Last week, we established that women are divinely designed, especially equipped, and completely and confidently called to pursue life-giving activities including motherhood. Which is beautiful and comforting and even inspiring to learn about, but what in the world does it mean for real life living and mothering? How do I maximize my divine design and employ my especial equipping 🙂 as I confidently and completely live out my calling??? What does it look like to have an undivided heart on a daily basis, at 3am or 3pm or anywhere in between?? Where do I even start?
And while I have yet to find the Motherhood for Dummies book that I think should answer these questions step-by-step :), Sally does a wonderful job at summarizing what she has learned from her own motherhood adventure to encourage us and give us practical ideas of just that. In the next four sections, she will have us journey through the facets of our undivided hearts, focusing on what mothering looks like in connection to our heart for our God, our heart for our children, our heart for our home, and our heart for eternity. Are you ready to dive in with me??
A Mother’s Heart for Her God
To maximize our life-giving calling as women, it makes sense that the place we should start would be at the source of life itself: our God. While we may not have step-by-step instructions specifically geared towards mothering, we do have an amazing instruction manual for living the Christian life through scripture, and I love that Sally uses the same principles we learn for living out our faith as ways to make the most of our mothering as well. She summarizes these principles into 3 core concepts that we can apply to others as well as our children to help them get to know our God: serving, discipling, and teaching.
- Serving: As we know from some of the previous books we have read, one of the main components of our faith involves serving others. This service involves humbling ourselves and putting the needs of others first out of a purposeful choice, not our of a lack of self or forceful obligation. It is an intentional decision and can take a variety of shapes and sizes from making meals to washing feet to paying a bill to cutting grass; if there is a need someone has that you are willing to meet through time, effort, or finances, then you are living out your call to service. One of the great and yet sometimes overwhelming things about motherhood is that there are endless opportunities to serve our children on a daily basis within our own home. Now before you balk at this suggestion, hear me out. I am not a proponent of co-dependent mothering, where the focus is always the children and whatever they want goes at the detriment of the mother, or spoiling children by giving in to their every desire and not teaching them about the concepts of “no” or “later,” but somehow over the years, the idea of a child needing a parent or serving our children as Christ served His disciples has become confused with these unhealthy parenting styles. Giving our children our time and sharing with them our lives is exactly what parenting is all about, as Christ modeled for us on multiple occasions (His time with the disciples, serving them through foot-washing and feedings, and inviting children to interrupt and spend time with Him throughout his ministry). Recognizing their needs based on their current level of development and seeking to meet them even if it means less sleep or not getting to watch the latest episode of my tv show or having to put my phone down for a moment so I can pay attention to his knock-knock joke for the 50trillionth time is exactly what I should be doing right now. And is it really that bad if I go beyond that and actually try to serve them beyond their needs and just set out to love them?? A resounding NO. Our God went way beyond our needs when He not only saved us from an eternity without Him, but also created an opportunity for us to live an abundant life in relationship with him and we are encouraged to do the same with those around us, but even more so to the little audience we have right within our home. One important note here: Service with strings attached is not service at all. While Sally shared an intense story of a mom who apparently did not really want to have children in the first place and was resenting their pull at her own life, I have found that many moms (myself included) have small amounts of resentment boiling under the surface that grows with every need or request or service for her children if not confronted. Could you imagine if Jesus said, “I guess I will wash your feet because I have to, but you better realize what a big deal this is for me.” If that were the case, I know it would change my entire perspective of His gift and His love for me. And yet, I do this all the time in my head and sometimes to their faces with my littles: Do you know how hard I worked to get that meal ready that you will not eat? Do you know how many nights I haven’t slept because you needed me? Do you know how many of “my” moments I have missed because I had to be with you? Do you know how long I was in labor to have you? They sound horrible in writing them out, but the raw reality is that we are human and these thoughts and feelings are real reflections of having to sacrifice our selfishness and choose to serve our children wholeheartedly as we mother them. While we can still teach them appreciation (mommy worked very hard on dinner so even if you do not like it, it is kind to say thank you), our service should come from an unconditional and giving place that does not involve resentment. When we show them what this true service looks like as we live with them each day, we give them a glimpse into how Christ loves and serves them as well.
- Discipling: Another component of living out our Christian faith is following the Great Commission, or going and making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28). Again, this commission applies to all of us regardless of gender or parental status, but we are given a unique opportunity to implement discipleship within our homes when we seek to make disciples of our little ones. As Sally shares, discipleship goes beyond just teaching morality, but is truly about shaping hearts to love and grow in knowing the Lord (p. 80). To do this, there are three practices involved: instructing, training and guarding.
- Instructing actually means imparting knowledge, so that our children know the basic tenants of our faith and values and have a foundation from which to grow. Just like we teach them letters and numbers and colors, there are spiritual truths we can impart as the basics of faith that they can them recognize and apply to the world around them (the grass is green; God loves me and has a plan for me).
- Training is showing our children how to apply this knowledge in our actions and everyday circumstances. This means looking for opportunities where the above-instructed truths apply. The example from our family that comes to mind is in combating night-time fears for my oldest son. We have always taught Him that God is our protector and takes care of us, but at night when he is scared, we have opportunities to live out this truth through praying with him, reminding him of God’s promises, and encouraging him that he can pray too when he is scared (and he does LOL).
- Finally, guarding means using your current authority (based on your children’s ages; if they are adults, this aspect may look more like making sure you are not being a stumbling block through your own choices) to protect your children from unhealthy influences, such as harmful forms of media, people, and circumstances. I love the word picture that Sally uses in this specific instance, where she envisions her and her husband guarding their children’s fountains, making sure that nothing gets in to poison or taint the waters (p. 94). Especially when children are little, this type of guarding is so important as their minds and hearts are still soft and easily influenced by anything they see, hear, or experience. By intentionally guarding what they come into contact with as well as teaching them how to guard their own fountain as they age is an important part of helping them grow in the faith.
- Teaching: As noted above, to effectively disciple those around us, and especially our children, we must teach them important life lessons and values to provide the foundation of how they see their own lives and values. When someone initially becomes a Christian, they want to know all they can about the Christian worldview, faith, and practices. Similarly, our children look to us to learn everything about life, from how to eat with a spoon to how to speak to how to interact with others and especially how to understand faith and life and the world around us. As we seek to make the most of these teachable moments, Sally imparts that we can focus these lessons on four main principles: teaching basic morality and what is considered right versus what is considered wrong, teaching basic theology and the foundational knowledge of God, teaching wisdom and how to critically think about life from God’s point of view, and teaching faith and how to trust God when we cannot see Him or feel Him everyday. Covering these four areas in teaching our children, as well as others, will provide them with a basic understanding for how they can view and live out their own lives as they move into adulthood.
When we serve, disciple, and teach our children (as well as those around us), we live out the calling God has for us as both women and mothers, and we truly become “life-givers” in every sense.
How does this apply to me?
Regardless of if you do or do not have children at this point in time, we are all called to serve, disciple, and teach others about Christ in meaningful, life-giving ways. It is amazing to me that mothering is truly an in-home/in-family version of who we have been called to in Christ anyway. So, how does this become personal and practical outside of the obvious?
For me, it truly deals with the heart of the matter (pardon the pun). Often, whether in my interactions with others but especially in my interactions with my children, I feel ill-equipped and inadequate to serve, disciple, and teach. While we addressed the equipped concern last week, I also need to challenge my insecurities and inadequacies when it comes to these spiritual dimensions of my mothering. From gleaning all that I can from Sally’s sharing, two points really stuck out that I want to apply as I move forward (besides all of the above LOL). Maybe they will resonate with you too!
- All that I can be is who I am… and that is enough! I just need to be intentional about being me! 🙂 As we determined last week, I am exactly who I am for a reason. God was not careless when He gave me Gavin and Liam; He was purposeful and intentional and specific. And the same goes for you and your own children or the special people that you have in your life. There is a divine reason you are in relationship with them, and this means God intended for YOU to be there with all of your strengths, weaknesses, and quirky components. Children and adults of all ages learn best by being shown, and so just by being me, I can teach my children so much about life and love and most of all, my God. But this means I have to be intentional and purposeful about sharing my time and my life with them; my shining and not so shining moments, and letting them see the real me even when I am unsure. When I do this, I give them the freedom and confidence to try it out too, to embrace who they are, and to use who they are in service, discipling, and teaching others. All just by being me. And just by you being you… just by being who you were created to be and sharing yourself with your children and the people around you, you can truly make a lasting impression with the unique gift of who you are.
- I need to trust God’s decision to use me and also to fill in the gaps between who I am and what they need! On p. 83, Sally shares a quote that I have underlined and starred and plan to post where I can see it all the time: “All that God requires from any of us is a desire to serve Him and a trust that He can make up the difference for the things we lack.” What a relief!!! Not only did He want me to be in the lives of my children on purpose, but He is also aware that I will never be perfect, and He already factored that in! This means I can do my best and trust that He will make up for anything I am missing (and then some). Which means I can rejoice in my amazing mothering moments, where I feel like I hit the mark right on, and trust that the not so amazing mothering moments, where I am weak or even hurtful, are being redeemed by my God who is bigger than me and an active participant in our lives whether we acknowledge Him or not. I do not have to waste the precious moments I do have (which are quickly flying by) on my inadequacies or my screw-ups because it does not do any good for anyone and He already has it covered (yay!!!). All I really have to do is try… or the cheesy cliche that is truly one of my favorites: Do your best and God will do the rest!!! 🙂
For this week then, our challenge is two-fold. First, I encourage you to take a look at those three areas Sally shared with us that portray our heart for our God to others and our children: service, discipling, and teaching. Choose one of them to focus on in the next month, to really be intentional about as you interact with those in your life.
For me, this is the training aspect of discipling. Since teaching comes naturally to me and I grew up in a house where servant leadership was the norm, it is really taking all of God’s truth and purposefully applying it in front of my children (out loud) that is something I am lacking. I definitely want them to take the biblical principles we read about at night or learn about in church and apply them to their lives, but I have not been super intentional about modeling that for them at their level. Even in the couple of days after reading this, I noticed multiple opportunities throughout the day (a sibling interaction, or a whining reaction to parental instruction, or even an entitled moment) where I can present truth and then follow-up with practicing the truth as well. How neat it has been to watch this step in action and I am excited to see how it continues as it influences my life as well as theirs!
Second, I encourage you to follow-through with at least one of the amazing ideas Sally provides at the end of each chapter to act upon what was discussed.
Whether you have children or not, these ideas are fantastic in promoting the love of Christ and sharing it with others. For instance, my mom and I discussed having a family-wide foot-washing on our next vacation to serve one another and build the love and intimacy that comes when we humble ourselves and care for one another in this way. Other ideas include starting a family devotional time with your children, using the ARTS acronym to strike up conversations about learning and applying biblical truths (this is so cool!!! p. 105-106), or look for an opportunity to willingly participate in an activity that is not your favorite, but is the thing your loved one always wants to do.
Then, above all else, have fun with it!!! Remember, by sharing ourselves and our time with those around us, especially our children, we not only invest in them, but we do so in life-giving ways that share the most important part of ourselves: our heart for our God.♥