Author Archives: jeanneharrison

A Night for Grace

Meet Guest Blogger Dana Hemminger

Meet Guest Blogger Dana Hemminger

How can we inspire our daughters to believe that their purity is worth cherishing?  Actions speak louder than words.  I love this beautiful idea, captured in fictional form by author and blogger Dana Hemminger.  Her award-winning short story, published here for the first time, was inspired by an idea she had for her husband and daughter.  If you have a daughter, steal this idea!  One day, boys will expend countless dollars, hours, and creative energy pursuing her—many of them with impure motives.  Beat them to it!  It will be worth every penny because you can’t put a price tag on your little girl’s heart.

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A Night for Grace

Grace twirled in front of her bedroom mirror in her brand new dress, checked to make sure her hair and make-up were just right, and smiled wide. Tonight was a very special night. She had celebrated her fourteenth birthday a few days prior, and this evening she was going on her very first date with a very special someone. Butterflies of excited anticipation fluttered in her stomach as she grabbed her purse and bag and got ready to head downstairs for her big night. She had been instructed to dress up for dinner but have a change of comfy clothes ready for activities later in the evening. As she descended the staircase, her date was waiting for her at the bottom, dressed in suit and tie, holding a bouquet of red roses and beaming with a huge smile spread across his face. As she reached his side, he bent down, gently kissed her on the cheek, and whispered, “You look beautiful, Princess!”

“Thank you, Daddy,” Grace giggled. “The flowers are gorgeous!”

“I’ll put them in a vase for you, Honey,” her mother said smiling. “And now you two stand together so I can get a picture!”

A few minutes later the pair exited the house and headed for the car. Grace’s dad opened the door for her as she slid in, shutting it gently behind her. “I’ve been looking forward to this evening for a long time,” he said as he put the car in gear and pulled out of the driveway. “Let’s go make some memories!”

Grace let out a gasp of delight about ten minutes later when they pulled into the parking lot of the nicest restaurant in town. Patrons could only dine there if they had made prior reservations. The candlelit tables were set with beautiful linen and fine china. The service staff members were all dressed in their best, ready to wait hand and foot on their customers. Grace had only driven by this high end place but had never dreamed of eating there. “We’re having dinner here?!” she exclaimed.

“Only the best for my princess,” her father replied with a grin.

They received a warm greeting from the staff as they entered and confirmed their reservations for the evening. As they were led back to their table set by a beautiful bay window, Grace noticed the hanging chandeliers, the lovely flower arrangements, and the small, live orchestra playing softly in the background. She was already feeling like a princess!

“Grace, please order anything you want on the menu. What looks good?” There were so many tempting options, but she finally decided on a savory grilled chicken dish, with creamy mashed potatoes, a generous tossed salad and steaming homemade bread rolls. Her dad ordered a juicy steak just the way he liked it with a delicious assortment of sides as well.

After their order was taken, and they waited for their dinner to arrive, Grace commented “Daddy, this place is beautiful! Thank you so much for bringing me here.”

“It’s my pleasure!” he replied. “Tonight is a special night, and I want you to feel just how valuable you are to me.” They continued their conversation through their delicious dinner talking about Grace’s school, her upcoming music and sports events, her friends, their family and anything else that popped up. They laughed together, shared from the heart, and had a wonderful time. For dessert, they split a piece of decadent chocolate cake.

As they finished their meal and the dishes were cleared from the table, Grace’s father shifted the conversation. “Grace, as I already mentioned, tonight is a very special night. I want you to know that your mom and I are so proud of you! You are growing up to be a beautiful young woman, inside and out. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of taking you on your first date.”

“Daddy, thank you for taking me out tonight. You’ve made me feel so special!”

“You are special, Grace, and that’s what I want to demonstrate to you tonight. I want you to remember that you deserve and should expect to be treated like a lady. You are entering a new season of your life, and I want you to know that your heart and your body are valuable gifts to be saved for the man who will one day commit to making you his wife. We have been praying for him since the day you were born, praying that he will be a man of love, integrity and purity—a man who will respect you and cherish you for life.

Smiling and teary-eyed Grace replied “Daddy, tell me again the story of how you and Mom fell in love.”

“Gladly!” he said smiling. “As you know, we met while we were in college. It seemed we kept running into each other on campus. I recognized that she was a beautiful woman, but at that point I wasn’t on the look-out for a relationship. I was focused on my studies and enjoying my time as a single. She wasn’t looking for a relationship at that time either. However, with each encounter, we found that there was such an ease for conversation, and we really enjoyed each other’s presence. In time, our “chance” encounters became planned encounters as a friendship began to grow. We spent time with groups of friends, but we also took walks around campus, or hung out at the local coffee shop talking about anything and everything. We were quickly becoming the best of friends, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I was falling in love with this amazing woman. After having a serious heart to heart one night, I made a call to her parents the next day, requesting permission to date their daughter.”

“Why did you ask permission, Daddy? Weren’t you both old enough to decide for yourselves?”

“We were, but we wanted to invite our families into our developing relationship. I wanted to honor your mom by honoring her parents who had raised her. If she was to become my partner for life, I knew I would also be joined to her family as well. This is a big reason why we have such a close relationship with your grandparents today!”

“What was it like when you started dating?” Grace asked.

“It was exciting and a bit surreal as well. We had developed such a close friendship, and now we were trying to transition into something even deeper. We made a decision together early on that many people may not understand or even agree with. It wasn’t a decision we had to make; it was a decision we chose to make. We agreed that we would save our first kiss for our wedding day, and if it turned out that we didn’t marry, we could gracefully walk away from the relationship, knowing that we hadn’t given that part of our hearts away.”

“Why did you want to wait to kiss each other? Would it have been wrong to kiss?” Grace inquired.

“No, it wouldn’t have been wrong. For us it wasn’t about right or wrong but about better or best. We felt that the best decision for us was to wait, even for a kiss. We had both been in previous relationships where we had kissed. We knew that kissing awakened physical passion in a greater way, and we knew that we gave a piece of our hearts away with each kiss. We both carried regret and some painful memories from those earlier relationships. We wanted to protect ourselves and each other from further regret, should our relationship not end in marriage.  As I said before, your mom is a beautiful woman, and of course I desired her. I also respected her and valued her. Protecting her heart and her purity was very important to me, and she felt the same way. We weren’t keeping something from each other, but saving something for each other when it could be given its full expression in commitment and purity. I knew she was worth the wait!”

“Wasn’t it still really hard to do? Some of my friends have boyfriends and they kiss. They tell me how romantic it is and how good it makes them feel.”

“There were times it was hard, but since we made the decision together, it was much easier than most people would imagine. During the time we dated, we continued to focus mainly on our friendship, not on physical expressions of affection. Even after I proposed to her and we began making our wedding plans we continued to wait. We knew that the closer we came to our wedding day, the greater our desire for each other would become. We were committed to maintaining our virginity for our wedding night, and we didn’t want to add needless temptation in this area. It’s also important to recognize that sometimes physical connection can become a substitute for relational connection. It can make you feel so close to a person. It can make you feel like you really know them; but if there isn’t genuine friendship as a foundation, it can be very misleading. If we had brought greater levels of physical affection into our relationship as we dated, we may have focused more on that than on our friendship. Your mom and I were best friends before we started dating and our friendship only continued to grow; we are still best friends today. Romantic feelings come and go in every relationship, but friendship is enduring.”

Grace paused for a moment, considering what her dad just shared before asking, “What was it like when you finally kissed?”

Smiling, he replied, “It was one of the most incredible moments of my life! When your mom entered the church sanctuary, she took my breath away. She was the most beautiful bride I could have ever imagined. I could hardly focus on the wedding ceremony; I was so captivated by her! When the time came for us to seal our marriage with a kiss, I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. Our first kiss was one of the most beautiful, memorable moments of my life. It’s a memory I will always cherish. I know your friends have told you about how special it is when they kiss their boyfriends, but special moments now can become painful memories in the future if those relationships don’t last. Every time you kiss, you offer a piece of your heart. It’s important that the one you give this precious gift to is one who can be trusted with your heart, not someone just using you for their own momentary pleasure.”

Grace was silent again as she let her father’s words sink in.

“Grace, please understand that I am not telling you what you have to do. You will be responsible to make your own choices in this area. However, I do want to encourage you to make decisions that will benefit you and your future husband and protect you from needless pain. You may decide to approach the area of dating differently than your mom and I did, and you have the freedom to make that choice. Whatever you choose to do in time, I just want you to remember that your purity is a gift, and only you can choose who will open it. I know that you’ve committed before to saving your virginity for your marriage, and that commitment is a priceless one.  We just celebrated your birthday, but there’s one more gift that was saved especially for tonight!” With that, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a small velvet box, and gently handed it to his daughter.

“What’s this?” Grace asked with surprise and delight in her eyes.

“Open it.”

Grace carefully opened the small box and gasped. Inside was a beautiful white gold ring with a heart at the center outlined in delicate emerald stones—her birthstone. “Daddy! It’s gorgeous!” she exclaimed.

Smiling, he gently removed the ring and slipped it on her left ring finger. “Grace, this is your purity ring. It is a representation of your commitment to God, yourself, and your future husband to save your virginity for your marriage bed. One day it will be replaced by a wedding ring from the man who will commit to you and cherish you for life. Your mom also received a purity ring as a teenager. She presented it to me as a gift on our wedding night. I cherish that ring and what it represents to this day.”

“Daddy, I don’t know what to say,” Grace replied as she gazed at the sparkling ring on her finger. “This means so much to me! I will wear it every day.”

Grace’s dad looked at his daughter affectionately and said, “Honey, I am so very proud of you! You are such a treasure to me, and you will be a treasure to your husband someday… But that day is still a ways off, and we’re not done with our date! What do you say we get changed, and I challenge you to a game of miniature golf?!”

“Absolutely,” Grace responded, “but you know that I can beat you!”

“We’ll see when we get there!”

An hour later Grace jumped up and down excitedly yelling, “Go, go, go!…Yes! I got a hole in one!”

“Okay,” her dad conceded. “You beat me on that one, but we still have half the course to go. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve!” He pulled her into a side hug and planted a kiss on her forehead before heading to the next hole.

Giggling, Grace looked down again at her beautiful new ring, shimmering as the emeralds caught the light. “Yes,” she thought, “I do want to save myself for a man who will cherish me, a man who honors me and values my purity, a man who I can trust with my heart…a man just like Daddy!”

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What I Want My Daughters to Know about Biblical Womanhood

What I Want My Daughters to Know about Biblical Womanhood

Big News! (for me, at least)

When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a short story that made my teacher cry.  She laid it on my desk with a whopping “100%” and told me she almost called my house to be sure my father hadn’t actually died because it was so convincing.   I couldn’t believe it.  I was ten years old, and from that moment on, I wanted to be an author.

Available now on Amazon.com. The e-book will be released next week.

Two decades later, I’ve finally produced my very first book!  And let me just tell you, this time, I want to cry!  This book is like my fourth baby.  I’ve watched it come to life straight from my heart.  It’s simple, really.  It’s the best of my blog, revised, updated, and compiled to reflect my journey as a young wife and mom.

And here’s the honest truth: releasing it feels a bit like stepping outside in my underwear.  Despite my best efforts, I can always find flaws.  I can always find reasons to say, “Maybe it’s not ready yet.  Maybe I’m not ready yet.  Maybe next year.” But that’s exactly what I thought three years ago when I started blogging: “Maybe this is stupid.  Maybe this will embarrass me.  Maybe I’m not ready yet.”  And then I thought, “So what?” and with the click of a button, I created this blog.

And I learned two things:
1. Being vulnerable doesn’t kill you.
2. In fact, it frees you.

Sometimes, the only way to become brave is to simply do that thing we’re so afraid to do.  And in so doing, we just may discover joy unimaginable.

I have.

I have found such happiness walking this road of motherhood and marriage and mundane moments with you.  You have pulled me through some very painful seasons and helped me see God with fresh awe and affection.  And now…I’m gonna ask for a favor.  Would you do me the honor of reading my book and sharing it with the women in your life?  I chose to publish it in April so that it would be available for Mother’s Day.  Perhaps there’s a mom on your heart who is struggling to embrace her lot, and who longs to see Jesus in it.  She’s the mom I wrote this book for, and maybe you can help me get it into her hands.

Belated Happy Easter from my home to yours! (Gotta snap a picture when everyone's in a dress!)

Belated Happy Easter from my home to yours! (Gotta snap a picture when everyone’s in a dress!)

All that being said, I apologize for the silence on my blog lately.  I’ve been busy putting this project together, and also working on another one (surprise, surprise!)  Oh, how I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day!  But God is faithful.  I will be MIA a lot in the next few months, popping in and out of your newsfeed with awful irregularity, as I try to finish this second book God has laid on my heart.  In the meantime, thank you.  Thank you for listening to me.  Thank you for encouraging me.  Thank you for journeying with me.  I am better because of you.

With love in Him,
Jeanne

What the Young Can Teach the Old about Love

In the summer of 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, Lance Armstrong retired, and Clint Harrison asked me to marry him.  I was twenty years old, and if you’d given me wings I’d have sailed straight to the moon.  I’d like to think I took off the rose-colored glasses every now and then by reading marriage books and talking to wiser women, but the truth is, everything was tinged with Tinkerbell-like optimism.  Sprinkled with pixie dust and all the most tender hopes of my heart.

The day he asked me to marry him.

The day he asked me to marry him.

Once while we were engaged, we stole away into the woods by our college campus.  It was the perfect fall day, and Clint (filled with his usual supply of boundless energy) told wild stories,  chased me through the leaves, and laughed like a kid.  And then I saw them.  Each one of our future children…running around his legs, jumping on his back, squealing in the Autumn air.  It was one of the happiest moments of my life.   A moment when I knew I was about to begin a beautiful adventure, the one I’d been waiting for.

I thought about that girl today.  The one standing in the woods with a ring on her finger and stars in her eyes.  I couldn’t help but wonder how she would feel if she could see me now, nearly ten years later.  Would she be proud of the woman I’ve become?  Or disappointed?  Would she look at my life and smile?  Or frown?  I’ve always thought I could teach that girl a lot if I owned a time machine.  I would teach her that in the adventure of being a wife and mom, sometimes you look more like the wicked step-mother than the gracious queen.  Sometimes the palace smells like the stable, and the prince makes you want to joust instead of dance.  I would teach her that embracing boredom is brave and chasing fairytales is foolish.  That the princesses of perfection and performance are actually the enemies, and the monsters of suffering and difficulty are the friends you must learn to love.

I would teach her all these things, and I imagine she’d be better for it.  But today for the first time I wondered, if I shut my older and wiser mouth for just a second, what might she teach me?

Might she remind me how long we waited to be loved by a man, and how perhaps those dirty socks by the front door really weren’t worth the ugly words?  Would she remind me that we once held baby dolls in our arms and longed for the day when they would be real?  I think she would.  I think she would remind me of all that and more.

I think she would tell me there’s a fine line between “growing realistic” and growing cynical.  And that irritation…or endearment…are choices we make every day.  I think if that girl from the woods could see me now, she’d tell me to open my eyes.  To realize I’m rich in all the ways I’ve always hoped to be, save one.  I am poor in gratitude.  And as a result my heart may be older and wiser, but it is also harder.

So you know what I am thankful for today?  I am thankful for that girl.  That young, naive, foolish girl…with the soft and tender heart.  And I am praying that I welcome a little more of her back into my life everyday.

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Lilla Rose Flexi Clip Giveaway

When Melody Detwiler contacted me to sponsor a giveaway, her product was so cute it motivated me to emerge from my sleep-deprived, newborn baby blogging hiatus.  That, and the fact that Melody herself has a 5 month old…and a 2yo…and a 3yo…and a 4yo!!  I figured if she could run her own business with 4 kids, I could certainly review her product.  So allow me to introduce…the Flexi Clip!
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My favorite thing about this handy little clip is it’s quick and easy to use.  When I tried it on, I was surprised to find it’s not only comfortable, but very secure (more so than a “claw”).  The clips come in a myriad of designs and 7 different sizes, which means even your minnie-me with baby fine hair can wear them!
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And if you think moms like them, wait until your little girl sees them!  We’ve already had a lot of fun experimenting with hairstyles at home.  For a fun girls-night event, consider contacting Melody via her Facebook page and scheduling a Lilla Rose party.  It includes hairstyling tips, demonstrations, and a giveaway.  You can also visit the Lilla Rose website to check out a host of other hair jewelry and take advantage of the buy 3 get one free offer.

Enough chatter, it’s time to win a free Flexi Clip!  Click on the link below to enter the giveaway, running this week only, Monday, February 9, through Friday, February 13.  When you click below, you will be prompted to choose one of three options for entering: visiting a Facebook page, tweeting a message, OR browsing an online catalogue.  Have fun!
TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY, click here

Why Having More Babies Isn’t as Crazy as You May Think

The first time a kind stranger peeked at my newborn baby and gushed, “Oh honey, treasure every second!” I almost burst into tears.  Not because I was so touched, but because I was so tired.  We were standing at the entrance to the mall–me, my baby, and my Shamu-sized postpartum belly–all three of us staring at this sweet lady with her abounding supply of freedom.

I wanted to say, “I’ll try!  I’ll try to treasure every second, and you try to treasure every second of the eight hours of uninterrupted sleep you’re going to get tonight.  And treasure every second you’re going to roam this mall in total freedom, buying clothes that will fit your skinny waist, and shirts that aren’t breastfeeding accessible.  And while you’re at it, treasure all the discretionary time you’ll have in the next decade while I watch Dora, and take temperatures, and settle fights, and pretend to be a human jungle gym, and birth more babies, and clean puke off my clothes.”

Instead I just smiled and waddled off–me, baby, and Shamu.  That was round one for me.  My very first baby.  And boy, was the learning curve steep.

Two weeks ago I gave birth to baby number three.  My third gorgeous little daughter.  She arrived three weeks early, in such a massive hurry that despite having two previous c-sections, I delivered her naturally with no drugs (and a whole lot of screaming!)  It was the first time I experienced a baby being laid on my chest the moment she was born.  Later, the midwife told me she would never forget the look on my face.  It wasn’t pretty or serene (Clint snapped a picture, so I know!)  It was a look of complete shock.  Somewhere in the midst of all the pain 16-IMG_0016and hysteria, I had completely forgotten I would get a baby out of this ordeal.  My mom (who thought this one might be a boy, despite the ultrasound’s verdict) asked me later if it registered that she really was a girl.  I told her that in that moment I wouldn’t have cared if she was a monkey.  I held my little baby as they stitched me up, and I never felt more comforted in all my life.  I didn’t examine her, or talk to her, or try to nurse her…I just abided with her, quietly knowing that she and I together had done something extraordinary.  We each went on a journey–scary and unknown–and we met in the middle.

This time, if a kindly stranger tells me to treasure every second, I think I will burst into tears.  Not because of my lost figure or freedom, but because I so ardently understand that the seconds truly are numbered.  They are grains of sand slipping through the hourglass, never to be returned.  That’s the funny thing about motherhood.  You start off with so little on your plate, and it feels like you’re absolutely drowning.  And yet the more you add, the more joyful it becomes.  Because somewhere in between adding more babies, and more diapers, and more laundry, you also add more perspective.  You realize there are worse things than a long night, and challenges really do pass, and tiny toes don’t stay tiny forever.  You know cribs turn into beds, and strollers turn into bikes, and the chubby cheeks making fish faces today will be wearing your makeup tomorrow.

And so, in these past two weeks, as I treasure every second, one verse keeps coming to my mind: “Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah.  So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Gen 24: 67).  Is it busy and hectic and messy having three children?  Of course it is!  Have I gone to bed at 8pm every night this week?  Yes I have!  But this time around, the baby isn’t the exhausting, overwhelming part.  In the midst of all the scheduling, and carpooling, and cleaning, the baby is my Rebekah.  She is the comfort in the chaos.

Welcome to the world, darling.  We love you.
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Here’s to the Woman Inside the Mom

I love this blog for many honorable reasons.  But I also love it for one selfish reason.  It’s mine.  All mine.  I never realized what a commodity that could be until I became a mom.  In the beginning, I was only asked to give up little things–time, sleep, my waistline.  And then they started crawling and I surrendered a little more–tidiness, order, all of the keys on my laptop (which, FYI, can actually be popped right off.)  Then one day I blinked and there they were–chattering away a mile a minute, going to pre-school, making friends, getting their feelings hurt, asking big questions, challenging my authority, drawing me pictures, jumping in bed to kiss my very pregnant belly and perhaps ride it like a cowgirl…  And I realized there wasn’t a square inch of my personhood they hadn’t entirely and eternally invaded.

I love them with these dry, un-manicured hands that wash their dishes and scrub their faces and brush their hair and tie their shoes.  I love them with these swollen ankles that race around town taking them places.  I love them with this horrifyingly out-of-tune voice that sings them to sleep, and lays down the law, and tells them stories about when I was a little girl.  I love them with this face that will probably wrinkle up like a prune by the time I’m 45 because it’s so used to smooching small cheeks and making silly faces.  I love them with the eyes that always know where they are, the ears that hear their cries even when daddy is snoring, and the mind that remembers Tuesday is Johnny Appleseed day and we must wear red to school.  I love them with the soul that begs God for their salvation, and I love them with the heart I have lifted out of my chest and tucked away in theirs.

Truly, I love this lot of mine.  And yet, at the very same time, there are days when I go to a coffee shop and see college girls writing papers and giggling about boys, and I remember what it was like to have a mind that was completely my own.  To be consumed with nobody else’s problems.  To think about nobody else’s needs.  To dream dreams just for me, and pursue ambitions just because I could.  I remember what it was like to have things that were mine.

This blog is one tiny corner of my world that’s all mine.  It’s the place where I remember that there’s more to me than grocery lists and Windex spray.  And for one or two hours, when I sit down in this virtual world, I don’t think about the crusty broccoli under the table or the mismatched socks in the hamper.  Instead of looking outward, I look inward.  I think about the woman who picks up the broccoli and sorts through the socks.  I think about how she feels, what she needs, who she is.  It would be so easy for me to lose her.  In the mayhem of everyday life, it would be easy to go through the motions and then collapse in front of the TV.  To grow completely out of touch with the woman inside the mom.  To shush her, ignore her, numb her…until one day she bursts into tears at the dinner table and everybody wonders why.

That’s one of the reasons I write.  Because I need to stay in touch with that woman.  I need to know how she’s doing.  I need to speak the gospel over her heart and life.  Otherwise, she won’t make it.  Sure, she’ll still flip pancakes and drive carpools, but underneath it all her heart will grow hard and her spirit cynical.

With all that being said, I’m posting today because in the next few weeks my life is going to get crazy.  In the midst of holiday hoopla and an exciting new job for my husband (hooray!), we are going to meet our third little daughter in just two weeks!  Yes, yes (to the kind onlookers in the grocery store), my hands are going to be very full…but so is my heart.  And as my home gets louder, this blog is going to get quieter.  For the next few months I will miss you, and the way the woman inside of this mom gets to connect with the woman inside of you.

But believe me, even in this crazy season, whenever I get the chance I will still slip away and find time to check up on the woman underneath the nursing tops and smudged mascara.  I will find the time to speak gospel truth over her.  And I hope that sometime this Christmas, you too will be able to slip away, mix up some hot chocolate, and spend time with the woman inside of you, and with the God who loves her so very much.
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Merry Christmas!

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Making Peace with Family Systems {or Why Everybody Fights So Much Over the Holidays}

When Homemaking Becomes Idolatrous

prostrationBack when I was learning how to drive, my dad used to say, “You drive the car.  Don’t let the car drive you.”  He said it whenever I was going too fast and starting to lose control. I thought about that expression a lot last week.  It was one of those stomach-virus, up-all-night-with-vomiting-children kind of weeks.  Toss home renovation chaos and 32 weeks of pregnancy into the mix, and I was left with a simple choice: either escape to Starbucks the moment my husband got home, or risk internal combustion.  “In other words,” I explained to Clint one afternoon, “this cup of coffee–and more importantly the silence surrounding it–is a matter of life or death.”  He let me go.

The moment the scent of macchiatos wafted through my hair, my mind started to clear.  I thought about all that I was “escaping”–five loads of post-vomit laundry waiting to be folded (for the past three days now), endless bickering over an Elsa doll I would’ve paid a thousand dollars to multiply into two, enough toys on the living room floor to start my own business, enough crumbs on the carpet to feed a village of mice…

“You manage the home.  Don’t let the home manage you.”  Hmmm…  Suddenly, I was fifteen years old again, trying to drive a car that was completely out of control.  It’s so ironic that something as worthy as the calling to manage a home can become one of the greatest sources of idolatry and sin in my life.  It’s been this way for me for a long time now.  I’m the kind of person who would rather clean my whole house, then race to pick up the kids from school looking like I just escaped from a refugee camp, rather than risk returning to a home that looks like a refugee camp.  It’s just my thingthe idol I am always drawn to.  And you know what the truth is?  It really has nothing to do with the house at all.

When everything is clean and orderly around me, I feel like my heart is clean and orderly.  I feel like I’m in control.  Like I’m successful.  And that is what drives me.  It’s that God-like feeling (delusion really) that I can manage the messes in my heart by managing the messes in my home.  But as all neat-freaks know, it’s as fleeting as a clean countertop.  And here’s the really ironic part: all the time I’m parading around like a goddess in control of her universe, the house is actually controlling me.  It’s governing my emotions and reactions.  Dictating my choices and attitudes.  It’s not my minion, it’s my master.  Why else would I feel the need to escape?

And it’s not just limited to cleaning either.  As I prepare to have another baby, my nesting instincts are on over-drive, staggering beneath a mountain of paint samples and Pottery Barn catalogues.  Is it so bad that I want my whole house to look beautiful?  To be a warm and inviting (…and maybe slightly envy-evoking) place?  Ach, the balancing act!  I wish I could sort through the attitudes in my heart like I sort through the kids’ toys:  “Desire to bless my family with a beautiful home?”  Fantastic, we’ll keep that.  “Egotistical drive to feel good about myself?”  Yuck, into the garbage.  “Longing to serve others?  To enjoy and embrace my calling as a homemaker?”  Awesome, we’ll keep those, too.  “Competitive, materialistic spirit, consumed with earthly things?”  Trash!  But the bad motivations in my heart aren’t like the onions I can just pluck out of my toddler’s dinner.  They’re woven in deeply, like a virus.  What I need is the antidote.  I need the true answer for the aches and desires of my heart.

I need to remember that this longing to “nest” is really a longing for security and stability.  It is my heart’s cry for a place of belonging.  And into this deep heartache, Jesus offers security, identity, and purpose.  He looks at me (and you) and says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (I Peter 2:9).  He looks at me (and you) scrubbing vomit out of the carpet at 2am and He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).  He looks at me (and you) racing through dishes and diapers, carpools and catalogues, trying our very best to just be good enough, and He says, “You have been crucified with Me, and you no longer live, but I live in you.  So live this life on earth by faith in Me, because I love you and I gave myself up for you” (Gal 2:20, paraphrased).

Security, identity, purpose.  Hope, strength, grace.  How foolish to believe we could find these things in a can of paint or an organized playroom.  Does this mean we toss in the towel and sign up for a guest appearance on Hoarders: Buried Alive?  No…tempting as that may sound.  You and I have been called to a race (Heb 12:1).   It started the moment we surrendered to Christ, and it will end the day we cross the finish line and land in His arms.  We must keep running, but just as importantly, we must ask ourselves why we are running.  Are we running to be accepted, or are we running because we already are?  Are we running for the heavenly prize, or an earthly one?  Oh how tragic it would be to cross the finish line with a “perfect” home and a lifetime of aimless running (I Cor 9:24-27).

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