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A few weeks ago, I shared the first in a series on Women’s Ministry & Leadership and what God has taught me on this journey. I left you with a scenario that looked as though it was right out of the pages of a women’s ministry handbook — but in retrospect, it was the turning point for how God began to get this “church girl’s” attention. At this point, the direction of the ministry was just wishful thinking on my part. As a “people-pleaser”, and one who wants everyone to get along, up to this point as a leader, I had a natural tendency to avoid conflict. Which is true of most people-pleasing leadership personalities. Am I right?! As a people-pleaser, what I didn’t understand at the time, was how to navigate strong personalities and an environment that cultivated open, honest communication, and healthy accountability. And I can pinpoint the “red flags” that I ignored, out of the need to feel like I was a team player, and didn’t want to come across as bossy, because Lord knows some women just don’t like to be bossed … or led. Am I speaking some truth ladies? If I had followed God’s prompting with regard to these red flags, I have no doubt that I would have avoided the relational issues that cropped up over time.
Suffice it to say, that after having led in women’s ministry for over 10 years, circumstances changed, and I found myself in a place of feeling blindsided by conflict, and the ministry undermined. One of the most difficult things I have ever done was step out of the place of leadership, as I felt the environment was not a healthy one in which to remain. The one thing I clearly remember telling my team, was that this was not my ministry — it was God’s ministry — and the future of the ministry belonged to Him.
Some practical things I wish I had understood better: Healthy relationships are vital to effective leadership. In her book “Leadership Essentials for Women”, author Linda Clark says this: “Relationship means “the ability to relate”, to have mutual exchanges. It implies giving and receiving, initiative and respectful distance, mutuality and cooperation. Relationsip has to do with “one-anothering”. Clark continues: “Relationships do not always develop in healthy and mutually satisfying directions. When pain, fear, or distrust dominate, the relationship needs to be evaluated and corrective measures implemented.” She lists some behaviors to watch for that can hinder healthy relationships of a leadership team: “unethical, illegal, manipulative, self-serving, malicious, turf-protecting, misuse of power, apathetic, retaliatory, toxic, etc.”
So, what did I discover after all this? I discovered that letting go of what has entangled us, frees us to be who God has destined us to be. To run His race. I began the journey to what I began to call “the place of something else.” I discovered God’s peace, His presence, and His protection. “All these many people who have had faith in God are around us like a cloud. Let us put every thing out of our lives that keeps us from doing what we should. Let us keep running in the race that God has planned for us. Let us keep looking to Jesus. Our faith comes from Him and He is the One Who makes it perfect.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLV)
15 years ago, I had just had my 3rd son, who was 7 years younger than our 2nd boy. I was hungry for fellowship with other moms, and my church didn’t have a moms group, so I started attending a moms group at Fellowship Bible in Little Rock. It just so “happened” that their leadership team still needed a few small group co-leaders and a friend with whom I had served in leadership for several years in Bible Study Fellowship recommended me to serve alongside these dear women in ministry.
It was during the 3 years I spent observing, listening, and walking alongside these wise Titus 2 women that God planted His dream in my heart and began to stir my soul to pursue this dream. My calling wasn’t my own idea – my calling came while I was walking among these women, learning what it looks like to live a Titus 2 life.
I had walked among other Titus 2 women, but these dear ladies gave me a clear example of what it can look like in a structured, God-focused, biblical environment. My calling became clearer when their women’s ministry director noticed the desire in my heart to lead women in a biblical model and spoke a word over my life, that God had a work for me to do in my own church and community, along with women who desired to live the Titus 2 pattern. I will never forget the wise teaching I received during this time, and mostly, the daily life example these seasoned, biblical women imprinted on my life.
Fast forward to 15 years later! Now – for the rest of the story … well maybe not ALL of it! Suffice it to say at this point that I spent a good 10 years leading women in my own church, transitioning and establishing a new ministry, and 5 1/2 years ago, God led me out of that role. More on that later.
I’d like to share an excerpt from the last column I wrote to the women in our church, which included the theme for that year and the heart of what we felt God wanted to see happen among His women. The theme was “Pull Up a Chair” — it was my heart then and it remains my heart today for women who love the Lord and desire to live biblically as friends, moms, wives, and leaders.
“PULL UP A CHAIR” (2009)
Many of you may remember the little song we learned in Sunday School, “Friends, friends, friends, . . . I love my friends and they love me, I help my friends and they help me . . . “ As a women’s ministry director, I have been increasingly intrigued in the past few years by the dynamics in the friendships of women. The friends who surround us not only every day, but also in times past, leave a lasting imprint in our lives, shaping and defining who we become. Having grown up with all brothers, their friends, and surrounded now by 3 sons (and their friends!) in my home, I think I appreciate even more, the good girlfriends God has brought into my life. Last week I enjoyed catching up with some dear college friends whom I hadn’t seen in years! The beauty is that our friendship has deepened and matured over time, because it was based in a common love for our Lord and His service. An interesting pastime for me is to consider and observe groups of women friendships around me, of which there are several. I have my own labels for them and a few come to mind, There’s the “fun” group, the “steady” group, the “young things”, the “50-somethings”, and a few more for which I have yet to come up with a name. The most common positive denominator I witness in these women is that they love the Lord and are there for each other. I love to hear stories from some of our “steady” group about the Baptist Women circles from years past, where women came together regularly to share life — before technology, busy-ness, and society’s demands, infiltrated and corrupted the simplicity of life.
As we begin a new year of opportunities to connect … I’d like to share the heart of our Leadership Team. I enjoy and appreciate serving with these great women, and we feel God is desperately drawing us back to relationship – to the patterns of the early church. God has led our team in a unified spirit to establish this year’s theme on the exhortation found in Acts 2:42-47, “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” “And day by day continuing with one mind . . . they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart”. In a small survey taken among a few women in our church, most said they long for a small group in which they could connect and find friendship, a place to belong. Women – it’s time we all realized that none of us is perfect, we must give up our unrealistic assumptions and expectations and make time to get to know each other and grow each other. We don’t necessarily have it all together, but we know and love the One who holds it all together! And we want our lives to matter for here, for now, and for eternity – together. I invite you to the step out of your comfort zone, out of your lonely zone, seek God and some dear Christians sisters. How about we pull up a chair and sit a while?!? It’s time we got to know one another!”
I’d love to say that’s exactly what happened! But it didn’t. Next week, I’ll begin to share what God has been teaching me about women, leadership, but most importantly, what happened when I let go of my dream.
AIM: ALIGNED with God’s purpose; INTENTIONAL with my life pursuits; propelled by forward MOVEMENT.
Hello again! Took a little hiatis from blogging and ready for a new year, a new focus, and a fresh perspective on life! So I thought I’d start with sharing what’s on my heart for this year. In order to get where we want to be, we sometimes have to take a look back to see where we’ve been.
My word for the year is AIM! Been doing this word thing for a few years now, not sure when it became “the thing”. I was pondering over where I wanted to go this year, with God, with friendships, with family, with life pursuits, etc. I realized that I had spent the past year or two just sort of meandering through life as it came — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that I didn’t feel as though I had really been as intentional as I could be about what I’m doing, who I’m becoming, and where I’m going. As I pondered these thoughts, I was led to the word AIM. And then (because I am a true word nerd) I had to come up with an acrostic to make a real statement! So here it is …
ALIGNED with God’s purpose; INTENTIONAL with my life pursuits; propelled by forward MOVEMENT.
AIM. “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. …” (Phil. 3:13-16, MSG)
I’ve got my eye on the goal and God is beckoning me onward. As women, I want us to spur each other on toward the things that He wants us to be about. I hope you’ll join me every week. Ready — Aim — Fire!
“Every woman needs a tribe. Force yourself to pick a few good women who will go the distance with you. Hang on to those you select for your tribe because you will need them as you age. And they will need you. Friends who love us know that motherhood is about transitioning, and adjusting constantly to the demands life brings.”
~~ Meg Meeker, M.D., “The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers”
As we wrap up our series of The MomTrek, the last point I want to cover in our journey as mothers, is the area of cultivating key friendships. One of the most rewarding parts of my own personal MomTrek has been the mothering journey I’ve shared with my “tribe” along the way. The quote above from Meg Meeker says it well — we need a tribe — a few good women who will go the distance with us.
Friendship has gotten harder – for all mothers. In their insightful book, “Grown Up Girlfriends”, Erin Smalley and Carrie Oliver discuss the rewarding and the challenging aspects of friendships: “Friendship is a means God uses to fulfill His good purposes in our lives … both through the heartwarming and the heartbreaking experiences. He uses these relationships to provide support in times of need and to bring us to our knees so we can better see our need for Him.” “We believe that, for most women, four factors are the principal barriers to building new friendships: life transitions, personality issues, personal comfort zones, and busyness. Building relationships takes time and a willingness to risk.”
So what are the real hindrances to cultivating meaningful and healthy friendships? We labor intensely, the pace of life, the ages of our kids and the demands of everyday life. And the first thing that usually gets delayed and put off is our friendships with women, thinking we will catch up later. But life gets even more demanding. Things need our constant attention. And all along, we ignore the deep fact that God designed us for relationship. And Mothers are, by our very nature, relational creatures. We thrive on loving and being loved, talking and listening, seeing and interacting. We need each other: to share our fearful questions, to bare our anxious thoughts, to bind our wounded hearts, to vent our frustration and maybe even anger, to lift each other up in prayer, to encourage with a needed word of scripture, to smile and especially to laugh! Friends help us get a fresh perspective, challenge us to stay on the path, and navigate safely, onward and upward together!
I’ve had the incredible joy of having some lifelong friends, who have displayed these qualities and have remained constant as our children have grown up together. These women have challenged me, held the standard high with me, and we have endured times of much laughter and some difficult life events as well. Our children are grown and we are now enjoying the seasons and blessings of our kids marrying and starting families of their own — what a joy! I have other groups of friends who are constant as well, though not as close as this group, yet still walk alongside me as we’ve raised our children together. And few and far between, I’ve had mom friends who sadly, did not turn out to be the friends I thought they were, but these are the lessons of life. Disappointing and unhealthy friendships teach us to be oh so much more grateful for the loyal, lasting, life friends who love us for who we are and challenge us to be better and stronger as moms and women.
So what can we take away from this last point on cultivating key friendship?
*Our friends and the friendships of our children are one of the key determining factors to the success of our MomTrek. Choose them wisely.
*Invest in healthy, God-honoring friendships.
*Determine to work at maintaining consistent friendships, no matter how hectic life gets.
*Be a good friend. Listen, laugh, cry, have fun, and by all means – take food!!
So as we close out this last point on friendship, let’s resolve to base our actions and attitudes, not on fear and insecurity, but instead on truth and a healthy perspective of our identity in Christ. Let’s let go of being driven by what the world tells us, stop comparing, speak truth, and stand together as moms who want to take our kids to the heights of God’s very best! Let’s be moms who hold each other accountable – who have the courage to hold to a higher standard and hold our kids to that standard.
Our children need to see that God is the center of our world and that our lives revolve around Him – not them. That no matter how off course we may get, He is always our True North. Let’s get our bearings, regain our footing, and take hold of our higher calling and spur each other on all along the way!
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17)
“This is the frenetic mother culture in which you and I live. The voice tells us that we must do something – improve our kids, don’t let them miss out. Make them more, get them more, and watch them more. Every day, do something to improve something about them and us because … that’s what we’re supposed to do. We want to stop competing, but we don’t know how and we are scared to be the first.” ~~ “10 Habits of Happy Mothers” by Meg Meeker, M.D.
One of the most rewarding parts of my own personal MomTrek has been the mothering journey I’ve shared with my “tribe” along the way. In her book, “10 Habits of Happy Mothers”, Meg Meeker says this: “Every woman needs a tribe. Force yourself to pick a few good women who will go the distance with you. Hang on to those you select for your tribe because you will need them as you age. And they will need you. Friends who love us know that motherhood is about transitioning, and adjusting constantly to the demands life brings.” I want to spend more time in this area, because ladies, this is where I feel strongly that God has led me to speak out about some things we CAN do better.
*Stop playing the comparison/competing game.
*Cultivate key friendships
Because there’s so much about this aspect of raising our kids that is key to our mothering journey, I will break down these last 2 points into 2 separate posts. So let’s talk about the first point: the playing of the comparison/competing game. I want to touch on a subject that has greatly troubled me over the past few years. There’s a span of 7 years between my middle and youngest, now 14. As I was raising my 2 older sons, now 21 and 22, I didn’t notice during those years the rampant sense of competing and comparing that seems to be prevalent in today’s mom culture, as I’m raising my 14 year old. In the parenting journey, we need to let go of comparing our mothering to our friends’ mothering and understand that it’s not gonna look the same. For various reasons. We all have strengths and weaknesses, our children are wired differently, and their temperaments are different. And if we force them to live up to this expectation that we have in our mind, this expectation, this perfect picture, we’re going to miss out on the best part of parenting, which is what happens as we’re going. The scenery along the way. So we’ve got to let go of those expectations.
“This is the frenetic mother culture in which you and I live. The voice tells us that we must do something. Improve our kids, don’t let them miss out. Make them more, get them more, and watch them more. Do something every day to improve something about them and us because – that’s what we’re supposed to do. We want to stop competing, but we don’t know how and we are scared to be the first. Because in our hearts, we long to just simply … be.”
Moms – what happened? I think it’s very simple. We forgot our objective. We took our eyes off the mountain. Instead of being led by truth, and confident in God’s provision, we have become driven by fear and self-focus. We got distracted by the frantic pace of life, by the constant bombardment of media telling us we aren’t doing it right, we don’t look right,our kids aren’t good enough, and we are failures. Oh mamas, this is one BIG LIE! When we allow the root of this lie to spread, it affects our confidence and life direction. It manifests itself most directly in our relationships with each other as women.
Being competitive professionally and athletically, and in other arenas can be a good thing. But when it comes to being competitive in relationships as mother, we always lose. Always.
So what do we do?
Recognize that we all do it. Examine your feelings about your friends. Markers that indicate unhealthy attitudes include: criticism, envy, jealousy, discontent, comparison. Meg Meeker touches on several key aspects of how we can achieve healthy relationships with other mothers and overcome these insecurities. I highly recommend her book, “10 Habits of Happy Mothers”. Here’s a few highlights from her book:
“Jealousy is an enormously corrosive feeling. It makes us feel bad about ourselves. But when we acknowledge our jealousy and admit it to ourselves and maybe a close friend, we diffuse the power that it has.
*Turns us against ourselves. Usually when we are jealous and want something that we don’t have, it’s because we are imagining what life would be like if we had the thing, but that vision isn’t necessarily the truth. So in a real sense, the jealousy remains a mind-set.
*Inhibits good relationships. It’s obvious that when we are competitive with another, we have less than wonderful feelings toward her. We feel inadequate and we perceive her as more adequate. When we compete with other mothers, we pit ourselves against them, and we grieve their successes. We can even be jealous of women who are just too nice. How in the world can we enjoy a healthy relationship with other women when we have these unhealthy thoughts and feelings floating around inside? Competition stunts the growth of any healthy relationship. It is a powerful force and has the power to destroy.”
I recently watched a National Geographic documentary about a team that was climbing the K2 Summit – the world’ 2nd tallest mountain. The team anchors a rope in the ice, and all team members ascend in single file with the rope as the guide. The team was facing a short window of time, and so one team member began to pass his team members in an effort to make it to the top ahead of them. Tragically, he fell to his death, and others died as well as a result. This is my point: If we’re constantly trying to beat each other up the mountain, we’re not gonna get there together. We need to help each other, come alongside one another, and understand that we have different things to offer in the mix. Instead of trying to compete with one another, we need to help one another. Stay tethered together.
So what can we do? Here’s a few more thoughts from Meg Meeker:
*”Recognize jealousy and don’t be fooled. Recognize symptoms and what is at the root of negative feelings. Only when we see this dynamic can we begin to stop it.
*Head competition off at the pass. Once we recognized the initial twinges of jealousy, we must act. This is war because competition with other mothers serves only one purpose: to take us down. Don’t just recognize but act. Get specific and stand against it.
*Give frequent verbal applause. One of the best ways to ward off jealousy is to speak well of the woman about whom we feel jealous. Give each other a boost!
*Focus on fullness, not emptiness. Once we feel we are lacking, we begin to dislike who we are, which leaves us more needy and wanting, and therein lies the trap. Happy people are fun to be around — why? Because they focus more on what’s positive in life rather than on what’s negative. We all choose what thoughts fill the spaces in our minds. Choose to be positive!
*Be deliberate in kindness. Reach out to help another mother, offer encouragement and a kind word. Don’t withhold gracious and genuine words of greeting or affirmation among the circle of moms you run in. Be who Jesus calls us to be with each other.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together … but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” ~~ (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Moms it’s time for us to all join hands and jump off this destructive comparison train together! It will take choosing to confront this issue with each other, deciding to take the hard road, and abandon it altogether. We must choose to confront it and rise above it every day. God has gifted each of us with everything we need to be the moms and women He has designed us to be — let’s choose to TRUST Him to empower us to raise the children He gave us for His purposes — not our own! Next week, we’ll take a look at how to cultivate healthy friendships.
“One of the first roadblocks for many of us is simply a pace of life that keeps us running so fast, we never purposefully think about the big picture — much less take pro-active steps to course-correct. ”
Much of our MomTrek involves the skill of navigating. And if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves way off course, facing obstacles we never anticipated, and lacking the strength to endure. As our son was preparing to be a guide in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, he went through an intensive 6 week training period, some of which he spent days and nights in the mountains by himself. Had he not been adequately prepared, he could have panicked, gotten lost, or hurt.
As a river guide, he also was trained to navigate the huge boulders and the strong current of the fast flowing Arkansas River. Later that summer, as our family rafted down that river together, I was grateful he had spent the necessary time preparing, and kept us from flipping and being thrown over. Being a mom is much like navigating a river, or climbing a mountain. There will be unexpected obstacles, currents that can sweep us away, and steep rock faces that seem insurmountable. Hard things like a child who has serious health issues, a behavior disorder, is rebellious and challenges our authority, doesn’t seem to fit in, or symptoms of depression or anger, the list could go on. As moms, we need to anticipate obstacles, prepare for how we will deal with them,and develop the endurance and strength it takes to keep paddling – to keep climbing. Even when we can’t see – when we feel like giving up.
We can have the map, but maybe we need to put our compass to use. What are some of the things that can get us off course? Not knowing where we’re going, the hectic pace of life, taking wrong turns, becoming disoriented, pride, shallowness, being carried along with the current. In “The Life Ready Woman”, Shaunti Feldhan says “One of the first roadblocks for many of us is simply a pace of life that keeps us running so fast, we never purposefully think about the big picture — much less take pro-active steps to course-correct.” You know I can just hear the navigation systems in our cars when we veer a different way, “RECALCULATING!” Compass-guided womanhood means managing ourselves by bold faith in God and His Word. This kind of living is important in every area of life.
“All too often, the reason we are overwhelmed or unclear is that we are trying to live in a way that is completely contrary to what God has planned for our lives. We are carrying a yoke, but not the one God designed for our direction and protection as we walk through life with Him.” (The Life Ready Woman) God’s word and His Holy Spirit as our compass will guide us to God’s best in our lives.
I think of the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis. Abraham was not a mom, but he was a parent. A parent who had been charged with surrendering his son on an altar. I can’t imagine how he must have felt. Yet we see that Abraham demonstrated complete obedience and faith. As he went up that mountain, he was in a place of complete surrender. His devotion to His God had determined his ability to believe and act in obedience. Abraham and God had a history together. When we have a history with God, we are able to make decisions regarding our children. When we attach ourselves to God, anchored by His rope, we can securely and bravely raise our kids to live the same faith. We can overcome and endure, because we believe that the God who created our children is faithful to love them better than we can. Because He loves them best. We can leave them in His mighty hands. And we can find strength, hope, endurance, and joy along the way! So let’s review our skills:
*Be familiar with the map – recognize the markings, and follow the course.
*Anticipate hidden obstacles-not with an anxious worry, but with a calm confidence.
*Develop endurance to keep paddling – keep climbing.
*Stay tethered to God, who is faithful to love our children better than we can!
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” Habakkuk 3:19
God’s word is like our MomTrek backpack. In His word, we find everything we need. It holds light and truth, sustains and nourishes, provides shelter, and reveals direction for life.
If you or your child have ever participated in outdoor adventure activity or camp, you know there is a list of necessary equipment. This equipment is vital for you to have a successful and enjoyable adventure. Let’s look at some of these items and apply them to our MomTrek. Typically this equipment would include: a sturdy backpack, food, lantern, compass, water, shelter, camping supplies, etc. Where do we get these supplies? We can’t just manufacture them ourselves, or draw from our own well of strength and resolve. We need Jesus.
“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
I like to think of the backpack, which holds everything for our journey, as being God’s Word. In His word, we find everything we need. It holds light and truth, sustains and nourishes, provides shelter, and reveals direction for life. Truth is like our map as we navigate life. Basing our decisions on the strong foundation of God’s word helps us establish firm footing as we make our way. His light illumines our way and dispels the darkness that surrounds us. It is our food and water, as we so desperately need to be nourished and refreshed with daily scripture and prayer. When we take shelter in God’s truth, we find provision and protection. And when we seek God’s ways as our true north, He gives us guidance through our own personal compass – the Holy Spirit – who reveals direction for our lives and the lives of our children.
“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
And of course, we can’t get very far if we aren’t wearing the hiking shoes of faith and hope! It’s great to have all the right equipment, to know in our minds where we’re trying to go. But to actually step out, take hold, and go up takes having faith and placing our hope in what we have yet to actually see. And it means letting go and reaching forward.
So let’s review our supply list:
*Backpack of God’s Word, which holds everything we need.
*Map of His truth as we navigate life.
*Light is like the flashlight that dispels darkness.
*Tent of His word is our shelter that protects.
*The compass of His Holy Spirit, that gives us direction and guidance.
*Food and water of daily scripture and prayer refreshes us along the way.
*The rope that secures us and our children in His mighty hand.
*The hiking shoes of faith and hope help us step out and take hold of His promises.
And what does God promise us?
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. He alone is my refuge, my place of safety. He will protect you, cover you, and shelter you with His wings.” (Psalm 91:1-6)
We need to take some time to really think about what our objective is as a mother. Why are we doing what we’re doing and what do we hope to accomplish?
Last week I began a new series entitled, “The MomTrek: Navigating the Journey of Raising God-Centered Kids.” In it, I introduced the idea of mothering being compared to a trek: “an arduous journey, a long and difficult expedition.” Ya think? Mothering is a day after, year after year, continual exerting of ourselves and our energy – not just to making sure our kids survive, but that they actually thrive and develop along the way. It is the hardest, most challenging experience we can have. Like a trek, there are absolute necessities we need along the way. We need to have an overall objective, the proper equipment, the essential skills, and the right traveling companions. This week, we’ll talk about the overall objective.
MomTrek Overall Objective: All treks have an objective: a point at which they will end. A destination. We need to take some time to really think about what our objective is as a mother. Why are we doing what we’re doing and what do we hope to accomplish? Let’s take a minute or two and think about this and ask some important questions. First of all, let’s take personal inventory.
1. At this point in your mothering journey, what is the most frustrating aspect for you as a mom? What challenges are you facing that seem overwhelming, with regard to each of your children? What makes you feel the most stressed and anxious about your children? What do you feel good about in your mothering? What are your strengths?
2. Now let’s consider the bigger picture – the objective. The destination. What are we trying to accomplish with our kids – where and how to envision our children as they reach age 22? This would be like looking at a map, or a trail route, in order to go from where we are, to where we want to be. “If every mother could wrap her mind around her true value as a woman and mother, her life would never be the same … every mother is born to fulfill a higher calling. The question for every mother is: Do you feel you were born for a great purpose?” ( Meg Meeker M.D., “10 Habits of a Happy Mother”.) Another author puts it this way: “Why are you doing what you’re doing and what do you want out of it? Knowing what mattered and focusing on the big picture changed my mothering perspective.” (“One Tough Mother”, by Julie Barnhill) It’s time for us to get a new perspective, or maybe just recapture the one we had.
What’s reassuring is that God has not left us on our own. He has already set a very clear objective for us in Deuteronomy 6: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children … and the Lord our God commanded us to obey and to fear him so he can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as He has done to this day.” Our objective should be not to raise children who have everything they want, and are successful in this earthly life, but to pursue a higher calling of raising a generation of God-centered young adults. A generation who fears God and lives a life to please Him – a message that is radically opposed to what our kids are surrounded by today. What can we do to practically apply this scripture?
Determine Our Core Values Maybe it’s time to reassess (or assess for the first time if you’ve never done so) our plan for raising our children. What do you base your decisions on? When your children encounter teaching that contradicts what you know is right, what basis do you use to help them navigate these questions? How do we model in real life, the Christlike qualities we desire to see in our children? I’ve attached a link to the Family Life Ministries website, which contains many valuable resources for parents. One resource is called “Determining Our Core Values”. This will help walk you through the specific steps as we take a good hard look at charting the course on a life map for our children. What do our children observe in our lives? What matters to me and what do I value?
I hope you’ll take the time to evaluate where you are on your mothering journey and these guidelines will be a help along the way!
I think even in this information-saturated, media overloaded society in which we live, there is still something very basic that moms need to really … hear. Not just hear, but grasp in the very soul of who we are – down to the essence of who we desperately want to be.
Mothering is much like a trek. Trek is defined as “a trip or movement especially when involving difficulties or complex organization; an arduous journey.” Mothering is the hardest, most demanding and challenging experience we will ever have.
When recently invited to lead a session for moms at a women’s conference, I pondered what it is that moms really need to hear. As a veteran mom of 3 boys, this was an area I felt I could share something helpful in, though I wasn’t sure exactly what God had in mind. Well, the day came and my breakout session was completely full! All these little mamas started spilling into the room, eager and hungry for a word along their mom journeys. Bless their sweet little hearts:) A lot of moms more qualified than me could stand before these women and share a wealth of wisdom, great spiritual insights, or tons of practical ideas about raising kids. But for this day, I felt keenly led to create an environment where we could speak honestly and realistically about this whole mothering thing. So up front, I told the mamas they should know this is not a lecture, not a session on how to be more organized, how to plan meals, how to save money, how to clean house, make scrapbooks, or anything remotely related to self-improvement. Or how to do anything better! We already have more than enough books, articles, blogs, and Pinterest projects to cover all of the above! I think even in this information-saturated, media overloaded society in which we live, there is still something very basic that moms need to really … hear. Not just hear, but grasp in the very soul of who we are – down to the essence of who we desperately want to be. Mothering isn’t just a job, a role, what we do, our identity, or our ambition. We can try to put it in these boxes, to label it, to define it, but the thing about mothering is that it’s always evolving.
Looking back over 22 years of mothering, I thought about our oldest, he’s in his first year out of school-working, doing well. Our 2nd son is college junior and seems to be getting it (so far). The 3rd is still in Junior high, so we’ll see! As I was preparing for this session, I was thinking about the years invested in this journey, and found myself in the midst of being grateful, but also lamenting a bit and even comparing. Wishing I’d done this or that with my boys, or done some of the things my other friends had done. And it was like God said – stop. It. Mothering isn’t a cookie cutter job. It’s gonna look different at different times and our family dynamic is not going to be the same as everybody else’s. For instance: I love all the cutesy fun stuff I see my girl mom friends doing!. I mean, seriously? I get the eye roll every time I even mention some of those fun ideas. Or the same as the really “spiritual” families that do all this really great volunteering and ministry stuff together and have family bible reading and devotions every night … that’s so awesome, but that isn’t us. We will cover this notion of comparison and expectation in the upcoming days.
The thing I did see, that God showed me, however, was that it had turned out okay – so far. I had done a pretty good job, in spite of myself, and by the grace of God. But how? I didn’t do everything on the endless perfect mothering checklist! What were the most important things along the way? What I can share that will be helpful to you today? Where you are as a mom today?
God gave me this idea – this visual of mothering being compared to a trek. How did I come up with that, you might ask? Well, our middle son spent last summer working with a Christian whitewater rafting/outfitter company in Colorado. As he prepared to spend 6 weeks of training and then the remainder of the summer working as a river guide and backcountry trail guide, and I became familiar with this whole outdoor adventure world, there were several aspects I thought we could apply to what I have called “The MomTrek”.
Mothering is much like a trek. Trek is defined as: “a trip or movement especially when involving difficulties or complex organization; an arduous journey; expedition; a long and difficult journey”. Mothering is the hardest, most demanding and challenging experience you will ever have. Made even more challenging by the variables found in each of our children, and by our own personalities, strength, and weaknesses as moms. So much information flooded across my path as I was preparing for this session. And I couldn’t share something I hadn’t observed myself, or something that God hadn’t led me to share. But what was very clear, was that there was a recurring theme that confirmed what I felt God was leading me to share with the moms who attended this conference.
When I became a mom 22 years ago, I was fortunate to be surrounded by solid teaching as I put down my mom roots, role models who set an example in practical ways as I set out to begin my mothering journey, and a church environment that nurtured young families. I didn’t set out to raise perfect kids or be the perfect mom. I just found myself doing what I knew to do at that point in time, and I realized while thinking about what to share, it was this mindset that shaped my mothering experience.
What’s troubling as that when I observe the landscape of motherhood over the last 10 years, I see that mothering has been impacted, attacked and undermined by our self-focused culture, driven by a never-ending bombardment of media influence telling us that we should be relentlessly pursuing perfection. We should have perfect kids, who excel in sports, academics, the arts, and who run in the perfect social circles. We should have perfect houses, perfect marriages, perfect jobs, perfect friends, perfect bodies, perfect cars, perfect hair – the list goes on and on. And this frenetic pace has taken a huge toll on moms. We climb higher and higher, running after this illusion. And we are tired. We are spent. We are exhausted. We’re not really sure who we are as moms anymore, or why we are moms, or where we’re supposed to be as moms. We didn’t mean to get off the trail, we didn’t think we would be swept away by the current, or lose our way up the mountain. Did we ever even know how to find the mountain in the first place?
Maybe we need to stop and figure out where we’re going. Maybe we need to regain our footing. Maybe we need a little push, a little help up the mountain, across the river. Maybe we’ve lost our bearings and it’s time to examine a few things about how we’re approaching this whole mothering thing. There are some real and honest conversations we need to have as mothers, I hope you’ll join me as we talk honestly about our mothering journeys and what we really need. We need to have an overall objective, the proper equipment, the essential skills, and the right traveling companions as we make our way on this adventure, The MomTrek!!
As parents, we often find ourselves “flying by the seat of our pants”. You know what I mean: The precious bundle is born, and it seems life just flies … and we have these great intentions, but truth be told, we’re just trying to keep up with the daily pace! The season of Christmas seems to intensify all of these factors, and before we know it, another holiday season has flown by, and with it, missed opportunities — forgotten conversations. I think one of the most important qualities of effective parenting is being prepared — and this goes into all aspects of raising our families.
It’s crucial to remember as we parent, especially when our children are young, that we are their number one source for information. We are the keepers of their little minds, the watchers over their hearts, and the instillers of truth as they will come to believe it. As we parent during the Christmas season, it’s a good idea to keep this in mind as we go throughout our daily, hectic, schedule-packed, lives. I thought it might be helpful to share some ideas we used when our sons were young to continually keep Christ in the center of our activities, and in the midst of our home.
Edwards Family Christmas Traditions
The Advent wreath and candles is a great way to keep a visual reminder of the story of Christmas. The miraculous coming of a Savior! The symbolism in the greenery and the lighting of the candles are wonderful teaching points to help our children remember what’s represented by these items. Wreaths are easy to make: Styrofoam wreath, glue some greenery and berries, add four tapered candles (select colors you like: I choose deep cranberry) one large white candle in the center, hot-glue some festive ribbon and voila! Every night, (hit or miss) we would read selected scripture passages, light the candle for that week, sing a Christmas carol (hit or miss).
ADVENT ORNAMENT CALENDAR/ADVENT TREE.
I got the idea somewhere over 20 years ago, to create an Advent calendar out of felt. It had little pockets that hold small ornaments, and each day, a child would select that day’s ornament and place it on our Advent tree. Half of the ornaments are secular, and half are biblical, telling the story that leads up to our celebration of Christmas, December 25th. The secular ones are things like snowflakes, wreaths, gifts, bells, etc., and can easily be tied into spiritual conversations with our children that continually remind them of the symbols of the season. I updated my fabulous felt calendar this year with some burlap!
We also made it a tradition each year, to purchase a new Christmas book that we added to our collection of Christmas books we would read each night to our kids. Most had a spiritual theme, but some were secular, with a good moral lesson. There are tons of great books available today!
DOING FOR OTHERS.
We have always made a point to adopt a family or child to buy gifts for at Christmas, and take food to the shelters, etc. We also support those we know who are serving in international missions in various countries.
WHAT TO DO WITH SANTA …
In our family, from the very beginning, we basically made an effort to downplay Santa, and uplift Jesus. We had a book that told the story of the real Saint Nicholas, who loved Jesus and blessed others because he loved Jesus. We didn’t make a big deal out of “what do you want Santa to bring you?”, and though Santa did bring them a present, the biggest, most desired present was always from us – their parents, because we wanted them to know we loved them so much, we wanted to bless them with that gift. Also, from the beginning, some other friends had followed a pattern of each child receiving 3 gifts, tying in the Wise Men bringing 3 gifts to Jesus. And so this is a pattern we have tried to be consistent with — some years better than others!
Just keeping it real here: my boys are grown now (pretty much), and they will tell you we didn’t always do these things consistently! But I’m so glad I had a plan, and have tried through the years, to be as consistent as possible. As parents today, we must prepare and plan to create consistent opportunities to have continual conversations with our children about spiritual ideas that have eternal significance. The world is constantly bombarding our kids with its indulgent, self-focused culture and we only have a window of time before our kids are grown and gone. We must make every effort to keep Christ in our midst … not shoved aside as we scurry through the hustle and bustle of the ‘holiday season’. JESUS. He IS Christmas.