Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Message Every Mom Needs to Hear

Recently I had the privilege of sharing a few words at a good friend's baby shower. I've adjusted them a little bit for the blog... Hope they are a blessing to you. 

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward." Psalm 127:3

Most Christians today know and believe that children are a blessing. To be handed that precious bundle, a perfect blend of you and your husband's features... to stare at tiny fingers and truly a miraculous event. Becoming a parent opens your eyes to depths of joy and love you've never before known.

And yet, when the blur of the first few days is over, and you settle in at home with your little one, new parents often feel a strange fear and dread.

"Is this baby really ours to keep? They let us leave the hospital with it? Are we really in charge here? How are we going to survive the coming days {and nights!} ahead?"

Suddenly there is an overwhelming sense of both responsibility and inadequacy for the monumental task ahead.

Because your child is such a blessing, and because you love them so very much, you really don't want to mess up this parenting gig. We fear scarring our children for life by the things we do or don't do, the words we say or don't say.

What if our kids turn out really badly? What if the relationship is never as closely tight knit as we long for it to be? Will my children ever be able to forgive my mistakes?

This is a lot of pressure, and it keeps a lot of parents lying awake at night. Fortunately as Christians, its a pressure that God never intended for us to bear.

The reality is that every one of us is a sinner. Every single parent is a sinful parent, and every single child is a sinful child. Sinners don't make perfect parents, and sinners don't make perfectly well behaved and obedient children.

In their excellent book Give Them Grace: Dazzling our Kids with the Love of Jesus, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson share, "Raising good kids is utterly impossible unless they are drawn by the Holy Spirit to put their faith in the goodness of another (Jesus!). You cannot raise good kids, because you are not a good parent. There is only one good Parent, and he had one good Son."*

So what's a sinful mom who really wants to give parenting her best supposed to do?

Remember it is God who controls the outcome. Throughout Scripture and all of Church history, we've seen it time and again:ungodly parents producing godly offspring, and godly parents producing ungodly offspring. To quote Fitzpatrick and Thompson again, "Although we long to be faithful parents, we also rest in the truth that our faithfulness is not what will save our children." While we want to believe we have some control over the salvation of our children, or could somehow guarantee it, "salvation is of the Lord" (Ps. 37:39).

Remember it is God who will equip you for the task. God has chosen you very specifically to be the mother of your specific children. When He calls, He also enables. Remember, " 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9. Our weakness as moms is nothing to be ashamed of or dismayed by. Our weakness is the perfect opportunity for Christ's sanctifying power to be displayed in us.

Remember that God forgives when we mess up. When we sin against our children- maybe we yell at them, or discipline out of anger, or speak unkind words- the Gospel alone is what frees us to repent and experience God's grace and forgiveness. The Gospel tells me that all my sins have been paid for on Christ's cross, and that I bring nothing to the table here- I am merely a recipient of Christ's righteousness and God's compassion.

This understanding also frees us to humble ourselves before our children and ask for their forgiveness. As the Gospel is preached in our homes, our children will already know that mommy is a sinner. They will be blessed by our willingness to admit when we're wrong and ask for forgiveness. They will know that they are not alone in their struggles with sin, because we will have been open with them about our own sin. There is so much freedom and hope for parents and children in the Gospel!

Remember your standing is completely secured by Christ (and Him alone!). On the days when we feel like abominable failures, there is still more encouragement to be found in the Gospel of Grace. Remember that because of Christ's sacrifice, you are already perfect. Yes, perfect! How can I use such a strong word when we all know we are sinners and that Christ alone is perfect? Hebrews 10:14 says "For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."

If you have been set apart as Christ's own, if you have placed all your trust in Him, He has already declared you perfect. Not because of who you are or what you've done, but because of who He is and what He has done. No matter how many our failing as moms, wives, or simply believing women, in God's eyes we are completely covered by the righteousness of His Son.

In Short, we need to remember that it is God who controls the outcome, God equips us for the task of parenthood, we can run to God for forgiveness when we sin, and that our righteous standing is completely secure because of Christ alone.

You may notice that the only action this list requires of you is to remember. This can seem kind of passive or like not enough when we compare it to all of the "10 Ways to be a Great Mom," or "5 Ways to Raise Godly Kids," lists we see scattered around the internet. But truly understanding and embracing the grace of God accomplishes more good in our lives than any list or rules or helpful hints ever could.

According to Tullian Tchividjian, "any engine that you're depending on for power to obey that is smaller than the gospel will conk out in due time" (Give Them Grace, foreward).

God doesn't want moms to think they've got it all together. God desires moms who are desperately aware of their own insufficiency, who are constantly looking to Him for His all-sufficiency.

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*Parenthesis in italics added by me.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Life Here Lately

The best shot I could get of the babes on Easter morning.
Once again, I'm not sure how it has happened... but an entire month has passed without a single post here from me. I am still alive and well, thank you :), just busy chasing kiddos and trying to keep life running semi-smoothly. This is one of the big differences between a hobby blogger and a business blogger I suppose- if I was as committed as I'd like to be, I would sit down at the computer and discipline myself to write that post, no matter what. Ah well.

S chilling out in Daddy's sunglasses
Winter has dragged on long here in Northeast PA, and we are giddy excited about the recent upswing in temps. Even if it is only in the 50's and rainy. Sigh. One day spring will come!!

W looking every bit the little man
While I was away from the blogging world, two guest posts I'd submitted earlier in the year were featured. I'd love if you'd run over to Money Saving Mom and Gypsy Road for a peek. At Gypsy Road I talk a bit about our time in Ireland and the home educating opportunities we enjoyed. On Money Saving Mom I share several blessings I've experienced as the result of a tight budget.

S loving the library's Easter photo booth
Now that I'm back, I hope to be posting more frequently and getting into a semi-regular blogging swing. I appreciate those of you who stick around! It is a joy to share in this space.

W cozying up with Mama

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Resources for Those Grieving After Miscarriage

Here I find myself again, writing about a topic that I don't love {it hurts} because necessity compels me {I've hurt, I still hurt, and I want to encourage others who are hurting}.

It's been seven months since we lost our last baby. The grief comes and goes in waves, but I can say that both my husband and I still hurt over it. Quite a lot at times.

Recently the Lord has been so gracious to me. He's showed me through various people and circumstances that 1) I've been growing hardened and bitter in my attempts at self-preservation, 2) people have not forgotten me in my trial, and 3) I am more loved than I could imagine by Him and His people. I've been embracing vulnerability as a result- opening up about our heartache, repenting of my hardness of heart, and trying to love others when I'd rather just be a loner. It's been good, but also hard.

Being vulnerable and loving others is painful. This is why it is so easy to grow hard and cynical in grief. If you feel angry or resentful, you can steel your emotions a bit more effectively. But the path to true healing and grace is the path of brokenness. Ouch. It's not always what I want to hear.

A few weeks ago a good friend, one who knows I am hurting and has loved me so actively and graciously through this trial, handed me Nancy Guthrie's book Holding Onto Hope. It has been a healing balm to my soul. Nancy lost two babies to a rare chromosomal disorder, at 7 and 6 months respectively. She weaves her story in and out of a study of Job in his trials. It is Biblically rich, and so poignant in its handling of grief.

I found myself nodding my head enthusiastically at every other line. Tearing up, laughing, and ugly crying alternately. This book is appropriate for anyone in any type of grief- loss of a loved one, financial ruin, illness, etc. I only wish I had found it sooner. I'm on my second read through, this time with my husband. It is good folks.

The second book I want to share with you is Jessalyn Hutto's new release, Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Enters the Womb. I haven't read it yet, as I am waiting for my review copy in the mail. Look forward to a full review in the the weeks ahead. Jessalyn posted this excerpt from the book the other day, and once again I found myself tearing up as I read. She draws from her own experiences {one early miscarriage, and one baby girl at 17 weeks} and points to Christ in a hope-restoring way. There are very few Christian books that specifically address miscarriage {actually, I can't even think of one...can you?}, so the Church desperately needs this resource.

Finally, I recently created a pin board titled "Miscarriage." I hope it will be a place where you can find much encouragement in your time of need. I'll be pinning articles and other resources that have blessed me in my own journey.

I don't know about you, but what has helped me most with healing apart from the sheer grace of God is fellowship with other women who have lost babies. There is something precious in knowing that you are not alone, that others have shared your same thoughts, experiences, and mixed emotions. May it be for your edification!

Blessings friends.

There are affiliate links in this post. That means that if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. I only recommend products that I have personally used/read/and enjoyed. Thanks for your support of The Purposeful Wife! 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wet Wipes Are A Mom's Best Friend

Perfection is the enemy of the good.

I believe this is especially true of all things motherhood and homemaking. We tend to think if we don't have time to give that fridge a good and proper, 45 minute cleaning... then we just can't bother with the sticky syrup mess in it until we do have 45 uninterrupted minutes {tell me it isn't just my fridge right now???}. If we can't develop a perfect organizational system for our kids toys, then maybe we should just give up and ignore the disaster.

Which is why I am a huge fan of wet wipes.

Before I had kids, I remember my friend Jen (at the time, mother of 3) singing the praises of wet wipes. "I don't know what I did before having kids!" She used wet wipes to remove eye make-up in a pinch, clean up juice spills, and wipe sticky fingers, among other things. At the time I couldn't fully appreciate her enthusiasm. Two kids later, I am definitely there.

I use wet wipes to clean my kids up after every meal {no piles of wet wash cloths lying around}, wipe down my bathroom sink, clean my fridge, dust my baseboards, and get up sticky residues on any surface. They save me time and thought and effort, and make my home a whole lot cleaner than it would be if I waited for the perfect moment and perfect tools.

It may sound wasteful to use wet wipes so superfluously... but is it really? I tend to believe that when it gives me so much peace of mind and makes my life soooo much easier, the use is justified. I skimp on paper towels and try to be very frugal with the majority of our resources... but I've decided that going crazy with wet wipes is more than worth it for me. Maybe not for you, but for me it is. And I believe lots of moms could benefit!

Every other month we receive a case of wipes from our Amazon subscribe and save. It is nice to always have tons around, and to never have to go to the store to pick them up.

Mothering little people is exhausting. It is hard. You know that you are short on time and sleep, and that little tornadoes are constantly running through your house, which as a result, is less than tidy. If you can take a short cut that gets the job done without interfering with your busy day, take it. There are no prizes for the Best Cleaned house or doing the job perfectly. No gold stars. So cut corners when you can. Your home and family will thank you for it.

What are some corners you are willing to cut as a mom? We all could use the encouragement to pursue "good enough" in place of perfect! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

When Advice is More Hurtful Than Helpful

Advice is overly abundant in our day and age. From countless internet articles to your grandma to your next door neighbor, everyone has more advice than you could possibly want, need, or use- on everything from how to feed your baby, how to beat infertility, how to discipline your kids, how to lose weight, how to most efficiently exercise, how to clean your home, how to get stains out of clothing.... and on and on and on. 

Deep down I think we all just want to be helpful. We find a method or answer that revolutionizes our life, and we want others to experience the same "eureka!" moment. Or while we may have no experience in the area on which we are advising, we want the recipient of our advice to know that we care and are trying to be of service. 

And yet...

Haven't we all been on the receiving end of unappreciated advice? Best case, we might just feel annoyed that so-and-so thought that they had the answer to all of our perceived parenting problems. Which might be because the advice was handed down with an air of condescension, or might just mean we are a little proud and need a softer heart. Or maybe we were just tired and cranky, not in the best place to receive the admonition given.

Worst case, sometimes advice can be downright hurtful. You've been trying to get pregnant for years, seeing various health practitioners and adjusting your lifestyle, all to no avail. That super-sweet lady in church hands you yet another article about a new study that could be relevant to your situation. She meant well, but the encounter is just another painful reminder that you still can't conceive a child. You've tried it all, and this suggestion makes you feel like you just haven't done enough.

I remember how I exclusively pumped breast milk for S's first year of life. We had met with several lactation consultants, read quite a few books and articles, tried many different techniques and positions... yet I still couldn't get my preemie to nurse. Many well-meaning women who had nursed their own babies {none of whom were preemies} gave me suggestions. "Have you tried this? What about that? That is so strange!" 

I felt deeply frustrated, because despite gallant and persistent effort and education, I was getting no where. These conversations left me feeling like I was not enough of a mother, or like it was pretty silly of me for not being able to figure out something so simple. Then my second came along and nursed like a champ- c'est la vie folks.

A recent conversation with a friend brought this all back to mind. I realized {once again!} that I am often way too quick to hand out advice that may or may not be appreciated. At best, annoying; at worst, hurtful or even offensive.

What if our friend sharing her struggles is really just longing for someone to listen? What if she doesn't want that quick answer, or our suggestion with the eight philosophical/scientific/experiential points that back us up?

What if instead of quickly offering solutions and suggestions, we took time to listen quietly and pray as we hear, only offering advice when it is asked for? What if, when our expertise was requested, we offered it in a quiet and gracious manner, leaving the recipient free to reject it if it doesn't work for them? 

Sometimes the best way to be helpful is to keep our mouths closed. To lend ears and encouragement instead of instruction. Yes, there is a time for giving good counsel. Absolutely! We are going to have to develop hearts of discernment to know when to say something and when to say nothing. Wisdom requires us to be students of God and His Word, and of the people we are in relationship with. 

Again, I will be the first to admit that I am way too quick to offer my opinion on an issue, way too often. So I'm praying for grace and trying to remember that love listens first. I don't want to hurt you in my efforts to help you.