Author Archives: jeanneharrison

Does Infertility Affect Friendships?

“So…do you guys think you might, I mean, someday, ever want to have kids?” My friend asks me as we play with her toddler on the floor. I see the curve of her belly, pregnant with their second. She doesn’t know we’ve actually been trying for over a year—with no success of conceiving. She doesn’t know I actually ache to be in her shoes. Swollen feet and all. “Oh, yeah,” I say, “We definitely want kids.” And I roll the ball to her toddler, trying to act as natural as possible.

Inside, I have no idea if I will be able to have kids. And I wonder if she knows, we’re trying. I wonder if she knows I would be a mom by now, if I could. And that as disheveled and chaotic as she feels, and as unattractive as she thinks she looks, with her postpartum curves—she actually looks incredibly beautiful to me. But I don’t know how to say this. Not today. 

My friend is sweet, and doesn’t press further. And I feel relieved when she doesn’t.

***

I was completely blindsided by it: infertility. I remember so naively waiting those two minutes for that first pregnancy test, feeling so sure it would be positive. I envisioned us jumping up and down in celebration. But instead, we just stood there. “Maybe it will just take a little while,” my husband said. “Yeah,” I tried to shrug off the disappointment, “Maybe.”

But month after month of trying to conceive, my period came back. And months turned into years of waiting. And crying. And praying. And wondering…

What was wrong with us?

All of our friends were on babies #2 and #3, but we could not get pregnant with one. As our friends’ families grew with new babies—it was just still just the two of us. As our friends traded in their cars for SUV’s and minivans, and turned offices into nurseries—we would walk by our extra bedrooms and pray God would fill them someday. Somehow.

Sometimes it felt like the world kept rushing past us, while we just stayed still, frozen in time. Waiting for God to move.

Now looking back on those years of waiting, I see God was moving the whole time. In fact, He did some of His best work in us during those years. And He did it, before I ever got pregnant. He opened my eyes to see. And instead of seeing my life as a barren wasteland of disappointment, I saw Him. I saw His beauty–and that though my womb was barren, my soul didn’t have to be. He began to make me alive in Him and began to birth something in me that would change the way I see forever.  (You can read more about my infertility story here.)

But what about in the meantime? How does infertility affect friendships between women? And if you are already a mom, how should you approach a friend who is possibly unable to conceive?

I can’t speak for other women—I only know my own experience with infertility—but here are a few ways women who are already mothers can honor their “childless” friends, whether they are “childless” by choice, singleness, or infertility.

1. Realize the Mommy Club can be slightly exclusive. Being a mom now for two and a half years, I have grown to love the Mommy Club. I love swapping labor stories, poop stories, and tantrum stories with other other moms, just to know I’m not alone in this. Motherhood is an incredible bond between women (even women who are just passing by in the grocery store!) But the “Mommy Club,” as wonderful as it is, can be a little exclusive at times to non-mothers, especially in the Church. And this often happens quite innocently. All the moms are laughing and going on and on, swapping war-stories from the mommy trenches, and raving about the best butt paste, and the non-mother has nothing to contribute except, “I babysat in high school once.” (Cricket, cricket.)

Now, this doesn’t mean you should drop your mom fellowship time. (Not at all!)  It’s just something to be aware of, so that you can love, and include, and value the woman who is not a mother, just as much as the one who is. And in order to do this, we as moms have to, “Look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

2. Include Your Non-Mom Friends. I think many moms assume that “non-moms” would never want to come to a play date, or meet up at the mall when your kids are present.  But I loved when my friends would include me in things like this, without the prerequisite of being a mom. I’m so thankful for friends that invited me into their daily life at home with kids because this helped me see what it was like to be a mom, and made me desire to be a mom.

Although motherhood is a strong bond, it’s not the only bond women can have. For Christians hopefully there is a bond even stronger than motherhood, and that is being a part of God’s kingdom together. Being a daughter of God connects me to every other female in the body of Christ—whether she’s two, or twenty-two, or sixty-two. It’s a sisterhood that began long before I ever conceived my daughter. And it’s one that will need to exist while I raise my daughter, and long after she has a family of her own.

3. Be Sensitive In Approaching The Topic Of Infertility. If you are already a mom and curiously wondering if, or when your childless friend will ever have children, try to be patient. I never minded at all if someone asked, “Do you think you ever want to have kids?” It was what happened beyond that question. The moment you ask, “Well, are you trying?” You are pawing at a box she might not want opened—or hasn’t initiated opening, anyway. For your friend who is battling infertility, it might feel to her like you are going through her underwear drawer. It might feel like you are saying, “So..when are you gonna have kids? Are you having sex, or what? What birth control are you using? How long have you been off of it? Is he still wearing a condom? How’s your man’s sperm count? Is everything working down there with you two? Are you guys having enough sex?” (Whoa.) No, thanks.

Don’t let your curiosity get the best of you. Or your friendship. You may get the information you want, but you’ll damage the friendship. I think that the woman that is comfortable talking about her infertility, will talk about it. So let her bring it up.

And if she does share intimate details with you, honor her in that. Be very careful not to gossip about anything she shares with you. (That means not telling anybody she hasn’t specifically told you to tell.) This comes down to simply loving your infertile friends, being patient with them, and learning how to honor them and uphold their privacy through the process.

4. Be Exceedingly Thankful To Be A Mom.  It’s especially difficult for women who could never conceive, or lost every child in miscarriage to hear women gripe and complain about being a mom. It’s true that motherhood has intense challenges, sleepless nights, and can at times make you feel like you are totally losing it. But, for the Christian, we are called to battle back with joy and gratitude and reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Complaining and grumbling not only steals your joy and darkens your perspective, but it can make the hearts of others ache, too. So be joyful in your mothering, knowing that others are watching and listening. You might be afraid that if you “enjoy” your motherhood too much in front of “childless” women, you will cause them pain. However, I think the opposite is true. Your grumbling causes them pain, not your joy. So be exceedingly joyful in your motherhood, and if, or when they get to enter motherhood they will be more likely to be joyful in it, too.

5. Be Available For Your Infertile Friends.  The longer a woman, or couple experiences infertility, the more likely they will be to open up about it. And if they open up to you, give them the encouragement they need. Pray for them, comfort them with Scripture, and remind them that God is lovingly leading their life together. We were very private about our struggle with infertility, but the few people we did open up to provided such a source of comfort and strength to us during the process.

Infertility Doesn’t Have To Break A Friendship
As Christians, we have this amazing opportunity to love each other. The seasons of our lives don’t always line up perfectly with each other. And although some friendships may drift while others thrive, let’s let it be because of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And not because of the anger, bitterness, and jealousy of an infertile couple. Let’s not let friendships be broken by prying questions, or gossip, or because we were too selfish to look past ourselves.

I think something really beautiful happens when people from different seasons of life are both vulnerable and strengthening to each other. Titus 2 talks about how within the body of Christ we all need each other.  So, wherever you are at, whether you are in a house filled with the cries and screams of little children, or you are praying desperately for a miracle in your womb, or you are a grandmother, or you are a single person who is traveling the globe, let’s love each other. Because before any of us were mothers, we were daughters. We were sisters. We were children, born into the Kingdom of God and saved by the blood and mercy of Jesus Christ. The One whom we love, and live for.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).

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Meet guest blogger, Rebekah Fox!  Rebekah writes about infertility, God, and motherhood at her blog www.barrentobeautiful.com.  She and her husband, Brandon, have one darling and wild little girl named Selah, whom they long waited, cried, and prayed for before conceiving.  You can connect with Rebekah via her blogFacebook page, or email: barrentobeautifulblog@gmail.com.

 

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Broken Treasure: A Story of Grace

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Motherhood is one of the hardest, most challenging callings I have ever experienced.  I was born overseas, have lived in four countries, speak two languages fluently, one fairly well and I majored in Arabic in college.  I have had my series of challenges and transitions but motherhood takes the whole cake, plate and all!

And some of motherhood’s challenges hit deeper than others.  One happened very recently.  I have some very treasured items in my house and they are as far away from toddler hands as possible.  However, we recently moved across country and one of my treasures wasn’t up high yet.  My husband and I were sitting right next to it, working on it when little fingers reached in between us and snapped off a vital part.  My reaction was instant.  I screamed over and over again,“He broke it!  He broke it!” while I sobbed.  My husband grabbed our son, who was also screaming now, and then grabbed me and just held us both.  I have never been so hysterical in my life.  My treasure.  Broken.  I was devastated.

However, in the midst of my frenzy, a thought kept coming to my mind.  “Comfort your baby.  Show him that no matter what he has done, you still love him.  Comfort your baby.”  I wanted nothing to do with my son in those moments.  He had broken something so special.  But I had to put myself aside and take care of my baby.  So, still sobbing, I took my baby from my husband, went into his room and sat in the rocking chair.  We calmed down together with my husband’s arms around us.  I kept telling my son, “Mama loves you.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  Mama loves you.”  Then, my husband took him and told him “No matter what you do, we will always love you.  No matter what.”  Honestly, I cried off and on for an hour after my treasure was broken.  But I made sure that I took care of my son, gave him lunch, cuddled with him, played with him, read to him and put him down for his nap.  However, my heart was still broken over my treasure.

As I was rocking him before his nap, I started thinking about how God felt when humanity broke His Treasure, His Precious and only Son.  And how He feels when we keep on breaking His Heart, by rejecting His Son.  It made me think about how amazing and awesome His Grace is.  No matter what I do, He loves me.  No matter what!  I break His Treasures and He still welcomes me with open arms, forgives me and loves me as I am, even though He is brokenhearted.  I have to do that with my son and it is the hardest calling I have ever had.  And my son does not take it easy on me either, as I learn this lesson.  But, “by Grace, I have been saved through faith.  And this is not my own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of work, so that I can’t boast.  For I am His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that I should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10, paraphrase my own).  Motherhood is the way that God is choosing to teach me how awesome, all encompassing His Grace really is and I am so grateful to my Gracious, Loving Father for extending me grace.

cropped 34I’m happy to welcome back my sister-in-law and guest blogger, Joy Kauffman!  A former missionary kid, Joy grew up in Swaziland and Fontainebleau, France.  She worked as a teacher, preschool director, and programs coordinator for an adoption agency, before becoming a stay at home mom.  She and her husband, John live in Florida with their son.

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When Your Kids See the Worst in You

200117989-001It’s ironic to me that the most brutally honest people on the face of the planet are typically less than three feet tall.  They’ll tell you when you stink, what your food really tastes like, and who the weirdest person in the grocery store is.  It’s quite terrifying actually.  You want to know if that dress really makes you look fat?  Ask a preschooler.  Not only will they give you an honest answer, they’ll usually throw in a word picture or two: it’s just like a big, soft baby is in your tummy!  

Awesome.

And that’s not even the scariest part.  Every now and then, in between their frank commentaries on your hairy arms or oddly-shaped moles, they’ll reveal some staggering truth about the way they perceive you as a human being.  Sometimes it’s positive, and it feels like sunshine.  It makes you stop in your tracks, squeeze them in your arms, and spin around the kitchen.  And sometimes it’s painfully negative, and it feels like an arrow aimed at your deepest insecurities.

Please!  I want to whisper.  Please don’t view me that way.

But the reality is, they are the patrons with a front-row ticket to our lives.  They’re so close to the action they get to see things everyone else misses.  They don’t just see us when we’re energized and refreshed and ready to face the world.  They see us when we’re exhausted and depleted and trying very hard not to say bad words.  They see the real us.  The weak, and sinful, and broken us.

Worse yet, they imitate us.  Believe me, nothing is more agonizing than watching your weaknesses spring to life in the children you love so much.

Please!  My heart whispers.  Please don’t be like me.

And that sentiment makes me want to cry, because it’s the exact opposite of all I’ve ever hoped to be as a mother.  I want to be like Paul who once said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).  I want to be a worthy role-model for my daughters; the kind of woman they can pattern their lives after.

And the truth is, I’m not.

And I am.

I’m not the perfect example of biblical womanhood, and there are many traits I pray my children don’t inherit from me.  But I am someone my girls can model their lives after, for one reason only.  Jesus lives in me.  Despite all my imperfections, the God of eternity has made His home in my heart and every day I am standing in His grace (Romans 5:2)!  His Truth is changing the way I think.  His love is shaping who I become.  And His power is shining through my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

That’s what I can model to my children.  My true, broken need for Christ.  And His powerful, never-failing grace.

If you ask my girls tomorrow if their mom is patient, they’ll probably say “no.”  If you ask them what I like to do, they’ll probably say “sleep.”  But if you ask those girls if their mom needs Jesus, I promise you, they’ll shout, “Yes!”  I cannot be perfect for them.  But I can point them to the One who is.  And if when they’re grown, they can look back and say, “Our mom sometimes failed, but she always apologized.  She knew she needed Jesus, and she sure did love Him,” that’ll be good enough for me.

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How Gratitude Rescued Me

Person-Hands-Holding-Small-Flower-600x375I made a new friend this month.  Her name is Gratitude.  For years she was the dusty old acquaintance to whom I paid a cursory nod on all the appropriate occasions—anniversaries, birthdays, graduations.  But I never invited her into my daily life, and certainly not into my sorrow.  Not until recently.

I picked up a book about Gratitude, and to my surprise discovered that I barely knew her.  In all my years, I had hardly scratched the surface of all that she is and all that she can be.

So I resolved to get to know her.  Intentionally, this time.  I began to welcome her into my life.  At first, it was just in the peaceful moments.  I took her along on my morning jog, and discovered that she brought the world to life around me.  She made the sunshine brighter, the wind cooler, the trees grander.  She made me notice tiny blessings I’d never seen before.  Made me feel the strength of my body, able to run, the clarity of my mind able to think, the grace of my God evident all around me.

I took her out for coffee dates and explored her with fresh eyes.  And she became to me a most pleasant companion.  And then one day, she surprised me by showing up in the midst of my appointment with Pity, when I hadn’t invited her.  She tapped me on the shoulder as I was rehearsing my complaints, and at first I wanted to tell her to go away.  “Come back another time,” I wanted to say.  “This is no place for you.”  But she looked at Pity so sternly that I suddenly realized Gratitude can be fierce.  She was determined to stay, and at last Pity gave way to her.  Then, with a smile, Gratitude introduced me to her very best friend.  “This,” she said softly, “is Joy.  She loves to come along with me everywhere I go.”

I liked Joy immensely, and I hoped she’d never leave.  But I had a secret, and I knew that eventually it would jeopardize my friendships with Gratitude and Joy.  You see, I was in a partnership—I had been for years—with two very strong tyrants.  They burst into my home whenever they pleased, several times a day, and they moved me at their will, and I believed I was powerless against them.  One was loud and rude and he called himself Anger, and the other was monstrously large and named himself Pride.

They loved to visit me when the house was a wreck and the kids were a mess and dinner was burnt on the stove.  And always after they left, they sent Regret and Sorrow in their wake.  One day when I was lost in their grip, I noticed a spark of sunshine on the floor, so small I had to squint to see it.  It climbed into my palm and when I held it to my face, I was shocked to see that it was Gratitude, shrunken so that she was scarcely larger than a dandelion.  “How dare you try to enter here!”  I screamed into her face.  And with Anger and Pride rallying around, I yelled, “Get out!  Get out!  I don’t want to see you now!”

At last she spoke in the faintest voice, and this is what she said: “If you bid me go, I will go.  But I must warn you, I have to take Joy with me.  But,” she said, and I thought her voice grew, “If you want me to stay, I will fight for you.”

I winced in dismay for my heart was torn.  “But you are so small,” I finally said.  “How can you ever win?”

“You must feed me,” she said.  “And hold me.  And welcome me.  And if you do, I will grow so vast that I promise I will outshine these monsters holding onto you.  I,” she said firmly, “am very powerful.”

Gratitude had enchanted me, and amused me, and even surprised me.  But that day she rescued me.  That day I learned that Gratitude can do more than just dance in the sun—she can wage war in the darkness.  “Yes,” I told her when Anger and Pride had fled and Joy again was holding my hand.  “Yes, Gratitude, my dearest friend—you are very powerful, indeed.”

A response to all I am learning from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book, Choosing Gratitude.

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Wives, Do You Envy Your Husbands?

Portrait of frustrated business woman sitting in office

Not many wives would probably say they are “jealous” of their husband in the traditional sense.  When we think of jealousy, we usually picture other women: their creative mothering, skinny figure, padded bank account, gorgeous home…

But let me ask you (as I ask myself):
Have you ever wanted to be the final authority in your family’s big decisions?
Have you ever wished you had freedom to go on special “man trips” or have the same amount of time away from the kids as he does?
Have you ever wanted to change the same amount of diapers your husband changes?
Have you ever wanted to sleep through the crying while he wakes up instead?
Have you ever felt a little pang of frustration at his paycheck compared to yours?
Have you ever thought he had it easy when you have it hard?
Have you ever wanted to say, “You figure our dinner tonight…and clean up too!”

Envy lies beneath the surface of all these thoughts.

When Daydreams Lead to Bitterness
One of the first times I felt the passionate sting of “husband envy” was during a family vacation with our small children in tow.  Each day, my husband would sleep late into the morning, while I woke up early with three hungry little boys (just like I did at home).  I found myself feeding everyone breakfast, eye rolling his behavior to our extended family members, and thinking to myself, “This just isn’t fair!  I want to sleep in and have a vacation too, but I’m the one stuck with the kids.”  As the minutes rolled by, I felt more frustrated and thought of ways to sabotage his slumber.  Even now, I sometimes find myself wrestling with this as he occasionally sleeps-in later than the children on the weekends, but with God’s help, I’m changing my outlook.

Allowing my husband to sleep is a way to serve and bless him.  He regularly gets up with the kids during the night while I get to continue sleeping, but I seem to forget all of his sacrifices when I’m feeling shortchanged.  And if I really need more rest on a Saturday, I know a prayerful and well-timed conversation would be more helpful than a heart brewing with envy.

Maybe you can relate, or maybe you battle envy on a different front.  Maybe you assume your husband couldn’t possibly understand the challenge of being a working mom—responsible for nursing, changing diapers, and packing bags all before commuting to the office by 8:00am.  Or maybe as a stay-at-home mom, you’ve sometimes felt like a martyr for the family, dealing with mess after mess all day long while your husband gets dressed for the quiet office.

I’ve talked to many wives and moms who admit to daydreaming about switching places with their husband.  They replay the differences over and over in their head:
He gets emails, I get dirty diapers.
He gets adult conversation, I get baby babble.
He gets breaks, I have to pump in the bathroom at the office.
He gets an after-hours drink, I have to rush to day care.
He gets to golf on Saturday, I have to entertain the kids and clean up.
He gets (fill in the blank), I have to (fill in the blank).

This is the same type of poisonous comparison and envy that infects our relationships with other women.  It’s just being practiced within the context of marriage.  When we declare our state of life unfair, and determine that our husband’s life is the better one, we’ve let a spirit of envy steal our hope in the gospel.

Why the Gospel Frees us to Rejoice
Before God, we are all equal with our husbands.  We are equally created in God’s image, equally sinful, and equally in need of a Savior.  You and your husband may live in different worlds, but these truths unite you before God.

When you believe that you deserve death and condemnation for your sin, AND that you’ve been given incredible mercy through the death of Christ on your behalf, you realize your greatest needs have been met.  Any other blessing God gives you is just a bonus to enjoy in this life.  But how does this practically translate into real life?

Knowing who you are in Christ means that you can trust God’s unique plan and purpose for your life, without needing it to be like anyone else.

Understanding what you really deserve allows you to rejoice for all the great things your husband gets to do, without feeling bitter or prideful.

Believing that God is good and offers good for your life allows you to take hard circumstances and face them with joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Seeing Christ as the greatest servant allows you to take the place of a servant in your marriage, looking for ways to lay down your life instead of take on the life of another.

As wives, we don’t have to live discouraged and embittered by our husbands’ opportunities.  Instead, we can lay down a heart of jealousy, rejoice in our differences, and thank God for the work He has given us to do.  Who knows…we might even start realizing how good we have it, and discover joy in the unique life God has given us!

Cal, Emily, Lewis, Brad, and Gabriel + baby boy #4 due in August!

Meet the Author
Guest blogger Emily Jensen is a wife and mom of 3 boys under the age of 3.  And oh yeah, she has another one on the way!  When she isn’t wrangling little warriors, she’s passionate about sharing gospel applications for the daily lives of women.  Emily blogs at fromthejensens.blogspot.com.  You can also follow her via Twitter and Facebook.

Interested in contributing a Guest Post?  Click here!

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Re-Thinking Rest as a Young Family

Cleaver_family_Leave_it_to_Beaver_1960I had an epiphany this morning.  We’ve been talking about running on empty in church, and since this also seems to be the theme of my life, I’ve been paying attention.  Yesterday was an extra-long day to top off an extra-long week.  As I got the kids ready for pre-school, I could tell they were running on empty.  They needed rest.  They wanted nothing more than to skip school, wear pajamas all day, and play with me.

And then it struck me.  Finding rest as a young family is so challenging because the way each member “rests” is often contradictory.  Would I find it restful for the kids to skip preschool and play with me all day?  Of course not!  If I was an astronaut dying in outer space and I could choose between oxygen and pre-school, I would take the pre-school.

Fast-forward to Saturday morning.  What would the kids find restful?  A family day at the park.  Dumping the entire contents of the playroom on the floor and cleaning it up…never.  Playing Octonauts with Dad and Mom for five hours straight.  You know what Dad and Mom would find restful?  Having one of those talks where you get to finish your entire thought without interruption—what is that called?  Oh yes, a conversation.  We would like one of those, please.  And perhaps a chance to lie in bed and read one of those rectangular objects…  Remember when we used to read those things instead of drool on them?  We would love to sleep in, or drink a cup of coffee before it gets cold, or do absolutely nothing.  Just for an hour.

As if those forms of rest aren’t contradictory enough, we have to throw the baby into the mix.  You know what my little sweetheart finds restful?  Routine.  She loves taking her nap in her bed.  She wakes up happy and rested when bedtime is consistent.  But guess what?  One family trip to the park or date night, and it’s sayonara routine.

I can think of virtually zero activities in which every member of our family would enjoy his or her ideal version of rest at the same time.  And that’s a little disappointing.  I’ve always had this picture of the perfect Saturday: pancakes, pajamas, laughterIn the picture, we’re all being refreshed together as a family.  It’s very Leave It to Beaver.

But maybe it’s time to re-think rest as a young family.

In this season of life, maybe “rest” requires sacrifice.  Maybe it means that in order for one person to be refreshed, somebody else has to become a little bit depleted.  The baby has to give up her routine so her big sisters can enjoy a family date.  The big sisters have to go to pre-school so Mom gets a reprieve.  Mom skips sleeping in on Saturday, so Dad can take a break.  Dad spends his day-off playing Octonauts for five hours.  Maybe rest requires give-and-take.  And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Maybe it’s simply one more way God sanctifies our families.  We may not be united in how we find rest, but as we serve one another, we grow united in love.  And we discover that joy doesn’t come solely through rest.  It also comes through sacrifice.  So the next time you find yourself reading Stuart Little at 6am on Saturday morning, thank God that you’re able to give that hardworking man a chance to sleep in.  Thank God that He is using you to refresh your precious children.  And remember, Monday morning is coming with coffee…and pre-school.

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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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