We are so excited to welcome Noël Piper to our first girl-to-girl talk interview.
Noël has been married to pastor and author John Piper for thirty-eight years. She has also served alongside her husband at Bethlehem Baptist Church for the past twenty-six years. Noël, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with the girltalk readers!
First of all, Noël, we’d love to hear a little about your growing up years. I know you grew up with nine brothers and sisters! What was it like being a part of a big family? How would you describe your childhood? What about your early life at home prepared your heart to receive the gospel?
What was it like being part of a big family? Perfectly normal, as far as I knew. God gave me to my family and my family to me and that’s the way it was. Being the oldest of 10 was probably my best training for being a mother. The regular Christian traditions in my family and the examples of my parents were the most important human factors in my becoming a Christian. We had family devotions each night before the youngest went to bed, and we went to church every Sunday and Wednesday.
I can look back now and realize that those steady practices were like anchors when our family was going through rough times. We kept doing what we’d always done, sometimes maybe just because it was too hard to say, “Let’s don’t.” I learned that even when we don’t really feel like being together in God’s Word or praying together, God uses those times to bring healing and reconciliation and peace—even when it takes a long time.
(In this picture I’m the cool college girl in the middle with way too much bangs. The 1957 Ford wagon off on the right is the car that suffered my first accident.)
When and how did you become a Christian?
I was very young and can’t remember much of what I was thinking or feeling. Here are some “shapshots.”
I’m 5 and telling my Daddy I want to be baptized just like my cousin Jane, who is a couple of years older. He pulls me into his lap, explaining there’s more to baptism than just deciding to do it.
Some time after that, I’m sitting on the kitchen steps, weeping. Mother hurries out to see what’s wrong. “I’m so sad about all the bad things I’ve done.”
Another time, I am standing in my closet (Literally. Isn’t that what the Bible says to do?), wanting to confess my sins to God. But I’ve done this before. Does the Bible mean that I have to remember every sin I’ve ever done every time I confess to God. What if I can’t remember everything?
On my 7th birthday, I am baptized in Milner Baptist Church. Afterward, the whole congregation files by to shake hands with the ones who had been baptized. They are singing “Oh happy day, oh happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.”
How did you end up in Illinois at Wheaton College?
That’s a story that shows how God uses our less-than-spiritual desires to bring about his good plans in our lives. Hardly anybody in my rural 36-student senior class was going to college, and if they were, they were staying in Georgia. I was writing for information from colleges I found advertised in Christian magazines at home. Mainly I wanted to go far away—I was ready to be on my own without my parents telling me what to do. Interestingly, as I look back I realize that I chose a college that had pretty much their same standards. So while I could indeed make more choices for myself instead of my parents telling me what to do, still those choices were within boundaries that were comfortable to me.
What were your hopes, dreams, and plans for your life as you embarked upon your college experience? How did those plans change once you met John Piper?
My mother and both my grandmothers were examples of women whose liberal arts college degrees were excellent preparation for all that God gave them in their lives, sometimes job or career, mostly marriage and family. I assumed and hoped that one day I would be married and at home with our children. I also held out the possibility that I might have a career (which changed every time I changed my major), without thinking through how the two would mix.
Would you be willing to briefly relate the story of you and John’s relationship from the time you met until you were married? Were there any funny/memorable moments you’d be willing to share?
Maybe the funniest happened before I met him. When I was a college freshman, I declared to my friends that I would wait a few years after college to get married, so I could see the world first (Assumption: nothing happens after you get married). AND, I would certainly never marry a preacher.
So, I met Johnny Piper the day after that freshman year ended and we got married during the Christmas break just as I was finishing college. (Since then, I’ve lost count of the number of states and countries I’ve visited). At the time of our wedding, I had my wish not to marry a preacher—that didn’t come until 11 1/2 years after we were married.
Everyone would probably ask…what’s it like being married to John Piper? I mean, is he sharing profound thoughts at the dinner table? What do you love most about your husband?
The answer is similar to a couple of the earlier answers. First, perfectly normal, as far as I know. God gave me to Johnny and him to me. And second, it’s an even better story of how God uses our less-than-spiritual desires to do wonderful things for us.
I was a silly, fairly shallow girl who wanted fun more than much of anything else. I don’t think I would have gotten involved with a non-Christian, but I wasn’t much more discerning than that. So when I met a cute, curly-haired guy who liked me, that was enough for me. In fact, it was extra cute how he thought so seriously about things, on the one hand, and on the other, how he played a wild game of charades and sang and moved his arms and shoulders (we didn’t dance) to the Beach Boys.
God was gracious to give me a man who would be his main tool for bringing toward maturity both me and my spiritual understanding.
Yes, sometimes Johnny’s sharing profound thoughts at the dinner table. More often, he’s figuring out how the father who’s used to boys shifts gears and communicates with an 11-year-old daughter.
And that is one of the things I love most about him. He cares about being a good father and husband, and he doesn’t let our moods and attitudes put him off. He cares about our being happy. And I know that at the root is his love for God.
Come back tomorrow to hear Noël share about her children and her reflections on being a pastor’s wife…
We are very excited about a new feature here at girltalk. On occasion we will introduce you to godly women who are making a significant difference in the lives of others both in the church and in our culture. We’re calling it girl-to-girl talk.
Today we want you to meet the first of these godly women: Noël Piper. Noël is a pastor’s wife, mother, and author, and over the next few days we have the delightful opportunity of getting to know her better.
To begin, we want to share a brief profile of Noël’s life along with several pictures. Then, over the next three days, we will post portions of an interview with Noël.
So pull up a chair if you will, and join us at Noël’s kitchen table. We know you are going to thoroughly enjoy learning and laughing along with this godly woman.
You probably know me as: John Piper’s wife
I’ve been married for: 38 years
My children are: 4 adult sons—all married with 7 children among them, and our 11-year-old daughter
I was born in: Norfolk Virginia and grew up in Barnesville, GA
The best “spiritual” book I’ve ever read (besides the Bible) is: ...and besides my husband’s books . . . Combining bad memory with too many books, I’ll mention authors instead: Elisabeth Elliot, Joni Eareckson Tada, Edith Schaeffer. One with long-lasting impact is Schaeffer’s Hidden Art (now with the unfortunately-limited title, The Hidden Art of Homemaking.
The “non-spiritual” book I most enjoyed reading was: Bad memory again—it would probably have been a historical fiction saga or a multigenerational family memoir/saga.
Right now I am reading: Whatever I can find about Betsey Stockton and her early-1800s settings in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and Princeton.
The movie I’ve watched more times than any other is: The Princess Bride (my children made me!)
The music (genre/artist) you’re most likely to find me listening to is: Mountain/old-time country gospel (when I’m by myself) or maybe 1960s folk.
My favorite food is: Chocolate eclairs (filled with custard, not cream)
My favorite morning beverage is: Strong coffee with cream or Yorkshire tea with milk
The household chore I most enjoy is: Enjoy? I’ll have to think on that—- a looooong time.
If I have free time, you’ll most likely find me: Reading or—more recently—you’d find me online arranging my computer “piles” of photos into photobooks that, when I’m done, we can actually hold in our hands, turn pages, and see the best pictures without plowing through hundreds of others.
My favorite place in the world is: Anywhere with a book and the sight and sound of water.
A Bible verse I return to often is: Romans 8:38-39—“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Woman I most want to be like: The one who’s on my mind right now is Joni Eareckson Tada. Probably no one but she and Ken, her caregivers and God really know how limited the hours of her day are once her basic physical needs have been dealt with. And only she and God know how limited her strength and stamina are. I find myself dragging at the imagination of it. And yet she travels frequently, and whenever she is with people, she gives herself wholeheartedly, smiling, greeting, giving an appropriate and upbuilding word. When you see Joni, you see the joy of the Lord. It has to be his, because she has every legitimate human reason to be a quiet, stay-at-home, reserving her strength.
Charlene sent us this hilarious clip of a Blonde Antelope. I watched it and thought, “that is definitely me.” Hee-hee!
Janelle for the girls
In last week’s book club discussion we asked you to send us your story of how a woman brought you the “consolation of Christ” in the midst of difficulty. Thank you for your entries—it was very moving to read each one! Although it is always hard to choose, we thought you would be blessed to hear from another Elise (read a testimony from yesterday’s Elise here) and how her pastor’s wife and her mother faithfully cared for her during a trying time.
Don’t forget to read chapter 10 for next week.
I have been privileged to be carried and cared for by many over the past two and a half years, but two women in particular stand out as ladies who brought me the “consolation of Christ” (I’m sorry I can’t pick just one!) and those would be Nancy Loftness and my mom, Pam Ecrement.
Briefly, my story is one certainly many have shared… the joy of pregnancy, my fourth child and the overwhelming news at our 20 week sonogram that something was wrong. First, our son appeared to have only one finger, an arm that was significantly shorter than the other side, a foot that was twisted laterally in half and because all of these vascular defects were on one side, the prognosis was not good. Various “syndromes” were predicted and we were asked if we were comfortable with continuing the pregnancy.
Throughout the remaining weeks of pregnancy we saw specialist after specialist and had numerous additional sonograms and tests. Often the appointments would reveal information that was worse or more sketchy than the previous with one doctor even professing that our child might not live past the first several hours.
But God took care of all of us and healed Nathan (our son) of much! When he was born, all that remained was a limb deficiency in his right hand. He was born with only 1 ½ fingers… but everything else was fine and he was and remains an absolute joy. A marvelous testimony of God’s grace and healing power.
We have had four reconstructive surgeries on his hand since (Nathan is now 2.) with an additional 3-8 more in the coming years. It was a season we didn’t choose for ourselves, but God sovereignly ordained for His good and His glory and two women helped me to keep that focus, my pastor’s wife, Nancy Loftness and my mom, Pam Ecrement.
Nancy Loftness prayed with me numerous times prior to Nathan’s birth, walked me through fear, helped me keep my eyes focused on God when my circumstances pulled to have the focus on me. When I gave into anxiety and fear, she was there to pull me out. She always had a timely word, always a timely scripture. She came to the hospital when Nathan was born and has encouraged me as I’ve sought to care for not only Nathan, but my other children in navigating surgeries which took place hundreds of miles from home. Nancy asked questions, gave godly council and helped me stay focused on the cross. We didn’t simply survive as a family, but thrived as a result of folks who cared for us and carried us like Nancy.
My mom was instrumental too as she cried with me, laughed with me and was the first, outside of my husband to look at Nathan’s hand and give glory to God at His marvelous, yet different design. She encouraged me and cared for me, by helping me to formulate questions I’d need answers to in navigating Nathan’s care. She listened to me cry and gave glory to the Lord with me at each turn. She was and remains always there. She shared our need with others and gathered others to pray and sought to care for me practically the many weeks we were in Ohio around Nathan’s surgeries, always taking off work, always putting the needs of our family before she and Dad’s. We did “no make-up, no fixed hair” days and should have bought stock in Starbucks. We began working through Girl Talk during these trips and shared blurry nights comforting my son, discussing aging and reminiscing about when I was his age. How fast time has flown.
Friends who provide this balm to those whose trials loom large can never know the depths to which their care can impact hearts. God has never been more real to me than he has been these last two years. What a privilege to have these (and several dear others who know who they are) ladies near. What a joy to learn dependence and submission to God’s will and be released from my own. There’s peace there and so much more.
Okay, teens, this one’s for you. At a recent youth meeting at Covenant Life Church, my friend, Elise, gave her testimony on submission to her parent’s authority. It was outstanding!
I have known Elise for many years and I have observed her live out the words of this testimony. When I spoke to her on the phone this morning she shared with me her longing to encourage her generation to submit to their parent’s leadership as a gift from God. You have my deepest respect, Elise.
Girls, consider using this testimony to begin a discussion with your parents about submission. Ask them for their thoughts on how you are doing in this area. The Lord promises to bless your humility (James 4:6).
My testimony is simply one of the grace of God. There is no other explanation for the growth and joy I have experienced in the area of submission. The only reason I can stand up here right now is because the Lord has been merciful and kind to me.
Growing up, I was a very compliant and outwardly submissive child. I didn’t throw temper tantrums, yell at my parents, or purposefully rebel against them. For the most part I just obeyed without putting up a fight, but only because I had to. It wasn’t until about 9th grade that I really started to understand the importance of submission and the joy that could be found in obedience. I can’t tell you exactly what prompted this new realization. It might have been a series of messages, or a specific talk with my parents, but if nothing else, it was God’s work of softening my heart. I had regarded submission as a duty; the Lord showed me that it was a joy and a privilege. I learned to view the wisdom and guidance of my parents as wisdom and guidance from God. The more I realized that God actively speaks through my parents, the more seriously I viewed their instruction. Once I began to submit with joy it became easier and easier to obey not only with my actions, but also with my attitude. Obedience and submission to my parents brought a joy and freedom to my heart that I had never experienced before.
In addition to spiritual fruit, there were many other ways that I benefited from honoring and obeying my mom and dad. Throughout high school there was a level of trust that developed between me and my parents. As they saw me being faithful to submit, they began to give me more responsibilities and more freedom. The funny thing is, the more freedom I got, the less I wanted it. Now that I’m in college, my parents continually release me to make my own decisions. But the truth is, I hardly ever make decisions without consulting them first. Why? Because I know that they are wiser than I am, that they are a gift from the Lord, and that I will be blessed as a result.
Perhaps the greatest way I benefited from joyful submission was through a strong relationship with my parents. I grew to love being open with them, listening to their instruction, and submitting to their guidance. Today I can honestly tell you that my parents are my best friends. There are no two people whom I love or respect more!
At some point during high school I can remember reading the beginning of Ephesians 6 which says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” I remember being shocked by how true the promise was. It had gone well with me!
I’m not going to pretend like it was always easy to submit to and obey my parents. It wasn’t. And it still isn’t. But, no one ever said that humility is easy. And as Christians we aren’t called to a life of ease, but to a life of obedience and trust. I wish I could show you the peace and fulfillment that come with trusting the promises of God! He has given us our parents in order to teach us to distrust our hearts, to protect us, and to bless us. In fact, God specifically promises to bless us when we obey! The more I realize this, the more I want to submit to my parents’ authority! The reality is we will always be under authority, even in heaven. Learning to submit now will not only make it easier here on earth, but it will better prepare us for our eternal home where we will be under the authority of God for all of eternity.
The Lord promises that when we obey it will go well with us. God cannot and will not go back on His promise! So, from one weak sinner to another: trust the Lord, submit to your parents, and it will go well with you!
My boys and I have been enjoying a new kids worship CD—well, new for us that is. “Courage” by Seeds Family Worship was a Christmas present from some dear friends in our church. (Thanks Lowe family!)
Honestly, I really don’t know who likes it more, me or my kiddos! It’s permanent home is in our mini-van and normally you can hear it playing loudly even before we exit the neighborhood.
I love driving around on errands listening to my little boys enthusiastically singing God’s Word—even if their singing is sometimes closer to shouting! I am aware that right now they do not fully grasp the meaning or significance of the Scriptures coming out of their mouths but I am grateful that their little minds and hearts are being filled with the Word of God.
I’ve also realized that these songs serve me as much as they serve my boys. My time in the car has often been spent aimlessly contemplating my earthly cares and circumstances. But the truths of these songs enable me to focus my attention away from myself and onto my heavenly Father. I find myself popping in this CD even when my kids aren’t in the car. Now you know it must really be good for me to do that!
We only have this one CD, but I am looking forward to getting the rest!
Well, baby Tori’s head has dropped which means it can’t get any bigger (phew!) and we’re one step closer to her arrival into this world. Other than that piece of news, there’s not a whole lot to tell. Although my husband receives hourly, and sometimes minute-by-minute reports on every little ache and pain. He’s such a patient man.
This is a good time to let you know that Janelle will be returning my favor and “live-blogging” Tori’s delivery. Even if it begins in the middle of the night or on the weekend, she’ll post a “Tori Alert” and then provide updates periodically and pictures of the baby once she’s born. I hope you’ll check in as I would be truly grateful for your prayers.
As the day grows closer and I feel more tired and uncomfortable (and emotional!) I am more aware of my need for God. A friend recently gave me the following verse and quote by Charles Spurgeon. I plan on putting it in my hospital bag (which, by the way, I still need to pack!). I hope it encourages you today—whatever help you may need.
“I will help you, says the Lord.” Isaiah 41:14
“This morning listen to the voice of the Lord Jesus speak, ‘I will help you. It is a small thing for me, your God, to help you. COnsider what I have already done. What! Not help you! I bought you with My blood. What! Not help you! I died for you. Since I have done the greater, will I not do less? Your requests are nothing compared with what I am willing to give. You need much, but it is nothing for me to grant your needs. Help you? Fear not! I will help you.’”
Today was full of sweetness. Since the birth of Caly, I have wanted a picture with my grandma and my mom and today we were blessed with the opportunity. You see, this is my prayer for my daughter, that she follow in the footsteps of these two women and display the beauty of biblical womanhood. My eyes fill with tears of gratefulness to God as I consider how often I will be able to point Caly to their godly examples as she grows.
These women are truly worthy of honor. If you have not already read the tributes we’ve posted previously, you can read about Mom here and Grandma here.
This one from my friend Kimm is way cute. Have a great weekend everyone!
for Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle
Why Parents REALLY Need God.
A boss wondered why one of his most valued employees had phoned in sick one day. Having an urgent problem with one of the main computers, he dialed the employee’s home phone number and was greeted with a child’s whisper.
“Is your daddy home?” he asked.
“Yes,” whispered the small voice.
May I talk with him?”
The child whispered, “No.”
Surprised and wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, “Is your Mommy there?”
“May I talk with her?”
Again the small voice whispered, “No.”
Hoping there was somebody with whom he could leave a message, the boss asked, “Is anybody else there?”
“Yes ,” whispered the child, “a policeman”.
Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee’s home, the boss asked, “May I speak with the policeman?”
“No, he’s busy”, whispered the child.
“Busy doing what?”
“Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the Fireman,” came the whispered answer.
Growing more worried as he heard a loud noise in the background through the earpiece on the phone, the boss asked, “What is that noise?”
“A helicopter” answered the whispering voice.
“What is going on there?” demanded the boss, now truly apprehensive.
Again, whispering, the child answered, “The search team just landed a helicopter.”
Alarmed, concerned and a little frustrated the boss asked, “What are they searching for?”
Still whispering, the young voice replied with a muffled giggle…
Happy Friday, y’all. Friday is book club day here at girltalk.
Last week we read chapter eight and received a front row view into the lives of the Prentiss family during the Civil War. Chapter nine (the first half of your assignment for next week) takes us right into life after war and Elizabeth’s full return to pastor’s wife duties. I found the most wonderful quote describing her perspective of her role…
“She counted it one of the joys of being a pastor’s wife that she had the opportunity of being the first on the scene of human tragedy or need, bringing consolation of Christ. She wrote to a friend: ‘You can’t think how sweet it is to be a pastor’s wife; to feel the right to sympathize with those who mourn, to fly to them at once, and join them in their prayers and tears. It would be pleasant to spend one’s whole time among sufferers, and to keep testifying to them what Christ can and will become to them if only they will let Him…’”
Being married to pastors ourselves, we can all attest to the truth of these words. However the caring for others is not solely the privilege of a pastor’s wife. Many of you have stories of how you have been carried through trying seasons in your life by the love and support of another. Perhaps it was your pastor’s wife or maybe it was the leader of your small group or a faithful mentor. We want to hear your stories. So the second half of your assignment for this week is to hop on your e-mail (by Thursday night) and send us a story of how a woman has brought you the “consolation of Christ.” The author of the winning story, and the woman who cared for them, will receive a copy of the next book club selection as a gift.