Feb 11

Valentine’s Day: A Hopeful Holiday

2014 at 8:40 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney

Purveyors of chocolate, makers of plush teddies and tacky pajamas, and restaurateurs everywhere are enjoying the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. But this yearly celebration of romantic love often produces more disappointments than diamond sales.

For women who are single, the holiday can be a painful reminder of unfulfilled hope. As you rounded the New Year corner and into the January-February stretch, all hopes of a romantic Valentine’s Day once again receded. Another year and your hopes seem more illusive than ever.

For women in difficult marriages Valentine’s Day can be a painful reminder of disappointed hope. You had hoped that your husband would be the man of your dreams: loving, caring, and a godly leader. But all the delicate hopes you brought into marriage feel crushed and this holiday only makes it worse.

Even women in strong, happy marriages can experience deflated hope on Valentine’s Day. You hope that this year your husband will plan something extra special. You hope he might remember to make the dinner reservation or that he will notice your new dress, this time. You hope he will get your hint that “romantic” means more to you than a $17 red-cellophane wrapped box of chocolates from the CVS.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” says Proverbs (13:12). And that is how Valentine’s Day may leave you feeling: sick to your heart.

Valentine’s day buckles under the weight of high hopes, just as marriage does. It will never satisfy all our desires and longings, because God created marriage, not as a hope-fulfiller, but as a picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32).

That’s not to say, a happy marriage doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate and strive for the astonishing grace of a joy-filled, godly marriage. It doesn’t mean we should resign ourselves to another Valentine’s Day of hopelessness and heart sickness.

But our disappointed expectations and our dashed hopes alike reveal that our hope has been misplaced. And God ordains our disappointments—big and small—in order that we may replace our hope on the one person who will never disappoint. Like the “holy women” of the past we are to hope in God (1 Pet. 3:5).

Hopes deferred aren’t a dead end, but a gracious redirect. They are a pointer to the “living hope:” our Savior, Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3). Hope in God enables us to joyfully face the future, whether or not we get married, whether or not we have a happy marriage, whether or not this holiday is all we hoped for.

Underneath the cheap red cellophane of a hope-less Valentine’s Day lies a glorious opportunity: a chance to put our hope in God.

Feb 6

Q&A: “I Feel Like a Mean Mom” Pt. 2

2014 at 9:30 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Motherhood | Q&A

Are you worried about how your kids will remember you?

Maybe you got angry at your child yesterday, or you’ve been irritable and impatient lately. Maybe you feel discouraged by your shortcomings: all the times you’ve been distracted or self-absorbed and so missed opportunities to express tender love and affection to your children.

The monumental task of motherhood often reveals our failures and shortcomings in vivid color. We worry that our children will remember us as a mean mom. In these moments we must remind ourselves of the gospel at work in our relationship with our children.

God is growing you as your children grow: A pastor with grown children once told us: “You finally figure out how to be a parent when all your children are grown.” How true! If I could start over now, I’d feel like an expert.

But that’s not the way God designed it. He doesn’t give us children when we are old and wise and mature, but when we are young and ignorant and need to grow. In other words, he gives us children in the middle of the sanctification process; and our children, in turn, become a significant means of producing growth in our lives.

I remember one of my girls telling me—in response to my asking if there was anything she wanted to change about Daddy and Mommy—that I hadn’t been smiling very much lately. She didn’t think I seemed very happy. Ugghh. She was right. I had not been smiling very much because I was so discouraged by my mothering, and her comment made me feel ten times worse!

Thankfully, I was able to apprehend the grace of God and take her comment as an opportunity to grow. I asked God to help me be a joyful mom. And today, I’m grateful that my daughter assures me that she does not remember me as an unhappy mom.

As we quoted John Newton here on the blog a couple of weeks ago:

“I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.“

God uses weak and sinful women who are being transformed into the image of God to raise children for his glory (2 Cor. 3:18). This is a comforting thought. He is working out his good plan in you and through you at the same time. As you respond to God’s grace and doggedly pursue growth in godliness, this is what your children will see. This is what they will remember. They will remember you as a growing mom.

God has given children a remarkable capacity to forgive. “When I was a child…I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child” wrote the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 13:11), and while he was making a different application than I am here, the point holds true: children don’t think like adults.

Children are very much in the moment. They don’t tend to sit back and assess, evaluate and measure, or render judgments. They are generally slow to hold grudges and quick to forgive. And this is a great mercy to us as mothers.

Our children’s resilience does not excuse our anger. Of course not! But we can find encouragement in the fact that God has created children with a remarkable ability to forgive when we repent and ask their forgiveness.

I remember a time when my dad asked the family to forgive him for getting angry at a family member. Of course I forgave him! I was happy to forgive him! In that moment, all my anger at him melted away. I was filled with gratefulness and affection. Our relationship was restored. Even to this day, I remember that incident more because of my dad’s humility and repentance than because of the anger he expressed in the first place.

So, take heart, repentant mother. When you humble yourself and ask forgiveness, this will have a profound effect on your child’s soul. Not only can it restore your relationship, it can make your bond even stronger than before. Your repentance can serve as a profound display of the transforming effect of the gospel. By God’s grace, memories of your sinful anger will be overtaken by memories of your humility and repentance. This is how your children will remember you. They will remember you as a humble mom.

Related Posts:

Q&A: “I Feel Like a Mean Mom” Pt. 1

Feb 4

Q&A: “I Feel Like a Mean Mom” Pt. 1

2014 at 10:57 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Motherhood | Q&A

Recently I was talking to a mom who was worried about how her children would remember her: “I feel like all I do all day is tell my children to ‘do this’ and ‘stop doing that.’ Correct and command. Correct and command. I feel like I’m little more than a drill sergeant, and I’m so afraid my children will remember me as a mean mom.”

Oh, how well I remember that feeling, and I’m sure every mom can relate: especially if you are like me and don’t feel like a particularly fun or creative mom.

Moms spend all day picking up tantrum throwing toddlers off the floor, and telling older children to “pick up your clothes,” “stop arguing with your sister” and “close your mouth when you chew.” Then daddy comes home in time to play a game or read a bedtime story. Of course they are going to remember us as the mean parent, right?

It’s inevitable: we will probably feel like a “mean mom” if we are faithfully disciplining and correcting our children—especially because so few parents these days (even in the church, sadly) practice loving discipline—but that is why we must fortify our discouraged soul with God’s truth about parenting.

Here are two realities to keep in mind if we are worried about our mothering legacy:

1. Don’t underestimate the good fruit of faithful discipline.

God is the one who has tasked us to “bring [our children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6.4), and when done with patience and kindness, we are following the example of our Heavenly Father: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Rev. 3.19).

Sure, it isn’t fun at the time, for the one receiving and the one giving the discipline: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant,” but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11) (emphasis mine).

When we command and correct we are sowing seeds for a harvest. We are teaching our children to obey God’s loving authority. We are protecting them from the path of the fool who “despises his father’s instruction” (Prov 15:5). We are raising them to live “self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).

One day, by the grace of God, we can anticipate a bumper crop of righteousness. We can anticipate the respect (Heb 12:9) and gratitude (Prov 31:28) of our children not in spite of but because of our faithful discipline. We can have great hope that our children will remember us, not as a mean mom, but as a loving mom.

After all, has not the Spirit of God led us to appreciate the loving discipline of our Lord? Is he not willing and eager to do the same for our children?

2. Don’t underestimate the power of tender affection.

My daughter Kristin has three growing boys and a toddler girl. So, as you can well imagine, she is “in the thick of it” when it comes to every day, all day correction and instruction.

Recently I babysat her kids so she and Brian could have a well-deserved getaway. Before bed on Saturday, Kristin’s son Owen asked if I would make them tea on Sunday morning. Apparently this was a tradition they looked forward to every weekend, and the boys were worried that with Mom away, they wouldn’t get their tea.

This illustration reminded me afresh of the outsized power of small expressions of affection. Kristin may spend most of her week prodding and corralling, but what do her boys notice when she’s gone? They remember that she makes them tea every weekend. And I guarantee you this memory will remain with them long into the future.

It doesn’t take a lot of money or big plans. The consistent expressions of love—the nicknames and the reading times, the hot tea and the “I love you’s”—will make a profound impression on your children. If you show tender affection to your children, in small but consistent ways, they will remember you as a loving mom.

“But what if I get angry at my children?” I can hear a mother ask. I’ll attempt to answer that question in the next post.

Feb 3

Be Careful How You Hear

2014 at 8:17 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Spiritual Growth

“Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.” Mark 4:24

“This is a principle which we find continually brought forward in Scripture. All that believers have is undoubtedly of grace. Their repentance, faith and holiness, are all the gift of God. But the degree to which a believer attains in grace is ever set before us as closely connected with his own diligence in the use of means, and his own faithfulness in living fully up to the light and knowledge which he possesses. Indolence and laziness are always discouraged in God’s Word. Labour and pains in hearing, reading, and prayer are always represented as bringing their own reward…. Attention to this great principle is the main secret of spiritual prosperity. The man who makes rapid progress in spiritual attainments—who grows visibly in grace, and knowledge, and strength, and usefulness—will always be found to be a diligent man. He leaves no stone unturned to promote his soul’s well-doing. He is diligent over his Bible, diligent in his private devotions, diligent as a hearer of sermons, diligent in his attendance at the Lord’s table. And he reaps according as he sows. Just as the muscles of the body are strengthened by regular exercise, so are the graces of the soul increased by the diligence in using them. Do we wish to grow in grace? Do we desire to have stronger faith, brighter hope, and clearer knowledge? Beyond doubt we do, if we are true Christians. Then let us live fully up to our light and improve every opportunity. Let us never forget our Lord’s words in this passage, ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ The more we do for our souls, the more shall we find God does for them.” ~J. C. Ryle

From yesterday’s sermon at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville