Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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Help Your Kids Fearlessly Face the Future!

Lately my Facebook news feed has been clogged with angry and even panicked political rants.  Last night as I got ready for bed, fear gripped me for a moment. There’s so much that’s scary.  What kind of world will my children grow up in?

And then I remember the story of Queen Esther in the Bible, the lovely lady who saved her people, not with strident protest or military strength, but with courage, strength, grace, respect, and wisdom.  Mordecai, her adoptive father, encouraged her:  “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

We, too, were born for such a time as this, and so were our children.

God has put us here, now, for a reason.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you don’t have to worry about your kids. It’s an exciting time to be alive, not because there is nothing to fear, but because God is greater than our fear and has great plans for our families, for our children—for us!

He is not taken by surprise by any election result or Supreme Court verdict.  He’s not in heaven wringing has hands and saying, “Wow, I didn’t see that one coming.  Your family is doomed!”

He has hand-picked your children for today.  It’s their hour, their time to shine, their time to be a light in a dark world, to overflow with the love of Christ, to impact the lives of those around them, to serve like Queen Esther…with courage, strength, grace, respect, and wisdom.

So if you’re tempted to bunker down and raise them in fear and despair, rise to the challenge.  Raise your children to stand before kings if the opportunity arises.  Raise them spiritually strong.  Raise them with courage.  Let them know that their future is bright, because they walk in the Light.

Give them this confidence: You were born for such a time as this.

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Do you face your children’s future with fear or confidence?  How can you raise them for such a time as this?

P.S. Check out this song by Wayne Watson, For Such a Time as This.  An oldie but a goodie!

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Learn to Live Guilt-Free

We moms mess up.

We’re broken and imperfect and often untrained, inexperienced with small new people given to us and we are supposed to raise them right.  Sometimes it feels like they are raising us, growing us up and making us mature in ways we never were before.

But sometimes our mess-ups feel so big that they paralyze us.  We feel unworthy to parent right, because in the past we have done wrong.  Our sins haunt us even after we repent and overcome them.

I was too harsh. 

I was selfish. 

I yelled. 

I had you out of wedlock.

I did not protect you well enough.

Or we feel guilt for things outside our control. 

You fell before I could catch you.

I made a poor choice that hurt you. 

I didn’t know he wasn’t safe.

And that guilt eats us alive, eats our souls and cripples us.  That voice of condemnation says:

“You are a bad mother, why even try?”  

“Your children will hate you.”

“You will never change.  You are hopeless.”

“You are doomed to repeat the mistakes your parents made.”

“Everyone knows what you did.  You should be ashamed.”

But to the daughter of God, Jesus says something different.

Jesus says:

“I forgive you.” (I John 1:9)

“Be made whole.” (John 5:2-8)

“You are more than a conqueror through me.” (Romans 8:37)

“I have come that you might live an abundant life.” (John 10:10)

“Take every thought captive and renew your mind.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, Romans 12:2)

“You can do all things through me.” (Philippians 4:13)

“My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

And Jesus says this:

 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

 Let it sink in, dear sweet mom.

Stop living tortured by guilt of the past, and know that if you are God’s child, Jesus does not condemn you, and you should not condemn yourself.  He is the great Restorer.  He is here to give you mercy and grace, to take away the guilt that paralyzes you.  He takes you by the hand and says, “Daughter, rise up and walk!”

Has guilt frozen your effectiveness as a mom?  How can you let Jesus free you today?

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3 Ways for a Mom to be Mentored

 

Training is available for just about any career in America, from burger flipper to top executive.  But many of us are thrown into our most important job, mothering, without any guidance at all—and when we want it, it can be hard to find.

Maybe you live far from family.  Or your relationship with your mother is tense.  Or she’s no longer living.  Or you are a Christian and she’s not.  Do you sometimes feel like you are walking alone?  How do you find women who can advise you on this amazing, exhilarating, crazy, hard, even (at times) painful path of motherhood?

Remember What Your Mom Did Right

My husband and I agreed when we married that our goal was to take the best things our parents did and build on them to make something even better.  (I hope my kids do the same, for the record.)  Your relationship with your mom may not be perfect, but focus on what she did right and emulate those good things.  If she really didn’t do anything right, use it as reverse mentoring: consider her an example of how not to be and determine to break the pattern and change your family tree.

Look to God, the Best Parent 

Read the Bible and notice: How does God parent us?   How can you apply those principles to the way you raise your babies?  The older I get, the more I notice the grace God extends to me.  I ask myself how I can extend that grace to my kids.  What does the Bible say specifically about parenting?  Learn from the best!

Seek Out Moms You Admire

Maybe you notice a wise older woman who has done a great job with her kids.  Or someone closer to your age who seems to know what she is doing.  In our culture, there is a shortage of those women the Apostle Paul mentions in Titus 2 who should teach us young chickadees how to love our husbands and children, but we can still cultivate relationships with women who are willing to tell us what they know.  It doesn’t have to be a formal mentoring relationship, just seek these women out, befriend them, and ask them questions!  Be assertive!  I’m so thankful for those women in my life who are willing to put up with my questions and share their wisdom!

What about you?  Do you find it easy or hard to find mom mentors?  How do you find ways to be mentored?  


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Raising Strong Kids in a Fifty Shades World

Are you reading Fifty Shades of Grey?  I’m not.  Dannah Gresh sums up my thoughts pretty well.  (And if you don’t know what the buzz is about, hop over and read her post.  I’d like to keep my blog closer to PG.)

As I’ve listened to the conversation on blogs and Facebook, I’ve found it ironic: In a day when women are supposedly freer than ever before, they are falling all over themselves to read an erotic tale of pain and subjugation.  Because no matter how “consensual”, a lifestyle that includes the purposeful bondage and hurt of another is degrading, sinful, and abusive.

We can trust Jesus with our children.  If not, it would be a scary time to raise kids.  How will they navigate relationships and marriage in a world where books, movies, and one-click porn have made disordered sex mainstream and taught young people to expect and even crave it?

We parents of young ones can’t wait and see.  As we trust God, we must also be proactive.

Even before the Fifty Shades phenomenon, I saw parents react to our perverse culture in two radical ways.  On one end of the spectrum—admittedly the less popular end—I have seen parents over-shelter their children.  I believe this sets their kids up to be victims.  In this paradigm, loving parents want to protect their daughters by assuming all-encompassing responsibility for their protection even into adulthood.  This results in naïve young women who can’t defend themselves.  Also in this paradigm, guys are sometimes emasculated as they rely on rule-keeping and parental involvement to keep them from sexual sin.

On the other end of the spectrum are parents who give their kids no guidance about relationships.  The children are left to figure it out on their own.  They are discipled by the culture, AKA thrown to the wolves.

I’m certainly not an expert, but I propose that a middle way might be wisest.  We should seek to create strong, stable family structures that will shield our kids from the worst of the world.  But we should seek to raise our children to be strong individually as well.  They are not ours to keep forever.

Here are some questions we might ask ourselves about our kids.

Are my children discerning?  Our kids should be trained to spot obvious signs of a predator, but they should cultivate that spiritual sixth sense that says “danger!”  Foolproof?  No.  But important in today’s insidiously deceptive society.

Are they spiritually mature?  Are we teaching them to walk closely with God?  Do they know God’s Word and recognize ideas that oppose it?  Are they “God’s friend,” who can hear his voice?  A deep faith and spiritual toughness won’t happen by accident.

Do they have a secure identity?  Do they look to anyone—man or woman—for self-worth, or are they fulfilled in their position as God’s child?  Do our girls understand that beauty is a gift but it’s not what gives them value?  Do our sons understand that manliness isn’t about lust, sexual prowess, and domination, but about being God’s guy and stepping up to the plate to respect women?  Does their worth come from performance or from God alone?

Have they received unconditional love at home?  Really.  Do we parents love them even when they mess up?  Do we extend grace as God has extended it to us?  Do our kids have to go elsewhere for total acceptance?

Are they both strong and gracious?  Scripture tells us to couple truth with grace.  In a hostile world, have our kids learned to defend their convictions firmly while seeking to hear, understand, and extend compassion to the other side?

Are they sexually confident?  The world SCREAMS to them about sex and relationships.  This is no time for parents to be shy.  As we teach our kids to make moral choices, they should know what they are saying “no” to and what they are saying “yes” to.  Parents should be specific without being inappropriately graphic.  Our kids should know that they can ask us anything, because if they can’t ask us they can sure ask Google.  You won’t like what they find there.

My children are not grown yet.  I might get it wrong.  My kids will make poor choices—hopefully not lasting ones.  There are no guarantees.  But parents, I do know this: God is on our side, and we can’t afford to be passive with our children when there’s a Fifty Shades world ready to devour them.  So let’s raise them strong.

How about you?  What are you doing to prepare your kids for the world they live in?

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The Making of a Reading Mother

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I had a Mother who read to me.

~from The Reading Mother by Strickland Gillian

I did have a mother who read to me.  Constantly.  We had no TV or videos growing up, and reading together was one of our favorite forms of entertainment.  We usually had a book we were reading in the morning (usually a biography), a book we read together after lunch, and a bedtime read-aloud.  We wore out at least one set of Little House on the Prairie books.  I am guessing we read that series together a dozen times.

But when I became a mom, it was REALLY hard for me to read to my kids.  I just didn’t enjoy it.  Read to myself?  Sure.  Read to the little ones?  Zzzzzzzzz…

I did read my oldest the Happy Little Family series when she was about four.  That was fun.

But for the most part I really could not stand reading aloud and I guess I convinced myself it was not that important.

To be honest, I am not sure when my attitude changed, but it was a process.  I noticed how my daughter’s reading proficiency exploded after she listened to many audio books.  My reluctant reader son started to appreciate books after I made a commitment to read to him.

I just made myself do it.  I promised myself that I would read to them at least a little each day.  Every now and then we miss a day, but most days each of the younger ones choose at least one book and I read to them for a little while.

It has become the highlight of their day.  We pile up on the couch with a favorite blanket and enjoy great stories together.  Even the busy baby wants to join us.  It is not easy to read while he wiggles and climbs everywhere, but he is learning to love books.  He will pick up a story, say “Book!” open it, and “read”: “Bababababa!”  We have no idea what he is saying, but he knows that books have words and he wants to share them!

I have come to understand that there are not many childhood problems that can’t be fixed or at least helped with a good read aloud.

Child hates reading?  Read aloud.

Child needs attention?  Snuggle and read aloud.

Child is sick?  Cuddle and read aloud.

Child is sad?  Choose a funny story and read aloud.

Child is discouraged?  Grab an encouraging adventure and read aloud.

Child is anxious?  Pick an inspiring biography and read aloud.

Child is lagging behind in school?  Find great living books (yes, even for math!) and read aloud.

Child has spiritual needs?  Open the Bible to its great adventures and read aloud.

Child wants world peace? 

Well, OK, maybe it doesn’t cure everything!  But it comes close!

I have grown to really love reading to my kids.  In fact, I hate that I don’t have time to do it more.  But I am excited that in this way I can lay a foundation for literacy, feed their souls, fill their minds with the best thoughts and ideas, and create memories by this one simple act of reading aloud.

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Dear Young Mom of the Future: My Promise to You

Dear Young Mom of the Future,

I may not know you yet.  Right now you might be five years old, dressing your baby dolls and pretending you are a mommy.

It’s such a good thing for little girls to dream of.  Being a mom is the most wonderful thing in the world.  It’s also hard.  I’m in the trenches now and I love my kids more than life itself.  But I want to remember what it’s like.  Dear, sweet, overwhelmed young mom of sixteen or twenty or twenty-seven years from now, here is my promise to you.

I will be your friend.  I will come to your house uninvited with a nourishing meal and dark chocolate in hand, and I will clean that house for you.  I will fold the laundry and wash the crusty piled-up dishes.  I will rock your fussy baby so you can take a shower and a nap.  I will blow bubbles and color with your preschooler and help your third grader with his homework.  I will take your kids to my house for the afternoon, if you wish, so you can go to the gym or have a lunch date with your husband or have a Bible study or read a novel or take your grandmother to the doctor or go grocery shopping or buy lingerie without a vocal 3 year old in the fitting room.

I will not judge you, inwardly or outwardly.  If your floors are sticky, your bathrooms are dirty, your closets are disastrous, and you haven’t found time to shower today, I will not look down on you.  I get it.  Some of us are naturally organized and driven and manage to get most of it done, and some of us are just plain overwhelmed.  I will not put on a plastic smile and then secretly tell my best friend what a slob you are, I will not make snide “helpful” comments, and I will not self-righteously imagine that I would never have let this or that go like you have.  I will extend grace to you, just like God has extended grace to me.

I will pray for and with you.  I will lift you up to God, who loves you and your husband and your kids more than you can imagine, the One Who can aid you far more than I can with my paltry suppers and babysitting.  I will pray His blessings over you, spiritually, physically, and in every other way.  He is the best Helper of all.

I will understand how passionately you love your children and how much you want the very best for them, and yet how it sometimes seems like too much.  I understand that you really think you should be like that softspoken mom at the park who obviously has unlimited patience and guides her children with grace every moment (which is a fallacy, by the way—no one is that perfect).  You can confide in me.  When you yell at your toddler who just WILL NOT STOP WHINING, and you are eaten up with guilt and shame and the fear that you have completely failed as a mother and that if anyone knew they would agree that you are a bad mom and that you have ruined your child forever…I will come alongside you without judgment, I will listen and reassure you, and I will help you learn tools to handle that frustration.  And hopefully a bit of assistance from me will be the safety valve that keeps you cool in the meantime.

I will be glad to share the bits and nuggets of wisdom I have learned in the trenches, but I will understand if you choose not to always put my advice into practice.  Sometimes it is just too much, and maybe you are so exhausted that you can’t remember what day of the week it is…or postpartum depression has a hold on you and you have spent the morning on the bathroom floor crying while your toddler watches one TV show after another…or my suggestion just feels like one more guilt-inducing obligation you should fulfill to be a good mom…or there is a generational divide I don’t understand…or it’s simply not the right choice for your family—that is OK.  I am not the Holy Spirit and I don’t want you to feel pressured to follow my ideas.

Young mom of the future, maybe right now I am where you are.  I am tucking these memories away for you.  The good memories, yes.  Sticky hugs and kisses, sweet nursing babies, snuggles and books on the couch, “You are my favorite mom ever,” trips to the zoo.  Memories of the most precious parts of being a young mom.  And I am also saving the other memories: the exhaustion, the messy house, the not enough time, the sticky floors and piles of laundry, the feeling overwhelmed and wondering sometimes just how I am going to get through the day.

Don’t worry, dear young mom.  Help is on the way!

With Love,

Stephanie

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Mama Self-Care: Our Surroundings

I have a special treat today!  I asked my sister Leah to guest post on the topic of caring for ourselves by taking care of our homes as the final post in this series.  Leah is the most dedicated and loving wife and mom I know.  I want to be her when I grow up!  Enjoy!  (And check out her blog here!)

Webster’s dictionary defines home as “a house, a close place, or a place of rest.” It goes on to say, “The primary sense is probably to enclose, to cover, or to make fast.” I love that! In my mind, I picture a medieval castle, a fortress against the stress and grime and ugliness of the world. This is something that, as moms, we create for our families, but before that, it is something that we create for ourselves. Our home is our domain, our castle, our safe place.

I don’t think that it’s going too far to say that creating a home is a way of feeding a woman’s soul. This is what we were designed to do. And so the way that we create or don’t create our “place of rest” can have a direct impact on our health and well being, our mental state and how we feel about ourselves. Speaking from experience, when my castle crumbles, the rest of my life quickly follows. I am by no means an expert in this area, but here are a few things that I am learning about being a home-maker.

It must be a priority. This means saying no to a lot of things. I heard someone say the other day that every time we say yes to an outside activity, we are saying no to our homes and families. Of course, this is a place that we must find balance—we must certainly never sequester ourselves away and refuse to engage the outside world—but I am learning that I must put first things first. At this particular time in my life, with four children under eight years old, that means that I don’t do a lot of lunches and shopping dates with friends. But at the end of the day, when the living room is not in chaos and we all have clean clothes to wear the next day, I am much more relaxed and peaceful than I would have been if I had spent the day at the mall while my home fell to pieces.

Clutter is your enemy. Seriously. Treat it like the deadliest snake you can imagine. It will never completely go away, it will be an ongoing battle, but don’t ever stop fighting! Maybe it doesn’t affect everyone the way that it does me, but as a minimalist, I find that when the house gets too full of stuff, I start to get depressed. I recently had the opportunity to spend a week in a place that is extremely cluttered, and by the end of the week I felt like a mental case. If this is an area that is a struggle for you, start small…create one clutter-free zone in your home. Maybe it’s a whole room, maybe it’s just one corner, maybe it’s just one area of your kitchen counter. Or the top of the refrigerator. Just have one place that you can look at when things feel overwhelming that is clean and simple. Then you can add another zone, and another.  Empty space is good. I actually feel peaceful when I have some blank walls and empty corners in my home.

In my house, I don’t allow toys in the master bedroom. Every morning, I make the bed and straighten the room, and throughout the day, when I need a place to breathe, this is where I go. Just two minutes in a peaceful space recharges me!

Home-making doesn’t have to cost money.  Your biggest tool, decluttering, is free. In fact, you can have a yard sale with all of that stuff that you cleared out and actually make money from it! But then beautify your home with what you have. Several years ago, I lived in a tiny farmhouse that was literally falling down around us. Money was somewhere between tight and non-existent. Some of my floors were just exposed plywood and I didn’t have two pennies to put into decorating. I spent several months feeling discouraged and overwhelmed and just “getting by” in the housekeeping department. Then one day I decided to pull myself out of the rut I had fallen into and look at what I did have rather than what I didn’t. First of all, I rearranged the furniture. Then I took a baby quilt that my mom made for one of my kids and hung it on the living room wall with thumbtacks. I had a pair of old, rustic shutters that I had gotten at a garage sale for fifty cents and I hung them on another wall. I picked some wildflowers and stuck them in a glass of water. Then I swept and dusted, and you know what? That shabby room sparkled to me! I went on to do the same thing in the master bedroom and the kitchen, and I ended up absolutely loving that little house. It may not have impressed anyone else, but it was my haven.

Fill your home with music and God’s Word. Hymns and praise music are free on www.pandora.com and they provide such an uplifting backdrop to the nitty-gritty of family life. Write scripture on index cards or scraps of paper and place it around the house where you read it often. I like to tape encouraging verses in my kitchen window to read while I wash dishes.

Don’t expect perfection. I tend to be a perfectionist, so this is something that I work on daily. People are more important than things!  Yes, I want my home to be a place of order that nourishes my soul, but if keeping it spotless keeps me tied in a permanent knot, then I have completely defeated the purpose of home-making. Having small children has forced me to relax about things like cobwebs, dust and crumbs on the floor.

Take time every day to enjoy your home. I often get so caught up in my to-do list—some days in just surviving—that I forget to enjoy what I am working so hard to create and maintain. I try to take a few minutes each day to sit down (preferably in a fairly uncluttered room) with a cup of coffee or a book or some knitting and just be, just enjoy my sanctuary.

Take advantage of online inspiration but do not fall into the comparison trap. Sites like pintrest and decorating blogs can be incredibly inspiring, but they can also cause discouragement and guilt that your home doesn’t measure up. I am learning to be very, very aware of this. I start to get depressed over the fact that I don’t have fabulous window coverings or that my boys don’t have a bunkbed that looks like a pirate ship or that I simply do not have the time to craft artsy little candle holders to put on the mantle…and that discontentment totally steals my joy. Which brings me to my final and most important point…

Cultivate a thankful heart. This, for me, is key.  Whether I have much or little, whether I live in a spacious three-bedroom or a micro-house, whether I can afford curtains and rugs or not…God has given me this home and it is my privilege and my joy to turn it into a soul-nourishing haven. When I start looking—really looking—at what I have with gratitude, it changes my attitude about everything. It gives me inspiration and energy to make my home what it is intended to be, which is a life-giving space.

Here is my home-making formula boiled down: Live simply. Cultivate beauty. Praise God.

Here are the other parts in the Mama Self-Care Series:

Part 1: Spiritual Self-Care

Part 2: Taking Care of Our Bodies

Part 3: Creatively Feeding our Souls

Part 4: Relationships

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Mama Self Care: Relationships

The other day I was reading one of my favorite blogs by a wise and loving mom with a lot of kids.  But she was expressing sadness that she has no one near her age who is part of her life.

I kind of wanted to cry for her.  It is SO easy to get so bogged down, especially those of us with big families, that we fail to nurture friendships like we should.  Thing is, God has created us for friendship, relationship, community, connection—yes, even you, introvert!

We may not be able to have the intensive BFF friendships that we did when we were single women, but we must make time to squeeze friendships into our lives!  Here are a few ideas.

Text or email “How are you doing?” or “I have been thinking about you today.”  Even if you only have a second, let your friend know she is on your mind.

Throw some PBJ and cookies in a bag and meet a friend and her kids for a picnic at the park—even if it’s just an hour every now and then.

On your way to run errands, meet a friend at the local fast food place during the morning hours when it’s not busy.  Drink something yummy and let your kids play while you visit, even if it’s just for 30 minutes.

Get involved in a small group at your church.  Hopefully you already go to church anyway—it is so worth it to go a bit earlier or stay a bit later and build friendships with other Christians!

Kid swap.  Keep her kids so she can go shopping for the morning or have a lunch date with her husband.  Then trade and let her do the same for you.

Leave her a facebook comment or like.  I know Facebook is controversial and a lot of people feel that it sucks too much time away from mothering, but I find that it is a quick and easy way to stay connected to friends.  It can mean the world to a young mom when she gets a quick comment of encouragement or understanding.

Reach out to someone new.  Another great use for social media.  Touch base with another mom that you don’t know very well.  Extend a hand of friendship.  You never know what might come of it!  She may need a friend even more than you do.

Don’t forget your most important earthly friendship, your husband!  It is so easy when you are in the throes of motherhood to let your conversations devolve into, “Guess what, Junior used the potty today!”  Remember what it was like when you were dating and newly married and talked about everything.  What are you interested in besides kids?  What about him?  Make an effort to talk to him about those things.  Send him sweet texts during the day, make time for sex even when you don’t feel like it (yep I said it!), and do fun things with him.  Keep your relationship strong!  It’s one of the best things you can do for your husband, your kids, and yourself!

You may feel too swamped or even depressed to pursue a friendship.  Maybe you have been hurt by others before and you are afraid that will happen again. Honestly, though, just take baby steps–if you keep trying you won’t regret it.  The only important things in life are Jesus and people.  So stay connected to others!

This is part 5 of the Mama Self-Care series.  You can find other posts in the series here:

Part 1: Spiritual Self-Care

Part 2: Taking Care of Our Bodies

Part 3: Creatively Feeding our Souls

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