I 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, laughter. In 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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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 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.
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.