Yes, My Husband Babysits

by Elizabeth

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I didn’t have children the first time I heard a mom announce that “dads don’t babysit.” At the time I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Since becoming a mother thirteen years ago, I have repeatedly heard that sentiment in all its various forms, but I have never joined in the conversation. Because my husband does babysit.

I’m the primary caregiver in our family, and my husband works a full-time job. So if I want to work, or go out with friends, or go out by myself, or even get my own medical care, I’m going to have to ask him to watch the kids. Because to me, the “ask” is what constitutes the “act” of babysitting.

It would feel silly to ask, “Can you parent on Tuesday night?” Or, “Can you do some fathering on Thursday from 3 to 5?” He’s a parent all the time, not just when he’s watching the kids.

I don’t always say, “Can you babysit?” Usually I say, “Can you watch the kids at that time?” (In fact, JT WATCH KIDS is what goes into our shared Google calendar.) But what I tell other people is that “I have to get babysitting first” (the default here being ET WATCH KIDS).

And lest you get the wrong idea, let me say that we made the decision to run our family like this together. This is our mutually decided-upon life for now. It means that I’m the one at home most of the time, and it means that if I want alternative childcare during certain times, I have to ask. It doesn’t mean I think of him as “the babysitter” and not “the dad.” It just means he has to plan time to stay at home in place of me.

Saying I have to arrange babysitting with my husband doesn’t mean he doesn’t parent. (His parenting is astounding. He’s calm and wise, pragmatic and sensitive. He sees through any child’s manipulative tactics and also sees straight to their heart needs.) It simply means he has a job and that if I, as the primary caregiver, need or want to leave the house without my children, I’m going to have to ask him to clear some time in his schedule. It’s something he’s more than happy to do, but it’s still something I have to ask for, and it’s still something we have to plan.

So yes, my husband babysits. And yes, he also parents. He does both.

Two Things We Need to Teach Our Kids About Sex

by Elizabeth

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This spring Jonathan and I participated in a panel discussion on issues of sexuality and parenting. During the course of our conversation I verbalized two things I think are important when it comes to talking about sex with our children. First, from very early on we need to be cultivating a mistrust of friends’ information. And second, virginity is not the point: purity is.

Long before we ever thought about talking about sex with our children, we encouraged them to come to us with the things their friends told them. Then we could tell them if their friends were giving accurate information — or not. We happen to be a very talkative family (you probably can’t imagine that, can you??), and our children report back to us with gusto.

The things they tell us their friends said are, almost without exception, incorrect. By now it’s almost a family joke. We started this approach early and are hoping it continues into the teen and young adult years. We’ve now started telling our older kids that when it comes to sex, their friends will most likely not be correct. They appear to believe us because this has been the case for so many other topics over the years.

One more thing about the friendship issue: we need to include Google as one of these untrustworthy “friends.” There are a couple reasons for this. The internet may very well give scientifically or Biblically accurate information — but not necessarily. And young people have difficulty discerning reputable sources on the internet. Additionally, finding porn during a Google search is literally 1 second away. {I know this because it happened to me. Ew.} The internet is not our friend when it comes to sex education.

Cultivating a mistrust of friends’ information is something we can do from very early ages, before we begin talking about sex or even begin thinking about talking about sex. But when we do begin talking about sex, we need to start steering the conversation away from virginity — which has been a traditional way of talking about sex and marriage — and direct it towards purity.

Virginity refers to an event. Its loss might be a past event or a future event, but it is still a one-time occurrence. Purity, on the other hand, is a state of living and a state of being. No matter what our past is, because of Jesus, purity is possible in the present and in the future.

Purity is what Paul means when he tells us to press on. Purity is what Jesus means when He tells the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more. Virginity will fail us, but purity is always available.

Our virginity status isn’t a pre-requisite for marriage. God cares more that we are currently living in purity than whether we enter marriage a virgin. (Of course, if you’re a virgin, that means God wants you to remain so until marriage.) But if sexual immortality has been confessed, repented of, and forgiven, those specific sins don’t matter anymore. We — and our children — are clean now.

So let’s not talk about virginity, other than to define what it is. Instead let’s teach our children to walk in the way of purity and commit to walking in that way ourselves.

 

In the future I’d like to address various questions about sex and relationships that I’ve received from teenagers over the years. So stay tuned.

This Is Who We Are {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today. . . .

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Who are we over here at A Life Overseas?

As editor-in-chief of this blog collective, I’d like to give you my answer to that question. A Life Overseas is an online space where writers and readers show up to tell their stories. We share stories of wounds and stories of healing. We share stories of loss and stories of hope. And sometimes, we share stories that don’t yet have a label.

Our writers meet here from all across the denominational spectrum. Each of us is a different permutation of cultural and intercultural and cross-cultural experience. Yet we all show up here once a month, or once every few months, to connect across feeble lines of prose and shaky lines of code — and sometimes even shakier lines of internet cable. But we keep showing up anyway.

Why would we do such a thing? Well, we do it because we love you, and we don’t ever want you to feel alone in the life you’re living and the joys and challenges you’re facing. More than that, though, we do it because we love Jesus. We show up because there is something so compelling about this Christ-Man that we cannot help but speak about Him.

Finish reading here.

Facebook Live at A Life Overseas

Hey all, just a quick note to let you know Jonathan and I were on Facebook Live for about an hour last week, talking with friends and readers all over the world. If you want to watch a replay of our conversation, Jonathan posted it here. We talked about many topics during that hour, so Jonathan included a cheat sheet of sorts in the replay. ~Elizabeth

What Forgiveness Really Means

by Elizabeth

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Timothy Sanford wrote about forgiveness in his book “I Have To Be Perfect” (And Other Parsonage Heresies). It’s a book for Pastors’ Kids and Missionary Kids (PKs and MKs) that I blogged through a couple years ago. In the book, Sanford teaches that when you forgive someone, you have to “absorb the damages.”

I didn’t exactly know what he meant by “absorb the damages.” For me it was a completely novel way of looking at forgiveness. I had always thought forgiveness meant releasing my anger and desire for justice. I never thought about having to absorb the damages.

According to this definition, forgiveness means paying. You take on the punishment. You walk through the suffering. You pay the price that no one else is willing to pay.  It is not just releasing a person from their debt. It involves accepting your own suffering. And this has certainly been my experience. Willingly or unwillingly, there have been times in my life that I have paid the price that no one else would pay.

Sanford’s explanation of forgiveness also helps me to understand the Cross on a deeper level. It’s easy to understand the mercy of a God who releases us from punishment. It’s much harder to comprehend why that same God had to suffer because of His choice to forgive. After all, He’s God. Why couldn’t He release us without suffering?

I have in fact heard people voice this very complaint, claiming that a violent, bloody cross was unnecessary for salvation. That if we, as humans, can “just decide” to forgive someone, then why wouldn’t the God of the universe be able to just decide to forgive us, too? He’s GOD. Can’t He just declare our debt null and void? Give us heaven free and clear?

I must confess, this postmodern recasting of God sounds really nice. It’s pleasant to the ears and inoffensive to the mind. But as I’ve processed through the ideas of mercy and forgiveness, the words of Timothy Sanford keep returning to me. They illuminate for me what the forgiveness of Jesus really means.

It is most certainly true that God wanted to forgive, so He decided to forgive. But in order to forgive, someone was going to have to pay the price. And in this case, the Person who paid the price was God Himself.

The “I can just decide to forgive” narrative works better with people we actually care about. When we are in relationship with someone, it is much easier to pay the price, to release the debt, and to forgive. The process is more akin to overlooking than releasing. So we delude ourselves into thinking that forgiveness means “just deciding” to forgive, apart from anyone’s suffering.

But I don’t want to worship a god made in my own image, a god whose ideas of justice and forgiveness are modeled after my own.

Forgiveness, whether it is God’s or ours, always means absorbing the damages. When we humans “just decide” to forgive someone here on earth, it is never a simple act of the will the way I’ve heard some describe it. There is always suffering involved. We suffer at the hands of another and choose not to repay evil for evil. Forgiveness means accepting that suffering. There is always a cost to forgiveness.

And that is the role of Jesus in our lives. The truth is, the cross is offensive. It is violent. It is God himself paying the price of our wrongdoing. Taking on the pain of our sin — a pain so massive we have a hard time comprehending it. Such a hard time comprehending it, in fact, that we are sometimes tempted to wave it all away.

But forgiveness is never free. The cost can’t be waved away. The forgiver always pays. Forgiving means acknowledging that there was pain and suffering and that nothing the perpetrator will ever do could ever make it right. The Forgiver Himself has to make it right.

Linking up with Velvet Ashes.

A Few of My Favorite Things {March 2017}

by Elizabeth

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Ash Wednesday service at the Anglican church. I had never been to an Ash Wednesday service before but really wanted to go. I didn’t quite know what to expect, and I certainly didn’t expect to find a literal puddle of tears forming on the lenses of my glasses during the first kneel-down prayer (and oops, I’d forgotten to pack tissues). Ash Wednesday offers us a communal way to come back to God, to remember that “we are dust, and to dust we shall return,” and to be reminded to “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” In the sermon the priest spoke about the nature of sin to isolate, but how confession breaks this power. He also taught that regret can take up space in our souls, and sometimes we don’t even realize it. Confession frees up that space. I also learned something important about burnout from the Psalm 51 reading.

Team Expansion Ladies’ Retreat. I love the ladies on my team, but with all of us having busy schedules and some of us separated by long distances, we don’t often get to spend time just being with each other. So for 24 hours, that’s just what we did. We talked, we ate, we laughed, we played games, we took a walk at sunset, we made art, and we stayed up way too late. It was awesome.

Baked Oatmeal. I’m loving this crock pot recipe lately. It’s not too sweet, so even though it smells like oatmeal cookies while it’s cooking, it’s not sweet enough to attract my children’s taste buds, which leaves more for me to eat for breakfast throughout the week, right?

I’m also back into hummus and carrots, after quite a long absence in my diet. I’ve taken to rinsing and removing the skins of the chick peas before grinding, which both makes the hummus smoother and reduces the amount of olive oil needed (thereby reducing stomach issues for me).

Crying with friends. I was having a particularly bad day/week this month, and although I didn’t intend to, I broke down in front of a couple friends (in the school library, of all places). I’m thankful for friends who accept me at my most raw (and I felt so much better after crying with them).

The wisdom of G.K. Chesterton. My husband is reading Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, and he reads memorable sections out loud to me. They are morsels of wisdom in a world gone mad. Although Chesterton was writing about a hundred years ago, he is surprisingly current.

 

BOOKS

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins. If the mark of a good book is that I laugh all the way through it and cry at the end, then this book is a GOOD book. I had avoided reading it because of 1) the drab cover and 2) the uncommunicative title. Truly, it needs a happier cover, because Cindy doesn’t take herself too seriously, and she had me laughing out loud in bed and laughing out loud in the church fellowship hall. So do yourself a favor and get this book. It’s geared towards homeschooling moms, but any mom-of-littles or mom-of-many will appreciate Cindy’s wisdom. It’s not on Amazon Kindle yet, but they promise it will be soon.

Invitations From God by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. You must read this book. It’s the current Velvet Ashes book club book, and it’s basically a collection of all the spiritual lessons I’ve been learning over the last 5 years or so, written in a very conversational tone. Jonathan recommends Emotionally Healthy Spirituality all the time, as a collection of the lessons God has taught him over the last several years. Invitations from God is going to become MY go-to spiritual growth recommendation.

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. This book is a coming of age story that’s definitely an “adult read.” This story does not shy away from grief and sorrow, and I certainly did not expect to ugly cry so much at the end of it. It does make me wonder — is grief a natural and accepted part of American Southern culture in general? (I’m thinking along the lines of Steel Magnolias and Because of Winn-Dixie here.)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. With this book, sometimes you just gotta stop and laugh. So we did. I hope to get my hands on the other books in the series someday soon.

Mark by Michael Card. Yes, still slowly working through this. Oh my goodness, the commentary on chapter 10 was excellent – I’ll share some in the Quotes section.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle. I read through her lengthy Lent chapter, which was full of gold nuggets. I’ll also list some below.

 

BLOG POSTS

The Crown Must Always Win, a conversation between Joshua Gibbs and Heidi White. I love the show The Crown. It’s emotionally and politically dense, and certainly not a binge-watching show, but I love the interplay between Call/Duty and Love/Relationship. As a missionary/pastor’s wife, I relate to these issues so much, even if I’m nowhere close to being royal.

So I Quit Drinking by Sarah Bessey. This is a LONG read, like a book chapter, but it’s so good I cried. Not because I drink — though I’ve had friends and family who’ve struggled to put down the drink — but because that tender, tenacious conviction from the Spirit is how I felt about taking Sundays off technology. I was nudged and nudged and nudged that way until I finally obeyed, and lo and behold I am light and free and have begun to count on my tech-free Sundays for true Sabbath.

The Gift of a Second Salvation by Esther Kline. This guest post at A Life Overseas tugged at my heart and resonated with my spirit and is such good news.

A Conversation with Jen Wilkin from Russell Moore. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to hear “conservatives” push back against hyper-conservative practices such as the outlawing of women in ministry or of male/female friendships (my husband wrote on that subject here).

Reconciliation Before Promotion by Russ Parker for Amy Boucher Pye’s Forgiveness Fridays series. I dare you not to cry at this true story of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Why Students Need to Hear Epic Unrelated Tangents by Joshua Gibbs. This article reminds me of my more favorite and impactful teachers: the ones who were free to “tangent.” It reminds me to allow my kids to tangent with their interests. Of course this tangential approach to teaching only works if we have LOTS of time at home and no rush to get anywhere (which wasn’t the case at our house for most of month).

An Open Letter to Paul Ryan About Poverty and Empathy by Karen Weese. Around here I purposefully refrain from posting about political topics, and to be honest I don’t really even know who Paul Ryan is or what he stands for. I only know that after having spent some time in the States and abroad working with poverty, the statements and stories in this article ring true to me.

 

PODCASTS AND VIDEOS

The Shoe Song: a gift to every parent who’s having a tough day from Jen Fulwiler. Pure fun. Also desperately true sometimes.

Thoughts from the mother of a beautiful brown child as the Confederate flag flies from the back of pickup trucks. From a friend. Well-articulated and compassionately delivered.

The Intersection of Effortlessness and Hard Work with Dr. Christopher Perrin at Schole Sisters. I have almost given up listening to podcasts – it’s what I did on Sunday afternoons that didn’t provide me the rest I really needed, and when I went offline on Sundays, I mostly don’t listen anymore. But I occasionally find time and this one was a good one. (I’ve listened to Dr. Perrin speak about Schole before.)

This interview with Tara Owens, author of Embracing the Body, was also good.

As was this interview with Jonathan Rogers, who wrote a book on St. Patrick. I love St. Patrick’s Day (I explain why here). Did you know there’s not much evidence to suggest Patrick used the shamrock to teach about the Trinity? I was also interested to learn that he was consistently in trouble with Rome for reaching out to the native pagan Irish (having been sent to Ireland only to care for the small transplanted flock there). His fight against the establishment made me like him more now than ever.

Faerie Tale Theatre. These shows are old, old, old, but when we started reading fairy tales together, I remembered them from my childhood. Not all of the episodes are child-friendly enough, but The Snow Queen and The Dancing Princesses are. My family watched them on the only English-speaking channel when we were stationed in West Germany in the 1980s. I found old copies on Youtube to show my kids.

And finally, the new Beauty and the Beast film. I particularly appreciated the Beast’s transformation. You can literally watch love begin breaking in to his heart. It makes the storyline more enjoyable and more believable.

 

MUSIC AND POETRY

Refugee by Malcolm Guite. Oh my goodness, do NOT miss this poem.

Only King Forever by Elevation Worship. Good gracious, these LYRICS (and that RHYTHM).

Our God a firm foundation
Our rock, the only solid ground
As nations rise and fall
Kingdoms once strong now shaken
But we trust forever in Your Name
The Name of Jesus
We trust the Name of Jesus

You are the only King forever
Almighty God we lift You higher
You are the only King forever
Forevermore, You are victorious

Unmatched in all Your wisdom
In love and justice You will reign
And every knee will bow
We bring our expectations
Our hope is anchored in Your Name
The Name of Jesus
Oh, we trust the Name of Jesus

You are the only King forever
Almighty God we lift You higher
You are the only King forever
Forevermore, You are victorious

We lift our banner high
We lift the Name of Jesus
From age to age You reign
Your kingdom has no end

Even If by MercyMe. Wow. May this be true of my faith.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

 

QUOTES

Ecclesiastes 7:3 in The Message, sent from my “crying library” friends:

“Crying is better than laughing. It blotches the face but scours the heart.”

From Sue Hanna, in a lesson taken from Abraham and his father Terah:

“When we begin life in Christ, we are headed for the Promised Land, but most of us settle in Haran. Then we die there.”

“It’s all right to get stuck (for a while). It’s not all right to settle.”

Michael Card in Mark:

“Jesus’ response, that the man should sell everything and follow him, is not the answer to the man’s question. It is a litmus test that reveals the truth; he has not kept all the commandments. He has broken the first one and made money his god.” (On the rich young ruler’s question about what he must DO to inherit eternal life.)

“A person does not enter the kingdom with anything — not with wealth, not with accomplishments, not with degrees. We come into the kingdom with one possession: the grace of Jesus Christ.” (On the camel going through the eye of a needle and rich people entering the kingdom.)

Madeleine L’Engle in The Irrational Season:

“We all know that no one can see God and live, it’s all through the Bible. And it isn’t only a Judeo-Christian idea — it’s in Greek and Roman mythology too: in fact, it’s a basic presupposition of humankind.”

“But he [Jacob] recognized God when he wrestled with Him, and he limped forever after. And that limp is important, for the point the Old Testament writer is making by emphasizing Jacob’s thigh is that anyone who has seen the living God and survived is marked by this experience and is recognized forever after by the mark.”

I Had an Arranged Marriage

by Elizabeth

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One time Jonathan and I were at a wedding here in Cambodia, celebrating the marriage of a Brit and a Filipino. Sitting at the table with us was a young lady from India. When the table conversation strayed into the topic of marriage, this young lady asked us if we had a “love marriage” (as opposed to the Indian custom of arranged marriage).

Our first answer was yes – yes, we had a love marriage. A second later we added, “Our parents were really involved in our relationship.” And they were. They were intimately involved.

Another time we were sharing a meal with our Pakistani friends, when the conversation turned to marriage. They told us their story, and we told them ours. When we explained the way our parents had helped to guide us, we laughed and told them that at the time some people thought we were crazy.

There was another time when I was chatting with a lady from India about the cultural differences between India, Cambodia, and America. I asked if her daughter, who is studying in America, will have an arranged marriage, or not. She said she probably won’t have an arranged marriage, and that she herself did not have an arranged marriage, so how could she expect her daughter to?

I told her I got married at 18, and to her that seemed very young. (She was right. It was.) She said that in India, parents prefer their children’s marriages to take place a little later, so husband and wife and older, wiser, and more stable when they’re just starting out.

Then I explained how our relationship had unfolded – how Jonathan had talked to his dad, how his dad had talked to my parents, how Jonathan had then talked to my parents, how my parents had eventually talked to me — and she said that is exactly how marriages happen in India.

That was the moment I realized I had an arranged marriage. That was the moment I realized that “courtship” as I knew it was really “arranged marriage, American style.”

It makes sense: an arranged marriage is not a forced marriage. My friend went on to explain that even when it is a so-called “love marriage,” Indian families prefer marriage to be  formalized in this way — that children will talk to their parents, who will talk to the other parents, and so on.

In fact that is how she expects it to happen with her daughter, that she will tell her parents the man in whom she’s interested, and they will get to know the other family, etc. Parents know their kids, she explained, and they know how their kids react to certain situations and people, and they want their children’s marriages to be successful.

I like this idea of families knowing each other. It’s all too easy at university to find someone and fall in love them without any family context, and not to know what you’re getting into. But a marriage is not just a union between two people. A marriage always involves the families of origin, for we are formed by our families and bring our original family culture into our marriages, whether healthy or not.

Now that I’ve been married for nearly 17 years, I can honestly say I’ve loved nearly every moment of marriage. Yes, we’ve had conflict. Yes, we’ve had disagreements. Yes, we’ve sometimes been so busy we barely spoke to each other.

But most of the time we’ve enjoyed being married to each other.

And while I can’t attribute the success of my marriage solely to its arrangement, that arrangement does deserve some credit. Looking back, I can clearly see the way God moved to bring us together under the blessing and authority of our parents. That knowledge and belief is a sure foundation to lean upon when committing to a lifetime of love and togetherness.

Marriage doesn’t have to be as formally arranged as it was for Jonathan and myself or for my Indian or Pakistani friends. Still, it can be good for family to be involved. Or if, for whatever reason, it’s not possible for family to be involved, it can be good for someone to be involved, intentionally guiding a young couple toward marriage.

In the end, marriage is a community matter. The strength and stability of our marriages affect our churches and our culture at large. Proverbs 15:22 tells us that “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” We can all use a little outside input to make wise decisions — decisions that will hopefully last a lifetime.

_______________________________

Other articles I’ve written about marriage:

What I Want to Teach My Daughters About Married Sex

Our Journey to Finding Joy in Marriage (and the things we lost along the way)

When Marriage and Ministry Collide

Open letter to trailing spouses (and the people they’re married to)

Articles Jonathan has written about marriage:

The Purpose of Marriage is Not to Make You Holy

3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Wife

A Marriage Blessing

Love Interruptus?