“What if we gave the average woman the opportunity to partner with women who have been rescued from human trafficking?” This idea drove Pastor Dave Terpstra to move his family to Mozambique, an epicenter of sex trafficking, where the majority of “prostitutes” are children. Knowing he was limited in his ability to “rescue” victims of human trafficking, Terpstra focused his attention on helping survivors rebuild their lives. Since the majority of women are sold into the sex slave industry as children, survivors typically have little to no education and work skills. But what if they could sell something? Used clothing is a major source of revenue in Mozambique, which got Terpstra thinking–what if these women could sell a commodity only women wanted to purchase? It would ensure their safety from being sold back into the industry, and it would allow them to heal and rebuild their lives around other women. The solution? Bras! While you and I likely have a drawer full of forgotten bras, in Mozambique, they are a luxury item that can bring in significant revenue.
In August 2010, Terpstra parterned with Kimba Langas, a stay-at-home mom from his previous church, and together, they launched a movement called “Free the Girls.” They created a simple Facebook page, hoping to collect a few hundred or thousand gently used bras per year. In less than three years, Free the Girls has collected over 80,000 bras. Women in the program receive an initial inventory for free, and can buy more bras at a greatly reduced cost (which goes toward shipping fees). Results are showing that women are making 3-5x minimum wage simply by selling bras! Can you imagine it? Your old bras liberating a victim of human trafficking? Allowing another woman to provide a better life for her children–to protect them from becoming victims? It blows my mind. In 2011 Free the Girls partnered with Project Purpose, a shelter for rescuing and rehabilitating female victims of human trafficking. This year they hope to launch their program in four new locations. View the incredible journey (covered by CNN) below.
Won’t you come with me,
Down an innocent trail.
Feast your eyes
On another man’s life,
‘Til all in your world grows pale.
Measure his days,
Number his gifts,
Weigh them against your own.
And if you should find
A life more sublime,
Then bitterly curse and moan.
But if by a chance,
Your innocent glance,
Does prove you better than he,
Then lift up your hands!
For the god you surely must be.
Won’t you come with me,
You’re hungry and thirsty for more.
What about him?
Can you possibly win,
And lengthen your pitiful score?
You cannot, you mourn,
His life is adorned
With blessing and beauty galore!
You know who’s to blame?
I’ll whisper his name–
The God who’s failed you once more.
Wave your fist high!
Bellow and cry,
For my words, I promise, are true:
The God who unjustly
Blessed him so richly,
Certainly cares not for you.
Won’t you come with me,
I can make it all right.
You need just another,
To restore your superior height.
Look all around,
Fume now and frown,
Measure and weigh and judge,
The rules of the game
Are always the same,
And the chains, they never do budge.
Won’t you come with me,
The view is practically free–
Just for a start,
Lend me your heart,
And all that you hope to be.
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” James 3:14-16
The first time I was pregnant I made one big mistake. Amid taking vitamins, swimming laps in the seminary pool, and reading pregnancy books, I learned absolutely NOTHING about what to do when the baby actually arrived. It’s like I never realized that the pretty glow and stretchy clothes weren’t the final destination. I was the happiest, (largest), most naïve pregnant lady alive.
And then she came.
Good-bye happy glowing pregnant lady. Hello zombie-mommy—as terrified, exhausted, and clueless as the wiggling infant in my arms. I was overwhelmed by a desperate, protective love for this little person, yet I’d never felt more incompetent in my whole life. It’s like I had the most important job in the universe with the intelligence of a third grader. I shoved my stash of pregnancy books into the closet, and became a voracious reader of baby-raising manuals. Unfortunately, reading in the middle of the night while nursing and simultaneously sobbing into a handkerchief is not exactly the opportune time for learning how to raise a baby. To make matters worse, I quickly discovered that no two baby-raising “experts” on the face of the planet have ever agreed about a single thing.
In His great compassion, God walked with me, taught me, and sustained me. I have been passionate to encourage new moms ever since, which brings me to the purpose for this article. I am writing especially for women expecting their first baby. I want to share, as candidly as possible, a glimpse into the realities of life with a newborn, in hopes that you may be more prepared than I was.
Stage 1: The Twilight Zone
The initial weeks following baby’s birth can feel a little like entry into a parallel universe. There were two changes in particular that threw me the most. For starters, if your baby is biological, it’s possible to feel like a stranger in your own body. Simultaneously, you experience physical recovery from the delivery, a surge of new hormones, lactation, and a post-partum figure you may find disappointing. Secondly, baby is born with zero regard for your current schedule. Her life is a continuous cycle of eating and sleeping, which means you enter an eerie new world where you don’t think in terms of night and day. You think in terms of 2-3 hour cycles that include feeding, burping, crying and sleeping over and over again all through the day and night. (Do you remember that scene in Men in Black when Tommy Lee Jones tells Will Smith that they work on Centaurian time and he’ll either get used to it or have a psychotic breakdown? It’s a little like that.)
So how do you prepare for this? Make a deal with yourself now that during the Twilight Zone Stage, you are excused from guilt—no need to fit into your skinny jeans, clean the whole house, or smile all the time. Feeling sad or overwhelmed doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom—it means you’re human, and you’re adjusting. Just giving yourself this sort of grace can free you immensely to enjoy baby without all the pressure. Secondly, ENLIST HELP! The Twilight Zone Stage is no time to be a hero. Accept every casserole that comes your way, even if it means you have to answer the door in your pajamas. It will be worth it. Especially if they packed dessert. Invite your mom, or mother-in-law to move in for a few weeks. It doesn’t matter if she gets on your nerves a little—if she’s willing to clean a toilet, cook dinner, and hold the baby at 2am, she will be worth her weight in gold! Finally, begin to pray now for patience, perspective, and gratitude. For all its challenges, the Twilight Zone Stage can be one of the most precious seasons of your life–a season in which God sanctifies you, amazes you with His grace, and blesses you more richly than you could ever imagine.
Stage 2: The Philosophy Crisis
Once the initial blur of “newness” begins to wear off, you will find yourself contemplating numerous daily decisions—do you want to put baby on a schedule? How soon will you implement the schedule? Will you let baby cry? What will you do if baby won’t sleep? Do you want to co-sleep? Do you want to train baby to sleep independently?
In short, there are two major approaches when it comes to raising an infant. There is the “parent-directed” philosophy (popularized by Gary Ezzo of Baby Wise) which relies heavily on establishing a schedule, and the “attachment” philosophy (coined by Dr. William Sears) which advocates following baby’s cues and natural instincts for closeness. Here’s the tricky thing: these two approaches are not isolated options—they are opposite ends of a spectrum of options. Most people don’t fall entirely into one camp, but land somewhere between the two, which is why it feels like experts never agree with each other. For instance, I couldn’t peg James Dobson as a “scheduling” advocate or an “attachment” advocate because he accepts and rejects different components of both approaches. And it’s likely you will, too, the more you grow with your baby.
So how do you prepare? Think of two or three moms who meet the following criteria: you admire them as a woman and mother, they have young children, and their personality is similar to yours. This is your best bet for an “advice-giver.” Ask these moms for their very best “new baby” advice, and don’t just put them on the spot. Let them think about it and get back to you later—this way you’ll really get their best thoughts. Ask them which books were the most helpful, and read them. (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Childby Dr. Marc Weissbluth was the most helpful book I read, although I think it’s wise to read more than one book so you get multiple perspectives). Talk to your husband about what you’re learning and get his feedback. Finally, resolve to hold your newfound opinions tentatively. Becoming dogmatic (especially before baby even arrives) can make you highly critical of yourself and of others.
Stage 3: The Grace-Filled Rhythm
With both my daughters, between 4-6 months, it felt as though normalcy returned. Of course every day still held a degree of unpredictability, but by and large life fell back into a steady rhythm. I knew what to expect and how to respond. It may happen sooner for you, or take a little longer, but know this—as surely as The Twilight Zone is coming, normalcy will make a return.
You’ve seen me reading my baby books and sobbing in my rocking chair. Now fast forward three years. Do you see the toddler dancing in her underwear? The baby learning how to walk? The Daddy monster bursting through the door every afternoon to tickle all the bellybuttons in sight? I do. I live in a world where a can of glitter can make you a hero for the day, and two little braids dancing in the wind is enough to make you wish time would stand still forever. My point is, when they tell you “this too shall pass,” no matter how much you want to slap them, it really is true. Virtually every challenge you face with a baby will eventually pass. This is not true for older children. There’s no guarantee that every child will submit to Christ, marry a godly spouse, or live out her full potential. But every child will eventually sleep through the night. As my doctor likes to remind me, nobody breastfeeds in elementary school or takes a pacifier to college. The trials are momentary. The rewards are eternal.
The beautiful woman in the photograph is Katey (Cannington) Mishler, a wise and godly mom of 4 married to a talented musician. Thanks for letting me use the photo, Katey! Check out some of her husband’s music here.
You were a different
Dance than me,
When I smiled
And took your hand.
Closed my eyes
And opened my heart
To the wonders
And mysteries of man.
The dance has been long,
It’s only begun,
It’s been agonizing,
It’s been a muddy haze,
Distant and far,
Two different dances,
Twirling in time,
One lovely waltz,
So, take my hands, darling,
Turn me again,
Promise me always,
Has yet to begin.
For this I know surely,
Wholly and true–
I could dance forever,
If only with you.
To my faithful readers–may this Valentine’s Day find you blessed with the love of Christ and the many special people He’s placed in your life!
And to my faithful husband–I love you more now than I did when this picture was taken.
When was the last time you were profoundly touched in less than eleven minutes? It was yesterday for me. While the kids napped, Clint and I watched some of the Oscar-nominated short films. The first one we watched was Paperman—sweet, funny, and classic Walt Disney.
Then we watched Head Over Heels…and in ten minutes I was crying. Together the two films portray the breadth and depth of love, from the first moment of attraction to its fight for survival beneath years of tedium.
I used to think that few marriages grow cold. Like the odds of contracting a rare disease, I assumed my marriage was statistically “safe.” After all, I didn’t know any couples with distant room-mate relationships—all I knew were giddy college girls madly in love, just like me, who couldn’t wait to seal our engagement with a second ring. And surely giddy college girls madly in love don’t grow bored in marriage, do they? Slowly the season of engagements gave way to a season of weddings and an endless collection of bridesmaid dresses. Then came the season of babies and an endless collection of birth announcements. And then…came the season of quiet discontentment. Did you know that so-and-so got a divorce? Did you know that so-and-so is addicted to pornography? Did you know that so-and-so had an affair?
Perhaps what scared me the most is that I wasn’t as shocked as I would’ve thought. Why? Because it’s only taken seven short years to strip me of my naiveté and arrogance regarding marriage. Gone is the belief that our love or virtue can sustain us, and in its place is the vulnerable, humbling truth that God alone can sustain our marriage. A cold marriage is not a rare disease only the really “unlucky” contract. It’s a certain reality for every marriage, apart from the grace and power of Christ. Just like the playroom, when left completely alone, it is the natural course of every marriage to grow messy—cluttered with hurt, sin, and disappointment. As Tim Keller says, “[marriage is] a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories.”
Certainly marriage is not for the faint of heart. But certainly we are not left alone in the journey. What will it take for you to nail your shoes to the ceiling, and walk back toward the companion you vowed to cherish? Will it take courage? Humility? Hope? Jesus can bestow courage. Jesus can grant humility. Jesus is hope. And the greatest blessing of my sin-filled life is that Jesus still walks with me. He will walk with you, too.
I have a theory that men desire romance just as much as women. I think they just define it differently. At least that’s what I’m beginning to think as Valentine’s Day rapidly approaches and I find myself quietly studying my husband. What would he find romantic? I already know the answer is not endless conversation or a sparkling toilet. Those things speak to his heart about as much as a power drill on my birthday would speak to mine. But that doesn’t mean he has no need for romance.
After all, you don’t have to be female to long for someone to know you, or to be delighted that someone has discovered you. To romance someone is to capture their affection by speaking in a language that touches them. It is to “see” inside of them and openly demonstrate that what you’ve seen is lovely. I don’t think there’s a manly man in the world who doesn’t desire that to some degree. So…how do you romance a man? Obviously, all men are different, but at the risk of being written off, I am going to make three sweeping generalizations that I think will hold true for most men.
Listen to him.Even when it’s boring. This is critical. Women always complain that men don’t talk, but I think what we really mean is they don’t talk about what we want them to talk about. Ask him about something that’s interesting to him and I guarantee he’ll say something…you’ll just probably have tuned out about two minutes in.
A professor’s wife first opened my eyes to the importance of listening to a man by making a terrifying statement. She said, “When we don’t actively listen to our husbands we teach them not to talk to us.” Yikes! I cannot tell you how many times my husband has started to jabber about something as interesting as snail slime, and suddenly, just as I’m starting to tune out, I hear my professor’s words in my mind. I snap to attention and engage. “So why does the carburetor do that? What’s so great about that commentary? Who’s the best player on the team?” Sometimes it gets interesting, and sometimes it stays as boring as snail slime. But you know what? I’ll learn everything there is to know about football if it means he’ll talk to me when he’s hurting.
Listening is a segue to the heart. In those moments when I’m silencing Downton Abbey to listen to all the features of the new Honda Odyssey, he and I are forging a trust. We’re building intimacy that says, “I care about you. I care to know what you’re thinking about. I care to have a relationship with you.” Listening is also the first step toward romancing him because it causes you to think the way he thinks. Maybe he talks a lot about a particular band, so this Valentine’s Day (because you’re listening), instead of surprising him with a special meal, you surprise him with tickets to a concert. Or maybe he mentions that he’s always ready to crash around 2pm at the office, so you show up at 2pm with Starbucks and a note. Now you’re speaking his language—and that’s romance. (P.S. In order for him to talk, occasionally you will need to stop talking. This was a revolutionary insight for me.)
Meet his needs generously. There’s really not a whole lot a guy needs. Honestly. This is one of those surprising things I’m learning from my husband. Female relationships are so complex because the majority of our needs are internal. We don’t just want flowers, we want him to connect with us emotionally. However, I think most men see outward action as inward connection. Listen to the way they brag—it’s almost always action-based. Take my brother-in-law, for instance. He’s a woefully sleep-deprived pediatric neurosurgery resident. You know what he brags about? The way the whole house could be a wreck, but his wife will always have a clean bed with fresh sheets just for him after he’s worked 36 hours straight. I once heard a famous pastor brag about the way his wife fixes him his favorite breakfast every Sunday morning before he preaches. Basic needs, lavishly met. I think it ministers to men more than we realize. At least, I’d wager it’s more romantic than keeping him up all night so we can talk about our feelings.
We’ve talked about two basic needs—sleep and food. Perhaps you’re thinking of one other need I’ve failed to mention. Let me just say, yes, I believe it matters too. Honestly, it probably matters more than any of the others! Don’t just meet his needs, meet them generously. Freely. Joyfully. Do I need another adverb? Eagerly. Whole-heartedly. Meet his needs, knowing that you are actually pursuing his heart.
Respect him. Because of Ephesians 5 and numerous Christian books, I knew one thing loud and clear before marrying Clint: he craves my respect. What’s more, respecting my husband is a biblical mandate. Okay, but what on earth am I suppose to do? That’s what I always wanted to ask. As a young bride, I didn’t really get how to “accomplish” this mandate. Do I just say nice things to him? Tell him I think he’s manly? I often wished there was a secret manual of “ten easy steps to make your husband feel respected,” so I could check them off.
I look back at that young bride and sort of laugh at her naivety. Because now I get it. The funny thing about respect is it’s more easily identified in its absence than its presence. In other words, disrespecting my husband is what finally taught me the nature of respect. It’s not an action; it’s a heart attitude. That young bride, lying awake at night, wondering how she could demonstrate respect for Clint, already respected him in her heart. But the longer we were married, the more I saw his flaws, and the more my heart waned in respect. Which brings me to the greatest lesson I have ever learned regarding respect: Like faith, respect is proven truest through fire.
I once asked Clint what I could get for his birthday that would really show him I loved him. He told me, “Honestly, what would really make me feel loved, is if you showed me grace when I fail.” I think I bought him a paintball gun. But his words have haunted me ever since. They will often come rushing to mind in the midst of a fight, when I’m so angry I’m ready to go for the jugular—to say something devastingly disrespectful. In that moment I think: this is when it counts, Jeanne! All the birthday presents in the world can’t speak as powerfully as that moment when I’m most angry and I choose to respect him anyway. Remember—that moment, when you least want to give it, is your greatest opportunity to demonstrate respect.
Final Thoughts I like to blog about things I’m weak in—eating well, shepherding my children, waiting on God, romancing my husband… These are all things I find vastly important, and part of the reason I write about them is because I want to grow in these areas. But the danger in blogging is that I may give off the appearance that these are the things I’m strong in. I don’t want to do that, mainly because I don’t want to go to bed at night feeling like a phony. And I don’t ever want a reader to have that discouraging thought—she has it all together, and I don’t. What a load of hogwash! Let me say it again—these are the things I’m weak in. If I wanted to write about the things I’m good at, I’d write about ping pong. So, as you think about romancing your husband, please remember—God is infinitely good and gracious. From one wretch, saved by grace, to another—I can promise He will never give up on you. No marriage is beyond His ability to save, restore, and bless. That, I know from experience.
I’m always on the lookout for a great book, an entertaining movie, a useful product, or a fun activity. So, I thought I’d post some of my favorites each month on the chance that you, too, are on the lookout. Of course, I can’t guarantee you’ll love all the things I’ve loved, but hopefully it’ll be fun just the same 🙂 I’d also love to feature some of your favorite things, so if you’ve got a recommendation, visit my contact page to drop me a message!
BOOK: Adopted for Life by Russell Moore The unique thing about this book is it presents both a personal and theological perspective on adoption. Dr. Moore welcomes readers into an incredibly private world—one that includes struggles with infertility, wrong perspectives of adoption, and the fascinating journey of adopting his two sons from a Russian orphanage. Along the way he answers a plethora of biblical and practical questions surrounding disabilities, age, inter-racial adoption, paperwork, calling, how we talk about adoption, and the radical adoption of all believers into God’s family.
I have never adopted a child, which is part of why I first opened this book. I was curious. I wanted a biblical worldview of adoption, and I most certainly got it—not to mention powerful, can’t-put-the-book-down stories from the life of one of my husband’s favorite seminary professors. By the time I closed the final chapter, I was overwhelmed by the gigantic way in which adoption proclaims the gospel. It changed the way I talk about adoption, give toward adoption, and most of all, think regarding adoption. Regardless of how closely adoption “touches” your personal world, I highly recommend this book.
MOVIE: Far and Away For my first ever “movie of the month,” I figured I’d pick my all-time favorite. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Far and Away is the story of a poor Irishman and a wealthy landlord’s daughter who set sail for America to claim their own land in the Oklahoma Land Rush. In traditional Ron Howard fashion, the movie is sweepingly epic, yet surprisingly funny. It’s certainly not my husband’s favorite movie, but he can tolerate it. For one thing, Joseph Donnelly (Cruise) earns his living as a bare-fisted boxer, and for another, it paints an interesting historical picture of the life of an immigrant. Being an older movie set in the 1890s, there’s minimal violence and immodesty—although, unfortunately, both elements are present at times.
PRODUCT: iPhone Life-Proof Case This iPhone case is virtually indestructible. It’s waterproof, shockproof, dirt-proof, and snow-proof…meaning you could go skiing, swimming, or dirt biking with your phone. Mom-translation: your toddler could toss your phone out the window or into the toilet and it would live to text another day! Hip-hip-hooray! It comes in an array of colors, and is FAR CHEAPER on Amazon than in stores. I paid around $45 for mine (including tax)–a great investment when you consider the cost of replacing an iPhone.
ACTIVITY: Decorate Your Front Door
Unfortunately, the blogger who came up with this craft seems to have slipped into a cyberspace black hole. I hate that I can’t link you to the original site, but suffice to say, this craft didn’t originate with me. Still, it’s one of my favorites because it’s cheap, colorful, and easy. First, paint several coffee filters with watercolors. Then, after they dry, cut out a variety of fun shapes and objects. Use double-sided tape to stick the shapes to a glass door or window. The original blogger taped a construction paper tree trunk to the door, and put the painted shapes (mostly leaves, flowers, and snowflakes) all around. She even bought acrylic paint and let her older kids paint details around the “tree” directly onto the glass door! The end result is a festive door (or window) sure to bring smiles from passersby 🙂