The second great deal for moms of teenagers is: be a godly example.
Three wise authors weigh in:
“The example of parents, for good or ill, is an influence more profound
than can be measured,” observes author Elisabeth Elliot.
Your children “will seldom learn habits which they see you despise, or
walk in paths in which you do not walk yourself,” warns J.C. Ryle.
“[She] that preaches to [her] children what [she] does not practice, is
working a work that never goes forward.”
Paul Tripp agrees that if we talk about Christ’s love and the Bible but
live selfish, angry, materialistic lives, then we are saying with our
example that God’s truth is only a façade. “Our teenagers will tend to
dismiss or despise the very Gospel we say is of paramount importance,”
he writes. “They will tend to reject the God we have so poorly
represented, and they too, will end up serving the idols of the
Everything we teach our children will stand or fall by our example.
Therefore our example must precede our instruction, less our
instruction be in vain.
So ask yourself: What does my example say to my teenagers about the
truth of God’s Word? Am I walking in paths where I want my children to
While a poor example will dishonor the gospel, the godly example of a
mother is among the most profound forces in human history.
We read in the Bible of the mother-daughter pair Lois and Eunice, who
shaped the life of Timothy. In a survey of church history we are
introduced to the influential mothers of great Christian leaders such
as Augustine, Charles Spurgeon, and John and Charles Wesley—men whose
love for the gospel resulted in thousands coming to know Christ.
The fruit of a mother’s godly example is incalculable. But if the
responsibility feels overwhelming at times, you are not alone. Hope for
imperfect mothers tomorrow.
Moms of teenagers—you’re up next. Building on our series from last week, what’s the first great deal for you? First and foremost: have faith.
As women, we are all vulnerable to fear, worry, and anxiety; and few areas tempt us more than mothering teenagers! But faith must dictate our mothering, not fear. Faith, as it says in Hebrews, is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
Faith toward God is the foundation of effective mothering.
Success as a mother doesn’t begin with hard work or sound principles or consistent discipline (as necessary as these are). It begins with God: His character, His faithfulness, His promises, His sovereignty. And as our understanding of these truths increases, so will our faith for mothering.
The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Fear is sin. And as my husband has often graciously reminded me—God is not sympathetic to my unbelief. Why? Because fear, worry, and unbelief say to God that we don’t really believe He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ps. 86:15). We are calling God a liar.
Even in the most trying situations with our teenagers, we have much more incentive to trust than to fear, much more cause for peace and joy than despair. That’s because, as Christians, we have the hope of the gospel.
The gospel should provide us with tremendous heart-strengthening, soul-encouraging hope: Jesus Christ is “mighty to save” (Isa. 63:1). This should kindle zeal to share the truth of the gospel with our teenagers.
The gospel is the good news of a saving God who is “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). So repent from worry and put your trust in the glorious gospel.
My husband has a Charles Spurgeon quotation as his screen-saver, which we would do well to have running across the screen of our minds: “As for His failing you, never dream of it—hate the thought. The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end.”
So let our mothering forecast be one of victory and not defeat. We have the hope of the gospel in our souls.
I want to close the week by reminding you of one of my favorite promises from God’s Word. Galatians 6:9 says: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
This verse was a source of strength to me when I was carrying my one year old, chasing my two year old and correcting my four year old. I didn’t feel like I was bearing much fruit, but this verse provided faith for the future.
My kiddos are now five, six and nine, and the challenges are a little different. I’m dealing with arguments between my five and six year old and the heart issues of my nine year old. But I’m still holding on to this wonderful promise.
May I encourage you to hold onto this verse as you seek to faithfully sow into the lives of your little ones? The harvest won’t come today. And it won’t come tomorrow. Maybe not even next year or the year after that.
But we must be faithful to sow today. Faithful to train. Faithful to teach. Faithful to discipline. Faithful to love. Or, as it says in this passage, faithful to “do good.” And we must trust God that He will fulfill His promises, that we will reap a harvest in due season if we do not give up.
My expectations are not for today, or even tomorrow—but my hope is in God who has promised that, someday, my labors will bear fruit for Him. Even though my body is weary, my soul gains new strength from this promise.
As mom pointed out on Monday, our mothering mission is “grave and vast.” It can often seem like an overwhelming assignment. That’s because it is. We aren’t called to figure this out on our own. We need help. We need the wisdom of others. So let’s go and get it.
Search the Scriptures! Prayerfully seek mothering wisdom from the Bible. What does God’s Word have to say about parenting these little ones? We need to develop biblical convictions about our role and responsibilities.
As I’m typing this post at my computer, my eyes keep darting to my little note-card with all my “Caly Scriptures.” I keep this note-card in a prominent place to remind me of my responsibility before the Lord, and to encourage my soul with the promised fruit of obedience.
Search Out Others! My mom probably wants to hide when she hears me coming. She has been barraged with my parenting questions (sometimes the same ones over and over) for the last three years. The Lord has also blessed me with a church full of “second moms” who have much wisdom and experience.
Friends, we have to take the initiative. The “older” women in our churches would love to share their wisdom—all we have to do is ask. If necessary, let’s bang down doors and beg for help. Let’s keep these ladies busy!
Search Good Books! The Lord has also blessed us with the wisdom of others in the form of books. I was never a big reader until I became a mom. Now I read any biblical parenting book that I can get my hands on. Then I read it again.
If you don’t know where to begin, check out the four books that we recommended last week (here and here). They will get you off to a great start.
This parenting task takes work and effort. But the reward is well worth it. One of my favorite “Caly-verses” at the moment is Proverbs 29:17: “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.”
Caly has helped me see my desperate need for help, but she has brought much delight to my heart. As I was leaving her room the other night after putting her to bed, I heard her little voice say, “Mom, I love you very so much.”
If less important activities are infringing upon more important priorities, we need to make a change. But what does this look like?
Does this mean that moms with young children can’t have a life beyond warming milk bottles, reading bedtime stories, and repeating endless “no touch”es and “stop fighting”s and “sit still”s?
Of course not! But given the significant amount of time it takes to effectively teach, train, discipline, care for and encourage young children, you won’t have time for much else for a while. Motherhood is and should consume a majority of your time and attention
So how do we eliminate distractions to this primary responsibility?
Let me answer with an illustration: A while back, I decided I would use the five minutes it took for my coffee to brew each morning to check my email, blogs I enjoy, etc. Before I knew it, five minutes turned into twenty minutes and my time with the Lord was shortened or rushed.
So, I set up a boundary for myself: no email or blogs until I have my quiet time, my husband has left for work, and I’ve sent my son off to school in a peaceful manner.
This isn’t legalism. I was simply taking measures to protect the most important from the less important. I want to keep first things first.
So what structures do you need to set up in your life to keep the training of your children a priority? Maybe you only look at email over naps or get up early to work on your home business. Maybe more drastic action is necessary. You may need to put a project on hold or set aside your hobby for a season.
Whatever it takes, let me encourage you to clear away all distractions. There’s a time for every season under heaven, and the time to train your children in the ways of the Lord is now.
So how do we walk carefully through the season of mothering young children? How do we know if we’re
distracted or focused on the right things?
We need to determine biblical priorities for our season, and then consistently evaluate whether or not we are living according to those priorities.
For moms with young kids, it’s pretty simple. Three non-negotiables top the list:
1. The gospel 2. Your husband 3. Your children
Ask yourself: Am I preserving these biblical priorities as my top priorities?
Then consider other activities—from your daily Internet or cell phone habits or hobbies or pleasures like reading or television or hanging out with friends—to significant endeavors such as a home business or serving opportunity.
Does my time spent on ________ cut into my time for consistent practice of the spiritual disciplines?
Does _________ hinder me from putting my husband’s needs first?
Does my investment in ________ distract me from the teaching, training, discipline, care and encouragement of my children?
Does my level of involvement in_______ cause me to be rushed, hurried, distracted or anxious in caring for my family and training my children?
If we’re consistent at checking our facebook wall but not in prayer, or if we’re attentive to our etsy site or blog but not our children, then we need to make a change.
What eliminating distractions looks like, tomorrow.
Mothers are responsible to mold and shape lives; to raise children who, in the words of G.K. Chesterton, “require not so much to be taught anything as everything.”
“I might as well be at the controls of a moon shot,” reflected one mom, “the mission is so grave and vast.” And so it is. The training and discipline of our children in the fear the Lord is an awesome task, demanding of our full attention (see Deut 6:5-9).
That’s why, if there’s one concern I have for this generation of mothers, it is the potential for distraction.
Blogs, facebook, twitter and texting allow moms at home to stay connected with the outside world like never before; the Internet makes it possible for women to contribute skills and gifts to the church and the marketplace, while at home with their children. These are all tremendous blessings, and when used wisely, can bless and serve our families and glorify God.
The Proverbs 31 women, long before the Internet, managed a wide range of tasks for the good of her family and community. (But did you notice what time she woke up each morning?) Depending on a woman’s capacity, gifting, personal discipline, as well as the ages and number of children, there may certainly be room for other things.
But we must be watchful that these “other things” don’t distract us from our primary task of mothering. We must walk carefully through this season, with all its opportunities, and make the best use of our time with our children.
Truth is, we can’t effectively train our children on the side. We can’t discipline them here and there. We can’t teach when we’ve got a free moment. We can’t mother intermittently.
Inconsistent training is ineffective training.
If we are distracted by projects or pleasure, we may miss valuable teaching moments, opportunities to encourage, disobedience that requires discipline, or a chance to show affection. These moments, once lost, are gone forever.
So ladies, may I encourage you, as I do my own daughters, to give training and discipline your first and full attention. Walk carefully, and keep your eyes on the mothering road.
After my little adventure last week, my friend Elise sent me an e-mail with her own story that made me feel a little better. I’m not the only one after all. Thanks, Elise!
12 years ago, I took Austin to get a mommy/son picture for David for Valentine’s Day at the mall. Where were you in my life, Janelle?!! (Austin was 4 months old… it was Feb.) I put Austin in the car, threw in my purse, shut the door and all the doors, simultaneously locked shut! I did have my wallet with a AAA card… had to find someone to watch the car so I could call…
Minutes later… 4 (!!!!) firetrucks screamed into the mall with a locksmith’s truck behind them. Puzzled… I looked around wondering where the fire was, “Oh my goodness! I’m so glad we got out of the mall in time…” To my horror… they spotted me and within moments… we were surrounded! 10 men jumped out (OK… it was really 4, but seemed like 25) all virtually attacked the windows of our Honda trying to unlock it! Within moments… I was IN… AUSTIN SLEPT THROUGH THE WHOLE THING… but I was a wreck.
Be warned, not a month later… I stepped out on my front stoop to get the paper! In a towel and robe from the shower… Yep! The door closed, latched and I was LOCKED OUT of my HOUSE!!! (Yes, my hubby was working in DC and no Mother-In-Laws between here and CT!)... Austin inside in a port-a-crib. I had to run to a friend’s house, in my robe and towel to get the key. Actually, they lived in another neighborhood entirely. This good natured friend was delighted I had stopped by for a morning cup of coffee. Incredulous I exclaimed, “I’m in a robe and towel!! She simply and ever-so-sweetly asked, “Where’s Austin?”
“At home, in my locked house!!!”
Don’t think it can’t happen “again” or “worse”... that being said, I have never left, locked or lost my keys since. AND I’ll never live that down with my husband! (No matter how many kids he accidentally bumps into the running ceiling fan!)
Yes! It’s amazing they’re all still alive!
Thanks for sharing! I laughed out loud remembering!!
On Tuesday, my mom quoted Elisabeth Elliot’s mom: “Training must come before teaching. [Teaching] is impossible unless the children cooperate. And they don’t cooperate unless they are disciplined from their earliest days. This discipline lays the groundwork for teaching.”
Several years ago, Mom wrote a post illustrating this truth. I’m re-posting it today as a reminder for all of us moms. Let’s make the best use of our time to diligently train our children.
Gateway for Knowledge
by Carolyn Mahaney
Last Thursday night occasioned another one of my husband’s surprises. He’s provided a gazillion of them for me through the years. He simply told me what time to be ready and how to dress. This time my surprise was dinner at a homey, rustic restaurant followed by the play “The Miracle Worker” at a nearby theatre. It was a wonderful evening.
And if you will indulge me I’d like to say a word to my husband. (He is in Sun Valley, California at present, due to being the guest speaker at Grace Community Church this past weekend.). CJ, I hope you read this today because I simply want to tell you again how grateful I am to be your wife. Thank you for thirty years of devoted, passionate, exhilarating love. I don’t deserve you!
So back to what I was saying. We went to see “The Miracle Worker.” Most likely, you are familiar with the plot. It’s the story of Annie Sullivan’s struggle to teach the blind and deaf Helen Keller how to communicate. Initially Annie found it extremely difficult to teach Helen due to her wild and violent behavior. But then Annie had a revelatory moment. All of a sudden she realized: “Obedience is the gateway for knowledge to enter the mind.” She understood that she needed to first teach Helen to obey before she could teach her knowledge.
At this point in the play I couldn’t help but think of my daughters, Nicole and Kristin. That’s what they are doing. They are attempting to train and discipline four little boys to obey so they can impart knowledge. And not just any knowledge, but the most important knowledge of all—the message of the gospel.
So to all moms with little children I desire to encourage you today. I want to cheer you on in your efforts to discipline and train your children to obey. It’s hard, exhausting work, I know. Just watching my daughters makes me tired. But it’s worth it. Because an obedient child is a receptive child. And with a receptive child you can teach them the good news, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Now that’s a goal worth striving for, don’t you agree?
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22.6
The subtitle of this book, “A mom’s look at heart-oriented discipline” is the perfect description of why this is one of my favs when it comes to child-training. Ginger Plowman combines her witty writing style with the truth of God’s Word to help moms learn how to use Scripture as the basis for the training and discipline of their little ones. She has packed the book full of specific Scripture references and helpful advice on how to come alongside and help our kiddos see the sin in their hearts and their need for a Savior. Some quotes to get ya started…
“God’s Word has plenty to say to parents if we diligently read it, apply it, and reap its fruit. Truly, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2Pet. 1:3).”
“If we are to really help our children, we must work backward from the behavior to the heart. We must be concerned with the attitudes of the heart that drive his behavior. We do this by communicating with our children in such a way that they are caused to not only understand a Christ-like attitude, but that they learn how to flesh it out in their lives.”
“When you help your child to understand what is in his heart, you are teaching him to evaluate his own motives, which will help to equip him for his walk with Christ as he grows into an adult.” Kristin’s Pick: The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle
In this sobering, yet inspiring classic, Bishop Ryle calls us to consider from Scripture our holy calling as parents to “train up a child in the way he should go.” He provides us with 17 helpful “hints” on parenting that simply “ought not be be lightly set aside.” Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite:
“Train with this thought continually before your eyes: The soul of your child is the first thing to be considered. In every step that you take about them, in every plan and scheme and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, ‘How will this affect their souls?’”
“Beware of letting small faults pass unnoticed under the idea ‘it is a little one.’ There are no little things in training children; all are important. Little weeds need plucking up as much as any. Leave them alone and they will soon be great.”
J.C. Ryle encourages us to: “Train well for this life, and train well for the life to come; train well for earth and train well for heaven; train them for God, for Christ, and for eternity.”
Scripture does not leave us to guess about the “best deals” for parents. In every season of our children’s lives—beginning when they are very young—we are to make training them up in the discipline of the Lord our primary aim (Eph. 6:1-4).
This is a tremendous task, and far too important a topic to sufficiently cover in this series. Instead, we would encourage—no—strongly encourage you to do some study on your own. We want to recommend our four favorite books on child-training, along with a few choice excerpts.
Part memoir, part parenting advice, this book not only gives simple, biblical advice for child-rearing, but a beautiful picture of a godly, loving home. Elisabeth Elliot’s parents raised six children to serve God, and she weaves their wise counsel throughout the book. Here are a few thoughts to consider:
“Training must come before teaching. [Teaching] is impossible unless the children cooperate. And they don’t cooperate unless they are disciplined from their earliest days. This discipline lays the groundwork for teaching.” Katherine Howard (Elisabeth Elliot’s mother)
“The trouble with so many parents is that they do not begin early enough to insist on obedience, telling the truth, and respect for parents; and unfortunately many do not behave in the home in ways that inspire respect. Love, kindness, cheerfulness, and good times should abound in every Christian home, but these are stifled where there is disobedience, disrespect, and where the children’s will dominates. Parents are God’s representatives in the home and, like Him, they should keep the right balance between Law and grace.” Philip Howard (Elisabeth Elliot’s father)
“Called to be a mother, entrusted with the holy task of cooperating with God in shaping the destinies of six people, she knew it was too heavy a burden to carry alone. She did not try. She went to Him whose name is Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father. She asked His help.” Elisabeth Elliot (describing her her mother’s faith)
Elisabeth Elliot recommends this book for its “remarkably clear, biblical, and practical teaching.” I keep it in the basket beside my quiet-time chair and refer back to it often. Shepherding a Child’s Heart lays a biblical foundation for parenting and builds on that with biblical methods and training objectives and procedures for each stage of your child’s life. It is gospel-centered and infused with gospel-hope. Here are a few quotes:
“You must regard parenting as one of your most important tasks while you have children at home. This is your calling…There is nothing more important. You have only a brief season of life to invest yourself in this task. You have only one opportunity to do it. You cannot go back and do it over.
You live in a culture in which there are opportunities for you to do things unheard of in history. You are presented daily with scores of opportunities. There is more than you could ever do. [But] to do this job of parenting well, it must be a primary task. It is your primary calling.”
“The child trained in biblical obedience is better able to understand the gospel. The power and grace of the gospel is most deeply understood, not by those who never face their biblical duties, but by those who do.”
For moms of young children, the demands of motherhood can often—sadly—take first priority over her marriage.
But one of the most loving things we can do for our children is to prize our husbands. It provides a wonderful security in their lives, and it presents a biblical model for them and their future marriages. We want our daughters to prize their future husbands; and for our sons, we want them to find wives who will prize them.
Last week, we left Michelle so busy raising her daughters that she had ceased to prize her husband. Michelle was unaware that she was putting her children before her husband until several faithful friends from church brought it to her attention. “It was like waking up,” she said, “I was blind to it.”
Michelle immediately began to make changes. She started by praying each day that God would give her greater love for Peter. But she didn’t stop there. She began to express affection in creative ways—through cards and letters. She took time to think about things that would bless Peter. She sought his opinion first instead of going to her friends. In short, she made her relationship with her husband her highest priority.
Her actions had a tangible effect. As a couple they began to pursue interests and activities that didn’t involve the children. “Things went so well,” Peter said, “that we began to look for more opportunities to steal away together and have fun and enjoy each other.” For their anniversary they spent a weekend alone. “The most enjoyable part was simply enjoying one another and our new-found romance. We had a blast!”
Let’s heed Scripture’s counsel and follow Michelle’s example. We should do whatever it takes to let our husbands know that we prize them above all others.
I’ve got a homegrown Friday Funnies for you today. At least, it is funny to me now—but not so much in the moment.
It began last week when Mike got into a small car accident. (No, that’s not the funny part. It doesn’t come until much later.) He was fine, but the car had to be serviced for a few days. The insurance company got us a rental car and we’ve been driving it all week.
Well, yesterday I took the girls out in the lovely rental—with all its unfamiliar buttons and gadgets—to Panera to get some bread for dinner. It was a chilly day—not excessively cold, but a good night to enjoy warm bread for dinner
Upon arriving at the restaurant, I popped the trunk to get my stroller and hopped out of the car, closing the door behind me. I pulled the stroller around to get MJ out of her carrier, and discovered that her door was locked. No problem. I hurried around to the driver’s side to unlock her door—only now it was locked too! I tried every door. All locked.
Somehow—and I’m still not sure how—I had managed to lock both my daughters in the car. I stood, staring helplessly at my cell phone and keys, both inside my purse on the passenger seat. Frantically, I started planning my next move.
This was a rental car and we had no spare key. I couldn’t leave the girls to go make a call inside the restaurant. So I looked around for the first person that happened to pass by. Just as I was ready to flag down a guy in the parking lot, I looked up—and who “just happened” to walk out of the Panera door? My mother-in-law!
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I called out to her and she rushed over with her cell phone. I immediately called the police who transferred me to the fire department. Within five minutes I heard the sirens and a huge fire truck with four firemen pulled up—lights and all. They had my babies out within a few minutes.
After our little drama, we girls trooped into Panera and I tried to pretend that no one was staring at me. We got some treats to aid us in our recovery from the trauma of the experience.
Today I’m still driving the rental car, but you can be sure I’m putting that key in my pocket every time I get out of the car!
The first great deal for moms with young kids is to preach the gospel to yourself. Prizing your husband is the second way to make the best use of your time. Here’s one woman’s story of how she came to this realization:
Michelle poured her life and energy into her two small children. However, the demands and joys of motherhood crowded out her love for her husband. Friendships and service in the church even took precedence over her relationship with Peter.
They didn’t have any major problems, but their marriage certainly wasn’t exciting anymore. Intimate communication and even daily expressions of affection had dwindled. After nine years of marriage, their relationship more closely resembled an amiable business partnership. Michelle was so busy raising her daughters, she didn’t even notice.
Michelle had ceased to prize her husband. There was a time when Peter was the most important person in her life, but over time her children and friends had become more significant. However, according to Scripture, these are faulty priorities.
The Bible makes it very clear that after our relationship with God, our relationship with our husband is to be our highest priority (Gen 2:18, 1 Cor. 11:8-9, Tit. 2:3-5). We were created to be our husband’s helper, not our children’s mother.
Certainly we are to love, care for, and nurture our children, but this love is to flow out of a lifestyle that is first and foremost committed to helping our husbands. Our husbands should always remain first in our hearts and in our care.
We’ll conclude Michelle’s story on Monday, but you can expect the Friday Funnies before the end of the day.