My baby worships God

My baby worships God.

She doesn’t copy us. Neither Angus nor I are particularly expressive when worshipping God through music.

She isn’t just dancing. She dances, too, and it involves a lot of stamping and hip-wagging, whereas she sways as she worships, with her hands raised, eyes closed.

I thought I was just projecting my own experiences onto her, seeing what I wanted to see, but it is unmistakable. My baby worships God.

The first time she did it was a few weeks ago, at a conference we went to. Madelyn and I were in the parents room with a couple of friends, where the main session was being streamed to a TV so we could watch. A man began to sing ‘Scarlet Love,’ and Madelyn and her friend stopped playing and started to praise God, their faces intent, their voices lifted high. Before that moment, she had lifted her hands during worship and loved to sing, but that was just copying. This was very purposeful, and tangible in it’s holiness. Driving home from the conference, I was reminded that it says in the Bible that God ordains praise from the mouths of babies. When I got home, I looked up the specific verse, and found this:

From the mouths of children and nursing babies
You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries,
so that You might put an end to the vindictive enemy.
Psalm 8:2

Chills.

It’s not just cute that my baby worships God. It’s not just beautiful and exciting. God is using her praises as a weapon in spiritual warfare. How much more life is than what it seems at first glance.

I have called you to be Mummy

Sitting up late at night, feeling isolated and overwhelmed, I mourned the missed opportunities to serve God as I have concentrated on my baby.

My Heavenly Father whispered into my heart, “I have called you to be Mummy.

You are not missing out. You are not useless. You are exactly where I intend you to be. I am preparing your heart to nurture people, to love them as they grow and tend to them until they blossom into who I have created them to be. I will give you a legacy, and an inheritance to leave your children.

I have called you to be Mummy.”

I have a new sense of meaning, a purpose for my life. Everything I do is not wasted. I am living out my identity

 

What I hope my daughter’s life holds

As Madelyn’s mummy, I find myself spending a lot of time dreaming of what the future holds for her. Even though she’s only 10 months old, she’s already had two words from God over her life. The first happened before she was even born. A man visiting our church who had the gift of prophecy said that her life would be full of colour and of song. He spoke of her being joyful and creative. He said she would dance. The second was a few months after she was born, a woman told us that she saw leadership over Madelyn’s life, and that she would be a shepherdess. It makes my heart happy to think of the woman she will grow up to be.

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I hope that she will know she is loved. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with her, I have sung to her, “No matter what you look like, no matter what you do, God loves you…” My greatest hope is that she would never doubt God’s love for her. My prayer is that she would be secure in God’s love, and that she would conduct herself accordingly. I dream of her having the presence of a princess raised in the royal court. I hope that she knows how much she is worth to God.

I hope that she will love God. I hope that she will be saved, and that she will walk on the narrow road to Heaven. My prayer is that she would know Jesus as her Saviour at a young age, and that she would never depart from Him.

I hope that she will love others. I hope that she is compassionate and kind, and that she puts others first. I imagine her being the kind of kid who stands up to bullies for other kids, who makes a difference in her school. I want her to have empathy, and for her to understand that each person is precious to God.

I hope that she will tell people about Jesus. I hope that she will be brave and bold, and loving. My prayer is that God would use her to draw others to Himself, and that her life would be used for His glory.

I hope that she will stand up for justice. I want her to be a voice for the voiceless, and for her to stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves. My prayer is that she would not be able to abide people not having the life they deserve, and that she would be spurred to action. I pray that she will have a strong sense of right and wrong, and that her convictions would be from God.

I hope that she will be merciful and forgiving. Not that she will be a doormat, but that she will understand the complexities of the human heart, and that she would be willing to let go of hurt and anger in order to live her life to the fullest. I hope that she wouldn’t seek revenge, but that she would trust God, knowing that He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him (and I pray that she will love Him).

I hope that she will be all that she was created to be. That she will be happy. That her life will mean something. That she will live forever.

Fear and perfect love

Before I had my baby, I was frustrated at the foster system in New Zealand, which favours sending children back to their parents into homes that are “good enough.” Why, I wondered, should a child survive in a good enough home, when they can live in a good one? There was one particular little boy we had who I cried for after we dropped him off. My husband, too, felt angry that this little boy wouldn’t be loved, cherished and enjoyed the way he deserved to be.

When Madelyn was born, I understood why it was always preferable for the child to be with his or her own parents. My baby needs her mummy. The only place she wants to be when she is sick, or tired, or hurting is in my arms. Children have an intense loyalty to their parents, and they want to stay with them – often even in the face of abuse. So now I understand why, when there is no abuse and needs are provided for, children are sent back to their families. Three weeks after I gave birth, I watched a documentary from the UK about families in the social services system. Towards the end of the documentary, a young mother, who was living in a foster home with her two week old baby, messed up and lost her last chance to keep her baby. She was filmed sitting on the couch, looking at her baby, having just been told that she would lose custody of him. She just sat there. One may wonder why she didn’t show any emotion, but I think I know why. Where would you even begin? Straight after watching the documentary, holding my new baby in my arms, I told my husband that when Madelyn grows up, I want to open our home to young mums at risk of losing their children.

In September, I realised that I didn’t have to wait until I was older, had more experience, had more money, had more space. I could help mums keep their children right now. So for the last two months, that has been my mission, my prayer, for one mum who has become a precious friend to me.

Today, for the first time, I’m really stepping out to see that happen. Doing something tangible, but also something that involves taking my child into the midst of people who take drugs and who are violent.

I am terrified.

Nothing bad will happen. It will be totally fine, and there’s not even a legitimate concern for anyone’s safety. But if I had my way, my sweet daughter would never know anyone other than those who live healthy, fulfilling lives, those who are safe for her to be around.

My darling, my heart, is fast asleep and dreaming happy dreams while I pace nervously around the house. What do you wear, the day you take your baby right into the real world? What do you dress your child in? What snacks do you pack? What do you eat for breakfast? Nerves and fear twist themselves in my stomach, reaching their long fingers into my throat where they threaten to make me sick.

There is one thing I know to be true that comforts me right now.

God loves Madelyn more than I do.

He has asked me to serve Him. He will take care of her as I do His will. He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. I can trust Him with my baby.

Perfect love drives out fear.

Deserving extravagant thanks (the Proverbs 31 Woman)

The husband half of a couple from our church is treating his wife to a trip to Melbourne with a friend (who he is also treating), to thank her for the way she has supported him and helped him with his farm for the past couple of years.

What extravagance. What thoughtfulness. What a guy.

And if I’m honest, my first thought was “Oh, how lucky she is. My husband would never do that.” I even thought about telling him, specifically to make him see how much sweeter he could be. But as I thought more about it, a horrible realisation dawned on me…

The reason my husband would never treat me to a shopping trip in Melbourne is because I don’t deserve it.

I don’t say that to put myself down, to get sympathy, or to be shocking. It’s simply the truth. My husband is a reasonable and kind man, and if I deserved such an extravagant gift as thanks, then I would get it.

I might look after Madelyn relatively well, but I don’t do all that much to improve life for Angus. I don’t really keep the house that tidy, I don’t cook him dinner, I spend all his money. And I expect thanks for every tiniest thing I do.

In the 31st chapter of Proverbs, King Lemuel recalls his mother’s advice about the ideal wife. She is hardworking, she rises early in the morning to feed and clothe her family. She is wise with money, and makes good decisions that result in prosperity. Her body is strong from the work that it has done, and even at night, she does not give up her duty. She is generous. She helps those in need. Her children and husband praise her, and her husband is respected because of her. She honours the Lord, and for this she deserves to be praised.

My husband needs a wife who is steadfast, loyal, and motivated. Who takes care of things at home with joyfulness and humility. I want to be that wife. I want to be “the Proverbs 31 woman.” I want to deserve extravagant thanks.

‘J’ is for “Just a stay-at-home mum”

My daughter is 6 months old now, so when I meet people. they often ask “So, what do you do?” When I reply “Well, I take care of Madelyn,” they look kind of put off by that, so I always find myself qualifying it by saying “I do teach 3 dance classes a week…”

Because it seems there is something wrong with spending your days caring for your family.

…and that’s good enough for me

Women are assured that they’re not “just” a mum, that what they do makes a difference, that they have an important role in society. But I don’t really think that society’s view of stay-at-home mums is always that they’re unworthy. Mothers are becoming more and more valued, and raising a child who becomes a successful adult is considered significant. No, I don’t think that people are put off by my doing “nothing” because of their view of me as being lazy or not making a difference.

It seems to come from the perspective that I could not possibly be fulfilled by staying at home with my child.

They don’t look at me with disdain. They look at me with pity. I am educated, and have a high earning potential. And it seems to be generally well-accepted that someone like me, who could do very well working outside of home, would be bored at home with my baby. So they really can’t understand it when I claim to be so happy. In fact, the answer I get when I qualify myself by mentioning the dance classes I teach is a relieved “Oh, it must be nice to get a break from Madelyn.”

I don’t know if I’m a member of the norm, or not, but having Madelyn in a different building to me stresses me out. A different room is bad enough. The longest I have been away from her, apart from the 2 hours of surgery the night she was born, is an hour. One hour which felt like an eternity, where an invisible hook in my stomach pulled me towards the door, compelling me to go and find her.

Time with adults is wonderful. Time to dance, to shop, to read a book, is fantastic. But time away from her is not what I need. On days where I feel like it’s all too much, what would be far more helpful than being away from her, would be to have someone come and spend time with us both. Play with her while I have a shower, take a nap, or just sit and do whatever I want. Come and do my dishes, vacuum the house, or fold the washing. Time away from her isn’t what rejuvenates me. Time away from the heavy responsibilities of my new life is what rejuvenates me.

There are a whole lot of things that I love doing, and could do as a job. But I love kissing the soft underside of her chin more. I do have days where I wish I could be more involved at the dance studio, but I remind myself that I’m never going to regret the time I spend with Madelyn. There is not one moment of her life that I have missed. I received her first smile. I made her giggle her first giggle. I saw her first clumsy attempts at crawling. I wouldn’t swap those moments for anything.

I am so, so thankful that my husband and I are in a position that allows me to stay at home for as long as I like. I know how rare that is these days, so I don’t take the privilege lightly.

I don’t need pity. I don’t need assurance that time without her is good for me. At home with my baby, I am more happy than I have ever been.

Motherhood

Today is my 27th day of being a mother.

In the last 27 days, my life has changed beyond recognition. I no longer am who I was before. My identity is set, firmly, in motherhood.

Motherhood is harder and more wonderful than I thought it would be. In these early days, motherhood is the giving of my body to nourish hers. To exist solely to meet someone else’s needs is overwhelming. The few seconds I get to myself in a day are more precious than gold.

But then I see the excitement in her eyes as  she realises she’s about to be fed. And she purses her lips and raises her eyebrows as she stretches after a nice, long feed. I kiss my floppy baby and hold her for a moment longer before putting her back down after her midnight snack. And her eyes smile as I sing to her during our morning cuddles. I see my husband holding his daughter, and I know she is an arrow in the hands of a warrior.

And I know that I am doing exactly what I was created to do. To nurture my baby daughter is to fulfill the plan God has for my life.

Motherhood.

Submission in marriage, and my own experience

About my own marriage, I don’t want any family reading my last blog post to drive down to my house and try and smuggle me out because I’m being abused. I wouldn’t use a lot of the language I used in that blog post in everyday life to describe my marriage. I wouldn’t call myself submissive, because of the modern-day implications of that. We’ve all seen marriages where this idea has gone incredibly wrong. We associate the word “submissive” with wives who can’t decide what to wear, or what to eat, or what to do with their day. We think of wives who don’t have ideas, passions and preferences of their own. I am not one of those wives. Futher more, my husband would not want to be married to one of those wives.

If you asked him, my husband would not talk your head off about how much better it is to be in a marriage where the man controls everything the woman does. He would not even tell you that he is the head of the household, and that I am submissive to him.

What he would tell you (and I know because I ask him, and I’ve heard him tell others), is that I respect him. He would tell you that I allow him to make him own decisions in our marriage, and that he doesn’t feel restricted.. He would tell you that he appreciates the freedom in our marriage.

And, on any given day, I might be a little more honest about the wording if pushed, but I would tell you that my husband is very easy to respect. I would tell you that he has never, ever not allowed me to do something that I want to do. I would tell you that he paid for me to go to the South Island at a week’s notice (without him) because I’d never been. I would tell you that I used our money, several months after our wedding, to go to Melbourne. I would tell you that on the rare occasion that he’s said “No” to something, he’s been right.

Repsecting him, and more importantly, resolving to respect him for the rest of our lives, makes our marriage easier. It makes me see things from his point of view, and allows me to make decisions based on what he wants, not just on what I want. When we argue, my respect for him reminds me to back off when he says “That’s enough” because I know that he knows himself, and what he’s really saying is “I’m getting too angry, and am scared I won’t be able to control myself.” It reminds me, after an argument, to think about what he was really saying, and to go back later and discuss it calmly, having realised where he’s coming from.

In our wedding vows, I promised to love and respect him, while he promised to love and cherish me. That’s how I would word it, rather then submission and headship. I respect him, he cherishes me.

(For the record, he respects me and I cherish him too, but that’s the easy part – we give what we want).

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Ephesians 5:33

Everything I know about submission in marriage, I learnt from ballroom dancing

It seems I’m going through a bit of a stage of attacking the big topics.

One thing we don’t really like to talk about is the part in the Bible where it says that the man is the head of the household, and that the wife should submit to the man.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands  in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of His body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:22-33

We like to come up with all sorts of ways to explain how that passage is not really saying that wives must submit to their husbands. How it’s actually saying that wives should submit to their husbands, and husbands to their wives. Or we like to say “Yes, but look at what it says to husbands!” as if to draw the attention away from ourselves.

Now, I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I think that passage is pretty clear. Wives, submit to your husbands.

The problem with this is when it is misused. I have heard of husbands using this verse to abuse their wives, often without ever having read the passage, or it’s surrounding context, themselves. So, I must make it very clear that this passage does not say “Husbands, control your wives.” This passage is not giving husbands permission to treat their wives as doormats.

As a young wife, I can only comment on my own marriage, and my own role as a wife. I must admit to having had trouble with this passage as well. It seemed so archaic and wrong. And then I began taking ballroom dancing lessons.

My husband is a dancer, too, and a very good one at that. So it was really powerful for me to see how we interacted when dancing, and to draw the parallels between dancing and marriage.

Here is what I have learnt:

1) When I chose to marry my husband, I chose him to be the head of our household
In ballroom dancing, when a man wants to dance with a lady, he holds out his hand to her. If she takes it, she wants to dance with him. If she doesn’t take it, she doesn’t want to dance with him. Now, because marriage is a far bigger decision then who to dance with, you’re going to consider who to marry a lot more seriously. But when my husband proposed, he was asking me to dance. When I said yes, I was taking his hand. I could have said “no.” I could have said “no” right up until “I do.” If a man asks me to dance, who I dont want to dance with for whatever reason (maybe he’s creepy, or he smells bad, or he just can’t keep time), I don’t dance with them. When deciding to marry my husband, I considered several important things. Is this a man I can respect? Does he make wise decisions? Will he be able to provide for me and my children? The answer to all those questions had to be yes, for me to say “Yes.” It was his decision to ask me, but it was my choice to say yes. I chose my husband as the leader of our household.

2) His leadership is instigation, my submission is response
When dancing, the man takes a step, and the woman takes a step in response. If she doesn’t want to take that step, she doesn’t. If she doesn’t take that step, the dance doesn’t work. If she does, the dance does work. He instigates a step, a respond by either stepping or not stepping. If I choose to just do my own thing, and not worry about what he’s doing, we’re not going to dance well together. It will be disjointed, and we won’t reach our end goal.

3) He needs to wait for my response before moving on
My husband is an extremely good dancer. He has been dancing, on and off competitively, since he was a small child. There have been a few times, especially while waltzing, where he has taken steps that are far too long for me. I was still getting my mind caught up on the movement, and my feet caught up on dancing in heels, and he was ready to charge off and be strong while I was beautiful. Usually this ended in one of us standing on the other, and me reminding him that he needs to stay at my pace. If my husband makes an instigation that I am uncertain about, he needs to wait for me to be certain, or it wrecks the dance.

4) I can see behind his back
In ballroom dancing, the partners often dance facing each other, meaning they can see what is happening behind the other person. If we are dancing, I may see that we are about to crash in to someone or something. If I stop dancing and pull him out of the way, we have an argument. If I tell him that I can see the obstacle ahead, he adjusts his steps so that we do not crash. Now of course, there may be times where he ignores my warning. I don’t have enough life experience to really know what to do about that, I’ll come back to it in 30-odd years. But I have learnt already that sometimes you just need to let men make their mistakes. I’ve heard it said, “If I let him lead, he’ll just lead us in to ruin.” I don’t know about big stuff, about ruin, but I do know about the little stuff, and I don’t think it’s healthy to micromanage everything because you’re worried that he won’t do it right. Let him learn from his mistakes with the little stuff, and he might have learnt his lesson when it comes around to the big stuff. In dancing, couples tend to only go crashing to the ground once or twice, before figuring out how not to do that again.

5) He can see behind my back
On the flipside, he can also see what is going on behind me. That’s why I need to trust him.

6) It takes practise to get it right
There was once a man who was having trouble dancing, and this was being made worse by other beginners who hadn’t quite got following down yet. My teacher sent a competitive ballroom dancer in her 50s over to him and said “She’s like a well-oiled machine. She’ll follow you.” The couples who have been dancing together for years do this leading and following thing so seamlessly, that it looks like they’re doing choreographed moves even when they aren’t. It takes practise to learn how to follow. I am not going to submit to my husband perfectly, and he is not going to lead me perfectly.  It doesn’t really come naturally. But over time, as we get more and more practise, I think it will become a lot easier.

7) An interesting point: In a ballroom dancing hold, the man is under the woman
I always just thought this was interesting, as I was drawing comparisons between dancing and marriage back when I was engaged. The man holds the woman from underneath – her hand is on top of his, his other hand is under her armpit. I don’t have a big spiriutal application for this one, but I can see how my husband supporting me has enabled me to become so much more of who I am.

On homosexuality and how I feel about it as a Christian

With a bill going through parliament in New Zealand at the moment that will allow homosexual and transgender couples to get married, there is a lot of discussion going on around me about gay marriage. As a Christian, I have a lot of friends who are particularly angry and frustrated about this bill, and are venting about this on Facebook. I have avoided these discussions, because I don’t want to say the wrong thing. But I do want to share here what my views are.

I started to explore the morality of homosexuality when I was a teenager, which I think is fairly standard among young Christians. It was around this time that I began to meet more homosexaul, bisexual and transgendered people, and became more aware of sexuality in and of itself. The big question, of course, is whether or not it is a choice. And then, if it is not a choice, is it still a sin? I came to many conclusions about this before reaching the one I now hold, and had many discussions with many different people. But I never felt entirely comfortable with speaking vehemently against homosexuality, as so many Christians do.

I’m not even going to share here what my opinion is on the morality of homosexuality. I’ve chosen not to share this because, simply put, I don’t feel it’s important. As a Christian person, I feel that it’s far more important to look at the way I myself relate to homosexual, bisexual and transgender people, because the sad fact is that many are being made to feel rejected and unloved by the Christians in their lives.

Most Christians are very focused on telling people about the love of God, though most of us do it not nearly as much as we should. We tell people that God will accept them for who they are, that He loves them and created them, and died for them.

And then we meet a gay person…

And for some reason, many Christians seem to think it’s different for a gay person. It’s like they think that they need to convince that person of their sinfulness before letting them know about God’s love. Like being gay is the one thing that God won’t accept in a person.

I heard Sy Rogers speak once, and he said something that has always stuck with me:

“Gay people don’t go to hell because they’re gay. People go to hell because they’re not reconciled to God.”

Straight people go to hell. Straight people who live good lives and do everything right go to hell. Because the determining factor is not what we do, but what Jesus Christ did for us.

I wonder what would happen if, instead of quoting Leviticus and saying “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” to that gay person in our lives, we befriended them. Invited them over for dinner. Went out to the movies with them. Babysat their children. Asked them how their day was going. They are people, and they deserve to be treated as such.

When we meet an alcoholic who doesn’t know Christ, we don’t point out all that the Scriptures say about drunkeness. When we meet a theif who doesn’t know Christ, we don’t point out all that the Scriptures say about stealing. If we’re showing people who don’t know Christ the Bible, we tend to show them the Gospel. We show them that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Why does that suddenly change because of who the person is in love with?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him”
John 3:16-17