My SMART Goals for the Year (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound)

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Photo Credit: “Orange and Measuring Tape” from freedigitalphotos.net

Previously I published three resolutions for 2015, but they were vague and hard to measure (except the one about getting pregnant), so today I delineate SMART goals for my resolutions: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.

In other words, I am breaking my goals into small chunks so I will be more likely to attain them. I have also typed out these goals in measurable formats and have posted them where I will see them every day.

Resolution 1: Focus on my Family.

This list of "family stuff" hangs on my fridge. The list of weeks is where I will write in the weekly song I will sing with Sam.
This list of “family stuff” hangs on my fridge. The list of weeks is where I will write in the weekly song I will sing with Sam.
  • Have nightly family devotions, if even just a song and a prayer together (I’ve learned that a song and a prayer is a notable accomplishment with a one-year-old!)
  • Do one fun outing/activity a month as a family
  • Sing with Sam every day: Pick one song per week. (I included this one because the Bible commands me to “sing and make music in my heart to the Lord” [Eph. 5:19], but I don’t naturally do this; if I’m going to develop this habit and pass it along to Sam, I need a reminder!)
  • Finish Sam’s baby book
  • Fill photo albums with the pictures I already have, then start making electronic albums

Resolution 2: Make healthy choices for myself and make healthy food for my family.

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I got Buc’s input on our family meal schedule, because he is not, shall we say, as experimental of an eater as I am! He generously agreed to take on the cooking for two nights a week–a relief for both him and me, because I can use those afternoons for other things, and he can count on two meals he is sure to like per week. He also agreed to take the family out to eat once a week to give us both a break in the cooking and evening cleanup departments. I sure have a good hubby!

Resolution 3: Get pregnant in 2015 with my second, and final, child.

I’m leaving this one to nature.

Resolution 4 (Recently Added): Write When I Can, and When It Doesn’t Interfere with Family Time

I’ve added “writing” as an area I want to focus on this year, even though I intend it to take a backseat to family life. Below are some goals that seem realistic for me this year; but because I can get obsessive in the area of writing, I’ve listed the third goal to give myself grace if I don’t meet my first two goals.

  • Post a blog once a week
  • Submit five magazine articles this year
  • Give myself grace if/when I don’t meet these guidelines. I have a toddler.

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Inspiration for Completing My Goals

In case you’re curious, I’m getting a lot of my ideas and inspiration (such as the SMART acronym) from Crystal Paine’s Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. (And I got the book recommendation from hearing Crystal interviewed on Family Life Today–which radio program I also highly recommend). If you’re interested in getting help with setting and following through with goals, check out her book, or her very popular blog, moneysavingmom.com. In her book, she walks readers through setting up goals, a daily schedule, and more, all with the hope that the reader will Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore [their] Passion for Life.

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Just be warned: Crystal is a highly driven woman with many, many goals, some Herculean (at least from where I sit in life right now), so I am trying to take her advice to not to compare myself with her, and to set my goals in the context of my individual circumstances. I realize my goals may change as I go along, should my circumstances change or should I discover a better fit for my life, but for now I am committed to implementing the suggestions she’s given, and doing what I’ve identified as most important to my values at this time. Stay tuned to see how it all goes! We can journey toward our goals together.

Above All, Get (and Give) Wisdom

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“Christmas Shopping” at freedigitalphotos.net

In our attempts to be great wives, moms, and friends, many of us women during the holidays stress over gifting, baking, decorating, you name it. But might I suggest we funnel some of that energy into a higher calling?

I’m thinking in a mom role, and an aunt role. The aunt role is really shouting at me this year, because I have three teenage nieces who are entering into some exciting and stressful times. (I’ll be vague, to protect the innocent). I get to hear about their hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, and problems. A few times I’ve been privileged to hear information not even the parents get. Weighty, honored position.

As one who acutely remembers the tumult of the teen years, I know what these girls need for Christmas: wisdom. “Wisdom is the principal thing,” King Solomon wrote, “therefore get wisdom” (Prov. 4:7), and “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!” (Prov. 16:16). If only wisdom were as easy to wrap as a purse, sweater, or boy band poster!

With the exception of some big-ticket items, I don’t remember what I got for Christmas when I was 16, 17, 18. But I remember feeling lost in those years, wishing for some anchors of truth to hold onto, some guiding light to show me where to step. Okay, maybe that’s not what I was looking for, but hindsight is 20/20, and I see now that that’s what I should have been looking for. Too bad I was full of myself back then and didn’t know what was best for me—as evidenced by my blind, puppy-dog love for the wrong kinds of guys and my choice of a first college because it had a pretty campus (no joke). All of which relationships/college attempts lasted less than four months. Hoo, boy.

How I wish I could’ve seen the long range. But I couldn’t. I could only see what was right in front of me. I didn’t realize feelings should be merely indicators, not dictators (that’s some wisdom from author Lysa Terkeurst), that I should base my decisions on wisdom, not feelings. If only I’d had wisdom back then. I’m not sure anyone has much of it until they leave home, though.

Sometimes it takes being forced out into the world, or blindly stepping out—through marriage, a move, a job—to get our first taste of worldly wisdom, or life experience. At one level, wisdom can only come from life experience. We can try to impart wisdom, but without life experience, our audience may not “get” the wisdom.

I can talk all the wisdom I want to my sweet nieces now, as can their mothers and grandmothers, but the truth is, they might not be ready to listen. They might make bad choices anyway. Then what do we do?

We pray. We love them. We give them all the tools we have, enforcing consequences if it’s our place to do so, and then we must rest in the fact that, at some point—maybe a hasty marriage? A job? A move?—they will get the wisdom of life experience. And hopefully such wisdom will drive them to also seek God’s wisdom.

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“Cute Cheerful Child Carrying Stack Of Books” at freedigitalphotos.net

Maybe one day when they have that life experience, they will look back and remember some of what we said to them. More likely, they will remember our actions. Did they see us seeking wisdom? Committing our time to studying God’s word, helping others? Do they remember us sitting down to listen to them? Do they remember a calm assurance because we know God and we can trust him without trying to figure it out ourselves?

Yelling, fretting, worrying, and demanding that others “must do this” doesn’t command much respect for the God we propose to serve. If we have true wisdom, which only starts when we place God in his rightful place in our lives (that’s first place), we can afford to be calm in all situations (save burning buildings, suicide attempts, and the like). We don’t have to try to force anyone to do anything, because we know God’s rightful place, and our rightful place. That is, we know that only God can change a heart, or a life direction. All we can do is plant seeds.

To bring this post back to where it began, why not use the holiday season to plant seeds of wisdom in someone who has shown some trust in you? And if you need wisdom yourself, ask God (James 1:5), and read or reread Proverbs.

In this season and in the upcoming year, I pray that God uses me to plant seeds of wisdom in my sphere of influence—I hope you’ll do the same.

Note: this post was inspired by my reading of the book of Proverbs, recent Family Life Today broadcasts dealing with the topic of Christmas, and talking to my lovely nieces:)

 

 

 

Happy to Be a Mother

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I was married seven years before I decided I wanted kids. Don’t mistake me. I was not married seven years before I got pregnant by accident, or before we could financially support a child. I mean I was married seven years before God, one day, gave me a talking to, and utterly changed my plans.

One October day in 2012, I was simultaneously poring over my career options and getting flustered, as I did so often in those days. I was two months from finishing my master’s degree, after which I planned to get a doctorate and teach college…but I wasn’t happy. I hated graduate school, and the thought of four to eight more years of it constricted my heart like a vise grip.

“Okay, Lord,”I prayed, sitting at my desk, I need your help. Before me sat my list of possible graduate schools, and a blank notebook. These items represented the choice that had dogged me for months: grad school, or writing? Farther back in my mind was a third option, but I had never really been able to voice it. Deadlines were approaching. If was going to get my doctorate, I had to apply soon.

“Lord,”I muttered through clenched teeth, “This indecision has gone on long enough, and I can’t take it anymore. I’m asking you to please, make clear, once and for all, what you want me to do.”

Even as I spoke the words, I felt the answer thudding in my chest.

You know what to do, God said.

And as the tears started, I realized I had known for months.

“God!”I cried out. “This has been so excruciating! Why has it taken so long to decide?”

Fear, came the instant answer. You fear that Buc will die, or abandon you someday. You fear that one day you will be alone again, without support, without resources, and without a clear path.

“Oh, Lord!” I sobbed. “You know me so well. You know that my constant motion for the past few years had to do with protecting myself in case of future abandonment—it wasn’t just about being organized and ‘highly effective.’ You know that I’ve overextended myself at work and church to keep from feeling what was really underneath my skin. You know I struggled over the PhD because it led to a safe and predictable place.”

I stopped talking aloud then, and just sat, letting it all sink in. I was finally admitting to myself: my desire for the PhD was all for fear. It was never what I wanted.

I slipped to my knees and bowed at my desk. With tears still trickling down my face, I acknowledged and embraced my fear, and I prayed: “God, you’ve gotten me this far. It’s time to let you lead, fully. I can’t ignore my desires anymore. And it doesn’t make sense to try to keep forcing a shoe that doesn’t fit. I don’t want a PhD. Teaching I could take or leave. But writing? I can’t leave it anymore. It’s got to come out.

I slumped on the floor for several minutes more, as if held there by God’s hand, because I knew there was more to this prayer. There was something else God wanted to bring out of me, another fear he wanted to replace with his truth. And I knew I was finally about to articulate it.

After composing myself, I called Buc at work and urged him to come home early, saying, “We need to talk about our future.”

When he arrived home, I said, “Let’s drive to the state park and talk while we walk.”

I didn’t have a speech prepared, but when we started our nature walk, words started tumbling out of my mouth. I admitted to Buc that I was not going to find a PhD that would suit me, because a PhD—and the isolation that must come with it—was not the life I wanted.

Voice quavering, I told him, “Honey, I keep looking at my life in the last few years—how I’ve been running around, keeping so busy, trying so hard—and I just don’t know what I’m striving for anymore. I’ve lost sight of what I’m doing. I mean,” I added, voice climbing to hysteria, “I just don’t know who I’m trying to please anymore. Why am I trying so hard?”

Scenes of recent years flashed in my mind. My nose-to-the-grindstone approach, my endless lists of to-dos. My shuffling from here to there. My busyness. My endless pursuit of the next rung in my career ladder, my continual motion. The mere thought of it so exhausted me that I had to stop and catch my breath. Again, these realizations had hit me hard. But the one that next burst from my mouth almost knocked me over.

“I want to have kids!” I blurted.

Like a crashing wave this realization came. In all the years we’d been married, I had never been able to say that I wanted kids. The closest I’d ever come was to speak of it as a distant hypothetical.

“Is it possible,” I marveled aloud to Buc, “that all I’ve ever really wanted was to get back to having a family? To have kids? Is it possible that the one thing I’ve been so scared to embrace all these years is the one thing I’ve really just wanted to get back to?”

I was flabbergasted by the thought. As I talked about our future—a new future—I felt a weight lifting. Was it possible I was really letting go? Just letting the debris of my broken past settle, and finally settling myself? The thought was comforting, even as it brought new fear. To follow this impulse was to completely shift gears, to suddenly grind to a halt plans we’d been setting in motion for years.

I cringed as I looked up at Buc. Would he approve of this change of plans?

“Honey? What do you think?” I shifted my eyes down, as if to deflect a coming glare. “What would you think if I decided to stay home and write, and maybe have some kids?”

His eyes were soft. He clasped my hand. “Honey, I think that sounds nice. I like the idea.” And that was all.

Whoosh. My breath escaped in one glorious release.

“I just have one question,” Buc said, swinging my arm as we trounced through the brush. “Why now? Why after all these years are you finally ready to have kids?”

I thought for a moment before answering, letting the happiness of the moment sink in. Then I realized: happiness was the answer.

“I think I finally understand something.” I let my free arm drift across the tree leaves, feeling like a little girl again. “The best parents—I mean, the people who should be having kids—have them because they are already happy. They have them not to make themselves happy, but to share their happiness. To invite someone else into their special, intimate joy. They don’t ask their kids to bring their lives meaning, they ask to be able to share meaning with their kids.”

“Well said,” Buc beamed at me. “I think I’ve got a wise wife.”

“Not that wise,” I smiled back. “I’m just learning to take God’s lead.”

And that, I thought to myself, is something worth passing on to my kids!

 

Epilogue: A year and a half has passed since that day in the woods, and I thank God every day that he redirected my plans and gave me my (almost) four-month-old blessing, Sam Michael. Happy Mothers Day, Moms!

 

*This post was adapted from a chapter in my memoir manuscript.

What I’ve Learned in Six Weeks

IMG_0873My six-week postpartum period is over. According to my doctor, I’m ready to return to all physical activities, and if I had a “real” job, it would be time to get back to work. So what’s so magical about the six week mark?

As I took stock of my postpartum period, I realized I’ve actually learned a lot in this time. Maybe life isn’t completely predictable yet, but it is starting to feel more manageable. I think this is due both to Sam starting to fall into some patterns, as well as growing confidence that I can keep him alive and safe.

IMG_0429The other confidence booster is that, very slowly, a few activities from life pre-Sam are starting to return—shopping trips, sleeping in my own bed, cooking real meals, a bit of exercise, and returning to church and the church choir. Soon I hope to add writing on a regular basis and fitting into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe.

Here is a brief list of the wisdom I’ve gained in six weeks’ time: 

There’s not one right way to do parenthood, but some people and some books will try to tell you there is. Distrust anyone or any book that tells you your child should definitely be doing such and such by such and such time. This is a setup for failure and feelings of guilt.

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Sam with his Aunt Deb!

You can learn a lot by handing your child to someone else and just watching. For instance:

Place a pillow behind the baby’s back when laying him down to sleep.

The football hold works well to calm a fussy baby.

Bicycling the legs pushes out gas. (I mean in the baby.)

Full immersion (minus his head) in a bathtub won’t hurt the baby.

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Sam with my friend Nicole, and her daughter, who loves babies.

He just might sit and/or sleep in that swing if you let someone other than mom try.

That crusty stuff in his eyes goes away by itself within about three weeks.

If your child is always fussy, it doesn’t always mean you have a fussy child, but it could mean that you don’t have enough milk for him.

IMG_0290Sleep deprivation looks deceptively similar to postpartum depression. Only try to judge the difference after a good nap.

If you’re thinking of hosting a prayer meeting at your house and leading out within the first six weeks, don’t (unless a babysitter hosts your baby elsewhere. You’ll get interrupted about a million times).

IMG_0481Even the burliest of guys will discuss the merits of Desitin versus Butt Paste if they have a baby at home. (Learned last week when my toilet overflowed, requiring a steady stream of plumbers, contractors, and insurance guys to flood my house.)

If you’re desperate for sleep, go ahead and lay that baby down next to you. For added sleep, give him a breast if you have one. (Whether or not you have copious milk matters little for coaxing him to sleep.)

IMG_0941There are way too many formulas to choose from!

Six weeks, or even four or five, might be when he starts to stabilize. This seems to be a good time to start laying him down by himself at night.

For baby boys, beware: The incidence of spraying seems to go up with the changing of poopy diapers, as opposed to changing non-poopy ones.

IMG_0920If you can afford to hire a housecleaner, do it.

If your family members or friends offer to watch your little bundle, spread the joy.

Before five or six weeks, just give yourself a break. People don’t expect you to get as much done as you do.

Beat the frustration of breastfeeding taking up your “entire day” by using the time to read those books you’ve been putting off reading. (My favorite so far has been the acclaimed memoir Angela’s Ashes.)

The postpartum pooch, while it might make you cry, is a great place to set your baby.

IMG_0356Have a sense of humor about the house that keeps getting dirtier, the laundry that keeps piling up, that article that’s not getting written but you promised months ago (sorry Ashley), those thank-yous that haven’t made it to the mailbox, the bed you haven’t slept in for weeks, the sex you haven’t had for months, the spouse you hardly know anymore, those devotions you just can’t concentrate on, those telltale cries that come every time you’re about to eat, those hobbies you used to have, and those clothes that still don’t fit. Whatever needs to get done in a day will get done.

Try to enjoy your baby, as frazzled as you are. If you look at pictures of him from just two weeks ago, you’ll notice the moments are already fleeting.

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And last but not least, thank God for your baby, because if there is one thing every book and parent agrees on, it is that It will all be worth it in the end.

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Of Bibs, Cribs, and Big Kid Things

Photo Credit: “Pregnancy Portrait” by MeiTeng

(Or “Why I Hate Baby Shopping”)

I am four months pregnant, and when asked questions like “How are you going to decorate your nursery?” I have no answer. When my friend sent me her daughter’s birth story, I felt guilty that so much of the terminology she used was Greek to me. When another friend offered to go maternity shopping over a month ago, I brushed her off. When my other friend loaned me a tub of maternity clothes, I was relieved that this was one detail I wouldn’t have to worry about. When my lovely sister-in-law pumped me for my preferences on a baby shower, I also thanked God that she would be taking the burden of planning that off me.

See, when people comment on how excited they are for me to be a parent, I glow with pride. But when it comes to planning the details of actually having a baby—both the birthing and care of—I find myself resisting at every turn.

What gives? Aren’t new mothers supposed to be able to think of nothing else? Shouldn’t they be excited to decorate, and shouldn’t they be drooling over bibs, cribs, and everything baby related?

Whether or not that’s the case—though I think it’s silly to lump all new mothers into one category as I’ve just flippantly done to make a rhetorical point—I’m not. You see, I feel it’s better to focus on the intangibles, rather than the tangibles, and I guess this comes from my personality (and maybe some academic training), as well as my Christian beliefs.

While I realize I will eventually have to deal with a nursery and birthing options and formula and diapers and spit-up and poo, I don’t see the point in getting all worked up over that now. Soon enough my life will be turned upside down, filled with feedings and changings and all kinds of extra housework that doesn’t excite me. Does this make me a bad mother? I don’t think so. Unrealistic, maybe, but not bad.

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Photo Credit: Church Leader Gazette

Like some in the academic community, I sometimes find myself wanting to pretend that the material world doesn’t exist—that the best life is had by sitting in a room somewhere discussing ideas, or writing them down. I have idealistic notions about just communing with my husband over ideas and discussion without the daily intrusion of dishes and dirty floors. Can’t we just eat out every meal? Why do we have to waste our precious energy on preparing food and cleaning up and making messes that also need cleaning? I want to ask (but I don’t because he already thinks I’m too pampered—and I am).

This isn’t productive, this train of thought I’m on. It’s me fighting reality, is what it is, and maybe me thumbing my nose at people who only seem to live for the here and now. I’m talking about the people who are always preoccupied with the current fashions, or the next vacation they can take, or what new movies they’ve seen or the most recent Facebook statuses or their last (most recent, I mean) meal.

When people only bring up to me the material details of my baby’s life, I feel annoyed, wishing they would instead engage me in a discussion of how I plan to raise the child—what values I plan to instill, how I will instruct him or her as to God’s word.

I know kids and teens who have every material need they could ever dream of—a vehicle, a new dress to wear to church each week, money to burn at the theater for each new release—and yet these kids struggle with depression, anger (usually at their parents), and belief in God. And I find myself wanting to ask the parents: “When do you make time to really listen to these precious kids of yours?” “How have you ensured that they are learning to rely on God’s word, and not the world’s?” Aren’t these more important questions than: “Where did you find that cute outfit?” “What changes are you planning to make to your child’s room?” “What kind of car will your teen get?”

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Photo Credit: “Go Shopping 2” by Lusi

I have to be careful here. I don’t want to belittle parents or other who show their love through gifts or acts of service. I have fond memories of one aunt who, in the midst of some of my toughest teen years, brightened my life with some special outward touches, such as a manicure and a set of highlights (at age seventeen, I had never had either). Let me not discount the good we can do unto others by gifts or acts of service. In fact, without these, it would be really hard to know we were loved. I am also writing from a privileged position; if I had to worry where my next meal was coming from or whether the bills would get paid, I’d probably have a different take on this topic.

I guess what I’m saying, then, is that while we don’t need to totally give up attention to material things, we should strive to keep our priorities straight. Sure, go ahead and give your kids good gifts. Have fun shopping for a crib for your baby and clothes for your teen girls and vehicles for your teen boys. But don’t do those things without also taking care of the more important matters. For me, these are a relationship with God, relationship with my spouse, and fulfillment at the work of my hands. (I guess if your work is in making material products, my argument falls somewhat apart.) I find meaning in quality time and good conversation, Bible study and prayer, good music and good books (yes, I mark my own hypocrisy).

Because I know there’s no point in trying to totally write off the realities of material living, my suggestion to myself is this: as much as I can, I’m going to make my daily, material activities meaningful through doing them with others. I want to view my upcoming life changes (like feeding and changing) not as detestable tasks, but as opportunities to bond. Housework, when my child gets older, can become an opportunity to teach him or her about responsibility. Clothes shopping? A chance to teach about thrift (oh, what a fuddy duddy I am! I can just see the eyes rolling!). Decorating projects (how I hate decorating my house!) I can choose to see as chances to collaborate creatively with my family.

I’m going to work at not being so opposed to (or snooty towards) the daily activities of life, 1) because I know I can’t avoid them, and 2) because if I don’t, I will have no common ground upon which to connect with most of the people in my life. The caveat is this: I don’t want to forget that these things are just means to the end of creating real meaning in life–real relationships and real purpose. If you have a suggestion for my baby’s nursery, or clothing, or belongings, I merely ask you to keep the same thing in mind.

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Photo Credit: “Mother and Child” by Lusi

 

The Pregnant Post

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This is the picture we sent to our family members to break the news, but it took our seventeen-year-old niece to get it. Everyone else thought we were making a statement about what we were cooking that night!

I myself don’t like pregnant posts—which is why I won’t keep you in suspense. Yes. I am. A post about pregnancy is okay, as long as it doesn’t resort to clichés, so I’ll opt away from discussing the obvious facts of my developing condition.

I do like irony, so I’ll point out that just a few weeks ago when I posted I May Be Childless (At Least my House is Messy), I really wasn’t. But best of all, I love answered prayers, so I’ll give you these lines from my prayer journal on March 31st:

“I know I should be happy in whatever circumstance I’m in—but I guess I’d like to ask for a breakthrough of some sort: a pregnancy, a job, an acceptance letter. I feel like you work through breakthroughs, and events. You also work through hard times and drought. So any of the above could happen, or not.”

When I wrote that, I was just getting back from my Minnesota visit, and my mother-in-law had asked me if I was glad to be back, and I had lied and said yes.

Truth was, I wasn’t excited about coming back to a house that was empty most hours of the day.

I also wrote that I’d figured out why I was having such an aversion to doing housework lately: It was added “alone time” to my “already lone occupation of writing.” It used to be “alone time after people time.” Now it was “more alone time after alone time.”

At the end of that entry, I recorded that I’d gotten on my knees and heard God say, “You are worried and troubled about many things, but only one thing is needful.” So I decided to rededicate myself to the Lord, again (you’ll notice I have to do that a lot—like, daily), trusting that He’d work out the rest of the details.

Over the next few weeks, I recorded hearing God direct me to write…to write about some frustrations I’d been having in certain relationships…write to be an agent of change…use my swirling emotions as fuel…and I did…until I discovered I had a solid draft of that book I’ve been wanting to publish before thirty.

As to my hatred of housework, I heard God telling me I needed an attitude adjustment. He told me I needed to “plan to stay,” as in Jeremiah 23. I needed to trust that God had put me here, to nest, with or without children. Needed to get over my looking backwards to my past. If there wasn’t going to be children, I still needed to get my house ready…for friends and others we can minister to in our home.

Next to family time, the best memories I have in my home are those times when we held our small group Bible study and our Straight 2 the Heart prayer group. God reminded me that my ministry to others (and the growing of relationships) wasn’t done. I’d been blessed with a beautiful home, and no matter the status of our fertility, the house would be used, if I didn’t get in the way.

In a nutshell, God told me, “Write, and be at home. Get comfortable at home.”

That was also the period when He opened my eyes to see all the Friends in High Places I’ve had all along.

When I realized, on May 4, that I was guilty of the sin of ungratefulness (and a bad attitude), I prayed this verse I found in Micah 7:9—“I will be patient as the Lord punishes me, for I have sinned against Him. [My punishment, I felt, was extreme feelings of guilt and uncertainty that were literally upsetting my stomach—maybe it had something to do with pregnancy, too.] But after that He will take up my case and punish my enemies for all the evil they have done to me. The Lord will bring me out of my darkness into the light, and I will see His righteousness.”

I did write. I did get more comfortable at home during those weeks. I decided, “I can do this.” And then, when I wasn’t even looking for it, last week I got the unexpected news: “You’re pregnant.”

Yes, God works both through breakthroughs, and through wilderness experiences. And even though it’s easy to say when things are going well, I’d still like to quote the Apostle Paul to say this: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11). If you’re going through a dark situation today, remember it’s temporary—and the morning light may be just about to break!

The Question Every Young Couple Must Answer

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“When are you having kids?” my high school students always used to ask. Why they were so interested in this detail of my life I never understood—much like I didn’t understand when family members or anyone else asked. The question used to come frequently when we were first married, and then, as year after year slid by with no child, but only new feats such as a bachelor’s degree, teaching job, and master’s degree, the question all but went away, and with it, my child consciousness.

But when I got to my first semester of grad school in 2010, I had an epiphany. Sitting in class at that time as both student and teacher, I was to finally understand why students and so many others wonder that question.           

It happened one night in literary theory class, when my professor, trying to explain the infant stages of Freudian development admitted, “Well, the research says this [insert windy explanation of anal and oral stages]; but I don’t have kids, so I don’t really know firsthand.” That’s all. One comment. Then he continued his lecture on Freud. But I was stopped.

Before that night, he’d been Mr. Know-It-All.

Now, he was just a man out of touch with reality…who, perhaps, had never changed a diaper.

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(Photo from giftsfordadtobe.com)

What did my professor have? He had his books and his scholarly journals and his research (and with those, late night library visits while bedecked in baseball caps [to blend with students, he’d told us]), but what, beyond that? He didn’t have a wife. Or kids. Or religion. (Lots of grad students and professors end up losing their religion, I was also to find out.) The closest relationships he had seemed to be with us, his students. And he was great with us, very gentle and caring, and genuinely concerned for our welfare.

But in general…in general, I had to ask myself that night: Is this really the life? And more importantly, is this the life I want for myself? Do I want to be like this professor someday, standing before a class of adults (or high school kids, for that matter), in my forties or above, with no life experience to share with them, besides what I had read in books?

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This was a profound moment for me. I journaled at length about it the very next day. And I talked to my husband. Was I missing something here? Was I about to embark on the wrong path, this path to the PhD? What did it mean that I was having all of these questions?

Mind you, I was hardly ready to toss the birth control, quit teaching, and/or withdraw from my graduate classes. Just then I wouldn’t admit that I wanted kids. Because I wasn’t actually sure I wanted them.

But one thing I now understood: If I had kids, I would become a more interesting professor…and a more interesting person. I would become more credible. More human. And that alone was something worth considering.