Nov 8, 2021

How We Learned to (Actually) Do Family Devotions

By Anna Mussmann
 
Until recently, my husband and I didn’t do regular devotions with our children. We prayed before meals and bedtime, of course. We told Bible stories and talked about God. Yet unless we were in church or doing homeschool lessons, we didn’t consistently read God’s Word together. We meant to do it. We made various plans at various times. We acquired various devotional books and started them. Somehow, it never worked. The rather pathetic reason is that we kept forgetting.
 
It wasn’t how we wanted to live. We wanted to show our children that studying and praying together is not only good, but normal, kind of like eating breakfast or lunch. Yet as St. Paul laments in Romans 7, we did not do the good we wanted. We “just weren’t good at doing devotions.”
 
I don’t want to blame our struggle on being Lutheran. Yet I think it’s true that when Christians live in grace, as Lutherans attempt to do, we can find ourselves caught in a strange brain space.
 
Humans have a tendency to treat whatever is mandatory as important, and, conversely, whatever is not mandatory as optional: that is to say, not as important. If, for instance, I told my children that seatbelts save lives but I let them choose whether or not to buckle up, would I really be communicating the importance of seatbelts?
 

Jun 15, 2021

While You Wait for a Child

By Carol Yenish
 
Five years. I waited five years before being given the opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day with a child of my own. My five years doesn’t sound so long when we think of women who may never see that day, or when we remember Sara in Genesis 21 who waited decades before witnessing the birth of her son Isaac. But it’s still true that each year when Mother’s Day rolled around it was painful to notice the growing groups in the pews around me in church—to see that where four members once sat there were now five, or six, or seven; while my family dent in the pew remained at two…two….two.
 
Even one year of waiting can feel like an eternity when you hope and pray with the passion of Hannah, for month after month in anguish, to be given success.  It can feel so lonely to work through your disappointment each cycle with even the most loving husband at your side. 

May 6, 2021

We Will Never Solve “Mom Guilt” by Saying It Shouldn’t Exist

By Anna Mussmann
 
My son had trouble falling asleep last night and came downstairs to tell us the shadows in his room looked like ogres.
 
When he’s afraid of the dark, he is not comforted by a logical exposition designed to demonstrate the absence of monsters. Only two things really work. The first is praying with him. We ask God to give him safety and courage. The second is letting him select a pie server or rubber spatula from the utensil jar. He carries it upstairs so that if he sees a suspicious shadow he can stab it. After all, you never know, right?
 
I shouldn’t feel so impatient when one of my children wanders downstairs after bedtime. After all, there are a lot of similarities between childhood fears and “mom guilt,” and I know what it’s like to be afflicted by the latter. I, too, have occasionally lain in bed struggling with worries that might not even make sense.

Apr 21, 2021

Dear Single Sisters in Christ

 By Abby Leithart
 
Being a single Christian woman comes with many tensions. While many others around me are becoming engaged and having babies and more babies, I am desiring all of the above. Perhaps you, too, are single; you, too, desire to be married; you too have tried telling yourself being single is a blessing (not saying it is not); you too go back and forth between praying about it and wondering what the point of these petitions is. Does God even care about these desires?
 
And on top of all of these internal battles, everyone around you gives conflicting advice. In my experience, one of the least helpful pieces of advice concerning meeting a potential husband is, “You know when you know…” Thank you for pointing out the very thing I do not know.  *le sigh. Another example of disheartening words to a single woman is, “how are you still single?” *le sigh again…I egotistically ask myself the same question! So many women seem to have no trouble finding a suitable husband, why can’t I?
 
It is easy, at this point, to look inwardly and critically and think that surely there must be something wrong with me. It is easy to fall into the devil’s traps when you are wallowing in self-pity.

 

Apr 19, 2021

Help us Circumvent the Algorithms of Our Technological Overlords! Or, why you should sign up for our newsletter!

By Anna Mussmann

I’ll admit it: I want people to read the things I write. At least, I want the people who want to read the things I write to read them.
 
When I post articles from this blog on Facebook, they fall, of course, into the great algorithmic stream ostensibly dammed and channeled so as to show each of you what you are most likely to want to see. Yet the stream doesn’t belong to either you or me. It’s Facebook’s stream, and they keep asking me to pay them money to show you my posts. 

Facebook's pay-to-play system isn't the only impediment, either. 
 

You probably heard about the surge of “deplatforming” that followed the 2020 election. Do you know, for instance, that it is now officially against Youtube’s policy to allow any content “alleging widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of a historical U.S. Presidential election?” Or, for another instance, did you hear about the bishop blocked from Twitter for tweeting in opposition to assisted suicide? Or that Facebook would not allow the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty to “boost” a post in response to violence in the U.S. capital?
 
I’ve been wondering lately about the future of this blog—especially about my ability to share it.
 
A while back, Facebook attached a warning label to an article from this blog. The label said our piece contained inaccurate information about Kenyan obesity rates. Now, in reality, the article did not mention obesity, Kenyans, or even Africa. Yet the warning popped up anytime a reader tried to share the post. It may well have been a mere error—just a coincidence. Yet there was no way to appeal the label, and that says something about Facebook's priorities. 
 
It would be nice to have a way to connect with each other independent of the big tech platforms. 

What about signing up for the Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife newsletter? You can do so in the right-hand sidebar on this site. You’ll probably hear from us once a month. You’ll get bonus content (including a chance to join a discussion group). It will be fun! It will help stick it to the technological overlords and their all-powerful algorithms!
 
.

Do note that if you want to subscribe, you'll have to hit confirm in the email you get after signing up
 
Hoping to connect,
 
Anna




Apr 17, 2021

Using our Words to Repent

 By Anna Mussmann
 
“In the beginning was the Word.” Without language, we would not know God.
 
We would not hear His voice in the pages of Holy Scripture. We would not hear the words of absolution spoken by our pastors. We would not understand God’s creation of the universe or the meaning of the Word made flesh for us.
 
We would be fully lost and fully alone.
 
God has given us the gift of language and has blessed us with the task of using it to share His word with others. We are told to send preachers to the lost and to teach the faith “diligently” to our children by talking of it “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
 
We are meant to be people of words.

 

Feb 9, 2021

Why I’m Grateful to My Friends for Cleaning Their Houses

By Anna Mussmann

Domestic coziness is important. I know this. I believe this. However, after my third baby was born, I didn’t much notice what my house was actually like. I was too busy learning how to parent three children instead of two. It didn’t help that the basement flooded and I developed a case of shingles. I was too busy to even see things like, say, dust. My mind had streamlined the word “cleaning” to mean only three things: running the vacuum occasionally, washing the dishes, and telling the kids to tidy their toys. 
 
And for a while, this was OK. 



When the baby was around four months old, we went on a road trip and stayed with friends. My friends had cleaned. In their houses, the floors had been washed. The sunlight poured through glossy windows and lit up well-cared for houseplants. There was a feeling of spaciousness and comfort in the absence of clutter. It was so restful to be in those homes. It was beautiful. It made me remember.
 
The first thing I did at home was to wash my electric kettle. It’s ceramic with a pretty white and red pattern. I like the feel of the handle and the swoosh of water when I pour it into a waiting teacup. It’s basically domestic coziness in itself. The thing is, though, the outside of my kettle had taken on the orange hue of dozens of forgotten dinners. You know how it is--little bits of food splash when you’re cooking and you’re too busy to wipe them off. I hadn’t even noticed the specks before. It was embarrassing to look around my kitchen with newly opened eyes, but it was nice to see the kettle look glossy again. 
 
I didn’t have time to scrub the whole house at once. My baby was still pretty needy and the other kids wanted my attention, too. However, I had made a start--I had begun to notice things and to work on them in odd moments. 
 
I’m grateful to my friends for cleaning their houses. Their hospitality was a wonderful gift; all the more so because it helped lift me out of whatever survival zone I was in and reminded me that a clean home is a real thing. A lovely thing. A goal worth working on around, between, and during the various adventures my children create. 
 
It seems to me that online discussions about looking after one’s house are a bit like discussions about achieving a healthy body weight. Both issues ought, on the face of it, to be relatively simple; but they are instead deeply interwoven with self-worth, pride, lifestyle choices, guilt, shame, perfectionism, exhaustion, and plain old sin. They become almost impossible to discuss.
 
Yet perhaps the idea that we could get better at cleaning our houses doesn’t have to be a blow to our self-worth. It doesn’t have to be Law that must be cast off so that we can live in grace. 
 
It’s true that housekeeping is hard work. However, I think there are other reasons so many of us have a complicated relationship with this idea of keeping our homes nice: I think we have unconsciously soaked in the cultural message that housekeeping isn’t meaningful and might in fact be oppressive (proof: men do less of it than we do!). Besides, we find it tough to believe that we actually need to learn a skill set just for cleaning. After all, how hard is it to scrub a toilet? We forget that the managerial side of all this--the skill of organizing ourselves into developing and following an efficient daily system--is something few of us have learned. We also have too much stuff. 
 
But you know, we don’t have to actually listen to cultural messages or to live amongst clutter. We live in grace, and we are free to seek out the blessing of new skills and new ways of doing things. It is a blessing, not a burden, to have a pretty tea kettle to clean. It is a blessing to have friends who clean their homes and invite us in. It is a blessing to scrub the floor for our own families. 
 
In her book Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life Margaret Kim Peterson writes, “Time deliberately set aside for keeping house is never just about ‘making a home for my family.’ Of course housework is about making a home, but a Christian home, properly understood, is never just for one’s own family. A Christian home overflows its boundaries; it is an outpost of the kingdom of God, where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and there is room enough for everyone.” 
 
She points out that the “hungry” and “naked” people Jesus talks about serving aren’t necessarily strangers. “Housework is all about feeding and clothing and sheltering people who, in the absence of that daily work, would otherwise be hungry and ill-clad and ill-housed. There is undoubtedly more to the merciful service that Jesus describes in Matthew 25 than caring for the daily needs of the members of our own households. Housework is a beginning, not an end. But it is a beginning--not a sidetrack, not a distraction, but a beginning, and an essential one at that--in the properly Christian work of, among other things, meeting the everyday needs of others.”
 
I am thankful for the beginning I have been able to make. That is why I am grateful to my friends for cleaning their houses. 


***

After graduating from Concordia Wisconsin, Anna taught in Lutheran schools for several years.  She now homeschools her children during the day and writes in the evening. Anna loves Jane Austen, dark chocolate, and the Oxford comma. She likes to review the books she reads on Goodreads, and her work can also be found in The Federalist.



Jan 20, 2021

Praying for My Children--and All the Baptized

By Molly Barnett
 
Becky Eminger’s post about her wish for Christmas struck my heart sharply. She reminded me to pray for all of God’s baptized children as often as possible. She also presented the difficult truth that, as a parent, I do not have control over my son’s gift of faith.
 
I admit that this was a tough pill to swallow for a new mother of a young child with another on the way. What I can do is follow her wise example and that of many faithful Christian parents, and dutifully teach my son God’s ways by taking him to church every Sunday, practicing devotions as a family at home, praying with him, and letting him witness my own shortcomings that need Christ’s daily forgiveness.
 
The rest is truly the doings of the Holy Spirit as I fervently pray He keeps my young son, a toddler, in the one true saving faith and into life everlasting.
 
While I grieve with her and any parent of adult children who have lost them, either momentarily or permanently, to the world, I am also humbled at witnessing the gift of faith in the littlest among us.



As a Lutheran, I rejoice at the gift of infant baptism and the faith which springs from it and grows as the child is instructed in God’s Word. The moment between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, both with child, enters my mind with this topic.
 
Mary journeys to her cousin in Judah, and upon entering the home and greeting those within, John leaps within Elizabeth’s womb! Luke’s Gospel informs us, “And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.’ ”
 
As I am pregnant now with my second child and regularly feel her vibrant motions, I can only begin to imagine the excitement Elizabeth felt when her son physically reacted within her to the Lord’s presence within Mary. I ought to meditate on these verses more often. Aren’t they beautiful?
           
Now that my son is a year and a half old and has heard daily prayers and weekly attends Divine Service with us, a sweet glimmer of his young faith seems to be shining. Almost daily, he will find our home hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book used in church, flip through the pages and “sing.” 
 
He cannot utter distinguishable words of prayer nor praise, but he, in his own way, is doing what he witnesses of the living saints. He knows that this special book is for singing, and he uses it as such, and boy, is it adorable. Not only is it precious to see him mimicking what he has seen, but it is also a picture of faith in God’s smallest children. They too, we confess, have faith in Him and believe though not able to confess with their lips quite yet. He did not need me to carve out a spot in the day to sing to God. He saw the hymnal, knew its purpose, and responded willingly. I cannot say for certain, but perhaps it is the Holy Spirit working within him. It is certainly possible.
 
Of course I want to gush over this ritual and claim some sort of pious credit of influence, but that is exactly what I ought not to do.
 
If Luther is right in the explanation to the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed that “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel,” then how much more applicable is this notion to that of someone else’s faith! Instead of gazing upon my son’s budding faith as the fruit of MY works, I need to change my posture by giving thanks to the giver of faith!
 
It is not for us to know the mysteries of God apart from what He tells us in Scripture. Therefore, it is certainly not for us to judge the faithful parents of children who reject the faith in their adulthood.
 
The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh are very real forces working against God’s good work. Let us then turn to God for constant guidance in raising our children in all stages of their lives and seek His mercy. Let us not take credit if our children grow into faithful adults who regularly and joyfully attend church services. Let us give thanks for the gift of faith imparted to us in our baptism by the Holy Spirit and pray without ceasing for the little and big children of God.

***
 
Molly Barnett lives with her husband and son in Alexandria, Virginia where they are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Before becoming a mother, she taught fourth grade for six years at the classical Immanuel Lutheran School. She holds a B.A. in English from The Ohio State University and an M.A. in liberal arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. Her favorite activities these days include walking outside with her family, playing the piano, and competing against her husband in various board games.

Image source.

Dec 10, 2020

What I Want for Christmas

By Becky Eminger




It was never my plan to hope and pray that my children would be Christmas and Easter church attenders, or "C & E’s," as they are sometimes called. And yet, as we prepare for Advent, this is indeed my prayer. I am as surprised by this as anyone! Sure, they could hear the Gospel anytime, but they do not make the time or effort. But at Christmas and Easter, an opportunity opens for many to step into God’s house, His love, and His redemptive Gospel.

I had never heard of the term "C & E" until a few years ago.  In a planning meeting for upcoming church events at our former church, one of the staff members made the offhand remark that we would need to plan for the C & E’s showing up.  This was said with sneer and a roll of the eyes.

I had to ask what C & E meant.  The person replied, “You know, the people who only bother to show up on Christmas and Easter.”

Ah. It appeared C & E’s were nowhere as good as regular church attendees. I did not give this concept much thought, nor did I bother to question or defend the C & E’s in our church.

Until now.

My husband and I never thought our children would leave the church.  We had them baptized shortly after birth, went with them to church and Sunday School each Sunday, held family devotions, read Bible lessons, prayed with them, and sent them to Lutheran day school.  It never occurred to us they would leave the church altogether.

But they did leave. There are reasons or excuses, depending on your viewpoint.  None of that matters much; only the consequences of their choice matters.
 
Now that they are adults, the only influence we have is prayer and the example of how we live our faith. While we enjoy a loving, close relationship with our kids; faith in Christ remains the one topic they either avoid or shut down with the statement that they do not believe anything they were taught. Subject closed. Talking about it? Not on the table at this point. Attending church? They avoid it studiously by planning to be busy on Sundays when we are together.
 
There is no promise any of them will be in church with us on Christmas Eve, but we pray that they will come to hear, once again, God’s great love for us and His plan for our salvation.

Is it because we want the warm, fuzzy feelings of being together in church? Do we want to give off the image of being the perfect, happy family?
 
No and no. The simple reason they need to be in church is this: God’s Word has the power to save.
 
Romans 10:17 says:
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Our kids, and all C & E’s, need to hear God’s truth.  The Holy Spirit can rekindle their faith in the Triune God. Like the bleeding woman whose faith led her to touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment, we trust that hearing the Gospel at Christmas has incomprehensible power.
 
Isaiah 55:10-11 tells us:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

And so, we pray, not only for our beloved children and grandchildren, but for all the C & E’s who will be in church, who will be bathed in the saving words of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray fervently that their hearts be open, that their faith be restored. 
 
And it can happen!  We know God desires all mankind to be saved, and He wants us to pray for this very thing. 1 Timothy 2:1-6 says:
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."

By the way, our kids, along with all who have fallen away, are every bit as precious to God as the regular church attenders. God desires for them to be saved. If you are concerned for your own loved ones, take heart. God knows and is delighted to hear our prayers.
 
This year, as you prepare to welcome the newborn King of Kings, please pray for those who will hear the Gospel, for their open reception of the Word. Pray now for the pastors who prepare to bring us the Good News of Jesus’ birth.
 
And God willing, our children and grandchildren may be more than casual hearers of God’s Word.  We pray that they would return to their faith and embrace all the richness of salvation through Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. In receiving God’s greatest gift, we can all receive what we most earnestly desire, that our loved ones would join us one day in Heaven.

Amen, may it be so!

***

Becky is a lifelong, confessional Lutheran child of God. Her vocations include wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, and friend.

Now retired, she has an AA in education from CUAA and a BA in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. Her interests include writing articles and fiction, and creating house and pet portraits in watercolor and colored pencil. Becky and her husband are members of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Spring Lake, MI.



Oct 30, 2020

Not Normal, But Good

By Leah Sherman




Back in January, our lives were busy. Many of us had carefully curated our routines to ensure that every family member was delivered to each appointment, activity, or party in a timely-ish manner. Our schedules were packed so tightly we struggled to fit in one more thing. Parents and children alike were worn out by the end of the day. As mothers, we had little time or energy to consider cooking for our families, so we out-sourced our meals and served them to our children who were strapped in their respective seats in the car, all while moving forward to the next item on the agenda. Perhaps those napkins with charming conversation starters made it into our homes with the best of intentions, but such whimsy requires both people to be present, and substantial time for conversations to become an opportunity to actually learn about one another; neither of which we had in all our rushing around.


Perhaps you enjoyed the hours of school at home alone.  You had the time to fold the laundry and mop the floors while watching the shows you enjoyed, or exercise to the music of your choice. Close friends met you at the coffee shop for a chat, and you did your grocery shopping peaceably before collecting the kids and rushing home for dinner and homework and basketball.


Whatever your normal was, odds are, it’s gone. All that we did—playdates, gymnastics, piano lessons, plays, work meetings, hair appointments, dinners out, coffee dates, church—all of it—ended. And we were forced to sit at our own kitchen tables each night with our whimsical napkins trying to cheer us up. 


Maybe your normal wasn’t quite that. Maybe you had that coveted quiet time between dropping the kids off for school and the commute to work. Your office was a place where you could accomplish tasks without constant interruptions.  You enjoyed talking with your coworkers in person and collaborating on projects; and by the end of the day, you left feeling accomplished, and thankful you had friends and family who could keep the kids a couple extra hours so you could meet your deadlines. 


All these months later, normal still hasn’t returned. Surely some of our rushing kids around and meeting with coworkers and friends has started again, but it’s still a dim reflection of what we once had, and mostly feels false.


Whatever your normal was, take a moment to consider it. Then,

“consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments. Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deed? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?” (Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism, “Confession.”)

Was your normal good?


I fear the answer for many of us must be no. It was not all good. And while what we are living through right now is also not very good, our old normal is not something we ought to desire. Much of our life was lived to self alone, and not in love and service to our neighbor. We created a pattern for our lives that left us exhausted and frustrated with the family members God had given us, and while we bemoaned the craziness of our schedules, we saw no way to fix the problems our desire to do and achieve had created. 


Our rush and hurry to give our children every opportunity our money could afford often robbed them of the attention they needed from us, their parents. Our inability to communicate with our spouses left us seeking understanding in relationships outside the home, or in the hazy blue-light of our screens. Our obsession with self-fulfillment left us little time to care for those in need in our church or neighborhood. We blamed our kids, our spouses, and our finances for the physical and emotional mess we were in.
Yes, consider your place in life. Was your normal good? 


But also, consider this new normal. Are parts of your new normal good? 


Certainly there are real, exhausting, hair-pulling frustrations with our current situation.  There are serious health and financial concerns. We are still yelling and crying and blaming and whining. 


But, is there any good? Can there be any good?


“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28; ESV)


In the midst of all the upheaval and confusion, see God at work in your lives. Your spouse, your children, your parents, and your neighbors are gifts from God, and you are being called to serve them in new ways. As you are learning to care for them, look for the ways God is working for good. Perhaps you find you enjoy knowing what your children are taught daily. Perhaps you realize working from home, while challenging, gives you a chance to complete a few extra chores. Perhaps your free time allows for you to write, call, or pray for your friends and family. And perhaps, as those silly napkins of ours are getting a workout like never before, we find that sitting down to a home-cooked meal is something our families have needed, and truly is a good gift from God.

***

Leah Sherman is a pastor's wife and homeschooling mother.  She and her husband have struggled with secondary infertility, but are constantly reminded of God's great blessings through their son. She lives in Gordon, Nebraska, and enjoys reading, gardening, and sewing.