2013 at 1:00 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
As I talked to other moms this week, at church or my sons’ baseball practices, we were all feeling a little tired and overwhelmed by the busyness of another school year. For me, when things get busy, I always return to my mom’s advice (hopefully sooner rather than later for the sake of my family!): Seek God and keep it simple. A few years ago Kristin described how this counsel carried her through an exhausting time with three small boys. ~Nicole
I’m tired and I need more rest. But when? How?These were my questions as family and friends recently sought to counsel me through this exhausting season with three energetic boys.
A typical day begins early and goes non-stop until nap time. My kid’s nap time, that is. While my little ones are resting and recharging their batteries, I am usually trying to bring order back to the house, do laundry—you know, start something and finish it without interruption. Then it’s a whirlwind of dinner prep, dishes cleanup, and jammies on. Usually there’s a meeting, or home projects to tackle, and before you know it, it’s time to do the same thing all over again. Except, I still haven’t recovered from the day before.
For me and every other exhausted mom, we must find our rest and our strength in Christ. One of our pastors wives, Nancy Loftness, reminded me of 1 Peter 4:11,“Whoever serves, [should do so] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”I MUST consistently seek God for joy and stamina to serve my family another day. There is no other way to bring glory to God as a mother.
However, my mom, sisters, and faithful friends have also been helping me take practical steps to alleviate my tremendous tiredness. In a word, simplify. Get strategic and get creative about eliminating needless work. Make rest a priority so I’m better able to serve my husband and my little men.
Over lunch the other day, Mom, Nicole, Janelle and I brainstormed about my daily schedule. We talked through the trouble points and they threw out all kinds of ideas such as buying prepackaged food for my boy’s lunches, getting help with babysitting, and developing a plan for staying on top of laundry.
This brainstorming session has made a significant difference in my life of late, and I want to encourage other moms to try it as well. Gather a couple of friends and fellow-moms together for a strategy session (make it a fun night out!), or ask several “older” women for ideas. Examine every aspect of your day and figure out how you can simplify your life and schedule. The practical changes that serve you best will probably be different than for me. However, by minimizing your workload where possible, you’ll find reserves of strength to serve your family, and more peace along the way.
Simplifying my life has provided me with much-needed rest. It has also required a healthy dose of humility, an honest admission that I’m not “Super Mom.” I’m just an ordinary woman seeking to serve with the strength that God provides—in whatever way it comes. May God be glorified!
2013 at 7:47 am | by Nicole Whitacre
Stephanie has a two-year-old whom she loves to pieces, but who whines a lot. Ashley has five children at home under the age of nine. Both wrote to ask “how do you stay patient with young children?”
I can certainly relate. Impatience is a common temptation for us as moms. So, as I always do, I asked my exceptionally patient mom (she raised me after all!), and wrote down a few of her suggestions. This is not an exhaustive list, just a few things she’s passed on to me that I have found most helpful:
Identify temptation points
Recently my husband and I realized that we were most tempted to be impatient when we had to get our four children out the door. Identifying this temptation-point helped, not only so we could prepare our hearts to be more self-controlled and patient, but also so we could streamline our process and get an earlier start. Less temptation for everyone. Less impatience from Mom and Dad.
More often then not, when I find myself growing impatient with my children, it is because I have not been clear about the rules or boundaries. They are simply following my lead. So why am I getting impatient with them? My impatience is often a clue that I have slacked off in one area or another. It is time to get back to basics and train or instruct ahead of time and then be consistent to bring appropriate consequences. Being consistent helps me guard against impatience.
Don’t do stupid things twice
This one is for me. I am always repeating my own stupid mistakes. But Janelle is the opposite. She’s a fast learner. For example, a little while ago her two-year-old Hudson became obsessed with balloons. He would throw a fit when he saw a balloon in the store. He would even start screaming in his car seat when they drove past balloons outside! Once she realized this, Janelle made strategic decisions to avoid balloons where possible. She took alternative routes home and avoided certain sections of the store, unless she was prepared to buy a balloon. Point is, if you know your toddler is going to throw a fit in aisle three, if possible, don’t go to aisle three for a while. Wait until your consistent training at home makes it possible for you to go to the store without a meltdown. Do whatever you can to avoid walking into situations you know will be tempting for you and your child.
I read a great post on this by someone, somewhere, and now I can’t find it. The upshot was that when we cultivate a heart of gratefulness to God for the precious gift of our children, it counteracts the impatience in our heart. So if we find our impatience is rising, how’s our gratefulness? Let’s thank God for the amazing gift of our children and it will be much easier to be patient.
There is something about going to God in prayer that reminds us just how patient our heavenly Father is with us. This produces humility in our hearts, which in turn, produces patience toward our children. And we need God’s help. So let’s pray. He is eager to help us to model His patience toward our children.
2013 at 7:53 am | by Janelle Bradshaw
Karissa wrote in with a great question: In a recent post you talked about “picking one thing” and being consistent about it in the discipline of a toddler. I guess my question is: How? There are multiple little issues of obedience that are clear to my 19-month-old, but I also want to be consistent about tantrum throwing. So what do I do about those other issues? Do I overlook her disobedience or lead her away from the “no touch” object? What do I do about those other obedience issues? Thanks for your input!
Great question, Karissa, and I think you’ve got the right idea. We most effectively train our children when we focus on one or two areas at a time. But very young children disobey in a myriad of ways! So how can we focus on one thing without losing ground in other areas?
I’m sure many moms have more wisdom than me, but here are a few ideas I’ve found helpful: If temper tantrums are your “one thing” then consider ways to minimize other sources of temptation. If your daughter always heads for her favorite “no touch” item in the living room, maybe remove it for a time. If your son cries when you drive by the local park, then try taking another route home. If your child is eyeing another child’s toy dump truck, distract him with some blocks. Eliminating predictable areas of temptation can help you focus most consistently on the most important things.
If our child sins in ways we can’t ignore, seek to deal with it appropriately and move on. So if our child grabs a toy we need to help him return it, telling him as we do that it is wrong to grab. Or if she won’t come right away we may need to go get her and remind her to always come to mommy right away. These are important areas to deal with and should be our “one thing” sooner rather than later, but in the meantime it may help deal quickly with these issues and move on.
This requires patience. For example, we may find our child’s whining irksome, but if we have already decided that tantrums are a more urgent issue, we may need to bite our lip, smile, and model cheerfulness for the time being. In conclusion, it might help to think ahead about your day: Where can I distract my child from temptation? Where can I overlook or redirect? And where do I need to focus all of my discipline and training?
Finally, as we’ve said all along, don’t grow weary in doing good. Your consistency in one area will produce fruit in many areas in your child’s life.
2013 at 8:45 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
Last week I sought to answer one humble mom’s request for advice. Here is the second half of her question:
I want to be a godly mother who sits on the floor reading books to my little one. I want to enjoy the little moments, singing songs to him, but most of the time I’d rather be getting the laundry folded, the dinner cooking or cleaning the house so that I can scratch another thing off my to-do list. Can you give me any advice? How can I change this attitude on a practical level, for I know God must first change my heart. What does it mean to be a good mom? How do you know when to play with your kids and when to make them play by themselves? When do you read them a book and when is it OK to fold the laundry?
This mother’s question touches on an important topic, for I am concerned that some moms of young children live under a load of self-imposed guilt. There are many reasons for this and the result is that we often feel guilty for things that are not sinful and sometimes neglect the things that Scripture does call us to. But that is another post for another time! Whatever the source, the solution is, as always, to return to Scripture.
First of all God’s Word tells us what we are called to do as moms. Among other responsibilities, we are to love our children (Titus 2:3-5). And 1 Corinthians 13 spells this out for us: love is patient, kind, not self-seeking or easily angered. You know it well.
The important thing to remember here is that love is not a feeling. It is something we do. So when we don’t feel like enjoying our children, but sacrifice to serve them anyways, this is not sin but obedience. Now feelings are an indicator so we aren’t to ignore them—but they don’t necessarily mean we have sinned. We should not feel guilty simply because we do not feel like enjoying our children.
What we need to do is ask ourselves, Am I caring for my child’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs, regardless of what I feel like? Am I loving my child (in a 1 Corinthians
13 way) even when I don’t want to?
Sometimes this does mean stopping what we are doing to read them a book or sing them a song. But we also love our children by serving our husband first, keeping our home orderly, serving in the church, and having a consistent quiet time. Sometimes we love our children best by letting them play by themselves for a while!
On a personal note, when my girls have struggled with feeling like they don’t spend enough time “playing” with their children, I’ve reminded them of my mom. I don’t remember my mom getting on the floor and playing with us or taking us to all kinds of special outings or planning special projects.
But she was there for us. Not only was she physically present in the home, but more importantly, she was content to be there. She worked from sun-up to sundown to keep a clean and orderly home, do the laundry, cook economical meals, serve neighbors and church members. She did our hair each morning, helped us with our homework, read us a bedtime story. She was eager to listen to us, available to help us, happy to be right where she was.
And she raised five children who all adored her. I don’t think any of us for a single second ever doubted her love.
May God give all of us grace to love our children with this 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love.
2013 at 7:48 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
A few months ago, when the weather was mild and our kids were playing together at a park, Janelle and I chatted about writing a few mothering posts for the blog.
“I don’t know,” she hesitated, when I pitched the idea. “I am very aware of my sins and shortcomings as a mom.”
“Me too!” I agreed. “But maybe that’s why we should write about it. If nothing else it will challenge us to be more faithful mothers.”
“I guess so,” she agreed, before calling to our children that it was time to go. A chorus of complaints met this announcement and we both looked at each other and laughed. “Yep, we’ve got a lot of work to do!”
We aren’t perfect mothers and we don’t pretend to be.
But that doesn’t mean we are content with imperfect. The mothering bar we’re aiming for is high. It has been set in place by God himself: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).
As moms we must be humble and admit we fall short of the bar of mothering perfection. Very. Far. Short. We are not always patient with our children. We are not always faithful to teach and train and discipline. We give in to selfishness, anger, laziness, and grumbling.
That’s why a mother who is grounded in the gospel looks two ways. She really does have eyes in the back of her head.
A gospel-centered mom first looks back to her justification in Christ. She remembers that all of her mothering sins and shortcomings have been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ. That he became sin for her that in him she might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
But she doesn’t stop there. The gospel-centered mom looks forward too. She strives with the Holy Spirit’s power that works within her to be perfect as her heavenly Father is perfect. She stands on the ground of forgiveness and accesses grace—through God’s Word, through counsel from godly women, and through prayer—to grow as a mom. To be more patient, more joyful, more consistent, more loving. To be perfect.
Moms need grace. We need grace to admit that we are weak and grace to not settle into those weaknesses. We need grace that frees and forgives and grace that gives power to grow.
2013 at 8:23 am | by Nicole Whitacre
“I feel like such a failure. I’m a horrible mom and a terrible wife. I’m exhausted, depressed, and overwhelmed.”
Sound like a mom you know? How would you counsel this woman? What gospel-centered words would you give her? Maybe you are that mom. As your soul’s counselor, how do you apply the gospel?
So often, in our sincere desire to be gospel-centered, we skip over a biblical diagnosis and assume we know what the problem is.
“You’re caught in the performance trap,” we tell the discouraged mom. “You just need to remember that God’s approval isn’t based on your performance. He loves you, in spite of all your failures. He doesn’t expect you to do it all or be a perfect wife or mom. You just need to rest in God’s grace.”
True, to a point.
But Scripture trains us to be more careful counselors, to apply the varied grace of God appropriately to various mothering discouragements:
“[A]dmonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thes. 5:14).
In other words, gospel-centered counsel looks different for different counselees.
“Discouraged Mom” may, in fact, be experiencing genuine conviction for anger or impatience or some other area of sin in her mothering. She may need an exhortation to repent and encouragement in the grace of God available to help her to grow (1 John 1:9).
Or a mom may be discouraged because she is comparing herself to other moms or cultural expectations of motherhood. She may need to hear our Savior’s words, “What is that to you, you follow me?” (John. 21:22)
Maybe a mom is looking to her children’s performance as the measurement of her mothering success. She may need to be reminded of her call is just to be faithful, and to trust God with the fruit. Her children’s sin isn’t the final measurement of her motherhood (Gal. 6:9).
Often a discouraged mom is an exhausted mom. She needs a good night sleep and an hour in God’s Word.
I could go on, but point is, gospel-centered counseling doesn’t make a blank check out to grace and hand it over to a discouraged mom. We must be diligent to discern the specific gospel-truth that applies to a particular discouraged mom in her unique situation.
So whether we’re counseling a friend or our own soul, let’s be wise, gospel-centered counselors.
2013 at 7:55 am | by Nicole Whitacre
For our family, and probably for yours, a ritual of summer is the weekly trip to the library for new books to fill the long hours. We are blessed to have, in addition to the public library system, a Christian library for children here in Louisville and we try to visit both often.
(On one recent trip to the public library my daughter, Tori, asked me who pays for all the books in the library. It was at that moment I realized—with with some small measure of civic pride—that I, in fact, am a regular contributor to my local library. Not only do my taxes fund my local library, I supplement the library’s revenue with my monthly overdue book fines. I like to think that I’m making a significant contribution to the furtherance of the education of children everywhere.)
My biggest challenge is finding new books for our kids to read or for us to read to them. I don’t want to miss out on a good book and I want to carefully monitor their reading diet. But as every parent knows, good recommendations can often be hard to come by.
That’s why I was excited when I recently I stumbled across this blog by theologian Ray Van Neste called The Children’s Hour. He reviews children’s books, shares what he is currently reading, and provides thoughts on Bible literature for children.
I don’t know how I missed seeing this blog before, but Dr. Van Neste has been posting there for some seven years now, so I have a lot of archives to mine and new books to read to my children.
As you peruse this blog you will not only discover wonderful resources for your family, you will be discipled by Dr. Van Neste in parenting your children to love words, and most of all God’s Word. That’s a worthy read.
2013 at 10:46 am | by Nicole Whitacre
Each morning I make a list of the day’s chores and studies for my oldest son Jack. He’s like his momma. He loves lists, and he loves checking items off his list.
This summer, among other things, I am having him memorize several poems, including “Courage” by Edgar Guest and “If” by Rudyard Kipling. My parents had me memorize the poem “If” when I was about Jack’s age and I have always loved it.
Though it is not entirely Christian in its worldview, it celebrates the biblical qualities of integrity, courage, and perseverance—virtues my husband and I strongly desire to impress upon our young son.
I pray, by the grace of God and for the glory of God, he may grow up to be this kind of man.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—-and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—-and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
As a mom with young kids, summer is full of endless possibilities and countless hours to fill, depending on how you look at it. I get excited about all the memories we can make and overwhelmed by all I think I need to accomplish for a truly “successful” summer. I’ve got to go berry picking and set reading goals and make popsicles and get out the sprinkler, and the list goes on.
I’m trying to learn from my mistakes. If I try to do too many things, I end up failing to do most of them. So I want to start with the most important summer mothering goal: training my children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Teaching and training our children in the ways of the Lord requires intentionality. And so, in addition to the daily devotions my husband leads at breakfast, I decided to choose one area that I wanted to focus on with my children. Thus, I’ve inaugurated the “Summer of Kindness.”
My goal—and check back with me at the end of the summer on this!—is to focus on this one area for the next two months, and hopefully cultivate a greater culture of kindness amongst my four children.
I am going to try to lead the children to memorize at least one verse about kindness together, to talk to them about kindness in Scripture, promote kindness through encouragement and even a kindness contest, and to be faithful to bring appropriate consequences for unkindness.
Now I’m sure my plan will morph over the next eight weeks or so, and it might even get derailed. And I don’t have any unrealistic expectations that my children will be perfectly kind to one another after this. But as one wise person once said, I’ll make more progress than if I had never tried at all.
And by targeting this one area for growth, I know it will help with all the other areas. So, I’m raising a glass of lemonade, and more than a few prayers to a summer of kindness.
Rebekah sent us this beautiful tribute to her mother:
I saw your contest for mothers day and instantly thought of my mother. I didn’t think of her because she needs to win a contest, but because I see a perfect opportunity to share about her. Perhaps you will be the only person who reads this, but I hope that hearing about her is an encouragement to you as you pursue godly “womanhood”.
My mom entered our family when I was 14. My first mom passed away of breast cancer, and so for 7 years my 3 sisters and I were raised by our father.
We were one crazy family living in Montana when a sweet southern belle, Lisa, entered our lives. I don’t remember my parents dating relationship being too long, but I do remember her coming out to visit from the south a couple of times, and how quickly she started to show love to our family.
I could probably write a book about our families story, but I will skip straight to the part about learning life lessons from her.
Here is a woman that had never been married before, moving across the country, to be the wife and mother of a widower and 4 new daughters. She didn’t even have any of her friends in her wedding. Instead she had her new daughters stand up with her as bridesmaids.
She entered our family graciously. She saw flaws in us all, but was quick to pray and slow to speak. She shared her opinion, but was quick to submit to my Dad. She constantly sought older women to disciple her and encouraged our walks with the Lord.
Many women could come into a situation like that and struggle with jealousy of the first wife. That is NOT my mom. She came into our home and sought to understand my first mom, to respect her, to continue her prayers for her daughters, and then she sought to love my first mom’s extended family! She is others-minded.
She has been an example of a quiet and gentle spirit. She is always ready to love first and be loved second. She holds the Word close to her heart and seeks to live by it’s Truth, through the strength of the Lord.
When I got married almost 2 years ago I remember Lisa pulling me aside and telling me that she “wished Vanessa could be here to see her prayers answered, but we can’t question the Sovereignty of the Lord, so I will do my best to stand in for her”. The selflessness of that statement has stayed with me.
I have a picture of my first mom on my refrigerator, beside it I have a picture of my youngest sister. She was born to my Dad and Lisa right after I turned 16. Abigail has been one of our families biggest joys and blessings. I look at the pictures of my first mom and sister and see God’s Sovereignty played out in my life. I will see my mom again some day. Until then I get to enjoy my new mother, who without, I would not have my sweet sister.
I hope that as you go through your day, you can think of Lisa and see the Lord’s strength in her and remember to pray first, love first, seek wisdom, and pursue the Lord.
Kristie Braaksma received some very helpful counsel from her mom:
There was one piece of advice my mom gave me in my teenage years that I have remembered ever since when things seem tough…“you can do anything for a short period of time”. The day she gave me that advice was a day two weeks before my graduation deadline (I was homeschooled at that point) and I was way behind on my studies! I had made up my mind to finish by the deadline no matter what, but the task seemed so incredibly daunting! I knew I would be pulling all-nighters in order to get through all my work in two weeks. That’s when mom told me “you can do anything for a short period of time” and suddenly I knew I had to give it everything I had, to at least try. So for two weeks I worked night and day, sometimes finishing at 6am only to sleep for three hours and start again at 9am. It was overwhelming work, it was mentally laborious and exhausting, there were many tears, and many doubts, but by the grace and strength of The Lord, the deadline came and I was done!!
That season of life has passed long ago but the advice I have applied to countless trials and difficulties. I think it pairs well with Psalm 126:5-6 “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy bringing his sheaves with him.” I think John Piper sums it up well when he says, “When there are simple, straightforward jobs to be done, and you are full of sadness, and tears are flowing easily, go ahead and do the jobs with tears. Be realistic. Say to your tears: “Tears, I feel you. You make me want to quit life. But there is a field to be sown (dishes to be washed, car to be fixed, sermon to be written).”Then say, on the basis of God’s word, “Tears, I know that you will not stay forever. The very fact that I just do my work (tears and all) will in the end bring a harvest of blessing. So go ahead and flow if you must. But I believe (I do not yet see it or feel it fully) — I believe that the simple work of my sowing will bring sheaves of harvest. And your tears will be turned to joy.”
Bonni Hendley shares about her mom’s wonderful example:
My mom is an evangelist. No, not a famous one but a faithful one. She talks to everyone, everywhere. As a child, it wasn’t always appreciated as a trip to the grocery store could take hours! But as an adult, I see the gifting God has given her to reach out. She has taken neglected children to church, invited them into her home, baked for them, prayed for them. She has asked the woman doing her nails what she believes about God. She has visited the sick and prayed for them. Even within her own family and friends she faithfully brings the gospel into conversations—even when the conversation was not welcomed. Her name means ‘Star’ and her light does shine! I love you Mom!!
First off - my mom is amazing. I have so many special memories with her that it would be impossible to pick just one.
But the single most important piece of advice she’s given me? It would have to be, “Keep learning.” Mom has not only encouraged me (and my two sisters) to be a learner for life, she has modeled that for me. She loves to read and research things—history, healthy living/cooking, current issues, and the list could go on.
When we were kids, she often encouraged us to go beyond what we were given in our textbooks, etc.—to learn new skills, to develop a healthy curiosity about the world around us, to keep our minds active—all of which she has done.
Most importantly, though, Mom is not content to simply rest on her laurels when it comes to a knowledge of Scripture. She’s pressed on, learning to know God, His Word, and His grace more each year. THAT is a blessing beyond words…one I will be eternally grateful for.
In anticipation of Mother’s Day we have a week’s worth of your favorite advice and memories of your mom. Our first is from Karen Ingram:
I’m sure this isn’t a profound memory of my mom, and it doesn’t include any amazing life changing advice. However, I am 37 years old and this memory still makes me smile and remains one of my favorite of my mom. As a mother of 3 children myself now, it reminds me how every day little things can make a lasting impression on my kids. My mom used to pack my lunch every day and whenever she would put a banana in my lunch she would draw a smiley face and ” I luv you” on it with a black sharpie marker : ). I would be so happy to see a banana in my lunch because I knew there would be a message from my mom on it. I remember her always making an effort to be in the kitchen when I came home from school everyday so hers was the first face I saw when walked through the back door. I remember thanking her for my bananas in my lunch when I got home from school. A silly memory, I realize, but it really is such a good reminder to me as I go through daily life with my kids that the little things I do really will come to make a difference in my children’s lives. And yes, my kids get smilely faces on their bananas, too!
With Mother’s Day fast approaching we want to run a little contest. We want to learn from your mother’s creativity and wisdom, and honor her in the process. So contact us and tell us one of two things – your favorite memory of your mother or the most helpful advice you ever received from your mom. Send us your reply by next Friday, April 19, and we’ll choose a winner who will receive a 52home picture of your choice—as a gift for your mom (or for you!).
Speaking of 52home, the annual Mother’s Day Sale is on through May 1st. Just enter the code MOM at checkout to receive a ten percent discount on your entire order.