Being a Childless Wife

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Before going into this, I want to make it clear that this article didn’t arise out of some Mother’s Day anxiety. God is my hope and comfort. I love my Moms, they are two of the most amazing women I know, and I love the mother’s God has put around me. They are a delight to me.

I want to try and put into words what it’s like to be a childless wife, specifically as a Reformed Baptist. I honestly can’t write outside of who and what I am, so I thought I’d just be up front about that.

Reformed Baptists tend to lean towards big families. They tend to connect well with and be saturated with large, home schooled, ridiculous children. I can say that because I’m second oldest of five, home schooled, and moderately ridiculous myself. We were an average-sized family within the early Reformed Baptist movement surrounded by families with 7, 8, or even 12 kids. Now, more and more people cling to the 1689 and Confessionalism causing the Reformed Baptists to become more . . . interesting. We are growing to represent many different walks of life including childless couples. Looking around my own church, I see how much more diverse it is now than it was when I joined it almost twenty years ago. And I am, as a childless wife, part of that diversity.

I don’t want to share this so that women with children suddenly walk on egg-shells around us few childless wives. I don’t want people to suddenly feel like they can’t ask a woman about having kids for fear of offending her. I’m not looking for pity or political correctness. This is born out of a desire to gather my own thoughts and experiences and communicate with other childless wives so that the feelings of aloneness are lessened. Being alone is a terrible place and when you realize you’re not alone it can help you carry on for another hour or day or year. I’ve found encouragement in not being alone. I hope you do too, and I hope you mothers out the will look on us with love and know we are cheering you on every step of the way.

Growing up, my main goal in life was to be a wife and a mother. That’s all I wanted in life. I believed and still believe motherhood is the most honorable profession for women. I grew up in a large family and I wanted one of my own. Not to mention, we all know the push, be it subtle and subconscious, within the Reformed Baptist/Home Schooled movement for big families. It’s there and us childless wives feel it. We feel it all the time.

So, here I am now, 35, with about two solid pregnancy scares under my belt in 13 years of marriage. My time, my window, is coming to an end. It’s not the end. I could still get pregnant, but it’s becoming less and less likely. I must seriously face the fact that it may never happen. That’s a hard thing to look in the eye and not fear.

But, look I must.


These are my struggles and my hopes. I trust that other childless wives will find themselves here. I pray you may be encouraged in your trust in our mighty God.

Contentment: Just like when I was single and struggling with contentment, so I’ve struggled with childlessness. I have wept often before the Lord seeking to bring my will captive to his. Has the Lord answered that prayer? Yes. He has blessed me with a measure of contentment. I may never have children, but my hope in this life isn’t wrapped up in having children. My eternal significance isn’t wrapped up in having children. It is all in Christ. In him only do I find my all. This isn’t easy. And sometimes it hurts so deep inside. Even after years, and with seasons of peace, the fact that I don’t have children and may never have children still rises up with intense pain. Yet, God is good. He chose this for me and I trust him in it. It isn’t what I would have chosen. Not in a million years. But, I trust him in the choosing. So, every time the empty hollow of childlessness tears open, the flow of sorrow is stopped by the tender hand of the Father who sent his only Son to die for me and the Holy Spirit who comforts me.

Time: Without children, a wife finds a certain amount of time on her hands that other women may not have. Believe me, most of us would give up all that extra time in a heartbeat for just one set of chubby cheeks to call our own. My struggle is to use the time I’ve been given wisely. It is easy, and largely encouraged by our day and age, to use your time for you. Yet, we childless wives have a unique opportunity to serve. We can serve our church and our families in a way mothers can’t. For each of us this will look different. Some of us pour that time into a career and use the extra income to serve our church. Others of us use the time to physically serve with extra meals, an extra pair of hand, and sometimes just an extra set of shoulders to cry on. Some of us use the time to pray and read and study. Every childless wife has to evaluate her use of her extra time to avoid selfish laziness and worldliness. I have found that this time can be a great blessing if it is used in the service of the Lord.

Feeling Outside: I’ve had single friends complain about women’s books and conferences focusing only on married women and mothers. As a childless wife, I know exactly how they feel. It is no fun to read book after book, or attend conference after conference, only to feel like nothing exactly applies to you. The childless wife struggles with feeling outside the group. She can understand all the parts about marriage but what is she supposed to do with the parts about children. The temptation to shut down when other women talk about raising kids is real. Instead of indulging in self-pity, we need to file the information away so we can better pray for and understand our dear sisters who are raising kids. Let’s be honest, there are a far greater number of couples raising kids than the small minority of single women, childless wives, and single mothers. While we may all feel on the outside, we should never let that be an excuse to withdraw from the body of believers. It may not affect you right now, but you never know when that will change and the more you understand, the better you can pray for others. But, the struggle of feeling on the outside looking in is very real for us childless wives. The struggle to control tears and emotions while others talk about how to raise children is real.

Childless Husbands: Husbands of childless wives can contend with feelings of failure and guilt. They can feel helpless and weak. Some of them vacillate between contentment and deep sorrow. Regardless the reasons for the state of childlessness, both spouses are affected. A couple can go through seasons of regular discussions about children and they can go through seasons where the discussions are so painful they are just easier to avoid. As a wife, you never want to be the source of a husband’s sense of failure. For us it can become easy to just bottle up all the emotions and struggles. We’ve all been over it again and again and more tears isn’t going to change anything. The struggle is between letting this trial grow you together or grow you apart. It requires prayer, honesty, and an understanding of the purpose of our lives. We aren’t here for ourselves but for the glory of Christ. If he chooses for our lives to be childless, we must trust him in that.

Questions and Pressure: There is a certain point, a certain age where people stop asking when you’re going to have kids. When you first get married, you get asked about kids almost every day. Most of the time, if not all of the time, this is just your friends and families way of expressing love and excitement about your life. It should be taken that way. But sometimes it builds into a great pressure. It makes you feel like without kids you’re behind or just failing at life. As you get older, people just assume you have kids. It can be uncomfortable to explain, yet again, that you don’t have children. I try to take questions about my childlessness in stride. Of course people are going to ask if I have kids. That’s normal. The majority of Reformed Baptists my age have children. Most of the time I have no problem with this question. But, every once in a while it takes every ounce of self -control to answer questions about kids with a smile and a gracious attitude.

Worldly Selfishness: The questions about your childlessness generally leads to the desire to explain that you want kids because you’re suddenly afraid you’re going to be lumped in with people who are choosing to not have children for selfish reasons. It’s hard to tell someone you don’t have kids but want them when you’re not getting any younger. You want to wear a t-shirt that says, “No. I don’t have kids. Yes. I would love to have kids even if they ruin my furniture, destroy my body, take up all my time, and empty my bank account. I didn’t choose to be childless to have a comfortable life.” It’s hard when you pick up from mothers that they think you have it easy. Comparatively, we probably do. But, it’s not because we choose to have it this way. Our house may be tidy most of the time. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t give up our tidy homes in a heartbeat for fingerprints, toys, and general destruction. Don’t assume we just have such an ideal life where everything is always in control. You have something we would gladly sacrifice everything to have. You have the one thing we must fight our biggest battles of contentment over. Don’t look at us and think we have the better life or that we can’t understand why your house isn’t spotless. We know why it’s not and we wish we had the same problem.

Fear for the Future/Disappointing Parents: As a childless wife, it is easy to fear for the future. You picture your husband dying and no one being around to take care of you like your parents take care of your grandparents. Like the rest of life, this comes down to trusting the Lord. He has commanded his church to take care of the widows. He has always had a tender compassion for widows. Coupled with this is a fear of disappointing your parents. As much as you want kids, your parents want grandkids. They have to struggle with contentment just like we do. It’s easier when you have several siblings and some of them have kids, but if you are the only children, I can see where this could be a huge burden. Again, trust the Lord. Be content. Look towards the heavenly treasure.


My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

There are some real blessings in being childless, just as there are in being single. You can dedicate your life to the Lord in ways families with children can’t. You can serve where others can’t. You can adopt and foster where others can’t. But, with childlessness also comes great sadness and constant battles for contentment. I have found these to be lessened as the Lord loosens my grip on this world. The King has come. He even now rules and reigns. This world is not the end but the beginning. This is just the start of my life, most of which will be spent in heaven, not here. This is my hope. My anchor. Christ alone. He comforts the broken hearted. He will wipe away ever tear. He has loved and cherished many childless wives before me and will continue to do so after me. I’m also blessed by a plethora of nieces and nephews. They give me a chance to love those little hands and feet, see first steps, hear first words, answer questions about why this and why that, and make the house a mess. If you don’t have your own children invest in your nieces and nephews. If you don’t have any of those little treasures, find a family in your church and adopt them. There is always a need for someone who can love little people. If you don’t have a desire for this, pour yourself out somewhere else. I know childless wives who take young women under their wings. I know others who serve the church by helping with visitors and open their homes for hospitality. Don’t waste this life by sitting around waiting to have children, or get married, or for your children to grow up. Us childless wives may have children someday. We may never have children. We should all find ways to serve with or without them.

God is so good. Over all the struggles with this life, he has never once left me alone. He has never once made a struggle pointless. Each tear, each cry of my heart has been answered gently, kindly, and with promises, with hope. I may not have any biological children, but I have sisters and brothers in Christ who are young. I have nieces and nephews, and most of all, I have the hope of heaven and my Christ. I hope this has encouraged other childless wives to remember they aren’t alone, and has helped others to see how they can pray for particular parts of their church, for we are one body.

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Yes, this is probably my favorite quote. “All we have to decide is what to so with the time that is given to us.”

 

Dream Builders have to have Helpers (Part 2)

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I’m going to chalk this up to being sick since the day after Christmas. A day after I posted my article last Monday on Dream Builders have to have Helpers, I remembered a whole other point I was going to include in the article. Like I said, I’ve been sick. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

Service.

That is the point.

Think about the quote. “If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs.”

Do you hear the implied concept that it would be a bad thing to be hired to help someone build their dream? This quote is saying it is evil or at least bad to help others build their dreams. How self-focused can you be? Is not helping others a worthy way to spend your time?

Service is a worthy way to live life. We should always be serving. We should pour ourselves out in service.

How much do we hear about ‘me time’? Now, I understand that a few minutes to re-focus, time to think, and doing something you enjoy, or even just taking a hot bath can make it much easier to serve. I know. I worked retail for 14 years. You wanna talk about service. We made service the hallmark of our boutiques. We demanded it of our employees and I set the example at every step. I have spent hours at other people’s beck and call. I know how taxing it can be. I know how it can eat away at your soul to do that every day. So, I’m not talking about the things servers do to rejuvenate so they can face the next day of demanding customers. I’m not talking about the mom who needs a break so she can tend to her family, or the caretaker who needs a few days away in a cabin somewhere to refresh herself.

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I’m talking about a me focused culture. A culture that is all about what my needs and wants are without any concern about other people. We have a whole generation growing up who were never taught that the world doesn’t revolve around them. They were never taught to serve.

Why? Well, there is a humility to services. There is, if you want to serve well, a forgetting of self. There is an attitude of I don’t matter, you do. There is a laying down of self.

We don’t like this. We instantly rage: What if someone takes advantage of me? What if no one ever appreciates what I do?

That may happen. Think about it. Think about Christ dying on the cross and how many people don’t appreciate that, even believers at times.

Listen to the messages of media, music, art, television, and novels. How many of them preach that you are significant? How many of them teach our children that they are the most significant thing to come along, ever? But are they? No. They are sinners just like us in need of a Savior. There is only one truly significant and important person ever born—Christ. And what did he do? He washed the apostle’s feet. He served in all humility. He came, lived, and died for us, to save us.

Instead of worrying so much about living a significant life, following our dreams, making sure everyone thinks well of us, making sure we never care what anyone thinks about us, we should lay it all aside and seek to serve one another. Yes, you may not be appreciated, but if you are serving for Christ’s sake than you can trust that he sees the work of your hand even if no one else does. Yes, someone may take advantage of you, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. But, Christ sees. He knows. And He is trustworthy. The joy of watching Christ work outweighs standing up for our rights any day.

Standing up for rights is short-sighted and often selfish. (I’m not talking about constitutional law, I’m talking about the constant demand for me and my rights.) Instead of waiting on the Lord, quietly and meekly, trusting Him with our souls, we loudly demand our rights, our acceptance, our significance. Dear believer, if you will wait quietly you will see the hand of Christ in your life. Trust your heart to Him. Is He not mighty enough to protect it?

Don’t worry about your dreams, whether they are being built or not. Worry about serving your church and your family and trust your dreams to the one who gave them to you. He is far more creative about how those dreams are fulfilled than you ever will be. And remember, this life is not all there is. Oh, if you can only grasp that one little concept. This life is not all there is. You don’t have to try and fit every dream and desire into this one life time. Serve Christ and his people and trust yourself to Him. Get in there and do the hard work of service and you will be blessed to watch Christ tend to you and your needs. You are His and He won’t forget you.

Okay, rant over. I promise.

The Conference: SBFC-SW

It’s the wee hours of the morning and there are lights on at Heritage Baptist Church. The warmers are growling to life, the coffee is dripping, bacon and biscuits perfume the air while not quite awake girls crack eggs.

It’s time for our annual Southern Baptist Founders Conference-South West.

Thursday-Saturday, we welcome men, women, children, and families from all over Texas and our outlying states into our church for preaching and fellowship. Neither of these would be complete without some food, and the food wouldn’t happen if the Lord hadn’t provided our church with men and women, boys and girls who love to serve. It was my privilege last year and this to direct a group of these women, boys, and girls in the kitchen. What a joy to work with them and serve the church.

Preparation for the conference starts weeks in advance. For my part, I’m planning menus, picking Glyn’s (the previous meal master) brain, lining up help, and trying not to think about it. Cindy Cason feeds me numbers as soon as they start rolling in and the speculation on the number of guests begins.

This year, Liz Groves and I tackled the bulletin boards in the weeks before the Conference, hoping to spruce them up a bit. It turned out to be a much bigger job than we anticipated which narrowed our focus from all of them to four.

Picture by Liz. Me, Liz and Imogene.

Picture by Liz.
Me, Liz and Imogene.

Picture by Emily Shiflet. The finished product.

Picture by Emily Shiflet. The finished product.

During this time, a flurry of emails goes out to the families of HBC with lists of the food needed and slots to fill. Women commit and file their instructions away. Some will bring burgers, some salads, some fruit, some wait in the sidelines in case there are empty slots just days before the Conference. Everyone takes on an extra burden to make sure there is enough food and I can’t thank these women enough.

The Sunday before plans are laid with helpers for decorating, and arrivals.

Now it’s the week of the conference.

Monday morning is shopping!

Wanda, my extra Mom, and big conference helper with me at Sam's.

Wanda, my extra Mom, and big conference helper with me at Sam’s.

Tuesday enough bacon is cooked to feed an army!

If you cook enough bacon you can almost make yourself sick of it. Almost.

If you cook enough bacon you can almost make yourself sick of it. Almost.

Wednesday is TAARBC’s meeting and biscuit cooking!

Enough biscuits for three meals.

Enough biscuits for three meals.

Now’s the day! Thursday. Heritage is alive with activity. Decorations go up. Helpers arrive. Food arrives in abundance. The first meal is laid out and shared with friends. Success!

The decorators and cookie cookers!

The decorators and cookie cookers!

Friday is the long day. Early in the morning, before even the sun is up, women in aprons, smiling teens, and lots of coffee arrive. Breakfast is served at 800 am, and without even a pause, lunch is begun. Clean up, clean up, clean up. A few hours to visit with friends old and new comes our way and then prep for dinner begins. Friday night is our biggest meal of the Conference and this year was no exception. Happy and exhausted, I send everyone home to start again on Saturday.

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Most of these girls have been serving food for years and we have new recruits being trained. Spending the week with them is one of my favorite parts about the Conference. Picture by Emily Shiflet.

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Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! Picture by Emily Shiflet.

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Seeing people who are dear to your heart is one of the other joys of the Conference. Emily Shiflet and myself.

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The greatest serving crew a woman could ask for, plus lots of other wonderful young people who come every year. Picture by Emily Shiflet.

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Many of our servers took off work or gave up valuable study time to help. We are so thankful for them. This is Raelea cleaning up after one of the meals. Picture by Emily Shiflet.

Saturday we have one goal. Get everything settled enough to hear Pastor Steve’s sermon. We can do it. Again, coffee, bacon, biscuits, eggs. Again, clean up, clean up, clean up. But this time, this morning, things have to be put back into place for Sunday lunch. Tables are moved, refrigerators are evaluated and reshuffled, more coffee is drunk.

We made it.

Tired helpers sneak into the service, glad to hear a man we love give the word of God, glad to have served, glad everyone was fed, glad it all tasted moderately good.

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls? It was an honor serving with you and we’ll do it again next year…or actually maybe in January, or December. 🙂

Thank you Emily, for sharing your pictures. Thank you ladies, for giving your time and encouragement and support, thank you young people for giving your energy, laughter, willing work, and for our very strange conversations between meals. I love you all.

 

 

 

All that is Gold: So Heavenly minded you’re no Earthly Good

All that is gold does not glitter

“All that is gold does not glitter….”

This cliché phrase gets bandied about all the time.  Everyone’s familiar with it.  I’ve heard many a lesson, rabbit trail, and sermon on how it’s impossible to be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.  I fully agree with my pastors, that it is impossible.  But, it’s taken me some time to understand what this means from a worldly perspective, why people use it, and how I’ve listened to its lies over the years.

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Last year, my husband and I sold our relatively successful small business.  My husband ultimately left this choice to me.  I was the face of the business.  I ran the front end of our boutiques, while he did all the bookwork, systematization, and big picture things.  In many ways, he loved our business far more than I did, but when he asked me if I wanted to sell it, I hesitated.  Why?  Significance.  I had wrapped most of my personal identity around being a business owner.  For ten years, I basked in the praise lavished on me by my community for my wisdom, management skills, and fashion knowledge.  I had successful older women who wanted to work for me.  I had young women who wanted to learn from me.  I had customers who wanted to talk to me every day.  On big sale days, I had lines outside my boutique doors.  I was, in a small way, significant.  When I thought through selling our business, I feared losing that significance.  Who would I be without it?  I would be Mrs. Price Jones.  That’s who I would be.

Oh, the subtle lies of the world, how they twist and turn and steal inside us.  I didn’t find it very significant to be Mrs. Price Jones.  I didn’t find being a housewife and homemaker very exciting….and I feared the remarks I would face when I told my customers that I wanted to sell our business to b

e a housewife and have more time to serve our church.  They would say I was being so heavenly minded I was no earthly good.

There is another side to this story because a woman’s heart and mind is never simple, but always complex.  I always wanted to be a homemaker, since I was a little, little girl.  I was not happy owning the stores.  I felt like they took my best from me and left me with little to give my church, husband, and family.  My husband and I had come to the realization that the sparkle of worldly success was nothing more than that – a cheap sparkle in a $5 ring.  We wanted to use our time and talent to lay up our treasures in heaven.  We wanted to stop saying no to our church family and our physical family and start saying yes.  We wanted to serve them.  We wanted to be so heavenly minded we were no earthly good.

Both of these things were going on in my heart at the same time.  Keeping the store meant a small amount of worldly significance.  Selling the story meant a new life of service to our church that nobody but our church would appreciate.  It meant looking other women in the face and telling them I was a stay at home wife.  Do you know how despised that profession is in our society?  Women look at you like you must sit around all day doing nothing but getting fat and being lazy.  It’s so hard not to qualify the choice we’ve made with a list of all my projects, as if to justify myself.

I think this is where the cliché of being so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good initiated.  Christians chose to give up what the world valued to do things the world didn’t value.  For me, it was when I stopped wanting to be an elf, and saw the beauty and magic of being a hobbit, of living a quiet life.  Age does this to you.  You don’t want to live in this earth forever.  I had to learn, and keep learning to trust my significance to my heavenly Father, not to the works of my hands.

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This is an ongoing process.  The Lord has blessed my husband and my efforts to serve our church and our families.  He has shown us the tarnished, worthless sparkle of a world in a pre-ash state.  But we are such sight bound beings, and sometimes that sparkle looks so promising.  So the Lord keeps showing the lie to us.  Recently, He has done this for me by helping me see that I could use my writing ability to edify and help other believers.  I had to give up another small bit of worldly significance.  Not something wrong, but something good for something better, and something only faith can see as significant, not sight.

This has led me to start becoming someone I previously disliked.  Even as a Christian, I would find other Christians who I felt were so heavenly, so holy, they were….well just boring, kinda strange, and so insignificant.  They read all this holy stuff and never Steven King.  They listened to all this Christian music and never Florence and the Machine, or Metallica.  They weren’t up on the latest geeky TV show, or any TV show, geeky or not.  I mean, what was wrong with these people.  They were so heavenly minded they were no earthly fun.

And now here I am.  I would rather be at church, my church, with my church family than anywhere else in the world.  I enjoy old hymns more than I enjoy pop songs.  I have a growing stack of religious books on my desk that I’m actually reading, not just thinking I should probably read them.  I have bible verses on my walls instead of inspirational quotes….though there is still a fair amount of Tolkien mixed in.  Why?  Why this change?  Why this pulling away from the world?  Because the older I get, the more aware I am of my own sin and God’s grace.  I’m not a good person.  I’m a wretched sinner.  I need God.  Not as an opium, I need Him as a savior.  I need Him as my savior.  I am lost without Him.  I have no hope without Him.  The older I get, the more He gently leads me away from this life and towards the one to come.  I am becoming, to the world, of no value.  I live a quiet life, serve my church, and Lord Willing, write moralistic stories for children.  My life is not changing the world.  My talents aren’t being used to eradicate poverty, stop war, or starvation.  My talents are set at the scarred feet of Christ and He is using them in a small Texas church.  And my significance?  I find it all in Him and not in me.  Someday better than others, but He is longsuffering.  He has sealed me and will not give me up even as He helps me give up this world.