Receiving Grace upon Grace – Introducing our New Daughter

On Friday March 12 at 5:14 am, Emily and I welcomed our second daughter, Hannah Grace, into the world.

Probably the hardest part (for me) this time around was choosing a name. Names are really important. Biblically, they define people to some degree. The names of Naomi’s sons, Mahlon & Chilion, for example, meant “sickness” and “wasting away.” They died in Moab, leaving their mother without grandchildren. Naomi herself, after the death of her sons renamed herself “Mara” because the “Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).

So, what you name your children is kind of a big deal. And for Emily and I, agreeing on a name was extremely difficult at first.

We initially wanted this baby’s name to convey an idea of strength combined with femininity. (Tall order? Maybe.) After batting around ideas for several weeks, we managed to agree on a middle name: Grace, meaning “favor” or “blessing.”

More time went by and we were short-listing names, crossing off others… Eventually we came to Hannah. I liked it, but didn’t recall the meaning of the name.

I asked Emily, “How about we call her Hannah Grace?”

Her response, “But ‘Hannah’ means ‘grace;’ wouldn’t that be weird?”

Then I remembered:

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace
John 1:16

The last year has been an incredibly challenging one for us; ultimately all of our difficulties have worked out for our good though it’s not always been comfortable. But through them all, God has been with us and He’s been incredibly gracious to us, so much so that I think I take it for granted.

He’s poured out grace upon grace in our lives, blessing after blessing. And the chief blessing is that He has not only shown us how to live in the Law but that He came to live that life for us in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. That His perfect life was given to me in exchange for my sinful one by faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus.

Naming my daughter Hannah Grace is a tangible reminder of this for me.

God willing, the next several years are going to be exciting. Seeing my girls grow up, teaching them about Jesus and someday walking them down the aisle… To see this family grow into all that God has planned for us is going to be a wonderful gift.

Christmas Daddies: Building a Memory

Yesterday, was the big day: My Christmas Daddy-Daughter date with my lovely daughter, Abigail.

This was a really important one for me; I really want to make sure she has some great memories (as much as I can help, anyway), so I did my best to pull out all the stops. First up, her favorite breakfast: French toast (it was delicious).

After a lovely breakfast, we were off to the main event: Sesame Street Live!

We took a few photos:

The Sesame Street players take the stage and all the kids go wild. Well... except for the ones who cried.

[Read more...]

The Effects of Pornography

Ed Stetzer points readers to a new study by Patrick F. Fagan examining the effects of pornography:

A new study done by Patrick F. Fagan examines the effects of pornography on individuals, marriage, family and community. Fagan is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion at the Family Research Council. He specializes in examining the relationships among family, marriage, religion, community, and America’s social problems. This study is important for everyone to read as it demonstrates that it has damaging effects on individuals and families. In the summary Fagan explains,

Pornography is a visual representation of sexuality which distorts an individual’s concept of the nature of conjugal relations. This, in turn, alters both sexual attitudes and behavior. It is a major threat to marriage, to family, to children and to individual happiness. In undermining marriage it is one of the factors in undermining social stability.Social scientists, clinical psychologists, and biologists have begun to clarify some of the social and psychological effects, and neurologists are beginning to delineate the biological mechanisms through which pornography produces its powerful negative effects.

Some of the findings inside the study include: [Read more...]

Saturdays are great for Sabbath

Saturdays are a lot of fun at the Armstrong house. We have been trying to have pretty agenda-free Saturdays to encourage relaxation, and family time.

They’re also a day that we’re trying to use for Sabbath—to put aside things that distract us from God and enjoy Him.

Historically, this is something I’ve been terrible at, both in the sense that I am terrible at resting, and that I don’t always take the time to enjoy God, to be reminded, as John Piper would say, “that God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.”

All too often, I find the distractions of life pulling my attention away. There’s dishes to be done. A lawn to be mowed. Groceries to be purchased. Freelance work to be completed.

And all of these are important. We need food, a tidy kitchen, our lawn to not look like a jungle… and the extra money from freelance work is very helpful. But they’re not the most important thing.

Jesus is.

In Exodus 20:8, we’re commanded to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” because, Jesus tells us, “the Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). We’re told these things because one of the most important ways to worship God is to enjoy the great gift He’s given us—Himself, through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Spending one day enjoying Him, is definitely not a lot to ask, and God is a gift too important to ignore.

So let me ask you, dear reader: Do you Sabbath? How will you use your Sabbath day to enjoy Him?

Fun Dad moments

I have a great little girl. She’s funny, smart and I have no doubt she’ll be a boy-magnet when she’s in her teens (because she’s pretty like her mom… also, that’s not to say she’s going to be boy-crazy, because I don’t think she will be).

We have had a lot of fun moments this week, so I thought I’d share a few:

  1. Listening to her shout “Jesus!” when I signed his name (one of the only things I know in sign-language).
  2. When I asked her if it was time to come out of the bathtub, she responded, “No, I’ll stay in bathtub.”
  3. Singing songs as a family and listening to her sing back to us parts of Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me.
  4. Watching as Abigail announced she was making “Monster faces.”
  5. Getting a running hug when I got up at nine on Saturday morning.

It’s things like that that make me glad to be a dad.

aaron-abigail

When Talking to Family…

As many of you know (because I’ve written about it often here), for a long time, I’ve lamented my lack of initiative in more pro-actively sharing my faith with my family. It’s been a subject of prayer for both Emily and myself, to overcome our fear and speak freely. Because, if our faith actually makes a difference in our lives, we should talk about it.

Having just come back from a couple of days in Grand Bend, Ontario, with my in-laws, I can say that I did get an opportunity to do exactly that, when we got on the subject of the church; and more specifically, the things we believe are important for our family within a church.

We talked about the power of the Scripture, and that when it’s proclaimed with joyous passion—as though Jesus actually makes a difference in your life—it is a beautiful thing.

We talked about discipleship, and how church leaders need to be the kind of men who can confidently say, “Follow me as I follow Christ!”

We talked about the importance of church-planting and missions, because a focus on these inevitably fuels discipleship and enables future leaders to grow in and exercise the gifts God has given them.

And, we talked about male-elder governments, and why we believe that only men should hold the office of pastor. We talked about gender roles, and why we believe the distinction is necessary. This was a particularly difficult part of our conversations, as Emily’s mother is very much the dominant personality on most issues, and a product of the feminist movement of the late 60′s and early 70′s. There were times when I could see her tense and even a bit of anger start to rise up. But we persevered.

We kept our comments clear. We avoided rabbit trails and most importantly, we kept Jesus central.

Honestly, I don’t know what the results of this will be. I’m hoping that it will lead to more conversations. For now, that would be enough for me.

I am grateful to God that this opportunity was not wasted.

May He use it as He wills.

The Mini-Holiday Begins!

We’re heading to Grand Bend for a couple of days today, which will be very exciting. I’m trying to learn how to Sabbath, because this is one of my great sins; I simply do not know how to just chill out.

So if the weather is good, I’ll be sitting near the beach in my jeans and sneakers and reading Don’t Waste Your Life and probably a couple other books (I’m a fast reader), and playing with Abigail while she joyfully screams, “Look at me, Daddy!”

No email to check. No phone to answer.

It should be awesome.

A Great End to a So-So Day

Today was, in large part, a day I’d like to forget altogether. But there’s something about spending some time playing with my little girl that’s refreshing. It’s amazing what a few minutes of fun can do.

Praise God for toddlers who want to do nothing more than “Daddy run!”

aaron-abigail