I have always fought against the idea of making prayer into a habit. I've reasoned that, if prayer is such a tedious task, than there must be something wrong in my relationship with Christ. And yet, by my very reasoning, I have made prayer a task, rather than a relationship.
I know I'm not alone in this reasoning. I took several polls on social media and the overwhelming amount of voters admitted to not being happy with their prayer life. In fact, in one Facebook group, 40 Christian moms said they wished they had a better prayer life and 0 said they were happy with their prayer life.
Prayer is our main form of communication with God. If we aren't praying, we aren't communicating with Christ. How can we grow in a relationship if we aren't talking? How quickly would your relationship with your husband go downhill, if you only talked with him while you were on the go? Or if you only talked with him when you needed something?
Motherhood is a labor of love.
We all know that, right? From the first moment we discovered we were pregnant, or the first time we met our child through adoption, we learned a different kind of love.
But some days...
Some days the love is as strong as ever, but the sparkles seem to have faded. The rose-colored lenses (ok Instagram filters) have been removed, and real life hits.
And we wish they would just learn to fix their bed already. Or that they'd put their toys in the toy box, and not behind it. And why do they have to whine about washing the dishes every single night. Are you feeling these bold words? Yelling them in your head?
I so often forget that my kids are kids. Not tiny adults with fully developed minds.
At this writing, we have just celebrated Mother’s Day. I loved seeing all the ways women were honored all over social media. Some women got breakfast in bed or a special lunch, or both! Most women got at least a card or a phone call and some of us got beautiful gifts and thoughtful scribbly drawings. There were written tributes everywhere and abundant ravings for the importance of mothers in church on Sunday.
Now, Father’s Day is coming up. (If you had forgotten consider this your friendly reminder!) Churches and newspapers all around the world will provide acronyms and three point sermons regarding ways for father’s to be the very best dad possible. They'll be encouraged to be strong leaders, with the perfect balance of gentleness and authority, mercy and justice. Not only that, but they’ll be reminded that their relationship with their kids can only be as good as their relationship with their children’s mom.
Do you see the contrast? Many dads will receive gifts and cards of thanks, but the overarching tone of Father’s Day seems to be: here is the high bar you should seek to attain. Why are the two holidays different in this way? In preparation for this Father’s Day, I’d like to take some time to really ponder why Father’s are worth honoring.
One of the implications of this difference in attitudes towards each holiday is that (since we know that Mother’s aren’t ACTUALLY perfect, despite what the Hallmark card says) there is abundant grace for moms, but not so much for dads. By overlooking her short-comings, but prodding him to improve on his, we are rending concepts that in actuality must coexist to reflect God’s design.
So I’d like to start by reminding us that yes, there is infinite grace for all of our shortcomings. Just as there is great value in seeing Christ’s example and other scriptural wisdom and following after them wholeheartedly. I want you to know that I do believe in the value of teaching men how to become ever more capable to fulfill their calling. I also believe in giving abundant grace while the Spirit makes us new. I just feel like we as women mostly get the latter and men kind of get the short end of the stick each spring. As we move forward, let’s take these inseparable concepts and think of fatherhood with a more cohesive set of lenses.
The Weight Of Authority In Fatherhood
As women and mothers, many of our responsibilities are very tangible. In many homes, mom is primarily responsible for much of the household duties. This looks different in every home and can be very dependent on whether mom works, whether or not there are two parents in the household and so many other factors.
Our responsibilities could be cooking and cleaning, working and/or educating children, or maybe keeping the lawn or garden looking pristine. No matter what it looks like for each unique family, it’s common for a woman’s responsibilities to be self-evident. It’s easy to see if they are completed and with what level of care. It’s also therefore a lot easier to be grateful for them. I know not everything is quite as simple and visible. Sometimes mom is home with the children during the day and her efforts to love and discipline her children go largely unnoticed. Unless of course our kiddos misbehave in public of course! (I’m right there with you, mama!)
Let’s take a moment and think about the cultural and Biblical expectations for a Father. Colossians and Ephesians have similar instructions to Fathers, asking them not to provoke their children, but to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. As husbands, men are expected to make important decisions, be financially responsible, lead their families spiritually and maintain a healthy walk with Christ. I feel like I need to take a breather just typing that out!
Think about it this way. If you don’t do the laundry, within a few days or more people will notice. They’ll come to you looking for clean underwear and complaining of having nothing to wear. (Although I don’t know about yours, but my daughters sometime feel that way even if everything is clean.) Since this responsibility is so tangible (and never-ending right?!) it’s easy to see that you need to kick it into high gear and get it done, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal if your kids wear dirty jeans for a day.
Compare this with most of dad’s roles. It might work similar with mowing the lawn or filling the car up with gas. But what about making life decisions such as whether or not to move? How does it work out with his efforts at spiritual leadership? It usually takes a lot longer (and a lot more risk) to find our whether he made the right call. Will you pause a moment and consider the weight of these things?
Ladies, our jobs have great eternal value. They do. Both in and out of our home, we have been called to do precious things for God’s kingdom. But the bottom line is, a husband and father’s role has added responsibility. A teacher I enjoy recently reminded me of this when speaking on submission. It’s easy to focus on the difficulty of submitting, especially if we believe the leader in our life is wrong. But as women, we don’t often taste the pressure that comes with that authority. You may know how it feels to lead a team, a ministry or a business venture. But unless you’re a single mom, we don’t feel the burden of taking the lead on issues with eternal weight for the people we care about more than anything in the world. Business and ministries can have do-overs. Father’s only get one life to live well.
Making it practical...
Like I said in the beginning. This is a two way street. We all need grace and growth. So this Father’s Day, what can we do differently? Here are a few ideas to start - we’d love to hear yours in the comments!
In the week before or after Father’s Day, take time to pursue your husband’s (or father’s) heart. Many men hesitate to reveal how they’re feeling. Take time to chat and enjoy the conversation. Take time to really listen. Sometime when life is really busy, this alone is such a gift! If time and talk allow, ask him how he’s really doing. Depending on your relationship with him and his with Jesus, you might ask him what God’s been teaching him or how you can pray for him. Maybe, with humility and grace in each hand, you could ask if there’s one thing you could work on or do better to help him.
Say thank you. A real, true, positive thank you. If it’s hard to think of positive things about the man in your life, ask God to help you see through different eyes. Avoid the temptation to blow sunshine and say things that have very little value. One pointed, meaningful word is worth hundreds of shallow ones.
Have some fun! Take him to do something he loves! If you have little ones, maybe add in a gift certificate or home made coupon for him to do that thing alone sometime. For instance, my husband loves to fish. So naturally, he loves to take us fishing with him. Except what he’s really doing when he fishes with the family along, is rowing the boat, untangling fly lines, tying knots, teaching our children how to tie knots, netting fish, calming frustrated casters, and I think you get the picture. I don’t think Father’s Day would be the same without us, but there’s also nothing like a quiet day on the river.
How do you restore your soul, Mama? How do you refresh your spirit and find the energy to keep on going, day after day?
Is it self-care? Soul-care? Do you feel like you need to find child-care before you can get the rest you so desperately need?
This may be the most practical post on WHM yet, but I feel it's desperately needed by moms today. Self-Care seems to be preached from the rooftops and beautifully pictured every time you open your phone. But what is it, even? And is it actually that important?
I'm going to jump right in and tell you that I don't like self-care. I don't even agree with it. The very name puts a catch in my spirit. Since when are Christians supposed to focus on self? And while taking a shower, wearing clean clothes and combing my hair every day makes me feel good, aren't those the same habits we're tying to teach our kids now? So shouldn't we have them pretty well figured out by now?
I know...I know there's seasons where it's hard to survive, and a shower feels like an oasis in a desert. But there's this unhealthy drive to pamper ourselves as moms and the results usually don't last longer than the actual event anyway.
We don't need more self-care. We need soul-care.
What is it that refreshes your soul and fills your heart with the Living Water that transformed the life of the Samaritan woman at the well? (John 4)
And what are you doing to make it happen?
My heart has been in turmoil the last week. My mind has been racing. I've felt unsettled.
There is so much upheaval. There is so much unrest. Racism, anger, name-calling, and destruction have taken over every news outlet and social media feed. It is demanded that we pick a side.
Law Enforcement or people of color?
White or Black?
If we question the riots, we're racist. If we feel anger at Law Enforcement, we're anti-America. There is this imaginary line drawn in the sand, and we're not allowed to straddle it. We must chose a side.
As a former EMS worker, I have seen the good cops. I've watched them deal with the unthinkable with a quiet courage and I applaud them.
As the mother of a bi-racial child, my heart cries out for justice and mercy. I cringe at the conversations going on around me.
Must I pick a side? And, if I do, how will it effect my children? How will it effect the future of reconciliation? Because the future of racism is being molded right now, in our hearts and in our homes. The way we raise our children now will dictate the kind of world they live in.
Which forces us to answer the question, "What can be done?"
When I started writing on this topic I had that old Christian song - This is the Day - in my mind. I haven’t sung that song for years - and if you are a young mum you may not even know what I’m talking about. So I went on Youtube (as you do these days) and the first find was just precious. To be honest, after watching this little clip with this old chorus in the background there may be no reason for me to write any more.
This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made
That the Lord has made
We will rejoice, we will rejoice and be glad in it
And be glad in it
For this is the the day that the Lord has made
We will rejoice and be glad in it
This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.
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.
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.
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.
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.