Tag Archives: motherhood

What Kind Of Legacy Are You Leaving Your Children?{We interrupt our regularly scheduled Proverbs 31 programming to bring you this completely random post}

I was listening to NPR this morning and a story came on about wills. Something like half of Americans don’t have wills, and it can leave a mess for loved ones when people die without them. 

They mentioned a type of will I’d never heard of before, called an “emotional will.” According to one website I found, an emotional will “is designed as a way for you to share your thoughts, values, lessons in life, passions, hopes and dreams with your children and future generations in the years to come. This is your chance to ensure that you don’t leave this life with things left unsaid.” 

This struck me as odd, and a little bit sad that this is actually a thing. I mean, I understand the concept behind it, but should this type of thing be necessary? 

I want to leave an emotional will for my family. But I don’t want it to be a piece of paper they read while they are mourning my death and working through what life is going to look like without me.

Just like I don’t want my family to have to figure out what to do with my physical assets when I’m gone, I don’t want them to have to figure out what my thoughts, values, passions hopes and dreams were after I die. I don’t want to relegate those lessons to a letter they open in my absence.

This interview made me realize that every day, I am leaving an emotional will for my children. Everything I say, everything I do, is showing my children what I value, and therefore what they should value. 

I can do this accidentally, or I can do this intentionally. When I get to the end of my life, whenever that is, I want my children to be able to say to themselves and to others, “We know what our mother’s emotional will for us is.” I want them to be able to point to my life and say, “this is what our mother loved, this is what she valued, and this is how she wanted us to live our lives.”

Recently I listened to a sermon series by Matt Chandler about discipling children and families. He made the point that we are all making our children into disciples, the question is: of what.

If we are constantly talking about financial security, worried about money, striving for material comforts and being envious of people who have more than we do, our children will see that those things are important to us. And those things will become important to them. 

If we stress the importance of education, worry constantly about the state of our children’s schools and place great emphasis on grades and getting into college, our children will see that we value those things. And they will value those things as well. Certainly these are good things, important things even, but its easy to let these and other worldly concerns to take precedent over what should matter most. 

We can tell our children what we want them to value, but the lasting legacy we will leave on them comes from the way we live our lives. Our children learn by listening, but more than that they learn by observing. If they hear me say that Jesus is the most important thing in my life, but see me cling to worldly things, they will see right through my words and into my heart.

I can write an emotional will out on a piece of paper, telling my children about the life I wish I had lived and the values I wish I had shown them, and hope they listen to my posthumous words of wisdom. Or I can write my emotional will on my life, through the way I live, the way I love, the person I am because of my love for Jesus. That’s the legacy I want to leave for my children, and for everyone who knows me.

W


How To Work With Willing Hands“She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.” {Proverbs 31:13}

 So now we get to the meat of the passage we like to call the Proverbs 31 woman.

 What stands out to me immediately in these verses is the phrase “works with willing hands,” which, according to one commentary, is translated literally as “with the pleasure of her hands.”

 Wondering why this stands out to me? I’ll tell you why. Because that is not the natural disposition of my heart. I am not, and have never been, one to work willingly. And certainly not with pleasure.

I’ll work when necessary. I do what needs to be done. But I’ve always ascribed to the “work smart, not hard” way of doing things, which I tend to translate as “do only as much as is absolutely necessary, and if you can figure out how to do it more quickly or efficiently, all the better. More me time.”

It’s easy for us to say work=bad, play/rest=good. But we see in Genesis 2 that this is not the case.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” {Genesis 2:15}

This is the first thing God does with man when he creates him. He puts him to work. He creates for him a garden, and gives him responsibility over it. Believe it or not, work existed back when the world was as it should be.

Granted, we did almost immediately mess it up, but in its purest form, in the way God made it, work was meant to be good.

A few months ago, I was starting to get really wound up. Everything frustrated me, and my anxiety was getting the best of me. I found myself freaking out after breakfast every morning because an hour after waking up, there were already dozens of dishes to do.

Then one day as I was cleaning up, I realized the vanity in my frustration. No matter how many dishes I did the previous day, no matter how pristine the kitchen was when I went to sleep, there would always be dishes after breakfast in the morning. Just as there would always be laundry to do, and always bathrooms to clean, and always dog hair to vacuum. I could look at this as either a never-ending frustration or simply part of the work God has given me to do.

The dishes aren’t just a hurdle to jump in order to get started with my day. They’re an integral part of my day, part of my job as a homemaker. And I have complete control over how I go about cleaning them. I can look at them and let my heart rate rise, wishing they would just go away, or I can go to work with willing hands.

Colossians 3:23-24 says “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”

Everything we do is, above all else, for the Lord, whether it is proclaiming his name among the nations or doing the dishes. If I can remember this, and do everything with this in mind, working willingly will come much more naturally.

Are you a willing worker? Do you have the same struggle I have, or have you found a way to delight in the work God has given you?

W

 

 

 


Proverbs 31 Woman“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” {Proverbs 31:10}

If you’re a churchgoer, you probably know the phrase “Proverbs 31 woman.” In fact, you probably have a fairly distinct reaction to it. You might think, “Ah yes, the Proverbs 31 woman. What a wonderful depiction of what we as wives and mothers should strive toward.” Or you could be thinking, “Oh gosh, not the Proverbs 31 woman. What a terrible and unnecessary weight of responsibility this has placed on the shoulders of so many poor wives and mothers!”

As with many Bible passages, I think Proverbs 31 has done great good and great harm to women in the hands of Christians. It has been held up as an ideal, and anytime we hold something up as an ideal, we risk turning it into an idol. We risk turning an encouragement into a burden. 

However, as with all Bible passages, no matter how it has been mishandled or misinterpreted, it is the word of God, it is meant for our benefit and it is true.  

I read through it this morning and was struck by how exhaustive the description of the so-called Proverbs 31 woman is. Each verse strikes a new chord, hits on another aspect of what the writer considers to be an excellent wife. I know passages like this can be abused, but when I read it I am, above all else, convicted.

It begins with this: 

“An excellent wife who can find?” So right off the bat we know that a woman with the following qualities is rare. While this is something we should strive for, it’s not something that is easy to attain. Let’s face it, it’s not easy being a good wife. I would never even begin to describe myself as an excellent wife. I don’t know anyone who would.  

“She is far more precious than jewels.” Not as precious as jewels, not just a little bit more precious than jewels. Far more precious than jewels. It is not just the rarity of jewels that makes them precious; it is also their inherent qualities, their beauty. She possesses the attributes that every husband seeks, makes him richer than any jewels would.

So what do we do with this? Do we scoff and say “Well that’s unfair. This standard is preposterous, how can anyone expect to live up to this?” Or do we write each of the following qualities on our to-do list, slowly and methodically checking them off as we spend all of our time and energy attempting to live up to this lofty ideal?

I don’t think either of these options is wise. I do, however, think it is wise to consider the verses that follow this first verse, to dig into what they mean and to see how they apply to our lives.

So that’s what I’m going to do, over the next several weeks, on the blog. I’m going to go through this passage bit by bit and see what I find. Hopefully you’ll resonate with some of my findings and even dig up some wisdom for your own life. I’m excited to see where this leads us. 

W

 

 


Babies Don't KeepI have a lot of days when all I can do is wait for them to end. Especially recently, with my son being every bit a two and a half year old boy, from tantrums and all the “no”s and pushing his sister to roaring at the top of his lungs (YOARRRR!!!! Usually directly at the baby or the dog, neither of whom are ever amused) and using his maraca to drum violently on his guitar while he yell-sings the ABCs. My emotions pretty much remain somewhere on the spectrum between on edge and at my limit, from the moment I wake up until the moment my kids go to sleep.

I know this is a temporary phase, that someday in the future my monster child will be enjoyable again, that I won’t spend the rest of my days saying “Leave her alone!” and asking “What did you do to her?” and taxiing him to and from timeout. And while it’s comforting to know that this phase won’t last long, I have this little voice in my head telling me, “Enjoy this phase, because it won’t last long.”

Last night I was feeding Mabel before bed while Shook was out on the front porch watching Marshall mow the lawn. He had taken a pair of those Velcro gloves you use with a tennis ball (remember those? They’re like ping-pong paddles with Velcro on them and you “catch” the tennis ball with the Velcro) and put them on his feet like skates. He was “skating” on the front porch yelling “Mine okay! Mine okay Daddy! Mine okay Dad!” because he kept slipping. And I thought to myself, “I want to remember this.”

I don’t want to let this time pass me by, without stopping to dwell on how sweet it is. Yes, my toddler drives me up the wall most days, but he also cracks me up, makes me smile, and lets me hug and kiss him. Yes, my eight month old is crawling now, which seals my fate in regards to being productive while they are both awake, but every day a new part of her little personality shines through, and it’s so fun watching her follow us around everywhere.

I want to remember this time with littles as an exhausting, stressful, amazing time in the life of our family. I want to be present every day, in every moment, even when many of them seem terrible. I don’t want to spend my days wishing my kids were older so my job would be easier. I want to take it all in, the good and the bad, because I know this time will be over way too soon.

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
Author: Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

W


You Aren't The OneA while back, I wrote about teaching my children about Jesus, and mentioned that I wanted to reach out to other mothers for advice. The first person I asked was, naturally, the leader of my new moms’ Bible study at church. I invited her to share with me and my readers some of her thoughts on teaching our children about Jesus, and what she returned to me was so much more beautiful than I ever imagined it would be. 

Susan has such a generous and humble spirit, and she is truly an encourager. I love that in this post she releases us from the burdens we may feel about our responsibility in our children’s faith journeys. As she reminds us, we are not THE ONE, God is THE ONE, and we can rest confidently in that truth. 

From Susan:

Our church has a lovely tradition of conducting baby dedications throughout the year during the worship service. It’s always a heartwarming moment – the proud parents standing with our pastor at the front of the church, holding their cherubic babe in their arms, usually with some or many family members standing alongside them. Sometimes the baby is a newborn and sometimes the baby is more of a toddler. Always always, the baby is dressed to the nines, which adds to the complete adorableness of the occasion.

The basis of this meaningful rite of passage is the parents’ wish to dedicate publically their precious baby, a new image bearer, unto the Lord. Pastor Jim will quote Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” He will also mention this is the first commandment that comes with a promise.

Photos are taken, prayers are given and hearty applause is offered as this freshly anointed family unit walks off the platform.

I often wonder if these new parents get into their cars, travel home and say to themselves, “Sighhhh…that was so nice…wasn’t that great…wait, what? Train up a child in the way he should go…and just how do we do that?!”

It is every believing mother and father’s desire to do just that. It’s at the top of their unwritten, lengthy job descriptions. And yet, in this age of modern parenting, we either feel completely ill-equipped from lack of knowledge or are over-burdened from an avalanche of instruction, advice, articles, books and the latest research. Too much noise, not enough wisdom.

As the mother of three school-age daughters with one entering middle school in the fall, I have been that wandering parent in the wilderness of “how.” I know where I want to get, I just don’t know how to get there. And, as a bible study leader of new moms, I am deeply compassionate of their burdens and concerns, and recognize the burning, innate hunger for practical wisdom that is grounded in timeless truth.

Here are some things I am both convinced of, and convicted by:

First, as a godly mother, there is no right way nor wrong way in teaching your children about Jesus.

Second, you don’t have be a theologian, have 100 scripture verses memorized and be able to quote C.S. Lewis before you can teach your children about Jesus.

Third, you don’t have to be perfect, do perfect, or sound perfect.

Fourth, it’s less about your ability and more about the faithfulness of God.

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord and great shall be the peace of your children.” (Isaiah 54:13)

In the very early stages of pregnancy, my husband and I spent a lot of time becoming educated about pregnancy, delivery and early childcare, and of course, made herculean efforts in preparing for each little baby (well, less and less with each child). We had a vision and we had a plan.

I am a little embarrassed to realize and admit that we had zero plans for how we were going to raise our children for Christ. Plenty of cute dresses, stuffed animals and nursery décor. Zero thought or preparation for practical teaching about Jesus. You could officially say we were winging it.

Despite our ignorance, misplaced priorities and rookie attempts, the Lord was and is at work in the young, tender hearts of our children.

I saw it in their budding recognition that God made the sun, flowers, trees, rainbows, butterflies and themselves 

I saw it in their innocent awareness that God hears their prayers.

I saw it in the small, easily unnoticed ways they would attend to the hurts and needs of other friends.

I see it now, in the way God is using them already, to be a light in this world and be His hands and feet. Small, but mighty.

It’s in our nature to feel overwhelmed, confused and completely inadequate for the task set before us – we’re in charge of growing God’s Kingdom Builders, after all 

We’re not the first…

“Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? “Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12)

And,

We’re not the One…

“Now may the God of peace…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:21, abbreviated)

If we can take off the spiritual Superhero Parent cape and remember who is actually the true Victor, we can sigh with relief and offer empty, sticky, formerly clenched hands of faith to the One who is faithful to lead us, equip us and meet us in every moment of “training up our child.”

Thank you Susan for your wonderful words of encouragement for me and any parents reading this post!

W

 

 

 

 


Teaching Children About Jesus

Having a child comes with a bundle of worries that never even crossed my mind before I became a mother. Is my baby eating enough, when will he sleep through the night, why hasn’t he gotten his teeth yet, shouldn’t he be crawling? And that’s just in the first night months or so. In the two and a half years I’ve been a mother, none of these concerns have slowed down. In fact, they’ve multiplied.

I don’t know if it’s always been like this, but I get the feeling we are living in a culture that worries way too much, way too far into the future for our children. I find myself wondering how the food I’m feeding my seven month old will affect her health for the rest of her life. And I’m not giving her donuts. We’ve barely strayed outside the bounds of fruits and vegetables.

My son is two and a half and I catch myself deciding what sport he’s going to play in college because he seems to be athletic. I pore over his school reports and wonder whether he is on track with his peers. Should he have known his ABC’s when he was two? Do all the other children already count to 20? Will he even get into college?

It’s insane.

I’m bombarded from all sides—doctors, the Internet, other moms, well-meaning friends, the Today Show—about the things I should be concerned about for my children. Their development, their health, their education, how much money they make when they grow up, how to make them “successful” adults. And so far, I’ve drunk the cool-aid, ticking off these boxes in each new stage of their lives, to make sure I’ve set them on the right track. But is this really what should be my focus?

As a Christian, should these things matter? Yes, and no. Obviously I plan to care for my children in every way possible, to raise them to be healthy, happy, educated individuals. But above all else, I have been called as a mother to care for their hearts. It is my duty as a parent to teach them about Jesus, to teach them how to be like Jesus, and to prepare their hearts to know, love and follow Him.

If I do nothing else as my children’s mother, I want to teach them about Jesus. If they receive nothing in their lives, but receive Jesus into their hearts, I will have done my most important job in raising them. First and foremost, I want my children to be lovers and followers of Jesus, and if they succeed at nothing but serving Him, I will be satisfied.

It’s easy to let all of the outside noise drown out what I believe is important. Because let’s be honest, most of the noise that surrounds us is not telling us to focus on Jesus. In fact, most of the noise tells us to focus on things directly opposed to Jesus’ desires for our lives. Money, success, power, safety, security…we are not called as Christians to desire any of these things, nor are we promised to receive them. So we have to be intentional about keeping the noise out and directing our lives, and our homes, around Jesus.

I don’t know yet what this will look like for my family, except that I know it starts with Jesus being the center of my own life. I can teach my children about Jesus until my face turns blue, but if they don’t see that He is real in my life, those words will be empty. So right now, while my children are young, I’ll tell them about Jesus and sing about Jesus and read about Jesus, but most importantly, I’ll make sure that Jesus is the rock upon which I stand. 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

W


Wednesdays are tough mornings for me.

Marshall leaves early, so I wake up with the kids and have to get all three of us fed, clothed, and ready to get out of the house by 9.

If you’re not a parent, you may be thinking to yourself “9:00? That shouldn’t be tough! I get to work at 8 every morning! Don’t your kids wake up at like 6:30 anyway? Piece of cake!”

One would think.

I swear it doesn’t matter how much time I have to get out of the house, what time of day it is, how much prep I’ve done ahead of time, it’s ALWAYS a struggle.

But I digress.

Yesterday Shook was just a ball of emotions. He’s in a really loud phase (Is it a phase? Ask my family and they would say I never grew out of this one), so even when he’s happy he’s inevitably yelling or singing or banging on something he shouldn’t be banging on, which can be trying on a tired mother who hasn’t finished her coffee. When he’s not happy, he’s somewhere on the spectrum between whining and tantrum, and for some reason there were a lot of things making him unhappy yesterday.

Some days I’m good at handling his emotions, and some days they just push me to the limit. When it hit 8:45 and I hadn’t gotten his lunch together for school or either of the children dressed, I was at my limit. When Marshall walked back in to get his lunch I released an exasperated “thank goodness” and immediately put him to work.

I finally got Shook in the car at 9:05 (gotta love that 15 minute grace period). I rushed him into his classroom and snuck down the hallway without a goodbye so I could get back home to get the baby ready to go to Bible study.

Before I made it halfway down the hall, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet and a familiar “Mommy!” followed by a frantic teacher running after her little renegade.

I turned to see Shook, arms outstretched, begging me to hold him.

I knew right then that he needed me. That I had ignored him and pushed him aside and gotten frustrated with him too many times, and that he needed me to hug him, to remind him that I loved him, to give him some undivided attention before I left him to play with his friends.

So I went into his classroom and sat on the floor with him in my lap, hugging him, kissing him, telling him I was sorry for not paying attention to him.

He wasn’t mad at me for ignoring him, he wasn’t bitter that I had been less than loving to him, he wasn’t resentful that I had tried to rush away without saying goodbye. He just wanted a hug from his mommy, because he hadn’t gotten enough of my love yet. And in turn I received love from him that I didn’t know I needed until I got it.

What an act of mercy on God’s part, to send my little toddler out one last time before I left him for the day, to allow me the opportunity to make up for a bad morning and give my little boy the love he needed. And what a display of the grace that God gives us daily in various ways.

I always say that when I became a parent, God unveiled his love to me in a new way through the unconditional love I have for my children. But recently He’s been showing me His love in a completely different way through the unconditional love my children have for me.

It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since I’ve talked to God, how long it’s been since I opened my Bible, how long it’s been since I’ve come to Him with my thanksgiving, my supplications, my confessions, my worship. He’s not mad, He’s not bitter, He’s not resentful. He just wants me to turn to Him and give Him my love, and allow Him to give His love to me. It’s that simple. His love for me is truly unconditional, and no matter what I do to deflect it, He is always there chasing after me, waiting for me to turn around.

How many times have I been too distracted to see that God is trying to show His love to me? How often do I allow the worries of this world to cloud my vision, to let what seems urgent to obscure what’s truly important?

Sometimes I’m able to look at my children and dwell on the love I have for them, and how it is a reflection of the love God has for me. Most of the time, however, I need God to send my toddler running down the hallway after me asking for hugs, stopping me in my tracks to remind me of the love my children have for me, and what a beautiful reflection it is of the love God has for me.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

W