This is my story of how I came to know Jesus as a child and then again as a woman. I would LOVE to hear yours! If you don’t know Him personally or if you have questions, we would love to talk with you. Please send us a private Facebook message or feel free to comment here.
You know those iconic small stain-glass windowed churches nestled in rolling hills? I was blessed to grow up in such a church in upstate New York. A myriad of memories flood my mind as I think back to my growing years in that church. Such memories as being baptized in a nearby very cold creek and yearly Easter sunrise services held in the back field followed by a yummy breakfast.
The most important memory, however, involves summer camp. Every summer the church members made sure we kids went off to church camp for a week. Amidst the greased pig contest and polar bear swimming club, my heart softened and permanently declared an eternal relationship with the Lover of my soul, Jesus.
I remember stepping outside that night after my decision to trust Jesus as my Savior. I looked up at the starry expanse spread like a canopy above me. I was overcome that the Creator of the starry realm loved me. Little ole me. I felt like Maria in the Sound of Music just singing and spinning with a soaring spirit. I was so filled with joy I could burst! I felt sure Jesus and I could conquer anything that came my way.
Years slowly slipped away and that night at camp became a definite but distant memory. My adult faith roller-coastered from joy-filled to joyless. Soon, my cup of joy was depleted. While I was active in my local church and wearing my joyful Jesus girl mask so skillfully, deep down I was miserable.
Miserable looks different for each of us but for me, it was as if a toddler had taken paint and splattered it over a beautiful masterpiece. There was splattered paint of anger, depression, and abusive and erratic behavior. I staggered from the high of Sunday morning worship to the deep valley of despair by Sunday afternoon. I was on and off anti-depressants and sleeping pills. My marriage was rocky, and my children trembled in fear at my sudden rage.
Something needed to change.
The joy I experienced that night years ago seemed so elusive now, possible for others but not for me. When I looked at much of what was wrong with my life - my marriage, my parenting, my friendships - I realized I was the common denominator. I had lost the joy of my salvation. I was the Titanic headed for the iceberg.
I needed to change.
I was in the midst of a Beth Moore study. I had always been in awe of her vibrant, radical faith and wanted it, but thought she was blessed with something special, something that was not obtainable for the average follower of Christ. But during one session, it finally clicked! Christ’s abundant life is a promise for all believers, including me!
The smoldering ember of my faith caught a flicker of air and started to burn!
Like a marathon runner, I began to train my flabby spiritual self hardcore. Instead of just a Sunday morning accessory, my Bible became my constant companion and lifeline. I asked the Lord, “Change me. I am willing to do whatever it takes to have the abundant life You promised in John 10:10.”
The Four Steps I Took to Turn My Titanic Self from Destruction:
1. Developed a Personal Bible Study Time
I was as inconsistent as an unreliable car with my quiet time. So, I determined to get up each morning before my family and spend time with the Lord. When my rebellious flesh wanted to stay in bed a little bit longer; I would pray Psalm 42:1-2,
“As the deer pants for the water, help me long for You.”
2. Studied and Applied God's Word
I dug deep into James 3:13-18 and into the Proverbs, like Proverbs 29:11, longing to be counted among the wise instead of the fool who is controlled by anger. My constant prayer was:
“Make me wise, Lord. Help my tongue speak words of life, not death. Allow my hands to be hands of healing, not hurting.”
3. Really Fell in Love with Jesus
I asked the Lord to help me fall deeply in love with and trust Jesus. With a renewed hunger, I studied the four gospels and every account of Jesus’s interaction with everyday people. With new eyes, I saw His love and compassion and miraculous healing of EVERY kind of sickness and disease. I prayed,
“Help my unbelief! Help me know you love me as deeply as those You walked with all those years ago."
4. Claimed Resurrection Power
I understood Christ's power to overcome death was available to me as a believer, yet I let that power lie dormant. I knew the only way to overcome my angry, depressed, abusive self was to pray Christ's death-defeating power over myself and my weaknesses. My steady prayer was:
"I'm weak and helpless to change myself. Lord, please help me believe Your resurrection power can save me from myself!”
And slowly, unlike the Titanic, I veered around the iceberg and started to feel a change in me.
- I started having joy which lasted longer than a worship service.
- I was experiencing peace that no pill or brownie or latest purchase could bring.
- I began to love being a wife and a momma and a friend.
I. Am. Changed! (Happy dance!)
Finally, I am experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10:10! All because the same power that raised Jesus from the grave is still available to us today! I just needed to receive it and believe it! Life has not become a bed of roses since my radical transformation. But now the joy of the Lord is my strength! His strength makes me strong where I am weak!
Just like that night long ago, the Creator of the starry host still loves little ole me. Just as important, Jesus and I CAN conquer anything that comes my way. When given the chance, I tell all who will listen,
"Jesus saves, not only from the literal hell, but also from the hell inside of ourselves!"
That is the victory of the empty tomb, my friend. That is the victory guaranteed to each person who humbles themselves, confesses their sin, and accepts Jesus as Lord.
Oh my friend, it's NOT too late! You are NOT too far gone! The victory of the empty tomb is possible for you, also. If He can save me from a Titanic-like existence, He can do the same for you!
May you believe it and walk and flourish in the power of Christ's empty tomb this Easter and beyond!
More hype. Less calm. More glitter. Less reflection. More decor. Less enjoyment. Round and round and round the hamster wheel goes. It seems to turn a little faster each Christmas, drawing us a little further from the true reason for the season, Jesus.
Yet, in the midst of the crazy haze of the holidays, a gentle example whispers life to us from the Christmas story. When she considered all that had unfolded surrounding the birth of Jesus, "Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often." Luke 2:19
I've been on the hamster wheel. I get it. More was never enough. New quickly faded to old. Colors became "Oh, so last year." More time was spent trying to keep up with the world, while less time was spent pondering the miracles of the season.
Finally, I chose to jump off the wheel and adopt the K.I.S.S. (Keep it Serene, Sweetheart) mentality. So I could breathe. So I could enjoy. So I could ponder. I’m glad I did. The older my Terrific Three become, the more I realize they crave tradition and a peaceful home more than the hustle and bustle the world portrays as happiness.
Few things picture Christmas joy more than a relaxed and joyful woman. Here are 7 calm, reflective, and peaceful traditions I employ to K.I.S.S. each Christmas:
1. The Reflection - On December 1st, I put aside the bible study I am working thru and pull out an advent book for my quiet time. I light a candle, snuggle under a warm blanket, and reach for the book and my Bible to reflect on the wonder of this season. Such a peaceful way to start my day before crazy kicks in. During the day, I enjoy listening to Christmas podcasts from Revive Our Hearts as I clean or bake or sit in the carpool line.
2. The Tree - To me, white Christmas lights radiated pureness and serenity. My children loved colored lights and pleaded for “pretty” lights. Sigh. I told myself “It is just a tree. "Pretty" lights are an “easy yes” in the parenting department, Tammy.” So, we compromised. I would wrap multiple white strands of bliss and add a few strands of color. They were delighted. I chose to delight in their delight. After all, they are just lights.
3. The Decorating - I used to change my Christmas decor each year. Crazy and costly! Now, I choose to reuse my decorations each year and tweak one area. 2 years ago, I let the kiddos pick the tree theme and color. Last year, we freshened the mantle. This year, the top of the piano received a new look. But everything else is the same just arranged a little differently. We crank the Christmas music and whip up some hot cocoa. We then decorate together, meaning I pretty much leave it the way they choose to decorate their given area. Beautiful memories are built with low stress.
4. The Gifts - For some reason, I felt the need to give my children a flurry of gifts each year. I realized this was filling something broken inside of me, rather than benefiting my children. Somewhere I heard the idea of 3 presents under the tree representing the three gifts the wise men blessed Jesus with whenever they arrived. I like it. It works. They’re satisfied. They still have stockings filled with little trinkets like Doritos and root beer. But the 3 gifts limit is one of the best ways I K.I.S.S. I'm more intentional in my gift giving, and my credit card bill is much lower!
5. The Focus - Advent, a time of expectant waiting and preparation, begins the first Sunday of December. I love the idea of daily Christmas readings with the family to focus on the Christ child. It's the perfect time to gently till the soil of their hearts. I tried several, but it seemed more of a hassle and a "check off the list" activity. That is until I discovered Focus on the Family’s advent readings. They offer low key, kid-driven, and last-minute momma friendly advent ideas. The kiddos choose the one they want to do each season. They then rotate each night who gathers the needed materials and leads the discussion. I.Love.It. We usually try to do it right after dinner or 30 minutes before bedtime. Rebecca posted about another sweet family advent idea which works for her family.
6. The Baking - Christmas always represented a flurry of baking, a mound of dishes, and added stress. A couple of years ago, I let go of the "from scratch" idea and purchased boxed cookie mixes, cake mixes, and refrigerated slice and bake cookies. And the angel choir sang, “Hallelujah!” SUCH a time saver, and I believe it’s cheaper in the long run. There are so many cute ideas out there to turn purchased mixes into Christmas confectionary wonders. Here and here are two sites to get your whisk stirring!
7. The Wisemen - When Elf on the Shelf became all the rage, my kiddos wanted in. I had already started my K.I.S.S. mentality, and it meant one more thing to plan and implement. Some people love the challenge, but it's not my strong suit. See #5. Also, one of my kiddos was struggling with anxiety and the idea of an elf watching their every move…nope. I have looked for alternatives and really like Laura’s idea involving the wisemen. After all, she’s created a download giving us 25 cards with a plan for each day! Just what this momma needs. I can’t wait to give it our own twist and start a new tradition.
Too soon, my kiddos will be out on their own, and I’ll be sitting in a too quiet house looking at my tree of only white lights. But maybe, just maybe, there will be a string of “pretty” lights entwined with those white lights. And I’ll have visions of joyful and serene Christmas memories dancing in my head. All because I chose to K.I.S.S. (Keep it Serene, Sweetheart!) each Christmas.
That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2:2-3
How about you? How do you K.I.S.S each Christmas? I'd love to hear! Or are you overwhelmed with crazy chaos? Jump off the hamster wheel and join me on the comfy K.I.S.S. couch. You and your kiddos will be so glad you did!
Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, lively laughter, deep talks and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.
Today we welcome a fellow Women's Ministry team co-laborer and one of our loudest cheerleaders, Fran Thomas, to the blog. When Fran speaks, people listen! When Fran writes, people read! She has THE BIGGEST HEART for Jesus and a burning passion for reaching women from all walks of life. She roots all of us on, pointing us directly to Jesus, with each and every breath she takes.
Hello there precious people! What an honor to bring you my heart, through words, today while cheering on my buddies, Audra, Laura, Rebecca and Tammy and the life-giving work they are spitting out day after day through this blog. Can we just stop and thank God for them and their commitment to serve Him with beautiful, strong words of hope and encouragement through scripture? I pray you are reading their content daily. There is nothing like coming alongside other women and the God honoring work they are doing because it matters!
Girls, We all applaud your love and obedience to Jesus Christ. Press on. Keep on pressing on! We are better because of you and this page!
Ok, let me tell you a tiny bit of who I am so you can have a better understanding of where I’m coming from with my post. My name is Fran and I’ve been married to Chip for 23 years and we have three wonderful boys ages 21, 19 and 16. I’m that parent on the other side of parenting and living through a new level of experiences and perspective with these young men. I remember seeing those moms years ago when all of my chunky boys were wild, rambunctious, loud, clutching all manner of balls and trucks thinking, “Whoa. Who are those moms? One day I’ll get there and be like them.”
We all secretly stare at “those moms” and wonder what’s it’s like down there, don’t we?
I’m going to give you an analogy of this season of parenting we are in. This season may apply to you in the next year or two or maybe you will be making a mental note of this season for later. The day will arrive and you need a game plan. We can live in the moment of today while preparing for what is to come.
Having a house full of boys, I have grown up as a mom on some sort of ball field. I barely have any memories of us as a family that does not include my boys running around hitting or running after some kind of ball. It’s simply in the DNA of our family.
*Insert free nugget* It is good to take a yearly inventory of what makes up your family’s DNA. I like the school calendar approach when it comes to looking at that.
As the boys grew, our sports of choice were narrowed down to football in the fall and baseball in the spring and summer. That means December, January and part of February were our quiet, resting months. That is only 2½ months out of the year involving rest and we loved it that way. No judgment, right? I loved and needed that season of rest, but I really, really loved the seasons of football and baseball.
Some of us are meant to be boy moms and I’m one of them. Fixing a girl’s hair makes me an absolute nervous wreck. I can’t do it. I’m shaky and act like I don’t even know what a hair brush or flat iron is. Don’t even throw in some kind of curling option. I’m out. Peace. I can barely pick out my own clothes, fix the hair on my own head and pick and choose makeup for my insecure 47 year old self so the thought of helping out a young, darling, impressionable girl makes me want to hide in the closet. “Good luck honey! Yes…you look fabulous!”
I ain’t doing it! (Thank you Heather Land)
And please google Heather Land if you don’t know who she is.
Back to the analogy. God can use all things to pour Himself into our kid’s lives and I’m thankful He used a game like football or baseball to do just that. He was good to us there. He is good to your children, too, wherever they are. Pour away Lord, Jesus. Pour away.
A few nights ago Chip and I were watching a football game. Our tv literally NEVER leaves ESPN or the MLB network. The announcer was describing the previous play as we watched it on replay and said, “The quarterback let the route develop before he threw the pass.”
He let the route develop.
The quarterback let the route develop.
Hmmmmmmmm. Say that one out loud and think about it for a minute.
He let the route develop. Did you say it out loud? It’s so much better when you do.
This ball lovin’ momma took note of that statement, y’all! I heard so much more than what the announcer said.
I immediately hopped up and knew those words, that phrase, that image, had to be put into the notes section of my phone. This was goooooood stuff worth thinking about. ESPECIALLY WITH MY TEENAGERS AND YOUNG ADULTS.
Here is what happens, mom. Our precious, beloved, wonderful children step out onto a new field when they leave our house, go to college, or move into the next phase of life. The field is green, hopefully well-watered and taken care of, but not all fields are. The field is full of people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, talents, strengths and weaknesses. There are some really excellent teams on that field full of strong players and coaches. Some teams are more average with a little less coaching and expectancy from their players. Then you have the team that just stinks, is apathetic and doesn’t care. Do they have a coach? Anyone showing those players what to do? Teams of all kinds are all around in this season of your kid’s life. You wonder what team your kid will land on. No matter the scenario, there is always a lot of action on the field. There are a lot of moving parts and dynamics happening during the game. There are also all those fans yelling at the players. What are they saying? Can you hear what they are saying? Why are they yelling so much?
Remember the route? The route on the field?
Develop the route. Every child’s route will look different and it is always under development.
Mom, imagine you are the quarterback throwing the ball to your child, the receiver. You are Peyton Manning. You are patient, skilled, watching the receiver from your position on the field.
We must realistically know the route ahead and we must be patient to let the route develop.
No receiver has caught the pass 100% of the time.
People are coming. The rush. The pressure is on the receiver. The pressure is on you, the quarterback. Decisions will be made in a split second. The route you thought you knew fails. The pass is incomplete, intercepted or even a loss of yards occurs.
Your child is going to get tackled, possibly hurt, ok, probably hurt. He will run the wrong route, forget the route and miss the ball.
Your child, the receiver will miss it. He will. It’s ok. A true fan doesn’t leave the game or a player quit the team because the route was missed.
Let the route develop.
So, what happens next? What happens when the route fails or was underdeveloped?
Your child gets back up, runs to the huddle (you) and you redirect the offense with a new play. You regroup. You don’t freak out. You don’t yell at him. You stay calm. You remind your receiver who they are and whose they are. You pat them on the back. You encourage them. You love them. You shake the dirt off their shoulder. You give them Living Water to drink. You breathe life and hope and truth back into them.
Your precious, wonderful, beloved child of God will get back up with the help of Jesus because Jesus beautifully lives in the cutest quarterback in town. That’s you, momma. You are the QB!
GO TEAM! We got this!
Cars whizzed past me on the busy interstate and the whoosh of wind from each passing car knocked me unsteady as I tried to stay firmly seated on the bumper of my car. Sunlight, setting in the early September evening sky, blinded me. Yet, despite the heat, the blinding light, and the speeding cars, all I could do was put my head in my hands and say to myself, “You blew it…again.”
Such was my day six short weeks ago when I abruptly veered over onto the shoulder of the interstate somewhere in Alabama and hopped out of my car. With nowhere to go, I made my way to the bumper and sat down. It truly was a pathetic sight. Who in her right mind decides to sit on her bumper alongside an interstate?
A desperate mama…that’s who.
It had taken my three kids approximately .5 seconds to start arguing/demanding once we got into the car after a family day at the Space Museum. Our time at the museum was your typical family fun day. Everyone liked one another, there were plenty of smiles, and life was good. However, all of that changed in no time once we loaded up to head for home.
In all fairness, it started with me. With a huff in my spirit from being asked to drive the long way back home so daddy could take a nap, I begrudgingly got behind the wheel. Then, the dinner demands started. Then, the music demands followed. Then, volume. Then, air conditioner. Then, blanket. Then, pillow. Want, want, want! Each child was trying to out demand the other child by amplifying their demands. Arguments about who deserved what began. Our wheels had barely left the NASA parking lot and voices were already at a crescendo. Mama started going mad! And, what do all mad mamas do? They yell.
As I added to the noise level, one discernible thing became obvious – nobody was being heard. My spirit, which was calm, cool, and collected not five minutes earlier, was now cranked up and full of fury. In the heat of high emotions, I forgot every good parenting rule in the book and joined into our three-ring circus. And, because I’m not a big fan of circuses, I took the nearest exit out - my car door.
My bumper, while being a sad and pitiful place for a mama to find herself sitting, provided me the escape that I needed. Thoughts tumbled out of my head as emotions tumbled out of my heart. “Why can’t I do this mom gig better? Why can’t I keep it together? Why do I blow it all the time?”
Instant regret hit me and the dreadful pang of failure settled into my mind. If only I could rewind those five minutes and have a do-over! But, there was no doing it over. My present reality, sitting on my bumper on the shoulder of the interstate, told me that I had indeed blown it again. With nowhere else to turn, I cried out to the Lord.
A few minutes later, I casually got back into the car as if to say, “Everything’s okay kids! Mom was just checking out the traffic.” My middle child wasn’t buying the cool mom approach and blurted out, “What were you doing out there?” to which my daughter curtly replied, “Be quiet! You know mama was out there praying!”
They know me well.
I would like to say that this incident was a rare and isolated event. If it were, that might make it all better. But, it wasn’t. The occurence of mama meltdowns happens with greater frequency than I’d like to admit. In fact, this past Saturday night found me sitting by myself in a dark garage talking with Jesus about yet another mommy mess-up. They seem to follow me around.
I jokingly say that my children are my ongoing sanctification because, honestly, they are. Parenting is the area in my life where I realize that I need Jesus the most. I need His grace. I need His mercy. I need His guidance, wisdom, forgiveness… I need it all. Sanctification is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus. It is a process that will not be completed until we reach heaven. My children expose the sin that resides in the darkest crevices of my heart unlike anyone or anything else. They expose my selfishness, pride, stubbornness, vanity, and the list goes on. When all this bubbles to the surface, I hate who I see in the mirror. I realize how woefully ineffective and sinful I truly am. It is in these moments when I also realize how much I need Jesus and how much I need for Him to show me the way back.
In the book Parenting by Paul David Tripp, Paul states, “Parents who admit that they are inadequate and run to God make the best parents.” If this is true, I must be the best parent out there because parenting frequently finds me running to Jesus time after time after time again. Oh, the miles I have run!
Paul goes on to say, “We parent in the middle of our own sanctification… Although the power of sin has been broken in the beautiful justifying mercies of Jesus Christ, the presence of sin still remains with us. So God’s present zeal is to progressively deliver us from the remaining hold that sin has on us.” It's this remaining hold that pulls at me, grabs me, and twists me into knots. The only rescue that I have from it is Jesus. He is my escape from myself. He is my help in times of trouble. He is my Anchor, my Rock, my Strong Tower, my Deliverer. He is my only hope.
In no greater way than in parenting can I relate with the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.“ And then, in verses 21-25, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
I do not understand what I do. What I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. What a wretched mama I am! Who will rescue me?
When I need rescuing, I can confidently approach the One who forgives us all our sins:
Having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross. Colossians 2:14-15
The Cross is the only reason I can casually get back into my car and try again. The Cross is the only reason I can leave the garage and walk back into my house after yet another mama meltdown. The Cross is the only reason I can walk down the hallway, go into my child’s room, pull their little body into my arms, and whisper, “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me again?” into their ear. I can do this because all the sin that continues to seep out of me bears one crucial feature…a big nail mark.
Perhaps Peter taught us best what this human propensity to veer off the straight and narrow looks like. When told by Jesus that he would deny Him three times, Peter replies, “Never!” And, sadly, we know that Peter was wrong. He denied Jesus when the going got tough just as I do. But, here’s the hope that Peter brings us. After the rooster crowed, Peter wept bitterly for having denied Jesus and then Jesus was crucified. Three days pass by and here comes Peter onto the scene again. What is Peter doing?
“So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running.” John 20:3-4
He was running to Jesus.
Run, dear mama, run! Run with me! When we mess up, He will be there to help us!
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children Romans 8:16. Our Father is always there to help! As Paul Tripp states, “In every moment as you are parenting your children, the heavenly Father is parenting you.” And, as God parents us, we become well-acquainted with His tender mercies and we learn how to exercise the beautiful gifts of confession, repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and grace. These gifts are what our children need from us the most! I know that mine get a steady dose of all five as I go back to them again and again and model what each one looks like. They know mama messes up. But, as one of my children once stated, "Mom always asks for forgiveness."
As this sanctification process continues on, my prayer is that one day I will be able to say of myself, “I understand what I do. For what I want to do I do and what I hate I do not do.” I don’t know if that day will come anytime soon – I pray it does – but I do know that until it comes, my feet know where to go.
Run to Jesus mamas. Run to Jesus wives. Run to Jesus sisters-in-Christ. Lock arms with me and let's allow Him to continue that beautiful sanctifying work.
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural, an even 50/50 split of introvert/extrovert, and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.
Local "Mom Group" - Audra's Pick
I'm not sure what it's called where you live. Here we call it iMom, some places call it MOPS. The "Moms Group" in your local church could go by a number of different names. Whatever the name, in my opinion, this is the place to be if you are a mother! 1. You can find friends in the same stages of life that you're in. Who couldn't use another friend or two to do life with! 2. You get a little "me time" away from the little ones which only makes you a better mommy! 3. These ladies are there to encourage and support you in your parenting as well as your faith!
My encouragement to you is to find the "Mom Group" in a local Bible believing church and join in!
Missional Motherhood - Laura's pick
I love this blog because it's a combination of mother's of all ages and all with different stories and experiences. Their tagline is "raise them up to send them out," and as hard as that is to even think about, that's exactly what we are called to do. Whatever season of life you are in, Missional Motherhood will speak to you and point you to scripture to help you press on!
Parenting by Paul David Tripp - Rebecca's Pick
Hands down this is the best parenting resource that I have ever come across! My only wish is that it had been written 14 years ago when I became a parent! In this life-giving book, Paul Tripp offers parents much more than a to-do list. Instead, he presents us with a big-picture view of God's plan for us as parents. Outlining fourteen foundational principles centered on the gospel, he shows that we need more than the latest parenting strategy or list of techniques. Rather, we need the rescuing grace of God - grace that has the power to shape how we view everything we do as parents. Freed from the burden of trying to manufacture life-change in our children's hearts, we can embrace a grand perspective of parenting overflowing with vision, purpose, and joy.
Sally Clarkson - Tammy's pick
Sally Clarkson is one of those women you wished lived in your hometown so you could sit on her porch, drink hot tea, and discuss any topic concerning motherhood. But since I don't live in her beautiful state, I've settled for the next best thing, her blog and her books. Her writing is warm and inviting, drawing the reader in to feel as if she's, well, sitting on her front porch with a hot cup of tea and discussing any topic concerning motherhood.
Biblical Woman - Spring's pick
BiblicalWoman.com whose slogan says, “His Wisdom for Her world” is a place that I know I can go to get wisdom from Godly women who have God and Scripture at the forefront of their lives. It is a place that I know I can trust their heart and their words to be words that align with God’s words. Though the site is not only about mothering, you can do a quick search and find articles regarding all sorts of topics for mothers with children in all ages and stages written by top theologians to just every day mothers on the front lines of parenting. It’s real, it’s relatable, it’s encouraging and it’s biblical.
"No, I don't want children!" I declared to my shocked newlywed husband. Even though I had played with dolls and pretended to be a mommy as a young child, time had drastically changed my wanting a quiver full of children to wanting zilch, zero, none.
Time and counseling (ha) were followed by one, then two babies. Yet, as a new mommy, the days and many nights were painfully long. I lived for nap-time and bedtime just trying to sanely make it thru each day with little ones needing my. every. waking. second. I loved the title of “Mommy” but I didn’t love being a mommy.
Looking back, I realized I had bought into the lies the evil one had whispered into my heart. These lies, while different from Eve’s, were just as deadly: children are a hindrance, they’ll keep me from climbing the job ladder, they’ll steal my life, etc. etc. etc. These lies were sucking the joy out of my mommying.
I came to a crossroads during my third (surprise!) pregnancy. It was as if God had turned the light on in my parenting, and showed me I was just surviving rather than thriving. I realized something had to change. I needed to flush out the lies and fill myself with truth. I would have to reinvent myself and there was no better place, then in God’s life-giving Word.
“He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children.” Psalm 113:9
“A joyful mother.” Ha! That didn’t describe me except at bedtime! Webster’s dictionary defines joyful as: merry, glad, and showing joy.
I had to look at myself to see if I matched the description,
1. Am I merry? Nope, more like mopey!
2. Would my kiddos say I’m glad? Nope, more often sad or even mad!
3. Does the world see joy in my mothering? Nope, they just hear grumbling and complaining!
Ugh! My answers showed me I was sleep-walking through one of the most amazing blessings God grants women: motherhood. Well, this sleeper wanted to wake up! “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” Proverbs 23:7 What follows are the steps I now realize are outlined in Dr. Caroline Leaf's excellent book Switch on Your Brain. I purposely set out to retrain my brain to choose joy in my mothering, to “think the way God wanted me to think” about mothering. (SOYB p. 53)
1. Choose Joyful Motherhood
“Rejoice in the Lord, always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 obviously includes mommying, so I had to train my brain to rejoice in the blessings of motherhood. Rejoice means to be glad, be well, thrive. “Whatever we think about the most will grow!” (SOYB p. 63) Therefore, I needed to not only love my children but
2. Mimic Joyful Motherhood
Secondly, I looked around at those who were joyfully mothering. Proverbs 31:26 was my criteria, “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Countless women were mommying well. So, I intentionally:
Takeaway: To thrive as a joyful mother, I changed my perception by watching, listening, and mimicking other joyful mothers.
3. Exemplify Joyful Motherhood.
Thirdly, I had to train my brain to fully immerse myself into each season my kiddos walked through. “Change takes place over time through continual persistence.” (SOYB p. 67)
- Thoroughly Enjoy - I found myself longing for different seasons, therefore I made myself choose to revel in my kiddos current season of life. I reminded myself on the hard days, “The days may be long but the years are truly short. Choose joy, Tammy!”
- Be Thankful - “In everything give thanks” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I remember crossing the floor from my bedroom to theirs for the tenth time one night, schooling myself, “Be thankful, Tammy. You are blessed to be their momma and to have to walk across this floor for the tenth time to tend to their needs.”
- Be Intentional - “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 This is my appointed time to be a momma, therefore I told myself, “Be intentional, Tammy. Pour into them while there’s time. Put down your phone, look into their eyes, and just listen, for the day is coming when they won’t be under your roof.”
Takeaway: To thrive as a joyful mother, I needed to “pay attention to my thoughts and purposefully focus my mind to lead to a great transformation!” (SOYB p. 67)
4. Champion Joyful Motherhood
Lastly, I now feel the call to champion joyful motherhood. Society bullies us to believe that the best mommies dress their kiddos in the latest trends, put them in the most activities, and take them on the best trips. But that’s just not true, for the world’s mommying standard is always changing, thoroughly exhausting, and a completely unattainable pursuit for mothering.
Rather, our hearts should allow the life-giving beauty of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Proverbs 31:10-31, & 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 be our mommying standard.
“Our minds can powerfully and unexpectedly change our brains in positive ways when we intentionally direct our attention.” (SOYB p. 92)
We need to believe:
5. Joyful Motherhood
God, in all His kindness, has transformed me into a joyful mother. Are there hard days? Absolutely! But I now see those hard days as bumps, rather than roadblocks.
“I saw the greatest changes in patients who willfully, determinedly, and persistently chose to focus their attention on improving their skills and restoring function.” (SOYB p. 102)
I now strive to laugh with and enjoy the little and the big with my kiddos. In a blink of an eye, they will be driving off to the new adventure of adulthood, and all I’ll be left with are fading memories. By faith, may those memories be warm and full of contentment, because I chose to believe that I was given one of the greatest titles this side of glory, Momma, and I lived out that title joyfully.
How about you? If you're blessed with physical children (or grandchildren, or nieces/nephews), would they describe you as joyful? If not, what changes can you make to become more joy filled during this season of life? Who around you exemplifies joyful mothering? If you are joyfully living out this season of life, who can you come alongside and mentor? A sweet momma is out there longing for you to reach out to her and breath life into her. Do it, my friend! You both will be blessed!
Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Confidante. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, deep talks, lively laughter, and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.
Have you ever found yourself in a period of weakness, confusion, and uncertainty? That’s where I was at the age of 26. I had two beautiful children, a husband who loved us very much and provided a home and a great life for us. We had a wonderful church, where Dr. Charles Stanley was our amazing Bible Teaching Pastor. And yet, I was going through a very difficult time personally. I described many of the physical symptoms I was experiencing in my last post. Those symptoms, paired with living in a new town, being a new mom, and trying hard to be involved as a minister’s wife were a heavy load to bear. On top of that, no doctor could find any actual problem and no medication they prescribed gave me any help or relief. So I came to the conclusion that this was my new normal, and this was just how pregnancy and childbirth had changed my body. I would tell myself I was going to have to get tough, push through, and keep going. After all, I had two children to raise, a husband to love and a city full of people who needed Jesus.
I mentioned back in one of my first posts, that the night I lost my first baby, Satan planted a seed of fear and doubt in my heart. After that tremendous loss, the reality of death seemed so close. Would I ever be able to carry a baby to full term? I was pretty nervous through both of my pregnancies. Every pain, every abnormal symptom I was afraid was another miscarriage. And even though I did give birth to two beautiful healthy babies, the fear didn't end there.
I specifically remember one occasion when the stomach bug went around our house. It was Jordan’s birthday and we, along with 22 month old Jailee and 9 month old Asher met some friends at Dave and Buster’s to play games and celebrate. Two things occurred that evening that possibly contributed to our upcoming illness. Jailee brought me a piece of chewed gum that she said she found on the bottom of a chair, and at one point, Asher, who was walking by now, chose to crawl across the game room floor. Blah! Yuck! Gross! Funny thing is, I don’t remember being all that concerned. We went home, took baths, and settled in to bed. Asher, who had been a fussy baby from 0-6 months was now a great sleeper. But for some reason this night he was awake in the early hours of the morning. I went to rock him to try and settle him down and that’s when it hit. Asher, a helpless 9 month old baby, had the stomach bug. Before long sister was up sick, too. When I called for Jordan to help he quickly came, but soon left as he, too, was sick.
Now, I am very opposed to throwing up. I will do almost anything to keep it down. So for the next three days, I didn’t eat. Not only do I hate to throw up, but moms, you know, The Mom Can Not Go Down! Even when sick, she still has to take care of everyone else. And I’m sure you've all experienced it, but 22 month olds and 9 month olds, do not run to the toilet to throw up. It just happens wherever they are at the moment. And it’s hard to take a little one down. When an adult is sick we want to sleep, lay around, do nothing until we feel better. Not my kids. As long as they weren’t in the process of actually throwing up, they were still going strong. Needless to say, I needed to be well. I’ll never know if I had the same illness as the rest of my family or if my stomach just hurt so bad from not eating, but I was successful in my mission to stay upright and in control of the situation.
This, of course, is an extreme example, and now somewhat funny, but it was a true picture of me always doing my best to stay in control of the situation. Every situation! And when something threatened that control that extreme anxiety I mentioned in my last post, would rise. Like the time Jailee ran out of the entrance of a store into the street and the sliding glass doors closed behind her. I had to walk (run) all the way around the registers to the exit before I could get to her. Oh, and I had Asher in the basket with me! I’m sure that was a sight. Or, the time that Asher fell out of the dining room chair onto the wood floor and hit his head. I immediately assumed this had caused major injuries. I’m pretty sure my reaction was much more terrifying to him than the actual fall. Even a child with a slight fever would send my pulse skyrocketing. After all, God had given me these precious children, and it was my responsibility to take care of them.
As I searched the pages of Scripture for answers, I felt God leading me to start at the beginning of the Bible. When I say I felt God leading me, it was really just kind of a thought when I would be praying or reading my Bible. An idea, it seemed. But as I began to follow the idea, I soon found Jesus leading me through His Word. Stories that happened thousands of years earlier had so much similarity to my own life. One of my favorites (that I still remind myself of often) is the story of Joshua. Following Moses, one of the greatest leaders Israel ever had, came Joshua. He was to take over the lead after Moses died. This meant having to not only give direction to God’s people, but he would have to do some really scary things, like lead them into war! But from the very beginning God promised Joshua that He would be with him. God said that no one would be able to stand against him.
One of my favorite verses, Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Verses and stories like this began to give me courage and strength. I knew that if God was with me, I could make it through everything that was on my plate. I learned that He could take care of my kids in ways I couldn’t. Although the illness was still there, and the kids still scared me half to death some days, and there was no way I could control every situation, with God by my side, we would persevere! Now I would like to say the fear and anxiety immediately disappeared. I would like to say I’ve never had to deal with any of it again. But that just wouldn’t be true. There have been many days that the nasty old devil has brought me to my knees in fear or many nights that he has wakened me with whispers of ‘what if’ scenarios. But each time I turn to the Lord in prayer and look for answers in His word, He builds my faith and shows me that He is with me and He is able!
If you struggle with fear or anxiety, below are some additional verses and stories that have brought me comfort! These real people lived extraordinary lives and did things that many times didn’t make sense, but they trusted God and followed the plan He had for each of them. By Faith They... lived the lives God called them to live. I pray for myself, as well as for you, today that we will do the same!
Check Out These By Faith Stories:
Abraham - Genesis 12-25 (Especially notice Genesis 22)
Moses - Exodus 1-14
Esther - Esther 1-10
Two great options that I recommend if you're looking for a Bible:
The Holman Christian Standard Study Bible
The Daily Bible In Chronological Order 365 Daily Readings With Devotional Insights to Guide you Through God's Word
Audra and her husband Jordan are called to ministry and he is the senior pastor at their church. They have two beautiful children who bring them tons of joy, lots of laughs, and on occasion new grey hair. She is a former teacher who still loves to teach, enjoys cooking and baking, and has a passion to lead other women to know Jesus and live out their faith in Him.