Milliennial Moms

Here’s an excerpt from my latest from Desiring God called Millennial Motherhood:

“Our children need more than a mom who empathizes and feels with them. They need more than a mom who gets down to their level to convey solidarity and trust — which we tend to be good at. They need to know they have a mom who, because she knows the whole story of God’s word, sees through them, beyond them, above them, and answers to someone other than them.

Our children need moms whose minds direct their feelings, not the other way around. Moms should be a safe place for their kids. Our empathy is a gift that helps us to be that, but empathy with no connection to the solid truth of God’s word is the opposite of safe. It’s crippling to ourselves and our children.

Encourage your children to feel deeply, but not at the expense of thinking deeply — rather, as a result of it. Encourage them to feel strongly, but with the reins of truth in hand, ready to pull back when an emotion has taken the bit in the mouth. Encourage them to feel passionately, but to do so about the things that are fitting to feel passionately about and with an unflappable trust in the God who is over all feelings.

Guilt and confidence are the strange bedfellows of the millennial mom. Pew records that 57 percent of millennial moms say that they are doing a “very good job” at parenting, compared with 48 percent of Gen X moms (born 1965–1979) and 41 percent of baby boomers (born 1946–1965).

Yet it takes only the most cursory glance at any social-media platform to see that millennial moms are awash with guilt. Guilt and the millennial mom are like peanut butter and jelly. They just seem to go together. You know it’s true because if you’re a millennial mom who just read “peanut butter and jelly,” you likely just felt a stab of guilt that you fed that to your kid this week.

Millennial moms are constantly wondering whether they are doing the right thing. It’s like we’ve lost our compass and can’t find north, so we get on social media or Google to try and figure out if other people are feeding their kids PB&J three times a week and if there are any studies that tell us what damage it causes.

In a world where information about everything is at our fingertips, it seems everything has been elevated to the status of “this matters.” So, from laundry to food to sunscreen to screen time to simplified home decor, nothing is no big deal to millennial moms. And because we also are finite women who cannot ride every hobbyhorse at the same time, we are exhausted, burnt out, and often very guilty.

Yet, because we reinvent the wheel on every possible facet of life, researching (or rather Googling) each topic for ourselves and reaching our own conclusions, we tend to be very confident — even haughty — about the conclusions we’ve reached and the job we’re doing, whether it’s about vaccines or vacuums.

The benefit to our guilty confidence is that we do have, in Christ, a constant, never-ending absolution for it. Jesus met all the righteous requirements of the law for us and then died in our place. We also are a part of Christ’s body, with spiritual mothers and fathers who can guide and help us to think Christianly about every part of our lives. Remember, millennial mom, that our guiltiness and haughtiness was nailed to the cross. We are free to live according to Jesus’s ways.

According to a study called Digital Women Influencers, millennial moms spend four more hours per week on social media than other moms. They also have 3.4 social media accounts as compared to the 2.6 accounts of other moms. We are connected, yet dissatisfied. We portray something we don’t have and long for the very thing we project. Every Facebook like and Instagram heart scratches an itch on the soul that is gratified for a moment, only to feel itchier and itchier as the days wear on.

Our motto could easily be “The grass is always greener on the other side of the Clarendon filter.” We make our grass as green as possible via those perfect Instagram filters — it’s our way of quieting the inner suspicion that our lives fall horribly short of everyone else’s. Our generation’s badges of achievement aren’t the new car or boat or vacation home, but the new experience and the new destination — all of which are fully documented — so we long and ache for the next best thing.

Often, the next best thing is whatever we can come up with to share in our social-media feeds. Nothing is sacred, nothing private. Could it be that our sharing isn’t so much an overflow of the fullness of life, but a scraping and grasping to connect and appeal to our viewers? Getting others to sympathize or idolize us with an online picture, a status, or a joke seems to be good enough for us.

But it isn’t enough. All the satisfaction of online approval is really just bloat — it looks and feels like we’re full, but the fullness is actually nothingness, and it’s preventing us from consuming what really would nourish us: God’s word, Jesus Christ, and his blood-bought body, the local church.

We must repent of the sin of trying to be virtuous apart from Christ. We must repent of online pretending and online oversharing. Our longing, our aches for more have a direction; they aren’t pointless. They’re pointing us to someone. Jesus Christ is the person we need. He is the place, the final and best destination that lays a lasting balm on the ache in our heart for something better.”

Read the rest.

Reflections On A Year Of Writing

2016 has been a year of increased writing for me. Especially it’s been a year of increased writing away from this blog, mainly for Desiring God. I usually link up and excerpt the writing I do elsewhere, so most of it has shown up here even so.

Aside from online writing, I’ve also written two bible studies for the women of our church, written talks, and long (ish) off-the-cuff Facebook and Instagram posts. In many ways, I’ve given all I could to writing, reading, and learning. That is to say, I’ve given what time I could in light of my life and responsibilities, sometimes more than I should have, sometimes less. Learning to give appropriate time to these things, learning when to dive headlong in and when to hold back is more of an art than a science for a mom with varying jobs and unpredictable days and often seems a bit out of my control. One piece of writing advice I’ve taken to heart is: if you write it cold, don’t expect readers to feel the fire to keep reading.. or something like that–that’s my adaptation of the gist of the advice. This has led me to write when the zeal is there, which isn’t always on schedule.

The other thing I’ve learned, not through advice but through failure, is that zeal in our writing makes us hasty. And haste is often foolish. Write with zeal, but then give yourself time to read it cool, with clear eyes, before you put it out there. I’ve benefitted from many eyes on my writing and a good amount of time between writing and publishing.

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the last couple years is that reaching people through writing is exhilarating. As someone whose life has been changed through books– through other people’s writing–the idea that God could use my writing to encourage, point, and disciple others is thrilling and deeply satisfying. That thrill can lead to praising God and it can lead to sinful sickness in the soul.

But perhaps the more important thing I’ve learned is that the face-to-face interactions, the flesh and blood lives that I have the privilege of being apart of through discipling, teaching, writing for, and learning from, give my soul a much deeper, lasting joy. Writing for people in general is hollow compared to writing for my people. And so whenever I write, that’s what I aim for. I aim to love the real people around me, to encourage them, to help them. Then I pray that if God would be pleased to use it elsewhere, then he would, and if not, that my satisfaction in it would not lessen, but quite the opposite, that it would increase. There’s something very wonderful in leaving the results to God, in knowing that judging success by earthly standards isn’t just dangerous, it’s often flat out wrong.

The banner I want over my life and writing is: entrusted. So, I commit this coming year to him. I entrust it to him. And in doing so, I am asking him for the long view: that I will faithfully deposit any and all good works into his hands and into this world, entrusting their value and influence to him, that they would be shown for what they are on the final day. May he keep me from judging my own self and works, as I undoubtedly am too soft and too hard on myself in all the wrong ways, but rather entrust it all to him, the only righteous judge. If you have the inclination, would you pray that I would be a faithful steward, entrusting all to God?

“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:14-19 ESV)

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-5 ESV)

Whole Bible Women

When I was seventeen years old, I read a book on the Proverbs 31 woman. I’ve no criticism to offer of the book. I think it was written by a godly woman who was pouring herself out in honoring God. I was electrified to discover a part of the Bible that seemed directly written for me, a female. It was the kind of discovery that felt like I was being given a template for life: no more mystery, no more puzzlement as I clumsily plowed through stuff I didn’t understand — the step-by-step handbook had arrived.

When I combined what I’d read from Proverbs 31 with the other parts of the Bible giving instructions to women, I almost wasn’t sure why I needed to read the rest of the Bible. Maybe my job was to camp out here. Certainly there was enough here to keep me busy for the rest of my life. I knew instinctively that I didn’t measure up to the standard of godliness that I was reading.

I’ve met a lot of churched women over the years, with varying views on these biblical passages for women. Some have developed a flinch and twitch when they hear parts of the Bible directed at women (often because those parts have been weaponized like a 195’s law-bomb against them). In contrast there are those who never talk about the Bible except to quote Titus 2 or 1 Peter 3, content to live there. And then there are some with a chip on their shoulder who just flat out refuse to allow the Bible to say what it says to women, doing feats of flexibility that twist the Bible up to the point that all blood flow has been cut off to certain parts. They just fall off as irrelevant, deemed wrong.

In the English department in college, there was the occasional lopping off parts of literature deemed harmful to women via critical gender studies. Who were these dead white guys to be telling us what good literature is, to be writing female characters for us? Why should enlightened women read such dregs, except to refute them? And for some, this has extended to God’s Word. If dead white guys can be cast off, why not dead Middle Eastern guys too?

But the Bible isn’t a trifle. It isn’t Gulliver’s Travels or Great Expectations. Its author is divine, not dead; perfect, not sinful. To read it is to be changed or judged, in some measure. We either come under it in full-stop submission, or we cast it aside as boring or harmful or stupid or nice. In unmitigated pride, we may even exploit it as its editor. And it isn’t indifferent toward us; it masters us willingly now or unwillingly later.

The God of the Bible won’t be suppressed to a few select passages directed toward women. He also won’t allow his daughters to cut off blood supply to the parts we don’t like very much. He demands all of himself for all of ourselves.

Read the rest.

Developing All My Second Bests

G.K. Chesterton says in his Emancipation of Domesticity, that a woman who has made the home her domain, “may develop all her second bests.”

I just love that. It is a happy happy thing.

I’m not the best at anything. I’m not a professional anything. I’m not being falsely modest, nor am I saying that I’m terrible at everything. I’m simply saying my duties are broad and therefore, it’s hard to get narrow in the way professionals do. I’m a stay-home mom who loves to write, take pictures, knit, and does none of them all too well. I mother, teach, cook, clean, train, love–and as much as I’d like to be a contestant on The Taste, they’d probably be appalled by my Minnesota Taco.

I laugh when I think of holding up what I do next to what someone I admire does. Every now and then I write something that feels insightful (to me) about parenting or some such thing, only to read a book on parenting that says everything I could have wanted to say and with all the grace and humor I so rarely am able to say it with! Thank you Rachel Jankovic!

And yet, I’m undeterred in my 4 year (thus far) blogging adventure. Wonderful blogs and incredible parenting books haven’t pushed me to quit. Why? Because being the best isn’t what matters. Using my gifts does though.

Writing is a way for me to take a step in the right direction. It’s a step of faith. It’s taking a seed and planting it–it’s not looking at the seed someone else planted and the subsequent mighty oak or blossoming cherry and thinking, “I don’t imagine I’ll ever be something that great, so I guess I’ll just hold on to this seed.” I don’t need to be great! God is great! And He intends for me to be spent in the strength He supplies. He’ll take care of the outcomes.

God is a God of small beginnings. He’s not disappointed at all my second bests, he’s enabling them! Indeed, Chesterton says that, “there must be in every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan; one who does not “give her best,” but gives her all.”

So, I give my all in my writing, although I may never have time to make it my best (which would be significantly worse than many other’s trash bin of edits!), and I give my all in cooking (though I learn by hook or by crook in puddleglum fashion), and in parenting (a sticky mountain of dishes and laundry washed daily with grace, and sometimes soap), in homeschooling (though there will always be million good things that we can’t do), in taking pictures (I know nothing and can never promise results), in knitting and crocheting (my ornament creations were ridiculous and so-noted), in cleaning and organizing (chuckle, I do try!), in music (because not everyone can be great, we need someone to make the sopranos feel good) and in a million other things where I’m putting myself out there, knowing full well that life isn’t the kind of competition that you have to come in first in order to count.

I count because I’m numbered among the counted–it’s all Him. So bring on the freedom of second bests. I’ve been called to serve in one hundred interesting and mundane ways through this life of domesticity and mothering. I get to engage them all, by God’s grace, whether I shine or squeak by.

The world is full of talented people, by God’s design and kindness. He’s given me a portion to work with–I’m not going to sit on it because it isn’t as big as the next person’s. Some people out there have a whole mountain of raw material to work with and they’re making mud pies with the manure. Others have attempted to fertilize 1000 acres of corn with their small round manure hill of abilities. And if my small beginning should have a small middle and a small ending, He’s the God of that too.

My last name means, “small round hill,” or “small round man,” –the translation’s a bit tricky, being of English origin naturally. All I know is I’m going to give my all with the small round hill o’ Dodds that I’ve got.

Hobbits are surprising little things, after all.

The Bread of Life and The Word Pictures

I’ve been working on putting text to pictures–mostly The Text. All of life points; it aims; it casts our attention to something. Bread making is an obvious pointer.

As I’ve continued our bread making adventure, I can’t help but be reminded and pointed to the many places in Scripture where bread and leaven are mentioned. It gives me a lot to think on: a little leaven leavens the whole lump; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy; to what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.

God spends a lot of time talking about bread. There’s an irony that so many people in our culture choose not to eat it. Jesus says, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.”

And, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:48-51 ESV)


So I’ve made a page to put “The Word Pictures.” Pictures like the one above. Pictures that remind me what things like bread are really for. I started doing it many months ago and it has been a kind way for the Lord to minister to me with His Word, to give me vision, and to rescue me with work for my hands and mind.

I hope they’re pointers to reality, the reality that is the Word of God and reminds us what this world is for: to cast a shadow. May these copies and shadows do the job of helping us get a grasp on this real thing: Jesus Christ crucified and raised, our High Priest forever.

Doing the Next Thing: Remembering

Field Trip

I have so much to do, so of course, I’m sitting down to blog.

It’s like if I write something down my brain will be clear, my tasks will be all that more urgent (having just used up time blogging), and I will pull my head out from the computer and be like a ninja in a pressure cooker–totally annihilating everything that needs done between now and tomorrow. Ha. Yet, strangely true.

Sometimes the next thing to do is to sit down and write. Not pick out clothes for family pictures or clean the house for tomorrow’s showing or clean up lunch or do the dishes or think about supper or worry about the little girls’ hair that never got combed or put the fall wreath up or put away the spring flower pots. It’s just to let the kids play and clear my head. Everybody does that differently, but for me it’s to read and write. Especially to read (that’s everyday without exception)–but on days like today, to write.

Reading and writing are remembering. And right remembering is how we grow and get vision. What we remember is the cast or mold that our future will take. How I remember matters–remembering and replaying the junk (or “stuff” to use Joe Biden’s word from last night) of my life with no eye for God’s redemption and work, that’s poisonous remembering. It’s called bitterness. But remembering His good works and declaring them, remembering that my story is part of His story and it ends in glory forever, no matter how pit-like it may get down here–that’s a life-giving kind of remembering.

That’s why I read the Bible and write about the Bible. It’s what I must remember. It’s what I’ve been given to remember. It’s what shapes how I see and remember my own life and circumstances. It’s how I learn to tell the story that God has given me the right way, truthfully, with Him at the center.

“I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah”
(Psalm 143:5-6 ESV)

Everything I remember must be seen through the eyes of Truth, that is, that I was once far off from God and a slave to sin but God crushed Jesus on the cross before the foundation of the world and He raised Him from the dead and has given His Living Spirit. And before anything existed, my name was written in the Book of the Lamb who was Slain.

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.”

(2 Timothy 2:8-13 ESV)

So, in the ridiculousness of pencil-shavings dumped out (again!), I remember Jesus. In the futility of the sticky floor, I remember Jesus. In the unhappiness of unmet expectations, I remember Jesus. In the frustration of my own sin, I remember Jesus. I remember that His Word is NOT BOUND! It is powerful to reach into my life and shake things up for the glory of God. I remember that it’s His work.

Lord, grant me faithfulness to remember Jesus Christ in every part of my life! Help me have the vision to remember.

Remembering God’s goodness in His creation at Fawn-Doe-Rosa!

Welcome

Welcome.

If you found your way here from abigail’s leftovers or facebook, welcome. I’m glad you made it! I’m really loving the new name and layout and clearer vision, and hope you are too.

If you were a regular reader at abigail’s leftovers and want to continue to be one here, please subscribe in the sidebar, if that suits you.

Otherwise, I just wanted to say, welcome! Christ has welcomed me and I’m happy to welcome others–to my home, to our church family, and even to this blog.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
(Romans 15:5-7 ESV)

And for a glimpse of some majesty in creation, this morning, here’s the blue heron that frequents the pond in our backyard.

thoughts on the humblebrag

I was intrigued by this post by Justin Taylor, explaining the concept of the humblebrag. Here’s an interview with the originator of the term.

A humble brag, as I understand it, is when you brag about yourself in a way that masquerades as humility or is coupled with self-deprecation. Here are some examples:

‘Ugh. I just pocket dialed spokesperson for Pentagon.’ —Greta Van Susteren

‘If you think getting your house ready for guests is a hassle, try preparing it for HGTV cameras. I am the worst florist ever.’ —Tony Hawk

Here’s the example Justin Taylor gives:

“I remember my first months in Harvard classrooms, gob-smacked by how my contributions, however lame, were invariably treated with respect because my accent framed them.” -Andrew Sullivan

When I read the concept and the examples, my first thoughts went somewhere other than the ugliness of the humblebrag. Instead I thought of the ugliness of envy and how hard it is for us to be happy for someone else’s successes.

So what if Andrew Sullivan mentions that his school was Harvard? I often say what school I went to, it just so happens that it isn’t prestigous. Why shouldn’t Harvard attendees be able to talk about their life just like the rest of us? The fact that it bothers us that he mentions the name of his school is a reflection of insecurity in the listener, not the speaker.

When good things happen to someone else, like winning an award, or having a great job, or writing a book, or [fill in the blank], it’s better for my soul to rejoice in their success, rather than nitpick their statements looking for a hidden braggart.

Being a humble brag is a bad deal. I don’t want to be one; I don’t want my kids to be one. But, I can’t help but feel that the real issue is our inability to be happy for others. Without being able to see into people’s hearts, it’s hard to judge whether they’re bragging or simply stating what’s happening in their life at that moment. After all, I assume that Greta Van Susteran really did accidently pocket dial the Pentagon. How’s that any different than me saying, “Ugh, I just pocket-dialed the babysitter.”

I think having a problem with Greta saying that she pocket-dialed the Pentagon (which is actually pretty funny) is more about being unable to bear anyone who does better than we do. (I could go on here to relate how I think that this envy culture is a result of liberal ideology and the concept of equality of outcome, or how it flows out of our depraved and wicked hearts, but I wouldn’t want to sound too confident or self-important or controversial.)

Here are my take-home lessons: 1)Don’t brag. 2)Don’t envy. 3) Don’t be paralyzingly self-aware. Enough.

my 20's: the story behind the story

I’ve had an eventful decade.

My 20’s are rapidly coming to a close and here’s my just-the-facts-ma’am recap of them:

age 20: Start dating Tom and get engaged to him. Begin attending BBC.

age 21: Become Mrs. Thomas Dodds, move into the house on Portland Ave.  Encourage Tom to start his own business. Start a small group in our home.

age 22: Graduate from Bethel College and begin (and end) my short stint at a pro-life organization.

Become pregnant and give birth to Eliza Grace. Become a mom to a baby girl. Practice life without an income.

age 23: Practice being a wife and mom. Start to see growth in Tom’s business. Say goodbye to my best friend who moves away.

age 24: Become pregnant. Move to the house on Grouse Hollow. Give birth to Seth Thomas. Become a mom to a baby boy.

age 25: Become pregnant for a third time. Keep practicing the wife and mom thing. Say goodbye to Tom’s Grandma Ione, who passed away.

age 26: Give birth to Elianna Faith. Become a mom to a baby girl, for the second time. Start another small group in our home.

age 27: Tom informs me I’m 90% of the way to 30 yrs old. Keep on keepin’ on with the wife and mom gig. Say goodbye to my Grandpa Rodney, who passed away. Live through a massive hail storm that caused damage to our home, narrowly avoid a tornado.

age 28: Become pregnant for the fourth time. Say goodbye to that little one in the summer due to miscarriage. Become pregnant for a fifth time.

age 29: Give birth to Evangeline Joy. Become a mom to a baby girl, for the third  time.

So, there are the facts of the matter. But there is a hidden story that’s missing from these facts. The story behind the story.

There is truth that is missing from these facts. And this truth is the most important part of my 20’s. It’s the true story that shows how God has kept me during this past decade. He really has kept me. He has hidden me in the shadow of His wing.

Here are a few of the ways He’s kept me, the story behind the story:

The Lord kept me through many great friendships, and, what felt like no friendships. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The Lord kept me through years of no income and years of plentiful income. He is my Portion forever.

The Lord kept me through times of depression and times of joy. He is my Strength and the Lifter of my Head.

The Lord kept me through days of birth and days of death. He is the Good Giver and the Wise Taker.

The Lord kept me through doubts and confidence. He is my Comfort who is over all and in all and through all.

The Lord kept me through city life and suburb life. Nothing can separate me from His Love. Where can I hide from His presence?

The Lord kept me through single life and married life. He is the God who grants our participation in His mysterious metaphors.

The Lord kept me through mothering magic and mayhem. He gently leads those who are with young.

Ultimately, the Lord has kept me His own. He has caused me to persevere in every circumstance because He is the Good Shepherd and no one can snatch me out of His hand.  I persevere because of His faithfulness, not my own.

So, I have a great many hopes for my 30’s. I hope that I will be less weak. More steady. Less selfish. More selfless. Less fearful. More bold.

And at the core of my hope is Jesus. I hope in Him, because He is the One “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.” I put my hope in “the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jude 1:24

So long 20’s.  It was a ride.

more and Moore on cremation

Russell Moore recently blogged about cremation.  As one who has been largely indifferent about cremation vs. burial I found it very informative and helpful.

He is biblical through and through.  His thoughts in Touchstone were particularly good.

After some comments on my post about funeral planning, I became interested in why Christians might reject cremation.  Dr. Moore answers my questions and then some.

I think I may be amending my funeral plans to include a desire to be buried.  There is something to the beauty of following suit with Christ (namely that we are buried like Christ and resurrected like him on the last day) that is hard to resist.  It’s not that God can’t raise cremated remains.  Of course He can.  But when the opportunity to imitate the biblical model is presented, I think I’ll take it.

Dr. Moore fleshes out his arguments in the Touchstone article very well and in Christianity Today.  Worth reading.