Visionary Motherhood:: Truths To Hold Onto For The Long Haul

Tim’s parents are our go-to people for anything life. They have been in ministry well over twenty years after being saved in their mid-thirties. They have been married for forty years, through thick and thin, have raised four strapping boys. They know gritty life, they know grace, they know the gospel. I love them fervently.
When we go and see them, as the kids run around crazy, I love sitting down and having a natter. My father-in-law and I often talk in-depth about current church issues or cultural crazies. Today was no different.
Somehow the topic got onto work and I mentioned that I am often asked when I’m going to go back to work. When I say no, I’m then asked if I will when the kids go to school. {I then have to explain that in all likelihood, they won’t be going to school.} And I said to my father-in-law, “I feel so different.”
We talked about the unseen pressure from culture, even in Christian culture, to do certain things. It’s normal for a mother to go back to work when her child is still a baby. In a friend’s ante-natal group, out of fifteen, only two mothers remain at home {age of children: twenty-one months}. And my father-in-law said to me, “As John MacArthur said to me once, ‘Just because thousands of others are doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right’.”
Firstly, um, my father-in-law has personal quotes from John MacArthur! That’s the legacy God has knit me into {gosh, I am so thankful}.
Mostly though, it was what he said next:
“You’re doing this [staying home and teaching the kids life at home] because you have a long-term vision. You’re looking down the track and what needs to be done now, for then.”


In my last post, I wrote about how important it is to have a vision for motherhood. Not only does having a vision keep us focused on the over-arching goal we have for our children’s childhood and family life, but it also keeps us from getting trapped in the ‘now’ mentality of our world.
We don’t become mothers and have only a few years with our kids before we send them to school and then return to our pre-mother lives. We have these people in our care for our whole lives – with different seasons requiring different levels of us and our devotion. And as Christians, our motherhood ought to look different to the world’s view of raising children. 
Whatever arrangement our family takes – stay-at-home mother or working mother, homeschooling kids or public school kids – how we mother must look different. A big part of that is having a vision, a heart attitude, a mindset that directs our days, our actions, our dreams, our decisions.
For me, I have explained my vision before, but I’ll quickly recap:
As a mother, I desire to dedicate my life to my family whole-heartedly. I want to be an undivided wife and mother, spending my days pouring out myself for the sake of God, on the people He has given me. Specifically for our family, this means I stay home raising the kids and, most likely, we will homeschool our children. Our desire is to keep our children in the security of home for as long as we deem appropriate so that we can: lay the foundations for a faith built on a strong understanding of the gospel and God’s Word; and to equip them with the ability to live in this world when they are ready.
I believe strongly in our duty as parents and the serious task bestowed on us. Mostly because our children are not really our own. They belong to God. And, just like a shepherd for his flock, it is our job to care and protect and “show them the way” {Proverbs}.

How did I come to this vision?

It’s been years in the making. Years of family sin, family brokenness, my own failures, redemption, growth in biblical understanding and the hope that a new generation can be different from the previous. I’ve done a lot of reading, lots of listening to faithful teachers, and lots of time soaking in the Scriptures.
During my time in the Word, over time, the Lord has gently – and sometimes strongly in times of need of direction – personally given Scriptures that have pressed upon my heart what I believe to be His desire for our family, for my motherhood. The Book of Proverbs has been a very fundamental foundation for my vision, and here are some specific verses:
“My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.” 6:20-23
“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” 14:1
“Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” 14:26
“Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.” 19:18
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” 24:3-4
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” 22:6
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” 13:20
And, finally, in Colossians:

“He {Christ} is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end, I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” 1:28-29
I don’t think these are promises for our family. I don’t think God is saying, “Be this kind of parent and your children will be Christians/godly/obedient/loving”. Rather, I believe that God is saying to me, “Here is my Truth about parenthood. Listen to My Voice and not the world’s. You are called to mother these children, follow this way with them”.
Recently, my two little ones – a preschooler and a toddler, sixteen-months-apart – have been so much fun hard work. There have been many trying moments and days where I have struggled to believe that this is all worth it. It would be so easy to throw in the towel and give them to someone else to raise. I have had many pity-parties feeling sorry for myself and bringing us all down.
But then, the Spirit nudges me. I open up His Word and I am gently and lovingly reminded why I am called to motherhood. I am a mother, therefore I am called to do it. It is my responsibility, and my joy, to do it. Through God’s grace, I build our house with wisdom; I guide my children from being fools and companion of fools; I start our children on the way they should go. And I know this is what I have to do because the Bible tells me so.
“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilige. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, it it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”
 ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Having a vision, rooted in Scripture, helps me stay faithful in this job.
Having Scripture keeps me anchored in the Scriptural calling and duty of motherhood.
It is an anchor. And the memory of the moment these verses came to my eyes and entered my heart, speaking to a question in my soul I had asked of God – that sweetness and personal moment with the Lord builds me up as I lose my footing.
Do you have any specific Scriptures that God has given you as a vision for motherhood?

The Importance of Having a Vision for Motherhood.

This is Part One in a Three-Part Series on Visionary Motherhood.
“Where there is no vision the people will perish.” Proverbs 29:18
This verse can often be taken out of context. The writer in Proverbs isn’t exhorting the Israelites to  have their day-planners out and create a business plan, or a ten-year vision for their lives, or a bucket list to tick off before they die. He is describing what happens when a person has no spiritual contact with their Creator God and the revelation that comes to their spirits when they anchor themselves with His Word. 
One commentary describes, “We may then a little amplify the proverb for the sake of exposition: ‘When there is no living revelation, no perceived contact between man and God, there the bonds which hold society together are relaxed and broken; but he that holds by the revelation that has been given, obeying the law, so far as it has been presented to him, happy is he.'”
Dear mother, are you in contact with your Father God? Have you received a living revelation from God for this great task He has given you to accomplish for Him? Simply,
Do you have a vision for motherhood?
God has been really good to me in that, through the pain of my parents separating and having a mother with a divided heart, God has redeemed those years of mourning into dancing. Within the broken heart of a teeanger, God gave me a vision for both marriage and motherhood. I committed to Him and myself that I would:
  • do both – no matter what happened – to my very best to His glory;
  • that I would be whole-hearted, undivided in both;
  • that I would offer my life for those He gave to me;
  • that my husband would know I loved and respected him;
  • that my children knew they were worth more to me than any personal ambition.
When I got married and then when I had children, I poured myself into His Word to equip myself with His wisdom and His heart for the family. I read books and books on what I learned was called “biblical womanhood”. I listened to sermons and asked questions and wrote and prayed and longed.
I didn’t want what the world offered: I had seen how it decieved my own family and how it never gives what it promises. I wanted God to create in our new family a new generation that would seek His ways above all else and would proclaim the Gospel in whatever place He put us in.
This is my vision for our family. But, oh, working towards it – and living it, in the day-to-day, is hard. Just incredibly hard.
Poo-explosions, squabbles, character training, washing clothes, making dinners, long work days, church commitments, study, tiredness, sleep deprivation, tight budgets, large properties to manage, unexpected bills, hormones, bad days – – –
You get it. Life is busy and complicated and mundane. Feelings go on merry-go-rounds and it’s super easy to hop on for a ride. When we’re up to our eyeballs in family living, it can be easy to lose sight of the end. We’re floating on our life-vest of Jesus, but those waves sometimes block our view. It would be easy to slip off and sink under. Switch on the lazy parenting button, or allow our hearts and minds to be distracted and divided.
It’s a battle. The daily chaos of what we see is really a veil to what we cannot see: the fight over the spiritual health of our family. Us evangelicals get a bit squirmy when talk leads into spiritual wars between Satan and his evil cronies. It sounds a bit, well, charismatic. But it’s the truth. As my minister said on Sunday {August 14th} we’re either under evil or we’re under grace.
When we don’t have a vision for this motherhood thing {and marriage}, and work towards it, our family’s will perish. And not only our family, but eventually, our world. And that is totally what see today, isn’t it? A world crumbling as families topple down, like dominoes.

“Biblical womanhood is at risk. That is bad enough, but if the secularists succeed in taking out Biblical womanhood, the family will go with it. The family as God designed it is dangerously rare today… When we rescue women, we rescue families. When we rescue families, we rescue culture.” ~ Susan Hunt, By Design

But, visionary-mothers, we can – by God’s mercy – turn the change of the tide. We can direct it back to the way God intended families to be: whole, strong, Jesus-loving, grace-giving, committed, caring, faithful.
I would encourage you to really seek the Lord for His vision for your family. In prayer and in the Word, ask His Spirit to guide you. Ask for Scripture that is His personal revelation for you as the mother of your children and as the wife of your husband. Read good books that point to biblical womanhood and equip yourself for this very real spiritual battle going on.
On days when it is just simply hard, we can grasp hold of those Scriptures to maintain the vision we have to do this thing well. We can stand firm and not be swayed or fall into temptation. And if we do? There is great, great mercy and grace and always second chances with our good God.

What is your vision for motherhood?

Motherhood & Mental Illness: When I Am Weak

This is now part of a mini-series found here:
Anxiety. Mental Illness.
They can be hard words to swallow about myself. But I do.
This week I have been reminded that I live in a frail and fallen body. It’s easy, when things are fine, to fool myself into thinking that I have it all together, that I am strong and able to cruise through life independently and alone. And then, something happens and medication isn’t enough to keep my anxiety at bay: once again, I’m thrust into the whirling pit of a speeding mind, the sense that something is very wrong, intense emotions and a body wound up like an old-fashioned toy.
I have been “fine” for so long. It’s two years since my last pregnancy and post-partum struggles. It’s been well over a year since I have tried to wean myself off my medication, only to have my old friend come creeping back through the brain stem of my mind. Life has trundled along – busy, routine, safe. I’ve been okay.

How I Went Under Again

Last week Tim was suddenly put on night shifts {who knew builder’s could be on night shifts?} and everything was turned upside down. I was sole parenting day and night; I was stressed trying to keep a toddler and preschooler quiet during the day in our small house so as not to wake Tim; therefore, we went out and about everyday. It was a struggle. By the end of the week, the muscles around my shoulders were sore from being tense all the time and, by the weekend, I could feel the unnamed panic starting to creep over my heart, my mind like a deer in headlights.
Now I wasn’t handling things as I normally do. Squabbles, disobedience, dawdling filled me with irritability at best, rage at worst. Long days in sole charge of the kids from sun up to sundown {Tim has night classes several times a week and is gone for work by 6.30am} built that pressure of responsibility to bursting point as I struggled staying on top of it all.
Finally, by Wednesday, I acknowledged to myself that I wasn’t well and needed to stop trying. This brought a sense of relief. It usually takes me a little to face my anxiety; I often keep going as before, productive and ignoring my rising tension. I think I don’t need help. And then, I realise I can’t – –
and I throw myself before God and simply ask for help. “Give me grace, O Lord. I just can’t do this without you.”

Why I Accept This Thorn

And that is what this thorn in my side is really for. God knows me so well. He knows I love comfortable and, more than physical comfort, I crave idolise emotional comfort. And He knows that when I ask, in trepidation, to help me need Him and desire Him more than anything else, the thorn shifts and I’m reminded that it is weakness that keeps us within the safety of His refuge.

Peace and safety certainly don’t come from striving for the perfect life or being the world’s best mother. These are the goals of my flesh. They war with the God-directed spirit in me – the new me – that only wants Him and His ways and His will. These two parts of me grate against one another like the plates of the earth, and it is my anxiety that is the earthquake, shaking me around a bit, keeping me at the foot of the cross.

Nothing in my hand I bring, 
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Stained by sin to You I cry –
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!

I used to plead this illness away. I used to fight it and deny it and crucify myself for being so weak. I feel shame that I need such a quiet and uneventful life to keep me steady, that such a minor thing like Tim working night shifts can throw me off “my game”.

But part of the valley I experienced after Josiah’s birth helped me see it with a humble heart. I saw this world and our broken bodies differently, for what they are – tents, that flap in the wind a bit, and which pegs sometimes get ripped out of the earth. We are clay vessels, we’re easily broken.

Grace Upon Grace

Our culture emulates perfection – perfect bodies, perfect jobs, perfect families, perfect wealth. But what a lie. We will always come against the fallen. This world is not meant to be it.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

… So the power of Christ may rest on me. Did you hear that? We aren’t meant to strive in our brokenness. Rather, we are meant to rest in His grace, His power, His mercy, His blood. We can acknowledge who and what we really are, and divorce ourselves from perfection. We are to pursue holiness, but that is not the same as pursuing perfection. We are to pursue being a set apart people, who trust and obey God.
Now, however much I hate my illness, I accept it. I embrace it. I acknowledge that it is a gift from God. Yes. A gift. I would rather be sick, on my face before the throne of God in desperate need of Him, than cruising through life thinking I’m awesome and invincible. I would rather see myself as a weak wife and mother, than sit on my high horse, not able to be real and in the trenches with other needy women. I would rather experience the Gospel in pain than understand it in perfect theology, sitting comfortably, unscathed by broken. I am really, really grateful I’m broken. It makes me need Jesus.

Do you struggle with anxiety or another form of mental illness? How do you accept it as a struggling mother?

A Wife’s Primary Role

If I could sum up all the verses directly related to wive’s in the Bible, this is what I believe God wants all wives to know:

Your primary role in marriage is to support your husband.
Now, as a sort-of feminist teenager, I would have squirmed with indignation at such a statement. Even though every fibre of my being longed to have a man to love and be loved by, the thought that my main role in marriage was to support him – well, I don’t think so!
Why did I feel that way? What was it about the idea of a woman supporting the man she loves make me go all icky and angry? If I were to talk to my teenage-self, I would cut right to the chase – and the hidden thoughts of my heart – and point out the two reasons why.
NOTE: If you are being abused – emotionally or physically – I am not talking to you. You need to get help or get out now. That is not a marriage God wants happening and will provide for you just as He provided for Israel escaping slavery. I am addressing wives in a normal, imperfect but fairly healthy marriage relationship.

1. “You think being a support to a man is something derogatory.”

I’d point out that it is the man bit that makes me feel icky. You see, if I were thinking about my primary role in friendship, and that it was to “support my friend”, I wouldn’t think twice… But because it is a man, this means there is something inherently bad/derogatory/abusive/slavish about it. 
What a lie! A lie from our fore-mothers gone awry, a lie from the history of men abusing their position of protector/provider, and a lie from the enemy who just wants us all to be as far away from God’s good design as possible as it can be.
When we put the baggage of history aside and we look into the sweet Word of our God, the Truth we see right at the beginning of the world – before sin and abuse and manipulation and lies wormed their way like cancer into our beings – that God created a stunningly gorgeous woman to —
be a helper
be a companion
be a lover
It is inherently within us to be nurturing, supportive and a help. We absolutely love it. Why do we love planners and organisers and nesting so much?? And, quite simply, we long to love. We long to love the men God has blessed us with. We just get lied to and we fall prey to the sin that “so easily entangles us” {Hebrews 12:1} and therefore, live in fear.
But God addresses this fear in 1 Peter 3:6, when He reminded us of Sarah who,
“obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not give way to fear.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t call my husband ‘lord’! Ha! But, my heart respects him and his position of protector and provider. This is the same thing. And so, I support him by respecting him and honouring the position God has put him in and the position He has put me in. If I want to be a biblical, godly woman like Sarah – who was honoured in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 – I am to obey God and not be afraid. 
Obeying God also means trusting Him to help me and help my husband if things do start to go wrong – which they will, by the way. We are sinners and we will sin against each other. Your husband will make mistakes and sin against you. But God knew that and knows that now. Even when we make mistakes, living His ways is still far better than living the ways of this world.

2. “God wants you to focus on His Word for you and not your husband’s.”

Teenage-me: It’s easy to focus on what another person should be doing or what they are supposed to be doing but aren’t. You might think, “Well, I’ll support my husband if he is loving me like Jesus.” If only he were more: kind, loving, protective, manly, stronger etc. Or, if only he would: provide better, be less lazy, help around the house more, be a better father.
I’m afraid, this is another lie. Obeying God is never a dependent clause. Just as He never asks us to love another depending on their behaviour, nor does ever love us dependent on our behaviour. He loves us unconditionally. And, even though we are fallen creatures who hurt and sin and disobey, we are still called to love one another more than ourselves {John 13:34-35}.
This means that our support of our husbands is not dependent on their behaviour. We can’t say, “Well, if he would show me more affection then I would feel like being more of a support to him”. That’s just not how it works. This is a form of comparison, which is a sign of a distrustful and ungrateful heart towards our God who generously gives us all good gifts {1 Timothy 6:17}.
Again, we are to be like Sarah. Do you think Abraham was perfect? Do you remember that he was a coward, pretended Sarah was his sister, and gave her to another man to be his concubine {Genesis 20}? Talk about a model husband! How hurt, betrayed, grief-filled Sarah must have been. They had an imperfect, sinful marriage.
She respected her husband and God calls her righteous for it. In their mistakes, God would have stretched them, helped them learn to love one another more than themselves, and to trust and obey the roles He has created for husbands and wives. Isn’t that what He asks us in our marriages today?
The above picture is a bit tongue-in-cheek. But, for all the 1950’s of it, such a picture shows a wife being welcoming, warm, and supportive to her husband as he walks in the door. Does she struggle with fear and the desire to rule her husband? Of course! Who doesn’t? But, if she truly loves the Lord and desires to please Him above all else {including her feelings and sentiments}, then she will strive to be a loving and supportive wife to her husband.

I would love to hear your thoughts! Have you struggled with any of the lies mentioned?