The opportunity to speak at the College Church women’s retreat this past weekend was a pure delight for me. My soul was strengthened by spending time with this group of women, who are characterized by a robust confidence in God’s Word and genuine desire to grow in holiness. I especially want to thank Ruthie Howard, Cindy Powell, and the other members of the retreat committee for their investment of time and hard work that made this event so successful.
One of the great pleasures of an event like this is the chance to converse with godly women I might never otherwise meet. These are precious memories I take home with me and treasure long after a conference has come to an end.
Of the countless enjoyable conversations I had this past weekend, one sticks in my mind as both poignantly memorable, and, I believe, instructive for all of us as women. It was with Ruthie Howard, one of the organizers of this event. Ruthie is a woman, similar in age and season of life to me. She has three children—with whom she is very close—who have all recently been married. “So, you are experiencing an empty nest,” I remarked to her.
“Yes, I am” she acknowledged. “However,” she continued, “I like to refer to this season, not as an empty nest, but as a second honeymoon. I am so grateful that my husband and I have a strong marriage. I try to encourage young moms to make their marriage a priority because your children will leave one day, and your husband is the person you will spend the rest of your life with.”
Wise words for all of us, from a woman who is reaping the rewards of a lifetime investment in her marriage. Often I meet young women who could benefit from this advice. They are overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood, or simply more engrossed in being their kid’s mom than their husband’s wife. Some have grown apathetic and less than enthusiastic about their marriage relationship. Sadly, I’m not always sure that many young wives stop to consider how their present way of relating to their husband will affect the future happiness of their marriage.
However, sweet rewards can be theirs one day, if they choose to cherish communication and intimacy and friendship with their husband today. They too can have the joyful sparkle I saw in Ruthie’s eye as she contemplates the years ahead with only her husband. Sure, she misses her children desperately, they both do. But instead of a sense of emptiness and loss many women feel, Ruthie is eagerly anticipating this new season with her husband, her best friend.
Although most of you will never meet Ruthie, I hope my encounter with her will stick with you for a long time too. I hope you will give yourself wholeheartedly to your marriage right now, so that one day you can enjoy the harvest of a strong, God-glorifying relationship with your husband. And that even now, you can begin to anticipate a delightful second honeymoon.
Robert Browning’s sentiments, which hang on my bedroom wall, beautifully portray the eager anticipation of a couple growing old, and in love, together. May they inspire us as wives to prize and cherish our husbands today.
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith ‘A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!’”
Did you know that we are war? No, I’m not talking about Iraq. I’m talking about the “Mommy Wars”: an ongoing cultural debate over stay-at-home moms. There was another skirmish last week, between those pushing for women to take their place in the workforce, and those who’ve opted to be stay-at-home moms.
On ABC’s Good Morning America, feminist author Linda Hirshman expressed her concern at statistics showing that many women with college degrees were choosing to stay home with their children: “I think it’s a mistake for these highly educated and capable women to make that choice. I’m saying an educated, competent adult’s place is in the office.”
Brazen words. Fighting words. An indication of just how extreme feminism has become. While some feminists have championed the right for women to have a choice about whether or not to work or stay at home, people like Ms. Hirshman are now insisting that women are wrong to choose to stay at home with their children.
How should we as Christian women respond to the latest attack on stay-at-home moms? As usual, Dr. Al Mohler suggests a wise strategy:
“The Christian response…must be a combination of refutation, amazement, and affirmation of motherhood. Hirshman’s article and media appearances can serve to remind us all of the unspeakably high calling of motherhood and to the sacrifices that so many women make, day in and day out, to the raising of children, the nurture of the home, and the shaping of civilization itself.
I respond to Hirshman’s arguments from a highly privileged position—as the son, husband, and son-in-law of women who gave and give themselves to the calling of motherhood without reservation. They, like so many millions of other dedicated mothers, are the ones who demonstrate a wisdom and dedication that goes beyond anything a man can offer in terms of motherly intuition, loving devotion, and management challenges that would daunt the boldest Fortune 500 CEO.
Nevertheless, the best refutation of Hirshman’s awful argument is the happiness experienced by so many mothers and the evidence of motherly love and attention in the lives of their children.
These women are not “letting down the team.” To the contrary, they are holding civilization together where civilization begins—in the home.”
Did you notice what Dr. Mohler said is our best defense—and offense—in the “Mommy Wars”? It is, “the happiness experienced by so many mothers and the evidence of motherly love and attention in the lives of their children” (emphasis mine). It’s happy moms and happy kids!
Most of us won’t be called on to write articles or make TV appearances in response to feminists like Ms. Hirshman. But as foot soldiers in this cultural war, we have a critical role to play. All of us who are children of dedicated mothers should be boldly, shamelessly happy, and we should enthusiastically thank our mothers! And for all of us who are currently raising children at home, we should joyfully set about our noble task. Let’s cheerfully wipe noses and change diapers and drive carpools and counsel little souls. By simple acts of joyful defiance against a rebellious world, we can gain precious ground in the “Mommy Wars.”
CAROLYN: On Friday I departed for the Windy City and a women’s retreat at College Church, home of Kent and Barbara Hughes. What a pleasure to interact again with this godly pastor’s wife who has become a new friend. If you haven’t read her book, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, put it on the top of your reading list.
I was wonderfully cared for by my dear friend Ebeth Dennis, who, together with her husband heads up Crossway Books. Ebeth’s elegant graciousness and passion for the gospel are two reasons I love to spend time with her.
As usual, my friends and family were faithful to pray for me. My sister-in-law Betsy sent me the following Spurgeon quote before I took off. Do you find yourself in need of help today—of any kind? Then read this quote and remember the One who will help you!
“I will help thee, saith the Lord” Isaiah 41:14
“This morning let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: ‘I will help thee’. It is but a small thing for Me, thy God, to help thee. Consider what I have done already. What! not help thee? Why, I bought thee with My blood. What! not help thee? I have died for thee; and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less? Help thee! It is the least thing I will ever do for thee; I have done more, and will do more…..If thou hadst need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it thee; thou requirest little compared with what I am ready to give…..O my soul, is not this enough? Dost thou need more strength than the omnipotence of the United Trinity? Dost thou want more wisdom than exists in the Father, more love than displays itself in the Son, or more power than is manifest in the influences of the Spirit? Bring hither thine empty pitcher! Surely this well will fill it. Haste, gather up thy wants, and bring them there—thine emptiness, thy woes, thy needs. Behold, this river of God is full for thy supply; what canst thou desire beside? Go forth, my soul, in this thy might. The Eternal God is thine helper!” Morning and Evening Jan. 16
NICOLE: As Mom headed to Chicago, I moved in with Mike and Janelle. This was a special time for me, a chance to be with my sister and help care for my little niece. As many of you know, Janelle cared for Jack for the first three months of his life, while I was in the hospital and recovering from surgery and infection. Three days didn’t come close to repaying Janelle for three months of midnight feedings. But it was one more way to say “thanks.”
JANELLE: It’s been whirlwind of diapers, pink, intermittent sleep, and cuddles. I’m thoroughly enjoying my little Caly.
KRISTIN: The scary moment of my weekend came when I was standing in line at Sam’s Club and the lights went out. It was pitch dark in that huge warehouse. I called out for Andrew who blessedly was only a few feet away. Fortunately, the lights came back on in 20 seconds, but it felt much longer than that!
Now that you know where we’ve all been, we’ll be back with more GirlTalk later in the day.
It’s a funny coincidence that my sisters and I each gave birth to our firstborn in February. Caly was born on February 20, Jack turned three this February 21, and my son Andrew turned six on February 3. Speaking of Andrew, sometimes I feel like he’s my own personal “Friday Funny.” Here are a few of his latest…
Several months ago I was in the bathroom blow drying my hair. I had told Andrew and Owen to sit on the bed while I got ready for the day. Soon, I heard Andrew telling his little brother: “Owie, you can choose God or Satan.” I knew Owen was probably poised to climb off the bed. A few seconds later my suspicions were confirmed when I heard Andrew declare, “Owie, you are choosing Satan.”
More recently, Andrew went with some friends on a field trip to the police station. The police officer who was giving them a tour was explaining about not drinking and driving. My son, who has a sensitive conscience, felt compelled to confess. He raised his hand and informed the police officer: “my little brother drinks a bottle in the car seat.”
Have a great weekend everyone!
Caly’s Auntie Kristin
on behalf of Mom-Mom, Auntie Colie, and Mommy
I want to personally thank all of you for the love and encouragement that you have showered upon Mike and Janelle—not only this past week, but throughout Janelle’s pregnancy. Mike and Janelle are staying with us for several days, and both catching up on much-needed sleep in between Caly’s feedings. Caly is eating very well, and sleeping a lot, as newborns do. My little granddaughter is truly a gift from God!
A reader, Desiree, sent us the following quote by Elisabeth Prentiss on the birth of one of her children. It beautifully expresses the heart of a mother, and thus, I think it is a fitting way to close out this special week. (But don’t worry, Friday Funnies will be along before the day is through!)
Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery. Here is a soul to train for God; and the body in which it dwells is worthy all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly tenant. I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in God’s name, I will make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother’s heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, her life-long prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!
May God continue to bless all of you mothers who “make a willing sacrifice” of your leisure time to train your children’s souls for God!
To Janelle’s great relief, she and Caly were discharged from the hospital this afternoon. They were delayed an extra hour and a half to test Caly for jaundice (she was looking a tad yellow) but thankfully, it wasn’t serious enough to keep her. So Mike and Janelle brought their little girl home.
As Janelle begins to care for Caly, she will no doubt receive much wise counsel from Mom. She’ll learn how to swaddle Caly (a trick I never got the hang of), what to do when she won’t stop crying, and invaluable tips for putting the little girlie on a schedule. There’s no underestimating the difference practical help from an older woman can make when it comes to caring for a new baby.
But I already know the most helpful piece of mothering advice that Mom will give her. It’s the same advice she gave to Kristin and me. It’s simple enough for even a new mom’s sleep-deprived brain to comprehend. But oddly enough, it’s something I often forget. It’s two words: TRUST GOD.
In an article currently running on Crosswalk.com, Mom elaborates on this bit of mothering wisdom she has sought to teach her daughters:
Faith toward God is the foundation of effective mothering. Did you catch that? Here it is again: Faith toward God is the foundation of effective mothering. Success as a mother doesn’t begin with hard work or sound principles or consistent discipline (as necessary as these are). It begins with God: His character, His faithfulness, His promises, His sovereignty. And as our understanding of these truths increases, so will our faith for mothering. You see, it is relatively easy to implement new practices in parenting. But if our practices (no matter how useful) aren’t motivated by faith, they will be fruitless.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God as a mother. We can diligently apply every tip from every book and still not be effective mothers. More than likely we’ll be frazzled and anxious! Instead, must begin by looking to God—meditating on His character and relying on His promises. Only then will we find all the strength, wisdom, and peace we need to glorify God in our mothering.
Little Caly is two days old today, and eating and sleeping well. Tomorrow, Janelle gets to come home from the hospital. She’s doing everything possible to be outside those doors by 11:00 am—including filling out all the discharge papers today. Thanks to all of you for your prayers on her behalf. Janelle is feeling much better. She got a shower this morning, and she is actually able to hold Caly for extended periods of time, which “makes her feel like a real mom.”
Last night Brian and I, along with Andrew and Liam were able to visit Mike and Janelle at the hospital, and let the boys meet their new cousin. I have a feeling we are going to be saying, “gentle, boys, gentle” a lot in the coming days. Our entire family is enchanted with this new little girlie. The last time a girl was added to our family, it was Janelle!
All our excitement over Caly has us thinking about motherhood of course. So, we thought you wouldn’t mind if we camp out here for a few days. Besides being one of the greatest blessings from God, motherhood is also a tremendous responsibility. Not only is there the immediate adjustment to caring for a little life—twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week—but the charge to (along with our husbands) train our children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6) is a weighty task.
To help encourage young moms such as myself, our church hosted a series of meetings last year entitled “Moms2Moms.” In addition to free babysitting and small group time with other moms of toddlers, we got to hear teaching aimed right where we are at.
So, if your baby is only two days old or two years old, take some time to listen to these short, practical, and refreshing thoughts for your soul. We’ll be back tomorrow with more on motherhood!
Baby Caly is doing great! Janelle didn’t get much sleep last night, and she’s in some pain today; but overall, a very happy mommy! Mike and Janelle and our entire family want to thank all of you for your prayers, encouragement, and for sharing in our joy. We printed all the emails you sent and brought them to the hospital today for Janelle to read. It has been such a blessing for Mike and Janelle to share this exciting event with all of you!
We are pleased to announce the birth of…
Carolyn Kimberly “Caly” Bradshaw
to Michael & Janelle Bradshaw
at 5:07 pm, February 20, 2006
Weight: 7lb, 3oz
Caly (pronounced like “Sally” but with a “C”) is named after her two grandmothers. She was delivered via c-section because her head was turned sideways and got lodged in the birthing canal, which affected her heart rate. But, by God’s grace, she is a healthy little girl. Apparently, she has some personality too—she bit the doctor’s hand as she came into the world!
Mike and Janelle want to sincerely thank all of you for your prayers, encouragement, and love! Here are some pictures of Caly. More to come…
Baby Bradshaw is here! Thank you for your prayers. The little girl was safely delivered via c-section a little while ago. We don’t yet know the exact time of birth—we haven’t even seen her yet! But the doctor came out to tell us that the baby is healthy (apgar score was great) and that Janelle is doing wonderful as well! We’ll post all the details and pictures as soon as we can. Thank you again for your prayers!