Jun 20, 2017

Telling Yourself the Truth

By Melanie Sorenson

Lamentations 3:1-29

Every man, woman, and child on earth knows what it is to suffer, to be in pain, and to feel sadness and anger. Every human being knows what it is to have a bad day, to feel alone, to wonder if hope is lost. We learn as toddlers how to jump up from scraped knees, sit in "time out" to help the temper tantrums pass, and develop self-control so that we are not a complete menace to society and ourselves.

What we sometimes do not know is how to handle life and move forward when all the lights go out.

One must only watch a 23-minute American sitcom to see how we prefer life: a few laughs, a minor melodrama, a quick fix, and everything happily wrapped up by the final commercial break. Anything harder than that and we want to delegate. Hire someone. Duck. Turn a blind eye. Blame someone else. Point fingers. Have a few laughs at someone else's expense to distract from reality. Lie. Hide. Anything but be in pain and let others see our weakness. Anything to keep from appearing as a leper that attracts every contagious problem we all work so hard to avoid. 

But what do you do when your happily-ever-after as a wife and mother has the bottom of the bag torn out and everything is broken, exposed, and hopeless?

What do you do when friends leave, family turns, the world mocks, jobs are lost, terminal illness comes, and marriages are strained? What do you do when your happily-ever-after blows up in your face? What do you do when you look in the mirror and see those aging lines, the bags under your eyes from another sleepless night, and due to circumstances beyond your control (but all quite the effect of not only general sin, but your own as well) you find yourself wondering how the years you have invested in mothering, marriage, and homemaking will actually turn out with that "her husband stands at the gate and he praises her" ending? 

Jun 16, 2017

Four Ways Women Can Support the Vocation of Fatherhood

By Anna Mussmann

Moms are the ones who get pregnant. Moms are the ones who most often stay at home with children. Yet dads, too, have a huge influence on the shaping of a child’s life--in fact, somewhat counterintuitively, the choices of a father are a much better statistical predictor of how children will live in adulthood than many of a mother’s decisions are. This is just as true for church attendance as it is for weight and fitness.

That shouldn’t be a surprise, should it? When God was designing the world, He didn’t just create a system whereby humans could procreate. He also gave us marriage between a man and a woman. Throughout Scripture, God uses the imagery of marriage and fatherhood as a way to help us understand who He is and how He relates to us. He designed dads to matter. What a tragedy--what a clever tactic of the devil--when a society’s understanding of fatherhood is blunted and warped.

I can’t help remembering the time when, a few years ago, a teacher explained to me that even though she has her students make Mother’s Day gifts, she no longer helps them prepare anything for their fathers. Too many of the students don’t have a dad. Those who do are not necessarily on good terms with him.

As Lutherans and Christians, we have a tremendous opportunity to serve our neighbors by bearing witness to the vocation of fatherhood. People who don’t know what a daddy really is need to see examples. People who are in the trenches of fatherhood benefit when we recognize the importance of what they do. How is this to be done? I am not a father, a theologian, or an expert; but I’d like to throw some suggestions into the conversation.

Jun 13, 2017

Children, Too, are Part of the Church

By Alison Andreasen

I’ve previously  discussed the way our culture pursues age segregation as the norm and often fails to recognize the importance of family togetherness. This trend has impacted not only nuclear families, but also church families, and it hurts both our children and the church bodies that they will be a part of in the future. 

If a group of people in a church wanted to start a Bible study open only to individuals with light skin and freckles, the leadership of the church would put their foot down and say that we can’t categorize people like that. Yet that is exactly what we do with children. We divide them by age and put them in classrooms. Meanwhile, the altar guild takes down communion, people count the offering, and the ushers collect unused bulletins from the pews--all without interaction from the little ones who would delight in helping out, too. When the children grow up, we then expect them to jump into service, only to find that they aren’t prepared for what it means to be involved at church. 

We make a grave mistake when we overemphasize having “kid” things for kids and “adult” things for adults.

Jun 11, 2017

Togetherness with Our Children, including silly walks (Podcast Episode)

I had a lovely time visiting with SDMW writer Alison Andreasen. Did you know she started (and later sold) a granola business? We chatted about the almost constant age-segregation that our culture mistakenly thinks is normal and about ways moms can enjoy their kids while fostering "togetherness" as a family.

You can listen-in here in this post or head over to iTunes or Libsyn. If you can't find us on the app you use, let us know, and we'll look into that. Not sure how to listen to podcasts on-the-go? Check out our handy-dandy guide here.

Jun 9, 2017

What Engagement Has Taught Me about Life as a Christian

By Heather Judd

Throughout Scripture, marriage is used as a glorious picture of Christ and the Church. I have often reflected on how marriages depict the heavenly union, but until my own engagement I had not considered how this prelude to marriage also illustrates deep truths. Being engaged, particularly to a far-away fiancé, has taught me much about my life as a Christian awaiting the heavenly Bridegroom.

The long-distance engagement and the Christian life are both times of waiting, yet activity, and of expectation alongside present reality. They force us to consider a key question of humanity: How shall we live? Knowing that the here and now is prologue to coming joy, we must wonder how we ought to carry out our days. The answer links the present and the future, and like every aspect of Christianity, it relies on placing our trust not in our own feelings, but in the promises we have been given.

It did not take me long to discover that being engaged is a marvelously distracting state of being. Grading papers or choosing bridesmaid dresses? Doing laundry or adding items to the registry? Washing dishes or whittling down our list of 20 wedding hymns? Wedding planning is always more appealing than the tasks of daily life! Yet, the papers must be graded, the laundry done, and the dishes washed. Reality does not stop even for a joy so transcendent as preparing for marriage.

Being a mostly dutiful person, I was neither surprised nor distressed that life continued to be filled with simple vocational tasks, even while I basked in the happiness of my engagement. What did surprise me was the first time I realized I had been going about just my daily tasks. After days of being utterly distracted with thoughts of my beloved, I had, for a brief time, seemingly forgotten him. I had gotten so busy with the work before me that it had become my focus. There was his ring still on my finger. Time was still moving me toward our wedding union. I certainly still loved him. But all that had faded from my consciousness as I became preoccupied with my to-do list.

Jun 6, 2017

Remember When

Rebekah Theilen

“And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15

“Have you ever counted the number of times they say your name in a day?”

My father-in-law asked me the question one evening after supper. We were gathered around the kitchen table, lingering in the fruits of a woman’s labor, the bonding and sharing of a family meal. The dishes waited patiently while we all got to talking. A forgotten story sparked a dozen forgotten stories, and my children, suddenly forgetting all the manners we’re still working on, began shouting in unison.  What followed was a spontaneous showering of pleasantry, an unexpected litany of memory.

 “Mom! Remember when it rained so hard there was a river in the backyard!?”

“Mom! Remember when we backpacked through the cornfield together!?”

“Mom! Remember when we ran all the way to the cornfield in the pouring down rain!?”

“Mom! Remember when I threw up at breakfast!?”

I do remember those times, along with many, many more. To answer my father-in-law’s question, I have never stopped to count the number of times my children say my name in a day. I have, however, on too many occasions, stopped to complain about it. For it seems like only yesterday when interruptions were constant and I was hourly needed beyond human ability.  Diapers. Food. Clothes. Shelter. There was not enough time, not enough energy for the bare bone basics. They call it survival mode for a very good reason.

Sometimes I imagine myself further along in years. In my daydreams, I’m an old woman watching the sunset from a front-porch rocking chair, thinking back on all the things that truly mattered. What will I regret or I wish I had done differently?  What will I be thankful for?  My children come to mind, as they often do, and what I always come back to is time. I wish I would have spent, rather than squandered, more time. Then gratitude comes and eradicates guilt, and I am thankful for all the time I was given, for the once-in-a-lifetime joy of being able to live alongside my children during their growing up years.

Jun 3, 2017

Creativity, Summer Reading, and Fear (Off-site Highlights)

Dear Readers,

Have you planted any seeds yet this Spring? My kids and I have filled a motley collection of pots (not to mention the garden bed) with flower and vegetable seeds. Having neglected to label anything, we are now waiting for the sprouts to get big enough to identify. It's quite exciting!

Here's your occasional post of recommended reading from around the web.

1. In "Irrational fear doesn’t make our kids safer (even in Ikea)", Simcha Fisher points out that nurturing fear does not make anyone a better parent nor keep their children safer. "But we are not in control. More fear will not make us more in control. . . . more fear is not the same as more love."

2. In "Why do we suffer trials?" Pastor Matthew Harrison talks about suffering. "Trials are actually part of a trilogy that really embeds faith in Christ deep in our being."

3. In "Happiness research shows the biggest obstacle to creativity is being too busy,"  Emma Seppälä talks about balancing the busyness aspect of modern life.

4. Putting together a summer booklist? You might appreciate this one for teen boys. I also like the concept of this blogger's list, which suggests that women can cultivate their mind by cycling between easy, middling, and hard books.

If you look closely, you'll see the maple tree that my son planted in the jade plant's pot. Alas, poor maple--it's not going to work. 

Jun 2, 2017

What a Pastor's Wife Wants You to Know

By Ruth Meyer

I know, I know. You've read it all before. You get it. Pastors’ wives are sick of living in a fishbowl. They don’t want to be compared to the former pastor’s wife. They’re tired of the expectation that they’ll do everything from leading VBS to starting a women’s Bible study to doing secretarial work for free. They hate the stereotype that their children must be perfectly behaved or know all the answers in Sunday school. You know all these things. You’ve seen other blog posts to that effect. And it’s a good and helpful thing when congregations realize this. But honestly, too many articles of that nature makes us PWs seem sort of...well, resentful. So please allow me to share a few other things I’d like parishioners to know that may help you understand your pastor’s wife (and your pastor) better.

1. My hubby doesn’t share your information with me

I can't tell you how many times I’ve had a parishioner approach me and launch into an update or a continuation of a conversation to which I’m not privy. If my husband visits you or meets with you privately, he doesn’t come home and tell me all the juicy details. This is a good thing. The pastor-parishioner relationship is supposed to be confidential, and my husband honors that. So do I. Even if something is common knowledge--like a hospital stay, for example--that doesn’t mean my husband automatically fills me in on your status, unless you specifically ask him to. So please take a moment to bring me up to date if you’d like to talk to me about something. But rest assured, anything you confide in your pastor stays with him.

May 30, 2017

What We're Reading (May 2017)

Need ideas for your summer reading list? Here's the May edition of "What We're Reading." What about you? We'd love to see your recommendations in the comments. 

May 26, 2017

Moms Need Community, Not Make-up Free Selfies

By Anna Mussmann

Modern motherhood is weird. It’s a clothesline pulled between various societal voices--"Moms are slaves to drudgery! Moms are self-aggrandizing! Moms need to stop helicoptering! Call CPS if you see a child in the backyard alone! Everything on Instagram is a lie, ooh, look, a celebrity without makeup!”

Beneath all the noise is a generation of women living out the vocation of mommy.

Confession: sometimes I feel impatient with all those perfectly adequate moms who accept the weight of this pressure. Part of me would like to say, “Just stop listening and go wash the dishes. Who cares what anyone thinks if they are wrong?”

Yet that’s the sore spot. We women are programmed to look for models from which to learn. How else will we know what is normal? The pressure women feel is evidence that, rather than needing to find our own internal truth, human beings all know--deep down--that we need truth from without. In fact, when women are told to simply “trust your instincts,” a lot of us look over our shoulders to see what everyone else is doing and whether any of the other babies are allowed to eat goldfish off the floor.
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