Taking Heart, Motherhood & Family

You Don’t Become Superwoman Overnight

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My daughters are not good eaters but I can’t complain, because apparently I’ve never been a good eater either. My dad tells a story of when I was an infant, and how my mom called him at work in frustration after I threw up all the food she’d painstakingly fed me over the course of an hour. I like this story because it gives me a plausible genetic-predisposition excuse for how my girls eat, but more so because it gives me a glimpse of my mom as a first-time momma.

If you knew my mom, you would probably agree with the man who stopped me a few weeks ago at church to tell me, “your mom is a superwoman.” Her capacity for working to serve others and enduring difficulty is super-human. That’s why it’s strange for me to imagine her calling my dad at work about a feeding session, and that’s why I enjoy the Faith-was-a-terrible-eater story so much. It reminds me my mom didn’t become superwoman overnight.

Some of you may be in the thick of learning how to keep a home, be a wife, or survive as a mom. You may be looking at the superwomen in your lives— your own mom, a godly older woman, or a friend with more children— and hang your head in shame for being so weak and struggling so much. I know how it is. Today, I want to encourage you to remember, these superwomen didn’t get there overnight and they didn’t get there on their own.

As a mom with three littles, my daily agenda most days is still usually “make it through the day.” So the just-married and first-time mom stages aren’t so far behind me that I don’t remember how hard they were.

I remember, as a newlywed, being surprised at how much time was spent on food. Pre-marital counseling prepared me for a lot, but I did not expect meal planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning to be so taxing. Three meals a day, seven days a week– and repeat again with no end in sight!

I remember the terrible morning sickness of my first pregnancy. I remember being sad because I wanted to have more kids but didn’t think I’d ever be able to make it through pregnancy again.

I remember the never-ending day that was in actuality the first few weeks after the birth of our eldest. The theme of my days were “I need Thee every hour!” because truly, I didn’t think I could make it through the next sixty minutes.

And I remember the struggle of figuring out the dynamics and choices involved with having children and being a ministry family. 

A few months ago though, Jeff and I joked about going on vacation with the baby when my parents took the girls away for a few days, and I wondered at the fact that five years ago, we’d never have thought “Wow, we just have one kid at home— how relaxing!” We are still young parents and far from being out of the woods, but even in the last six years I’ve noticed one important theme as a homemaker and parent— God grows our capacity over time. 

Some may see the repeating tasks of homemaking and child-rearing and wonder if it’s monotonous and mind-numbing doing the same thing day after day. Yes, there is an aspect of repetition and it is important to maintain perspective in the mundane everyday tasks that make up our days. (I’ve written about it here and here.) But I’ve also found great satisfaction learning that though the tasks of keeping a home and caring for children do repeat, over time, we get better at them. In other words, in doing our daily tasks of service over and over, we become more effective and efficient in doing them and grow in our capacity to do more good to love others.

Over time, in the kitchen, our hands move a little less clumsily at the cutting board and we get better at throwing together a meal for last minute guests. At the changing table, we become able to wrestle down the squirming poop-er deftly enough to continue our conversation with the two older kids about speaking kindly to one another. In matters of the heart, we learn to engage our children better, and discern more quickly whether they need a hug, a swat, a nap, or all three (not all at once of course). All of this doesn’t happen because some people are born with super-capacities– it comes because of all the time spent each day in the kitchen, at the changing table, engaging the heart.

To use gym language, God is the perfect trainer and the daily tasks involved in housework and caring for children are our reps. Our Trainer knows exactly how to push us a bit (a lot) past what we feel is possible or pleasant, because not only is he enabling us to serve others now, he is preparing us for the good works he’s planned ahead. God increases our capacity not so that we can gain mastery and control, but because as we do our tasks in love for those around us, he has other tasks and training lying ahead.

Day by day, God is training us in the work he’s called us to not only physically but spiritually. In putting us in positions of weakness, he gives us a chance to recognize our need for his strength and grace in our work. He gives us a chance to see his grace at work in the day-to-day and his wisdom in ordering our days and seasons as homemakers and parents. I think one reason he does this is so that we can testify to his sustaining presence and comfort to give courage to others, even after we have moved to the next struggle.

So, for the newlywed fumbling around in the kitchen or the first-time mom wondering how you’ll get through the next day, know that there is grace for you today. Grace from God to sustain you, and grace in how he is teaching you skills and lessons you will be able to employ in the future for the sake of serving others. It may be hard, and in a sense it’s supposed to be, but trust your wise trainer and gracious sustainer. The same One who has given daily grace to those you look up to is the One who is training you today.

And to the one who looks like superwoman to another, would you consider testifying to her that you didn’t get to where you are overnight? Is there a way you can speak grace and truth into a younger person’s life, apart from the “just you wait and see how it gets worse!” the world seems to offer? Would you remember how God showed you grace in the past, as he continues to do today?

“By the grace of God, I am what I am and his grace toward me was not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:10).

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)

Motherhood & Family, Taking Heart, Truth & Orthodoxy

Good News for My Daughters

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As a new parent, I remember hearing someone say that our greatest comfort is that the two things we tend to worry about most– our children’s physical wellbeing and the spiritual state of their souls are not, ultimately, under our control. After having visited the ER with our first daughter for stitches, finding a baby at the top of the stairs with an open gate multiple times, an “I did not see that one coming” accident last week, and many more close calls, I have been experiencing how true that first bit is. It’s good to know that God is ultimately in control of the health and safety of my children when I start seeing how, try as I might, there are a thousand potentially harmful situations out there that I haven’t taken into account. (Seriously, after becoming parents, Jeff and I often comment how it is a miracle that any of us have lived to adulthood!) I desire my children to be healthy and safe, and though I may have deep fears about disease, sickness, and accidents, knowing that I don’t control it but God does has brought some measure of peace to my otherwise worry-wired heart.

But Jeff and my greatest desire for our children is not that they would be healthy and live long lives, which is why we may be tempted to worry about that second part– the spiritual state of their souls.  Our greatest desire and prayer for our girls is that they would love God and love people. We want them to know God personally, to trust him with their whole hearts, to taste the sweetness of being in relationship with him, and to count everything else as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. We want them to be driven by one passion– his glory– and to commit their lives, with joy, to live, and even be willing to suffer and die for the cause of the gospel. And we want more than anything for this to come out of a heart that is made new by God. This isn’t about being good church going kids, moral people, or having “prayed the prayer” at one point in their lives. We pray that God would work and that we would see fruit of obedience out of love for God stemming from new, Holy Spirit wrought hearts. Hearts that are awakened by the Holy Spirit to put faith in the saving work of Christ and do and desire things that dead hearts never could. We want them to know his love and have their lives marked by a deep experiential knowledge of grace.  Our commitment to the gospel and personal experience of it in life is that it is the good news that God isn’t in the business of making bad or good people better, but dead people alive, and we pray and plead with God that he would bring this about in our children even now.

In recent years as I have come to love this gospel more deeply, I have been made undone over and over again with gratitude for God’s sovereign choice to make me, once dead, alive. I know, not just because of teachings about Biblical interpretation or theology, but in the depths of my being that had not God opened my eyes to see and value him, I would not, and am left with trembling awe at the thought. The sovereign will of God in initiating and bringing about salvation has been a source of great gratitude, joy, and humility in my life, but in recent years as a parent, somehow it shifted into a subtle source of fear, not verbalized even in my mind, but still there. The question lurking there and that if thought about enough would bring tears: What if God doesn’t choose to save my children? And so, the knowledge of sovereign grace that has brought me joyful gratitude considering my own life has started to wear away and burden me as a mom. That is, it did until a few weeks ago, when I was brought low in my own eyes that God’s mercy may be lifted up.

It has been a consistent set of those “fail” weeks, that are not just a general “I’m a bad mom” feeling, but ones where I know what I’m doing wrong, how I’m being unkind, and still have not changed. It’s been a stripping-away week of pride in my abilities to parent and I am, by the grace of God, being brought to the end of myself again and again. With clarity I saw a few weeks ago that I was doing so many of the things I never wanted to as a mom. I was, and still am more than I ought, comparing, speaking out of irritation, overly concerned about the opinions of others (too strict? not strict enough?), being inconsistent, and other things that, if left unchanged, would mean that our family would be on the road to being one full of fear, bitterness, ungratefulness, and hurt. It was in the midst of feeling the weight of my failure and as I thought about the hearts of my girls, anxious and unable to sleep, that the thought came clearly to me: Do I want my girls to be at the mercy of my parenting, or at the mercy of God? That was the turning point for me from anxious grief to joyful trust and rest (and with that, thankfully, sleep).

This was the question that cast a light on my prideful fear and offered me a chance to step into grateful, humble trust. Do I want my girls to be at the mercy of my parenting, or at the mercy of God? In other words: Do I want their futures– and namely the state of their hearts, whether or not they love Jesus, and where they will be for eternity– to be at the mercy of my ability to be the right kind of godly mom? Me, inconsistent at best, and love them as I may, still selfish and still foolish at times? Or do I want them to be at the mercy of God who is abounding in love and mercy, unchanging, able, and willing?

Up until feeling the increasing weight of my own failure to know and do what is right as a mom, I was unconsciously saying I’d rather have the first be the case. This showed in my fear of God’s sovereign choice and of our complete need for him to do the heart change, granting us faith to make us alive in him (aka “monergism”). I’d rather be told and taught what to do and pray, or at least how to have the right heart, attitude, and guiding principles, and then be able to say that through those means,  I’ll know my girls will love God and live for him. It’s subtle because I would never have said that through having right rules or teaching, I could change their hearts. But still, underneath it all, there was a fundamental trust in the choices I’d make as a parent–  my own strictness or non-strictness, in how much I discipline or give grace, in how consistent or how flexible I am, and in my own ability to love God. With trust in self high, my heart says “What?? I could do everything right and my kids still could reject God and be messed up? How scary and unfair.” And though I’d never say that out loud, it shows in my fear that a sovereign, powerful God could “undo” or work against all that I do right and well. His election and grace and mercy in it are begrudgingly assented to, but not rejoiced in.

But with a realistic taste of my own self as a mom, sinner, and imperfect and unable to produce the type of family that I desire– with a picture painted of what my family would really look like were it all up to me– God’s sovereign mercy and grace brings about a completely different reaction. It’s “What?? I can do everything wrong and my kids still have a chance of loving God?? THANK GOD THERE IS HOPE!” Like the parable of the workers, I begin to see myself as one of those who have worked much less in the day but still have been paid more than I deserve, and I walk away in awe of mercy given at the free will of the owner of the field.

It’s not that I think I can do whatever and it doesn’t matter what I do as a mom because, hey, God is in control! I, as a mom and as a person will answer to God one day for everything I do and say. I want to do what’s right by him. I also don’t want my children to have baggage to carry, (too many) issues to work through because of me, or to have a twisted view of who God is because of my inaccurate portrayal of him in their lives. Those things go without saying. But I have seen God work in the family I was raised in to bring about gospel reconciliation and change– he still is doing that now. And one of the greatest witnesses to me and others through our family has been not what was done right by us, but how God is still making us new and how there is hope in the gospel to heal. Through that, one of my core values and hopes in life is that in the same way my family now, with my own children, would be a picture of gospel grace. Not just that we would be known as people who are gracious or that we would experience grace through one another, but that people looking at us would see that indeed that God is a gracious God to have had mercy on ones such as us. To know that he had mercy on us, the worst of sinners,  so that “Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Tim. 1:16 ESV)  And so, I am needing to repent of the ways I have been standing on my own merit, trusting our own family’s standards or hoping in parenting methods and advice, instead of falling on the mercy of our exceedingly merciful, compassionate, gracious, and sovereign God.

Reading through the Bible about families used to scare me. All these godly people having evil children, especially seen starkly in the lines of the kings. And yet, maybe that’s because I was thinking of myself as on the wrong side? Elisabeth Elliot quotes Thomas Fullerin in her book, Gateway To Joy:

Lord, I find the genealogy of my Savior strangely checkered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations. (1) Reheboam begat Abijah; that is, a bad father begat a bad son. (2) Abijah begat Asa; that is, a bad father begat a good son. (3) Asa begat Jehosaphat; that is, a good father a good son. (4) Jehoshaphat begat Joram; that is, a good father a bad son. I see, Lord, from hence that my father’s piety cannot be entailed; that is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary; that is good news for my son.

Good news for my children indeed.

So we still plead–for new hearts, for mercy, but not in fear but in faith with gratitude. We put kindling around them– teaching, loving, disciplining, instructing, repenting– and we pray, pray, pray for the Holy Spirit to send fire. If you would, pray for our kids that they would love and know him and be given new hearts to trust him? Praise God for his sovereign grace. There is hope for them and hope for me.

Motherhood & Family

Excerpt From My First Book

Written a few months ago and self-published, it’s based on true events and is semi-autobiographical. It deals with themes of patience and trust when our desires are denied or deferred, dependence on God in our obedience, repentance, loving others in our treatment of them, and turning to God in community for help in times of need.

And here it is!

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And here is the promised excerpt:

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Sorry if I psyched anyone out! But thought it’d be fun to post one of the “books” (thus far there are two) that I put together for my daughter. Technically, this is my fourth book after “Hammy the Hamster”, “My Mom A V.I.P.”, and “The World’s Greatest Dad” (approx. titles) –all written in elementary school. When I wrote this, I was trying to teach her about waiting, fussing, and obedience. I actually wrote and drew it on looseleaf as I made up and told the story to her and decided to type it up later for fun. It’s silly and simple, but she enjoys it (who doesn’t like a book when they’re the main character?) and it’s been helpful for us. I heard her the other day talking to herself and saying “I will wait!”

A few thoughts though on parenting that contributed to putting this “book” together…

I’m challenged to be intentional about the instructive side of discipline. It’s the thing I slack on most when I’m tired or distracted since it’s easier sometimes just to wait until there’s disobedience to correct it.  But discipline isn’t just about correction, but instructing and helping my children learn obedience and succeed in it.

I’m learning to know serve my daughter as a unique individual. The idea to put it together came because she loves to read and she loves Dr. Seuss’ rhymes. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost reading blogs about another parent’s ways of teaching and raising their children and then feel like I should be implementing the same systems, activities, and routines as them. It gets overwhelming after a while since I end up feeling like I should be taking all that I’m learning about the activities and decisions of multiple families and combine them into a massive schedule for my own! While it’s helpful for me to learn from others, I need to learn what it means to love my children well. (Similarly, regarding marriage, one of the most helpful things I heard when prepping for marriage was that though wives can give advice to others about how they love and respect their husbands, the best way to know how to love and respect your husband is to ask him!) As a new mom, an older mom advised me to pray to God to help me to know my daughter well. I want to know my children well– how they are uniquely wired, their strengths, their weaknesses– so I can love and teach them well. This is an expression of the Greatest Commandment and my calling to love my neighbors and not someone else’s.

I’m learning to apply what I know about my need for God’s help to obey when asking her to obey. Sometimes, it’s so easy to feel like my daughter needs to “just obey”. Like it’s only a matter of her knowing what the right thing is to do and then getting to it. But the reality is that I need help from God to obey him when it’s hard, and I need to extend that truth in teaching my daughter. So, I want to teach her that it’s okay to be sad and upset when your desires are denied, but you bring those desires for God and draw strength from him for obedience. Of course, this is easier said than done on my part, but we are learning and trusting God will answer all the prayers we are lifting that she will “obey from the heart.”

I’m enjoying being creative and using my gifts to love my family. I enjoy going to other mom friends’ homes and seeing the way that they are uniquely expressing their gifts in the service of their family. One friend was trained as an architect and made this amazing cash register out of cardboard for her boys. I saw it and it looked like one of the models I’d see at the architecture studio at USC! It was so obviously put together by an architect. I love that it’s an expression of her gifts used in service to others! If you come to my house, you’ll see a “stove” and “microwave” in the kitchen for my daughter that’s two boxes stacked on top of each other covered with a piece of paper and tin foil. In fact, I’ll attach a picture of it to this post. It probably would be classified as a “Pinterest Fail” but she uses it to “cook” with flour and water as I cook next to her. When I looked online at other cardboard kitchens for ideas, it amazed me at the skill of other parents. And that’s great, that they use the talents they have (and I obviously lack). I just need to remember that just as I am called to love my neighbor,  am called to love my neighbor– in a way that is uniquely expressed through the way God made me!

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Behold said kitchen!
Motherhood & Family, Truth & Orthodoxy

What A Daddy-Daughter Moment Taught Me About Fear And Our Father

During my second pregnancy, my struggle with anxiety led to sleepless nights and terrible nightmares. Though all the things I feared were hypothetical futures, I couldn’t help being anxious about the health and wellbeing of our baby. One night, as I lay in bed, there was a crash that came from the other room. I don’t remember what it was now but at the time, I knew it wasn’t a big deal. My daughter on the other hand, woke up and started to cry loudly for us. I saw her daddy (my heroic husband!) run in, scoop her up in his arms, and hush her back to sleep. That night, I recognized that I had just seen a small parable to God’s care for me and there was a paradigm shift in the way I handled my own fear and anxiety.

Though Jeff knew that our daughter was not in any danger and there was nothing to fear, he rushed to comfort her simply because she was scared. 1 Peter 5:8 was brought to mind, where we are told to cast our anxiety onto God because he cares for us. Up until that point, I had been trying to fight my own anxiety through telling myself reasons why I shouldn’t be afraid. First, there was nothing that indicated strongly that there was something wrong. And secondly, as a Christian, I trust that even if my worst fears came true, God would still use it for good, God still loved us, and he could be trusted. But still, I was afraid. Seeing my husband respond to our daughter even though he knew that the source of the scary sound wasn’t dangerous, I realized that the comfort offered by Scripture is not only that God cares about the things we are anxious about (i.e. that he knows what we need and will take care of us), but that God also cares about the fact that we are afraid. In other words, God does not only address my anxiety and fear by telling me why I should not be afraid, but he invites me to bring my fear and feelings of anxiety to him as his child.

I think that often, the way people (myself included) address fear and anxiety is inadequate because we think we can command ourselves or others out of being fearful.  Or we think that we can just logically reason our way out of it.  Or that having “enough faith” means being unafraid. In this, we miss the fact that life is scary. And we miss the tender words that God has for those of us who are easily afraid.

Jeff didn’t sternly correct our daughter when she cried because hearing a huge crash in the middle of the night and not knowing what it is when you’re only two years old — that is scary. In the same way, living in a broken and fallen world is scary. The world is not as God made it to be and is not yet what it will be when he returns, and so there is sickness, disease, suffering, pain, and death inevitably weaved somehow into all of our futures. Knowing that health and long lives and physical safety isn’t promised to those we love is scary. Stepping into relationships with sinful people who can (and will) hurt us is scary.  Having our eyes open to the fact that any sense of our own security in terms of physical safety, health, financial stability, etc. is really an illusion is scary. And, “don’t be anxious, just trust God more!” though well-intentioned is not always the most helpful thing for those of us with fearful hearts to hear.

It’s true that oftentimes, I need to see that my anxiety is stemming from illogical or unbiblical thinking. I may need to remember that “non-information is not information” (as my husband has told me) because I tend to fill in unknowns with worst-case scenarios. I may need to preach to myself from Matthew 6 about  how worrying doesn’t accomplish anything, how God provides all we truly need, how he cares for even the sparrows, and other precious truths such as these. But sometimes, though what I fear may not happen and I know God would pull me through it even if it did, the very fact that it could happen fills me with dread. In these moments, knowing and believing the truth doesn’t necessarily take away the fear I feel, and I am learning 1. that’s okay, and 2. what to do with the fear that remains. I am seeing that sometimes the most comforting thing is not  hearing why I shouldn’t be afraid, but knowing that when I am afraid, my Father is near, he loves me, and he’s got me.

In a short video, Is It a Sin to Be Afraid?, Ed Welch talks about the fact that the New Testament addresses fear not as a sin, but a given in a scary world, and how the fearful are tenderly called to turn to God in the midst of their fear. I love how he describes the passage in Luke 12:32 here:

The imperative form in Scripture has a little more breadth than we give it credit for…The passage in Luke ‘Don’t be afraid. Don’t be anxious,’ sounds as if it is a command and then it ends with this wonderful sort of conclusion. “Don’t be afraid”– there’s the command form, then it says “little flock” And as soon as it says ‘little flock’, it gives a completely different sense of the command. It’s “I know that you are vulnerable, I know that you feel defenseless and out of control in a very very difficult world.” “Please realize,” Jesus says, “that our God is a generous God who is not sitting far way while  his children are in distress. He’s the God who wants to give us the very kingdom itself.”

[…] There is an assumption that we are going to be afraid because there are perilous kinds of things– and there is one prominent question: When you are afraid, where will you turn? Will you immediately try to strategize to keep the fearful thing at bay, or will you turn to the Lord and simply offer some version of ‘Lord, help’?”

Indeed, one of the most comforting things we could ever know is that whether or not our fears come true, and whether or not we are right to be afraid, we have a Father who loves us, cares for us, and responds to our cries with his presence.  He calls us to call out to him with our fearful hearts. And what a comfort it is to know that our obedience to the instruction “Do not be afraid,” is not about keeping a stiff upper lip, but is simply our response as dear children to a Father’s loving invitation.

Motherhood & Family, Truth & Orthodoxy

We’re In the Same School or “Dealing With Mommy (& Kid) Guilt”

When our older daughter was an infant, someone said to Jeff and me, “I don’t know if you’ve experienced this yet, but as a parent there are so many choices to make and you don’t always know if you’re making the right one.” Two and a half years in, I have probably prayed more for wisdom in these last two weeks than I have my whole life. I have never felt like I didn’t know what I was doing on a daily basis like I do now and with this new awareness of my own need, I have come to cherish the Scriptures more for the way it informs our parenting and gives us a firm place to stand.

These days, one way I am seeing Scripture shape our parenting and bring clarity is in dealing with sin — both my own and my children’s. A friend recently observed that on Facebook, she often sees posts by friends complaining about their kids and that it seemed like the same friends often felt guilty, posting about how they were bad moms. Guilt-ridden confessions were then usually followed up with reassuring comments from friends. I am thankful for more seasoned moms who can tell me what I don’t need to feel guilty for — like when I needed to supplement with formula, or needing to nap or sleep in, or not being able to constantly present educationally stimulating material to my toddler and infant. And in the same way, I’m thankful for godly moms who can let me know what kind of behavior is normal for toddlers and I don’t need to worry about. But what about the so-called mommy guilt that comes from things that I do that are actually not okay, but wrong? Like losing my temper or being impatient? And what about the kind of behavior in my child that comes not because of childishness, but from a heart of rebellion and selfishness? In other words, how do I approach and deal with our sin? It’s not enough here to just hear “it’s normal.” It is comforting in a way to know that others struggle with the same thing that I and my children do but that doesn’t justify the way we sin against God and each other in our actions.

The biblical understanding of the process of sanctification and how God works in the hearts and lives of believers to make us more Christlike has been shedding light for me in terms of how I think about sin in the context of parenting. One illustration that has really helped me is from Doug Wilson’s series on parenting. In it, he says:

“Godly parenting is a function of becoming more like Jesus in the presence of little ones who are also in the process of becoming more like Jesus…It’s like a school of sanctification with the parents being in the upper grades and the kids being in the lower grades…Where the kids are, the parents once were. And where the parents are now, the children will be.” (Why Children Matter #4)

Here are some ways that understanding that my children and I are in the “school of sanctification” together as we walk through life is changing and challenging the way I think about their, and my, sin:

1. Not “you”, but “we”

When I was taking a counseling course with Ed Welch, he often said that you make progress and breakthrough with a counselee when you learn to say “we” and not “you.” He referred to finding the  “normal in the abnormal” because in counseling, there will be issues that at first seem uncommon until we see that at the heart of the struggles are things that we all deal with. I am learning to say “we” when I see sin in my daughter’s life. Yes, I may not throw temper tantrums in the same way that a toddler does, but in my heart, do I ever complain? Or fuss? Am I ever impatient and demanding? Am I selfish? And am I doing these things at the very same time I am trying to correct my daughter?

I was reminded of this in seeing a friend after instructing her child saying “yes, I know it’s hard. We all want to be selfish and keep everything for ourselves.” It is a humbling place to be in, and I am finding that the very behaviors and attitudes I correct in my daughter, often show up in me at the same time. When I keep in mind my own process of being sanctified– that I have been there and in many ways am still dealing with the same flesh that my daughter does, I am able to sympathize with her weakness. It doesn’t mean that I excuse it, but in remembering that sanctification is not easy, my tone and prayers will change. I of all people ought to understand that it is hard to deny myself, to submit to doing what is right, and that obedience does not come naturally and easily.

2. Not discouragement, but joy

After a particularly hard day last week and much frustration (on my part) I started to feel really down. I was starting to see how dealing with sin in my own life and in my little girl’s heart is tiring and can be really discouraging. Then, it hit me: this is what parenting is about. I don’t have to be discouraged that discipline is involved and needed in our lives because parenting is all about being sanctified and bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).  If I see each revelation of sin as an opportunity to be brought up into maturity in the Lord, I can rejoice at the end of the day that I am doing what I am called to do as a mom and that God is continuing to do his work in me.

3. Not perfection but progress

Similarly, the fact that there are battles with sin does not have to lead me to anger or despair when I think about the fact that as Christians, we understand that sanctification will occur throughout our lifetimes until we see Jesus face to face. Though we are declared righteous before God and he no longer holds our guilt against us when we are in Christ, in this life, we will fall and sin and struggle with our flesh. Or as Luther said, we are simul justus et peccator at the same time righteous and sinners. If I expect there to come a time when my children and I no longer need correction or discipline in this life, then at best I’ll be constantly discouraged when I see our sin and at worst, I’ll be constantly angry or given over to despair.

Instead of looking at whether or not we are still sinning, understanding that we are in the “school of sanctification” means that we can look together for signs of progress, not perfection. I can rejoice that my daughter isn’t struggling with the same things that she did a few weeks ago and thank God for his grace in her sanctification. Rachel Jankovic writes about this in Loving the Little Years,

“If you have been faithfully disciplining your children, I guarantee you that there are many, many problems that they no longer struggle with…Oftentimes we don’t even notice that they aren’t doing it, because something else has replaced it. Try to notice these little mile markers on the path of sanctification. If the sins have changed, it can be a sign of growth. It is not as though our children are going to emerge from heir current problems into perfect holiness only if we give them enough swats. They are going to emerge from one set of problems into the next, and that is good. that is the way of the Christian walk. (21-22)

In my own life, I can thank God that he has freed me from the hold of certain sins that I never thought I could be free of years ago. And in our family, we can rejoice together that although we continue to wrestle with sin in our lives, they are not the same ones that we did in the past. God has brought us this far along and we can be encouraged to see evidences of his grace.  I love how Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:15 that he is to immerse himself in obedience to the things commanded so that all can see his progress. We can look for the same.

4. Not mommy, but Jesus

It hit me sometime during my first year or so of parenting that the hardest fact for me to accept is that my sin most deeply affects those I love and want least to hurt. It scared and deeply saddened me to think about and see the way that my sin could do damage to my family. But in that moment, I was reminded that the most important thing that my daughter (now daughters) could learn from me is the gospel. They need to see and know the gospel through my life. They need to see it when we correct them and teach them, as Jeff says, the “language of repentance” by  helping them say sorry to us and turn to Jesus in prayer after we discipline them for disobedience. They need to see it in my admission of sin to them when I lose my patience. (This is so hard for me!) And they need to see that where there is sin, grace abounds so much more in Christ.

This is the lifeline that I am clinging onto and trust that I will be coming back to again and again in the next 20+ years: As much as I love them and by God’s grace will give my life to serving and loving my children, I am not the hero, Jesus is. Jesus died for their sins and mine. Jesus rose again and broke the power of sin over their lives and mine. And in faith, we trust we will one day stand before him, washed clean by his blood, presented blameless before him with great joy. (Jude 1:24)

Pray for us

I struggled in thinking about whether or not to write this post because the lessons are so fresh and I am so new at the whole parenting thing. In the end, I decided to share it because it is wisdom that I didn’t come up with but learned from others and am being blessed by. I am still working all this out in real life and it is hard. With the arrival of our second daughter has come more diapers, tiredness, joy, laughs, and repentance (on my part) as I see more and more of my sin and need for grace. God is gracious and I am thankful to be reminded through my children that he is still working on me. Prayers would be much appreciated (and needed) for our family as we go through school together!