Intentional Mothering

The Best Thing A Wife of a Busy Husband Can Do

By on August 8, 2017

No wife ever feels that she is experienced enough to share snippets of wisdom learned through her own marriage. We always believe that other wives will know more or understand how to love a husband much more than we do. And, in some ways, this can be true.

But I do believe that God uses all marriages – however short or long they have been going for – for His glory and His purposes. And part of those purposes is encouraging other wives in their commitment to loving and helping their men.

In our marriage, one experience I can share on is being married to a hardworking, busy man.

My dear man is a man of integrity and works always to the very best of his ability, working for his employer like he is working for the Lord. This means that when he walks out the door in the morning, he’s not coming home until he believes the work has been done for that day.

Being a commercial builder, this means long and physically hard days. From 7-5pm, with some Saturdays, and even very early mornings (like 2am) on concrete pour days. Also, as he works his way higher in position, so it comes with more responsibility and pressure.

But my husband not only is busy with work. He is busy writing and leading a Bible Study group, serving on two rosters at church, mentoring, and catching up with mates when he can. Not to mention, the priority in all of this, is being a husband, father, and caring son.

He is a busy man! And, dear friend, I am sure your husband is, too.

I’m sure you feel like the young wife I spoke to at church last Sunday, who said she felt bad about her husband’s busy schedule and her feeling unable to help in anyway. I could sense her feelings of helplessness and guilt when he’s out a lot and she doesn’t have the same responsibilities and pressure. 

What are wives of busy husbands to do? What is the best way we can love and serve our men?

My Number One Piece of Advice Is…

Take it easy. I’m not kidding.

Possibly the worst thing you could do – especially if you have children – is to run around trying to work as hard, in the same manner, as your husband does. You will run yourself into the ground. You will be miserable and tired and grumpy. You will have a messy home and barely-put-together meals. You will use most of your energy on parenting the children. So, when your tired husband comes home, you will have nothing left for him.

Trust me.

Sometimes it is easy to feel guilty as a hard-working stay-at-home wife and mother. Because we don’t have set hours, or employers, or projects that are due in, or pressures, or long meetings, or commuting… we sometimes feel that we are not working as hard or doing enough to match all the things our husbands do.

As easy as it is to do that comparison, we shouldn’t. Do you know why? We’re not supposed to be the same.

Get Rid Of The Guilt

The measuring stick of “hard work” is not the same for every person, in every job, in every role, at all times. The Queen’s busy day would look very different to a teachers, and a teachers day would look very different to a carpenters. An invalid’s day would look different to a pregnant woman’s, and so does a wife’s day look different to her husband’s day.

God gives us different roles with different responsibilities. So don’t work yourself to the bone trying to be like your husband. Your husband may be managing a large company, or driving trucks long-distance, or doing night shifts. In your heart and in your mind, lay out your priorities and see them for what they are: but you are shaping people, molding hearts, directing futures, and creating homes.

Not better or worse, just different. And that role requires a different looking day. Don’t ever forget that.

Mother Culture

So, let’s say, when you are tempted to “keep going” in the hour you have left before you begin to get dinner on the table as the kids are climbing the walls and your man is walking through the door – stop. Don’t keep going. You need a breather.

Schedule out little pockets of time during the day to kick your feet up. Nap. Rest. Read. Cultivate the gifts that God has given you that make you you – piano, writing, art, pen pals, singing, crafting, sewing. 

It is not wrong to do this during the day. In fact, I would say it is absolutely necessary.

Charlotte Mason called these pockets of time, “Mother Culture” (link to explanation). Basically, Mother Culture is when a mother continues her education during the years she is heavily mothering.

Why?

Because she needs it. You, dear mother, need to take time to care for and to educate yourself. Don’t let yourself wither and shrivel and become some unknown person your husband doesn’t recognise. Just because you have children doesn’t mean you become dumb.

And it doesn’t mean you don’t take it easy, either.

So. Plan out pockets of quiet time. Do what you need to rest and refresh yourself. Stretch your brain. Stretch new abilities and hobbies. When your husband comes home from a busy day at work, shattered and in need of companionship (or quiet!), you will be ready and willing and able. There’ll be good food on the table. And the kids will be settled (reasonably) because they have a happy, growing mother.

And your marriage will thrive.

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Intentional Mothering

Why Disciplining Our Children Means First Disciplining Ourselves (Thoughts on Charlotte Mason).

By on August 2, 2017

As we continue to walk slowly into a homeschooling life, I easily see and embrace the beautiful educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason. I wouldn’t say that we will be a strict Charlotte Mason homeschool family, but her ideas about educating children will influence me as I guide the children to a lifelong love of learning within the calm and life-giving atmosphere of home.

Charlotte Mason had a three-pronged view of education. She believes that,

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Two of these I feel I adopt instinctively, like breathing. I love creating a home that induces learning, creativity, and a hunger to know more. And I know the education is more than “school” – it is a wholehearted desire to know God – and His world – and grow towards Christ-like character. If my children are learning math, they’re learning about God because He made math.

But one facet of Charlotte Mason’s approach is a struggle for me: that is, education is a discipline. It is like a wall that I keep running into and struggle to climb over.

Before I look at why it is a struggle for me, first I want to briefly explain what Charlotte Mason understands discipline to be within education.

Education is a Disicpline: All About the Heart & Habits

By Education is a discipline, is meant the discipline of habits formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body.” Vol. 1, Preface

Charlotte Mason believed that the character of a child was the most important part of their education. It was the parent’s primary responsibility to steadily form in their children habits – both of their hands and of their hearts – that would aid them as they grow into adults.

Some of CM’s formation of habits included:

  • cleanliness
  • courtesy
  • order
  • fortitude
  • generosity
  • gentleness
  • respect
  • obedience
  • imagining
  • observation
  • self-control
  • thanksgiving
  • truthfulness

The ultimate “goal” in the formation of habits in children is the child’s mastery of self: that is, self-control and self-discipline. Sonya Schafer in her e-book, Education Is, says that we (as parents),

…guide them with discipline from without until they can make the transition to discipline themselves from within.” 

Year after year, as we work alongside our children, diligently and with persistence, our children will slowly learn to work within themselves the discipline that leads to a joy of life: freedom. The more a child is in control of their heart and habits, the more freedom in life they will have. It’s one of those divine dichotomies: the more we limit, the more freedom we have.

This seems very straight forward and I believe wholeheartedly in it. But I struggle with this aspect of the Charlotte Mason life among the three-prongs of education. Why?

It All Starts With Me

That’s it, really.

Forming children of character with responsible habits lands primarily at the feet of the mother. It is her burden to carry since the children spend the majority of their time with her. God has given her that task of laying down the rails that will lead to their freedom in later life, and he has equipped the woman with attributes that lend herself to this task.

And this is why it’s so hard: I struggle with self-discipline myself. If I battle to have mastery over my own heart and habits, how can I consistently attend to my own children with joy, persistance, and fortitude?

Because that is what it takes to raise balanced, God-loving, kind, loving, and enjoyable adults – joy of the Lord, in it for the long haul, holding on to truth when it is tough. This is a daunting task and one that I know I ought not to take lightly. Why else did I choose to have children? To make me happy? Or fulfill some selfish desire?

I definitely started motherhood out that way. Not purely in a selfish way, of course. But, as the years begin to go on and the Lord opens the eyes of my heart to the task before me, I see how much deeper motherhood goes.

I see how much more a servant heart is needed.

I see the roots of a submissive heart reach, not just toward my dear husband as his wife, but as a mother coming under the needs of her children.

I see that the discipline of the hearts and habits of my children requires a depth of discipline in myself – who I am and how I behave on a daily basis – and is a level of hard work that I never realised. And I find myself baulking at that, often.

The Hard Work Comes From Conflict

Not only is the responsibility and authenticity of parenting in a transparent and exemplary way hard work, so is the actual forming of my children. The reason why they need help with their hearts and habits is because they are people. And what are people? Sinners.

Mothering is basically a continual battle of the wills. The will of the mother (who knows what is good, what is right, what is God-honouring – however imperfectly and fallen) to the will of the child (who knows only limitedly and spends much energy on feeling and egotistical instinct). And how is that easy?

There is no other way … but a certain strenuousness in the formation of good habits is necessary because every such habit is the result of conflict.” ~ Charlotte Mason, Vol.6, p.102

Strenuousness and conflict. How can I do this???

Labouring and Striving…With Help

This is why my personal verse for motherhood (and which is always at the end of one of my email newsletters) is Colossians 1:29:

We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, striving with all His energy working in me.”

And that is the key, isn’t it? This is the only way we can see the responsibility before us as mothers and press on, not running away or giving up that responsibility to someone else. Christ is that key. His power is that key.

Both Christ and I work in tandem as I raise His children: I labour and strive to present these children perfect (or, doing all I can to lead them to Christ where only He saves them and takes over) for Him while He works His life-giving, death-defying, healing and divine power in me.

I cannot do this without Him.

So as I struggle with my own self-discipline in my heart and habits, I can take comfort. He is perfecting the good work He has started in me, and He will finish it. Part of finishing it is the many years He has asked me to mother children, who will battle against me (because I represent the Spirit in their life), and who won’t make it easy.

But nothing on this earth that has any eternal worth or significance will be easy or require little of us. So let us not balk, but press on deeper.

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Intentional Mothering

Why Mothers Should Sing Around the House More

By on July 26, 2017

I’ve never been a “singer”. In our home, my husband is the singer. He’s been singing all his life – boys’ choir, head chorister, church music team, weddings etc. He has a beautiful voice. Me on the other hand? I have an okay voice and I’m pretty thankful I can sing in tune.

I do, however, enjoy singing. It soothes my soul and expresses feelings I often can’t articulate to myself. But I sometimes feel inadequate because how I can sing is not how I want to sing. There is a lot of praise in me wanting to come out but my voice is not strong enough. (So, if you have the gift of a beautiful and powerful singing voice, bless the Lord!)

Yet, despite not being Adele, I sing a lot. As I’m doing housework, getting dinner ready, driving the car, gardening – I sing much of that time. Hymns, church songs, and favourite singers (like New Zealander, Brooke Fraser). Whatever comes to mind, I sing.

And today, by God’s special grace, He’s shown me an unexpected fruit of being a mother who sings around the home.

Little Hearts Sing

I must have been singing this hymn without realising it. And perhaps it’s been sung in church recently before the kids head out to their little preschool programme. But today, all on his own, I suddenly heard Josiah singing the first few notes of “Crown Him With Many Crowns”.

“Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon the throne; Hark! how the heavn’ly anthem drowns, all music but it’s own! Awake, my soul, and sing; Of Him who died for thee; And hail Him as thy matchless King, throughout all eternity.”

I was blown away. This boy listens and he takes in what he is hearing. What an amazing thing!

Of course, it’s not as though I didn’t know my kids listen. We often sing little songs together, and Rosalie is singing Tangled’s “I See the Light” all the time. I’m always hoping to pass on a love of singing to them.

However, I don’t think I have realised what a powerful tool singing is for a mother seeking to instill Gospel-truths into her little one’s hearts. I didn’t realise that as a mother sings songs of the Lord around the home – doing her tasks and playing with the children – she is organically and authentically passing on both her faith and her belief to the little hearts listening.

This is incredibly beautiful. And what a responsibility!

Authentic Faith

One song I love to sing is Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong, especially Lauren Daigle’s cover. (I’m personally not a massive fan of Hillsong but every now and then they produce a beautiful song that I really love, like Oceans or Man of Sorrows.) It speaks to all that God has done for me when I have gone through deep pain and suffering, and the faithfulness He has shown to me, a broken sinner.

As I sing this song, I sing it with a genuine love and faith in my Father. And the children see that. They pick up on something in me that I might not be able to communicate in words. They see a light that is in me, a love for a God they know is real but cannot see. And I pray that it plants seeds of memories and faith in their own hearts, just like I have of my own mother singing The Father’s Prayer at bedtime.

Authentic Truths

Above contemporary Christian songs, I delight and love hymns. The main reason is because of the depth and truth of the words within them, that I find more modern songs sometimes lack. Hymns communicate deep, spiritual truths that the everyday person often cannot come up with themselves. This is why hymns stand the test of time.

One of my favrourite hymns, Rock of Ages, lifts my soul to Heaven and articulates the Gospel in ways I pray my children hear and take into their little hearts. I pray that when they hear the words that there is “nothing in my hand I bring/simply to Thy cross I cling” they know that only Jesus can save. I pray they know that, given that our lives are short, we must think of “realms unknown” and that oneday we will “Bow before Thy judgement throne”. And yet that, if we believe in Jesus, He will [as our] Rock of Ages, “cleft for me”.

So, dear mothers, even if you aren’t “singers” – sing anyway. Or quietly put on music that draws hearts to the Lord. Without even being aware of it, our dear children will absorb the truths and the faith we show. Slowly, over time, we can pray that God will hide those thoughts and memories and words in their hearts, bringing them to full fruit as they grow older.

So sing! Sing with all you heart.

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Intentional Mothering

Being Okay With Being Okay (The Freedom That Comes From Self-Forgetfulness).

By on July 22, 2017

This post is dedicated to two friends both old and new, Cat and Emmy, who intentionally encouraged me to keep writing when I just want to give up on myself. Thank you for believing in me and reading what I have to say.

I’m slowing climbing out of a period where I made my life all about me. It was the kind of time when things just seemed hard and annoying all the time, but I didn’t realise that the problem was me.

I didn’t realise that the reason why I was –

…so moody,

…so grumpy with the kids,

…and so rebellious in spirit toward my dear husband

 – was because I was so focused on ME.

All I did everyday was grumble – inwardly and outwardly – about lots of different things and how hard everything was.

Mothering. Having a hard-working and busy husband. A house that always needs to be cleaned. A body that just keeps failing. My poor self-discipline. And why didn’t it just get any easier?

Then the Lord started to gently show me the hole I had put myself in.

He used my husband to pull me up in a conversation, pointing out how miserable I was being about things he couldn’t control even though he was doing all he could. (And being so patient with me.)

He showed me in my sense of guilt over how much of a grumpy mother I had become. Not letting the kids jump in puddles because I couldn’t be bothered with the clean-up. My son hiding something he had broken because he didn’t want Mummy to get angry. (Ouch.)

He also showed me in a book I’m reading how the high the standards I set myself cause me to stumble and not rest in the complete, all-sufficient grace of Jesus. And how, when I am not resting in His grace for myself, I’m not letting other people rest in it either. So, more grumps because you know, we’re all sinners and always let each other down.

And so on, and so on.

At one point late last week, with yucky, argumentative thoughts battling it out in my mind and my spirit raging with unpleasantness, I asked God, “What is wrong with me? Please, help me!”

***

And then I remembered how to get out of this mess. I remembered that no-one else had got me into it, and no-one else would get me out of it. This was my responsibility, my problem. Not my husband’s. And certainly not my children who, remember Sarah, are children – and not fully life-trained adults (so they do annoying things, like trudging dog poo into the house without realising).

The were only two ways out of the miserable and self-centred pit of a hole I had got myself into.

First, talk myself out of it.

Talking to yourself isn’t just for crazy people, you know. Or, perhaps I am crazy.

That being said, telling yourself the truth does wonders. And I don’t mean, just any “truth” like the world tells us is true. I’m not saying that I would say glib things to myself like, “You’re worth it!” or “You deserve happiness!”

No. This is the Truth I preach to myself:

I’m being a self-centred sinner and treating my family horribly. But Christ died for me. My sin is nailed to the Cross. I have died to sin and it no longer has a hold on me. I don’t have to follow these woe-is-me feelings. Love my family more than myself through the strength Jesus gives me in His Spirit.

What a beautiful and precious gift we have in the Gospel. And preaching the Gospel to myself – that is, the truth of the Cross and Scripture – breaks the bondage of sin and sets me free.

And friends, it works.

Not always immediately. Sometimes, depending how bad we are in the trenches of our minds, it can take some battling. But light breaks through the dawn, and we get there. We start moving beyond ourselves to truly loving others before ourselves. 

Second, forget about myself.

As I’m walking about like a crazy woman talking to myself, I am also simultaneously practicing what Timothy Keller calls “the freedom of self-forgetfulness”. It seems opposing to be talking to myself whilst trying to forget about myself – but it’s not. Not really.

You see, the more I focus on Jesus and doing what He’s commanded me to do –

loving Him

and loving others

 – the less I will be so wrapped up in myself. And it is so good to forget about myself. Following Jesus is all about forgetting about what I am feeling, what I think I need, what I think are my “rights”, what I believe will make me happier than what I am right now.

The less I entangle myself within myself, and instead concern myself more and more with those God has called me to love, the more joyous and selfless and delighted and peaceful and content I will be.

Even though I stumble in sin everyday – which includes at the top of the list, being obsessed with my own sins and failures – preaching the Gospel of Truth to myself will help me rest in that precious grace of Jesus. As Tullian Tchividjian says in the book God is using to  change me, One Way Love,

The Gospel, in other words, liberates us to be okay with not being okay. We can stop pretending that we are anyone but who we actually are. Which means we can admit our weaknesses to ourselves without feeling as if the flesh is being ripped off our bones. We can take off our masks and explore our self-justifying compulsions from a distance.”

So, if you are a sinner like me and have been so particularly lovely to be around recently, seek forgiveness from the Lord and your loved ones. That’s the next step to find freedom from yourself. Then, start and keep on preaching the truths of the Bible to yourself. Slowly, you’ll find yourself being and feeling more loving, and in doing so, be less entangled with yourself. Finally, rest in the grace offered in the Cross that it’s okay to just be okay.

And keep repeating the cycle.

Because, as you know, we’re not going to get any better than just being okay until the other side of Heaven. And that’s okay. Because we have Jesus and He made us perfect.

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Intentional Mothering

Motherhood & The Few: Why Our Feet Should Be Tied

By on June 12, 2017

 

There are millions of mothers in this world. And there are millions of Christian mothers. But, out of all those millions of mothers, there are but a few that are pursuing their responsibility with passion, intention, and wholehearted, undivided hearts.

Several centuries ago, there was one mother who recognised that she was one of the few. Her name was Susanna Wesley, the mother of nineteen children – only ten of which grew to adulthood. (At one time, she buried her two baby twin boys within weeks of their births.) Two of her sons grew to be devoted, passionate men of God who began the Methodist movement within Christianity.

Over one hundred years later, another woman recognised the singularity of dedicated motherhood. Her name was Amy Carmichael and she rescued children from Indian temples who were either child prostitutes or the children of prostitutes. Though no children were ever birthed from her own body, she birthed new life to hundreds.

What did these two strong Christian women believe about motherhood?

Susanna Wesley: One Of The Few

No-one can, without renouncing the world, in the most literal sense, observe my method; and there are few, if any, that would entirely devote above twenty years of the prime of life in hopes to save the souls of their children, when they think they may be saved without so much ado; for the was my principle intention.”

She renounced the world’s method’s of mothering. Even in the days when mothers were still at home with their children, Susanna recognised that few women were actually present with their children. She rejected the idea that children were in a separate sphere that required governesses or nurses. She didn’t give her children just the first year of their life and then went to do her own thing. No, she dedicated twenty years of her life and more to wholehearted, undivided motherhood.

Her principle intention was to lead her children to Christ. Susanna knew that the principle goal of raising children was to endeavor to bring them to a knowledge and love of God. This is why she spent the majority of her life pouring herself into her children. She knew that the only way that she could win her children’s hearts to Christ, and keep them safe from the world’s influence, was to invest all of herself to that principle duty.

She accepted being different. Being one of the few, she knew that there wouldn’t be many like her. She accepted that the path God had called her to was a narrow one, oftentimes lonely and misunderstood, but that this was necessary for the sake of her children. She was called to be different, asked to live towards a higher standard, for the sake of her children and for the glory of God.

Amy Carmichael: Fit to Be Tied

Children tie the mother’s feet the Tamils say…We knew we could not be too careful of our children’s earliest years.So we let our feet be tied for love of Him whose feet were pierced.”

She accepted and embraced sacrifice. Amy, despite all the opportunities that were being offered to her as a missionary in India, saw the call God was giving her to raise needy and orphaned children. Despite the fact that these girls {and later boys} were not born from her body, they were her children and she gave up the rest of her life to caring for their needs. She did not seek fame or glory. She sought the hard, the dirty, the exhaustion, the desperation, the helplessness, the wonder, the blessing, and the sacrifice of motherhood. She allowed herself to be tied.

She understood and pursued intentional motherhood. Amy did not waste away the early days of her children’s lives. She did not let one day pass into another without any thought, care, or intention on her part. She knew the vital importance of those early years of life that her children had to spend with her. She could have rescued them and then allowed them to be brought up by other women. But she didn’t. She had helpers, but all the children knew – and experienced – that Amy was their mother. For their formative years, the children had all of Amy.

She did it because of Jesus. Her Saviour is the reason she did it all. He is why she went to India. He is why she didn’t marry. He is why she suffered through the loss of many children and friends. He is why she carried on when it was hard. He is why she continued on during bed rest for many of her later years. He is the very reason she mothered and how she mothered at all. And He blessed her and her children.

Dear Mother,

If you have any doubt as to the call God has given you, or the importance of caring for your children, or for the need to sacrifice for the season of a child’s life, look to these two examples and see the profound legacy that their dedicated, Christ-loving mothering has had on thousands of people. Please do not give way. Please do not listen to the world’s siren call, seeking to lead you away from the home and your children. Nothing in this life will be as hard – or as fulfilling – as the joy of giving your life up for Jesus in the service of caring for His children. Don’t give up! He who has called you has, and will, equip you to do the work He has asked of you. Loving our children for Jesus is what He has asked us to do and,

To this end [we] labour, striving with all His energy working powerfully in [us].” Colossians 1:29

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The One Job I Did Today That Blessed My Husband

By on June 8, 2017

As his wife and comrade, caring for my husband around the house is what I do everyday. And I love it. It is the job I have chosen as my career – aside from partnering with him in raising our children – and I wouldn’t want to be working for/under anyone else. It’s a blessing and a privilege.

I’m not perfect at it. Tim and I both know that housekeeping has never come naturally to me, especially since I was never taught such life basics growing up. At almost ten years of marriage, I’m still a work-in-progress.

There is one job that I have never enjoyed, however. In our early years of marriage, when Tim worked in an office, it felt like the bane of my existence. And I had to do it twice a week. It always took forever and I was terrible at it.

What was that job?

Ironing.

*Shudder*

Thankfully, I am now a better iron-woman…the two times I generally do it every year.

Friends, about six years ago, I took a stand and I stopped ironing. Unless I really, really, really had to. And my version of had to was different to my husband’s version. Thus, on several occasions – including leading church services – my poor, dear, faithful, long-suffering husband would stand up the front of several hundred people in a quite crinkled shirt.

Yes, it may have been checked and therefore, in my defensive mind, you could hardly see that it wasn’t ironed. But facts are the facts, I didn’t iron a shirt for him.

I believe the few times I have ironed shirts in the last few years have been because of weddings. And the last wedding Tim went to was to sing at in…2012??

Yeah…

But God has been working on me, people. And, as always, it’s never about the ironing. In many ways,God couldn’t care less that Tim wears an un-ironed shirt to church when he’s leading.

But God cares very, very much about the heart of the un-ironed man’s wife.

You see, I blamed my hating ironing in those early days from lack of experience…or from the frequency of having to iron…and the fact that it’s boring! But, in all honesty, my stand against ironing really was my heart saying this: I don’t want to do this for you. If you aren’t going to iron your shirts when I don’t, then don’t wear any. I’m not your slave!

It fills me with shame when I think of the hidden thoughts of my heart were laid so bare before the Lord. And it fills me with shame when I think of how I have spent so many years with that attitude towards the man that I love.

The world may tell me that I did the right thing. I stood up for myself, I didn’t let myself “come under” my husband, I fought for my rights. But what balloney. All I was doing was being selfish, hard-hearted, and rebellious.

Remember, it’s not about the ironing. This could have been about making his lunches, or folding his socks, or picking up his dirty laundry from the bathroom. It could have been about buying a birthday present for him! What matters is that my heart has not pursued genuine love in this matter. It has tried to love it’s own desires.

So if you have taken a stand too, dear sister, forget about what you have stopped doing or that which you resent. Look at your heart. Why are you rebelling?  What is making you so huffy-puffy? Is what you’re doing true love or is it more about you?

“Love one another deeply, from the heart [always unselfishly seeking the best for one another].” 1 Peter 1:22

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The Discipline of Giving Myself Grace.

By on May 25, 2017

This post contains an affiliate link.

I’m not sure about you, but for me, grace is one of the last things I give myself.

Towards other people, I often encourage grace: Don’t kill yourself over this. Remember this is a season. Be kind to yourself, you’re going through a really hard time. 

In some ways, it’s easy. I see the whole picture, the wide lens on their situation and life. I’m not struggling to keep my head above the waves. I’m not in the hole with them, whatever it may be – suffering, doubt, insecurity, difficult circumstances. To my friends in these times, I believe I can see them the way God sees them: totally and absolutely loved, no matter how terrible the day, no matter how mucked things up are – they are resting in His love, His care, and His grace.

But can I see myself in this restful position of God’s grace? Ha, nope.

In me, I imagine how God expects more of me. Not because I’m better. Far from it. Rather, there is a very high standard expected of me – and I’m not making it. Though I can give others grace {most of the time, I’m a sinner]} when they don’t reach the standards they give themselves, I really struggle to allow myself the margin of failure.

I’ve often thought this was perfectionism. You know, that I must have perfection or nothing. But now, I don’t think this is true at all. As Christians, we are called to be holy as God is holy {1 Peter 1:16}. That is, we’re to be perfect.

Now, of course, we can’t be. We need Christ’s perfect holiness as our covering, changing us from the inside out. Yet, we are still called to pursue godliness, holiness, and right living.

Why?

Because of the grace that has been given to us. Because of grace, we are to be holy. Because of grace, we are to live godly lives. Because of grace, we are to be servants of Christ. All because of the unmerited favour lavishly poured out on us in Christ, through the Spirit, because of God’s love. It is something to drink in, fill up our souls with, and be poured out as living sacrifices in thankful worship.

But, most of the time, I can’t accept this grace for myself. I don’t deserve it. I need to work for this grace. I need to be enough to be able to have it.

That doesn’t make sense, does it? I try and earn grace – unmerited favour – by striving for it. That’s ridiculous and goes against the very Gospel that saved me. But it’s the truth about me. And I know it’s the truth for many women.

There is something in most people that causes us to strive. It causes us to believe there is no-one else as bad as me, or as worthless as me, or as

disgusting

perverted

useless

weird.

And we see this grace offered to us and we can’t believe it. We grab at it because our very lives and souls depend on it. We just need this grace.

But even when we have become God’s child, and we’re clean and free and righteous in His sight, all those old doubts come creeping back in. We start to think we need to be on that “good works treadmill” in order to continue to receive the grace that was given to us.

Friends, that grace hasn’t gone away. It is not taken from us because we slept in and didn’t pray – again, or that we gossiped – again, or that we slept with an old boyfriend – again. God doesn’t watch us and our pathetic attempts at rescuing ourselves and says, “Right, she’s mucked up again. I’m going to hang on to that grace again until she gets her act together”.

I know this is how we feel. I know this is the weight you feel – because I feel it too. By golly, I never feel enough. It is almost a constant conversation going on in my mind.

I’m not strong enough.

I can’t do as many things as she does.

I’m not as pretty.

Or as thin.

Or as accomplished.

What it comes down to is that I need to discipline myself to give myself grace, constantly. Not just on the bad days when I think I am no different to that wretched person the moment before she was saved. But I need to discipline myself on the good days when I have it all “together” – whatever that means.

Grace is a gift. It is there once given and is never taken away.

But I need to discipline myself to remember that and actively speak that truth to myself when I’m feeling like the world’s worst person. And you need to as well. Remember that we are under grace, which produces hope and mercy. It is living a life under the law that produces fear and wrath.

When you’re feeling weighted down, ask yourself, “Am I full of hope and mercy? Or am I feeling fear and wrath?” You’ll know which one, and then you need to speak truth to those untrustworthy feelings.

A beautiful book on grace is Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love by Jerry Bridges.

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Intentional Mothering

How To Know If You’re Parenting From Fear

By on May 19, 2017

I don’t often catch on straight away. It can take a few weeks for me to realise what’s going on.

What is going on?

Signs You’re Parenting From Fear

  • I start to get overwhelmed.
  • Instead of finding joy in my days, I feel frustrated and a plaguing feeling of lack.
  • I find the children difficult, even if they’re not doing anything abnormal.
  • All I want to do is be alone.
  • I feel totally insecure as a mother and doubt all the choices I’m making.
  • I start worrying about all the details of my children’s lives: how much TV they’re watching or if they have had too much sugar.
  • I start to feel guilty every time I say “No” to them, even if I am busy doing something needful for the entire family.
  • And it just keeps going downhill from there.

Thankfully, every time this happens for me {perhaps, every six months or so}, God mercifully pulls me up and – through His Word, or conversations, or a book I’m reading – He shows me the pit that I have fallen into – again.

The pit I fall into is this: I start to parent from a place of fear and not of peace.

Anyone else like me? 😉

Not From God

I never really know how it begins. Hormones? A hard parenting week? An article that sparks doubt? I’m very rarely sure but this I know is true: parenting from such a place is not from God. He is like a Shepherd with His sheep:

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

Isn’t that so beautiful? Our God is a tender God and if you are worried, fretting, and making decisions from a frightened heart, it is not from Him.

When I am in that place, I don’t believe in myself. All the decisions that my husband and I have made about how to raise our children – our values, how we teach, our plans, how we discipline – it all comes into doubt.

In that pit, as I go about my days with them, almost every single thing I do with them comes with an inward, questioning doubt: Is that really the right thing to do? Did God really say that children need this kind of discipline? What happens if this moment scars your child for life? What if you screw up your kids?

Where Fear Comes From

Do you know who that is? That’s right, the enemy. He always makes those who love the Lord doubt that they are on the right path. And as soon as I listen to him instead of the One who loves and saved me, life at home just starts going downhill…

Bad behaviour.

Broken habits.

Chaotic days.

Lots of tears from us all.

Except my husband, nothing sways his beliefs! God bless him 🙂

And then, a word will come – from the Bible, a friend, a mentor, a book, a sermon – and it’s like the veil has fallen from my eyes: I remember what I actually believe and who I have been listening too. Suddenly, I believe in myself again. I start mothering like I love mothering: intentional, wholehearted, with joy. And you know what? Everything goes back to normal. Kids are happy, mama’s happy, and hubby’s happy – still!

Our days are not as difficult anymore.

So how can we avoid this pitfall in our wholehearted mothering journey?

Parenting From Peace

Stay in the Word. Know what paths God has laid out for parents and how to raise these kids of His {Proverbs is excellent}. Hide that in your heart. Talk with your husband about how you’ve been feeling, attack any lies with truth. Pray together, pray by yourself on your knees. Seek God’s forgiveness – because you have doubted Him. Get back up and get back to being what you are best – an intentional, devoted mother.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

 

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Intentional Mothering

Why I Believe In Homegrown Kids {Part 2 in the Homegrown Kids Series}.

By on April 11, 2017

I actually don’t really know where to start with this post. Sometimes a belief goes so deep it is very difficult to articulate into words. I think this is especially so when there are a myriad of reasons, which is the case for us. Also, this journey for us seems to have layers and levels – the reasons we’re heading down this path and our belief in it just keep transforming, and cementing, and growing.

If you haven’t read how raising homegrown kids kicked off for us, read Part 1 here. Otherwise, I just want to enter this post with these words: 

This is our journey. Though I believe deeply that it is ideal, I know that it is not always possible. The reality of families the world over is very different. And God is the God of all families, and will lead us all differently. I write our conviction to encourage, challenge, and inspire – not to judge or condemn. I really pray and hope I can bring you along with love, humility, and friendship.

So, why do we believe in homegrown kids? Get comfortable, and possibly grab a sustaining meal 😉

My early life story is one of a settled childhood, both in the city and the countryside, and of chaotic and uncertain teenage years, when I lived in a suitcase and had no place to call home for long. So, when I started married life and we eventually had children, I came at both roles with a determined passion to bring security and devotion, and to do all that I could to give my family a place to call home.

Despite painful years, I am thankful to God for the story He has written for me as I believe our children would be having a different upbringing than the one they are having. I certainly wouldn’t be as counter-cultural or have the perspective to look beyond the here and now like I do.

I’m also thankful to have had both parents in different aspects of the education system {in NZ} for the last 30-40 years so that, through them, I am able to see how – in the end – government’s can never make up their mind as to how children, in a school environment, learn best. Through the experience and working history of my parents, I can see how educational philosophies are like fashion – they come and go within the ministry of education like flare pants and big hair.

So, with this background and our own experience of early education, questions were raised about how our kids were going to be educated pretty quickly into our parenting journey. Neither of us had ever considered homeschooling; pre-kids, we have always been adamantly pro-public schooling. Post-kids, we sing a different tune 🙂

As we began wrestling and reading and talking, a train of thought settled in our minds and hearts that became the fundamental driving force behind our decision to keep our kids home. Essentially we believe that today’s fractured family – parents working here and there, kids at school and a thousand different activities – is not how it is meant to be. Especially as Christians, we believe that sending children away to be under the strong influence of people not of their family is not how God intended children to be raised.

An initial objection to this thought would be to say, “Well, the Bible never addressed education as we know it. How can you make such an assumption?” I used to think this way too, that is, that education of the family is not spoken of in God’s Word. But now, along the track, I actually think it does – when you’re looking for it and have a heart open for what it says.

I could quite easily go into a maze of tangents in regards to what the Bible says about education, but I will stick to the one basic point that is quite clear when one reads into what God says about the upbringing of children:

It is the parents that are to raise their children.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

In his tome of a book, Man and Woman in Christ, Stephen B. Clark says,

“The term ‘discipline’ (paideia) in this passage is particularly significant. The word could also be translated ‘training’, ‘instruction’, ‘punishment’, or even ‘formation’. The Hebrew equivalent (musar) appears often in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament… ‘Training’ in the scriptural sense is an educational activity which changes the way a person lives. It does not mean only knowledge or mental understanding. It means training to act in a certain way.

…Training in the scriptural sense is an educational activity which changes the way a person lives.

This means that true education is when the entire person of the child – his body, mind, heart, and soul – are to be disciplined, trained, taught, instructed, and changed to the man he is to be.

In the ancient world that Jesus grew up in, sending children to an environment that was run by Caesar-endorsed teachers for most of their formative years did just not happen. In those days, children were in the primary care of their mother until five- or seven-years-old. At this point, boys would spend the rest of their childhood with their father learning the trade and how to be a man. Daughters continued on at home with their mother until marriage, learning how to run a home and how to be a woman.

“The boy was not really raised until his father had equipped him to function as man.” Stephen B. Clark

A five-year-old – or even an eleven-year-old – is not fully trained. They are not men or women. But they are learning how to be every single day of their lives. By implication, if they are spending the majority of their time at school, it is obvious who they will be learning this from: from their teachers, the government-endorsed curriculum, and their peers. 

It’s not that I think public schooling is wrong or that homeschooling is the only option for Christian parents. I have been public schooled and Christian schooled, and I am alive 🙂 But, I firmly believe that Christian parents need to be sure that the place they are sending their children to be educated at is a place that will further, rather than hinder, their work they are doing at home in their children to equip them into manhood/womanhood as a godly person. 

“Whoever walks with the wise will become wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

What is the Bible’s definition of a fool? Someone who says there is no God {Psalm 14:1}. And if there is any other time in history since Scripture was written that these commands be more pertinent, wouldn’t it be now? 

Because of all the above, this is the main reason why we will be homeschooling our children. If you have been thinking of as well, or have been wondering what true education is as a Christian parent, I hope this encourages you on your journey. It’s posts like these that started me on ours, like this one from Abiding Woman, or this one from The Unplugged Family.

**Tune in soon for how to children without going crazy.**

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Intentional Mothering

Pressing Deeper Into Motherhood {How Having No Internet Revealed Closed Places of My Heart}.

By on April 3, 2017

In my eight weeks without the internet, I really did some big changes. I had no idea that our time away from home while it was repaired would cause such a work in my heart. I certainly didn’t go to the temporary house thinking, “Yes! No internet! I’m going to love it!” I went with an itchy feeling, like I was going to miss out on a whole lot of stuff {though what stuff, I don’t know}. But now, on the other side, I am so thankful for the challenge it was.

There are so many things that God showed me as the weeks went on about my relationship with the internet, particularly blogging and Instagram. I’m certainly not a prolific blogger or photo-taker, but that doesn’t mean things were right on the inside of me. The time being internet-free showed me some pride issues and assumptions about my opinions and how the world really needed to hear what I had to say {because I’m, like, so right on everything}. It was – and is – still humbling.

But the biggest change in me through that time was my perception on motherhood and my work ethic around the home. I don’t think that I would be exaggerating when I say that God has made some life-changing surgery on my heart.

As the days and weeks went on with no distraction or pull of the internet, I found myself being fully present in my days. Seemingly little changes – like sitting with the kids at breakfast instead of on the couch checking emails – became big habit changes, and heart changes. With none of our kid-friendly things around the house that they would normally play with on their own, I was forced to do lots of things with the kids.

That sounds rather horrible, doesn’t it? Being forced to play with my children. But that’s the point God was making with me, I think. He showed me how easily it was for me to be pulled into the internet/blogging world and see my children as a distraction. He showed me how hungry my heart got for me and my needs the more I spent doing those things.

By playing loads of puzzles over and over again, and reading lots of books, and painting, and doing big walks together and – quite simply – spending all our time together God showed me how much more I could be pressing into motherhood than I had been.

It’s not that I haven’t been an {imperfect} intentional mother. I am fiercely devoted to motherhood and giving my children the best of me. And I’m not saying that God’s telling me I can’t have down time or creative outlets or anything like that. It’s more like God showed me that there is a deeper level of motherhood that He’s asking me to grow into.

Earlier this year I re-read Sally Clarkson’s The Mission of Motherhood. Reading that again as well as Susan Schaeffer Macauley’s For the Children’s Sake brought me to a place where I had to ask myself, “Am I willing to give even more? Am I able to offer up what God is asking of me?”

Two of my favourite books on motherhood.

In Clarkson’s book, in a section about discipling and teaching our children, she gave the example of Jesus. He is our ultimate example in all things, especially motherhood. And how did He spend His time with His disciples? He was with them all the time. How did they learn from Him? By living and being with Him all the time.

Jesus did not allow any distraction to take Him away from all that God had asked Him to do. Despite the temptation, Jesus actively chose whole-hearted life of ministry with His disciples so they might serve the people He had come to save. Is this not the same for me and the little people God has asked me to raise up in the way they should go? I can see how, since becoming a mother, little by little, the Lord has slowly being prying open my closed fists and bringing down the walls of my heart that I’ve used to prevent myself from giving up all of me.

God also showed me how much more capable I am of caring for our home than I have allowed myself to be before. Not only am I capable but, in a study of Proverbs 31, I saw how in the original language God has called wives to be strong and warrior-like in their task of managing their homes.

Not only did I not have the internet but I didn’t have a dishwasher. I was reminded again of how simply we have been called to live. All the gadgets that are supposed to free our time up have actually made our lives more complicated {by raising the standard of cleanliness and by allowing that time to be always filled up with activities and stuff}. I was amazed at how much more efficient I was without those two “hindrances” in my life. I set up better routines and found that I gained so much satisfaction at the end of the day when I had worked hard with a full and honest heart. I didn’t have the guilt pressing down on me about how I had spent my time that day.

These challenges may not be challenges to you. You may already be fully pressed in towards your children and working hard around the home. But if you aren’t, I want to come alongside you and encourage you – as God has so gently and firmly encouraged me – to evaluate how you are spending your days as a wife, mother, and homemaker.

  • Is the internet {or, something else, fill in the gap} causing you to see your family as a distraction?
  • Are you easily annoyed or resentful when your children require a hug, or a correction, or a time of play when you’re involved in that particular activity?
  • Is there a place in your heart that you have closed off to the Lord? Are you, in keeping it closed, saying to the Lord, “Yes, Lord, I give you my life – but please let me keep this part all to myself?” Oh yes, I have.

If you are then, just like me, go to your Father in Heaven. Seek His wisdom and His care. Repent if need be and start working on pruning those things out of your life.

As you can see, I have the internet now {and a dishwasher again!}, so they are still part of my life now that we are back in our own home. I have been weak and allowed myself to get sucked back in. But, oh, I so want something different for my life – and God has knocked on that closed door so strongly that I cannot shut myself to Him. So I pick myself up when I’ve failed, cry out to the Lord for strength, and keep going.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance, and sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Can you see that? It is not just sin that weighs us down and prevents us from living this life for Christ – there are also encumbrances. If you love the Lord deeply, you will look at your own heart and life and know what sins and encumbrances are weighing you down from loving your God and your family well.

As George MacDonald said in his novel A Quiet Neighbourhood,

“I was planning to preach about the cloud of witnesses and explain this did not mean persons looking at our behaviour – as if any addition could be made to the awfulness of the fact that they eye of God was upon us – but witnesses to the truth, people who did what God wanted them to do, come of it what might, whether a crown or a rack, scoffs or applause.”

What truth is God calling you to press in deeper to? What does it require of you? And are you willing to obey, no matter the cost or “come of it what might”? Seek Him and He will show you the way. Not only that, I can guarantee from my own life, He will go with you and give you His strength.

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