Mothering, Musings, Studying God

Skipping naptime? Proceed to Hell.

Julie / December 1, 2012


Mommy, am I going to go to Hell because I didn’t take my nap?
–Ellie, age 4

I posted this little quote on Facebook yesterday and it gathered no comments or likes, and I deleted it again after realizing that it probably sounded really stark and silly at a single glance.  What bizarre theology am I teaching her that she could ask such a question—to be eternally punished because of a missed nap?

And it is a silly question, at first glance, but I understood what she meant and was struck by it deeply, and I wanted to write an entry to explain the context.  Because it’s a good question, and one I should be asking myself.

As adults we don’t have anyone telling us to take naps, obviously, but for Ellie, the issue was one of obedience.  She wasn’t trying very hard to take a nap.  She was allowing herself to be distracted—and, even worse, she was distracting her sister into disobedience as well—and so, after hours of my failed attempts to coerce her into obedience, and eventually proclaiming that naptime was over, her question was a logical one.  She was disobedient. Disobedience is a sin. Sinners go to hell.  Is she going to hell?

The thing that struck me about the conversation was her concern for eternity over what was, by any measure, a small sin.  It seems absurd on the surface; surely God doesn’t send people to hell because they got distracted during naptime, right?

Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”
(Ezekiel 18:30-32)

There’s the very obvious answer that jumps to mind, that God’s grace is sufficient for all our sins.  If Christ died for her sin of disobedience, then of course she is safe from hell.  And that’s true.  1 John 1:9 clearly applies.

But what Ellie meant in this instance—which I know from the broader context of conversations we’ve had recently—was, “Mommy, I disobeyed you on purpose. Is this a sign that Jesus doesn’t reign in me?”

In other words, she was working out her salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

We should be really concerned when we sin, because sin doesn’t come out of “a new heart and a new spirit.” It comes out of a heart that is “desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9).


The Righteous is Scarcely Saved

I’ve been profoundly convicted in the past few weeks as I read verse after verse after verse that makes it clear that our salvation teeters on the edge of a knife:

If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
(1 Peter 4:18)

“Scarcely saved.” Those are really scary words.  When I came upon them in a Bible study a few weeks ago, I was shocked and immediately went digging for help.  What does it mean, that we’re scarcely saved? The verse is in the context of suffering: “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2). This is where Christians live: even though we are still in the flesh we are no longer for human passions but rather for the will of God.  The passage talks about the means God uses to accomplish this work in our hearts—how the “human passions” are trained to be put away by suffering—but the theme is rampant throughout Scripture on a very large scale.  Earlier in 1 Peter (2:11), Peter writes that the “passions of the flesh… wage war against your soul.”  In 1 John 3:8-9, John says:

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil… No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

In Romans, Paul, too, writes:

How can we who died to sin still live in it? …We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin… Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions…. thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness… now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
(Romans 6:2-22)

Colossians 2:11 says that in Christ we have put “off the body of the flesh.”

All this to say, Christians stop sinning. Here. Now.  We are no longer slaves to sin. We no longer make a practice of sinning.  We no longer live for human passions.  Ever.  If we do, we’re not Christians.


Fully pleasing to Him

For Ellie, her disobedience was naptime, and she has to evaluate her heart and see if she’s living in the flesh, or if she was doing “the very thing [she] hate[s]” (Romans 7:15).  Does she hate her sin and repent and make herself “a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31) and is simply wrestling with the sinful flesh she still has, or is sin reigning in her?  Because even the sin of being disobedient to Mommy at naptime is not the mark of a holy heart.  There is no sin too small to escape eradication by the Spirit, no sin so small that it can persist in the face of grace.  Ellie is not commanded to live a mostly holy, mostly obedient life.  Colossians 1:10, “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  Even the Apostle Paul was worried about his sinful flesh disqualifying him from heaven: “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability…
(1 Corinthians 10:12-14)

…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
(Hebrews 12:1)

We don’t have to sin. By God’s grace and Christ’s blood, we are free from sin (Romans 6).  And if we are not being victorious over sin, Scripture tells us to be concerned about whether or not we are really being saved, or whether we “believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2).

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
(2 Corinthians 13:5)

So Ellie’s question really provoked me. Is it possible for a little tiny sin like disobedience at naptime to disqualify us from heaven? Yes! But as a grown-up, nobody is forcing me to take naps.  I had to stop and consider what my little sins might be. Something so little that I think it’s too insignificant for God to worry about…  Maybe my habit of reaching for a chocolate bar in response to stress rather than giving it all to God in prayer and hope.  Maybe when I carefully pick the perfect pictures to post on Facebook in hopes of obtaining man’s praise.  Maybe when I give in to exhaustion rather than being gracious and patient with my children. Maybe when I think my judgment is better than Seth’s, and more important than my following his lead. Maybe when I become preoccupied with one of my craft projects and fail to do a good job feeding my family and cleaning our house.  Maybe when I’m continually resistant to criticism, or continually falling into the habit of criticizing others or gossiping about their faults.  Maybe when I think that if I present the Gospel in just the right way, with just the right trappings and adornments, that I can convince people to follow Christ, rather than looking for the Spirit to work in their hearts by His simple truth.

I can’t live “for human passions” even a little bit.  Paul says, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:2) and that’s where I’ve got to live too.  There’s no room for “selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2:3), for ungracious speech (Colossians 4:6), or dishonorable conduct (1 Peter 2:12).  I can’t be one with the “appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). I can’t ever grumble or complain (Philippians 2:4). I can’t be quick to speak and slow to listen (James 1:19). Any one of these things is enough to disqualify me; any one of these things is enough to prove that my heart is not His, that sin still ensnares me, if I can’t (or don’t) lay it aside.  Small sins are reflective of an unrepentant heart, not the sign of a believing heart that has died to self and now lives in Christ (Colossians 3:3,5).

Holiness is not optional.  Even at naptime.  Even for a four-year-old.  I’m so thankful to God for the reminder.

Mothering, Old Wisdom, Wifehood

Duty of Parents to Children

Julie / November 26, 2012

Part Two of Julie attempting to make the Puritans more accessible to other sleepy mommies. (See Duty to Wives for a much wordier prelude.)  This is another piece from John Bunyan’s Christian Behavior.

If you are a parent—a father, or a mother—then you must consider your calling as a believer in light of that fact.  Your children have souls, and they must be born of God as well as born of you, or they will perish.  Further, unless you are very careful in your behavior to them and in front of them, they may perish because of you: this thought should provoke you to both instruct them and to correct them.

Instruct them as the Scripture says

To “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” and to do this diligently, “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Ephesians 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:7).  To this end:

  • Use terms and words that are easy to understand.  Don’t talk in pretentious flowery language; that will drown your children.  God spoke thus easily to His children (Hosea 12:10) and Paul to his (1 Corinthians 3:2).
  • Be careful not to fill their heads with imaginative and unprofitable things, for this will teach them to be imprudently bold and proud, rather than sober and humble.  Talk to them about the innate sinfulness of man; talk to them about sin, death, and hell; of a crucified Savior, and the promise of life through faith: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
  • Fill all your instruction with gentleness and patience, “lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). And,
  • Work to convince them by reasonable discussion, that the things you teach them are not fables but realities: not only that, but realities so far above what we can enjoy here, that all things, even if they were a thousand times better than they are, are still not worthy to be compared with the glory and worthiness of the things of God.  Isaac was so holy in front of his children, that when his son Jacob remembered God, he remembered Him as “the Fear of his father Isaac” (Genesis 31:53).  When children can think of their parents, and bless God for that instruction and good they have received from them, it is not only profitable for children, but also an honor and comfort to parents: “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him” (Proverbs 23:24-25).

The duty of correction

  • See if fair words will win them from evil.  This is God’s way with His children (Jeremiah 25:4, 5).
  • Let the words you speak to them in correction be sober, few, and pertinent, always adding some relevant sentence of Scripture; for instance, if they lie, then something like Revelation 21:8, 27; or if they refuse to hear the Word, something like 2 Chronicles 25:14-16.
  • Take care that they not be friends with those who are rude and ungodly, rather, with soberness show them a continual dislike of their naughtiness, and often cry out to them, as God did of old to His children, “Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!” (Jeremiah 44:4)
  • Mix everything you say with such love, pity, and a spirit of anxiousness, that as much as possible, you may convince them that your dislike is not of their person, but of their sin.  This is God’s way (Psalm 99:8).
  • Constantly try to impress upon them the day of their death and the judgment to come.  Thus God also deals with His (Deuteronomy 32:29).
  • If you are driven to physical punishment, be cautious and clear-headed, soberly showing them a) their fault; b) how contrary it is to your heart to deal with them in that fashion, c) that you do what you do out of conscience to God and in love of their souls, and d) telling them, that if they could have been won over by any other way, that the severe punishment would not have been.  In all this you will be sure to not only afflict their bodies, but also their hearts, and since it is the way God deals with His children, it is the most likely to accomplish the desired goal.
  • Pray. Follow all this with prayer for them, and leave the issue to God: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).

Things to avoid

  • Be sure that the sin which you try to correct is not one they learned from you.  Many children learn the sins of their parents, the very sins for which the parents beat and chastise.
  • Be careful not to smile at them for small faults, and encourage them, so that your behavior will not be an encouragement to them to commit even greater sins.
  • Don’t use unsavory and ugly words in your correction of them, such as railing at them, calling them names, and so on: this is of the devil.
  • Don’t mix chiding and threatening words with lightness and laughter: this will harden their hearts.  Don’t correct them too long or too often, but be relevant and very serious.
Mothering, Old Wisdom, Wifehood

The Duty of Wives

Julie / November 24, 2012

John Bunyan’s Christian Behavior is a marvelously useful little work.  Unfortunately, it is also hundreds of years old and difficult to read.  Here I attempt to modernize the most immediately relevant part, and I hope to continue and add on some of the other parts.  I have had to add phrases here and there and try to simplify some things, because I think Bunyan’s assumptions of his audience’s foreknoweledge is different and inaccurate for today’s audience, and I have also changed the Scripture text to the modern ESV (modernizing the old English seemed pointless when we have our own even more accurate translation available).  But I’ve tried to understand and put forth what Bunyan intended to communicate as accurately as my grasp of English allows, without adding or taking away anything on my own.  Let me only add that there is some very useful advice hiding in the “Objections” section even for us whose situation is far from objectionable.

First, let me speak to the wives.  The wife is bound by Scripture to her husband, as long as he lives (Romans 7:2).  Therefore her work and place is in the family.

Let me discuss the things which the wife should conscientiously observe in the way she treats her husband.

She must look upon him as her head and lord.

“The head of a wife is her husband” (1 Corinthians 11:3), and so Sarah called Abraham lord (1 Peter 3:6).

She should therefore be subject to him, as is fit in the Lord.

Paul says, “wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1; Colossians 3:18).  As I said earlier [in a different section of the book], if the husband walks toward his wife in a becoming manner, he will be an ordinance of God to her, in addition to the relation of a husband, that will show her how Christ loves His church.  Similarly, if the wife walks with her husband in a becoming manner, she will preach the obedience of the church to her husband. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:24).

Run away from these evil tendencies:

A wandering and gossiping spirit.

      This is evil in the church, and it is also evil in a wife, because she is the figure of a church.  Christ loves to have his spouse keep at home, i.e. to be with him in the faith and practice of His things – not to be ranging and meddling with the things of Satan.  So, too, wives should not be prone to wandering and gossiping outside their home.  Proverbs 7:11 says, “She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home.”  Wives should be about their husbands’ business at home, as Paul says, let them “be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands.”  Why?  So “that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:5).

An idle, talking, or squabbling tongue.

      This is an odious habit in all women, married or not, if they behave like parrots and do not control their tongues.  But the wife, who knows that her husband is her lord and over her just as Christ is over the church, should control her tongue.  Do you think it is good for the church to ramble and repeat nonsense against Christ rather than being silent before Him, looking to His laws, rather than inventing its own fictions?  Why should the wife behave any differently toward her husband? “Let a woman,” Paul writes, “learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).  It is a horrifying thing to see a woman so much as once in her life to strive to be over her husband; she ought in everything to be in subjection to him, and to do everything she does as if her ability, license, and authority is from her husband.  This is her glory, to be under him, just as the church is under Christ; “she opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26).

Taking on immodest apparel or behavior.

      This is evil both outside the home and inside.  Outside, it not only gives a poor example, but tempts others to lust and vulgar behavior.  In the home, it offends a godly husband, and encourages ungodliness in children.  So, “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,” (1 Timothy 2:9-10), and, “do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands” (1 Peter 3:3-5).

Do not think, however, that because of the subjection I have just discussed, that I intend women should be their husbands’ slaves.  Women are their husbands’ yoke fellows, their flesh and their bones, and he is not a man that hates his own flesh or is bitter against it (Ephesians 5:29).  Let every man “however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).  The wife is master of the house next to her husband, and is to rule all in his absence: in his presence, she is to guide the house, to bring up the children, provided she does it so that no adversary can reproach her (1 Timothy 5:10, 13).  “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. A gracious woman gets honor, and an excellent wife is the crown of her husband,” (Proverbs 31: 10, 11:16, 12:4).

Objection: But my husband is an unbeliever. What can I do?

In that case, what I have said is even more important for you.  Your husband as an unbeliever will be even more watchful to take your mistakes and weaknesses and throw them as dirt in the face of God and your Savior.  He will be apt to make the worst of each of your words, actions, and gestures, and all this will harden his heart even further and prejudice him and cause opposition to his own salvation.  So Peter said, “wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1-2).  Your husband’s salvation or damnation is strongly influenced by your manner and behavior before him.  So, if there is any fear of God in you, or any love for your husband, seek to win him to the love of his own salvation by your behavior full of meekness, modesty, holiness, and humble behavior toward your husband.  By doing this, “how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband” (1 Corinthians 7:16).

Objection: But my husband is not just an unbeliever, he is very prone to be contrary to God, to be easily irritated, and quick to anger. I don’t know how to speak to him, or behave in front of him.

Indeed, there are some wives in great slavery because of their ungodly husbands, and we should always pity and pray for them so that they may be even more watchful and careful in all their ways.

1. Be very faithful to him in all the things of this life.

2. Patiently bear his unruly and sinful behavior: remember that you are alive in Christ and he is dead in sin; you are principled by grace, he is principled by sin.  But, seeing grace is stronger than sin, and virtue is stronger than vice, do not be overcome by his vileness, but overcome it with your virtues (Romans 12:21).  It is a shame for those who are filled with grace to be as careless with their words as those who do not have that grace: “whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29).

3. A wise woman will observe convenient times and seasons, if at any time you want to speak to your husband for his conviction, concerning anything, whether good or evil. There is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7).  Now for the right timing for your intentions, here are some thoughts:

  • Consider his disposition, and approach him when he is the least in the thrall of those sins that are so bothersome to you.  Abigail would not speak a word to her disagreeable husband until he was no longer under the influence of alcohol, and was in a sober temper (1 Samuel 25:36-37).  If you don’t take heed of his disposition, that’s why so much of what you say seems to be ineffectual.
  • Talk to him when he’s being loving and friendly toward you, and when he proves his love and delight in you.  This is what Esther did with her husband the king, and she prevailed (Esther 5:3,6; 7:1,2).
  • Notice when he is seized by conviction, and follow his conviction up with sound and serious words from Scripture.  This is similar to how Manoah’s wife dealt with her husband (Judges 13:22,23).  Even then, a) let your words be few, and b) let nothing you say be domineering over him, but still take care to speak to him respectfully as your head and lord, pleading and entreating him, and c) speak in such a sympathetic spirit, with deep and obvious affection for his well-being, that the entire manner of your speech and behavior toward him is itself an argument that you are speaking in love as one who is aware of his misery, and enflamed with the desire in your soul for him to be converted to Christ.  Further, d) follow your words and your behavior with prayer for his soul, and e) continue to keep your behavior holy, pure, and modest before him.

Objection: But my husband is an addict, a fool, and can’t even hold down a stable job.

Still, you must know he is your head, your lord, and your husband.You must take great care that you don’t want to steal his authority.  He was not made for you, for you to rule over him, but he was made to be your husband, and rule over you (1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8).So, even though you may have more discretion and ability than he does, you have to keep in mind that you, and all that is yours, is to be used under his authority.  Even “everything” (Ephesians 5:24).  Be careful that what you do is not done to your name and your credit, but to his; not to your praise but to his; arranging everything so that by your hard work and wisdom, no one may discover your husband’s weaknesses due to your actions.  “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones” and, “she does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 12:4, 31:12).

Therefore act, and behave, as one who is under the power and authority of your husband.


As far as your behavior to your children and your servants: you are a parent and an employer, and so you ought to consider yourself.  Because the believing wife is a figure of the church, she ought, as the church, to nourish and instruct her children and her servants, just as the church.  And, actually, the wife being always at home, has a great advantage in this task – so do it, and may the Lord prosper your obedience.

Moments, Studying God

Which is better?

Julie / October 4, 2012

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
(Hebrews 11:32-38 ESV)

I had a great conversation with Ellie this week.  We were talking about sin and the blood of Jesus, and she went on this little tangent about the men who put the screws in Jesus’s hands.  And she wanted to know if they were still out there, and going to come after her, too.

Nope, those men are dead.  But, um, yes, Christians in some places are still persecuted for their faith.  Like in the story of Daniel, except sometimes God doesn’t shut the lions’ mouths.

Well then, I’m not gonna tell the bad men that I love Jesus.  I just won’t tell them.

The conversation had a little poignancy, a little urgency to it.  I’ve never experienced “persecution” in any real sense of the word, and I’ve never expected to.  But—doesn’t it seem like the world is changing?  Maybe I just wasn’t aware of all the persecution of Christians in other countries, especially predominantly Muslim countries.  Regardless, I don’t know what the world is going to be like by the time she grows up.  I’m beginning to see that all things can change very fast.  And maybe she’ll end up a missionary in a closed country.  The conversation seemed relevant.  Children are not immune from martyrdom, as plenty of historical and modern examples attest.  If we didn’t live in a free country, she could be called on—even at four—to answer for her faith.

And so I tried to explain.  We talked about heaven.  We talked about great-great-grandparents, unborn babies, and old friends.  We talked about that one day, if not all at once, we would be there—Mommy, Daddy.  And we talked about what is better than staying alive.  Heaven is better.  Serving Jesus is better.  Praising Jesus is better.  Talking about Jesus is better.  It is what we were made to do, what fulfills us and makes us happy.

Because the alternative to martyrdom could be Hell.  If we grasp more firmly to life and to comfort in the now, then eternity would lack both.

The awesome thing was watching her face and hearing her responses.  Real fear, even though she has no idea what are the worst things (or even the bad things) that humans can do to each other, just the graphic detail of nails in hands is enough for trembling.  And yet she also had a very real quiet resignation: heaven is better, Mommy?  Heaven is worth it?  Jesus is worth it?  I watched her face as she worked her way through the dilemma, and finally settled: “Well, okay, then, Mommy. Although I am scared.–

It wasn’t a watershed moment.  How much does a four year old understand?  How much conviction can she retain?  It just is what it is.  Nevertheless, watching a four year old decide that it was better to have nails put in her hands, and, specifically, “make Mammaw sad when you have to tell her that I died,” than to deny Christ—that was a pretty challenging thing to witness.

And I would be sad, too, a fact which seemed lost on Ellie!  Still—it is better.  And I’d be grateful, and eager to meet up with my little chica again.


Mothering, Studying God

the horrible, horrible day

Julie / September 22, 2012

I love my kids. They’re awesome. I live an awesome, blessed, charmed, amazing, incredible life. I am a happy person.

But. Every once in a great long while, there is a bad day.

Today was a bad day, and it isn’t even over yet.  I feel like crap, I’m exhausted beyond belief thanks to Baby Not Sleeping and Toddler Not Sleeping and that’s just the first two kids.  I just spent three whole hours trying to convince my girls to go down for a nap. And failed.  That’s emotionally trying for everyone, and it means I didn’t get my precious little thirty minutes a day of breaktime.  (Thirty minutes = two hours of naptime minus the hour and half that the baby is lately not asleep.) There has been disobedience and there have been messes.  There have been conflicts and trials and external pressures.  It has been a Very, very, horrible horrible no-good bad day.

Where is the grace?

I want God to surprise me with a phone call bearing great news or a message in my email that something fantastic has happened.  Or an encouraging, generic note.  You know, just something to get my day back on track, because it’s been so bad that I can’t figure out how to get back to happy on my own.  I’ve been trying for the past six or seven hours and I just keep sinking farther into despair as my circumstances continue to devolve.

God could fix it all in a blink.

And sometimes God does fix my bad days.  Sometimes He fixes our bad jobs, our bad houses, our bad churches–whatever we find discontentment in, sometimes He fixes it.  He’s fixed a lot for my family in particular, and I don’t want to minimize that.  We have plenty of room in our lives for bad days.  Part of me wants to just sit here and dwell on how much worse other people have it, and find my contentment in that.  At least I’m not starving, or cold, or dying, or mourning.

It feels empty, though.  It may be effective to remind myself of how blessed I am, even on these horrid horrid days, but I think it’s human nature to feel discontented when our lives get away from our normal, no matter how bad everybody else has it.  I don’t think the point of hardship is to sit and ponder how superior our situation is to our fellows’.  Rather, I think there are at least two things we should take away from “bad days:”

First, that they build character.

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:3-4 ESV)

I know a “bad day” of housekeeping and cooking and childrearing is hardly “suffering,” by any objective measure, but in Mommyland it ranks pretty bad.  Some of these days like that have actually been more depressing and hard to deal with than the days when Seth has called and told me his department at work was closing and he was losing his job.  Bad days of home hit me where I’m at.  At any rate — the bottom line is, these “bad days” get easier the more they happen.  They build character.  One day a whiny teething child is the end of my little world; a couple of years later, I don’t even notice that they’re teething!  My meter has changed.  I’ve developed Mommy Character.  Apparently, I still need more!  But that’s what these bad days are doing.  They’re building endurance.  Building wisdom.  Building hope.  Teaching me to trust God, and to still pray even when it seems fruitless.

Second, bad days make me long for heaven.

…they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:16 ESV)

There are no bad days in heaven.  There are no bad days in heaven!!!  I can sit here and think very, very long about how happy I will be.  There will be no fights in heaven.  No giant unconquerable messes made by one-year-olds who don’t know any better.  No bickering.  No ungratefulness.  No confusion.  Nothing at all to drag us down and kill our joy.  All this crap we deal with here, whether it’s giant horrible suffering or itty bitty trouble, it’s still here because of sin and living in a world that is fallen.  So what we do is thank God that we’re only here for a moment and that we were made for heaven!  We have trouble because we are not there yet.  We hate trouble, even little trouble, because we were created for perfection.

And so I sit here and long for a better place, knowing that it’s coming one day soon.  Waiting.  Thanking God for the trouble that makes my heart eager for Him.  Asking that in the meantime, He’ll help me make the most of my bad day, teach me endurance, and help me not to make my day even worse by adding my own sin to the deluge.  And then eventually, inevitably, night always comes, and tomorrow.


On the first day of school…

Julie / September 5, 2012


Oh they are growing up.  This is the first year we are going to really “do school,” in a formal way—we’ve been kind of sporadic up until now, thanks to pregnancy and such major life changes. Smile  But now we’re on!

Ellie is four.  So not legally allowed to begin kindergarten in our state… yes, I actually wrote to the Department of Education and asked!  And that REALLY frustrated me because we’ve been doing kindergarten math texts and first grade science, so what am I supposed to do next year?!?! So I am waiting to formally enroll until next year, and then we’ll just start with first grade. It makes it less stressful, anyway, because if kindergarten doesn’t work out the way I think it will, we still have a whole extra year if we need it.  But my intention is to formally enroll as first grade next fall, if we get through all the state kindergarten standards before then.

We’ve settled on Essential Math Kindergarten A & B by Singapore Math for our math curriculum, which we started working through eight months ago (and then stopped when I found out about six months ago that we wouldn’t be allowed to start kindergarten this year) and will now begin again; and Explode the Code for English/phonics.  We had been doing the preschool Code books but they weren’t very hard and were a bit boring for her, so I bumped her up to book 1.  So far so good!  We’re actually doing the online version now.  There are some other books I am testing out for other English supplemental skills, and we have also been doing the BOB Books, which Ellie has really enjoyed.  We’re also doing Beginning Geography and Everyday Literacy: Science for science.

It was really exciting today (day two) to begin on the online version of Explode the Code and see Ellie actually READING words, all by herself, without hints!  She was typing and spelling and – it was a happy thing to see… just totally basic words and not without mistakes, but it was neat to be kind of removed from the situation a little bit myself and see what she actually knows on  her own, and I was surprised!  She totally hides what she knows until she knows it really, really well, so it’s often hard for me to gauge how well she’s doing.  That said, I can tell she’s going to get bored with the program (at least I think she will) so I need to come up with some kind of reward system.  It gives her virtual “stickers” so it should be easy to translate that to something in the real world.

Rowan is two and wants to do everything her sister does, so she does school too!  Hers is really a mismash of various preschool workbooks, including lots of skill books and the Rod & Staff Pre-K3 workbooks and Pre-K4 workbooks.  The Pre-K3 books, as an aside, are the first textbooks I’ve found at all that are genuinely doable by a two-year-old.  She’s been able to do them for a while.  We’re also going to do the A Beka Pre-K 4 curriculum, which Ellie did not have the patience for at all but I think Rowan will do well.

For both girls we have manipulative/toys (like tangrams, counting objects, letter tiles, etc.) but I tend not to incorporate those into technical “schooltime!” and instead we do them throughout the day.  I want to start doing more science experiments too—we did a little impromptu experiment on displacement this week and it was a ton of fun!  Ellie just soaks it all up and I love explaining how things work.

We do Bible stories and Bible coloring for Bible—all three crayoning munchkins participate.  During the rest of schooltime so far, Liam wanders around and makes messes. Winking smile  I seriously need to figure out what to do with him while I help the girls!

Mothering, Time Management

The worst version of myself.

Julie / September 2, 2012


On one of my favorite chick flicks, You’ve Got Mail, at one point Tom Hanks’s character asks, “Do you ever feel you become the worst version of yourself?”

Oh, boy, Joe, do I ever.

I am exhausted much of the time.  I am pregnant quite a bit, too.  Even on a good day, my brain has four separate threads dedicated to each one of my four-and-under children, making sure they aren’t drowning in the toilet or secretly acquiring diaper rash.  If you’re lucky, my kids are elsewhere or amusing themselves happily so that I can sit down and have a nice conversation with you… more likely, though, my kids are crawling all over the place (and probably in cahoots with your kids, should you have any), and 75% of my mental powers at any given moment are completely dedicated to watching them.  But even if they’re being little angels (or absent!), my brain is just not used to grown-up conversation anymore. I’ve gotten really good at repeating myself, and my memory has officially gone on vacation.

In other words: I am one of those horribly rude Mommy-people who occasionally leave off in the middle of sentence, and never return; who talk a lot about poop and throw-up, regardless of whether or not you are also a Mommy who likes to talk about such things; who struggles to talk about current events (what are they and why on earth should I even care?); who struggles to talk theology because right now I’m clinging to all my might with the nitty-gritty of the Gospel that even a five-year-old can recite… and that’s probably not what you were hoping I’d contribute to your Bible study.

In short, I think I probably come off really self-absorbed, because I probably talk a lot about myself, my family, and whatever current child-rearing adventure has reared its head, and because I have an almost complete inability at this point to actually pay attention to any kind of real, linear conversation.

I feel like I have become the worst version of myself.

At least I hope this is the worst.  I’m forever plumbing new depths of how fallen I can be.

Exhaustion, in particular, has been a really profound learning experience.  I can even be kind of psycho, at the end of week of stomach-bug-induced sleeplessness followed by a week of trying to restore some kind of order to our house.  Or at the end of two months of relentless morning sickness surrounded by toddlers watching my every heave.  I didn’t know I could be such an unreasonable person—surprise!  Sleeplessness is the mirror that shows us our wretched selves.

I’ve begun to look at it like this is when I am having trouble not sinning.  This is when I have trouble not being quick to anger.  This is when I have trouble keeping my mouth shut.  This is also when I have trouble stringing together a coherent sentence.  This is when I have trouble listening sympathetically.  This tiredness, this distractedness… this is making my sin real.  It makes it come out to play.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
(Romans 7:21-24 ESV)

It’s always good to be thrown helplessly into the arms of grace.  I appreciate that it makes me appreciate my Savior, appreciate my own inability.  It’s pretty easy to pass for a nice person when we’re refreshed and happy all the time, isn’t it?  It’s hard to be a nice person when we’re grumpy and tired.  It’s hard to be kind.  It’s hard to be a good friend, even; it’s much harder still to be a good wife and a good mother.  It’s like a pot with tiny flaws being constantly held up to the light so they can’t escape notice.

Maybe one day I won’t be tired and distracted anymore, and I’ll be able to do a better job of hiding away all these flaws that are magnified right now.  In the meantime, I’ll keep struggling with them, and struggling to improve them, to “depart from iniquity” and become “useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim 2).

And feel free to tell me I’ve talked enough about poopy diapers for the day, and help me talk more about the things that matter.  My brain might relearn old paths and I might be able to speak intelligibly again. Smile