The Good-Embarrassing of My Mom

My mom will be embarrassed by this post.

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But the good kind of embarrassed, I hope.  And it’s all well and right to good-embarrass a godly person once in a while.

We just finished studying Romans in BSF this year, and Paul good-embarrassed a boatload of people at the end of Romans 16 – Paul knew how to give praise and affirmation, and how to be thankful.

And that’s what I want to do today, on Mothers’ Day Eve.

2011_01_11_KES-1449_2When I first became a mother back in 2011, Mothers’ Day quickly had all sorts of significance.  I had been cut open and stitched back together to bring my husband’s and my DNA into the world, and so I deserved to be celebrated, dagnabbit!  With my three-month-old daughter in tow, on my first official Mothers’ Day, we revisited the arboretum where we got engaged and had pictures taken.  My mom was there too, probably taking the pictures, but the day was suddenly about me.

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I was twenty-four years old and thought I was the best mom in the world. The doc had diagnosed a serious dairy allergy in my infant and I was totally off dairy to nurse her.  She was three months old, and I knew everything.

Right.

Here I am now, seven years later, three little girls later, and all I’m thinking is Heeeeeeeelp.   I know nothing.  I never knew anything.  I’m going to fail them.  I’m already failing them.  How did my Mom do it, and what made her so gloriously wonderful?

But now she lives across the U.S. and I can’t hit the arboretum with her, or stop by on a bad day and cry, or throw myself into her arms and say thank you about two hundred times.

Now, in 2018, this day is all about her to me.

My mom was the golden middle child of five.  And I don’t mean she was perfect.  I mean she was literally golden.  The only blondie in a household of brunettes.  The only one that really looked like her own mom.

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She was friendly and outgoing, a bit of a follower, and super cute.  She wanted to be well-liked, and she tried to please everyone.

One day at the end of high school, she was invited to Young Life, and there she confessed her sins and embraced Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross.

While she got her teaching degree, she worked all over doing numerous fun and temporary jobs during the summers, including a stint at the Von Trapp family lodge in Vermont.  She was an evangelist, a people-person, and cheerful.  She sparkled and enjoyed life.  All of the pictures I’ve ever seen of her show her smiling broadly, happy, purposeful.  She’s the perfect picture of a healthy ENFJ.

One time, in Boston, she took a teaching job that involved kids on parole.  By the start of the year, numerous teachers had already quit, but my mom hung on.  On the outside, she doesn’t look tough – the woman cries at practically every touching movie we watch, and numerous books as well – but she has guts on the inside that people always underestimate about her.  And mostly she has a gigantic, whale-sized heart.  She loved those difficult kids when no one else would.

Wait, I’m talking about my siblings and me.  Did you think I meant the kids on parole?  Oh yeah, she loved them too.  *wink*

She stuck that class through and won them over that year.  She also spent years teaching special needs children and adored them.

But rewind.

After moving to Colorado to live with a dear college friend who had just had a difficult miscarriage, she met my dad who was stationed nearby in the army. They met at Sunday School, because my mom was always at church, rain or shine.  She was also planning on heading to Japan for short-term ministry when they met, and she planned her wedding in a short space and time before leaving for overseas.

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Six years later, after my dad got out of the army and graduated from Harvard, my mom had me.  After that, the rest of us came quickly, four children in five years.

38809_140824595948509_806722_nMom stayed home and became the world’s best housewife.  She had a schedule for everything on her multiple whiteboards, and she was as predictable as the sun rising in the mornings.  Everything had a place, everything was secure, everything was safe.  She made us feel like our world was all right.

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Mom got excited about homeschooling pretty early on, and started with me right away in kindergarten.  As each younger sibling began school with us, she added to her own workload without a blink of the eye.  Every once in a while, she’d beg for her fifteen minute nap in the middle of the day, but that’s only because she got up at five thirty in the morning to meet with God one-on-one for hours.  And could she nap!  She could go out like a light at 199852_195007213863580_1038841_na moment’s notice, in a public place even, without pausing a second.  I’ll never forget the time the piano teacher found her asleep on a chair in the other room, mouth wide open.  Mom is a queen napper.  She has no ability to stay up late.  She’ll get this fuzzy delirious look and won’t listen to a word you are saying.  As a teen, I should’ve asked her for big bad things at that time of night.  She wouldn’t have remembered saying yes. *wink*

Faithfully taking us to the very best of Bible studies, to all of our sports, to all of our friends’ houses, and laying down her lives for ours, Mom didn’t have much time for herself outside of her home, her children, and her Lord.  But she led Bible studies and 1914825_186167651414203_7180005_n (2)neighborhood groups, started get-togethers and women’s meet-and-greets.  She could get to know anyone.  Meeting new people is her favorite pleasure in life. We used to groan and joke every time someone randomly started telling Mom their life story.  She knows the grocery checkers by name, will pray for their children by name, and starts conversations with all the other moms at the sports games and doctors’ offices.  No one is off-limits to Mom when it comes to a conversation, and she knows how to slip Jesus in when you aren’t expecting it.

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Mom can disarm anyone.  I’ve never met a single person who doesn’t like her.  People walk away warmed from the inside out because she’s the least intimidating, most caring person you’ll ever come across.  And when she says she’ll pray for you, she means it, in her numerous organized prayer journals, and on down on her well-used knees.

Mom used to randomly say, “I love you, Rachael Lynn,” using our full names, just because she felt gushy inside.

The only conflict I can really remember us having is when I would blitz through my chores like a madwoman, wanting to get to my entertainment and play, and Mom would go back over the dust with her finger, calling out my lack of thoroughness.  Or the times I’d get far too creative and not really do the work she wanted me to do.  Or the time she’d use her razor sharp discernment and call me out on something spiritually that I’d delusionally insist wasn’t true.  Or the times she’d try to correct my early writing and I was too arrogant to submit to it.  Sometimes we’d call her Scrooge, which she hated, because she suggested doing away with Christmas presents and just focusing on Christ.  *wink*

She is in my top two favorite people to be around, including my husband.

And then I got to my late teens and early twenties, and I wanted my friends, wanted to my freedom, wanted my husband.  And I was moving too fast and being too foolish and getting too obsessed.  And Mom was frightened about the technology and “Inter-web” and “intelligent phones” and things that might take me away from the Lord and their home.  I kept silent, expecting her to handle things badly, lying to her and being rebellious deep in my heart.  But when my sin came out, she was nothing but forgiving and gracious, adapting in ways I had not thought possible, embracing the future God had for me, counseling and guiding me, and I slowly began to repent and grow.

No matter what interests take my fancy, Mom is interested too.  Mom listens, researches, studies, and embraces.  No matter how weird.  No matter how odd.

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She insisted on doing all of the gardening and mowing herself, and taught us how to run a home independently by age twelve.  She took us on hikes and sang us the bear song and the skinny-dipping song.  She gave us St. Patrick’s Day treasure hunts and folding-laundry-movie nights.  She took us on all-expenses-paid vacations with her inheritance money and put little gifts on our car dashboards.  She held hour of prayer days and taught us hymns.  She let us sleep in her bed when Dad was away on business trips, even when we kicked her in the middle of the night.  She taught us about the human skeletal system, even when it made her feel like passing out and she had to sit with her head between her knees.  We made meals for church members, hosted strangers, and prayed for persecuted nations.  She taught us to see outside ourselves.

She does everything well.  She would insist I’m lying when I say that, so I have to admit she’s never had a great relationship with technology.  She’d gush and gush about how patiently I taught her how to use a computer, but to me, she was easy.  I’m pretty sure I first realized that I loved teaching from all of the pleasant hours spent showing her how to minimize a window.  *wink*

11700878_1115777958439547_6278047765549556863_nMom reads every single one of my novels as I write it, giving few critiques, but all excitement, loving and rooting on my characters, lecturing me for writing something that keeps her up too late at night unable to put it down.

When I got married and moved away, Mom still visits and simply cleans my house, attending my children’s sports and activities, even grocery shopping together.  When she visits, we do life together, and she’s like my second set of hands.  We work together, talking until my throat hurts, best friends sharing our souls.  We can talk Christ for days on end.  I never tire of being in her presence.

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I, as her child, rise up and call her blessed.  Many women have done virtuously, but she excels them all. I truly strain in my head to find faults with my mom.  They simply don’t exist. She walks more humbly and closely with God than another human being I’ve ever met – and I would know!  She loves Jesus with a realness and dearness that I long to emulate, and she loves people in complete purity.  She is gracious, giving, non-judgmental, flexible, loyal, and pleasant.  She laughs easily, she serves continually, and she is wise.  She is over and beyond humble, and she has suffered long.  Her faith does not waver.

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If I could be half of who my mom is, I would be satisfied.  Thank You, Lord, for putting a spiritual giant so closely in my life as my very best friend.

I love you, Mom.  Happy Mothers’ Day.

 

 

 

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Open Letters to Persecuted Christians – From My Children

We’ve been praying through Voice of the Martyrs prayer calendar – praying for a different persecuted country every day.  This has been very eye-opening to my two oldest

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girls – children who’ve known peace, safety, and security all their lives.

Today we studied a passage on heaven and Jesus’s second coming.  At the end of the passage, Paul tells people to encourage each other with these words.  I mentioned that thinking about eternity in heaven was probably very encouraging to those being persecuted, and my oldest daughter got a lightbulb idea from the Lord.

“Let’s write a note of encouragement to them about heaven!” she said.

So that became our English assignment for the day.  ❤

I copied down exactly what both girls wanted to say.  These are 100% their words, not mine.  As we look for a place or person to mail these, I thought I’d share them here as well.  ❤

 

Dear friend in Christ,

            I’m writing to you because I want you to know that Christ is always with you and you can depend on Him to always be there.  Even if your enemy is hurting you, you can know that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, will always be there in your heart and around you.  You can know that at some point you will be in heaven and you will enjoy it.  You will get to see the Lord who you’ve been waiting for – the One you believe in!  If any of your Christian family members have been hurt or persecuted or killed, you will be able to see them up in heaven too.  Just remember that Jesus, your Lord, is still with you, and you can depend on Him to help you.  Every day, in every way, He will always keep His eye on you, so that He knows what is happening. Everything that is happening to you is all in His sight and it is all for good.  Even though you might be alone, you can still have the Holy Spirit in your heart and you can keep Him there. He will never leave or go away.  You will never leave Him.  You will always be in God’s arms. Even though we, in America, haven’t gone through the persecution you have, we still have a very bad sin of not focusing on God.  😦 We can learn from you because you and your family focus on God and keep up standing up for who you believe in.

Love,

R.S., 7 years old, USA

 

Dear friend in Christ,

            God loves you and He will always be there for you, no matter how hard your troubles are.  He’s there with you! When Jesus comes back again, there will be a great celebration.  He will take all of the Christians up, and, if you are one, He will take you up too.  🙂 At the end of the world, God will create a new earth and it will be part of heaven. Everyone will be satisfied in heaven and there will be no sadness. There will be no anger.  There will be no dying.  Everything will be happy in heaven! Whenever you have a trouble, just pray to God and He will figure out a way to solve the problem. I will meet you in heaven too!  🙂

Love,

R.J., 5 1/2 years old, USA

Why I Stopped Texting at Red Lights

may1Last year, my state of Washington enacted a new law: you can’t even hold your phone in your hand at red lights any more.  Ever.  You will be ticketed and fined if you are caught even holding your phone at a red light while sitting and waiting.  Yes.  For reals.  The article is here.

I think this law is stupid.

End of blog post.

—–

Okay… just kidding.  There’s more.  *wink*

I could go into all the reasons why I loathe this new law, why I think its stupid, etc. etc.  What is dangerous about sitting completely stopped at a red light? Practically nothing that would involve a phone.  How long are those red lights where you’re just sitting and waiting?  Often super long.  Would I ever practically get caught doing it if I kept my hand down below the window?  Probably not.

Will so many of you comment with why the law isn’t stupid and will I still insist it’s stupid?  Yep.  *wink*

I could also give you all of my excuses: I get lost easily and have to constantly check gps.  True.  I never text or anything while actually moving.  True.  I am an efficient person who likes to use that dead time.  True. The odds are 99.999999999% that nothing will ever ever happen if I hold my phone in my hand while stopped at a red light.  Also true.  The law was probably made because people are too stupid to pay attention to whether their car’s moving or not.  Probably also true.

However, it’s a law.  It can be repealed on the basis of idiocy, but until then, we’re stuck with it.

I keep wondering if my kids are whispering the same things to themselves behind my back.

“This is stupid.”

It probably feels super stupid to them when I tell them to turn the other way and not sneeze all over the food.  I know they’ve got to think it’s stupid, because they continue to sneeze all over the food and look confused when I exclaim over it.

It probably feels stupid when I tell them to get dressed, make their beds, tidy up their rooms, and do their devotions before they go down to breakfast.  Because time and time again, they choose to ignore this one also.

There are lots of things our authorities tell us to do that can seem overbearing, nonsensical, and stupid.  However, we elect those authorities into office, and until laws get changed, the stuff still stands, stupid or not.

Yet there are just things that are tempting to ignore because they seem stupid.  Using your phone at a red light isn’t in the Bible.  It’s not even considered common sense nationwide.  If I were to move back to Texas tomorrow, I could still hold my phone in my hand and make calls while I drive!

After the umpteenth time of trying to reiterate why we have a certain rule in our house, and having my kids give me that blank look that shows stuff isn’t computing, in a fit of frustration, I vowed never to use my phone at a red light again.

That wasn’t where you thought I was going with this, was it?  *wink*

But really.  I just realized that there are areas – giant areas – and sometimes teeny tiny areas – of unsubmission in my own heart.  Things I want to do anyway because I truly think I know better – and because I’ve decided they’re stupid.

And because I was trying my very best to get through to my kids – “Whether you like it or not or care about it or not, God says to obey your mother, and so you should want to do it because you LOVE HIM, and obeying me shows love to Him.  So because you love Him, just do your homework assignment the way I told you to.  Okay?”

I realized that often times I show hypocrisy.

Now there are gigantic ways I do this, of course, and you might be saying, “Come now, RJ!  What’s this about phones at red lights?  Next you’re probably going to talk to us about watching illegally ripped movies on Youtube or fibbing that your vacuum cleaner stopped working and that’s why your carpet wasn’t clean!  No one cares about this little stuff.  We all do it.  Talk to us about your big, deep sins.  Let’s gawk at that.”

Oh, my friend, I usually do.  I usually talk about the giant stuff on this blog.  But not today.  Today I want to talk to you about a stupid new little law on cell phones at red lights.

Because I think that the same heart attitude of, “I don’t care.  Stupid people made this stupid law and I’m going to do what I want anyway” is the same attitude that my kids have towards completing their chores, and the same attitude I have towards all my biggest sins of pride, ungodly speech, impatience, selfishness, and fear.

“I know what I want, and so I’m going to do it anyway.”

When did Christians become people who tried to get away with as much as possible, instead of people striving for holiness?

And no, I’m not saying we do even the smallest and stupidest of laws so we can be “perfect” and harshly, fearfully lash out at those around us (or maybe even internally judge) like, “How DARE you commit the red-light-law?!  God have MERCY on YOUR SOUL.”

Also, don’t do it because of those watching.  “Kids, let me read you this blog article I just wrote.” *sniffs and straightens lapels* “You can get a good look at how righteous Mama is!  Feel like wanting to be me?”

No, I’m saying, strive for holiness in all those little unsubmissive ways that are pricking your conscience right now – for no one other than the Lord Himself.  Because you love Him.

You’re so in love with Him, that you’d lay down every pleasure, everything that you’re lazy about, everything that you just can’t do without, and everything asked of you just because He defines your happiness and reality. Because you want the cleanest conscience and the holiest living because you’re just in love with who He is – and simply because He says so. ❤

 

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 RJ Conte is a wife and homeschool mother of three little girls (aged 7 and under) by day, and an author by night.  She has written a devotional for toddlers and preschool kids that is meatier than the typical fare they hear in Sunday school.  ASTOUND delivers doctrine and big concepts for the very small, and teaches them to love God, in language they can understand!

 

Do you have a FACE?

When it’s 2 AM and your brain is shot because you were up to 4 AM last night transferring files onto your new laptop, and you’re still busy doing it tonight and you’re sooooo done…

You get weird thoughts.

There was a line in a George MacDonald book I was reading called “The Fisherman’s Lady” that is sitting deep inside of me and making me think.
In it, the character of the blind bagpiper is this really quirky old man. He’s been blind his whole life. He adores his family but hates his enemies. He’s a stubborn, stubborn, passionate man with a few obvious strengths and a few glaring faults. Someone with the last name of Campbell killed his great grandmother, dooming that generation of his family members to a hard life. Even though that doesn’t affect his own personal life, he’s sworn to DESPISE anyone from the Campbell family – going so far as to wish them dead. Like it runs deep.

At one point, someone tries to challenge him biblically on his hatred and lack of forgiveness – this didn’t even happen in his generation! The guy is a really decent grandfather, good citizen, and Christian man, yet he can’t forgive this enemy of his ancestor. It’s like he needs something to passionately hate. His pride is a scourge on his heart.

Her words just don’t get through to him, and she finally approaches his grandson, the main character, Malcolm.
Malcolm has a thought that keeps sitting in my brain.

Okay, look at this picture of these babies. Just look at each one’s FACE. See the vulnerable, adorable HUMANITY in that face.

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Well, everyone started out a baby just like that. And everyone has a FACE. A face with humanity all over it.

Malcolm points this out and tells the woman,

“When I was a young laddie at the school, I once heard that a certain boy was mocking my grandfather. When I heard that I thought I could have just cut the heart out of him and sunk my teeth right into it. But when I finally found him and got a grip of him, and the rascal turned up a frightened dog-face to me, I just couldn’t drive my clenched fist into it. Mem, a face is an awful thing! There’s something looking out from inside that just prevents you from doing what you might otherwise like to it. But my grandfather’s never seen a face in his life.”

I wonder if that’s why people can be so vicious on FACEbook – because there really isn’t a FACE to be seen anywhere in the conversation. If that’s why the real wicked lurking in people’s hearts actually come out online. We don’t really see the eyes – the window to the soul – of the people we’re talking to before we cut their hearts out and sink our teeth into them.

And then there’s Charlottesville.

Seriously, I don’t even use the word “race.” There isn’t such a thing. There are different levels of melanin in the skin, and, to be honest, melanin doesn’t interest me a hoot. I don’t give a rat’s behind about melanin. Now we all have a FACE. And the face is always, always beautiful. The face says we are all human beings. ❤

Some people who have eyes that work are actually blind. Look into the FACE. And see people God created and loves. That’s all that matters to me!

Forgive, love, give, serve, and be the FACE of Christ to others!

 

Clean Romance, Infertility, and Marriage Advice from Melanie D. Snitker!

MelanieDSnitker2016Melanie D. Snitker is a sweet author friend of mine from Texas.  She writes stories with a heart – an emphasis on a deep love for each character, and a romance to go with it!  I’d like to think that if you enjoy my novels, you’d enjoy hers.  🙂

Melanie has prayed for me, knit baby cutesies for me, and encouraged me at the hardest of times.  I hope all of you can support her worthy books!  Thanks for being you, Melanie!

You can purchase Melanie’s books here on Amazon.com!

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Me: Hi, Melanie! Here at BlondeRJ, we’re all about Myers-Briggs types.  Share about being an ISFJ and what your personality is like. 🙂

Melanie: You know, I’d never thought much about the Myers-Briggs types until I met you, RJ! I find it all fascinating. Like you mentioned, I’m an ISFJ. I’m definitely quiet and very introverted. I get along well with people, and I tend to be a really good listener. If I say I’m going to do something, not only will it get done, but I’ll do my best while I’m working on it. I’m organized, and I rely heavily on lists and my online calendar. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced ties into my being an introvert: I also tend to worry about what others think. I’m slowly getting better about this as I get older, but it was something that held me back for a long, long time. I think that it will always be something that’s in the back of my mind to a degree. I have to admit I really admire those who can say and do anything and not worry what others will think!

Me: Even we 100% extroverts can be people-pleasers and worry what others think, for sure.  I’ve been LOVING the book When People are Big and God is Small by Edward Welch, and would love to recommend it right now to my readers.  It’s helped me put God in His proper place, and see my need to love others instead of just *need* them.  🙂
Speaking of loving people, you write the sweetest romances ever. What first inspired you to help and write about clean romance for Christians?

Melanie: I enjoyed romance novels as a teen, but didn’t really read much beyond Janette Oke, Dee Henderson, and a few other Christian authors. When I got into high school, I started to browse through some of the other romance novels at the library. I was shocked to find that clean romance was a difficult thing to find. That’s when I decided I would start writing the kind of romance novels I wouldn’t mind my own daughter reading some day.

Me: What a sweet legacy!
How many different places have you lived, and what is your favorite?

Melanie: I’ve lived in Arizona, both in Flagstaff and Phoenix. A lot of people that haven’t been to Flagstaff are surprised to find that it has a lot of mountains, and it can get a fair amount of snow in the winter. I’ve also lived in many different places in Oregon as well as Texas (where I currently reside). My favorite place to live overall is Texas. The people here are incredibly friendly, I like the mild winters, and I love all the wildflowers (bluebonnets, especially) in the spring. My second favorite place would be Oregon, especially in the fall when all the leaves turn. Gorgeous!

Me: I live in the gorgeous pacific northwest as well!  Love it!
Melanie, you were a huge encouragement to me two years ago. Can you tell us about one of the hardships you’ve experienced and how God has used that in your life? ❤

Melanie: I have endometriosis and it has resulted in a lot of infertility issues that I’ve dealt with for a long time. It took two and a half years of tests and a surgery for my endo before we found out our son was on the way. After he was born, we’d hoped that the next baby would be much easier. Four and a half years later (after another surgery and different medications), we were finally able to try one round of IVF. Praise God, one of those sweet embryos burrowed in to stay, and our daughter was born eight months later. There were so many times during this journey when I wondered where God was and why this had to be so hard. But I learned more about patience than I would’ve liked to, and I also learned about God’s perfect timing. There have been many times in the last six years since our daughter was born where I’ve looked back and realized that, even though I didn’t think so at the time, God really did know what He was doing!

Me: I loved your faith when I was going through that hardship myself!  And you have absolutely beautiful kiddos!!  You have absolutely beautiful characters too.  😛 Which character, in all of your books, is your favorite?

Melanie: I’m going to have to go with Lexi (although Lance is a close second). She’s introduced in Finding Peace, the first book the Love’s Compass series. Then she and Lance get their own story in the second book, Finding Hope. She’s my favorite because she goes through a lot in her life with a cancer diagnosis that leads to a complete hysterectomy which saves her life. It also means she’ll never have children of her own. What causes her inability to get pregnant may be very different from what I or many of my friends have experienced with infertility, but many of the emotions are the same. She’s definitely a character that was written straight from my heart.

Me: Awww.  I remember Lexi!  So what’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your books?

Melanie: I’ve had several readers thank me for creating quality, clean romance novels that they can read without the guilt, and that they wouldn’t hesitate to let their teen daughters read as well. It’s what I originally set out to do, and even though the road of an author can be a rocky one at times, it’s encouragement like that which reminds me it’s all worth it!

Me: Amen! On a real-life front, how do you think we, as Christians, can learn to love like Christ more in our marriages?

Melanie: I think it’s easy to get caught up in every day life. Things get hectic, the kids always need something, and by the end of the day, it’s easy to feel like we have nothing left to give. But it’s the little things that show Christ’s love in a marriage. Like when my husband is completely exhausted, yet takes the trash out with a smile. Or when I’ve had a rough day and I’m tired, but I bake my husband the cookies he loves because it will brighten his afternoon. The other day, we had a busy afternoon full of cleaning and grocery shopping. I’ll admit, I was a complete grump by dinner and not much fun to be around. Instead of getting upset with me, or even letting my mood change his, my sweet husband made a trip to the store to find something I was looking for, and even brought something else back that made me laugh. Finding ways to put our spouse first, even when it isn’t easy, can give us even a small glimpse of the kind of unconditional love that Christ has for us!

Me: I think your home must be very joyful and warm.  🙂  Thank you, Melanie!

Melanie: Thanks again, RJ!

On Being Married to Four Very Different People

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I’m married to four different men.  

Seriously.

I’m married to three at the same time, and keep getting remarried to one over and over again.

And no, I’m not a polygamist.

Let me explain.

I was at a bridal shower last month and the host opened up the floor for people to give the bride-to-be advice.  I hadn’t come prepared to say anything.  I had a newborn, was sleep-deprived, and was barely clearheaded enough to know what day it was.  But as I listened to the advice she was getting, I felt a sudden desire to share what she wasn’t hearing.

So many people told her, “Put Christ at the center of your marriage.”

“Make Christ the center of your marriage!”

“Keep Christ at the center!”

Like, seriously people, what does that MEAN?

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No offense to the advice-givers, but I’ve been married for 7 1/2 years, and I have no idea what that means.  How would a young woman who’s never been married have any idea what that means?

It’s not even biblical.  Nowhere in Scripture does it say, “Make Christ the center of your marriage.”

It says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matthew 6:33) and to let Christ rule supreme in your OWN heart, but it never says “Make Christ the center of your life AND this other guy’s.”  It’s impossible.

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For some people, I know what they’re trying to say, but I think this is a trendy comment. It feels like a very cute phrase, but what does it mean?  Ask a Christian couple in head-over-heels happiness on their wedding day if “Christ is at the center of their relationship,” and they’ll tell you YES because they’re happy and things are blissful right then.  Let alone the fact that both of them could be living as selfishly as all get out and have no idea what real marriage looks like.

Ask another Christian couple if “Christ is at the center of their relationship” after their child has died and their finances have fallen apart and they’re struggling and seeing a counselor, and they might say NO, because everything looks bad and they feel unhappy, let alone that it may be at that moment that they are drawing close to God like never before.  I think we often have a lousy idea of what being Christlike actually is – and are far more concerned with what it outwardly looks like.

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For others, they might mean that the bride-to-be should be actively pursuing putting their marriage in a focused-on-God state.  But that’s even worse advice!  Many women are running around stressed and weary trying to force her marriage to be more “spiritual.”  Trying to force her husband to spend time with the Lord with her, trying to force prayer time, force service, force giving (and vice versa!) and it’s just not possible.

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Controlling something that takes two people is just not possible.

Many women spend more time and energy worrying about whether or not their husband or their “marriage” is righteous and God-focused, when all she is supposed to do is focus on whether or not SHE is righteous and God-focused.  What we should be telling a bride-to-be is that her “marriage” and her husband is not a fixer-upper project she controls, and that when she and her husband individually make sure they have a personal relationship with the Lord, that sanctification will follow.  That she’s not responsible for both halves of her marriage – only her own half.  That she and her husband will not go to heaven “as a set” but will be responsible for their own individual salvation.  That spending time pursuing God as a couple is wonderful and worthy, but will never take the place of pursuing God individually – it’s just an added bonus.  That if her relationship with God MUST involve her husband holding her hand, that she may not have a relationship with Christ at all – and it’s not going to stand the test of time if (God forbid!) something happened to her husband.  And that each spouse spending their energy trying to force the other to “make our marriage Christ centered” is a waste of time.  If only we taught brides to be more focused on their own personal walk with Christ, and not to idolize their husband.

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Because your spouse is a rapidly changing, growing living being.

Which leads me to my four husbands. And the advice I gave the bride-to-be that day.

My mom always said that you marry three people: the person YOU think he is, the person HE thinks he is, and the person he really is.  I think that’s dead right, but I think she’s missing the fourth guy: the person he will become.

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I met my husband when I was 19 and he was 18 years old.  Today, we are downright unrecognizable from back then.  Some things I miss, most things I cringe when I remember.  Most of the changes have been great, a few a little sad.

And 7 more years of marriage from now, he and I may be downright unrecognizable from where we are today – and I don’t just mean physically, although we do drastically change physically as well!  Currently, we are 29 and 30 years old, parents of three little girls under the age of 6, homeowners in the pacific northwest, members of a small church, anime aficionados, an author, a League of Legends player, a K-drama enthusiast. But 7 years from now, none of that could be true.

No one warns brides-to-be and husbands-to-be that you’re also marrying a stranger.

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Age, situations, accidents, promotions, jobs, friends, parenting, LIFE… it changes people. The things you love about your spouse today could disappear tomorrow.  The things that irritated you about them last year could be endearing traits you miss with all your heart next year.  The personality traits you thought you could count on could morph into something else entirely.

You are committing to marry someone who WILL BE, in ways you can not predict.

It’s a bit frightening!

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Have you ever answered the question, “Why do you love me?” with “Because you’re you?”  Well, what if they stop being “them”?  And become someone else?  We all do.  And that’s true love – committing to love that person no matter who they are tomorrow, no matter how life and trials and growth warp and change and mature and harden and soften and challenge and strengthen and weaken and bruise and injure and purify and solidify them.

Can you love a person you may not know tomorrow?

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That’s the thought I want to share with brides-to-be.  Can you let go of everything that person does FOR you today that makes you feel good, and love a person who may do none of those tomorrow?  They can’t really answer, “Yes, I can,” because they’re not there yet.  What they need to answer is, “Yes, I choose to commit to do so” because they are making a choice, and God promises to help them to succeed.  Love can grow and change and morph as well, and, while the devil wants to tear apart marriages, God vows to help us love like He does, which is unconditional and completely inclusive, no matter what life throws our way.

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ASTOUND!

Do you remember that I mentioned starting my first non-fiction project a few posts back?  In “Your Child Doesn’t Love God,” I talk about dealing with an ongoing behavior with one child, and feeling the call to write a booklet on the gospel, God’s love, and His greatness for preschool through young-elementary-aged children.

That booklet is complete!  And will be on Amazon in a matter of days!

The Lord has really grown and stretched me through writing this 29-page, pocket-sized booklet, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to write it!  My husband helped immensely, and an amazing team of beta readers has critiqued the thing’s socks off 😛  until it’s shiny and as perfect as it can be.  🙂

An old California friend, and fellow Christian mom, also graciously offered her services to provide artistic touches throughout, and you can check out the whimsical watercolor artist, Kelli Hoekendorf, on her Facebook page here.

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the first pages of the booklet with her adorable art!

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The booklet has been endorsed by fellow Christian non-fiction author, Bruce Ray:

“ASTOUND is a big concept (sanctification) simplified for little hands and little feet. In these few pages RJ Conte avoids the big traps of legalism and lawlessness and tells children (and their caregivers) that the way to become holy is by learning about God and loving him so much that you don’t want to displease him. Easy to read, but big ideas!”
~Bruce Ray (pastor, police chaplain, author, and grandfather)

and by author, editor, and #WIPjoy creator, Bethany Jennings:

ASTOUND is packed with beautiful, thought-provoking doctrines
for young hearts to ponder, written in a way that makes them
easy and accessible for parents to discuss with their little
ones – Bethany Jennings (mother of 4, author, and editor)

Be watching for the announcement that the ebook version is available later on this week!  (The paperback pocket version will be available in the following weeks.)  Please be in prayer that God would use it for His glory!

Also please be in prayer for me.  I will hit 38 weeks, in this pregnancy, on Tuesday.  I’m getting over a cold, and am still wanting to attempt a VBAC after two c-sections.  I’d love prayer for a safe delivery and healthy baby!

Thank you, everyone!
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Top Posts of 2016!

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It’s time for the list of the top 10 posts of the year!

This was a slower year for me, mostly due to pregnancy and all that comes with that, so I only wrote almost half of the amount of posts of the previous year.  In 2015, I wrote 93, and this year I wrote an exact even 50.  BUT, even with half the posts, I actually, just barely, got more views and visitors this year than last year, meaning that my posts are bringing in more readers than ever!  Hooray for that!

This year, I had 11,687 visitors to my blog with 16,043 views and ended the year with 118 blog followers.  *cheer*  (To follow this blog, click FOLLOW on the right hand side of this page) 

Without further ado, what were the most popular posts of this year?  Well, not all of them were even actually published on this blog this year – some have remained super popular from previous years, and have lived on with lives of their own all over the Internet.

Sitting at #1, by far, with no competition, and with around 35 hits A DAY is:

Anime Characters by Myers-Briggs Type (with 7,164 individual views this year!!)mami_tomoe_render_by_moeblueberry1771-d5evnl7

This post is also #1 on any Google search for “anime characters by Myers-Briggs type and continually brings in guests to my blog.  Kind of exciting, even if it is very niche.  So if you like anime AND personality typing, this is the post for you.  Identified by name, show title, and picture, I have anime characters from various shows in neat little groups according to their types.  🙂

 

The Day I Met Job (with 996 individual views)PCOS Challenge Infographic

This makes me so happy that it’s #2.  This is the deeply personal testimony of what God did in my heart and life last year after suffering with secondary infertility.  It is also about my best friend and her daughter, an appreciation of my mother-in-law, a nod to a fellow author, and mostly a testimony about a hero of the faith I met last year.  Please read the article.  I hope my vulnerability and sharing of God’s greatness touches your heart!

 

An Open Letter to My Pregnant Sister (with 460 views)beautiful-wedding-tiara

Still going strong.  This is a writeup I did for baby showers that I first composed for my sister 2 1/2 years ago, and have tweaked a few times since to share with other expectant moms.  There must be a need for this, as people continually search for this online and find my site.  🙂

 

Tied with “My Pregnant Sister” is: Setting up the Romance Ship (with 460 views)austenland-holding_13254521245

How fun that my breakdown of the smart secret to writing a winning romance story did so well!  I thought this one was a bit obvious until I read (and watched) many people miss this key point to setting up their relationship story. Thinking I had nothing to lose, I threw my own theory out there, and it did very well!

 

Should Married Women Vote Against Their Spouse? (with 349 views)your_vote_counts

This one was a hot button when I first posted it a few years ago, and it continues to be something people search for and find through my blog. Read at your own risk…  🙂

 

Could You Love This Genderless Person? (with 287 views)5

Maybe it was just a catchy title, but this was a very niche article about genderbender dramas that I posted. A “genderbender” is when a guy dresses up and pretends to be a girl, or vice versa, and the opposite sex falls for them.  I explore this trope and why it means so much to women, and maybe what’s spiritually at the heart of this “forbidden romance” story.

 

In Memory of Victoria Mercy Conte (with 262 views)conte-052

A year and a half after the sudden and tragic passing of my husband’s baby sister, this post, written by *him* not me, still makes the top 10 on my list.  Please read my husband’s beautiful, tear-jerker tribute to a lovely life that sits very dear to our hearts.

 

NAME THE BABY! (with 221 views)namebabygirl02

I’m legitimately shocked that this made the top 10!  Last year I teamed up with lovely author Melanie D. Snitker to do a giveaway and promote each other’s books.  Readers named the baby that her main couple was pregnant with, and we got some great responses.  I need to do more on this blog with fellow authors next year!  In the meantime, check out Melanie’s very successful books on Amazon.

 

Asian TV for the American Newbie Viewer (with 188 views)patemainverted_dvd-f

This is a fun list that I kept on my sidebar.  Always hearing me talk about anime and kdramas but have no idea what’s safe or good to watch or where to start?  Not sure you’d even like Asian TV?  I put together a “starter” list of Asian TV for people who don’t like Asian TV, so to speak.  These are storylines and shows that I think any American could love without feeling too “eastern” in the storytelling style.  Give any of these shows a chance, and let me know if they did not disappoint!

 

And last but not least: Sarcastically Realistic Movie Descriptions – Name That Movie!2a3

This one also surprises me that it made the list.  This was a funny little game I posted on my blog a while ago, and it’s done well recently.  Someone must have reposted them.  If you’re looking for a comedic way to describe popular movies, as a game for a party you’re hosting, this might be the post for you.

 

So which blog post of mine was YOUR favorite this year?  Leave a comment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Which I Say the Big, Bad C Word: Courtship

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Courtship…

…is a hot button these days, and I’m not always sure why.  Some Christians have been the victims of dictatorial, patriarchal homes, but most don’t even have a clue what the word actually means. As a society, I think we’ve swung back and forth so many times on relationship norms that most of us are dizzy.  I think every generation “does it differently.”

Recently, my uncle, Richard Briggs, in an author Q and A query, asked me about my own ideas on courtship (I had a very successful and happy one!) and how it plays into my writing love stories.

Since we’re raising a new generation of children – my own included – and I’m seeing the pendulum swing again to “get rid of courtship altogether,” I’d like to say to look past the big, bad C word.  What even IS “courtship”?  Every single group I’ve ever been in defines it differently.

Let’s just talk relationships on the whole. My girls are young now but it is NEVER too early to start planning for and being aware of this.  You are raising children not just to be obedient kiddos in your home, but to be godly adults out in the real world.  Your home is just a stepping ground for all of life and, let’s face it, most of our kids are going to get married. So that relationship with their spouse will last the rest of their life, and be the most important relationship in their life.

So what are my views on courtship?  Here’s my succinct personal definition:

Committing to love, serve, and honor God by being intentional in doing the best for others and looking at relationships through the lens of future marriage. Being future-mindful and Christ-centered in your relationships, not selfish in your physical affections and giving into lusts, and not causing anyone else to sin, including yourself. Eschewing the worldly, selfish ideas of playing around before finding a spouse.

Beyond that, my ideas are so simple, and yet so foundational.  I think, when you muddy it up with more than this, you get into legalism. Let’s leave out all the common sense physical rules like what’s your curfew, if you’re chaperoned, if you kiss before your wedding day, etc. etc.  That’s up to your home and your child. My husband and I haven’t set any of those in stone. We’ll see what we decide when the time comes and where the child’s heart and temptations are.  And our “common sense rules” may be different from yours – and there should be no judgment from house to house on those types of safety rules.  But honestly, that’s not what I’m thinking about or looking for when I’m training my children to be spouses.

I want only three things.

A. I want them to so love God that they’re committed to honesty, morality/godliness, and Him most of all.

(See the previous blog post in the link above.) It’s why I’m seriously, seriously addressing sneakiness and dishonesty and selfishness and other traits now.  My child lies to me or selfishly hoards me or is disloyal to friends?  He’s going to be those things to his spouse too.  They don’t just disappear in marriage or adulthood.

B. I want to so strongly have my kids’ hearts – be such good friends with them and be so close to them that they trust me and communicate with me.

It takes two to tango on this one.  I can only do my part, and pray that God leads them to value me as their mother and counselor and friend.  ❤

C. I want them to so love others and think much less of themselves that they’re committed to protecting and doing what’s best for the opposite gender always.

At the heart of the “courtship model” that I know is protecting others because you value them so much as fellow human beings, and you love and care about their safety, their hearts, and their emotions.  Leading the opposite gender on when you have no intention of marrying or committing to them – whether it’s through mass dating or just being too affectionate as friends – can injure them greatly.

At the heart of relationship values that I was taught was protecting and loving others as better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)

This starts in just sharing toys as toddlers and choosing to go last to getting your piece of candy.  These foundational things prepare them for why they choose what they do with the opposite gender in the future.

 

2DRJ Conte is a Christian, realistic, issue-driven fiction authoress with six books on Amazon, including the novel, Heartsick, for young adults. In Heartsick, the main character, a homeschooled college student, who has devised a picture-perfect courtship model with her father, turns her back on it to get entangled with a guy who has a very mysterious and dark past.  The novel has been likened to A Walk to Remember meets Hitchcock, and is recommended to any young Christian lady starting out on her own.

$2.99 on Amazon.com