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.
2014 at 9:30 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
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.
2014 at 10:57 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
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.
“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
Q: I’d love to hear how your parents counseled you all about engagement and marriage. What did they tell you to look for in a husband?
A: There is so much to say on this topic, but here are a few “starter” questions Dad and Mom gave us when we were considering marriage, These are taken from our book, Girl Talk, in a chapter written by Mom:
C.J. and I sought to provide our daughters with a “list” from Scripture of essential qualities that should characterize any man desirous of pursuing them. These qualities included: 1. Genuine passion for God. The greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matt. 22:37). A mere profession of faith is insufficient. A godly man will consistently display love, obedience, and increasing passion for the Savior. 2. Humility. ‘This is the one to whom I will look,’ says the Lord, ‘he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word’ (Isa. 66:2). Your daughter will marry a sinner—that is certain. But if he is a humble and teachable sinner who is quick to repent, then he will be sure to grow in godliness. This humility will also be evident in his love for and submission to God’s Word. 3. Love for the local church. At the center of God’s plan on earth is His church. A young man must be pursuing fellowship and serving faithfully in a local church if he is to make a good candidate for a husband. 4. Biblical convictions about manhood and womanhood. A successful marriage is due in large part to a couple’s grasp of their respective roles and responsibilities. A potential husband must be committed to complementary roles found in Scripture. He must be ready to embrace his responsibility to love and lead his wife. (Eph. 5:22-25). In addition to comparing the young man to this list of essentials, we also helped our daughters evaluate God’s commands to wives. From Scripture we asked our daughters the following questions regarding the young man each was considering: -Do you fully respect this man the way a wife is called to respect her husband? -Can you eagerly submit to him as the church submits to Christ? -Do you have faith to follow this man no matter where he may lead? -Can you love this man with a tender, affectionate love? (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22, 33; Col. 3:8; Titus 2:4-5) Again, this list of qualities and questions is hardly exhaustive. However, it provided clear, objective, and biblical criteria to assist our daughters in discerning God’s will.
Recently I spent some time with another mom. And you know what? Surprise, surprise, she’s another Margie. This woman is a better mom than me, in a lot of ways. You can see the fruit of her consistency, her patience, and her loving authority in her children’s lives.
Now, I had to choose how I was going to respond to this mother’s maturity. There are a few sinful, and sadly well-worn options:
Option #1: Feel sorry for myself.I’m a terrible mom. I’m a complete failure. What hope is there for my children? I try so hard but I always seem to fall short. I’ll never be as good a mom as she is. (All sputtered, in between sobs, to my long-suffering husband.)
Option #2: Make excuses.Well, of course she is a good mom. She has so many more advantages than I do, and she doesn’t have the unique challenges to deal with. If only my situation was more like hers, then I would probably be doing even better than she is—by far.
Option #3: Judge and Resent.She probably thinks she is better than me. I just don’t think I can hang around someone who makes me feel so inferior. I need to be with people who are real about their weaknesses and failures, just like me.
Or, there is a better, biblical way….
Option #4: Give Thanks and Learn.Thank you God for bringing this woman into my life. Thank you for the way that she gives glory to you. Thank you for the way that her children are bringing glory to your name. I pray that you would bless her. And I pray that you would help me to learn from her. Please help me to be more consistent, more patient, more loving toward my children, for their good and your glory. Thank you for this woman who provokes and stirs me up “to love and good works” (Heb 10:24).Help me to grow, by your grace. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.
And then give her a call, ask her out for coffee, and take good notes.
2014 at 8:49 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
“Seen from the outside, housework can look like a Sisyphean task that gives you no sense of reward or completion. Yet housekeeping actually offers more opportunities for savoring achievement than almost any other work I can think of. Each of its regular routines brings satisfaction when completed. These routines echo the rhythm of life, and the housekeeping rhythm is the rhythm of the body. You get satisfaction not only from the sense of order, cleanliness, freshness, peace and plenty restored, but from the knowledge that you yourself and those you care about are going to enjoy these benefits.” ~Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House
It’s been a long time now, but do any of our long-time readers remember back four years ago when we asked you to send in your stories for a new book Mom and Nicole were writing about beauty? I think I see a few hands out there. Well, today I’m excited to announce that True Beauty has finally been completed, and is scheduled for release by Crossway Books on March 31, 2014.
We’re particularly excited to share this news with you, because True Beauty has emerged, in part, from the conversation we feel so blessed to have with all of you here at girltalk. The book is full of the stories, questions, struggles, and comments that so many of you shared with us.
True Beauty is also the fruit of your prayers—both at the beginning of the writing process in 2010, and again last spring when we asked for your prayers for a “project” we were completing. (Mom and Nicole wanted to wait until they were sure they could finish the book before announcing its publication!)
This book is the culmination of many years of study and hard work by Mom and Nicole. Their desire and prayer has been to bring God’s Word to bear in a personal and practical way to this consuming and complicated area of physical beauty. Here is the publisher’s description of their book:
What is true beauty?
Whether it’s age-defying makeup or the latest diet fad, our culture continually tells women that beauty consists of flawless skin and a supermodel figure. In True Beauty, Carolyn Mahaney and her daughter Nicole Whitacre direct us to the truth of God’s Word, where we encounter an entirely different—and refreshingly liberating—standard of beauty.
Offering a path to freedom from the false idols that society, the Devil, and our sinful hearts so often create, this encouraging book will help you to exchange the temporary glamour of pop culture for the unfading beauty of godliness.
And to whet your appetites even more, here is a taste of what others are saying about True Beauty:
“The answers Carolyn and Nicole put forward to our consuming and crippling desires to be beautiful on the world’s terms are neither square nor simplistic but rather completely scriptural and deeply satisfying.”
—Nancy Guthrie, Bible Teacher; author, Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series
“Carolyn and Nicole have acted as our research assistants to open our eyes to the vanity of physical beauty and our hearts to the power of true beauty.”
—Dannah Gresh, best-selling author and creator of Secret Keeper Girl
“Combining the eminently practical with the deeply theological, Carolyn and Nicole give us a work that is both terrifically up-to-date and rooted in God’s unchanging Word.
—Kevin and Trisha DeYoung, Senior Pastor, University Reformed Church, East Lansing, Michigan. Kevin and Trisha have been married for 12 years and have six children.
“Whether single, married, wife, mom, husband, father, brother, or boyfriend, True Beauty is a must-read.
—Webb and Dowd Keith Simpson, Professional golfer, PGA Tour, and his wife, mother of three
“This book should be read by every Christian woman and it should be put in the hands of every young girl as soon she can understand it. These gifted authors have not only written a book; they have launched a revolution.”
—Al and Mary Mohler, President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and his wife, Mary, Director of the Seminary Wives Institute at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary