girltalk Blog

May 24

Grace That Leads Me Home

2017 at 3:04 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God | Suffering

My grandma likes to tell about the time my dad, a little boy of five at the time, wandered away from the house and out onto a busy street. He most certainly would have been hit by a speeding motorist, had it not been for his dog. True to his herding instincts, this noble collie walked between the cars and my dad and kept my dad from straying into traffic until the police found him. My dad’s dog saved his life.

We might not think about it like this at first, but trouble and hardship are like Dad’s dog. They keep us from straying into the busy street of sin. We don’t always appreciate their life-saving presence in the moment. Trials feel to us like that collie might have felt to Dad: annoying at best, painful at worst. Trouble sticks so close, it shoves so hard. It keeps us from going where we want to go. At times, trials knock us to the ground. We long to be free from their troublesome presence.

But the Psalmist views his trials as a life-saver: “Before I was afflicted I went astray,” he confessed, “but now I keep your word” (Ps. 119:67). To hear the Psalmist tell it, he’s actually glad that he experienced affliction! Now no one—least of all the Psalmist—is saying that affliction is pleasant or we should enjoy pain or hardship. But in the mystery of God’s ways, we should see each and every trial as a blessing. Afflictions are divine herd-dogs, sent by our gracious heavenly Father to protect us and keep us from sin.

For one, trials protect us from pride. They keep us humble; they keep us needy and dependent on God. It’s hard to think too highly of yourself when you are brought low—and that’s a blessing. Affliction can also keep us from straying out into the shiny streets of worldliness. We realize something of our frailty and our mortality when we suffer. We get a glimpse of the emptiness of all this world has to offer, and so we don’t rush headlong into sinful pleasures. And trials, when we respond to them as gifts from God, can keep us from being callous others. We are more compassionate, more caring, more understanding because we know a little of what pain feels like. Each trial in our lives—big or small—protects us from sin and leads us back to God. And to joy.

Wait, did you say joy? We think of our trials as joy-takers, not joy-bringers. “Before I was afflicted I was happy, but now I am sad all the timeis how we put it. But there is a difference between trials being unpleasant—which they are—and trials robbing us of our joy. Our afflictions are sent by God to lead us joy. Listen to Joni Eareckson Tada, quadriplegic and in chronic pain since she was in a diving accident at age 17. “I’m grateful for my quadriplegia. It’s a bruising of a blessing. A gift wrapped in black. It’s the shadowy companion that walks with me daily, pulling and pushing me into the arms of my Savior. And that’s where the joy is.”

Trials not only keep us from sin, they push us back to the arms of our Savior. And that’s where the joy is. The Psalmist doesn’t just get back to the duty of God’s Word, now he delights to keep God’s Word. Now he has joy! One of the things we lose in our Stoic-slanted view of the Christian life is how to find joy. We think all the delight and happiness is out there, on the busy byways of sin. So we go wandering from home, we stray from Christ. And affliction, by the grace of God, brings us back. It keeps us safe. It leads us back to where the joy is.

So if you feel followed by that “shadowy companion” Affliction, if Trial is always nipping at your heels, if Trouble keeps shoving you to one side, give thanks for your “bruising of a blessing.” May your trouble, major or minor, push you into the arms of the Savior. May your affliction lead you back home—to joy.

May 17

Summer: Season of Opportunity

2017 at 8:59 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Motherhood

Summer was always my favorite season as a little girl, and I ran headlong into those glorious months free from school with all the energy I possessed. So now, as I come upon another summer as a mom with four children I’m equally excited. I’m also grateful for the example my mom set for me growing up. As with everything else in life, she approached our summers with great intentionality. Now don’t get me wrong—she provided many wonderful opportunities for fun and rest. I still remember our local pool which offered an hour of “free swim” every morning from 8-9 during the summer. Most days, my mom would drive us, and a carload of our friends, to swim in the ice cold waters of Upper County Pool. How we ever thought “freezing swim” was summer fun is a mystery to me, but Mom provided this and many other summer memories that I will always cherish.

But Mom also saw summer as a land of opportunity and refused to let us squander it. One specific memory I have is the afternoon of “quiet time” she required. After lunch from 1-3, we had to stay inside and spend at least an hour of that time reading. The other hour was to be spent in some other constructive pursuit such as art, music, cooking, sewing etc I still remember chafing against this rule, not exactly appreciating “quiet time,” as it interrupted my play time. Sorry about that Mom! But I was chatting with Nicole the other day about this very thing, and we were recounting all the good that came from that small requirement. Obviously, it instilled in us a love for reading but that was just the beginning. It also helped us to appreciate the value of structure and scheduling, of habit and discipline. It gave us focused time to cultivate our gifts and desires. Many of the things we love and pursue today such as art and writing were born in those hours of summer quiet. The benefit we have received helps us persevere in creating similar structures for our own children. So much value from such a small and simple practice.

And so, as school draws to a close, let’s ask: How can we be intentional this summer? Is there a skill that one of our children has been wanting to learn? Is there a particular character quality where we can creatively facilitate growth in our family? Maybe for you, this will be the “summer of kindness” for your kiddos, like it was for Nicole’s a couple years ago. Maybe you can create a structure for your kiddos to grow in reading, which happens to be my summer goal this year. This will look different for each of us, but just remember, a little bit of intentionality in these years has the power to effect not only your kids but even your future grandkids. That’s a summer to get excited about!

May 10

Who Is Looking Out for Mom?

2017 at 9:40 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Motherhood

When my youngest daughter Sophie first came into our home at the age of three, she, like every toddler, wanted my constant attention. If I wasn’t looking at her, she would tug on my arm and repeat, “Mom, mom, mom.” I would turn around from the dishes or look up from my laptop and respond with an exclamatory “Look at you, Sophie! What a good job!” After a few weeks, Sophie picked up on the phonetics (if not the grammar) of my response and began to call out “Lookachoo, Mom! Lookachoo!” It took me a few times to realize that she wasn’t speaking in her native Amharic—she was saying my words back to me. She wanted me to “look at you.”

One of the most precious gifts we give our children is our attention. We watch their twirls in the kitchen, and we examine the new bug they found in the backyard. We look for signs of a sniffle, and we look both ways before we help them cross the street. We pay attention to their diet and their sleep and the neatness of their handwriting. We keep our focus through their long, rambling stories. We attend to their needs, and we keep an eye out for their temptations. We watch them crawl around the corner of the living room and down the hall; then, in the blink of an eye, we watch them back out of the driveway and down the street. According to legend, we even have eyes in the back of our head. From the moment our newborn (or our three-year-old) is placed in our arms, we begin a vigil that never ends. We moms are always on lookachoo duty.

Alas, we mothers are only human after all. We cannot watch our children every moment of every day. Our eyelids grow heavy. We must sleep when they sleep. And then we get distracted. We fail to listen. We miss so many moments. Or we get anxious, fretful with the care of these eternal souls. We grow weary with all the watching.

But as we watch over our children, our Heavenly Father is watching over us (Prov. 2:8). He does not grow weak or weary (Isa. 40:28). His attention doesn’t flicker or fade. As we attend to our children’s needs, we are constantly being attended to by God, who knows exactly what we need (Matt. 6:32). All of our motherly duties are carried out beneath the gracious umbrella of his attentive care (Ps. 34:15). Every story we listen to, every picture we praise, every sin we correct, we do under the watchful eye of our Heavenly Father.

JI Packer writes:

What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it—the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind….I know him because he first knew me and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is not a moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters. This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort—the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates—in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good.

We don’t have to cry “lookachoo” to get God’s attention. He’s already looking. He’s already caring. He already knows what we need. In fact, when we call out to him, it’s because he first prompts us to pray. If we are his children, in Christ, then there is not one single moment when our Heavenly Father’s eye is off of us. He is always watching over us for our good. Here, my fellow moms, is an unspeakable comfort. And energy! I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly what I want for Mother’s Day.

May 3

Don’t Let Your Limitations Stop You

2017 at 6:57 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Good Works

We all have limitations. A condition of limited ability; a defect or failing. Our particular limitations could be a lack of time, money, energy, ability, or experience; or the unwelcome constraints of life circumstances and obligations. Whatever our limitations, many of us may wish we could get rid of a few, if not all of them.


But let’s not forget: God is the one who lovingly limits us. The Bible gives us clear evidence that He controls every detail of our lives (Job 14:5, Jer. 10:23, Dan 4:34). In his wisdom, he determines what we can and cannot do. And we must be careful not to be so preoccupied with what we can’t do that we miss out on all that we can do to love, serve, and please Jesus.

In Mark 14, we read the story of one woman who did not let her limitations stop her from expressing her love for Jesus. The setting is a dinner party that was being held in Jesus’ honor, just a few days before his crucifixion. While Jesus was reclining at the table, a woman (John 12:3 identifies her as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus) approached him and poured very expensive perfume over his head. The disciples were indignant, viewing such an act as a complete waste of money. But Jesus ordered the disciples to leave her alone and commended Mary’s deed. Then he says of her: “She did what she could(v.8).

Mary may have wished to do more for Jesus. But Mary didn’t allow her limited resources or abilities to hold her back. Instead, she did what she could. Whatever our God-given limitations, they do not hinder us from serving our Savior. In fact, our limitations are often the very means God uses to propel us into fruitful service. Consider Fanny Crosby. Blind from the age of six weeks, she became the author of more than 8000 hymns, many of which we sing today. Of her blindness, she said: “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow, I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.”

Photo Credit: Russ Dodge

Fanny Crosby didn’t begrudge the limitation of her blindness but deemed it a gift that nourished and fostered her hymn writing. Perhaps Mary’s example played a part in shaping Fanny’s attitude toward her limitations, for on her tombstone she requested these words: “Aunt Fanny: She hath done what she could.”

Like Mary and Fanny, let’s do what we can to serve our Savior. Let’s regard each of our limitations as a gift—a special provision from God for fruitful service. All he asks of us is that we do what we can, by his grace. And when we do what we can, he has one more thing to say. It’s the same thing he said about Mary. “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6). Oh my, how marvelous is that? To think that when we simply do what we can, we are doing something beautiful to the One who did the most beautiful thing ever to us—dying on the cross for our sins! How can we not, with gratitude and joy, do what we can?

Apr 26

A Picture and A Prayer

2017 at 5:41 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Motherhood | Parenting Teenagers

Whenever I attempt to decorate a room, create a centerpiece, or fill the planters on my front porch, I try to find a picture that I can replicate. I’m not one of those gifted women who can come up with a design idea on my own, so I benefit greatly from having a picture to copy. Although my finished product rarely looks as good as the picture (not even close sometimes!), at least it looks better than what I would have produced without a picture.

Did you know that God graciously gives moms (and dads) a picture to follow? In Psalm 144:12 we find a striking image of what our children should be like as they enter their young adult years: “May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace.” Now granted, “plants” and “pillars” may not be the first images that pop into your mind when you think about the young girl with her mood swings or the boy whose clothes cover the floor of his room. So let’s a take a closer look at this photo to discover what we can learn.

Our Sons. They are to resemble a plant. This plant is not a seedling or slow growing. It is already full grown with deep roots. And because it is such a hardy plant it can withstand the heat, survive the cold and endure tough weather conditions. Here we have a picture of strength and endurance. Our sons are to grow early and quickly to maturity and be able brave the storms of life. In other words, young men are not to spend years in perpetual adolescence, but be fully grown in their youth. Obviously, a son needs a whole lot of his dad (or another godly man, if dad is not involved) for this project! But how does this picture influence my mothering?

For one, we should resist the urge to shelter our sons when they need to face their fears. We must refuse to coddle them when they need to be tough. We must allow them to take on difficult tasks, on their own, without our help or interference. In short, we should not be afraid to put our boys out in the elements. This doesn’t mean we throw them into the cesspool of culture, but rather that we train them to take steps of boldness, courage, and principled resistance.

Our Daughters. They are to be like a corner pillar. A corner pillar not only bears the weight of the palace but also joins the palace walls together. A corner pillar adorns the palace with beauty. This is a picture of strength and beauty. So instead of closing our eyes and gritting our teeth until the teen years are over, we must set about teaching our daughters how to be strong and beautiful.

For starters, our daughters should have strong character. They should be able to shoulder responsibilities and bear up under pressure and adversity. But they won’t grow strong by indulging their selfish desires, so now is the time to teach them sacrifice and self-denial. Our daughters should also be relationally strong. As the corner pillar, they should be people-connectors, drawing and holding people together. So instead of giving them free reign to hang out with whomever they want, we should encourage them to reach out to the lonely, include the new girl, and stay close to friends who provoke them to godliness. Finally, we need to teach our daughters the meaning of true beauty: to behold and reflect the beauty of God. A corner pillar not only holds up the building, but it also attracts the eye. And so we want our daughters to be beautiful from the inside out so that they might draw attention to God’s beauty.

Before any mom becomes daunted by the prospect of fulfilling such a picture, or perhaps discouraged that your older sons and daughters do not reflect this picture, let me focus your attention on this wonderful truth: This picture is more than a picture. It’s also a prayer.

We are not responsible—nor are we capable—of raising sons and daughters like this on our own. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1). That’s why this verse is first and foremost a request to God that he would fashion our children to resemble this picture; that he would cause our children to become difference makers in the world for the sake of the gospel.

As J.C. Ryle reminded parents of the importance and effectiveness of parents’ prayers:

“Without the blessings of the Lord, your best endeavors will do no good. He has the hearts of all men in His hands, and except He touches the hearts of your children by His Spirit, you will weary yourself to no purpose. Water, therefore, the seed you sow on their minds with unceasing prayer. The Lord is far more willing to hear than we to pray; far more ready to give blessings than we to ask them;—but He loves to be entreated for them.”

So Moms, let’s make this our prayer: “May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace.”

Apr 19

Four Women Who Worked Hard

2017 at 5:45 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Good Works

The greeting sections of New Testament epistles fire my curiosity. We are given tantalizing morsels of information, hardly the full back-story. But if we look at these verses like archeologists searching for clues, we can discover a surprising amount of truth for our edification and encouragement. Take Romans 16, for example. You can’t read this passage without appreciating the vital role that women played in the ministry of the early church. Nine of the twenty-four greetings are to women, and their efforts are hardly peripheral or tangential. These women are at the nerve center of ministry in the local church, playing a vital role in its mission to preach the gospel. Four women are particularly interesting, for Paul greets them each in the same way:

“Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you” (v. 6)

“Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa” (v. 12)

“Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord” (v. 12)

Imagine it. You gather for the regular assembly of God’s people, and at the conclusion of this soaring theological letter, Paul greets ‘lil old you? I wonder what these women felt when they heard their names read aloud. Did they realize that they were going to be immortalized in Holy Scripture? Here, at least, are two lessons we can learn from what Paul does and doesn’t tell us about these four women.

Our Work Matters More Than We Think

Most of the time, our work for the Lord seems unimportant and insignificant. Especially when it seems to produce so little in the way of measurable success. We’re called on to organize an outreach event, but it’s poorly attended. We give hours to counseling a woman who decides she wants to be mentored by someone else. We make yet another meal for yet another new mom, but it’s just what everyone expects us to do. And so we measure our service the way that we measure everything else—by results, or by how fulfilled it makes us feel, or by the gratitude we receive. And frankly, it’s discouraging.

But Paul doesn’t commend these women for reaching certain numbers goals, or for their successful organization of the largest church event in local church history, or even for the warm fuzzy feeling of fulfillment they derive from their efforts. That’s not how Paul measures gospel success. Here, at the end of his soaring theological treatise, he commends four ordinary women for one thing: working hard. The verb here implies “strenuous exertion.” These women spent all their energy to further the gospel mission. We don’t know how much or little these women accomplished in the way of “measurable” earthly results, but we do know that they were wildly successful. They received one of the greatest honors in human history: to be commended, by name, in the eternal Word of God. Now that’s worth working hard for!

So if you’ve felt discouraged of late; if you’ve started to wonder if your work in the church is a grand waste of time and talent—take heart. Whether or not others recognize your efforts, God does. He called out these four women, and he calls you out today. Be encouraged and don’t give up. Keep working hard for the Lord. Or, as the author to the Hebrews encourages us: “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints as you still do” (6:10).

Our Work Matters Less than We Think

Often, it can seem like people only notice the women in the church who are gifted in public ways. The rest of us do our work quietly in the background, with little fanfare. But here in Romans 16, Paul not only draws attention to Phoebe and Prisca who were wealthy and influential but also to sisters Tryphaena and Tryphosa who were former slaves, freedwomen. In an ironical side-note, Tryphaena and Tryphosa’s names mean “Dainty and Delicate.” You have to wonder if Paul smiled to himself as he wrote: “Greet those strenuous workers in the Lord, Dainty and Delicate.” The point is: nothing in our background, no physical or spiritual weakness, no lack of experience or gifting hinders us from working hard in for the Lord. We are all eligible for the commendation these women received. “By the grace of God I am what I am,” said Paul in another one of his letters, “and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:10). May the same be said of us.

But all too often we get caught up in what “our role” is in the church, whether or not we have a title or a position or, as we like to call it, “a place to serve.” We get locked in petty rivalries with other women, comparing and obsessing about who gets recognized or utilized more. Paul’s greetings graciously redirect our gaze to the right reasons for ministry. Like Mary, we should work hard “for you”—our work is to be out of love for the people of God. And like the sisters and “beloved Persis” our work is to be “in the Lord”— for the glory of our Savior. These women did not strive for position or honor, but they served their hearts out for the greatest cause in human history: the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so should we. Let us follow their example and remember that the cause we are working for is far more important than the kind of work we do for that cause. Let us be willing, eager in fact, to labor strenuously in a lowly position in the church.

It might be easy to skim the conclusion to the book of Romans, assuming that the important stuff got covered in the first fifteen chapters. But really, the book of Romans closes with a pressing question for each one of us: Are you working hard for the Lord? If Paul sent a letter to your church today, are you the kind of woman he would greet and thank? May we unhesitatingly seek the glory and honor these women were striving for, simply to be known as hard workers for the Lord.

Apr 12

What God Does With Failures

2017 at 5:35 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood

When I prepare a message to speak (which I did this past month), I always create two documents. The one document is the message itself, and the other is the message “extras.” My “extras doc” is full of discarded sentences, points, quotes and ideas, and usually ends up much longer than the message itself.

One point from John 21—that ended up in extras because of time restraints—continues to affect me. It’s about failure.

We all know about the apostle Peter’s failure. While Jesus was enduring unimaginable torture leading up to his crucifixion, Peter, just a few yards away, was denying that he ever knew Jesus. Three times Peter denied his Lord. Then there is that vivid scene that Luke records (22:60-62): After Peter’s third denial, the rooster crowed, “and the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Can you imagine the agony, guilt, and shame that overwhelmed Peter when his eyes met his Lord’s? Peter “went out and wept bitterly.”

Fast forward to John 21. The resurrected Lord meets his disciples, including Peter, on the beach. They have been fishing all night, and they are tired, and in one of the most beautiful

scenes in Scripture, Jesus makes them breakfast. Then he turns to Peter.

Three times he asks Peter: “Do you love me?”—giving Peter the opportunity to make three public reaffirmations of his love and loyalty to the Lord, in place of his previous denials.

Three times he commissions Peter: “Feed my sheep.” Not only does he restore Peter, but he also commits his flock into Peter’s care.

Peter’s restoration and the renewal of his calling offer hope to all of us when we consider our grievous sins and failures. As John Stott put it, “No matter how desperate our failure, or how deep-seated our shame, he can forgive and renew us and then use us in his service. Failure is never final with God.”

Whether you live with regret because of a wife fail, a mom fail, or a friend fail. Whether you feel guilty because you compromised your gospel witness at school or work. Whether you feel shame because of sexual sin or because you had an abortion. Whatever sins and failures mark your past, remember: failure is never final with God.

First of all, if you have repented of your sins, you are forgiven. Completely forgiven! Even if the person you sinned against doesn’t forgive you, God does. Jesus Christ has taken the punishment for your sins. He received the wrath of God that you deserved. He suffered in your place. He took your guilt upon himself. You need not carry it around anymore! In fact, to do so is to deny the guilt-obliterating power of what Christ has accomplished for you.

Secondly, you are not finished yet. No matter what our past sins or failures, we are not useless or ruined for kingdom work. God not only forgives and renews us, but he also uses us for his good purposes. Jon Bloom writes: “Jesus is the great restorer of failures who repent…[He] specializes in transforming failures into rocks of strength for his church.” Peter is the prime example, but throughout church history up through this very day, God is still in the business of deploying forgiven sinners in kingdom work.

If failure is never final with God, then let it not be so with us. Let us repent. Let us ask God to restore us. Let us—a community of forgiven failures—devote our lives to serving our forgiving Savior.

Apr 4

The One O’Clock Miracle by Alison Mitchell and Catalina Echeverri

2017 at 11:20 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw

Update: Congratulations to Diane, Kimberly, and Kelly who recommended Swallows and Amazons, The Lightlings and (among others) Ox Cart Man, The Little House, and The Story About Ping. You will each receive a copy of The One O’Clock Miracle! Also, the Good Book Company is giving you a copy of the recently released The One O’Clock Miracle Coloring and Activity Book. Enjoy, and thanks to all who shared your favorite children’s books with us!

When we were growing up, both our parents read to us almost every day. Dad read aloud to us after dinner. We would all sit, captivated by the world of Narnia, while Mom washed the dishes. Then Mom would read to us before bed, and I never wanted to miss a night. I still remember waiting up for her on the rare nights she would be out for the evening, greeting her with In Grandma’s Attic in hand, having no idea how tired mommies are at ten o’clock at night! She never let on, always sitting down to read to me no matter how late it was. I tried to remember her example last night when my girls ran to me, the same book in hand: because now I know just how tired mommies feel.

But you get the idea, reading together is a priority and we are always on the look out for new books. My kids are currently ages four to eleven, so I love it when a book comes along that captures everyone’s attention. And just such a book landed on my kitchen counter just the other day. It was from our friends at The Good Book Company. The One O’Clock Miracle brings to life the story of Jesus healing the royal official’s son in John 4:46-54; or, to quote from the back of the book: “Discover a journey full of excitement and surprises as you find out just what happened at One O’Clock.”

The story is wonderfully simple, with repeating phrases that help children grasp the miraculous power of a loving Savior. The author’s creative approach to an all-familiar story did indeed make the book exciting and surprising. And the illustrations are the perfect complement to the writing. They are whimsical, colorful, and childlike, providing the visual aid that draws children in as you read. This book has been officially inducted into the Bradshaw Bedtime Reading Hall of Fame. Oh, and it was also CBA Children’s Book of the Year 2016. And guess what? Thanks to our friends at The Good Book Company, we have three of these books to give away. Simply send us an email, or comment on the girltalk Facebook or Twitter pages by midnight, and tell us your favorite children’s book. Tomorrow we will pick four winners at random. Even if you don’t win, consider adding this book to your family’s library.

P.S. The second edition of the girltalk newsletter just went out last week, and it is full of all kinds of favorites, including one of our favorite children’s book series. Subscribe on the sidebar to receive your issue each month.

Mar 29

“The Snare of Compare” Refresh

2017 at 4:38 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood

It happens when we walk into a room. We compare. We mentally measure our beauty, status, talents, or situation against the other women present. If the numbers come out in our favor, we get a boost of confidence; if we come up short, we feel depressed and self-conscious. Comparison is a mood changer. But it’s also a sin from which we can and should get free.

This past Saturday, the women of our church gathered for worship, teaching, and fellowship. It was a sweet time. Mom shared her revised and updated message on “The Snare of Compare,” and we share it here with you now. This is my personal favorite of Mom’s messages, maybe because I need it so much! If you ever struggle with sinful comparison, this talk on John 21 will encourage you to keep your eyes on Christ. Enjoy!

Mar 22

A Case of Mommy Guilt

2017 at 5:25 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Motherhood

The other night my husband and I sat with our children and watched home videos until long past bedtime. We laughed at how our youngest daughter used to be obsessed with hand sanitizer because of the glitter and how our oldest son’s curls used to hang over his eyes. We were reminded of God’s faithfulness to our family and, at the same time, experienced it once again. As the kids went to bed, one of my sons said, “That was great Mom, we have to do this again soon.”

You’d think I would be basking in the glow of a sweet family bonding time, but as I washed the dinner dishes, feelings of guilt were already engaged in hand to hand combat with the warm fuzzies. Guilt, as per usual, soon won out. “Those videos don’t show the whole picture. You may have looked like a fun mom playing hide and seek with your kids, but you know you didn’t play with them enough.” Or, “How could you have forgotten the day when all the hot air balloons raced over our house? You didn’t enjoy your children enough when they were little.” You should’ve. You didn’t. You failed.

How should we handle the unpleasant emotion of “mommy guilt”? There is much more to say than I can pack into a post, but here are a few thoughts that I hope prove helpful.

First, it seems to me that there are two main strains of “mommy guilt.” The first kind of mommy guilt isn’t really guilt at all. It’s an emotion we call “guilt,” but it’s usually a vague feeling of discouragement that points to some pride or approval-craving masquerading as “guilt.” We talk to a mom who believes her parenting method is the only way to go. Or we read the latest study that proves parents of really smart, successful children do x, y, and z—and we aren’t even doing x. Bring on the self-flagellation.

The problem with a lot of mommy guilt is that the law we have transgressed is not a biblical one but a cultural one. We have to watch out here: How much of our idea of what it takes to be a good mother is shaped by Scripture and how much is shaped by my friends who believe children should only eat, sleep, or learn in a particular way?

I’m not saying it doesn’t matter how we feed or educate our children. It matters a great deal! Motherhood is an intensely practical endeavor. But how we raise our children should flow from and run back to the one grand goal of mothering: to train up our children in the ways of the Lord (Prov. 22:6). When we start here, mothering gets a lot easier, a lot less burdensome, and a whole lot more fun. We will find a wide scope for our imagination, creativity, and gifting when we chuck the obligation to measure up to certain cultural standards. There is time enough to do what matters in mothering, but only if we do it for what really matters.

To deal with faux mommy guilt, we must learn all that we can from other moms, but preferably older, godly, women who have seen many mothering fads come and go, and have a sense of what matters for the long-term. But most importantly, we must evaluate all parenting advice in light of God’s Word. To borrow a John Piper image from another context, if training our children in the ways of the Lord is like the sun, then everything else such as feeding and sleeping and educating our children will, like the planets in their course, find their proper place. And we moms won’t feel guilty for things we shouldn’t feel guilty about.

The second kind of mommy guilt is the true kind. We are in such a hurry to outrun this unpleasant emotion that we forget it is a God-given feeling. I should feel guilty sometimes because I am a guilty mom. I have broken God’s laws, and I do so multiple times a day. I break God’s laws when I am impatient with my children or when I complain about an interruption. I break God’s law by things I do and things I don’t do. Far from being a negative emotion to avoid at all costs, I must ask God to help me feel the right kind of mommy guilt at the right time.

But true conviction from the Holy Spirit isn’t the vague sense of failure I had the other night. The way to deal with these feelings is to admit that yes, I am a guilty mom—guilty of many sins of commission and omission—but thanks be to God I have a Savior whose sacrifice on my behalf is sufficient to cover all my mommy guilt. He is at work to make this guilty, repentant mother fruitful in her home. That’s what I should have seen the other night when watching home videos: not only my failures but the amazing grace of God in spite of my failures.

Recently my dad sent me this quote from John Newton to encourage mothers who struggle with mommy guilt:

“You say you feel overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of unworthiness? Well, indeed you cannot be too aware of the evils inside yourself, but you may be, indeed you are, improperly controlled and affected by them. You say it is hard to understand how a holy God could accept such an awful person as yourself. You then express not only a low opinion of yourself, which is right, but also too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer, which is wrong.”

Contrary to what our culture tells us, it is right and biblical to have a low opinion of ourselves. What’s wrong is to have too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer.

So the next time we are struck with a case of mommy guilt, let’s ask: Do I feel guilty because I have broken one of God’s laws or one of my own “laws”? And if we have broken one of God’s laws, let us have a low opinion of ourselves. Let us admit our guilt and ask God (and our children, if appropriate) to forgive us. But let us have a high opinion of Christ. Instead of wallowing in “What a horrible mother I am” let us immediately turn to contemplating the person and work and promises of God. Let us thank him for his amazing grace revealed at the cross and at work in our mothering. And let us trust in his promise to help us in our time of need. This is the way to true freedom from mommy guilt.