It had been a rough morning. My emotions were raging and the kids found many things were not to their liking as we progressed through the day. Tempers flared and words were tight, clipped and harsh.
Something needed to give.
I picked up my two-year-old and sat down on my piano bench, cuddling her on my lap as I played Jesus Loves Me. Her favorite song. Pretty soon she was lisping the words along with piano keys. My oldest came down the steps, singing her heart out. Pretty soon my middle child joined her, their voices blending in beautiful, discordant notes.
"Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so."
And I knew it was true.
I may not be a concert pianist like I once dreamed I would be, but my audience of three was more precious to me than any grand hall full of people ever could have been.
God gave me a gift when He gave me a heart for music. Every time He beckoned me to praise Him with my piano, He was giving me something precious.
The ability to minister to my own children.
You see, mommy, God has filled our beings with many gifts, to be used for a glorious purpose. Not gifts meant to be displayed to the world or bring us renown. He gave us the gifts we need to calm our children's hearts, the gifts we need to speak life to them, to show them delight, art and beauty in the world.
Think for a moment. What is something that you love to do - something that you feel you're good at?
The world would tell you to take that talent and use it to earn yourself fame and popularity. We buy into that mindset so quickly, and use our gifts and talents to build businesses, social media followings or even simple popularity among our peers.
I know this because I've done it, more times that I care to think of.
I can tell you right now that it leads to competition and discontent.
What if we used our gifts and talents to minister rather than gain?
To minister first of all to our family, behind closed doors, away from social media and unseen by our peers.
What if we used our creativity to bring delight to the lonely and less-than-popular crowd.
What if we used our gifts and talents like Jesus did?
Without personal agenda.
For the good of others.
Particularly for our husbands and children.
We would find a rest and a peace in that like we didn't know could be found. When we use our gifts to bless the lowliest around us, we will be using them in the way God intended us to use them.
After all, Jesus tells us that "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:40 NIV)
We can know that when we use our talents to entertain, delight and minister to our children, Jesus is also in our audience, delighted to see us using the gifts He has given.
Will He lead you to bigger audiences? Possibly. But as we surrender our gifts to His will, we will find that the striving and the hustle cease and we can rest in the simple beauty of creativity.
A gift from our Creator.
And those closest to us will be pointed to Jesus through that gift.
Everyone around me is so...gifted. It seems like everyone can paint watercolors, has great photography skills, sounds like Mozart on the piano, all while doing crafts with their kids and making their house look like all the pins from Pinterest.
It's enough to make any Mom feel like God must have passed her over in the gift department. I mean, most days I'm happy when I get my 2 loads of laundry washed, dried and folded, keep the dishes washed up and can spend some time reading or being outside with the kids. (Which, by the way, is exactly enough for one day.)
But some days I let discontentment get a hold of my heart and I, probably like you, start saying things that are less that flattering.
We say: "I wish I were a creative Mom."
"I'm not near as good of a Mom as so-and-so."
"I'm such a failure. If only I decorated and kept my house as perfect as my neighbor."
God says: "[I] has given each of you a gift from [my] great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another." -1 Peter 4:10
Comparison is a trap that most Moms walk into with their eyes wide open. Sometimes we even feel like we are practicing humility when we "praise" the good works and gifts of others in a self-deprecating way.
We talk longingly of the way our friend keeps her house perfect and our neighbor's kids can speak 3 different languages. If only we were disciplined, neater, craftier, crunchier, holier.
If only we were as good as everyone else.
And we say and think these things and they keep us from doing what we can and are supposed to be doing. God says that He has given us all gifts. We all have our own little corner that we are supposed to be making brighter. The gift that we have is valuable and has a very direct purpose.
Maybe you haven't taught your kids a foreign language, but they know how to make and serve coffee when you have friends over. Maybe your kids don't know how to keep a perfect house, but they know how to find the unpopular ones at school and love on them well, because they see you doing the same. Maybe your Instagram looks messy, with unprofessional photos, but you are out doing life with your kids, loving it, and learning lessons together along the way.
The point is, you are not meant to be "her," you are meant to be you. God crafted a special gift right into each of us, and if we focused on using that gift to serve God and others well, we'd forget to worry about how inadequate we are compared to everyone else down the block.
We will be spending a week on this topic in the restored bible study, which will be available exclusively to members of Warrior Hearted Mom. Membership is opening on May 25. Learn more here.
Spring can be so inspiring! It's a season of so much new life. The trees put on their airy spring dresses, flower bulbs burst though the cool dirt and baby animals make their way out into the world. Then, there’s Mother’s Day. Moms everywhere get phone calls, greeting cards, fancy pancakes or scribbled works of art.
If you let the sun warm your skin and think on all of that life, it can be enough to make your heart swell with joy. Unless…
Unless you’ve been longing for new life in your womb or your home and you have not received that blessing.
Unless you have felt the glow of life within, only to have it taken from you before you could even know who that child was.
Unless the places your child sat to eat, ran to play and laid down to sleep are now mournfully empty.
Unless your adult children will not call, or even text, to tell you Happy Mother’s Day.
Understanding other ladies’ hearts
I want us to pause and consider those whose cup to drink on mother’s day is much more bitter than orange juice in bed poured with sticky fingers. But don’t get me wrong sister; healthy understanding for those with hurting hearts does not require, nay has no place for guilt regarding your blessings. We can have joy and be grateful for God’s gifts to us while we hold the space for our hurting sisters.
First of all, we need to remember that we cannot change how other ladies respond to their difficulty. Having fallen into one of the categories above myself, I’ve noticed an unfortunate tendency in my comrades. Occasionally those struggling with infertility or loss of a child attack people whose joy about their blessings bubbles over in light-hearted joking. Or there are times when us moms complain about the difficulties of parenting, and it seems like salt in their wound. I’m sure you can understand how easy it would be to recoil in hurt if you were in their position.
We can, however, guard our own hearts and minds. If you are the recipient of that sort of backlash, you can remind yourself of the hurt she must be feeling. You can consider the weight of your words, honoring the Lord who gives as well as the one who has felt the sting of the “taking away”.
Practical ways to love on hurting hearts this mother’s day
Knowing this, what can we do? This Mother’s Day, maybe you know someone whose heart may be hurting. I hope you take this opportunity to reach out and offer sweet words or a kind gesture. It just might be the salve that makes the church service bearable or takes the sting out of the quietness of the day. Here are a few ideas, but maybe the Lord will guide you to something else that would be just just the right thing for the ladies in your life.
My childhood church always bought a small flower for each child to give to their mother. You could buy a small houseplant or garden start for Sunday school teachers, youth leaders or any woman who has stepped into a leadership role for you children but might not get recognized. A couple of my friends without children take extra time to truly take an interest in my children and their lives. Any of these types of “Aunties” can always be thanked for the love they shower on our children, but Mother’s day is a perfect time to recognize spiritual mothers as well as physical ones
If you know someone who is struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss, I can tell you from experience that Sunday is going to be rough for them. And the chances are, they barely know how to feel about it themselves. While some might be able to receive it okay, most ladies would prefer a card to read later or something they don’t feel pressured to process while they’re around people. If you want to give them a gift, maybe arranging for her husband to leave the car door unlocked would be best. Or maybe you could drop it off at her home later. Any way you can help her feel seen will probably make all the difference; just be sure to consider how high her emotions may already be running.
Similarly, I know so many Christian women who are single but desire deeply to have a family. These ladies may struggle with guilt, thinking they’re being discontent or wonder if they have the right to wish they were being celebrated; after all they don’t even have a husband yet. For these gals, a simple text or brief word to encourage them would be nice. Stick with something about how she is a blessing now, rather than mentioning the hypothetical “some day”.
Many mothers with adult children will still receive recognition and thanks. But if you know of someone who has estranged children or has had to bury a child, be sure to reach out to her. Maybe you could give a gift specifically recognizing that relationship or honoring her child’s life. For instance, a spiritual mother of mine lost a son when he was 18. He often wore camouflage pants and black t-shirts. A small book or even a plant wrapped with camo paper would say everything that words could and more.
Also be on the look out, you may see more than a few women with a tear in their eye this weekend. Maybe they miss their own mother or maybe the hurt is caused by a child-sized hole. A simple look, gentle hand or a hug if she’s up for it may be just the thing. It can be a busy day, you might ask the Lord to help you slow down and notice anyone who might otherwise be overlooked.
Lastly, don’t forget about single mothers! Without a father in the house, her children may not know or have the ability to do much for her. You might ask them if they have anything planned and help them get a gift or special breakfast planned. Or if you know a single mom with young kids, offer to share your Mother’s Day with her. Have her over for lunch, pack a picnic or make a reservation ahead of time to include her and her crew in your celebrations.
Let everything you do be done in love.
As you read and consider these ideas, remember that everything you do should be done in love. By that, I mean if you are exhausted and anything outside of soldiers in your cup will only cause overwhelm, then mama - just drink the coffee and enjoy your day. Please don’t see this list as a bunch more boxes to check. Prayerfully consider if there’s a way for you to edify other ladies in the body. Allow the Spirit to guide your steps. Could you prepare ahead of schedule so that you can still enjoy your Sunday?
Out of the overflow of your heart, your mouth can speak love. And while God can use a heavy heart to speak love, if you need to focus on filling your cup at his feet right now, that’s exactly what you should do. If you fall into one of these categories yourself, you are seen and your grief is felt. I pray this Sunday, as with every day, we are able to draw near to the Lord in grateful praise for his many blessings!
My words were tight and my face was exasperated. Why were we talking about this again? Sibling rivalry is nearly as old as time and I felt like I had been battling it since it started. Why didn't they get it? I sighed as I quoted Bible verses to them once again, ignoring the angry words that wanted to come out of my mouth. But even Scripture sounded hollow and empty. The ancient words seemed to fly over their heads, unheeded.
Weary of the battle, I sent them off to play in separate rooms for a while. Why God? I'm trying so hard. I'm saying the right things. I'm searching the Bible, reading parenting books, and daily teaching the right kind of behavior. I felt disillusioned with parenting.
As I read my Bible a little later, a few small words jumped out at me.
"Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." (1 Corinthians 8:1b)
I did a double take. Love edifies. I spent so much time teaching my kids from my store of knowledge, but so often, it was done from frustration, not love. I taught from need, not desire. I began to seek Jesus on how to apply this verse to my parenting.
This is what He's been teaching me:
Love edifies. Like good, nourishing food fills empty stomachs with fuel for long-lasting energy, words spoken in love fill that void in my children's hearts with long-lasting results. When my kids fight and nag at each other, it shows a hunger for something deeper that they don't know how to produce. They don't even know how to voice their desire for what they need. Humans all long for connection, and when we don't feel it, we react. It may show up as anger and strife or pouting and selfishness in our kids, but neither is the point.
When we see our children acting out in any way, our lofty quoting of Bible verses isn't going to fill that void in their hearts. Am I saying God's Word isn't enough? Absolutely not.
Every word in the Bible was first spoken in love, because God is love. Love comes from Christ. We cannot manufacture love. We can not stir our own hearts until we feel something. When we speak the Bible over our children, in an effort to shape their thoughts and behavior, it needs to be done in love.
What our children need to point them to Jesus in the middle of their distress or anger is a mom with a heart alive with the love of Jesus.
Our children need a mom whose eyes are fixed on Jesus, who knows how to listen to the Holy Spirit, and who takes the time to do so. We need to take our eyes off of the "issues" we see in our children and we need to fix them on Jesus first of all. When we focus on our kid's behavior and how we can fix it, we parent in reaction to their behavior. But, when we switch our focus to Jesus and His glory, we parent from a place of peace and victory.
Time with Jesus should not be reserved for the days we have half an hour of peace and quiet. Time with Jesus shouldn't be saved for the days our kids are putting their sin nature on full display. And time with Jesus shouldn't only happen on the fly: a glance at today's verse before we roll out of bed and a hurried prayer while we jump in the car. Time with Jesus should be all of these put together. This is how we best abide in Christ. This is how we invite Jesus into our every day. Some days we get to linger in His presence, and sometimes we lovingly talk to Him as we drive down the road. And we should always to talk to Him before we sit down to train little hearts that have gone astray.
If we are going to foster a love of Jesus and His Word in our children's heart, if we are going to train them to make good decisions in hard circumstances, if we are going to teach them to get along with each other and the rest of man-kind, we need to start at the feet of Jesus. We need to allow Him to fill our hearts up with love, so that our words are saturated in it. Otherwise, our words become hollow truth, puffed up with our own knowledge and empty of the love and grace of Jesus.
Let us be run to Jesus moms, who put our desire for Him above our desire for perfect behavior.
There are season of life that burst on us like a thunderclap, dripping with fear and worry. Some days we manage to get an umbrella up to protect us from the torrent, but some days we become tired of keeping our guard up, and we begin to let anxiety seep into our souls. Fear ripples our thinking, and we find ourselves unsettled and worried about how things may turn out. We begin a narrative in our minds, that sounds a little like this:
"What if life as we know it is over?"
"What if I lose my job?"
"I'm afraid my kid's future is at risk."
"I don't have what it takes to make it through this."
"Fear is a normal response to my situation. I can't help it!"
"What if we run out of toilet paper?" (Sorry, couldn't help it)
Fear comes at us in so many ways. Sometimes we don't even recognize it as fear. It seems like a healthy caution or common sense. But when it takes God out of the equation, it's usually a fear driven response. Because God has things to say when the world is in an uproar, and His words don't sound anything like our fear-soaked thoughts. He tells us:
"Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you." -Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT
"...God has said, 'I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.' So we can say with confidence, 'The Lord is my Helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?'" Hebrews 13:5-6 NLT
"You are my servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:9-10 NKJV
The future that sends bolts of worry and fear through our hearts? God is already in it! We don't need to fear about our kid's future being at risk, about making it through a hard situation, or anything else, because God is already in the future. He's got in under control.
God knows about everything that's happening in the world right now, because He's already been there.
Think about that a little bit.
God is already in the future, He already knows the outcome, and He already has His plans laid out for you, no matter what comes. Remember, He even sees when a single bird gets knocked out of the sky. He personally cares about you and your family, and He has a plan for you.
Does this mean everything will be lovely and perfect and dreamy? No, but that's not the point. The point is, the God of the Universe, the King of the future, the Lover of the sparrows wants to reach down and cover you with His wings. He wants you to throw out your umbrella of self-protection and run to Him, like a little chick who's been caught in a down pour runs to her mother for security and protection.
He has given each of us promise after promise after promise in His Word.
He will be there for you. Always. Forever. He loves His children dearly, and we can trust His plans for us and our family, and everything else we hold dear.
And, by the way, He's preparing a place for us in Heaven, which is our true home. I'm going to be setting my sights on that. I hope you'll join me.