Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason… , takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores… ?
What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight…
God, with all his angels and creatures is smiling-–not because the father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.
The idea of mothering as vocation is sometimes one we wrestle with. . . individually, together. The inherent struggles related to the concept is probably why we have a whole section of the MbG community set aside to encourage one another in vocation.
I could almost end the post there. But that would be so entirely out of character of me. A title and a sigh? Too brief. Lee don’t do brief. That much is likely obvious at this point.
So here I am. In a quiet house. With a laptop on my . . . well . . . lap. And a glass of wine beside me. Merlot. It’s only a tiny bit, but it’s there. Nice. Relaxing. The quiet. The wine. My warm, humming, lap-dwelling, purple-plastic-encased friend and my thoughts. *sigh*
I had a stupid crazy day. A roller coaster day. One that needed to end this way. With my older two off to a Halloween party with my husband and Ruth asleep upstairs at the early hour of 6 P.M. It’s so quiet. So very quiet. I’m rarely alone in the house. Not that I’m truly alone right now, the lull of Ruth’s white-noise machine coming through on the monitor reminds me of that. But I am mostly alone. Alone enough. In my own house, so I can wear sweatpants and a fleece pullover and thick cozy gym socks and no shoes and no makeup and messy hair. I can feel the tension that built up all day seeping out of me. With each breath, my lungs expand a little fuller, my shoulders drop a little lower, my blood pressure follows my shoulders.
What brings me to this place? The place of extreme tension that needed release? I’m not exactly sure. I don’t know what made me crazy today, I just know that I was.
We had a wonderful Friday and Saturday. My used-to-be-imaginary friend came to visit with her cute, cute boys. The three older ones had a great time playing together, the blue-eyed visitor eagerly and comfortably exploring most every nook and cranny of our home in search of more and more of what I’ve discovered is an excessive amount of toys and treasures. My toddler-girl only barely tolerated all my lovin’ on the baby-boy visitor, but I reveled in it. My future mom-to-many preschooler did more than her fair share of lovin’ on the baby too. Well, lets face it, we all did. I imagine it was most intense as our own last baby just turned 18 months and with that turn has now left babyhood in her rear-view mirror.
It was glorious to get simply to sit and chat with a bona fide grown-up, one who is a mom of wee ones, like me. One who is a Christian, like me. One who hops up immediately to tend to her crying baby, like me. One who doesn’t think I’m stark raving mad for still nursing my toddler. One who thinks. Really thinks about things, who had a thinking life before children and looks forward to thinking more when her children are older. One who joined my husband and me in our coffee extravaganza yesterday.
Online chit-chat is wonderful. I love it. I love my message board. I love my imaginary friends, and truly do count them among my real friends, contrary to what I call them. I know they’re real. They know I’m real. And we have a real relationship. And I don’t know how I would have made it through my parenting years, particularly the last 20-plus months without them.
However. Nothing can replace that comfort of being face-to-face with someone who gets you. Someone who looks straight into your eyes as you talk, indicating she’s listening intently, encouraging you to say more. Encouraging me to say more, when this blog is my best attempt at making my stories brief. No matter how well you can express your feelings in writing, no matter how expansive your pantry of emoticons is, it’s not the same–it can’t be the same–as sitting with another flesh-and-bone human being and exchanging thoughts, ideas, stories, laughter, coffee-coffee-coffee, dinner, screaming kids, loud cymbals crashing, and more electronic toys than you ever thought a semi-crunchy mom would allow. It can never be the same.
God came in flesh and bone.
I didn’t mean to go that direction when I sat down to my laptop in my quiet house and with my glass of wine. None of this was what I planned to say. But here I am, staring it in the face. As I ponder the difference between this long-distance, two-dimensional medium of relating and real (IRL) human interaction, theological implications bubble up. I think it’s my job. I typed flesh and bone and WHAM! Incarnation popped into my head. Well, I’m not sure if it would WHAM if it simply popped in, but at any rate, I was staring it in the face. Scratch that. I was staring Him in the face. God. In flesh. To earth come down. God is incarnational. In-flesh-y. For the sake of not only our sin, but also for our sensual nature, God put on flesh to be amongst us IRL. Real, tangible, concrete, face-to-face. And in that encounter, we are given a full-on view of God, his nature, his character, his personhood. God has still left some things to mystery, for sure. But in Christ Jesus, we see our fullest possible view of God. We needed it and he gave it to us.
This is how we operate. We need the tangible. Something is lacking in both our relationship with God and with one another if we don’t have the concrete, tangible, taste-touch-smell-see encounter with Him or with one another. God knew this (well, of course He knew it, he’s God!) and came to where we could see him and touch him and smell him–and think on that, he did smell: first century Palestine, sandals and poor sanitation, donkeys and all that–and did his best work amongst us and for us. And he continues to relate to us that way, in-flesh-y. He meets us there in the sacraments in a way we can see and taste and smell and splash and accidentally pour down the front of our favorite church-y maternity blouse. He knows we work best through our senses–even poor, sensory-dull me–and he accommodates that sensory nature of ours: meeting us in flesh and in water and in bread and in wine (even if it is Welches’ and not merlot) and in people.
Is it any accident Jesus didn’t come to earth in the time of mass media? Well, it’s God we’re talking about here, so that’s your first clue that it was no accident. No. God came at a time when in order to share good news with someone, in order to share any news with someone, you had to be with that someone. Sure, you could write a letter, but even that letter had to be delivered by someone sent from me to you with a message you could likely see written all over his face in the form of JOY. You can’t text joy. You can’t chat joy. You can’t post it, put it in a thread, or even emoticon it. That is not joy. It looks the same as happy. And kinda happy. And gee I just smiled thinking of you. Even my favorite, :bounce (with the little smiley-guy bouncing up and down on a couch) that’s not joy. Eyes glowing, tears glistening, body shaking, that’s joy. Or at least the start of it. Voice higher, faster, brighter; hands gesticulating wildly, knee bouncing. More joy, with some excitement thrown in.
This is how God made us to interact: three, four, eight dimensions, all at play, communicating, relating, being together. It’s a necessary part of being human. It’s the fullest way of being friends. It’s God’s fullest way of being God. With us.
Hunh. That didn’t go where I though it was going to go. My wine is gone, my laptop is making my lapsweat, and I just heard the mini-van door close, indicating my house will only be quiet for about another thirty seconds. But I thought. And I’m relaxed. And I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my God and for my crazy, loud, boisterous, smelly, dirty, cute, sweet, bouncing, joy-filled, exuberant children. And for my husband who is every bit flesh and bone. Human. And wonderful. Praise be to God He made us to be with people. Smells and all.
Last spring, I attended a women’s conference with a really great speaker, Tara Klena Barthel. I was so encouraged how she kept turning back to the Word, directing the conference-goers back to the Word, and pointing again and again to the Word made flesh, Jesus.
Near the end of the last session, Tara spoke on the importance of accepting on another and serving one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. (Again, based upon what Christ has done for us — accepting us and serving us.) She pointed out how easy it is to fall into the “Jesus+Plus” thinking. Theologically, we can slip into the Jesus+Plus my good works, my sound theology, my worship experience. . . Not that we would consciously form our salvific beliefs around such ideas, but that becomes our manner of living.
Relationally, we can fall into “Jesus+Plus” thinking as well. It is so easy for us as people to want to be comfortable with those who are like us. And within the Church this has often become very pronounced. Jesus+Plus likeminded families, breastfeeding mamas, cry-it-out-ers, family bedders. . .
We’ve even seen this cause strife and division in individual congregations. Difficulties in maintaining previously close relationships.
It can be hard to get past the “Jesus+Plus” thinking, both in our daily walk with the Lord as well as in our relationships. Once again, it is time to turn to the Gospel, recognizing that what Christ has done for me is what Christ has done for those who live and think and parent very differently from me.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7
And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ. . . I’m seeking the Lord. Seeking the Lord to apply the Gospel in my life and in my relationships. In our parenting, I believe that God gave to you your children to raise to the glory of God — just as He gave my children to me. It is in that spirit of unity that we share encouragement, factual information, and our own varied experiences.
What About Mine?
When you cried as a little baby
Mom and daddy let you cry
Thought that that was the best way maybe
To make you grow all strong inside
Now that you’re older
You need someone’s shoulder
What about mine?
Growing’ up your mind was closed
For repairs for a long long time
You could feel the loneliness in your hairstyle
Just like mine
Now that you’ve grown up
You still need that shoulder
What the hell are you waiting’ for?
I promise not to chase you
Only to embrace you
I promise not to bug you
Only just to hug you all night
When you was a little baby
Mom and dad they let you cry
They thought that’s the best way maybe
To make you all strong inside
(Were they) wrong? (Yes)
Mine……What about mine?
“. . .the Lord does not in vain prepare nutriment for children in their mothers’ bosoms, before they are born.
But those on whom he confers the honor of mothers, he, in this way, constitutes nurses; and they who deem it a hardship to nourish their own offspring, break, as far as they are able, the sacred bond of nature.
If disease, or anything of that kind, is the hindrance, they have a just excuse; but for mothers voluntarily, and for their own pleasure, to avoid the trouble of nursing, and thus to make themselves only half-mothers, is a shameful corruption.”
Today, July 10th, marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. Not only was he a great theologian and world changer, he was also a breastfeeding advocate and encourager to moms!
I find it interesting to note that he addressed the same issues we have in our own day — how hard it can be and how sometimes things don’t function as they were designed. That is the reality of living in a fallen world, and a real struggle for many. And yet, what a wonderful way God has designed breastfeeding to nourish and nurture our children!
For more info and encouragement on breastfeeding:
Mothering by Grace Breastfeeding Forum
One Piece of Advice for New Breastfeeding Moms
Parenting Freedom: Breastfeeding
KellyMom: Evidence Based Breastfeeding Info
We ought to remember what I said a bit ago: credibility of doctrine is not established until we are persuaded beyond doubt that God is its Author. Thus, the highest proof of Scripture derives in general from the fact that God in person speaks in it. The prophets and apostles do not boast either of their keenness or of anything that obtains credit for them as they speak; nor do they dwell upon rational proofs. Rather, they bring forward God’s holy name, that by it the whole world may be brought into obedience to him.
The testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason. For as God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word, so also the Word will not find acceptance in men’s hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit. The same Spirit, therefore, who has spoken through the mouths of the prophets must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that they faithfully proclaimed what had been divinely commanded.
It is God’s Holy Spirit that makes the words of Scripture the Word of God. Without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is words on a page. The conviction that these words are indeed God’s Word is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Can I tell you this is why I question the wisdom of those within the church who appeal to Scripture to call the secular world into obedience to God? A non-believer, one who has not been called by God and gifted with his Holy Spirit does not give a whit what it says in the Bible. They will not be persuaded by our argument, reason, or logic simply because it is rooted in Scripture.
Calvin says earlier in this same paragraph, “Yet they who strive to build up firm faith in Scripture through disputation are doing things backwards.” When I first read it, I was hearing it speak to those who are trying, for themselves, to build up their own faith in Scripture through debate intended to reveal the truth (disputations). But now I’m hearing it speak to those who try to convince non-believers that they need to do what the Bible says, arguing in the context of an informal debate over morality they wield the Bible as the source of Truth. And Scripture is the source of Truth. But these folk are, in the words of Calvin, doing things backwards. The truth of Scripture does not lie in its words, nor in our ability to convince someone of its truth. Rather the truth of Scripture lies in the gift of God’s Holy Spirit bestowed upon his believers (I would say, his elect, but I don’t want to get into that just yet). And it is the Holy Spirit who inwardly convicts a person of the truth of Scripture, illuminating his mind and heart, quickening his will to obedience. That’s God’s work. Not ours. And, I think, as long as believers keep appealing to Scripture in their debates, they’re going to keep coming up empty. Because the non-believers are empty. Of God’s Spirit. First one must be convinced of the Gospel, convicted by the Truth of God in Jesus Christ, before they will be convinced or convicted by that same God into a life of obedience.
Let us first pray for those whose hearts are not illumined by the Holy Spirit, who live apart from the truth of Scripture and the obedience thereof because they live apart from God. They wallow in misery that goes far beyond their lifestyle choices or the visible consequences of their grave sins. They languish unknowing, unbelieving of the grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ who provides the way out of their misery. Let us first witness to that truth. May we pray “Lord, illumine their hearts, draw them to you, give them the gift of faith in you. Use me. Use me as a witness to your saving grace. A witness to your grace, that by your power they would come to know you, and by knowing you be released from the bonds of their sins.”
Something like that, anyway. Because until a person is enlivened by the Holy Spirit, all our appeals to the Bible are merely Bible thumpin’. Banging our hands on a book.
Cross-posted at Life as I Think It
this week between birthdays, the birthday of henry, the birthday of jude, is always a busy week, busy from the beginning. jude was born five weeks early, henry barely two, barely talking, barely a curl on his head. jude was white and pinkish and was very beautiful. i thought he would be a girl and am glad he was not. it’s nice to have brothers back to back, friends most days, and brothers close forever.
we were worried about you, jude. you were little and you were early and people were rushing around in the room with the whitest shiniest tiles i’ve ever seen. the special doctor came just for you and you were fine. perfect. i was so happy when you were born. i was happy even though you were born by c-section. i was happy because i didn’t need to be worried. i was happy because you were so beautiful and perfect and so very tiny. they gave you a sweet little knitted white hat to wear and i never thought i could be so happy to hold such a wonderful little thing in my arms.
for jude’s birthday we celebrated early (more pictures from this day can be seen here!) as ernie was shooting a wedding on the actual day. grammy and judson came to town and big daddy had a birthday (80!), too, the day after jude’s. so we all ate curry and walked the zoo together. we got the howler monkeys to howl. they only do this if you clap and cheer and make howling sounds for them. you have to do this for a good five minutes and then they will swing in the cage and bellow at each other. no one ever wants to make them howl with me. it’s embarrassing to stand there clapping and cheering for so long when no one knows why you are doing such a ridiculous thing. i am only mildly embarrassed. it’s worth it in the end, as are many things that make you look foolish for a time. after the zoo we went home for cake. i didn’t put a monster truck into the cake this year as last year jude was very offended by my doing just that. he reminded me several times this year to “only put candles in the cake, don’t stick any toys or anything else in there.” he is very particular. sometimes this is annoying. many times it is annoying. mostly i try to remind myself that attention to detail is something good and right. sometimes the details to which he has paid attention amaze us. his memory alone is astounding and i should, of course, for the sheer sake of his memory alone, stop myself from being unkind more often than i do. knee jerk reactions and all that, you know.
saturday, jude’s actual birthday, we went to ernie’s aunt’s house far and away and then even farther away until you think that you can’t go any farther and then a little bit farther away, then around a corner and up and down a few hills and a farther and farther and farther away until everyone in the car has asked their allotment of “are we there yets.” in the woods, they live. with a creek in which we had anticipated wading. it was not to be. too much rain and the thing was rushing away, the loud screams of it heard from the top of the hill as we got out of the car. henry ran off with the big boys (!) and i only worried a little bit. they walked through poison ivy (didn’t get any, though. amazing!) and played in milder water, though had i been there i might have said no way! there were many orange puddles and this made jude happy. it also made his sneakers too wet to enjoy wearing so he took them off. and then he came home with scratches on the bottoms of his feet and had a hard time finding shoes, even flip flops, to wear on sunday that didn’t hurt. but it was worth it, as painful things sometimes are.
tonight, jude is sleeping by the fan. he has a sunburn on his shoulders that hurts and he was sad until he fell asleep to alex giving answers and the rest of us shouting questions at the tv. he is taller than ever, long legs, skinny torso and arms. his hair needs a cut, a trim, the curls in his face, the back fluffy and weird. today he watched the neighbors we don’t know splashing in their pool and then played with the hose until it just had to be turned off. he is a light in the house, funny jokes and an undercurrent of energy that is hard to match. he is sensitive and smart and without him, what would we do? we do not know, nor wish to know.
jude, i love you more than you can ever know. i love your freckles, each one multiplying as the summer begins, continues. i love your smile, your silly faces, but especially your smile that starts and spreads across your face and makes me smile and laugh a little myself. i love your hugs, the real hugs that you give that lean all of your weight into my body. thank you for being you, for being one of the most important people i know or ever will know or ever will care to know. how did you happen to me?
thank you God, for jude. thank you for his ready smile, for his infinite imagination. thank you for making him sensitive and loving and smart. thank you for letting me be his mother, of all the women in the world, you entrusted him to me! show him how much you love him. help him understand the gift of your grace and mercy that is deeper and greater than he can ever know.
Cross-posted at Fresh Milk Delivered Daily
Every year I see more and more my need for community, probably because we’ve never lived in the same city as our families or lots of people we’ve known forever. And little by little, community grows, even when I feel like I have so little to offer my family let alone those beyond it. It’s a beautiful thing. We sang this hymn on Sunday, that talks about the windows of God’s grace where we see the Lord, and to me, that’s often through kindness, empathy and encouragement. The manifestations of community are the goodness of God to me in a very real way. Anyhow, every time I hear this hymn, it sticks with me, so I’ll share it with you, kind reader, until I post again (sooner or later.)
Windows of Thy Grace
by Isaac Watts
I love the windows of thy grace,
Through which my Lord is seen,
And long to meet my Savior’s face
Without a glass between.
Oh that the happy hour come
To change my faith to sight!
I shall behold my Lord at home
In a diviner light.
Haste, my Beloved, and remove
These interposing days;
Then shall my passions all be love,
And all my powers be praise.
Cross-posted at This Classical Life
At this stage in my life, so much of my reading and studying is filtered through the perspective of mothering. This includes my studying of the Bible and theology. I find the deeper I dig into God’s Word, the more light it shines on my life–and how I ought to mother.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
“Brothers. . .” This passage is written to Believers. As parents, God has given us special responsibility towards our children. But they are also our “brothers” and in the Covenant.
Kristen recently wrote,
We went to Ash Wednesday services at the beginning of Lent with Kate at the episcopal church around the corner (we missed liturgy) and when the priest put ashes on her little forehead, it really made an impact on me. As much as I am her mother, I am also her sister in Christ. This has been really helpful to me in thinking through parenting issues. Most Christians wouldn’t serve wine to a fellow Christian who was a recovering alcoholic. Why do they discipline their children and then set them up to do the same things again?
In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther clarifies that “caught in sin” is not speaking about doctrinal errors, “but about far lesser sins into which people fall not deliberately, but through weakness.” As our children are learning right from wrong, they will sin. As they are growing through various stages of development, they will have greater or lesser control over their impulses.
Luther goes on to say, “is caught in imply being tricked by the devil or sinful nature.” Sinful nature, temptation, weakness, developmental stages–remembering these sins of our children are part of their weakness helps me respond to them with compassion.
Luther states, “Paul therefore teaches how those who have fallen should be dealt with–namely those who are strong should raise them up and restore them gently.” I don’t always feel “strong” or “spiritual.” Often I feel weak and struggling myself. But it is my responsibility to raise my children and be strong for them. We have no trouble with the idea of parents being a “mama bear” protecting her young child. I also want to be strong spiritually to correct them gently, to be the “mama bear” to help my children when they are struggling with sin.
It’s interesting to note that this passage is immediately proceeded by the admonitions to walk in the Spirit and the list of the fruit of the Spirit– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These should be on my mind as I restore my children gently.
Luther reinforces the idea of this passage reminding us of “the fatherly and motherly affection that Paul requires of those who have charge over souls.”
What does “restoring gently” look like? Luther explains, “when they see that those persons are sorrowful for their offenses, they should begin to raise them up again, to comfort them, and to mitigate their faults as much as they can—yet through mercy only, which they must set against sin, lest those who have fallen are swallowed up with depression.” And “. . .gently, and not in the zeal of severe justice.”
To be honest, at times I’ve had Christian mothers advocate some child-training approaches that seemed to have more of the “zeal of severe justice” than how Luther describes the Holy Spirit’s correction, “mild and pitiful in forbearing.”
After restoring gently, we are told to “carry each other’s burdens.” I see this, in light of mothering, as an especial entreaty to know our particular children and their particular weaknesses.
One of my sons is insecure around lots of guests–and he has responded in the past by getting very loud, climbing on furniture, and even hitting a guest. I’ve found that to carry his burden means I prepare him beforehand for our guests, and I hold his hand when they arrive, until he is comfortable and calm. Another son is prone to lash out at his brothers when he is angry. Bearing his burden has meant praying with him and for him, helping him recognize when he feels anger rising, and giving him strategies to deal with that anger without hitting. And it has meant letting him know it’s good to come to me and say, “Mommy, I’m angry” so I can help him not sin in his anger.
Also in this encouragement to carry one another’s burdens, it strikes me how wrong it is to follow the child-training technique of placing a child in a situation of temptation–to test him and see whether he can withstand it (or be punished.) This method is encouraged by some for training toddlers and preschoolers, and seems to be very contrary to bearing the burdens of temptation.
Luther also comments on this passage that sometimes in bearing with one another, things need to just be let go–“These people are the ones who are overtaken by sin and have the burdens that Paul commands us to carry. In this case, let us not be rigorous and merciless, but follow the example of Christ, who bears and forbears these burdens. If he does not punish them, though He might do so with justice, much less ought we to do so.”
“And watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. . .” For parents, I see this as a two-fold warning. First, to be gentle, not be angry—the caution here illustrates how very easy it is to slip into being harsh.
And also I see the warning not to be tempted to pride. When we become concerned about appearing to be “good parents” it is easy to slip into correcting harshly, minutely. This is one of the areas in which I struggled a lot, especially when my children were smaller. And especially when we were guests in churches and people’s homes. I felt pressure (from myself even more than others) for my kids to be perfect and “prove” we were worthy to be missionaries. That pressure tempted me both into pride in my children’s good behaviour, as well being overly picky and correcting unnecessarily.
The end of these verses is “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” As Martin Luther said,
“After Christ had redeemed us, renewed us, and made us his church, he gave us no other law but that of mutual love. To love is not to wish one another well, but to carry one another’s burdens–that is, things that are grievous to us, and that we would not willingly bear. Therefore, Christians (parents!) must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, so they can carry their brother’s weaknesses. . . Love, therefore, is mild, courteous, and patient, not in receiving, but in giving, for it is constrained to wink at many things and to bear them.
thanks to mollie for the pic
by Denise Levertov
As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.