage, but big moments can't be made without the small ones.
If you we able to attend our wedding, you would have probably noticed two things - 1) the rain did end up holding off, and 2) our ceremony was largely about marriage being a picture of Christ and the church. This was done very purposefully, but I don't think that I realized to what extent marriage really is a picture of Christ and his relationship with the church. One of the biggest lessons my husband has taught and shown me so very well is that his love for me is only a picture of a sliver of Christ's love for us. I am so in awe of how well Joe has loved me. He loves me when I'm upset, when I'm irrational, when I just wake up (and apparently, I'm a very grumpy person in the middle of the night), when I've been mean and hurtful to him, when I'm emotional, when I simply don't want him to touch me (thank you pregnancy), and every state in between. He loves me unconditionally and completely in every state and that blows me away. But then I am reminded that his love is only intended to be a picture of Christ's love, and yet it helps me to understand Christ's love so much more. Christ loves us when we are upset, when we are irrational, when we've done something stupid, when we are emotional, and so much more. And it has been so helpful and wonderful to have someone model that to me to help me understand how Christ's love works (even when I can't see it). So when we focused that day on Christ being the center and the backbone and the strength of our marriage - it was true. Our marriage teaches us about Him, and brings us closer to Him. What an incredible blessing.
I think the largest thing that I have learned is that marriage is a gift. It is a lot of work, takes a lot of time, often costs money, and requires me to give a lot of myself - but it is still a gift. Just like we give and receive gifts on our wedding day, our marriage itself is a gift. I love having someone to simply live life with, to wake up next to, to come home to at night, to share my goofy and inconsequential stories with, to go grocery shopping with. That is a blessing. And even on the days when my marriage requires more of me then I feel like giving, I am still reminded it is a gift and a blessing to be married to such a man.
So Joe, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for being my husband, my best friend, and the love of my life. Thank you for constantly and selflessly loving me and our son. Thank you for serving well, and modeling Christ in so many countless ways. Thank you for correcting me and challenging me when needed, and thank you for taking the correction and challenges when needed as well. You are the best husband I could ever have asked for. Your passion for the Gospel and love for the church constantly amazes me, your desire to genuinely love others is such an inspiration and challenge, and your listening ear is such a blessing. I still stand by what I said many years ago, you are still way too smart for me and way too competitive, but I am so glad that I get to be your wife anyways. I love you, and I look forward to many more small moments (and a few big ones, maybe a big one coming in December).
As I sit here writing, it is just after 10 P.M. on a Sunday evening. I have a team of 8 people who have been at my house since yesterday afternoon who just returned from serving two weeks in Zambia. Emmet finally fell asleep in the pack n' play next to our bed, and the team is just getting ready to get some shut-eye themselves, as they are trying to kick the nasty jetlag from their trip. They're tired. I'm tired. Missions is exhausting.
Especially during the summer season, I often find myself wondering why we do what we do. Many times my immediate response (to myself, of course) is because we are called. We are called to mission. God has put us at YMI and given us many opportunities to be involved in mission. We love it, obviously, and that's why we do it.
But why? Why do I volunteer to give up my husband for so many weekends so that he can go train churches instead of being with his family? Why do I volunteer to spend my Sunday afternoon meal planning and grocery shopping for a team of 15 leaving on their mission trip the next day for a week? Why do I feel as if we go from one ministry team to the next with hardly a break in between? Why has it become so normal for me to be at events without Joe that now people just ask what church he's training and when he's coming back, and they are no longer surprised by his absence? Many times, the reigning question is this: why do we daily choose to give up our time, our energy, our vacation, our money, and often the comforts of home that would be considered normal, acceptable, and expected for many friends our age?
Christian answer? For the Glory of God. Good answer? For the Glory of God. Our answer? For the Glory of God.
But I still continue to ask why. What does it mean to live for the glory of God? To sacrifice what we want for what He commands? To surrender everything to making Him known?
And then we have nights like tonight. We sat around listening to the girls on the team share about their experience in Zambia and how they wanted to take what they learned and tangibly change something in their life. They want to commit to pray more: 5 minutes a day, 10 minutes a day, 30 minutes a day. They want to dive into His word more, to read His word, to study his word. They want to share the Gospel with their family members who do not know of His grace, using some of the tools they learned to share that same Gospel on the other side of the world. They have learned about the passion of Christ, and saw first hand examples of Zambian Christians who rely on the Lord for everything, beginning with the food they eat. They have seen abundantly, served selflessly, learned greatly, and shared exponentially. They saw the Lord move mountains firsthand and are excited to share those stories of His glory with their families, friends, and communities. They have done mission differently, and they are passionate about the glory of God being made known.
It's after evenings like this that I am reminded of why we do what we do. We go, we train, we teach, we serve, we give to see young people in the United States become passionate about making God great, who then allow that passion to transform them into mission-minded Christian leaders who will impact the American church in untold ways. We strive to see their lives changed, their thinking challenged, their worldview expanded, their comfort zone stretched, their hearts molded. We call young people to a high standard because God calls them to high standards. We live to see them worship the Creator, and then lead others in that same worship.
David Platt writes the following in his book Radical:
We have created the idea that if you have a heart for the world and you are passionate about global mission, then you move overseas. But if you have a heart for the United States and you are not passionate about global mission, then you stay here and support those who go. Meanwhile, flying right in the face of this idea is Scripture's claim that regardless of where we live - here or overseas - our hearts should be consumed with making the glory of God known in all the nations.
Consumed. This is why we do it. This is why we sacrifice. This is why I spend all those nights alone. I desire for my heart to be consumed with Him, but ultimately it comes down to this - we train youth to make the glory of God known. And that makes it all worth it.
I would like to introduce you to Blue.
This is basically what he looks like - well, what he would have looked like when he was brand new (yes, I pulled it off the internet). Blue is a 1989 two-door Honda Accord. He's been in my family since I was in 11th grade. Sometime during high school, my brother and I decided to name him Old Blue, even though he was red. Sometimes I wonder if all of his problems are partly due to identity issues.
My brother and I shared him during my last two years in high school, and then he remained home my first year of college so that Cole could finish high school with him. He then moved up to Seattle for the remainder of both Cole's and my time in college. Post graduation, Cole kept him (since I got married) until he was able to upgrade to a Subaru, and then my family gave him to Joseph and I as a get-around-town car. There is the brief history of Blue and my family.
He's been in multiple accidents. First off, he's a stick - and you should never drive or park a stick in Seattle. Especially on Queen Anne. Way too many hills. Second, Cole and I weren't the nicest to him. He's been through three different drivers learning to drive manual (myself, Cole, and then most recently, Joe). I once ran him into the curb when I hit a patch of black ice. Sometime during college, his AC quit working and the latch that holds the hood down decided to break, so we bungey-cord his hood down. With two cords. Actually, we just did one until a few months ago when Joe and I were driving down the freeway and the cord broke, allowing his hood to fly up into the windshield. So then we upgraded to two cords. He also, for some odd reason, drains his battery really quickly. So whenever we turn him off, we have to disconnect the cable from the battery so it doesn't drain.
He's a piece of work. Other's will talk to me about their work car or junky car, and in my head I'm going "wait until you see mine".
However, I love him. He's had a lot of adventures in our family, and been with us for a long time. He's died about 4 times and always, somehow, found a way to work again. He gets great gas mileage, and he's a stick (which I love to drive).
Even just this morning, I came out to start him and found him dead. Joe took the other car to work, so I needed to ask my neighbor to come and help me jump him. But, the one thing that I think God has taught me and anyone else who has had him, is how to learn to receive help.
Receiving help can be extremely difficult. In fact, asking for help is extremely difficult. It requires humility. It requires courage. And it requires us to be at the mercy of someone else.
At YMI, we do a team-building exercise where teams are required to serve one another, and be served in turn. More often than not, it's not the serving that challenges students - it's the 'being served'.
We don't like to be served. We don't like to receive help. It's human nature.
But the fact of the matter is - if we can't receive help, how can we receive grace? And if we can't receive grace, how can we receive Christ? I know I struggle so much with receiving Christ's grace - because I can't humble myself enough to recognize I need his grace. John writes "He must become greater, while I must become less". This is so true, but so difficult.
And it comes down to receiving. Can you receive His grace and His love and His forgiveness, so that He can be greater and you can be less? So that He can be glorified?
Just like receiving help for Blue is so challenging, it reminds me that receiving help from God is so much more difficult. Yet so much more important.