This transcript has been edited for clarity.
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Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with my sister in law, Laura and today is our bi-annual Ask Us Anything show. We do one of these in the fall and one in the spring where we just gather questions from our community and have a little bit of a longer show, which people ask for from time to time.
Laura: Buckle up people! We're feeling very chatty today. You should have heard us before we started recording.
Emily: Exactly. First off, we just want to let you guys know that tomorrow we are having a flash sale.
Laura: We are so excited. This is sort of the moment I feel like Emily and I have been waiting for, our team has been waiting for, and you guys have really let us know that you are waiting for this. You guys have been asking us for T-shirts and mugs and other paraphernalia and we are finally able to be in a spot where we can open a shop. It'll be a kind of a quick flash sale type of thing. We only ordered a limited quantity so we’ll basically run the shop for a few days, Lord willing, until it sells out. We have really cute tees.
Emily and I are wearing them and they're adorable. We wear them pretty much every day, so definitely check them out. You can see the designs. There are all sorts, so no matter whether you like cursive, cute handwriting, straight lines, or the classic arm logo, we have every type of style for you hopefully to meet whatever you prefer. We are working on mugs while we’re recording this, so we’re not sure if we'll have the mugs. So we just want to let you guys know that we have this awesome shop and we hope you guys will go visit.
Emily: Now we're going to dive right in. I already gave a little bit of background on this but whenever Laura and I are curating these questions, we go through and we try to look for what were some of the most commonly or frequently asked things. We try to think about things that we don't have a show on but we’ll link everything in the show notes for you because your question may be on our site, on a post that we did with either some type of answer or some resources that we’ve provided for that, so if you don't hear your question today look there.
Laura: We've answered a lot. We've had like four Ask Us Anything shows. We've answered a lot of these questions and as Emily said, there are a lot of shows that really go in depth. You probably don't even want your big heart question answered here today, because we won't go into depth. So you can head to the show notes and we'll link as much as we possibly physically can for the hundreds of questions that come in. We do try to figure out if we haven’t answered it, how can we point you to the right resource? Head to those show notes.
[3:37] Emily: All right. Let's dive right in. This is a light-hearted one to start. Minivan or SUV, Laura? What kind of car do you use for your family?
Laura: I don't want to talk about my car; I want to talk about Emily’s car.
Emily: Oh my.
Laura: Not car, that thing is a tank.
Emily: Giant van. Last year we purchased a giant nine-passenger conversion van.
Laura: It is so hilarious because my kids will see delivery trucks and be like, “It's Aunt Emmy!”
Emily: It's been really awesome. It's actually been a pleasant surprise but the story is really cool. Laura wants me to share on here because it is a big answer to prayer and the story’s going to include some details that I don't typically share on the show—so just take them in stride with the rest of the story. After our fifth child was born, all of our kids and their car seats were growing out of the current van that we had so it was an option to get one of those minivans with that third middle seat—
Laura: This is what I drive, a Honda Odyssey basically.
Emily: Because you can just pack those car seats in.
Laura: That is a classic mom car. Every parking lot I roll into, it’s like, “Which one’s my van? There are 55 of the same one.” There's my answer for you to this one.
Emily: That was one of our options and that would have worked, but if you've heard the gospel in family size/family planning show, you know we wanted to have a larger than average family, potentially have more children. We were like, “We’re just going to go for it.”
Laura: They were committed, you guys.
Emily: We were going to get the big van and we did. As time went on, our son’s developmental delays, became more significant and we started to realize that this was going to be a really long-term journey for our family. It was just a lot more difficult. It kind of started to change our plans for our family size and we got to this point where we felt like, “I think for now, unless God changes our hearts, we may be done having children.”
At that point I was driving around this massive van around town feeling like, “Lord, why did we get this big van? Because you’ve really changed our plans for a family and we could have done something different.” I brought that up to my husband and literally that same week we took my son into a doctor who told us he’s going to need a pediatric wheelchair. He's not going to be walking independently for a long time and even if he can walk a little bit, he’s going to need a transport wheelchair for a very long time.
That was obviously very hard news, although we’d already had a seed of doubt planted. That day I walked out of the appointment and I flung open the doors to the side of my giant van and you guys know what was right there? A big spot that was the perfect size for a pediatric wheelchair. I just lost it and in that moment, those times when God just gives you special comfort and reminds you, “I already know what you need before you know that you need it. I am a billion steps ahead of you, I care about you, and I’m going to be with you through this process.” I think so many of God's promises came flooding back. Now we drive around a big van with five kids and a perfect spot for a wheelchair in it and it's just been a tremendous blessing for the family. That's my van story.
[7:25] Laura: That’s why I wanted her to answer because I wanted you guys to hear that and just be encouraged. I am definitely an emotional person but that is a legit tear-jerker, amazing story of God's providence and provision for Emily's family. The next question we have is, “What is it like living with your parents, Laura? Any tips on clashing with parents?”
Emily: For those of you who don't know, Laura moved to Iowa at the beginning of last year and she's been living with her parents, my in-laws, for how many months now?
Laura: It's nine months, right now. I have the recording. It’s been a long time.
Emily: It's been fun to watch the process because whenever I ask either Laura or my in-laws about it, everyone just says it's been a really great experience and they're all getting along and it's been great. So share your tips Laura!.
Laura: You guys have heard me talk about my parents. I do really think the world of them and I think honestly, living with them has been great. I don't say that just to honor them as they listen or anything but because it's true. I think I'm ready to be at my own place for sure. We should be in in a few months so I don't want to act like, “I'm just going to camp out forever with them,” but one beautiful thing is we do have our own space. My parents live in a really gigantic old school house so there is a lot of space and as far as what kind of logistical things have worked well for us, we definitely had a talk before we moved in and talked through stuff like, how are our finances going to work? How’s the living situation going to work? Whose roles are what? Generally, without spilling all the details, I think the biggest thing that you have to figure out is food, right?
So we talked through I'm going to be making all the food. Mike and I—my husband—are making sure that the pantry and the fridge are always full. I think because meals are just the biggest part of the community in a home and everyone has to eat. We also talked through common grandparent thing like gum or what happens when they ask you to do something. What's the authority chain?
That was really helpful to lay some ground rules. Generally, I always say I try to live like my parents don't live here, meaning I don't expect them to babysit. It's not an assumption for me. I pick up the toys; I don't expect them to do that. I cook the food. If we need food, I make the food. I answer my kids’ questions even if they're directed to my mom or someone else, I try to intervene and protect my parents. I assume that I want to live in a way that doesn't expect them to help me but at the same time, I also live as my parents do live there.
I remind my kids to have inside voices, no jumping on the couch or other rules that my parents appreciate that maybe I wouldn't necessarily mind in my own home, but because I want to honor them. We definitely shuffled some things around and I make sure that I am enforcing those and I don't expect my own parents to enforce those things. I grew up with my parents and so I know how they live and I think that is an advantage. If I were living with maybe my mother-in-law, who is another wonderful woman, I could see more tension with a daughter and a mother-in-law.
Emily: I know what you mean.
Laura: I could see that being more difficult. I also think that that's advantageous for us but we chat about things. If something's bothersome we bring it up, not in the heat of the moment but we do address it so there aren't things that are just festering that's really important. My family is a just a big communicative family and we always believe the best to one another and that has really really helped.
Emily: It's been a joy to watch you guys do that and I know we had my parents live with us for the first six months after my twins were born. They moved to Iowa and we lived in a very small space together with actually my brother as well. It was a trying time not because of living with each other was hard personality-wise but just because it was a lot of people together and a lot to manage, but when I look back on that season I am so thankful and I think, “Wow, I really needed their help during that time.”
It was just a joy and something that I think overall was a great privilege for both of us to be able to help each other out in that way and then come out of that season with a really strong relationship on the other end. Good tips.
[11:40] Laura: Good advice. Emily, do you use essential oils? This was a big time asked question.
Emily: Yes, it was. No, I do not. I did buy a starter kit years ago when it was first becoming popular so I don't know if I just didn't do it right—I'll take the responsibility for not being able to figure it out—but it wasn't that effective for our family. I also feel like my husband wasn't on board. He kind of teased me about it, which was totally fine. I haven't really looked back after that. I do still use lavender sometimes.
Laura: It smells amazing.
Emily: Epsom salts or bath bomb are awesome. I still use it for that sometimes when I'm trying to go to bed but I am so happy for those of you who do use them. Seriously, if you use essential oils and they work wonderfully for you and you love them, two thumbs up.
Laura: I would say I'm definitely similar to Emily. I have a lot of friends who love them, swear by them, think they're amazing and that is awesome, but it just wasn't for me. It's just not something that we've ever really gotten into. I don't even know if I've ever spent any money on them.
Emily: I’ve tried to be given the samples.
Laura: Yes, you probably have. We probably have some samples. They seem really neat and they do smell amazing.
[12:54] Emily: All right. The next question is what do you think about forcing your child to hug grandma and grandpa?
Laura: We could even just expand this to anybody who asks for a hug. This happens all the time. I have stories of random people coming up and trying to hug my kids. People dote on them and use physical touch. I think that there's definitely a lot going around that the experts would say, “Hey, you don't really want to encourage any unwanted physical contact,” so we always want to show caution and step in.
I think that's something that I've learned is to be brave and be willing to step in and redirect the person or whatever. The biggest thing we do with our kids is that when we walk in—whether it's a grandparent they know well or a great grandma or somebody else—we’ll say, “Hey, do you want to give a hug, a handshake, or a high five?” and just saying it in a fun and friendly voice gives kids the option. If they want to just high five, then that's totally fine and if they want to run in for a big hug, they can do that too. I think that that's been a helpful way to avoid unwanted touch. Obviously, it doesn't protect from zero touch at all but especially if someone you know and trust but your child is not really into it, it's a pretty great thing.
Emily: I feel that's an element of using discernment and wisdom. As a parent, I think you can kind of look at your child and say, “They’re really genuinely uncomfortably, they're afraid.” I don't want to force them to hold someone or touch someone if they don't want to, but there are other times when you can tell your child is just being a stinker. It’s a very safe great grandma that they could give a high five to. I think that’s that type of situation it just takes mom and dad's awareness and knowing what to do there.
Laura: You can prep your kids before you go and especially like if it’s a great-grandmother in a nursing home, where your child's being more nervous because the environment is different, but I think you could certainly prep them and say, just to be polite, you have the option to do these things and talk it through with them. I think that's always really helpful.
Emily: I like that as an opportunity to talk about why we may greet someone that way—
Laura: Yes, what’s respectful?
Emily: Yes, and for them to explain why maybe they don't want to greet someone that way.
Emily: Great conversations.
[15:19] Laura: All right. Oh, this one's a fun one. This is the most asked question both the last Ask Us Anything, which we didn't answer it, and this Ask Us Anything. You guys want to know what our Enneagram numbers are.
Emily: All right. Stay tuned for this entire answer because there's part one and then there's part two. Part one is our Enneagram numbers. Laura, do you want to share first?
Laura: Okay. I am a one. I used to think I was a three for a really long time. I tested positive for three. That sounds weird. On the free test, I kept getting a three and I would get a one as my runner-up. It wasn't until I was listening to a podcast about the Enneagram—and I will link to it in the show notes because then you can all go listen to your own numbers—that I just felt like they lifted up something inside of my soul and saw right inside of it.
I was bawling in the car as I was listening because it hit on every fear or sin issue, every little thing that motivates and drives me, I felt like, “Oh, this is terrifying how accurate it is,” how known I felt which, I think is—what we'll get to a little bit later and talk about—why we like things like the Enneagram.
But ones tend to have a very strong sense of right and wrong, they want to improve the world using any influence they have. I think that they believe they can change the world. I believe that I can change the world, and not in like a big-headed way because I believe Emily can change the world, I believe you listening can do it as well. I believe in people. I believe that one person can make a huge difference and that was like a core belief for me, and it's something that typically a one will take everything they have and throw it at whatever it is. For me, I think its Risen Motherhood. And I'm really huge on honesty and fairness.
Ones are supposedly super hard working people, they're big on stewarding resources really well. The downfall is it can seem kind of intense at times, but we’re also people who don't get afraid of hard things. Adversity sort of energizes me and if something is kind of hard, I'm totally okay with it. I could go on and on.
I feel like we all like to talk about ourselves a little bit so I can stop there, but I know that one of the hardest things that I struggle with is having a lot of personal high standards and I can put them on to other people and expect them to meet those standards or feel hurt when they don't meet them. And with that fairness aspect, I really like to justify my actions. I want people to understand I came from a good place and I am trying my best and so let me tell you the 15 million reasons why this is the decision that I made. Anyway, that's kind of the nutshell of me about one.
Emily: I am a seven and Autumn, our Content Manager, wanted me to tell you that apparently, the Enneagram princess for that is Ariel.
Laura: Oh, and the one is Belle which I love. Books! Books!
Emily: Which I can relate too, because she's always in her little chamber of all her little treasures and she's like, “I want more!”
Laura: Floating around! That's Emily. Oh, my word. Trying to pin that girl down.
Emily: I am a seven and I'm not sure if I have any wings. I haven't looked into that. This is information from a free test. I also think there are aspects of the seven that I don't relate to. I don't think I'm that person in the room that's super loud and boisterous, cracking all the jokes all the time and—
Laura: But you're funny when you don't mean to be—
Emily: When I'm sneaky.
Laura: See! Stuff like that. What? Okay, Ariel.
Emily: I think that is maybe true of the Enneagram. It’s not going to clearly define us but the thing that I do relate to is the description of the deeper motivations. When I look at the same patterns throughout my life, one thing that sevens struggle with is trying to find ways to avoid pain and discomfort. If you've listened probably to any of the shows, you've heard me talk a million times about how I don’t really want to do that, that’s kind of hard, that’s kind of uncomfortable, that makes me squirm a little bit.
How can I do something that's fun or new or exciting? I’m the type of person who is going to be pouring my time, my energy, my resources into new and different experiences whether that's intellectual experiences or relational. I love to have as many options and possibilities as possible so I'm going to keep everything open, it makes me a little sick—
Laura: No commitment. She hates commitment. I’m like, commitment or die!
Emily: What's funny is, that doesn't apply to my marriage for me or my kids. That doesn't scare me at all. It's more like, “I don’t really want to put that on my calendar because then what if something more fun comes up?”
Laura: I know. She’s like a toddler.
Emily: And I’m already committed to this. Those are the types of things that go through my mind and I think I can struggle with being scattered. Because there are so many things like I'm kind of a little bit good at everything, I’m a little bit interested in everything, it can be hard to hold that in and really focus that towards something productive.
As you can see from Laura and I explaining this, we’re different, and one thing I would say that's been helpful about the Enneagram—we took this as a team at Risen Motherhood—was to see where Laura and I have some potential pinch points in our relationship and where we actually help each other and can strengthen each other in the areas where we may need to just be more understanding. We need to remember that that person is literally just thinking about this differently than me, and that doesn't mean that they're sinning or they're wrong and I should actually step back and see if their perspective could be helpful, and is maybe something that I need to hear.
Laura: For Emily and I, it’s definitely almost every time that we've had a disagreement or just discord within our relationship, we’re coming around and saying, “I think we're saying the same thing but we're going out at different ways or at the heart level we want the same thing it's just we're displaying that differently.” It's been helpful as a whole team to see but then also especially I think Emily and I’s professional relationship.
We want to talk about this more. We were thinking about doing a whole show on personality tests at some point down the road but with the Enneagram stuff or any type of personality test, I think for both of us, we never want to get too deep into it or too defined by it—even though I was expressing to you guys that the one I felt like they understood me, the guy that was talking on the podcast. Ultimately, we can't really be known or defined by any personality tests. The only one that can know us fully is Christ, so I feel like we need to drop that little truth bomb in here. We try to always not get too wrapped up in personality tests or descriptions or Emily being Arial or me being Belle. I mean, those are really fun things but-—
Emily: But not ultimate things. I think for me the experience was: week one was like, “Oh wow, this is so interesting, cool, new and exciting,” and then week two was like, “Okay, there are some helpful things here. I should consider this,” and then week three was, “I'm really navel-gazing and I'm taking my eyes off of scripture and off of God, and I'm starting to get down this path of introspection and getting into all these other resources.” For me, that was very unhelpful and that was a point where—I actually haven't looked into anything Enneagram related since then—-it was too hard for me to keep my eyes on God and his sufficiency and the fact that God's word gives us everything we need for life and godliness in Christ. So I actually don't need a personality test to tell me how to be like Christ or how to repent and follow him.
I was reading a totally different book the other day and in it was describing a way that they used to categorize personalities hundreds of years ago and was based on your bile. Have you heard this before?
Laura: Like your stomach bile?
Emily: Like your blood. And they thought if you had a melancholy personality or a happy personality it was based on your bodily fluids. We would look at that today and be like, “That’s crazy!” I'm just saying keep it all in context.
[23:54] Laura: Next question. How have your husbands been a part of Risen Motherhood?
Emily: Very behind the scenes. They're not on the podcast.
Laura: They’re not writing articles.
Emily: Both Laura and I have husbands that work jobs completely different than ministry-related jobs. My husband is in property ownership, development, and management. Although he loves God and the gospel, his bent is not towards this type of ministry. But I feel he's really partnered with us by just I think laying down so much of his time and energy to just really help me and by being a co-laborer at home. Literally cleaning, cooking meals, grocery shopping, waking up with the kids, just being with them sometimes while I have to prep or travel. I really appreciate whenever we were looking into the book, he was the first person to be like, “Emily, yes you have to do this. You absolutely should do it. What can we do to make it happen?” He is definitely big on boundaries and he is not impressed by me—
Laura: Neither of our husbands is.
Emily: Hopefully you take that in the right way like, yes on one level he is but another level he sees me and he's able to help me evaluate things. But overall I would just say he's been sacrificial and that has allowed me to do this.
Laura: My husband is probably very similar. He's really good to ask me how it's going and to celebrate the good things that God has done through it and praying for it. I'm the dreamer and he's much more steady and stable. I call him the sieve to my dream. He definitely filters them, but especially when it comes to Risen Motherhood, he has been so incredibly supportive and—I should have asked him—but I know that he's really, really proud of the work that we do here.
He just loves the work that we do and he's proud that we’re able to participate in this and he sees all of the behind the scenes working. He knows how many hours go into this, he knows the frustrations and the sadness, and the wonderful good things that happen too. He's just been my rock through all of it, and I know I couldn't do it without him. And he also, as Emily was saying, is not being impressed.
He always jokes with me like, “You're never going to get a big head, don't worry about it, you live with me, I won't ever let you.” That’s been really good. I am very appreciative that we have husbands that know how normal we are. I always say to other people who I've met in real life or with Risen Motherhood, I feel like anyone could do this. God could have picked anyone. We're just trying to be faithful in the little bit that we know but there isn't anything special about Emily and I. Truly, we want you to know we are co-labors with you guys in this and that we are not better moms than you, or smarter, or wiser. We’re just two regular people that are thinking and attempting to apply the gospel to our daily lives and thankfully our husbands see that and they're also very encouraging of it.
[27:06] Emily: You can attest to this next one Laura but we have this one a lot. Do you wrestle with the influence you have and how has the Lord guided you in this?
Laura: I would say yes.
Emily: Majorly struggled. Laura and I did not get in this to have a platform or to be influencers. We got in this to share the gospel and to learn and grow and to be faithful to the next thing that God was leading us to do. I feel like the influencer, the platform or whatever has kind of been a surprise or it wasn't something that we were striving after.
For me, I think it can feel like it's a thing that always has me on my knees and it's something that God has used to show me areas where I have shame or idolatry that I need to deal with and place my worship and my identity more fully in him, so that I can trust in his gospel and in his word to go out and do the work and for me to continue serving in whatever capacity that is. Oh! It's really hard though.
Laura: As I said, I definitely struggle with the normalness of who I am and I feel like I'm not very good at this, I'm not cut out for it, I say too much. If you could hear me in real life, I tend to be very free with my words and probably more open and overshare naturally, and I worry about saying something untrue but then when I have to think about my words and I think about them too hard, I kind of get tongue-tied and I feel like I can't find this balance.
I'm continually praying for God to allow me to articulate the gospel really clearly and concisely for you guys but to also do it in a personal and relatable way, and that balance has been really hard for me. I think the more that I have come to know God and know about him, I realize there's so much more for me to learn and there's so much room for error and that's terrifying.
It's paralyzing really because we don't want to mislead anyone nor do we want to speak untruths, but it's that reality that we're human and unless we're God, we won't deliver the message perfectly.
We're kind of conduits, we’re vessels that he's using and we're thankful that he is faithful. We can trust that but we also know that we are very fallible. It's such a precious message that we really want to be able to handle it with care, and I often don't feel that I am able to treat it as delicately as I should.
We have a really neat team around us. We have people praying for us, we have our husbands as we mentioned, lots of people supporting us who are willing to call us out, who have called us out, and who have helped us. I think another little twist on that too would just be figuring out what to do next year or the year after. We're in the season of raising young children and there are so many opportunities to say yes to and there are so many ways we could go, there are so many new products we could take on, and there are so many ways to continue to grow in notoriety.
Emily and I have talked a lot about the value of a quiet life and the value of simplicity and how someone who is very faithfully working at home with no blog, no podcasts, no online presence is doing more for the Kingdom, or could be doing more for the Kingdom, than what we're doing. It may be a surprise someday how things pan out. I think we wrestle with how much time to put into things, how much to say yes to things and often we’ll say, “Just because we're saying no doesn’t mean we’re saying no enough.” Figuring out how often to say no has been hard to and to wrestle with “Hey, Is the opportunity now? Is it going to pass and I’ll never get it again?” I don't think that’s true. We don't think that's true.
Emily: Absolutely. I think for somebody out there who really wants to grow or “I’m going to be satisfied once more people like me or my Instagram account grows or my following is more impressive,” and you start to say, “Okay, I'm going to start to do some of the popular things online in order to get there.” Just know that no matter how many followers you have, as two people who've seen their follower count grow, you always want another follower.
It will not ever be enough unless you are fully satisfied in Christ and in what you have in him in the quiet life that you have. Also I would say influence and notoriety or fame or platform or whatever word you want to use, there is a sourness to it and don't believe that that is worth chasing after. If God gives that to you in the midst of sharing the gospel faithfully and that's just part of what he does to grow it, then that is what God does. But it's definitely not something that I would say chase after or get excited about because it comes with a lot of responsibilities and things that are more difficult as well. Laura and I have had to grapple with some of these.
We're very grateful. I don't want to sound like we're not grateful. We are very grateful to be able to share the gospel with so many people, but also I am thankful that God has both Laura and I in a place where I am literally wiping a bottom a million times a day. Kids are burping on me and I'm helping my child who can't talk. There are real struggles in our lives and those things help keep our eyes on Christ alone.
[33:14] Laura: That was kind of a heavier one. We can go on probably forever but will go to the next question. We get a lot of marriage questions with Ask Us Anything all variations but most of them culminate to this very important question, “How do you do date night in your marriage? How do you strengthen your marriage in the busyness of littles? Do you go out? Do you do at home date nights? What does it look like?” Emily’s a little bit passionate about this topic right now.
Emily: I don't know why I’m on this. Maybe because I'm in a season we’re just—
Laura: I'm full board in support of this so just buckle up ladies!
Emily: I think we’re in a season, we both are, where if date night is the indicator of how our marriage is doing, we’re all failing but I think we want to talk about this. Date night is fine and we're going to come back around to that—
Laura: And we have addressed it. We have talked about in a couple of our AUA shows. We will link it for you so you can hear. I don't think the answer has really changed from like a year ago or something but we're taking a different angle, probably more mature Risen Motherhood angle this time.
Emily: In Christian culture, it feels like whenever marriage comes up, the very next sentence is something about date night. It's something Christian couples are like, “Oh! How do we get this on the calendar more?” But I think one thing that's been helpful for us in this season is to remember, what is our marriage actually founded on? Because God's word is true for all people, for all of time, and not all people for all of the time have been in cultures or in situations where there's this idea that you go out to dinner at the restaurant or you have these romantic outings with each other, you travel, or that you're at home together and—that's again not to say it's not important, but—we have to remember God's word equips us to have a healthy marriage that doesn't necessarily include our modern Western idea of having time together as a couple.
Laura: I think that we all think that our marriage will be enhanced or better or our communications problems will be solved if we get out on a date night. If we just have that alone time with our husband, then our marriage will be better or we’ll feel loved or there will be romance or all of those things. Ultimately, date night isn’t the end in and of itself and we can tell you to do at home date nights, we can tell you to get out, we can tell you take a yearly vacation. All of those practical tips are really true and they're really helpful, but we also want encourage you to not have an expectation that a date night is going to transform your heart or your husband's heart or change the marriage.
Only God does that work and he can do it in the little years with no date nights and months and months on end of your husband traveling—maybe he’s in the military, maybe he travels for work, and there is literally not even an opportunity for date night, but God can strengthen and transform that marriage. If you want a changed marriage more than planning a date night and saving for a babysitter or whatever that may be, start with praying for your marriage, with reading God’s word, with serving and loving your husband right where you guys are at in the daily grind. That is ultimately what is going to change your marriage. It’s not just a night out where you get to wear wedges.
Emily: Which is super fun!
Laura: I never wear wedges even on a date nights. Flats is where it's at for me. I don't know why I said that.
Emily: I think it's just good to remember, what is this marriage founded on? Even in the little years, even when we're exhausted, even when we don't feel this big spark of romance, it’s founded on a covenant—the solemn promise that we made before God and before others that we've promised to uphold. It's just a reminder that it’s not built on a romance. It's built on this promise and additionally, the purpose of our marriage is to be this picture of Christ and his church, so that the world can see God's glory. Yet we do this as we have passionate outward affection for our husbands. Sure, we make time for one another but we also show the world this beautiful picture when we're loving each other well in the every day, when it is hard and it takes perseverance, and it takes working together and laying down our lives.
That can be a way, just the mundane everyday faithfulness, that we fulfill that purpose. Hopefully, we’ll do a show on this in the spring and get into this a little bit more. I don't know. We'll put it on our list, but we just want to encourage you for the mom who is very stressed out about the date night: it is a wonderful, joyful thing but look for how can you strengthen your marriage today in the everyday grind. If date night isn't on the horizon for a while, what does it look like to have time for sexual intimacy with your husband—we actually answered that on another AUA show—to serve him, and just show him that you enjoy him, and that you're collaborating with him for the sake of the gospel right where you're at today, and praying that God would give you that strong marriage?
Laura: Sorry if that was a rah rah answer, but hopefully you're more encouraged than just hearing about our tips and tricks but if you still want those, we totally get it. Head on over to the AUA show. That will be linked in our show notes.
[38:34] Emily: All right. Next. How do you introduce or encourage a toddler to pray?
Laura: This is a good question. Generally, we would say model it in front of them. Be doing it at the standard traditional times; meal times, before bed, when they're struggling to obey, when you’re struggling to obey God, when mommy messed up. Just show them what a life of regular prayer looks like. Feel like you can use real simple language with them. “Dear God, thanks for this food, Amen.” Whatever words they have, if they've got ten words, “Thank you, God.” That too is prayer. Remind them that they can talk to God anytime. That’s something that especially with my five and three year old we talk about a lot. It's just like talking to me. They can tell God if they're scared or if they're worried and ask him for strength and protection, they can tell God if they're happy or excited about any birthday present or something upcoming, and they can also tell God if they want to see something happen like, they don't want to be sick anymore. We talk through a lot of those things. “Talking to God is like talking to mama so you can do that anytime even if mom is not there.”
Emily: That’s exactly what I would say.
Laura: Okay. No more tips. What do you think?
Emily: I think if you're modeling it and doing it in front of them, it's a normal part of their lives and then it's very easy to just say—
Laura: “It’s not scary”—
Emily: “Repeat after me.” I think all of our kids that can talk can pray independently now and it's not because —
Laura: We did anything intentionally—
Emily: Right. They just watched what we did and probably the time they can talk, we've been asking them to, “Hey, why don’t you pray for us for dinner tonight?”
[40:41] Laura: We were in the car yesterday and there was a storm and right away my son was like, “Let's pray for God to protect us on the way home,” and it's just because we've done that before. One time, there was literally a tornado not very far away. We were driving home and we prayed that time, so I think he picked up on the one time we did it. I liked this question. I have a hard time explaining image bearers to my young kids. How do you do it?
Emily: There's a lot of ways to do this—and as with any big theological concept that we're presenting with the kids—one little idea and then building upon that over the course of a long period of time. This isn't probably, “Let me present to you the concept—
Laura: Hey, three year old.
Emily: Although I would love to try to do that.
Laura: Emily probably has.
Emily: I did try that. I think it's good to keep that long view in mind so as we're giving some these answers, remember this is—
Laura: Built over years.
Emily: I'm still trying to figure out what image bearer means, but one way to start the conversation is pointing out the way a child looks like their parents, even if you have an adopted child or foster care child, even explaining, “Look, we both have hair and eyes and hands and God made us both people,” but for your biological children, even saying things like, “Our hair's the same color. Look, we both have freckles, we both have brown eyes.” Reminding them of a time, “Has anyone ever stopped you and told you, you look like Daddy, you look just like your Mommy,” and just making that connection that parents have similarities to their children and often times, children kind of look like a miniature example of their parents. So we can just explain that God our Father in heaven created humans to image him too, right? We’re not exactly like him, our kids are not exactly like us, but we're similar so when people see us, they're supposed to see this little picture of what God is like.
I even think of this in terms of character qualities. “Hey, when you're out at the park or you're at school and you’re behaving in a certain way, people think you're representing our family and what we're like and what we value and how we talk at home, so you're kind of a little picture for people; a little representation of what the Jensens are like.” Obviously, these analogies break down, but I think they're helpful initial connections to give kids when you're starting this conversation. Another thing we did recently, when we had a kid that was lying to us, is talking about the difference between God and Satan or you could use the serpent in the gardens. What did God do? He was a creator, he was kind, he provided things, he made life, he loved beauty and relationships, and he told Adam and Eve the truth, he helped them do what he asked them to do. What was the serpent-like? My kids know the gospel story. This is where this constant stream of discipleship—
Laura: She’s building on the foundation she’s already laid.
Emily: They already know the story. The serpent was a liar, he was sneaky.
Laura: He’s a trickster. That’s what my kids call him.
Emily: He was encouraging them to do bad things. He wanted people to die, he wanted to destroy people, and he was making beautiful things really ugly. Then we can talk about how God made you to be like him. He wants you to love the things that he loves and he doesn't want us to be like that sneaky snake who is destroying things and making beautiful things ugly and lying and manipulating people. Obviously, we can use kid language in that. I think that is another perfect way to say, “But you’re not imaging God all the time, are you? You don't look just like God, what are you going to do about that problem?”
Laura: That's why we need Jesus. A perfect way to share the gospel.
Emily: There you go. Those are just some examples of conversations we've had. It comes out a lot in discipline conversations. It’s when it comes up a lot for us.
Laura: I would just say, don't over complicate it either. Kids learn the meaning of words all the time without you giving an explanation. They are just sponges picking up everything that you're saying, so if you're using that word in regular conversation, as in the context of God's word and with Jesus and with all of those things—yes they may at some point ask for explanations or there may be really appropriate times for you to just naturally segue into one. I’ll also just say, “Remember you're an image bearer of Jesus and so go out and show people what Jesus looks like,” and that's as complicated as it gets.
I don't understand the full way of being an image bearer, he probably doesn’t either, but he knows, “I want to act like Jesus at school,” and it's just a quick friendly reminder. And over time, those truths are built in our heart and as we've both been saying, just recognizing that these big concepts are things that yes, even a young child can understand but the depth and weight and breadth of them are learned over years and years of Christian life and study and maturity. Allow your kids to be kids too.
[45:50] Emily: I think that transitions to another question. Somebody talking about starting catechisms with their 18-month-old and saying that they found themselves getting discouraged so they're asking, “Am I having too high expectations when my toddler can only say nine words?” Building upon this answer is, yes. I understand this question, because I thought this when my oldest was young. It’s wonderful and I do not regret an ounce of energy that I spent trying to teach him vocabulary words and help him memorize the gospel, those were all good things. Now that I'm a little bit further ahead, not much further ahead, I realized that his language, his output was not meeting my expectations. I would never discourage a mom from starting with those things, that's fine. Have high expectations for your input but as far as their output goes, if they can only say nine words, they're not going to build or repeat their catechism back to you and that is okay.
Laura: Think of it as practice for yourself. I remember those first few years with my son at home or even my son and daughter, when they were too young to really speak very much, it was really, really good practice for me to say, “I love these books,” and get out all the jitters. You need years—speaking of how long this takes—years of learning the gospel language, learning how to turn into something that a two-year-old can understand, learning how to gather the supplies that you would say, “Oh, this is how we would like to do family quite times in our home.” They don't have to look like Sally Smith over there; they can look like this in our home. These years, they matter, but don't expect the output, as Emily keeps saying, to feel gratifying. It’s probably not going to.
[48:07] Emily: We have some shows about this. Another thing we're doing, in addition to giving that knowledge, is being a representative to them of what God is like in his love, in the fact that we're trustworthy and we’re caring for them and we’re nurturing them, so I would definitely keep a lot of focus on that too. All right. Next question. How do you approach Santa and other non-advent type Christmas traditions?
Laura: This is a question, funnily enough, we actually get year around. People are thinking about Santa in June, which is hilarious to me but it's a good question. It's one that we were asked a lot. Emily and I without talking with one another, without really saying, “What are you going to do?” we have taken sort of the same position on Santa. This is something that we want to say: first off, do your own research, talk with your husband, make your own decision for your family. We are speaking here about what our personal families have decided. There are a ton of opinions about Santa, which is why we have not tackled it head-on in a show or something because we feel like Christians all over the board have really taken a lot of different stances on Santa and I feel maybe we’re in the middle. I don't even know, but for us, Christmas is about Christ. During Advent, during Christmas, our family doesn’t really incorporate a lot of Santa. It's not that Santa is off limits, it's not that Santa is a dirty word.
Emily: Don’t say Santa!
Laura: He's just another—I want to say fairy man but that's not true. One of those things. Fairytale?
Laura: He's just another character in storybooks. We are not anti-Santa, but we're not necessarily pro-Santa. Our kids are raised knowing that Santa is a really fun make-believe thing and he's a lot like the cow at Chick-fil-A.
Emily: It’s like Winnie the Pooh.
Laura: Yes, Exactly.
Emily: Totally. That's how we approach it as well, and we’ve even talked about Santa originated like a real person. There's actually some really neat stories that you can then tie back into the gospel, but as much as possible, we take Christmas as an opportunity to focus on Christ and then Santa stays like the fantasy category like the Mickey Mouse category. For us he's not a threat. He can show up in a movie, he can show up in a storybook, he can show up at the mall, and we honestly don't even take our kids to see Santa at the mall but if we did, I’d be cool.
Laura: We have a picture with our kids with Santa because he was free and we were at this Christmas thing. I'm was like, “Cool and my kids crying really hard.”
Emily: He looks like somebody dressed up as Santa. Like the Santa character—
Laura: It’s like a mascot—
Emily: Yes, like a mascot.
Laura: The cow and Chick-fil-A. That’s where I was headed with that.
Emily: That's how we treat it. The next question that we always get whenever we say this is, “What do you do about your child spoiling Santa for other people?” I will just say, for us, we have never had that happen but before when we’ve gone somewhere, if I know that we're going to be in that situation, I've just told our kids, “Hey, please don't make a big deal about Santa or don't talk about Santa.”
We just have a conversation beforehand but I assume if that ever happened, I would take my husband and I would talk to that parent and take responsibility for it. I cannot control their language completely, but that has for us been more of like a hypothetical fear and not something that we've really seen boots on the ground. In fact, the biggest issue we've had is adults questioning our kids. When an adult says, “Well, what is Santa bringing you for Christmas?” and they're like, “Huh? Grandma and grandpa get me presents,” and the adult is actually the one who's offended even more, so we've never really had an issue with the kids.
Laura: My mom had Santa spoiled to her when she was a little bit older in school, which is why my family did not participate growing up, because she did not want that devastation for her own children, just to give another perspective which was really interesting. I was raised without Santa. Emily, were you raised with or without Santa?
Emily: We did Santa when I was young.
Laura: I wasn't because of what I just mentioned, but I always appreciate—and this is what my mom did and kind of how we’ve handled it with our kids that are verbal—that we talk about how Santa is make-believe, but some parents handle it differently but it's the mommies and daddies decision to tell their child when they want to that Santa is just pretend. That Santa is actually mommy or daddy.
We talk about, “Hey, when you talk with a friend just remember that that's their mommy and daddy's job, that's not your job and you wouldn't want someone to spoil something for you.” I mean, as Emily said, I've never had an issue. My son has been around a lot of kids that do believe in Santa and families that do practice Santa that are dear friends of ours, and I don't even know what he does, at least we've never had it come back to us. I’ve even asked him around the holiday season “Hey, have any of your friends talked about Santa?” and he'll say yes and I’ll ask how the conversations go and he’ll go, “I didn’t say anything.” I think kids are fairly mature.
If they get the concept of Santa at a deeper level a little bit then I think they can also understand that that's not something that they need to share.
Emily: Totally. I think that brings up a good point. My parents said Santa with me and overall though, Christmas was about Christ. Even though I believed in Santa and Christmas presents showed up from Santa, when I look back at the course of my whole childhood, that's not what stuck in my mind. Like this was the meaning of Christmas.
Laura: It didn’t ruin what truth is for you. There are a lot of things out there. I think we see merit in different arguments so you’re not going to get in a position on whose right because we may have opinions a little bit further than this but generally what we wanted to advise you on is let's all not make it such a big deal and talk with your husband and handle it.
Emily: Okay. Next one. Also, this is how you handle the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny—
Laura: Any follow-up questions, just so you know, all those are fairy-
Emily: They all fit in—
Laura: I don’t call them fairy people. What are they?
Emily: They are make believe characters.
Laura: Holiday characters. I think that that is our last question. We had quite the range of emotions going on in the show. We cried, I yelled, I think. Oh my goodness.
Emily: Seems like a typical AUA. AUA is Ask Us Anything. I just realized. You guys are smart. I think they’ve figured it out.
Laura: All right. Well, as you heard us mention about the show notes about 400 times, but we definitely hope that you guys go over there and visit them to find a lot of relatable links to this. We will be answering a few additional things, I think on stories at some point, and prior to this being released, there are some roundups that have been released. It'll all be at the landing page of the show notes so that's really what you need to know. We will link show notes and if you don't know what they are, head over to our website risenmotherhood.com. Click on the big gigantic podcast button and then you'll see the image for the show right on that page and you can click there. Show notes are basically just a a landing page for each individual show for all the links and the resources that we mentioned. That’s it. Oh my goodness. All right.
Emily: You persevered to the end.
Laura: Persevered to the end. Head over to social media to find us @risenmotherhood on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and we'll see you guys next week.
Emily: See you.