Feb 24, 2017

When Your Friend has Kids and You Don't

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

Loneliness is on the rise. Many people find it difficult to build and maintain the kinds of relationships that human beings need. This culture of isolation and increasing polarization is tragically dehumanizing--it not only cuts us off from being loved, but also from the chance to love and serve others.

One of the best ways to resist the tide is to build and nurture friendships. Doing so isn’t always easy. In particular, I’ve heard many young women lament the challenge of actively staying friends with the ladies in their circle who have had children.

When your friend has kids and you don’t, spending time together can begin to feel awkwardly difficult. Maybe your schedules no longer mesh. Maybe you can’t get her to focus on the conversation because she is interrupted every three minutes by her children or starts talking randomly about potty-training. Maybe she doesn’t even invite you over anymore because she doesn’t want to impose the ups and downs of toddlerdom on you.

Yet if you can both let the friendship stretch and grow with her new stage of life, you are striking a blow for what is good. It isn’t just that we all need friends--in a world where narcissism happens to be one of our pet sins, it is especially helpful to nurture relationships that help us see beyond ourselves and our own stage of life. Moms benefit when they are reminded of the wider world beyond the so-intense challenges of babies. Non-moms can learn a great deal about humanity by observing the earthy reality of early childhood. Furthermore, it’s a wonderful thing when children are able to learn from “extra adults” who care about them and when childless folks are able to enjoy intergenerational friendship.

I have little ones, and I am deeply grateful for the childless ladies who are willing to enter the world of kid-land with me. Here are my top tips on nurturing a friendship with someone who has kids when you don’t.

Feb 17, 2017

The Fine Line Between Perspective and Fear

By Anna Ilona Mussmann


I find it hard to forget a story that was recently making the rounds on Facebook. In it, a mother vividly recounts a car crash (she was driving) in which her little boy died. In conclusion, she encouraged parents to savor every moment with their little ones, because after all, none of us knows how much time we have left.

No doubt the post was helpful to many people. But it wasn’t something I should have read. The line between perspective and fear is a thin one.

I have heard young mothers comment that when they struggle with a parenting choice, they try to always err on the side of least regret. For instance, if they can imagine themselves regretting that they let their child cry in bed alone--or that they said no--or that they administered punishment over a small incident--or that they were too busy--they will instead err on the “safe” side.

I can see how that approach might feel right. Yet emotional safety is not the goal of life. It is true enough if, God forbid, my child died in the night, I might regret that I hadn’t sung him as many songs as he wanted that evening. I would surely long for more everything with him. That wouldn’t necessarily mean the decision I had made was the wrong one.

It is most likely that my son will grow and thrive and become taller than I am. I want him to be a man who can handle being told “no,” who has internalized a sense of right and wrong, who has learned self-control. I try to make parenting decisions with long-term goals like these in mind. To do otherwise would be to make his life harder, later on. It is not in his best interest to strive always to make him happy now in case he doesn’t see tomorrow.

Furthermore, there is a deeper problem with the “parent-like-there’s-no-tomorrow” school of thought. I am a sinner. Apart from any false regrets that might assail me (regrets born of the stark reality that my chance to indulge my child is over), if tragedy struck, I would also suffer from real regret. I will look back and see my blunders and my sin. There is no way that I can give my children everything on any given day. There is no way that I can look back and say, “Yes, I maintained a proper mindset and loved my children enough.” There is no way that I would not feel a gut-wrenching need for more tomorrows to try again.

I am already keenly aware of the fragile beauty of human life and love and of the privilege it is to be a mother. I have seen enough loss in the lives of people around me to know that much. Perspective is important. Yet by showing us how much we have to lose, the quest for perspective can send us perilously close to fear. Fear tempts us to turn our eyes away from God’s promises. Fear can even encourage unconscious superstition along the lines of, “If I worry enough, bad things won’t happen,” or, “If I can manage to be grateful enough, good things won’t be taken away from me.”

Scripture points a different direction. The seventh petition of the Lord’s Prayer begs, “But deliver us from evil.” In his explanation of this line, Dr. Luther says, “We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from all manner of evil, of body and soul, property and honor, and at last, when our last hour shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself into heaven.”

The story I read on Facebook was an admonition to look at death in order to live more fully. The Lord’s Prayer instead tells us to look ahead to eternal life. There we see the blessed hope that the fears and suffering of earth cannot swallow up what is good. It is not helpful for me to live in fear of tragedy. Instead, it is far better to remember that my children belong to a God who loves them and who numbers the hairs on their heads. It is far better for me to commend my life and my family into God’s hands and say, “Amen.”


***

After graduating from Concordia Wisconsin, Anna taught in Lutheran schools for several years and became so enthusiastic about Classical Education that she will talk about it to whomever will listen. She is a big fan of Jane Austen, dark chocolate, and the Oxford comma. Anna and her husband live in Pennsylvania with their two small children. Anna's work can also be found in The Federalist.


Image source.

Feb 14, 2017

The Winners!

Dear Readers,

Thank you to those who shared their wit with us, and to those who voted for their favorite theologically-correct Valentine.

Without farther ado, here are our winners!

Feb 10, 2017

7 Reasons Why Moms Blog Less as Our Kids Get Older

By Lora Horn


Do you ever notice how most of the so-called “Mommy Blogs” out there focus on little kids? There are very few blogs about being a mom of tweens or teens.

I’m not being patronizing at all. I was a “Mommy blogger,” though people didn’t have niches or classifications when I started writing. I wrote about anything I cared about: parenting, theology, politics, morality, and kombucha. It’s amazing how things have changed in the last ten years in such a short time.

At some point, I stopped writing about my kids. I didn’t notice it happening, and it seems to happen to most other moms, too. I’ve spent several minutes contemplating why this could be and decided to share my thoughts. (Just kidding, the editors will back me up when I say I’ve been thinking about this for well over a year. That’s how long they’ve been waiting for this revision.)

This is what I came up with:

Feb 7, 2017

Come Vote for Your Favorite Theologically-correct Valentine (2017)

Dear Readers,


I am delighted to present this year's entries! Thanks to Margaret Baumann, Rebekah Curtis, Mary Moerbe, Naomi Marks, Jessica Jenson, Aubri Hale, Jenna Parshall, Kaitlyn DeYoung, and Heather Judd for sharing their work with us. Please take a look and vote for your favorite.

***

Feb 4, 2017

Minimalism; Parenting; Pro-life (Off-site Highlights)

(Compiled by Anna)

Dear Readers,

Here are some excellent pieces to add to your weekend reading.

By the way, thanks to everyone who entered texts for the theologically-correct Valentine contest! Check back here on the 7th to vote for your favorite entry.


1. I am a believer in decluttering. However, in this fascinating piece, the author links minimalism with lack of respect for the material (including for human bodies).  
Minimalism Gets It Wrong by Michael Rennier
There are no shortcuts. Advertising that creates a false sense of desirability only leaves the consumer disillusioned and ready to quickly move on when advertising offers a newer, fancier model. On the other hand, getting rid of everything is a rejection of the goodness of the created world, which leaves us not more spiritually free but bereft and blinded. . . . The answer isn’t Minimalism. The answer is moderation and love. More


2. We modern parents are the recipients not just of an abundance of official advice, but of the message that we had better get this parenting thing right, by golly. Sometimes it's hard not to be cowed or confused by all the (sometimes contradictory) pressure. That's why I heartily recommend acquiring the perspective that comes with reading about parenting in other eras. Some tidbits of period advice still ring true. Others sound laughably horrifying. Both help us realize that our own experts might not be right. Take a look at this once-popular manual of advice for parents, written by a political activist, novelist, and self-help guru of the first half of the Nineteenth Century. 
The Mother's Book by Lydia Child (1831)


3. My Facebook feed is pretty political right now. I thought this article about stepping beyond meme-posting and helping prevent abortion is a helpful read. 
4 Ways To Stop Arguing About Abortion And Start Preventing It by Cara Valle
What if you don’t know anyone who’s considering abortion? Help the single mothers you know anyway. It will help give hope to women who feel unsupported. If the norm is for single mothers to be left on their own — forced to sacrifice one of their children for the others — then they will be more likely to seek abortion. If the norm is for good people to offer provide legitimate, effective assistance, they will be more likely to have the courage to keep an unborn child and not view it as a threat to their older children’s well-being.


4. On a related rate, it is highly encouraging to know that abortion rates are down.


5. Does our culture have a bias against adoption? It's worth considering Elizabeth Kirk's points about challenging this bias. 
We Need to Talk About Adoption by Elizabeth Kirk
"Indeed, adoptions are so rare as to be a statistical blip [compared to abortions]. Why is this so? There are myriad factors, such as the influence of the media (which loves a sensational negative adoption story) and the prevailing culture, shaped by the perception that abortion liberates women, which makes adoption unpopular. Women considering abortion report “adoption is not a realistic option for them. . . . [T]he thought of one’s child being out in the world without knowing if it was being taken care of or by whom would induce more guilt than having an abortion.” Some argue there is a soft stigma against adoption, or worse, that adoption is an unnatural, heartless choice on the part of the birthmother." More


7. The majority of abortions are procured by single moms who already have children and cannot fathom caring for another. Leila Lawler's post points to the solution. 
"There is no other plan ~ Marriage is the plan" by Leila Lawler
Abortion is the result of forgetting that God had a plan for man and woman. 
It’s not a terrible evil that befalls the child randomly. 
Rather, abortion on the scale that we witness today in America is the logical consequence of forgetting that a baby is meant to be the expression of love between a man and a woman who have pledged themselves to unity. 
Marriage is the solution to abortion.

8. Interested in the changing demographics and sociology of the LCMS (including the question, "Why is LCMS membership declining?")? There are some interesting new reports and resources here.


9. Did you know that Luther wrote a little book on prayer for his barber? 


Feb 3, 2017

One More Way to be Pro-Life

By Anna Ilona Mussmann


It is heartening to watch CNN footage of the March for Life. There is comfort in the confirmation that many thousands of diverse Americans care about the rights of human beings who cannot cry out for themselves.

Many of my pro-life friends have been talking about adoption this month. In fact, quite a few of them have posted this as their Facebook status: “If anyone is thinking about having an abortion I will gladly take the baby. I will give it a good family and life. If you would do the same, change your status to this. #marchfortheunborn.” Knowing these women as I do--knowing that some of them already have a houseful of babies, knowing that others have struggled to have any babies at all, or have lost a child of their own--I see the poignancy in their posts.

However, the world is full of people who do not know these women. People who tell a very different narrative about what is good (or bad) for children.

Jan 31, 2017

Pew Sisters: a Great Resource for Groups or Private Study

By Rachel Kovaciny

When a group of ladies from our church decided to start a monthly women's Bible study last year, we felt overwhelmed by the multitude of woman-focused Bible studies available.  Did we want to study great Biblical women? Focus on the fruits of the spirit? Learn about Christian motherhood? There are many, many wonderful resources for women's Bible study groups out there, but we eventually chose to use Pew Sisters by Katie Schuermann for our first twelve meetings.

The tagline for Pew Sisters is "Real women. Real lives. Real stories of God's faithfulness," and that encapsulates the book's focus very nicely. Each of the twelve chapters begins with an applicable Bible passage, then the story of a Christian woman struggling with a specific issue. The issues vary widely, from postpartum depression to the loss of a loved one, from forgiving an ex-husband to surviving a hurricane, from unexpected pregnancy to a cancer diagnosis. 

After presenting the story, each chapter moves on to a set of study questions. These are not only about the story, but about theology involved in the issue at hand and how the Bible applies to our own lives. Next, "A Moment in the Pew" reflects on the issue presented, and the chapter closes with related hymn stanzas for reflection and a prayer. In our Bible study group, those study questions really help us share our own experiences and ways that God has touched our lives. We share our own stories of wrestling with some faith-related problem, encourage each other, and find ways to apply Biblical truths.

Jan 27, 2017

Joy is the Culmination of the Cross

By Heather Judd

Truly, truly I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.  
You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow with turn into joy.  
(John 16:20)


Lutherans know the theology of the cross.  We know that suffering is promised to Christians in this life and that sorrows are to be borne rather than avoided.  In the midst of affliction, we harbor the sure hope that joy will come, if not in this life, then in eternity.  Yet comprehensive as this theology is, between sorrow and joy our minds often lose hold of the most profound aspect of this paradox of faith:  Our joy comes through our crosses themselves.  

This truth was made manifest to me in a tangible way a few months ago.  It happened at the altar of the church that has been my beloved spiritual home for nearly twelve years of my life.  At that altar I have been fed the boundless bread and wine of heaven more times than I can count, but also at that altar have I knelt on many a dark, lonely night when my soul was nearly crushed under the weight of the cross.  There I have poured out my mingled tears and prayers.  There I have fiercely reminded God of His promises.  There I have begged for His good gift of marriage.  And there my wise and loving Lord time and again did not remove this cross, but rather gave me strength to bear it.  

Indeed, our dear Lord was truly both wise and loving in this refusal, for He would give nothing less than the choicest wine at His altar.  How could He grant even the least of my watery pleas when it would have weakened the rich joy He had in store for me?  For, beyond my shortsighted sorrows, He foresaw the day when the good and godly man whom He had prepared for me would kneel before that altar to ask me to be his wife.
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