For my black son and for my white son

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Our powerful, almighty God is ushering the Body of Christ into a new season characterized by love, honor, gentleness, and power. He is transforming His people into beautiful leaders who observe carefully, speak wisely, and act bravely in defense of the defenseless. The young will long for freedom for those in physical captivity, spiritual bondage, and under societal persecution. The old will see the dreams of their youth resurrected, their hearts broken for the suffering, and their courage increased tenfold.

Those who love the Heavenly Father, follow after Jesus, and continually invite the empowering of the Holy Spirit into their lives will be a part of a great banquet feast. And as we feast on the goodness of God we will usher others to the banqueting table. Those who had been excluded because of class or color or culture will be embraced with open arms and given seats of honor and abounding love.

Those who have enslaving ideas, thinking about others in ways God never would, their minds will be renewed. Their hearts will be restored. Their spirit will be transformed by life-giving truth. That divine truth will literally set free those who have been slaves for centuries. They shall know the freedom of the Father and shower others with such freedom.

We will have eyes to see injustice. No longer will anyone yoked with Christ be able to turn a blind eye to the suffering of our spiritual brothers and sisters. Not only will we see with open eyes, but also our words, full of grace, will lead others out of their spiritual blindness. We will carry the power to transform the oppressors into liberators. Even the hardest of hearts will be softened. Even those bound up in religion and pride will be set free and propelled into a life of love and humility. Our actions, full of courage, will protect the oppressed. We will co-labor with Christ in a movement to defend the defenseless.

This will also be a season of beautiful reconciliation. Those who have carried hurts for years and years will trade their mourning for joy, their pain for healing, and their anger for a righteous thirst for justice and compassion. The powers of hell and darkness will tremble when we seek to forgive those who have done great injustices against us. God is releasing in us the power to forgive those who have caused the most terrible of hurts, and we will then lead a movement that will break the chains of unforgiveness in our generation. By radically loving those who persecute us, we will bring a Kingdom revival and culture of peace and honor to our children and our children’s children.

We will be a people who worship the Lord in unity. As one body, every tribe and every tongue, every clan and every culture shall love and honor one another. We will respect our differences, love our uniqueness, and treasure the power of collaborating together to bring others into the light, the truth of the Gospel. We will be a loving family. We will be a mighty army.  This calling will not be fulfilled by the indifferent or the lazy or the weak. This is the path for the passionate disciple, the courageous warrior, and the surrendered servant. Only the transformational work of Holy Spirit can ready us. And we cannot be prepared without giving up our emotional baggage, our past hurts, the lessons not learned from Christ; all these things must be laid down. And He who is faithful and powerful and loving will take this baggage and replace it with riches and gifts. Instead of insecurity we will know perfect love. Instead of pride and religion we will possess a gentle humility and total freedom. Instead of hate we will carry compassion. When we surrender to the will of God, we will be changed, and our families, our churches, our communities, even our world will experience beloved unity.

May we all surrender to the transformational power of our living God, creator of all mankind. May we invite Him every day to cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so we might perfectly love Him and worship Him by loving all His beautiful children.

This is an excerpt from Adventure Available: Discovering life with an extravagantly loving God.

To purchase the paperback edition, please visit https://www.createspace.com/6338171

To purchase the eBook, visit https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FUZLCVK

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Measuring Success

Two weeks ago I published my very first book. I gathered with friends at one of me and Rick’s favorite neighborhood spots, Brew’s Craft Beer and Espresso Bar, and celebrated what felt like an enormous accomplishment. The evening was perfect. My friend Brenda read aloud an excerpt from chapter one, a story about my friend Brittani, to whom the book is dedicated. My friend Megan got the book cover art framed for me and had all those attending the launch party sign it. My friend Nora presented me with a painting with an image the Lord gave her about this upcoming season in my life. My friend and pastor, Stephen, asked me pray over everyone in attendance that the Holy Spirit would encourage creativity in all our hearts. My phone continuously beeped with notifications, letting me know friends that were too far to be there for the party were tagging me in really sweet posts about the availability of the book on Amazon. I have the best friends in the world.

Obviously I have not yet achieved any real success with this project. I’m not getting asked to speak on any talk shows, I have not made it on any kind of best-seller list, and I haven’t even generated $100 in book sales. But that night made me realize that little victories celebrated with many companions are far more valuable than huge success without the love and support of those closest to you. And if I totally fall on my face and fail to achieve any of the goals I’ve set for Adventure Available, they’ll be there, loving and supporting me like they always have.

A week before launch I started freaking out about the book release, experiencing what I imagine is like an author’s version of stage fright.  I called AJ, my most literary friend, and asked if he would read the whole thing in just a couple of days for one last round of proofing. It was his graduation weekend and he was celebrating the accomplishment of earning his master’s degree in English. Still, he graciously agreed. In moments like these, you can only hope you are being the kind of friend your friends are being to you. For the sake of those I love, I hope I can sacrifice my time, give thoughtful gifts, and speak powerful words of encouragement. And I hope I will always rejoice in the celebratory moments of others as I would my own.

That might just be the best measure of success.

India!

Last semester, one night after I got home from the Bible study I lead at SWU, I felt heavenly Father prompting me to journal about some things that were significant about my 20s, which I did. Then I felt heavenly Father commission me to dream about my 30s. What was I hoping for? What did I want to see happen? Not too much came to mind- a couple more kids, maybe finishing that book I’ve been writing since 2006, and then out of the blue…India! I thought this was a bit weird because I’ve never been to India and don’t really know much about the country.

In the next few weeks everything was about India. I met people from India, heard stories about India, and then heard from our own SWU chapel speaker about India. After that chapel service I was like, “I’ve got to find out when my dad is going to India!” I checked his ministry itinerary as soon as I got to a computer and was speechless about what I found. My dad was going to be in India on my 30th birthday.

At the same time the Lord gave my good friend Nora a vision about going to India. And since my dad has extended the invitation for the two of us to come on a ministry trip with him November 11-20. We will minister at the orphanage my dad funds in Tanuku. Nora works at Issaquena Pediatric Dentistry, so we are going to be doing dental hygiene clinics with the girls at the orphanage, in addition to playing with them, and hopefully learning some of their language (Telagu). We’ll also be a part of a women’s ministry event in the bigger city of Hyderabad. I am so excited to learn more about what God is doing in this beautiful part of the world, and honored to partner with Christ in this ministry opportunity.

The day we return, November 20, is my 30th birthday, and my feet will touch 3 continents as we go from Delhi to Paris to Atlanta, traveling back in time, making the day last over 30 hours 🙂

Please join with me in prayer for this trip. If you would like to pray for me daily while I’m away, please let me know. I will have a day by day itinerary I can share with you to guide your prayers. Also, please pray that the $4,000 Nora and I need for the plane ticket will be provided!  If you are interested in helping financially, please let me know and I will tell you how you can make a tax deductible contribution to The Mordecai Project.

Here’s to the great adventure that is partnering with Christ in this crazy life!

maggie and nora

We Have This Hope That Is An Anchor for Our Souls

A little over a week ago, my family and I celebrated Father’s Day, and in the midst of the ongoing tragedies happening in our nation, I want to write about why the fathers in my life give me hope that reconciliation and equality is not an impossibility.

As a child, I picked up some stereotypes about black people from my dad. Because he took me to hear T.D. Jakes preach at revivals and Bernice King speak at women’s rally’s and jumped at the chance to take me and my sisters to any local Gospel choir concert, he painted a very specific picture of the African American community. He used to tell me, “Black people really know how to worship.” And as a child and adolescent this was the lens at which I looked at my black peers and teachers. When I met a lively man or woman who spoke kindly and laughed without reservation, this stereotype was confirmed. Black people loved life and they thoroughly enjoyed worshiping Christ in song, dance, and enjoyment of community. When I met someone who did not fit the stereotype, they were the exception.

The picture my dad painted for me about the African American community was not based on literature or film, it was based on his experiences with his black friends. I cannot doubt that his close relationships with so many black friends and colleagues impacted my life. Because I associated fun and passionate praise with the black community, I joined the Gospel choir in high school and enjoyed being the only white girl. When I heard peers speak negative generalities about black people, I immediately recognized their words as darkness.

As an adult I now know that not all black people love to worship expressively. I know not every older black man is a preacher, not every black woman writes for a successful magazine, not every black teenager likes to sing Gospel music. But I see our multi-ethnic world as a byproduct of a creative God, and I still see black communities as full of faith and fun.

It breaks my heart to know so many fathers paint a different picture of black communities for their sons and daughters, one not based on genuine close relationships but based on years of intolerance, confirmation bias, and systematic prejudice.

My father is not the only father I know who seeks to promote love for people of every color. When I first told Rick that God impressed upon my heart to adopt a child from Ethiopia, he did not hesitate for a moment before expressing the desire to do so also. I asked him how he could get on board so quickly as he said, “I don’t want a boring family. I want a family that looks like the Kingdom of God.”

Rick is fathering our two boys in the way of truth, humility, and justice. And he is empowered to seek actual solutions that lead to real reconciliation. I think about the way he loves are boys and I know his ability to Father them so well is because he allows our Heavenly Father to love and lead him so closely. He spends a lot of time with the King, which is why he is so passionate about bringing Kingdom into this world.

This is my challenge to all of us: If you have thoughts and feelings toward others that our Heavenly Father does not have, let him supernaturally renew your heart and mind. He can help you unlearn hate, hostility and indifference. He can make all things new.

In the wake of all the tragedies against our black brother and sisters this week, I refuse to lose hope. I will cry more tears, I will labor in prayer, I will get mad, but I will stay close to my Savior Jesus Christ, for His hope anchors my soul.

When I look at my sons I am reminded that the lens through which they think about ethnicity and color will be shaped by Kingdom. When Han sees a black man, he will think of his brother. And when Grady sees a white man, he will think of his brother. One day, when the Glory comes, we will look at people of every tribe and every tongue and see our brothers and sisters. May it be on earth as it is in heaven.

 

dad with grandsons pic

Enduring for Love

Five years ago, on March 21, 2010, I ran my first road race through the streets of Atlanta. My friends Jason and Nikki Croy had begun their first adoption journey, and Jason had decided to do something he never imagined he would do- run a 26.2 mile foot race. Some of their friends, including Rick and I, decided we would show support by running the half marathon that took place the same day. The process of adopting a child is a crazy journey filled with delays, frustrations, lots of waiting, and at the same time hope, love, longing, and incomparable joy. In many ways the adoption journey is like endurance running. It certainly is not like a sprint! In the process of training for a marathon you experience pain and pleasure, fatigue and strength, doubt and confidence. And besides being a beautiful comparison, marathon running can be a GREAT distraction while waiting for the new addition to the family! Jason finished his first marathon that day in March of 2010, and not too long afterwards, he and Nikki welcomed home their son Jayden.

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Original 2010 ING Georgia Marathon and Half Crew.

Well the Croys are adding to the family once again! Very recently they accepted the referral of a beautiful 12 month old baby girl, and they expect to be cleared to travel to bring her home sometime in the next 6 to 12 months. To read more about their journey, check out Nikki’s blog at endure4love.wordpress.com.

I trained for my first marathon when we were in the process of adopting Grady. I have not covered the 26.2 mile distance in over two years. But this Sunday, I’ll be running my second 26.2 mile event, returning to the site of my first road race in Atlanta. My love of road running was born there, thus I’m calling this my 5 year “runiversary.” I’m nervous and stoked all at the same time. My training has not been ideal, but I’ll have my favorite running buddy Becki by my side on race day. We’ve done a number of races together, including our inaugural half back in March of 2010, and I’m so excited that I get to be a part of her first full marathon experience.

I’m hoping to help the Croys raise some of the needed funds for their trip to Thailand to finalize the adoption of their daughter. If you are interested in supporting their adoption financially, you can donate online through GoFundMe (endure4love) or for a tax deduction, send your check to PO Box 842, Franklin Springs, GA 30639. Make checks payable to Life Springs Community Church and include in the memo “Adoption Fund.” My goal is to get 26 people to give $26 so let me know if you will want to donate!

Croy family

Jason and Nikki with their son Jayden.

Adoption is a beautiful, God-ordained way to grow a family. The first chapter of Ephesians tells us that adoption is a part of every believer’s story. We have all been welcomed into the family of God because of His glorious love, compassion, and goodness. Though not all of us will feel the call to adopt children into our families, we all can be a part of sowing Kingdom here on earth by helping families unite with children.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  — Ephesians 1:3-6

Race Report: Expedition Paris Mountain 10 Miler

Last Saturday I found myself rolling out of bed at 5 AM to run up a mountain.

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My good friend Nicole had expressed to me a few months back that she wanted to run a race longer than a 5k, so as her Christmas present I signed us up for this race.

Trails are tough, especially ones that include a climb of 1300 feet up Paris Mountain. Miles 4 and 7 had the toughest climbs and felt more like hiking than running at times. At certain points we had to climb steep piles of rock, making our efforts seem more like rock climbing! But the waterfalls, stream-crossings, and mountain-top views made for a pretty fun morning (despite the bitter 26 degree cold weather we experienced while waiting at the starting line). I had tons of fun and was super proud of Nicole for tackling such a challenging race for her debut in running double-digit mileage. She was a beast. We had a rocky start (haha…see what I did there?) but the longer we ran, the stronger she got.

This event concluded week 5 of my 12 week training plan for the Publix Georgia Marathon. I’m not where I want to be speed wise yet. I lost a lot of the speed I had worked up to for my half-marathon in Savannah last November when I was recovering from surgery (and chowing down on LOTS of unhealthy Christmas cookies and holiday inspired coffee drinks). But I can definitely feel my endurance is growing. The day after Expedition Paris Mountain, the only thing that felt sore was my ankles. My legs and core are strong. I just need to make some time for some tempo runs in the next 7 weeks!

This weekend I will run 16 miles in between our Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. Since the boys always take a long nap at that time, and Rick is usually putting the final touches on his message for that night, it is the perfect time to get away for a long run.

Healed

One month ago today, I went under the knife.

As I detailed in my last post, my doctor discovered a sizable mass on my right ovary in November. This mass was not present during my pregnancy with Han, and there were some other concerning characteristics that contributed to my doctor advising surgery to remove it immediately.

Two weeks before my surgery, an elder in our church prophesied over me. She told me she had been praying for my healing and that Father told her the mass was already gone.

Now I love and trust this woman dearly, and I fully believe that God speaks through prophecy and performs miraculous healings today, except in that moment. In that moment, all I could do was think, “Yeah right.”

I was bracing myself. I was doing everything I could emotionally and mentally to prepare to have cancer at 29 years of age. I was choosing to accept fear and what I thought was realistic expectations over the good news the Lord was delivering to me.

And guess what happened?

I went in for surgery, and my doctor found NOTHING. That’s right. The mass was gone. Just like I had already been told. No mass. No threat of cancer or reproductive problems. I was divinely and miraculously healed.

I think I live in a place where I sometimes do not really believe what I say I believe. But I would like to think of this experience as a springboard for giving God total control over my life.

If I actually believe every believer is given spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10), than I’m going to pray for an opportunity to use the gifts that I know God has given me.

If I actually believe God can stir up and strengthen my gifts by the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6), I’m going to ask other pastors, elders, and friends to pray that the gifts are strengthened  and used to the fullest.

If I believe that prophecy is a superior gift (1 Corinthians 14:1), then I will pray to receive it.

But ascribing to a few new beliefs is not the point. The point is to fully walk in my identity as a child of God and in revelatory knowledge that He is a good, good Father.

Ephesians chapter 1 is great place to start reading if you want to know more about your identity as a believer in Christ. That one chapter is crazy, beautiful, scary, and so full of  way-out-there truth, it is almost mind-blowing to me that so many who profess Christ have settled for simple prayers at the dinner table and a church service or two during the week.

Our Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.

Our Father adopted us into His family.

We have an inheritance with Christ.

We have been given the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.

All of our heads should explode right now with excitement. But what now?

Life with Christ is about Kingdom here until Kingdom there. One day we will be united with Him in heaven, but until then He extends this invitation for us to bring heaven here. There are things that are currently on this earth that will not be in heaven. Depression, sickness, disease, jealousy, homelessness, despair, greed, sorrow, anxiety, and death have no place in heaven. So we get to work with our Father to bring the things of heaven to everyone around us. We carry hope, healing, contentment, belonging, joy, generosity, kindness, peace, and life. We get to be dual citizens, because while we are physically here on this earth, we are also seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).

So as I think about 2015, I resolve to co-labor with Christ, bringing light and life into the darkness around us. And I pray that you also accept the invitation to join this crazy, spirit-filled adventure.

The Beauty of Being

I’m very achievement driven. I always want to be working toward a new level of success. I want to hear God more clearly. I want to lead more effectively. I want love my kids more dearly. I want to be a more supportive friend. I want to run faster and further. I want to make a difference in this world. I want to bring the Kingdom here, until I’m in the Kingdom there.

And quite frankly, that is exhausting.

Yesterday I got home after a busy day at work, which including creating benchmarking reports, helping students apply for financial aid grants, and doing 400s on my lunch break (for those of you keeping up with the summer scorcher workouts, this week just do 400s…lots of 400s). I made Grady and I grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, while helping Han finish his homemade sweet potato and apple mush, then bathed both boys, read Grady his favorite book and then put him to bed. Han had spit up on me when I first got home, so I decided a quick shower was in order. On the way to the bathroom I thought about what I should do with the remaining hours before bed.

Should I clean the living room?

Should I do some more crunches?

Should I work on the article I’m writing?

Should I pack up the diaper bag for tomorrow?

And then I heard from the divine, “You can relax.”

I laughed, but then felt a very deep sense of relief. This might not sound spiritual, but sometimes the most meaningful thing you can do is relax and just be with the Lord in a hot shower. I know God loves me just the way I am. He made me ambitious and motivated and full of energy. But he also loves lifting the weight from my shoulders, letting me know He wants me to enjoy the beauty in just being, when all I could previously think about is doing, doing, doing.

Last week the ultra-distance runner stud, Krissy Moehl, set out to run the John Muir Trail, a 210 mile trek from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney (yes, that is a very long, tough trail, and yes, she is that awesome to set such a goal). While she aspired to break the fastest known women’s record of 3 days and 20 hours, Moehl stopped at mile 136 with major GI issues. She later posted on her Facebook page this excerpt from the Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko:

“But what if the idea of setting a record was ancillary, maybe even irrelevant, to the true goal? What if the summit on which you had set your crosshairs had absolutely nothing to do with trying to elevate yourself above another man’s achievements, and everything to do with forging a connection inside yourself — in this case a connection with the river and the canyon that might deepen the intimacy that bound you to both. What if the reward you were chasing lay not in the result which you were ostensibly striving, but in the simple doing of this thing?”

Wow. What beautiful words. And this message has been a theme in my life for a while now.

My good friend Chris Maxwell always tells me to not become so focused on the destination, that I forget to pause and enjoy the journey. All who heed this advice show great wisdom.

And the achiever in me still wants to quantify and justify. I think maybe it’s okay if my 28-year-old self has not yet earned a Ph.D, or written a best-seller, or made enough money to travel the world running races on my bucket list. Maybe I should have small goals for each month or week, to work towards the bigger picture. But that misses the point entirely.

I am going to pause. I’ll never stop dreaming, striving, planning, or playing. But I will remember the Author and Perfecter of my faith invites me to a life full of meaning, not characterized by never ending to-do lists, but by deep and intimate connection with my Savior. The relief of rest, the beauty of just being, that is the gift of life with the Holy Spirit.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10

For My Dad On Father’s Day

In honor of Father’s Day, a quick post about the best things my dad has taught me over the course of 28 years.

The Kingdom of God has many colors. Growing up my dad took me and my sisters to black gospel choir concerts, practiced speaking Spanish with us before we’d go on a church service trip, and always sought out a multi-ethnic congregation for us to worship with. He taught me that diversity is beautiful because God is a master artist. He never stereotyped individuals because of their pigment, language, economic status, or nationality. He even told me when I was a little girl that I could marry a man of any skin color, as long as his heart belonged to Jesus. He’s outspoken about his desire to see immigrants treated well. The more colorful the congregation, the more fun he has worshipping corporately. I’m convinced that if everyone had a dad like mine, cultural prejudice and racism would not exist today.

The Holy Spirit does not come in pink and blue. God pours His Spirit on both His sons and daughters. His daughters don’t get a wimpy version of His power or a half portion of His inheritance. Women are not limited to certain spiritual gifts or leadership opportunities in the Kingdom of God. They can pastor, preach, teach, prophecy, administrate and more. They can be leaders in politics, education, ministry, business, the arts and wherever else their giftings take them. And my dad did not just tell me this growing up. He tells hundreds, even thousands of women this liberating news.

Mutual submission is a must for a healthy marriage. My dad did not ever profess to be the “head of the household” or the “priest of the home” or the exclusive “spiritual leader” of our family unit. Why? Because he and my mom are both Spirit-filled believers and they come together to make decisions. When there is conflict or disagreement, they submit the issue to God and come together to share what they have heard from the Lord. Both my parents took responsibility for me and my sister’s spiritual growth. Both my parents modeled love and submission. I can’t imagine how skewed my identity as a woman would be if my dad had been the type to assume control and “put his foot down,” just as I also can’t imagine having a passive mom who just told my dad to make every major decision. Growing up I remember every morning my mom would read scripture, interceed for our family, and seek God’s will for our lives. I’m glad my dad and my mom taught me that all believers are priests and that marriages function at their highest capacity when both assume responsibility for the spiritual growth of their family and in major decision making.

We can change the world. I know there are a lot of issues going on in the world right now. Violence, hate, poverty, and sickness are rampant. But there is no need to despair. My dad showed me that when you are a Christian, you serve a God who is victorious over death, hell, and the grave. And coolest of all, my dad taught me God wants to usher us into his plan to save the world. You don’t have to be a superhero. You just have to be a willing vessel.

Jesus love us. When you have a loving earthly dad, it is not such a far stretch to accept the love of our heavenly Father. I’m very thankful that my dad and mom introduced me to my loving Savior.

Happy Father’s Day, dad.

The Ideal Woman (And The Lies Behind Such A Concept)

Kirsten Dunst recently received attacks from some and applause from others this week for comments she made about traditional gender roles. The actress reportedly said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, “I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued. We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking — it’s a valuable thing my mom created.”

While the conservatives applauded her advocating the value of a traditional stay-at-home mom role, the more liberal activists condemned her ‘old-fashioned’ mindset. But the truth is that anyone who advocates that all women should prescribe to any certain lifestyle is wrong. If you truly are a feminist, believing God’s daughters are just as valuable as his sons, you have to support the notion that women can make their own choices pertaining to motherhood and career.

To the more liberal crowd who thinks that being a stay at home mom is somehow not ambitious, let me make a case for the benefits. I have plenty of friends who stay at home with their children, and for each of them they see it as a vocational calling from the Lord. They feel a sense of satisfaction and divine fulfilment by caring for and instructing their children as a vocation. My mom stayed at home with me and my sisters, and we reaped many benefits from having a mom that felt called to stay at home. My mom always felt passionately about caring for children. She even majored in child development in college to prepare her for the calling! Staying at home with us enabled her to bravely take on the responsibility of home-schooling, which truly put us ahead of the public school crowd. My three sisters and I all graduated from college with honors and are among that strange crowd of people who read for pleasure, thanks to her academic support. Her staying at home was also great for my dad. As he travels a great deal, my mom was a great help in keeping a high level of organization in our house, included keeping up with his travel schedule, helping him prepare for business trips, and keeping me and my sisters entertained when he was gone on the weekends. Even though I loved spending time with my dad, I still looked forward to his weekends away because mom would always order pizza and take us to Blockbuster to rent A Land Before Time (a long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, you had to drive to a store to rent a VHS tape of what you can now watch instantly on Netflix). But mom staying at home was not just good for my sisters and my dad. It was good for her. She did not just enjoy it; she felt a strong sense of fulfillment from it. That’s what I call a win-win-win situation.

Many stay at home moms get labeled lazy or unambitious. But this is so untrue and unfair! Taking care of children is hard work. And just because someone stays at home with their kids does not mean they don’t have other talents or passions. My friend Lauren is a stay at home mom of three, and she runs marathons every year! My friend Amy stays at home even though she doesn’t even have kids yet, and she is writing a novel. Staying at home does not equal a one-dimensional, domestic life.

But not every mom feels the call to stay at home. To the more traditional crowd that might think moms who work somehow don’t care for their children as well, let me now make the case for the benefits of being a working mom. I have always felt a call to ministry and leadership. In college I discovered a passion for serving college-age men and women and have been involved in Christian, higher education leadership ever since. The fact that I now have children has not changed my God-given calling to minister to college students. Our family benefits in many ways from having a mom who works. My boys get to see both their parents practicing obedience by being true to the calling God has placed on our lives. They also get to experience the financial comforts of having a two-income household. They won’t be spoiled, but they also won’t want for things like money to go on class trips, necessary equipment for their sports teams, or even tuition money when they go to college. Because I work, my boys also get to go to daycare. Okay I know some of you are thinking, “What?! You think daycare is a good thing?” While daycare might be a dirty word to some, and I’m sure there are some pretty terrible daycares out there, the right daycare, just like the right school, can really benefit children. Rick and I noticed a lot of positives when Grady first began at his daycare. His language skills improved, his coordination improved, and because we can already tell our 2 year old is extremely extroverted, he gets very energized by his play time with the other children. My mother-in-law worked when Rick and his sister were growing up, and I can see how Rick benefitted from having a working mama! She provided significant financial contributions for the family and even paid for Christian daycare and later private school for Rick and his sister. Rick’s mom is very extroverted, like myself, and thrives in the working world. And even though she is gifted in marketplace ministry, she never compromised emotional closeness with her kids. She was, and remains today, a huge support to her children even though she did not spend her 9 AM to 5 PM hours with them growing up. Again, they had a win-win-win situation.

Some working moms get accused of not loving their kids if they choose to work. I have even heard some skeptics ask, “Why would you want to have kids if you plan to not stay home with them?” This is completely a double standard, because no one thinks a man with a full-time job somehow cares less for his children. I grew up with two loving parents. One stayed home and one worked full-time, and I never felt that my working parent loved me less. My good friend Natalie works full-time as a pastor. Even though she is not home during the day, it is very obvious that her children feel loved and cared for by their mom. Bottom line, moms who stay at home do not love their children more than moms who choose to work.

I realize that I am an idealist and that we live in an imperfect world. I know many women out there would love to stay at home with their kids, but have to work out of financial necessity. I also know there are women who feel called to a career but are at home with their kids because they have not landed their dream job yet. Take hope in the fact that God can bless your situation, even if it is tough at times.

Believing that all mothers should stay at home with their children is as old fashion as believing all men should be hunters and fishermen. But belittling the calling to stay at home is just as damaging. It is not universally better for children to have a mom who stays at home, just as it is not unilaterally better for children to have a mom who works. Children need parents who model obedience to the Lord and serve in a way that puts their passions and giftings to great use. We would all be better off remembering the Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

The body of Christ has many parts. We can’t all be the same, but we can all play our individual role in bringing the Kingdom here on earth until we reach the Kingdom in heaven. If you are a stay at home mom, do so for the glory of God. And if you serve in the work place, do so also for the glory of God.

I don’t take any issue with Kirsten Dunst and her admiration for her mom who stayed at home. But something else Dunst said did set off an alarm bell for me. In her interview she commented, “You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s how relationships work.”

You need a woman to be a woman. What does that even mean? Sadly women have bought into this idea that they are supposed to live up to some prescribed ideal. We’ve been made to feel that there is a model for the perfect Christian woman, and we are to strive to fit some vague mold (one that does not really exist) to be a “good” woman.

Does scripture advocate the idea of a single model for Christian femininity? Let’s look. Read through Proverbs 31. This portion of scripture has often been referred to as the ideal for Christian women to aspire to. Why? I have no clue, because clearly that would be impossible.

She manages her home, but she also travels far.

She is involved in real estate and sales.

She is an artist and a philanthropist.

She is a farmer, and she makes bank.

She makes her own clothes, and has stellar arm muscles.

She speaks wise counsel, and she cares for the poor.

Her husband respects her. Her kids sing her praises.

She gets up before dawn and stays up very late.

How could one woman do all these things? Even if you had multiple degrees and the ability to function with three hours of sleep each night, I’m pretty sure this would still be impossible. So why is this even in the Bible? To rub in our faces how imperfect we women are? I think not.

After careful research I found that many scholars believe the author of this passage is actually describing multiple women. They suggest that this is not a laundry list of what Christian women should try to scratch off their daily to-do list, but a beautiful collage of a variety of Spirit-filled, God-fearing women.

Wow! [Insert sigh of relief here]

You mean it’s okay if I’m not growing a vineyard in my backyard? Yep.

It’s okay if I have very skinny, not-so-muscular arms (or fat and flabby arms)? Yep again.

It’s okay if I’m not married, don’t have kids, and want to enjoy the single life? Yes, yes, yes!

This passage does not enslave women into any certain role. This passage liberates women to be excited about their distinctiveness. The gospel message is about freedom, not captivity. I serve a creative God. He did not make a bunch of cookie-cutter women (or men, for that matter). An “ideal” Christian woman is one who honors God with her life in her own unique way. We are fearfully and wonderfully made to live in communion with Him. The rest is just the details. When we try and force the idea of an ideal woman or man, we disrespect God’s creativity. If we want to honor God we need to not only encourage individuality and support our fellow brothers and sisters in their unique vocation, but also rest in our own beautiful calling. When we are uncomfortable or insecure about our calling, we tend to judge others who differ. If you stay at home but on some level feel insecure about the significance of your calling, it would be natural to judge women who work, belittling their calling to help you feel better about yours, or vice versa. You must accept and love yourself before you can lavishly love those around you. You can’t love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t actually love yourself, right?

I realize this post might make some folks angry. There are numerous high-profile pastors out there advocating that a woman’s place is at home. I won’t name any specifically, but I will go ahead and say they are wrong and their ideas cannot be backed up with proper biblical exegesis. Beware any pastor or preacher that tells you a Christian woman exists to get married, have kids, and live the domestic life. There are also numerous “progressives” out there that might not share in my support of women choosing to nurture and care for their children at home. Tune that crowd out as well.

When I’m training for a race, the course I am running dictates how I prepare for the event. If I’m running a flat 5k, I’ll do lots of 400s leading up to the big event. If I’m running a hilly half marathon, my training will look much different. We are all running the race, but God has given each of us a unique course. Let the Holy Spirit be your Coach, and don’t worry about training like anyone else.