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Body Positive

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I’m not a huge fan of the body positive movement. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I don’t love that there are millions of people who hate themselves when they look on the mirror (including me!), and I have several friends who refuse to be in photos or go places requiring swimsuits because others have made them feel so very unacceptable because of how they look. I don’t love that I have friends who feel like just because they are a little bigger around than some other people that they are doing something wrong or they are unworthy (I feel like this, too!). Most importantly, I really don’t like that we define our personal value by how skinny we are, we compare ourselves to totally unrealistic and photoshopped images of women who have millions of dollars to hire personal chefs and time to work out 3 hours a day with a personal trainer. Like, hello. I can’t afford a babysitter right now, much less a personal chef. I have a personal chef, actually. Her name is me.

But I also don’t love the implication that you should be allowed to sit around doing whatever you want and eat whatever you want at all times because it makes you feel good regardless of what it does to your body. I just think we’ve gone too far on the other side of the scale (no pun intended) with this stuff. The implication of the body positive movement is that you should do whatever you want to your body because it is your body and it’s all about you and what makes you feel happy because you are beautiful just the way you are. But I think a better statement would be that you should love your body because of the amazing things that it does for you, and you should respect and care for it.

Of course, from a Christian standpoint, we love our bodies because they are God’s temple. The Holy Spirit lives in there! God dwells within us when we have decided to give our lives to follow Him. Just knowing that God lives in there makes me want to respect my body for entirely different reasons.

I have been so unhappy with my body since having kids. I didn’t gain that much while I was pregnant or anything, maybe 25 pounds or so, but I already weighed 20 pounds more than I’m apparently supposed to when I got pregnant. But my bigger concern is that I’m all squishy in places that used to be firm, to be honest. Which makes me sad. And, of course, there was the situation where I went to Target and cried in the dressing room because I had to go up 5 sizes from what I felt was acceptable in order to even pull the pants the whole way up. So. Depressing. And I’ve always, always thought I had the fattest legs. I’ve just always hated them. I mean, I’m just being honest, here, because I bet some of you readers (or all of you) have something about your bodies that you have spent lots of times hating on and can relate to what I’m saying.

But I’m getting it all wrong – the whole body positive thing. The thing is, caring about my appearance is not supposed to be the motivation for taking care of myself. Like, having someone say to me when I told them the “crying-in-the-dressing-room” story, “Oh, hon, the size you wanted to be is little!” aka in my head  “you aren’t little!!” shouldn’t have totally changed my entire outlook on life, but it did. I’ve always been little. I mean I’m only like 5’2″ or something. Being indirectly told I’m not little was a pretty big slap in the face. And it totally reset me. I started whole30 within days of that “incident” and the next morning after it, I got up and ran 3.5 miles. I’ve run 5 of the last 7 days because I couldn’t allow that implication to be made of me again. But that’s the wrong motivation!

If I’m going to eat whole30 all the time, it should be because those foods are the foods that we’re supposed to eat. They’re the God-made foods the way God intended us to eat them, not these whacky, man-made, totally processed and fake versions of food that we constantly scarf down because they are easier and delicious. I mean I get it, and I live it every day: it is so much easier to grab a burger in a drive-through than cook sweet potato fries again. But our whole lives aren’t supposed to be based in what’s easiest. (Although I will say that easy is definitely necessary sometimes!) And eating that non-processed, whole stuff is a way to honor God with our bodies as long as that’s our heart while we’re doing it. In other words, if I’m eating whole30 because I get skinny, or because it makes me feel superior to others who aren’t doing it, or it makes me proud that I can go 30 days eating this stuff because everybody knows how hard it is so I must be awesome, then I’m idolizing my ability to be awesome instead of praising God for providing healthy food on this earth for me to eat. Just a mind shift.

Or if marathon training is about showing off my ability to run super far, then I’m missing the point. I want to run a marathon for many reasons, some being selfish – it’s a life goal to run one before I’m thirty just to be able to say I did it! – but overall, I have found that running is treasured time spent with God. I feel like I’m running with Him. All of the difficulty and walls and pain are pushed through because He is there with me. He gives me the ability to make it through the tough stuff. This is such a beautiful way to live, and I want it to be the core reason behind my running. It’s a literal representation of an incredible metaphor: God is in this with us. I don’t want to run all the time because I’m hoping to rid myself of my thunder thighs. I want to run with Jesus.

A few thoughts paraphrased from scripture supporting this idea: in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the Lord made us and we are His, He knit us together in our mother’s womb, we praise Him because we are fearfully and wonderfully made, His works are wonderful, we know that full well, may Christ be exalted in my body, either in life or death, physical training has some value, but godliness has value in all things, do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

The number on the scale doesn’t matter. Health matters. And more importantly, spiritual health matters. But I believe that just like everything else, spiritual health influences physical health. When we love the Lord, we are called to care for our bodies for His glory, just like we are called to avoid sin for His glory and love one another for His glory and spend time in His word and prayer for His glory. Our physical health is part of our spiritual health, and that understanding can change our whole attitude toward taking care of ourselves.

Taking care of myself as an act of worship to the Creator of my body? That’s body positive.

Peter Goes Fishin’

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My life group is doing a study of Acts, and as we’ve been spending about 16 weeks on it so far, I’ve noticed that there are lots of mentions of Peter. For about the first half of the book, he’s kind of the star (although I suppose the Holy Spirit is the real star). He is such an interesting character! I also couldn’t help but notice how mature he is in Acts in comparison to what I remember from the gospels. I remember him being kind of brash, bold, and a big talker with a little less follow through. Boy, do I relate to him. He is totally me. I can talk the talk all day long, but when it comes to walking the walk, I nearly always fall apart. I never finish anything I start. But the cool thing about Peter is that he always goes back. He does one step forward, two steps back, and then three steps forward. He always comes back to serving the Holy Spirit. His time with Jesus truly changed him. He grows up so much!

I felt like God was calling me to study him closely. He just kept coming to my mind. I just kept wanting to know more of his story when I would read portions from Acts. So I did what any Christian true research nerd does: I consulted the Holy Scriptures and the internet!

At my church right now, we are going through a sermon series about the book of Luke that is about the life of Christ. We are studying His words, His works, and His way. We often study His words and works, but what’s really interesting is Jesus’s way. And the truth is, when He interacts with people and they experience Him, big changes happen. And boy did they for Peter!

Peter was a fisherman from Bethsaida. His name was actually Simon, but for the sake of avoiding confusion, I’ll refer to him as Peter all the time here. His brother was Andrew, and together with James and John, sons of Zebedee (that’s a fun one to say!), they ran a commercial fishing business. So they’re hanging out unsuccessfully fishing one day when they meet Jesus.

One cool thing about Peter – his first encounter with Jesus is recorded in all four of the gospels. Matthew and Mark are identical, basically. Luke adds some different details and John adds some different details. When you read all four encounters, you get a pretty good picture of how all this went down.

Hop on over to John 1:40. Here’s Peter’s brother, Andrew, who is apparently a disciple of John the Baptist (I draw this conclusion from verse 35 and 40). Andrew hung out with Jesus for a day and was amazed at Jesus, so he went and got his brother. Andrew straight up knew that Jesus was the Messiah. He tells Peter in verse 41.

“The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.”

Now in Luke 4 and Mark 1:29ish, Jesus heals Peter’s super sick mom-in-law (so is he married? Is it Andrew’s wife who is referred to in this? Does he ditch his wife for his entire ministry? Does his wife die? WHAT HAPPENS TO HIS WIFE??? These are the things I ask myself). It doesn’t explicitly say that Peter is the one who asks for Jesus’s help, but I think it’s safe to assume that he actually was part of that company. So I’m thinking maybe what went down is that Andrew was like, “Dude, I found the Messiah. You’ve gotta come see him. Also I’m pretty sure he can heal your MIL.” Also, just a side note, I’m not sure what order this stuff happens in, because in Mark, Jesus meets them and then goes to heal Peter’s MIL, but in Luke, Jesus heals Peter’s MIL before he meets them. I don’t think the order is as significant as the fact that both things happened. Verse 38 says,

“Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked her fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.”

Now I just have to say, that’s some kind of healing right there. A high fever is not something a person quickly recovers from, but she’s up and makin’ dinner like 3 seconds later. Like, what a stereotypical woman. The second you’re better, you go straight to the kitchen. But seriously, though. She must’ve gotten so much better so quickly. Jesus is cool.

 

So now we’re into Luke 5. Jesus is getting all kinds of crowded by the people listening to Him, and He needs a little personal space (the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and even needed personal space like we do), so he hops in the boat with Peter and speaks from there. When he finishes speaking, he tells Peter to put the nets in. So clearly Peter has been there while Jesus is preaching and has heard His message. His response is basically like, “Um, okay dude, but seriously I’ve been fishing all night with no luck. But I just heard you talk and you are definitely legit so I’m going to give this another whirl.”

Peter trusts Jesus and then catches so many fish that the boats start to sink. Peter knows what’s up. Always the first to talk, he collapses at Jesus’s feet and exclaims, “Go away from me, Lord: I am a sinful man (v8)!” And that was basically it for Peter. His whole life started right there.

One really cool thing about the Jesus-Meeting-Peter story is that 3/4 gospels talk about this little phrase we’ve come to know and love in modern Christianity called “fishers of men.” In Matthew, it’s 4:19: “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.'” In Mark, it’s 1:17: “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.'” WORD FOR WORD. In Luke, it’s 5:10: “Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.'” Side note: In John, it’s not outright stated, although Jesus does immediately rename Peter Cephas (both of which mean ‘rock’).

I did some research on fishing in biblical times, not because angling is of super high interest to me, although I can truly say I’ve caught and cleaned fish multiple times in my life (sorry, Vegan friends, I still love you, I promise), but because I wanted to see what the deal was with this “fishing for people” metaphor. If you’ve ever read the gospels, Jesus spoke in basically all metaphorical language (which is actually a fulfillment of prophecy, fun fact! See Matthew 13:10-17), so this may come as no surprise. When I think of fishing as a 21st century American, I think of leisurely, summery dusks in solitude while relaxing in a chair very happily (albeit being eaten alive by mosquitos). But honestly, biblical fishing was really more like the opening scene of Les Miserables. “Look down, look down, don’t look ’em in the eye! Look down, look down, you’re here until you diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie!” I mean I know you’re laughing right now if you are a super cool musical theatre nerd like me, but seriously, fishing was hard work! It was net fishing, not pole fishing, which was a lot more work than pole fishing but often yielded significantly better results. Without sharing too many details, there were a couple of kinds of net fishing, and the one that was probably being practiced at this time was with a veranda net, which was a mixture of several types of nets. It was a huge net that had weights. The fisherman would find the school of fish and surround them by dropping the net, and then they’d drive the boat around to encircle. Sometimes net fishing involved diving into water and moving the fish from the net into pouches. Sometimes it involved hauling the nets onto the boats or even onto the shore (that’s where I get my Les Miserables vision from). This was work full of physical labor. It had the potential for amazing results, but that didn’t always happen (like in Luke, where they’d had no luck all day). Also, think about this: because people from all over would buy the fish, fisherman were probably pretty smart. They could probably speak several languages to accommodate all the different people they’d sell to, and they definitely had to be good at math to run their businesses. They may not have been super educated and they may have been gruff, but they were strong and smart. I wonder if that says something about why Jesus chose them first. And it really must say something about the affect Jesus had on them if they immediately dropped their entire business, left everything behind, and followed him.

In thinking about this “fishing for people” idea, I also thought about other obvious Peter moments in which Jesus predicted what was going to go down and then it straight up happened. The first one we think of is Peter’s denial of Christ three times. Jesus tells him it’s going to happen, Peter is like totally appalled and he’s like, “Never, ever, ever, not me, no way!” and then LATER THAT SAME NIGHT…Well, you know what happens. Jesus also names Peter “Rock” because Peter is the first one to openly declare that he knows Christ is the Messiah. Jesus tells him that He’ll build His church upon the rock (Himself) that He’s naming Peter after. Of course, that’s a super cool idea that I’m looking forward to diving into later. But for now, the “fishing for people” thing.

Like I mentioned above, my life group is doing an in-depth study of Acts. Fun fact! The beginning of Acts contains the first sermon about Jesus as the Messiah that is not given by Jesus. It happens at the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends and takes residence in Christ’s followers. It happens when suddenly the Christ followers can speak many languages at once, communicating to a huge group of people all at once. Guess who gives the sermon. Just guess. I’m going to have to let God’s Holy Word take this one (Acts 2:1-14):

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’ Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’ Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd…”

So I can’t help but picture this in context of net fishing. The tongues of fire are the nets. They come down and then spread apart, settling. The “fish” are surrounded and caught. They are dumbfounded and amazed. I mean, come on, you can’t help but picture fish being all like, “Umm, what do I do?” when they are caught in nets, and these people are all doing that, amazed that they can hear their own languages. It’s like the bait, in a sense, although I don’t think net fishermen actually use any bait. And then Peter gets up to reel ’em in (or pull in the nets, as it were).

This is such a cool picture to me! I mean, we always knew that Peter became a “fisher of people” because of the work he did to spread God’s kingdom, but this is the first time Jesus’s kingdom expands since Jesus has ascended, and Peter is at the forefront. And it’s a significant expansion. Mind you, this is like reasonably soon after Jesus’s resurrection. And three days before Jesus’s resurrection, Peter was all like, “I swear and bring down curses on you people – I do not know that dude, I’ve never seen him, I’ve never been with him!” three times in a row before the rooster crowed. Peter for sure learned his lesson, because he is boldly and confidently standing up, filled with the Holy Spirit and preaching the truth of Jesus to this crowd. And the crowd is cut to the heart (verse 37) and about THREE THOUSAND WERE ADDED TO THEIR NUMBER THAT DAY (verse 41). I mean talk about quite a reel-in. Talk about enough fish to make the boat sink. And this was the FIRST expansion. These people are the first stones added to the temple. The Holy Spirit basically jumpstarted His church here, with Peter’s speech.

Peter had power. He had the power of the Holy Spirit. He had trust. He just did what Christ told him to. Peter had faults. Big ones. He lied. He was quick to talk and slow to listen. But he did listen. He was changed forever when he met Jesus.

I definitely relate to Peter. He is so headstrong. He talks so much. He has trouble with follow-through. I totally get him. But Peter’s heart was changed by Christ’s way. He had an instinctual understanding that Christ was it. He just trusted and followed. In spite of his pretty large mistakes, his cowardice, God used his life to enormously spread His kingdom. I want to be like Peter: two steps toward Christ, one step back, three steps forward.

 

A New Focus

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I constantly, constantly, constantly restart and renew the idea of this blog. To this day, my most successful post is my Dobby-Themed Matchless Sock Holder. While I am certainly proud of that particular craft and I love how it turned out, I don’t know if I really want my craft project about Harry Potter to be the defining post about my life. I often write in this thing really, really randomly, and I pretty much always make some kind of comment along the lines of “I’m totally going to write in this like all the time more now because it is so rewarding when I do and I’m such a talker and this’ll be a great way to get all the talking about of my system while trying to glorify God and connect with other people and then maybe someday people will start to read it and be touched and God will use me in a super awesome way to bring His glory on earth while I’m in the process of wearing cute aprons, pearls, and heels with four perfectly behaved and well-dressed children who are making age-appropriate crafts around the table but who are obviously enormously talented while quoting bible verses and inviting friends of all faith backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds into our appropriately sized house that isn’t too big to be materialistic even though we’re super rich but just big enough to accommodate said ‘needy friends’ all while I cook a delicious 5-course homecooked meal for them which they eat all of without complaint because my vegetables are deliciously worth eating and basically everyone looks at me and says, ‘Boy, they are really God’s work on the earth’ while I smile with dazzling white teeth that I remembered to brush that morning.” Honestly, just typing that made me exhausted. But anyway, I always say I’m going to write in this more, and I always have best intentions about it. There was even a period about two years ago where I put reminders in my phone that went off four days a week and gave me a topic to sit down and write about, which I would promptly ignore every single day because I was always doing something else or in another place when the alarms would go off. And then I wonder, “Why hasn’t God been using me? I’ve felt this calling to write and speak for such a long time, but nobody wants to hear me talk. And I really am not doing much for His kingdom right now.”

And then, this weekend, I went to an amazing event called the If: Gathering. Now, this is basically a women’s conference for discipleship training – the purpose is to equip women to become leaders in their hometowns and church families to serve God and live as He has called them to live. I haven’t been to a women’s conference like ever, but I knew the basic gist of “well-known people speak about Scripture” and “worship music being sung” and “lots of emotions probably because this is a giant room full of women who are probably emotionally scarred and unsure of themselves.” The coolest part of the If: Gathering is that they stream it on the internet live, so you can attend one in your hometown called “If: Local” and not have to go super far to get very excellent training from well-known speakers and it is very inexpensive because of that. Win-win all around, I say.

Anyway, I’m not super emo, like I mean I have feelings and everything, but I’m not all “waaahhhhhhhh feeeeeeeeeelings” and I actually tend to view too many feelings and too much emotion as weakness (the same way the rest of the world does), so while I knew that I would likely really enjoy the conference and learn a lot from it, I had a feeling it wouldn’t be for me (in the sense that I would be super cynical about all of the crying that was bound to happen). One of my closest friends, though, has gone every year for a while (or I should say has hosted a local gathering in her home) and she was going bigger this year – she combined with the women’s ministry at our church to put together a large-scale event. Out of support for her and this brave, big, scary thing she was doing, and of course, a desire to get away from my kids for a whole weekend (God bless ’em, I love ’em so much, but it was HUSBAND’S TURN), and, you know, the desire to hear some amazing speakers and dig into God’s word, and also a real desire to actually get to speak to other grown-ups for like 12 hours (okay, so I basically had a lot of really good reasons to go), I decided to sign up. Funny how God uses things to line up exactly right in life to get you where He wants you.

Because He was there. These humble but very talented speakers, each with her own niche – some very artsy and flowery and poetic, many with Scripture-based messages for those in different kinds of pain, some soft-spoken and raw and emotional, others hilariously comparing Martha in the bible to a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx with big hoop earrings, all with perfect hair and adorable outfits and gorgeous earrings, some cracking lots of jokes while others cried from the heart, one who absolutely did not want to speak but in obedience to God stood on the stage and then proceeded to wreck my heart with the story of Abraham (almost) sacrificing Isaac, one who stepped out of her comfort zone and started a movement toward racial reconciliation with Christ at the center (there’s the piece we’ve been missing), and Jen Hatmaker, who doesn’t need any other description except her name at this point because SHE IS MY SPIRIT ANIMAL. Also they showed a video of Joanna Gaines talking about how God has used her life and I about peed my pants because I am the love child of Jen Hatmaker and Joanna Gaines (can I have my HGTV show now, God?)…anyway, I digress. Through all of these different women with different talents and personalities and skin colors and hair colors and feathery-leafy-boho earrings, the Holy Spirit guided my heart. It was like, “Remember how you love to write, but you’re lazy? Confess and lay it down. Remember how you are super proud and selfish and think of yourself and your dreams first all the time? Confess it and lay it down. Remember the struggle you’re having with giving up music for me? Confess and lay it down. Remember how much you ache for parents to feel confident in raising their children in the Lord and not leaving it for the church leaders only? Confess your pride and lay it down. Remember how your strongest spiritual gift is teaching with discernment as a close second? Confess that you are ignoring My gifts and therefore maiming the body of Christ from doing its work in the world.”

I’ve struggled for a very long while because I’m a woman. I mean, not to sound whiny or anything, because it seems like all women do is complain about how they can’t do anything because they are women. But seriously, when I was 16, I wanted to become a Minister of Music, just like my dad was. I love music so much, and I love praising God through music more than anything. When I think about singing with all of God’s people in heaven with perfect music and with the angels and with God singing alongside us, I literally start to weep with joy and hope and expectation. When I’m on the worship team at church or singing in the choir and I can hear the regular ole’ people in the congregation lifting their voices to their Savior (especially those who aren’t particularly musically skilled as the world tends to define it), I am moved EVERY TIME. Don’t even get me started about kids singing to Christ. I’m totally a wreck. I cry so hard I can barely conduct. Music for Jesus is the thing I’ve wanted most forever (with attention on myself and pride in it being a close second, but that’s a whole separate topic for another day). But, see, I’m not allowed to be a pastor because I’m a girl. Many churches in 2003 wouldn’t even hire a woman to lead the music. I’ve been a member of a wonderful church that would let me direct the choir but not lead the worship music. When I told my dad that I wanted to become a Minister of Music, he told me, in kindest words, that it would be very difficult for me to get a job because I’m a girl. I mean, he was telling me the truth in love – there was no malice in his heart about it – he was just telling the truth, and I appreciate it. But the struggle started. Why would God give me gifts that I’m not even allowed to use? Scripture says that women are supposed to be quiet in church and are not permitted to teach. It says that women will be saved through childbearing, which I interpreted to mean that all I could do the serve God was raise babies (which is totally a thing, by the way, I just thought that was all there was for me)(by the way, I believe this is actually a reference to Genesis when Eve was told that her descendent would crush the head of the snake, aka women, and men, for that matter, are saved through a man who is also God, aka Jesus, but anyway…). I gave up on serving God in ministry right then. I didn’t even seriously consider a Christian college to get a theology formal education; I considered a music one. I didn’t even serve in the Christian ministries at my not-really-Christian college. I professed to be a Christian while I was there, despite totally not acting like one about 75% of the time, but I was struggling heartily. “God doesn’t like girls.” “God blames women for sin.” “It was the woman, after all, who ate the fruit, not the man.” “Women should be known for their quiet spirits, not their clothes or jewelry.” “You can’t really be gifted in these things because God says women can’t be teachers.” Do you see how some of those thoughts are truthful Scripture but others are sinful lies? See how Satan twists things to make them all sound the same? I gave up on ministry because I figured the only way I could get to be in ministry was by being a minister’s wife and having minister’s babies, so I just figured I’d marry a nice Christian boy who wanted to preach and we’d probably go live in Nepal and have 14 children (honestly, Husband, if you feel called to that, it still sounds fun to me!). This struggling part of my testimony is really for another time, because I can’t go into all the details of how God has shown me truth about how he feels about women (how about that they are equally made in His image as men are?), but over years and years and through a joyous, God-blessed, incredible marriage to an amazing man of excellent character who does not, in any way, feel like he is called to be a pastor, God has shown me that the whole point is that I want to be glorified as a woman more than I want to glorify God, and when I get those priorities in the right order, then my dreams will start to make sense. I’m not sure if God will make all of my dreams come true – I still don’t know for sure which ones are my dreams and which ones are His. But like Abraham sacrificing Isaac, I’m not sure of the ram He’ll provide, but I’m sure of the Lamb He provided (that’s Angie Smith loosely quoted from If: this weekend). I don’t know exactly how He is going to light me up and make me alive for His glory, but I know that He will when I say, “Here I am.” And, most importantly, I know that the whole point is for Jesus to be preached throughout the world and for disciples to be made.

All of this yapping aside, the point is that God has gifted me, and because I’m lazy and undisciplined and doubting and female, I have stopped/never started living with the calling He has given me.

So here I am again, stating that I have got to write in this blog more. This is the clearest calling I received this weekend. I have to teach God’s word in the way He wants me to. I have got to be obedient and disciplined. This is going to take some work.

This weekend, Angie Smith said something along the lines of, “I don’t want to get to heaven and stand in front of God and say, ‘Sorry, God, that I lived my whole life trying to look like other Christians instead of trying to look like Christ.'” In keeping with that incredible thought, I want to use this amazing tool called the internet to bring Him glory. I want to spread His message. I want to use what He has given me. So here’s a new focus for Chronicles of the Concomitant. I’ll come alongside Christ to serve the way He wants me to in His name.

To Fellow Millennials, When You Hate Your Job

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Husband and I are in this great life group. We love all our people! They are a huge blessing to us! Husband is also in this men’s group of church guys who look out for and encourage each other daily. One of the themes that I’ve seen in both of these groups is general grouchiness toward jobs. None of the people complain or anything. Nobody is openly miserable or anything. And it comes and goes in seasons – like sometimes people love what they do or are at least content, and then other times they are like “get me outta here!” and/or “what am I doing with my life?!?!?!”

And the grouchiness toward jobs is not exclusive to these two groups. I know that so, so, so many people do jobs that aren’t what they really want to do. So many people take what they can get. So many people are overworked and underpaid. Basically nobody gets appropriate paid leave when they have children. Basically nobody gets sufficient vacation time. Jobs just aren’t what we expected them to be when we were kiddos and dreamed of doing what we loved someday. Nobody wants to be a whiner, but we are, as a general group I think, disappointed in how things really are versus how we dreamed of them being.

I’m kind of a freak. I knew from like day one of life that music teaching and mommying were exactly what I wanted to do forever. When I was two, I would regularly line up my stuffed animals and teach them the abc’s and then discipline them when they were bad. I distinctly remember my Mickey Mouse doll getting put in the wardrobe on time out. Then I dreamed as a third grader of being a teacher, and I remember mentioning to my teacher that I was excited to be a teacher because they make lots of money. My friend overheard and said, “Teachers do not make any money! If you want to make lots of money, you should be a doctor.” I protested the truth of this statement, and my teacher confirmed. “Teachers don’t make much money compared to doctors, but it’s still fun to be a teacher.”

So I was prepared right from the start that I wouldn’t make very much money, but I would be in it for the fun. I am ridiculously passionate about teaching music. I’m passionate enough that I can be irritating. I’m passionate enough that I can’t give it up forever, even though I absolutely love staying home with my kids. I’m passionate about seeing kids learn and be successful and finding ways to express themselves. I’m passionate about teaching kids to acknowledge the incredible influence that music has on our culture and on cultures around the world. I care. So, so much.

But even music teaching hasn’t been exactly what I dreamed it would be. But has anything in life been like that, really? (If you’re looking for an answer, the answer is no – nothing in life is exactly what you expect it to be.) I’m going to be doing the exact thing that I’ve always, always wanted to do, but I bet a lot of you readers are not in that boat. I think most people aren’t.

Here’s the thing, though: your life is not your job. Your job isn’t the be-all, end-all for happiness and joy. It will always leave you unfulfilled, because even if it is exactly the thing you always dreamed of doing, there will be parts of your job where the sin of the world touches it. This is especially true if your job involves other people in any capacity. There are times of trial, times of being unfairly blamed for stuff, times of being unappreciated, times of hating the tasks you have to do, times of truly disliking a coworker, times of disappointment in the expectations versus reality of your daily tasks, times where you just can’t do well enough, times of boredom, etc., etc.

We tend to put our value in the work we’re doing. When someone new meets us, they ask immediately, “So what do you do?” Our jobs are a core part of our identity, so it is easy to place all our bets on how we’re doing there. I think this is especially true for traditional married men, who see themselves as the breadwinners and providers for their family. I know many a Godly man who has failed at work and it has had a major negative impact on his family. This, of course, applies to women, too.

The point is this: work is part of our lives, but not all of it. Work is part of our identity, but not all of it. Work is part of our mission, but not the point of it. As Christians, the point of our lives is to bring glory to God by doing life with Him and showing Him to the people we encounter. This comes through in everything we do in our jobs. When we are relating to other people, when we are performing menial tasks with little thanks, when we are disliked, when we are given unrealistic expectations, our attitude is either bringing glory to God or it isn’t.

Husband’s best friend is a musician. He considered going into music when he went to college, but his dad gave him some different advice. He said something along the lines of “Do something as a job that can provide for your family, and then you’ll have the resources to do music on the side.” I think that this was very wise of him. Husband’s best friend is a fantastic musician. He has used his music to make a little extra cash, but mostly he’s used it to glorify God by praising Him and sharing that with others. The wisdom of this idea is not discouraging a person to pursue a career in music, because that really is the place for some people (like me! yay!). The point of it is that your life is not completely wrapped up in your work. Just because you are doing something from 8-5 every day for 40 years, it doesn’t mean that was your whole life.

Part of it is especially prevalent in my generation, it seems. We grew up thinking that the sun shined out of our every crevice, that we were special and wonderful and great. I think probably what happened is that in the concern that we’d grow up with little self-esteem, we were overly and unrealistically esteemed. This has been a real problem for many people my age and has resulted in that dreaded word we all hate to hear about ourselves: entitlement. We think we are the bee’s knees, and nobody else does, so we defend ourselves and our awesomeness until we are blue in the face. But as we continually see that others don’t think we are as great as we think we are, we start to have an even harsher blow than reality, and we pervert the view of ourselves too far the other direction. We say that we must not be worth anything at all because nobody can see it. We’ve spent our whole lives being encouraged to just try and that’s all and that’s okay without any results. We’ve been coddled and helicoptered and every problem has been bulldozed out of the way for us, and we’re left with enormous obstacles that are now impossible to climb. If only we’d had to learn to climb the molehill, perhaps the mountain wouldn’t seem so alarmingly tall. Perhaps if we had a more realistic view that we are special and unique and we do matter, but we aren’t more special or more unique or more important than Suzy from next door, we would realize that we should try our best at whatever task we’re given all for the glory of God because He’s in it with us. And that would be enough.

I’m coming to terms with enough-ness. I need to figure out contentment wherever I am. I need to figure out how to do my life with Christ instead of just for Him. I sure think it’ll be more enjoyable that way. A little hard work with a little bit of Jesus joy might be all it takes to enjoy life, regardless of the 40-hour-per-week duties we have. God is with us, and that makes absolutely anything we have to deal with not only bearable, but even fun.

May we never forget Emmanuel, God is with us.

BabyWise, y’all.

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This has been a long time coming. It is time for me to post about BabyWise, the method we use to help our children learn how to sleep well.

DISCLAIMER TIME
Now, listen, I have lots of opinions. In sharing these opinions, I am not saying that you are wrong or that your method is wrong or that I don’t like you. Just because I like my method and might disagree with yours doesn’t say anything about how I think you parent. I promise! I can disagree with you and still think you are a great parent! I understand that different personalities dictate different styles and choices. As long as your baby is fed, clothed appropriately, and is healthy, I have no beef with you! So please don’t assume that I am hatin’ on you or your method if it is different than mine. I DO think that BabyWise can work for everyone if you choose to put forth the effort, but that doesn’t mean you are wrong or dumb or effort-less or less than me if you don’t use it. I’m just sharing my thoughts about why it is a good idea here, nothing more, nothing less.

So basically, I think BabyWise is the greatest thing ever. I’ve had a lot of people asking me questions about it, so I’m going to go into detail about why I think it is just the best!

WHAT IS IT?

BabyWise is a method for teaching your child how to sleep through the night from an early age. I could spend a bazillion years answering questions about it, which I am happy to do if you want to contact me, but it would probably be better for you to just read the book (link to amazon here) and see what you think for yourself, although I have a lot of opinions about why I think it is a good idea to help your kid sleep through the night that I am going to include here:

1. Babies do not naturally know how to do anything, really.
I think a lot of parents enter parenthood with this “luck” idea. I know they do, because when Jared was a baby and we were using BabyWise and working out butts off to keep his schedule reasonably consistent, people would always say, “Wow, he’s such a happy baby! You are so lucky!” and I would have to overcome to urge to sock them in the jaw because I am NOT lucky and I had to work very hard to have a happy baby and it is insulting to me to imply that it was just luck that made my kid this way. I think it is silly to enter parenthood with this “luck” idea (thank God for His grace. I’m not the person I wish I was, but He is helping me learn to not react so angrily to people who are just trying to say something nice). Sure, there are some luck factors (or I would say some ways that God is challenging you to find ways to praise Him or ways that Satan is trying to deceive and trick you out) involved in parenting, like temperament or special challenges/blessings or extra fussiness or reflux and gassiness, etc. But don’t enter parenthood just hoping for the best! There is a lot you can do to influence your children and to teach them! I have two kids. Neither kid knew how to do much when they popped out. They were both pretty good at sucking on stuff, including my husband’s nose.

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Always entertaining! But other than pooping and sucking on stuff, they did very little. You have to teach your kids stuff. If you enter parenthood with the idea that your kid is going to just figure it out, you are not thinking very well. Kids don’t learn good behaviors by themselves. They learn by watching and copying what you are teaching them. This is pretty obviously true, I think, although I currently don’t have any scientific data to back it up and I’m unwilling to go through the effort, I think it is clear that this is true. Kids who grow up in homes where parents yell tend to have anger management issues (although I’d argue that pretty much all kids have anger management issues until they are taught how to manage anger effectively since it is a learned behavior to manage anger). Kids who are never taught to hold a fork or their own cup don’t know how to do it. Kids who never eat dinner at the dinner table do not know table manners. I’m just saying, don’t be that person who is afraid to PARENT your child. As the parent, you are a built-in teacher, whether you like it or not. You are the person your kid will watch and copy and know better than anyone. I see scary parts of myself coming out in my kids. I lose patience with the dog a lot. I yelled at him to get away from me the other day when he was sniffing around my food, and Jared immediately yelled, “GO ‘WAY DOE-DOE!” in his “mean voice” which is “Go away, Chewy,” in his language. I was so embarrassed. He copies some of the good things but he certainly seems to cling to the bad things. Kids are what you make them in so many ways! I think it is okay to teach your kid how to sleep. I don’t think this is a naturally learned behavior – sleeping well. Obviously, sleeping is a naturally learned behavior. But doing it well is another whole story.

2. Mommy and Daddy need sleep.
Again, I’m lazy with the scientific data, but I can guarantee you there are like a bazillion studies out there about how you can’t effectively function as a human being without good sleep. Sleep apnea is horrible – my husband has it. Not sleeping well or for long enough effects like everything else in your life. People who don’t sleep enough don’t live as long. People who don’t sleep enough are more stressed out. I’m just saying, don’t you think getting good sleep benefits you? Sure, one of the first lessons you learn as a parent is that life is not all about you anymore. Your kid is super important. (Although I would argue that it is very unhealthy behavior to “put your kid first” like everyone always talks about, but that’s a discussion for another day.) However – and here was the kicker for me – how can I possibly be expected to teach another human how to function as a human when I cannot function as a human? I’m not one of those lucky ones who can slide by with little sleep. I like have no brain when I haven’t slept. Things I did when Ellie was first born: put my keys in the freezer, mopped the floor with only water because I forgot to add soap, forgot to cook dinner at all like 8 days in a row and then wondered why I was so hungry, etc. There are most assuredly plenty more things I forgot to do, but my brain was in such a sleepless fog that I can’t think of them right now. And even now, with two kids happily sleeping through the whole night, I find myself completely full of “mommy brain” – I still have to set alarms to remember to feed her at the right times! I’m just saying – having young babies is hard enough whether you are getting enough sleep or not – don’t add “lack of sleep” to the list of reasons why you are dumb and make things even worse! (Obviously, there are about 7-8 weeks there where “lack of sleep” is going to be on the list anyway, but I’m talking about extending the “lack of sleep” excuse far past the points of necessary and making your brain so foggy that you can’t even remember what life was like when your kids are little!) I also want to add here that if you are one of those parents who goes back to work when your kids are still little, God bless you! I was you the first time – I went back when Jared was 12 weeks, so I still got more time than most people do. Don’t you think it benefits those you work with for you to be able to properly function in your job because you are getting enough sleep? Sleep CAN be a priority when your kids are little if you choose to make it that way. It isn’t THE priority, or the highest priority, but it can be on the list without you feeling like you are a poor parent!

3. Routine is good for children.
Okay, again, scientific data. It exists somewhere. Look it up. Routine is undoubtedly, definitely, 100%, absolutely good for children (and grown-ups). Of all ages. At any walk of life. At any given point. Now, I hate routine. I like to be adventurous and spontaneous and mix it up and never do the same things and always be open and free for changing it up. I actually like change. I find it refreshing. I, for the longest time, found everyday repeated tasks super mundane and boring. Unfortunately, whether or not I like something does not dictate whether that thing is good for me or not. I do not like cauliflower. It is still good for me. I do not like exercise. It is still good for me. My change of heart toward routine began when I became a teacher. Here’s the deal. I have spent the last 6 years teaching music every day to elementary-aged kids. When I plan the lesson well, and we have established classroom routines, and kids can predict what is going to be happening and/or kids just know “how it is” in my room, things go really, really well. When there is routine, kids feel safe. Kids need to feel safe in order to have good behaviors and in order to learn and function well. Don’t try to pretend like kids aren’t learning when they are at your home – that is total nonsense. Kids learn in every environment they are in. They either learn that this is a safe, predictable place where they are free or they learn that this is a wild crazy zone where anything goes, which, interestingly, is less freeing in many ways. They learn good, healthy behaviors, or they don’t. Kids tend to put stuff in boxes: black and white, right and wrong. They organize and categorize the world to help make sense of it. Now, we poor jaded grown-ups know that the world is little more gray than that and that there aren’t always clear choices, but kids do not need to learn that when they are children! Give them structure, for goodness’ sake. It is healthy and good for them. It helps them learn what to do and when. You are probably wondering at this point what this rant about routine has to do with BabyWise. The thing is, you can give your kids safe, healthy routines literally from day one. Now, I am not talking about rigidness. The authors of BabyWise even bring this up. Choosing a routine for your family doesn’t mean that you are PsychoNaziMom who has a conniption fit when kiddos don’t exactly follow the minute-to-minute routine you have dictated. It does mean that kids pretty much can predict what’s going to happen next. This is good for children. They like this. It helps them feel safe, and it helps them feel like they have a little bit of control over their world. Additionally, routines are good for YOU. When I have a routine, I tend to get stuff done. For example, my morning routine is to get up at 6, get myself clean for the day, put on makeup and get dressed, make the bed, pump (holla!), take a load of laundry downstairs, let the dog out, change the laundry, let the dog back in, and start breakfast, wake up Ellie, feed her, wake up Jared, feed him and myself, unload dishwasher, put breakfast dishes in, day starts! Look at all that stuff I get done every morning! It is good, whether I enjoy it or not. It is comforting to know that I’ll get the laundry started and make sure the dog is let out and make sure my kid is fed and the dishwasher is empty of clean dishes. I don’t feel as frazzled because I know that I’ve done some things, and I can feel accomplished. There is accomplishment in feeling like my day wasn’t wasted, even though it never goes exactly as I had hoped! I have two kids under two, and I never feel like I can get everything done, but it helps my heart and soul to know that every day, I got SOMETHING done. Additionally, making hair and makeup a part of my routine means that if something does come up where we need to change up the schedule and go somewhere, I don’t have to be embarrassed about the “mom look” because I totally look hot! It helps with self-esteem to have a routine. It helps everything, whether I miss the good old days of flying by the seat of my pants or not.

The biggest reason I’ve adopted the BabyWise philosophy is joy. Jared is twenty months. Ellie is three months. Jared sleeps 12.5 hours every night and takes a 4 hour nap. Ellie sleeps 9 hours at night and takes several naps still. This gives Husband and me some quality alone time in the evenings before he hooks up the giant hose machine to his face and we sleep soundly through the whole night. I am home all day every day with the kiddos in a clean and put together home (most of the time). I have gotten big dents done in big projects each day (although none finished yet). I am by no means perfect, and God is teaching me grace and more patience every day, but I feel, at least 95% of the time, joyous and peaceful and not at all overwhelmed about having such young children. I actually feel blessed and in love with my life.

BabyWise has been a wonderful gift to us, and I will always thank my friends (shoutout to Justin and Katie and Michelle!) for recommending the book to us. Because of BabyWise, when people say to me “Gosh, your hands are full!” I want to answer with, “Yeah, you should see my heart!”

In My Element

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As you grow up, people ask a lot, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As Halloween approaches, I look at the children’s costumes and the idealism that surrounds. Super heroes, scary bad guys in control of their destinies, princesses: all show children dreaming of the perfect place and perfect task for them. Different children have different dreams, because God made us all differently and we all have our individual gifts and talents.

I dreamed of the same old things as other little girls: being a princess (Kate, I shall forever stand in your shadow, you wonderful live-r of every girl’s dream), making a ton of money (until I found out how much blood doctors deal with), making a difference in the world (hello, teaching career!), and, of course, motherhood. I would, of course, get married and have babies and be a total soccer mom.

As little girls, I think a lot of us dreamed that. We looked to our parents for their guidance, and we saw in society and in media that getting married and having babies was what life was all about.  Lately, as a late-20-something, I’ve seen many different kinds of posts, like single girls who are sick of being asked about when they are going to settle down, and married people who are sick of people asking when they are going to have kids, and they are begging to just let them live their lives in the timing that they have chosen.  In my early 20s, I wanted a career and everything, but there was one dream that seemed to get smaller in other girls that just got more full in my heart: parenthood.

I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to cook delicious meals in pretty dresses and heels and aprons like June Cleaver and Donna Reed. I wanted to greet my husband at the door looking fancy and serve him a delicious roast with homemade non-boxed mashed potatoes. More realistically, but still in my dream, I wanted to run around like a crazy person trying to get my four-or-five children to their various sports and musical activities, still home-cooking every meal and cutting their lunches into beautiful works of art. I wanted to sew our curtains and make costumes for school plays and volunteer in my kids’ classrooms. I wanted to endure the yelling of my 13-year-old daughter because I wouldn’t let her (insert some kind of inappropriate thing that all 13-year-old girls want to participate in during the 2020s). I wanted to cry as they got their driver’s licenses and pray for God’s protection over them like a crazy person and send them off to college and see them grow up and get married and give me grandbabies to spoil.

This was literally the biggest dream of my life.  It was the biggest passion.  My heart was there, and I was convinced that I should do exactly those things, and that I wouldn’t just do them: I would be amazing at them.

Many, many dreams in my life have changed, but that one remains. The moment my baby was put into my arms, I knew that I was going to rock at this. This was what I was supposed to do. This was how I was going to be a superhero and a princess and make a difference in the world. Holding that baby and looking into his sweet face was the beginning of my life. It was like that movie moment where the superhero gets his or her superpowers and he or she starts to glow all weird and nobody notices even though it’s totally obvious? I glow when I’m taking care of him. I flipping glow. When he was like two weeks old, I held him and looked around the room. I hadn’t slept in three weeks (because I was in labor for like a week) and I had never been more exhausted in my life. My help had returned to their lives, and I was alone. Husband was back at work. And I just sat there and glowed. I can do this. This is what I’m meant for. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is it. I thought at the time that it was probably just the hormones, especially since I cried my eyes out about five minutes later because he spit up epically and I was certain that he was dying, but it’s been a year, one week, and three days, and I’m still glowing.

And the hardest part of this, I think, is that you kind of get this idea in your head that when your dream comes true, your dream is all you’ll have to be doing.

Now don’t get me wrong: I really enjoy teaching. I love my students with all of my heart unconditionally. I feel like I do pretty well at what I do. I feel skilled and talented and patient, and I’ve learned more from hanging out with K-6th graders within the last 6 years than I ever knew I could. But, in all the joy I get from teaching, I am splitting my soul in half. And as we all know from Harry Potter, splitting your soul is a very bad idea.  By doing both things, I feel like I don’t do anything as well as I could. I feel like other people are raising my child so that I can raise other people’s children, which basically makes no sense to me. I feel like I can never get anything done, ever, ever, ever. My house is always a mess because who can find the time to clean when you’ve worked for 8 hours and still have 3 more hours of planning to do for the next day? I am the kind of person that believes that whatever I do, my whole heart should be involved, but it just feels like there isn’t enough of my heart to give it all to all the things I have to do. And that’s just what I have to do. What about the things I want to do, like serving the Lord and spending time with friends and making music?

I feel utterly selfish and gross for wanting my dream to be all I do. I feel like for us, me staying home is irresponsible and a waste of my very, very expensive and paid-off education. We are still in some debt because we had to get a new roof and new AC/Furnace and we’re going to have to get Husband a new car here really soon.  Why did we work so hard to pay off student loan debt and go to grad school out of pocket for me to put it all away staying home? Why would I stop doing the debt snowball when it is working so well (and has worked so well in the past) so that I can do what I want? Why would I trade a pretty great salary and a great job so that I can get what I want? If there’s anything I’ve learned from teaching and being a parent so far, it’s that selfishness is almost always not the way to go. I feel bad even writing this post because I have several friends who would really like to have children and don’t know if they will ever get to. I feel like I’m sitting here griping about how I have to get to have everything: a great job and a wonderful family, and yet I’m wishing for something else.

I wonder if that’s how it always is supposed to be. Nothing on earth is perfect and complete and fulfilling because that’s what heaven is for? Or doesn’t God call us to find contentment here? How I am to know whether I’m supposed to seek contentment in what is happening now or if I’m supposed to chase what I want?  I’ve seen “grow where you’re planted” and I’ve seen “go anywhere for your dreams.” Which one is it?

So, as a parent, I feel in my element. I am good at it. I don’t question my baby-related decisions. Of course, I have a very easy and wonderful baby, so that helps. As a cook and homemaker, I am in my element. The food I cook tastes good. I know how to find a deal. I can sew (ish) to repair stuff. I have ideas and ways to do things ourselves that would cost a lot more to hire someone. I ache for time during the day to grocery shop. (I bow to all the Wednesday morning Aldi women out there – you go Wednesday morning Aldi women!) I like grating my own cheese. I like home making my laundry detergent. I’m just saying that if there every was any dork who would just totally rock out the high-top sneakers and jeans up to the boobs, it would be me. I do realize that isn’t what soccer moms are like anymore.

I think this comes down to two things. Number one: it is very hard to make a decision about what is the right thing. Just because I feel really, really, really, ridiculously good at something, it doesn’t mean that’s all I should do. And just because doing that thing makes me insanely happy beyond all measure, it doesn’t mean that’s where I’m called. Number two: the grass is always greener. Everybody always wants what she can’t have, so maybe I just ache to stay home because I work now, and as soon as I stay home, I’ll ache to work again. Doesn’t that mean the point should be to find contentment in whatever I’m doing? My concern is that if I find contentment in whatever I’m doing, what if I become complacent, and it’s actually NOT what I’m supposed to be doing? And what if all of this speculation about what I’m supposed to be doing or not supposed to be doing is just a ridiculous waste of time and a way to show God that I’m going to worry no matter what?

I suppose the conclusion of all of this is that regardless of how comfortable I feel making decisions about how to raise my kid, there are always really hard decisions to make, and I’m just really scared that I’ll make the wrong ones.  And that’s silly, because my mom worked my whole life and I turned out just fine (regardless of the excessive number of parentheticals I use in my writing) and my husband’s mom stayed home his whole life and he turned out just fine (regardless of his excessive love of iPad and iPod and XBox games). The best I can do now is to look to the Lord and thank Him from the depths of my soul that He has gifted me enough that I’m confused about what He wants me to do. I can pray to find joy in every moment, even if the diapers I get to change (yes, I do actually enjoy changing diapers, I’m seriously a freak) are only after 4:30 pm. And my baby is my baby, but I did have about 575 school-babies before he was even mine, and I’m thankful for them, too, and all the incredible parenting lessons they taught me (like patience; I mean seriously, I am ridiculously patient, except of course when it comes to knowing God’s will for my life). The truth is, my life is not my own, and I was bought with a price, and I want to go wherever He leads, whether it is staying home or working full time or a combination of both. And I find comfort in the truth that if I go wherever He leads, I will be in my element.