Conversation: Janet Parshall
For two decades, Janet Parshall has been a radio host, including the past 11 years on Janet ParshallÕs America, a syndicated Washington, D.C.-based weekday show heard on 160 stations. But early in her marriage to Craig, her attorney husband, Parshall had a different priority: staying home to raise their four children. Parshall, 56, recently chatted with Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.
tpe: YouÕve authored four books, youÕre on the radio three hours a day, on FamilyNet television daily, as well as being a member of the National Religious Broadcasters executive committee. Can a woman have it all?
PARSHALL: Oh yes — but not at the same time. My background speaks to the choices we women have to make. Women live in seasons, much more than men.
I have this opportunity now to be in the nationÕs capital. IÕve met with the president; IÕve interviewed most of the presidentÕs cabinet. But God first wanted me to learn the value of looking after my own household.
We had four children in six years and these precious souls were my priority. Before the Lord gave me a platform to talk about the White House, I had to take care of my own house. God gives us the opportunity to be taught by Him in a smaller Jerusalem before He sends us to the outermost parts of the world.
When my children were small, the feminist movement said motherhood was an illegitimate profession. A lot of women followed the pied piper of persuasion that they could only have self-actualization fulfilled outside the home.
When my children got older, God systematically and incrementally began to open the door so that I could be on local radio in Wisconsin. One thing led to another until the platform grew nationally. I never had to choose between my children and the outside world.
tpe: You had been content to be a stay-at-home mom until you learned what happened to your daughter Sarah in a fifth-grade classroom.
PARSHALL: We thought the local public school would be the safest place on the planet. I had attended there; I had taught there; I was the PTA president there. We thought the values we had taught our children would be reinforced.
One evening at dinner, Sarah said, ÒMama, we sat in a magic circle today. We had to answer, ÔIf there were a divorce, which parent would you rather live with?Õ Ó
I was stupefied. In trying to identify at-risk kids, the school had trampled the privacy of the Parshall family. At that point I realized there are two mutually exclusive worldviews fighting for predominance in our culture, with children in the crossfire.
tpe: Do most evangelical Christians have a proper view of women?
PARSHALL: Some do and some donÕt. Scripture teaches us that in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female [Galatians 3:28]. When we stand before the throne of grace, HeÕs not going to divide men and women.
I will probably never be a pastor — and thatÕs OK. But I get to do some things pastors would never be able to do.
The world wants women to constantly think of ourselves as victims, that somehow weÕre being shortchanged. That belies the sovereignty of God: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I am not minimized or hampered or handicapped by the gender my Creator has assigned to me.
Jesus constantly elevated women. He took the woman caught in the act of adultery and liberated her from her sin. He took the Samaritan woman who was promiscuous even by 21st-century standards and liberated her. When Jesus was resurrected, God first had His Son appear to women.
tpe: It helps that you have a supportive husband.
PARSHALL: I am under his headship. He encourages, affirms and challenges me constantly. When we had four little children, Craig would let me read the legal briefs of the cases he was working on.
Walking into CraigÕs world, taking a break from Pampers and Sesame Street, made me think critically and analytically. Interacting with him meant the nursery and the courtroom no longer separated us. To this day I benefit from CraigÕs having done that.
tpe: What has happened to those four little children?
PARSHALL: The oldest, Sarah, is married and has a law degree, but is a stay-at-home mom. Her intellect will be there in the future when and if God calls her back into the marketplace as an attorney. Rebecca is extremely gifted in the theatrical arts and is working on a masterÕs degree.
Samuel got his masterÕs in film and heÕs married and has two little kids. Joseph, the youngest, is getting his undergrad in counseling and wants to go on to get his masterÕs so he can be a Christian counselor.
tpe: Talk a little bit about how you saw the sovereignty of God when Samuel almost died from a close-range accidental shooting at age 19.
PARSHALL: That was nine years ago and it still takes my breath away. ThereÕs nothing like a knock at the door from a police officer at 3 oÕclock in the morning asking if we have a son named Sam. We said yes and he responded, ÒHeÕs been shot in the head and we donÕt know if heÕs dead or alive.Ó
Our immediate response was to thank God because we knew that our son knew Jesus as Lord and Savior. We knew that if Sam was absent from the body, he was present with the Lord. Even in that stunning moment, God comforted us.
Even though we had to drive three hours in the dark through the mountains of Virginia, the Great Physician already was in the operating room tending to our child. The physicians and police were dumbfounded because the bullet went into his head and did a U-turn.
For 18 months, this precious child of ours had to learn how to walk again, how to talk again. He looked like a stroke victim; he couldnÕt see. We refer to Sam as our walking, talking miracle because his sight, his speech, his gait, his intellect were completely restored.
With a critical head injury, the neurologists told us he could have plateaued at any point. Today, except for a little serpentine scar on the back of his head, you would never know that he literally walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
We had to trust God moment by moment. It reminded Craig and me of something particularly profound at MotherÕs Day: Our children never really belonged to us; theyÕre leased to us. God gives us the opportunity to touch their hearts, to shape their minds, to direct their walk, but in the final analysis we have to say, ÒGod, they belong to You.Ó
Sometimes that means being in an intensive care unit. Sometimes that means kissing your babies before they serve on a foreign mission field, or you send them off to Iraq or they move to the other side of the country. You birthed them, but you donÕt own them.
tpe: YouÕve told me before that diapers didnÕt compare to the challenges of raising older teenagers.
PARSHALL: Craig and I have been married 35 years. We still say weÕd go back to the diaper days in a flash. Those decisions were easy. Now, when they grow up and you begin to see their value system and the decisions they have to make as adults, there are profound consequences if the choices are wrong.
When my children were little, if I saw that they started to fall and might bump their head on the coffee table, I would grab them and pull them back to safety. The toughest part for me in this season as a mother is to know I cannot lunge forward and pull them back to safety.
Sometimes God wants to teach them something about who He is. If I rush in to fix the problem, they havenÕt learned reliance on Him. ThatÕs a tough lesson for a mama who still sees her grown child as 18 months old. My most important task at this point is to pray without ceasing. Craig and I pray and fast for our kids on a regular basis.
tpe: ThatÕs wise counsel for people with young adult children.
PARSHALL: For people who love the Lord and are committed to Him, the enemy knows that our kids are our point of vulnerability. When our kids are under attack, we sometimes forget spiritual warfare is involved.
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