“How do we raise our children in this world of beauty gone bad?” This question—in the appendix of Mom and Nicole’s book, True Beauty—is on the forefront of my mind these days as my three daughters are getting older. Two simple ideas have been guiding my approach of late.
First, I’ve been considering my own childhood experience. My mom—following the counsel and example of her own mom—was careful to minimize excessive focus on my appearance at a young age. It will come in its own in time, my grandma would tell her. No need to rush. In my case, I was so unconcerned about my personal appearance, that even when I had reached my mid-teens, “it” still hadn’t come.
My sisters (four and five years older than me) love to tell the story about how they finally went to my mom and asked if Janelle could maybe start brushing her hair occasionally. They had to appear in public with me after all. I’m happy to report that I now daily brush my hair and even wear make-up. “It” finally came! But looking back, I see how the lack of focus on my outward appearance when I was young was a means of protection in my life. I have found my struggle with worldly beauty standards to be minimal, and I know that is in part due to my mom’s wisdom in allowing me to be “young” and not hurrying my transition into adulthood.
Secondly, I was provoked by a conversation with a friend a couple years ago. After having four boys she became pregnant with a little girl. My friend was finally getting to design that girly-girl nursery and wanted to have a quote from True Beauty featured in her daughter’s room: “True beauty is to behold and reflect the beauty of God.” She wanted her daughter to grow up with a daily reminder of the true definition of beauty. Such a simple idea, yet the potential effect is immeasurable. I followed her example, hanging the same words on my daughters’ walls. My youngest can’t even read yet, but as soon as she can, I want thoughts of the Savior’s beauty to fill her mind each day.
Never has the world around us made it more difficult to raise daughters with a biblical understanding of beauty. But God has not called us to a hopeless task, and I encourage every mom (of girls and boys) to read True Beauty and spend careful time considering the appendix, “True Beauty and Our Children.”
“The beauty of grace that overwhelmed our own hearts through the gospel of Jesus Christ has lost none of its power. Our Savior can do for our children as he did for us. Grace makes true beauty irresistible. So we pray with hope in God to open the eyes of the hearts of our children to the dazzling beauty of Jesus Christ.” ~Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre
2017 at 6:47 am | by Nicole Whitacre
If you were to come to my house today, you would find, on the chalkboard in the kitchen, the Whitacre Word of the Week: “industrious” which means “diligent and hardworking.” It may seem like an odd word for the start of summer vacation, but it’s there for a reason. That’s because one of the lessons we are trying to teach our children is the value of hard work. As Ben Sasse puts it in his recent book, The Vanishing American Adult, we don’t just want our children to learn how to work hard, we want them to “embrace their identities as workers.”
Work is not something you do during the school year so that you can grow up to do it from 9-5 and then complain about it the rest of the time. Work is a gift and a calling from God (Gen 1:26–28). “Since God is the one who calls people to their work,” explains Leland Ryken, “the worker becomes a steward who serves God.” That’s how we want our children to think about themselves. Who are you? We are workers, we are stewards who serve God. We have been saved by God’s grace from sin and wrath to do good works (Eph 2:10).
Creating workers is a work in progress. But this summer, we have deliberately set out to do a few things toward that goal.
First, we want to teach our children that serving God starts small—in the home, in the local church, and in the community. So, we have taken our boys over to serve the widows in our church with yard work. We have asked our girls to take on various chores in the home to serve the family. We have plans to visit some of the elderly in our neighborhood.
Secondly, we are teaching each of our children to create something. This project was inspired by Sasse’s book where he points out that children these days often learn how to consume more than to produce. So the girls are learning how to sew and use a sewing machine and each will hopefully have something to show for it by the end of the summer. Our middle son is making a chicken coop—and it’s coming along nicely! And our oldest son is well on his way to completing a writing project he’s been tinkering with for a while.
We also deliberately purchased a house in a neighborhood where there’s lots of work to be done. Our yard is large and overgrown. There is lots of wood to chop, stumps to dig out, and about a million weeds to pull. Sure, our yard is great for backyard soccer games and catching fireflies, but we remind our children that it is a blessing and a responsibility. The creation mandate to “subdue the earth” applies to this little plot of earth that we are blessed to call ours.
One thing we’ve discovered is that certain children like certain kinds of work more than others. One of our boys really enjoys schoolwork, while the other loves to do manual labor—and “never the twain shall meet.” So, we challenge our son who enthusiastically serves with yard work to cheerfully learn his fractions and our son who loves to write and read, to get out there and work with his hands. I’m not sure if either of them will ever love the same kind of work, but I hope they will both learn to fight laziness in all its forms, and do all their work cheerfully as unto the Lord.
Do we sound like mean parents? It is summer after all! Isn’t this a time for kids to rest and relax? Please know that we are giving our children plenty of fun. We go to the pool and the library, play soccer, turn on the sprinkler, and make frequent stops for slushies. But we hope that our children will learn to appreciate rest and recreation even more because they have learned how to work. Our prayer is that the work they do this summer will seep into their very bones and will embed itself as part of their identity—so that whatever work God calls them to do, they will grow up to think of themselves as “stewards who serve God.”
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.
2017 at 8:59 am | by Janelle Bradshaw
Summer was always my favorite season as a little girl, and I ran headlong into those glorious months free from school with all the energy I possessed. So now, as I come upon another summer as a mom with four children I’m equally excited. I’m also grateful for the example my mom set for me growing up. As with everything else in life, she approached our summers with great intentionality. Now don’t get me wrong—she provided many wonderful opportunities for fun and rest. I still remember our local pool which offered an hour of “free swim” every morning from 8-9 during the summer. Most days, my mom would drive us, and a carload of our friends, to swim in the ice cold waters of Upper County Pool. How we ever thought “freezing swim” was summer fun is a mystery to me, but Mom provided this and many other summer memories that I will always cherish.
But Mom also saw summer as a land of opportunity and refused to let us squander it. One specific memory I have is the afternoon of “quiet time” she required. After lunch from 1-3, we had to stay inside and spend at least an hour of that time reading. The other hour was to be spent in some other constructive pursuit such as art, music, cooking, sewing etc I still remember chafing against this rule, not exactly appreciating “quiet time,” as it interrupted my play time. Sorry about that Mom! But I was chatting with Nicole the other day about this very thing, and we were recounting all the good that came from that small requirement. Obviously, it instilled in us a love for reading but that was just the beginning. It also helped us to appreciate the value of structure and scheduling, of habit and discipline. It gave us focused time to cultivate our gifts and desires. Many of the things we love and pursue today such as art and writing were born in those hours of summer quiet. The benefit we have received helps us persevere in creating similar structures for our own children. So much value from such a small and simple practice.
And so, as school draws to a close, let’s ask: How can we be intentional this summer? Is there a skill that one of our children has been wanting to learn? Is there a particular character quality where we can creatively facilitate growth in our family? Maybe for you, this will be the “summer of kindness” for your kiddos, like it was for Nicole’s a couple years ago. Maybe you can create a structure for your kiddos to grow in reading, which happens to be my summer goal this year. This will look different for each of us, but just remember, a little bit of intentionality in these years has the power to effect not only your kids but even your future grandkids. That’s a summer to get excited about!
2017 at 9:40 am | by Nicole Whitacre
When my youngest daughter Sophie first came into our home at the age of three, she, like every toddler, wanted my constant attention. If I wasn’t looking at her, she would tug on my arm and repeat, “Mom, mom, mom.” I would turn around from the dishes or look up from my laptop and respond with an exclamatory “Look at you, Sophie! What a good job!” After a few weeks, Sophie picked up on the phonetics (if not the grammar) of my response and began to call out “Lookachoo, Mom! Lookachoo!” It took me a few times to realize that she wasn’t speaking in her native Amharic—she was saying my words back to me. She wanted me to “look at you.”
One of the most precious gifts we give our children is our attention. We watch their twirls in the kitchen, and we examine the new bug they found in the backyard. We look for signs of a sniffle, and we look both ways before we help them cross the street. We pay attention to their diet and their sleep and the neatness of their handwriting. We keep our focus through their long, rambling stories. We attend to their needs, and we keep an eye out for their temptations. We watch them crawl around the corner of the living room and down the hall; then, in the blink of an eye, we watch them back out of the driveway and down the street. According to legend, we even have eyes in the back of our head. From the moment our newborn (or our three-year-old) is placed in our arms, we begin a vigil that never ends. We moms are always on lookachoo duty.
Alas, we mothers are only human after all. We cannot watch our children every moment of every day. Our eyelids grow heavy. We must sleep when they sleep. And then we get distracted. We fail to listen. We miss so many moments. Or we get anxious, fretful with the care of these eternal souls. We grow weary with all the watching.
But as we watch over our children, our Heavenly Father is watching over us (Prov. 2:8). He does not grow weak or weary (Isa. 40:28). His attention doesn’t flicker or fade. As we attend to our children’s needs, we are constantly being attended to by God, who knows exactly what we need (Matt. 6:32). All of our motherly duties are carried out beneath the gracious umbrella of his attentive care (Ps. 34:15). Every story we listen to, every picture we praise, every sin we correct, we do under the watchful eye of our Heavenly Father.
JI Packer writes:
What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it—the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind….I know him because he first knew me and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is not a moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters. This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort—the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates—in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good.
We don’t have to cry “lookachoo” to get God’s attention. He’s already looking. He’s already caring. He already knows what we need. In fact, when we call out to him, it’s because he first prompts us to pray. If we are his children, in Christ, then there is not one single moment when our Heavenly Father’s eye is off of us. He is always watching over us for our good. Here, my fellow moms, is an unspeakable comfort. And energy! I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly what I want for Mother’s Day.
Whenever I attempt to decorate a room, create a centerpiece, or fill the planters on my front porch, I try to find a picture that I can replicate. I’m not one of those gifted women who can come up with a design idea on my own, so I benefit greatly from having a picture to copy. Although my finished product rarely looks as good as the picture (not even close sometimes!), at least it looks better than what I would have produced without a picture.
Did you know that God graciously gives moms (and dads) a picture to follow? In Psalm 144:12 we find a striking image of what our children should be like as they enter their young adult years: “May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace.” Now granted, “plants” and “pillars” may not be the first images that pop into your mind when you think about the young girl with her mood swings or the boy whose clothes cover the floor of his room. So let’s a take a closer look at this photo to discover what we can learn.
Our Sons. They are to resemble a plant. This plant is not a seedling or slow growing. It is already full grown with deep roots. And because it is such a hardy plant it can withstand the heat, survive the cold and endure tough weather conditions. Here we have a picture of strength and endurance. Our sons are to grow early and quickly to maturity and be able brave the storms of life. In other words, young men are not to spend years in perpetual adolescence, but be fully grown in their youth. Obviously, a son needs a whole lot of his dad (or another godly man, if dad is not involved) for this project! But how does this picture influence my mothering?
For one, we should resist the urge to shelter our sons when they need to face their fears. We must refuse to coddle them when they need to be tough. We must allow them to take on difficult tasks, on their own, without our help or interference. In short, we should not be afraid to put our boys out in the elements. This doesn’t mean we throw them into the cesspool of culture, but rather that we train them to take steps of boldness, courage, and principled resistance.
Our Daughters. They are to be like a corner pillar. A corner pillar not only bears the weight of the palace but also joins the palace walls together. A corner pillar adorns the palace with beauty. This is a picture of strength and beauty. So instead of closing our eyes and gritting our teeth until the teen years are over, we must set about teaching our daughters how to be strong and beautiful.
For starters, our daughters should have strong character. They should be able to shoulder responsibilities and bear up under pressure and adversity. But they won’t grow strong by indulging their selfish desires, so now is the time to teach them sacrifice and self-denial. Our daughters should also be relationally strong. As the corner pillar, they should be people-connectors, drawing and holding people together. So instead of giving them free reign to hang out with whomever they want, we should encourage them to reach out to the lonely, include the new girl, and stay close to friends who provoke them to godliness. Finally, we need to teach our daughters the meaning of true beauty: to behold and reflect the beauty of God. A corner pillar not only holds up the building, but it also attracts the eye. And so we want our daughters to be beautiful from the inside out so that they might draw attention to God’s beauty.
Before any mom becomes daunted by the prospect of fulfilling such a picture, or perhaps discouraged that your older sons and daughters do not reflect this picture, let me focus your attention on this wonderful truth: This picture is more than a picture. It’s also a prayer.
We are not responsible—nor are we capable—of raising sons and daughters like this on our own. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1). That’s why this verse is first and foremost a request to God that he would fashion our children to resemble this picture; that he would cause our children to become difference makers in the world for the sake of the gospel.
As J.C. Ryle reminded parents of the importance and effectiveness of parents’ prayers:
“Without the blessings of the Lord, your best endeavors will do no good. He has the hearts of all men in His hands, and except He touches the hearts of your children by His Spirit, you will weary yourself to no purpose. Water, therefore, the seed you sow on their minds with unceasing prayer. The Lord is far more willing to hear than we to pray; far more ready to give blessings than we to ask them;—but He loves to be entreated for them.”
So Moms, let’s make this our prayer: “May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace.”
2017 at 5:25 am | by Nicole Whitacre
The other night my husband and I sat with our children and watched home videos until long past bedtime. We laughed at how our youngest daughter used to be obsessed with hand sanitizer because of the glitter and how our oldest son’s curls used to hang over his eyes. We were reminded of God’s faithfulness to our family and, at the same time, experienced it once again. As the kids went to bed, one of my sons said, “That was great Mom, we have to do this again soon.”
You’d think I would be basking in the glow of a sweet family bonding time, but as I washed the dinner dishes, feelings of guilt were already engaged in hand to hand combat with the warm fuzzies. Guilt, as per usual, soon won out. “Those videos don’t show the whole picture. You may have looked like a fun mom playing hide and seek with your kids, but you know you didn’t play with them enough.” Or, “How could you have forgotten the day when all the hot air balloons raced over our house? You didn’t enjoy your children enough when they were little.” You should’ve. You didn’t. You failed.
How should we handle the unpleasant emotion of “mommy guilt”? There is much more to say than I can pack into a post, but here are a few thoughts that I hope prove helpful.
First, it seems to me that there are two main strains of “mommy guilt.” The first kind of mommy guilt isn’t really guilt at all. It’s an emotion we call “guilt,” but it’s usually a vague feeling of discouragement that points to some pride or approval-craving masquerading as “guilt.” We talk to a mom who believes her parenting method is the only way to go. Or we read the latest study that proves parents of really smart, successful children do x, y, and z—and we aren’t even doing x. Bring on the self-flagellation.
The problem with a lot of mommy guilt is that the law we have transgressed is not a biblical one but a cultural one. We have to watch out here: How much of our idea of what it takes to be a good mother is shaped by Scripture and how much is shaped by my friends who believe children should only eat, sleep, or learn in a particular way?
I’m not saying it doesn’t matter how we feed or educate our children. It matters a great deal! Motherhood is an intensely practical endeavor. But how we raise our children should flow from and run back to the one grand goal of mothering: to train up our children in the ways of the Lord (Prov. 22:6). When we start here, mothering gets a lot easier, a lot less burdensome, and a whole lot more fun. We will find a wide scope for our imagination, creativity, and gifting when we chuck the obligation to measure up to certain cultural standards. There is time enough to do what matters in mothering, but only if we do it for what really matters.
To deal with faux mommy guilt, we must learn all that we can from other moms, but preferably older, godly, women who have seen many mothering fads come and go, and have a sense of what matters for the long-term. But most importantly, we must evaluate all parenting advice in light of God’s Word. To borrow a John Piper image from another context, if training our children in the ways of the Lord is like the sun, then everything else such as feeding and sleeping and educating our children will, like the planets in their course, find their proper place. And we moms won’t feel guilty for things we shouldn’t feel guilty about.
The second kind of mommy guilt is the true kind. We are in such a hurry to outrun this unpleasant emotion that we forget it is a God-given feeling. I should feel guilty sometimes because I am a guilty mom. I have broken God’s laws, and I do so multiple times a day. I break God’s laws when I am impatient with my children or when I complain about an interruption. I break God’s law by things I do and things I don’t do. Far from being a negative emotion to avoid at all costs, I must ask God to help me feel the right kind of mommy guilt at the right time.
But true conviction from the Holy Spirit isn’t the vague sense of failure I had the other night. The way to deal with these feelings is to admit that yes, I am a guilty mom—guilty of many sins of commission and omission—but thanks be to God I have a Savior whose sacrifice on my behalf is sufficient to cover all my mommy guilt. He is at work to make this guilty, repentant mother fruitful in her home. That’s what I should have seen the other night when watching home videos: not only my failures but the amazing grace of God in spite of my failures.
Recently my dad sent me this quote from John Newton to encourage mothers who struggle with mommy guilt:
“You say you feel overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of unworthiness? Well, indeed you cannot be too aware of the evils inside yourself, but you may be, indeed you are, improperly controlled and affected by them. You say it is hard to understand how a holy God could accept such an awful person as yourself. You then express not only a low opinion of yourself, which is right, but also too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer, which is wrong.”
Contrary to what our culture tells us, it is right and biblical to have a low opinion of ourselves. What’s wrong is to have too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer.
So the next time we are struck with a case of mommy guilt, let’s ask: Do I feel guilty because I have broken one of God’s laws or one of my own “laws”? And if we have broken one of God’s laws, let us have a low opinion of ourselves. Let us admit our guilt and ask God (and our children, if appropriate) to forgive us. But let us have a high opinion of Christ. Instead of wallowing in “What a horrible mother I am” let us immediately turn to contemplating the person and work and promises of God. Let us thank him for his amazing grace revealed at the cross and at work in our mothering. And let us trust in his promise to help us in our time of need. This is the way to true freedom from mommy guilt.
2017 at 7:11 am | by Janelle Bradshaw
My third child and only son is six years old, and this mom is tired. While his intense and vivacious personality makes me laugh almost every day, those same strengths tainted with indwelling sin may just finish me. My boy has caused me to take a much harder look at the whole sowing and reaping principle. Is reaping a guaranteed result of sowing? Is it possible to sow and never reap?
While I have been far from perfect, I have tried to faithfully train Hudson in the way he should go (Prov. 22:6). I have prayed, sought counsel, read books, and prayed some more. Then why did we leave the library last week with him screaming? Or get a note from his teacher the other day saying that he is shouting “no” in class? Why do I feel like we are digressing instead of progressing? Why should I try again today?
The despair behind these questions is my warning signal that I have lost sight of the truth and hope found in God’s Word. And it is there that I must return. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” I immediately find hope for my soul in these words. This verse makes it clear that sowing is often a wearisome job. It acknowledges the temptation to give up that often overtakes me. But that next line brings hope for my exhausted soul—“in due season we will reap.” There is a season for reaping. And there is a condition whereby we reap—“if we do not give up.”
“It is not God’s way to give everything at once. ‘Afterward’ is the time when He often chooses to work, both in the things of nature and in the things of grace. ‘Afterward’ is the season when affliction bears the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11). ‘Afterward’ was the time when the son who refused to work in his father’s vineyard repented and went (Matt. 21:29). And ‘afterward’ is the time to which parents must look forward if they see not success at once—you must sow in hope and plant in hope.”
I may stay away from the library for a while. I never remember to return my books on time anyway. But I’m not going to give up training my son, because that day of reaping is coming. There is an “afterward” in this hard season of mothering. And ya know, we should take heart from the “afterward” of others who have gone before us. There are a whole bunch of moms that have actually made it. Yep, they have picked screaming kids up off the library floor and cried the whole way home, but they have persevered and reaped a harvest “afterward.” So take heart fellow moms, we are not alone.
My ten-year-old daughter told me she feels like she has heard about God all her life but he feels far away from her. I am trying not to panic as a mom. I know I have felt that way too before. But I am not sure how to guide her without lecturing her. Would you require her to do a quiet time or just let her do if she wants to?
The feelings of panic (and I know them well!) often arise in these moments when we feel helpless to change our child’s heart. We feel that way because it is true! Salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8). We cannot open the eyes of our children’s hearts or give them a heart of flesh for a heart of stone, but we must turn our panic into prayer that God would do what only he can do.
But there is a lot that we can—and should—do to parent our children in the ways of the Lord, and the God who gave us this mothering job in the first place has also given us wisdom in his Word for how to do it.
First of all, as I often remind my girls, we must parent in faith. We must parent with confidence in the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord, his power and desire to save (he saved us, after all!), the wisdom of His Word to guide us, and the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.
You may already be doing this, but I would encourage you to keep talking to your daughter about how she feels. Tell her you have felt this way too. Encourage her that God often makes us aware of a lack of his presence so that we might seek his presence. God is at work! You can pray with her and ask that God would grant her salvation and assurance. Stories from you or your husband or grandparents, friends, etc. can be a real comfort so she does not feel strange or alone.
Then I would encourage you to help her develop a habit of reading the Bible and praying every day. There is an unhealthy skittishness parents often feel about making their children do what they don’t want to do. We worry: if we push the Bible on them, will we push them away? Maybe we had a bad experience growing up, or this just smells like legalism to us. Isn’t it better to pray, encourage, and wait for God to do his work?
I would counter that leading a child to God’s Word is doing God’s work. It is what he commands us to do (Deut. 6:4-9) and it is the means He most often uses to bring a child to Himself. I am no exception. In many ways, it is the habits of my childhood, set in place by my parents, that most profoundly shape my life to this day. Growing up, my parents required us to go to church three times a week. Sunday morning. Sunday evening. Wednesday night. No exceptions. These were not, as my husband always refers to Sundays “my favorite days of the week.” I was bored silly at church. I couldn’t wait to get back to school on Monday morning and be with my friends. But my parents didn’t consult my feelings on the matter. I was going to church whether I wanted to be there or not. And it was in one of these church services that God first opened my eyes to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One other example comes to mind. As a young girl I had to memorize 200 Bible verses to get into a summer camp I really wanted to attend. I didn’t care about the verses, but I cared about camp and so I completed the assignment. My motives may have been totally wrong, but these Scriptures embedded in my mind and heart have encouraged and comforted me throughout my Christian life.
All that to say, I would encourage you to help your daughter develop a habit of having quiet times. Even if she doesn’t want to. Even if she’s bored silly. By placing God’s Word in front of her every day, you are laying the kindling under which our gracious God may light the spark of his presence. Tell her you are doing this because you love her. We make our children brush their teeth and eat their peas, not because they like it, but because we know it is best for them. How much more the reading of God’s Word?
And do whatever you can to make it easy and exciting. Buy her a new journal where she can write down her questions and thoughts; use a solid Bible study book or program (several of my grandkids use these Bible reading notes from the Good Book Company and the ESV Seek and Find Bible is a great option for children); have a time each day at breakfast or dinner where the kids can ask Mom and Dad questions from their daily Bible reading (stump the parent!); give them a challenge to memorize or read for a reward.
Finally, don’t underestimate the effect of your genuine passion for the Lord on your daughter. As she sees you read your Bible every day, talk about Scripture, live out your faith (not flawlessly but faithfully), she will be indelibly impressed by the work of the Spirit that she sees in you.
I’ll leave you with these bracing words from JC Ryle. As you lead your daughter in faith toward God, may you see much fruit in her life.
“I know that you cannot convert your child. I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God. But I know also that God says expressly, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go’ and that he never laid a command on man which he would not give man grace to perform. And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey. It is just in the going forward that God will meet us. The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing. We only have to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, that we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.” ~Ryle