Hope and Stay

I’ve moved this blog to a new location and given it a new name: Hope and Stay.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I started abigail’s leftovers. I had immediate name regret when I began the blog on a bit of a whim in 2008, but figured it didn’t really matter. And in the scheme of things, it doesn’t. But to me, it does.

I want the name of my blog to reflect what’s important in life and why I’m blogging. Of course, Hope and Stay may not make it blatantly obvious for readers, but it is to me. And I need that reminder. I explain more of the name and purpose for my blog, which I’d never articulated really clearly, over in the about section of the new one.

All my content from here is now there. You’re more than welcome to subscribe to Hope and Stay, which you can do there, if you don’t want to miss a post. As always, I really enjoy feedback and conversation. Hopefully that will happen at the new spot. If not, I’ll keep on making crazy gestures and overtures that point myself to the Lord in the form of words (and occasional pictures). HE is what this blogging thing and everything is all about.

Leave a comment

Filed under everyday

why I don’t pray (much) for my girls’ future husbands

Now that I’ve exposed myself a bit shockingly, let me soften the blow. I do pray occasionally that my girls be blessed by a happy marriage with a man who is Christ-centered and Bible-loving to the core.

But not very often.

The simple answer why not is two-part: because I have no idea if they will have husbands and because having a husband isn’t the most important thing for them.

I also don’t pray for my daughter’s future children, because I don’t know if she’ll have them.

You may wonder if I’m saying that having a husband is a bad thing? No. Obviously. I’m happily married and grateful to be.

Am I saying I don’t want my girls to get married? No. I would be very pleased if they got married. Do I want them to have children if they’re married? Yes. But, just because marriage and family are the common way God does things doesn’t mean that it will happen for my kids.

What I’m saying is, is that praying for marriage and a spouse isn’t the highest thing I can pray for my girls. What do I communicate about my priorities for them by praying that? That I’m happily married and want the same blessing for them?  Hopefully. That marriage and families are a good design of God to pass the faith onto the next generation? Hopefully. But I also may subtly give them the message that singleness is second best. Or unthinkable, at worst.

I’ve never heard a mother say that she’s praying that her daughter will have a life of happy singleness and single-minded devotion to the Lord. Yet, Paul desires us to be single and says it’s a good thing. Nor have I heard a mother pray that for her son. If I heard a woman doing that, I would think, “I sure hope she’s not disappointed if she ends up as a mother-in-law to some poor girl.”

The Bible is clear that both marriage and singleness are good. Gen 2:18 “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” Eccl. 4:9 “Two are better than one..” 1 Cor. 7:8 “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” 1 Cor. 7:38 “So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.”

I like this as a summary from Paul on singleness: “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” 1 Corinthians 7:7

So, what would Paul make of us praying for our children’s future spouses or for them to be married and mothers? Much more than that, how do those prayers fall on the ears of our Lord? Are they the pleasing aroma of moms who love their God so much that all other loves look like hate in comparison? Or, does God hear a perversion of a created order? Has an idol been erected in place of a good gift? Are we asking God for married daughters and godly future spouses because we secretly believe that this is the ULTIMATE thing for them to have. Not Jesus.

Praying for future marriage and motherhood seems so far down the line, when I think of the high things I can pray for my kids, things that are undoubtedly part of God’s revealed moral will. I want them to know GOD! I want them to look on Jesus and see Him clearly, as the Savior, not as a fool or a figment of imaginations! I want them to be KEPT until the final day! I want their lives to be hidden with Christ in God! Marriage and mothering, while good and usual, have no bearing on these things.

Our culture has told us that Love is the great pursuit. Romantic love without boundaries; marriage is unnecessary. Find your Soul Mate and you’ll have found the One True Thing. Christians have tweaked this to make Love in Marriage the idol. And in conservative circles we may tack mothering on as an extension of that. Marriage and mothering become the main goal. They’re not. They flow out of the main goal, which I already have: I belong to Christ, everything else about me is just details. Details that matter practically for my life, but details none the less.

Now, I’ll start with my disclaimers. I’m not saying that marriage is not meaningful. It is a picture of the Gospel. I’m not saying that motherhood isn’t a high calling. Is it ever! And for those who have been blessed with marriage and mothering, we will, for all practical purposes, spend ourselves on these two things for most or all of our life. That’s good and right and we don’t take it lightly. He put us in the role, after all.

I love the mom blogs. I love the inspiration from wives and mothers who are sacrificing themselves for the sake of others. The “others” in a wife and mom’s life is often her family. There is eternal weight and significance in this. We sacrifice for our families because of who we are in Christ, not the other way around.

And singles also pour out themselves for the sake of others. It just isn’t for their husband or kids. It might be their parents, their siblings, their nieces, nephews, their neighbors, or the nations. Both matter. They overlap. They may look practically different, but at the core, if you’re a believer, you’ll be poured out for other people. And filled up. And poured out. And filled up.

We cannot assume that marriage and motherhood are God’s choice for our daughter–even though both will necessarily be more common as ordinances of creation. I will not presume to train them (only) for a career as a stay-home mom. They may not be moms at all. And if singleness is what God has for them I want to be able to look them in the eye without flinching and say, “Praise God. He has dealt kindly with you and I’m so happy you’re single.” And to do the same thing if they marry.

Growing up and attending weddings I heard young women say that their parents had prayed every night for their future husband. The point was: “Look, it worked! Praise God for this happy ending.” Now, I’m not saying that’s wrong. It may even be right. It depends on how the parent’s prayed it and whether the getting of the godly husband was the penultimate or a hope in subject to God’s will.

If you’re going to pray for your girls’ future husband, there should be a lot of “if’s” in there. “Lord, if it’s your will for my daughter to be married, won’t you give her a husband who loves You and is a man of the Book?! And if she’s to be single, won’t You satisfy her with more and more of Yourself for her joy and Your namesake?!”

I’ll end by encouraging myself and you to pray bigger, more immediate things for your girls’ than mainly for the unknown possibility of a future spouse. We have a faithful God. If our children end up married (and many will) and we didn’t spend their preschool years praying for their husband, we can start once they actually have a beau. He will hear those johnny-come-lately prayers. And I think He’ll be honored by the heart that prized Him as greater than all His gifts and ordinances. He is the Great Reward.

Wouldn’t mind some feedback or pushback on this. What do you think?

3 Comments

Filed under body of Christ, everyday, family, kiddos

turning two!

Evangeline Joy turned two on Saturday. Hurray for two year olds!

Here are the top ten things of her past year, according to her mom:

1) Words! Sentences almost! It’s amusing to hear you speak. You can hold your own in a conversation. You say things with conviction. “Mom, look!” “Mom, outside!” “Mom, milk!” And, of course, the ne’er to oft spoke, “Peeeaase.”

2) You can run, but you especially like to gallop. Your Nana says you run but that your feet don’t touch the ground. It’s true, you’re very light on your feet. Speaking of feet, you love wearing other people’s shoes.

3) Swinging, ah, swinging! You follow in Elianna’s path in your love for swinging. You’re particular about how high you go. Come to think of it, you’re particular about a great many things.

4) You enjoy your cousin Johanna. Two weeks her senior, you act like it’s two years sometimes. You seem to enjoy being in charge. You’re also blessed with a few little friends who are less apt to let you take charge of them.

5) You like to sing and dance. You’ve got some mean moves. And your little voice is sweet and pleasant.

6) Your siblings are your best friends and the source of frequent consternation. Li-la (Eliza), La-na (Elianna), and Ses (Seth) meet your every need and are quick to give you what you want if you make a slight request. They are also able to do many things that you think you ought to be able to do, thus the consternation. Like, dressing yourself:

7) You have a ban-kee (blanket). Since you never took a nuk, it’s a bit of a relief for me that you have something that comforts you when you’re taking a nap or going to sleep.

8) Your favorite food is string cheese–at least when ice cream isn’t available. Here’s you with your first ponytail and string cheese. Bonus.

9) You turned a big corner about 8 months ago when you started being very good about going to the nursery at church. Prior to that I thought you might never go, it was so traumatic. But now, by all reports you do well. And you greet me with the biggest grin and excitement when I come to get you.

10) You love your daddy. You and he have a special bond. He delights in you and you in him. You love to call out his name when you wake up in the morning.

Dear Evangeline Joy, I’m so thankful for your life. You have been a gift through and through. Your life has brought such laughter and levity to our days. My prayer for you is that you will have a bond with your Father in heaven that goes deeper than any human bond. That you will seek Him and call His name each morning and that He will answer you out of His great kindness. May you make the name of Jesus known among the nations and the neighborhoods–I pray you would never be ashamed of our great God.

4 Comments

Filed under everyday, family, kiddos

a place to dwell secure

I’m sick. Nothing big, just run of the mill stuff. Anyway, I thought I’d show you how God met me today in His Word. He meets me everyday with choicest food, then He sustains me as I talk with Him through the day. He satisfies my longings and speaks to the littleness of my life–He does it all through His Word. He’s a good God. I can trust Him. So can you.

Whenever I’m sick it reminds me that I’m going to die. That should be obvious, but sometimes I forget. So, the Lord said this to me, to increase my security and love for Him:

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling..” 1 Cor. 5:1,2

Also, we’ve been house hunting, which can be a bit consuming, and the Lord gave me this truth to uphold me and make me marvel at His utter Other-ness and Steadfastness. He is high in His ways!

“Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.” Ps. 102:25-28

Do you see what God did there? He brought two perfect Truths, right out of His mouth spoken to my mind and heart. He brought them to bear on my life. They dovetail perfectly. Day after day He does this, because that’s the kind of God He is.

Hear the Word of the Lord and praise Him, for He is our dwelling place forever!

Note: These passages come from Day 103 of the ESV Study Bible plan. I’m about a week behind, but the Lord knew exactly what I would read on this day, and according to Him, I’m right on track.

Leave a comment

Filed under body of Christ, everyday

let me count the (40) ways

“How do I love thee? Let me count the (40) ways.” -William Shakespeare

photo credit: Heather Ford

On Tom’s 40th birthday it seemed fitting to do just that. I make no apologies for sappiness. If it bothers you, skip to the bottom, where you can add your part.

40 ways I love Tom, in no particular order, on this, his 40th birthday:

1) I love your dark hair.

2) I love that you truly believe my scrambled eggs to be superior to any other.

3) I love that you let the kids intrude on your Bible reading and make them apart of it.

4) I love that you have a need for speed that’s hard-wired.

5) I love your excitement over the most boring, repetitive meals. And how you model thankfulness for our kids toward the maker of those boring, repetitive meals.

6) I love your desire to redeem the time– to be productive and love people through serving them well with technology.

7) I love that you’ll take risks, but not stupidly so. You count the cost.

8) I love how you sacrificially carry the weight of being the provider for our family.

9) I love that you still take your (1980s) skateboard out for a ride in the driveway.

10) I love that you have great sense of style, but still double check with me.

11) I love that you like crispy bacon, not chewy.

12) I love that you’ll always share a bite of food off your plate. You’re not possessive of your food (like I can be).

13) I love that you lead our family to the Word most evenings and encourage and teach the kids.

14) I love that you wear funky socks.

15) I love that you have 5 guitars. And you need more.

16) I love that you’ll talk football strategy with me like I know what I’m talking about.

17) I love what a good dad of girls you are. They will never wonder whether their dad thinks they’re smart or beautiful or capable.

photo credit: Heather Ford

18) I love that I never have to wonder whether you think I’m smart or beautiful or capable.

19) I love that even though you have a good sense of style, you are first and foremost practical and down to earth.

20) I love that you love camping and hiking and can identify trees and plants and other outdoorsy stuff.

21) I love your keen eye of observation. The bugs and birds and everything else you notice enriches our lives.

22) I love that your passion and love for Jesus drive your worship and the music and notes flow from that, not the other way around.

23) I love that worship is your life, everyday. That you lead us in song and praise everyday by example. Sunday isn’t a show for you, it flows from every other day of the week.

24) I love that you take good advice. And you throw bad advice in the trash can.

25) I love that you embarrass us and yourself frequently enough to strip away any pretense we might have.

26) I love how you’ve grown in your confidence as a businessman in the last 9 years. You have an amazing ability to change and grow.

27) I love how you see potential in me and the kids that we may not see for ourselves. Possibilities are endless in your mind. You have vision for our family.

28) I love that you encourage me to serve others and use my giftings for the edification of the body, without complaining about what it costs you. Like me being gone the evening of your 40th bday to sing for the women’s conference.

29) I love that you want our children to excel in their education and you’ll listen to all their achievements with delight.

30) I love that you have guided us toward routine and schedules. Yet you still make room for my go-with-the-flow spontaneous bent.

31) I love that you are not guided by what’s familiar or comfortable, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.

32) I love that you’ll let me talk politics at you. And you even dare to talk back.

33) I love that you value family and friendships. You sacrifice and follow-up and love and give and laugh and enjoy and take. Our relationships are richer because of you.

34) I love that you roll down the windows and yell when we drive through a tunnel.

35) I love your guitar playing skills. I love that you glorify God with spice and grit and clear tones.

36) I love that your life is a life of ministry of Jesus, the Word and the Gospel, even though it isn’t your job.

37) I love that you love having people in our home.

38) I love that you’ll watch The Lord of the Rings an infinite number of times with me. And that you’re watching Downton Abbey with me.

39) I love that your a great dad to our son. I love that he wants to be like you and you’re a man worth imitating.

photo credit: Heather Ford

40) I love that I’m already on #40 and I could have easily gone to 400.

This is such a small bit of thankfulness from me to you, dear. I love you mainly because you’re you. You’re made by God and you’re His child. And when we die, we will not marry or be given in marriage, but we will worship Him together forever. A continuation of what we’re doing now. I hope that when we’re seated around the throne, beholding His glory, that my seat will be by you, with our voices lifted to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

For the readers out there who know and love Tom, anything to add?

3 Comments

Filed under everyday, family

singing Hosanna at home with the least of these

Illness is no respecter of holy days. Vomit does not keep a calendar. If it did, I’d be at church on Palm Sunday, not home with a baby and bodily fluids.

Mommas everywhere know the nagging disappointment of missing church, again, because illness has taken captive a little person’s body under your care. It’s especially tough during the holidays. No watching your other children sing their little hearts out in choir. No hugs with friends with that extra tight squeeze to let  each other know you care. No joyous trumpets announcing the coming King. And no palm branches waving with loud Hosannas praising–Jesus.

The desire to be with the people of God, to worship Jesus among them, to receive the preaching of the Word like a fire hose for my thirsty soul–these are good desires. And God delights to give me these gifts for my good and welfare. They are necessary blessings, which he regularly grants and ordains. But they are not what God planned for my Palm Sunday.

This morning, my sanctuary had laundry strewn about from the previous evening’s emesis, an all too perky Christian radio station blaring, and consisted of myself and one pale-faced, somber, little one. Rather than hearing the sweet voices of the children’s loud, “Hosanna!” the Lord received the praise of a weak-voiced thirty-something, whose Hosanna rang with tears and wet hair and slippers.

Elisabeth Elliot said, “This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

Can we mommas, at home with sick children, missing the preaching and fellowship of the body, say, “Amen!” to this? Do we believe that God withholds no good thing from us? That He is working this all out in a way that actually draws us deeper into Him and into greater satisfaction and peace? Do we trust that as we give good things to our sick babies at home because we love them that God the Father is giving us a fish, not a serpent, because He loves us all the more?

In the Sunday mornings at home, the Lord delights to give me bread, not a stone. He feeds me the bread by His Word. He ministers tenderly to my spirit by allowing me to fulfill His commands to the least of these: my sick, small, completely dependent and helpless baby. This child, for whom I would gladly give my life, I am privileged to sacrifice for on these mornings.

The Lord has poured out His wrath on His Son. His Son has sacrificed on my behalf. And it has been granted to me to lovingly care for my children with the strength of love by which Christ endured the cross. That is a powerful love.

So, mommas and daddies, and all those for whom God has ordained a time away from the presence of His people on Sunday or Saturday night, we can take heart in our loving Good Shepherd, who tends to us wherever we are—in our laundry-filled living rooms or rocking little babies, in our slippers or our Sunday clothes.

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will gather them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11

3 Comments

Filed under body of Christ, everyday, kiddos

the miraculous sermons in my front yard

A couple of weeks back I was cleaning out flower beds. That, in itself, is a minor miracle, considering it was mid-march in Minnesota.

As I raked out a few leaves and pulled off dead stuff, I had no expectation of seeing growth–none whatsoever. So imagine my surprise when I saw this.

Image

Amazing right? I had been lulled to sleep by winter, but these little shoots jolted me awake to the reality that God had done it again. He made life come out of the ground. Spring does not usually catch me by surprise, (at least not since I’ve lived in MN and so desperately longed for it) but this year, it did.

Now comes one of the sermons my front yard provided.Image

Can you see it? It looks kind of watery, but it wasn’t. It was pure ice. There were green shoots growing straight through a block of ice attached to the ground.

Just look at it! Leftover death in the form of the long brown leafy things and present death in the form of the ice. And the small green shoot is the miracle of new birth in Christ amidst it all screaming at me to take notice. That shoot is saying, “LOOK at me! This is what happened to you when God quickened life into your dead and sinful heart!” And that is a true testimony. Out of past death and present darkness my new heart was born through Christ.

And here’s sermon number two, just a foot and half away from sermon number one.

Image

Yep, that’s a thistle. Oooo, I hate them. I pulled this one out with my bare hand. Because sometimes I need to know what sin feels like to my skin. I can mask what it feels like in my heart, but when it makes my hand bleed, there’s no denying it. And the thistle did its God given job of yelling, “Sin isn’t a soft pet that you keep and coddle. It’s prickly and voracious. It is a living, spreading death.”

Our God, El Roi, The God Who Sees, sees us in every little thing we do, and His creation testifies to greater things than mere shoots and thistles. Do I have eyes to see what the Father has revealed in His spoken world? Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear!

“’Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”   Mark 4:3-9

1 Comment

Filed under body of Christ, everyday