IF PAUL HAD MET JUNE

In the weeks following the birth of my daughter, I was certain I had never known a greater joy or a higher calling than motherhood. I would stare at her perfect button nose and count her fingers and toes, just to be certain there were still twenty. As she watched the light dance across the wall, I'd read to her from a child's systematic theology book. If asked, I would gush about the blissful feelings of purpose and how I would never know a more important task than teaching her about God and his world. 

With her entrance into our lives, I began to analyze my life and everything that might keep me from fulfilling and experiencing this most-important-calling-and-joy. I zeroed in on my work—that blasted ugly monster with claws grasping at my precious time—which would most certainly hinder me from dedicating my days to the biblical training and upbringing of my tiny and indescribably cute offspring. I looked over my shoulder at the local school and gave a hateful glance mixed with a smidge of pity for those who had no option but to sit in its seats, because I had some homeschooling to do. The others tried to hide but I saw them all: formula, non-organic diapers, co-sleepers, secular music, children's books without biblical themes, Puffs and packaged snacks, and so on. I saw them all standing between me and my ultimate goal, and they would not win. 

Because this is how one does godly motherhood. 

Or maybe, perhaps, just possibly, it's not. 

***

In my earliest days of motherhood, I began to crumble under the weight of misplaced priorities and the underlying cultural idea of the American 1950s nuclear family dream, which—while not explicitly mentioned in scripture—seems like the biblical model to follow if one is to be a godly mother. I grew resentful that my circumstances did not allow me to be a stay-at-home mom, which did not allow me to be godly. I desperately wanted to be that Christian mom—always at home, cooking something from scratch, mending clothes, homeschooling, and looking like none other than June Cleaver. 

Never mind that I have no idea how to mend anything and my cooking-from-scratch skills leave you wanting.

But what I think happened is I followed in the footsteps of those who've slapped Titus 2 on the American dream and believed it to be the requirement for godly motherhood.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. —Titus 2:3-5, emphasis mine


So I gathered—from bits of conversations and examples from the 50s—that to be working at home meant not to be working elsewhere, to be loving a family could only be done if I was always present and always serving, and to be pure and kind meant homemade bread served on plates I made on my potter's wheel next to the homeschool table on our homestead. 

Can I tell you something? I think to work at home might mean all of these things, some of these things, and even none of these things. It might even mean other things altogether.

Just breathe for a second. 

***

Titus 2 is a brief description of true Christian living, which was intended to highlight the great difference between Christians and false teachers. The very first verse in chapter 2 reads, "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine," because sound doctrine leads to right behavior. Right behavior amongst women in the Church is passed along as older women teach younger women how to care for their families and their homes. When a wife joyfully submits to her husband's leadership, her work helps support and affirm his vision for their family. They partner together to create a God-honoring home life for their family. 

It's a really encouraging and lovely passage. Women have a unique position in their families to nurture life-giving rhythms and practices into their homes. They are able to use their skills and creativity to partner with their husbands in bringing the gospel into the everyday moments of their children's lives. They do incredibly good work at home. So while Paul is implying that women manage the needs of their home and family, the ways through which one wife best submits and supports her husband will look different than another couple. It may not look like staying-at-home and homeschooling with organic snacks, but it might.

Take a quick peek at the woman who worked as a midwife and delivered Moses or Ruth working in the field or the Proverbs 31 woman selling her linens and purchasing land for her family or Lois and Eunice raising Timothy or the many other women God called into these roles in order to support their families. Note the shepherds, the carpenters, the tax collectors, the fishermen, the kings, the priests, the garment craftsmen, the music makers, and the many other roles that all bring God glory. Think of your dear friend who breastfeeds and the other who can't, or the mom who spends her evenings connecting the gospel to what her kids heard in school and the mom who spends her evenings planning for homeschooling. Remember the single mom who has no choice but day-care and the mom whose chronic illness keeps her from most of her kids' activities. Are only some godly?

The unique circumstances of our lives are not accidental, coincidental, or brought by luck. The situations placed before us are God-ordained and under his sovereignty, and as we are able, we glorify him with what we have and what we can do as we obey his word. 

Your family might need a June Cleaver, but mine might not. And both can bring God glory.

***

What I needed to be told in the early days (and will probably need to be told again) is motherhood is not our highest calling nor is it our greatest joy, and certainly June Cleaver is not the only example of biblical motherhood, if she's even an example at all.

When we make motherhood a higher calling than other roles in life and when we make it the pinnacle of joy and purpose in a woman's life, we, as a Church, do a dangerous thing. We take the eyes and hearts of women off of the person and work of Christ and place them upon the family—both the husband required to have a family and the children who come from it. By making motherhood the highest calling in a woman's life, we reduce the value and worth of every woman unable to have children because of singleness or infertility. Even more, we communicate that until a woman does have a child, she has not reached her God-given potential or experienced true joy—never mind that marriage and children are not promised in scripture or that true joy and peace come to women through the death and resurrection of Christ alone. 

Motherhood is a good gift from God that comes with a heavy responsibility and great joy. Like all of the good works prepared for us to do, it asks much of us and when we mother well, it's by God's grace alone. So yes, the calling of motherhood is a beautiful, gospel-driven role given to some women, and it is a gift. But a good gift makes a terrible god. 

And I was crumbling at the feet of my very own June god. 

So if not motherhood, then what is our highest calling? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. To submit to his plans for our lives with trusting hearts. To focus on the work he sets before us—whatever that may be. To be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. To build up his Church and to outdo one another with honor. To love God and love our neighbor.

***

In the weeks preceding this post, I'm certain that I've never known a greater joy than believing in the eternal plans of my God. I look at the family entrusted to me and I'm in awe of the gift of caring for and serving them in the ways best suited for my family. I'm grateful to be able to work alongside of my husband to bring our family vision to fruition through the jobs I thoroughly enjoy. I still stare at my daughter's perfect button nose and count her fingers and toes, but now I yell, "Stinky!" just to hear her laugh. I still read from that same child's systematic theology book as she stands on her tiptoes trying to sneak the diaper cream from the top of her dresser. And if asked, I would still gush about the blissful feelings that come from the hard work of motherhood and how I know that, in this season, training up my children is one of my most important tasks. But nothing but God can be the thing.

I can't help but wonder what Paul might have thought if he had met June. I think he might have wanted to know what her heart worshipped most. Because that's what scripture points to over and over again. When our hearts love God and long to please him through obedience to his word, our work glorifies him—in the many different ways it's completed.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FIND MY HOPE IN CHRIST? (for Risen Motherhood)

One of the first lessons a pilot learns is to trust his instruments over his feelings. There will be times when he loses his sight as he flies through storms or heavy cloud coverage, and in situations with limited visibility, a pilot easily becomes confused about his flight position—is he flying right-side up, upside down, straight, or zigzagged through the sky? The gauges, meters, and compasses are the only trustworthy sources of information as he navigates difficult situations. A pilot’s feelings may mislead, but his plane’s instruments provide him the true information to keep him safe and focused.

Life sometimes feels like a flying in a storm, doesn’t it? We bump up against difficult circumstances, find our faith shaken by loss, lack, or trials; and struggle to reconcile the feelings we experience with the wisdom we know from scripture. We reach out to social media and blogs like air masks to maintain some semblance of control when what we need is the lifegiving air of our hope in Christ. Like the pilot who can’t navigate when his visibility is blurred, we lose our biblical perspective as earthly needs and difficulties distract us from the promises of God to us in Christ.

The Comfort of a Hope Found in Christ Alone

When people talk about hope, it’s usually in uncertain terms.

“I hope my husband can join us on this trip.”

“I hope my kids get into that school.”

“I hope we can pay those bills.”

We talk about hope in a way that reveals we don’t know the outcome.

Since we can’t be sure of what will happen next, our hearts are tempted to look at our circumstances and assess God’s faithfulness to us by the state of our current realities. Do I have enough money? Are my kids healthy and able? Is my marriage enjoyable? Do I feel appreciated and valued? Then yes, God is good!

But what about when there isn’t enough money in the budget? What if your child is ill or has a disability? If your relationship with your husband feels strained? When you feel overlooked and underappreciated and the world keeps knocking you down? Then your feelings may pull you to a place of wondering if God is good and if he loves you.

The result of circumstantial hope is despair. It leaves us with heart-wrenching fear, insatiable greed, deep anxieties, or fruitless attempts to control the people and situations in our lives. If we can’t be sure of an outcome, we feel an urge to self-promote and self-preserve in order to care for ourselves in the face of uncertainty.

But as Christians, we know hope in an unchanging and eternal Christ is a certain thing.


This excerpt is from a piece written for Risen Motherhood. You can read the whole post here.

PASSING ALONG OUR HERITAGE: TEACHING THE GOSPEL IN ALL OF LIFE (for Risen Motherhood)

“Do you think she’s old enough for theology flashcards?” I asked my husband while perusing Christmas presents for our daughter, “You know, to help her learn words like ‘justification’ and ‘atonement.’”

“Well, since she’s 10 months old and can’t say, ‘Mama,’ I’m going to guess probably not.”

I nodded. And then I put the flashcards on the list.

Before she was a toddler, my daughter was brand new. I remember pulling the blanket away from the perfectly chubby cheeks of my baby girl while she slept on my chest. I gazed at her tiny nose and thought it funny that she wasn’t aware she had a nose. But that amusing thought led me down a list of everything she didn’t know—which was everything from her ABCs to God’s existence. While I’m shocked at how much she’s grasped over the last 14 months, she still has so much to learn (like recognizing that we don’t check for other people’s belly buttons without an invitation).

I sometimes spend hours researching books, songs, and other resources (like those flashcards!) which might help my little lady learn about God and his world. The weightiness of teaching her about our faith sits heavy on my heart, and I often find myself overwhelmed about the best resource, most accurate children’s Bible book, or if we should ever sing a nursery tune that doesn’t include a full biblical metanarrative.

I think many parents feel this way, because we understand our faith is the most important thing we want to teach to our children. But when the options are endless and the advice is non-stop, I have to remember that God has given us his word to teach, instruct, and encourage us in our role as mothers. The Bible is living and active, and studying it changes our hearts and minds. His word offers us a framework for our calling as parents and provides the freedom to live it out.


This excerpt is from a piece written for Risen Motherhood. You can read the whole post here

DISHES AND DESK WORK: ALL MOMS WORK FOR THE GLORY OF GOD (for Risen Motherhood)

I stared at the coffee pot listening to the moms behind me before finally choosing the green mug – because green is my favorite color – and slowly walked down the stairs to join the other women in my church’s moms’ group. As we squeezed onto the couches with our parenting books and kids ran in circles around us, our hostess kindly asked us to introduce ourselves. I felt my stomach knot immediately, and I wondered, “Do I mention my job if everyone else is a stay-at-home mom?”

I’m not technically a stay-at-home mom to the stay-at-home moms, although I’m at home every day taking care of my family, with the exception of 35 days a year. And I’m not technically a working mom to the working moms, even though I operate my business and manage my team during naptimes and after bedtime, and travel for work throughout the year. I feel alone in my own little world, but it appears God’s current call in my life is to have a foot firmly planted on each side but not planted deeply enough to be privy to the secret handshakes and helpful life tips of either mom camp.

The fact that we have mom camps is evidence of our sinful tendency to compare and size up. It’s easy to look at other moms’ lives and judge them against our own, or judge ours against theirs. Does she cook healthy meals every night? Does her job allow her kids to do more extracurriculars? Is she doing bedtime every night? Did she miss a soccer game or two? Instead, what we should focus on is that every mom has been given unique families with unique children who have unique needs. God has called all moms into the service of Christ within the context of their particular families. But every family is different, which means the hard work of motherhood looks different for each woman.


This excerpt is from a piece written for Risen Motherhood. You can read the whole post here

WHY CARBON RIBS?

One of the most played songs in my iTunes account is "Carbon Ribs" by John Mark McMillan. During only my sophomore year of college, I played the track 3,492 times. Its story of grace brought me hope and offered my broken self a reminder that I can do nothing to earn my place at God's table. It's simply given to me because of who God is and what He's accomplishing. We need those reminders, I think. It's too easy to advert our eyes, our attention, and our hearts towards empty promises of beauty, happiness, and worth. But day in and day out, God's grace calls out to us offering a hope which does not fail in any circumstance or in any moment.

We are creatures and the things we consume shape us. I learn this truth slowly as I notice how I feel when I take in endless scrolling on social media, picture perfect lives on blogs, or too many binges of a Netflix series. I notice the opposite effect when I listen to good music, read words written by those fighting to be faithful to the Father, and spend time in prayer and in my Bible. God has called certain things good, and I want to fill my days with the good things pushing me to look at the Good Thing. I want to encourage you to seek them, too. And this goal is why we're here. 

Writing is how many process things as they learn; tying together loose ends and finding lessons weaved into suffering turned joy turned steadfastness. I understand this. I do this. I've written online in some form since 2010, but always about myself. About my adventures. Infused with my pride. Me. Always about me. This is probably why my blogging has never lasted: I get sick of me. It's impossible for me to control my life, to stretch and grow myself into a new creation, or to bring about glory. Considering all things, I'm remarkably uninteresting and lame when left to myself. My worth and purpose come from Christ alone. As McMillan says, "I'm a dead man now with a Ghost who lives within the confines of these carbon ribs." I know Who is worthy of praise and worthy of your attention: the One within my carbon ribs.  

There is purpose in how Carbon Ribs is structured. My hope is that - with the exception of some old posts left up - this white webpage will be filled with words that lace the mercy-filled gospel into every day moments. No photographs. No "About Me" full of things I use to quantify my worth and to present myself in a socially-acceptable - even admirable - way. Just stories about the redeeming work of Jesus and new-to-me lessons from Scripture, because I think we need to be bombarded with those more often. We're shaped by that which we consume. As a fellow creature, the least I can do is make sure what I put out into the internet is something worth being shaped by. 

When you stop to think about it, the internet is a rather amazing tool for the Great Commission, no? On any given day, three thousand people are able to view a photo and read a caption on my Instagram account. I wonder what Paul might have done with the ability to address three thousand people in an instant. Every time we share with our (online or offline) communities, we are responsible for its effects on others, but also on ourselves. There are brothers and sisters who can share the many details of their lives online without falling victim to idolizing affirmation and to misplaced identities. I've learned I'm not one of them. I'm weak and easily tempted by praise, but it's for my benefit and His glory when I'm able to boast in the power of Christ in my weakness. 

So there it is. A Carbon Ribs manifesto. May I boast proudly in the King who offers me a seat at His table.