Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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Guest Post: From Deserts to Gardens

For this week’s mentor Monday, I’m overjoyed to have a guest post Debra from As I See it Now.  Debra has been one of my favorite encouragers for years.  A mom of an adult daughter, she has much wisdom to share with us.  Thank you so much, Debra!

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So there I was… out in the hot Nevada desert in 1989, newly-moved into a mobile home in a town far from any shopping malls, with 9-year-old Naomi and my husband, Tom, who worked four days farther out in the (bleak) desert then stayed home for four. Well, when things went smoothly. Often he worked longer stretches.

In that dried-up place, complaining about the heat, the sand flying in my face, the lack of scenery and fun things to do was easy. And since Nevada is the most transient state, even church people hesitate to form friendships with new folks who’ll just probably escape soon, so I felt ultra-isolated, as well.

I’d been a positive person, but in Nevada?  I caved-in and became morose. Naomi would leave for school and then I’d let myself go– I’d complain by the hour and for whatever reasons, I began sewing clothes for Naomi even though I hated sewing.  I gave-up trying to make friends (I’d always been shy) and instead, became passionate about writing letters to faraway pen-pals. 

Tom made more money than we needed, but spending it never cheered me up. (Wild, huh?)

Around noon each day, a cold, inky blackness seeped over me, nearly choking me and I’d try to run away by taking walks or driving to the supermarket where I’d pray someone would smile at me. Anyone. Then Naomi would arrive home from school and I’d force all these shattered pieces of myself back together for her sake, for I didn’t want her to remember a childhood with a depressed mother.

Most likely, being cheerful for her probably did much to save my mind. 


Finally, after some negative-minded, wasted years, I asked God to show me why I was so miserable. 

Oh dear. God told me my attitude stank. I wanted things He didn’t want for me and I complained about what He’d already given me (so why should He give me something better?). Resentment filled me with bitterness and spoiled the chance of new friendships, delights and adventures. 


He showed me I could have found happiness by telling others hello at the supermarket rather than waiting for them to show kindness toward me. 

After all, it is in giving that we receive. 


But most of all, He showed me the way to a rich life is to seek to know Him. Not just about Him, but to know Him so intimately that I feel Him beside me at the supermarket, the movie theater, the coffee shop. Everywhere.

Slowly God walked me out of depression. He helped me renew my mind so that I’d see things His way, not the world’s way (the world is so clueless and reactionary). And He showed me that His joy is my strength–lose that joy and I’m, well, sunk.

How different the past 18 years have looked! Oh, I’ve experienced the occasional bad days, but never has that inky black depression returned. God set my feet upon solid ground of His peace and joy and the desert in my soul vanished: He replaced it with a well-watered garden.

Facing truth about myself set me free, indeed. And that Truth wants to do the same for anyone who’s ready for a whole new life.

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

Better Mom Monday

Miscellany Monday

Hear it, Use It

On Your Heart

Soli Deo Gloria

Heart +Home Gathering

Titus 2sday


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Mentor Monday: My Friend Gina

Never underestimate the power of friendship in the life of someone else!

At age 17 I had just been through the one of the most painful and difficult times of my life as my family had left a legalistic, spiritually abusive religious organization.

Not only that, but I was at an awkward stage, without any direction for my future.  I didn’t have a job (long story), wasn’t going to college at that point (another long story), and was basically at loose ends.  I was depressed.  Life felt meaningless.  I had no confidence that I could do anything.

That’s when I met Gina.

We started attending the tiny church in our equally tiny East Texas community.  Gina was our pastor’s wife.  A few years older than me, she was pregnant and on bed rest with her fourth baby.  I jumped at the opportunity to give her a hand.

Like my friend Natasia, Gina mentored me just by being who she was: a faithful follower of Jesus, a loving wife and mom, and a kind friend.

She reached out to me and believed in me.  I remember her suggestion that I apply to substitute teach at the local public school.  It was beyond my comprehension that anyone would think I was capable of doing such a job.  That one small comment boosted my confidence a thousand fold.

I noticed how she interacted with her children—loving them, caring for them teaching them.

One small statement she made changed the way I viewed children altogether.  She mentioned in passing that her goal was to help her children become independent.  I came from a narrow subculture where the goal was actually to keep children dependent on their parents as long as possible (strange as that may sound), and it was revolutionary to me that independence was a worthy goal.

We became good friends.

The best part is that after Gina and her husband moved away, they introduced my husband and me.  If our friendship wasn’t set in stone before, it certainly was then!

She also recommended the Bible study Search for Significance to me, which completely turned my life upside down in the best way, and helped me grow from fearful and insecure to strong and confident in my identity in Christ.

And after coming from a religious background that eschewed makeup, she gave me my first Mary Kay samples and showed me how to apply it.  (I owe her!)

She’s still one of my very dearest friends.  I go to her with questions about everything from teaching my kids to read to how to talk to my children about sensitive subjects.

Not only that, but four of her nine children are the same ages as four of mine—and they are close friends too.

What a joy to continue that legacy of friendship!

So you see, Gina didn’t necessarily set out to mentor me in any kind of rigid, planned fashion.

She was just my friend.  And because she was my friend, she changed my life.

Who has mentored you just through their friendship?  Who can you befriend today?

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

Better Mom Monday

Miscellany Monday

Hear it, Use It


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Learn to Love Getting Older

As my birthday approaches in a few days, I remember that I love getting older—really.

I even have a “Naturally Gray” Pinterest board.

I think youth is overrated. 

Way overrated.

I don’t really like the person I was 10 or 15 years ago.

Not to say there’s not still plenty of room for growth now—there is.  I look back at the fearful, judgmental, immature, socially inept girl that was me and I thank God that he didn’t leave me stuck in that state.  My body might have been better but my soul was a mess.

My dream has always been to be a wise older woman.  Every year I grow a little closer to that goal.

What I didn’t count on is that growing wiser means regular attendance at the school of hard knocks.

Years ago when I set about to grow, I realized this truth: Growth means pain.

When you have a lot of dead wood that needs to be lopped off by pruner’s shears, just look forward to some pretty cutting circumstances.

That knowledge helped carry me through tough times though.  Even now when I’m going through difficulty I sometimes whisper to myself, “Growth means pain.”

There are a couple parenting-related things in particular that have been bitterly hard.  I begged God for years to remove them from my life.  They stayed.  I got mad.

(It’s OK, read Psalms, David got mad at God too.  He said something along the lines of “Just shoot me now!”  So raw, honest feelings are OK with God.  Really.)

I was pretty mad for a few years.

Then I realized something.

Those brutal, painful circumstances had forced me to grow in grace as a mom.

In fact, they revolutionized the way I mother. 

Not only that, but without that particular grueling situation, it’s unlikely that I would have grown in that area at all.  It took something dramatic to unseat me from my ingrained patterns of thinking and behavior.

The situation was hard, still is in a lot of ways.  It involved other people.  I’m not saying God caused the pain.  But he sure as heck used it.

Another year older, another year wiser.

God is slowly changing the circumstance that has been so hard, but mostly he is still changing me.

He’s making a new, improved version.

Seriously?  I wouldn’t trade all the youth in the world for that.

Why do you like or dislike growing older?  How have you  matured with age?

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

On Your Heart

Soli Deo Gloria

Heart +Home Gathering

Titus 2sday


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Mentor Monday: My Friend Natasia

Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of your influence, even in a short amount of time.

I only knew Natasia for a few months before we lost touch.

She was a young pastor’s wife at a local church we attended very briefly during an insanely difficult time in my early teens.

She was my mom’s friend, really.  I mean, I was there.  But I was a kid.

She was classy and beautiful, but that is not how she impacted me most.

She always spoke to me with interest and respect.

She didn’t treat me like I was little or silly.  She took a genuine interest in me.

She was even my pen-pal for a little while after we moved away.

She’ll never know what an impact she had on my life.

(Well, maybe she will.  I’ve gotten back in touch with her family through Facebook.  Have I mentioned that I LOVE Facebook?)

She was an example of faith and grace.  She loved her husband and her future children.  She had a great story about her commitment to wait for the guy God had for her.  During a time when it was easy to feel disillusioned with Christianity, I remembered her kindness, her love for Jesus, and her authentic life.  She inspired me to want to be like her.

Later, as a young pastor’s wife myself, I often remembered of the kind of pastor’s wife she was.  I knew she was the kind I wanted to be.

She mentored me just by being who she was.

Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of your influence, even in a short amount of time.

 

Have you ever had someone who mentored you just by their example?  What about someone who influenced you through just a brief friendship or contact?  Share in the comments!

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

Better Mom Monday

Miscellany Monday

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Has Mothering Burned You Out?

Today’s Mentor Monday is not by a mom, but a dad: Jeff VanVonderen, who is also a seasoned pastor, counselor, and writer.  Jeff’s writings have been essential in my growth, particularly as I came out of legalistic religious organizations and belief systems.

“[T]oo often…the work we do as Christian spouses and parents is not the right job at all. 

We focus on “unspiritual” or wrong behavior, then we set out to apply pressure, control behavior, and do everything in our power to change our spouse or children. 

As I have seen with numerous couples and families, this is the primary cause of exhaustion, depression, and the hopeless sense of wanting to bail out of it all.  When people spend their lives trying to transform their spouse and their kids, the natural results is tiredness and discouragement and the desire to quit…

The first step is easy—if we will do it: We must learn the simple difference between God’s job and ours. 

God knows you have done the best you could, using the tools you’ve had.  But God may be…saying to you, “I can see that you’ve worked really hard to help me and to please me.  But—I don’t quite know how to tell you this—you have been burning yourself out doing a job I never meant for you to do…”

I am talking about learning how to be continually empowered by God’s grace, and therefore able to empower your spouse and children to learn and to grow.  And to do that, we have to make the frightening step of giving up our fear of people and our drive to conform outwardly to what other Christians expect of us, or seem to.

God’s job is to fix and change.  Our job is to depend, serve, and equip.  This is the work of grace.  And it is more restful than you can imagine.”

~Families Where Grace is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Mentor Monday: Mrs. Ferre

“My training to serve God began in the school of prayer, which is the strongest power on earth. 

As my mind wanders back into my childhood days, and memories unfold as pages in a book, I remember how Mama brought us eight children up on prayer.  She served it both as a full-course meal and snacks in between.  There was no escaping from this order.  It was the only contact between heaven and earth, so when one wanted to commune with God, one must pray…

Mama was impatient in her praying.  She was never willing to wait for things, but expected an immediate answer…

To Mama, prayer came as easy as breathing.  Even if she knew people termed her prayer method strange and naïve, it never seemed to bother her.  She kept on praying that the cake she had placed in the oven would not fall and that the food would stretch a long way because there were so many to feed at the table. 

And there was the long line of people who depended on her help and came to ask her to take their problems to God for them.  Those people surely believe that God would answer them through Mama.  They felt that in some strange way she was “in” with God and that He would grant her what He would refuse them.  So prayers would be sent out for a quick sale of their house, for a husband to be kinder to his wife, and children to recover from their colds. 

I often heard her prayers and saw the people coming, and I never remember one who went away disappointed.  Things did change when Mama talked with God.”

~Mama’s Way by Thyra Ferre Bjorn

The example of Thyra’s mother influenced her children to follow God.  Mama’s Way is a little book about prayer that tells about the fruit that was borne in her life because of her mother’s example.

It challenged me to set a better example to my children in the area of prayer.

Do you pray in front of your children?  How do you set an example that will inspire them spiritually?

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Linking to Better Mom Mondays

On My Heart

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Mentor Monday: Sally Clarkson

From Sally Clarkson’s wonderful book, The Mission of Motherhood:

It may well be that our children are not academically gifted, athletically brilliant, or socially inclined.  It may be that our marriage is conflicted or broken and cannot provide the stability we might wish for.  Our finances might be in a mess, or our income may be insufficient to provide the material possessions our children want.  Or perhaps we feel that we don’t have a supermom personality and have a hard time just holding together normal life.

If we focus on intellect, social status, or wealth, it’s almost certain that we will eventually feel we don’t quite measure up.  How comforting, it is, then, to realize that the goals God has called us to as parents are accomplishable.

Any parent in any station of life has the ability to reach his or her child’s heart for Christ and his purposes.  All that God requires from any of us is a desire to serve him and a trust that he can make up the difference for the things we lack.  The Lord would have us know that he is the one ultimately in charge of our children.  He will use our willingness and our efforts, then fill in the gaps of our inadequacies, to prepare their hearts for what he has in mind.

Every Monday I quote or have a guest post from a veteran mom.  Although I have never met Sally, her writing is a continual encouragement to me.  She has raised four children who love Jesus and their family.  Read Sally’s blog here!

Past Mentor Mondays:

Unconditional Love: Edith Schaeffer

Raising Your Children With Honesty and Good Communciation: Guest post by Debbie Wilson

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What Does Unconditional Love Look Like?

Over the years, I have seen MANY parents lose their relationships with their children.

Today on Mentor Monday, I want to share what Edith Schaeffer says about this in her book, What is a Family? 

Here she tells us how to avoid this relationship loss.

A child needs to grow up knowing that love never faileth, that not only will Dad and Mom stay together in spite of each of their weaknesses as well as strengths, but that the door will always be open, the “candle in the window” will never go out.  Love doesn’t say, “If you ever do that again, never come home.”  Love never faileth.  Love keeps that door open, the light waiting, and dinner in the oven–for years.  This is the love a family demonstrates in its formation center.

Can human love be perfect?  No, but it is meant to be worked at through the years, and it is meant to portray something, within the family, of the love of God for His Family of children.  “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).  The loving-kindness of God toward us has been demonstrated not when we were being good, but in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Then how can an earthly father or mother demonstrate love to children by saying such things as: “Unless you are good, I won’t love you”–”If you sleep with a girl [marry that person, have a baby, get into drugs], the door is shut forever to you.  Don’t ever darken my door again!”?

…the “never failing” is meant to go on during our time in the land of the living.

~Edith Schaffer, What is a Family?

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4 Ways to Raise Your Children With Honesty and Good Communication

I’m so excited to have my first ever Mentor Monday!  Today, my friend Debbie Wilson kindly shares some of her insights into raising children.  I learned so much from her–I hope you enjoy it too!

In Deuteronomy 11:18-21 it says, “Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking  in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night.  Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities so that you’ll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth.” The Message

Steve and I have three grown children that we raised to be very healthy, God loving adults, spouses and parents. How did we do it?  Definitely by trial and error and we watched many couples that were ahead of us and seemed to be raising great children.  We wanted to learn from God and others that were doing a great job.  With those two ingredients, we formed what we believe was good for our kids.

Growing up in my generation the saying “children were meant to be seen but not heard” was the case.  We wanted to hear our children’s hearts and give them the freedom to ask us anything and we chose to give them honest answers according to the age they were.  I believe that the scriptures in Deuteronomy speak of exactly that.

It is our responsibility to teach our children truth and instruction.  If we chose not to, the world will teach them!  That is very scary to realize what the world is teaching society today.  Therefore we have to take seriously what God has instructed us to do.  Here are a few ways that we taught our children:

1. We built a very safe environment for our children to ask anything they were curious about.  We never laughed at them or made them feel embarrassed or belittled by their questions.  This is extremely important to be able to talk to your kids about everything.

If you are not approachable, they will find someone who is.  You absolutely want it to be you and then you must take the time to give them your attention and your wisdom on what they are asking.  Kids ask why all the time and because we are impatient or just too busy, our pat answer is “because I said so!”  That statement will leave your child feeling so insecure and unimportant in your life.

If  you are not happy with the friends they are choosing, maybe you need to look at whether you are taking the time to talk to them and answer their questions and curiosity.  When our middle son was in 3rd grade, he came home one day and asked if Steve and I were getting a divorce?  I asked him why he would ask that and he said his friend at school told him that his parents were getting a divorce.  I remember Steve and I sitting down and explaining to him, at that age, that we were committed to each other and that no matter what happened in life, we would work through it.  If he had not felt he could ask that question, he would have lived with the anticipation that one day the same thing would happen to us.  When was the last time you thought about what your children may be thinking as they watch others, TV and any media?  They must have safety and freedom to ask questions….give them that!!!

2. We dated our children.  We had 2 boys and 1 girl.  The most influential person in your child’s life is the parent of the opposite sex. 

I have influenced my boys greatly and Janae has been influenced by her Dad. Knowing that we wanted them to grow up staying pure and having a healthy view of dating, marriage and sex, we took the time to teach them about that.

Steve would take Janae out on dates from the time she was 4.  It was the highlight of her life.  She would dress up, twirl and talk about it for days.  Steve wanted to teach her how a man should treat her so that she never compromised in that area.  Boy, did it work.  She married at 24 and her husband is identical to her Dad in the way he treats her.  She was a virgin when she married because she and I talked often about sex and what could happen when she went on a date and how to avoid getting into bad situations.  As her wedding approached, she would often say “28 days til sex” as she counted down the days to her wedding.  She has a healthy marriage and sex life because we prepared her in every way to see it realistically and view it as a gift from God.  I never had that from my parents and it would have made a tremendous difference in my life if only my parents would have talked honestly to me!

I must also include that your children are watching your relationship.  If you don’t model love in the way your treat each other, they will act out more on what they see than what you are telling them!!  Be careful!

 3. We provided “safe” nights for our children.  Many of you may not agree on this but we did it and it provided ways for us to know what was going on in our children’s lives.  Periodically, especially as they were young teenagers, we would have a “safe night” talk.  This meant they could tell us anything and they wouldn’t be punished for it.  It was amazing.  They told us things that had already happened but it gave us the opportunity to discuss it with them and help them know how to handle that situation in the future.  We also then knew where they were being influenced and how to keep them from those situations.  Our grown children today talk about how wise that was of us!  I can honestly say that only God could have given us the insight to know how to do that.

 4. Lastly, we very much believe that Rules without a Relationship will always lead to Rebellion.  You cannot enforce rules all the time and not build a healthy relationship with your children.  The relationship with your children is the key to the success or lack of success in your children’s lives.  They want to be taught by you, loved by you, valued by you, hugged by you, guided by you, and prayed for by you!

PLEASE see your children as God’s greatest gift that he has entrusted to you.  Slow down, be patient and take advantage of every moment you have with your children.  The time will go by so quickly and you can never get it back!

Debbie Wilson

Debbie and her husband Steve are the founders of Marriage Matters Now, and their passion is seeing marriages transformed.  Check out their web site!

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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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