Showing posts with label A Mother's Calling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Mother's Calling. Show all posts

Nov 7, 2018

His Grace is Revealed through Parenting

This post first appeared in June 2015.

The morning was like many recent mornings. My daughter seemed too tired to listen to my brief instructions about what she needed to do before we started school work. I had to repeat them at least six times. Then she took an hour to dress and brush her teeth and hair. Then, instead of doing school work, she chose to stare out the window, daydreaming. 
When I told my 6 year it was time to start school, he said "No!," then tried to run away from me. (Why did we ever move into a house with a circular floor plan??) When I finally caught him, disciplined him, and got him seated at the kitchen table, I marked the rows of handwriting practice I wanted him to do. He purposefully chose to do rows I didn't mark. When I made him come back to the table and do the rows I marked, he argued with me, saying, "You hate me! You're the worst Mommy ever!"

That was it. I broke into tears. Here I was trying to do right by my children, and all they could do was fight me and make everything more difficult.

My son's heart instantly softened and he gave me a big hug as I reminded him, "I do the things I do, and ask the things I ask of you, because I love you."

He patted my back and I wiped away my tears of frustration and hurt. Then he turned around and did the work I had asked him to do, this time without complaint.

Parenting isn't for the faint of heart, and there's nothing wrong with having one of those days when all you want to do is cry. In fact, crying makes you feel a wee bit better. And if you don't hide those tears from your children, wet cheeks can suddenly put things in perspective for them.

As for me, while my children took new interest in doing their school work, I took up some housework and prayed.

"God, thank you for reminding me how I look in your eyes. I know I often don't listen to you as well as I should. I often take too long to do the things you ask me to do. Sometimes my heart rebels and I say 'No!' Sometimes I wonder how a God who loves me can let certain things happen. I am a sinner, Lord. Thank you for showing me grace. And please help me to teach my children about your amazing grace, too."


...He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.

Aug 10, 2017

A Proverb 31 Woman's Priorities

There is a lot of pressure in the Christian community for everyone to "have a ministry." What are you doing for the church? What are you, specifically, doing for God? However, if you're the mother of young children, this is problematic.

Every mom learns pretty quickly that if she wants her family to have a great home life, she has to juggle many things. She needs to not only care for her children's physical needs, but also spend time with them so their emotional and spiritual needs are met. She wants to keep a reasonably clean house and serve healthy meals. She needs to keep the laundry pile under control. To increase her family's health and self sufficiency, she might also want to do things like garden, preserve, and sew. She might also home school. And then there is her husband: She needs to maintain a good relationship with him, which also requires times and effort. That's a lot for one person to do! And then a Christian friend actually asks "What is your ministry?"

The Proverbs 31 Woman did many things, but she kept them in some semblance of balance. She didn't teach a women's Bible study but let her house turn into a scene from Hoarders. She didn't donate time to the local shelter but neglect to spend time with her husband. She didn't keep a blog to encourage other women but leave her children feeling like they never got much time from mom.

Balance is only possible if you have priorities. So, biblically speaking, what are the right priorities for a mother?

1. A relationship with God. Matthew 6:33 says "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." And in Mark 12:30, Jesus says the most important commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." Remember, too, how Jesus told the ever-busy-housekeeping Martha that her sister Mary had "chosen what is better" by seeking God first. For the modern Proverbs 31 Woman, this means seeking God's will, and reading the Bible daily and praying continuously throughout the day.

2. Husband. It's not politically correct, but yes, our husbands are next in line. 1 Corinthians 7:34 hints at this by saying one of a married woman's top concerns is pleasing her husband. The reason for this is pretty simple: First, God created woman to be her husband's (not her childrens') helpmeet. Second, husbands and wives should set an example for their children - an example of how to live godly lives, which certainly doesn't include neglecting our spouse. (1 Thes. 2:11-12; Prov. 22:6) Finally, once the children are grown and out of the house, you'll want and need a solid relationship with your husband; that won't happen if you neglect your husband now.

3. Children. God tells us to create "godly offspring" (Mal. 2:15) and in Timothy, we learn that a woman's ministry is "bringing up children." In Deuteronomy, God says parents (not teachers) must teach children the ways of the Lord. God gave you children to to care for. They grow so quickly; don't busy yourself with other things and neglect the important ministry - your children - that God has put squarely before you. Remember, when they are older, you'll have more time for other ministries - but why would God entrust you with those if you neglect the ministry of your children?

4. Home. Like it or not, the Bible says one of the signs of a godly woman is that she cares for her home. This doesn't mean she should be Martha Stewart-esque or that she is a slave to housework. It's simply a recognition that if we live in sloth and ugliness, our attitudes and personalities will be affected negatively. If our homes are reasonably clean and comfortable, however, the entire family benefits. Husband, children, and wife can take refuge at home, feeling less stress and more peace. Proverbs 31:27 says a godly woman "watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." 1 Timothy 5:14 says young unmarried women do well to marry and "to manage their homes..." And in Titus, we are told it's good for women to "love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands..."

Those four priorities are huge. Honestly, it's the rare woman who can successfully add more and keep a decent balance in her life. In fact, it's interesting to note the Bible never mentions mothers with young children doing anything else - no other job, no other ministry. Nowhere does Jesus or anyone else in the early church ask moms, "What is your ministry?" Because their ministry is being a wife and mother. And that is a full time job.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

Jul 27, 2017

Sleep Deprivation is Not a Virtue

"It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep."

In 2009, when my youngest was a year old and I was still in a sleep-deprived daze, I blogged about the importance of sleep. Since that time, however, it seems more and more Christian books and blogs are turning sleep into the enemy. Don't give into "the flesh," many say. Instead, get up early and you'll be more holy, many imply. Only moms who rise before the rest of the household keep the house - and themselves - orderly. Somehow the idea of getting less sleep has been confused with being more godly.* Um...really?

While it's true the Bible speaks against laziness and sleeping late all the time, the idea that sleep deprivation is virtuous is not from the Bible - it's from the world. All around our nation, we see moms (and dads and children) who are sleep deprived. This has lead to a host of problems in the U.S., including obesity, depression, grumpiness, inability to respond well to life's difficulties, poor decision making, car crashes, and much more. This isn't a good way to care for the bodily temples God gave us. Even from a purely spiritual point of view, sleep deprivation has its consequences. When we haven't had enough rest, it's harder to behave in a loving, giving, Christ-like fashion. And getting even just an hour and a half less sleep each night reduces our alertness and ability to think clearly by 32%. How can we make right choices for the Lord when our thinking is so impaired? Even our joy can be sucked away when we're sleep deprived. This is not what God wants. Quite the opposite, in fact.

But, some moms say, how can I have time alone with the Lord if I don't rise early every morning? First, know this: The problem isn't necessarily rising early. The Proverbs 31 Woman gets "up while it is still dark," after all. The problem is rising early even though your body requires more sleep. The problem is making yourself sleep deprived because of the mistaken notion that doing so will make you more worthy. So if you can rise early, spend time with the Lord, and still get all the sleep you need, fantastic! But if rising early makes you feel dizzy, nauseated, wiped out, and/or impatient and grumpy, then you'll be a wiser woman if you sleep a little longer. There are lots of ways to spend time with the Lord, even when you're home with little children all day. (For a few ideas, go here; and think of Susanna Wesley - mother of John and Charles Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement - who, with 10 young children underfoot, maintained her prayer life by flipping her apron over her head to create a certain "calm" while she spoke with God.)

But, some moms say, how I can keep the house tidy, homeschool the kids, make myself look presentable, be active in the church, socialize with my friends, run the kids to their activities, do the shopping, have hobbies, and so on, if I don't get up early? There aren't enough hours in the day! You're right; there aren't enough hours to do all that. As Jesus told Martha, there are many good things to do, but a wise woman carefully chooses the most important activities.

We live in a society that worships busy-ness. Moms buzz around the house and to various activities, always busy, busy, busy. But this isn't the life the Bible recommends. Jesus, though he had an active ministry, found time to spend with his Father, to spend with his family and friends, and to rest.

Busy-ness has a way of putting a barrier between us and what's important. Moms (especially those with young children) have some tough choices to make. They can run around busily doing good things (perhaps fairly well, perhaps not), or they can focus on what's most important in their lives right now: God, husband, and children (in that order). It's no coincidence that in Titus Paul says, "...urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." (2: 4-5; emphasis mine)

Being a wife and mother is a full time job. And because of the society in which we live, it's easy for mothers to get distracted from this job. That distraction costs families a great deal. And it costs many moms sleep - one of the things they most require in order to fulfill their Godly purpose.

So while some moms may wear their sleep deprivation as a badge of honor - and some may even look down their noses at moms who don't rise before dawn - a wise woman smiles and knows that busy-ness and sleep deprivation aren't what makes a Proverbs 31 woman.

* This post assumes you are a reasonably mature person and aren't staying up all hours of the night working or playing. This post also assumes you don't have an infant in the house - because sleep deprivation is a natural part of caring for an infant; however, moms of babies should do everything possible to take naps. 

This post was originally published in 2012.

Feb 29, 2016

I Am NOT Superwoman

During the past several weeks, as I've been slaving away at prepping this house for sale, I've had a lot of brilliant post ideas...and I've forgotten them all because I'm so stinkin' tired. (And as other writers know, forgotten ideas always seem far more brilliant than if you actually remember them.) But having the grandparents take our two kids for a couple of weeks while we wrap up the inside of the house has certainly taken a huge amount of stress off my shoulders. Trying to homeschool, work, take care of some family issues, do basic home keeping (cooking and basic cleaning), AND try to transform this house was simply too much for one person. Duh, right? But it didn't seem like duh at the time. It just seemed like what I HAD to do.

And so I've also been thinking a lot about how my bull-headed insistence on doing what I "have" to do has affected my life - particularly in the last decade, which is when I started having children. And I realize it's all been a big, fat mistake.

My introduction to motherhood wasn't an easy one. My water broke at 20 weeks; I went on bed rest. The doctors pushed me to abort our child. Then she was finally born at 25 weeks gestation; I never had a third trimester. Our daughter spent four months in the NICU (the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the hospital). I can't even begin to explain all the ups and downs of that in this short amount of space, but let me tell you, when a mama goes home without her baby, it ain't easy. A few times, our daughter nearly died. And the entire time she was in the NICU, I was pumping breast milk every two or three hours, even at night. Through it all, I thought, "I just have to keep going, keep pushing through."

When our bundle of joy finally came home, I was already exhausted. I continued to pump breast milk for many months after that. Imagine getting up, pumping, cleaning that up, fixing a bottle, feeding it to a baby who eats very slowly, then cleaning that up, then going back to bed. By the time I was done with that routine, I had only an hour or two to sleep before I had to start all over again. Exhausting doesn't begin to cover it. But my husband felt insecure about feeding our daughter, and I thought, "I just need to push through this. I have to get it done myself."

Then our daughter had months of physical and feeding therapy. (Yes! There is such a thing as feeding therapy!) We rarely had babysitters because our daughter was high risk for RSV - which is like a cold for most adults, but can be deadly for preemies. I keep pushing through, dark circles under my eyes. After a time, I recovered a little, and our son was on the way. This pregnancy was high risk, too, though the problems we faced were different than with my first pregnancy. I had to go in for fetal monitoring several times per week; thank goodness I let my mother help out with that, at least. Eventually, our son was born huge and healthy.

I wanted so very, very much to be a fantastic mother. I read tons of parenting books. I prayed for my children's futures. I made plans about the sort of things I wanted to teach them. Unfortunately, though, I had to start working (from home, as a writer) during my second pregnancy, and I found myself feeling stressed. Then my daughter hit three years old and suddenly became very difficult to raise. (Look up "strong willed child" in the dictionary, and you'll find my daughter's name and photo there.) Then my health began declining. Then I started homeschooling. And all the time, I was doing virtually everything all by myself; we had rare babysitters. Housework, writing work, school work, parenting, and cleaning were all up to me.

Can you see where this is going? I was not the fantastic mother I wanted to be. Instead, I was sick, exhausted, and grumpy. But I felt I HAD to keep pressing forward. I couldn't see anything I could set aside to make my life easier. There was no one to help. Even my husband, frankly, wasn't much help. (Although he's become more helpful as the years have progressed.)

Well, I think all this came to a head a few weeks ago. I couldn't do it all anymore. I am not super woman, hear me roar. I am a human being. Who needs rest. Who needs to occasionally do things for her self. Who can't spend all her time pushing. Who can't be entirely independent. Of course, I was never truly independent because I was very dependent upon God - and knew it. But I was being unfair to myself and my family by trying to do "everything" without human help.

Nobody can do that. Nobody.

Last week, I wept as I thought about the person I wanted to be 10 years ago and the person I am today. I wept from regret. I wept because I was stinkin' mad at myself. I wept because I hadn't given my children and husband the best. I was too busy spending my energy - my whole self - on trying to do everything.

And so I post this today, hoping it reaches some other mom out there who thinks she has to push through and do everything. You don't. And you don't want to. In the end, you'll weep with regret. And yes, I know the name of this blog. And I know many people feel the Proverbs 31 Woman is someone who DOES do it all. But they are wrong. That Proverbs 31 lady, she didn't do all those things at any one stage of her life. She wasn't getting up at night with babies AND making wise real estate decisions AND weaving the household cloth AND running a textile business AND, and, and. No, in fact, "She makes herself ready with strength and makes her arms strong." In other words, she takes care of herself to preserve her health and strength. She works hard, but she knows her limits. Her listed accomplishments are those of a LIFETIME, not a season of her life.

I think my thick brain has finally had this lesson pounded into it, though I know making changes - learning to ask for help - won't be particularly easy. Yes, part of the reason we're moving is so that we (specifically, I) can get help from family. Like babysitting from time to time, or letting me step aside to BREATHE when things become too much.

Here's to the new me. The less grumpy, less over-worked me. And to how that new me is going to positively affect my kids, my husband, and everyone else around me.

Now the question is do YOU need to cast aide your Super Woman costume? Do it, my friend. Don't hesitate. Do it now. Your future self - and your family - will thank you.

UPDATE 3/4/16: This post has generated some surprising (to me) comments that I've chosen not to publish. I want to clarify: This post is not about people not helping me. It's about me not seeking out and asking for help. It's all on me, folks.

Jul 31, 2015

How to Know God's Will for Your Life

I am blessed with wonderful in-laws. They have never treated me as anything less than their daughter - and they are wise in Christ, too. This week, when my dad-in-law (an ordained minister) read my post about asking children what God wants them to be when they grow up, he wrote me a wonderful email about knowing God's will for your life. It's so good, and expounds so much on what I originally wrote, I asked him if I could share it with you. He said yes. :)


I believe you have addressed a most important subject in life. I am still grappling with that question. Maybe I still have not grown up!

I recall a chart I taped on my freshman dorm wall entitled, 'How To Know God’s Will For Your Life.' It came out of an on-campus chapel service concerning that topic. After all, freshman collegians are not far removed from 9 year olds! It went something like this:
  • Seek to know God’s plan through concerted prayer.
  • Allow Him to speak to you through his Word.
  • Seek Godly counsel. 
That was okay for the moment; however, almost without notice, living life began eroding my Godly resolve, and in time I lost sight of the commitment required to achieve God’s direction for my life; I  drifted between being oblivious to the thought of God having a goal for my life, to an attitude of superficially-breathed prayers that asked God to bless the course I had chosen. 

At a Youth For Christ, Campus Life conference for high school Campus Life leaders in 1971, the speaker was addressing this subject. He said something that Mom and I believe revolutionized our concept of knowing God’s will. He said,

'If you are actively seeking it, then you are in it.'  

The specific life-calling was not as important as the attitude in which we approached our future. I believe you captured that when you introduced the God-factor into the equation [in your post]

Some years later, I sorted out a short-list of what I believe is a guideline for living - concepts necessary to live as a Christian:

CREATOR. Acknowledge God as our Creator. 
Truly if we recognize Him as our maker/molder, then we are the clay and it begs the question: Why did He put me here - what is His plan for me?

PURPOSE. Realize that our Creator has put us here for His purpose. 
We had no say concerning where and when we were born, who our parents were, or in what culture or ethnic group we entered life. As God controlled our birth, He will develop our life-plan - and yes also our end-of-life plan.

WORD. Trust the Bible to be God’s Word.
Know that everything needed to answer life’s questions and provide direction is addressed there. 'Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.' (Psalm 119:105)

OCCUPY. 'Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…'  (Col. 3:17) Understand that our ultimate objective for life is developing a relationship with our Creator that will last forever.

DESTINY. Adam and Eve experienced fellowship with their Creator until they chose to go their own way. 
I ask myself, 'Why am I a Christian?' My answer has to be the same as Peter’s: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'  (John 6:68This life is but a precursor for our eternal existence with our God and His son Jesus - a return to paradise.


Jul 27, 2015

"What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?" Is it the Right Thing to Ask?

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a question children are asked regularly, but my 9 year old daughter hesitated before answering. She looked down at the ground. Then she looked up, cleared her throat, and her words flowed: "A missionary and a singer and an actress and an astronaut and a mechanic and a scientist..." Some kids may have a pat answer that pleases adults, but not my girl.

I smiled. We've talked about this before, she and I. "There's no reason you can't be an astronaut and a scientist and mechanic. In fact, astronauts have to do a lot of science and need to be able to fix machines. Then maybe you could sing and act for fun - as a hobby. It could even be part of your missionary work. You might have to do that on vacations..." Who am I to squash her dreams?

But you know one question I've never heard anyone ask her?

"What does God want you to be when you grow up?"

Oh, I'm not talking about general character traits like being honest or loving - though of course God wants us to have those traits. No, I mean something far more specific: What are God's plans for your life? What is he going to do with you?

I recently asked my daughter this, and from her puzzled expression, I could see it was something she'd never considered.

I didn't try to answer the question for her. That's between her and God. And just asking the question will have her thinking about it for some time, no doubt. And perhaps that's enough. Too many of us just don't think about what God's plans for us are. Perhaps it's an American trait - part of the idea that as Americans, we can do anything we put our mind to. There's nothing wrong with that, per se. But as Christians, we have a bigger purpose.

Trouble starts, however, when we decide for ourselves what God wants us to do. Like Jonah, who didn't want to minister to his enemies. Or like Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tails, who explains this trouble in his book Me, Myself, and Bob. Once Veggie Tales was taken away from Bischer, he began to realize that he'd never asked God what He wanted to do with his life. He never asked God if he should start Veggie Tales, or any other endeavor. That's why the Veggie Tales empire that Vischer imagined was swept out from under him. Ask God first, Vischer, now older and wiser, stresses.

Of course, if you ask your child what God wants to do with her life, your child will inevitably ask how God will make this clear to her. There is no pat answer. He might speak to your child audibly, as he did young Samuel in the Old Testament (1 Sam. 3). He might put a thought in her head or a feeling in her heart - something that aligns with the Bible. He might speak to her through His Word, making a certain verse or passage stick with her. Or he might just put her in situations that make it obvious - or not - that she should be doing a certain thing. (At his construction job, my brother once injured the fingers on one hand, and had to have them sewn back on. A few months later, doing similar work, he nearly severed the fingers off the opposite hand. He said, "I think God is trying to tell me something." Soon after, he went into ministry.)

We just don't know how God will speak to us. Which means we have to be attentive. We have to actively listen for him, and pay attention when he's calling.

But to do that, children first need to know they should be listening. And that God will use them...if they are willing.

Mar 2, 2015

Thank You, God, for Dirt to Vacuum

The house was an utter mess. Toys everywhere. Dishes piled in the sink. And a filthy kitchen floor. Try as I might to teach my children to always remove their shoes before they come into the house, they rarely do, and end up tracking dirt, mud, and debris over our light-colored floors. It doesn't help that their daddy refuses to remove his shoes before he comes into the house.

So maybe you can imagine my grumpiness as I, tired from a long morning of homeschool and disobedient children, pulled out the vacuum and began sucking up the mess on the kitchen floor. I found my thoughts were grumbling, resentful, even angry. "Why can't the kids learn to remove their shoes at the door? They aren't new here - and this isn't a new rule. I'm so tired of constantly cleaning up their messes. They need to learn to clean up after themselves!" And so I became grumpier. And more resentful. And more angry.

Then POP! My thought bubble burst. God busted in and I literally stopped vacuuming, stood up straight, and thought, "Why am I grumpy and complaining? Why am I resentful and angry?"

And I began to pray: "Lord, please forgive me for my wrong thoughts and attitudes. Instead, I thank you for the dirt and mud on the kitchen floor. Because that dirt means you've blessed me with young children. Children I prayed earnestly for. One child who is a miracle, escaping death on several occasions. Another who is a miracle because he was born full term. And I am thankful because I have a husband - a man I prayed years for. I am thankful he doesn't take off his shoes! Because the dirt he tracks in reminds me he lives here with me, every day. And that he's an answered prayer.

"Thank you, God! Thank you for dirt to vacuum!"

Oct 20, 2014

When You Just Want to Quit

It's no secret that being a stay at home mom is not for wimps. In fact, very probably, it's the toughest job ever. I'm the first one to admit that some days I just want to quit - run away from home and let someone else deal with the children and the housework. I'm sure you've been there, too. But a Proverbs 31 Woman knows she can't just give up. So what should she do when she just can't take it any more?

1. Pray. Stop everything and go find a quiet place to pray. I know that's easier said than done (!), but as the Nike ads used to say, "Just do it." If the kids are likely to hurt each other or themselves, separate them in their own rooms, or put some safely outside in the yard and some in their rooms. Or, stand in the midst of the chaos and pray aloud. You need Jesus. Right. Now. Pray for help, certainly. Pray for a new perspective, too. But also just dwell in God's presence and focus on the blessings he's given you.

2. Examine your self talk. Our thoughts about our situation and ourselves are often downright mean.Our self talk can also be accusing, which means it's directly from Satan, not God. But when we're stressed and exhausted and the kids are making us crazy, we need to stop and THINK about what we're thinking. Acknowledge parts of your self talk that aren't from God, drop them, and meditate on what God really says about your situation.

3. Focus on others. If we're feeling sorry for ourselves, we are too self focused. If we are mad at others, we are probably too self focused, too. The Bible tells us to have the heart of a servant. This isn't easy, but we can train ourselves - with God's help - to think of others before ourselves.

4. Focus on serving God. This is the ultimate goal of a Proverbs 31 Woman - and, thank goodness, God doesn't expect perfection.

5. Immerse yourself in God's word. This can be really tough if your children are little, but it's vital to being a good mommy, wife, and daughter of God.  Click here for tips on finding time to read the Bible; also be sure to read this post about a Proverb 31 Woman's priorities.

6. Ask for help. If you're like me, it's really, really hard to ask other people to help you. But it's just flat a myth than women can "do it all." Lean on your friends; that is part of why they are in your life. Ask your parents or in-laws for help. Ask the church for help. Ask for a few hours of alone time to sleep, pray, have peace. Ask for help cleaning your house. Ask for help because you are depressed. Help. Is. Out. There. Take advantage of it.

What do YOU do when you just want to quit?

Apr 9, 2014

A Christian Mom's Guide to Cleaning for Company

The living room floor was covered with toys. I desperately needed to vacuum and mop. The kitchen was obviously disorganized. There was toothpaste and muddy hand prints all over the bathroom counter. But I had guests coming - a mother of a toddler and her husband - so I drove myself to get the house clean. As I scrubbed away at the floor, though, a sudden, strong thought hit me: Why was I driving myself so hard to have a tidy house for company? Did it really benefit my guests? Or was it really about me and my self image? An even stronger thought came to me: "You know, if you really want to help a younger mom, you won't tidy up at all."

Hmmm...I reduced my to-do list a bit, and continued mopping.

Fast forward to when our guests arrived. And at one point, as we stood in the kitchen preparing strawberries for dessert, my guest commented with no small bit of regret: "Your house is so clean and creative! I wish I could do that."

I was taken aback for a moment. (I don't think of my house as clean or creative.) Then I laughed and said, "This is from the Lord! Let me tell you what came to me while I was trying to whip my house into shape for company!"

Here's what I think God was trying to tell me: If, as a slightly more experienced mom, I want to help other, younger mothers who are struggling, showing them a spic-and-span house (or as spic-and-span as my house gets) isn't at all helpful, is it? This just makes other moms feel like they aren't doing enough, or are doing something wrong. On the other hand, if I show them how we really live...that's a lot more helpful! They see that none of us are superwoman, and that focusing on our husbands and children is a lot more important than keeping our homes spotless.

So next time another mom wants to visit my house and I look around disparagingly at muddy hand prints and messy floors, I will resist the urge to rush about cleaning. I will stop being a too busy Martha, and instead try to be more like Mary, hanging on Jesus' every word, ready to serve him in more important ways. How about you?

Feb 26, 2014

11 Tips for Dealing with Grumpy Children

Your cheerful "Good morning!" is met with a frown. Your kiddo complains about any type of breakfast you offer him. The least little thing makes your daughter cry. Or throw a temper tantrum. Or start World War Three. These are The Really Hard Days of dealing with grumpy children - and every mom has experienced them. But there are ways to deal with grumpy kids and get through the day with your sanity in tact:

1. Find at least 5 minutes to tuck yourself away from the kids to pray and read a little of the Bible. Put the kids in front of the television for a few minutes if you have to - because you especially need to focus on God on Really Hard Days.

2. Set aside your plans. Your children are going to need more of your attention than usual, so don't focus on housework or other chores, and try to cancel appointments.

3. Give your children lots of cuddles, hugs, and smiles. Even if they act like they don't want them.

4. Read to your children. If they will cuddle on the couch with you, that's great. But if that causes squabbling, set them on the floor with something to color or draw while you read.

5. Play soothing music. Something like Hide 'Em in Your Heart is perfect. Or maybe some classical music.

6. Take baths. Water is very soothing to many children. Give them each a bath - by themselves - and see if they don't feel better.

7. If it's sunny, make sure the windows are uncovered. Open some windows or doors to let in fresh air. If it's a dark day, turn on some lights. If you can get your child to read, color, do puzzles, or do some other activity under a bright lamp, all the better. If it's near the end of the day, dim the lights.

8. Remove clutter. If the house is a cluttered mess, it's stressful, and that's not going to help anyone on a Really Hard Day. Take a few minutes to pick up.

9. Get moving. If you can, go outdoors and encourage your kids to run or do other vigorous activities. If you must remain indoors, try jumping to upbeat music.

10. Avoid the television. Yes, I know. On Really Hard Days it's easier to set the kids in front of the TV. But the fact remains that TV time tends to lead to poorer behavior in your children. At the very least, postpone TV time until late in the day.

11. End the day well. You may be ever-so-anxious for bedtime, but don't let that make you rush through it. Make sure your children receive your full attention during tucking in. Read. Cuddle. Pray together about the day, asking for tomorrow to be happier. Then kiss them goodnight.

Feb 17, 2014

Let's Get Real: To the Mom Who Thinks She's Not Doing Enough

Some people look at my blog and think, "How does she do all that?" But ladies, let me assure you, I do not do all that.

You may think, "She homeschools, and works from home, and cans, and gardens, and does her own housework, and does fun projects with her kids, and cooks from scratch, and reads her Bible every day, and has a great prayer life, and, and, and, and..."

But the truth is: 

I struggle to keep my prayer life strong; it's hard for me to have deep conversations with God when I have noisy children running around me.

I do read my Bible almost every day, but some days, I'm so tired, I can't concentrate long enough to really understand it - and sometimes all I can read in between calls for "mama" is a single paragraph.

I do mostly cook from scratch - but not always. And we don't eat a lot of foods (like crackers or yogurt) because I simply don't have the energy or time to make them.

I do sometimes do fun projects with my kids - but my Pinterest boards are packed with projects we will never get around to, and my kids always wish we did more fun projects than I find time for.

I don't have a maid, to be sure, and my husband doesn't do housework. My kids do help some (though probably not enough), but mostly my house is not guest-worthy. My kitchen floor is often more brown than it's original cream color, my fridge isn't spotless, my counters are usually a mess, and the carpet always seems to need vacuuming - even if I did just vacuum it a few hours earlier.

I do garden, but it's something I often have to force myself to do. I love that gardening saves us money and gives us healthy food...and that's what keeps me gardening every year. But my garden doesn't look like something from a magazine, and I never, ever do everything I wish I could do in the garden.

I do can food, but it's often a sacrifice - especially in the summer, when I'm canning large amounts of produce. I wish I could home can everything, but I just don't have the energy or time.

I do work from home, and while I'm thankful I don't have to send my children off to daycare, it's very, very, very difficult to work with young children underfoot. What should take an hour to complete takes several hours instead. It's exhausting and frustrating. And then I'm mad at myself for feeling frustrated that my kids want their mama.

I do homeschool, but it's definitely not all sunshine and roses. My five year old fights me at every turn, and my eight year old struggles to concentrate on anything during the winter months.

Often I'm less patient than I wish I was, often the days seem so very long, often I feel depressed, and have trouble keeping the big picture in mind, and cry out to God but don't hear his voice, and sob on my knees to Him each evening, and wish it was all a whole lot easier.

But being a mom isn't easy - especially in the 21st century. Modern women have set themselves up to fail. We expect ourselves to raise children, work for money, maintain a home, get just a handful of hours of sleep each night, and still be happy, cheerful wives and neighbors.

That is a fairy tale. No woman can "do it all." No mom completely has her act together. And the more stuff we do outside of raising children and home keeping, the more we have to let some things slide. We can't work from home AND have a spotless house. We can't read the Bible for hours each day AND give our children and husband all the attention they need. We can't sleep a handful of hours AND be healthy, cheerful Proverbs 31 Women.

It's time we started admitting to ourselves - and to each other - that that's okay! Real life mommyhood is tiring, difficult, and messy. It's time we started saying to our friends and acquaintances who are moms: "How are you doing? No, how are you REALLY doing?" It's time we started admitting to each other that we are struggling. And uncertain. And sometimes - even often - think we are failing.

It's time we started supporting and validating each other. It's time we got real.

I will start: I am Kristina, an imperfect wife and mom whose floor needs mopping and who struggles to keep her priorities (God, husband, children, others) straight.

Who are you?

Sep 27, 2013

Immersing Your Children in God's Word

As I aspire to become a Proverbs 31 Woman, my greatest responsibility is to train my children in the way of the Lord. As a person who did not grow up in a Christian home, this is sometimes more challenging than anything else I aspire to. But one of the greatest ways I can reach this goal is to immerse my children in God's Word. It's also one of the easiest - at least once you get the hang of it. My motto is: Never let an opportunity go by to read, talk about, or refer to the Bible. As Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."*
Here are eight ways I immerse my children in God's Word. Are you doing all of them?

* Read to the children from your Bible. I like to do this at the beginning of the day - often while the children eat breakfast or while they color - both of which seem to improve their listening skills. I have recently taken to reading from the book of Proverbs. It seems there are fewer challenging words in this book, plus it's packed with excellent advice for children. We either proceed or follow this Bible reading with prayer.

* Read to them from a storybook Bible. Our favorites are The Big Picture Story Bible (for the youngest) and The Jesus Storybook Bible. Both do a great job of revealing Jesus in both the Old and New Testaments. We also read vintage The Bible Story (by Arthur S. Maxwell); this series does the best job of covering almost all the stories in the Bible than any other children's Bible storybook I've seen. (Although I dislike all the assumptions the author makes about Jesus' pre-ministry years. I just edit this as I read, though.)

* Have them read from their Bible. For beginning readers, the Hear Me Read Bible is a nice choice. For readers who are a little more advanced, Zonderkidz publishes individual "I Can Read" leveled books that are Bible stories. More advanced readers should do fine with an NIV or NIrV translation of the Bible.

* Listen to the Bible. You can listen to it free at BibleGateway, Biblica, and Audio Bible, among many other places.

* Listen to Christian music. I want my children to know those old hymns; Hymns for a Child's Heart really speaks to them. We also listen to and sing together the memory verse songs in Hide 'Em in Your Heart. It's fine to listen to Christian music for adults, too, but I do think it's smart to have some music that is kid-specific and refers to actual passages of Scripture.

* Use other Christian media. My children have benefited tremendously from listening to Adventures in Odyssey and Jonathan Parks CDs. Learn about other great Christian media for kids by clicking here.

* Memorize scripture together. It is so true that the verses we memorize as children remain with us as adults.

* Refer to scripture throughout the day. This is perhaps easiest when we are correcting our children - especially if we can relate the correction to a memory verse. For example, if one child steals another's toy, you could say, "Is that doing to John as you would have him do to you?" But don't limit the scriptures to correction; use them in praise, too. For example, "Oh, Laura! I know it was hard for you to share with John, but you did a wonderful job of doing to others as you would have them do to you. I know God is pleased with you...and so am I."

How do you immerse your children in God's Word?

* In this passage, the Bible is referring specifically to the Ten Commandants - the foundational information everyone needs to know in order to repent and accept Christ's grace. But I believe it also applies broadly to all of God's Word.

Photo courtesy dvest / 123RF Stock Photo.

Sep 13, 2013

Handling Pressure with Grace - Guest Post by Liberty Speidel

Being told your child needs some pretty serious medical treatment is the last thing a parent wants to hear. A year ago, I was there. My son, Xander, needed a bone marrow transplant. And while the last year has been anything but a picnic, through the ups and downs of his treatment, God has taught me a lot about grace. Granted, the following are more applicable during large blocks of hospital time, but maybe there's a truth here that can be helpful in your own brand of stress.

Ask questions
When you're faced with a lot of decisions that may affect the long-term health of your child, you can feel pretty helpless. While I frequently have to tell my husband "I don't know," I ask a lot of questions where Xander's care is concerned. Write your questions down—it's clich├ęd, but there's an app for that, so keep a list of questions on your smartphone, if you use one. That way you don't forget what you need to ask.

Find reasons to laugh
In July, Xander underwent his second surgery in five days (to replace his central line, which is used for giving IV medications and fluids over a long period of time). When I got down to the holding area, pre-surgery, the surgeon asked me what my expectations were of what would happen. “Central line placement,” I told him.

"There's not to be a bone marrow biopsy today?" he asked.

I stared at him, bewildered. "No," I said slowly. "That's not scheduled for a couple weeks."

Turns out, one of the physician's assistants on Xander's case had seen that Xander needed this procedure, so he thought he'd kill two birds with one stone—but hadn't informed anyone else!

In situations like these, it's easy to be upset—the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing—but the head doc on Xander's case was relieved when I laughed when she told me what had happened.

God's Got This
My pastor, Dan Sutherland, introduced this motto to our congregation in 2012. It became something I clung to during the past year. Very little in life is within our control, and when you're going through a trial, it's important to remember this. With Xander's transplant, we could choose the doctors who would treat him and the drugs they would use, but whether it worked—that was all in God's hands. While we've got a spunky three-year-old now, we know we're still wandering through the woods looking for the meadow as far as Xander's health is concerned.
Bible Time
I think my dependence on God got stronger throughout this whole experience—it almost has to when you realize how little control you have over this kind of situation. While I didn't find near as much time to read my Bible as I would have liked (or probably should have), I was able to sneak an earbud in and listen with the YouVersion app on my phone. Listening to God's word definitely was a quick way for me to get an attitude adjustment on my bad days.

During this time, my prayers were frequently short snippets or sentences, dispersed throughout the day - not one long conversation at once, but a bit here and there throughout the day. If I had it to do all over again, I'd probably plan to do things differently, although with the irregularity in my son’s five month treatment, it might not have been possible to have a regular prayer schedule.

The biggest thing I learned through this whole experience is to offer everyone grace; even my husband had to receive it on multiple occasions. Stress leads to crankiness, making you lash out at everyone in your path. But if you offer everyone grace and keep a positive outlook, they'll thank you for it—and you'll show Christ to everyone you meet. You may even get a chance to share the Gospel with those who want to know how you keep such a positive attitude!

Liberty Speidel is a wife, mom, and writer of mysteries and science fiction who blogs at Word Wanderings. Though happiest at her computer creating fictional worlds, she enjoys baking, yarn crafts, hiking with her family, and taking very long walks with her family's Labrador Retriever. She and her family reside in Kansas. You can learn more about her son's medical struggles here and here

Aug 9, 2013

Dealing with Mommy Burn Out

I've read a lot of blog posts about "homeschooling burnout" or "ministry burnout," but I don't think I've ever read about plain ol' mommy burn out. If you've never experienced mommy burn out before, first stop and thank God. Then know you'll likely experience it at least a few times in your career as wife and mother.

Mommy burnout has it's roots in two areas:

1. Doing stuff not directly related to being a wife and mother, and
2. The daily grind of being a mother and wife.

While the two are often linked, let's look at number one first:

* Begin by cutting ALL unnecessary activities from your life. Unnecessary means it's something your children, husband, or you can live without. This can mean leaving behind (temporarily or permanently) some very good activities, including church ministries, canning, crafts or other hobbies...If any of these things interfere with your ministry as wife and mom, or if any of these things are leading you to burn out, they must go.

* Focus on the basics. Spend time with your children and husband. Enjoy them. Keep the house essentially clean, but don't make it spick and span. Read your Bible. Spend time in prayer.

* If you must do work for pay, try to keep it at a minimum. Reconsider your schedule, too. For example, if you work early in the morning before anyone else is awake, is this exhausting you? Could you try working during nap time (or quiet time) instead? Could you work in small chunks throughout the day, keeping the children occupied with special crafts or games as you work?

* Once you feel recovered, prayerfully consider which activities - if any - should be added back into your life. Always bear in mind that your number one priority as a Proverbs 31 Woman is your husband and children.

If your mommy burn out comes from your job as mom, I still recommend doing all of the above. In addition, however, you may need to:

* Take a mini vacation. Hopefully, there is someone who can watch your children for you, even if only for an afternoon or two. If grandparents or other relatives aren't available, perhaps you can find a reliable teen to watch your kids for a reasonable fee. If not, at least consider hiring a mommy's helper - a tween who is willing to work for very little money and will play with your children while you are in another room. What should you do on your mini vacation? I recommend focusing on God, the Bible, and sleep. But if there are other activities that truly refresh you, you can add them in.

* Pray about finding regular help. I'm not suggesting you hire a nanny, but could your husband help more? Or some other family member? Could your children help themselves more than they currently do? (The latter alone is a huge help to moms and also teaches children some important life skills and attitudes. For ideas, check out "Age Appropriate Chores for Kids.") After praying on this topic, be sure to ask for help. Be careful not to accuse your husband or others of not helping as they should. Simply explain your exhaustion and ask for help. Be as specific as possible about what you'd like done. When speaking to children, it may help to put them in your shoes a little: "How would you feel if everyone in the house made big messes, but only you did any cleaning up?"

* Change the routine. A regular routine is a very helpful thing for children and mommies, but sometimes, routine can feel like a boring, awful rut. When that happens, don't be afraid to mix things up a bit.

* Get more sleep. It does wonders. (Not sure how to do that? Click here.)

* Get out of the house. I'm a homebody and an introvert, but even I need to get out once in a while. So grab the kids - and your hubby, if he's available - and go do something fun. It doesn't have to cost a penny; walk to a park, see the sites around your town, go on a nature trail.

* Keep in mind the big picture. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day details, but keep reminding yourself why you're doing this mommy thing - and instead of focusing on your kids "issues" or your own failures, try to see any progress that's been made.

* Pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17). Play Christian music. Watch spiritually based movies. If you have time to read anything other than your Bible, read Christian books. The more you dwell on God, the better.

How do you deal with mommy burn out?

Apr 12, 2013

When You Feel Like a Failure as a Mom

Confession: My kids aren’t “little angels.” In fact, in a room full of children, my youngest is likely the one throwing a temper tantrum over something seemingly insignificant and my oldest is surely the one willfully disobeying or acting hysterical.

On Easter weekend, as I was about to drop both kids off at Grandma and Grandpa’s for a week long stay, I found myself apologizing profusely: “I’m sorry my kids are so ill-behaved. I’m sorry they can be such brats. I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve read all the books. I’ve tried every technique. Nothing seems to work.”

What I didn’t tell my in-laws, but told my husband through tears later that night was: “I’m a failure as a mother! A. Complete. Failure!”

First thing next morning, I spent nearly an hour in prayer. It ended with me prostrate on the floor before God, begging him to forgive me for being such a lousy mom, and asking him to make me more patient, more wise, more strong. God answered me in an unexpected way – through a little ebook that had been sitting in my Kindle for months.

That ebook, Hope for the Weary Mom by by Brooke McGlothlin and Stacey Thacker, was a breath of fresh air. First, the authors confessed they are utterly exhausted at the end of every day – and they are younger than me! But more importantly, they described feeling just like I did – that no matter how they tried to lead their children down the narrow path, their kids continued to be something other than “little angels.”

Here’s the deal, ladies. Yes, as mothers it’s our job to train up our children the way they should go, BUT WE CANNOT CHANGE OUR CHILDREN’S HEARTS. We can and should teach them about God, and show them what a godly life is like, but we can’t take the place of God in their lives. The Holy Spirit is the one who calls our children, and God is the one who ultimately shapes them.

What a huge weight that removes from our shoulders!

I’m sure some people look at my children and think what I’m a bad mom (though, I suspect, it’s fewer than we moms might think). But I can rest, knowing as I attempt to shepherd my children God’s direction, he is at work in my children’s hearts.

Hope for the Weary Mom is also available as a paperback

Sep 14, 2012

Impress Him Upon Your Children

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

Fortunately for we parents, the Bible is full of parenting advice from the true expert: Our Heavenly Father. This little section of the Old Testament is one very important example. Lately, I've been searching myself: Am I truly doing God's will in this area of my life? If not, then I need to change now. My children's lives depend upon it.

I love how the scripture starts by telling parents to look at themselves first: Do we have a passion for God? If not, our children will know it and learn from it. How about you? Do you read the Bible daily? Do you spend time in concentrated prayer with God every day? Do you pray without ceasing? (1 Thes. 5:17) Have you memorized key scriptures? (Deut. 6:6)

Is it difficult - very difficult! - to love and serve the Lord this way when we have small children. And yet what moms of young children need is exactly this focus on God. Yes, it's a struggle. But it can - and must - be done. (For tips on this struggle, please read Developing Your Prayer Life, Let Your Kids Hear You Pray, Keeping the Bible Handy, Memory Verse How-To, Finding Time for the Bible, and Finding Time to Read the Bible Together.)

Then God tells us to "impress" these things onto our children. How do we do that? By talking about God and the Bible constantly. By living like Christ. 

This is, I think, the area where many Christian moms struggle the most. In church and in popular Christian books, we hear a lot about developing our personal relationship with Christ - but we hear almost nothing about training up our children the way these verses in Deuteronomy insists upon.

It is not enough to, once a day, sit down and read a Bible storybook to our kids. It's not enough to pray with them at meals and before bed. No, the Bible says we must constantly talk to our children about God's commands - at all times of the day, no matter where we are. How does one, in a practical sense, do this? Here are a few examples from our household, from a few days ago:

* First thing in the morning, my 7 year old was up and playing. She was being noisy, so I reminded her to be quiet, since her brother was still sleeping. She gave me a mad expression, so we talked about why it's important to put others first, practicing Christ-like servitude.

* After breakfast, my 3 year old lied about having a poopy diaper. I got down to eye level with him and explained that lying is always a bad thing. It's always best to be tell the truth because God hates lying lips (Proverbs 12:22) and lies always cause more problems than they seem to cover up.

* My children and I watched a nature show. Although we have several that are made from a creationist point of view, this one was secular. And, like all such secular shows, it talked about and earth that is billions of years old. So I paused the movie to hold a discussion about this topic. Because we've had other conversations like this, I let my 7 year old take the lead. "What do you think about the idea that the world is billions of years old?" I asked her. "Well," she said, "the Bible says the world is thousands of years old." We talked about how to get that calculation from the Bible, then I asked, "Do you think we should believe the Bible or scientists?" Both children agreed the Bible was a more accurate source; I confirmed that we should always look to the Bible first for answers. Unlike scientific theory, it does not change through the years.

* The show we were watching also contained an ad because it was recorded off television. My children aren't used to ads, to I had to explain what it was. Then I asked, "What do you think the purpose of an ad is?" My 7 year old said, "To get you to buy stuff." Bingo! And, as Kimberly Eddy writes in her book Joyful Momma's Guide to Quiet Times in Loud Households, all ads come down to "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." (1 John 2:16)

* Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk. But first, we had to find my 3 year old's shoes. We searched high and low and I was loosing my patience. So I stopped, gathered the children to me, and prayed. It was just a simple prayer asking for peace in our hearts - and to help us find the shoes. A minute after praying this, I found the shoes. I thanked God, out loud.

* On our walk, I pointed out different things in nature: Types of trees and flowers, how the roots of plants soak up water, and so on. But whenever possible, I mentioned God's hand in these things.

* In the evening, as I was making dinner, I grew frustrated by constant interruptions as I was quickly trying to whip dinner together. I stopped everything, looked up to Heaven, and thanked God for children who interrupt me because that means we are home together and they love and trust me. I also thanked Him for food that can't seem to get cooked; at least we have food in our household. While I didn't specifically include the children in these prayers, they were observing.

* After dinner, I printed a Bible verse on a piece of paper and taped it to my desk as a reminder for myself. When my children are better able to read, I will encourage them to do similar things with Bible verses. For now, it's enough that they see me doing this.

* At bedtime, my 7 year old said she had something to tell me that she was a little afraid to say. I encouraged her to always be honest with me, even when it's really hard. I pointed out that Mommy, like God, is always there to listen and help and love, no matter what may have happened. It turned out her confession was minor and innocent, but I took advantage of this moment to remind her about confessing her sins to God so he can forgive her and wipe her slate clean.

In short, we must show our children how God is a vital part of our everyday lives.

How do you follow Deuteronomy 6: 5-9 in your household?

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