Tag Archives: children

Worship Wednesday – Alleluia, the Majesty and Glory of Your Name – Tom Fettke & Linda Lee Johnson

Rainy morning quiet. When I got back from walking with my neighbors, the backyard feeder was swaying from the perching of a wide array of birds. My favorites, the cardinals, were there, along with many others, including goldfinches. Those little yellow birds flew before I could get a picture of them, but Michael Seeley captured a similar scene (below).Photo Credit: Michael Seeley, Flickr

Mornings like these, with a rained-out event clearing my schedule, I sit in quiet. In times like these, with nature all around magnificently displaying the glory of its Creator, the Psalms come to mind.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
What is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!Psalm 8:3-4, 9

Photo Credit: Pixabay

No matter what we are facing in the moment – great joy or great sorrow – this world of ours, the beauty of it, reminds us of the Author of it all. Who are we that the God of this universe should visit us with such wonder? I think it is to lift us out of our present circumstance and to demonstrate His own beauty, His glorious nature, and His tender care.

…for the tiniest of creatures and for His beloved children…even made in His own image (Genesis 1:27). We lift our eyes to Him in worship…on a rainy morning, in a moonlit evening, and at our work stations wherever we are.

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Photo Credit: Chris Yarzab, Flickr

Tom Fettke and Linda Lee Johnson, inspired by Psalm 8, wrote a perfect anthem to the majesty of God’s name as displayed by the beauty of His creation – The Majesty and Glory of Your Name.

Worship with me. If you’re at work, you made need to plug in earbuds – this gets louder and more glorious as it goes – like the praise of children.

When I gaze into the night skies and see the work of your fingers; The moon and stars suspended in space.

Oh, what is man that you are mindful of him? You have given man a crown of glory and honor, And have made him a little lower than the angels. You have put him in charge of all creation: beasts of the field, The birds of the air, The fish of the sea.

Oh, what is man? Oh, what is man that you are mindful of him? O Lord, our God the majesty and glory of your name Transcends the earth and fills the heavens.

O Lord, our God; little children praise You perfectly, And so would we. And so would we.

Alleluia! Alleluia! The majesty and glory of Your name. Alleluia! Alleluia! The majesty and glory of Your name. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! (Alleluia!)

Psalm 8 Bible Study/Commentary – David Guzik

A Year Missing Our Friend Jeannie Elliff – Remembering – Jeannie had asked for this anthem to be sung at her funeral. At the end of the video of her funeral you can hear it sung as a benediction on the God she loved so much.

Kids on Drugs….I Mean, Screens

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.

My heart melts.

Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.

Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?

[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels

My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.

The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).

Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?

I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.

Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.

It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.

I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.

Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr

How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]

As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.

Peace.

This Quiet Girl – To Know Her Is To Love Her, and I Know Her Very Well

30 years ago, I knew this would be the day. Our baby was coming. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but labor wakes us. I let Dave sleep until it got to a place that I knew we probably needed to go. It was a windy pre-dawn drive to the hospital. That first day of March.

“It’s a girl!” How would I have known then how much she would change our lives? We had an inkling when, just days into parenting, and my hormones all over the place, I looked up at Dave, with her in my lap and tears in my eyes. “What if something were to happen to her?” – asked the new mom on the edge. Dave brought me back to myself when he said, “Look at how much joy she’s brought us in just these few days. We treat each day as precious…” It was something like that. He doesn’t remember, and all I can say is that each day has been precious.

This quiet girl spent her preschool years in East Tennessee enjoying friends from the neighborhood and church. She didn’t require much entertaining. The world of her imagination was rich and deep. She welcomed two little brothers in that time.

As their big sister, she created elaborate make-believe games, and they loved following her lead in play. This, of course, would end in time, as teen years would find all three off doing more of their own thing. Fun times together and shared memories.

Other times, the boys thought of her more like an old aunt…a third parent…rather than sister. Fortunately that season passed with them all still friends.

This quiet girl has known God since she was tiny. She’s always been an old soul, and that sensibleness and understanding about life informed her grasp of God. She isn’t perfect, by any means, but she carries into adulthood a faith that both anchors her and moves her toward His purposes.

She loves music and for all her life she has filled our home with singing or piano playing. I don’t know if that influenced her guitarist or harpist brothers. Their music has just been a joy…for the most part…our musical tastes have all had their own journeys. Remembering her high school girl band days still makes me smile. She plays the radio now more than the piano, and she isn’t pursuing a choir or praise team experience…but I hope she does again one day.

When we pulled her out of her lovely small-town life, along with her brothers, to move to Africa, this quiet girl took it in stride. We were always grateful to see the hand of God in these adjustments. There were tears…great, gushing cries over missing friends and family and grieving precious things left behind (even her dog once)…my heart would almost break over those tears. Then, like the sun breaking through storm clouds, she would give in to laughter. That would break the tension for all of us…that crazy-sweet laughter from a tear-drenched face. Her own wrestling through the many moves of our lives had to have helped our boys do the same. She helped us, for sure.

Making friends was sometimes challenging for this one whom we bounced around from country to country. Always having to start over was hard for her. She’s not one to push in or draw attention to herself. How thankful we were for the friends who opened up to friendship with this quiet girl. They are some of her most cherished friendships. When she does feel comfortable enough to be herself, she probably surprises people with her resoluteness, strong opinions, and deep loyalties. These are actually things I appreciate about this quiet girl. She is not going away. As we get older, it is a tremendous comfort to know that she has settled that. She will be there, God willing. With this one, you get life-long friendships and forever love.

When this quiet girl went back to the US for college, we would miss her terribly. Our home re-configured and the boys became the young men of the house. Her visits home were dear for all of us…as she perched around wherever we had landed at home and told us stories of life at school. I never tired of those stories.

After college, she would teach for several years (both inner city and county schools). Lots of crying followed by laughter in those days. The friendships that came out of both college and teaching are precious to her…lots of battle scars and victories to share there.

This quiet girl fell in love. She never really dated in high school. We as her parents were glad she, or the boys, didn’t suffer serial broken hearts. To find one so right for her as the quiet young man she married gladdened our hearts for her…and for us all.

Then she finally got a much-longed-for sister when one of her brothers married (and another when her husband’s brother married).

…and our first grandchild has this quiet girl as mommy.

[No pics of this little one on the blog yet. One day… The grandparents, I can tell you, are smitten with this little one not-so-quiet as the parents.]

I guess it’s a 30th birthday that made me want to write about this quiet girl. To know her is to love her, and I know her very well.

So Sweet Girl, Dear Daughter of ours, when you read this blog (and you do, so thanks for that), on this your 30th birthday, hope you’re having a Beautiful Day and know how Priceless you are to God Himself and to all who know and love you.

32 Years Married – a Montage of Pictures and Thoughts of Our Life Together – Thus Far

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

[Adapted from previous blog – August 3, 2014 – a bit of a long read – but the words keep coming sometimes.]

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

How can we be as young as we are and be married 32 years? Maybe we don’t seem so young to others…but these years seem to have zoomed by.  The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us.

First encounter – at church on a Sunday in January. My first Sunday in New Haven, Ct. I thought he was from the Middle East – standing with a group of other students – tall, dark, and (yep) handsome. Later I would find he had a native American, not Middle Eastern, background.

Two friends –  walking through the snow to a Yale-Cornell basketball game – that would become our first date. I was in my early 30s by then and pretty much had put marriage out of my mind. Life was good enough. I was teaching in the nursing program at Yale University, and Dave was a graduate student in the chemistry department. We were friends…and then friendship grew into love. Debbie & Dave

A Marriage Born Out of Prayer – This young man who grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland had a praying mother. He grew up hunting and fishing and excelling academically, and she prayed for just the right wife for him. I don’t understand how all this works, but I’m thankful for Julia and for this son she raised so well.IMG_0050

Birth of our first-born – This man so unsure and almost dreading being a father. Liking life the way it was…and then she was born. She turned this bass-fishing, prison visiting, analytical chemist into a complete softie.

IMG_0021scan0010

That day in March, when Christie was born, he became a Dad and continues to pray and support his kids…not intrusively, but always there for them. Always there.

Life Overseas – For over 15 years, we lived in North Africa. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco. It was an incredible experience. Living, working, raising our kids, and being in community in those places and with their peoples. I will always be grateful for Dave’s leadership. From leading our little family to a time when he was leading a division (100 people or so) in his work. He takes seriously the responsibilities in his charge…

Dave’s a quiet man. Some in our lives have suggested his quietness made him seem scary, or unengaged, or disinterested. Not at all. This man in my life, this friend forever, is always thinking… I count on his thinking things through…even when he’s struggling personally or wrestling with a difficult situation. Completely approachable. He also reaches out, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways for him…as in a different language/culture and when the stakes are too high to wait for another to intervene.

From our days of dating right through to today, his heart’s desire is to do the right thing, to honor God with his life… Our years living outside the US were both wonderful and hard times of God sharpening that resolve.22Dave & Debbie & Kids in Egypt (2)IMG_0004 (14) - CopyJul 03 #2 08642

Hardest Experience Living Overseas [essential sidebar] – The search, through Egypt’s Sinai, for a precious girl, lost from us in a moment when a bus crashed. Dave’s courage and determination to do what he could to make right a terrible wrong will always be with me, as a reminder of his character and care of someone we both loved very much.2007 - Feb -- Dave & Boys2005 December - Christmas with Mills & Halls 089a (2)2009 August 25th Wedding Anniversary in Paris 128Blog - Dave & Dan

So many shared memories of good friends, beautiful spaces, happy times and sad.

These Two Years’ Experience in the US – This is really more a timeline than a singular event. Since our 30th anniversary, these two years have been a journey of rediscovering the immeasurable grace of God through both a difficult and joyous season of our lives. The joy relates to the addition to our family of two tiny persons – a granddaughter and a grandson. To watch my husband around them exactly portrays how grandchildren make us young again. The hard times relate to work – for me, “not working anymore” (early retirement? Not ready). For Dave, huge changes in his job which he also wasn’t quite ready for…but, hey, thankfully still employed . These changes come with this season of life for some of us…and they are part of God’s work in our lives, I believe.

Another hard thing for us on the eve of this anniversary was a surgery and cancer diagnosis. Now almost fully recovered, I have had another glimpse of this man’s kindness. Never before, even with years practicing cancer nursing, has it ever dawned on me what it must be like for the husband. For him to sit alone with the news of cancer that he must share with his wife on her waking after surgery. That courage and that care. God continues to use hard things to carve the heart of this man into an even more malleable thing.2005 Summer -- ILC & Delaware Family 089aDave April 2016

Whatever these 32 years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the 2 cherished engrafted children who’ve joined our family). Alongside of them is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.2012 December family snapshot 014

I will always be grateful to God for bringing Dave into my life – for our marriage and the family Dave brought with him, and for the family we have together, now including two darling grandchildren. So much joy.MomMom, MamaLu, Dave, & Christie - 4 Generations[Four Generations – Dave, his mom and MamaLu, and Christie]Mills Men - 4 generations - July 17 2016 - Dave, Nathan, PopPop, Titus[Four Generations – Dave, his dad, Nathan, and Titus]

I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 32 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one at his side as he extends himself to others. Dave & Debbie July 2014

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. And whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this our 32nd. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

Brad Hambrick – Great Marriage & Family Counselor – Marriage Helps Online

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

A Prayer for Young Moms of Little Ones

2014 Phone pics July-December 034 Jesus declared, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Years ago, during a Nile Cruise with friends, we had the opportunity to visit a hospital in Aswan, Egypt.  Across the entryway into the maternity ward were these words, written in Arabic and English: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” When Jesus spoke those words, I can’t help but think He also had young moms (and moms-to-be) in mind. The young moms in my life have been on my mind a lot this week.  [See previous blog.] Such a big job, and yet such a bigger God.

Would you pray with me for the young moms in your life?

Dear God,

Thank You for life…and for how You bring it to be through the bodies of Your daughters. These brave young women who carry little ones to term and then continue to carry them in their hearts forever. Keep them close to You, Lord, through all that takes their sleep, their energy, their breath. We are so grateful that You never leave us or forsake us – whether in the wee hours of morning feedings or the late nights of troubling fever. Wrap Your arms around these sweet mamas as they lean on You for help in these moments…moments when there’s no one else really to tag in for them to take their place.

Oh Father, give them wisdom…how to lead their little ones not just to be engineers or fire fighters or moms themselves, but to be followers of God. Help these moms to love You with all their hearts and to teach their little ones to do the same.

When You spoke through Moses to the children of Israel, You must have had young mothers on Your heart. You knew they would need all sorts of reminders to redeem teachable moments, for themselves and their/Your smallest disciples. God, help them to surround themselves with Your Word and remembrances of You. Refresh them with the Truth through their day in the relentless responsibility of caring for children. Restore the joy of their salvation, Lord.

WP_20140406_005

God, guard them from small lives and trivial pursuits. They are staking out the future of Your Kingdom through their investment in these little lives. Hannah comes to mind who prayed for a child and then gave Him back to You after he was weaned. God, may we remember always that these, our children, belong to You. Make them fit for Your Kingdom’s purposes. Help us all as moms, and especially young ones, have a long view of the future. Give us grace to see.

IMAG0115

Father, thank You that Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light. It doesn’t always seem so in the daily work of life – for moms working in the home and moms also working outside the home. Help us trust what You tell us about ourselves, Yourself and Your ways. In the midst of cooking, cleaning, and caring for these little ones, encourage Your young daughters with glimpses of glory. Help them to lean in to You, Father. Thank You, that You are there for them.

IMAG0755 (2)

And finally, God, I pray for the Church to be very real for these young moms. Help them to see that we are more like Jesus, with them, than without them. Help us to be there for them in concrete, life-giving ways. Call us to pray daily for the young families in our community. Lord, help us to serve them in ways that bring us all closer to each other and especially closer to You. Father, also, give these young moms clarity about how much we need them, too. How encouraged I am each week to hear their stories and to see them determined to be intentional in their walk with You, teaching their little ones to do likewise. Thank You, for the grace You give to them to continue to serve their church and community, even in seemingly small ways. God, I remember how hard this was when I had young children. Thank You for Your faithfulness in our lives. We marvel at Your love.

Lord, we know too well that this season of small ones is so brief. We have such a short time really to teach our children how to walk with You in this world. Thank You for these young moms who keep their eyes on You and on their little ones at the same time. Whew! It’s no small thing, Father. Thank You for their sake…and for ours.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Lisa-Jo Baker Surprised by Motherhood

Ann Voskamp A Holy Experience

Moms in Prayer

YouTube scene from film Moms’ Night Out – “You just be you, He’ll take care of the rest.”

 

 

 

The Season of Small Ones – Mothering, God, & Gandalf

022

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9

All the years of mothering have stretching bits, but the season of small ones was my most challenging. I was struck all over again just this weekend at the exquisite work of parenting. At our house church gathering, there were all these little guys weaving in and out around the tree-like adults in their way. Little ones belonging to three moms, pregnant with their next precious babies. A houseful of life and love and breath-taking responsibility.

I woke up the next morning thinking about those moms and others like them – holding the future in their arms.  What a gift children are – a heritage of the Lord (Psalm 127:3) – and what an important charge we’ve been given in training them up (Proverbs 22:6).  As moms, every day is on-the-job training for us, too, as we sort out how to guide  our children in setting their feet on course with God. We disciples making wee disciples.

scan0007

When we brought our first-born home from the hospital, we basked in the miracle of her. Then a few days into mothering , I sat with her in my lap, crying my eyes out. Some of it, most probably, related to post-partum hormones, but mostly I was undone by the weight of responsibility of caring for her…and trying to do it “right”. My husband was sitting across the room, taking in all this mystery of a beautiful baby girl and a wife weeping. I asked him, “What if something happens to her?!” He leaned in, with newborn tenderness, and reasoned with me, “If we only had her for a week, it’s a week of more joy than we’ve ever known before. We have to trust her with God.” From that moment on, we have been daily doing that transaction with the Lord – praying for our children and laying them back in His arms. They are, after all, His.

God calls us to remember for a reason. In the remembering, He gives us the clarity to see that He is always with us and especially in this season of small ones. I want to write more on this, but for now, young moms, take courage. In all the craziness of your day, with all that pulls at your time and attention, God sees you. He stands in the battle for you. Be strong in the Lord. We fight for our children in an alien culture that we call home, and we are not alone. God is with us today, and He will be with them in their future. Remember that, and teach them that.

I picture us moms, in a small way, like Gandalf in the LOTR Fellowship of the Ring scene. He stands valiantly between his small band of “children” and the terrible Balrog. His words resonate with my heart to protect and prepare my children – not just for their sake but for their future – for the Kingdom purposes God has for them. At the end of that scene, when it appeared Gandalf lost his life in that battle, his charges, sad but safe, turned and pushed on with their mission.  They had learned well from their teacher. Moms, “you are braver than you think…for the Lord your God is with you wherever you [and your children] go.”

Lisa-Jo Baker’s Book Surprised by Motherhood

Youtube video of LOTR Fellowship of the Ring – Gandalf Faces the Balrog

 

 

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker’s Must-Read for All Women and the Bravest of Men

Blog - Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker

I just finished re-reading Surprised by Motherhood, because I wanted to write about it,  When I first heard about this book, this Spring, it wasn’t a title that would have captivated me. My children are grown now. Yet, I am surrounded by mothers and see them doing battle to raise their children up to know God and to be honoring in their relationships and responsibilities. I also see the battle fatigue in parenting, in mothering. Lisa-Jo Baker wrote this book for you, Dear Ones. Surprised by Motherhood is not a “how to” book; it is a “go through” book –  a story of life and family and God in the midst. You will find it full of shared experience; wrestling with what’s important; discovering joy in the chaos; laughing and crying and resting in Him.

Lisa-Jo Baker is a real woman – bright, funny, intuitive, and capable. I also envision, from her writing and the images on her blog, that she struggles with our same messy stuff of life that comes with little ones. Sticky table-tops, full laundry baskets, and very public, sometimes embarrassing displays of emotion by our kiddos. Yet, as you read, she speaks grace on herself, and on you.

I like her. We both are third-culture adults (people whose hearts are knit to two continents, at least). We both see God in the craziness of our lives…and have grown closer to Him as moms. We both have two sons and a daughter, and our passionate second-born sons have taught us both the most about ourselves. We both had children in our later 30’s. Our hearts have also been broken by the terrible problem of human trafficking in the world, and we want to change that. We have both spent much of our lives without our moms, her more years than me, but I resonate with that heart-ache of missing them. Her mom-in-law and I are both Debbies and we both pray for our children. I’m glad Lisa-Jo has such a woman in her life.

If you’re not a mom, or if you’re a man who has actually read thus far, I hope you’ll consider this book as well. There is so much to gain from her story. I leave you with just a taste in her own words:

About her mom: “She made room for people, so I never noticed how the house looked or what food she was serving. I saw how they all wanted to be with her. People stayed. The kids swam. Watermelons were split for dessert.” (p.23)

About church: “When I was growing up, church was a consistent, resilient heartbeat for our family…Church was a love language that spoke peace and comfort and home over my childhood.” (p. 32-33)

About a friend who entered their grief at the death of her mom: “Alex blew into the kitchen where we were trying to decide if we were hungry. The world felt like it was underwater, and it was hard to stand up, impossible to make decisions…We sat around that old pine table…as he cut hunks of bread, spread out meats and cheeses and tomato slices, and fed our empty parts. I didn’t know I was hungry until he arrived.” (p. 48-49)

About her 2y/o Micah who clung to her at church (and most all the time): “I rocked him and sang praise for his Maker…And suddenly, all those great and powerful phrases like ‘sacrifice’ and ‘loves like a hurricane’ and ‘blessed be the name of the Lord’ took on Technicolor meaning. With this boy wrapped in my arms, clinging to me, I understood what the God parent feels for me. To die for this love – yes, it made sense…In the music, in the rocking of the baby who was becoming a boy, I poured out my gratitude. And my arms – how they ached with the weight of it.” (p. 128-9)

On lessons learned in parenting – “I didn’t know I was selfish until I had kids…But I believe God loves us too much to leave us flailing in our self-centered universes, so He delivers these tiny reflections of ourselves into our homes with earthquake effectiveness…Oh God, how I need You.” (p. 187-188)

There is so much love in this book. So much acceptance. So much real. I hope you pick up a copy and read the story of Lisa-Jo’s journey into motherhood, and through motherhood to a deeper walk with God and a sweet healing place for herself and her family…that is available to all of us Surprised by Motherhood…or just life itself.

Meet Lisa-Jo Baker – your cheerleader, friend, sister

Surprised by Motherhood Book Club – First 3 Chapters Free

(In)courage – “A bit like a beach house – a place where women could feel welcome without pretense, valued just the way they are. A place where we could put our sandy, dirty feet up on the coffee table and tell our real, hard stories. A place where people would listen. A place where women were brave enough to be vulnerable.”

Mighty – Mother’s Day Video by JourneyBox Media

30 Years Married – a Walk with God as Much as With Each Other

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

How can we be as young as we are and be married 30 years? Maybe we don’t seem so young to others…but these years seem to have zoomed by.  The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us.

IMG_0001 (5)

Our marriage has never been the stuff that draws much interest on Instagram  or even Facebook. My husband and I married best friends. We were polar opposites in most ways, except our faith and being raised in Southern families. He was “read and follow directions” marrying “fly by the seat of her pants.” It was definitely a match made in Heaven because we would need the God of Heaven to keep us on course as we figured marriage out…both without and, later, with children.

IMG_0009 (2)

I’ve often quoted Elisabeth Elliot on love and marriage. Two thoughts come to mind. She speaks of love as being a “laid-down life.” She also talks of marriage as being good for Christians to mature in their walk with God, because [in marriage] “there’s so much scope for sinning.” My husband has taught me a lot in both of these areas, and I, him – hopefully more on the lines of laying down our lives for each other, rather than the scope for sinning part…sigh.2005 December - Christmas with Mills & Halls 089a (2)

Whatever these thirty years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the extra children who’ve joined our family through them, so far). Alongside of them is the inalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.2012 December family snapshot 014

I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 30 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one on his side as he extends himself to others. Dave & Debbie July 2014

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. And whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this eve of our 30th. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

Brad Hambrick – Great Marriage & Family Counselor – Helps Online

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

 

Your Work Matters to God: Staying on Course Through Life’s Seasons

IMG_0068

Being a nurse was my ambition since childhood. I would wake up from dreams of helping at some accident scene or comforting a wounded soldier fresh from the battlefield.  Those dreams, though wildly romantic at the time, actually preceded real life situations as time passed. Nursing became a platform for a career full of purpose and meaning. I completed my formal nursing education with a Master’s in Medical-Surgical Nursing, with a concentration in Cancer Nursing. My grand idea of going out and changing the world was rapidly unfolding.

Fast-forward to a decade later. Married and pregnant with our second child, I had my feet firmly planted in two worlds. One was nursing, and the other was being a wife and mom. We were living in a mid-sized town, and I was the clinical nursing specialist for a highly regarded cancer center. It was some of the most rewarding work of my life – to be a part of a great group of nurses and serving patients and families in intense situations. It was a consummately gratifying work season for me.

In fact, just as I was nearing the time of delivery of my little one, the president of the medical center called me in asked if I would consider being the director of the cancer center. It was an offer of a lifetime.

My husband did not think so. While I was intoxicated with all the feelings of approval and appreciation from that job offer (some of that could have been my pregnancy hormones), he helped me come to my senses. From the beginning of our marriage, we had worked out the values we wanted as a family. We would be judicious in our finances and he would work toward my being able to stay home with our children. I wanted this as much as he did…in the beginning. When we had our first child however, I was still so in love with my career that I managed to cajole him into agreeing with my continuing to work outside the home 20 hours a week.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love our daughter completely; I did with all my heart. Mothering and keeping a home, however, were much harder for me than any challenge I faced at work. One component of that was the whole team aspect of my workplace. We sorted out things together. I loved that. At home, far from our families, I felt very much alone with figuring out things, facing my inadequacies and insecurities at raising a child. In reality, God was always there; once I corrected my focus, I experienced Him there.

When we conceived our second child, my husband and I had re-visited our commitments to family. We had again decided that this time around I would stay home with our two precious ones. This time, I wasn’t going to look back. Then this job offer came along. My husband’s reply that I remember to this day was, “Ask him if he had a mother.”

So…I said no to that job, and yes to homemaking and fulltime mothering for the too short season it turned out to be. Not every woman reading this has had that opportunity, and I understand. What I came away with was two careers, both of which, once I embraced that each has its season, have been sources of great joy. Someone else can direct the business of a cancer center. I had the opportunity to mother our kiddos fulltime, and I’m thankful God gave me that season at home with them.

 

Our House…as I Dream It to Be

2012 December Christmas in Delaware 066Welcome!  Come on in!  Of course, you’re no trouble. So glad you could come.  It’s been too long.  No, you don’t have to take off your shoes.  Come on in!  Please!

Our house loves drop-ins.  You are always welcome here.  The front door with its beveled glass window that lets all kinds of light through invites you in.  The entranceway always smells like cooking or candles.  Like we were just waiting for you to ring the doorbell.  Your coat fits easily on the hall-tree; a hook is ready to receive it.

You can sit wherever you please.  There are comfy armchairs with ottomans for tired feet, deep worn couches perfect for naps, and soft carpet in front of the fireplace with pillows for those who prefer the floor.  With a flip of a switch, the room glows with firelight.

The kitchen is just beyond the living room.  Big and spacious with room to feed a whole crew of farm workers, and yet cozy enough for just two for tea.  There’s a crystal bowl of apples in the center of the wide table.  The coffee is fresh and strong, or you can have a cup of tea, if you prefer.  Somewhere the scent of cinnamon and vanilla tells you that someone in this house baked just for you… Conversation flows easily at this table as we sip and savor what’s before us.

When we retire to the living room, the front door bursts open with more to love.  Coats & boots off, and little curly-haired lads and lassies enter the room with all sorts of stories of the day’s adventures.  They tumble all over each other, trying to finish one story after another, but details are lost, as they become aware of company.  Then they pull themselves up and march over to say hello and to inquire about your health.  Well-trained, yes, but lovely in their own right…so fresh from Heaven, these little surprising ones.

Should you stay the evening, we will set dinner.  Not wanting to miss a moment of your visit, the slow-cooker tended the meal.  We will eat in candlelight.  There will be music…and laughter.

Then, the little ones and their parent (or two, whomever was able to come) will roll out of the house as noisily as they came in. Generous kisses and hugs mixed with the protests that they’re not tired.  There’s comfort for all that they’ll be back soon.

Should you stay the night, we will offer you your pick of bedrooms off the main rooms of the house.  There are rooms for young couples with large generous beds.  Simple rooms fitting the tastes of those young adults who come home for the night sometimes, just for fun.  Then there are fantastical rooms for the grandchildren…full of costumes, dolls and cars, books, and animal figurines.  All ages have a place here.  The older ones become young again in these rooms.

If the weather allows, we may breakfast on the porch.  The birds will keep you company and whatever we have will seem a feast when we take it outside.  The world opens up to us, on that porch, as the tree branches move lazily in the breeze, and we rock in the swing.  Time seems to stop…or slow down, for sure.

2010 Sep Delaware 020

It’s time to leave?  Oh, look at the time!  How did that happen?  Well, you know your way here, and you always have a home here with us. Come back soon.  Our house…is your house.

What’s your house like? Or as you dream it to be?