I’ve never loved the “Mama Bear” analogy. When I think of “Mama Bears,” I picture moms who bite teachers’ heads off, and elbow their way through crowds so their kids can get the best seat at story time. I’d much rather be a Mama Swan, peacefully gliding through life with all my little cygnets in a row. But I’m not. I’m the Swan-faced mom with the heart of a Grizzly.
The truth is, you don’t have to be loud and obnoxious to be a Mama Bear. You just have to care too much about the well being of your family. You have to idolize it. To bow down and worship it, so that if anybody in your household isn’t okay, nothing’s okay. You see, the thing about Mama Bears is that deep down, we long to control our universe so that we can protect the people we love. If we’re Christians, on some level we know this is impossible. But that doesn’t stop us from trying. How can we stop trying? Then things might really fall apart. So we spin our wheels endlessly, longing for that moment when we can take a deep breath and say, Life is good. Nobody’s in the hospital. Nobody’s having nightmares. Nobody’s miserable at work. Of course, this kind of peace is fragile as an eggshell. It’s like building your home on a foundation of toothpicks.
And boy, is it exhausting. I knew there would be a lot of work in becoming a wife and mom; I just didn’t realize how much of it would be done with my heart instead of my hands. The more people we add to our family, the more my heart has to carry. Worry, concern, love, joy, pain, affection, fear. I don’t even want a dog, because I don’t have the emotional capacity to care for one more living thing! There are days when my husband walks through the door with a heavy expression on his face, and I want to hold up a hand and say, “I’m sorry!! The anxiety meter has reached maximum capacity. Put one more burden on my plate and I will drop dead right here in the kitchen! Then you’ll have to finish cooking.” Instead I usually opt for the quick-fix: “What’s wrong? Just tell me. Tell me now.” Maybe I can slap some gospel truth on this one real fast and check it off the list before the spaghetti sauce burns.
But it doesn’t work that way for one simple reason. I’m not Jesus. All my outward attempts to “fix” our universe are just that—outward attempts. They’re the toothpicks straining under the weight of the house that will always crush them flat. I still remember the day Clint looked at me and said, “Can you just let me be not okay? Can you just love me when I’m not happy?”
But if you’re not okay, then I’m not okay, I thought. And just like that, I finally got it. Wanting him to be okay was never really about him. It was always about me. I didn’t want to abide with him in a season of long-suffering. I wanted it over. Fixed. So that I could go back to being happy. I’ve known that Mama Bears (like me) are protective and controlling. But this was the first time I realized we’re also selfish. So selfish, in fact, that we’re willing to short-circuit what God wants to do in someone’s life, just so we don’t have to endure the discomfort of watching it.
When little Susie has no friends at school, Mama Bears (like me) don’t want to walk the long, painful road of teaching her to trust Jesus. We just want to make the heartache go away. We want to throw a block party and invite every 5-year-old in Georgia. But what if God destined this to be the first time little Susie turned to Jesus with a real problem? What if this heartache set the stage for her first experience of believing God and seeing Him act on her behalf? Isn’t that worth a little suffering? For Susie…and Mama Bear?
But the only way we will become the kind of woman with the ability to abide instead of fix, is if we abide in Christ. David once sang, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Ps 46:1-2). Don’t you long to have such assurance on the day your private mountains fall into the heart of the sea? On the day your husband loses his job? Or the pediatrician says you need to see a specialist? Or your grown child phones to tell you she’s getting a divorce?
I guarantee you, Mama Bear longs for it. Because she understands life on the other side. She lives in the house built on sand, and even on the good days, she fears it’s sinking. I wish I could say it’s easy to pick up that house and plop it down on the Solid Rock of Christ. I wish it was a one-time thing. But it’s not. It is a moment-by-moment choice to yield and to trust. Then, and only then, can we minister to our families with the sort of love that says, “Come as you are, messy and in pain. I will abide with you. As long as it takes.”
You know the saying, “If you wait until you’re ready to have a baby, you’ll never have one”? I’m not entirely sure I agree. I agree with the heart of the sentiment: no one is ever totally “ready” to become a parent. That’s the beauty of it–parenting changes you. You don’t have to have all the maturity necessary to complete the journey right from the get-go, because the journey itself will develop that maturity within you.
But I think it’s unwise to suggest you don’t need any form of readiness before becoming a parent. Let me be the first to admit, when I discovered I was pregnant with my firstborn, I had all the enthusiasm of Barney and all the readiness of Bart Simpson. My thoughts went something like this, “A baby!! Ooooh, polka dot bedding!” Suffice to say, there was a steep learning curve when she arrived.
In hindsight, I think there are 3 factors that can make the transition into parenthood a lot easier or a lot more difficult.
Personal Maturity We will never be perfect. But the last thing we want to do is have a baby in order to fill a personal void in our lives. Children were never meant to “fix” us. They do not cure loneliness or mend weak marriages. In fact, they do just the opposite–they apply pressure to the already weak areas. Furthermore, it is ourcalling as parents to shepherd them, not vice versa. And sadly, we cannot give what we don’t have. Which begs the question: Am I in a good place spiritually? How is my marriage? Am I battling any addictions or enslaving sins? Am I involved in Christian community? The goal is not to seek perfection or works-based righteousness. It’s simply to evaluate our hearts before the Lord, recognizing that the call to parent a human being is a serious one.
Financial Readiness I think the big thing to consider here isn’t dollars and cents, but what living situation you will have to adopt in order to support a baby. In other words, what will this look like practically? Will we both have to work and put our child in daycare? If so, how do we feel about that? Will one of us have to take a second job? Or drop out of school? How much will we see each other? My husband was in his last year of graduate school and only working part-time when our first child came along. We chose to use up a portion of our savings for one year so I could stay home and he could finish school. It was a costly decision financially, but it protected our marriage and reduced the stress in our household. The question is: Can we make it work financially and still maintain a healthy family life?
Outside Support This can go a long way toward protecting and even boosting those first two categories. If the budget is tight but Grandma and Grandpa live in town, you’ve just saved yourself a wealth of babysitting expenses. If you’re going to be a stay-at-home-mom and you already have close friends, you’ll probably be a much happier one. Outside support allows you time for yourself, time to get in the Word, date nights with your husband, and clean laundry when you’re too tired to do it yourself. It’s not a necessity, but it will greatly impact the ease or difficulty with which you transition into parenthood. Do I have outside support in this season of life? Do I live near family members who are willing to help? If not, do I have close friends who are trustworthy? Can I count on my husband to be a source of support? Is he excited about starting a family, or have I coerced him into it?
Final Thoughts I actually wrote this article several months ago and set it on the back-burner for one main reason: I see the potential for discouragement. What if you’re already pregnant, and one or all of these factors aren’t in place? Dear friend, that was me. Our first baby was a big surprise. We were far from family and hardly in a good place financially, with a lot of growing up to do. But guess what? We survived. Better yet, God used it mightily to accomplish His purposes in our lives. If there’s one thing I’m learning to treasure in my life, it’s the blessing and sanctification that only comes through difficulty.
If you’re in the same unprepared boat I was in six years ago, don’t lose heart! You can take steps to grow in each of these areas. Simply seeking godly community, either through church or ministries like BSF, will help you develop outside support and personal maturity. Turning to the Bible and godly mentors will help you make wise decisions regarding finances and lifestyle changes.
But most of all, remind yourself that only God creates life. From the beginning of time, He has ordained everyday of this precious child’s life! (Psalm 139:13-16). And He has chosen you to parent this child, at this time, for His great glory. Surely, you can trust Him to equip you. As Isaiah once wrote in a song of praise: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal!” (Isaiah 26:3-4)
This summer we spent one magical day at the happiest, sweaty-est, most crowded place on earth. When my 4-year-old asked if we could go home before we even made it out of the parking lot, I felt the first wave of dread. In the end it really was a special day, but with all my newfound Disney knowledge, I feel compelled to share the top 5 things that can make or break your next visit with Mickey.
#1: Arrive at the Park One Hour Before it Opens Did you know it takes nearly thirty minutes to get from the parking lot to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom? Yeah, me neither. Those thirty minutes include one shuttle ride followed by either a monorail or ferry ride. If you’re in the parking lot one hour before the park opens, you’ll probably be through in twenty minutes. If you arrive when the park opens you’ll find yourself waiting in the parking lot with hundreds of people who are more than willing to shove a 2-year-old out of the way to beat you onto the shuttle. If (like us) you are also trying to cram a jogging stroller onto said shuttle, you may as well just set up camp. Now I know what you’re thinking: if we make it to the entrance so early, what are we going to do until the park opens? Before the ropes drop, the very front of the park is actually open. Characters often greet guests, and if you go into the visitor’s station, people celebrating a special event—even if it’s just their first time at Disney—get a free button, guaranteeing a little more attention from staff. And just imagine how many rides you can get in when the ropes do drop and everybody else is elbowing their way onto the shuttle in the parking lot.
#2: Reserve Your FASTPASS Experiences Ahead of Time Every guest is allowed 3 free FastPasses. This means, you may choose 3 attractions in which you bypass the regular line. A-mazing. The FastPass line usually takes 5 minutes or less. But if you wait until you’re at the park to sign up, you’ll find yourself standing in line at a FastPass kiosk for hours. Moreover, the only times available for the popular rides will probably be after 8pm. Instead, you should reserve your FastPasses online or through the My Disney Experience App. Guests staying at a Disney hotel can book their FastPasses up to 60 days in advance; all other guests can book them 30 days in advance. When you enter your selections, you’ll be given different time options. If you’re vacationing in the off-season, choose early time slots because as soon as you use up your 3 FastPass experiences, you can reserve more. If, however, you’re vacationing during a hot, busy season (like summer), choose afternoon time slots when you’ll be the most exhausted. If the park is crowded, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to reserve additional FastPasses. My last piece of FastPass advice—don’t waste them on older rides like “It’s a Small World” or “Dumbo.” Those lines are always relatively short.
#3: Book a Character Lunch If you’re vacationing in the busy season, make a lunch reservation! There’s nothing like bypassing a monstrous crowd and stepping into a gloriously air-conditioned restaurant. We opted for a character lunch, and it surprised me how much our preschool (and even school-aged) gang loved it. Back when I was a kid, characters roamed the streets of Walt Disney World, but not anymore. Now, you have to stand in line to meet virtually anyone. Greeting characters while you eat is the best of both worlds. It entertains the kids and makes you feel less bad about skipping the 2 hour line to meet Rapunzel. As far as options for character dining in the Magic Kingdom, there are only two: The Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh’s gang, or Cinderella’s Royal Table with several princesses. Both have pros and cons. The Crystal Palace is cheaper and easier to book. (Cinderella’s Table usually fills six months in advance!) A lot of reviewers think the food is better at Cinderella’s palace (for $60 a plate, it ought to be!), although the Crystal Palace is buffet style, which is nice for starving, impatient preschoolers.
#4: Visit Dumbo’s Secret (Indoor!) Playground This is the best kept secret at Disney. If you need an afternoon pick me up that doesn’t involve money or sugar, go to the Dumbo ride. The line begins outside, but quickly takes you through a tunnel into a blessedly frigid play place. It was designed to entertain kids while they wait for the ride. On busy days a hostess offers you a buzzer (just like at a restaurant) and your kids can play while you wait for the buzzer to go off. But even though we went at the peak of summer, the line wasn’t long enough to necessitate the buzzer. So the hostess simply gave us the option of playing or riding Dumbo. I literally watched kids sobbing as their parents hauled them away from the playground to ride Dumbo! That’s how appealing a cold playground can be on a scorching summer afternoon!
#5: Go Lightweight with the Gear
I packed a backpack you’d need American Ninja Warrior biceps to budge. I wanted to be ready for anything, but we quickly learned less is more when you’re hiking through a hot theme park on foot. Skip the Gatorade bottles and disposable water bottles. All you need is one refillable bottle because every restaurant is required to fill your water bottle for free. Hot, melting snacks aren’t as appealing as you’d think, so only pack a few. If it’s summer time, it’s worth investing in a pair of real UV sunglasses for the kids and packing sunscreen. Finally, (unless you plan to rent one) bring a stroller. We opted for a jogging stroller thinking it’d be more comfortable, but the truth is, exhausted kids aren’t picky. Take the skimpy umbrella stroller and it’ll be much easier to maneuver, especially on and off the shuttle!
Any tips to add?? Leave them in the comment section below!
America has long been hailed as the land of opportunities. Every decade they seem to grow exponentially. Do you want to start your own business? Self-publish an e-book? Become a YouTube rock star? It’s never been easier. But we aren’t the only ones with ever-widening opportunities. Our kids are growing up in a world few of their grandparents could’ve imagined. No longer is summer about trading baseball cards and kicking around a soccer ball. It’s about science camp, ballet lessons, downloading Apps, online gaming, and gluten-free, dairy-free, GMO-free snacks in BPA-free containers. Options. If there’s one thing we have as parents in the 21st century, it’s options. Which is a good thing, right?
A few months ago we went to a restaurant in Kentucky that served only grilled cheese sandwiches. How they took America’s simplest sandwich and came up with 58 options on their menu is beyond me. But I’ll say this, I felt like my brain cells were shrinking as I spent twenty minutes trying to pick a grilled cheese sandwich. Yes, options provide opportunities, but they also complicate life. As parents, they create an undercurrent of pressure. We want (and often feel compelled) to give our kids everything. Every advantage, every opportunity, every collectible My Little Pony Equestrian doll. We want to nurture every talent, support every interest, cater to every preference. Because after all, isn’t that what the Jones’s are doing?
This summer I agonized to the point of insanity over school options for my eldest. Did I mention she is entering pre-K? As in pre-Kindergarten. As in the grade before the grade in which you spend 30% of the day coloring. But you know what? I love my daughters. This is why I agonize. But it’s not the only reason I agonize. I also agonize because I don’t trust God. And because I idolize my children’s well-being. And because I’m arrogant enough to want to be the best mom in the world.
Last month my husband suggested we read a little book by Kevin DeYoung called “Crazy Busy.” (Hmm…I wonder why he thought we needed to read that??) Among other things, the book presents seven diagnoses to consider regarding our crazy busy lives. I was especially struck by diagnosis #4: “You Need to Stop Freaking Out about Your Kids.” (Kevin’s words, not mine!) He cites a survey conducted by Ellen Galinsky in which more than a thousand school-aged children were asked what one thing they would change about how their parents’ work affected them. Parents were surprised to find that the children seldom wished for more time with them. Rather, the vast majority wished their parents were less tired and less stressed. DeYoung borrows the term “secondhand stress” to describe the way children feel in a constantly frazzled environment. Listen to this:
“By trying to do so much for them, we are actually making our kids less happy. It would be better for us and for our kids if we planned fewer outings, got involved in fewer activities, took more breaks from the kids, did whatever we could to get more help around the house, and made parental sanity a higher priority.”
The first time I read this, I had to re-read it. Wait a minute—did he just say take more breaks from the kids?Get more help around the house? By doing these things, I may end up being a better parent for them? I found myself exhaling. In the tightrope of parenting, it felt like someone had just cut me some much needed slack. If DeYoung is right, and what my kids really want (although they are too young to express it) is a mom who is at peace, then maybe I don’t need to feel so guilty every time I drop my girls off with a babysitter. Or throw a pizza in the oven and pop in a movie. Maybe these aren’t the “survival” choices, but occasionally, the better ones. The ones that de-frazzle the week, lower the hyper-high-performance bar, and give my kids the sense of calm they ache for.
Maybe all this goes to show that parenting ought to be less about doing and more about being. Less about co-sleeping debates and pacifier anxiety, and more about becoming a woman centered on Christ. Less about performance and guilt, and more about daily finding hope in the grace of the gospel. Because despite the fact that my kids still beg for the things everybody else has, one day when they look back on their childhood, they’ll remember more than all the activities and opportunities. They’ll remember what kind of home they had, be it peaceful…or crazy busy.
In case you’ve been wondering, I haven’t been abducted, just sick! Our busy schedule is winding down as summer approaches, and all at once my body is exhausted. So last night, when my kids’ MMO program offered childcare and a free ticket to the new movie Moms Night Out, I was right on time.
I hadn’t seen a single trailer and had no idea what the movie was about, although for free childcare I would’ve seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The movie began by introducing a clean-freak wannabe Mommy blogger barely holding it together in the crazy, messy chaos of her world. Yikes. If I had red hair (and a nicer house) it would’ve been like watching the story of my life. At one point, the main character tells her husband something like, “This is the life I always wanted. So…why do I feel so unhappy?” So much work, so much exhaustion, so little sense of self. That was what her life looked like. And boy, could I relate to her. I could relate all the way down in my bones. And as I watched her story unfold, it struck me that all these feelings must be much more common than I realize.
Patricia Heaton (of Everybody Loves Raymond) plays the wise and like-able pastor’s wife, who gives us a glimpse of mothering a teenager. When I realized her husband was played by Alex Kendrick (think Facing the Giants, Courageous…etc.) I’ll admit I had a moment of “eesh, I hope this isn’t cheesy.” And you know what? It was, at moments. There were spells of over-acting and slapstick humor. But there were also truly hysterical moments, that prove you don’t have to be crude to be funny. And more importantly, there was a sense of resolution for the main character, a recognition that maybe a lot of the discouragement and discontentment in motherhood comes from expectations we heap upon ourselves. The unrealistic standards that nobody (except you) expect of you.
Is it Oscar worthy? Of course not. This movie has been trashed among Hollywood critics. But for the first time in a long time, I left a movie feeling like my heart had been a little bit refreshed. I left a movie grateful for my messy life, and not longing for the romantic adventure of Charlize Theron’s sexy life. I left a movie without the slightest twinge of guilt over the things I’d just seen and enjoyed. And to me, that’s a pretty good moms night out.
There are so many things I do just because. Because that’s the way my parents did it. Because that’s the way everybody does it. Because that’s just what you do. But daily I am growing more convinced that just because living is not only foolish, but dangerous. The Bible calls us very clearly to a single purpose–that everything we do, say, think, believe, desire, accept, reject, love, and hate must glorify God so that His name will be great in our lives and among the nations. If that is the mission then everything we do or don’t do must be filtered through that lens.
Around this time of year, moms often ask me whether we “do” the Easter bunny. And I offer a very vague response. “No, I never grew up with the Easter bunny.” I’m vague because I know the Easter bunny is not sinful, in and of himself. I know that many parents who are passionate about Jesus and His mission, choose to surprise their children on Easter morning with a basket of gifts from the Easter bunny. I know that to many it is a special, even magical, family tradition. And I know that of every people group on the planet, no one heaps as much guilt upon themselves as mothers. Our hearts are fodder for guilt. And the last thing I ever want to do is fan the flame of false condemnation.
So hear my heart when I say, I’m not writing as Super-Mom or Super-Holier-Than-Thou-Mom. Those things disgust me, because they’re lies. They discredit all Christ’s work in my life. I am writing as a sister, who is learning something that I want to share in love: We don’t do the Easter bunny because we don’t think the Easter bunny is the most effective way to glorify God at Easter.
It’s not the bunny, so much as the gifts he brings. A few weeks ago, we took our kids to a downtown festival. Disaster. Much of it was poor parenting–we didn’t set limits in advance or warn them that we weren’t going to ride, play, eat, and buy everything in sight. Suffice to say, it was miserable. On the way home, my husband made the remark that the festival was like Sin City for kids. It had everything they desired. It catered to all their cravings. And the more they consumed, the more demanding and ungrateful they became. In essence, we thrust them into temptation without any training to stand up under it.
The Bible warns against putting obstacles or “stumbling blocks” in the way of a brother or sister (Rom 14:13, I Cor 8:9), and this is my greatest fear when it comes to the Easter bunny. If the gospel is the most important message I can ever convey to my children, and if their understanding of it and receptivity to it determines the satisfaction of their life and the security of their eternal home, then why would I put any obstacle in their path that may distract from the gospel? When my girls hear the word Easter, I don’t want them to squeal in delight because their first thought is that a bunny will bring them a Barbie doll. And I know my girls. I know that just like their mom, their flesh is weak toward materialism. I know that just like their mom, they constantly seek false refuges for satisfaction. Just like their mom, they’re tempted to believe that things can fulfill them more than Jesus can fulfill them.
I know that only God saves (Jn 6:44), but I want to set my daughters up to see the gospel by creating a home where as few things as possible compete with it. My daughters have a mother who still believes that television and the latest Pamela Schoenewaldt novel is more satisfying and restful than Christ. They have a mother who still studies the Bible like it’s suggested summer reading. Who still can’t even wrestle her own weak flesh out of the bed to meet with the God of the universe. It is hard enough. It is hard enough to grasp the magnitude and implications of the gospel. It’s hard enough to shake the worldliness out of our vastly diluted cultural Christianity. Why add one more opportunity for our kids to turn the focus of Easter into a focus on self?
Let me, please, pour out this confession in closing: sometimes I don’t want to write anything to you because I am so deeply and painfully aware of my own failure as a Christian. If only you could really see me (I’m talking Nanny-cam see me), you would never feel threatened by me. Instead, you would say, Man, God is INCREDIBLE to have not given up on her.
And that’s why I have the confidence to write to you. Because God is incredible. His grace is incredible! We still do Easter egg hunts and bouncy house family fun days, and a thousand other things every day of the year that could threaten to distract from the gospel. We are by no means that perfect family. We are simply growing by grace, and I want to share with you the things God is teaching me so that we can think together, worship together, and rejoice in the grace of God together.
In many Christian homes, the man of the house comes home from work only to plop down on the couch and turn on the TV. They are distracted at dinner. They are unmotivated in their role as a father and husband. Why don’t they seem to care?
This is a common problem, and it is not just deadbeats and sociopaths that fail to engage at home. Even sincere Christian men struggle with engaging at home consistently. I, personally, am deeply convicted about my responsibility as a husband and father, but I still have good days and bad days when it comes to being engaged at home. This article shares 4 reasons why I have struggled to engage at home.
1. Work goals and rewards are more tangible than family goals. Like most men, I like solving problems, and that makes me thrive in the work world. At my job, all of my goals are well-defined and the path to success can easily be broken down into tangible steps: “Do these calculations…fill out this report…” Sure, there are surprise challenges and delays, but at least the problems and the goals are well-defined.
At home, on the other hand, I sometimes get lost in what I am trying to accomplish. What are the actual steps that lead to a stable marriage or Godly children? Oh, how I want a formula for being a good dad and husband… “play two games of hide-and-seek on Mondays, bring flowers home for my wife every Tuesday, read Scripture at dinner, and voilà… perfect family.”
But, unfortunately, there is no formula for having a loving marriage or for raising Godly children. Only God can make our family efforts succeed. But God still intends for men to make plans and to lead their families the best that they can. I think that this is why I find it much easier to stay engaged at home when my wife and I have a clear set of goals for our family.
2. Men feel entitled to “veg out” after work.
When I was single, I could work really hard for a couple of days, and then just “veg-out” for a few hours to recover. But, now as a father and husband, I don’t have that luxury. But, I still regularly have days at work where the stress and pace really take it out of me. I often want to just come home and watch TV. Being entertained is so much easier than engaging. Sometimes, I even rationalize to myself, “Why shouldn’t I take a rest? I have worked hard all day. Don’t I deserve a rest?”
In general, the answer is no. I have a responsibility before God to actively love my wife (Eph. 5:25) and to train my children (Eph. 6:4). I only have a few hours after work each day, so if I am going to be faithful, I will need to spend most of that time engaging with the family. I don’t have the prerogative to regularly “check-out” from family time.
The times when I have succumbed to the temptation to veg out, are times that I have lost sight of how much I am needed at home and my responsibility before God. Also, when I find that I have nothing left to give my family at home, it usually means I am giving too much of myself at work (see next point for more on this).
3. Men make work an idol.
The line between doing my best at work and making work an idol often seems like a razor’s edge. I may start the week desiring to work hard for good reasons: to provide for my family and to glorify God with my talents. But by the end of the week, I have fallen into idolatrous motives — looking to my performance to give me significance and trusting in my own efforts to bring me happiness.
And as soon as I wrap my happiness and significance up with my work, I become a slave to success. Delays or setbacks at work continuously tempt me to work longer hours. Even when I come home, I keep drifting back into thought about how to solve those pesky problems at work, and how great my life will be when I overcome them.
The problem here is that I forget the Gospel. Christ has already accomplished the work that gives me significance. His death on the Cross has made me holy and blameless before him, a beautiful bride for Christ (Eph. 5:25-27). Also, I don’t have to trust in my own efforts to provide for my family’s needs. The God who made all things knows all my needs and cares for me; He will provide. He has given me His Son — how shall He not also give me all things (Rom. 8:32). When I keep these Biblical truths in my mind, I have much more energy left to give at home.
4. Men don’t take advantage of opportunities to meditate on God’s Word.
Anytime that I struggle to stay engaged at home, I probably have not been spending enough time meditating on God’s Word. Psalm 1:1-3 promises the following to those who regularly meditate on God’s Word:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
What an exciting picture! I long to be a husband and father who bears good fruit during each new season of my family’s life, and the only way that this will happen is if I regularly renew my mind with God’s Word. I’m happy to introduce another talented guest writer! Aaron Smith is a husband, dad, engineer, and blogger. He spends his days designing hydraulic systems, and his evenings at home with his wife Christel and their two children. In his spare time (or in his words, the time he should be sleeping!) he blogs at Faith and Life. Check out his blog, share it with your husband, and leave him a comment below!
I’ve meant to return to the subject of biblical womanhood for a while now. But always when I approach this tender topic, I see the faces of vulnerable women from a thousand different walks of life. And my words refuse to come together. But suddenly today, when I sat down to write, I saw just two little women. And when I thought about what I want to teach them about biblical womanhood, everything became a little more clear. Dear daughters,
Being a godly woman begins with surrendering your whole heart to Jesus. This means Jesus defines who you are–not your friends, the world, or even yourself. The Bible says that those who surrender their hearts to Jesus are blessed, chosen, holy, adopted, redeemed, favored, and forgiven (Eph 1:3-11). My precious daughters, no matter how you feel, or what happens to you, that is your identity.
Surrendering your heart to Jesus also means obeying Him. Often (just like your mom) you will be tempted to be the boss of your life, following your own wisdom. But the Bible says “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Cor 1:25). If you build your life around Jesus, submitting to the perfect wisdom of God, He will make you the woman He wants you to be, which is the true definition of biblical womanhood.
As you grow, you will learn that the world tries to define womanhood by outward actions and appearances. Many people believe beauty is the ultimate goal of womanhood. Our culture will tempt you to believe that the prettier and sexier you are, the more valuable and loved you will be. But this is a lie! I Peter 3:3-4 says that our main focus should not be looking pretty on the outside, but rather having a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious to God. Do you know what a gentle and quiet spirit is? The word “quiet” doesn’t mean you can’t be loud and bubbly (which your daddy and I find absolutely adorable.) It means your heart is as quiet and peaceful as a baby resting with its mother (Ps 131:2). You see, when you listen to Jesus’ opinion of you, you will not be anxious about fitting in or being the most beautiful. Your heart will be at peace. And that is true beauty.
Some people believe finding the right man is the ultimate goal of womanhood. But this will always lead to disappointment! If God wants you to be single, you may believe the lie that you’re less adequate than wives and moms. If He wants you to marry, you may believe the lie that a man can provide lasting fulfillment. My sweet girls, stand guard against both thoughts! God has always based biblical womanhood, first and foremost, on our relationship with Him, not men. If He does bless you with a godly husband, then respect, cherish, and honor that man, for he is a gift! But do not look to him for your ultimate hope and security. That is Jesus’ specialty alone.
Finally, my dear girls, beware of defining biblical womanhood by what you do. If you fall into this trap, you will forever be comparing yourself with others—how well you cook, clean, decorate, and discipline; whether or not you stay at home; how you invest your time and talents. This can only lead to pride, shame, guilt, and judgment. Always remember, biblical womanhood is about attitudes more than actions. It is about having a soft and submissive heart toward God and His commands. Most of God’s instructions in the Bible apply to both men and women. But there are certain passages written specifically for women (Ti 2:3-5, Eph 5:22-24, Prov 31, I Pt 3:1-6). Embrace the teaching of these passages with a grateful heart! They were not written to burden you with guilt, but to teach you God’s perfect will and design for women. He alone can, and will, empower you to be the woman He wants you to be. And in becoming what He wants, you will find the greatest freedom and joy.
I prefer to choose what’s easy over what’s best. There is a mentality in the little years that says, just get through it! In other words, the goal is survival. And believe me, I get it. What’s more, on many occasions, I live by it. It’s shortcut parenting, and it comes so naturally. Toss the insomniac newborn in a swing for six months. Bribe the stubborn toddler. Negotiate with the manipulative pre-schooler. But what I didn’t know, is adopting the shortcut mentality is like financing a mansion with no money down. Free today, and a nightmare when the cost catches up with you. When the insomniac baby outgrows the swing. When the easily bribed toddler becomes the out-of-control third grader. In contrast, the Bible’s mandate to train our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4) carries an opposite promise: even when he is old he will not depart from it (Pro 22:6).
I love myself more than I love them. I picked up one of my kids after a Bible study one morning only to have her erupt in a fit of tears when I told her to put on her coat. As the hallway began to fill and her teacher started singing a song about obedience (which made me want to die on the spot), I quickly muttered, “Fine!” and shoved the coat in my bag. On the walk to the car, I told myself I was just choosing my battles. But the truth is, I was choosing to act in my best interest instead of hers. Of course it was in her best interest to wear the coat in the middle of January, but more importantly, it was in her best interest to learn that defiance reaps discipline, and obedience reaps blessing. The Bible says that failing to discipline our children is like setting our hearts on putting them to death (Pro 19:18). It is the opposite of love, in fact Proverbs refers to it as a form of hatred: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Pro 13:25). Ouch! How’s that for a convicting verse? When I abdicate my authority to save face, I am loving myself more than my children.
I’m swayed by the opinions of the world. Several months ago, an article on my blog gained widespread criticism. It used the d-word (discipline) and it taught that children are born sinful, two things I quickly learned are not popular! While some people shared their differing opinions respectfully, there were many who did not. Months later, my heart still beats faster when I think about the influx of hate mail. I was attacked on the two fronts I hold most dear–being a mother and being a Christian. For several weeks, as I cried and processed the comments, I didn’t discipline my children at all. I was terrified that standing up to them was somehow abusive. In the end, it was my husband who helped root me, once more, in Scripture–an unchanging, solid ground in an ever-changing culture.
I’m earthly minded, instead of eternity minded. In the humdrum of daily living, it’s hard to remember that there’s more at stake than soggy cereal and wasted toilet paper. But as I read the Word, I’m constantly reminded that the call to follow Christ is not for the faint of heart! It requires denying our flesh, loving Jesus more than anything else, suffering for Him even to the point of death, and enduring until the end. Which means I must prepare my children to be persecuted. I must teach them to live for a greater purpose than pleasure. To do things even when they don’t want to do them, because they’re living for Someone whom the Bible calls us to love supremely. The crazy thing is, all this teaching takes place in the humdrum moments. It’s a lifestyle, which means our home is a training ground with eternal purposes, for eternal rewards. If the goal is simply to get them in bed by 8pm, then it doesn’t really matter whether or not you stand your ground in the details. But if the goal is teaching them to love and submit to the authority of Christ, then it does.
I fail to recognize abdication of authority as sin against God. When I was an education major, a Christian professor told me that our authority as a teacher comes directly from God Himself. Therefore, exercising godly authority is not merely an issue of being effective or maintaining order, it’s an issue of obedience to God. When I learned this, it changed the conviction with which I embraced my authority. As a parent, it’s easy to forget that the calling to be in authority over our children is a divine calling, invented and issued by God (Eph 6:1-3, Ex 20:12, I Tim 3:4-5). Slowly and uncomfortably, I am learning that to give it up for the sake of convenience, appearance, or my own feelings, is nothing short of sin against my Maker. (photo credit)