May 15

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

2014 at 8:53 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Editor’s Note: We’re going to approach this “feelings” series chronologically, starting with very young children. Today Janelle kicks us off by talking about how we can help our toddlers begin to learn how to handle their emotions.

My oldest daughter, Caly, was emotional from day one. If I didn’t want her to cry I had to hold her or turn the vacuum cleaner on outside her room. Those were my only two options. She cried in the car, she cried in her crib, she cried all the time.

This was certainly a sign of things to come. As a toddler and preschooler, Caly was the most emotional little girl I have ever met. We’re talking meltdowns over her dollhouse being moved to a different room, freak-outs from watching Baby Einstein, inconsolable weeping long after her cousin returned the toy she grabbed, every day, all day long.

Caly was the first girl of all the cousins. Up until she was born, my sisters had only boys. And even though my sisters and I were plenty emotional growing up, none of us had ever encountered a girl quite as emotional as my Caly.

Emotional Caly made for extra-emotional Mommy. Oftentimes I cried right along with her, and some days I wanted to scream with her, too. Besides being my shoulder to cry on, my mom also helped me keep my eyes on a single mothering goal: teach Caly self-control.

As soon as she was old enough, Mike and I began to train Caly to control her emotions. Whenever she would start to overreact (read all day long!) we would calmly instruct her to place her hand on her mouth and quiet down. This simple, specific action helped her regain her composure and made self-control an obedience issue. Then we would explain what self-control should look like and instruct her to remove her hand and respond in a self-controlled manner (e.g. ask kindly, play cheerfully, stop crying, etc.).

We didn’t ask her much about what she was feeling. We didn’t have long conversations exploring her emotions. We didn’t try to reason with her. We didn’t plead or manipulate, cajole or bribe. We didn’t even talk a whole lot about how emotions are a gift from God or about their God-given purpose. We were not angry or harsh. We were deliberately calm and tender in how we spoke to her. But we were firm and united in teaching this little girl one simple truth: God wanted Caly to learn to control her emotions.

It may seem like we were stifling a young girl’s budding emotions, but our goal was quite the opposite. We wanted to teach Caly how to control and handle her feelings so that she would be able to experience and express her emotions in the way God intended—as a gift from him for his glory.

The first step was to help her build a wall: “A man [or a little girl] without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28).

Caly was a living illustration of this verse, her little soul an exposed and ransacked city, completely overrun by her barbarian emotions because she had no solid, protective, wall of self-control.

Emotional walls are usually thought of negatively these days. We think of them as barriers erected by emotional insecure or hurting people who try to block themselves off from others or from feeling anything at all. Walls=bad. So goes the conventional wisdom, and in many cases this is probably true.

But a wall of self-control is not like the Berlin Wall, erected to entrap and exclude. It is a wall like that of an ancient city or of a beautiful estate that needs protection in order for the inhabitants to dwell in peace.

Self-control is the wall behind which godly emotions flourish.

We have watched this happen in our little girl’s life. Caly is eight now, and she has learned how to handle her emotions. Not that she doesn’t still struggle at times, but she is a different girl than she used to be.

She is not a repressed or unemotional child, but happy and expressive. She feels things strongly and deeply, and is especially sensitive to the things of God. She prays often, has an insatiable hunger to read her Bible, confesses her sin frequently, grieves over her own sin and the sin of others, gets excited about sharing and loving others and encouraging her siblings and cousins to do the same.

I believe her emotions toward God are so strong because, by the grace of God, they have been able to flourish behind a strong wall of self-control. Behind that solid wall—which was arduous to build, and maybe not so attractive to look at—a garden of godly feelings has grown up in sweet safety and protection.

How grateful this weak and desperate mom is for the wisdom from God’s Word that teaches us how to help our little ones earn to handle their emotions.

Related Posts:

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 13

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

2014 at 8:23 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Q: My friends and I were wondering if you’ve ever done a series on how we as Christian mums can be helping our children, girls particularly, in dealing with their emotions. It can be such a roller coaster ride and our girls are only 5! I’d love to help them grow in godliness in this area (even as little ones) and how my friends and I can help (ourselves &) our daughters understand their emotions. ~Jodie

A. Great question, Jodie! As a mom of three daughters, I’m a repeat rider on that roller coaster that is a girl’s emotions. Not to mention my daughters have six girls between them now so this is an issue we talk about a lot.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones once observed that “one the greatest problems in our life is the right handling of our feelings and emotions.” I would add that this can be one of the greatest problems in our mothering, too!

Moms are professional problem solvers, but sometimes a young girl’s emotions can be overwhelming: Our teenage daughter’s mood swings come and go like dark clouds over our home or our preschooler dissolves into tears over a hang nail and gets scared by reading Winnie-the-Pooh.

That’s why it can help—in those moments when little girl’s tears or teenage girl’s mood swings put a damper on the entire household—to first remember that emotions are a gift from God.

God made us emotional beings. He created that one-minute-squealing-with-delight-next-minute-inconsolably-crying-five-year-old and that hormone-riding-girl-come-woman to feel and express emotion.

He did this on purpose, and not as a cruel joke to exasperate mothers. God made us emotional beings so that we might enjoy and glorify him.

Emotions are from God and emotions are for God. Emotions have a purpose. They are to assist and aid us in directing our whole being and our whole lives to the worship of our glorious Savior!

But like everything else about us, our feelings have been corrupted by the fall, and if not “rightly handled” they cause all kinds of problems. If we are inclined to coddle our child’s emotions (giving them too much attention or credibility) or if we try to ignore our child’s emotions, either way they (and we!) will experience the consequences.

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones laments: “Oh the havoc that is wrought, and the tragedy, the misery and the wretchedness that are to be found in the world simply because people do not know how to handle their own feelings!”

Havoc. Misery. Wretchedness. Yep, to any mother with a teenage girl, this sounds about right. Which is why we must teach our children how to rightly handle their emotions. We must help our kids, at every stage of their development, to understand that their emotions are a gift from God to be rightly directed for his glory.

But God doesn’t simply say to us as moms: “Sorry, I know it’s tricky, but just do your best, OK?!” He gives us biblical strategies for teaching our children how to handle their emotions. So we’re going to take a couple of short posts to consider how God’s Word helps us to help our children rightly handle their emotions.

May 12

“You are as much serving God…”

2014 at 8:28 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Motherhood

“You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, and training them up in God’s fear, and minding the house, and making your household a church for God, as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts.” ~C.H. Spurgeon

May 8

How to Find the Happy in “Happy Mother’s Day”

2014 at 9:34 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney

Do you feel as if you’ve lost the “happy” in “Happy Mother’s Day”?

Maybe you find Mother’s Day disappointing. It seems like all your mom friends on Facebook get showered with more surprises, gifts, and love than you. Your husband and kids don’t seem to make much effort.

Maybe Mother’s Day brings to the surface feelings of guilt and failure. You see so many ways you need to grow, so many ways you fall short. You never seem to do it right. You would feel happier if we could just skip this holiday.

Maybe you feel grumpy about Mother’s Day. Instead of being pampered and waited on, you have to work harder than usual preparing a special meal for your mother-in-law.

Maybe Mother’s Day makes you feel more unhappy than happy.

But think again, because a “Happy Mother’s Day” is so much more than how you feel on the day in question.

That’s because “happiness” is so much more than a feeling. Happiness in Scripture means “blessedness.” The mom who is saved by grace can feel happy this Mother’s Day because she is happy. She is blessed. Consider:

By grace, your present Mother’s Day troubles—whether they be the stress of preparing Mother’s Day dinner or the despair over a wayward child, or the weariness of caring for small children—are all working for your good and the glory of Christ (Rom 8:28).

By grace, your past mothering failures—your impatience and your anger, your selfishness and grumbling—are all covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. He is at work redeeming our failures, working through our weakness and inadequacy for the good of our children (2 Cor. 12:10).

By grace, your future mothering hopes are not ultimately dependent upon your performance. It is the work of God from start to finish. And his work is gives us strength for our work. We can throw off the sin and the regret that so easily entangle and run our mothering race with perseverance knowing that he is the one who sustains us and makes us “fruitful in every good work” (Col 1:10).

Our happiness this Mother’s Day is not ultimately found in the appreciation we receive from our family or in our mothering performance, but in God—who he is, what he has done, what he is doing, and what he plans to do through our mothering. This is what it means to be blessed. To be truly happy.

And this is why, even though I do not know you—your present circumstances or feelings—I can confidently wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!

“Her children rise up and call her ‘happy’; her husband also, and he praises her.” Prov. 31:28

May 7

True Beauty Contest Winners

2014 at 2:29 pm   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty

Thanks to so many of you who sent in entries for our True Beauty Mother’s Day Giveaway. We wish we could give a book to everyone who entered, but we are so blessed by the love each one of you expressed for a special mom, sister, or friend. The winners are…Cara, who entered on behalf of her daughter-in-law (who was born on Mother’s Day!) and Dan, who entered on behalf of his wife and his mom—both of whom have birthdays in May! We pray these special women are blessed by this Mother’s Day gift.

And there’s still time to order your copy of True Beauty in time for Mother’s Day. We hope every mother knows her true beauty and worth on this special day.

May 6

Is Motherhood the End of Beauty?

2014 at 8:03 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Beauty | Motherhood

For a bunch of college girls, it was a shocking sight. Our friend, and the mother of twins, showed us her stretch marks and we, rather impolitely, stared back in dismay. Did pregnancy really carve such strange designs into a woman’s body?

“You will all look like this some day,” she warned, laughing at our expressions. “Of course, mine are worse, because I had twins, but if you get pregnant, you will get stretch marks.”

I’m glad I didn’t know then that in addition to stretch marks I would also have a c-section scar, plus two more long scars from emergency surgery following the delivery of my first child. My stomach now looks like a crudely drawn road map.

Pregnancy wreaks havoc on a woman’s body. Stretch marks and fat deposits, c-section scars and varicose veins…the list goes on. Then there is motherhood. Sleep deprivation digs dark pits underneath our eyes, bottle washing dries out our hands, our clothes don’t fit anymore and are dotted with spit-up. Our joints are stiff from hours of carpool and our muscles sore from carrying children and baby bags and pack and plays (and don’t forget the stroller!).

Whatever beauty we thought we had before we had children feels like a thing of the past. We worry about whether our husband will still find us attractive. We feel self-conscious and insecure about how we look to others.

But motherhood is not the end of beauty, it is an opportunity to become more beautiful. Moms may not get much time at the spa, but we have the chance to apply the godly woman’s beauty regimen every day, all day long.

What is this beauty regimen? Scripture says that the woman who applies trust in God (“a gentle and quiet spirit” 1 Pet. 3:3-5) with good works (1 Tim. 2:9-10) will not fail to become genuinely beautiful. And who, I ask you, has more opportunities to apply this beauty treatment, than a mother with young children?

Every day she must trust God with the physical safety, the emotional wellbeing, and the state of her children’s souls. Every day she must do endless, repetitive acts of service on behalf of her husband and for the sake of children. And every day, as moms, we have countless opportunities to take our eyes off of ourselves, to serve others, and to look to God for strength and help. This makes us truly beautiful.

So think of it this way: you can make yourself beautiful all day long! Not only when you shower and style your hair, but also when you clean up vomit and wipe dirty bottoms, when you encourage your husband and serve your family with gladness. You are trusting God and doing good works. This will make you beautiful in the eyes of your husband and your children, and precious in the sight of God.

Motherhood is not the end of beauty; instead it can be the beginning of a deeper, more profound beauty, that transforms us from the inside out. So instead of mourning the loss of a smooth, flat, stomach this Mother’s Day, let’s give thanks for the opportunity to pursue a beauty that will never fade (1 Pet. 3:3-5).

May 5

“He Will Never Allow Us to Utterly Fail”

2014 at 8:40 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God

From yesterday’s sermon at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville on Mark 6:45-52:

“There are thoughts here of comfort for all true believers. Wherever they may be, or whatsoever their circumstances, the Lord Jesus sees them…the same eye which saw the disciples tossed on the lake is ever looking at us. We are never beyond the reach of his care. Our way is never hid from him. He may not come to our aid at the time we like best, but he will never allow us to utterly fail. He that walked upon the water never changes. He will always come at the right time to uphold his people. Though he tarry, let us wait patiently. Jesus sees us, and will not forsake us.” ~J. C. Ryle