GNO with Jenn Whitmer: War horses, Babying Your Kids, and Travel

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This is Girls’ Night Out, and I love to talk. Grab some coffee or, even better, some wine, and let’s chat! I married best friend Michael at 21, moved to St. Louis to be a part of planting JubileeChurch, St. Louis, started teaching, and then had four children. I now serve as the Director of Assessment at Central Christian School. I am at my core a educator; I want to share experiences and wisdom that hopefully will keep you sane and trusting in Jesus.

 
What is your favorite verse or quote about being a woman?
“I am woman; hear me roar!” Ok, not really, but I do love the idea of the power we have through Christ as women in our homes and the world.
Meekness describes this power best. What? Meekness? Don’t roll your eyes! Stay with me here—we’re diving into context and a touch of Greek.
In 1 Peter 3, Peter is talking to wives about the power of our behavior, not to be caught up in just looking gorgeous,  “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” (ESV) The word translated to “gentle” is praeos. We don’t have one good word in English; it means power under control. Other translations use meek. Don’t think mouse, think war horse! Greek war horses were trained for battle by standing in fire. If the horse could stand in the fire and not move until the rider commanded to go on, the horse was meek and ready for battle. Who’s mousey now, eh?
As women, we have enormous power under the control of the Master when we are not occupied with self. If you know me at all, you’ve probably not seen me without make-up, you wouldn’t describe me as gentle, and I’m rarely quiet! Yet I love this verse! The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. I have found great freedom in knowing the deeper meaning of this verse. God has given me great power in Him and I am quiet in my spirit knowing He is always with me. I am not subject to the waves of my emotions and circumstances; I have the ornament of power under control.
So I meekly put on that lipstick, color my hair, wear my sassy neon orange shoes, face the world knowing I have the power of the Creator of the Universe in me, and ROAR!
What advice would you give a young bride?
I think my advice would be to the newly engaged and newly married woman.
To those engaged:
My big secret: I HATED BEING ENGAGED. So if you don’t like the now-but-not-yet of living affianced, you’re not alone. This is how I got through: 2 Tim 2:22 “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” So much great stuff in this verse, but I’ll go with my top two!
1. “Flee youthful passions” It is worth it to wait for sex, even after you’re engaged. And it gets harder—a lot harder! Don’t let Satan lie to you and say it doesn’t matter, it’s just one more month, one more week. He is out to destroy you with those lies. I promise you it was worth it that Michael and I, by the grace of God, waited. There is amazing freedom in right living. (Please know there is great grace if you have made poor choices.)
2. “Along with those who call on the Lord” Get good people around you during your engagement. People who call upon the Lord, who are full of the Spirit. People you respect and trust. They will help you tremendously keep your mind, spirit, body, and emotions from going off the rails while driving this crazy train of engagement.
Your wedding is a solemn, earnest ceremony and a probably the biggest party you’ll ever star in; but it’s only a day. Just one little day in the tens of thousands of days you will spend building a life with this man. Be flexible and honor your friends and family that day. Prefer relationship over your dream wedding flowers. I’m not saying everyone else’s ideas are more important than your wishes. But don’t lose a friend over a dress or alienate your mom because the wedding favor had to be a box! Above all, as you plan this day, keep the goal of marriage before you and not a wedding.
I loved my wedding day—it was spectacular! As much as I believe it’s just a day, it’s a fabulous day. Enjoy yourself. Let others handle fires and mishaps. If it’s not perfect to the T, you can still rejoice that you have a partner as long as you both shall live! Dance the night away in celebration of what God has given!
To the New Bride:
Your honeymoon is a vacation. Don’t run yourself ragged trying to see all there is to see. You’ve experienced what is likely the highest of adrenaline highs; the crash can be bad. Sleep. Talk. Have sex. Read. Sleep some more. Even if you’ve known each other for years, bring a book of questions for each other. When Michael & I married at 21, we’d already know one another for more than 15 years and it was a blast asking crazy questions with one another. For example, “When’s the last time you were so sick, you wanted to die?” The funnies stories and the real emotions come out.
And some bad news, you will probably have a fight during your honeymoon. It’s ok. Fight fair and resolve it. You will be ok.
A good marriage is important, but you have a lifetime together. You don’t have to have it all figured out in the first year,two years—whom am I kidding? 17 years! Remember those good people you gathered round you; keep them around! Learn how to have conflict in a way that each of you feels resolved; not someone won and someone lost. Many conflicts arise because we are looking in the wrong place for identity and validation. Your new husband is great, but he is not your Creator. Your identity and worth first come from being a child of the King.
Last one for the new bride: Learn how to make 10 decent meals and 3 desserts, even if you don’t like to cook. You can get a lot of mileage out of 10 meals and 3 desserts!
 
What advice would you give a new mother?

Number one. My best piece of advice. Are you ready? Stay off the Google! I’m serious. Pinterest is a close second, followed by Facebook, WebMD, BabyCenter, etc. Your baby is unique. There are many phases that are “common among men” and all babies go through; however, how that is expressed in your baby is special to him or her. And here’s the greatest part: God chose you to parent that child. He placed your child with you and He promised to give us all we need for life and godliness. Wisdom that is unique to your child is available to you from Him. We definitely need practical advice (Should we use a pacifier? How do I get in that shower?) But take the best from the advice and suggestions and apply them to your child based on your values.

A helpful thing to know: Babies cry on average 6-8 hours a day. Sometimes they just cry and there is no solution, and that’s ok. Cliché but true: The days are long, but the years are short. I have four children. Three of them were born within three years. Days were l—o—n—g. Knowing that helped get me through some long, crying-filled days. But now, it’s different. My oldest turned twelve this month and my youngest is newly five. The days don’t feel as long, and the years are even faster.
And here’s another ugly secret I need you to know: some people don’t like babies. I should be honest—I don’t like babies, especially newborns. If you just love babies, don’t judge and you can just skip on ahead; I’ll have more advice for you later!
For those of you still reading, you’re normal. It’s ok that you don’t love the newborn stage or the crawling phase. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a mom. (You’ll fail in so many other ways, don’t worry!) Some days the baby stage was survival for me. I loved my babies, but I didn’t always like them. I wanted personality and interaction! This lump that is making my nipples bleed was hard to like at first. I would just bristle when someone would say “Oh, enjoy this, because you’re going to miss this!” Guess what, I don’t miss it. I loved all my kids as babies, but I love them even more now that we have a relationship. I was built for kids and teenagers; babies were a way to get them! So if you find yourself with a 15-day old on your first solo venture to Target and you run into that friend who oogles over your gorgeous newborn and says,”Oooo, don’t you just love babies?! Enjoy this time! You’re really going to miss it,” don’t slap her in your hormonally unbalanced state. Smile and say, “I do love her,” get your Preparation H and elephant sized maxi pads and get out.
Baby-lovers, start here: babies are gifts, absolutely! I know you just want to keep them small and safe forever, but they grow up. That’s God’s design. While protecting their innocence is important, keeping them immature is selfish. Young children can do so much more than you think. Your two year-old really can walk to the car and your three year-old can likely buckle themselves and help load the dishwasher. Your five year-old can walk three doors down to a friend’s house. It takes time to teach them, far longer than if you just did it yourself, but the rewards are great. They have genuine self-esteem that comes from things worked for, not just empty praise. So my baby-lover, don’t carry your three year-old around, teach him to use an open cup and let him experience the confidence from mastered skills!
More than all of these though, pray. Pray about everything. Pray all the time for your children and you as a parent.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Travel. Travel as much as you can. See this vast world God has created. Experiencing other cultures is one of the best ways to see that your “normal” isn’t the only way. Seeing the expression of God’s church in other countries and cultures changes your perspective in the most positive way.
If you have the opportunity to study abroad, take it. If you have the opportunity to take an overseas work assignment, do it! Living in a different culture will be challenging, but infinitely worth the effort. I studied in Oxford in college. God used those two terms shaped my life in ways I’m still discovering almost 20 years later. Michael did an internship in a London communication firm after we were married. Living in Kent as a couple was an amazing experience. Today, my husbands travels extensively for his company. Last fall, we traveled together to Mozambique and South Africa to visit chicken farms and attend the International Egg Commission conference (yes, chickens, but that’s another story). During that trip I saw friends and connections that I had known in England during my time in Oxford and other travels to the UK that God used on that trip. It’s amazing what God does when we build relationships cross-culturally.
So go across town and make friends with people different from you and get a passport to see this wide world! God’s kingdom is diverse and travel broadens us, enriches us, and glorifies Him.
Thanks for sticking around and many blessings to you!

Your friend,
Jenn
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