How Much Should a Mom Minister Outside the Home?


Tug of war.  That’s what comes to mind when I think of this question.  On one end of the rope, I see this narcissistic, household-consumed version of myself who dreams about Pottery Barn bedding and pre-school drama to the neglect of all the people beyond the four walls of my home.  On the other end of the rope, I see this frazzled, crazy version of myself delivering homemade casseroles to every sick family in church while my own kids eat microwavable corn dogs in front of the TV.

How do we find balance?  I always assumed I just needed to find the “middle of the rope.”  Which is a very vague way of saying, “just try harder to be, well…balanced.”  If you could see my schedule now, I think it would look fairly balanced on the outside.  I serve in two different ministries at church, which helped me say “no” to serving in a third ministry outside of church.  We spend a few evenings a week with others, and a few at home by ourselves.  But the truth is, this isn’t really an outward question.  It’s not a logical, “what does your schedule look like?” kind of question.  It’s an emotional and spiritual question, often laden with guilt, presuppositions, and preferences.  A heart question.  And as we all know, our schedule can look ship-shape while our heart is in turmoil.

On Sunday night I dropped my kids off at our church nursery so I could serve at a youth event.  It was a whiny, reluctant drop-off because “What?!  So-and-so-friend isn’t here tonight?!”  Being the godly mom that I am, I promised them each a cupcake when the event was over, and said good-bye.  As the youth band played I thought about…my kids.  And my kids, and my kids, and my kids.  “Oh God,” I prayed, “I want to be present here tonight.  I want to serve these high school students.  Help me recognize that I’m called to more than just my family.”  And as His peace washed over me, a new thought occurred.  Maybe ministering inside and outside the home aren’t on two different ends of a rope. Maybe, in God’s perfect design, they actually work together to make us better at both

Think about it like this: how do we become the kind of women who have the character and wisdom to shepherd those outside our home?  By first being faithful inside our home.  A reader once referred me to an article in which a married blogger was reluctant to have children because she didn’t want to shortchange her ministry.  The blogger explained that when she got married, she felt like she took a “back seat” to her husband in ministry.  The last thing she wanted was to have children and be rendered entirely invisible at their church.  The blogger’s conclusion was to abandon gender roles, whereby she and her husband could do all things interchangeably.

The reader who referred me to this article was understandably confused by it.  “Is this the right perspective?” she asked me.  In my opinion, no.  It’s not.  I can say that with confidence because the Bible flips this perspective upside-down.  In Titus 2:3-5, Paul instructs, “Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live…Then they can train 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.”

Clearly, God is passionate about the home.  So passionate, in fact, that one of the chief ways he wants women to minister to other women is by training them to be faithful in the home!  How can we fulfill this mandate if we’re never home learning these lessons ourselves?  In this way, our home isn’t an obstacle to ministry, it’s a platform and training ground for it.

On the flip side, I also believe that as we embrace God’s calling to serve those outside our home, we become better wives and mothers to those within the home!  Think about it like this: what message are we sending our children if we’re constantly consumed with them?  More importantly, is it a biblical one?  Growing up, my mom imparted many lessons to me without ever saying a word.  As she counseled sobbing women on the sofa, I learned that she was more than just my mom, and that there were things that were more important than playing tea party with me right now!  I learned that there was great suffering in the world, and one of the ways we could love Jesus was by loving others.

So how do we find balance?  I think it begins with that popular word we all love so much…submission.  If you resent the way your family limits your freedom in ministry, you need to submit to the biblical truth that God has called you to serve your family, trusting that as you obey Him, He will groom you to more effectively minister to others.  If you idolize your family to the neglect of the rest of the body of Christ, you need to submit to the biblical truth that the best way to love your family is to make Jesus primary, trusting that in doing this, you will be a better wife and mom.  Either way, the answer lies in submitting our own preferences and personal agendas to Christ.

Here are a few practical questions I’ve been stewing over as I check my own heart:

  • Do I regularly meet my husband and children’s needs for love, attention, and affirmation?  If they were honest, what would they say?  
  • Is the way that I manage our household a blessing or a burden to my family?
  • Does it concern me when I hear that others are suffering?  Does my prayer life reflect this concern?  Do my actions?
  • Am I open and sensitive to God leading me to serve others, or am I quick to assume “I’ve got my hands full”?
  • Is there an area outside my home where I have felt burdened to serve God, but have not obeyed?   Is there an area outside my home where my husband has challenged me to serve God, but I have been unwilling to even consider it? 
  • Has my husband, or a spiritual mentor, ever suggested I may be over-committed in ministry, to the detriment of my family or my own well-being? 
  • Why am I motivated to serve my family and others?  Am I motivated by love for Christ, or love for myself?

Clearly God has called us to both the home and those outside of it.  That can only mean these two mandates are not at odds with one another, but rather, working together to make us the women he wants us to be.  Forget tug of war.  Instead, picture a bicycle with two pedals pumping in unison.  One propels the other forward, and vice versa.  It’s the only way the bike can balance.

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Paper Bag Scrapbooking

P1060601When one of my crafty MIL’s friends visited last week, she left us a surprise: all the materials necessary to make our own paper bag scrapbooks.  Say what?  My thoughts exactly.  As someone who abandoned old-fashioned scrapbooking the moment I discovered Shutterfly, I never imagined turning a lunch bag into a keepsake.  But my five-year-old was enchanted.  Every day, from dawn ’til dusk (and once at 4am in the morning), she asked if we could make her paper bag scrapbook.  So, we did.  Turns out, we love this kid-friendly craft!  It’s simple enough to finish in a few hours, and full of customizable options (paper, photos, stickers…) that will leave your little one with an extra-special keepsake.P1060612

You will need:
3 small paper bags
hole puncher
ribbons (to bind your book)
scissors, glue (or double-sided tape)
scrapbook and/or construction paper
any other scrapbook embellishments

1. Fold your paper bags in half.  Open them and punch two holes down the middle crease.  Thread three strands of ribbon through the holes and tie in a bow on the outside of the scrapbook.

Use any color paper bags
Use any color paper bags

2. Decorate each page of your scrapbook any way you please.  My daughter loved picking which pictures went first, and what paper and embellishments went with them.

3. Use the pages with the top portion of the paper bag as “pockets.”  We filled some with photos, and others with hand-drawn pictures. P1060618

4. Other pages will include the bottom portion of the paper bag (the rectangular part that makes it stand upright).  You can either glue this part shut, or use it as a little flap to include captions, small stickers, or “surprise!” photos. scrapbook

You can see both sides of the paper bag in this picture - the "pocket" and the "flap."
You can see both sides of the paper bag in this picture – the “pocket” and the “flap.”

In the end, your final product will look something like this: P1060621 P1060620 P1060619 snowman

Oh…and like this!

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What Everyone Should Know about Raising a Child with Special Needs

When Dana Hemminger asked me to review her new book about raising a child with Down Syndrome, I readily agreed.  Knowing Dana’s blog, I knew the book would bless me.  But to be honest, I was motivated for one other reason: sheer curiosity.  BookCoverImage

In 1987, Emily Perl Kingsley coined an analogy to describe the experience of raising a child with disabilities.  In the analogy, pregnancy is like planning a trip to Italy.  Parents eagerly pack and dream and make preparations with Italy in mind, only to deliver their baby and realize the “plane” has landed in Holland.  Naturally they’re shocked, grieved, and confused.  Nothing is as expected.  But eventually, as they learn to adapt, they realize Holland is beautiful in its own way.  Dana borrows this analogy for the title of her book, Reflections from Holland.  

The Shameful Truth
Here’s what we moms who have only been to Italy don’t like to admit: Holland scares us.  We’re curious about it because, on some level, we fear that a journey there might destroy us.  Much of that fear is due to the fact that Holland is entirely unknown territory.  But these past few weeks, that changed for me.  When I sat down with Dana’s book, I thought she was going to teach me about raising a child with Down Syndrome from a biblical perspective.  And she did.  But she did so much more than just that.  Dana invited me onto the plane with her.  She let me climb inside her heart and journey to Holland, beginning from the very moment her pregnancy test was positive.

DSCF9075_editedAs a result, reading Dana’s book felt like reading her diary, and I found myself unable to put it down.  The lessons weren’t grouped in clever phrases or listed in simple steps.  Instead they were woven into her life.  Shimmering on the surface of her tears.  Rising from the ashes of her prayers.  They were everywhere.  In the big moments when Benjamin endured open-heart surgery at two months old, and when his parents (and I!) cried as he finally took his first steps at nearly four years old.  And the lessons were in the small moments, when Dana opened a Christmas card with “perfect” pictures of a friend’s baby, or listened to her 8-month-old daughter say “Mama” before her 4-year-old son had ever said it.

What Everyone Should Know about Raising a Child with Special Needs (or Why You Need to Read This Book!)
Of all the things I learned from this book, 3 things especially stand out:

Ignorance is hurtful.
Before reading Reflections from Holland, I had no idea how many medical challenges Down DSCN2189Syndrome can present, including hearing and vision loss, heart problems, seizures and more.  I knew it caused developmental delays, but I underestimated those as well.  By the time I had journeyed with the Hemmingers in and out of hospitals, through multiple forms of therapy, and heard their desperate prayers for their son, I, too, felt the sting of insensitive comments like: “Just wait until he does learn to crawl; you’ll be wishing he didn’t!”

In one of my favorite chapters, entitled “Help that Hurts,” Dana gives several examples of ignorant comments like this, and graciously explains why they are hurtful.  I was so grateful for this knowledge.  In my opinion, it is invaluable.  As the church, one of our greatest callings is to minister to people in their suffering.  But sometimes we have no idea how to do that, because the form of suffering is so foreign to us.  Educating ourselves is crucial in becoming equipped to love others as Jesus does.

Everyone will face disappointment in parenting.
This book is about so much more than Down Syndrome.  The reality is, we are all going to face disappointment in parenting, whether or not God calls us to Holland.  This book is about experiencing God in the face of that disappointment.  It’s about laying our plans and our dreams on the altar, and delighting ourselves in God’s will for our life, even (or perhaps especially) when it’s not what we had in mind.

Hope in Christ withstands every storm.
In other words, you can do more than survive Holland; you can thrive in it.  When it came to parenting Benjamin, almost nothing went according to Dana’s plan, from the smallest details of the delivery to the greatest challenges presented by Down Syndrome.  For some people, this DSCF8919would justify lifelong resentment and bitterness.  But there was one crucial key to Dana’s ability to thrive in Holland–she made Jesus her treasure.  She chose to treasure Christ more than milestones, or expectations, or appearances.  And in so doing, she found great comfort, overflowing promise, and abundant reasons to rejoice.

This is a book well worth every mom’s time.  Initially, when I sat down to write this review, I was going to say that by the time you close the last page, you will feel like Dana is a close friend.  But perhaps it’s more fitting to say, by the time you close the last page, you will wish you had a friend like her.

For more from Dana Hemminger, visit her blog or buy her book on Amazon.

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Peanut Butter Princess

Peanut Butter Princess
with sticky-icky hands,
and 27 crowns
and twice as many fans!

Put on plastic heels,
clatter through the house,
smear peanut butter fingers
on mommy’s satin blouse.

Dance on daddy’s head
at the crack of dawn,
put lipstick on your eyebrows,
wave your hotdog wand!

And I will wear a tutu
and laugh until I cry;
My Peanut Butter Princess,
I’ll love you ‘til I die.

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