Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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The Mom Who Failed and the God Who Fixed Her

Once there was a girl who had a baby.

She wanted to be the world’s best mom.

 

She thought about what she had been taught about this.

She read books and websites by people who said they were experts.

 

They promised that if she followed their rulebook, her children would be virtually perfect.

Her children’s souls, they said, depended on it.

She did what they said.

It didn’t work.

 

She tried harder.

People she knew tried to help.

“Be more consistent!”  they said.

“Be harder on your kids!”

“Your child has lost respect for you!”

All this advice started to feel like the words of Job’s lousy friends.

 

She looked to the experts again.

“There is no such thing as a strong willed child,” one expert said, “Only weak-willed mothers.”

“If I could come to your house,” another said, “I could tell you in 5 minutes what you are doing wrong.”

“There is only one way to discipline,” yet another added.  “If you don’t get results, you are a failure.”

 

Well.  That she was.

 

She was scared.  Would her failure ruin them?

The experts said it would.

She cried.

 

No matter how closely she followed the formulas, her kids would not obey perfectly.

In fact, they fought a lot.

Often they cried and screamed.

This was not supposed to happen!

 

Sometimes she exploded with frustration.

Where was the perfect happy home she’d been promised? 

What was she doing wrong?

 

 

Then she realized: This is not how God parents me.

He is longsuffering.

He guides me individually with a plan designed just for me.

He gives grace.

He is merciful when I fail.

The Perfect Parent did not follow the “experts’” formulas!

 

She threw out the rule books.

She repented of harshness and legalism.

She begged her children’s forgiveness.

 

She began to discern their uniqueness.

Before, she had swiftly judged every behavior in rigid black and white.

Now she looked through a multicolored lense that took into account that child’s individual struggles…

His gifts…

His frustrations…

His heart.

 

All had not been as it seemed.

Sometimes (much of the time) her children did not disobey on purpose.

But she hadn’t listened.

Although she loved them, she had viewed them as adversaries.

As little people to be conquered.

 

She was broken.

How could she not have seen?

She begged God for help.

 

She began to mend her relationships with her little ones.

Soft answers.

Gentle words.

Long talks.

True listening.

Extra hugs and snuggles.

 

Were her children still sinners?

Yes—and so was she.

Were there boundaries and expectations in her home?

Oh yes.  But it was different now.

 

She loved on her kids.

She studied them.

She learned better how to couple truth with grace.

 

A few years passed.

Each day she became a better mom.

Sometimes she fell down.  Sometimes she fell hard.

Sometimes she fell back into that black hole of fear and legalism.

But over time, things got better.

It became easier to be a good mom.

Her heart was filled with hope.

 

She is still a long way from perfect.

But her children love her and she has a happy home.

The end.

 

P.S. I won’t tell you who the young mom was.  Maybe you can guess.

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Have you ever changed your parenting methods?  How?

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Help Your Kids Fearlessly Face the Future!

Lately my Facebook news feed has been clogged with angry and even panicked political rants.  Last night as I got ready for bed, fear gripped me for a moment. There’s so much that’s scary.  What kind of world will my children grow up in?

And then I remember the story of Queen Esther in the Bible, the lovely lady who saved her people, not with strident protest or military strength, but with courage, strength, grace, respect, and wisdom.  Mordecai, her adoptive father, encouraged her:  “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

We, too, were born for such a time as this, and so were our children.

God has put us here, now, for a reason.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you don’t have to worry about your kids. It’s an exciting time to be alive, not because there is nothing to fear, but because God is greater than our fear and has great plans for our families, for our children—for us!

He is not taken by surprise by any election result or Supreme Court verdict.  He’s not in heaven wringing has hands and saying, “Wow, I didn’t see that one coming.  Your family is doomed!”

He has hand-picked your children for today.  It’s their hour, their time to shine, their time to be a light in a dark world, to overflow with the love of Christ, to impact the lives of those around them, to serve like Queen Esther…with courage, strength, grace, respect, and wisdom.

So if you’re tempted to bunker down and raise them in fear and despair, rise to the challenge.  Raise your children to stand before kings if the opportunity arises.  Raise them spiritually strong.  Raise them with courage.  Let them know that their future is bright, because they walk in the Light.

Give them this confidence: You were born for such a time as this.

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Do you face your children’s future with fear or confidence?  How can you raise them for such a time as this?

P.S. Check out this song by Wayne Watson, For Such a Time as This.  An oldie but a goodie!

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Raising Strong Kids in a Fifty Shades World

Are you reading Fifty Shades of Grey?  I’m not.  Dannah Gresh sums up my thoughts pretty well.  (And if you don’t know what the buzz is about, hop over and read her post.  I’d like to keep my blog closer to PG.)

As I’ve listened to the conversation on blogs and Facebook, I’ve found it ironic: In a day when women are supposedly freer than ever before, they are falling all over themselves to read an erotic tale of pain and subjugation.  Because no matter how “consensual”, a lifestyle that includes the purposeful bondage and hurt of another is degrading, sinful, and abusive.

We can trust Jesus with our children.  If not, it would be a scary time to raise kids.  How will they navigate relationships and marriage in a world where books, movies, and one-click porn have made disordered sex mainstream and taught young people to expect and even crave it?

We parents of young ones can’t wait and see.  As we trust God, we must also be proactive.

Even before the Fifty Shades phenomenon, I saw parents react to our perverse culture in two radical ways.  On one end of the spectrum—admittedly the less popular end—I have seen parents over-shelter their children.  I believe this sets their kids up to be victims.  In this paradigm, loving parents want to protect their daughters by assuming all-encompassing responsibility for their protection even into adulthood.  This results in naïve young women who can’t defend themselves.  Also in this paradigm, guys are sometimes emasculated as they rely on rule-keeping and parental involvement to keep them from sexual sin.

On the other end of the spectrum are parents who give their kids no guidance about relationships.  The children are left to figure it out on their own.  They are discipled by the culture, AKA thrown to the wolves.

I’m certainly not an expert, but I propose that a middle way might be wisest.  We should seek to create strong, stable family structures that will shield our kids from the worst of the world.  But we should seek to raise our children to be strong individually as well.  They are not ours to keep forever.

Here are some questions we might ask ourselves about our kids.

Are my children discerning?  Our kids should be trained to spot obvious signs of a predator, but they should cultivate that spiritual sixth sense that says “danger!”  Foolproof?  No.  But important in today’s insidiously deceptive society.

Are they spiritually mature?  Are we teaching them to walk closely with God?  Do they know God’s Word and recognize ideas that oppose it?  Are they “God’s friend,” who can hear his voice?  A deep faith and spiritual toughness won’t happen by accident.

Do they have a secure identity?  Do they look to anyone—man or woman—for self-worth, or are they fulfilled in their position as God’s child?  Do our girls understand that beauty is a gift but it’s not what gives them value?  Do our sons understand that manliness isn’t about lust, sexual prowess, and domination, but about being God’s guy and stepping up to the plate to respect women?  Does their worth come from performance or from God alone?

Have they received unconditional love at home?  Really.  Do we parents love them even when they mess up?  Do we extend grace as God has extended it to us?  Do our kids have to go elsewhere for total acceptance?

Are they both strong and gracious?  Scripture tells us to couple truth with grace.  In a hostile world, have our kids learned to defend their convictions firmly while seeking to hear, understand, and extend compassion to the other side?

Are they sexually confident?  The world SCREAMS to them about sex and relationships.  This is no time for parents to be shy.  As we teach our kids to make moral choices, they should know what they are saying “no” to and what they are saying “yes” to.  Parents should be specific without being inappropriately graphic.  Our kids should know that they can ask us anything, because if they can’t ask us they can sure ask Google.  You won’t like what they find there.

My children are not grown yet.  I might get it wrong.  My kids will make poor choices—hopefully not lasting ones.  There are no guarantees.  But parents, I do know this: God is on our side, and we can’t afford to be passive with our children when there’s a Fifty Shades world ready to devour them.  So let’s raise them strong.

How about you?  What are you doing to prepare your kids for the world they live in?

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Mama Self-Care: Spiritual (No Condemnation!)

~Philip Hale~

Sorry for the spotty posting.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  I’m kicking off a season of more regular writing (hopefully!)  with something new.

I’ve heard it said that we moms need to take care of ourselves first or we won’t have any strength to take care of our families.  You know what, it’s true.  But how easy it is to give ourselves the leftovers when the urgencies of family life demand our attention!  I’m starting a little series on Mama Self-Care, easy ways to help us moms take care of us so that we are able to take care of those placed under our care.

The first and most important way we need to care for ourselves is spiritually.  If we aren’t filled spiritually, then all the other self-care we do won’t make that much difference.

~via pinterest~

But listen.  If those first sentences gave you a stab of condemnation or guilt, don’t let them.  We serve a God of grace and freedom who understands our weakness and is loving and gentle with us.  I love Isaiah 40:11 from the Bible: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

A friend told me not long ago about a women’s conference she attended where one of the speakers, a well-known Bible teacher, harshly judged young mothers who struggle to find time for “serious Bible study.”  There are many reasons that this rubbed me the wrong way, not the least of which are that this teacher had only two children (not dissing those of you with two, but the honest truth is that logistically things were much easier when I had two than when I have five), and that her young mom days have been over for about 40 years.  There is a season for everything and we should not let the drains of motherhood make us feel condemned if we cannot have the kind of quiet time or Bible study someone else—who has never walked in our shoes—says that we should.  God sees our hearts.  I know, I just commited Evangelical treason with those statements.  I am not saying that we should not spend time with God, but simply that we should find a way to configure it to the realities of this very intense time of life.

I do have a set time for prayer early in the morning.  I don’t want to set an alarm that will wake the babies, so I have asked God to wake me up on time and virtually every day, he does.  I pray while I lay in bed (if I can trust myself not to go back to sleep), while I feed the baby, or while I make my bed.  This is not my ideal, but it is better than nothing.  If you are offended, I am sorry.  I think Jesus would rather I talk to him during those times than skip it because the circumstances are not perfect.

The rest of my Jesus time requires more creativity, since my early risers are up shortly afterward.  I read the Bible on my iPod touch (yes, I am behind the times, I don’t have a smart phone) while I nurse the little one, put on the audio version of Psalms or the Gospels while I am in the kitchen, pray throughout the day.  I read Bible stories to the kids and pray with them.  We pray in the car before we pull out of the driveway.  I think about what I have read or heard as I wash dishes or fold laundry.

~Renoir~

There are lots of other creative ways to make our relationship with God a lifestyle, not just a time set apart from the rest of my day.  Leave a Bible open by the rocking chair or in the bathroom, listen to worship music and sing along, teach the kids old hymns, write scripture on a card and place it in the window sill, the mirror, or the dashboard of your car.  And I encourage you, don’t neglect church.  It is so easy to do when we are so very tired.  I have missed more church in the past months than I have in years.  When you have 5 kids, the odds of someone being sick or indisposed during the winter increase a lot.  But if it is possibly in my power, I go.  It might mean jeans and a ponytail, but I am always so happy that I made the effort, even if it was a struggle to get out the door.  Worshiping with other Christians is essential.

All this is to say: Make the effort to feed yourself spiritually, and don’t let perfectionism keep you from your relationship with Jesus.  Run to him!  He hears you when you are scrubbing potties just as well as when you are kneeling at an altar.  Maybe the bathroom is really what he had in mind when he talked about going to your “closet” to pray!  😉


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For the Children’s Sake Friday: 1-6-12

~picture by Jessie Wilcox Smith~

“Where to start?  How?  Parents need to evaluate their priorities.  They need to consider why they respond, “We don’t have time to hike/camp/paint/talk with our children.”  What is really important?  The sacred career?  Educational institutions make poor substitute mothers, fathers, and homes.  There has never been a generation when children have so desperately needed their parents’ time, thoughtful creativity, and friendship.  The surrounding culture is deeply out of step with the Word of God.  Other pressures threaten to take away sanity, stability, and simple humanity.

One of the greatest powers for good is a family whose members respect each other and who have learned to function, however poorly, with the rich concepts the Word of God gives us human beings.  It is almost incredible to think of the stabilizing effect ordinary families can have, not only for themselves, but as a light in a troubled generation.”

~For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay


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It’s 2012! Happy New Year!

I first heard of the idea of choosing a word for the year a few years ago on a secular blog and was smitten.  Now it’s commonplace, even cliché…But I still love it.

Last year and this year I prayed about what my word should be…A focus, a spiritual focal point.  After a brutal 2010, the word God gave me for 2011 was Hope.  It was a hopeful year indeed, from the birth of our little guy on through the year as pieces of life fell together.  I ended 2011 feeling refreshed.

My word for 2012 is Relationship.  It’s so easy to get on autopilot in every relationship—God, husband, children, others…the daily grind of life just takes over and days pass and I realize that while I’ve been continuously with them, I haven’t actually done anything meaningful, we haven’t really engaged in any kind of deep way.  And that’s what I hope to do differently, or at least better.

I don’t want to wake up 10 years from now and find that the whole time that I was feeding, bathing, schooling these little ones 24/7, I never got to know them and built that friendship with them that I could have.  I don’t want to let my marriage drift or my relationship with God grow cold.  This is the year to become more intentional about my relationships, all of them.  To take better care of the ones at home, to be a better friend and neighbor, and to reach out to others who aren’t nearby.

A secondary word for this year is Habit.  I haven’t been very good about establishing good habits with the children, and while I say every year that this is the year it has to change, this really is the year it HAS to change.  Reading Charlotte Mason material, with its emphasis on good habits, has been an extra encouragement in this direction.

How about you?  Do you have a word for the year?


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31 Days to a Kitchen You Love

We’ve all heard, I suppose, that the kitchen is the heart of the home. And traditionally it was. These days it’s more likely to be the place where we pour a bowl of cereal or zap a premade meal in the microwave.

But for those of us with a few kids who want to feed our families healthfully or have special dietary needs, the kitchen becomes a place where we spend a LOT of time. So why shouldn’t it be the heart of the home, the best place in the house, the place where people are drawn to hang out and where we love to cook? We’re going to spend many hours there each day anyway; why not make it a place of blessing, abundance, and beauty? The place where conversations happen and memories are made?

I’m joining The Nester and her friends for 31 days of posting. Each participant chooses her own topic. Mine is 31 Days to a Kitchen You Love. This comes at a perfect time for me, since I had already planned to revamp my kitchen while spending almost nothing. A remodel would be nice, but until then I want to make the best of the kitchen I have, even if it’s not perfect. Truly, I have a great kitchen in size and shape. Before baby was born I did quite a bit of organizing, but in the ensuing chaos of learning to live with 5 small children, it’s quickly fallen into disarray. Over the next month I’m looking forward to doing some small thing each day to make it work better, and to make it a prettier and more fun place to be. And each day (fingers crossed), I’ll write a bit about it.

After all, the journey I haltingly chronicle on my sporadic little blog is what I learn about being a better mom, and that includes even the “have to,” mundane parts of life like tidying the pantry. But it’s much more than that. I want to become a better and more organized cook, I want to learn more how to nourish my family well, and how to nurture and disciple them in the small, daily bits of life, even while we’re cooking supper or washing dishes. The kitchen can be a place of disorder and drudgery, or it can be a sanctuary of worship as we practice God’s presence in the everyday and ordinary. I love the way Ann Voskamp says it…Because all of life flames with God…

Will you join me?

Day 2: Window Treatments

Day 3: Cleaning up the Window, plus Chicken Spinach Salad w/Honey Lime Dressing Recipe

Day 4: Countertops, Inspiration via Nigella Lawson, and a thought about kids in the kitchen

Days 5 and 6: Hey friends, I haven’t forgotten about 31 days. The past couple have been insane, but there is so much going on in my mind and heart that I want to share asap! I had to download the wordpress ap just so I could write this update since I can’t even get to the computer…hopefully tomorrow! Ironic that just when the thoughts begin to flow, I am hindered! Bear with me please!

Day 7~Just trying to breathe today, I shared a couple lovely kitchen links!

Day 8: Love Jesus.  Love People. 

Day 9: Oops!

Day 10: Make Nontoxic Cleaners

I’m afraid I’m failing miserably at my attempt at 31 days, so I’m going to delete my button from the link-up.  I’m glad I did it but my posts have been sub par.  What I’ve learned through this is that I don’t have time to blog daily no matter how much I want to, and I’d rather have quality poss less often than obligatory posts every day.  Thanks for reading!


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Grace Based Parenting, Chapter by Chapter

Virginia Knowles of Come, Weary Moms is going through the book Grace Based Parenting chapter by chapter and writing her thoughts.

I remember when I first heard about this book and my knee-jerk reaction was that grace-based parenting must mean boundary-less, permissive parenting devoid of rules or expectations of obedience. Coming from my default position of parenting that focused highly on behavior (under the guise of “training”), which was actually more about winning and controlling than discipleship, I made a lot of assumptions about a way of raising children that included the word “grace.” I’m nothing if not stubborn, and it took me many years to realize that my way, the way of the “child-training experts” I had followed most of my life, created adversarial relationships with my children alongside superficial obedience, and that this formula-based method didn’t begin to address the unique challenges of some of my kids (despite the condescending assurances of the experts that the challenges were entirely my fault).

And to tell you the truth, that’s still where I am in a lot of ways. I’m not writing as someone who has perfectly obedient children or who has figured this parenting thing out. I admit humbly that I’m no model mom (although it might look that way on days when things are going extra well). Thanks to our unique circumstances, I find that the training, teaching, and discipleship aspects of parenting are an immense challenge, more like walking through deep sand every day than running with confidence down a neatly paved path! This part of being a mom is a million times harder than I anticipated, especially once I realized I couldn’t “formula” my way to a model Christian home.

You see, these are the influences that shaped my view of parenting my whole life. Parenting was simple in this paradigm. If you train and discipline your kids properly and consistently, they will be godly and well-behaved. Poorly behaved children are the result of bad parenting, no exceptions. Well, a child with profound, visible special needs might get a pass, but that was about it.

So imagine my surprise when the formulas didn’t work. To say I was disillusioned is an understatement.

Formulas work often enough that they can be convincing. A couple of my children would be poster children for a formula method. If I leaned on that method, I’d really have no reason to depend on the Spirit or my relationship with them, because a few episodes of consistent discipline and they would conform to my wishes for years, if not for life. They’re just made that way. In fact, I have to be careful that I don’t create situations where they feel responsible to keep me happy, to make up for any misbehavior of their siblings by being “extra good”, or to become smug little Pharisees, thanks to their pleasant, pleaser personalities.

I feel like I’m rambling, but I say all this to point out why I eventually bought Grace Based Parenting. Learning to parent by God’s grace, as he parents us, led by the Spirit instead of behaviorist “experts” is a constant journey of mind-renewal. I daily have to let God change my thinking, the way I interact with my little ones, the way I teach and train them. I am learning to communicate and build real relationships with them. I say this humbly. I mess up daily. I hope I get it right eventually, at least right enough to not make a total disaster of everything. If I do it will be only God, not me.

Does this mean a rejection of “child training” or discipline? Not at all. What these elements look like and how they play out in our family is something I’m constantly learning and growing in. Meanwhile, I look to God, accept his grace over my past and present failures as a mom, and seek with all my heart to extend that same grace to my little ones.

Please join me as I enjoy Virginia’s thoughts and read along, adding my own. Thoughts on Chapter One to come soon.

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