girltalk Blog

Sep 30

Motherhood and the Great Commission

2013 at 2:13 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Gospel | Fun & Encouragement | Photography | Motherhood

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20

When we think about the Great Commission, we automatically think evangelism, missions, reaching the nations, etc. And rightly so. But we often forget the tail end of Jesus’ words to his apostles just before the ascension. We forget about the obedience part.

The end result of the preaching of the glorious gospel to all the nations is individual Christians observing all that God has commanded. The Great Commission doesn’t end with baptism, but with obedience.

This means that as mothers, when we teach our children to obey, we are doing Great Commission work. It doesn’t always feel “great” when we are disciplining our two-year-old for a tantrum or instructing our ten-year-old to be respectful. But our Savior has commissioned this work. We are fulfilling his call as we seek to raise disciples of Jesus Christ.

We must ground all our teaching of obedience in the gospel, and we must root our own hearts there too as we remember that only God can regenerate our child’s heart. But when we remember the significance of our Great Commission calling, it will transform how we discipline and instruct our children.

So this Monday, let’s lift our eyes above the difficulties of motherhood for a moment and remember: Teaching our children to obey is a great work, commissioned by a great Savior. And let’s rest and rejoice in the Great Commission promise: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (v. 20).

Sep 25

Q&A: Patient vs. Permissive Parenting

2013 at 1:25 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Motherhood | Parenting Young Children | Q&A

Hi all—sorry for the brief hiatus from posting. We were traveling and unexpectedly found ourselves without Internet access. Home now and ready to resume our regularly scheduled posts with a new Q&A. Have a great Wednesday!

———-

A few weeks ago, in a Facebook comment on our post answering the question “How Do You Stay Patient with Young Children?” Michelle asked a great follow-up:

“I sometimes have a hard time discerning between patience and permissiveness. It seems that some days I’m feeling ‘patient’ and so I don’t pick on certain issues as much, so is it patience or permissiveness?”

I threw this question out to Mom and here are a few of her thoughts:

This is an insightful question, Michelle, because we as parents often confuse godly patience with sinful permissiveness. But the two are not the same.

Patient parenting means we are “slow to anger” in the face of provocation or disobedience from our children (Ex. 34:6, James 1:19). It does not mean we don’t bring appropriate discipline, but that we discipline in love.

As Jerry Bridges explains, patience “seeks the ultimate good of [our child] rather than the immediate satisfaction of our own aroused emotions.”

Permissive parenting often masquerades as patience, but has different motives underlying it. Sinfully permissive parenting is often based on our emotions—whether or not we feel like correcting our children’s sin or whether or not we want to deal with this right now—rather than a commitment to teach our children to submit to our loving authority for their good and God’s glory.

In fact, permissiveness in parenting can be an abdication of our God-given, lovingly exercised authority. Permissive parenting may unintentionally put the kids in charge, which is the opposite of what God has ordained.

In short, permissive parenting is often about how we feel or what we want; patient parenting is about what would please God and help our children to grow in Christ-like character.

For example, it is not patient to instruct our children to do something but then give in to them when they beg off. It’s permissive.

It is not being patient to tell our children not to do something, and then fail to follow through or merely repeat our instructions when they ignore our commands or whine or argue. It’s permissive.

It is not patient parenting to look the other way when our children sin or to neglect to train them to overcome patterns of sin. It’s permissive

It is not being patient to satisfy our child’s every desire and give into his every demand, even if it feels patient because it requires sacrifice on our part. It’s permissive.

Ironically, sometimes the easiest way to tell if we have slipped into permissive parenting is if we are tempted to be impatient. I remember that when I used to get impatient with my children it was usually a sign that I had been growing lax and permissive in my parenting. Because I wasn’t faithful to give clear commands and bring appropriate and loving discipline when they disobeyed, my children’s behavior would grow more unruly and I would respond more impatiently.

Permissive parenting is one of the easiest traps for us to fall into as a mom. Sadly, I can recall many times when I was more permissive than patient in my parenting. But our Heavenly Father is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and patience toward us. He does not ignore our sins of laziness and impatience, but rather he sent his Son to pay for them at the cross. And the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts, training us to obey God’s Word and grow in Christ-like patience toward our children.

So how does God help us to avoid becoming permissive and impatient in our parenting?

We’ll tackle that question in our next post.

Sep 16

Simply Does It

2013 at 1:00 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management | Motherhood

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!

Sep 9

The Answer to End All Questions

2013 at 1:50 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Spiritual Growth | Gospel | Motherhood | Adoption

My son Jude asks lots of questions. As I understand it, this is common for children who have been adopted when they are older, and I totally get it. New country. New language. New parents. I would ask a lot of questions too.

I am eager to answer Jude’s questions about his new world—as best I can anyway. Occasionally he stumps me with questions about how stuff works (“I haven’t a clue, Jude, ask your Dad!”) or like the other day when he asked me why people put up “yucky” Halloween decorations: “Honestly, Jude, that’s a great question, son, but I have never been able to understand that myself!”

As much as we want to satisfy Jude’s curiosity about his new life, we are also trying to teach him that he can trust us, his parents, to faithfully meet his needs. So sometimes, when he asks the same question over and over again, or asks about insignificant details he’ll find out in a few minutes anyway, I’ll provide the answer my parents often gave to me: “You’ll see.”

“Mommy what’s for dinner?”

“You’ll see.”

“Mommy, what store are we going to next?”

“You’ll see.”

“Mommy, how many more minutes until break time?”

“You’ll see.”

We have worked really hard to be consistent and predictable in our parenting; so while imperfect for sure, Jude knows by now that we will always feed him dinner, we will always come home after going out, and we will (almost) always take a break from school in the mid-morning.

But as I seek to teach Jude that he can trust us, I have begun to see, sadly, how little I sometimes trust my Savior. Jude’s incessant questioning is understandable for an eight-year-old boy nine months into a new life, but so often I ply my Heavenly Father with anxious questions, having nothing like Jude’s excuse.

“What are you doing next, Lord?”

“Where are you taking me?”

“When will this be over?”

I don’t just ask these questions once. I ask them over and over and over. And more often than not, God replies with the same answer I give Jude: “You’ll see.”

To be honest, I don’t always like that answer any more than Jude does. And yet when I grumble about God’s response, I fail to see the massive mercy behind it. “You’ll see” is a promise! A glorious promise, secured for me at the cross! I will see! Because I have been adopted into God’s family, through the atoning death of Jesus Christ on my behalf, I will one day see God.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-2 ESV).

I may not see everything today, but I see the Father’s love. And I have this confident and sure expectation that one day I will see Him as He is. And I will be like Him. Because of adoption, I see. And because of adoption, I will see. Oh joy!

So Jude, my son, I pray that one day you will see the love of the Father and rejoice in His answer to all your questions: “You’ll see!”

~from the archives

Sep 4

Back to School

2013 at 2:35 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Motherhood

School days are upon us again. There will be broken pencils and slow computers, late night study-sessions and pop-quizzes, new friends and classmate conflicts, gifted teachers and “light bulb” moments, and maybe even a few tears. And there will be lots and lots of reading.

But more certain than any of the predictable moments of the school year is this truth: Surely [not maybe] goodness and mercy shall follow me all [not some] of the days of my life” (Ps. 23:6, emphasis mine).

“With God these qualities are not merely solid and dependable” explains Derek Kidner, “but vigorous—for ‘follow’ does not mean here to bring up the rear but to pursue.”

If you are a Christian, goodness and mercy pursue you “always” says Charles Spurgeon: “the black days as well as the bright days. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins.”

Goodness is shadowing us in the halls of school or the kitchen table at home to provide all we need—strength, wisdom, perseverance and patience—to help us glorify God. And mercy is right behind, to pick us up when we fall, bringing pardon for our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.

What a promise to take with us into the first days of school—and all the school days thereafter!

Aug 21

Q&A: How Do You Stay Patient With Young Children?

2013 at 7:47 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Motherhood | Parenting Young Children | Q&A

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.

Be consistent

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.

Be grateful

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.

Pray

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.

~from the archives

Aug 14

Q&A: How Do You Focus on One Thing?

2013 at 7:53 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Motherhood | Q&A

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?

Distract

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.

Redirect

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.

Overlook

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.

Jul 31

Q&A: I Want To Be A Godly Mother

2013 at 8:45 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Motherhood | Q&A

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.

Jul 20

A Gospel-Centered Mom Looks Both Ways

2013 at 7:48 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Motherhood

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.

~from the archives

Jul 11

Gospel-Centered Counsel for Moms

2013 at 8:23 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Motherhood

chair bible“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.

~from the archives