2017 at 6:30 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
A mother with small children—I’ll call her Katie—sent me a question:
Recently a friend, an older woman in my life, has been urging me to “take care of myself” and not to “lose myself” in mothering. I know this is for a season—my children will not be little forever—and I know this is where the Lord has me. I have no desire to bring anything else onto my plate of being a wife and mom. Did you have people tell you similar things? If so, how did you respond to them?
I am happy to try and answer any question that you have, and honored that you would ask! Your question reveals the grace of God in your life in the form of humility and wisdom and I pray that you feel the Lord’s pleasure. Here are a few thoughts that came to mind when I read your text. I hope they prove helpful!
First, let me say that it is obvious that your friend loves you, cares for you, and wants the best for you—and that’s very meaningful. What a blessing to have a friend who is so affectionate and supportive. Although I don’t believe her advice reflects biblical wisdom, I don’t want that to take away from her heart for you, which I believe is sincere. I’m sure you know this even better than I do.
It is clear to me by your question that you already understand that you are in a season—one of the most intense seasons of your life! When I look back on my years as a mother, the seasons with small children and with teenagers were the two most exhausting—and rewarding—times in my life. When we understand the biblical principle that life is lived in seasons (and it’s obvious you do!), we know that this time won’t last forever. This intense season will come to an end and a new one will begin. This helps us to endure the tiredness—it won’t last forever! And it helps us to seize and enjoy the opportunities and rewards—for they won’t be here forever, either.
But to live this season of motherhood to the fullest will require “losing yourself.” It’s part of the bargain. So far from being something to regret, losing yourself is the ultimate goal of motherhood. It gets to the heart of what it means to serve Christ. Actually, the very worry your friend has for you—that you might “lose yourself—is actually something that is commended and encouraged in multiple places in Scripture. For example, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10:40). When you’ve lost your life, you’ve truly found it. In biblical logic, when you lose you win. Now, this certainly flies in the face of popular advice such as your friend has received and is seeking (with the best of intentions) to pass on to you. You are a discerning woman and you detect the lie embedded in this potentially attractive advice. But we are all vulnerable, which is why I would encourage you to do a Bible study of your own to strengthen your conviction and to encourage you as you persevere. Studying Scripture always helped me in seasons of weariness or doubt in motherhood, when everyone else seemed to be absorbing feminist ideology and I would wonder if it was all worth it. I would go back to Scripture to strengthen my convictions. Here are just a few verses to get you started. You find it in every gospel and sometimes more than once (Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, 17:33, John 12:25). Paul also covers this in Philippians (2:4-7). One of my favorite verses is in Isaiah which describes God’s care for those who care for others (Isa. 58:10-11). Those are just a few places to get you started, and I pray that they will serve your soul.
Finally, one thing I want to add by way of qualification—by “losing yourself” I don’t mean that you shouldn’t try to take care of yourself. Obviously, Scripture does not talk about denying ourselves to the neglect of basic care of our bodies and souls. You need rest—as much as you can get right now—and you need refreshment for your soul. So while I would wholeheartedly encourage you to continue to “lose yourself” for the sake of your children, I would also encourage you not to neglect sufficient rest and refreshment so you can serve your family even more effectively. So maybe consider, What are one or two things I can make sure I put or keep in my life that help strengthen me spiritually, physically, and emotionally? Maybe you need regular times alone to read a good book that encourages your soul. Maybe you need to be sure you get regular times with your husband, without the children. These are not selfish strategies, but rather intentional times of refreshment to strengthen you for service.
Katie, let me close by encouraging you again. It is obvious by your text and by your life that you have set your course in a God-honoring direction. I believe the Lord is pleased by your humility, your sacrifice, and your care for your family. I am praying that God would strengthen you and give you much encouragement. If there is any other way I can serve you, it would be my joy and delight.
2017 at 7:23 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
Last month I finished homeschooling two of my granddaughters, who are moving on to new schools for third grade. As I like to do at the beginning of each change of season in my life, I took some time to prayerfully plan. What next? How can I best serve my daughters and my grandchildren this year? Inspired by two godly grandmothers, I decided to start with the two most important areas of all: Scripture and prayer.
Sometimes we overcomplicate this grandma thing. We fret over what our grandchildren think of us and how we can make them happy. We struggle to figure out how to navigate our role in a way that doesn’t cause tension with our children. We dote on our grandchildren, and then we worry that we will spoil them. But even though cultural expectations change through the years, the biblical ideals for a grandmother are fixed and clear. Besides being a godly example, we can do no better for our grandchildren then to pray for them, and, as we have the opportunity, encourage them to love God’s Word.
Grandma Lois, the maternal grandmother of Paul’s son in the faith, Timothy, taught Timothy the Holy Scriptures from when he was just a baby (2 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 3:14, 15). Lois didn’t leave all the biblical teaching and training to her daughter, Eunice. She was actively involved in teaching her grandson the Scriptures. I want to imitate Grandma Lois and be an active part of teaching each of my twelve grandchildren to know and love the Word of God.
I asked myself: What is one simple way that I can teach my grandchildren the Scriptures this summer? I came up with an idea to encourage Scripture memory. I call it 10for$10. I made a list of memory verses and challenged each of my grandchildren—from ages 4 to 17 to memorize as many verses as they can. For the older children, I will give them ten dollars for every ten verses memorized. For the littlest ones, the goal is more manageable—4 for $4 and 6 for $6, depending on their age. To keep things affordable, the 10for$10challenge runs from June 1 to August 31.
My hope is that, by the end of the summer, each one of my grandchildren will have memorized many verses that they will store up in their hearts for years to come. Yes, it might cost me a little money, but I can think of no better investment than to encourage my grandchildren to treasure God’s Word. I believe and pray that as they work on memorizing Scripture, God’s Word will work in their hearts to draw them closer to His Son.
Grandmother Katie, my paternal grandmother, had an astonishing fifty-six grandchildren! Even more remarkable, she prayed for each one of us by name, each and every day, until she went home to be with the Lord. Now that I am a grandmother I try to follow her example. Granted, it is easier—I only have twelve grandchildren which doesn’t feel like very many in comparison to Katie! And while I do pray for each of them by name, lately, I began to feel as if my prayers had become too general. So I decided to create a prayer notebook where I can catalog specific prayer requests for my grandchildren and the answers to those prayers.
I can think of no better way to encourage my daughters than to pray for the salvation and spiritual growth of each one of their children. And I can think of no better way to encourage my grandchildren than to let them know that their grandma is carrying their burdens—praying for their anxieties and trials, for their tests and their jobs, for whatever concerns weigh heavy on them as they navigate this tricky road to adulthood.
I’ll never measure up to Grandma Lois or Grandma Katie, but I do want to follow their amazing examples. I pray that, if nothing else, my grandchildren will be able to say that their grandmother was a woman who taught them to love God’s Word and who prayed faithfully for them. It’s simple, maybe, but it’s also hard to think of a better legacy I can leave my grandchildren. I pray God will bless my feeble efforts as he did for Grandma Lois and Grandma Katie.
You know when you find something new, and you enjoy it so much that you want everybody else to know about it? Well, that’s happened to me. I recently received a book: A Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada and I want you all to know about it. It is a daily devotional book. You know the ones: a short reading for each calendar day. Somehow over the years, I have accumulated a bunch of these devotional books, but this particular one has become a favorite. I have been reading it every day at the end of my Bible study and prayer time. What a sweet addition to my devotions it has become!
Joni’s devotional book includes insight from one verse concluding with a short prayer for every day. Let me give you just one example to whet your appetite:
April 19/Psalm 107:27-28
Today’s Scripture reads, “They were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.” The expression “at their wits’ end” has been around a long time and is still in use today. It’s that point in life where you run into a massive obstacle or paint yourself into an impossible corner and have no idea what to do. The psalmist, however, gives us a snapshot of people who cried out to the Lord a their wits’ end—and He brought them out! What has brought you to your wits’ end? A family situation? Financial trouble? A health scare? A rebellious child? Here’s the good news: We might come to our wits’ end, but God never does. We might be out of answers, but God has answers. The solution is simple: Cry out to the Lord.
How unspeakably wonderful, God, to remember that Your wisdom has no limit. There is no knot on earth so tangled that You can’t untie it. There is no situation in life too involved, too complicated, or too baffling for You. When I’ve exhausted my last option, when I finally arrive at my wits’ end, You are able to bring me out.
There are 364 more gems, just like this one! Joni writes like she is sitting across from you, sharing—with all her contagious enthusiasm—the hope and comfort she herself has received from God’s Word. We could all do with a “Daily Dose of Joni” in our lives, spurring us on in our love for the Savior! I hope you will pick this book up and add it to your summer devotions.