Well, we’re back! This week we talk about our vacation, Teen Vogue, a kidney transplant, sleeping in church, and more!
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Where are you?
When a culture of brutality and abuse and sexual torture against women is being built around an empire called pornography? Where are you when teen magazines encourage young girls to let their porn-influenced boyfriends sodomize them? When sexual experts tell girls that when it doesn’t bring excruciating pain or humiliation or injury that it “can feel delightful”? Where are you, my sisters in this flesh that God designed, you strong women, you with the loud voices and the brilliant arguments, you who could quickly whither any defense of the grotesque world that pornography is building, completely wither it and blow it away as if it is nothing but a piece of dust?
Our girls need you.
They need to hear you rise up and rage against music that glorifies violent sex, that music that is pouring out of the radio this very minute, that our boys are learning by heart, that our girls are taking to heart: This is what love looks like.
Our boys need to see you, beautiful and bellowing in the streets, shouting until you have no voice left, declaring, not gently, that pornography is a sin against humanity. They need to see you at every turn, confirming with your constant striving and your passionate pleas all of the things that we, their mothers, tell them about the broken-souled way that the pornography culture will eat into their flesh and steal their hearts right from under their noses. And it will devour them and it will change them and it will hurt them. They need to hear it from you, dear warriors. They need to feel the power in your numbers, the solidarity in your spirits, the cries of your battle-scarred hearts.
Our girls need to see you unfurl your fury on an industry that tells them they exist only to please men. That their pleasure is secondary to their willingness to do anything that is asked of them in the bedroom. That their worth is measured in naked photographs. That their minds and their souls are of little importance because they have vaginas and breasts, and those are the only things that really matter. Where are you, my kindred?
You and I disagree on some issues. We march in opposite directions in our various battles. But, here, on this hallowed earth, this war for the hearts and souls of our children, this is our common ground. We are all mamas, sisters, aunts, grandmas. We are all casualties of this war, whether we know it or not, and we are now watching our own sons and daughters fall into its devastating grip. Where are you, courageous ones? Our boys and girls need you to turn and fight and rail and rage and squall.
A new world is emerging. One where girls are victimized even when they are safe at home in their own bedrooms. One where boys get their sex education from violent videos that pour endlessly from the virtual world in their pocket. One where love is replaced by sex. Tenderness is replaced with brutality. Where marriages limp along in the shadow of sex addictions. Where are you, dear Feminists? History will remember the day that you finally surge into action and crash down on the pornography industry like a tsunami. Our boys and girls need you. Don’t let them look back on all of the ways they were wounded by this culture, knowing that that likes of you and the likes of me refused to come together to kill the source of their suffering.
The time is now. We need you. Where are you?
You may have read that Teen Vogue published an article this week for its audience of girls, ages 12-18, which is a how-to guide for anal sex. In fact, the creators of this magazine are writing instructive articles for all kinds of sexual acts. They want young girls to believe that sexual activity (including BDSM) is a natural part of being an older child in this country. It’s hard for those of us who are older to even fathom what kind of influence that this world can be on our kids–we, who read teen magazines for the quizzes about what type of friend we were, articles about how to handle our period. Our twelve year olds open teen magazines and take quizzes about what kind of sexual partner they are and read articles about how to masturbate and how “valid and valuable” porn is.
It’s hard to even believe that on a continent where an estimated 1.5 million children are currently being sold to satisfy detestable, porn-fueled desires that a teen magazine can so flippantly sell sex to kids like it’s candy. But, it’s happening.
As the mother of a twelve year old, I’m distraught and appalled that someone wants to teach her what anal sex is. But, the line in the article that bothered me the most has broader implications, and it’s the real message I want to counteract in my daughter’s heart and mind: “There is no wrong way to experience sexuality, and no one way is better than any other.” The writer says this with all authority and legitimacy. She is writing for a big name magazine, and her article has official looking anatomical drawings. If I have not taught my daughter to recognize sex ed fallacies when she sees them, then how will she discern that what is in this article isn’t true? Even more, if I haven’t taught her to view all things through a biblical lens, how will she know lies from the pit of hell when she sees them?
So, here is what our kids need to know. There are plenty of wrong ways to experience sexuality.
Ask any girl who has had her soul stripped bear by someone she hardly knows. The world tells her that’s fun. Ask any boy who stumbled across pornography on the phone his clueless parents bought him, who now can’t make it through the day without looking at it. The world tells him that’s the way it should be. Ask any college student who’s had so many partners that she isn’t really sure who’s the father of the baby she is about to abort. The world tells her to be proud of it. Ask any thirteen year old who saw an article in Teen Vogue and decided to try anal sex. The world laughs and says everyone tries “butt stuff,” as the Vogue writer so eloquently puts it. And, decision by decision, the kids of America learn again and again: there are plenty of wrong ways to experience sexuality. Ways that hurt them deeply. That cripple them emotionally and spiritually. Ways that will cause problems in their future marriages. Ways that wound the heart of God.
There is a better way. We have to teach our kids the truth here. We can’t avoid these conversations because we feel awkward. We can’t ignore these issues because we’re convinced our kids “would never do that.” We can’t go on pretending that we’re living in the 80s and 90s. Those days are way over, and, parents, the advice that is streaming into your kids’ hearts and minds is wicked and laced with everything that Satan would hope to see happen to your child. Do we really understand how much and how often and how effectively the world is sex educating our kids? There is no more time for being prudish and bashful and childish about sex when it comes to our children. They have to hear the truth from our lips, often, and with conviction. We have to ask questions. We have to be at least as diligent as the strangers at Teen Vogue when it comes to real sex education and teaching our children the very best way to experience sexuality.
We have to teach our kids that one of the greatest gifts of God is the intimacy between a man and a woman who have committed themselves to loving every inch of each other’s heart and soul. We have to teach them that great sex is safe sex, in the arms of the person who has vowed to hold us up when we need it, who has promised that no illness or accident, no outside interest, no schemes of this world will separate us. We have to show them what it looks like to be in love. We have to talk to them over and over and over again about the differences between Teen Vogue‘s versions of sex and God’s great blessing of sex. Most of all, we have to teach them that all this sex talk really isn’t about sex. It’s about obedience to God’s word. It’s about holiness and sanctification and trusting God with their future in all areas, even sex. It may sound cliche. It may make you nervous. It may make your teen roll her eyes. But, whose voice do you really want inside her head when she is faced with a monumental decision about sex: Teen Vogue‘s? Or yours, spouting the truths of God’s word?
I know which one I want ringing in my kids’ ears, so I’ll keep talking. I beg you, parents. Wake up. Protect my kids’ future boyfriends and girlfriends and spouses. Protect the future pastors and engineers and teachers. Show them how to live according to God’s word in the bedroom, on the internet, and everywhere. The Teen Vogues of the world won’t stop. When will you start?
I remember when Emerald was tiny, and I was completely overwhelmed with my life. I had a first grader, a preschooler, and a new baby, and I couldn’t wait for those glorious two hours on Sunday when I could drop all of them off in their various classes and go have some adult conversation, without any tiny hands grasping for my dress, my hands, my hair, or any other body part. For two hours, I was my own, at least physically. I thanked God for those blessed men and women who volunteered to take a needy baby out of the worn out hands of her ragged mother, those saints who were willing to handle the crying, the spitting up, the diaper changes and the bottles. It was a magnificent ministry to exhausted, overwrought mothers like me.
Yet, the nursery always seems to be a touchy subject in churches. Everyone has their own ideas about how it should function and who should work in there. Some churches have more resources than others, some have more small children than others, some have an easier time finding volunteers than others. Just a few days ago I ran across an online discussion about church nurseries, and tired young mothers were declaring that they shouldn’t have to volunteer there, that other people should step up and take care of the babies and small children so that these exhausted moms can enjoy their time at church, one of the few respites that they get in their long week.
I understand why they feel this way. I have felt that way myself at different stages of life. But, there’s an important reason why mamas should continue to volunteer, even if it means that once or twice a quarter they will be rocking babies or playing with preschoolers during the church service. And that reason has nothing to do with the fact that churches need that young mama demographic to help out (although they do). The reason mothers should help in the nursery is because it gives us a chance to serve one another.
Who can better sympathize with an overwhelmed, somewhat depressed, sleep-deprived, dark-circles-sporting mother than one who is there herself? Who will be most sensitive to a mother’s needs and concerns? Other young mamas, of course. Who sees most clearly how frightening it can be to drop off a baby for the first time? Who can most sincerely take a young mother’s hand and say, I’m with you, sister. I am just as tired as you are, and there is solidarity in the two of us caring for each other’s children in the name of Christ.
Now, these young mothers can’t carry this task of serving one another all alone. We often hear older mothers saying that they’ve already served their time in the nursery. We hear men claim that the nursery is a woman’s territory. We hear young married couples say that they aren’t equipped to handle small children. But young mothers need help. They need our ministry and and our assistance and our encouragement. They need us to say, Just get here, sweet girl, and we will take care of the rest. It really matters. And it sets up a pattern in that family’s life–one of regular church attendance, of reliance on the church, of children who love to come to God’s house.
Sometimes we tend to think that when we are in the nursery we’re cut off from worship. We feel like we missed church. Even those precious young mothers may claim that they simply can’t worship if they are sequestered to the nursery. But, if any of us feel that way or try to use that as an excuse not to volunteer, then we are forgetting an important element of worship: service. Coming to church isn’t just about us getting our “Jesus fix.” It isn’t about seeing what we can get out of it or waiting around to be served. One of the functions of the church is to serve each other. We should be trying to out-do each other with love and help and servanthood instead of keeping score to see if enough is being done for us.
And, yes, dear church. These truths apply to the church nursery.
So, all of us–young moms, college students, grandmothers, dads, and all–should view the church nursery as an opportunity to serve the families of the church, which is a true act of worship. And, young mamas, don’t miss out on your chance to sympathize with and help out other women who feel just as overwhelmed as you do. They need your arms, your understanding heart, your gracious overlooking of the disheveled state of their hair. They need to know that you are all in this together, and what better way to show love to your fellow mamas than to love on their babies on Sunday morning a few times a year? I don’t think it’s too much to ask of any of us, no matter our phase of life.
If you have kids of most any age, chances are that today they felt all the feels. And, if you are a mama of said children of any age, then I’m betting that today you, too, felt all the feels.
I’m not really sure where that term came from, but it pretty much sums up society these days. We feel everything deeply, and feelings are considered the ultimate barometer for life. There’s no doubt that this feelings frenzy has affected our parenting.
We have been taught to pay special attention to our kids’ feelings and to validate them as much as we can. I’m not saying this is a terrible practice. I mean, it’s never bad to consider someone’s feelings. But can I say with all honesty that about 85% of a kid’s feelings about things are irrelevant? Kids feel 147 different ways before lunchtime. They get upset if their graham cracker is broken. They cry like their heart is broken because a dog licked their elbow. Worse than that, they will kick and scream like you’re murdering them because you’re trying to buckle them into a carseat or keep them from grabbing a hot burner or stop them from running into the street. If we pay attention to every feeling that a kid has, we will be paralyzed and completely ineffective as parents.
The truth is that God gave kids parents because they don’t have enough sense to raise themselves. So, why in the world do we give their feelings so much power in our homes? Stop the insanity, y’all. You are the parent. You know what is best. And, the best isn’t staying up until midnight (even if your preschooler is crushed that you are enforcing a bedtime). The best isn’t letting your kids yell at you (even if you are glad they know how to “express themselves”). The best isn’t letting children decide if they “feel” like going to church or not (even if they are heart-broken that they can’t stay home in their pjs).
I’m being tough on you. I know. But there’s something else that you must remember, dear reader. It isn’t just the kids who try to make too much of their feelings. We do the same thing.
We think so much about how we feel about things that we lose all sense of reality. The self-help masters and the self-esteem gurus have told us again and again that our feelings matter. That we should follow our heart, trust our gut, that we can’t help how we feel, that every feeling is valid. That’s nonsense. Most of our feelings are 100% invalid. Most are just ways that our hearts lie to us. Most are just ways that we are filled with selfishness and pride and rebellion and sin. Yes, feelings can be sinful. And very many feelings are.
Our feelings say we deserve glory. That we know better than God. That what we want is more important that what God wants. Our feelings lead us astray again and again, and they will do the same to our children, yet we continue to bow down at the altar of the feels as if it’s the only way to be a human being.
But, what if we lived in a different way? What if we parented in a different way? What if we decided that feelings were going to have very little bearing on how we make decisions? What if we prayed that God would change our feelings and desires to make them godly? To make us want what he wants? To help us recognize when our feelings are opposed to his ways and his will? What if we decided in our families that all the feels were going to take a backseat to the reasoning, the prayer, the God following, the God honoring?
Imagine how it would change our families. How it would change us.
Feelings aren’t the most important thing. They were never meant to be. Don’t teach your children otherwise by trying to validate unreasonable feelings, and don’t let the way you feel rule the way you live your life. Feelings come and feelings go. But, the truth is always true. Make sure that you’re living in the reality of God’s truth, and not in a haze of your family’s feelings. Clarity comes when you reject lying feelings and cling to what you know is real.
Your kids need to breathe the clean air of reason and sense, and so do you. Don’t live in a foggy world of finicky feelings. God’s way is narrow, but it is clear: your heart will lie to you over and over again. Don’t follow it. Don’t trust your gut. Trust in the name of the Lord your God alone, and take your cues from His word, not how you feel about things. Teach your kids to do the same. Then the next time someone gives you the sage advice that you should follow your heart, you’ll be able to look at them with all sincerity when you say, I don’t feel like it.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12
This is a sponsored post. Thanks to Basic Invite for helping sponsor the blog this week!
When the kids were younger I was the queen of themed birthday bashes. I would painstakingly craft individual invitations to hand out or send to friends, and I loved every minute of it. But, things have gotten busier. Much busier.
I really thought when I had toddlers and never sat down in a day that I had reached the pinnacle of busy-ness in motherhood. But, I was dead wrong. The truth is, the older they get, the crazier things get. Things are both much, much easier and definitely more complicated. Now instead of running around refilling sippy cups I’m driving all over the county for lessons and games and events. Truthfully, on most days I don’t even have enough time at home to restart that washer full of clothes (again) and toss something in the crockpot. I’m pretty sure my days of crafting nifty party invitations are over.
But, one thing I adore about moving back to a small Texas town is that I have gotten some beautiful invites in the mail for weddings and birthday parties and showers. Maybe we busy moms don’t have time to make pop-up baby shower invitations for our friends, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle for fill-in-the-blank invitations from the party store.
I want to introduce you to a magical place online where you can get the most beautiful and unique invitations for weddings, showers, birthday parties, or any other event you can think of. It’s called Basic Invite. Let me tell you some of my favorite things about what they offer.
First of all, this is going to seem weird to some of you, but some of you will totally get it. Basic Invite has over 40 different colors of envelopes to choose from. You read that right. 4-0. Forty. I’m a sucker for a pretty envelope.
Color is kind of a big deal with this company, and that’s a good thing when we’re talking about paper. You have unlimited color options on their designs, which means you can 100% customize anything you see on the site.
Basic Invite will print up and send you samples of your invitations so you can see them and touch them and experience them before you order. How great is that? Especially if you’re planning a wedding or other big event! You will know exactly what you’re getting before you ever commit to purchasing. And, that’s huge when you’re ordering online.
They will even address your envelopes for you!
Right now Basic Invite is running a special on all baby-related invitations and thank yous. With the code BABY40 you can get 40% off of their already reasonable prices! What a deal! Check out their coed baby shower invitations, baby boy shower invites, girl shower invitations, and thank you cards for baby showers.
But, even if you’re not in the market for baby shower stuff, you can get 15% off of anything on the site right now with the code 15FF51. Here are a few of my favorite designs:
If you’re looking for unique and beautiful invitations, Basic Invite is a great place to start. The best part? You can create gorgeous invitations while you’re waiting in the car at baseball practice. Don’t forget to use code BABY40 for 40% off baby stuff and 15FF51 for 15% off everything else! And, if you’re not in the market for pretty invitations at the moment, follow Basic Invite on Facebook and Instagram so you’ll remember them when the time comes.
I went to a conference a few years ago and sat in a room with a hundred other women, perched on the edge of my chair with my notebook and pen in hand. A mother of six children got up to speak, looking thin and radiant with her long blonde hair and perfectly made up face. Her clothes were freshly pressed and fashionable, and she had a humble yet confident air about her. She showed us graphic after lovely graphic filled with the brilliant ways that she teaches her children scripture. With the year-long schedules of their family worship times. With gorgeous pictures of her family on mission trips in exotic faraway places, her children lined up in a stair-step row in their crisp white shirts and dresses.
I scribbled like crazy in my notebook, wanting to remember everything this super Christian mom had to say so I could go home and whip my family into spiritual shape. We had no scripture flashcards or carefully cultivated family worship curriculum. We barely had time to say bedtime prayers at night after busy school days and after-school activities. I felt like the world’s most underachieving mother when it came to my kids’ spiritual development because I didn’t have a specific twenty minute time set aside every day to teach my kids how to be a Christian.
I came home overwhelmed. My notebook filled with ideas was tossed in a drawer, and life continued. Crazy, wild, busy, fun life.
Since that time I have learned that I missed the point that day when I tried to soak in all of the wisdom of the super mom. The truth is that I can knock myself out coming up with an amazing family worship hour every day, and I can quiz my kids on Bible verses at every mealtime, and I can tuck Charles Spurgeon quotes in their lunch boxes every day (I do none of those things, by the way), but what they really need from me is all at once simpler and much, much more challenging: they need to see my authentic Christian life.
The truths of God’s word need to be so real in me that I can’t NOT talk about them day in and day out. My faith needs to be so deeply ingrained in me that it informs every situation, every decision, every discussion. And, when that happens, before I know it I have spent a large part of my day with the kids just naturally talking about what the Christian life is all about, who Jesus is, and what the Bible says about things.
No matter where or how formally I try teach my kids how to be Christians, no words I say will ever be as important as they way they see me living on a day to day basis. A carefully crafted lesson about forgiveness means nothing if I hold a grudge against a family member or friend. A lecture about the importance of obeying God’s word is useless if they see me ignoring His commands.
As a mother, I can easily make this faith seem like a joke if I say one thing to my children and then live as if I don’t believe it. They are watching me to try and figure out what Christianity really looks like. And, they don’t care if I have beautifully illustrated Bible flash cards or not. They need to see a changed life. Not a perfect life, but a changed one.
So, you see, I found out that what God has called me to is much higher than lesson planner. I do need to teach my children scripture. I need to give them sound doctrine. But, I can teach these things to my children, as the Bible says, when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we rise up and lie down. In other words, impressing the things of God on my children is an all-day, every day, life-long pursuit. It is more than a curriculum. It is a way of life.
So, if you aren’t in a phase where family worship hour is a thing that’s really going to happen, take heart. What your kids really need from you is something so much bigger. They need you and your authentic Christian life.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Several years ago, before our older kids had even started school, Chad and I took them with us to sing at an adult daycare facility. We went there with the senior adult choir from our church, and the kids stood with us and sang as many words as they could remember while the daily residents of the place clapped off-rhythm, rocked back and forth, shouted, or just smiled quietly. Some never acknowledged our presence. Others couldn’t contain their excitement and sang loudly. It was a wild and unusual scene for all of us, especially two small children.
After the singing, we all walked around the room, greeting the residents and shaking hands. Many were completely taken with the kids, while others didn’t seem interested in or capable of talking to them. I wasn’t entirely sure how the kids would react to this out-of-the-ordinary situation that we had thrust them in, but I was amazed and encouraged that they genuinely enjoyed themselves. They recognized, even at their tender ages, that the people in this place were in need of smiles, kindness, and cheer. And they provided it in the way that only preschoolers can: with total enthusiasm.
I learned something that day. It’s important to let our kids in on the ministry that we’re doing.
Since that time our kids have become intimately acquainted with funeral homes, hospital rooms, nursing homes, weepy prayer sessions, and shabby houses where it seems like no one could actually be living. Not every situation that we walk into is as pleasant as their experience with the senior adult choir. They have seen tears. They have seen pain. They have seen hopelessness.
And, they have seen how Jesus is the only real hope there is.
They have seen how the Holy Spirit comforts and moves even on the darkest days. They have seen how difficult and complicated and messy it can be to be the hands and feet of Christ. They have felt the joy of meeting people where they are–even when where they are is a hard place to go.
All of this, just in a small town in West Texas. Not in the jungles of Africa or in secret church meetings in the Middle East. Our kids are learning so much about who Christ is and what he does, just by going with their daddy preacher where he goes, holding hands and praying with hurting church members in tiny hospital rooms, doing crafts with nursing home residents, learning to get used to being with grieving families, understanding that people truly need Jesus, and that we can help them see it.
I think we are in the habit in churches of not giving children enough credit. We forget that the Holy Spirit is working inside them and around them in real ways. We assume that they are too sensitive and tender to handle hard truths of life, that they are too precious to have to go to hospital rooms or see any pain or suffering. But, when we think that way we rob them of crucial opportunities to begin forming a theology for dealing with hard things in life. Children who have never thought about death or funerals, who have never seen a body in a casket, who have never been exposed to the extreme poverty that is closer than they realize, who have never considered what it’s like when your body or mind isn’t working like it should–those children are spiritually handicapped and will be never be forced to think of any of these things or how God fits into them until it happens to them or someone they dearly love. It will be much more difficult for them to figure out how to view these things through a biblical lens if their first exposure is the suffering of their own parent or someone else who is dear to them.
Ministry experience also gives kids a sense of perspective. Just last week we went to visit a dear church member who has suffered a stroke. Just a couple of months ago, he stood in the living room at our parsonage, talking about carpet colors. But, the kids walked into his hospital room to find that he couldn’t speak apart from saying yes or no, that his right side isn’t cooperating with him anymore. But, he smiled sweetly at all of us, and when we joined hands and prayed with him and his wife the kids bowed and listened as their dad cried out to God for healing.
Later that night, one of the kids got upset about something small, and Chad took her back for a moment to that hospital room, where a real struggle is happening, where a man will work hard for months just to remember how to do things that he’s been doing since he was a small child. She quickly realized that her little problem doesn’t compare to real pain and hardship. When she got a little perspective, the Holy Spirit worked in her in a strange way, showing her that there is a difference between small upsets and real problems. We can’t underestimate the value of true perspective.
Allowing your kids to get in on your ministry efforts also provides an important element of Christian growth and discipleship: it teaches them the joy of serving. Of course, not all situations are particularly joyful, but when the church is functioning as it should, when you endeavor to really live life side by side, rejoicing together and grieving together, lending a helping hand when it’s needed, your kids are getting a clear view of what church really is. And, when they see that, it’s a glorious thing. They realize that church is more than a building, more than meetings, more than a social club or a self-help resource. Church is the living, breathing, beautiful Body of Christ, and it’s an honor and a true joy to be a part of it, even when it gets messy.
I would never want to represent to you that Chad and I do ministry perfectly. Far, far from it. But, I pray that our kids are getting glimpses here and there, through the power of the Holy Spirit, of what it means to be a child of God and a faithful servant in his church. I know where we fail, Jesus never does, and that’s where I place my hope.
For more on kids and church life, please take a look at Why I Take My Kids to Funerals.