Cultures Are Composed of Lives

I wrote this a few weeks ago for the Patrick Henry College Alumni Association's August Tribute to Motherhood.  Now that they've published it, I wanted to share it here.

It’s a quiet early summer morning.  The windows are flung open.  The floor is strewn with toys, books, and dusty sandals from watching monster trucks at the county fair last night.

Elanor woke up too early again this morning; Ben went in to help her; and since the room is now quiet, I guess they dozed off together.  Ben does editing and website management for a small DoD contractor.  I’m grateful that today, as usual, he can work from home in his office downstairs.  Tomorrow he will drive to Fort Meade.  He is an imaginative and patient father, and I am thankful to be married to him.

Our daughter Elanor Joy just turned one.  She is spunky and affectionate.  Almost walking, she wants to do everything her older brother can.  We’re going over one of those bumps on the parenting road—which I keep telling myself, like any bump, will not last forever—when Elanor would far rather cuddle and be attached to her family than play independently, sleep, or follow a workable routine.  Several days of the past few weeks I remember only through a haze of frustrated exhaustion.

I know any minute I will hear David’s call, “Okay, I’m awake now!” (a phrase we taught him as highly preferable to a sudden shriek).  I will bring into his room a cup of milk and a cup of juice, and he will start his day by listening to the audio CD of the Jesus Storybook Bible.

David Peregrin just turned four.  After going through a difficult season of tantruming, he has finally emerged as a cheerful and helpful little guy.  He thinks we are all super heroes, loves to play with Transformers and Legos, adores his little sister, and is just learning to read through home school preschool (my dignified title for trying to teach David phonics while Elanor crawls on top of us).

And that’s our family.  When I was a teenager, I wanted to “lead the nation and shape the culture” by writing a bestselling novel.  Only now looking back do I realize how much my adolescent ambition was a craving for the affirmation of other people, and an unstated belief that my life would not matter unless I achieved measurable recognition.

In my twenties I exchanged this for a “pebble in the pond” ambition—you know, gradual influence through a ripple effect—but I think in the back of my mind I wondered if I was “settling.”  Only recently have I realized what a huge ambition it really is simply to live one life well, as a disciple of Christ, breaking free from bondage and bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

Events in my life over the past few years have shown me how broken humanity really is.  Beneath our wealth and consumer mentality, beneath our cynical apathy or rage, we are walking wounded.  What pierces the postmodern armor is not a stronger argument or a greater success, but a deeper love.  I want with my one life to make a difference by showing that love.

Unfortunately that ambition can sound so clich√© as to seem almost meaningless, but it’s true.  I remember our pastor sharing with us how he felt that in our generation more than ever before, people were changed not so much by sermons or Sunday school classes (though of course those are important) but through relationships, or as my mentor says, “life on life.”  I want to live that kind of life.

It starts with my husband and children.  I believe that Exodus 20:6 is true, and that by following the Lord in faithfully loving my family, I can impact (if He tarries) a thousand generations.  That’s a huge influence, and it starts right now in these first few exhausting and beautiful years of my children’s lives, when research shows that so much of their personality and character forms.  That gives new purpose to a routine that revolves around diapers and high chairs, car seats and cribs, preschool worksheets and toys underfoot.

But it doesn’t end with my family.  We have no desire to perpetuate an ingrown Christian subculture, even if the hearts of our children would be captured by such a small-minded vision.  Ben and I want to reach out beyond and through our home, both individually and as a family.

We are plugged in to a local body of believers.  And I am grateful for the opportunity I have to teach literature to home school students two hours a week.  This spring Ben and I completed the training and approval process to become foster parents.  The Lord hasn’t placed a needy child in our home yet, but we know the call could come any day, which lends an exciting flexibility to life.  (A few days after I first drafted this, we welcomed a foster child into our home.)

That’s what my “leading the nation and shaping the culture” looks like right now.  I have dreams for what I might do when my children are grown, but right now in this happy-and-hard season of life, my dreams are primarily at home with them.  They are all awake now on this no-longer-quiet summer morning.  It’s time for those ambitions, about which it’s so easy to theorize, to be worked out in the reality of a messy breakfast and a busy day.


  1. Finally a moment to read, and as always, Lisa, I appreciate your Godly wisdom and the Gift He gives you to both express & share it. So happy to be your Mother and Grandmother of your children. Praying for ALL the generations of our descendants to honor and serve the Lord, till He returns!

  2. Good stuff.

    Also, I miss you all.


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