We wish we could meet every one of your beautiful mothers, but we had to pick two winners for our Mother’s Day Contest and they are…
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. Prov 31:20
My mom is a school nurse, often to children with severe chronic illnesses. She is full of love for them. It has always amazed me how she can communicate so much love to children who are unable to speak, walk or function without some kind of medical support. But they are delighted by her, which is seen in how their eyes shine when she enters the room. My mom instilled in my sisters and I a love for the outcast, disabled, poor and the needy. We always had a plethora of people in our small home, and attracted the people who are hard to love. She was never scared away by difficult personality, awkwardness, strange behaviour, etc. She loved unconditionally, and made everyone feel special. I am so thankful that she is able to see people through Christ’s eyes, and have such an open heart to minister to the needs of so many. She has shaped my outlook on life, and I’m incredibly thankful for her.
I’m 48 and my mom is 73. I was recently diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. Though I always expected to take care of my mom as she ages, now she is taking care of me (and my husband, and my children . . .) She does my laundry, has us over for meals, and is the proverbial listening ear and shoulder to cry on. The night we found out how far the cancer had spread, she brought supper over with my dad, and I’ll never forget how she pleaded with God to not let any of us become bitter towards him over this hard providence. I pray my children will never forget that evening or her prayer request. She has showed me what a lifetime of faithfulness and fruitfulness looks like. That is true beauty!
Lynette and Michelle, you will each receive two copies of True Beauty—one for you and one for your mom. Let each of us tell our moms why they are truly beautiful this Mother’s Day!
2015 at 6:22 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
When it comes to raising children, God has set one task above all others: teaching our children the Scriptures:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7
These verses describe a home-life set to the soundtrack of Scripture. Every day, throughout the day—as we drive to soccer practice, dish up spaghetti, or tuck our children into bed—we are to talk to our children about who God is, what he has done, and what he requires. We are to single-mindedly, whole-heartedly love the Savior, and then pour out that love in a constant stream of communication to our children.
At times, though, we can grow weary of all the talking. We wonder: Is anything getting through? Will my child ever show any interest in the gospel?
Hope and encouragement to persevere are close at hand. A few verses later in Deuteronomy 6:20 we glimpse the first green shoots of gospel conversation:
“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’”
Though it is not a promise, there is much encouragement we can draw from this verse. We can look forward to “a time to come” when we won’t be doing all the talking, when our children will ask questions and want to understand the meaning of God’s Words, and the reason for our faith.
That “time to come” will be different for every child, but let us pray for and eagerly anticipate that time, and let us faithfully sow gospel seeds in our conversation today. In due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
2015 at 6:17 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
As I watch my daughters care for their children, I am freshly amazed by the demands of motherhood. Mothers must daily sacrifice their own comforts and pleasures in order to devote themselves to menial, repetitive, and (appearances might say), futile tasks.
So we should not be surprised that our mommy-emotions are so easily depleted, as if someone pulled the plug on our happiness and all we hear is the gurgling noise as the last of it goes down the drain.
Christopher Ash once said that “it is not suffering that destroys a person but suffering without a purpose.” The same can be said about motherhood: It is not motherhood that destroys your happiness but motherhood without a purpose.
You know what it’s like. When you have a clear sense of purpose, when you believe that God has called you to a task, that it glorifies him, that he is at work, then you have the stamina to endure hardship, the strength to overcome obstacles, joy and peace even when the going gets tough.
But if we’ve become resentful of the demands of motherhood, discouraged and depressed in our routine, irritated and impatient with our children, chances are, we’ve lost sight of our God-given purpose as a mother.
Few things are easier to forget than a biblical conviction of the importance of motherhood. All it takes is a prick of doubt: What’s the point of all this? Why don’t I feel fulfilled? Why work so hard to train my children if I don’t seem to make any progress? What’s the use of repenting if I’m only going to sin again? Is it fake to put on a happy face when I feel so miserable inside?
So many of these questions flow out of the selfish cesspool of our culture, which tries to measure success in motherhood by personal fulfillment. We must be wise and alert to the unbiblical thinking that breeds unhappy questions such as these.
When we allow these questions to fester, without applying truth from God’s Word, we will inevitably lose the joy, contentment, and strength that flow from a firm biblical conviction of the significance of our mothering task.
For me, when I was struggling with my emotions as a mother, it was often because I had lost sight of my purpose. That is why, in the early years of mothering, I read every good, biblical book on mothering that I could get my hands on. I needed constant infusions of truth in order to survive emotionally.
“We are naturally prone to keep slipping into not knowing what we know,” adds Christopher Ash, which is why we must constantly, daily, hourly remind ourselves of what we do know to be true about motherhood.
We know that children are a blessing and a heritage from the Lord, an undeserved gift from God to increase our delight in him (Ps. 127:3).
We know that God has called mothers to train up their children in the way they should go, to discipline and instruct them, to love them tenderly (Prov. 22:6, Eph. 6:4, Tit. 2:4).
We know that those who sow in tears will reap with joy, that those who are faithful to do good will see God act on their behalf, that those who water and tend will see fruit that God gives (Ps. 126:5, Ps. 37:3).
We know that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him. Motherhood is for him. Motherhood has dignity and glory because of the dignity and glory of the One for whom we mother. When we care for our children, we do it for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Matt 10:43).
These are the truths we must not slip into not knowing. When we remind ourselves every day, in every way we can, of God’s purpose for our mothering, we’ll find the empty tub of our mothering emotions filling up and overflowing with joy.
2015 at 7:18 am | by Nicole Whitacre
~from the archives, August 2007: the truth of these words from John Piper encourage me as much today as they did eight years ago
These days you’ll find me at home changing diapers, picking up toys, helping Jack make pb&j’s (I do the peanut butter and he does the jelly), wiping spit-up off my clothes, and—here’s where it really gets exciting—going to Wal Mart to purchase more diapers.
My home is a long way from the community college campus where I used to serve as a ministry intern on behalf of my church, sharing the gospel and discipling girls every day. It’s a long way from the church office where I organized women’s meetings and retreats for hundreds. It’s a very long way from Hungary and India where I traveled on short-term mission trips.
I love my life now, even if it doesn’t always seem as “exciting” or “significant” as what I used to do. Maybe that’s why this thought from John Piper’s book The Roots of Endurance resonated with me:
“I have just preached to my people several messages in which I pleaded with them to be ‘coronary Christians,’ not ‘adrenal Christians.’ Not that adrenaline is bad, I said; it gets me through lots of Sundays. But it lets you down on Mondays.
The heart is another kind of friend. It just keeps on serving—very quietly, through good days and bad days, happy and sad, high and low, appreciated and unappreciated. It never says, ‘I don’t like your attitude, Piper, I’m taking a day off.’ It just keeps humbly lub-dubbing along. It endures the way adrenaline doesn’t.
Coronary Christians are like the heart in the causes they serve. Adrenal Christians are like adrenaline—a spurt of energy and then fatigue.
What we need in the cause of… [motherhood] is not spurts of energy, but people who endure for the long haul. Marathoners, not sprinters.”
Being a wife and mother—or doing any other long-term kingdom work—requires us to be “coronary Christians.” It requires faithfulness even when we don’t see fruit. It requires joy in the mundane, unglamorous tasks. It calls for confidence that God will bless our gospel-motivated labors.
So if you are weary, discouraged, or even bored with the work God is calling you to today, join me in asking for God’s grace to be a “coronary Christian.”
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do notgive up.” ~Galatians 6:9
2015 at 9:38 am | by Nicole Whitacre
Q: I am a mom of 3 little ones ages 4 1/2, 3, and 22 months with another little one on the way. Motherhood has surprised me and has been quite a journey. I never expected to be worn out continually, fighting depression and anger, living in a losing battle with housework and feeling like my children are never going to see Gods love because I often question it myself. I love my family so much and wouldn’t give them up for anything but I’m wondering what is wrong with me. I enjoy moments with my children but days, weeks, months, years? Yeah, that’s a battle. I’m continually told by well meaning, sometimes nostalgic, older women to enjoy these years because they are the best years of my life. Best years? I have good days, yes, but years? Is there someone I could talk to who would be willing to be an encouragement, not just another person saying how these are great years? I really really want to thrive and invest in my children and work with their unique personalities but I feel so defeated and desperate.
Dear Defeated and Desperate,
My dad is always saying that moms with small children have the hardest job in the world. He’s absolutely right. You are, as G.K. Chesterton described mothers, “everything to someone”—and in your case three, soon to be four, precious someones.
The sweet, little, old ladies (forgive them if you will!) forget how hard it is, and perhaps, with forgetting, they only remember the happy moments. Be thankful that one day you will too.
For now, enjoy the good days when you have them and accept that you will probably have a lot more tough times than cuddly moments for a while. The wise man of Ecclesiastes tells it straight: “All things are full of weariness” (Ecc. 1:8). I think he must have had moms in mind. Life is hard and Scripture doesn’t try to sugar coat it. But it tells us how to live and thrive in the midst of hard.
First of all, try get some sleep if you can. Whenever my sisters or I get overwhelmed by motherhood and call our mom in tears, she encourages us to leave the dishes in the sink and go to bed early. God created our bodies to need sleep. Everything may not be better in the morning, but at least you have strength to tackle it afresh. Now, with little ones the ages of your children I’m guessing some of them might not sleep so well. But do what you can. Ask your husband to wake up with the kids so you can sleep in. Beg a young girl from church to babysit. Take naps when the kids are napping. Mom also encourages us to do something restful that replenishes your soul so that you can persevere in the tiring work of motherhood. This might mean a morning at a coffee shop or time with a friend. It’s amazing what a few hours of rest can do for a weary soul.
Second, feed your soul. Begin to collect verses, sermons, snippets from books, whatever encourages you in this difficult season and return to them again and again. You don’t need many, just a few really good ones. You may not be able to read your Bible for five minutes at a time without one kid crawling all over you and another one shaking milk drops out of his bottle all over the floor with glee, but get whatever nourishment you can, and hang onto it for dear life. For encouragement in this season, consider Feminine Appeal, Shaping of a Christian Family, Fit to Burst, Spurgeon’s Daily Readings, and especially the Psalms.
Third, simplify where you can. When I’m overwhelmed and exhausted, it’s usually because I’m trying to do too much. Paper plates and fewer playgroups give me time to focus on what’s most important: teaching my children to love God and obey their parents, and creating a (mostly!) peaceful and joyful home. When things get easier you can add in more stuff, but when you have four under four, you probably only have time for the biblical basics. That’s not something to feel guilty about. And strategize about trouble spots. Pick one at a time. What’s the craziest time of day or the biggest discipline issue with your children? What is one small thing you can do to minimize the effect of that one trouble spot?
Once you’ve simplified and strategized and slept, motherhood will still be hard. But remember that today’s mothering hardships come to you, as Elisabeth Elliot puts it, “through the hedge of [God’s] love.” He has called you to care for these precious children and he will give you strength as you look to him for help. He promises that, “as your days so shall your strength be” (Deut. 33:25); he is the God who “gives power to the faint” (Is. 40:29) and “daily bears us up” (Ps. 68:19).
God doesn’t command us to enjoy the challenges of motherhood, but he wants us to find joy in the midst of mothering. Our heavenly Father scatters his goodness and mercies throughout the most difficult of mothering days (Ps. 23:6). The toothless smile, the sticky hug, the bedtime snuggle are all blessings from God, reminders of his good and gracious character. Even if the only evidence of grace is that the day is over, we can thank God for sustaining mercies and a new day to come.
Moms of young kids have the hardest job in the world, but it is not a forever job. The little old ladies remind us of that. Before you know it, you’ll be the one staring wistfully at the mom with young kids. When you find strength and joy in God for these challenging days, one day you won’t remember the half of it.
“He will not so much remember the days of his life for God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” ~Ecc. 5:20
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
“[T]ake the…sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph. 6:17-18).
To fight fear we are to “pray at all times.” But we have another weapon in our arsenal: the promises of God. We are to wield the Word against the onslaught of mothering fears.
We are to ”take” the Word of God and use it. To do this, we need to have it nearby. This means we need to be daily reading the Word and consistently meditating on it.
And we need to pull out the promises and put them into action. We have to pick up the sword and fight. A sword must be swung in order to deliver a blow.
We have a legacy of faithful, fear-fighting, women to follow: “And you are [Sarah’s] children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6).
John Piper writes: “[T]he daughters of Sarah fight the anxiety that rises in their hearts. They wage war on fear, and they defeat it with the promises of God.”
Let’s be daughters of Sarah and fight our mothering fears with the promises of God.
To conclude: Our two, fear-fighting, strategies are:
Prayer: “...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
Promises: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
Saints throughout the centuries have leaned on God’s promises and called out to Him in prayer. And each and every time, they have found Him to be faithful. “I sought the Lord,” David tells us, “and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4).
So, let’s follow the example of David and that great cloud of witnesses. Let’s seek God through constant prayer, and in the space of His promises, let’s park our souls.
When feelings of fear for our children overwhelm our souls, we often look for something “new” to help us deal with them. But instead, we must rely on the true and the tried strategies from God’s Word. The first, never-failing, fear-fighting, strategy is prayer.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7 ESV).
For the anxious mother, God has provided a solution in His Word. It is simple: Pray. Give Thanks. Repeat.
It covers all of life: Don’t be anxious about ANYTHING. Pray about EVERYTHING.
And it comes with a promise: God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
As we pray and give thanks IN EVERYTHING, our trust in God deepens and His peace pervades our lives. Anxious thoughts don’t have the same sticking power.
“Prayer is the unfailing resource of anxious mothers,” to paraphrase Charles Spurgeon:
“If they are driven to their wits’ end, they may still go to the mercy-seat….Let us never forget to pray, and let us never doubt the success of prayer… Mirth and carnal amusements are a sorry prescription for a mind distracted and despairing. Prayer will succeed where all else fails.”
We are often “at our wits’ end” with our children. We feel like we’ve tried everything and we don’t know what else to do. So we worry and fret.
Instead of giving way to fear, we must cry to the Lord on behalf of our children. We must pray. We must never forget to pray. And we must not doubt the success of prayer. We must believe that prayer works.
Prayer will succeed where all our mothering efforts fail.
“They…were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Ps. 107:27, 28
What do our mothering fears have in common? They are all in our imagination. Our fertile minds generate countless scenarios whereby one calamity or another befalls our children: What if my son rebels when he hits the teenage years? What if my daughter doesn’t want to be my friend when she grows up? What if my son gets in a car accident? What if my daughter is diagnosed with leukemia?
After thirty-eight years of mothering, I’ve discovered that most of the bad things I imagined never actually came true. But there have been other trials—ones I never anticipated.
That’s why Elisabeth Elliot’s wise advice has been invaluable to me in fighting fear: “There is no grace for your imagination.”
God does not sprinkle grace over every path my fear takes. He does not rush in with support and encouragement for every doomsday scenario I can imagine.
No, instead He warns me to stay off those paths: “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil” (Ps. 37:8).
There is no grace for our imagination. That’s why our fearful imaginings produce bad fruit: anxiety, lack of joy, futile attempts to control.
There is no grace for our imagination. But God does promise sufficient, abundant grace for every real moment of our lives. That’s why the Proverbs 31 woman can “laugh at the future in contrast with being worried or fearful about it” (ESV Study Bible note on Pr. 31:25)
There is no grace for our imagination. But there will be grace for our mothering future, the moment it arrives.
There is not grace for our imagination. But there is grace for today’s mothering trials. Not tomorrow’s imaginary trouble or next year’s envisaged problems. Just for today.
That’s why Jesus tells us: “[D]o not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34)
Moms of all people know this to be true: each day really does have sufficient trouble without adding tomorrow’s worries!
But for today’s sufficient trouble there is God’s more-than-sufficient grace: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
“As your days” it says in Deuteronomy, “so shall your strength be” (33:25).
What’s more, for the Christian mother, goodness and mercy are behind every moment of today’s trouble. Our trouble isn’t meaningless. God is pursuing us with goodness and mercy today and all the days of our lives (Ps. 23:6).
“Courage, dear friend” encourages Charles Spurgeon, “The Lord, the ever-merciful, has appointed every moment of sorrow and pang of suffering. If He ordains the number ten, it can never rise to eleven, nor should you desire that it shrink to nine” (emphasis mine).
God is busy working today’s mothering trouble for our good. So do not worry about tomorrow but look to Him today.
Our mothering fears are conceived with our children. We see two little blue lines, and we are tempted to worry. We worry about eating something bad, lifting something heavy, sleeping in the wrong position.
Then our baby is born, and we fret about her life outside the womb—her eating, sleeping, talking, walking, developmental progress.
Our child starts school and we fear he will never finish. Will he make friends, make good grades, make something of himself? No sooner does high school start and we begin to worry about college.
We worry about our children’s health, their education, their friends, and above all, the state of their souls.
But once our children leave home, get a job, get married—then we can stop worrying, right?
Not so fast. Instead of leaving with our children, new worries move in. In my case, I now have nineteen people (including sons-in-law and grandchildren) to worry about instead of four! And the world in which my grandchildren are growing up seems much scarier than the one in which I raised my children.
What mothering fears have you battled lately? Whether you are pregnant with your first child or trying to steer your youngest child through the teenage years, temptations to fear (or to its opposite: self reliance) litter the mothering landscape. Scripture seems to bear witness to this. While all Christians are frequently urged to trust God, women are specifically exhorted in 1 Peter 3:6: “do not fear anything that is frightening.”
I love Scripture’s honesty! It admits right upfront that there’s stuff that is frightening. In fact, Scripture often predicts we will face much trouble and hardship in this life. And nowhere is this more true than with our children. Where else in life do we have more significant responsibility (eternal souls), face such daunting challenges (sinful heart, hostile world), and feel so inadequate and ineffective?
But we are not to fear anything that is frightening. We are to trust in God.
Trusting God is not a one-time decision or something we can accomplish in a month. We will have to fight to trust. Some days we must fight hourly, even on a moment-by-moment basis. Like raising children, growing in trust is a life-long effort.
But we are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit inside of us to guide us into all truth. We have our Sovereign Father ruling wisely and graciously over all. We have our Savior’s righteousness to run to when we fail. Many things are frightening, but we have many more reasons to trust God than to fear.
Mothers, we will never outgrow our need to trust God for our children, but neither will we outgrow the faithfulness of God: “the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children” (Ps. 103:17).