Yesterday 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.
Our current series on the Internet sparked a related question from one mom:
I am a full time stay at home mom to my one year old son. Over the last couple of months I find myself longing for my son’s nap time to come so that I can have some “me” time, either reading online, watching youtube, checking facebook or just wasting time on the net while sipping my cup of hot tea. 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.
First, I want to encourage you for your humility. It is obvious you want to be a godly mother and I am confident God will give you grace—and is already giving you grace—to do so!
And let me say, I don’t know any mom with young children who doesn’t long for nap time to come! I know I sure did when my kids were little! There is nothing in God’s Word that says you should not desire rest. In fact, God has ordained rest. He himself rested on the seventh day.
And God created us to need rest. We moms are creatures. We have limitations. We get tired and we need rest. That’s the way God has created us to be. It is one of the ways he reminds us of our dependence upon him.
And as we’ve said all along in this series, it is not wrong to enjoy Facebook or read articles online. These can be wonderful ways to relax, stay in touch with friends and family, grow in our knowledge of God and the world etc..
But instead of “me” time, we as Christians should approach all our time—even our leisure time—as “God” time. Therefore we should rest to His glory, just as we work to His glory. And bringing our rest into this light helps us to evaluate it biblically:
Is the content of my restful activities God-glorifying? (1 Cor. 10:13, Col. 3:17)
Is the goal of my rest to be refreshed in order to better serve my family and others? (Matt. 20:26-28)
Is the time I spend on leisure activities appropriate or excessive (one way to tell is if essential things aren’t getting done!)? (Prov. 20:4)
As moms, if we bring our leisure time into the light of God’s Word we can enjoy it for His glory. This will not only protect us from excessive or idolatrous pursuit of restful activities, but it will also help us to enjoy the rest God provides, that we may be refreshed for service.
But you’re asking a great question which has sparked a few more thoughts, so I’ll pick up here tomorrow.
Q. I am 18 years old and would like to know how to be “just friends” with the guys in our church, but don’t know how. Can you give me any advice? A. It wasn’t so long ago now that I was navigating my way through the teen years and into early adulthood. One issue always lurking in the shadows was “friendships with guys.” How do these relationships look different from those with my girlfriends? How much time do I spend with them? Is it okay to hang out one on one or talk on the phone? I always wished for a simple set of rules—just a little list of “do’s and dont’s” that I could carry around in my pocket. These rules would guarantee me success, and I would no longer have to worry about that little conscience of mine. However, I learned early on that this one was a wisdom issue, and that Scripture was the primary source for that wisdom. In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul tells Timothy that he should, “Treat…younger women like sisters, in all purity.” Now if the guys are going to treat us as “sisters in all purity,” then we in turn must act like sisters, in purity! Here in this verse is the wisdom we so desperately need. We must ask ourselves—do I treat my guy friends as I would my own brother? Am I walking in absolute purity toward all young men? For myself, I realized that my heart often had many competing motives at work in my relationships with guys. Instead of thinking and acting like a sister, I sometimes found myself wanting the attention of a particular guy. I also wanted other girls to think I had a sufficient number of guys that called me “friend.” Often times, the motives behind my relationships with guys were not God-honoring. That is why it was so helpful that my mom and I kept a running dialogue on this issue. We didn’t have some kind of formal debriefing once a week, but talking about my guy friends was a regular part of our lives. These conversations were most critical for me in the accountability that they provided and the counsel that my mom brought. For those of you who may not have a godly mom, I would encourage you to have these types of conversations with another older, wiser, woman in your church. As Mom said last week, we aren’t called to live the Christian life alone. We need the help, encouragement, and counsel of others. I also quickly learned that my friendships with guys needed to look quite different than my friendships with girls. I recall a conversation that I once had with my singles pastor. He told me, “Janelle, guys read into things just as much as girls do. When a girl shows consistent attention to one guy, it can cultivate affection in that guy’s heart.” While I may have been considering my guy friends as brothers, they may have been thinking that there was something more. I remember my mom telling me to relate to all guys as “another woman’s husband.” I found this little phrase to be a very helpful heart-check in relating to my guy friends. All of this said, friendships with guys are not wrong. In fact I would argue that friendships with godly young men during these years are a gift from the Lord and something to be enjoyed. Paul is obviously assuming that Timothy will relate to other young women in the church, but he makes clear what those relationships ought to look like. As one of three girls (until my favoritist little brother arrived on the scene 12 yrs. after me) I’m very grateful for the guys that were my “brothers” during those years. If we pursue the biblical principles of purity and brotherly love, we can be free to enjoy godly friendships with godly guys as blessings from our heavenly Father. —from the archives
Christen sent us this question in response to the series on a mother’s fears: How are we to think as far as trusting God to save our children? We have no promise that he’s going to, but at the same time, we’re raising them in that hope. Can we say that we can trust God to save them? It might be better to say that we can entrust our children to God. We have no explicit promise that He is going to save them, that is true. But we have more than enough promises in Scripture to help us put off fear and pray with expectant faith. We must trust in God’s character—His sovereignty, wisdom, mercy, love and faithfulness. And we must remember His purposes, as Charles Spurgeon explained in his comments on Psalm 102:28:
“The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.”
“This verse is full of good cheer to us; we may plead for the Lord’s favor to our offspring…. God does not neglect the children of his servants…Grace is not hereditary, yet God loves to be served by the same family time out of mind…. We may, therefore, not only for our own sakes but also out of love to the church of God, daily pray that our sons and daughters may be saved, and kept by divine grace even unto the end—established before the Lord.” Throughout Scripture we see examples of God working through families; there are many verses that speak of God’s heart for future generations and command us to pray and preach the gospel to the next generation. So let’s entrust our children’s souls to a good God. And instead of giving way to fear, let’s fervently pray and preach the good news to them each day.
Q. How do I keep my child from getting out of bed multiple times every evening?
A. I asked my mom about this recently because I needed an answer! I would put my daughter Caly (4 years old) to bed, and for the next two hours or more, she would come out with a myriad of excuses—my favorite being the time she said she had “internal bleeding.” It’s amazing all the things a child can think of when they don’t want to go to sleep!
I was starting to lose my mind; or, to put it biblically, I was having difficulty with the fruit of patience. Instead of my day of training and caring for the kids ending at bedtime, it would drag on late into the evening.
It was also a problem for my babysitters (often my family). There were a number of nights when we came home to find her watching baseball with my dad—way past her bedtime. (But then, it doesn’t take much to convince Pop-Pop to change the rules!)
So as usual, I turned to my mother for help with this little problem, and you know what? She solved it! The “potty block” was born.
After our bedtime routine (the typical, reading, singing, praying) I give her books to read on her own and turn on her favorite music. Then I place one block (like a building block, but you could use whatever you want) at the end of Caly’s bed. This is her “pass” to come out of her room one time to use the bathroom. She brings the block with her and gives it to me or daddy (or babysitter when we are gone).
After potty, we tuck her back in and she is instructed not to get out of bed again. No more block means no more times out of bed. If she obeys, then she gets a sticker on her chart when she wakes up in the morning. (For the chart I just took a blank sheet of paper, drew a bunch of circles on it and hung it on the back of her door. When there are stickers covering all of the circles, she gets a surprise.). I play the sticker/chart thing up really big! But if she comes out of her room again without a block, then there is a specific consequence.
I’m telling you, it’s working! Took about a week of training for it to really stick and now she is doing great. I have started using “potty blocks” for other times during the day such as her rest time and play alone time. And ya know what? We are all happier! She’s happier, Mommy’s happier, and of course this makes Daddy happier! Thanks Mom!
Q. “I am curious what you ladies might have to say on the topic of dealing with the grief that comes from the ending of a relationship, particularly when a woman believed it would end in marriage.”
A. This question immediately brought back memories of a similar season that I experienced in my relationship with Mike. Although the Lord ultimately planned marriage for us, there was a period of time when it appeared our relationship was over for good. And while I realize that not all stories have the same ending, the issues God was after in my heart are the same for all of us—whether or not we eventually get married, and regardless of the nature of our disappointed hope.
When Mike and I ended our relationship, it was after many months of mutual feelings, and much time spent pursuing marriage. Before the decision to call things off, we would both have been pretty confident marriage to each other was in our future (Read the long version of our story here.) So, upon ending our relationship, I was immediately faced with the temptation to despair. What was God doing? Why was I so confused? I thought Mike was the one! The tears were many, just ask my mom.
This decision marked the beginning of one of the biggest battles I had yet to face in my walk with the Lord. The fight for FAITH. Did I really believe what I had been taught from Scripture about God’s sovereignty? Did I trust God that He had a perfect plan for my life? Was I confident that He would reveal His will to me, in His good time? Could I be happy if His plan didn’t include marriage? I’m sorry to say that my answer to many of these questions was often a resounding “no.” I thought that my ideas and plans were best. If only the Lord would speak more clearly. If only He would do it this way—MY way.
How grateful I am for the mercy of God upon my life during this struggle. Through the leadership of my parents, I began to press into God’s Word in a most intense way. I spent hours studying “faith” and “sovereignty” in the Bible, and talking through the issues of sin in my heart with others. The book Is God Really in Control? (previously entitled Trusting God) by Jerry Bridges became a faithful friend to me. I read this book over and over again. Quotes like these fed my soul…
“God in His infinite wisdom knows exactly what adversity we need to grow more and more into the likeness of His Son. He not only knows what we need but when we need it and how best to bring it to pass in our lives. He is the perfect teacher or coach. His discipline is always exactly suited for our needs. He never over trains us by allowing too much adversity in our lives.” Page 122
“If we are to experience peace in our souls in times of adversity, we must come to the place where we truly believe that God’s ways are simply beyond us and stop asking Him “why” or even trying to determine it ourselves. This may seem like an intellectual “cop out,” a refusal to deal with the really tough issues of life. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is a surrender to the truth about God and our circumstances as it is revealed to us by God Himself in His inspired Word.” Page 126-7
Slowly, I cannot tell you exactly when, my heart began to change. I still didn’t know if marriage was in my future, but my heart was at peace in the sovereignty of my good and loving Father. I wanted His perfect plan to be fulfilled in my life.
If you find yourself in a similar situation today (and this fight for faith is certainly not limited to the arena of marriage), I would encourage you to take drastic action. Renew your mind with the consistent study of God’s Word. Purchase Jerry Bridges’ book and pursue the counsel and help of a pastor and godly friends. Grace awaits you!
“The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
—from the archives
Lindsay wrote in with a question:
I have an 8-year-old son who LOVES computer and video games (pretty much anything audio-visual). He’s very young and we have very strict guidelines on what and how much he takes part in these things. But I feel like I am battling for my son’s heart in this matter. I (and my husband) am looking for some encouragement and guidance in how to turn his HEART from loving and longing for worldly things, to loving and longing for the Lord.
Many parents of young (and not-so-young!) children are confronted with the challenge of “shepherding a child’s heart” when it comes to video games.
As it happens, my dad answered a similar question awhile back, and my brother, Chad, posted his answer on the Sovereign Grace blog last week.
When it comes to idolatry of video games, Dad explains, you want to combine guidelines and restrictions with purposeful study of Scripture and a heart softened by your own sinful tendencies:
I want to try to introduce my son to a study that isn’t correction specific to an occasion. I want to study the heart, I want to study anger, I want to study idolatry, unrelated to an occasion where I am bringing discipline, so that the study hopefully can have the most effect. I want to engage in a study from Scripture. I want to choose age-appropriate material. I want to choose appropriate passages.
And then my study with my son is supplemented by stories from my life, because I do the same thing. I don’t cry anymore like a child but I know how to cry in adult ways. I want my child to know that no matter what the category, I can identify…
By humbling myself, I hope I make it easier for him to receive from me, so that when I say “Listen,” it’s not “Listen to your self-righteous father who is angry at you because he doesn’t understand why it requires this kind of attention to help you to see how stupid a video game is.”
It is too easy for me to view my son’s form of idolatry as childish, but in essence, at root, there is no difference between our idolatries. His expression is consistent with a 12 year old, mine is consistent with a 56 year old, but in essence it’s no different. Therefore I must make sure my heart is softened by my own sinful tendencies.
Read the whole thing. And from our archives you can learn how two moms handle video games in their homes.
Q: I love having people over and find it a joy to serve and bless our family and friends. However, my husband doesn’t seem to be on the same boat when it comes to hospitality. In fact, he would prefer that we not have people over and spend time just us as a family. I know my first and foremost responsibility is to honor God by being submissive to my husband but how can I also serve in hospitality?
A: I so respect this woman’s desire to glorify God and honor her husband. Biblical submission doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and say: “oh well, my husband doesn’t want to show hospitality, I guess that’s that!” No, we must humbly, graciously, persevere in order bring about godly change in our home. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few ideas to prayerfully consider in light of God’s Word:
Pray. The hearts of husbands are in God’s hands. We must ask Him to give our husband a biblical conviction and desire to show hospitality (Pr. 21:1).
Ask. We must not rush to judgment as to why our husband is hesitant about hospitality, but ask him and be sure we understand. Maybe our idea of hospitality is different from his in terms of time, frequency, number of guests, menu, etc. Or maybe he has legitimate concerns that are behind his reluctance (rest, family time, budget, etc.). Maybe fear of man or laziness are temptations that keep him from practicing hospitality: He may find it difficult to talk to other people, or maybe he doesn’t prefer lots of children messing up the home, or perhaps he thinks hospitality is too much work. He might simply be ignorant of the Scriptural commands and blessings of hospitality. So start by asking, not assuming or judging (James 4:11).
Help. In each of these scenarios we need to respond with wisdom born of love and humility. Let’s consider: As my husband’s helper, how can I make it easy for him to show hospitality? Maybe we need to be willing to practice hospitality in a way that is different than we’re used to, but serves our husband. If he prefers a small dinner instead of a big party, or would like to schedule hospitality instead of being spontaneous, let’s consider how we can adapt to him. If our husband has legitimate concerns for our family’s well being, we should take them seriously. Maybe we need to work within a certain budget, or schedule non-negotiable family times, or come up with a better plan for preparation. If we think fear or laziness is behind our husband’s hesitation, let’s think of ways we can come alongside and encourage him to grow. Maybe we can create questions to help him engage others in conversation or assure him that we’ll take full responsibility for prep and clean up. Or maybe we can ask if he’d be willing to read and study the topic of hospitality together. Hospitality Commands is a great place to start (Gen. 2:18).
Wait. If we’ve already encouraged and even appealed to our husband on this matter, but he is still resistant, it may be the time to wait. But this is a busy kind of waiting. We must actively guard against self-righteousness and bitterness. Let’s look for ways to encourage him and focus on God’s grace at work in his life. Let’s not withhold affection. And above all, we should continue to pray that the Holy Spirit would work in his heart. In the meantime, we can look for ways to practice hospitality that are agreeable to our husband such as having people over while he is at work or hanging out with friends at other locations. And wait expectantly—God is always at work! (Ps. 37:3-7a)
Trust. Ask God for wisdom to discern the time for another appeal. Maybe you can ask your husband if he is willing to meet with a godly couple in your church to talk about hospitality. But if he is still resistant after all these efforts, you must rest in God’s sovereignty. He has ordained these circumstances and He is working through them for you and your husband’s good. (Rom 8:28)
We hope these simple suggestions are helpful. But our ultimate hope is in the fact that the Wonderful Counselor is eager to help you. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go” he promises. “I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Ps. 38:8).
Numbers of you are writing in with questions on the topic of modesty. Rather than using our normal Wednesday Q & A format to attempt to answer these questions, we hope to address them along the way in this series. So hang tight and keep reading!
Since last week’s Q&A discussion on the ending of a courtship, I have had a few conversations that were too good not to post.
Both were with moms who had daughters involved in relationships. The first mom had just walked her daughter through ending her relationship. As I inquired about how they were doing, she expressed gratitude for how the young man responded to her daughter in this decision. He told her that their courtship had been nothing but a success. Why? Because they had both grown in godliness. This young man had the wisdom and foresight to see that a successful relationship is not one that necessarily ends in marriage, but one where the couple grows in faith and love for the Savior.
The second mom has a daughter who is two weeks into her courtship. Everything is new and unknown. This mom told me that she and her husband were excited about this relationship because of what the Lord is doing in the hearts of their daughter and this young man in the process.
These moms see something much more significant than a relationship. They observe God at work in the hearts of their daughters. They are grateful that their daughters are growing in godliness. This is an eternal and God-honoring perspective.
So, whether you are presently exploring marriage or have recently ended a courtship, may this biblical view of relationships permeate your thinking and fill your heart with faith.