Saturday was our final chance to attend the annual Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. And so, ignoring a heat advisory, scoffing at all the cleaning and painting I needed to finish, and not even considering the two hour car-trip there and back before Jack’s afternoon nap, I guided my 1993 Toyota Camry (greasy-finger artwork on Jack’s window comes standard) toward the Capital Beltway. Once my car is pointed in the direction of Gaithersburg (where the rest of my family lives) it could probably get there on its own, without me steering. Sometimes it actually goes there when I’m intending to go somewhere else.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. My parents took my sisters and Chad and me to the fair every year, ever since we could remember. Today I can walk down the carnival streets and still see the crazy ride Janelle coaxed me onto, only she freaked out as soon as it started moving. She was crying and screaming and I was praying—hard.
Then there are the legendary pig and duck races and the firetrucks and the little booths where political groups hand out stickers and balloons, and the arts and crafts pavilions where you can see the blue-ribbon winner for bundt cake. And the hog and cow and sheep pens that smell like…well, you know. The fair is what you would call “a cultural experience.”
And it’s an experience I wanted Jack to have. So after waiting in a long, hot line for our tickets Mom, Kristin, Janelle, Chad, and I took the kids on one of the rides. Jack smiled and said “weeeee” and I thought, I love the fair!
Then we went to Old MacDonald’s Farm which I was sure he would go crazy over since he’s always pointing out the animals in books or on TV. But it didn’t turn out quite like I’d imagined. Instead of petting the animals, he stayed in my arms, gripping me with his legs and repeating nervously: “I say bye bye cow,” “I say bye bye horsie” whenever we’d get near any animal bigger than a rabbit.
Oh well. Sticky and smelly now, we headed over to the cheese barn for some real Wisconsin cheese and cold red grapes. And then trekked back to the car with sweat dripping down our backs. Exhausted, we finally arrived home, and after depositing Jack in his bed, I took a much-needed nap.
I asked Mom later “Why did I do this? Why did I go to all this effort for an experience I thought Jack would enjoy when in reality, he’d probably be just as happy playing in his sandbox at home? He didn’t even like the animals and he’ll probably never even remember we went to the fair today!”
She laughed and told me about the time she and Dad took us girls for a big day of sight-seeing in downtown Washington, DC. Only, we were more interested in the bright yellow trashcans and the pigeons than the Washington Monument.
I don’t remember that day downtown. But you know, when I think of my childhood, it’s like one big happy memory, full of fun and exciting outings. And I guess that’s why I took Jack to the fair on Saturday. I want him to feel that way about his childhood someday. And who knows, maybe twenty years from now he’ll take his little boy to the cheese barn at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair.
Last Thursday night occasioned another one of my husband’s surprises. He’s provided a gazillion of them for me through the years. He simply told me what time to be ready and how to dress. This time my surprise was dinner at a homey, rustic restaurant followed by the play “The Miracle Worker” at a nearby theatre. It was a wonderful evening.
And if you will indulge me I’d like to say a word to my husband. (He is in Sun Valley, California at present, due to being the guest speaker at Grace Community Church this past weekend.). CJ, I hope you read this today because I simply want to tell you again how grateful I am to be your wife. Thank you for thirty years of devoted, passionate, exhilarating love. I don’t deserve you!
So back to what I was saying. We went to see “The Miracle Worker.” Most likely, you are familiar with the plot. It’s the story of Annie Sullivan’s struggle to teach the blind and deaf Helen Keller how to communicate. Initially Annie found it extremely difficult to teach Helen due to her wild and violent behavior. But then Annie had a revelatory moment. All of a sudden she realized: “Obedience is the gateway for knowledge to enter the mind.” She understood that she needed to first teach Helen to obey before she could teach her knowledge.
At this point in the play I couldn’t help but think of my daughters, Nicole and Kristin. That’s what they are doing. They are attempting to train and discipline four little boys to obey so they can impart knowledge. And not just any knowledge, but the most important knowledge of all—the message of the gospel.
So to all moms with little children I desire to encourage you today. I want to cheer you on in your efforts to discipline and train your children to obey. It’s hard, exhausting work, I know. Just watching my daughters makes me tired. But it’s worth it. Because an obedient child is a receptive child. And with a receptive child you can teach them the good news, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Now that’s a goal worth striving for, don’t you agree?
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22.6
With each month that goes by, the question mark gets bigger: will Steve and I be able to have more children?
After the birth of our first son, Jack, in February of 2003, I experienced some serious, life-threatening complications that required two surgeries and a dump-truck load of antibiotics. Thanks to God’s common grace through modern medicine I am 100% healthy today, and able to fully enjoy my adorable little son.
Except…there is a chance I may not be able to conceive again. The antibiotics and surgeries, the doctor told me, may have damaged my reproductive system. That is not for certain. No tests have been run yet. But the more time passes, the more I wonder.
I wonder what will happen if I can’t have any more children: What will I feel? Will it be really hard? Will I always ache to carry another child? I desperately want to be a mother again, but most of all—what will it be like for Steve? He loves kids, and the only reason we may not be able to have more children is because of me. I know Steve has forbidden me to even think these thoughts, however—if he had married someone else, he could have had as many children as he liked. But he’s married to me. And because of me, he may never be a father again.
My sinful, self-pitying thoughts (which I excused as being on Steve’s behalf) were abruptly interrupted by two words: How arrogant! Who did I think I was? Was I God that I could create (or not create) life? God’s question to Job certainly applied to me: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge….shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (Job 38:2, 40:2).
God, and God alone, is the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15). My life is in His hands and He has graciously allowed me to live another day. The creation of a new life is in His hands as well. He has already determined the number of children Steve and I will have. And if we don’t conceive another child, it won’t be “because of me.” It will be because the sovereign, wise, loving Creator of the universe has decided that is best—for my good, for Steve’s good, and for God’s glory.
What comfort and freedom conviction brings! By repenting of my arrogant aspirations to be life-creator I now possess a peace that flows from simply resting in the Author of Life. And I can say with the psalmist—whether or not I have another child: “Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14).
We received another question regarding the spiritual disciplines and children:
“At what age did you and C.J. really start encouraging your children to be having quiet times on their own?
From the time our children began to read comfortably, we taught them to make a quiet time part of their morning routine. They had to read the Bible or a Bible study book, even if it was just for five minutes a day. As young children, they received most of their biblical intake and instruction from C.J. and me on a daily and weekly basis. The primary reason for insisting they have a quiet time was to train them to make the spiritual disciplines a part of their daily life. Chad, who is twelve years old has a quiet time every day, and two times a week, C.J. has devotions with him.
At some point, when our girls became teenagers, their quiet times became something they pursued themselves, although we sought to encourage and provide direction for their study. Each of my girls have said that helping them make the spiritual disciplines a habit at a young age assisted them in eventually taking full responsibility for their own pursuit of godliness.
A mother of school age children wrote to ask: “Would you be able to provide a sample conversation that you might have with your child when they have done something wrong? There is a phrase that I often hear said, “showing them their need for a Savior.” How do you go about doing/saying that exactly?”
When our child sins—and sin they will—it’s an opportunity to teach them about the gospel. To do so, we must not simply correct them for disobeying Daddy and Mommy in the particular situation. We need to point them to their bigger problem: their inclination, and their pattern of sin against a holy God. They haven’t just disobeyed their parents. They’ve disobeyed God. This particular sin is simply another piece of evidence that they need a Savior—just like Mommy needs a Savior. But the good news, the best news, is that God has provided just such a Savior for Mommies and their children in His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. We must tell our children that if they repent from this sin, and from all other rebellion against God, and trust in Christ as their salvation, they will be forgiven from all their sin and disobedience.
So you see that what can often begin as an unpleasant situation caused by our child’s sin can be transformed into an ideal moment to “show them their need for a Savior.”
In short, there are three essential points we are trying to communicate to our children:
1. God – He is the Creator of the world, and because He is perfect, holy, and pure, He cannot tolerate sin (Ps. 5:4-5).
2. Sin –All human beings are sinful from birth and our inclination is to evil all the time (Gen. 6:5, Jer. 17:9, Rom. 3:23).
3. Cross – Because of His love, God sent Jesus Christ to earth, to live a perfect life and die in our place that we might be forgiven from our sins and reconciled to God (John 3:16, 1 Cor. 15:3-4).
How can we weave these three points into a real-life conversation? The following is one possible way. But let me issue a disclaimer: this is not a script! This is merely a sample of how a mother might apply the gospel in a situation where a child has sinned. It will sound different EVERY time and for every age group! But let’s just say, for example, that our child is disrespecful:
Mom: Do you realize that you were disrespectful towards Mommy?
Mom: Do you know what the Bible has to say about what you have done?
Mom: God says in His Word that disrespect toward parents is a sin against Him. It isn’t just breaking Mommy’s rules. It’s breaking God’s commands. But this isn’t your biggest problem. You and Mommy both have a bigger problem. Do you know what it is?
Mom: Well, God says that if we break His law even once, we deserve death. But you and Mommy, we haven’t just broken God’s law once, have we? We’ve sinned many times. In fact, the Bible says that we were born sinful, and that because of our sin, we deserve the judgment of God. This is a big problem, isn’t it?
Mom: But what do you think God did about our problem?
Child: He sent His son Jesus to die for us.
Mom: That’s right. Jesus lived a perfect life. He was never disrespectful toward His parents! But that’s not all. Jesus died on the cross. He took the punishment that we deserved for our sin. He endured God’s wrath for our sin. And then He rose again from the dead. That’s good news, isn’t it?
Mom: You and Mommy both need a Savior. But God has provided a Savior! So what do you think God would want us to do?
Mom: Yes, God says if we repent from our sin—not just disrespect, but all sin, He will forgive us. So would you like to pray to God and ask Him to forgive you?
In the preceding conversation, I am assuming that the child is demonstrating a humble, responsive posture to the correction and teaching. But this is not always the case with our children, is it? That is why each conversation with each child will sound different. But if we keep the main objective in our minds of showing them their need for a Savior, we can practice gospel-centered mothering.
This week, a question from a mother of daughters, Rebecca:
Do you have any comments/thoughts on doing hope chests? Is this something you did? I like the idea to point my daughters’ hearts ahead to the time of their life when they will be investing in homes of their own, but not sure of how to forge ahead with this.
For those who may be unfamiliar—a hope chest is a tradition of purchasing and setting aside household items (such as dishes, flatware, kitchen appliances, bedding, heirlooms, etc.) for a daughter’s future home.
I did hope chests for each of my daughters with mixed results. It definitely served, as Rebecca noted, to point my daughters’ hearts toward the home. And in this day and age, I’m enthusiastic about anything that will encourage young women to glorify God by loving the home. However, styles and preferences for household goods change so rapidly that many of the items I purchased when my daughters were teenagers no longer appealed to them by the time they moved into their own homes.
If I had it to do over again, I would probably do a variation of the traditional hope chest. Instead of purchasing items, I would set aside money each year. When my daughter got married or bought a home of her own, I would take her shopping with that money to purchase the items she needed. It would be a special memory and also fulfill the practical need for household items. It’s not cheap to set up a house these days!
Let me emphasize that these thoughts merely come from my own personal experience. I am sure many women out there are far more creative than I am. However, I would want to encourage all mothers to think strategically like Rebecca. If not a hope chest, what are other ways you can encourage your daughter to love the home? How can you prepare her, practically and spiritually, to manage a home and possibly care for a family one day? Even though these skills might not be tangible—like a hope chest—they will be a valuable legacy for your daughter.
Yesterday was my mom’s 83rd birthday. My sister and I took her out for breakfast to celebrate. She loves to go out for breakfast. And as usual, the three of us talked lots and laughed even more. Then I seized a moment in our conversation to say “thank you.” That’s when my mom became uneasy. She always does, but that’s okay. I pressed through the awkwardness and thanked her for her faithfulness.
I thanked her for providing an example of unwavering devotion to God.
I thanked her for loving my dad and being faithful to her marriage covenant of 60 years.
I thanked her for constantly and tenderly caring for her 5 children and now her 17 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.
I thanked her for modeling biblical womanhood for me.
As if in hopelessness, Solomon poses this question in Proverbs 20:6—“A faithful [woman] who can find?”
Well, I found one—my mom. And realizing how rare she truly is, I am thanking God today for the life she has lived and the legacy she has given to me. I’m also asking God to help me to be faithful and to pass on this same legacy to my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren….
To try and thank my mom, as well as encourage other women to follow her example, I wrote a tribute which I included in my book, Feminine Appeal. You can read it in it’s entirety by clicking here.
Who can you thank today for living a life of faithful biblical womanhood?
I have never been a big fan of the month of February. I know, how can I like one month and not another? But stick with me here. February is just one of those months that seemed to somehow sneak into the line-up. I mean, we have September through November and the leaves are turning and you get to drink apple cider. In December and January we get holidays and days off school and work. March begins to give us hope for spring which arrives with April and May. June, July, and August are full of heat and vacations. What about poor little February? It’s just stuck in between January and March. Someone probably put Valentines Day in there in hopes of helping it along.
A couple of weeks ago, February took on new life for me. February is exactly nine months away. Lord willing, February will be the month in which my first child is born.
I know, I know, time for all of the girlie details. Well, a couple weeks back, I was getting a little suspicious so I decided to go to the grocery store and get one of those pregnancy tests. Of course, at the store, I kept seeing people that I knew so I grabbed a bag of Doritos and hid the test behind the bag so that no one would see. I got home and stared in amazement as the little test had two lines. What an incredible combination of excitement and panic all mixed into one. (You see, the panic comes from many years of being present as my Mom, my aunts, and now my sisters, sit around and reminisce about all of their labor and delivery stories—not helpful for one that faints upon seeing a doctor’s office.) Back to my story. After my Mom reminded me that there was “no way out but through,” I began to plot how I wanted to tell my husband, Mike. This was a Thursday night and Father’s Day was only two days away. It just couldn’t have been more perfect. I decided that after he fell asleep on Saturday night, I would sneak out and decorate his car so that when he left for church on Sunday morning he would be totally surprised. Sure enough, from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning, I could be seen blowing up what seemed like a million balloons, hanging bibs from mirrors, and writing on all of the windows with soap. So I didn’t sleep much that night, but it was worth it. The next morning, Mike headed out the door to church (he goes in pretty early cuz he works at the church) and before I could even pull up the blinds to watch, he ran back in, shocked and totally excited. (You see, he didn’t have any of the panic cuz there is no hospital with needles awaiting him.) It was such a memorable Father’s Day for us both. Mike drove around for days with our decorated car until the rain washed all of the soap off.
I, meanwhile, feel as if I am living a different life. I’m pretending that my belly fat is already the baby showing. I can take naps whenever I want and people just smile at me. I eat everything that the baby wants and I am fervently praying that I don’t get sick!
Each day is an opportunity for me to thank the Lord for the way that He has so richly blessed me, and to acknowledge His sovereign hold upon the little life that is growing inside of me.
I can’t wait for February!
Here are some shots of Mikey and the car…
One of our “Philly Friends,” Jeanne Welch, wrote to congratulate me on being “found” last week. She related an experience we thought you all should hear about—just in case any of my fellow tired moms go missing!
“I am so glad you found Kristin,” she wrote. “Once, when my boys were little, I fell asleep on the floor of my bedroom and ended up UNDER my bed, sound asleep. Next time you lose her check there….”
So, if you can’t find Mom, make sure to check under the bed!
Looks like we found Kristin.
She’s right where I thought she would be, taking great care of her kiddos (my nephews!).
You’re the best, Kess!