Jan 27

A Mother’s Work is Never Done

2016 at 9:27 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Motherhood

Last Friday afternoon I was talking to my sister, Kristin, about parenting our boys. Four of them were competing in a soccer tournament the next day, and we were strategizing about how to help them grow in godly character—win or lose. (They lost, which provided a great chance to grow in humility.) We had talked about some of these character issues the week before, and we’ll probably talk about them again next week too. Parenting is a job that is never done.

I like to finish things, check them off my list, close the file…you get the idea. So I find the never-finished nature of parenting work to be discouraging at times. I see progress, for sure, and many answered prayers and evidences of God’s grace. But the growth usually comes far slower than I would like, and some days I wonder if my training and teaching efforts are even hitting the mark.

The fact is, the never-finished nature of parenting work gives us one of our greatest opportunities to glorify God. That’s because parenting is what Charles Bridges calls “a work of faith.”

“As such,” he writes, “it can only be sustained by the active and persevering exercise of this principle. This is what makes it a means of grace to our own souls, as well as a grand medium of exalting our Divine Master.”

In other words, only faith in God can sustain us in the day in, day out, never-completed business of parenting, and this is how God has designed it to be: we’re forced to rely on him, and then he in turn uses that faith as a means of grace to our souls and glory for his name.

Faith fills the gap between faithfulness and fruitfulness in parenting and infuses it with “perpetual cheerfulness.” When we look “too eagerly for present fruit” we may grow weary or feel like a failure; but when we look to Christ we find “daily pardon of deficiencies,” relief from “oppressive anxiety” and “hope that even mistakes shall be overruled for his glory.”

“It is faith that enlivens our work with perpetual cheerfulness. It commits every part of it to God, in the hope, that even mistakes shall be overruled for his glory; and thus relieves us from an oppressive anxiety, often attendant upon a deep sense of our responsibility. The shortest way to peace will be found in casting ourselves upon God for daily pardon of deficiencies and supplies of grace, without looking too eagerly for present fruit.”

The work of parenting may never be done, but it cannot exceed the inexhaustible supplies of God’s grace.

~from the archives

Jan 20

“I Cannot Trust My Husband When He Tells Me How Beautiful I Am”

2016 at 8:18 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

One time, after I finished speaking to a group of women on true beauty, a woman approached me and said: “That’s all fine and good, God’s perspective on beauty. And I believe it is true. But the reality is, that’s not the message my husband receives from our culture about beauty.”

She was worried: as she was getting older, her physical beauty was fading. It troubled her that her husband, like every other man in our society, was constantly bombarded with images idealizing youth and physical beauty.

Not to mention that her husband wasn’t at the women’s meeting to hear a message on biblical beauty. It’s not that he had given her a specific reason to worry; she just appraised the situation and thought it sufficient cause for concern.

Ours is a culture that unfairly holds women to an ideal standard of physical beauty. Since it is a kind of beauty most of us will never attain, and will certainly never be able to maintain, we may worry about how we are going to hold onto our husbands’ affection and attraction.

This is a recurring concern I hear as I interact with women about beauty. They wonder if they are still as beautiful to their husbands as their bodies change after childbirth and as they grow older.

“It Drives My Husband Crazy”

Even if their husbands attempt to reassure them, some women continue to worry:

“I have a problem with accepting that my husband finds me as beautiful as he says he does,” admits Stephanie.

This fear, along with our refusal to believe our husbands when they tell us we are beautiful, can cause tension in a marriage.

“I struggle with the fear I’m getting fat all the time. It drives my husband crazy writes Briana.

Jen says the same: “I don’t understand why I cannot trust my husband when he tells me how beautiful I am! It’s so annoying to him when I say, ‘You have to say that.’”

Friends, if there is one thing that frustrates a man, it is a wife who won’t believe him on this point. Men don’t like to feel as if they can never say or do enough to convince us that they appreciate our beauty. We do our marriages a disservice when we judge our husbands by failing to take them at their word.

But how do we deal with this fear that plagues so many of us?

The Cure for All Our Fears

We must trust God for our husbands.

God brings a man and woman together in marriage. He put affection in our husbands’ hearts for us, and he has a good plan for our marriages. This is not to say that we won’t face challenges, even severely painful ones. But no matter what trials we meet in our marriages, God will work them for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28).

God is not distant from our marriages. He did not set them in motion only to leave them to run on their own. He is “a very present help” in marriage trouble (Ps. 46:1): present to care, strengthen, and comfort us, no matter our difficulties, big or small.

Confidence in God’s personal involvement and tender care frees us from fear. Our hope is not in our husbands or in our beauty, but in the character of God, the constancy of his affections, and the surety of his purposes.

How To Become More Beautiful

Here’s where it gets amazing: The more we trust God, the more attractive we become. A gentle and quiet spirit adorns the whole woman, making her beautiful from the inside out. Her lack of anxiety, restlessness, and neediness, her carefree confidence in God’s goodness makes her more lovely as the years go by.

This beauty is so profound, it can even attract unbelieving husbands to the gospel; they can be “won without a word” by the beauty of a wife’s godly character (1 Pet. 3:1-2).

~Adapted from True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre

Jan 13

Who to Follow In the New Year

2016 at 9:27 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood

(The New Year presents a new temptation for me to sinfully compare my life and productivity to other people. This biblical counsel from my mom—which she first shared with me over a decade ago—still redirects my gaze to Christ. See a link to her excellent message on “The Snare of Compare” at the end of this post.)

Sinful Comparison: A Pain in the Neck

It’s January again, and social media is clogged with New Year wishes and resolutions, reminiscences of the year past and predictions about the year ahead.

But the New Year can come with an unexpected side effect: the crick in our neck that we can get from looking around at everyone else and worrying that maybe they’ve got it better than we do. With every glance at our Facebook feed, the strain gets worse, the knots tighten.

Maybe 2015 wasn’t such a great year for you. Maybe it was full of set backs and frustrations, disappointments and challenges. Yet it seems (if Facebook is to be believed) like everyone else had an exciting and successful year. Everyone else got married and had babies. Everyone else’s home business took off. They made new friends, had great vacations, and their kids excelled in school. Everyone else lost weight.

They have and we have not. The more we think about it, the more restless, anxious, and dissatisfied we feel.

In search of a cure, we may pour out our sorrows on social media, and watch the sympathy likes pile up; but somehow they never fill our empty love cup to its tippy top.

Or we protest (too much, methinks) that we don’t care a wit what people think; we’re proud of our messy house and messed up life. We call it “being real.” We may try to release the tension by taking jabs and digs at others. If we can’t feel better about ourselves, at least we can create some company for our misery.

It’s not that we resolve to bigger complaining and better envy in 2016, but when we start to sinfully compare, we’re well on our way. If we sow seeds of “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” at the start of the year, they are sure to sprout up as weeds that choke our growth in godliness the whole year through (James 3:14).

Our Savior graciously confronts our sinful comparison in John chapter 21. The scene is following his resurrection. He has just restored his disciple, Peter, and then he gives him the news: you will die a horrible death. We have a lot of sympathy for Peter, who strains his neck to look around at his buddy John and asks, “What about this man?” “What is that to you?”Jesus says to Peter. “You follow me.”

Our Savior’s loving rebuke echoes in our ears. He meant for it to. He meant for his words to protect us from sinful comparison that would distract us from our calling, stifle our growth in godliness, injure our relationships, dishonor his holiness, and make us miserable. And he invites us, or rather, commands us to “follow me.”

We follow him by meditating on his Word instead of longing for what others have, by taking whatever steps of obedience he requires from us today, and by rejoicing with others when they receive blessings from God. At the beginning of the New Year, let’s receive our Savior’s loving rebuke and gracious invitation.

Yes, everyone else may seem poised to be faster, better, prettier, smarter, and more successful in 2016, but “What is that to you? You follow me.”

{If you find yourself tempted to sinful comparison at the start of the New Year let me encourage you to watch this workshop.}

Jan 6

Q&A: “How do you get up early when your kids are up all night?”

2016 at 8:25 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under The 5 O’Clock Club | Motherhood

We’re getting a rolling start to the New Year over here at girltalk. We usually take the first couple of weeks in January to evaluate our lives and implement changes. Each year, it seems, our goals get simpler. Start a Bible memory plan with the little ones. Pick back up exercising where we left off in November. Try this helpful prayer app. The habit we still find to be far and away the most helpful is to rise early each morning. A couple of years ago Janelle provided some hope and advice for moms of young children. We repost it here for your encouragement.

Q&A: “How do you get up early when your kids are up all night?”

by Janelle Bradshaw

The girltalk inbox has been a bit crowded these days with e-mails from exhausted moms asking how it is possible to rise early and get time with the Lord when they are up half the night with small children. It always encourages me to hear from you! I just finished a long stretch with Summer (11 months) and Hudson (3 years) waking up multiple times a night. Mike and I would laugh (more like a half-hearted chuckle from me) that they seemed to coordinate with one another, working in shifts to make sure that I got as little sleep as possible.

So how do I wake up early when my kids want to party all night? I don’t. I can’t.

A couple months ago, I sat across from Mom, Nicole and Kristin exhausted and crying (not for the first time in the last eight years) over my lack of sleep and inability to get up early. I missed my early morning times with the Lord, and my days felt more disorganized and hectic because I wasn’t able to get up before my children. They sympathized and encouraged me to remember that this was a season—yes, a long and tiring season, but not one that would last forever.

In the meantime, I needed to get creative and develop an alternative plan. If waking up early before my kids wasn’t possible right now, then how else could I feed my soul throughout the day? I downloaded the ESV Bible app, which has an audio feature. I loaded my phone with sermons, which I could listen to a few minutes at a time. I took time to pray while I was in the shower or emptying the dishwasher.

I also sought to be intentional about my children’s schedule. I trained Hudson to have “room time” (an hour alone in his room with a few toys) at the same time that Summer took her morning nap. This guaranteed (and I use that word loosely) me a slot of time where I could read my Bible or finish a project.

These ideas may not work for you, but the point is to get creative. What are small ways you can seek the Lord throughout your day? How can you free up twenty minutes in your daily schedule to sit and read your Bible and pray?

And take heart. You are not alone. And this season won’t last forever…right???

Dec 14

Ten Ideas for Helping Children Fight Greed at Christmastime

2015 at 2:22 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Homemaking | Holidays | Motherhood

Christmas puts parents in a tough spot. We love our children. We want to give them good gifts. We enjoy their eager anticipation and exuberant gift opening on Christmas morning. And yet as Christian parents, we know there is a dark side to gift giving: greed. All of the presents can seem little more than brightly wrapped packages of temptation. There are temptations to selfish delight or despair, depending on whether or not our children got what they wanted. Greed can take hold, turning what we intend as a blessing into what feels like a setback in our parenting.

So how do we give generously and squash greed at the same time? We girltalkers did some brainstorming and idea sharing and came up with ten ideas to get us all started.

1. Be Intentional. Greed won’t go away on its own; we’re gonna have to apply some parental elbow grease to this one. And it’s not a one-time thing, like “Do you remember the year we got rid of Christmas greed?” We’re going to be dealing with it for a while, so we have to resist the temptation to get angry or discouraged if it doesn’t seem like our efforts are bearing fruit right away.

2. Talk a Lot. Deuteronomy 6 is a great Christmas passage. We need to talk to our children about greed and gratefulness and what it means to glorify God at Christmas. It’s tempting to give up, because our instruction often seems to go in one ear and out the other, but we are called to be faithful.

My husband likes to have little Q&A sessions with the kids and throw in a ridiculous answer to make it memorable (broccoli often makes an appearance in these little conversations). Thus our Christmas Catechism sounds something like this:

Q. What is better than Getting?

A. Giving is better than Getting

Q. Why is it better than Getting?

A. Because that’s what Jesus did.

Q. What is better than Getting? (raise volume here)

A. Giving is better than Getting

3. Make Christmas Memories. Christmas traditions help direct a child’s anticipation toward activities and memory making and not only gift getting. This is one reason we love to celebrate Advent: it is a daily reminder that we are waiting for more than presents under the tree. Cookie baking, Christmas light viewing, and story reading all serve a similar purpose.

4. Make Christmas Giving Lists. In addition to Christmas lists for Mimi we have our kids make lists for what they want to give to family members. Then we let them loose in the Target dollar section to buy presents for their siblings and Daddy and Mommy. This is one of their favorite Christmas traditions, and it is fun to see their excitement channeled toward giving and away from getting.

5. Read Christmas Giving Stories. A great addition to Christmas story time: books that highlight the joy giving such as Little Women, The Gift of the Magi, If You’re Missing Baby Jesus,Christmas Day in the Morning and many more. Powerful stories can help awaken children’s imaginations to the magic of giving.

6. Give to People in Need. Involve your children in giving gifts to those who are in need or who are suffering at Christmastime. We enjoy buying presents for newly adopted children or contributing to a family’s adoption, but there are countless opportunities at Christmastime to give locally and around the world. Giving to others helps children take their eyes off themselves and understand how much they have to be grateful for.

7. Give the Gift of Experience. Along with toys, you can include gifts of experience under the tree: books, magazine subscriptions, memberships to a local museum, tickets to a special event, lessons for art or music, or (my favorite) a family trip or outing. Over time your children may come to anticipate these gifts most of all.

8. Minimize Temptation. In other words, hide the Christmas catalogs. Avoid spending long hours in the toy section at Target with your child. Limit exposure to holiday commercials. Redirect conversations that begin, “Do you know what I want for Christmas?” But don’t mess with the grandparents. Do the hard work of parenting so that Grandma and Grandpa can have the joy of being as generous as they desire.

9. Develop a Gift Opening Strategy. We like to open gifts slowly, one person, one gift at a time. This takes a while, but the slow pace helps restrain greed and promote gratefulness. We are training our children to pay attention when someone else is opening a gift and enter into their joy. And we also insist that our children give hugs and kisses and “big thank you’s” after opening each present. Having a strategy for gift giving that encourages patience, gratefulness, and a focus on others can counteract the greed that wants to own the day.

10. Cultivate Christ-like Character. We may have outgrown a childish greed for presents, but we as parents are still tempted to approach Christmas selfishly, for our own comfort or gratification. We need God’s grace to help us serve selflessly, give generously, parent patiently, and grow in passion for our Savior at Christmastime. As we grow to be more like Christ who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28) we will encourage our children to do the same.