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I’ve seen some great posts in the last few days about Valentine’s Day, love, romance, and so forth. The common theme is that lasting love is ultimately not about pink hearts and cupids and romance. It’s about commitment and faithfulness and walking through all that life brings with someone who loves you unconditionally. It’s an important point to make, particularly in an age of media entertainment that portrays love as a feeling or a buzz or attraction to someone’s physical features alone.
But lest true love sound to young people like it’s nothing but slogging through life, fighting life’s battles without a single moment of romance or a solitary skip of the heart, let me say it doesn’t have to be that way. The truth is that my husband of nearly 18 years still makes my heart glad whenever I see him. On the rare occasions when we’re able to plan an actual date, I still look forward to it more than ever.
Tom recently came home after playing a wedding. When he walked into the room, it took me back 19 years to one of our first dates. Way back in late 1994, we went out for hot chocolate on a snowy night before Christmas. He had just played a wedding that night also and was wearing a dark suit and crisp white shirt. No time at all had elapsed suddenly. Same wonderful man. Same twinkly brown eyes. Same Tom. Same love.
What creates that gladness in my heart is the constant kindness, consideration and selflessness my husband shows. How could any normal woman not respond in kind to that kind of love? When a man sets the tone for marriage by caring for the wife he married, a woman can rest in that and trust him with her well-being, and that spark of gladness never has to die out.
So the truth is, cupids and hearts and real, committed love aren’t mutually exclusive. We may have more lines on our faces from the passing years, but I still fall in love with Tom Schlueter every time I see him. For me, as Snow White summed it up so well, “There’s nobody like him, anywhere at all!”
P.S. Emmy and Mary are making a heart-shaped cake for their dad. Chocolate cake, pink frosting. But it’s a surprise…
When a man loves his wife like Christ loves the church, the home becomes a foretaste of heaven. When a man lives for himself, his ambitions, his desires and goals and uses his wife like an appliance to facilitate this, he creates a foretaste of hell on earth. A normal woman will respond to loving headship, and an atmosphere of love and respect is created.
Children will carry these images of husband and wife into their own marriages. What kind of a picture are we giving our children? A picture of constant suffering and mental anguish, unforgiveness and pain? Or are we giving them the beauty of forgiveness, reconciliation, love and tenderness?
All of the correct doctrine of the Christian faith taught as theory will not counterbalance a wrong marital picture in the minds of children. They know at a deep level what they see. The old saying is true. “What we are screams so loud that nobody hears what we’re saying.” Something to remember as parents.
Only God can help any of us love as He loves. We will fail at times, but God help us if we fail and feel no qualms of conscience about it. We will sin, but God help us if we refuse to repent when we do. The hallmark of a man or woman of God is not sinless perfection. It is the presence of a living and active conscience that cannot rest until things are made right. Those who sleep well when things are shattered cannot know the Christ of Calvary, no matter what their lips profess.
Years ago, I read books by an author of published letters to his daughter on spiritual and life themes. It touched me deeply. I share this note I wrote to Will because it echoes the hearts of Christian mothers everywhere who see their sons and daughters growing up in these fearsome times. As the time with our children wanes, there is a sense of urgency. Have I conveyed these truths that need to be taught? What wisdom our sons need as they come of age and face life decisions! These are my thoughts.
Happy birthday, son! 16 years ago, God rescued both of us in what could have been a disaster. He saved our lives through the timing of one doctor appointment, and you are here today by God’s direct intervention.
We are here at His decree, and our lives are His to command. Recognizing this or failing to recognize this will determine the outcome of your life here and in the life to come.
You have heard much discussion in our household of the extraordinary times in which we live. You are coming of age at a time when institutions that have stood for generations are falling. The foundations of social order are heaving. Marriage, family, individual freedom, Christianity, all of it.
But this is the time God chose for you to enter manhood. He wants you here, now. I want to share this counsel with you, and I pray you will listen.
Life is not about acquiring stuff.
Life is not about pleasure as an end in itself.
Your character is the most important thing in the world.
The world and all that it offers is dying and passing away, but your soul is forever.
The very traits that can make you a success and let you achieve great things can become your achilles heel. Strength of personality, drive, ambition – all of these are valued in our society. But unbridled ambition and all the rest can make you a monster if they are not under the power and control of the Holy Spirit.
We are living in an age when womanhood has been so debased and degraded as to make true femininity a scarce thing. Women themselves are responsible for this downfall. Godly womanhood is like a priceless pearl. Rare. Very, very rare. But if you seek such a woman for your life’s partner and commit to settling for nothing less, it will be the most precious gift, after salvation, that you can have in this life.
You are choosing the mother of your children when you choose a wife. Her influence, as does yours, will have generational consequences. Think about that when you are attracted to physical beauty alone. Take the long view, son. What will the character traits you see in a woman mean in a marriage? You’ve seen all that Dad and I have had to contend with through the years. Life can bring great blessing, but it also brings great pain at times. If a woman has no faith or a superficial faith in God, how will she endure?
Don’t trifle with a girl’s heart. Treat every young lady as you would want your beloved sister Emily treated–with kindness and respect. The term “love” needs to be reserved for one that you truly love, not thrown around cheaply as it so often is today. Don’t buy “promise rings” and such. Your promise comes with engagement and marriage, and until you can support a wife, don’t promise things you can’t fulfill.
Shield your eyes and guard your heart. You are growing up in a modern day Sodom. Commit to put nothing evil in front of your eyes. Don’t tolerate it even for a moment in anything you watch.
There is so much I want to say, but I want to conclude with this. There is a spirit of spiritual error and deception and seduction that is growing worse and worse. I have watched it worsen dramatically just in the last couple of years. Those who once stood for the Lord Jesus Christ are falling in unbelievable ways. There is not one of us who is incapable of falling from the truth, either in doctrine or in practice in our lives. Ephesians 6 gives direct instructions about putting on the full Armor of God. Failure to do this will render you a prime target of the enemy.
Steep yourself in the Word of God. You cannot obey God’s commands if you aren’t hearing and reading them. We are renewed in our minds and hearts by the Word. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word. Not just for salvation, but for the ongoing sanctification by the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Self-righteousness is our great enemy. Good kids have their own set of challenges. We need to remember Jeremiah 17:9 where we are told that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. The only cure for a heart like that is to be washed in the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ. We daily sin much, as Luther stated. The only thing we can plead before God’s throne is the pure righteousness of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We have nothing in ourselves that will stand before our Holy God. Cling to that truth, and remind yourself of it daily.
Pray for a tender conscience. Don’t let the sins of other professing Christians around you make you jaded and cynical. Don’t believe that their sin gives you an excuse to not believe. We are all accountable to God. We will all give an answer.
I know this is long, but as a mother, I wanted to say these things.
As long as God gives me a heartbeat, I am here for you and all my children. As you know, so is your loving Dad.
You are here, right now, to fulfill a Divine purpose. Whatever you do, do with all your might, but in humility, giving God the glory. If you do that, you will shine like the sun in the middle of this very dark generation. (Matthew 13:43)
Remember these verses:
Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
~ Malachi 3:16-18
The world celebrates things done on a grand scale, the building of big things and awesome places, and it celebrates “great people” who have powerful connections, impressive credentials and great influence as celebrities.
My son and I had a conversation last night about how very differently Jesus viewed things. The disciples told the mothers of young children to get lost when they brought their little ones to Jesus for a blessing. Why would a great teacher have time for someone’s squalling brats? Be gone, women. He has bigger fish to fry.
Instead, our Savior took the children in his arms. He told his arrogant disciples that unless they became like the little ones in their simple faith, they would never see the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 18:3)
We often scorn little things in our lives, the mundane, the seemingly worthless things we do, day in and day out. The cleaning of a kitchen or bathroom, the changing of a diaper on a baby, shopping for groceries. Yet no act is meaningless when it is done in love.
Mothers know that the eye contact made with little ones while a diaper is being changed triggers some of the biggest, sweetest smiles. Augustine once said of his mother, “I would have perished a thousand times in my own filth without her care.” It really isn’t such a little thing after all, caring for a baby. Every touch and every contact with a child is a chance to ensure that child knows they are cherished, and that helps them grow.
It’s amazing what little things come into our lives from others that aren’t little at all. In the last year, I cannot tell you the number of times someone has sent me an email right at the moment when I needed encouragement. I received one from Germany a few weeks ago, and just last week, one from Northern Ireland. They were listeners who once heard me on the radio program I co-hosted. They just thanked me for the work I had done and told me what it had meant to them in their lives. The times I think that I wasted 20-some years of my life are always interrupted by a “little thing”—a kind note from someone that made all the difference, and I know it was God’s hand of kindness through people.
The example set by our Savior was unmistakable as you read through the Gospels. What you begin to see is that there are no “little things” in God’s economy when they are done in love. The woman at the well had a little conversation with Jesus – a woman he wasn’t even supposed to speak with as she was a Samaritan (and one who was co-habiting after numerous failed marriages.) That “little” conversation offered the woman eternal life — living water that would never let her thirst again. Many lives were touched in her village, because she carried that joyful message to all who would listen.
No matter how unimportant you think your life is, the little things you do matter. I have a friend I have known since high school. She has been in a wheelchair from a motor neuron disease since just after college. She lives in assisted care due to the progression of her disease. But thanks to Facebook, she is able to share music. My friend posts beautiful music videos that bless everybody who will listen. We swap music videos, and she occasionally posts on my facebook wall, “more music!” Together, we enjoy God’s blessing of music. She blesses my life.
The phone rang at home the other day. It was a very difficult day in many ways. At the other end of the line was a family friend of many years. “Just checking on you guys, seeing how you are doing…” A call at the right moment from someone who cares. What a head lifter! A “little” thing that wasn’t little at all.
What little thing can we do today that will serve someone around us? Every time I get impatient with the demands of a toddler, now nearly a preschooler, I am reminded of the example of our Lord. He could have so easily sent the mothers with children away. He had the credentials as a Big Person. But for all time He modeled for us what really matters, and He showed us how it is done when He took those babes in His arms and blessed them.
There is an old song with these words:
Does the place you’re called to labor
Seem too small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own.
Nothing surpasses Bach’s St. John Passion in weaving together biblical text and music about the suffering of our Lord out of His love for us. In this season when we look again in a special way at the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins, this is an especially helpful musical meditation. Here is the English translation of what they are singing.
Lord, our ruler, whose glory
is magnificent everywhere!
Show us through your passion,
that you , the true son of God,
at all times
even in the most lowly state,
Sons make a unique imprint on your heart, and maybe, mothers do that for their sons also. I threw out the subject of mothers and sons over dinner the other night.
“What do you think mothers bring to sons?”, I asked Will.
“I don’t think you can generalize,” he responded. “Each mom is a distinct personality and so is each son. The same mom might bring something different to each son, depending on his own outlook.”
As we talked, however, he conceded that mothers, in general, do bring things to their sons that are distinctly their contributions as mothers. For example, it is a fact that a good mother will care for the health and comfort of her children, whatever their age. It’s called nurturing. Adolescent boys, wanting to cut any last apron strings, sometimes airily dismiss the reminders about things like eating fruit and vegetables and getting enough sleep, but, for example, Will was happy enough to devour the giant sub sandwich I brought him at school when he forgot his lunch one day. Nurturing moms come in handy even for teen boys sometimes!
About that cutting the apron strings issue, it’s an important one. I once read an essay by Nathan Wilson entitled, “Raising Poofters.” It had a profound effect on me. The essay addressed the subject of mothers and sons in a homeschool setting in particular, and it hit me right between the eyes. I didn’t want to raise a “poofter” (wimp) and excess mothering with boys can do just that. Because Moms are hardwired to protect children from harm, they can also squash initiative and create an unhealthy fear of risk taking. Some boys have powerful enough personalities to keep overprotective moms in their place, but others do not. That’s one reason dads are so important. They balance moms out.
Will came home one year from the EAA Airventure flight show held annually in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Tom loves aviation and used to go stunt flying with his pilot friend. Will was only about 6 years old that year and came home with his gap tooth smile lit up. “I went flying all by myself!” he announced.
I looked wonderingly at the father of the household standing in the door.
“He went on the Young Eagles flight experience in a little Cessna,” Tom reported cheerfully.
“Whaaa??” My BABY up in the air with a stranger? My son, thousands of feet up in the air with a complete STRANGER?!
Will kept looking right at me, smiling his big smile, so I had to smile back.
I gave him a big hug. “Awesome!” was all I could say.
Will proudly handed over the photos of him climbing into the plane with the pilot. Overprotective mom got put in her place that day. Sons need wings, and they sometimes arrive sooner than we’d like.
What sons bring to mothers is a post in itself. I could write a book on the subject. Before I had a daughter, I didn’t even think I wanted anything but sons. I love so much about little boys. They tend not to hold grudges, they have their spats, clear the air and carry on. They are sometimes grubby, but always, always interesting.
Little boy memories fill my mind. Legos and Big Wheels, wet hair slicked over from their baths, wrestling matches in the living room, Hotwheels car shows with Tom who would spend hours with them racing their cars on the wood floor of the living room, Super Soakers, violin and piano lessons and snow forts and G.I. Joe dangling from the upstairs window and the ceiling fan in the kitchen (with the fan on), Sam’s many trips to the library and so many other things.
Each son is a precious gift no matter where he is in his life. I am thankful for all four of my sons. My oldest called me the other day with a piece of good news. He didn’t realize how flattered I was that he would call and share it with me. It told me that maybe, just maybe, I had brought something good to his life also, and that he knew he could always count on my interest and concern.
When I read of how brave soldiers who had fallen at Normandy sometimes, in their delirium, called for their mothers, it showed me the lifelong impact a mother’s love has. What I hope my sons have gotten from me, despite all of my mistakes, is the bedrock knowledge that they were and are loved for who they are. If they have that, I have done my job.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NASB)
We put up our Christmas tree a couple of nights ago, and I found this little Russian ornament. It took me back several years at Christmas when the doorbell rang one afternoon. On the doorstep was a woman with her two beautiful Russian girls, Lara and Tatiana.
They were sisters of middle-school age. One had long blonde hair and blue eyes and the younger one had long brown hair with an impish smile dancing in her dark eyes. The blonde one handed me the blue ornament as a gift. They had come to say thank-you. Over a year before, I had come across their stories through a Russian adoption facilitator. I had been doing radio waiting child features for various adoption agencies and featured several children waiting for adoption on the program, including the two girls.
(Of all the radio work I did for 23 years, I suspect the only work of real value was found in those waiting child features. Over 175 children, primarily from Eastern Europe came home to families during that time through those features and through those who were directed to consider adoption as a result. Having adopted two ourselves, we knew the ups and downs, difficulties and joys of inter-country adoption and the features gave me a chance to spread the word.)
The girls had lost their mother and were languishing in the orphanage in St. Petersburg until a man named Ed was driving along to work and heard the show I did that day. That big, bearded tough-guy was moved to tears. He went home and told his wife they needed to adopt two girls in Russia.
The couple, having already raised four children, went through untold challenges to accomplish the adoptions, but finally they were allowed to go and take the girls home.There the lovely girls were in my living room as a result.
These two girls are now young women. One is in college studying elementary education, the other is finishing high school. They became Christians through the love and witness of their parents and the church that embraced them so whole-heartedly upon arrival. The father who adopted them is now in heaven, and I think of him often with gratitude to have known him. He had the softest heart I’ve ever seen in a “tough” guy.
Each year I see the little Russian ornament on my tree, I think of Tatiana and Lara, and I am humbled to think that in any way I could have been used to help these girls who longed and prayed for a family. Like all parenting and child-rearing, adoption stories do not always have happy endings. But this is a happy one. The lives of these girls were transformed by the selflessness of two people whose hearts were filled with love and who reached out all the way to Russia to put that love into action.
P.S. I will write soon about another Russian girl, a baby, who was left out in the forest to die. (She was rescued by women who were out picking mushrooms and heard her small cries.) She was premature and was missing part of her leg. I found that baby’s photo on an adoption website and in a strange turn of events, that baby ended up in a warm crib in the very bedroom, in the very spot where my computer desk stood when I found her photo online. But that’s another post!