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

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.

Our Big Homeschool Achievement {I’m Doing a Happy Mama Dance!}

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As you all know, we’re doing homeschool preschool with our two kidlets. It’s going so well. I really should do an update, but that can wait. I just have some super exciting, I’m-so-proud news to share with you!

We just finished our first chapter book read-aloud!

*Insert happy music and celebrations*

I know, I know. It’s not like a super, massive, crazy, big thing that we’ve done. But still, this is such a big moment for my four-year-old, Josiah – and for me!

Last week when we went to the library, as I was browsing through the picture books, Josiah came up to me with a copy of The Iron Man by Ted Hughes in his hand. He had seen some of the movie, The Iron Giant, and was so excited to see this book. He asked if we could take it home. I didn’t think we would get round to reading it, but I said, “Sure, let’s take it home”.

Well, little did I know!

After lunch that very day, I sat down with the both of them and started to read. Rosalie {who is almost three} wandered away pretty quickly. But our smart little man?

He was enraptured.

Infact, after the first chapter {which took me about ten minutes to read}, he asked for another chapter. So we read another!

It is not a very long chapter book – only five chapters – but is still over 120 pages long. Each sitting was, like I said, about ten minutes. After that first sitting, the other three times we read a chapter, we did so after his sister had gone to bed and we did it in Mummy and Daddy’s bed.

It was very exciting and I absolutely loved having that cuddly time with my growing boy.

The story was interesting, gripping, a little sad, a little scary, and with a great big contest at the end between the Iron Man and a space dragon. All those things appealed to my little boy who loves anything to do with heroes, knights, Star Wars, and being brave.

Being a very active, busy boy I was so surprised how still he sat. And even when there were moments of fidgeting, I knew he was still listening because his eyes had that faraway, concentrating look in them.

When we began the last chapter, he turned to me, his eyes bright and a big smile on his face, “This is it! The last one!” 

And you know what? He was just as proud of himself as his Mummy and Daddy were of him. He knew it was an achievement reading a “big boy” book. And we talked about how he could see the pictures in his mind. He loved that.

Another book I finished with both kids this week was The Babar Collection by Jean de Brunhoff. Both kids love the Babar books {and the TV series}, but especially Rosalie. She calls all elephants Babar now 🙂

There are five stories in this collection, each story read at a sitting of around 15 minutes. We read them at each bedtime reading this week.

Babar is a wonderful series of books which have been around for a long time {my brother loved them in the early ’90’s}. There are adventures, accidents, loss, family, friendship – all centred around Babar, the King of the Elephants, with his wife, Queen Celeste.

{As a sidenote, if you read the first Babar book with your children, just be prepared that it starts with Babar as a little baby elephant and his mother is shot by a hunter. He then runs away to a city where he meets the Old Lady and becomes a “civilised” elephant. The scene of his mother’s death is very quick, but she does die. In the show, it is quite a scary scene for young viewers. Both my kids were sad and fascinated, but it didn’t upset them in a way I would stop reading the story.}

So there you have it, our big homeschooling achievement! We’re still in the early days, but reading is one of the best things I can give my children in their education of life. Getting into a chapter book is the beginning of a wonderful journey for my son!

Motherhood & The Few: Why Our Feet Should Be Tied

 

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

The Heart of Being a Good Parent

We all want to be good parents, don’t we? I know I do. It’s something I strive for most days. (And I say most days because, well, some days are just for getting through than for thriving.) I’m always trying to learn more about what God thinks is a good parent and what makes a Christian family thrive. It’s a passion of mine, hence the blog.

But just because I’m passionate about wholehearted motherhood and seeking God’s will on family life doesn’t mean I have it all together. So very far from it. I go through rough patches where our days are great struggles. I get frustrated, grumpy, irritated, impatient. I have even manipulated my kids to get them to do what I want when they’ve been stroppy to me.

I know. Mother of the Year, right?

Thank God, quite literally, for grace. Unmerited favour poured out on me, a sinner.

Thank God that He covers our mistakes and uses them for His glory in our children.

And, thank God that He guides the way so that we can keep seeking to be good parents and become more Christ-like to our children.

…That is the heart of being a good parent, isn’t it? Loving our children as Christ loves them.

That is a big, broad, beautiful truth to understand. It’s of sacrifice and selflessness and service and deep, never ending, unconditional love – no matter how much our children hurt us (because they do and will).

But on a smaller scale, what does that look like? What ought the heart and actions be of a parent towards their children as they seek to love them like Jesus?

Little People

Just recently I have felt a challenge to really seek to understand our children as people. It is very easy as a parent to look at our children as mini-me’s or as blank slates that we can imprint upon them our own agendas. But this isn’t biblical at all.

As a sidenote, James Dobson wrote about these unbiblical notions in his book Solid Answers and how the root of them in child education/psychology is from the 1950’s era of “permissiveness”.

We know, firstly, that God made our children by Himself and for Himself (Col. 1:16-17). They have their own unique personalities and God has His own plans for them (Psalm 139). Despite having physically grown and birthed our children, they are not ours. They are His. Therefore, they are their own little people.

“Truly parents are happy people – to have God’s children lent to them.” Charlotte Mason

I believe as we see our children are people – with their own valid thoughts and feelings – it will encourage us to really seek to parent them in a way that meets their needs. 

Please don’t think I am saying that if a child is screaming on the floor saying mean things to you because you didn’t give them another lolly you should validate their feelings and not discipline them. That is not the answer. God clearly says we are to discipline our children when they sin (Proverbs 22:15, 23:24-25, 10:17 are just a few). We can acknowledge their feelings of frustration but, in that moment, the most loving thing we can do for them is to correct their hearts and behaviour. Sometimes coming at our children is the very best thing we can do for them.

But that’s the key word, isn’t it? Sometimes. Most of the time we seek to understand their little personalities and what makes them tick, and this will guide us as we strive to love them well and train them up in the Lord.

Under, Not At

 A quote by John MacArthur really opened this idea to me further:

“Parents are to submit [to their children]…And they are to submit by ‘not provoking your children to anger; but bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Eph. 6:4). That means you are to ‘get under’ your child, as it were, and be a caring and supportive teacher.” John MacArthur, The Family

Paul’s instruction in Ephesians clearly shows that the most effective way a parent can reach a child’s heart – that is, the heart of good parenting – is to come under children (knowing them as people) and meet them where they are. 

We are not to be always up here…

                                                                  …and our children down here.

Like I said, there are moments in the day when we are the parents – period. My daughter’s running down the driveway with no intention of slowing down before the street? My word goes. My son is getting sassy and disrespecting me? I am his mother, by God’s authority, for his good. But, for the most part, we’re on their level – loving them, knowing them, seeking their little hearts and thoughts, tenderly embracing these souls God has lent to us.

Isn’t that a privilege and an honour? I have been so challenged and so encouraged. I pray you will be too and, as we seek Christ’s help in this, He would help us to be more aware of coming down From Up There to our children’s level, where we can meet them as they are there and begin our teaching of them right where they are.

 

 

How To Know If You’re Parenting From Fear

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