Ep. 117 || “Mommy, Can I Watch a Show?”: Screen Time & the Gospel Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood! I’m Emily, here with my sister-in-law, Laura.

Laura: Hey, guys!

Emily: We’re excited to jump that most every mom faces into today’s topic: screen time. But first, we want to let you guys know we’re going on a Christmas break at Risen Motherhood. We’re going dark on social media; our website will be up, but we won’t be posting new content from December 22nd to January 1st. We do this to rest and recharge as a team, and to trust that even though we’re not producing new content or putting things out there, God still uses the ministry to reach people with the gospel—even when we’re enjoying time with our families, celebrating the birth of Christ, and looking forward to his return again. That’s what we’ll be doing during that nice black out time!

Laura: We’ll be back in January with a whole new season for you. We’ve already planned all the content, and we’re really excited. It’ll be full of some great shows for you. Now, onto our topic for today: screen time. We thought this was kind of apropos, because a lot of your children—at least ours—over the holidays probably—

Emily: Also, it’s winter! We’re inside. What is there to do? [Laughter]

Laura: —are watching a lot of tv. Right? [Laughter] Or maybe you’re traveling and you have the flip down tvs in your car. That’s why we want to tackle it today. We know all of us—at least Emily and I, and we think you’re like us—kind of want to know, How much is too much? Pediatrician, just tell me. Well, they have told us. It’s two hours a day.

Emily: We’re talking about a holy amount. Just tell me the amount that makes me a bad mom. [Laughter]

Laura: What’s godly? Yes, mhmm. That’s right!  [Laughter] So, what’s that perfect formula for knowing this is how much screen time to give and this is how my kids will turn out in a great way. But it doesn’t play out that way; every day is a little different in the life of a mom. This topic tends to be a bit divisive. So even if you want to bring it up with your mom friends, you’re not really sure if you’re dropping a bomb or not. [Laughter[

Emily: Exactly. We’re going to be discussing how the gospel applies to the How much screen time? question today. But before we jump into that, we want to clarify what we’re talking about. The screen time conversation runs the gamut from the type of content you’re showing them to how you define screen time. (What do you mean? Do you mean full access to the internet? Do you mean on a tv screen? Is it educational?)

Laura: Education is a different category. [Laughter]

Emily: So today, we’re going to narrow in on the assumptions we’re making for this conversation:

  1. We assume we’re talking to a mom who’s already using wisdom and monitoring the content. She knows what shows and videos her children are watching. She’s discussing with her husband or critically thinking on her own about what’s appropriate for her kids to watch.

  2. We assume we’re talking to a mom who’s already aware of the research out there on screen time—quantity and content quality—in terms of how that can impact development. She knows there are implications—just like in the food conversations—to the amount and type of screen time her kids are getting.

We assume you guys already know that stuff. You’ve read the Facebook articles and whatever there is out there. [ Laughter]

Laura: That’s right. All the terrifying articles. [Laughter] Instead of addressing, Are screens good or bad? or parsing out the type of content you should show your children, what we’re going to do is talk about our hearts. What is driving your use of the screen? That’s the question for today. So Emily, do you want to tell our own problems to everybody? [Laughter]

Emily: I love this part. [Laughter] Well, yeah. My biggest struggle with screen time is wanting to use if for my own convenience. Sometimes things get chaotic in our home, and I feel, This is getting really stressful, really loud. How can I get everybody to calm down and quiet down? Oh, there’s a screen for that! That can be a real temptation for me. I’ve done lots of thing throughout the years to curb that and think through that, so that’s not to say it’s unchecked. However, that’s a struggle each day as I’m think, Oh, we’re getting ready to have a little screen time here, I need to always ask myself that question, because underneath that things may feel a little too hard in parenting. Sometimes I want to use screen time instead of depending on the Lord and pressing into a really hard parenting moment. So, that’s my problem.

Laura: That’s a good one. So, as usual, Emily and I are polar opposites. I can easily feel a lot of guilt about screen time. I have a tendency to believe there’s a right and wrong amount of time for my kids to be in front of a screen. I wouldn’t say it’s a hard line; it’s a feeling of my own line I created. If they’re sick, there can be a little bit more. If they’re not, let’s stay well within those guidelines I’ve set. It’s definitely something where if I feel like I’ve surpassed the certain level, I’ll feel guilt and that there are major potential implications down the road for my children. I’ll even try to hoard up screen time. They haven’t watched anything for a couple of days, so—

Emily: No, that’s a real strategy!

Laura: Oh? Okay! It works! [Laughter]

Emily: I mean it sounds really normal! [Laughter] It’s a mental game. Well, they didn’t watch any yesterday, so we can do double today.

Laura: Double.

Emily: I hope some of you are laughing out there. [Laughter] My kids are watching double right now.

Laura: But again, the educational videos are totally a different category, right? If they’re learning to draw while watching YouTube videos, that’s “Arts and Crafts” time, not TV time. [Laughter]

Emily: As Laura and I talked through our own heart issues with screen time, we thought this was pretty representative of two big pitfalls mom can fall into. We know there are a lot of others and everything in between. We want to speak to the mom that relates to the feeling of, My screen time choices for my kids are driven by my convenience, what’s easiest, and what gets my to-do list done. And we want to speak to the mom that relates to the feeling of, I have lots of rules, everything is firm and controlled; if I hold to this standard, everything will be okay, and they’ll develop wonderfully. We want to speak the gospel into both those situations, and maybe you’ll fall somewhere in there.

Laura: We’re probably oversimplifying the heart attitudes around it, but we’re using ourselves as case studies. So, the gospel for each pitfall or tendency:

For the mom who lets convenience direct her screen time, remember God’s design. God gave moms a specific role and job to do with her children: to train, to give them instruction, to raise them in the ways of the Lord. This includes being thoughtful about screen time, using it as a tool rather than as a crutch. We have a limited amount of time with our kids, so we need to be good stewards of that time, helping them walk in what’s wise and not unwise. I think what’s important to remember is God promises he’s going to be with a mom ever step of the way, he will equip her for every good work—even when things get hard.

Emily: Another thing for that mom is to acknowledge the struggle. She’s not going to get the balance right every day. Her bent might be towards finding what’s easier either through finding the temporary fix for a situation to avoid the hard feeling or hoping to do better tomorrow. There’s good news: because of Christ, we’re a new creation. This is something I have to repeat to myself: God doesn’t want us to use our new life or our freedom in him as an opportunity for sin. He wants us to use our freedom and the grace he’s given us for good works and service. I often have to remember—and maybe the mom struggling with this pitfall has to remember too—God can work through the Holy Spirit, he’s powerful, and he’s able to help grow, change, and equip a mom. She can remember to focus on God and the design he has for her life, and to trust him to help her accomplish that.

Laura: Just a quick note: the sin issue isn’t her handing her child a screen or turning on a show. That’s not a sin; it’s the heart attitude behind the reason for why you’re running to that show. Are you running to a TV show or to God? We’ll parse this out later, but when we talk about sin, we want to clarify it’s the heart.

Okay, the next mom. We’re talking to me. [Laughter] This mom uses screen time’s rules to feel in control. She often believes—whether spoken or even known—it will aide in a specific outcome. I often think, Oh no, I don’t believe it’ll make my child a better child. But deep down, as I think about all the things I try and want to control in my children’s lives, that’s my ultimate goal; I think finagling these things will help me produce more godly or well-rounded children. Again, we need to remember God’s design for this mom. Ultimately, remember God is in control of all things, not her. He’s in control of the hearts and lives of our children. A mom doesn’t have control over how her children turn out; even if she manages the screen time perfectly, she can’t manufacture their future, personalities, or tendencies. It’s so important for me to remember external regulations don’t change hearts; they reveal how short we really fall.

Emily: Yeah, and underneath that, it’s a pride issue of wanting to play God or being legalistic about how she can check a box or follow the rules—instead of thinking how to love others and love God. That mom can remember the good news: her righteousness isn’t found in keeping all the rules she’s made for herself or holding to certain screen time standards; her righteousness is only found in Christ. His blood and payment for her sin is the only thing to justify her or her children in life.

Laura: I think it’s good to remember God doesn’t love a family that watches TV more or a family that watches less; it’s not a means of our justification. However, God often uses screen time, or TV, or move, or all those things for our sanctification.

Emily: This mom can focus on loving God and loving others. She can rely on him one moment at a time, one day at a time, and assess situations through the lense of, How can I love this person right now? Sometimes that might include being more flexible with the rules—

Laura: This mama needs to relax. [Laughter] I’m preaching to myself.

Emily: And sometimes it does mean loving them by keeping those standards. We’re not saying to sin against your conscience. Think through those things and check if the standards reveal your beliefs are biblical and conscience-binding or because it’s an arbitrary line you made up.

Laura: As the measure of your good mom status. There are a lot of circumstantial and cultural influences around screen time as all of us know. The Bible doesn’t prescribe what the right amount is for each family. This is so good for both moms to remember. What does the Bible tell us to do? Well, it tells us we’re justified by faith, not the law. We’re to live out the Great Commision and greatest commandment. We’re to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. We’re to bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. We’re to teach God’s word and commands diligently to our children. We’re to teach them to walk in the truth. As we walk out in obedience what God and his word says, the Holy Spirit is going to be faithful to convict you and to guide your screen time decisions as you take it step by step, day by day. Know that it’s probably going to change at different times throughout the day, weeks, and years.

Emily: Let’s get into some practical. I want to go down a tangent right there, but I’m going to stop and move on. [Laughter] We want to throw out a question to ask yourself as you try to live according to the word, through the power of the Spirit, as you do this day by day:

What are your family values and how do your screen time practices help you achieve those or hinder those? If God’s design for us, as moms, is to disciple our children, minister to our families, value the local church, practice hospitality, and all these other things like jobs and community work—that’s going to take a lot of time. We have to consider all the complexities and understand there may be some times our kids may use more screen time while we complete those things; there may be other times when we realize we’ve eaten up a lot of productive time for the Kingdom by entertaining ourselves or our children, so we need to watch less screen time in order to minister or disciple our children. It could be both. It could be either. And it could be all in the same day. [Laughter]

Laura: I love it. [Laughter] We have a few concrete examples. I think I may have shared this on the show before, but a girlfriend of mine texted us all before a playdate and asked, Hey can we put on a show for the kids, so us moms can take time to pray and talk about the deeper things of the heart? And all of us moms were like, Oh yeah! So there can be times when you’ve all agreed on a helpful use for screens. But there can be other times, like Emily said, when instead of watching an evening show, we should have family quiet time, spending time reading the Bible or reading books together. Maybe one of your family values is building a culture of literature, which means a little less time watching screens. It’s very much a matter of heart and your purpose for the screen time; you have to be thoughtful and intentional. We really believe the Holy Spirit is going to convict every mama and in a slightly different way. Emily and I are convicted differently in how we use screen time in our families, and that’s okay.

Emily: Yeah, and those are super helpful examples. There also doesn’t have to be a super holy reason for using screens. We don’t want to overthink it; we’re not saying to overcomplicate it. Over the course of time—whether it’s weeks or months—sometimes we’ll see a pattern developing. It’s more when you see that pattern, or you’re feeling conviction regularly, or something seems off, that maybe it’s time to sit down with your husband to evaluate this against the Word of God. Dig into the guilt a little bit—

Laura: Or fear.

Emily: —yes, or fear. See what’s under there, and see if that aligns with the truth or where it’s coming from. It’s a good reason to dig.

Laura: Dig a little. The second thing we want to bring up are a couple of thoughts to help you think through your screen time and  figure out which way you lean or if you’re feeling guilt or fear:

Do you feel a need to justify how much or how little screen time you use? Emily’s probably saying things like, I have a lot of kids, it’s been a hard day, I was up all night. And I’m probably saying, Oh, I’m so thoughtful and careful about quantity levels, because this is so important to brain development. There can be things we both say in our hearts, say aloud, or even use to convince others to convert to our way, whether that be, Hey, just be a little more relaxed about it! Or, Here’s some education and research you can think about! Those are some things to ask yourself about what you’re saying to yourself and to others, and what you’re thinking in your heart when another mom talks about the way she uses screen time.

Emily: We’re all going to have different personal convictions around screen time, and that’s totally fine. We’re asking ourselves how we reflect Christ’s love to our family and to those around us, what we’re known for, and what we love the most. That leads to the question of, How do we change in this if we want to be healthy? It doesn’t start with coming up with new rules or different rules. It might include that, but it starts with being in relationship with God and others, daily renewing our minds with the Word of God and the truth of the gospel. Out of the overflow fo that, God may give us practical ideas or encourage us that part of walking this out is taking a break from the screen for awhile or slotting it into a specific part of our day. We may need to relax for a little while, trusting God and praying when it comes up. There are a million practical ways we could respond. The practical, we hope, follows the heart transformation through focus and dependence on God.

Laura: I think that sums it up really well. I think it’s a big responsibility to raise children in the Lord, but God has also given us a life we can enjoy. No matter which way you swing, love holiness more than you love the screen. With that, we hope you’ll head to our show notes to check out more information on this topic. We’ll dig up some good resources and share them with you. Of course, you can follow us on social media @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thanks guys for joining us. Have a wonderful holiday break!

Ep. 116 || Leaning into Grace: An Interview on Faithful Motherhood with Debbie Martens Transcript

Laura: Today we’re excited to welcome Debbie Martens to the Risen Motherhood podcast. Debbie is a woman who’s invested deeply in both Emily and I at different points in our lives, pointing us to Christ and challenging us in our walks with God. Debbie’s interview is part of our series “Faithful Motherhood,” where we talk with women whose children are grown about how the gospel has impacted their motherhood over the years. These aren’t meant to be prescriptive interviews for how to do motherhood; they’re just a glimpse at one woman’s unique walk and lessons learned as she lived out her calling in the Lord. Today we’re talking with Debbie about the value of bringing her children alongside her in her work, what it looks like to maintain a commitment to God’s word in the little years, and she opens up about struggling through a season of anger while raising her young children. Debbie is a wife and a mom to seven grown children, and a grandmother to five. She leads her local church’s children’s ministry, maintains a small acreage in central Iowa, and is an avid bread baker and seamstress. Now let’s get to the show with Emily, Debbie, and myself.

Laura: Well, hi Debbie. Thanks for so much for joining us on Risen Motherhood today!

Debbie: Thank you. It’s a privilege to get to be with you.

Laura: Oh, we’re so excited to have you. I have Emily here with me as well. As you heard in the intro, Debbie is one of these people who will always hold a special place in Emily and my life. She’s invested in us at different points in our lives, which is neat; maybe we can share a little bit of that. She’s someone who’s really lived a faithful and godly life. So, we’re excited for her to be able to share her wisdom today with all of you guys.

Emily: I know! I feel like we’re letting you in on a little treat. [Laughter] We’re actually recording in Debbie’s kitchen, which Laura and I have both spent lots of time in. So, it’s a joy to give you guys a peek into our local lives and our personal relationships that have really formed us as we communicate the gospel. Debbie is someone who poured gospel truth into us, and she’s one of the many reasons why we have anything to share.

Laura: When we talk about older, wiser women on the show, this is one of them. You guys are going to hear her firsthand. So, with all that lead-in, Debbie—


Debbie: No pressure. [Laughter]

Laura: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Help our listeners get to know you. How many children do you have? What’s a day look like in your life?

Debbie: Well, thank you for that gracious introduction, but honestly, it’s fun to be with you girls. I tell people often that I try to rub shoulders with the younger generation, because I don’t want to grow old but also because I have so much yet to learn from you. Thank you for faithfully proclaiming the gospel to young women. It’s a privilege to get to be a part of that.

So, I’m married to Terry, and we’ve been married for 41 years—if you can believe that. We’re blessed with seven precious children, and they really are precious. We have two girls, then five boys; they range in age from 37 to 22. Four of our seven children are married, so we’ve added to our children; I regard them as additions. We have a son-in-law and three daughters-in-law. So, we’ve expanded our family. We currently have six grandchildren I absolutely adore. Right now, we’re open nesters.

Emily: I like that!

Debbie: Yeah, we’re not empty, we’re just open to whatever God might bring our way. All our children have moved out of our home. Some are close by, some far away.

Laura: And what does one of your days look like? What are you involved with?

Debbie: My days look a whole lot different than they did when the children were around and growing up. I seek to volunteer where I can within my local community like through the schools. Right now, I’m part of a tutor program in our county, and I really appreciate that. I tutor some children in reading. My days are filled with whatever Terry needs me to be doing, and life on the acreage keeps me pretty busy. Through that and my church involvement, my days are filled. I’ll tell you a little bit later about some of the ways my days looked when they were growing up.

I’ll introduce myself by saying my early years of motherhood started out in Chicago. We moved from where we now live to suburban Chicago with one child, and we came back with five. My days were really full, and I had a lot of young motherhood days in the Chicago-area. I really, really liked that, but after our fifth child was born, we moved back to this acreage where we currently live. For the sake of most of my kids, this is all they’ve ever known; life here on the acreage and all that goes with that.

You asked me at one point about what my involvement was like in children’s ministry. So, Terry and I, together, have been involved in various forms of children’s ministry for about 30 years now. We’ve been nursery directors, Sunday school teachers, helped with mid-week programs, and we currently direct the children’s ministry at our local church. My commitment to children’s ministry usually revolved around whatever my children were involved in. If I took them, I thought, I might as well be involved in what they’re learning too. And I wanted to be involved. I chose to be where they were and supported the teachers in whatever was happening in that environment.

So even today, my days are filled with children. I spent the better part of this morning making schedules and plans for the fall for what we’ll be doing for children’s ministry, and I like that.

Laura: Did you work when you were a young mom? I know these answers. [Laughter] But for the benefit of our audience, tell us a little about work and ministry commitments you may have had.

Debbie: I always tell everyone my degree was in child development from Iowa State University, so I’ve been practicing my degree; I’ve developed children through the years. [Laughter] I did teach in the public school for three years. When Terry and I married, he said, I’d really like you to stay home and volunteer your time, doing what you can do at the church and the community. So, I retired after three years of teaching, and we were at home. When we started having children, God led us to begin to homeschool our kids. We homeschooled all of our children, probably through most of their junior high years, and then we did some cooperative networking with other homeschoolers in the community. My days of motherhood were filled with a lot of homeschooling. I did work outside the home, you might say. We wanted to teach our children how to work and how to work well. An opportunity arose for us to do some cleaning as a family, so we—largely me—would take the children to clean. They would go with me, one at a time, and we would clean apartments or whatever needed to be done. I feel like that was a good tool. For one thing, they got paid. So the monetary value encouraged them. But also, they learned how to work alongside me doing that. Also, life on the acreage always involved work of some kind they had to be a part of. Believe it or not, when a local retail store needed blankets made for photo ops, I’d sew the binding on those late at night. I did this when we were in the suburban Chicago area. It was a little source of pocket income but not anything that supported us at all. And I had a bread business. I baked bread—

Emily: I didn’t know any of this!

Laura: My jaw just dropped. I didn’t know that either! [Laughter] It’s not a surprise, because Debbie is a master baker and a wonderful seamstress. She taught me how to sew. [Laughter] I didn’t do very well, but she did try to teach me.

Debbie: I must not have been a great teacher. [Laughter] Someone exposed me to grinding our own wheat and making our own bread that way. So I started selling it when we lived in Wheaton, and when we moved back here, we thought, Let’s just try this at the farmers’ market. Well, it was a huge hit. I even won Grand Champion at the State Fair. I put my little ribbon there, and that sure helped the bread to sell. [Laughter]

Laura: People in Iowa love their State Fair. It’s a big deal. [Laughter]

Debbie: So I dabbled in a lot of things but never anything that was very time-consuming. If it started to impose on our time—my time in particular—then we didn’t do it. A lot of those things fell in the summer—the bread baking, the farmers’ market, the other things we did related to gardening. That was during the summertime when I took a break from teaching.

Emily: That’s one of the things I really—and I’m sure Laura has too—gleaned from you: the value of hard work and modeling that for children. Whether or not we have paid jobs to some capacity, there’s a ton of work involved in running a home, managing an acreage. And you use your gifts in all kinds of ways: in the church, in the community. I see a little snippet of that now and think, Wow, Debbie really works hard. You wake in the morning, work hard all day, and you’ve passed that along to your children. It’s fun, because we have relationships with several of your children who serve and know how to serve; like when someone comes over to your house, you have things prepared and show hospitality. I can really tell that’s something you modeled through the years. You modeled how to do really hard work in whatever it is that you’re doing. I know that’s something that God has taught you, as well.

Laura: So to get to our first meatier question: can you tell us a little bit about one of your bigger fears or worries as a mom of young children? Did that fear turn out to be grounded in truth? Did God meet you there and sustain you in the face of fears and challenges?

Debbie: I’m glad you gave me some of these questions in advance so I could think about them. It’s hard to identify the biggest fear, because I had several fears as a young mom. I think I can sum it up by saying: I feared I wouldn’t be enough mom for all those children. There wouldn’t be enough of me to meet their needs. I wasn’t really concerned about our status, or whether or not the kids dressed in the latest fashion; I wasn’t trying to keep up with the Joneses in that. But I would wrestle with, Are they going to have what they need in character? In what they need in knowledge to help them succeed in life and to do what they need to do? The truth that really encouraged me during those times when fear would grip me is that God reminded me, You’re not enough, Debbie. But Jesus is. That may sound trite, but it was freeing to realize I don’t have all it takes to give these kids the character they should have. I don’t have all the energy it’s going to take at the end of the day to be sure they’ve done all the assignments they need to get done. But I can trust God to be big in their lives. I sought then to obey and listen to what God would have me do, and then leave the future and whatever direction he had for their lives in his hands. I have a little saying downstairs in the basement that says, God is the blessed controller of all things. I put that there for my sake to remind me he’s in control of all things, and he’s loving and shaping character far more than I could ever do. Now, that didn’t abdicate my responsibility as a parent; I still had to listen, obey, and do what it was God wanted me to do, but I saw myself as more of a tool, not the one bearing the burden or the whole weight of what I was doing wrong or right in my children’s lives. I realized early on I was going to do plenty of wrong things. Prior to having children, Terry and I thought we knew all there was to know about parenting. We had the privilege of watching different children before we had kids; we’d talk, Oh, our kids shouldn’t do that. That’s the way we’ll handle that. And then we had children, and that all went by the wayside, which I’ve heard more than one parent say.

Laura: I’m pretty sure every parent’s gone through that. [Laughter]

Debbie: And that’s good to be stripped of ourselves and to rely on the Lord. I’m really glad that happened.

Emily: Yes, that’s definitely relatable. [Laughter] We all learn to throw our expectations out the window once we realize how insufficient we are. Can you tell us about one time when you thought, Oh no, I’ve completely messed up my children? How did God work in that? How did God turn your eyes back to him and help you depend on the sufficiency of Christ in that?

Debbie: I’m given to emotion, but I may cry as I tell you this story. When I read that question, I remember thinking about how I really struggled with anger as a young mom. When I would respond that way, I’d think, Oh my word, I’ve really messed these kids up, because I’m modeling a behavior I don’t want them to model or repeat as they parent. And I hurt inside, because I knew my actions and my responses were not pleasing to God. I had this vicious cycle of recognizing it, repenting, going back to recognizing and repenting. It was a cycle in my life. I knew it wasn’t honoring to God, and I was fearful I was going to mess up my kids’ lives. But God was faithful to bring me to a book that someone wrote about the heart of anger. I read that book. I journaled through that book, chapter after chapter. God spoke to me and showed me applications he wanted to make in my life from that and from through the word. It helped me to understand what triggered my anger: expectations that I had of myself, of Terry, of the children; comparing my family to another family; holding too tightly to my own plans and if they weren’t fulfilled, that would cause anger. I had to call those things what they were in my life, which was sin, and not excuse them or put them under a rug, saying, Oh, every mom has times when they’re frustrated with their kids. Rather, I needed to nip it in the bud by telling God, This is sin. I was wrong. I can’t excuse myself any longer. I began to seek his forgiveness more frequently, and I sought my children’s forgiveness for where I modeled that wrongly. The hardest part was to learn to forgive myself; I was hardest on myself. But God did work and continues to work in my life. I’ve had conversations with some of my children since then, and they can tell you there was a turning point for me. They weren’t concerned I was going to respond in anger. God did that work. Of course, I really regret any consequences from my wrong actions and the poor example I was to my family, but that drove me to the gospel. It helped me to see that I was inadequate—I remain inadequate—but he is adequate. And I trust him for those memories that may be difficult for the children when they recall my anger, but also for when they see they lived with a sinful mom with a faithful God.  He will meet them at the point where they have need as well. It’s also helped that some of my children have become parents, and they’ve said, I get it. I understand! [Laughter] And so we’re much more forgiving of everybody. [Laughter]

Emily: Wow, isn’t that the case? [Laughter] I love that you shared about that, because knowing you personally, it’s always so hard for me to imagine you responding to someone in anger, let alone a child. You’re so patient and gracious with young children. What’s encouraging to me in that is the reality that God did work in your life and transformed you through the Holy Spirit, because I can’t even imagine that now. It’s also encouraging to me, because I think that’s something I’ve wrestled with—that cycle of responding in anger with a harsh word, and repenting, and beating myself up, and all of those things. It’s really encouraging to know God is not done with me, and he’s still working to transform me, causing me to hate my sin and depend more on Christ. I really appreciate you were vulnerable and shared that.

Laura: I appreciate that too. I echo everything both of you said. I think a lot of moms can really relate. We did a show—maybe two years ago—on anger, and it was really, really popular. It was a two-part series, and we’ll link it in the show notes. But you can just listen to Debbie, because she got it all there. I appreciate you being vulnerable; it’s really meaningful, and I think a lot of moms can relate to that. Emily and I always talk about how we’re excited for the maturity that comes with aging. There are some things we’re not excited for, but generally, we’re really excited about continuing to grow spiritually and being transformed more into Christlikeness. We know it takes time, and it doesn’t happen overnight; God plays the long game. It’s a good reminder to see God’s faithfulness right in front of us.

Another struggle young moms have is getting into Bible reading. Can you tell us a little bit about what did your time spent in the word look like when you had young children?

Debbie: I’m really blessed that when I was a young mom, someone challenged me to take at least five minutes a day in the word. That didn’t seem like a lot of time, but as a young mom, sometimes five minutes was a lot of time. I really accepted that challenge and took it to heart. I’ve greatly benefited from the spiritual discipline, because it’s helped to build within me the habit of scripture reading. My day doesn’t feel complete in some ways if I’ve not had that time. I happen to be an early morning person, so that makes it a little bit easier for me. I like to get up early, and I found it kind of helpful to tune up for the day and be ready for whatever is going to come. I’ve also discovered the Bible really has a cleansing effect in my life. You know, I like to shower consistently, so spending time in the word helps to reveal my sin, to give me affirmation, to give me direction, to give me a word that helps me know, This is the right way. Stay in it, and it gives me comfort. But there have been days when I’ve read my Bible and shut the cover thinking, Now what did I read? How does that apply to my life? Or I can’t even remember by the time I fix breakfast what it was I read. [Laughter] But I haven’t looked for huge inspiration every day to be my reason for staying in the word, but rather, if I believe his word is eternal, I want to spend time in it. Sometimes I’ve read and I’ve been interrupted by little ones, and I didn’t get as much out of it as I hoped to. Or my mind strayed as I read, and I had other things on my mind. I’m grateful that throughout those times as a young mom—and even in the teen years and now when I have more time to spend in my quiet time—that God allowed that discipline to continue. He’s to be praised and credited for that, because I don’t have it within myself to always get up and want to do that. God has really driven me to the word, and I’ve seen such hope come from it that I want to spend time in it. I often begin by reading or thinking about Psalms 139:23-24 which says, Search me O God and know my heart, and try me and know my anxious thoughts, and see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. That helps me to go to the word with purpose and say, I need you to know my heart, because I don’t know my own heart. I need you to know my anxious thoughts and deal with them. I need you to give me direction. I’m looking to you Lord for those very things, so help me. I’ve had the privilege of being involved in a lot of different studies through the years. Early on with young children, I was more able to do that than I was during the homeschooling years. I had to pull back and not be as involved, because I didn’t have the time to prepare and study like I wanted to. I think God allows those seasons; there are times like that when you’re busy as a mom and you can’t be as involved as you’d like to be. So again, I’d try to take advantage of summer, or do an early morning something with another woman, or something like that. Even though I couldn’t always be involved in those things, Terry and I made it a point to be involved in the local church and hear the word preached. I felt like I was being fed—not only through my own personal time in the word but also through time of hearing the word preached. We’ve usually always been involved in a small group or some kind of community and fellowship; we’ve sought to have people in our home. The word has been important to me. I can remember this quite vividly because I had morning sickness with all my pregnancies, so I didn’t feel well for the first three months and ate a lot of popcorn and laid on the couch. [Laughter] I remember thinking, I made this commitment to read the Bible for five minutes, but I can barely keep my eyes open for five minutes! But I would, only by God’s faithfulness. It was cleansing, and it was helpful. It also helped me, when I came out of that season, to think, Lord, you walked with me through that, you’re going to walk with me through the rest of motherhood too, instead of setting that aside and trying to get reacquainted—if that makes sense. So, I’m grateful for his faithfulness to me by keeping me in the word.

Emily: What’s funny is I was over here this morning discussing the gospel, and we were talking about this very principle. I asked Debbie, How do I stop and remember the gospel? I can’t even get space from my situation. You brought up the idea of “five minutes” and how we can waste five minutes really fast on our phones, computers, or who knows what. But I could set a timer for five minutes and get my journal or Bible out, and spend that time remembering the gospel and those truths. What a difference that could make to refocus my eyes on Christ. I think that’s a really tangible thing that any mom can do. We probably all have five minutes.

Laura: Or even listen to it on an audio Bible. You can still wash the dishes or whatever it may be. Okay Debbie, tell us—I’m excited for this answer—a little bit of insight of what you did in motherhood that yielded the most fruit.

Debbie: This was came to me right away, because I’ve seen this carried out in my children’s lives, and it brings me such great joy. Early on in our married life, Terry and I shared a mutual desire to have people in the home and to open our home up to share life with people. We started doing that when we were early married with no children, and we’ve continued to do that. Sharing a meal, or an overnight, or whatever might happen meant that our children sometimes had to share their space, to share around the table and meal, to share their toys; and we all had to be vulnerable to the messiness that comes with having others in your life. It really does thrill my heart to see each and every one of them involved in hospitality in their own way with whatever God has blessed them with—some great, some small. But they love people, and they’re involved with people. I used to say—and still say—there are only two things that will be with you in eternity: the Word of God and people. So, I want to invest my time well on earth in those two things, because if I’m going to spend eternity with them, I should get used to how to do that. I was also challenged that I didn’t just want to be hospitable to others, but I wanted to do that with my own family. I wanted to make mealtimes a special time for them; I didn’t want them to feel like I only set the table nicely when we had company, but that they were company in my life. We’d create memories by spreading a picnic blanket out on the living room floor and having a picnic. Or I spent weekly visits to the local store to pick up empty cardboard refrigerator boxes so the boys could create forts or who knows what. I wanted to allow space and time for little, simple things like that to make memories with my kids in a way to be hospitable to them, so they felt loved here at home. I’m grateful my kids invited their friends to come over as well. Our table included a lot of people that we maybe wouldn’t have otherwise known had my kids not reached out to them and been friends with them.

Laura: I spent a ton of time in my young years with Debbie over here—or Mrs. Martens, I should say. [Laughter] Old habits die hard! I told her today I sometimes still struggle to call her Debbie, because I grew up calling her Mrs. Martens. I spent hours here at the house with her boys and girls. You guys showed me such wonderful hospitality; I don’t know how many dinners I had here, how much time I spent playing in the asparagus patch in the backyard, and Debbie put me to work. [Laughter] Talk about wanting people to work hard; my parents were big on that too, so you guys must’ve been talking. But I also learned that very much here.

I want to jump to our last question, Debbie, just in the essence of time. Can you share with us what is one of the biggest encouragements you’d give to moms of young children who want to be faithful in their role to discipline their children in the Lord?

Debbie: Yes. In my college years, when my mind seemed able to memorize better, I memorized the book of Philippians. I’m so grateful those verses have been drawn back to memory at different times to give me encouragement in my walk with the Lord. In 3:13-14 says, Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. In that context, Paul is encouraging the church to recognize they’re not perfect, they live in a fallen world, they’re going to sin, but he encourages them to press on. I think there’s application for all of us, especially moms. Sometimes the days are long, the needs are many, and you’re just plain exhausted at the end of it all. That’s just the way it’s going to be. Young mom, I encourage you to press on. Now that I’m in the retirement years, I’m grateful God gave strength—and he does give strength for each new day. I often think of Matthew 6:34 that says, Sufficient is the day for its own trouble. Don’t be anxious or worried about the next day may bring forth but pour yourself into what you need to do today. I see my life, in Jesus—more so now as we’re entering in these retirement years—as more like a marathon rather than a sprint race. He’s sufficient. He has been and will continue to be sufficient in my weaknesses, in my discouragements, and in my accomplishments as well. Recognize it’s all about pressing forward to get to know him. We’re not going to attain “it,” this perfection, until we reach eternity, but his sufficiency grants grace and strength for each season of motherhood. Embrace that season. My final words would be to continue to stay in the word, remain in community, read good books and listen to good podcasts that are now available, rest in him, and focus on eternity. Faithful is he who called you, who will also bring it to pass. We can rest in his faithfulness, not our own.

Emily: Wow, I think we can end on that note! [Laughter]

Laura: Yeah, there’s nothing for us to add.

Emily: We really, really appreciate you coming on and being willing to share these truths, pointing all the moms who are listening to Christ, as you’ve done for Laura and I and lots of women in our local context. Thanks for coming on.

Debbie: Thanks for having me.

Ep. 115 || When Motherhood Brings Deep Suffering Transcript

Laura: Hey guys, welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Laura Wifler, and I have my sister-in-law Emily Jensen here.

Emily: Hello.

Laura: Before we get to today’s show, we want to remind you—hopefully you know by now—we post two articles a week on our website. Today on the show, we’re talking about a tougher topic: suffering. If something comes to mind as we’re talking, please feel free to search our past podcast shows—you may find something on what you’re thinking about—or search the articles on our site. We often talk about specific motherhood topics in more depth in our articles than we’re able to on a show. We want to encourage you to head to the site and click the “Article” tab to look a little bit deeper.

Emily: And you can get those articles right to your inbox by subscribing to our RSS feed. They’ll come straight to you twice a week and you’ll be up-to-date with what’s on our site.

Laura: We’ll post a link to the subscribe button in our show notes too, so it’s easy to find.

Okay, we’re talking about suffering today. A lot of shows we do at R|M talk about the daily hardships we all experience in motherhood. We all get bogged down by life, feel overwhelmed quickly with all the responsibilities we have, have challenging relationships; and there are a lot of big and small decisions we face every day. So we talk about those types of topics in almost every show.

Emily: Yeah, regularly. But we definitely know we often experience more profound suffering in motherhood. Those are harder things to jump into; we don’t talk about those as frequently on our show because it’s really difficult to sit and linger in that, to experience the depth of it, and to speak to the ends and outs of it in a short 20-minute show. But we know there are those of you out there dealing with really significant hard things in motherhood that make you say, Why God? It can feel like there isn’t a reason or explanation for them, and it makes it really painful. So, instead of diving into any of those specific things that cause deep suffering in motherhood, we want to cover what hope we have in the midst of that type of suffering.

Laura: Suffering can take a lot of forms; the word can mean a lot of different things to different people. Some of us have experienced more suffering than others, especially depending on your life’s circumstances. We know suffering is a very complex topic, but, as Emily said, we’re trying to apply the gospel to the situations that feel very unfair and leave you asking, Why God? Why is this happening?  So this might include, but not limited to, miscarriage, infertility, loss of a child at or after birth, a child with extra needs or medical concerns, a child with disabilities, a broken marriage, difficulties in foster care or adoption, or living with a chronic illness. There are more we could mention, but those are a few of the heavier topics we’re generally covering today.

Emily: Even if you’re not someone walking through one of these things specifically, we hope you’ll still listen. I think one thing Laura and I’ve both learned is one of the best ways you can prepare for suffering is to have a theology of it. We should be aware these things happen to people and ask these questions before we go through it, so we anchor our faith in something really deep like the tangible, eternal good news we’ll talk about later. Maybe you have a friend, family member, or someone in your church who’s walking through these things, and it’d be really helpful to hear specific encouragement that might be helpful for certain times.

Laura: We want to do a couple of caveats before we jump in. The first is—as you know—we have a 20-minute show. There’s absolutely no way we can cover the theology of suffering and why bad things happen in 20 minutes. These are things that have entire books written about them, and we’ll point you to some of our favorites on the show notes. But be prepared that we want to start the discussion, as usual, but please go talk about it in your podcast clubs, small groups; or with a counselor, pastor, or mentor. This is just scratching the surface of the conversation. Second, know that Emily and I haven’t experience all of these things personally. We’ve had friends or family who’ve experienced the gamut of different topics, but we may not say everything perfectly depending on where you’re specifically at. We know when you’re suffering—and when we suffer—you’re extra sensitive to things. We want to be gracious and speak kindly, and we also ask for grace as we’re talking too.

Emily: And the final thing before we move forward is we know it’s hard when walking through something really challenging to feel like your experience is being grouped together with something lighter. You may think, Well, I’d rather trade my issue for that issue, because that seems better. But we want to minister to a wide group of moms, so please keep that in mind today. We know everyone experiences suffering differently and it’s complicated. It isn’t necessarily all the same, and we wouldn’t deal with every situation in the same way. We know for sure the gospel does meet us and does give us hope no matter what type of suffering we walk through. So, let’s just into the gospel and see what hope there is.

Laura: In creation, we know in the garden there was good, purposeful, meaningful work that Adam and Eve did for the Kingdom of God. There wasn’t suffering in the way we know it. Their work didn’t include distress, pain, or hardship. Everything was very good in God’s original creation.

Emily: We know after Adam and Eve sinned in the fall, they were banished from the Garden. Life outside of Eden includes profound suffering; we see that from the very beginning. This immediately begs the question, Why is this specific type of suffering happening to me? That’s a question a lot of us ask. It’s really normal to ask it. Laura and I have asked that question before. And asking the question is a really great opportunity to study it throughout scripture. Just grazing over the top, we see sin directly causes suffering, Satan causes suffering; suffering happens without any clear explanation because it’s a general result of living in a broken, cursed world in the “already but not yet.” We also see that God allows and uses suffering, which can be a really difficult thing for us to understand and comprehend. But we see that God has this sovereignty over the sad, hard things; and he uses them for his good purposes, which we’ll get into more. Suffering can be caused by a lot of things, but ultimately, it goes back to sin and God’s sovereignty.

Laura: Suffering is really complicated and multi-layered. It’s hard to live in the not knowing or understanding, but we know that we have redemption. Jesus, who knew no sin at all, became sin for us, so we might be children of God. We know Christ identifies with us in our suffering, because he entered into it and experienced it himself—to the point of death. And he gained victory when he died and rose again. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he sent the Holy Spirit for us. We don’t mourn or have this hardship or suffering without hope. I think that’s what sets us apart as believers is knowing the suffering we experience today is not the final word for us. We know there is work being done in our suffering and our hearts are being transformed. So we can walk in faith, even in the midst of really, really difficult, hard things. We have a wonderful relationship with God the Father who is a good and perfect comforter for us. We also get the local church, a body of believers who weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. We band together in the hardships of the broken world we live in, knowing there is a future, which we’ll talk about in consummation. Again, this isn’t the end.

Emily: I love that this is the unique thing we look forward to as believers. Jesus says Behold, I am coming again! I read that not too long ago and I got tears in my eyes just thinking he’s coming back for us. Someday, when that happens, those who died in Christ will be raised to be with him forever. There will be no more tears in the new earth where we go to live with God and reign with Christ forever. There will be an end to suffering. Also, we can know there won’t be suffering that goes overlooked, or unpunished, or unreconciled. God will be just over that, and we can know there will be a satisfactory answer someday, even if we don’t know it now.

Laura: So we want to talk through a few truths that have really encouraged Emily and I as we’ve gone through difficult hardships in our lives. We want to share them with you as general encouragements in no particular order. The first one is in your suffering, God sees you. I think that’s a huge encouragement that what you’re going through is not unseen. I love the verse in 2 Chronicles for the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. I love that picture of the Lord looking over the entire earth and he sees the distress and hardship. He sees the evil. He sees the good. His eyes are on the ways of man, and he understands what you’re going through; the Bible assures us of that.

Emily: Laura and I have been studying the book of Genesis this fall with our church. I remember one of the passages that really struck me was before God said he was going to flood the whole earth, it says God “saw.” He saw all the evil going on, and he acted in a way that showed his character. It’s really heartening. Another one we wanted to mention—which we’ve touched on a little before—is God enters into and doesn’t exempt himself from suffering, which is super encouraging to me. Sometimes it can feel like God is just up there and I’m just down here in the midst of all the suffering, and he doesn’t have to get in the middle of any of it. But the reality is God the Father watched his own son die. So if any parent understands, God does. He didn’t keep himself out of this; he entered into it. Christ entered into it. There are several parts of the Bible that talk about all the different types of suffering Christ experienced when he was here on earth. He can relate to us in every way. He didn’t hold himself out of the mess of suffering; he really experienced that alongside us.

Laura: That plays into the next one. God is with us; he is our comforter and supporter. We mentioned it earlier, but the Holy Spirit was sent to help, comfort, and guide us until Jesus returns. I think if you’ve gone through any deep suffering, you can attest to the fact that there’s a supernatural comfort of the soul that comes when you know the suffering you’re experiencing today has an end. There’s a future full of hope and joy waiting for you. God loves to comfort and bind the brokenhearted. He loves to be near us all the time, especially when we’re in pain. He’s there and he’s close. I think that’s when he does some of the deepest heart work to really reveal who he is to us. I think feeling that comfort is one of the gifts of suffering.

Emily: I think the times when I look back on my life and know—in the deepest part of my soul—God was and is with me were the same moments I was also in the midst of profound suffering. There maybe were tears falling, but I can remember distinctly knowing it was well with my soul. That is a gift God gives us through the Holy Spirit.

Laura: It’s one of those things where you see someone—maybe at a funeral or in a season of deep suffering—and you wonder, How are they doing it? Because they seem at peace. That’s the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in their life. That’s something all believers have access to. It doesn’t mean it always be perfect for you in suffering, but I think there’s a really beautiful comfort that can come over your soul when you’re in Christ.

Emily: Another one is to remember God uses our suffering. This is something we’re not always going to know how right away or always have the answer, but our suffering is not meaningless. We see this throughout so many aspects of scripture where God’s people were struggling and going through really difficult, painful things. And yet, he was using it to either work towards redemption or, after redemption, he was working to grow his church and spread his gospel. I think we can be confident that trials of various kinds can really test and grow our faith. They can be used for other ministries and other ways for comforting other people that we hadn’t previously even thought about. He uses it to spread the gospel in ways that are sometimes a mystery to us.

Laura: This is probably my most hopeful piece in the suffering as I’ve gone through things. I don’t know why stuff is happening or how it’s happening, but maybe five years later, I can see better. While I still don’t love that I experienced that, I’m thankful, because now I’m able to minister to this other woman or I’m able to share my firsthand experience on the show, like sharing about our children with special needs. That’s really hard for Emily and I; that’s not always this perfectly, easy thing, but it’s something God’s given us deep joy in and he’s used to minister to other people through. That’s just one example of many, but I love knowing how our suffering has purpose—even if it’s just to have us long for heaven with Christ, point us to God, and long to go deeper into what he loves and cares about. Suffering has a way of melting off the dross and taking away the things that cloud our vision when life is really good and easy. It has that way of pressing it out and really bringing out the gold.

Emily: Finally, we want to acknowledge that this last point is hard to hear sometimes or hard to comprehend, depending on where we are in our suffering, but we want to remember God is good in the midst of it. He saved us from the very worst suffering of all, which would be life and eternity without him. This is an undeserved gift he gave us. No matter what we’re going through in life, that gift is there if we’ve trusted in Christ. And his character is always good; he never wavers or lets his promises go unfulfilled. It’s difficult for us to sometime see, because we’re not looking back with hindsight knowing all the things God knows. This is where trust comes into play and believing God’s promises in his word, even when we don’t necessarily feel it in that moment.

Laura: We know that this is some hard and complicated stuff that—you can tell—we’re still wrapping our minds around. But if you are going through a deep season of suffering, we’re sorry and sad along with you. We want to encourage you to keep pressing into truth and crying out to God. I speak from experience, some of the seasons of suffering are up and down. Some days, I’m really believing truth and it somehow feels a little bit easier. There are other days that I feel very sad, and it’s very hard to remember truth; I have a lot of doubts and fears. I think that’s very normal if you’re going through suffering, but that’s why it’s so important to remind yourself of truth over and over again, finding the Lord everyday to ask him to reveal himself to you in that suffering. God will be faithful to that—even if it takes a few days, a few weeks, or a long season. It’s not a magic potion; I think that’s important to remember. But I think as you continue to invest—even when you’re heart is screaming inside—there is good work being done, and God will be faithful.

Emily: You can head over to our show notes. We worked really hard this week to curate resources that will be helpful if you’re looking for a book to read or other resources that we’ve found helpful. Remember you can always pray. And another thing we’ve found helpful is reading through the Psalms; there are also great devotionals to pair with that. Preach the gospel to yourself, which is repeating and remembering all the things we said on the show today. There are also incredible hymns out there. I think hymns have been one of the most incredible things to me in suffering. I almost can’t even bring myself to have some deep devotional time, but I can turn on “How Firm a Foundation,” and you just cry because the scriptural ideas are woven in there. The truths are there; it’s such a good reminder. Also, talk with people who will listen and meet with you. It’s okay to get counseling and to reach out to somebody who can walk deeply with you for a longer time. Keep trusting God; his mercies are new. If you’re in Christ, he’s going to help you persevere and grow your faith and joy in him, even in the midst of sorrow.

Laura: As we mentioned earlier, we’re going to curate some resources for you, so head over to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. You’ll find the podcast link to view our show notes and we’ll have more resources there. We’re also on social media @risenmotherhood on all the platforms. I think that’s it. Thanks so much for joining us, guys. We really appreciate all of you tuning in.

Ep. 114 || Wish List Ignored? Loving the Giver More Than the Gift Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I'm Emily, here with my sister-in-law, Laura.

Laura:  Hello! Hello!

Emily:  We’re excited to talk gift-giving, a little bit about gratefulness, and definitely a lot about the gospel.

Laura: [laughter] Hopefully.

Emily:  Before we jump into that just a reminder that Advent season is here.

Laura:  It’s upon us.

Emily:  Definitely check out our website risenmotherhood.com for ideas of what to do during Advent. We have some round ups on our social media, articles, podcasts, and a lot of ideas for ways to make this season not more rushed or stressful but hopefully peaceful, intentional, and a good reminder of Christ. Check that out.

Laura:  It's a good time to implement it. You still got like a week or so. But in light of that, all our kids are busy working on their Christmas lists, which they've been adding to all year.

Emily:  I think my kids started their Christmas list in July.

Laura: Or January? [laughter]

Emily:  They started right after Christmas. And I've been using that excuse with my kids since the summer: We're not getting something because Christmas is coming.

Laura:  That’s exactly right. The other day, my son said, “Christmas takes forever!” We all love Christmas, but as moms, there's definitely a sort of an angst that can come out, especially when you become a mom and realize the selfish spirit that can come out of your child (Which you know is in you too, but they're not as good at hiding it). I know Emily and I have both experienced things like this. When there’s a child crying at a family Christmas in front of all sorts of people when the present opening is over and they're bawling, “No more presents? 

Emily: “Nothing I got is good enough. I’ve played with that toy for 35 seconds and now I'm over it!” and you feel so frustrated. I don't know what age this stops a little. It is really hard. There have been years too—I don't know about you Laura—where we've really tried to prep our kids like, “Here's what's going to happen. It’s going to stop, say thank you, and we’re going to give everyone hugs, we're going to be very grateful.” Even with all the training, it's just a part of our hearts that takes a long time to uproot.  

Laura:  It's really humbling as a mom, let's be real. A question we often get asked along the same vein is, “How do I instill gratefulness in my kids?” We get asked this question in all sorts of ways. I mean, birthday parties, or service projects, or summer vacations, and it always pops up around Christmas time because of all the gifts and indulgences that our kids get. As we shared, we don't really have the answer for how to instill the gratefulness in our kids, because we’re still working on that. We don't have proof quite yet, but one angle we want to look at today is something we hear a lot of people ask in preparation for the Ask Us  Anything show.

We’ll get random emails about it quite a bit: How do you deal with the grandparents, aunt or uncle, or another family member, or friend that wants to love on your kids by giving them tons of gifts or deviating from your carefully curated list. Maybe they get the light up toy that blares music at 5 million decibels for 20 minutes straight, maybe they're just giving your kids something you deem a little bit too extravagant and you don't really know what to do with that, or maybe it's something that you've actually expressly forbidden and it might be potentially harmful to your child, or something that falls on similar lines.

There are a lot of different ways that this gift giver can manifest in your life. We want to set up the show today so that you understand the show. This isn’t necessarily about how you or your husband give gifts to instill gratitude because it's fairly easy to control your own purchasing decisions, but we want to talk a little bit about how the gospel applies and meets us when we have someone else in our lives that can be a frustrating gift giver. Is that an okay way to put it? [laughter]

Emily:  That's definitely where we start with our thinking. It’s frustrating—

Laura:  You might not be so frustrated after the show.

Emily:  Hopefully not. Before we jump in any further, we want to recognize that not everyone has this ‘problem,’ and that this really wouldn't be a problem to a lot of you. You think this would be a great issue to have if relatives and people in your kid’s life were showering them with gifts. It could be that Christmas is a really hard time of year because you feel like you're trying to make ends meet, and you would love to be able to gift a little bit more extravagant things to your kids or give them any gifts at all.

I think that's a good perspective for all of us to bear in mind, no matter where you're at, is that this is something to be grateful for, and we shouldn't take for granted the fact that we can give our children things and good gifts just like God gives us good gifts. We hope that no matter where you're at that you can get some gospel encouragement from the show today, and know that there is there's broad application to a variety of different scenarios. 

Laura:  There are a lot of mom philosophies on giving gifts. Emily, what are some of the ones that you can think of?

Emily:  I know that one that became popular in the last few years—I think we tried it one year—was you get them something they want, something they need, something they wear, something they read. They're all categorized or there's only a three plus present rule because that’s how many presents Jesus got.

Laura:  Jesus gotta model that.

Emily:  Or maybe you feel like they need all the minimal, and organic, and wood toys from a Narnia tree. 

Laura:  Yes, Give me that! [laughter]

Emily:  Sometimes it’s things like no electronics, nothing with small pieces, only learning toys. Brad’s probably going to laugh when he hears this, [laughter] because he fits into this category of getting them things they need. In the summer, he’ll say, “Why don't you start writing the list? Our kids need more black socks.” [laughter] And he’s specific.

Laura:  When they open that, what are they going to think?

Emily:  He’s very much like, “Christmas is the time to get those needs met and get all the things we're going to buy at the store for the next year.” Maybe it’s something you guys don't think too hard about it at all, but overall, maybe you have limitations to how many toys you want to see coming through your door or you're just still trying to figure out what to do with the ones that are spilling out of your bins, so the thought of giving more gifts around Christmas is pretty daunting.

Laura:  We totally get all this is. As Emily shared, we have been these moms at a variety of points in our lives and we’ve tried the same things as probably many of you have—having restrictions or hinting to somebody these are the things that we prefer. When someone doesn't necessarily listen to that list, sometimes it can leave us feeling hurt by the fact they don't seem to care about what you're trying to teach your children or the gratitude that you're trying to instill in them.

Sometimes it leaves us really frustrated, because we weren’t respected or we felt not respected in our wishes. Sometimes we’re vindictive. We want to pay them back for not being as kind to us as we want, maybe we give them the silent treatment or we withdraw our kids from relationship, and sometimes this leads up to the great Christmas event. We’ll feel nervous or anxious. We’ll be worried about what each year will bring and feel, “Oh, will our kids ever be generous or grateful because they have that one person in their life that seems to spoil them?”

What do we do with those feelings? And that's what we want to talk through today. How do we handle gift giving that doesn't seem to align with our personal philosophies and should we be worried when someone comes into our child's life and seems to spoil them with Christmas presents?

Emily:  I think the first thing we want to remember, when we're considering this lavish gift giver or somebody who's so excited to love on our kids with gifts that they don't even like adhere to our list because they saw this cool toy and they impulse buy—

Laura:  Gotta get it. 

Emily: —is to remember, the most lavish gift giver ever is God himself. He is constantly giving his children good gifts they don't deserve, especially to whiny, complaining, ungrateful children. In his common grace, people who reject him, and despise him, and are his enemies, are given good things in their life here on earth by God, even before people have come to Christ.

Like the beauty of creation and the joy of the relationships we have. Then to his redeemed children, he gives the most costly gift ever which is Christ himself. Whenever we're feeling frustrated about someone else's generous lavish giving to someone who's potentially ungrateful or not comprehending it, I do think there's a point where we need to stop and remember, that is how God is towards us.

He did it first so if anything, that can point us back to God and be really grateful for the ways. We don't deserve his amazing gifts, we’re not always grateful for his generosity or his lavish giving, but we are created like him in some respects and that comes out in people in all different ways because we were created to image him. 

Laura:  Preach it Emily. I like it.

Emily:  That’s a hard one to swallow.

Laura:  It is a hard one.

Emily:  Because you think, it's this person who's being indulgent.

Laura: I love it when she gets on a soapbox like that. It's always good. Now we're going to walk through some of the fears from a mom's perspective, and how you can find hope in the gospel.

Emily:  I think we’ve already alluded to this but we fear that our children are going to be spoiled, they're going to turn into ungrateful, materialistic little people because of this person. 

Laura:  We’ve all thought that even because of ourselves, right? I have had moments like the Christmas Gift Cry of 2017, or whatever year it was, when I've thought, “Oh my word, I'm not doing enough.”

Emily:  I’ve ruined my children—

Laura:  They're going to be ungrateful, materialistic people.

Emily:  The gospel truth there is the reality that God is the only one who can turn a heart from death to life. The gospel knows no bounds; he can reach even the most selfish person and we all are, apart from Christ, selfish. There isn't like, “I'm going to spoil the heart into sin;” we already have that inside of us. God can transform us and continue to work on us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He works in our children too, so we want to trust God to be the author of our child's faith—not us—and to keep that in mind that we can’t twist the knob on some of these external circumstances and do the deep heart-transforming work. We might build a change in behavior but that deep heart work belongs to God.

Laura:  On a practical note too, remember that you’re to disciple your child in the things of the Lord and you're going to be doing that around 365 days a year. So a lavish present once or twice a year from a person who is going off of your list, isn’t going to undo all the other time spent investing in them. That's one thing to keep in mind: they can't undo all of the efforts that you're doing over the work of a lifetime.

Emily:  Another concern is we’re worried we’re going to be replaced by someone else who is more generous or fun towards our child. One gospel truth to remember is hopefully we want Christ to win our children's full affections, not ourselves. We're going to fall short and we are going to fail to meet our children's needs, and even their wants and their desires, and their relationship with us. That is going to happen. We're going to fall short, but Christ gives of himself and he is the greatest gift our children can ever receive. That should even make the most amazing gift giver kind of pale in comparison.

Laura. And when we feel insecure, just ask yourself, “Hey, where I’m I finding my identity? Is it in Christ and in his acceptance of me?” Because when we humbly observe his sacrifice, we don't live for a love of ourselves or love from others—a.k.a our children in this instance—but we live for him, knowing that our reward is ultimately in heaven. Whatever is happening in the moment is momentary and not eternal. 

Emily: Something I do in this scenario is often remember back to my own childhood and think nobody was competing for those relationships with my parents. Even if my grandparents gave me really great presents, it wasn't like, “Oh I love them more,” and that replaced the role of parents. There’s a difference of relationship, a difference of influence. Parents are the ones giving kids stability and routine, who they trust to secure for their needs and everyone else holds a different spot. I think on a practical level, we can breathe.

Laura:  When your kids’ skins their knee, where are they going to go? That's the question.

Emily:  This holiday or something is probably not going to approve the whole relationship.

Laura:  Another fear we can feel is insecure about our own abilities to give good gifts. We feel maybe a little competitive with another person or maybe competitive with the culture at large. What we mean by this is that sometimes our insecurities can come out, because maybe we want to give our kids the same gifts that this person is giving, but we can't afford to give our children the hottest toy of the season. Or maybe out of pride, we want to look more successful in front of other people, but we’re not able to at this point financially.

A gospel truth to remind ourselves of in these times is that we rise or fall before the throne of God alone, and when we're feeling that competitiveness with another person, what we're doing ultimately is saying, “Hey, this is my standard of goodness. In order to be a good mom, I have to give this certain gift or I have to out-give this other gift giver,” and we're not actually looking at the real standard of what a good mom is, which is actually the holiness of God.

We can recognize our good standing is actually only by the grace of God. We can even stand in his presence and see our differences with another person as a great opportunity to learn and to grow. And for your child to see that God works in unique ways in individuals. He's blessed them in different ways, so let's rejoice in other people's giftings and the way they want to love on our kids.

Emily:  I think also remembering—like you were saying Laura with standards—that there isn't this hard rule from God with how to give good gifts to our children, so we can be generous. Giving can look like non-material things as well—giving experiences, or a nice letter to our children. or whatever. Jesus exemplified this here on earth by pouring out and giving of his very self, so whenever we think, “Oh, my gifting to my children is it going to look this certain way,” we can still go to the Lord and ask how we can express love and generosity towards those within our care, even if it's going to look different than what the culture says it should look like.

Laura:  On a practical note, this one’s pretty hard, at least for me. Maybe to that overly generous gift giver, write a thank you note for all those extra things, even if you're kind of looking at them and feeling like, “Why are all those lined up toys in my toy bins right now?” Or maybe have your child write a thank you note; that's just good practice.

Also choose to engage them and display authentic joy as your child opens those gifts. That is a true show of a heart that is soft to the Lord and soft to understanding and knowing your identity rests in him, not in your ability to give good gifts. 

Emily:  Finally, I think one of the fears or things that we struggle with, is feeling out of control. The reality is, we have preferences. We want them to actually be donating towards our child's college fund, we actually want them to be giving money to an organization in lieu of this toy so your child can learn generosity.

I mean, we joke about it, but when it gets down to it, we feel unheard. It feels like this person isn't supporting in the way that I want to parent. In general, the gospel meets us when we are angry and feeling like our wishes are not being met, because we're really just angry that were not being treated like God himself. He is the one who is worthy of all worship and praise, and while we would like to be the king or queen of the universe and perfectly control everything in our child's environment, we can’t be.

God wants us to submit to him and learn to be grateful in all things and know that rules, and standards, and expectations, and meeting those things is not what's going to make us ultimately happy. Only God himself is going to do that, and he really has the best plan for our family, and all of the knowledge and the resources to make that possible.

Laura: A practical thing to ask yourself is, “Hey, is this a grey area? Is this really something that I should go to bat on?” Or “How can we best love both parties, both my child and the gift giver?” That’s just a quick one to evaluate where the status of your heart is and then on a practical front: toy rotation.

I mean, that's pretty awesome. If you're getting way too many gifts, rotate those toys. Another thing is to give toys away. I know a lot of moms implement the one-in, one-out rule. If you get eight gifts, you donate eight gifts.

Emily:  We also want to recognize there really are situations where someone is giving your child a gift that is potentially dangerous, harmful, immoral, illegal, or something that requires your investment financially, over and over again. There are situations where conversations need to be had, maybe gifts need to not be received, things need to be put to a halt. Particularly, this may even be something like electronics where somebody's giving your child a full internet access gift and you're like, “Hey, we're not there yet as a family, and we don't think that's appropriate for a child to have.” It is okay to approach these conversations in love, because some people may have good intentions in giving those, some may not, and we know that there are definitely those times when you need to be firm and have healthy boundaries.

Laura:  We know that not everyone has great relationships with this gift giver, and if you do plan on talking with them about it, here's a couple of quick guidelines (but we do talk about this more in the grandparents in the gospel show especially like how to navigate a harder discussions). The first thing is just talk with your husband and get his opinion.

Ask if this should this really be that important to you. I think that eliminates a lot of the issues and it will tell you very quickly, “Hey, we should talk about this.” Take time to pray about it, seek counsel from someone who is wiser, then consider what impact it's going to have on the relationship. Weighing those pros and cons is really important for any conversation. Have something to say. Write it down and have some alternatives for them in a game plan.

A lot of times, some people just need to be educated. They're not really getting the jokes, or the eye rolls, or the list. They don't really understand that you actually care about the list, so if you can have some alternatives, they may understand you're serious about this, and you want them to continue giving to your child, but needs to be within certain boundaries.

Another one is, don't do it in the heat of the moment. I know that that's probably a temptation for all of us. Don't do it at Christmas, don't do it at a birthday. Wait a little while and then bring it up with them and before you do, take time to affirm them. Everyone's more welcome or warm to taking criticism, if you affirm them prior and then recognize, “Hey, they're probably not going to be perfect after one conversation,” and this is where we remember to forgive as Christ has forgiven you.

As you have these conversations, we hope that these are some tools to equip you through them. But it's hard, and we understand that. We don't want to make light of this, like it's so easy. But I think there are times, more often than not, where we can let things go and trust that God's going to continue working on our child's heart, even if they get all these gifts. But yes, proper boundaries are really important.

Emily:  Me and Christmas brings out all of this sin issues. [laughter] If you want to find out more on this topic, we’ll be talking about it on social media this week @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Also check out our show notes at risenmotherhood.com, you'll find all of those resources there. Thanks for joining us and we hope you have a great Advent season!

Laura:  Oh, yes.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast please consider joining them at risenmotherhood.com/give

Ep. 113 || Trusting God with Our Children: An Interview on Faithful Motherhood with Nancy Guthrie Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  Today, we're excited to welcome Nancy Guthrie to the Risen Motherhood podcast. Nancy's interview is part of our series, Faithful Motherhood, where we’re talking with women whose children are grown and how the gospel has impacted their motherhood had over the years. These aren’t meant to be prescriptive interviews for how to do motherhood, just a glimpse at one woman's unique walk and lessons learned as she lives out her calling in the Lord.

We're talking with Nancy about trusting God with the lives of our children, how we can handle anxiety in comparison as a mom, and stick with us until the very end because she gives us a clear overview of how God is the only perfect parent, so you don't have to fear your own imperfections. Nancy teaches the Bible through books and conferences. Some of our favorite resources from Nancy include her book, Holding on to Hope and her Bible studies from the Seeing Jesus series. She also has a great book on prayer called, One Year of Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids and her newest book is, Even Better than Eden, and she has a podcast. She’s the host of the Help Me Teach the Bible podcast at The Gospel Coalition. You’ll find links to all of this at risenmotherhood.com.

Now, let's get to the show with Nancy, Emily, and me. 

Laura:  Hi, Nancy! Thanks so much for joining us on Risen Motherhood today.

Nancy:  I'm so glad to get to talk to you guys today.

Laura: We’re thrilled. Emily and I have been reading your books for as long as I can remember. [laughter]

Nancy:  Wait a minute. You’re already making me feel old. [laughter]

Laura:  [Laughter] We’ve done your studies, we read your books. I mean, you’re a prolific author, you’ve written so many amazing things. We've also seen you speak. You're someone we’ve so appreciated your ministry of applying the gospel, of really encouraging women—well all people—to look at the metanarrative of scripture, and you have been instrumental for us to grasp that concept apply it to our own lives. We want to start off with a big thank you for all of the work that you've done.

Nancy:  I'm grateful for that. That aspect of coming to understand the Bible, as one story, has been so significant in my own life and it always means a lot to me to hear that what's flowed out of that, in terms of what I've written and taught, is helpful to someone else. Thanks.

Emily: We’re so excited to introduce you to our audience. Would you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and even what a typical day looks like for you right now?

Nancy:  Certainly. Well, I'm talking to you from my office in my house in Nashville.  We just moved into a new house a year ago. It's so fun to start with fresh paint in modern colors. I work here all day long, except for when I sneak away from here to go take a walk in the park near my house with some of my friends. I texted a couple of them this morning and they said no, they won’t go, so it looks like I'm going to be going by myself after our interview. My husband has a business called Little Big Stuff Music.

He creates kids musicals for the church and that business is based here in our house— that's why we moved because all of his boxes of cd's and books were growing out of our two-car garage at our old house. The other cool thing about that is a couple of years ago, our son started working for him, so here in our little house in Nashville, we create a lot of stuff, but the best thing is we all work here all day and we have lunch together. That makes for a lot of great days here at the Guthrie house.

Laura:  How fun! I know my family has a family business that Emily's husband works for, my brother works for, and lots of family all together. We're a very tight-knit family too, so that's so fun when you can all spend your days together.

Nancy:  It's great.

Emily:  We’re excited to have you on to look back on your years as a mom and discuss how the gospel has intersected throughout different seasons of your life. Could you just jump in? What do you think it means to be a gospel-centered parent, and how is your understanding of that changed over your 28 years of being a mom?

Nancy:  Well, it’s changed a lot! I think for most of my parenting years, I would’ve thought that being a gospel-centered parent means that I put all of my efforts into trying to get my child to take hold of the gospel of Jesus Christ and become a Christian. I suppose that's an aspect of it, but there’s so much more to it than that. I think I've had a couple of big wakeup calls, in regard to the gospel and parenting.

I mentioned that we have a son who's 28 who works here in our house; my husband David and I have also had two other children who lived just a short time. We had a daughter named Hope, who would be 19 years old right now, and we had a son named Gabe who would be 17 and they were both born with a rare metabolic disorder called Zellweger Syndrome which meant that their lives were very short and very difficult, honestly.

I don't remember a lot about what our pastor said when we put Hope into the grave—which I've got to tell you, I look back at it as maybe the lowest day of my life—but I remember one thing, he’d looked at me and he said, “This is where we ask the question, is the gospel really true?”  I remember it, because it was so profound. I just wanted to yell out, “Yes, it is!”

When you're putting your child into the ground, you face whether or not you believe the claims of the gospel; whether or not you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that it means that those who belong to him are going to one day be raised from the dead and joined with him forever. That's the place that really matters. I think that's one place in my life, as a mom, where the gospel has come to certainly mean a lot more than it did at the beginning. 

As I’ve continued to parent, over these last almost 20 years since then, I realize that a lot of times I’ve operated as if my child actually needs the gospel more than I do. It's been so easy for me as a parent. I don't know if it's been like trying to maintain my credibility as a parent or authority, but if I had it to do over again, I think one thing that I would do would be to be a little bit quicker, to be honest about my own sin with my growing child, because, you see, the gospel means that it's not all about my righteous life.

It’s about Christ’s righteous life and the gospel means that there is forgiveness for my failures, as well as power to forsake sin. 

I think I would have done better at this mom thing if, along the way, rather than trying to look so perfect with all of my good choices that I had been more honest about struggles in my life. If I'd sit at the dinner table and be willing to confess, “You know how I got so mad about this thing today? Well, I've thought about it and I realize I'm really jealous of her and that's why I am so annoyed by her and as we pray tonight at the dinner table, will you pray that the Lord will help rid me of this jealousy and instead replace it in my life with a sense of joy and celebration for the way God is working in her life?” I think that would have had a lot more power and express to my child the benefits of the gospel. That's one way. I could go on and on about that—

Laura:  I would like to let you go on and on. [laughter] That was wonderful. First off, thank you for being so vulnerable to share about your children and your experience there. Second, I think that's something we all can really relate to, of having the shell around ourselves and not wanting to let our kids in and see our own need. Instead we’re like, “Well, you talk about your need and all of your sin issues.” But as a mom, we’re not being vulnerable with our own children and really leading by example and modeling what that life looks like—continual repentance, growing in sanctification along our walk as a Christian.

One thing that I think we see, especially as moms, is that we can get very bent out of shape with our kids doing different types of behaviors or having certain tendencies or even making choices that we would prefer that they didn’t. How does the gospel help us keep the main thing when we think of our mothering?

Nancy:  Well, all along the way parenting, especially as our kids get into their teens and even more, I can say from personal experience as they get into young adulthood, we have to keep coming back to, what is the main thing? Because we can have a tendency as a mom to be looking at all these surface choices and behaviors, and we can get all bent out of shape about them and neglect what's underneath them. 

The main thing is, is my child savingly connected to Jesus Christ? Is my child spiritually dead or spiritually alive? Because everything else flows out of that. Everything is built on that, so this means, as our children grow, as we get so frustrated about certain aspects of their lives or their behaviors or actions, we just have to keep coming back to the fact of asking ourselves, “Is my child savingly connected to Jesus Christ?”

If my child is, then one way that we can rest as moms is to recognize, “Okay, then I can trust that the Holy Spirit is going to do a work in my child's life. The Spirit and the word is going to go to work on my child bring them to a place of conviction and empower them to change.”

One big challenge for me, as a mom, has been to simply trust God's timing to do that. I have to tell you, if we'd been having this conversation even five years ago, I wouldn't have been able to say that, because I was still in so much turmoil, waiting for some things to happen. It's timely to talk to you now, because I am seeing that some things four, five years ago that I was praying for. And I'll just be honest with you, some of those things I was praying for, I really didn't have the faith to believe God was going to do. I'm embarrassed to say, but it's just true.

I was praying intently, but I couldn't see for myself how that was going to happen and I'm telling you now, I look at it and I have seen God work in some ways beyond what I could imagine. I'm realizing now what has been important is for me to trust God's timing to work and bring about change in my child, because my child is savingly connected to Jesus Christ and he has done a work.

I guess the other thing is that, if we don't see any signs of spiritual life in our child and we come to the conclusion—I mean we never know about the interior of anyone's life— but if we're seeing zero fruits of spiritual life in our child, then instead of getting so uptight about all those things on the surface, we want to be pouring ourselves into begging God to do what only God can do, by the way, which is, take our child from spiritual death to spiritual life. Only he can do that.

I think sometimes, as moms we think that it's going to happen by my great witness, my great example, I'm going to get somebody to talk to my child, I’ve got to get my child in this group of friends, I've got to get my child to read this book, I've got to get my child to go to this event.

We tend to take the reins of control and think we can manipulate to make it happen, that our children will become spiritually alive. Certainly, it's our role as moms and dads to put our children in situations where they are going to hear the gospel, to put them under God's word in terms of preaching, week to week, in the church, have them be with us seeing us experience partaking of the sacraments, but ultimately, this is something only God can do. 

It becomes an incredible matter of prayer for us rather than presume upon God to save our children, we begin to pray, even beg, God to save our children.

Emily:  I really appreciate that overview of what it’s looked like for you to trust God even when you can't see the outcome. I think we live in a social media, instant gratification, microwave society and when we discipline one time, we wonder where’s the change?

God really has the long game in mind, and we get that from the metanarrative of scripture seeing how God took a long time and is taking a long time to play out this redemptive story. And it's not finished yet; it’s still coming. We have to remember that's the character of the God when we're parenting our kids. It is hard to keep that in mind.

Nancy:  Absolutely. It's hard to wait on him.

Laura:  Speaking of trusting in God with our children, can you give us a closer look at what it's looked like in your life to trust God with your children? 

Nancy:  First of all, isn't trusting God like Christianity 101? [laughter] It's the very foundation. I think, as we spend our lives in this world, that the essence of the Christian life is that God keeps giving us new opportunities to trust him in new ways, but that's not one of those things we get down like, ”Yes, I’ve trusted God.” I wish it was. I wish it was like, “I trusted God with this hard thing,” because you know what, I did trust God with a really hard thing. Two times. Trusting him with the deaths of two of my children.

I can remember right when Hope was born, I was still in the hospital and I called a good friend of mine. She said something to me, over the phone, that kind of set the course for me to begin to see what it was going to mean to trust God with Hope’s life. She said to me that God's purpose would be completely accomplished in Hope’s life in the number of days that he gave to her. During the 199 days of Hope's life, part of trusting God in that situation was trusting that that was true.

I remember a couple of weeks later I was rocking her, in what was intended to be our nursery, and things had finally settled down a little bit and I thought to myself, “Okay, I'm going to pray and I'm going to ask God to extend Hope’s life as long as possible.” I thought to myself, “I've been so generous to God to be able to accept that she's not going to grow old with us but I am going to just ask him to extend her life as long as possible.” I took a breath to begin to pray that and I thought to myself, “But wait a minute, maybe a longer life isn't better for her, or for me.” I thought to myself, “Maybe, what's more significant is that I will be willing to trust God to give her exactly the number of days that are right for her and right for me.” So my prayer changed.

I just asked God, “Would you give me the grace I need to accept the number of days that you give us with Hope?” I was trusting God with her life. My husband David and I, we took surgical steps to prevent another pregnancy and evidently it didn't work, and then I discovered that I was pregnant again with a son. This time, our son Gabriel would also have Zellweger Syndrome. I'd been asking God why during Hope’s life. The second time was why again? Is there something I didn’t learn the first time? I remember going away by myself; I just needed some time to think and pray and cry.

I remember saying to the Lord, “Okay, if you are going to ask me to do this again, then do something significant with it. Do everything you intend even if what you intend is only what you intend to do inside me. I don’t want this to be wasted pain.” 

I think that's what trusting God looked like there, but I think in more recent years, through some struggles in our son's life, I remember sensing one day that God was saying to me, “Okay, you trusted me with the deaths of two of your children, are you willing to trust me with the life of your living child?” I got to admit to you, often times for me, that's been a lot harder—a lot of waking up in the middle of the night worrying and strategizing and all of those things.

I was really helped by something I read on a blog post. I was feeling so guilty for my sinning inability to trust God with my child's life, and I read this blog post where he was talking about what trust really looks like. He said trust doesn't look like you never have anxiety about it. Trusting God is every time that anxiety rises up in you, you go to God with it. That really helped me because I think it's unrealistic for us as moms to think we're just going to live a totally worry-free, anxiety-free life, in regard to our children, so the real issue of trusting God is not that we never feel anxiety, it’s what we do with it. Do we simmer in it?

Do we strategize to somehow fix it ourselves or do we come to God with it and say, “You must act. I’m fully depending on you to act on my child's life, as well as to give me the peace I need to get through this day. Lord, you can probably expect that I'm going to be back here tomorrow. I'm just going to keep coming back to you to give me what I need and to work in my child's life.”

Laura:  I so appreciate you opening up with a very real raw look of what it looks like to trust God. Emily and I both have children with special needs, and I know it's not the same, but it's something where you feel like you want a different path for your child, and you think that you know better that this type of genetics would mean that your child would have a good life. I just love how you’ve reframed it. I teared up as you reframed the question of, ”Let it be what is best for that child. God, let your glory shine through how you change me and how you change our family because of it.”

It's so easy to become very self-focused with what we want to see and how we assume our life will go, and in those moments where you realize, “Hey, this isn't the way it's supposed to be first of all but also that it isn't what you expected.” That is the question: is the gospel true? Is God who he says he is, and can he work through this, and do I believe that? I love and appreciate you giving an understanding of the ping pong game, that it is trusting God. If I believe, help my unbelief.

Nancy:  Do I believe that he's for me?

Laura:  Yes.

Nancy:  Or do I think he’s against me? Do I believe that he really does know what is best and is committed to what is best? We just have to keep asking and answering those questions, in our own hearts and minds, and that's what builds our ability to trust. 

Emily:  I’m still processing right here. It is so helpful to think about, yes, the gospel meets us—like you're saying—at the grave. It definitely meets us at the kitchen table, and it meets us when our child isn't speaking, when they're supposed to be speaking. It just meets us at every level.

Nancy:  It does.

Emily:  We’re so thankful for that.

Nancy:  Me too.

Laura:  This is hitting a chord for Emily and me, especially as we walk through our children’s needs, so thank you, Nancy.

Nancy:  We share knowing what it's like to go sit in the waiting room in that geneticist’s office. 

Emily: That's brutal.

Nancy:  Right?

Emily:  Deep breath processing through that. This is a good indication of how we feel as moms. We’re just looking at motherhood and feel like there's a formula to this, there's an expectation of what I think my life should look like, my friends life should look like, my kids life should look like. So we’ll see families that turned out well and feel like, “I want to know what their secret is so that I can copy that and then maybe my kids will turn out fine too.” Or we see families where there are kids who are struggling and walking away from the faith and we want to find out, “What was the weird thing they did in their families?” so that we won’t do that. What would you say to those assumptions that we bring to the table?

Nancy:  I was walking in the park recently with a woman who had some teenage sons, and she was talking to some older moms including me. I heard her doing exactly this. She was like, “What do you do to get your child to do that?” We're all that way. I mean, we want to know the secret formula, and it seems like the media starts handing us those from the very first time when we’re pregnant. Do you remember how when you're pregnant, you instantly started getting baby magazines and diaper coupons? All of those first little things you started getting, they all had five ways to, ten ways to, here's how you can, and you almost start out as a mom thinking, “I got to read it all, I got to do it all right and if I do, then I am somehow in control of how my child turns out.” 

That's just false. All we have to do is look around. We all know where there are numerous children who are raised in the same home and they take very different paths, make very different promises. I think the bottom line is to know there are no formulas. Does this mean we're not responsible as parents for what we do? I don't mean that at all, but I think it means, first of all, that if we think it's a formula, then we're ignoring the reality of grace. 

Grace gives us even better than we deserve as parents; grace goes to work in our child's life. When we want a formula, we're ignoring mercy—the mercy that we all need, that we don't get what we really deserve for the way we are as parents.

What's perhaps most significant is to know that as you seek to love your child and make the best choices possible for your child, the day may come when you're looking at your child and you're just thinking, “What did we do wrong? Where did we go wrong?” You're filled with a sense of regret, and if I'm speaking to a mom who's feeling that way today, what I would want to say to her is, don't make the assumption that the direction of your child's life, the bad choices, perhaps that your child is making, is completely up to you.

If you have taken hold of Christ, you’ve done the best you can to live before your child a godly life, and you’ve put your child in places where he can hear God's word, then understand that perhaps the problem is, as much as you did to set it out there for him or her, your child just simply didn't take hold of it. And that's not your fault. 

So, stop beating yourself up over it. Instead, take hold of the grace that is yours in Christ Jesus and let it saturate your soul and sooth that sense of regret. 

Emily: That's really powerful. Something we ought to remember is, the gospel is the power for salvation, and salvation belongs to the Lord. We want to wield that and think, as you said, “If I just do it a certain way, I can change them but we don't have the power to resurrect the dead—“

Nancy:  It’s not in our hands.

Emily:  I have to remind myself of that over and over and over again. I want to have the power, but I don't. 

Laura:  Nancy, as we close here, as I mentioned in the beginning, you're someone who speaks often to the metanarrative of scripture, and we know you have a deep love for biblical theology. Can you speak to the moms?  Something we have a passion for here at Risen Motherhood, as well, is biblical literacy and understanding that everyone is a theologian, and it's very important to have a biblical theology. Can you walk us through why it's important to have that, as we think about the challenges of being a mom?

Nancy:  I'm so glad you asked that because there's probably nothing more than seeing a story in the Bible that has helped me with some of those struggles I’ve had in parenting, and perhaps nothing more significant than this one central truth which is, there is only ever been one perfect parent.

God himself is the only perfect parent, and he's had rebellious children. I mean, that's a stunning truth, is it not? You think about it. God put his first children, Adam and Eve, in this perfect environment, this pristine environment of Eden and they rebelled. How many of us as parents sometimes think, “Well, if I can just create the right environment in my home, my kids will turn out well”? 

It didn't work that way for them, and as we think about Adam and Eve, they were actually the first parents who had the potential to be perfect parents but because of sin, they were not perfect parents. Because of sin, we read something that explains all of our angst and struggle in the parenting department: this curse that came upon Eve in the midst of the curse given to the serpent. The impact of the curse on the serpent on Eve was going to be that she was going to have pain in childbearing.

Now, when we read that, we think immediately about the pain of labor and delivery but it means so much more than that. This is the pain of giving birth to children with birth defects, this is the pain of miscarriage and infertility, this is the pain of being a sinful mom raising a sinful child in a sin-cursed world—all of that brings pain.

So, rather than thinking that something's wrong, if we feel pain as a mother, we should recognize that this is inherent in living in a world under a curse. Imagine that God was the only perfect parent. Think about him. He had these first children, Adam and Eve, they rebelled and as we trace the story of the Bible, God’s next son—as God called him—was actually a nation; the nation of Israel. You remember that he sent Moses to Pharaoh and he said Israel is my first-born son. He brings them out of Egypt and he leads them once again into what's meant to be a beautiful environment; this land of milk and honey, and he's really clear with them what they need to do.

He's given them his law and he's been clear that if you obey, you will live, and if you do not obey, then here's all the terrible things that will happen to you. Likewise, we tend to think of parents like, “Maybe I wasn't clear, maybe I didn't say a certain thing enough, if I'd just told my child this,” right? But here's God, the perfect parent, making his law really clear to his people. And what happened with his people? They’re in the Promised Land and they rebel. They disobeyed, so that they got kicked out of the house. Basically, they were exiled.

It becomes clear in the Bible story that there’s a need for that perfect son, that obedient son, and that's who Jesus was. Jesus was the second Adam who, when tempted, obeyed. Jesus was the true Israel who obeyed rather than rebelled. Jesus embodied everything Israel was meant to be. He was everything God ever wanted in a son. We realize there is only one perfect child and the hope for sinful moms like me, is that I take hold of the perfect obedience of Christ and it is merited to my account and in that I find forgiveness. For all of my failures, all of my failures to live before my children in obedience to God, all the failures in my hypocrisy for saying one thing and doing another, all of my failures to talk a lot about the gospel and then not think that I actually need the gospel, all of those are found in that one perfect son, Jesus Christ. I need him and as I take hold of him, I find hope. 

Emily:  You guys can probably all now hear why we love the way God is using Nancy to write Bible studies and to help us understand how we can see Christ and see God's plan for the redemptive story in all of scripture. We're really thankful that you were able to join us Nancy, and we’ll definitely include a lot more resources for you guys on our show notes including new books out: Even better than Eden and What Every Child Should Know About Prayer and then there's also another great book that I think you guys will like, When You're Praying for you Kids. [laughter]

Laura:  As I was going to say, the Seeing Jesus Series that you have Nancy, the Bible study, it's all about the Old Testament. We get a lot of moms asking, “How do I start studying the Old Testament? What does it matter to my life?” I would highly recommend those. [laughter]

Emily:  You’ll find everything.

Laura:  We are really grateful for you being on the show Nancy. Again, where you can find those resources at risenmotherhood.com and then there'll be a link. Of course, we’re on social media at @risenmotherhood. Thank you, Nancy, we really appreciate you taking time out to talk with us.

Nancy:  Thank you so much, it’s been such a joy to talk about such meaningful things with you guys.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast please consider joining them at risenmotherhood.com/give.

Ep. 112 || Living the Lifestyle You Want: Money, Motherhood, & the Gospel Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you liked this podcast, please consider joining them at www.risenmotherhood.com/give 

Laura: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I'm Laura Wifler, and I have my sister in law, Emily, here with me.

Today, we’re talking about somewhat of a sensitive topic. Emily and I hope to give you a  discussion starter on money, materialism, and resources—how we spend it and how we think about it. It gets kind of messy in there.

Before we do that, we did want to just let you guys know about some free resources we have on our website.

Emily: Yeah, if you go to www.risenmotherhood.com/abide, you’ll find some great, free Bible study resources there. We give some simple tutorials. There are even printables for your kids that are really beautiful, and we hope are very helpful. If you're getting ready to go into the Christmas and winter season here without any formal Bible studies at church and you need something to do, we have something for you. You can just click download and print! So definitely head over there.

Laura: Yeah. As I mentioned today, we're talking about money. Emily and I have been learning a lot, especially as we prepared for the show. We want to share some takeaways. We want to start off recognizing that this is literally just a discussion starter. There’s no way we can cover the gamut of money and all the things that go into it, especially as a believer. Today we want to focus on: how does the gospel reshape our financial priorities in motherhood, especially because, if you're like us, motherhood can feel really expensive.

Emily:  It was interesting, as we were processing this, one of the questions that came up first was, “What even gives us an idea of the right kind of motherhood and what we should be putting our financial resources into?” We just thought of a few that are familiar for us.

One, and probably the most primary, is the culture around us; whatever our friends at church are valuing with their financial resources, or in our local community, or in our neighborhoods. Even online we fall into different subsets on social media. Sometimes whatever I'm seeing those moms having in their homes or what their kids are wearing feels like that's what my kids need to be wearing in order to have that good mom life.

Laura:  Also your upbringing—whatever your parents were valuing, whatever they instilled in you. Or maybe you want to do the opposite of what your parents did. I know sometimes that happens. And what are those things that you personally worship or that you value? We're going to give a couple of examples and no, we aren’t stereotyping here just to make a point. We’re picking on ourselves.

Emily:  We're included somewhere in this list. Maybe you'll be able to guess where.

Laura:  We thought this was helpful as we consider, “What's our ultimate aim in mind and how does that drive what we go spend money on today?” For some people it's thinking, “Hi, if I have the best sports training for my child and the best sports gear, that's going to equal a college scholarship or professional athlete status.”

Emily:  Another one is just investment in creativity and the arts. Maybe special lessons or investing in really expensive instruments—that's a future worship leader right there.

Laura:  Most definitely. Don't we all want our kids to be the one up on stage?

Emily:  No, I want a well rounded sophisticated adult from that equation. Another one is just thinking that, “Hi, that's going to gain my child popularity or social acceptance.” Or even like the admiration of the other moms around you. Like, “Oh look how cute he looks.”

Laura:  “They're so adorable.”

Emily:  I know. I’ve always wanted that compliment.

Laura:  Oh you do. I mean, we all do, not just you. That European farmhouse style living. This is the one that we see on Instagram and we're all just like, “How do they do it?” The wooden toys, the genuine leather saddle shoes, the floral dresses. It's one of those things that just looks so simple and quaint and we're all like, “How do I get that?”

Emily:  If I just spent money on that dress, will we have a simpler life? Or maybe your kids aren't older yet. I know even in those little years thinking that the stylish baby wraps or the highly rated strollers or like this year's diaper bag, which frustratingly literally changes every year—

Laura:  Oh yeah.

Emily:  —Is going to mean you’re a cool mom. You don't look ordinary. You don't look like motherhood has messed you up.

Laura:  You don’t even look like a mom.

Emily:  You just can’t even look like a mom. We can easily fall into that. Even education. I think when we look ahead, we totally, naturally, and rightly want our children to experience some level of success. We think we can buy that for them with the right type of education or frequent trips to the museum, purchasing all the science kits, or maybe even investing in private school tuition.

Laura:  Another one is having a nanny or a house cleaner or the grocery delivery. As moms, we often value comfort and freedom to have this convenient life that we want, and we justify it in a lot of ways. Sometimes it's necessary but sometimes it's not. Maybe you're somebody who's very intentionally frugal and you budget, and you're just the master of sales and coupon clipping.

This is the person that I’m not. Although I very much sometimes wish that I could be, but there's always another side to that. Of course, having a tight grip on every penny that goes in and out can equate to wanting that financial security and control. It could be even an admiration from others who maybe don't manage money quite as well as you.

Emily:  Mm-hmm. I feel like as we were constructing these examples we were like, “This could go on and on and on,” but the point of this was to show this connection between our actions in spending and how they actually reveal what our hearts treasure. Jesus talks about where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. It's really important that we see this tangible connecting line between how we're spending our money and what it is that we often value and treasure.

Laura:  And we want to make a quick note here that you may be someone who's just barely getting by. As you're hearing us talk about this stuff, you might be eye-rolling pretty hard, because you're just trying to make sure that everyone has their basic needs met right now.

We actually received a note from somebody that was really helpful for Emily and I. We admit we speak from a middle class lifestyle, just so you guys know where we're coming from. But we heard from a mom and we felt like this was really helpful and a perspective to keep in mind.

She says, “It's so easy for me to fall into bitterness and envy when I see other families who can take their children to museums and music lessons, swim lessons, etcetera. Mothers who have regular weekly help with their children from their mother-in-laws and I don't have anybody, even though I also work full time from home. Mothers who can provide clothing, and seasonal décor, and fun activities for their children when I can't, because there's no discretionary money in the budget for even clothing. Bitterness, anger, jealousy; I'm fighting against this every day.”

Emily:  We want to acknowledge that at some level, we all struggle with this desire to acquire material things. Sometimes that desire is really good and normal and it's born of this desire to provide for our children, which is right and good. Other times it's born out of discontentment.

You can have plenty of financial resources and still thoughtlessly do that if-then thinking, “If I spend money on A, B and C, then my child is going to have the life that I want them to have or I'm going to be the type of mom that I really want to be.”

Laura:  It's interesting how money and sin levels us all right? None of us really deal with anything in life perfectly. It doesn't matter if you have too much, if you have too little, or you have just a medium amount. No matter what you have for income and finances, it's hard. I think Satan uses it to manipulate our heart motivations and make things really hard, so our sin manifests out of it.

One side note I think that's interesting is if you're having a lot of if-then statements in your mind, it's usually a really good indication of what we think we need to be content, or joyful, or justified. If we’re thinking, “Oh, if I do this, then I'll be a better mom, or I'll be a good mom, or my kids will be more set up for the future.”

This is a hard conversation that we're having today, but we still hope that the gospel hope we're going to share in a minute reaches you in a very new and convicting way, and that you take away some hope from today's show.

Emily:  Creation is always a very stark reminder that God owns everything. Every resource originally belongs to him. He's the one that breathes everything into existence. We tell our toddler that when you build that tower, your brother cannot come in and destroy it. [laughter] The creator has that special authority.

Ultimately he gave us all the good gifts in creation to worship him alone. His intention was that people would find their worth and their value in him and enjoy him the most. What I think is interesting is wherever we look in scripture to see God's design for finances, it's always rooted in his agenda, in his desires. When he does give riches, it's for the purpose of saying, “Hi, we're going to pull these together and build the tabernacle or the temple, a place to worship me or give sacrifices.” Or, “Hi, set aside some of this for the poor who are among you.”

His design always assumes that we're going to serve him first and not serve our money, and that he has all of our allegiance. It's really only when we get into the fall, which we'll touch on next, that we see money as a tool—that's a very good gift—as being something that's used wrongly for our own ends.

Laura:  And as Emily mentioned, in the fall, Adam and Eve took a hold of God's resources for their own purposes and their own gain through eating the fruit. They are banished from the garden, and now they are sent out to live in a world that's corrupted—by sin we act out and also a fallen world and the state that we live in.

Because of our sin, our hearts don't want God, they want stuff, or experiences, or cute dresses, or little bows, or soccer balls, whatever that may be. They want little idols that we use to replace God. As moms, we believe we have the power to make our children happy and give them this roadmap to success.

Society tells us that the roadmap is going to cost you money. We're told that in order to make them good people, or to make them accepted in school, or to be the popular kids, they need certain things. You need to buy these clothes. You need to put them in these lessons. You need to do all of these things. We buy into that lie, thinking that our success and our goodness as a mother is measured by our ability to give them a certain lifestyle.

Emily:  What's interesting is that our freedom, our greatest good, the thing that would turn us into the best citizens of the world, the most successful people, the most joyful, happy children, wasn't something that could be purchased with money or his created goods. God pays the greatest cost in the life and punishment of his own son.

Where we have used our monetary resources for our gain and for our glory, God turns around and he gives his most precious Son for our gain and for his glory. It's really interesting that he understands our need goes beyond these physical things and he sees the needs of our hearts and like, yes, those physical things are important, but he says, “Seek the Kingdom of God first.”

He is gracious to meet our needs even in lean seasons, but he wants to ultimately teach us that our wandering hearts will never ever be fully satisfied except in him. Instead of focusing on giving us stuff, God gives us himself.

Laura:  Something else I love is when we get to consummation, there's going to be streets of gold, foundations of precious stone, gates of pearls. The thought would be, “Well, geez, we're going to be wanting to worship that. It's going to be so beautiful. That's what we're going to want. We're going to be idolizing that.” Even with all of that around us, our hearts will finally be content.

We'll be worshiping, focusing, and desiring only God, because we're going to fully see his presence and we're going to fully see his glory. It'll sort of be laughable that we ever desired anything else in this life. So we'll finally fully live out that first commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Oh, praise the Lord.

Emily:  I look forward to that. Just to keep this conversation moving towards a little bit more practical principles, again, knowing that there's no way we can cover all the ideas in this show. First off, Christ is the greatest treasure we’ll ever have. It sounds a little bit like I'm saying it to little Tuck, “Christ is the greatest treasure you'll ever have,” but it's true for us too. It's something we need to take hold of and remember.

In the Gospels, in Matthew 13, we see this parable of the hidden treasure. Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God being like this treasure hidden in a field. When this man finds it, he sells everything he has to go buy this field because the most precious thing is there. I think that is true of our lives too, that whenever we realize the value of Christ, we can really elevate him above all the other earthly treasures that we have.

Laura:  As some practical takeaways, just remembering that this starts with us and making sure our treasurer truly is Christ. Is that what our kids are seeing? What would they say if we ask them? As we're communicating our values to our children, let's make sure that we're encouraging them to hope in Christ alone, not in their achievements or the worldly things that money can buy. No matter what, just remember that you can have that treasure of Christ, no matter how much is in your bank account.

Just a little side note, I've noticed a great time to do that is at birthday parties or after Christmas when they've gotten a lot of new stuff and they are still not satisfied. You're like, “Guess what, you just got all the things you ever wanted and you are still not happy. Why do you think that is?” It leads to a great conversation about how none of that stuff is ever really going to satisfy them.

Emily: Good mom truth right there. That's a great practical nugget there.

Laura:  Just throwing it out there.

Emily:  So another principle that we see is that everything belongs to God. We are stewards of the things that he's given us. Psalms and Proverbs talks about this a lot: the earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants belong to the Lord. Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest.

When we think about a steward, it's someone who uses and wisely cares for something that belongs to someone else. We're just holding onto it. As we talked about previously, God is the one who casts the vision and designs how we should be using our money. In the Bible, he's asked us to use our resources to support the spread of the gospel. That's through church and missionaries to help the poor, the widow, the vulnerable, and to love others and invest well for the gain of the Kingdom.

When I hear these things, I immediately kind of clench up and start to question every single spending habit I have. There's a lot of room for personal conscience here, for working this out in community, working this out with your own husband. Just for the mom who's listening, a takeaway would be to ask questions and say like, “Do my purchases and the lifestyle that I'm building reflect God's desire for his kingdom?” That’s a scary question to ask.

Again, be on the same page with your husband. I think that that is a really difficult conversation to have at times. It's important when you see that red flag. Oftentimes I know my husband will see it. This fall, in fact, he asked, “Are you planning on buying any more clothes this fall because I feel like there's been a lot coming in lately?” It was a gentle way of reminding me, “Emily, you have enough; let's stop.” We moved on. I didn't buy any more fall clothes.

Laura:  The last principle is the only things that last are God, his word, and his people. This is really helpful for me in all of life, not just money. God cautions us against falling in love with certain lifestyles or a certain image, things that the world touts as significant. If you're anything like me, you get caught up in that Instagram-worthy living, feeling like I need, as Emily said, some cute, new fall trendy clothes. Or that I want to have this great meal for dinner tonight, and it needs to be these types of ingredients. Or these are the new hot toys for Christmas.

A lot of times those things, as we chase after them in our hearts and in our minds, they're taking us away from our love of God. We're not recognizing what really matters; what is eternal. It's God, his word, and his people.

Emily:  Just some good takeaway questions for this are to evaluate, “What do my spending choices show about what I love?” Asking that question, “Am I investing primarily in the things that are going to last for eternity?” “What am I in love with? Is it being trendy or having these toys, or is it furthering God's mission and his Kingdom?

We know there are many more things that could be said on this topic, but we really hope this is just a small start to get conversations started. Whether it's with your husband at home or maybe in a small group with your local church, or just other moms that you meet and talk about the gospel with, to discuss, “How do our hearts shape what we spend?”

Laura:  And as a response, we're hopeful that you're willing to ask yourself the hard questions. I think money is one of those uncomfortable topics that we just all want to squirm away from when we feel the pressure on, or maybe some conviction or some guilt with the way that we've been spending our money.

We hope that you're willing, as Emily said, to discuss these things and then take action. Just remember that the Bible says, “No man can serve two masters.” You cannot serve both God and money. God's word is really clear on this. We're hopeful that after you listen to this show, you evaluate the ways you're using your money that he's given you as a tool for service to him, not as ways that you can serve yourself or your children.

Emily:  We hope that just scratches the surface for you guys, and that there are some good reminders that everything we have belongs to the Lord and we are to glorify him with what we have. You can find more about this at www.risenmotherhood.com or find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @risenmotherhood. Thanks for joining us, guys.


Ep. 111 || Seasons and Rhythms: Incorporating Gospel Reminders Into Your Year Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with my sister-in-law, Laura.

Laura:  Hello.

Emily:  It's Reformation Day, [laughter] Halloween.  

Laura:  [Laughter] Not sure very few people can say it with that excited of a voice, but it is exciting. [Laughter]

Emily:  [Laughter] Yeah, it’s Reformation Day. There's no candy today. [Laughter] I’m just kidding. We're not taking all about Halloween actually, but we are going to be talking about another exciting church calendar thing that can help us remember the gospel. Before we do that, we just want to let you know that on Friday our newsletter comes out.

Our newsletter is a really helpful compilation of a lot of fun resources, everything from podcasts, articles, books we’re enjoying, things for mom and for your kids. There's also some personal kind of get to know you things about the Risen Motherhood team. Sign up for that at the bottom of our www.risenmotherhood.com homepage, or there will be a direct link in the show notes. That's coming out this Friday so make sure you sign up now.

Laura:  Yes, it's a good one, everybody. We get a lot of emails where people say, “Hi, this is my favorite RM resource.”

Emily:  It’s fun. I like reading it. [Laughter]

Laura:  We always learn something new. Okay, as Emily mentioned today, we’re talking about how Em and I have been trying to grow and adding seasonal rhythms into our lives and our family discipleship.

This would be things like reading certain books during the same month every year or the same weeks each year, depending on how long it is. Singing certain songs or working through a specific study or maybe a topic or the same topic each year. Or maybe having a season of particular focus like Advent or Lent. There are some big ones that are already out there that you can think of.

As Emily mentioned, today is Reformation Day. A quick teaser example of what she and I have been doing is that we take the month of October to study church history with our families. Now, this is not an official thing. This isn't part of any church calendar or anybody else's official calendar, but it just seems to fit nicely with Reformation Day being on the 31st. We're just spreading out that month because we both love church history. We enjoy it, and so we're going to have our families study it.

Emily:  That sounds really studious, but what we really mean is we have a kids’ book that we can go through [laughter] at the breakfast table. It's just having those rhythms, throughout the year, so that we can continue to remind ourselves, “Oh yeah, we want to be talking about these things. We want to be thinking about creation, fall, redemption and consummation in our everyday lives.”

Before we get too deep, as we always say when it comes to talking about practical things, there are a ton of ways to live this out. There is no formula for this in the Bible or any mandate. These are simply examples of how family rhythms can point us back to Christ. Also we're really learning and growing in this.

This year, it's church history month in October and next year it's, I don't know, [laughter] but it could be something different next year. [Laughter]

Laura:  She's looking at me for ideas but I have none. Think about them as traditions that might be specific to your family, but it's just like a tradition in a sense that you do it every year to try to remember something special. One place we can look right away to see rhythms are helpful to life is in the creation account.

We see in the very beginning in Genesis 1:14 that God said, “Let there be light in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.” God created life with an order and seasons and rhythms. There is snow in the winter, if you live up in the north. There is sunshine in the summer. Creation exemplifies how God made our lives filled with rhythm and seasons since the very beginning.

Emily:  We also see this in the Old Testament as we read about the rhythms God created for Israel. They had all of these worship celebrations that God commanded them to practice and obey, like the Passover, to remember how God rescued them out of slavery in Egypt. Or the Feast of Booths, to remember their journey in the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread to remember their haste in leaving Egypt.

We're going to talk about this more in a bit, so don't worry about all those words. [Laughter] Just remember God established these points throughout their year for them to remember their story, of the way he redeemed them.

Laura:  And another reason is we're just naturally drawn to things that feel bigger than ourselves. We've talked about this before in our show about stories and children, episode 82. Celebrating significant events or just having little traditions throughout the year helps us remember that we are swept up into a bigger story, and we play a part in it, but it's not ultimately about us.

Emily:  And we can be really self-focused. I know if we don't have anything like this on the calendar coming up, it's easy for us to go long seasons where we're just busy with our schedule. We're focused on family events. We forget to see what God is doing in the midst of all of that and how God has already provided and loved us through the sacrifice of Christ.

Laura:  Finally, it’s just to naturally teach our children the way and rhythms of a believer. We had a show about this a couple of weeks ago about how do I disciple my children. We were asking ourselves, “What do I teach my children? How do I disciple them?”

As we've shared before, God's not asking you to think up anything or to reinvent the wheel. He's just asking you to share what you're already learning. By building a pattern into the year, it gives us signposts to look back and think, “What am I supposed to be teaching my children? What do I want to invest in them?” We've got these markers to help keep us focused.

Emily:  Absolutely. If you have fallen off your horse and you’re laying by the side of the road, the horse is coming back around so you can get back on [laughter]. It's a carousel. It's a merry-go-around.

Laura:  A carousel. [Laughter]

Emily:  I think I need that because sometimes, especially in this time of year, Thanksgiving can get really busy. But you know what? Advent is coming and that’s going to be another point where we can hit the restart button and remember to remember the gospel.

Laura:  I think that's a good point you make there. Because I think I used to always run through the year very quickly, and the Christmas season was hasty and quick. It was hard for me to slow down. I didn't do Advent. Until a few years ago, I didn't really take time to celebrate Advent. That has been something that, as Emily said, it's just like, “Hi, this is coming and I can rest and sit and I know what I'm going to focus on during that season.” That is a major reason why I just love it.

Emily:  It is a good reminder. I just want to fill in kind of some gospel gaps here because I think we’ve already talked about the design and why God established good rhythms and traditions that help us—who are really fickle—remember to think about the gospel and see the ways that he has been good and given us a hope and a future.

I think one of the aspects of the fall that we should keep in mind, is just our tendency to go through the motion of traditions and to be really quick. As soon as we put these things on our calendar, they can sometimes become a way to just do it on the outside, but on the inside we're not really honoring God.

In Mark 7:6-7 Jesus talks about people who honor him with their lips, but their heart was far from him. That's vain worship— whenever we are keeping to these external traditions but inside we are far from God.

Laura:  We don't want any of you guys to walk away from the show feeling guilty or bad if you've never thought to do these types of things. Or even superior or prideful if you're a rockstar at these things and feel like you've already got it mastered.

Just to remember, just like the Israelites, it's the same with us. We’re not found righteous by the way we engage in traditions, or the way that we remember God, or the way that we have crafts or singing, or the thoughtfulness that we put throughout the year. It's not about any of those things at all. We're always only found righteous through the work of Christ on the cross.

We're hopeful that incorporating family rhythms like these will be helpful and bring you joy. That they would lighten your heart, as you meditate on God's plan for your life and for all of creation. The best part is that someday we won't need these reminders. We’re going to be with God. We are going to be with Jesus Christ when he returns. We’re never going to forget him; it will be impossible. We can enjoy these traditions today, but also look forward to the day when we're not going to need those traditions because he is with us.

Emily:  We are going to transition now into some more practical ideas. To start off, we wanted to discuss the church calendar a little bit. Because if you're starting from scratch and you're like, “Hi, how do I even begin to add this in?” Well, the historical church has things like Advent or Easter or Lent, and we can definitely build off of those things.

Before we get into that, we also want to say, we know some of you guys may have grown up in a home where you lived by the church calendar or you did see your parents model it. That could have been a good thing or that may have brought a lot of confusing, wrong doctrinal ideas.

You may have found it really legalistic and empty. You may be bringing that into the conversation. You may not even really know what it is and maybe coming in with no knowledge. We know that the church calendar means a lot of different things to different people. Hopefully, for today's conversation, just take it at face value. Take what's helpful and leave the rest, but let's get into exactly what it is. Laura, you want to explain the liturgical year for us?

Laura:  Oh I’m going to try [laughter]. Yeah, the liturgical calendar or the church calendar—you can call it either one—is a calendar that divides the year into seasons to help believers remember the story of the Bible and God's redemptive plan. The dates can vary between churches or different denominations, but the general logic or sequence is usually the same.

You have Advent, the birth of Christ; Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ; Lent, the temptation and death of Christ; Easter, the resurrection of Christ ;and Pentecost, the spirit of Christ. There are other dates in there that you'll recognize, things like Good Friday or Christmas. As a church or at home, you'll typically sing songs together, do readings, prayers, fastings, different activities that helps you remember certain aspects of the gospel.

Now, if you're curious about this and want to learn a lot more, there is a really good handout from the Village Church that gives a great overview and also has things like devotions and activities for you to be able to do during some of the major seasons. We'll link to that in our show notes and you can check it out.

We hope that just gives you an idea, a little piece, of what it is. You can go so much deeper that you could dive into it. Emily and I, at least for our own home purposes, have found there to be different aspects of it that are helpful tools for us to remember God's plan all throughout the year.

Just remember, it's all meaningless if you're just going through motions, and that this is all about the heart. It's easy to be like the Israelites in this. We give this to you, not so that you can just do all of these actions, but so that it’s something that's helpful and brings you joy.

Emily:  One you can jump on right away, that's coming up, is Advent. This is the season that looks at the birth of Christ. It's the four weeks leading up to Christmas. During this season, we’re building anticipation, waiting in hopeful expectation that Jesus comes as a man. Now we are preparing our hearts for the day he's going to return again, to bring us to himself and finish his great redemptive work so we can be with him forever.

We did a whole show on this that you can find on our show notes, but often people do Advent calendars or they light candles. They do certain devotionals during this season. For kids, there are coloring books and chain countdowns and Bible studies and reading plans. There are so many awesome things you can do with your kids.

Instead of recapping all that, we’re just going to point you to our show notes where we have all of those great resources. It's a great time if you're like, “Yeah, I want to go ahead and start adding in some of these gospel rhythms to our year.” There is one coming right up in a few weeks that you can get prepped for.

Laura:  It's a good one. Okay, so another really popular one would be Lent. Again, this probably comes with a lot of mixed emotions for various listeners. This one begins on Ash Wednesday. It starts 40 days of prayer and fasting that represents Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. The last week is known as Holy Week and that celebrates Jesus’ triumph and entry into Jerusalem, the last supper on Maundy Thursday, and his death on the cross, Good Friday.

Lent is typically known for fasting and self denial. It's a symbolic emptying of ourselves of these trivial things so we can be filled with the goodness of the gospel. You hear a lot about people, “I'm giving up pop for Lent. I'm giving up TV. I'm giving up social media.” There are a lot of activities that people give up. It's not about giving up the activity or the food at all. It's really about the heart and saying, “Hi, my hunger needs to be for Jesus, not for the things of this world.” The season of Lent is supposed to prepare our hearts for the resurrection, knowing that it had to come after the crucifixion.

It's a really serious season; a more reflective season. There are some really beautiful things people do during it, like Lenten Wreath or T lights and a cross shape. Symbols typically are rocks or palm trees. There are just like Advent coloring books and Bible Studies and reading plans and all sorts of things that you can get into for it.

Emily:  This culminates with kind of Easter, which is very well known. This celebrates the climax of the story of the Bible. While most of us think of this as just a day, it actually is the beginning of another season; seven weeks to be exact, that goes from the resurrection of Christ to the Ascension of Christ.

Easter Day is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. You don't need to remember that. [Laughter] Just look at your calendar, look up your Google calendar. Basically it's a season marked by victory and hope, remembering that death is not the end of the story for Jesus. If we are with him it is not the end of our story either. On Easter Sunday or even we've started doing things the week leading up to actual Easter –

Laura:  Holy Week is where it's at. If you can't get into all of Lent. [Laughter]

Emily:  All the crafts on the Holy Week. Basically, you can do things like displaying empty tombs, singing certain songs during resurrection, displaying flowers, or Easter lilies on a cross. It just goes on and on. You can do something every day of that week to talk about with your kids, this is the path of Jesus to the cross and then on Sunday you get to have the big, “He is risen. He is risen indeed!” party.

Laura:  [Laughter] So another one is books. Now, we're kind of moving away from the traditional church calendar that you might think of. We just want to talk about books in general. You guys know Emily and I love books.

Emily:  Love books.

Laura:  [Laughter] Books, books, books, give us books. We really enjoy books. One thing that we really like to do is to repeat the reading of a particular book during a certain time every year. By this we mean typically Christian books that have meaning, not some romance novel or something crazy. We're talking about books that have meaning and that have Christian themes we can draw out.

Some that we've mentioned before would be Pilgrim's Progress, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings. This all depends obviously on your child's age and their maturity levels and things like that. Something else, you could watch a movie together every year on the same date every year. Then you talk about that movie or talk about the themes and the way you saw the characters change and things like that.

Books are a big one for Emily and I. They’re easy for us. Every January growing up, my family read Pilgrim's Progress. That was something that I really looked forward to. Think about what books you're enjoying and that you could maybe repeat.

Emily:  Sure. In that, either with books or with other resources, you could also take times of the year to focus on the Great Commission or even other cultures. Maybe once a month you can cook a meal from another culture and you can study that culture for a week, and talk about that country and you can pray for those people.

Maybe your kids are a little older and you are able to watch documentaries or videos about other cultures. Maybe, this is one I am really looking forward to doing with our kids, is reading books about missionaries and taking different times of the year to learn about missionaries and say, “Wow, look what God did, in this part of the world, and through this person.” You could do that every year too.

Laura:  This is just literally us saying, “Hi, pick a month that works for you. Pick a week that works for you.” “Hi, every spring or right when the kids are out of school or whatever,” these are not prescriptive. Make this work with what you have and the time you have available. Another idea is service. Finding a seasonal volunteer opportunity or for your family to go on a missions trip. Maybe it's just to a neighboring city or you guys go overseas; wherever that may be. Maybe every year you guys try to do some acts of service together.

Emily:  Maybe it's just that you study the same things during the same seasons with your family. Again, like we shared earlier in the show, this is church history, like “Oh, during the month of October we're going to go through the ABCs of the Reformation book with our family.” Or, “Every summer we like to talk through Psalm 119 together as a family.” Or, “We have topics that we discuss: creation, redemption, the life of Christ on earth.” Basically a really good place to look for other ideas is to look at what your church is doing. One thing Laura and I are a big proponent of is don't reinvent something from scratch.

Laura:  Don't make it hard.

Emily:  Look at what your kid is bringing home from Sunday school. Look at what they're bringing home from Wednesday night church. Look at what you're doing on Sunday or in your own Bible study and just build upon that. Let that help decide what it is you're going to get into, instead of coming up with a totally different curriculum on your own if that's really hard for you.

Laura:  I am major advocate that VBS can be part of your seasonal calendar.

Emily:  There you go.

Laura:  Or Backyard Kids Club, whatever your church calls it, part of your seasonal calendar. Man, you got a whole week filled. That's awesome. Now we want to give you guys two quick closing thoughts that we have said this throughout the show. We did not give you all of the hows or all of the right materials or all of the perfect book to execute all of this.

We hope and pray that many of you guys have podcasts clubs where we know you discuss our shows or you're talking about these things naturally with your mom friends. We just hope that you will go away and talk with other women about some ideas. We will link some books or resources on social media and in the show notes.

Part of the fun is coming up with your own unique way of doing things within the life that you are already living. If something stinks, get rid of it. Never be afraid to start and then restart and try again.

Emily:  Pull an Emily; just do a new thing every year.

Laura:  Yeah, [laughter] Emily has no consistency in her life.

Emily:  I'll consistently do something related to the gospel, but other than that –

Laura:  She’ll consistently quit [laughter] and then restart.

Emily:  Mommy is a mixed bag of what she’s going to do.

Laura:  [Laughter] Surprise. I just know that there is so much freedom in this. That there is nothing bound and tied. As Emily did jokingly, but truly said, just keep giving them the gospel.

Emily:  Yes. If you have a little one, remember to start small. Even just build them into your own lives. If you have a baby and you're like, “Okay, so should I be doing this certain Advent reading plan with my baby?” Do it for yourself and get that into your own life. Get that rhythm there every year and then you can build upon it. That's something we've done over the years. What I was doing when my kids were all three and under is really different than what I'm going to do this year, having a six year old, two five year olds, and just a couple of younger children.

Laura:  Those years are important and you are learning so much. As Emily said, do it for yourself. If the baby may not be internalizing every word, hopefully you are learning from just the mere act of trying to live that out.

Anyway, check out our show notes. As we said, we'll have more information in there. We'll be talking about this on social media. We are @RisenMotherhood, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then of course www.risenmotherhood.com is where you're going to find our show notes. Yeah. We just hope you'll join us there all week and thanks for joining us here.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast, please consider joining them at www.risenmotherhood.com/give 


Ep. 110 || Creativity and Motherhood: An Interview with Quina Aragon Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  Today, we’re excited to welcome Quina Aragon to the Risen Motherhood podcast. Quina is wife to Jon and mother to a beautiful two-year-old girl, Jael. Today we’ll be discussing creativity in motherhood, and how being made in the image of God and identified with Christ gives us freedom to cultivate his glory in our everyday lives. Quina is an artist who enjoys writing, copyediting, and creating spoken word videos. You can find more of her work at her website, QuinaAragon.com. Let’s get to the show with Emily, Quina, and myself.

Laura: Hi Quina, thanks so much for joining us on Risen Motherhood today.

Quina:  Hello, thanks for having me.

Laura:  We are super excited to have you on. You are someone that Emily and I have been watching over the past year or two. We’ve seen more and more and more of your ministry and really enjoyed what we see you pouring out and the way God is spreading the gospel through your message and the arts that you create. One thing that we’re really excited about—that we can’t wait to share—is your new book called Love Made, and it’s a children's book.

Emily and I had a chance to have a quick glance at it ahead of time. I told Emily that it made me tear up [laughter]; it was really beautiful work and I just shared it with our audience, so thank you so much. Sorry, that was a big, long [laughter] introduction to tell everyone how excited I am about you.

Quina:  Thank you. Thank God, thank you, and thank you guys for taking a look at that. I am really excited to share that with everyone, and my ministry as well. I was surprised to be reached out to to write an article for you guys; I think it was last year?

Laura/Emily:  Yes!

Quina:  That was one of my favorite articles to write and really think through, and it really blessed my marriage because I was talking about how to cultivate and get a healthy marriage when you have a young one, or when you're new parents. That was actually very helpful for our marriage. I really thank you guys for that opportunity and also the content you guys are always putting out from the podcast to the articles, even that little Facebook post [laughter]. I've seen people sharing that. Yes, thank you guys.

Emily:  Well we want you to be more formally introduced to our listeners. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your family is like, and then what you do?

Quina:  Sure. My name is Quina Aragon, or if you want to be super Spanish you can say Aragón [laughter]—that’s how Jon’s, my husband, family says it. I was born in the Philippines; my mom’s Filipino-Puerto Rican and my dad’s Jamaican. I was raised in Orlando, Florida and ended up going to college in Tampa, Florida, which is not too far—like two hours from there. I now live in Tampa with my husband, and we've been married about four years, and we have a two-year-old daughter named Jael Sophia.

My husband and I serve as small group ministry leaders at our church which is Living Faith Bible Fellowship, and we also run our business which is called Jon Doulos, which is his creative name. He’s a visual artist—he's a designer, developer, creative director for a company called Native Supply. I am a writer and editor, so we sometimes get to work together on some projects. Mostly we do our own projects, but I perform spoken words sometimes and create spoken words videos when I have the opportunity. We’re a little bit all over the place, but that’s kind of [laughs] a little bit about our family.

Laura:  Awesome. That just teased it up right there; by anyone’s standards you are an incredibly creative woman. That’s just something that I know some women feel like, “Oh, I am not super creative,” and then you have your friends who are like, “She is so creative.” [laughter] And we tend to have these boxes that we put people in—either you're creative or you're not creative. That’s why we want to have you talk on the show today because I know a lot of moms—especially if you don’t feel creative—are wishing that you were that creative mom.

We want to dive into what it looks like. Can you help us understand this? Is creativity reserved for just a select few or can anyone be creative? How does being made in the image of God really redefine our definition of creativity?

Quina:  I love that question, because I think it’s important to define what the image of God is in order to understand creativity. As a side note, I always wish that I was the very visually artistic person. I was sharing the gospel with someone the other day and I realized I was making Adam and Eve stick figures [laughter] and the birds were like the ants, so I get that [laughter]. It sometimes feels weird to say, “I am creative,” but I think biblically, the short answer to your question is: no, creativity isn’t reserved to just a select few.

The long answer though means we’d have to define what it means to be made in the image of God, so that we can appreciate the call for us to exercise our creativity in various ways as God’s image bearers. “Image of God;” we get that phrase from Genesis 1:26-27 where it says that God said, “Let us make man in our image,” and man there is like humanity in our image, after our likeness. “And let them have dominion over the face of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Then it says, “So God created man in his own image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.”

That’s where we get the phrase, “image of God” in modern day, and that affects everything we do. I know pinning down an exact definition of that can be a little tricky sometimes. People emphasize the ability to reason and to think, and some people emphasize the fact that we can have relationship with God and others. But when we consider the original audience of Genesis, being the Israelites in an Ancient Near Eastern context that gives us a bit of a more holistic view of the image of God, which includes all of those qualities I just mentioned.

Sometimes that view’s called the Vice-Regency View which is just a fancy word. A Vice-Regent is just somebody who acts on behalf of a ruler, and you see that in the verses I just mentioned there. When God made humans in his image, he's acting like an Ancient Near Eastern King would act, when he would place statues of himself or his image throughout his territory to indicate like, “Hey, this is an area of my sovereign rule, authority, and protection.” Therefore anywhere the king’s image is, so is his rule and his reign.

Humans were here created to be God’s vice-regents or representatives, or partners even, on his earth so that wherever we were when we fill the earth, there is God’s rule in his reign. Which of course necessitates our ability to reason, think, and communicate in relationship. In Listen and Live, the short film we did for the Gospel Coalition Women's conference, I tried to summarize the image of God through poetry. Oh, and I tried to give a quick example; it says, “But Moses says that when God made us, he breathed into dust, a careful craftsman replicating royal image to cover every inch of the earth. Our existence meant partnering with God in his mission to cultivate or to reign and flourish like a garden well watered, a fruitful people, friends with their God.”

The idea in that is that God wanted to spread his image throughout the whole earth to take the temple that Eden was, and basically brought in Eden in a sense, to make the whole earth like the garden of Eden. Or to make the whole earth God’s temple, which should sound familiar to us as Christians because Jesus told us to pray that way, right? “May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So when you think, “Okay, what is God’s mission?” Habakkuk 2:14 summarizes it really beautifully for us, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

That’s what makes Genesis 3 in the fall of humanity and our sin coming into this world so tragic, because when we think of who we were made to be as these image bearers of the King of kings and then we think about how far we have fallen short of the glory of God, even though Genesis 9 tells us we’re still made in the image of God. But we’re no longer these perfect image bearers of the invisible God, and we don’t properly image God. Therefore that makes the good news important for us when we think about creativity or about being made in the image of God. It makes the good news very good [laughs] because God sent his Son, Jesus, the King of kings, who's the perfect image of the invisible God as Colossians says.

He perfectly lives out this Imago Dei; this image of God on our behalf. He takes the just punishment for our sins at the cross, and he raises the life in victory. And when we place our trust in Jesus, we are a new creation as 2 Corinthians 5 talks about. In Colossians it says, “Our new self is being renewed in knowledge after the image…”—there’s that word, “image” —“of its creator.” So Jesus is renewing this image of God in us as Christians, and Romans 8:29 says, “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Therefore, every human being, Christian or not, bears the image of God. But as Christians, we also bear the image of Christ which means that our character’s becoming like his; our affections are becoming like his. But it also means that just like in Genesis 1 and 2, where Adam and Eve were these vice-regents or representatives of God the King, that we now— Paul calls us ambassadors; again, representatives—are image bearers of the King Jesus. He says, “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us will employ you on behalf of Christ. Be reconciled to God.|”

When Jesus is resurrected and he gives his disciples this great commission which means a shared mission—again we think back to Genesis 1 as partnering with God in his mission— he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” which sounds very kingly, right? That’s authority. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always to the end of the age.” In other words Jesus is saying, “I am the King of kings. I am endowing you with power of the Holy Spirit to fill the whole earth with my image by making disciples of all nations. And remember, as you spread my image to the ends of the earth I am always with you.”

We see this kind of come to full circle from the beginning to now being in Christ where we can truly live out the image of God, and be God’s partners as his image bearers, to spread his authority and his glory to the ends of the earth. Which is my long winded version [laughter] of saying the image of God is both who we are and what we do. And if all of that is true, then that means creativity is isn’t specific to just visual arts or the written word.

If we understand creativity broadly as the ability to imagine or make new things, then that means creativity is just one aspect of what it means to be made in the image of God. And if you're made in the image of God which means are you human, then yes, you have the ability to be creative. Or you are, by your very nature, creative because that concept of creativity is related to the concept of cultivating, which we see in Genesis 2:15, which says, “The Lord God took the man Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it…”—“work” meaning to cultivate, serve, even to worship—“and to keep it.” “Keep” meaning guard or protect. Genesis 1 and 2 tells us God makes everything – the heavens, the earth; so there's only one capital C Creator.

But he made us humans in his likeness, which in part implies that we have the ability, and I think the mandate, to cultivate the materials of the earth which God created. And when we do that; when we take what God has made - whether its plants, colors, language, dirt, whatever it may be – and we make something out of it, what we’re doing is cultivating the earth, or in other words, making culture. When I take language and I piece together certain words to make a poem, a book, a blog post, or even a social media post, I am cultivating the earth.

Laura, I remember on one of your podcasts, you mentioned that you love creating new recipes or trying out new recipes. When you take vegetables or pasta, you didn’t make the carrots or the tomatoes or whatever. God made that. But you take what he's made and you cultivate it. You mix it and you heat it in a specific way and it creates something new in a sense—a specific dish for dinner. Therefore you're cultivating the earth in that. So that was my long winded way of just saying no, you don’t have to be a professional creative in order to be creative because you're made in the image of God.

Laura:  I am never going to look at my dinner [laughter] in the same way again. Seriously, I love that. Oh my goodness, this was so good.

Emily:  I am completely noting that over here, and I am swooning because I love that ability to hear something as “simple” or surface level as creativity, and hear God’s plan for it and the gospel in it interwoven all throughout scripture. And then for that to connect to all of the little things we do in our everyday life, whether it is the full craft you're doing with your kids, or a meal that you're making, or the pillows that you're arranging on your couch to make this beautiful space. And that it really intersects with all of the things that we put our hand to when we image God in that cultivating, and making new, different, interesting things. That is absolutely what God does. So thank you for that phenomenal description of imaging God in our creativity.

Quina:  Yes. I was thinking of Elizabeth Elliot, and I’ll just paraphrase. She says something on the lines of, “Even when you comb your son’s hair to bring order from that chaos of his messy hair, you're imaging God.” You're bringing order out of chaos which is very God-like, so yes, in that sense you could be creative too.

Laura:  I love that. Now that we've established literally everyone is creative, [laughter] so no one is off the hook here, [laughter] what if you're a mom though, and you're still feeling like, “Oh, I am just not super creative?” Or you're still in the classic creational gifts, “I am not that creative.” Maybe you don’t think you have a great singing voice, or you're just not the best at chalk art on the driveway, or things like that. How does the gospel apply when we are fearful or we feel discouraged in that area? Maybe we don’t want to engage with our kids in those creative tasks.

Quina:  I think the gospel applies in that. It is humbling definitely to not be gifted at everything. I mean I Peter 4 talks about God’s very grace. So his grace comes in different forms, and I might not be graced to be able to draw birds very well [laughter]. They look like ants for me, which can be embarrassing. But when we’re tempted to fear or feel a little bit embarrassed that we’re not good or particularly gifted or creative at something, it’s important to remember Romans 8:1 talks about, “There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Ephesians 1 talks about that, “We’re accepted or blessed in the beloved Jesus.”

If I know that I am already loved and accepted, then I could blow a creative project [laughter] and my acceptance and my being loved is not going to be changed one bit. Colossians 3 is also good and talks about being hidden in Christ. That was always a very comforting passage for me when I fell into the trap of comparing myself to other people’s gifts—whether they have the same similar gifts as me and I think they're just better, or they had different gifts that I wish I had. It’s important for me to go back to Colossians 3 and remember I am hidden in Christ, and that means that God sees me, loves me, and accepts me as his child. Coming out of that, you're able to take risks or even just to do silly things [laughs] with your children that you might not be good at and you can be secure at the same time.

Laura: I literally make a new recipe almost every night. I never make the same thing twice. Very rarely.

Quina:  That’s amazing.

Laura:  I don’t know if it’s amazing or crazy, but it’s something that people are always like, “How do you find new ones all the time?” I think for me there's no fear of failing in the creative process and I attribute that much to the way that my parents raised me, of feeling like mistakes are a part of the process. Mistakes are going to happen, so let them happen because you're going to grow and that means you're making progress.

Often we look at like, “Oh, I didn’t draw that very well.” Or, “No one can tell it’s a dinosaur.” Or, “I am not going to sing during family quiet times, because I just don’t like the sound of my voice.” Realizing that it doesn’t really matter how you perform in those things because part of it is just that, you're going to get better as you try things. And that’s the beauty and the growth as a Christian and in our spiritual life, and even in the things we engage in day to day. But also that we don’t have to fear failing especially when these things aren’t sin issues; these are things where we have freedom to fail and to try new things, and it’s kind of just getting out of your comfort zone and being okay in that space.

Quina:  And I would tell you, I wish I grasped that when I was a little kid. And I see it in my two-year-old daughter; that I am a recovering perfectionist who Jesus is constantly humbling and reminding me [laughs] that I run on grace and not on my performance. I see it in my two-year-old, like her personality; she doesn’t want to try things in front of people if she might fail. Just little things and I am like, “Oh man, how can I raise her in a way to think—like everything you just said—that “you’re free to fail in these areas because it’s a part of the learning process and growing, and you're secure in who you are in Christ?” That’s such a helpful thing to know and I am learning that still as an almost 30-year-old. [laughter]

Emily:  Something we all need to keep learning. And on the flipside of that, there are people who really enjoy traditional creativity. I know that Laura and I both really enjoy writing, for instance, and there have been seasons of motherhood where we felt like, “Oh we don’t necessarily have the super valid outlet for it.” Or like, “I don’t know at what point I can call myself a writer,” and maybe there are people out there who can relate to that. “I don’t know if I can call myself an artist or if I have to have this certain outlet for that.”

What would you say to a mom who may be mourning and confused about what it looks like, in her role of motherhood, to be living out these gifts that God has given and walking in this type of creativity? How can she continue to magnify God’s beauty right where she's at in her season of motherhood?

Quina:  I like that question. First, if you are that mom I really feel you, [laughter] because this last year for me has meant a lot of new creative opportunities that are pretty much in line with my gifts and passions. But the years before that it felt completely confusing for me just because I didn’t have as much time or opportunity to really exercise the gifts God has given me, in the ways that I am now. But really even now with these opportunities, I am still not able to do half of what I’d like to do with these gifts. I don’t work fulltime; a lot of time is spent taking care of my two-year-old which is a blessing in itself. But I feel like there are always like five concepts in my mind that I really want to execute and that [laughs] I still can’t get to. So I feel you first of all.

And then secondly, it’s been helpful for me to remember that seasons are seasons, and that a chapter in a book isn’t really the whole story. Therefore in this season of maybe young children or whatever the season within motherhood it is for you, it’s a season. Our main goal in every season is to know Christ in that season and to make him known. It does make me think; before I had a child I was working for three years at a hospital in an administrative job and in my mind it really had nothing to do with my passion or burdens or giftings, but I just needed to pay the bills. That was the only door that God really opened for me at that time.

The verse that can be comforting for mothers—it was comforting for me and convicting—was Philippians 1:12 where Paul being under house arrest is saying to the Philippian church, “I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” This man was under house arrest; he wasn’t working a 9 to 5 like I was, but he could still rejoice that his imprisonment served to advance the gospel. That’s convicting just because there are times, and I am not saying motherhood is the same thing as prison [laughter], I am saying that—maybe some people think so [laughter], I don’t think it is; I think it’s wonderful—but there are ways where you are limited as a mom to be able to exercise the fullness of your gifts and crafts and all of that.

But just asking yourself, “How can this limitation still be used by God in my intentionality to know him and to make him known?” I think also praying very specifically for opportunities to cultivate some of those gifts. Actually with Love Me, the book you looked at, I had originally done an animation video for that and one of the pastors at my church saw it and he's also an English poet. He pulled me aside and he was like, “Hey, I am telling you this was exceptional. What are you doing with this gift?” I proceeded to give him a list of excuses like, “Well, you know, with motherhood, dah, dah. I am not famous or have money so people don’t necessarily run to me when I have opportunities because I can’t really pay them a lot. I usually end up spending money to do these things.” [laughter]

I gave him my list of excuses and he just listened, nodded his head and then said, “Have you prayed about it?” and I was like, “Well, no, I can’t say I have.” I think that really pushed me to pray, pretty specifically, that God would help me have opportunities to use my gifts. I have seen this year a lot of answered prayer with that, and I am not saying it will always look the same for everybody. But there's definitely a call for us to pray for those opportunities, and if God doesn’t change your situation tomorrow, could you consider how you might seek him in this season and make him known still.

Emily:  A really helpful way to look at it is that these limitations are also ordained by God, just as Paul was in prison glorifying him and spreading the gospel that no matter what circumstances we have, God is shaping us into the image of Christ because we depend on him. He is providing a lot of times, even small opportunities, and that when we are faithful in those small opportunities that he gives us, and even in unseen and quiet places, and we’re glorifying him in the little tasks or doing with our children.

I know whenever my kids were really young, I’d put together a few little books for them that we would talk through. And they were literally bound, had staples or something, and [laughter] a horrible clip art in them. But it was just that way and I am like, “I don’t really have time. I am not running children's books for everybody else right now, but I can write something creative for you and instructive for you.” I think a lot of times those things are available to us in some form or another; it’s just a matter of seeing them and putting thought to it.

Quina:  That’s good. That’s challenging for me because I need time to think in my own sphere of influence, which obviously, my closest sphere of influence is my child, [laughter] and wanting to disciple her, and that means sacrificing. I am just being honest; sometimes I look past her and think like, “How can I serve the king? How can I advance God’s kingdom?” And then she's sitting right there and it might not look like how I would have wanted it to look or how I think I am geared or created to be creative. But I have this little two-year-old, so I could exercise my God-given creativity to serve her and to point her to Christ, or to help her thrive. So yes, that’s really good.

Laura:  And we talk to so many people, so many women have been on the show, or Emily and I have talked to them in their private life, and countless women have said, “The little years, the hidden, unseen work, that’s what prepared me for greater ministry later.” They were saying that those are the years that God was cultivating in them the patience, the long suffering and even the thoughts—that he was challenging them in their thought process and revealing sin issues and teaching and growing them.

So many of those women, wouldn’t you say Emily, they’ve all said, “Those little years when I felt like I was suffocating,” or like, “I couldn’t live out my calling in the way that I wanted it to be displayed.” Looking back and hindsight being 20-20, those were very special years of growth for them to where it prepared them for mission. That’s something that we get. Yes, we feel you. I feel like motherhood cramps my style all the time with professional [laughter] endeavors; it’s one of those things where we have to say no to a lot of things so that we can say yes at home. But hopefully some day, that leads not necessarily public or famous or whatever that may be, but a different type of ministry when we have more time. I think that these years are more precious than we give them credit—for not only our children or babies, but also for our own hearts and what we will someday do.

Quina:  Amen. That’s really good. The verse that comes to mind when you say that is Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men. Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” There's two motivations there—one is that we get to serve Jesus by changing poopy diapers, [laughter] whereas we may preferred to be speaking on a podcast or something in that moment. But you're serving Christ; that’s one motivation.

The other one is that knowing that from the Lord you'll receive the inheritance as your reward, there will be affirmation. For all that you do in faith, to the glory of God, including the most mundane, boring, or poopy situations [laughter] that you're in—the tasks that you have as a mother. That’s comforting. None of it is wasted on the Lord; he sees even what's done in secret.

Emily:  Totally. We don’t know what he's going to use or not use for “big things,” so it’s pretty presumptuous of us to think like, “I don’t know if it’s going to be that silly spiral bound book I made when my son was three.” [laughter] It was bad; Laura’s seen it [laughter]. Or it was something I did publicly. It could be that the little spiral bound book “did more” in a sense, and it yielded more. We just don’t know.

So as we close here, could you share a few ways that your family incorporates more intentional creativity into your daily rhythms? As we know, both you and your husband are probably naturally more traditionally creative, but I feel that’s inspiring and encouraging to those of us who want to walk in this and be more aware of how we can image God.

Quina:  That’s good. When we think of being creative as a family, we like to pray about and consider creative ways or different ways to encourage each other, our daughter, our neighbors, our friends, or our church members. That means may seem really simple, but I found in my marriage, as well as my friendships, that when I am really praying intentionally and specifically asking God, “Please show me creative ways to encourage this person.”

It’s not that I write every person a poem, although I've done that sometimes. But I really do feel like God places them on my heart in a specific way where I think like, “You know what, this person needs this specific thing,” or, “This person will be very encouraged by this specific thing.” And I do believe that those are answers to prayers for creative ways to encourage each other and others. That’s the basic thing that comes to mind. I also appreciate taking prayer walks. Especially when my daughter couldn’t walk, this was very helpful; putting her in the stroller and letting her sit there. Take walks and using that time to pray instead of thinking of it as, “I need an hour on my knees,” which I didn’t have usually because she was with me. Then sometimes, though not as much as Laura, [laughter] I do try new recipes [laughter]. Not nearly as much as you [laughter].

Laura:  I love that so much. I love all of those tips and they are really easy ones for women to incorporate into their daily lives. I hope everyone tries a new recipe this week; [laughter] we’ll just put it out there. And be creative; image God and be creative. Quina, thank you so much for being on Risen Motherhood today, we truly appreciate it.

We want all of our listeners to check out Quina’s new book. We’ll show you a little glimpse hopefully on social media this week, and if it’s available for preorder, we’ll definitely let you know. It comes out in February of 2019, but it’s called Love Made, and it is a beautiful book. Lots of Quina’s creativity went into that, so we’re really excited about this book. Of course, we’ll have lots of other things on our show notes about Quina and her work, so you can find it on her website and on her social media handles from there. Check out the show notes and thanks again, Quina.

Quina:  Amen. Thank you guys. Love you all.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast, please consider joining them @risenmotherhood.com/give

Ep. 109 || Ask Us Anything! Fall 2018 Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast please consider joining them at risenmotherhood.com/give

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with my sister in law, Laura and today is our bi-annual Ask Us Anything show. We do one of these in the fall and one in the spring where we just gather questions from our community and have a little bit of a longer show, which people ask for from time to time.

Laura:  Buckle up people! We're feeling very chatty today. You should have heard us before we started recording. 

Emily:  Exactly. First off, we just want to let you guys know that tomorrow we are having a flash sale.

Laura:  We are so excited. This is sort of the moment I feel like Emily and I have been waiting for, our team has been waiting for, and you guys have really let us know that you are waiting for this. You guys have been asking us for T-shirts and mugs and other paraphernalia and we are finally able to be in a spot where we can open a shop. It'll be a kind of a quick flash sale type of thing. We only ordered a limited quantity so we’ll basically run the shop for a few days, Lord willing, until it sells out. We have really cute tees.

Emily and I are wearing them and they're adorable. We wear them pretty much every day, so definitely check them out. You can see the designs. There are all sorts, so no matter whether you like cursive, cute handwriting, straight lines, or the classic arm logo, we have every type of style for you hopefully to meet whatever you prefer. We are working on mugs while we’re recording this, so we’re not sure if we'll have the mugs. So we just want to let you guys know that we have this awesome shop and we hope you guys will go visit.

Emily:  Now we're going to dive right in. I already gave a little bit of background on this but whenever Laura and I are curating these questions, we go through and we try to look for what were some of the most commonly or frequently asked things. We try to think about things that we don't have a show on but we’ll link everything in the show notes for you because your question may be on our site, on a post that we did with either some type of answer or some resources that we’ve provided for that, so if you don't hear your question today look there.

Laura:  We've answered a lot. We've had like four Ask Us Anything shows. We've answered a lot of these questions and as Emily said, there are a lot of shows that really go in depth. You probably don't even want your big heart question answered here today, because we won't go into depth. So you can head to the show notes and we'll link as much as we possibly physically can for the hundreds of questions that come in. We do try to figure out if we haven’t answered it, how can we point you to the right resource? Head to those show notes.

[3:37] Emily:  All right. Let's dive right in. This is a light-hearted one to start. Minivan or SUV, Laura?  What kind of car do you use for your family?

Laura:  I don't want to talk about my car; I want to talk about Emily’s car.

Emily: Oh my.

Laura:  Not car, that thing is a tank.

Emily:  Giant van. Last year we purchased a giant nine-passenger conversion van.

Laura:  It is so hilarious because my kids will see delivery trucks and be like, “It's Aunt Emmy!” 

Emily:  It's been really awesome. It's actually been a pleasant surprise but the story is really cool. Laura wants me to share on here because it is a big answer to prayer and the story’s going to include some details that I don't typically share on the show—so just take them in stride with the rest of the story. After our fifth child was born, all of our kids and their car seats were growing out of the current van that we had so it was an option to get one of those minivans with that third middle seat—

Laura:  This is what I drive, a Honda Odyssey basically.

Emily:  Because you can just pack those car seats in.

Laura:  That is a classic mom car. Every parking lot I roll into, it’s like, “Which one’s my van? There are 55 of the same one.” There's my answer for you to this one.

Emily:  That was one of our options and that would have worked, but if you've heard the gospel in family size/family planning show, you know we wanted to have a larger than average family, potentially have more children. We were like, “We’re just going to go for it.”

Laura:  They were committed, you guys.

Emily:  We were going to get the big van and we did. As time went on, our son’s developmental delays, became more significant and we started to realize that this was going to be a really long-term journey for our family. It was just a lot more difficult. It kind of started to change our plans for our family size and we got to this point where we felt like, “I think for now, unless God changes our hearts, we may be done having children.”

At that point I was driving around this massive van around town feeling like, “Lord, why did we get this big van? Because you’ve really changed our plans for a family and we could have done something different.” I brought that up to my husband and literally that same week we took my son into a doctor who told us he’s going to need a pediatric wheelchair. He's not going to be walking independently for a long time and even if he can walk a little bit, he’s going to need a transport wheelchair for a very long time. 

That was obviously very hard news, although we’d already had a seed of doubt planted. That day I walked out of the appointment and I flung open the doors to the side of my giant van and you guys know what was right there? A big spot that was the perfect size for a pediatric wheelchair. I just lost it and in that moment, those times when God just gives you special comfort and reminds you, “I already know what you need before you know that you need it. I am a billion steps ahead of you, I care about you, and I’m going to be with you through this process.” I think so many of God's promises came flooding back. Now we drive around a big van with five kids and a perfect spot for a wheelchair in it and it's just been a tremendous blessing for the family. That's my van story. 

[7:25] Laura: That’s why I wanted her to answer because I wanted you guys to hear that and just be encouraged. I am definitely an emotional person but that is a legit tear-jerker, amazing story of God's providence and provision for Emily's family. The next question we have is, “What is it like living with your parents, Laura? Any tips on clashing with parents?”

Emily:  For those of you who don't know, Laura moved to Iowa at the beginning of last year and she's been living with her parents, my in-laws, for how many months now?

Laura: It's nine months, right now. I have the recording. It’s been a long time.

Emily: It's been fun to watch the process because whenever I ask either Laura or my in-laws about it, everyone just says it's been a really great experience and they're all getting along and it's been great. So share your tips Laura!.

Laura:  You guys have heard me talk about my parents. I do really think the world of them and I think honestly, living with them has been great. I don't say that just to honor them as they listen or anything but because it's true. I think I'm ready to be at my own place for sure. We should be in in a few months so I don't want to act like, “I'm just going to camp out forever with them,” but one beautiful thing is we do have our own space. My parents live in a really gigantic old school house so there is a lot of space and as far as what kind of logistical things have worked well for us, we definitely had a talk before we moved in and talked through stuff like, how are our finances going to work? How’s the living situation going to work? Whose roles are what? Generally, without spilling all the details, I think the biggest thing that you have to figure out is food, right?

So we talked through I'm going to be making all the food. Mike and I—my husband—are making sure that the pantry and the fridge are always full. I think because meals are just the biggest part of the community in a home and everyone has to eat. We also talked through common grandparent thing like gum or what happens when they ask you to do something. What's the authority chain?

That was really helpful to lay some ground rules. Generally, I always say I try to live like my parents don't live here, meaning I don't expect them to babysit. It's not an assumption for me. I pick up the toys; I don't expect them to do that. I cook the food. If we need food, I make the food. I answer my kids’ questions even if they're directed to my mom or someone else, I try to intervene and protect my parents. I assume that I want to live in a way that doesn't expect them to help me but at the same time, I also live as my parents do live there.

I remind my kids to have inside voices, no jumping on the couch or other rules that my parents appreciate that maybe I wouldn't necessarily mind in my own home, but because I want to honor them. We definitely shuffled some things around and I make sure that I am enforcing those and I don't expect my own parents to enforce those things. I grew up with my parents and so I know how they live and I think that is an advantage. If I were living with maybe my mother-in-law, who is another wonderful woman, I could see more tension with a daughter and a mother-in-law.

Emily: I know what you mean.

Laura:  I could see that being more difficult. I also think that that's advantageous for us but we chat about things. If something's bothersome we bring it up, not in the heat of the moment but we do address it so there aren't things that are just festering that's really important. My family is a just a big communicative family and we always believe the best to one another and that has really really helped.

Emily:  It's been a joy to watch you guys do that and I know we had my parents live with us for the first six months after my twins were born. They moved to Iowa and we lived in a very small space together with actually my brother as well. It was a trying time not because of living with each other was hard personality-wise but just because it was a lot of people together and a lot to manage, but when I look back on that season I am so thankful and I think, “Wow, I really needed their help during that time.”

It was just a joy and something that I think overall was a great privilege for both of us to be able to help each other out in that way and then come out of that season with a really strong relationship on the other end. Good tips.

[11:40] Laura:  Good advice. Emily, do you use essential oils? This was a big time asked question.

Emily:  Yes, it was. No, I do not. I did buy a starter kit years ago when it was first becoming popular so I don't know if I just didn't do it right—I'll take the responsibility for not being able to figure it out—but it wasn't that effective for our family. I also feel like my husband wasn't on board. He kind of teased me about it, which was totally fine. I haven't really looked back after that. I do still use lavender sometimes.

Laura:  It smells amazing.

Emily:  Epsom salts or bath bomb are awesome. I still use it for that sometimes when I'm trying to go to bed but I am so happy for those of you who do use them. Seriously, if you use essential oils and they work wonderfully for you and you love them, two thumbs up.

Laura:  I would say I'm definitely similar to Emily. I have a lot of friends who love them, swear by them, think they're amazing and that is awesome, but it just wasn't for me. It's just not something that we've ever really gotten into. I don't even know if I've ever spent any money on them.

Emily: I’ve tried to be given the samples.

Laura:  Yes, you probably have. We probably have some samples. They seem really neat and they do smell amazing. 

[12:54] Emily: All right. The next question is what do you think about forcing your child to hug grandma and grandpa?

Laura:   We could even just expand this to anybody who asks for a hug. This happens all the time. I have stories of random people coming up and trying to hug my kids. People dote on them and use physical touch. I think that there's definitely a lot going around that the experts would say, “Hey, you don't really want to encourage any unwanted physical contact,” so we always want to show caution and step in.

I think that's something that I've learned is to be brave and be willing to step in and redirect the person or whatever. The biggest thing we do with our kids is that when we walk in—whether it's a grandparent they know well or a great grandma or somebody else—we’ll say, “Hey, do you want to give a hug, a handshake, or a high five?” and just saying it in a fun and friendly voice gives kids the option. If they want to just high five, then that's totally fine and if they want to run in for a big hug, they can do that too. I think that that's been a helpful way to avoid unwanted touch. Obviously, it doesn't protect from zero touch at all but especially if someone you know and trust but your child is not really into it, it's a pretty great thing.

Emily: I feel that's an element of using discernment and wisdom. As a parent, I think you can kind of look at your child and say, “They’re really genuinely uncomfortably, they're afraid.” I don't want to force them to hold someone or touch someone if they don't want to, but there are other times when you can tell your child is just being a stinker. It’s a very safe great grandma that they could give a high five to. I think that’s that type of situation it just takes mom and dad's awareness and knowing what to do there.

Laura: You can prep your kids before you go and especially like if it’s a great-grandmother in a nursing home, where your child's being more nervous because the environment is different, but I think you could certainly prep them and say, just to be polite, you have the option to do these things and talk it through with them. I think that's always really helpful.

Emily:  I like that as an opportunity to talk about why we may greet someone that way—

Laura:  Yes, what’s respectful?

Emily:  Yes, and for them to explain why maybe they don't want to greet someone that way.

Laura:  Totally.

Emily:  Great conversations. 

[15:19] Laura:  All right. Oh, this one's a fun one. This is the most asked question both the last Ask Us Anything, which we didn't answer it, and this Ask Us Anything. You guys want to know what our Enneagram numbers are.

Emily: All right. Stay tuned for this entire answer because there's part one and then there's part two. Part one is our Enneagram numbers. Laura, do you want to share first?

Laura:  Okay. I am a one. I used to think I was a three for a really long time. I tested positive for three. That sounds weird. On the free test, I kept getting a three and I would get a one as my runner-up. It wasn't until I was listening to a podcast about the Enneagram—and I will link to it in the show notes because then you can all go listen to your own numbers—that I just felt like they lifted up something inside of my soul and saw right inside of it.

I was bawling in the car as I was listening because it hit on every fear or sin issue, every little thing that motivates and drives me, I felt like, “Oh, this is terrifying how accurate it is,” how known I felt which, I think is—what we'll get to a little bit later and talk about—why we like things like the Enneagram.

But ones tend to have a very strong sense of right and wrong, they want to improve the world using any influence they have. I think that they believe they can change the world. I believe that I can change the world, and not in like a big-headed way because I believe Emily can change the world, I believe you listening can do it as well. I believe in people. I believe that one person can make a huge difference and that was like a core belief for me, and it's something that typically a one will take everything they have and throw it at whatever it is. For me, I think its Risen Motherhood. And I'm really huge on honesty and fairness.

Ones are supposedly super hard working people, they're big on stewarding resources really well. The downfall is it can seem kind of intense at times, but we’re also people who don't get afraid of hard things. Adversity sort of energizes me and if something is kind of hard, I'm totally okay with it. I could go on and on.

I feel like we all like to talk about ourselves a little bit so I can stop there, but I know that one of the hardest things that I struggle with is having a lot of personal high standards and I can put them on to other people and expect them to meet those standards or feel hurt when they don't meet them. And with that fairness aspect, I really like to justify my actions. I want people to understand I came from a good place and I am trying my best and so let me tell you the 15 million reasons why this is the decision that I made. Anyway, that's kind of the nutshell of me about one.

Emily:  I am a seven and Autumn, our Content Manager, wanted me to tell you that apparently, the Enneagram princess for that is Ariel.

Laura:  Oh, and the one is Belle which I love. Books! Books!

Emily:  Which I can relate too, because she's always in her little chamber of all her little treasures and she's like, “I want more!”

Laura:  Floating around! That's Emily. Oh, my word. Trying to pin that girl down. 

Emily:  I am a seven and I'm not sure if I have any wings. I haven't looked into that. This is information from  a free test. I also think there are aspects of the seven that I don't relate to. I don't think I'm that person in the room that's super loud and boisterous, cracking all the jokes all the time and—

Laura:  But you're funny when you don't mean to be—

Emily:  When I'm sneaky.

Laura:  See! Stuff like that. What? Okay, Ariel.

Emily:  I think that is maybe true of the Enneagram. It’s not going to clearly define us but the thing that I do relate to is the description of the deeper motivations. When I look at the same patterns throughout my life, one thing that sevens struggle with is trying to find ways to avoid pain and discomfort. If you've listened probably to any of the shows, you've heard me talk a million times about how I don’t really want to do that, that’s kind of hard, that’s kind of uncomfortable, that makes me squirm a little bit.

How can I do something that's fun or new or exciting? I’m the type of person who is going to be pouring my time, my energy, my resources into new and different experiences whether that's intellectual experiences or relational. I love to have as many options and possibilities as possible so I'm going to keep everything open, it makes me a little sick—

Laura:  No commitment. She hates commitment. I’m like, commitment or die!

Emily:  What's funny is, that doesn't apply to my marriage for me or my kids. That doesn't scare me at all. It's more like, “I don’t really want to put that on my calendar because then what if something more fun comes up?”

Laura:  I know. She’s like a toddler.

Emily:  And I’m already committed to this. Those are the types of things that go through my mind and I think I can struggle with being scattered. Because there are so many things like I'm kind of a little bit good at everything, I’m a little bit interested in everything, it can be hard to hold that in and really focus that towards something productive.

As you can see from Laura and I explaining this, we’re different, and one thing I would say that's been helpful about the Enneagram—we took this as a team at Risen Motherhood—was to see where Laura and I have some potential pinch points in our relationship and where we actually help each other and can strengthen each other in the areas where we may need to just be more understanding. We need to remember that that person is literally just thinking about this differently than me, and that doesn't mean that they're sinning or they're wrong and I should actually step back and see if their perspective could be helpful, and is maybe something that I need to hear.

Laura:  For Emily and I, it’s definitely almost every time that we've had a disagreement or just discord within our relationship, we’re coming around and saying, “I think we're saying the same thing but we're going out at different ways or at the heart level we want the same thing it's just we're displaying that differently.” It's been helpful as a whole team to see but then also especially I think Emily and I’s professional relationship.

We want to talk about this more. We were thinking about doing a whole show on personality tests at some point down the road but with the Enneagram stuff or any type of personality test, I think for both of us, we never want to get too deep into it or too defined by it—even though I was expressing to you guys that the one I felt like they understood me, the guy that was talking on the podcast. Ultimately, we can't really be known or defined by any personality tests. The only one that can know us fully is Christ, so I feel like we need to drop that little truth bomb in here. We try to always not get too wrapped up in personality tests or descriptions or Emily being Arial or me being Belle. I mean, those are really fun things but-—

Emily:  But not ultimate things. I think for me the experience was: week one was like, “Oh wow, this is so interesting, cool, new and exciting,” and then week two was like, “Okay, there are some helpful things here. I should consider this,” and then week three was, “I'm really navel-gazing and I'm taking my eyes off of scripture and off of God, and I'm starting to get down this path of introspection and getting into all these other resources.” For me, that was very unhelpful and that was a point where—I actually haven't looked into anything Enneagram related since then—-it was too hard for me to keep my eyes on God and his sufficiency and the fact that God's word gives us everything we need for life and godliness in Christ. So I actually don't need a personality test to tell me how to be like Christ or how to repent and follow him.

I was reading a totally different book the other day and in it was describing a way that they used to categorize personalities hundreds of years ago and was based on your bile. Have you heard this before?

Laura:   Like your stomach bile?

Emily:  Like your blood. And they thought if you had a melancholy personality or a happy personality it was based on your bodily fluids. We would look at that today and be like, “That’s crazy!” I'm just saying keep it all in context.

[23:54] Laura:  Next question. How have your husbands been a part of Risen Motherhood?

Emily:  Very behind the scenes. They're not on the podcast.

Laura:  They’re not writing articles. 

Emily:  Both Laura and I have husbands that work jobs completely different than ministry-related jobs. My husband is in property ownership, development, and management. Although he loves God and the gospel, his bent is not towards this type of ministry. But I feel he's really partnered with us by just I think laying down so much of his time and energy to just really help me and by being a co-laborer at home. Literally cleaning, cooking meals, grocery shopping, waking up with the kids, just being with them sometimes while I have to prep or travel. I really appreciate whenever we were looking into the book, he was the first person to be like, “Emily, yes you have to do this. You absolutely should do it. What can we do to make it happen?” He is definitely big on boundaries and he is not impressed by me—

Laura:  Neither of our husbands is.

Emily:  Hopefully you take that in the right way like, yes on one level he is but another level he sees me and he's able to help me evaluate things. But overall I would just say he's been sacrificial and that has allowed me to do this.

Laura:   My husband is probably very similar. He's really good to ask me how it's going and to celebrate the good things that God has done through it and praying for it. I'm the dreamer and he's much more steady and stable. I call him the sieve to my dream. He definitely filters them, but especially when it comes to Risen Motherhood, he has been so incredibly supportive and—I should have asked him—but I know that he's really, really proud of the work that we do here.

He just loves the work that we do and he's proud that we’re able to participate in this and he sees all of the behind the scenes working. He knows how many hours go into this, he knows the frustrations and the sadness, and the wonderful good things that happen too. He's just been my rock through all of it, and I know I couldn't do it without him. And he also, as Emily was saying, is not being impressed.

He always jokes with me like, “You're never going to get a big head, don't worry about it, you live with me, I won't ever let you.” That’s been really good. I am very appreciative that we have husbands that know how normal we are. I always say to other people who I've met in real life or with Risen Motherhood, I feel like anyone could do this. God could have picked anyone. We're just trying to be faithful in the little bit that we know but there isn't anything special about Emily and I. Truly, we want you to know we are co-labors with you guys in this and that we are not better moms than you, or smarter, or wiser. We’re just two regular people that are thinking and attempting to apply the gospel to our daily lives and thankfully our husbands see that and they're also very encouraging of it.

[27:06] Emily:  You can attest to this next one Laura but we have this one a lot. Do you wrestle with the influence you have and how has the Lord guided you in this?

Laura:  I would say yes. 

Emily:  Majorly struggled. Laura and I did not get in this to have a platform or to be influencers. We got in this to share the gospel and to learn and grow and to be faithful to the next thing that God was leading us to do. I feel like the influencer, the platform or whatever has kind of been a surprise or it wasn't something that we were striving after.

For me, I think it can feel like it's a thing that always has me on my knees and it's something that God has used to show me areas where I have shame or idolatry that I need to deal with and place my worship and my identity more fully in him, so that I can trust in his gospel and in his word to go out and do the work and for me to continue serving in whatever capacity that is. Oh! It's really hard though.

Laura: As I said, I definitely struggle with the normalness of who I am and I feel like I'm not very good at this, I'm not cut out for it, I say too much. If you could hear me in real life, I tend to be very free with my words and probably more open and overshare naturally, and I worry about saying something untrue but then when I have to think about my words and I think about them too hard, I kind of get tongue-tied and I feel like I can't find this balance.

I'm continually praying for God to allow me to articulate the gospel really clearly and concisely for you guys but to also do it in a personal and relatable way, and that balance has been really hard for me. I think the more that I have come to know God and know about him, I realize there's so much more for me to learn and there's so much room for error and that's terrifying.

It's paralyzing really because we don't want to mislead anyone nor do we want to speak untruths, but it's that reality that we're human and unless we're God, we won't deliver the message perfectly.

We're kind of conduits, we’re vessels that he's using and we're thankful that he is faithful. We can trust that but we also know that we are very fallible. It's such a precious message that we really want to be able to handle it with care, and I often don't feel that I am able to treat it as delicately as I should.

We have a really neat team around us. We have people praying for us, we have our husbands as we mentioned, lots of people supporting us who are willing to call us out, who have called us out, and who have helped us. I think another little twist on that too would just be figuring out what to do next year or the year after. We're in the season of raising young children and there are so many opportunities to say yes to and there are so many ways we could go, there are so many new products we could take on, and there are so many ways to continue to grow in notoriety.

Emily and I have talked a lot about the value of a quiet life and the value of simplicity and how someone who is very faithfully working at home with no blog, no podcasts, no online presence is doing more for the Kingdom, or could be doing more for the Kingdom, than what we're doing. It may be a surprise someday how things pan out. I think we wrestle with how much time to put into things, how much to say yes to things and often we’ll say, “Just because we're saying no doesn’t mean we’re saying no enough.” Figuring out how often to say no has been hard to and to wrestle with “Hey, Is the opportunity now? Is it going to pass and I’ll never get it again?” I don't think that’s true. We don't think that's true.

Emily:  Absolutely. I think for somebody out there who really wants to grow or “I’m going to be satisfied once more people like me or my Instagram account grows or my following is more impressive,” and you start to  say, “Okay, I'm going to start to do some of the popular things online in order to get there.” Just know that no matter how many followers you have, as two people who've seen their follower count grow, you always want another follower.

It will not ever be enough unless you are fully satisfied in Christ and in what you have in him in the quiet life that you have. Also I would say influence and notoriety or fame or platform or whatever word you want to use, there is a sourness to it and don't believe that that is worth chasing after. If God gives that to you in the midst of sharing the gospel faithfully and that's just part of what he does to grow it, then that is what God does. But it's definitely not something that I would say chase after or get excited about because it comes with a lot of responsibilities and things that are more difficult as well. Laura and I have had to grapple with some of these.

We're very grateful. I don't want to sound like we're not grateful. We are very grateful to be able to share the gospel with so many people, but also I am thankful that God has both Laura and I in a place where I am literally wiping a bottom a million times a day. Kids are burping on me and I'm helping my child who can't talk.  There are real struggles in our lives and those things help keep our eyes on Christ alone.

[33:14] Laura:  That was kind of a heavier one. We can go on probably forever but will go to the next question. We get a lot of marriage questions with Ask Us Anything all variations but most of them culminate to this very important question, “How do you do date night in your marriage? How do you strengthen your marriage in the busyness of littles? Do you go out? Do you do at home date nights? What does it look like?” Emily’s a little bit passionate about this topic right now.

Emily:  I don't know why I’m on this. Maybe because I'm in a season we’re just—

Laura:  I'm full board in support of this so just buckle up ladies!

Emily:  I think we’re in a season, we both are, where if date night is the indicator of how our marriage is doing, we’re all failing but I think we want to talk about this. Date night is fine and we're going to come back around to that—

Laura:  And we have addressed it. We have talked about in a couple of our AUA shows. We will link it for you so you can hear. I don't think the answer has really changed from like a year ago or something but we're taking a different angle, probably more mature Risen Motherhood angle this time.

Emily:  In Christian culture, it feels like whenever marriage comes up, the very next sentence is something about date night. It's something Christian couples are like, “Oh! How do we get this on the calendar more?”  But I think one thing that's been helpful for us in this season is to remember, what is our marriage actually founded on? Because God's word is true for all people, for all of time, and not all people for all of the time have been in cultures or in situations where there's this idea that you go out to dinner at the restaurant or you have these romantic outings with each other, you travel, or that you're at home together and—that's again not to say it's not important, but—we have to remember God's word equips us to have a healthy marriage that doesn't necessarily include our modern Western idea of having time together as a couple.

Laura:  I think that we all think that our marriage will be enhanced or better or our communications problems will be solved if we get out on a date night. If we just have that alone time with our husband, then our marriage will be better or we’ll feel loved or there will be romance or all of those things. Ultimately, date night isn’t the end in and of itself and we can tell you to do at home date nights, we can tell you to get out, we can tell you take a yearly vacation. All of those practical tips are really true and they're really helpful, but we also want encourage you to not have an expectation that a date night is going to transform your heart or your husband's heart or change the marriage.

Only God does that work and he can do it in the little years with no date nights and months and months on end of your husband traveling—maybe he’s in the military, maybe he travels for work, and there is literally not even an opportunity for date night, but God can strengthen and transform that marriage. If you want a changed marriage more than planning a date night and saving for a babysitter or whatever that may be, start with praying for your marriage, with reading God’s word, with serving and loving your husband right where you guys are at in the daily grind. That is ultimately what is going to change your marriage. It’s not just a night out where you get to wear wedges. 

Emily:  Which is super fun!

Laura:  I never wear wedges even on a date nights.  Flats is where it's at for me. I don't know why I said that.

Emily:  I think it's just good to remember, what is this marriage founded on?  Even in the little years, even when we're exhausted, even when we don't feel this big spark of romance, it’s founded on a covenant—the solemn promise that we made before God and before others that we've promised to uphold. It's just a reminder that it’s not built on a romance. It's built on this promise and additionally, the purpose of our marriage is to be this picture of Christ and his church, so that the world can see God's glory. Yet we do this as we have passionate outward affection for our husbands. Sure, we make time for one another but we also show the world this beautiful picture when we're loving each other well in the every day, when it is hard and it takes perseverance, and it takes working together and laying down our lives.

That can be a way, just the mundane everyday faithfulness, that we fulfill that purpose. Hopefully, we’ll do a show on this in the spring and get into this a little bit more. I don't know. We'll put it on our list, but we just want to encourage you for the mom who is very stressed out about the date night: it is a wonderful, joyful thing but look for how can you strengthen your marriage today in the everyday grind. If date night isn't on the horizon for a while, what does it look like to have time for sexual intimacy with your husband—we actually answered that on another AUA show—to serve him, and just show him that you enjoy him, and that you're collaborating with him for the sake of the gospel right where you're at today, and praying that God would give you that strong marriage?

Laura:  Sorry if that was a rah rah answer, but hopefully you're more encouraged than just hearing about our tips and tricks but if you still want those, we totally get it. Head on over to the AUA show. That will be linked in our show notes.

[38:34] Emily:  All right. Next. How do you introduce or encourage a toddler to pray?

Laura: This is a good question. Generally, we would say model it in front of them. Be doing it at the standard traditional times; meal times, before bed, when they're struggling to obey, when you’re struggling to obey God, when mommy messed up. Just show them what a life of regular prayer looks like. Feel like you can use real simple language with them. “Dear God, thanks for this food, Amen.” Whatever words they have, if they've got ten words, “Thank you, God.” That too is prayer. Remind them that they can talk to God anytime. That’s something that especially with my five and three year old we talk about a lot. It's just like talking to me. They can tell God if they're scared or if they're worried and ask him for strength and protection, they can tell God if they're happy or excited about any birthday present or something upcoming, and they can also tell God if they want to see something happen like, they don't want to be sick anymore. We talk through a lot of those things. “Talking to God is like talking to mama so you can do that anytime even if mom is not there.”

Emily:  That’s exactly what I would say.

Laura:  Okay. No more tips. What do you think?

Emily: I think if you're modeling it and doing it in front of them, it's a normal part of their lives and then it's very easy to just say—

Laura:  “It’s not scary”—

Emily:  “Repeat after me.” I think all of our kids that can talk can pray independently now and it's not because —

Laura:  We did anything intentionally—

Emily:  Right. They just watched what we did and probably the time they can talk, we've been asking them to, “Hey, why don’t you pray for us for dinner tonight?”

[40:41] Laura:  We were in the car yesterday and there was a storm and right away my son was like, “Let's pray for God to protect us on the way home,” and it's just because we've done that before. One time, there was literally a tornado not very far away. We were driving home and we prayed that time, so I think he picked up on the one time we did it. I liked this question. I have a hard time explaining image bearers to my young kids. How do you do it?

Emily:  There's a lot of ways to do this—and as with any big theological concept that we're presenting with the kids—one little idea and then building upon that over the course of a long period of time. This isn't probably, “Let me present to you the concept—

Laura:  Hey, three year old.

Emily:  Although I would love to try to do that.

Laura:  Emily probably has.

Emily:  I did try that. I think it's good to keep that long view in mind so as we're giving some these answers, remember this is—

Laura:  Built over years. 

Emily:  I'm still trying to figure out what image bearer means, but one way to start the conversation is pointing out the way a child looks like their parents, even if you have an adopted child or foster care child, even explaining, “Look, we both have hair and eyes and hands and God made us both people,” but for your biological children, even saying things like, “Our hair's the same color. Look, we both have freckles, we both have brown eyes.” Reminding them of a time, “Has anyone ever stopped you and told you, you look like Daddy, you look just like your Mommy,” and just making that connection that parents have similarities to their children and often times, children kind of look like a miniature example of their parents. So we can just explain that God our Father in heaven created humans to image him too, right? We’re not exactly like him, our kids are not exactly like us, but we're similar so when people see us, they're supposed to see this little picture of what God is like.

I even think of this in terms of character qualities. “Hey, when you're out at the park or you're at school and you’re behaving in a certain way, people think you're representing our family and what we're like and what we value and how we talk at home, so you're kind of a little picture for people; a little representation of what the Jensens are like.” Obviously, these analogies break down, but I think they're helpful initial connections to give kids when you're starting this conversation. Another thing we did recently, when we had a kid that was lying to us, is talking about the difference between God and Satan or you could use the serpent in the gardens. What did God do? He was a creator, he was kind, he provided things, he made life, he loved beauty and relationships, and he told Adam and Eve the truth, he helped them do what he asked them to do. What was the serpent-like? My kids know the gospel story. This is where this constant stream of discipleship—

Laura:  She’s building on the foundation she’s already laid.

Emily:  They already know the story. The serpent was a liar, he was sneaky. 

Laura:  He’s a trickster. That’s what my kids call him.

Emily:  He was encouraging them to do bad things. He wanted people to die, he wanted to destroy people, and he was making beautiful things really ugly. Then we can talk about how God made you to be like him. He wants you to love the things that he loves and he doesn't want us to be like that sneaky snake who is destroying things and making beautiful things ugly and lying and manipulating people. Obviously, we can use kid language in that.  I think that is another perfect way to say, “But you’re not imaging God all the time, are you? You don't look just like God, what are you going to do about that problem?”

Laura:  That's why we need Jesus. A perfect way to share the gospel.

Emily:  There you go. Those are just some examples of conversations we've had. It comes out a lot in discipline conversations. It’s when it comes up a lot for us.

Laura:  I would just say, don't over complicate it either. Kids learn the meaning of words all the time without you giving an explanation. They are just sponges picking up everything that you're saying, so if you're using that word in regular conversation, as in the context of God's word and with Jesus and with all of those things—yes they may at some point ask for explanations or there may be really appropriate times for you to just naturally segue into one. I’ll also just say, “Remember you're an image bearer of Jesus and so go out and show people what Jesus looks like,” and that's as complicated as it gets.

I don't understand the full way of being an image bearer, he probably doesn’t either, but he knows, “I want to act like Jesus at school,” and it's just a quick friendly reminder. And over time, those truths are built in our heart and as we've both been saying, just recognizing that these big concepts are things that yes, even a young child can understand but the depth and weight and breadth of them are learned over years and years of Christian life and study and maturity. Allow your kids to be kids too.

[45:50] Emily: I think that transitions to another question. Somebody talking about starting catechisms with their 18-month-old and saying that they found themselves getting discouraged so they're asking, “Am I having too high expectations when my toddler can only say nine words?” Building upon this answer is, yes. I understand this question, because I thought this when my oldest was young. It’s wonderful and I do not regret an ounce of energy that I spent trying to teach him vocabulary words and help him memorize the gospel, those were all good things. Now that I'm a little bit further ahead, not much further ahead, I realized that his language, his output was not meeting my expectations. I would never discourage a mom from starting with those things, that's fine. Have high expectations for your input but as far as their output goes, if they can only say nine words, they're not going to build or repeat their catechism back to you and that is okay.

Laura:  Think of it as practice for yourself. I remember those first few years with my son at home or even my son and daughter, when they were too young to really speak very much, it was really, really good practice for me to say, “I love these books,” and get out all the jitters. You need years—speaking of how long this takes—years of learning the gospel language, learning how to turn into something that a two-year-old can understand, learning how to gather the supplies that you would say, “Oh, this is how we would like to do  family quite times in our home.” They don't have to look like Sally Smith over there; they can look like this in our home. These years, they matter, but don't expect the output, as Emily keeps saying, to feel gratifying. It’s probably not going to.

[48:07] Emily:  We have some shows about this. Another thing we're doing, in addition to giving that knowledge, is being a representative to them of what God is like in his love, in the fact that we're trustworthy and we’re caring for them and we’re nurturing them, so I would definitely keep a lot of focus on that too. All right. Next question. How do you approach Santa and other non-advent type Christmas traditions?

Laura:  This is a question, funnily enough, we actually get year around. People are thinking about Santa in June, which is hilarious to me but it's a good question. It's one that we were asked a lot. Emily and I without talking with one another, without really saying, “What are you going to do?” we have taken sort of the same position on Santa. This is something that we want to say: first off, do your own research, talk with your husband, make your own decision for your family. We are speaking here about what our personal families have decided. There are a ton of opinions about Santa, which is why we have not tackled it head-on in a show or something because we feel like Christians all over the board have really taken a lot of different stances on Santa and I feel maybe we’re in the middle. I don't even know, but for us, Christmas is about Christ. During Advent, during Christmas, our family doesn’t really incorporate a lot of Santa. It's not that Santa is off limits, it's not that Santa is a dirty word.

Emily:  Don’t say Santa!

Laura:  He's just another—I want to say fairy man but that's not true. One of those things. Fairytale?

Emily:  Yes.

Laura:  He's just another character in storybooks. We are not anti-Santa, but we're not necessarily pro-Santa. Our kids are raised knowing that Santa is a really fun make-believe thing and he's a lot like the cow at Chick-fil-A.

Emily:  It’s like Winnie the Pooh.

Laura:  Yes, Exactly.

Emily:  Totally. That's how we approach it as well, and we’ve even talked about Santa originated like a real person. There's actually some really neat stories that you can then tie back into the gospel, but as much as possible, we take Christmas as an opportunity to focus on Christ and then Santa stays like the fantasy category like the Mickey Mouse category. For us he's not a threat. He can show up in a movie, he can show up in a storybook, he can show up at the mall, and we honestly don't even take our kids to see Santa at the mall but if we did, I’d be cool.

Laura:  We have a picture with our kids with Santa because he was free and we were at this Christmas thing. I'm was like, “Cool and my kids crying really hard.” 

Emily:  He looks like somebody dressed up as Santa.  Like the Santa character—

Laura: It’s like a mascot—

Emily: Yes, like a mascot.

Laura: The cow and Chick-fil-A. That’s where I was headed with that.

Emily:  That's how we treat it. The next question that we always get whenever we say this is, “What do you do about your child spoiling Santa for other people?” I will just say, for us, we have never had that happen but before when we’ve gone somewhere, if I know that we're going to be in that situation, I've just told our kids, “Hey, please don't make a big deal about Santa or don't talk about Santa.”

We just have a conversation beforehand but I assume if that ever happened, I would take my husband and I would talk to that parent and take responsibility for it. I cannot control their language completely, but that has for us been more of like a hypothetical fear and not something that we've really seen boots on the ground. In fact, the biggest issue we've had is adults questioning our kids. When an adult says, “Well, what is Santa bringing you for Christmas?” and they're like, “Huh? Grandma and grandpa get me presents,” and the adult is actually the one who's offended even more, so we've never really had an issue with the kids.

Laura:  My mom had Santa spoiled to her when she was a little bit older in school, which is why my family did not participate growing up, because she did not want that devastation for her own children, just to give another perspective which was really interesting. I was raised without Santa. Emily, were you raised with or without Santa?

Emily:  We did Santa when I was young.

Laura:  I wasn't because of what I just mentioned, but I always appreciate—and this is what my mom did and kind of how we’ve handled it with our kids that are verbal—that we talk about how Santa is make-believe, but some parents handle it differently but it's the mommies and daddies decision to tell their child when they want to that Santa is just pretend. That Santa is actually mommy or daddy.

We talk about, “Hey, when you talk with a friend just remember that that's their mommy and daddy's job, that's not your job and you wouldn't want someone to spoil something for you.” I mean, as Emily said, I've never had an issue. My son has been around a lot of kids that do believe in Santa and families that do practice Santa that are dear friends of ours, and I don't even know what he does, at least we've never had it come back to us. I’ve even asked him around the holiday season “Hey, have any of your friends talked about Santa?” and he'll say yes and I’ll ask how the conversations go and he’ll go, “I didn’t say anything.” I think kids are fairly mature.

If they get the concept of Santa at a deeper level a little bit then I think they can also understand that that's not something that they need to share.

Emily:  Totally. I think that brings up a good point. My parents said Santa with me and overall though, Christmas was about Christ. Even though I believed in Santa and Christmas presents showed up from Santa, when I look back at the course of my whole childhood, that's not what stuck in my mind. Like this was the meaning of Christmas.

Laura:  It didn’t ruin what truth is for you. There are a lot of things out there. I think we see merit in different arguments so you’re not going to get in a position on whose right because we may have opinions a little bit further than this but generally what we wanted to advise you on is let's all not make it such a big deal and talk with your husband and handle it.

Emily:  Okay. Next one. Also, this is how you handle the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny—

Laura:  Any follow-up questions, just so you know, all those are fairy-

Emily:  They all fit in—

Laura:  I don’t call them fairy people. What are they?

Emily: They are make believe characters.

Laura:  Holiday characters. I think that that is our last question. We had quite the range of emotions going on in the show. We cried, I yelled, I think. Oh my goodness.

Emily:  Seems like a typical AUA. AUA is Ask Us Anything. I just realized. You guys are smart. I think they’ve figured it out.

Laura:  All right. Well, as you heard us mention about the show notes about 400 times, but we definitely hope that you guys go over there and visit them to find a lot of relatable links to this. We will be answering a few additional things, I think on stories at some point, and prior to this being released, there are some roundups that have been released. It'll all be at the landing page of the show notes so that's really what you need to know. We will link show notes and if you don't know what they are, head over to our website risenmotherhood.com. Click on the big gigantic podcast button and then you'll see the image for the show right on that page and you can click there. Show notes are basically just a a landing page for each individual show for all the links and the resources that we mentioned. That’s it. Oh my goodness. All right.

Emily:  You persevered to the end.

Laura:  Persevered to the end. Head over to social media to find us @risenmotherhood on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and we'll see you guys next week.

Emily:  See you. 

Ep. 108 || How Do I Disciple My Children? Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I have my sister-in-law, Emily, here with me. We’re super excited today to talk about a basic question in motherhood, but something that seems more difficult in practice, and that is, “How do I disciple my children?” But before we get to that, we want to ask you guys for a quick favor.

Emily:  If you have not done so already, we would love it if you guys would consider leaving a rating or a review on iTunes. It takes five minutes or less, and it’s actually a huge blessing to us. We read all of them, and they really help other people find the podcast on iTunes, so if you're enjoying it, definitely head on over. We have a tutorial in our show notes if it’s seems hard to do or if you feel like, “I don’t know how to do this,” you can head on over there and see how to do it.

Laura: We’re going to start off today talking about our personal fears when it comes to the terms “discipling our children.” Emmy, you want to kick us off and tell us a little bit about what’s hard about discipling our children?

Emily:  I just worry that I am literally not clocking enough minutes talking about Jesus-y things [laughter]. So I get to the end of my day and just feel like, “Oh, did I spend enough time getting down at their level and explaining things in light of the Bible and in light of the gospel?” Or, “Is my example maybe communicating that I love something more than Jesus?” Yes, that’s bad [laughter]. If I said enough things about Jesus, maybe my life looked differently.

I guess in general to sum that up, it’s feeling like, “I am not enough; I am not doing a good enough job at this. What is the line? No matter how much discipleship I do I feel like I've not done enough?” There you go; not enough [laughter]. What about you Laura?

Laura:  Oh, very similar, but a little tweak on that. Clocking the number of hours is definitely a very true fear, but also that I’ll say something wrong. Theology is so complex, and the deeper and the more that I learn and get into it, I feel like I know how much room there is for error. So when I am trying to bring those truths down to my child’s level, I get so twisted up inside that I can hardly even speak about it. Or I just feel frustrated that I can’t articulate it in a way that I think is both clear and theologically sound. Therefore I become sort of ineffective in that way.

But I definitely would agree with you Emily; it’s just a base fear that I am not doing a good enough job, or that I am not doing it well, and that they're not going to become Christians just because I am not doing my role right.

Emily:  It’s all my fault.

Laura:  Yes, exactly. [laughter] 

Emily:  Which is a really common underlying fear for moms. And when we get a lot of these questions about discipleship at Risen Motherhood, the questions have a lot to do with time. Like, how much time do I need to put in to be discipling my children? What do they learn organically? What do I need to teach them? When can I start? (Particularly for moms that have babies and toddlers.) We’re just wondering what the first step is. Then people wonder about things like, “How much is my job versus the church’s job versus my neighbor’s job, or whoever?” Also, we’re wondering what are our sins and failures doing to our children in our effort to disciple them?

And finally, what kind of resources do I need to make or buy or own or craft? [laughter] What activity do I need to be coming up with in order to disciple them? These are all questions we get on a regular basis. And we experience those questions too.

Laura:  Totally. We get it. And we want you to hear that you’re not alone in this question. I think every Christian mother in the universe is asking these same questions, but we want to demystify it just a little bit and talk about is, “Hey, what really is discipleship?” kind of like Discipleship 101 for moms. We also want to give you guys hope in the midst of this and what has been found hopeful and truthful for us—we want to share that with you. So let’s just start with defining what is a disciple. What does a disciple mean?

Emily:  Yes, my little vocabulary mind was thinking [laughter] “Oh, there's a disciple noun, and then there's ‘to disciple,’ which is more of a verb.” Thinking about it in terms of a noun, a disciple refers to Jesus’ followers in the New Testament; we see it as a wide reference, like, “Any person who is following Jesus.” But also we hear him referring to that 12 small group of people as his disciples.

In general, disciples were, again, people who learning from him how to follow God, how to love others, and how to share the gospel; so, people who were following him with an intent to learn something.

Laura:  And sometimes these people were religious or they were wealthy. And sometimes they were really lowly people; the unlikely people, unqualified, uneducated. But all of the disciples recognized one thing, and that’s their need for grace. They knew they didn’t have the right knowledge or they didn’t have all the abilities. They had things that they needed to learn and the ultimate goal for them would be to be sent out to go and make other disciples.

Not that they were just stuck to Jesus’ side—although that happened often—they were with him, following him in all sorts of settings, but also that they would eventually go out and duplicate those efforts by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Emily:  And one thing that is really interesting when you look at the disciples is that it was difficult to tell the true disciples from the false disciples. Some people followed Jesus around all the time and they looked like they were learning from him and doing things in his name. But even Jesus acknowledges, “Some people are doing things in my name,” but we’re going to find out later that they were not authentic. We also know that Judas was in his tribe of disciples and he turned from Christ. Therefore, it’s just something to keep in mind that on the outside sometimes it can be hard to tell who an authentic disciple really is.

Laura:  Then if we move to ‘disciple’ the verb— to disciple—this is having someone follow you around and learning from you about obedience to God and sharing the gospel with others. The biggest key in some of the observations we find about discipleship in the New Testament is that it’s through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who equips, transforms, and produces any good fruit out of someone who is discipled.

Emily:  We also see it strongly tied to the local church, and what God is doing in a church body, as all of the members are coming together with their different gifts, abilities, and resources, and helping one another follow Christ and perpetuate the spread of the gospel.

Laura:  And really, “to be disciple,” you’re learning by watching and by doing, so it’s a lot of exposure. It’s doing life together; its being in relationship and we see that, as Emily mentioned, in the local church. This is the primary mission of the believer—to disciple others.

Emily:  That’s kind of a fly-over of discipleship in general, because it’s important to know what it is we’re actually talking about here. But as we were going though that, hopefully that pinged a lot of things in your mind like, “Oh, this sounds a lot like what we’re naturally doing in motherhood as we have these little people coming alongside us, living life with us, learning what to do and how to live, and most importantly, how to follow God as they are living life beside us.”

Laura:  So as we shared previously, a lot of these disciples were uneducated and unequipped, and it’s very similar to our children. They come to Jesus in need of grace, and we are in need of grace ourselves. We feel unequipped and unqualified for the task ahead, but God gives us the Holy Spirit that produces the fruit in our lives, to do the discipleship work that he's asked us to do as we grow in maturity and obedience to him.

Emily:  I think much like we've talked about culture—how we all have a culture in our family—the question is not, “Do you have one?” it’s, “What is it and what is it communicating?” We’re all discipling our children in something because they're following us and learning from us and figuring out how to live. The question, therefore, is what are we discipling our children in? We hope it’s the gospel [laughter].

Laura:  We hope it’s the gospel, and if you are like us, you are hoping that that is the gospel. Although sometimes, like Emily and I shared at the beginning, we’re like, “Oh, what are we discipling to them?” Just wanting to make sure that that’s what it is. But let’s just talk through the actual gospel to get a little bit of gospel hope on this topic.

Emily:  In Genesis in creation, we see God give Adam and Eve this creation mandate, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” And then in the new covenant we see that modeled as Jesus is saying, “Go make disciples. Be fruitful, fill the earth and multiply these disciples and teach them to obey God.” It’s kind of this mirror image, as you can see. This is part of God’s design for humanity—that we would multiply image bearers and everybody would be worshiping and giving glory to God.

Laura:  Of course—and you know where we’re going with the fall—we cannot live out the Great Commission perfectly. Now we have divided affections and worship, and we’re hypocritical in the things that we say and the things that we do. We deny Jesus in moments of weakness, and we lack faith in God’s plans. We experience a lot of those same things that we saw the disciples in scripture experience. But with restoration, we know that God works through our weaknesses, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we depend on him through his word and prayer, and we stay in community with the local church.

Emily:  And we can be hopeful because some day he is going to complete this work of discipleship by conforming us fully to the image of Christ, and we will reign with him with our brothers and sisters forever. Ultimately it’s not up to us to complete that work or to have done it perfectly, or be enough because for those who are in him, he is going to cause us and our children, who are in him, to persevere to the end, and we can have hope in that. The next question is, “Okay, how? What do I do in order to live this out as a mom?”

Laura:  There's an easy answer and a hard answer, which we’ll talk through. The easy answer is just live faithfully as you can as a disciple of Jesus in front of your kids and bring them alongside you, in whatever you're doing. For example, you’ve heard us say all these things on the show, but if you're praying, have them pray with you. If you're reading the Bible and they ask questions or they want to know what you're doing, have them sit and read with you. If you go to church, bring them with, and if you're serving others, try to include them in the way that you're serving them.

If you need to repent, do it in front of your kids; show them what it looks like to confess your sin and to repent in turn and follow Jesus. There are so many ways; it’s just natural that whatever rhythms that you're doing as a believer, those are things that you just want to naturally bring them into.

Emily:  But the hard truth is that we don’t always live as faithful disciples, and so there's nothing to bring our kids into if we’re not living that out ourselves. That really is where the challenge and the struggle and those feelings of failures come in, because we are all humans. We have these dry seasons, and we are not faithful in doing that each and every day.

We therefore thought we would give a few practical tips as this gospel-minded approach to motherhood and discipleship if you're feeling like, “Yes, I am not faithful and I want to continue to grow in this. What do we do next?”

Laura:  The first thing is to invest in your own relationship with God. The primary thing that we can do is to have an authentic relationship behind closed doors. If your kids are going to do as you do or to follow you, it has to be a reality in your own life. This is something that Emily and I have talked about so often in our own relationship of the dry seasons, “What do you do in those?” Or the parts where you feel like God isn’t as present as normal, or you don’t feel like there's love and devotion, and you're not oozing love for God.

Emily:  One thing that can be hard is as we go through transitional seasons or times when schedules are busy. I know something Laura and I have experienced is where you wake up in the morning and you are met with urgent need after urgent need. Pretty soon you go a few days, and hey, you're surviving without God right at your side, or at least that you're perceiving him to be right there. That then turns into weeks and maybe that turns into months for you, and there can be this awkwardness that develops. Then you feel like, “Oh well, I haven’t been meeting with God. I haven’t been intentionally worshiping or intentionally talking about these things.” How do you break that and change and repent and go back? That’s a reality that a lot of us face in the early years of motherhood, especially.

Laura:  It’s so true and it can feel, like Emily was asking, “How?” The answer is far less complicated than we want to make it out to be [laughter], because I even remember saying to Emily the other day, “I don’t really feel like reading my Bible,” but I know the answer isn’t to stop reading my Bible. I know that the answer is to get back in to God’s word and to live by faith and to trust that dry seasons will change into seasons of fruit and redemption and sweet seasons of relationship with God. And just knowing that that’s the ebb and flow of the believer’s life. I think too, continuing to invest, as I was saying, in your faith. Even though you may not feel all of the emotions, you're still reading theologically sound books, listening to worship music, singing worship songs at home, and praying to God. The answer is to just keep doing what you're doing and to keep living life as a believer.

Emily:  And that shame or that wanting to pull back is the Adam-and-Eve-in-the-garden thing happening in our hearts, where they sinned against God. And their response was, “Okay, I am going to go and get away from him now so that I don’t have to be near him.” We have to remember the gospel in that moment—that Jesus has paid for that and he's absorbed the wrath so that we don’t have to go hide in the bushes away from God. We can keep going back to him, and that’s really hard to feel that that’s true, but we have to keep remembering it, like Laura said, and live by faith.

That brings us in to point two which would be remain connected to a community of believers who love God and are faithful to his word and are saturated in the gospel, because they're going to help in this endeavor. So yes, kids follow their parents and are discipled by them, but they also watch and learn from other adults too. This may be grandparents or teachers, great friends of your family, or church leaders. It is a good thing to immerse them in a life of people who love God and know him and follow him.

Laura: The last one would be, as we said previously, pull them alongside you. Whatever you're doing, keep involving them. For some examples, this is where that investing in your own relationship with God overflows. Therefore if your kids interrupt you in quiet time, that’s okay. Let’s not have a fast and hard rule that’s like, “Mom sits and reads her Bible over here and the kids have to play there and not speak to her.” Well, I think that’s appropriate [laughter] in some situations, I won’t lie.

Let them come down next to you and draw with you, or read their own little Bible. Bring them with you to church; even a baby. This just shows them what the regular rhythms of a believer look like. And just having regular conversations with them; often if I am not careful I miss a lot of opportunities to disciple my kids in an intentional way verbally. What I mean by that is that sometimes my kids will say something that seems a little bit off and I am like, “I don’t think I say so or talk like that.”

Instead of telling them, “Hey, don’t say that,” I may ask them, “Hey, where did you hear that?” or, “Why did you say that? Do you know what that means?” Often this opens a really good door for us to have a deeper conversation about what certain words mean, why certain people say different words. And I found that to be one of the most helpful ways for me to have really intentional conversations with my kids through things that are naturally happening in their lives.

Emily:  And this little bonus point here [laughter] is we need to look for ways we can fill in the gaps. In the New Testament, we see Jesus pulling his disciples aside and he's almost providing this extra commentary for them like, “Okay, here’s what happened. Let me explain to you in detail what this meant.” Although they were still left wanting [laughs].

But he challenged them, he rebuked them sometimes, he looked for ways to reconcile and help them. Therefore, for our kids this may look more like family Bible reading time or a specific morning prayer time every day or doing specific service projects together with the intent of explaining why we do service. This may be a little bit more formal sometimes, because we see a gap where we need to explain something really clearly. Catechisms would be another example, but I know for our kids, even with movies and stuff, sometimes I’ll show them something—I am not talking about something ridiculous or extreme—but something that’s a little bit pushing my boundaries because they really want to watch it. I’ll sit with them and we’ll pause and talk about things like, “Okay, this is a great example of a time I can provide commentary and say, ‘Hey, I’ll just compare it to what we’re learning in the Bible.’”

Laura:  That’s a really good one, and there are lots of creative ways that moms do this. Talk with your mom friends and see some of the ways they’ve set up opportunities for learning. We hope that this has been an encouragement to you today. We have a lot of other shows, resources, and articles that have been written on this subject and we will link all of those in the show notes.

Head on over to risenmotherhood.com, there's a big old button called “podcast” on the top right you can click on and easily visit all of our show notes for all of our shows of all the time. Check us out on social media; we’ll be writing more about this topic this week @risenmotherhood.com, on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And as Emily mentioned at the beginning of the show, we’d love it if you had time to give us a rating or a review over on iTunes. We’d really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast, please consider joining them @risenmotherhood/give.


Ep. 107 || Grace in Discipline: An Interview on Faithful Motherhood with Elyse Fitzpatrick Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily:  Today, we’re excited to welcome Elyse Fitzpatrick to the Risen Motherhood podcast. Elyse’s interview is part of our series “Faithful Motherhood,” where we’re talking with women whose children are grown about how the gospel has impacted their motherhood over the years. These are not meant to be prescriptive interviews for how to do motherhood, but just a glimpse at one woman’s unique walk and lessons she's learned as she's lived out her calling in the Lord.

Today we’re talking with Elyse about what it was like to be a first generation Christian and what pressures and fears she faced as a young mom. She also opens up about what she wishes she would have done differently. Elyse holds a Certificate in Biblical Counseling from CCEF, San Diego, and a Master’s in Biblical Counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary. She's authored 23 books on daily living and the Christian life, many of which you can find on our resources page at risenmotherhood.com. Let’s get to the show with Elyse, Laura, and myself.

Laura:  Hi Elyse, thanks so much for joining us on Risen Motherhood today.

Elyse:  Thank you, I am glad to be here.

Laura:  We are super excited. Emily and I have been reading your books before we became mothers, [laughter] but one of our favorites is Give Them Grace. We love that book, and so it’s just a delight to have you on and to get to speak with you, because I know so much of your work has shaped us as moms and as women of God, as well.

Elyse:  Thank you so much. I am really glad to hear that.

Laura:  To start us off, can you give us a little picture into what your life looks like today – how many children you have, what your days look like? Give us a little glimpse into the life of Elyse.

Elyse:  I am almost 68, and what that means is I am an empty nester. I have three adult kids and six grandkids. All three of my kids live near us in Southern California because, I mean, Southern California. [laughter]

Laura:  Exactly.

Elyse:  Why would we leave? My kids and grandkids all live about 20 minutes away from us, so we get to see them a lot. What I do during the day, when I am not going down to watch one of them play some sort of sport [laughter] or something like that, is I write. And just generally pester my husband. [laughter]

Laura:  I love that. I look forward to being retired and pestering my husband. [laughter]  

Elyse:  It’s the best.

Emily:  You have really shaped us in our ability to think in a gospel-centered way. That’s something you have a real gift for and have really benefited the church at large­—your ability to keep us focused on the cross as the most essential piece in that, and our behavior and living flows out of that as we honor God. Therefore, as we were thinking about someone to talk about motherhood, we were like, “Oh, our show is all about the gospel and motherhood, so of course we want to hear about what you’ve learned related to that.”

Can you tell us a little bit about your early years of motherhood—where you were living? Were you involved in any kind of work or ministry commitments during the little years of raising children? Give us a little picture of what that season of life looked like for you.

Elyse:  I am glad to do that. Let me back it up a tiny bit though [laughter] and just let you know that I was not raised in what we would call a Christian home. My mom worked outside the home and my parents were divorced. When I became a Christian, which wasn’t really until right before my 21st birthday, I had made some sort of decisions about the kind of mother I was going to be. Basically, what that meant to me at that time was that I was going to be right up in my kid’s business all the time. [laughter]

Laura:  Sounds like a lot of us. [laughter]

Emily:  I know, that sounds familiar. [laughter] 

Elyse:  It wasn’t really her fault, but it was just the way things work out, but my mom was really pretty much an absentee. But starting in my early teenage years—again, Southern California—I fell into a life of debauchery and unbelief. Then just before my 21st birthday, the Lord saved me; really at the time of the Jesus movement in California, and I made the decision that I wasn’t going to be like my mom. I was going to be really involved, and I was going to make sure that my kids were Christians. I came into my marriage to Phil—Phil and I have been married about 44 years.

Laura:  Woohoo!

Elyse:  Well, proves that there's a God [laughter]. I came into the marriage; I already had a little boy, James, when Phil and I got married, and we didn’t have a lot of money at that point. We both wanted our kids to get a Christian education, and this was really the beginning, in some ways, of the Christian education movement.

I got a job teaching in Christian school so my kids could go to school. The primary reason was so that I would get free tuition. I did that for a number of years—maybe six or seven years total—but then when our middle child, Jessica, was in sixth or seventh grade, which was right at the beginning of homeschooling. It was the beginning of the homeschool movement in Southern California, which makes me sound so old. [laughter] Honestly, the primary reason I homeschooled was I didn’t think that I was able to  control what they were learning enough, even though they were in Christian school.

I want to hear that there's this overriding motivation that I had that I was going to make sure that my kids didn’t live the kind of life that I lived. Therefore I thought like, “Alright, I can’t control what's going on in the middle school and experience even in Christian school.” I decided to homeschool, and at that point, there weren’t a lot of people who were homeschooling. There were some, so I was able to join a co-op and all of that sort of business, but I was I was pretty much on my own as far as all of my friends and everything were concerned.

I homeschooled them, and I am sure that there are women who listen to your podcast and think like, “Oh, homeschool.” I’ll just be really honest; every year it was a, “I don’t think that I am going to be able to do this again.” That’s how I spent my time; basically I was focused on trying to make sure that my kids were not going to live the kind of life that I lived.

Laura:  That’s something so many of us can relate to, whether it’s in schooling or just in how we control their diets or what they wear or what they're involved in. So Elyse, can you walk us through how you discovered that fear and your eyes were awakened to it, and how God met you there or transformed your mind to have gospel hope in the midst of those challenges and that desire to control everything in their environment?

Elyse:  Let me talk about kind of the bad fruit that came out of that. What came out of that was, anytime that you try to control any other human being, you're going to end up either feeling sorry for yourself or angry or proud. That’s really the only way that it’s going to go. Some people probably know Jessica Thompson. She's married, she’s a Christian writer, and a mom. Joel is a pastor in the PCA.

They’ve turned out well, but they haven’t turned out well because of me. This is my primary message to the women who are listening to this today, hoping that somehow they're going to hear maybe a secret to having kids who grow up and are in ministry. I mean, we can all see our kids being the pastor, and what I want to say is it was just the grace of God. It is the grace of God that they will even talk to me at this point because quite frankly, I was very controlling and when I saw them doing things that I didn’t like, I was angry and demanding. Or, I felt sorry for myself. Or, I was angry with my husband because I didn’t think he was doing everything he ought to do.

Laura:  Yes. It’s easy to blame the other person. [laughter]

Elyse:  Absolutely. My husband, Phil, came out of a Christian home, but they weren’t crazy like I was [laughter]. Phil was really the normalizing influence in the home. Whereas I would have been the person that would have been really controlling about everything, Phil was not that way.

We ended up doing a lot of really fun things with our kids and, primarily, that was not me. That was actually Phil. His desire to make childhood fun for the children has had a huge benefit in their lives. I watch them now and how they are with their kids, and they're all about having a good time with their kids. That doesn’t mean that they don’t discipline or aren’t serious—they totally are—but I had to ask them to forgive me for the ways in which I tried to make them into being Christians and really never gave them grace.

So yes, we wrote that book. We wrote Give Them Grace, but it wasn’t because that’s what I did with them. It was because I was beginning to see that the gospel was really central to the Christian, which is a funny thing to say because you would think like, “Yeah, duh.” [laughter]  But no, it really wasn’t. When I became a Christian, I was thrilled about the gospel, but then it became all about me and how I was supposed to get the bus down the road.

That’s what I did with my parenting. Therefore with my kids, I have apologized and asked for forgiveness from each one of my kids for the way that I rode them because it was all coming out of my fear—the fear that they would do the kinds of things I did.

It really wasn’t all that; I mean to be honest here, yes I really loved them, but what I wanted was my own righteousness. I wanted my reputation as a mom to be good because I am trying to make up for the fact that I was such a train wreck. It was really all about trying to approve of myself and get other peoples’ approval that I was a good mom, and my kids were going to make that happen.

Emily:  One of the reasons why we wanted to do this series—about faithfulness and motherhood from women who are on the other side and have grandchildren now and can look back—is so that moms who are listening and who are at our stage with young children can hear there isn’t a formula, and it’s by God’s grace alone. I think we want a formula; I feel that in myself. I could describe myself like that a little bit [laughs]—before I was saved at 20—like a train wreck, and I look at my kids and think, “Okay, what can I do to make you not do what I did?” [laughs] Then I’ll pursue that versus going like, “No God. How are you asking me to parent them with grace and entrusting them to you?”

Regardless of what decisions they make, I am not in control of that. I just want to be faithful to what he's asking me to do and not parent in a reactionary way. I think so many young women can relate to that and need to hear this word that’s so hard it makes you want to stamp your foot a little bit. Of, aarg, there isn’t like, “Just do A, B, and C and your kids will be protected or turn out a certain way.”

Elyse:  And every mother who's listening to this knows that when you're called on to perform in a certain way, it’s not a wonderful thing. I used to take my kids and parade them in front of the pastor [laughter]. I swear to you. And make them tell the pastor the verse I taught them. Quite honestly I know now that well, yes, did I have a desire for my children to serve Christ? Of course I did. That was the way that I baptized my idolatry.

Laura:  Elyse, can you walk us through then what you would have done differently? If you could go back and have a do over, how would you train your children now? And how would you direct them in the ways of the Lord? How do you separate your own messy motivations with desiring from a pure place for your children to know and love the Lord for their own sake and their own relationship with him?

Elyse:  Let’s take your last question first [laughter]. You're not going to have pure motives, so let’s settle that. There is not a person on the planet aside from the Lord Jesus who ever had a completely pure motivation. Therefore you may look at your children and say, “I really love them and I think my motive in loving them is good.” Well, it is good. That’s good, but it’s never going to be pure.

We therefore don’t want to spend a ton of time trying to figure out, “Is this pure? Is this not pure?” Just assume that part of what you're going to do is have a selfish motivation. You’re going to know that you have that by the way you respond when they fail. You know what your motivation is not by spending a lot of time trying to figure out your motive, but actually by looking at the way that you respond when they fail.

If you get overly angry, if you feel sorry for yourself, or like you just want to give up—and everybody feels like they just want to give up sometimes— but I am talking about that, “Okay, you guys just do whatever you want. I am tired!” That [laughs] kind of response is going to tell you.

Here’s another way you can know—when you walk into church and here’s the Von Trapp family [laughter]. I used to say the Duggars but I don’t say that anymore [laughter]. Here’s the Von Trapp family; all of the little kids are dressed perfectly and they're all perfectly obedient. There's the husband and he's just perfect and you're supposed to be the perfect mom. They sit so sweetly during church and actually take notes on the sermon and all that sort of business. When you look at that family and you're jealous, then you know.  

Or, here’s another way; when you look at a family that’s a train wreck—the kids are leaping off the pews and all of that. Or you hear that there are older kids going off the rails and you say to yourself, “I am so glad I am not like that.” Okay? That. Then you know, “Alright, Lord help me to have the right motivation.”

You asked me, “What should I have done?” What I should have done was realized that salvation belongs to the Lord, right? The salvation of my children and their children is not something I can control. Are we called as moms to be people who faithfully seek to teach, nurture, and discipline our children? Yes, we are. We’re called to do that, but only because God might use us. And you understand I said that word, “might.” God might use us as means and the way that he will draw our children. But that’s not guaranteed. I am not going to look at how my child responds then from day to day. I can remember we would sit there and, let’s say we were going to have a time of prayer as a family. If they were messing around, which they're always messing around, right?

Laura: Yes, always. [laughter]

Elyse:  I would look at that and I would think, “Oh, they're lost.” And then the next thing I would think is, “That means I am a terrible mother.” Or, “Phil’s a terrible dad.” Or, “We’re both terrible.” Then I would double down on what I wanted them to do, which of course, we always respond to the law in the same way. So if the law says to you, “Don’t wiggle when mom is reading Proverbs,” in your heart, you’re going to automatically want to wiggle, [laughter] right?

That’s our heart’s response particularly to some sort of person who wants to control you all the time. So what would I have done differently? Honestly, I watch my kids raise their kids—and just to say, my kids are not perfect at all, and their kids are not perfect at all. I mean, they're not even close [laughter]—but I watch how they interact with them and my kids’ reputation as parents is not the primary motivation for the way they interact with their kids. They're seeking to be fellow sinners with their children who run to Jesus together.

I’ll give you an example—Jessica’s eldest son, Wesley is 19 now, and Haden, his younger brother, who's now a senior in high school, was three. This happened a number of years ago; Jessica was in the other room and she heard this blood curdling scream which every mom has heard that scream [laughter]. And you come running out of the bedroom, you find Wesley straddling on top of Haden, just basically pounding him. Let’s just say that’s what little kids do [laughter]. She looked at Wesley and he had this big bite mark on his back.

What had happened was Haden had messed with Wesley’s Thomas Trains [laughter]. As a first child, Wesley was all into making sure that his Thomas Trains were lined up perfectly, right? And then Haden, of course, is the second child; really probably relished, messing up his trains [laughter] just to make him mad. So he did.

Jessica picks up Wesley up off of Haden and says, “Wesley, you must love your brother.” When she does that, what is she doing? She’s telling Wesley the law. This is the law; you have to love God with your whole heart, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. She's giving Wesley the law, and that’s the appropriate thing to do. We give our kids rules and laws because they need to know what is expected of them. But that’s not the only reason.

She picks up Wesley off of Haden and says, “You must love your brother.” And through tears and anger, Wesley looks at her and just basically screams, “I can’t!” How do we respond to that? I know how I would have responded to it. I would have said, “Oh, yes you can, and I am going to make sure you do. And if you don’t, I am going to know the reason why.” But the way she responded to him [laughs] was, “He says, ‘I can’t’, and she says, ‘You're right, flee to Jesus.’” Do you hear that? That’s the difference. And I never would have said that.

Emily:  It is just a phrase difference, but the heart of the response is so different. I know I am so tempted to threaten my kids into good behavior. Sometimes my response in that situation would be, “Yes, you can and if you don’t, here’s the consequence. So behave so that you avoid consequences.” And while it’s helpful to present consequences; that acknowledgement piece of, “You're right, you cannot love, obey, or follow all these rules. Now what are we going to do?” There's only one good answer to this, and it’s Jesus. It takes some real mind shift, but once we see it for ourselves, it is like, “I am desperate for this too.” I therefore want to give this same desperate Christ-hungry response to my children. Yes, really good example. [laughs]

Elyse:  Yes, that’s the thing. Instead of Jessica being self-righteous like I was and saying, “Oh yeah, you better, and I can’t even believe you're acting that way as if I don’t myself have trouble loving my neighbor [laughter]—i.e. the children right now.” Instead of that, she's encouraging them to run to Christ and ask for grace and mercy. That’s what makes our message different. What makes our message different from what any kind of moral, fine, upstanding parent would do is we’re saying, “There is a law, and the law can’t make you good. But what it can do is tell you that there was one who was good in your place, and you can flee to him.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t discipline your children. Of course you do; you discipline them in whatever way in your family you do. But you don’t depend on the rules to make the children good because rules don’t make kids good. Only Jesus Christ can change their heart and make them want to love their brother.

Laura:  And for any young mom who's listening, let me be the first to say, and I know Emily will join me in this, this takes practice and a mind shift. This is something that I feel like, as you were saying Elyse, our natural inclination is self righteous parenting. It is to immediately go, “Let’s go to consequences. Let’s mold a child’s behavior to exactly what we want immediately,” instead of stepping back and reminding yourself of the gospel and the moment. I know, at least for me, my natural inclination isn’t to love that child in the middle of something where they're misbehaving and I feel embarrassed, frustrated, or inconvenienced.

So just an encouragement, this is such good truth that you're sharing Elyse. I know we have a lot of new believers that are listening, and a lot of first generation Christians, so I just love that you’ve also shared your story in that because I know we've been asked a lot for shows or discussion points on that. But if you are new to this, this is real.

I want to plug Elyse’s book here—Give Them Grace. You're getting a taste of what's in that book, and she walks through a lot of scenarios in that. It’s just very helpful to get a little deeper dive into what she's discussing today. And then, don’t be afraid to practice because it’s only going to come by digging in and doing the hard work of applying these types of skills. Elyse, as we close here, can you give some steps a mom might be able to take today to behold God and to enjoy him more fully?

Elyse:  The thing that I want to encourage moms in today is that they would see Jesus. That they would remember Jesus. What that means is as they're going through their day, they would remember that Jesus, who was the second person in the trinity, became a human being. Jesus was a little boy and he had to learn language, table manners. He had to learn all of this stuff because he was completely human, so he understands that first of all. This is great news for the children. Jesus understands what it’s like to be a child and what it’s like to have brothers and sisters, because he did.

Jesus understands, and this is for moms who maybe are single parents or feel like they're all on their own: Jesus understands what it’s like to be the single head of a household because at some point after age 12, his father died. So he became the male person in the home who had to care for his mom and siblings. And we see him doing that all through the gospels—interacting with his mom. Then at the very end of his life, there he is hanging on the cross and what is he doing? He’s caring for his mother.

Therefore Jesus was a single head of a household, and for all of the women who are listening today who feel like God couldn’t possibly help them or understand, Jesus knows exactly what you're going through and he can help you.  He lived a perfect life; you see, in a sense, he had to parent his siblings. He understands what it’s like to parent little sinners [laughter], and he had disciples who really never listened to what he was talking about. They were completely clueless [laughter] and at the resurrection, I mean, really, these guys.

He understands the frustration that we feel when we feel like we've been saying the same thing over and over again, and it just never penetrates their little hearts or minds. Jesus understands that, because at least five times in the gospels, we know that he said, “I am on my way to Jerusalem to die, and I will be raised again.” It went right over their heads. They didn’t get it. What they were doing, right before the betrayal, when he's going to be hang on the cross, was fighting about who was going to be greatest.

Doesn’t that sound like our family? [laughter] Who's the best? Who's the best at this sport? Who's the best at this game?  [laughter] Who has the most stuff? Who’s the greatest? Who has the most friends? Who's the best? We need to see him. He understands all of that and he did his parenting perfectly. My primary message to moms today is this: you may struggle, and you do, as a mom. But the really great news, if you’ve put your trust in Jesus Christ, you have his perfect record of being a perfect parent. So when God looks at you, he doesn’t see the ways you’ve blown it and he doesn’t see your sin. You are completely forgiven and you are completely righteous. Therefore you don’t have to try to work out your guilt about being a bad parent. You don’t have to try to work that out somehow. You are forgiven and you are completely righteous. And then the really great news is Jesus who understands everything you're going through, not just because he's God but also by experience, is praying for you right now.

What do I say to parents? What do I say to moms? Remember the gospel. And you know what? Listen to me; I've written x number of books about the gospel and how to remember it in your daily life, and I forget it [laughter]. Okay? I mean, seriously. We’re in the middle of moving and I am all freaked out about where we’re going to move. And here’s Jesus who said, “I have no place to lay my head.” He understands, and he will care for me and get us to where we need to be when we need to be there.

Relax a little bit mom, enjoy your children. Be free to enjoy them, and when they fail, which they will, and when they sin, which they will, take their hand as a fellow sinner and run to Jesus together because he loves to pour out mercy on sinners.

Laura:  I think this needs a slow clap right there [laughter]. Thank you, Elyse.

Emily:  Yes.

Elyse:  And you know one other thing to say to your kids is, “Don’t think that you're going to be good enough or bad enough. I am your mama, and I am not good enough. I've certainly sinned enough, and the reality is Jesus has it all. Just flee to him, and I’ll go with you.”

Laura:  Thank you so much Elyse for coming on the show today. We really appreciate you sharing your wisdom. I am sure there are many moms who have been touched by your words today, and hopefully feeling more relief as they know they don’t have to work through all the guilt. But they can walk in freedom because Christ has already banished that and already given that eternal hope that we can trust in today. Thank you so much for your time, we really appreciate it.

Elyse:  Thank you.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast, please consider joining them @risenmotherhood.com/give.

Ep. 106 || Seeing & Serving the Vulnerable Mom Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Hello. Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura Wifler, and I have my sister-in-law Emily here with me.

Emily: Hello.

Laura:  Okay, today we’re talking about the vulnerable mom. Emily and I came into the show with a decent amount of trepidation, and also wanting to be careful and gentle and treat this as carefully as we can, because we know that both of us have a lot of support, even in our most weak moments.

We have a lot of family and friends and church support around us. We have financial resources, flexibility in our schedules, we have educational opportunities, and husbands that are really supportive. Emily and I both know that it’s very easy to take those things for granted and forget what a privilege those things are, and how God has provided for us.

Something that we've noticed as Risen Motherhood has grown and we've had more and more moms interacting with our content is we've seen a lot of different sides to motherhood. God’s been really gracious to make our hearts tender towards moms that have different lives than us, have different upbringings, and are struggling and in vulnerable places.

We want to talk about this this year with our “unity in the gospel” theme because we know that God cares for the outcast, the oppressed, for the struggling. He also desires for his people to love and to see those people too, and to give them dignity, grace, compassion, and help.

Therefore we want to take time on today’s show to talk through who the vulnerable mom is. Like who we might be talking about, how we as listeners, especially if you're in a position that's similar to what Emily and I are in, can live out God’s call and his charge, meeting these women where they're at. What can we do? That's the question Em and I have been asking.

Emily:  I feel, like Laura was saying, we need to start by defining it because people have different ideas of what “vulnerable mom” means. And they may all be right definitions, and for this, there's nothing official. We’re defining this as a mom who is in need of maybe special care or support or protection because of maybe age or different disabilities, risk of abuse or neglect, or things in her past. We’re going to talk through what this may look like.

Although there are other definitions of this, we’re particularly thinking about the mom who is single with kids, the mom who's living from paycheck to paycheck whether she's married or unmarried. Maybe a mom who's living in a dangerous situation with a boyfriend or a husband or a family member. Maybe a mom who just doesn’t have the education, the resources, or the opportunities to care for her kids in the way that she really wants to.

Maybe this is a mom who has struggled through a past history of abuse, mental illness, or other life trauma that makes motherhood and work extra difficult. This could be a mom who is a widow or a mom who is a minority, or has emigrated from another country, or is a refugee. We have all kinds of women who fit into this category.

Laura:  We want to be upfront—and I know I started to profess this show a little bit—we’re not experts in this. There are people out there that specialize in understanding things like mental health, or poverty, or social work, or shelters. All sorts of things.

Therefore we’re not able to give that kind of perspective today. We’re just two moms who want to be able to talk with you at the same table with you—peer to peer, speaking with you. Our hope, therefore, is to speak to those of you who are hopefully plugged in to a local church, and you are financially stable. But oftentimes, like us, you're busy with your life and you're overwhelmed with what's going on right in front of you.

It’s hard to know how to help these women or keep them at the forefront, but we want to ask the question, what if we did? What would happen if we use the gospel to bridge the gap with women like this?

Emily:  Again, trying to hone in on what it is we’re going to be talking about in this show versus what we’re not talking about: there are a lot of ways to deal with this problem on a political front in your community. There are questions like, “Well, should our family get involved in foster care, or different types of organizations that help women in these situations? How should I give financially, or of my time?” We hope that you get ideas about practical things that you can do. But primarily we’re going to be starting at, “How does the gospel change us at a heart level, so that we can shift our eyes off of ourselves and remember and see these moms and care about them even in the midst of our own busyness?” Another thing we wanted to say is, again, we want to really tread lightly here. We know that sometimes when people have a heart to help someone who is vulnerable, it can sound very superior, very privileged and very, “Oh, we have the tools. We can help you. We can save you. We have it altogether.” This is a touchy conversation to navigate.

We will not do it perfectly, and we’ll probably say something offensive and not even know it. But we hope that you guys can engage this with us because we want to try. Too many of us, and in my past I’d say I’d have avoided this conversation, are  afraid to say something wrong.

Laura:  Me too.

Emily:  Anyways, we’re going to try to set some of those self-conscious feelings aside and just say, we want to see this issue. We want to care in our heart today, even if we say something that we haven’t learned how to say it correctly yet. Our heart is to love these women and not to heap shame on them.

Laura:  We’re thankful that we can talk to a community that does love us. We have had so many emails from listeners who have written in, who have either lovingly corrected us, who have supported us whenever we have done things like this where we kind of stepped out of our comfort zone, and you guys have cheered us on.

I am not asking for that today, but I am just saying that this community is much of why Emily and I want to have this conversation because we feel you guys have created a safe space. But also because you've taught us so much yourselves through your stories, your emails, and messages and just different things, so we just want to thank you.

But to dive in, we’re going to start with the gospel because that's what we typically do, and give that a high level overview. And then we’re also going to talk about some things Em and I are learning in. When we look at creation, we can start there and know that Eden was pretty wonderful. Adam and Eve had all their needs met by God, and there wasn’t pain or sorrow or tears or anything that wasn’t wonderful.

After the fall, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, the world changed quite a bit. They became people who were vulnerable and struggling because of whether creation was cursed, and things just don’t go as they should. Also because of the deeds of man and the evil sin in this world; so now we grapple in that tension. But we have hope in Christ in the midst of all of that.

Emily:  We see God’s heart for the vulnerable, because God has a heart for sinners and a heart for people who are in desperate need and can do nothing for themselves on their own. In the Old Testament, we see God protecting them and caring for them, especially women.

Even in Jesus’ lineage, we see a good handful of women that come from a lifestyle or a background that most of us would say, “That's a vulnerable mom.” This is a complicated topic. Laura and I were going into examples of like, “Oh, what are some good ways we could share this in the Old Testament? What are some good stories?”

Everything we came up with made us realize this usually takes a lot of sober study and deep thought, and the people who have done this well have really dug in deep here. So if this is something you're wanting to know more about, we’re going to put some links in our show notes from women who have really dug into this topic and have done a good job of showing how God really cares for the vulnerable woman throughout redemptive history.

Laura:  It’s one of those things that we get it; the Old Testament confuses us too [laughter] and the fact that some of the things that happened to women in the Old Testament do seem confusing at face value. But when you look at the Bible in context, and when you study these things as Emily said, in a sober mindse, and in a way that says, “I want to learn. I don’t want to bring in my own assumptions, or my own biases, or just assume I know what's right. I want to come and know the heart of God.”

We promise that God will reveal to you his love and kindness and his mercy in some of those stories. At least I personally have often really struggled with and tried to figure out, “How does God value women? Show me that when I read the story.” But it’s true, and it’s there, and so yes, we’re going to point you to some really good resources for that because we don’t have the time or probably really the know-how to do that for you here.

Emily:  But we can be united in our vulnerability because all of us, no matter what your vulnerability looks like on the outside, are dependent in our need for a rescuer, for a savior, and for someone to protect us and to restore us to our ultimate protector in God. God does that through Jesus, and Jesus actually comes and makes himself vulnerable and allows himself to be exposed, disrespected, shamed, despised, and rejected. And ultimately, he dies for that, so that no matter what kind of lot we have in this life, we can be healed some day, and we can be fully restored to God in eternity. One thing, this is a little bit of a different angle, but even looking at Jesus' care for the despised, the rejected, and the vulnerable, and his time on earth is just amazing.

Laura:  I always want to remember it’s nothing that I did to get myself in this position. I get it’s purely God’s grace, and so me and another woman who is in a more vulnerable position, we’re not so different after all. First of all, at the cross, it’s a level playing field—we’re both sinners, we’re both in need of grace, and we both need Christ to come and redeem us.

Any good that I do is not because of my financial status or because I’ve had college education. But it is purely because of the grace of God and his work in me. Therefore out of an overflow of my gratefulness and out of my thankfulness for what Christ has done for me, I want to do everything I can to bless the other women in my life and image. What Emily was talking about—imaging Christ as he loved the vulnerable. I’m recognizing that until the day I die, I want to wave my banner for the cross.

But like Em, everyday I live here. My goal is to reach people with the gospel, and how can I do that? This podcast is one way, but one way Emily and I have really been impacted by is there are women in our midst who are hurting and who need face to face time, and who need us to come alongside them.

Thankfully, to move into consummation, we can be so thankful that we can know today we’re co-heirs with Christ, which means that everything he received in his adoption of God is ours.

It’s that for vulnerable mom too. And we won’t be alone. No one will be alone someday, no one will be in a dangerous situation, no one will be hurting, fearful, or living paycheck to paycheck. It will be an abundant life.

Emily:  And God is going to be a just judge. He’s going to take care of all of the injustices that are happening. It’s hard for us to understand or to see that—that we have a heavenly Father who takes a long view, and people are not getting away with the things that they are doing. It’s either going to be paid for by Christ, or they are going to receive the full punishment and the full wrath of that. So he is a just God.

One thing that I love considering in consummation is when we look at the picture of what is to come, and what it’ll be like, we’ll be standing side by side with a lot of these moms who placed their faith in Christ.

On earth, maybe we felt like there were a lot of these differences. But we’re going to be worshipping in Christ together with them, and have the same status and the same sisterhood. Let’s live that out now in that relationship, just like Jesus did. If we read through the gospels, we see him over and over and over again having these counter-cultural controversial interactions with vulnerable women.

Laura:  It didn’t make sense.

Emily:  He went ahead and paved that path. So anyways, it’s definitely something we, as followers of Christ, need to follow in that example.

Laura:  Even when it feels uncomfortable to us or not easy. We’re going to walk through a couple of principles here. The first one is to remind us we’re not better than a vulnerable mom. I think I started jumping into this a little bit already, that idea that for some reason I can save someone else. We can all get the savior mentality that we've got these resources, or we can just throw them at them and solve all their problems.

But, again, really, we have to recognize that we’re just as sinful as that other mom and any good that we have should just be given from a humble heart and with a lot of humility of recognizing that may not be the best way to solve this issue, and so I want to take a step and recognize that first of all I am like that mom although I may not know the best way to help her.

Emily:  Another thing is to see that and be aware. Life moves so fast, and sometimes we need to go the extra mile to get in relationship with people that we don’t know. Or have that conversation with someone you've never met before and really invest in them. Take the time to see what it is that they're struggling through because sometimes too, it may be harder for us to come in contact with these moms because of life’s circumstances.

Maybe they're going to have a harder time making it to church on Sunday, or attending that women’s event, or coming to that Bible study. And when they come, maybe they're going to feel like they don’t really fit in, or they can’t really share with you what's going on, or they're kind of on the outskirts of the event and they're self-conscious. We want to get to know people and invest in relationships enough that we can find those things out, and then meet them in their struggle and welcome them as Christ has welcomed us.

Laura:  And as we’re getting to know them, treating them how you would want to be treated. It’s important to listen to their story and to not come in with your own ideals with maybe how that must have happened, or how maybe they did something to contribute to that. But just trust and believe their story and take it at face value.

Make sure to listen; being present, not mentally drifting off and thinking about other things, but to really engage and to really talk with that mom and ask yourself, “Gosh, what would that have been like if that happened to me? What if I didn’t have a support network anymore? What if I couldn’t trust the people around me? What if my job was physically exhausting and I just came home every day from being away from my kids all day and not being able to give them what I would like to give them? What if you had a baby before you were able to have your life be stable? Or what if you were a single mom?”

We know some of you listening may even be in this position. So for those of us that aren’t currently there—of course we can’t know what it’s like, but it’s good to go through that thought process because it develops sympathy for the other mom. And it helps you say, “Wow, I really would want someone to reach out and care for me and to help me.” It kind of gives you perspective.

Emily:  And on a more tangible side of things, first you have to start with prayer. Pray that God would help us see and invest in relationships with all kinds of moms that we come in contact with. And then also just praying for God to help us see how to offer tangible support, giving us eyes to see opportunities. And as we pray for people by name, that also helps reshape our focus and helps us see things we might not have seen before.

We thought we’d share a few practical ways that we've seen women live this out because—I don’t want to speak for them, but I’ll speak for myself—this feels like a weak area for me and something that I am just starting to grow in, understanding what this looks like.

Laura:  Emily, I totally agree that this is a real area of necessary growth for me, and it’s been this slow awakening. I admit that, but I am thankful that God is waking me up to this. Initially, my first reaction is often like, “I’ll just give money.” Or, “I’ll give resources. I have so many things going on in my life I don’t have time to go invest in that so I am going to give money.”

While that's valuable and helpful in some ways, what we've been challenged by lately is, how can we be in the flesh helping? How can we take our time in our relationships? Be involved in a way that feels uncomfortable at times, it feels stretching and maybe not exactly where we want to be in that moment.

But it’s valuable and important, and so, is there a mom of a child at school that you can intentionally love and invest in? Or is there a neighbor down the street that you've overlooked for a long time, but you can invite them into your home or for a meal, or just start the process of getting to know them, as awkward as it may feel? I don’t know.

Emily:  Yes. I think that's definitely the challenge of, “What does it like it to throw someone a stick in the game relationally?” That is often the harder thing for some of us that are in a more privileged position. We definitely don’t have the answers, and we don’t know what this is going to look like for each and every one of you, and some of you are probably already down this path.

Laura:  We have a ton of friends who are doing this really well. And some of you may be doing this.

Emily:  And some of us are doing the baby steps at the beginning of prayer and thinking of one mom. But whatever it is, we hope that this starts good conversations for you guys, good things to think on and see, and scripture to do further study on.

Laura:  Thanks for joining us. We appreciate you guys getting involved in this conversation with us. Of course we’ll likely be talking about this a little bit more on social media as we can. We hope that you guys will join us there. Again, we’re grateful for all of you for giving us a chance to talk about this and to air our conversation. We just hope that you have something that you can take away and apply today.


This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast, please consider joining them @risenmotherhood.com/give.

Ep. 105 || When Motherhood Feels Too Hard + Patreon Pledge Drive Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with Laura. Today we are talking about how to deal when motherhood just feels too hard, when your responsibilities feel completely overwhelming, when you have no idea how to move forward, or when you just feel like you can’t do it. Hopefully that includes all of us. [laughter]

Laura:  I hope so. If you do not identify with that statement, I want to meet you, please. [laughter]

Emily:  But first, we’re really excited because this week we are doing a pledge drive to financially support the ministry of Risen Motherhood. We’re really excited to talk to you guys about it and excited to invite you to get involved.

Laura:  Earlier this year some of you may have been along for the ride with us when we became entirely community supported. So we launched a platform called Patreon at that time and also received a lot of one-time donations through many of you. We are hoping to continue that now. We also formalized our mission statement earlier this year, and it is “to encourage, equip and challenge moms to apply the gospel to their everyday lives.” If you're new to our ministry or if you just need a quick refresher, this is what we’re all about. Our hope is to encourage, equip and challenge moms with the gospel. We do that through the podcast, which you're hopefully listening to right now, through articles on our site that are written by moms from all over the world and all different backgrounds; also the newsletter, social media content, and recommended resources. If you didn’t know, we pooled together tools that we enjoy using with our kids, that we use ourselves, that are beautiful and theologically sound so that you have them in one spot to equip you in order to invest in your family well. We also have our equipping resources —these are things like the Abide Method, which teaches you how to study the Bible, and our Kid’s Abide Cards, which teach you how to walk through a biblical passage with your children. It’s pretty cool to see what God has done through all of these arms and through all these platforms that we have at RM. And it’s been so fun because we have heard from so many women all over the world how God has worked in their lives through the ministry.

Emily:  It’s really encouraging. There are nearly 1,000 written reviews on iTunes, which just blows my mind. You guys should go read them if you want to hear some awesome stories about how God is working in and through Risen Motherhood. One thing in particular that we felt like captured the heart of what we love seeing was the review from Mommy. In her review, she said, “I used to search for the best or right method, advice, books etc. But now I feel freed up from the pressure of doing things perfectly, thanks to the truth from RM that Jesus is our only hope, and he is our children’s only hope as well.” That is just one example of the many messages we've received about women who were maybe looking for hope and help and a lot of the resources that the world offers. Instead, they had their perspective shifted back onto God and back on the good news of the gospel and what he's done for them in Christ.

Laura:  We’ve heard from missionary moms who are using it when they lack resources in their own communities, and some of them are actually so cool. Their friends that they’ve met want to learn English, and so they're giving them the podcast to help them learn English, and at the same time, they're giving them the gospel. I just loved that; I get the chills when I hear that. We’ve heard from so many women who are starting podcast clubs to discuss the show or Bible studies for the very first time in their neighborhoods with unbelievers in them. We also hear about moms who are sharing it with an unbelieving friend when they are struggling over snack time or screen time or a lack of sleep, and all the things that we sort of zero in at here at Risen Motherhood. They're sharing that with an unbelieving friend who has never heard the gospel. There are husbands who are listening in, and they also need to have deeper conversations with their wives because of the content from the show. Or women who are just picking up their Bibles for the first time in a really long time. Story after story we've been hearing and we want to point though that we recognize that this isn’t RM that is doing this work. This is not Risen Motherhood. This is God doing the work in the hearts of these people.

Emily:  And we are so grateful to those of you who have already participated in that by sharing the show or telling your friends or putting it on social media. Because even though sometimes we like to kind of peg social media as the bad guy [laughter] or something that brings out a lot of sin in our lives, it’s also this amazing avenue that you're able to reach and influence others for Christ and reach all the nations right from your living room, or the checkout line, or wherever you are. So those of you who have already participated in that, it does make a difference. And it reaches all kinds of women. But we really need your help to keep going, and to keep producing this content, and to keep making it free.

Laura:  Yes, that's one thing; our hope here at RM is that every mom would be able to access these resources, and that we wouldn’t have to embargo things or say these are only for certain people. But that we’ll be able to keep our show, our website, and everything that we offer for free. Each month we have fees that we pay for the podcast, website domain hosting, for email subscription services, programming, photography, and transcriptions. And we also pay our team members to develop the content for all of the different platforms that we have, and even doing things like manage the finances or manage the website. Therefore there are a lot of behind-the-scenes things going on that we are paying for, and that's where we just want to ask you for your help. I think, Em, we have some numbers here.

Emily:  That’s actually so cool because we sat down one day and we tried to figure out what does it cost for us to produce one podcast, or one blog post, or one equipping resource? We had our sister-in-law, Becca, who does a lot of finances, come together with us. But to produce one episode of the podcast costs around $500. It’s helpful to know that includes everything: starting from content and editorial planning, through the actual show recording, and the post-production of that. Also, editing the show, putting it all together and making sure the sound quality is excellent for you guys. We also have original photography that goes along with each show, we have members on the team who write the discussion questions, program the website, and put everything out on social media, and compile those show notes for you guys. All of those things together means the show is touched by a lot of hands on our team. The transcripts! I can’t even get into all that, so there is a lot of work that goes into that one podcast episode that kind of makes that number. Also, every time we produce an article for the website, it costs up to $200, and that includes a lot of the same things, like editorial content planning, actual editing of each article, original photography, pushing that out on social media. There are a lot of the pieces of the puzzle there, and same with our equipping—that costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000 every time we create. And equipping and the resources; and it doesn’t even include things like, we work with an original artist, or we work with a translator like we did for our Kid’s Abide Cards. There's definitely a lot that goes into each of these pieces. We wanted to understand these numbers; maybe you guys may feel led to say, “With a one-time donation, I am going to cover one whole podcast episode for Risen Motherhood this year.” Or, “I am going to cover one or two blog articles.” Or, “I am going to cover an entire equipping device.” That's just an exciting way you can think about supporting us. Even if it’s a smaller amount, you know this buys half of a show, and that was one of the reasons why we wanted to kind of quantify this for you guys.

Laura:  And if you go in to make a one-time donation for us, the levels will be there too. You can see and it’s really easy; we have a ton of information on this at risenmotherhood.com/give. Or you can read all about this, learn more and all this stuff, but we know that talking about money is hard, and we know that asking for money is very hard as well. But we’re doing it, and this is what it takes to keep Risen Motherhood going. We want to be able to continue creating content that you know and love from us, but we can’t do it without your help. Right now we have a pretty ambitious goal; we have a platform called Patreon that we’re part of where you can sign up to give monthly to Risen Motherhood. Right now we have about 300 community members and we’re hoping to reach a goal of 450 members, and also to increase our one-time donations. Therefore you're welcome to do either; we need people kind of doing both for this to work.

Just a quick tip with this too is that we've heard from a lot of women that they’ve actually been encouraging their moms, or grandma or grandpa, to give to Risen Motherhood. We've had a lot of really generous donations through grandparents who’ve just felt like, “Hey, this is so cool.” Or, “I see the change that’s happening in my daughter or happening in my grandchildren and I want to invest in the future.” Let’s just say if they're looking for a place to give, maybe give them a nudge, and we hope, of course, that you will join us well. But either way, we’re grateful that you guys are here.

Emily:  Yes. Just something to keep in mind, we are in the process of pursuing non-profit status. That is going to take some time and we don’t have a deadline on that, so definitely go ahead and partner with us today; we need to keep running in the meantime. But that's one of the reasons why we wanted to continue having donations is because we’re headed that direction.

Laura:  We’re in process. We are knee deep in paperwork [laughter]. Know that it’s actually a reality, but it takes a decent amount of time for this to happen.

Emily:  You can go to risenmotherhood.com/give to find out all the details. If you're listening on Labor Day, it is September 19th, head over to Instagram at risenmotherhood because we’re going to have a Q&A on this tonight. Submit your question and we will try to answer anything you want to know about the pledge drive or being donor funded and all of that.

Laura:  Thank you guys so much, we appreciate you sitting through that. Now let’s get to the show, “When motherhood feels too hard.” This happens to me all the time. Emily, does motherhood feel hard for you often?

Emily:  Oh yes [laughter]. Pretty much every day I have a moment where I think like, “Motherhood is just too hard.” I don’t know what to do Laura, and I feel like I cannot put one more foot in front of the other, I cannot parent graciously for one more moment. And I think this also happens in connection with big seasons of motherhood. For instance, I think most of us can probably remember, maybe you brought your baby home from the hospital for the first time and you were driving home thinking, “I can’t believe they just left me with that baby.” Like, “I don’t know what I am doing. God, this feels just so overwhelming and so hard.” And even if you brought in a child through adoption or foster care, there was probably that immediate moment where that child was in your care and you just thought like, “I am not equipped to do this. I cannot do this. This is too hard.”

Laura:  That's a good point. It often feels a little more acute when we’re going through those big transitions, even things like moving or changing our work schedule, or maybe getting a new childcare provider, starting school. I feel like that's going to be a big one for me—we’re recording this show a little bit —our kids are going to school very soon, so transitioning through that. Or into summer schedules; things like that. Or just even the daily grind of motherhood. I feel like often it will just be a moment of loudness in my home, and I am like, “I just want to be done. This is just hard.”

Emily:  The thing that's interesting is the hard feeling can really permeate, like you were saying, in the small moments. And then there are also these very big, real hard things we face, and it can be really exhausting. I know that sometimes I am just exhausted by the feeling of how much there is. Of, “Okay, maybe I am getting kind of…”, or, “I am feeding really healthy foods to our kids and I am feeling really good about that. But I haven’t been reading out loud to them and now I am feeling like I am doing terrible in this other area.” And at any given time there’s 25 of those things, or maybe hundreds of things we’re responsible for, and the hardness is just like, “I cannot keep up with everything I am supposed to be doing at any given time. I am majorly failing in multiple areas.” [laughter]

Laura:  Oh, sad.

Emily:  But it’s true; it’s not just reality.

Laura: I know, I feel that way too, but when I hear someone else say it, I have, of course, more clarity.

Emily:  Which is why we need help.

Laura:  Yes. We have kind of these three things as we’re talking through the show; kind of common temptations when, as a mom, you're faced with these feelings of, “It’s just a little bit too hard for me right now.” The first one is we just want to give up. Often I think we can just stop wanting to be intentional about things, want to stop trying, stop being thoughtful, like Emily was talking about, with the food. And we’re kind of like, “Well, I am just going to give up on everything. If I can’t do it, I am not going to do it at all.” That's like the first thing that we often do.

Emily:  Another temptation is just to give in—just that succumbing to temptation to sin in a lot of different areas. It’s that feeling of, “Okay fine, I am done fighting. I am just going to give in and do what feels most natural to me”, which is often to sin. And we’ll talk more about what that might look like.

Laura: And then the last one would be to give over. This is sort of the idea that you might give yourself over to something else; something with maybe more instant gratification, something with a little more results, or something that just feels more natural maybe to you or easier. Sometimes this can be a hobby, time with friends, or work. Just anything that's outside of motherhood where you're saying, “I am going to go do that purely for the reason that I want to check out because it’s just too hard.” Not because those are bad things.

Emily:  Although we know there’s a lot of overlap in these things, and we can probably be doing all three of them at the same time, we just wanted to give you guys some quick gospel hope for each of these responses when motherhood feels too hard.

First, a caveat, that sometimes motherhood feels too hard because you're battling something deeper, like postpartum depression or an anxiety disorder. Or there are some changes in your hormones that are making it really difficult to cope through these things. This is something that's hard beyond the normal pressures of motherhood, and these aren’t attitudes or moods that you can just pray your way out of or give yourself a negative truth and redirect. This is something you may need doctors or counselors to help you work through. Definitely if you feel like “I’m trying these things but I’m unable to make progress,” reach out to someone because we definitely know that there are factors that go into this.

Laura:  Definitely. We want to give you guys some gospel hope for these three things—the give up, give in or give yourself over. And as Emily mentioned, there's a lot of overlap, so you can apply these in different ways. But thinking specifically about giving up, we can look to Christ for that example. He was the ultimate show of commitment through the end. He didn’t give up when God called him to the cross. He asked God to take the cup of suffering from him, but ultimately he did God’s will, and he walked to Calvary, all the way, for us, never giving up. It was hard, and it included suffering, but he still went the way that was set before him.

Emily:  Yes, and as disciples of Christ, it’s going to be hard for us. But through the Holy Spirit, we can have his power and strength in our weakness. Another thing, when we just want to give in, is to remember Jesus when he was tempted in the desert. Satan came to him when he was at a really weak point physically, and he was hungry and probably tired, and he showed him all these things he could give in to. Like, “Oh, you can have power and control and you can stop your suffering right now.” But Jesus used God’s word to stand firm and to resist the devil. He did this perfectly and he understands what it feels like to be tempted, to just give in to whatever sin it is that we want to do. But we can, again, find his strength in our weakness. And even if we do sin, we can repent and turn back to him every time.

Laura:  And for the last one, giving yourself over, we see this happening in the New Testament in the early church. People were often abandoning sound doctrine and the gospel in light of other things that were “gospel plus something else.” They were following the teachings of the world, and just like them, we can be like that, where we are thinking we need something more than just the gospel. We need something more than where God has put us and where he has placed us. It can be very easy and tempting to want to take shortcuts or, as we were sharing, just having that instant gratification for things, or just feeling like, “Oh, I can see some tangible results of my efforts.” But there's no shortcut to God or to faithfulness and to living a life just sold out for the gospel. That is all that you need, it’s sufficient, and it’s everything; to add to that isn’t necessary. God provides you with everything you need to be a good mother. When you have that good perspective of what you have in Christ, and what you have aside through eternity, and what he’s called you to today, you can stay focused on those things and not be looking for other ways to find fulfillment outside of where God’s placed you.

Emily:  We just wanted to run through these and give some examples of how we've seen this play out in our own lives. Obviously these are just our personal experiences [laughs] so take them with a grain of salt, and know that we all have different experiences. But one time I wanted to give up—I think I shared this on the show before—when we had three kids under 18 months, there was this really snowy day and I was pumping for my twins and my older son was running around. I was so overwhelmed, I literally just went into my bedroom and hit my knees and was just crying out to God, like, “God, I cannot do this, this is too hard. I give up.” And he really just showed up with kindness and strength for that day, and I remember specifically, everybody napped at the same time that day, for the first time since they were born. And I had two hours to clean the house and sit down quietly by myself. God does not always show up in that way.

Laura:  He was merciful to you.

Emily:  I just remembering like, “God sees me and loves me, and he's going to help me persevere.” 

Laura:  On the flipside of that, as Emily said, it doesn’t always happen that way, I had a long season. I shared before about my daughter having colic, and I don’t know if I've ever actually admitted this part on the show. But we were living temporarily in an apartment for about two months after we’d just moved to the Chicago area, and I was pretty sad. I was two months postpartum, living in a home that I didn’t know and in a town with no friends, no church home, and no family. I locked myself in the bathroom almost every day for probably the full two months and I would cry in the bathtub. I was sort of the stereotype [laughs] that I think sometimes we can get. But it was true; it was the only place where I could find relief. It was a very hard season. It was a season that I felt like God wasn’t taking that suffering away; he wasn’t taking the difficulties of raising two kids and what felt somewhat like isolation. It was a long season, but I look back at it and I know that God was faithful in it. I know that he provided small mercies at the time. I may not even have felt that grateful for them, to be honest, in my sadness. But I look back and he grew me during that season so much. And I am really grateful for it, for many reasons. And I've shared it on different shows so I don’t need to go into here. For those of you who are going through a longer season, just know that the big and the small things, like Emily and I were saying, sometimes there's a really big, tangible act of grace and mercy that you see. And other times it is a time for sanctification and growth and just the daily grind of going through that.

Emily:  Some examples of whenever we want to give in. For me this is one of the things I feel on a daily basis, and just having to go before God every day, moment by moment. It’s really frustrating to me actually. [laughter] It feels like the thorn inside of, “Why can’t I just get over this feeling of having to ask myself, ‘Why am I parenting this way? Do I just want to just give in to my kids? Do I just want to check out? Have I called on the Lord for perseverance, and for help and for truth in the situation, or am I just relying on myself and my own strength?’” That’s more of a preaching the gospel to myself thing when the everyday moments feels hard.

Laura:  I would have to say ditto on that. I tend to be a pendulum of giving in to my kids’ whims and desires, which is wrong too. Just like saying, “You can have anything you want and it doesn’t matter.” And then also then snapping and being angry because they're having terrible behavior, and really I created that. I fostered that kind of environment and I have to step back and ask, just like Emily, preaching the gospel myself, “Hey, what's really in my heart right now? Is it my emotions or my feelings, or my period? I don’t know. Or is it Christ?” Feelings are real, but you have to think of them as gauges, and not necessarily your guide for exactly what to do. I've had someone very wise tell me that saying, “Your feelings can tell you where your hope is currently being found, but not where it should be found.” Which I think is a pretty key difference.

Emily:  Yes, it’s kind of like that root and fruit example. I was reading that in Gospel Fluency recently, and just asking, “When I see the fruit of my behavior is giving into sin, each time saying, ‘Where is that coming from? What are the roots of that behavior and that fruit in my life?’” Oh that’s good; guys should read that book. [laughter] Alright, so gospel hope when you want to give over. I think—wow, I just sound like a broken record, like really, my answer just sounds like my last answer. [laughter]  For me, I just continually struggle with wanting to go over to the path of least resistance—what's going to make everybody else in the house feel good? And I am all about feeling good [laughter], I guess. Therefore, watch the show, eat the food, hanker down, and let’s just keep to ourselves in our homes so we don’t have to deal with the hardness of relationships or the hardness of routine changes. Or we don’t have to sacrifice; we don’t have to let anyone in. I am just tempted to give over to this desire for a life of ease and comfort, and not of sacrifice and dying to myself and asking God, “What have you called me to do in this moment, and how are you calling me to live for you in this, even if it is hard?” And I have to choose that the difficult way.

Laura:  This is where you see how different Emily and I are, because I am like, "Difficulty, let me bulldoze through it.” [laughter] This is why we’re very good for each other, but I am definitely the type of person that likes immediate fruit for things. And I tend to turn to options that offer very quick satisfaction, or I just can feel really good at. That might mean I am doing a lot of things, and that I am not doing it because I want to honor God in it or because I want to serve him, but because I want to feel valuable. That is where the sin trouble comes in; I may say, “I am going to have a party. I am going to make a fancy meal that’s totally homemade. I am going to maybe even buy a new shirt and just feel pretty.” These are the things that I have to continually remind myself that like, “I am invested here as a mom for the long game, and that’s the kind of game that God plays. He is not shortsighted like me, but he's working even in the things that I don’t see.”  It’s probably where he’s working the most, like when my daughter had colic, and I was sitting in the bathroom tub. When we want to give over to things we just have to remember that, like we were talking about, there is no shortcut to this. There's nothing else that is worthy of our worship, outside of God, and where he’s placed us.

Emily:  Practically, what does this look like? We've touched on it a little bit, but stopping and praying when we’re in those moments when we want to just give up, give in, or give over, and just asking God, crying out to him, praying his word back to him. And then just being in his word consistently; obviously that’s where our minds are renewed and transformed. That’s where we can be guided by the truth and not by our feelings or by our sense of being overwhelmed, living in community with other believers, and having others be able to talk you through those things. This is something you never move beyond; I still have to go to older women or peers and be like, “I am sorry I have to ask this dumb question, but I cannot work through this. Can you speak the gospel to me? Can you help me figure out what's going on in my heart?” And then it’s usually so helpful.

Laura:  Or sometimes you don’t really realize you need the gospel. And then your really good friends come out and they give you the gospel, and you're like, “Oh yes! [laughter] I needed that because I was in lala land.”

Emily:  Preach the gospel to yourself and your friends. Not being afraid to give your friend Jesus—that’s what we need. Yes, we need that, “I am here with you too” commiseration to some level just so we can be empathetic. But then also pointing them to Christ and saying, “This is where your sufficiency and your hope and your fulfillment, and everything you need for a life in godliness is found.”

Laura:  Let’s talk about dead weight friends. You just think about that like, “I don’t want to keep you where you're at as a friend.” Or, “I don’t want my friends to leave me just where I’m at. I want them to push me forward. I want them to push me towards the cross.” That’s a good thing though Emily, because often, like whenever motherhood is hard, I am not reaching out for help or assistance.

Emily:  That is true!

Laura:  I am just kind of in-grown into my own stuff.

Emily:  I think we've stumbled upon something really important here. [laughter]

Laura:  I like it!

Emily:  Because that's something I don’t communicate very often. Because whenever I am in those moments I am really in my head and I want to give in or give up or whatever, I have not been living in good community with people who are speaking the gospel to me and pointing me to Christ. And I've not been living authentically. Not that I am hiding anything, but I just haven’t been in that good community, and I think that’s a good thing to keep in mind.

Laura:  Having those friends that have an x-ray on you is so key. Anyway, we've got another show idea happening I think. But anyway, be a good friend; that’s the end of that little story. We’ll have more on this on our show notes. You can check those out, and head over to risenmotherhood.com for all the info, risenmotherhood.com/give is where you’ll find the pledge drive. If you'd like to contribute, we would greatly appreciate that, and of course find us on social media; Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, @risenmotherhood. Thank you guys so much for joining us today.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast, please consider joining them  at risenmotherhood.com/give.

Ep. 104 || Jackie Hill Perry What Does It Mean To Find Your Identity In Christ? Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily:  Today we’re excited to welcome Jackie Hill Perry to the Risen Motherhood podcast. Jackie is a wife to Preston and a mom to two young girls, Eden and Autumn. She has an amazing story of how she came to Christ, which we’ll touch on today during the show, as we’re discussing what it means to find your identity in Christ.

Her new book, Gay Girl, Good God gives a deeper look into her story, which includes gender confusion and same sex attraction, and how God broke in and turned her heart towards him, transforming her life to follow and obey him in light of the gospel.

Today, we’ll be talking specifically about common ways we misplace our identity as moms, and how we can remember the gospel to root our identity back in Christ. Jackie is a writer, poet, artist, speaker, and teacher. Let’s get to the show with Jackie, Laura, and myself.


Laura:  Hi, Jackie. Thanks so much for joining us on Risen Motherhood today.

Jackie:  Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Laura:  We are thrilled to have you on the show. Emily and I have both really enjoyed your content, especially in the last couple of years as we've interacted with your ministry more and the things that you do. We are really excited to have you on the show and to introduce the work that you do and your wisdom to the listeners of Risen Motherhood today.

Jackie:  Yay. I hope I can add some value. I am still an amateur mother.

Laura:  [laughs] Well, we’re excited because we’re talking about identity in Christ, which is one of those big, common phrases that feel like everyone’s tossing it around and we say it to ourselves, and we tell it to our friends.

But it’s kind of one of those hard words to understand, and so we want to get more into your story and to hear more about who you are. But we’re wondering if you could start off with just defining a little bit of what does this phrase mean? Why is it essential as a Christian to understand? And then we’ll move into knowing a little bit more about your story and how that plays in.

Jackie:  I think the most basic or simple way to understand identity is, “Who am I?” And understanding who I am points to, “What is my purpose? Why was I created?” Our primary identity has always been and should be that we’re image bearers. Genesis 1:27—we were made in the image of God, and being made in the image of God means that we belong to him. We bear his image. We were made for him. Colossians 1:16 says so. So coming from that point, if it’s like, “Oh, so I am a woman, made in the image of God, therefore I was made for him. Then what does it mean to be made for him?” So does that mean that my life is his? My relationships are his? My job is his? My children are his? My body is his? My view of myself, even that is his?

It starts to clarify a lot of the ways in which we should behave and think of the world, our relationships, with also ourselves. It can be weird and complicated, but when you simplify it in that way, it’s like, “Oh, I was made for him so I've just got to live to him.”

Emily:  It’s really encouraging to consider that our identification with God and being his image bearer, like you said, supersedes even what our feelings are or what our heart says. I've been studying 1 John over the summer and one thing I feel encouraged by was where he says, “By this we shall know we’re of the truth and reassure our hearts before him. For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart.” That’s been really helpful to me too and thinking about identity. That God is greater than whatever it is in my heart that I think like, “Oh, this is gripping me,” or something that I feel like I have to identify with. Therefore that’s a great point of that image bearer status never changes, and his ownership over us remains secure.

Jackie:  Yes.

Laura:  Jackie, I know we didn’t do this at the beginning of the show. We wanted to tee up that identity in Christ and have that platform there. And so now that we have that base, can you just tell us a little bit about your story? We know you have a book coming out in September, right around the time of this interview, called Gay Girl, Good God, and this book is awesome.

Emily and I have both read through it and it talks a lot about you finding your identity in Christ and how that changed and transformed you. We’d love to hear a little bit about your story and how you came to the point to where you found your identity in Christ alone.

Jackie:  Yes. I was raised in a single parent household, which is already transformative; not transformative in a good way, I’d say defining in how I started to think of myself. Not having a dad does a lot to how you see yourself as a young girl, your beauty, your worth, and stuff like that.

Growing up, I felt I just sort of gathered a lot of my identity from people and just trying to find value from them. I didn’t know that I was introverted. I don’t know if that was a thing in the early 90s, but I didn’t know that that was just my personality—not to be all the life of the party, talking with everybody. So for that reason then, I was never really in the in-crowd, never really esteemed, never really affirmed.

I noticed that I had same sex attractions when I was maybe five or six; I don’t really remember. I kind of hid that and kept that inside of me just because when I would go to church, it didn’t seem as if that is something you tell people [laughs]. It didn’t seem like that was something that the church would receive too well if you just let that out of the bag. So I just kept it to myself.

Until high school came and I was like, “You know what, this is who I like, this is who I think I like. I am just going to try it. I am just going to do me; it is what it is.” That’s what I did, and when I stepped out and just begun to live life as a gay girl, it felt more natural to me than heterosexuality did. It felt as if, “Oh, this must have been who I've been this whole entire time and I just didn’t know. I was denying myself this type of experience.”

Up until I was 19, God didn’t take long to snatch me up out of his kindness. He saved me when I was 19 and just showed me all of my sin. Not just my sexuality, but that I was a liar, I was a thief, I liked getting high all the time, drunkenness, I was disobedient to my mother. And all of this I knew because I had read the Bible before. I didn’t read the Bible a lot, but what I did read was enough to convict me of sin.

I saw, “Hey, all of this stuff I like to do seems to not be good.” It was like everything that I loved and enjoyed, I saw that it would not profit me in eternity. I just saw the worthlessness of it all, but up and against Christ, it was like, “Oh, if this stuff is what it is to live, then you must be worthy.” I am not even trying to say that to have something like a Christian cliché. But that really was what it was, was that, “You must be the only one who was worthy of my heart and soul if you were snatching me away from everything that I thought was worthy in the first place.”

I just believed him. I didn’t know that I was believing him, I didn’t know that I was repenting of sin. I just knew that I saw my sin in its rightful place, which is death. But I also saw, and remembered that one thing that my aunt told me all the time and that we learned in Sunday school is that Jesus died for sinners so that they would have life. I believed that to be true, and he saved me.

So after becoming a Christian then was the work of, “How do I now start to define myself when I've defined myself by so many other things?” The scriptures helped me to really recognize that, “No, what God says about me is the truth. And because God isn’t a liar, it’s literally the truth.” [laughs] I have to believe him over and above even how I feel about myself, or what people might say that I should prove about myself.

Emily:  That’s really helpful because everyone can identify with being a sinner, and I love what you said about, “Hey, this is what feels natural to me.” Well, what feels natural to me is speaking a harsh word to my children whenever they don’t do what is right. What feels natural to me is sitting on the couch and trying to parent with a side eye or a yell down the stairs, instead of actually engaging my children.

We can’t just live based off of what feels natural to us because our flesh and our sin nature is not honoring to God. I really think that is a critical piece there. I love what you’ve really discussed in your book and fleshed out what it looks like to trust what God and his word that’s about us, and let that be what transforms and guides our actions.

Jackie:   Yes. Amen.

Laura:  As a mom, since there's pretty much mostly all moms listening [laughter] right now—and some non-moms—but can you zero this in for you as a mom, Jackie, of what are some places that you do still find yourself misplacing your identity, and then move back to the cross? Can you walk us through a little bit of some identities that you personally struggle with as a mom, specifically? And then, how you point yourself back?

Jackie:  That’s good. One of my temptations is that because—I notice this when I got pregnant this last time around—I had to cancel a lot of stuff and be at home because you shouldn’t be out traveling and preaching and teaching when you're eight months pregnant [laughter]. I was telling a woman from my church, and I was like, “Something about that makes me feel like I am not doing anything with my life.” And she was like, “Jackie, you need to be okay with seeing that God is just as pleased and that you are just as worthy washing the dishes as you are when you're teaching on a stage.”

One of the identities that I try to resist is that thinking that my work as a mother is not a big deal. You're teaching and all this type of stuff is like, “Yes, this is the real work.” But God is like, “No, changing diapers is a big deal. Sitting and watching Daniel Tiger is also a big deal [laughter]. Teaching your daughter how to cook is a big deal.” I've therefore had to try to reorient how I've seen motherhood, and not seeing it as a lesser thing than the other things that I do. That’s a big one for me.

Laura:   That for me is as well—the instant gratification of accomplishing something. We've produced a podcast and put it out there, or we've written some social media. Whatever may be in our current work and all the likes—and that’s just social media culture, a consumer culture—it’s definitely kind of messed with my mind as a mom. You're so right that it is significant work, investing in the souls of our children, and it is just as important as investing in other people outside our homes.

That motherhood job can feel so thankless at times. But at the same time, who else is going to do that work in my kids’ life if I check out and want to go other places? I just know it’s so important to be present and checked in and not just assume or just look for the instant gratification from the world.

Jackie:  That’s exactly what it is; the instant gratification [laughter]. I've never thought about it. It’s just like, “She doesn’t tell me thank you!” “So what? Like love her! It’s okay.” It’s like, “God sees you,” and that’s important.

Emily:  And like mercy, it is merciful to change a child’s dirty diaper that cannot deal with their own issue of being soiled; to be able to clean that up and help that child eat and all of those things because our identity is founded in Christ. Those acts of mercy are just as important as acts of mercy that we show to other people, and you're right, that’s critical to remember.

We've kind of talked about it in this conversation, but how specifically, when you catch yourself wanting to find your identity or your worth or your validation in something outside of Christ, what are some things that you do to help remember your identity in Christ is still along?

Jackie:  Really my first step is getting to the why behind why I feel that way. Even if we were to use what we were just discussing as an example, it’s like, “What is it about teaching on a stage or whatever that you find valuable or more valuable than being at home and sleeping?” And I think a lot of it is pride. It’s the pride of being seen and being affirmed in the “service” of the work that I've done and am doing. And truth be told, I am getting paid for it. [laughter]

The pride of that is, is it not enough to be seen by God in the secret places of your home? Is it not enough to be satisfied fully in that? The fact that you're righteous in Christ, you are always and will always be approved by God? And so you don’t have to work for that approval on a stage or at home.

The why helps me to figure out what to do with it. That’s part of what it is. When I identify the why then I go back to the scriptures and what the scripture has to say about how I should handle the why for myself. Therefore, for me, it’s just finding a level of humility in how I see myself and how I see God and just reminding myself of him. Like, he was a carpenter for goodness sakes. And he was not anti that being a part of what he did.

He was about to save the world and yet he still had a job, [laughs] and he still was making tables for people, and I am sure he wasn’t making tables on Mount Sinai [laughter]. As in looking to Jesus and seeing how much he valued his full identity as being the Son of God and what that meant. For me to be like, “Okay, I can do that too, and it is really okay for me to own what God has called me to do or called me to be, however that might look.”

Laura:  I often just find myself praying, “Lord, let my focus, my value, and my worth be found in you. Let it make everything else pale in comparison.” That’s where I want to keep my eyes so focused on him and what it means that he's chosen me, and that I have eternity with him—just this amazing gift.

When I finally believe that’s enough, I feel like then I am able to go with my children and play and fully engage maybe for the first time all day. Or when my satisfaction is just fully found in Christ, I feel like my mothering is so much better because I am not distracted by wondering, “What's going on on my phone? Or what's the next opportunity that I am going to get? And where am I going to have this other thing to do?”

It’s so hard but I find I have to say that to myself 55 times a day. “Okay, what do I have in Christ? Who am I because he died and rose again for me? What does that mean?” “Okay yes, it means I have eternity with him and I walk through that.” And then that just washes over me. It’s been really a good training ground, but unfortunately I have to do it way too many times than I care to admit. [laughter]

Jackie:  That’s huge. That’s being honest with God and letting him in on it, as if he doesn’t already know. A thing like, “Hey, this is really the truth of who I am. Or who I believe myself to be right now at this moment. Can you please help me?”

Trying to even reorient my identity without asking God for the help to do so is unrealistic because I need the Spirit of God to do that work. And I need the Spirit of God that as I read the Word of God to renew my mind so that the work is actually productive and changes things; I can’t change myself and I can’t change my heart. My heart is always going to be fought back into me believing things that are not true. Therefore prayer is just so huge in all of this.

Emily:  I wish I could quote the verse right off the top of my head. We've been going through Psalm 119 in church and there's one verse in there where the sermon is basically like, “God force me to do it your way and to live according to your will.” And it’s like, “Yes.” That’s not the official translation [laughter]. I remember praying, “God, you're going to have to do this.” Like, “God make me live according to your will.”

Jackie:  Yes. That chapter is full of barbs.

Laura:  Yes. [laughter]

Emily:  I guess carrying that a step further, we know, like you said, you're new into motherhood. We’re kind of in early years too, so we definitely try not to give parenting advice on this show. But just curious because identity in Christ has been such a big theme in your life and in your teaching, how do you see yourself wanting to do that at home with your girls? As you begin to teach them to find their identity in Christ and to know that we can’t officially do that work in their heart? But what are some things that you want to do or to share with them to help point them in that direction?

Jackie:  Umm…I…I guess…  [laughter]

Laura:  That’s how we feel with these questions after a while. [laughter]

Jackie:  I don’t know because I don’t know if I've ever been intentional about trying to help her find her identity right now. But I do think that I've been trying to establish that she's loved. I have a three-year-old named Eden and a ten-week-old named Autumn. Autumn doesn’t understand anything I am saying right now, [laughter] so I am talking specifically about Eden.

I want her to know that she's loved because even in all of my dysfunction, I was super secure in the fact that my mother loved me. And me knowing that she loved me kind of kept me out of a lot of mess, because me knowing that she loved me meant that what she had to say about certain things was because she loved me. Not because she wanted to harm me or keep me from stuff.

And so as her parents—me and Preston—we both want to anchor her in, “Your parents love you. Part of your identity is that you are loved,” and I want that to begin to eventually translate to how she can understand the love of God towards her and how that should then change how she sees herself and sees the world and everything like that.

That’s one thing I've been trying to do. I probably don’t do a great job because I do tell her that she's pretty and smart all the time, [laughter] which might be leading to some pride eventually. But I think that’s necessary because I didn’t think I was pretty. I didn’t have any idea. And so because of it—because I wasn’t hearing about it at home as often as I probably could have—I looked for every single boy that could possibly tell me that I was cute when I was just unhealthy. I don’t know, I think that’s an answer. Sorry. [laughter]

Emily: From what you’ve just observed even on social media, or following you guys, you do a great job of living in an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ in front of your family and the world. That’s one thing Laura and I have learned a lot is there may not be the specific, intentional touch point, but our kids are going to become disciples as they watch us live and come along with us.

They hear us talking about these things all the time, see us repenting and having to turn back and say, “Wow, I really messed this up and Mommy needs Jesus’ help as much as you do.” I've no idea what that’s produced in our kids, but I am praying that if they turn to Christ, God will use those memories of watching mom and dad, and hopefully, the community that they're in, finding their identity in Christ and, I don’t know, that’s my hope. [laughs]

Jackie:  Amen!

Laura:  So much of parenting is modeling, which is terrifying to be honest.

Jackie:  No, it is.

Laura:  Yes, it’s like, “Do as I do.” It’s the whole “actions speak louder than words,” and sometimes we can get so caught up focusing on, “How do I get their identity in Christ?” when really it’s just like, “Let me just show you what it looks like to be sold out for the gospel.” And, “Come along with me, and I hope that you fall in love with Jesus so much because you see how I love Jesus and what he's done for me. And I want to image that for you.”

We've got 20 years with these kids, 18 or however long we've got with them under our roofs. I have a 5-year-old now and I feel like time is slipping away, like they say. And I can’t believe I am saying that with a 5-year-old [laugher] that's going to kindergarten, and I am just grasping for that time with him. But I want him so dearly to love God, to find his identity in Christ, and to understand what that really means. I know of no other way to do that than to just try and live out my own relationship and not overcomplicate it, because then I get all tied up and am kind of ineffective, to be honest.

Jackie, for our last question, we want to ask you about what you might do with a friend who is possibly finding her identity in other things. A lot of the moms that are listening have podcast clubs or they get together to discuss the show. They’re also talking about the things of motherhood— where we’re all finding comrades along the way. I am curious how you might offer her some tips for remembering the gospel. Can you just walk us through what might be helpful as we interact with our friends?

Jackie:  What I would say is the WHY is huge; understanding why you are placing your identity and WHAT you are placing your identity in. It is valuable to understand that one, just so that we can understand ourselves, and in understanding ourselves, that gives us room to not repeat the same patterns. Because when you start to figure yourself out, it’s like, “Oh, this is why I do what I do,” so that when the same temptation comes up two months from now, or next Tuesday, I am able to identify it and say, “I know what that is, and I know what to do with it.” So I think getting to the why of it is important.

Then go back to the text, go back to scripture. If it’s a friend that hypothetically says, “I am really struggling with finding my identity in being a minister.” Or, “I am really finding my identity in being someone who's really good. I feel like I am a good person, but I feel like that’s an identity that I probably shouldn’t base my entire life on.” And then it’s like, “Why do you find your identity in that?” “Well, I guess I get some type of value of feeling like I could just do what God tells me to do.” Like, “I find some type of value in that I can work for his approval or something.” It’s like, “Maybe we should go to Galatians and look out for them. Maybe we should see that no, there's nothing you can do to be saved. There's nothing you can do to find approval in God. If that was the case then Jesus wouldn’t have died. You would have been the savior for all of us.”

Therefore knowing that that’s not the truth, knowing that only Jesus could save us and only Jesus could make us right with God, and that there is so much identity to be found in being someone who was redeemed, and not being the one that could redeem themselves, that there is glory in that truth. Let’s remind ourselves of that. And let’s pray together.

After identifying the why and identifying what that is, go to the scriptures because there is repentance that needs to take place. There is, “God, I am sorry for placing my identity in X, Y and Z, and not in what you have done for me on the cross.” And after repentance there is truth, and there is a turning from, but knowing like, “Okay, God is going to help me even in this.” To every temptation there is a way of escape. Sometimes you escape by just believing the truth.

It may not just be an exit door or turning off your phone. It’s just believing what you already know to be true. Praying together and affirming each other like, “You are this,” because we do not want an  identity of shame. Now I've changed myself because I admitted that I suck. We don’t want to do that either [laughter].

Asking why, prayer, repentance, scripture, hope. I think that’s what I would do. And I don’t think it would be as neat as that; that could happen over sections or over a couple weeks. Or it could happen over a two hour session in a Starbucks. I am not sure; it depends on how the Lord leads. But I think that’s the gist of what I've often done with my friends.

Emily:  I love how you mention—I've never heard anybody say it that that way before—that the way of escape may just be remembering in the truth of the word, because a lot of times we think that we’re in a situation of like, “I cannot escape if I have four little kids at my knees that need something.” And I am like, “Okay, how do I get out of the temptation to gripe at them or to speak unkindly,” or whatever it is. It’s to remember the truth of the word. That my circumstances may not change.

And even if it’s things that I am going to keep struggling with, those may still be there. But having that nugget of truth; to be able to remember is a great way to escape. I also really liked how you said we don’t want to start identifying ourselves with shame, which is a huge struggle. I think for me is when I repent and then I am like, “Man, I am just such a jerk,” [laughs] and really get into this really bad cycle.

Jackie:  It’s like, “Okay, let’s not do that either.”

Emily:  I know; it is really hard to remember the truth. But that’s why the community is so important and to have other believers around you who you can say that to, and be like, “Man, I am just really down on myself.” Like, “I have repented of this and I've prayed and I am trying to hope in Christ, but I am still just wanting to pay for my own sins. Help me, what can I believe?”

We just really appreciate you having this conversation with us today. So many moms are going to benefit from thinking more intentionally about what it means to place our identity in Christ. For those who are listening and that want to hear more of Jackie’s story, you should pick up her book, Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of who I Was and Who God Has Always Been. It releases September 3rd. She also has a ton of great content out there like spoken word videos and teaching and all kinds of great things, so we’ll leave some links to her account. Any last words for us Jackie?

Jackie:  No, I was just going to say you guys are really encouraging. You gave me a lot to even think about as I move forward as a mother. So I am glad that you guys are doing this podcast.

Laura:  Aw. Well, thank you. That means a lot.

Jackie:  Yes.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast, please consider joining them @risenmotherhood.com/give.

Ep. 103 || When Snack Time is Scary Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Laura:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura, and I have my sister-in-law, Emily, here with me. We’re thrilled to be back after a summer off; we had a very restful yet kind of crazy, really busy summer. It was Emily and I‘s first summer being in the same town together, which was so much fun, and we both did kind of similar things, like traveling, and Emily did a bunch of home decorating. What else did you do Em? [laughter]

Emily:  We went to the pool a lot; this was our first summer to really go to the pool as a family, which was fun. But Laura and I went on a lot of walks at a park nearby our house, went to the library some, and grabbed some good times with the kids.

Laura:  I broke ground at my house, which was huge, and I am hopeful that we’ll move in before Christmas. That is my hope. I hope my builder is listening right now. [laughter]

Emily:  But fun Risen Motherhood stuff: we actually got to meet our whole team in person for the first time ever back in June. We went to a conference together, so it was a complete joy to meet Autumn and Kaitlin, and be together with our kindred spirits.

Laura:  It was like we’d known them all our lives, which was so fun. We of course also worked on our book manuscript; you guys have probably seen some sneak peeks, if you follow us on any of the social media platforms @risenmotherhood. That has been a big undertaking; we actually have a first draft of the entire book written, which blows my mind.

Emily:  It’s great though. It feels so good to have that part behind us, and as Laura and I keep editing it—which has been a really fun part of the process for awhile now—we cannot wait for you guys to read this. Not because we have anything exceptional or super special to say, but just because we think this is going to resonate with you guys. And we’re so excited about the way God ended up drawing out stories and topics. We’re just really excited.

Laura:  As you guys know, we have the theme this year, which is “unity in the gospel,” and we thought we’d kick it off with a topic that might seem a little bit silly. You guys probably saw the show title; we’re talking about snacks, but it can actually be pretty divisive among moms.

Emily:  It sounds silly but it doesn’t feel silly in the middle of the afternoon when they’ve asked you about a hundred times, “Is it snack time? Can I have a snack? Mom, when do I have a snack?” [laughs]

Laura: Snacks aren’t funny at that time, that’s for sure. Emily tell everybody a little bit about what's different, and how we handle snacks.

Emily:  Yes. I don’t think about snacks at a time like that [laughter]. I try to use common sense like, “If you just had a meal, you don’t get a snack. You need to wait like two hours after a meal.” They get two snacks a day —sometime mid-morning and sometime mid-afternoon. In my mind, snacks are about blood sugar and preventing meltdowns, and if you’ve had a snack and you're still hungry, you can have carrots. I don’t really think about it too much, but for me I think one of the bigger struggles is whenever our house gets really chaotic and loud, and it’s usually late afternoon, and my kids start really whining, it’s really easy for me to use snacks as a way to avoid dealing with the other issues that are going on. I could be training character for the kids, which would be more like, “No, this is going to be brutal, but we are going to wait with patience, and I am going to help you wait and have self control until dinner.” That’s more of my, “well, we’ll just get straight to the heart of the issues.” Where are you at Laura?

Laura:  I tend to be a snack stickler. I make my kids eat fruits or vegetables before they're allowed to have what we call the treats in our family. I definitely admit that my natural tendency is to, I won’t say like I give a lot of thought process to snacks, but when you pin me to the ground, and I have to talk about them on the show, I am like, “Oh my goodness, it’s all I think about apparently.” [laughter] The kids know, “Hey, I've got to eat a piece of fruit or some veggies if I want to have something else.” I will feel guilt if I give them food “out of order,” if I give them too many sugary snacks, or if they have too many processed snacks. I don’t know why but I have this kind of high standard for what I have to feed the kids. I definitely struggle with feelings of guilt that probably don’t need to be there, and we’ll talk about that more as the show goes on, but that’s one of my most difficult areas.

Emily:  Maybe you can relate to either one of those struggles or somewhere in-between, and there's obviously a huge spectrum of different heart issues we can have. But we definitely wanted to start by saying this is a good problem to be dealing with. The fact that we have such an abundance of food and resources that we can even give our children snacks, or that our children can come to us with a whine for hunger and we have the ability to meet that need because God has given us those provisions. That is a gift, and we want to acknowledge that before we go any further.

Laura:  While you might have come to the show thinking, “Hey, we’re going to give some practical on what kind of snacks to serve your kids, or how to get them to stop saying, ‘I am hungry’ ever 20 minutes,” we have no clue. But of course we’re going to be talking about you, mom, and our hearts. We wanted to chart through some of the motivations, and the attitudes that our hearts take on when we’re giving snacks to our kids or when someone else is feeding snacks to your kids. We see this as two different areas—one is the frequency of snack time offering, and then also there's the content of what the snacks are. Sometimes those things can affect moms in different ways. As we’re delving deep into this topic, this is making snacks very complicated. [laughter] But there's different facets to it, so we want to talk through both those things today.

Emily:  Starting off with some common pitfalls, maybe you can find yourself somewhere in here, is one thing we struggle with occasionally is feeling superior to other people. It’s that pride element that other moms don’t manage as well as I do, and they don’t have as good of rules set up as I do. Or maybe they're not giving them as healthy of snacks or as homemade of snacks as I am. There's definitely that pride element that can show up.

Laura: And then on the other side, you can also feel guilty where maybe your snacks aren’t as healthy or homemade as “what the internet says” or what another mother deems that they should be. Or you maybe have a higher frequency of snack serving than another mom, and you start to feel comparison in that way, and guilt. Or maybe you feel frustrated when you’ve set boundaries on your snack schedule. Sometimes you feel frustrated because you're out of control when another person doesn’t respect your snack wishes.

Emily:  Or you can feel fearful about what someone else is going to feed them when your kids are away from you. Some of these can be founded in really true things—maybe your child does have a food allergy and there is a significant health concern. You're probably going to deal with that in a different way. That’s outside the realm of what we’re talking about today. But there are those fears of like, “Oh there's something I don’t want my kid to be exposed to,” for whatever reason, and you’re concerned that that’s going to happen outside of your care.

Laura:  Okay, so since it’s snack time, you came into the show thinking it was super innocent, but now you know [laughter] all the pitfalls that it can bring.

Emily:  Snack time is scary.

Laura:  Yes; let’s talk through the gospel. In the garden we know that God gave Adam and Eve all the food in the garden to eat. They could eat from every tree except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It wouldn’t have mattered which tree or which plant they selected to pick their food, except for the one off limits tree. Everything nourished and sustained their bodies perfectly, and at that time, Adam and Eve found their identity fully in God. They weren’t looking to the right or to the left to decide what they should eat, how often they should eat it, or how they really measured up. They were just looking to God who was perfect, and they were resting in his acceptance and affirmation for them, for exactly who he made them to be.

Emily:  It’s so interesting when we look at the fall, and we think about any issue really to do with food, because the fall came because someone was tempted to eat something that God said was off limits. There's a lot of different ways to look at the fall, and therefore that’s just one facet of it. But we see that when Adam and Eve think that there is something that God has held off limits for them and maybe if they just get this one thing, they’ll finally be satisfied. Sin enters and that affects everything, including our hearts surrounding food, and including our hearts surrounding rules, personal standards, and comparison. All of that obviously flows into how our heart comes to the table for snack time. Oh, I am just full of puns!

Laura:  Here we go! [laughter] And with that, we can be so thankful that Christ purchased our freedom through restoration, and in this, among many applications, we see two main things that we want to draw out today. Is that our choice for what we serve at snack time and when we serve it is very much a matter of personal conscience. But our heart motivations while serving snack time are a matter of godliness. When we’re serving snack time, when we’re thinking what we’re going to have in it and how often we’re going to allow our kids to engage in snack time, mom that is completely up to you. Christ sacrificed and purchased that freedom, and we’re not declared righteous by the number of snacks we have, or whether you served gold fish or cookies or fruit. It is by grace through faith. It is not by the health or eating habits. You can have five small meals a day, you have two big ones, you can do Whole30, or you can go all homemade, or organic, subsist on rice and beans. Whatever it may be, just recognize too that countries and cultures all over the world do things differently, and so you and the mom across the street, you guys do things differently too.

Emily:  [laughs] Yes. One great place we see this is in a lot of the letters to the churches in the New Testament, where they're really having to bring together these different cultures. You’ve got people from a Jewish background that are now followers of Christ, people that are Gentiles, and people that have come from totally different pagan religions. They all had different ways that they were consuming food, they had different types of foods they were eating, and they probably had different patterns to their mealtime. Therefore you have all these moms coming together in Christ, and one of the encouragements is that they would eat and fellowship together and see unity over the essential doctrines and the mission of the gospel. They would see some of these rules and pass on cultural things; not as like, “Oh, we’re going to throw this to the wayside and act like they don’t exist. But we’re going to coexist in Christ and love one another in the midst of that.” That is challenging, but it’s a good example for us as we think about these issues.

Laura:  Paul talks about that too in Romans 14. We won’t go into it here today, but we did talk about it pretty in-depth on our food episode—Episode 56—so we’ll link that in the show notes and you can hear even more on this specific topic. Moving into our heart motivations when we’re serving snack time, just to recap, remember that the frequency of when you give your kids snacks or what you give them, well, there is some value in those things.  There are things to think about, things to consider, and you definitely don’t just want to be willy-nilly, like, “Snack time, 12 times a day for no reason.” Those things are of some importance. But what is so much more important to Christ are our heart motivations when we serve the actual snacks.

Emily:  Let’s give some examples; we’re not going to be able to cover the gamut. But some examples when you may be struggling with a wrong heart attitude is when you want to keep checking out on your phone instead of engaging your child who may need a snack or is needing you for something. Maybe you are tired of hearing the whining and you just want them to stop and be quiet. Therefore, instead of parenting and engaging them, you're giving them a snack. Maybe you feel a lot of anxiety about your kids and their health, and in order to control that, you feel like, “Okay, I am just going to serve them only certain foods and keep it really tight and clean because then maybe I’ll have more control over what happens to them.” There could be any number of heart issues where we’re worshipping the wrong things. But there are a lot of ways that we can also worship and glorify God and our heart attitude as well. Maybe we care deeply about wanting our kids to have good physical nourishment so that they can enjoy the bodies that God gave them. And that they can play and grow. That’s a great thing if we want to talk to our kids about what God has provided and to be worshipful about how generous he's been with us, and we want to enjoy the good food that he's created. That’s a great thing and it’s okay to enjoy an apple with your kids. That’s what people do.

Laura: We want to be clear; it is one hundred percent okay to be like, “My kid is hungry; I am giving him a snack.” It is not always going this deep, but we've just noticed a pattern in ourselves that we want to speak to because we’re willing to bet some of you are like us, where sometimes snack time can cause angst.

Emily:  That is a good distinction, as we’re saying, this is not examining it every time if I make it two snacks a day and they have 14 snacks a week. But over the course of all the time I've given my kids snacks for six years, yes, I've noticed patterns in my heart, and I've said, “Oh, I need to check myself and make sure I am aware of that as they're asking.” I am not using this as a chance to draw into myself and be so focused and just get out of heart stuff, but I am becoming more dependent on Christ, which is ultimately what God wants to do in and through all heart things—small heart things and big heart things.

Laura:  One quick note, I want to move right into restoration. At that time we won’t be struggling with when or how to give snacks and what our hearts look like when we do it. Today we can image that and we’re going to take you through a quick list of a few things that we can do during snack time. As we said, don’t over think snack time every time you serve it. But we also want to give you some thoughts as you consider what your heart attitude is. The first thing that’s important to share is just make the best decisions you can with what's available to you. Trust God that he's going to provide for your needs and for your kids’ needs. He's going to sustain them, so no matter how snack time goes, or how often we serve it or what you serve. Ultimately God is the sustainer of life, not the snack, and not you. Just trust him.

Emily:  [laughs] Another thing we can do is recognizing others’ preferences. Again, this is a gray area; these are not essential, doctrinal issues. We can love others as God in Christ has loved us. If you have a friend, a family member, or neighbor who prefers that their children eat a certain type of diet, or they like to keep their kids on a certain snack schedule, or whatever, we can try to accommodate that and be gracious. It’s not a big deal to bend to that.

Laura:  On the flipside is when someone doesn’t necessarily bend to what you have as a preference. Being gracious in that too and not holding that as greater than God. With that, we just want to trust God in those situations where other people are making decisions about what or how often your children eat. Say, for example, if they're staying with family, or they're in daycare during the day, or at school, you cannot be in all places at one time. There are probably a lot of chances for your child to be eating things that you're not able to monitor. Therefore trust God with your child’s health needs and what diet that you are hoping for them to have.

Emily:  Sure. Some of you guys may have different situations from this and you feel like, “No, actually there is a conversation that needs to happen around who's feeding my kids what.” Again, maybe there's a food allergy involved, or there's some other more complex issues, it is okay to have conversations in love. But start with prayer. A couple of other episodes that may be helpful in this is Episode 69 about loving the difficult mom in your life, and then also Episodes 74 and 75 talking about grandparents and the gospel. Which we know often comes into this conversation a little bit.

Laura:  With that, just remember, the way you do snack time is up to you, and there are things to definitely consider when you determine what snack time’s going to look like in your family. Wanting to serve healthy snacks, or having sweet things in the pantry at all times; whatever it is that you really care about with that, those things aren’t necessarily a sin. Sin comes into the picture when your method becomes ultimate—when it becomes your pride and your joy and your value. Just a friendly reminder from two moms who struggle with this as well, that we don’t want to start considering other things as inadequate for our children. Or to judge others who are not doing the same. We just want to guard our hearts as we’re going through something as simple as snack time, and just remember that God is God and this food is not. We can be thankful and worshipful that we even have something like this to consider and to think about. Even for me it’s been a good reminder of like, “Hey, how can I have gratitude during snack time? How can I have gratitude for the chance?” Therefore, I talk with my kids and have a moment in-between all of the meals in the day to talk with them and enjoy who they are and enjoy the food that God’s given us.

Emily:  Thanks for joining us today, guys. This show is a really good example of what Risen Motherhood does or tries to do, is say, “Look, the gospel matters in every moment of your day, even in something as seemingly as simple as giving your child a snack.” Therefore if this is something that you’ve benefited from—you probably heard a plug at the beginning about giving—we want to invite you to join our community of donors. We’re really thankful for all of you who have already joined us and given to us over the summer and last spring. But if you want to support the work that we’re doing— getting the gospel to moms all over the world in their most everyday moments—you can find more information @risenmotherhood.com/give. Thanks for joining us.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast, please consider joining them @risenmotherhood.com/give.

Ep. 70 || Is Motherhood Your Measure of Success? Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Well,  hello! Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood! I have my pregnant sister-in-law, Emily Jensen, here with me,

Emily: [Laughs] I just love being described like that—thanks!


Laura: Beautifully pregnant—I don’t know…pretty and pregnant?

Emily: I’m hot right now.  Actually, I’m sitting in a room with no AC, but I’m smiling.

Laura: Aw. You poor thing, I’m sorry! By the time you guys hear this episode, I’m hoping that, at the very least, my baby is in my arms and Emily will be 5 weeks out from your due date. She’s due in early August. So you heard us hint at last week, but just to let you guys know, we are actually going to be taking a two month—I have air quotes here—“maternity leave”.  I don’t know if you can count it as a maternity leave, but we are going to be taking a break from releasing new content. But we are not disappearing completely. We will be sharing content on social media, so go find us over there @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And then of course, we are also probably going to do a couple blog posts that we’ve written ahead of time. You guys are not completely rid of us during these next two months but we are going to be taking time to just be with our families and be with the new babies. And we are coming back just roaring! We already have plans for September so a lot coming to you guys come September. But until that point, it’s going to be a little quieter around here.  

Emily: Yes, a little quieter. Although, not at our houses because we’ll have lots of little cries…

Laura: Oh man…

Emily: But they’re so sweet sometimes.

Laura: Yes, except at 2 a.m., that’s when you’re like, “AH!” But then you wake up at like 8 a.m. and you’re like, “Why are you so cute? I forgive you for everything!”

Emily: I know! "I forgive you for everything." Exactly. And we will make sure we share on social media pictures when our babies come. But another fun thing if you follow along, especially on Instagram and Facebook, we are going to sift through our archives and maybe pull some shows from the depths of the archives that you guys didn’t even know we had.

Laura: Yes!

Emily: Sometimes I go sifting through  the website and I’m like, “Wow! I forgot we recorded a show on that!”

Laura: Me too! Yes, me too!

Emily: So we are going to try to share some of our favorite shows or ones that we almost forgot about that we think still have a ton of relevance. So again, like Laura said, definitely hang around social media, and we are excited to be back in September.

Laura: Yes, so look for us then! But today we are talking about just a fun, light-hearted topic. Something  we talk about all the time. We are talking about motherhood. What? What? Shocker! [Laughs] But all of us talk about motherhood with everyone we know. It seems to feel almost all consuming, you know? It can become something that we build up to where we can’t think of about anything else, we can’t talk about anything else, we can’t almost do anything else. It’s kind of this altar that we start to give everything to. Em, do you want to jump in and talk a little bit about some ways that you can make motherhood too important in your life?

Emily: Yes! And it was funny as you were saying that, I can remember before having my first baby, sitting around other moms and being so annoyed like, “Why do they always talk about their kids? When I’m a mom, I am not going to talk about my kids all the time!”

Laura: Ohhh. That’s adorable!

Emily: Here I am! [Laughs] At the podcast about moms.


Emily: So anyways, we know this just happens. And I think for me, one of the biggest traps is really letting the way that my motherhood is going kind of control all of my emotions and how I’m feeling about myself as a person. If my kids seem to be doing well, and they’re making progress in certain areas, or I feel like they’ve been really obedient lately or whatever, I tend to feel pretty good about myself. If they won’t seem to go number two on the potty—which I’m dealing with right now—or some other issues, you start to really feel like you’re going to have a personal crisis, you know? So definitely I will tie my own self-evaluation and how I’m doing as a person with how my kids are doing, you know?

Laura: Yes, exactly! And I think that I’m really, really similar except a little bit of a twist on that in the sense of I look at the homemaking as a whole, you know? Not just how my kids are doing but I can kind of be like, “Well, am I also keeping a very clean house?” and “Am I getting dinner on the table? It must be wholesome, well-rounded, and homemade.” Or “Am I remembering to change the sheets?” Why are sheets so hard to remember to wash and change? It’s sort of the worst job. But I can start measuring myself on these silly little things where I get very caught up in the doing of motherhood. Of making sure that my kids show up on time, you know, that they have clean faces, and they have clean clothes or whatever. Instead of just enjoying, and being grateful for and resting in the fact that Christ ultimately is caring for them and that I don’t have to be perfect or successful in all the things of motherhood. But that’s where I can kind of get my identity tied up in.

Emily: Yes, and what I think is really interesting is most moms I know—probably myself and Laura included—can quickly define in their own mind what they think success is.

Laura: Yes!

Emily: And we have this standard in our heads, and it’s very detailed often.  It comes from a lot of different things we’ve collected over the years. Whether that be a friend we really admire, or an older woman where we’ve watched what see does, or maybe it’s kind of a church standard or something our own mom did. And we put all these pieces together and form this puzzle and say, “OK. If I look like this, I am successful!” And when we are matching that a little bit, we feel good. When we are not, we are despairing. But I think, that’s not what God meant for us to be doing in our motherhood. And he didn’t really want us to do that with any rule or relationship in our lives—to be defined by it and to be constantly striving and judging and comparing ourself against this earthly standard or picture of what something should be. So the question is, are we doing that? Are we defining our success and our identity in motherhood?

Laura: Yes, I think that it can be really easy to put motherhood too high. I think people can kind of use the phrase, "Motherhood our highest calling." Or is it the most important thing you will ever do? And that’s kind of the question we want to answer today is, “Hey, does motherhood ever get too important… Is that possible?” Short answer is, "Yes!" [Laughs] So if we dive into the gospel, this is Risen Motherhood, we can just look at the catechism, "What is the chief end of man? And man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever." And so we know that ultimately, it’s not to enjoy motherhood forever. It’s not to glorify motherhood. We are to glorify God and to enjoy him. And Jesus says when asked, “Hey! What is the greatest commandment? What am I supposed to do?” Jesus responded saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” That’s the greatest and first commandment and so we know that they’re not using the word motherhood. That’s not what it’s all about. And if motherhood is above worshipping God and looking at ourselves as a woman or a person that worships God, then it has usurped the right order of your heart.

Emily: Yes, which we know is something that all men have done—all men and women are fallen. Adam and Eve, in the garden, traded this good provision and these good promises that God gave them to enjoy something that was created. They questioned God’s goodness and they were looking for satisfaction in something other than God himself. And so, this is sometimes referred to as idolatry. I actually think…


Laura: Just the way you said that kind of like, “Shocker!” It’s very-

Emily: That sounded really dorky. OK, we are going to try to stay on task here today.


Laura: Yes, sorry!

Emily: OK! So I think Tim Keller does a really good job explaining this. He has a book called Counterfeit Gods. And he says, “An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give.” So instead of, again, turning to God knowing that he is the ultimate provider of all of the things that we need, we look to things that are really dead and unable to give us that satisfaction.

Laura: So this is true of our sinful nature in motherhood too. And what we do is we put that on the pedestal, on the altar where God should be, and we expect for it to provide our joys, our hopes… As we talked before, it really can influence our feelings when it’s way too high up. Another thing that we do is that we can sinfully lay down things that we shouldn’t be putting aside when we put motherhood too high. So basically what we’re doing is taking what should be a good thing—motherhood—and we are putting it too high on the altar where all these other good things kind of fall because of that. And we sacrifice these things in the name of making motherhood too important. So things like your relationship with your husband can be hurt, your own self care, living beyond limitations. Hannah Anderson interview—right Em—is really good about limits. We can begin to sacrifice time with God and getting to know him more, our connection to and serving the church body and the ministry that we should have there, management of our own homes, balancing our own schedules. There are a lot of things that when we put motherhood too high, dominos fall because we’re not looking at ourselves as a whole person.

Emily: Yes! So I think the question is, how do we break out of this pattern? Or is it just do we grit our teeth and try harder to get that shower in? Or be a little nicer to our husbands? That’s really good. But ultimately the only answer to that is found in Christ. God knew that there was no way that we were going to break out of this idolatrous, sinful pattern on our own by our own efforts. We needed a Savior to free us. And when we trust in Jesus, we get the Holy Spirit and he gives us a new heart and a new nature and a new ability to do what is right and pursue the things of the Lord. Now obviously, we are not going to be perfect in that— it’s a battle, we’re going to stumble. But it’s this beautiful way that he can help us from one degree of glory to another, to overcome some of these sins in our lives and bring him glory in our lives.

Laura: Yes. And with that, as we move into restoration, we find that our hope is not going to be in all the things we accomplish or do as a mom. Our hope isn’t in our children; it’s not all about you. You don’t rise or fall based on your motherhood. What we hope in now is what God has done for us and what he’s done in the gospel and that is a beautiful long lasting eternal hope with great promise. And so, that also means that we’re far more than just being moms. When the gospel truly defines us, we don’t primarily think of ourselves as a mom, we think of ourselves as a woman created in the image of God to love Him, to love others in his name in every role and relationship that we have, not just in motherhood. So that really changes how we find and determine our success or our achievement when we look at ourselves as a whole woman created to worship God—motherhood is not all there is! So our worth cannot be found in children, homemaking, any part of motherhood. It is found in Christ, and that is such a better and more stable foundation than those shaky sands of idolization that we tend to do.

Emily: Yes and praise the Lord! Because I think one look at any of our hearts on any given day in our mothering, in our homemaking, in what we want to define ourselves by will just show that we fall desperately short. And Christ never does. He is an infinite well of hope. But some of you may be like, “OK, bring it down to earth for me!” [Laughs] What does this look like realistically? I know on the show, we talk a lot about living the gospel or applying the gospel and it can be hard to really understand how to do that. So first of all, we need to know it.

Laura: Yes, we need to know it. And you’ve heard us say that we need to know God, know what he says, know what the gospel is… So this goes back to biblical literacy, our theme for the year. If you are wanting to dive into studying the Bible and knowing God's word more, we do have some really good tools through motherhood equipping. They’re completely free. We design them because we desire for moms to be able to know God’s word intimately and personally, not just through the podcast or someone else who is talking to them. We want your mind to be transformed as you take in his word yourself to know the real God and not just some random version of him.

Emily: Yes, and I think as we’re doing that, lets say, even if it’s a couple of times a week—which we hope it’s something where you can get to where we do everyday—it shifts my perspective for the day. It helps me when I have that moment of weakness or I have that moment where I realize, “Ooo, I sinned there! Or I didn’t live up to that standard.” I realize, “I’m not in control of everything!” That can be a moment where I remember the truth of the gospel and I’m able to say that back to myself in my head—sometimes out loud, sometimes I’m freaking people out in my house by saying stuff out loud. [Laughs] That over time, changes – I hope, our response!

Laura: Yes. The way to change your heart on this is a lot of where your heart is and  where your peace and rest is found. So as we get into this practical, just knowing the way this fleshes out, it starts by what are you pouring in, and that’s what is poured out. So the practical isn’t as tangible as I was thinking. But I think as Emily talked on, we’ll start to see our weaknesses, we’ll start to see areas where we have need, and as we study the scriptures more, as we’re in God's word, we see those things more. And conviction is a wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, knowing that we are truly regenerate and those things lead us back to Christ and recognize what our place is and what our standing is before God. And really it should bring you to such gratefulness that, again, your love for God and what he’s done for you allows you to love your family well and to put them in the right order in your life.

Emily: Yes, so just to summarize today, what might it look like if we’re making God and his glory the most important thing and not our motherhood? I think one benefit is that we don’t have to ride that roller coaster again, like what Laura is saying about our ups and our downs being tied to how our children are doing or how we think we are doing at home or with our parenting. Another thing we touched on is that we can invest in a lot of different relationships and a lot of different ministries because we are a woman that is on mission for the sake of the gospel to make disciples. We are living that out in every role and every sphere of our life with all of the gifts and abilities God has given us. So that’s going to come out in motherhood, and it’s going to come our in our relationship with our husband, and hopefully the way we’re serving at church, and the way we’re serving our neighbors. The story isn’t about us and it’s not about our motherhood, and we can live that out!

Laura: Exactly! And I think that the pitfall that I really fall into is wondering, “Am I doing enough? Am I really doing my best and my hardest in motherhood?” And when you put Christ in the right order in your life and motherhood in your proper place, you don’t have to wonder any more if you’re doing enough for your family, that answer is clear: you’re not, and you cannot. If you’re wondering, here’s your answer: you can’t save everyone in your life. Instead, when Christ is on the throne, we can seek faithfulness in our roles and trust God for our weakness. So when we can’t meet a need for our family, it doesn’t totally throw us out of the loop. We don’t have to be a person that’s living on edge or that’s always wondering how we’re doing or living in an uptight way. We can be peaceful, joyful, patient, and easy to be around, because we’re not comparing ourself to some standard that God hasn’t asked us to do.

Emily: Yes, and I think going back to the interview we did with Hannah Anderson a few weeks ago, which I just loved, we’re able to be free to take care of ourselves within the limitations that God has given us as humans. Like we need sleep, we need food, we might need some level of exercise and emotional care, and all of those things. And whenever we’re saying, “ You know what, God is God, I am not. He has not put me in this domain to rule over it perfectly!” We are able to do those things and I think be a lot less stressed in general and just be free in that. It’s not perfect, but I don’t know, I feel like I experience more and more freedom as I realize it’s not up to me to hold the whole world together.

Laura: Exactly, so as we wrap of here for our final show of the summer, we hope that you will spend July and August really diving into the gospel of getting to know the things that God loves—to begin to love the same things that he loves. And when you start to feel tempted or realizing that motherhood is maybe becoming too important that you would just stop and take a moment to look at Christ and to remember what your heart should love first and foremost. We, again, will be on social media while we are out as we preach to ourselves—this is going to be especially difficult with new little babies around. We will be over there so we hope you will join us in those communities. And anything else, Em?

Emily: Yes, just head over to our show notes, we will try to include a lot of great resources and books for you guys in terms of this looking to Christ and how that fleshes out in our parenting. So yes, we will see you guys back in September!

Laura: Yay!








Ep. 69 || Loving the Difficult Mom in Your Life Transcript

This transcript is edited for clarity.

Emily: Well, welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood! I’m Emily Jensen, here with my sister-in-law, Laura Wifler.


Laura: Hello! Hello!


Emily: And just by way of a few housekeeping items before we get started…First of all, Laura is about to have a baby if she doesn’t already have one in her arms when this is released.


Laura: I know. I kind of hope I do have one in my arms when this comes out.




Emily: We are sharing with you guys a little bit about a small break we are going to be taking. We will talk more about it next week so no worries! Just come back next week, but I wanted to go ahead and plant that bug in your ear. And also, if you want to share with others about this podcast and you’re like, “I have some mom friends or people I know who would benefit from hearing gospel application to motherhood,” we would encourage you to take a few minutes to leave an iTunes review. They have all these algorithms, and that is one way that can help us spread the word about Risen Motherhood. If you don’t know how to do that you can hop over to our website, www.risenmotherhood.com, and we have some quick tutorials there but hopefully it should not be too hard.




Emily: Today we are going to tackle a topic we have had a lot of questions about from different angles. We are trying to sum them all up with “Hey, how do we love moms that are different than us and moms that can be kind of hard to love and hard to be around because of  their opinions or their parenting style?”



Laura: Yes, exactly. I’m sure every mom who is listening is like, “Oh, I know the mom!” It’s really normal and natural for us to want to find moms that are similar to us and often I think, whether we admit it or not, we are always observing another mom. What is she dressed like? How many kids does she have? What’s her age? How does she talk? Things like that. And I think we are looking for commonalities or if we are going to like her, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t sort of ease into sizing up a mom or judging her. But it’s just a natural human thing to make observations and to see, “Oh, they look like me!” or, “Wow, they look really different than me!” And so we have that beginning foundation that I think that we all do. But then on top of that—especially in motherhood—even someone who looks just like you from the outside, maybe it’s your best friend, and suddenly you guys both became moms and you’re like, “We don’t even recognize each other anymore!” [Laughs] Because there are so many different areas, especially gray areas, where I think we can take really firm stances and we can even surprise our self with some of the decisions we make. Things like, feeding your child—breast-feeding, bottle-feeding, organic, not organic, how hard you try doing it. Feeding toddlers—are you from the clean your plate club or the eat your age club, are you a no thank you , one bite…






Laura: Kind of ridiculous all the types we have…I don’t know. What else is there, Em?



Emily: I think sleep is a big one.



Laura: Yes!



Emily: That’s usually an early conversation about moms. I was just at a baby shower not long ago, and she was gifted a couple different books that were different philosophies and I was like, “Oh it’s going to be fun to navigate through that.” And even if—well, let me say this, the reality is… I literally don’t know anyone who parents exactly like I do. You know?



Laura: Yes, that’s a good point!



Emily: Even the people that are most similar to me that I can think of still have a ton of differences. It’s just a reality that we have to learn to live with really fast as a mom.



Laura: Yes, and I think that in every area, we can all think of a mom that’s maybe more extreme than us and maybe less extreme than us, you know? And so, we can, generally speaking, probably choose to live in harmony with one another and recognize the differences and be cool with it. But every once in a while, we meet a mom or there’s someone in our life who either has an incredibly strong opinion that they enjoy sharing. Or sometimes a mom—this goes to another level—but sometimes the way a mom parents can inconvenience or maybe interfere with the way that you want to parent. An example of this would be, maybe a mom has a higher tolerance for rough play or what they consider fun play. Maybe they allow their kid to watch a more mature show than you would choose whenever your kids are at their house. Or maybe you have a friend of a family member that watches your children and they just are not quite listening to some of your requests that you have. So you’re consistently seeing behaviors in your child that maybe you wouldn’t allow but because they’re watching your child. It can be hard to know exactly what to do with it or how to deal with that kind of conflict.






Emily: Yes. I’m just laughing because this is so complex. But one thing we just wanted to make clear really quick as we are talking about dealing with differences with other moms is that today on this show, we are not primarily talking about situations where there is potential harm that could come to your child, or there’s a person in your life who’s making really destructive choices. You definitely have to protect your kids and put up good boundaries. There may be people that you need to be out of relationship with for a while or that your children can’t be around—we know that those situations exist. But on today’s show, we are primarily sticking to some of those examples that Laura just gave with moms that are just hard to understand or hard to be patient with. Anyways, we just wanted to offer that caveat before we get too much further into the show.



Laura: I think what we are going to try to get at the heart of today is what do you do. Should you just cut these people out of your life? Or if you can’t get rid of them, maybe they’re family, should you just avoid them? And as we know, the gospel applies to everything and God’s word has principles for processing everything, including this issue. We are going to just try to think through today a little bit. What does the gospel say to these types of situations? Maybe we can start the conversation and then you’ll have to find a way to finish it.






Emily: This is definitely high level, ladies.



Laura: Looking at creation, Adam and Eve were created to live in perfect harmony with each other and with God and to worship him and everybody was on the same page. There was no guilt or shame or conflict—things like that. And if we look at the Trinity, I think we also see how the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all a picture of that perfect relationship and perfect community that God models. Certainly, God values and originally created for all of us to live in peace with one another in healthy relationship. Because of the fall, we know that sin entered and our relationships became broken and severed between one another and also with God. We weren’t just hard to be around or be with, but actually it was impossible for God to have a relationship with us because of his holiness and because of our sin. And so, I think that it is important to remember that it’s not just this person that maybe is coming to mind right now that is hard to love—you, yourself, are hard to love! And I know it’s a hard truth, I mean, it’s hard for me to hear because I’m like, “Everybody should love me!” You know? But what’s funny is, we might just be that typical person in someone else’s life and we don’t even realize it. Sin levels all of us onto an equal playing field and no one becomes better than another person. And so, I think that is important to remember, as we talk through this today, is that you can think about this person that you want to love better because there are some difficulties but also really doing a heart check and seeing, "Where am I being that mom as well?"



Emily: Yes. And I think maybe the reverse side of that is sometimes when we meet a mom and she seems more extreme, we feel this inner need to be like, “She’s wrong! She’s not thinking about this rightly.” It’s kind of a backwards way of stroking our own pride. Like Laura’s saying of needing that validation that we’re more right, we have things together a little bit more than they do. And so we can kind of give ourselves these brownie points, you know? But I was thinking the other day that it’d be like owing someone a million dollars and then playing Monopoly to try  to win it back. Every time you win at Monopoly, you give them you’re Monopoly money and they’re like, “Well, that’s great, I’m glad you’re good at Monopoly, but you haven’t paid back any of your debt. “






Emily: And the same is true for us. Once our relationship with God has been severed, there is nothing we can do to earn favor with him in our mothering. And so it doesn’t really matter if we’re more right about the food choice or about the bedtime or whatever.



Laura: Yes, maybe you are more right. But it doesn’t really matter and that’s why we needed Jesus  to atone for our sin for these areas of pride or despair that we have. And so what comes with Christ’s atonement on the cross is since we have now been loved, we can now love others with a deeper well of patience and understanding that never runs out because it comes from the source—from Jesus Christ. And so we need to look at the person and the work of Jesus and have that inform and motivate our love for other people. Even just thinking about Jesus examples in the Gospels, he was always seeking the unlovable, the hard to love. He touched really gross things, he surrounded himself with the outcasts, he found the broken and the weary people, and he called them to himself—he called themhis own. And so, we can model that because of what Christ did for us.



Emily: Yes, and I think another point in redemption is just acknowledging  God is just and he is the just Judge. We look on outward appearance but he is looking on the heart and someday every heart motivation is going to be exposed. When we are trusting in Christ, we are also trusting God that it’s not up to us to be the mommy moral police.






Laura: Yes.



Emily: God is taking care of that. He’s seeing everything so we can be gentle. We can be patient, knowing that we don’t know the whole picture; we don’t know all that friend’s circumstances. We don’t know everything that’s going on, but God does, and we can gently and lovingly, over the course of a long time, point that friend to Christ.



Laura: Yes! I think that when we find our identity in Christ—like we come back to so frequently on the show—when our worth and our value isn’t tied up in what another person’s opinion is, or how they treat our kids, or what we think they are doing or not doing, we finally live in freedom. Just being thankful that God made us all different and I don’t have to look like that person or I don’t have to carry my feelings in what that person does. There’s a lot of freedom when we remember the disordered love of our hearts, as is it Augustine? Who says that? Maybe I shouldn’t have quoted that on the podcast but we have to reorder them to putting God as our first and foremost priority, so that our identity is found in Christ, and therefore we are not relying on other people to fill us up.



Emily: Alright. Deep breath everyone. I think that was hopefully a fly overview of how the gospel can encourage us in these situations but practically you’re still like, “Hey, though this person is still there [laugh], what do I do? What are some practical steps that we can take in terms of managing these relationships?" And I think first of all, exactly like what we just did, try to remember and rehearse the gospel. And the more that we learn about God through his word and the more we understand what things are important to God and what things matter eternally, it just helps put some of these non-eternal things in perspective and in their proper place.  And also I think studying scripture and knowing the gospel helps us know the difference between clear commands of God—things that are just black and white, right and wrong—versus areas that would be considered a disputable matter or a gray area. We have freedom to make those decisions and what really matters is our heart attitude. It’s important to just be saturating ourselves in truth so that we can know what perspective to have.



Laura: Exactly! And as you’re thinking about, “OK, here’s how I want to maybe deal with this situation keeping the gospel in mind,” I think it’s also remembering what you want to be known for and really doing a heart check before you do any approaching or any talking to anybody is to say to yourself, “Am I the hard to love mom?” Like, “Am I being overbearing?” or “Am I being too sensitive in this situation?” I think that it’s really important to do that self heart check, as Emily was saying, of knowing the gospel allows you to do a correct and accurate heart check. Then remembering going forward, what do you want to be known for? Do you want to be known for peace and grace? Or discord and dissension?



Emily: And pray. I mean, think about the scripture about getting the log out of your own eye. I think prayer and meditation on scripture is one of the ways that we can sit down and be like, “God, can you help me be patient with this person?” And a lot of times he will even reveal areas of our own lives  where we need to repent or be more thoughtful as well.



Laura: Exactly. Again, looking at a situation and thinking about, “Hey is this something that I need to talk to somebody about? Do I just let this go?” I think that’s the common tension. I think it’s really choosing your battles wisely and if at all possible, letting it go. I think we can all look back on a time when we were new moms—maybe you experienced something new and it was the first time you went through and we all might do things a little bit differently. We maybe would have spoken with a little less confidence or we wouldn’t have talked about certain things in certain ways. And so I think it’s really important to remember that we all have foolish behavior at certain times and we don’t realize until later what we should or shouldn’t have done. Try to remember that mom, especially if she’s experiencing something for the very first time. She will eventually probably come to her own conclusions and realize that maybe she’s being a little extreme on a certain point. And it’s not your job to be her Holy Spirit or to convict her. Unfortunately, for a season, you may just have to endure a mom that is difficult for you to love in your life and just pray that God will help them see the error of their ways, giving you grace and patience to endure it.



Emily: I think there’s this natural tendency to avoid people and hard situations that seems really strong. Just in general, find ways to reach out to those people, find ways to love them, and bear with them, and seek to understand, asking questions, get to know them. You might be surprised by what you learn. I know there’s been several times where I kind of pressed into to someone’s differences from me as a mom and then I really benefited for it. And if anything, it’s just given me more understanding for people who are different from me and I just think God has used it to show me, “Hey, we can be unified in our goal for the gospel and have different ways or doing things and we can still love and respect one another.”



Laura: Yes, and here we move to those difficult situations where you really feel like God is leading you to talk to that person. How do you know if that’s correct and how to you go about that? We get a lot of emails about that from moms, so we want to say up front this is super case by case and this is not something that we can tell you, “Hey, this is what you should do. You’re for sure right.” You might not be right that you should approach that person so please see these as guidelines not solutions. Start out with prayer, as we continually go back to, make sure that your heart is aligned correctly. Then maybe talk with your husband, or older wiser woman if you are a single mom or maybe talk to both your husband and an older wiser woman. And explain the situation, explain all that they’re able to ask you like the back end details and a lot more of the story. Maybe they''ll see it from a more objective point of view than what you’re able to see it. And so see what they think about what some of the right next steps are.



Emily: Yes and I think another really practical thing you can do is just be preventative and proactive about things. When you’re going to go into a situation where you know you’re going to be around another mom or caregiver who has some really different opinions than you, you can go ahead and mentally know your boundaries before going into that situation. Prep your children, be on the same page with your husband or whoever you’re there with, and have a game plan in advance for how you’re going to handle it. And resolve that, you know what, you may get some push back but you’re going to stand firm and be gracious and talk through some of those scenarios. I know my husband and I have had a lot of situations like that where it wasn’t that big of a deal but we had a boundary that we were wanting to keep and it was really just as simple as a conversation beforehand or a conversation with the other people beforehand. And it didn’t turn out to be that big of a deal at all.



Laura: Yes, I’ve said this before on the show, but communication is so huge, it’s amazing the things that we'll just bury down and assume that this person will get through osmosis that you don’t like what’s happening or what’s going on. And really, it’s amazing what can happen when you sit down in a room and with someone and say, “Hey, this has sort of been bothering me and maybe I...” kind of blaming it on yourself. I think it’s really important just to communicate. And maybe write down your thoughts ahead of time. Be very careful with what offenses you choose to bring up. Don’t start nitpicking and going after the little thing and really make sure you’re framing things in a way that doesn’t make that person feel like they’re on the judgment seat or on trial. Be very gentle with their heart, treating it as you would want your heart to be treated. I think those are some practical things if you need to get to that point of having a conversation and you feel like the Lord is affirming it through some of these other avenues. Those are some tips, as you approach a conversation with someone. [Sighs] Which I hope you don’t have to have too many of those…



Emily: [Laughs] Oh, please… But yes, I think overall remembering again that in the gospel, we are undeserving of God’s grace and he showed us grace and mercy, and we want to—and get to—show that to other people as well. Alright, I don’t know if we put the mommy wars to rest on this show or not, Laura.






Laura: We solved all the world’s problems, what are you talking about?!






Laura: Alright, well, thanks again for joining us. If you want to find more resources you can get those on our show notes at www.risenmotherhood.com. And also, it’d be so awesome if you’d leave a rating review on iTunes, and you can find us on social media, instagram, Facebook and Twitter @risenmotherhood. See you guys next week!



Episode 58 || Having A Child with Special Need: An Interview with Abigail Dodds Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Hey guys, this is Emily Jensen here. Today we have a really special episode for you. We’re talking to Abigail Dodds about her journey with her son, Titus, who has special needs. She is a wife, and a mom to five kiddos, and she’s also a Bible study teacher and she does a lot of writing online. We will link this to our show notes, but you can actually find a lot of her stuff on being a mom to a child with special needs on her blog, hopeandstay.com. But we know no matter where you’re at in the journey, or even if you don’t have a kiddo directly with special needs, you are going to be encouraged by this show. She has so much wisdom to share; everything for how to deal with practical self-care, how to trust God’s goodness in the midst of hard things; how do we face fear with truth? So the list goes on, I’ll just really encourage you guys to stay tuned and I know that you’ll be blessed. So, let’s listen in.

Laura: Hey Abigail, thank you so much for joining us today on Risen Motherhood. We’re so happy to have you here. Can you take just a second to tell us a little bit about yourself? We know you’re a wife, a mama, a writer. Please share a little bit with our listeners, about your child with special needs.

Abigail: I am married to Tom. He’s a great man and I got a really great deal when I married him. He is an elder at our church, here in the Twin Cities, and we’ve been married 15 years this June. We’ve got five kiddos; our oldest daughter is Eliza, she’s 13, and then we’ve got Seth who’s 11, Aliana who’s nine, Evangeline is six, and then our youngest, Titus, who’s three. He’s our little guy with special needs. We part-time home school, so that keeps me busy. That means that our older four kids are in school for three days a week, and then home two days a week. I also write and teach Bible studies at our church, and I spend time in therapy appointments and doctor appointments. I love baking and gardening, and I am an “okay” knitter, [laughter] but I like it. Those types of things take up all my free time, and then, just like the rest of you, I am just trying each day to stay awake [laughter] to be kind to my kids, and to keep everybody in our house alive [laughs].

Emily: I love that, “being kind”. That’s an important detail that I always have to work on. [laughs]

Abigail: Isn’t it? It so easily slips away. That’s right [laughter]. For Titus’s story, before he was born, at his 20-week ultrasound, he was flagged with a small cerebellum. We had lots of check-ups and appointments just to check on his brain growth. But then when he was born, they thought everything was fine. He was born full-term; he was little, so 4 pounds, 15 ounces, but they sent us home just like normal, and said, “We think things look fine.” But I knew pretty quickly that things probably weren’t fine. So at two months, I finally took him to a pediatrician and said, “I am seeing things that don’t look good”. His eyes were very, very crossed and he had very low muscle tone, which in a newborn is so hard to tell. But he had no muscle tone. So those types of things tipped me off. We went to see lots of doctors after that, and we were sent on a whirlwind of appointments. He ended up having eye surgery early on, and he had an MRI which showed all the different things that were going on in his brain, which basically just amounts to the fact that there were some places that weren’t fully developed. He’s got a hypoplastic pons—which is a fancy way of saying that part of his brainstem is small—and that’s the part that regulates breathing and swallowing and sleep. That area between the two hemispheres of your brain is thin, and so that can affect a lot of development. And then, just delay overall; he’s just not getting the connections made as much as he should by that point in time. So basically what we were told, at that point, was that it looked like what he had was genetic, and that there was only one real condition that lined up with some of the things that were happening with him. It was a fatal condition, and that usually those kids die around one or two years old. It was pretty devastating at that point because they had nothing else really to tell us except, “Just keep working with him”, and, “We don’t know for sure”, which was really wonderful when they said that. But it was really hard to be in that limbo mode for so long; that waiting and just watching to see whether he declines, or whether he progresses. So we started lots of therapies, lots of testing. And then at fourteen-months-old, he had a massive seizure at our home, and so we went by ambulance to a children’s hospital, and I stayed in this room—it felt like one of those horrible TV shows—while over a dozen people worked on him and he was unresponsive. He was intubated and at that point, he had another MRI and while we were still in the hospital, they gave us the results of it. And it looked just horribly bleak; it was like they were saying there were all these new things wrong. I was pretty thrown back because it looked like he had been progressing in some ways. I was surprised. But then our neurologist just looked at the MRI and said, “Why, actually I think it’s good news. Things aren’t really getting worse; they’re holding steady, that’s what we want to see”. So it’s good to get a second opinion. Not that that opinion would have changed anything, but it sure can mess with your emotions. After the seizure, which seemed like the worst thing that had ever happened to us, it really set us on a positive course for his life and development, because he got on anti-seizure meds after that, he got a feeding tube placed because swallow studies showed that he was aspirating everything. And also he had not gained weight well and so he needed one anyway. And they had been debating with this, and this sort of pushed them over the edge. Those two steps were just so positive for him; his development after that point just took off in a lot of ways. It was very counter-intuitive, but we were very, very thankful. And now that we’re past that point of worrying like, “Oh, is he going to make it or not”, they are saying he’s looking great, his brain is holding steady, he’s developing; now we’re just spending a lot of time being thankful, seeing what new things he’s doing. He runs around like a crazy man and makes his opinions known. He’s got quite a personality. It’s also very funny because he’s the tallest and biggest of our kids at three-years-old; [laughter] for a three-year-old, which is hilarious because he’s totally tube-fed [laughter]. And it’s like, “Oh Lord, you’re giving us a very healthy, growing child now”. He’s a big boy which is funny because he was so little for so long. But we’re just spending a lot of time being thankful now.

Emily: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know that there are probably moms listening, who are just all over the spectrum with different things that they’re dealing with, with their kiddos, who are maybe just starting evaluations for a couple of therapy appointments, or they’re seeing neurologists, or they’re talking through different medications with their doctors. No matter where people are at on their journey, it feels exactly like what you described; it can be a rollercoaster and it can be scary, and it can be one day you’re encouraged and the next day you’re just devastated. I know so many moms probably identified with you, and I am so glad to hear that, like you said, that the thing that felt like everything is going wrong with this thing really helped him grow and develop.

Laura: As Emily said, and you shared a little bit, I know that especially at the beginning of the journey, there is a lot that plays in—a lot of emotions that play in. A lot of times you’re doing some research which brings in fear; you have the unknown ahead. A lot of times no matter where you are, with special needs, there’s a lot of unknown guilt; maybe feeling like it’s your fault, or just feeling very, very alone in your journey. What are some of the first thoughts that you had when this journey was just beginning, and how did the gospel really shape your thoughts? Or, how did God comfort you with his truth?

Abigail: You know, one of my very first thoughts—it probably sounds silly—was, “Does having a child with a disability or with special needs mean that I have to get all new friends”? [laughter] That really was something that hit me hard and I don’t know why. And thankfully, I discovered that the answer is of course, “No, we don’t”. But it was a strange discovery process of figuring out how our friendships, with folks who have no commonality in the special needs world, how they could enter into our life, to what degree they wanted to, and also making new friends within the special needs community. For a long time, it felt like we had nothing to give in the friendship department. We were just receiving, receiving, receiving and all we had was needs. That to me felt really terrible, it was hard. But God really used it in profound ways to humble me, and to grow us, and others, in meeting our needs. So it really deepened our friendships and did really wonderful things in many ways.I also had lots of thoughts that started with “I can’t.” Lots of “I cant’s” flooded my head; like, “I can’t do all these appointments. I’ve got kids I am homeschooling, I can’t do this.” I thought, “I can’t survive with this kind of sleep depravation, I just can’t.” I thought things like, “I can’t watch my child decline,” and thankfully, I haven’t really had to watch that. But those kinds of “I cant’s” led me into self-pity; a kind of a self-pity mind-set that the Lord, thankfully, convicted me of pretty quickly. But that conviction didn’t keep me from sometimes having the “I can’t” thoughts. But what the conviction did was it helped me know what to do with those thoughts when they started firing at me. I remembered that I am united to Christ, and I didn’t think of it like that. But basically that was the gist of it; remembering that he had already walked the path of obedience for me when he went to the cross. And that all those “I cant’s” that kept flooding into my head, those were acknowledged there, and those were dealt with there. Because it’s true; it wasn’t a total lie, it was true. I can’t do everything. I can’t do anything apart from God. But because of Jesus, I can walk this road that he’s given me. I can follow in his footsteps. Those are the ways that I had to combat those thoughts, and just realizing that I can die everyday, and I have to, to my sin and to live in him. Then the other thing was just recognizing that he is sovereign, and that none of what was happening was an accident. That he planned for Titus to be our son before the foundation of the world, and that that was a good plan that he had for us. It wasn’t just a good plan for me, it was a good plan for my husband, and it was a good plan for each of our older kids. That was one I had to wrestle through. But the goodness of the plan doesn’t take away the pain of what’s happening. I would love to just make sure that the people listening hear this. Disability is a sign that something has really gone desperately wrong, and that is that sin has entered into our world, and we need to grieve over it. It is worth grieving over. It’s really sad that sin has entered into our world and caused disability. Not because of a particular sin that we committed or our family committed, but just sin in general. It’s come into this world and it gets into things like babies’ brains. And so on any given day, the parent of a child with special needs is somewhere on that spectrum of being really, really happy that God tailor-made this plan and gave you the special child, and then feeling very grief-stricken over the loss and the pain of it. That’s something that special needs parents have to live in. That’s the kind of group that we have to be—a sorrowful,  always-rejoicing kind of people.

Emily: I am already a mess Laura [laughs]. I’m just sitting in the listener position being ministered to.

Laura: I know, and I can totally tell. Abigail you make such a good point about what we talk about here on Risen Motherhood all the time, about how the fall affects all of us. That none of us are immune, and that it should grieve us, and it make things really difficult and we have to confront that. How would you say the gospel, and your understanding of creation and redemption, give worth and value to your child’s life and to your role as a mom? In what ways does this show God’s good design, because we know that his plan is good, even if we can’t see it in the moment, or we’re not able to tell because of life circumstances around us? It’s not as obvious. What would you say are ways that point you to seeing God’s goodness?

Abigail:  Well, for able people, for those of us who aren’t struggling with a disability, it’s really easy to think that our worth comes from our ability to reason, to think properly, or to perform. But it isn’t, and disability helps us to learn that. Our worth is derivative; it comes from God. It’s because we were made by him and according to his image. Then our worth is also underscored by God’s love for us. God loves us, and he proved that at the cross, and that gives us immeasurable value. His love actually transforms what is otherwise unlovely and unlovable into something lovely and lovable. That whole truth helps me to see the grace of God everywhere, and it really puts thankfulness into my heart. One of the things that came to the forefront really early on in my thinking, in this process, was the reality of the resurrection. This was something that I absolutely had to get settled, and it is so simple [laughs]. It is just so simple, but I had to do business with this. Did I really believe that a man, who was God, died and that his actual body, like, his physical body was resurrected and that he’s alive even now? I really believe that. I really believe that a real man, who was God, died and that his physical body was made alive again. I believe that it’s going to happen to me and to all of God’s children. And that hope, that resurrection hope is so powerful. It’s powerful because it’s true, and it has kept me from wilting during some of the really hard times. Thinking on the possible death of our children can be absolutely terrifying, and I spent the better part of a year kind of with that possibility staring right in my face. And I was told by really wise Christians, good advice. The advice was, “Do not borrow that kind of trouble,” like, “Don’t think on that possibility.” It’s good advice and there’s wisdom there, but on the other hand, fears don’t abate. They don’t go away simply by ignoring them. I needed to look my fear right in the face and take out its fangs. The only way I could do that was by really doing business and thinking on the resurrection, and remembering the hope that dead bodies are brought to life and restored. Even now, dealing daily with disability, and things being, for us, fairly stable and good, resurrection hope is still the solid ground that I stand on in this special needs world.

Emily: I love how you brought that to the forefront. My younger brother has special needs, and many years ago, when I was scrupling through this issue, as a young adult, one of the things that finally brought me tremendous joy and comfort was the realisation that because he places his faith in Christ, some day he will experience the same resurrection that I will. And he will not have the limitations that he has now, and I’ll have a relationship with him, as God created him, without any of the intellectual delays, with the speech delays, and the physical things. It was like once that clicked to me, I was just like, “Okay." And it’s not that there isn’t still grief, but, just that...

Abigail: Oh, but there is freedom , isn’t there?

Emily: And it’s for all of us, and all of our sin in every relationship. I think that was particularly comforting to know this is not forever for him.

Laura: I just love what you talked about of taking the fangs out of fear. No matter what we’re facing as moms, we all have different areas of fear that we face. And that is such a good truth of just staring that down, because when we do that and we apply the gospel to that, and we put the cross in front of it, it holds no fear for us because we know, that no matter what happens here on this earth, that eternity is waiting for us. That no matter how much our present changes, it doesn’t change our future at all—our standing with the Lord. One thing I know that can get really lost when you have a child with special needs, or just even any time in the little motherhood years, specific to a situation where you do have a child that is demanding more of your time, what practices have helped you to hold fast to your relationship with God, and just remember these promises, especially these ones that we’re talking about right now?

Abigail: Self-care is a hard topic for special needs parents, because the nature of the special needs often means that it’s hard to find other people to care for your child. I am really thankful I’ve got close family. So family live nearby, and they know how to care for Titus. My mom watches him once a week on a Wednesday morning so I can do Bible study. I have a couple friends who are really eager and said, “We want to learn to take care of Titus. Please teach us, put us on the list.” And they had to keep nagging me, and I was like, “Oh, no.” So I am just very thankful. But I would just say, it is worth the time to find a couple people and help, if it’s possible. Sometimes it just isn’t possible, but if it’s possible, to train them and get your child comfortable with them, spend whatever time you need to with them so that it can happen. If it can’t, just to know that God will sustain you and come up with other ways that you can have some time or some space. One of the things that my husband and I do is that we let each other sleep. One of Titus’s hardest things is sleep. He just doesn’t sleep well, and he never has. He sleeps in our room, in a bed next to our bed because he’s on a tube feeding overnight, and the sleep depravation is real and it is horrible. So letting each other sleep is just a practical way that we can keep each other sane and feel cared for. He lets me sleep in on certain mornings of the week and sleeps in on certain mornings of the week. But I would just say that the main way to care for yourself is to feed yourself God’s word, and keep going to church to hear the word and be with God’s people. I was so tired and stressed out during Titus’s first year; I could not concentrate on my Bible reading plan. It’s hard to explain, but it just felt like driving down a highway and the cars are just going past you, and it was like the words were just going past me and I was having a hard time taking things in. I eventually chucked it, and I started studying a very short book, in-depth. I can’t handle anything longer than five short chapters or something because I can’t think longer than one sentence. My brain was just very compromised, I guess [laughs]. My encouragement would be to special needs moms, don’t require more of yourself than is realistic. God doesn’t require you to do a certain kind of Bible reading plan, or a certain checklist. You might not be able to feed yourself a gourmet meal of God’s word, but you just need to eat the meal that you can digest. That might be the little memory verse that your child gets from Sunday school. Eat it up, savor it, and ask God to make that little verse abound in your life. You will be so shocked and surprised at how God uses something little like that, when you shut down all the voices of guilt, and just allow His word to nourish you. Don’t stress about what form it comes; just allow it to nourish you. That’s probably the most important self-care practice. I would say the other practices that would be important to apply are things like, you just need to pray. When everything has gone wrong in your special needs child, everything is going the wrong direction and it just feels very out of control; like for us that might be maybe Titus has only slept a few hours and maybe he’s throwing up first thing in the morning or in the car, or we can’t go to church again, or whatever it is, that’s when we find out if we really trust God and His plan. When we’ve tried to put all the good stuff in place and things are just still not working, that’s when we don’t have time to strategize. There’s no moment then, to say, “Okay” [laughs]. You might have a very brief moment, but it’s not going to be much of a strategizing moment. But it is a moment to pray. It is a moment to say, “I need help right now because there’s throw up everywhere, and I’ve got these other kids coming apart, and things are wild; they’re just spinning.” So cry out to God in your weakness, and God will come and help. He does enable us to clean up the throw up again, cheerfully. He does enable us to do whatever that thing is that makes us obedient that next moment, that seems so impossible. But we need to ask him for help, and he’s really willing to give it. So those are the strategies I would give for things like self-care.

Emily: Those are really helpful and again, no matter where a mom is at, or what she’s dealing with, we all have those moments where we’re like, “I can’t do this again,” or, “I don’t know where to go from here.” You feel paralyzed in that moment, like you said, where you feel everything around you is spinning out of control. I love that you’re on the highway and all these cars are rushing past you and you’re like, “My brain has stopped working” [laughs]. I love that—just praying and savoring what we can.

Laura: And as we wrap up here, what are a couple final words that you would want to share with a mom? Especially here at Risen Motherhood, we have a lot of really young moms who are probably just beginning their journey with a child with special needs. What’s an encouragement that you would want to share with them?

Abigail: Those beginning stages are difficult, and it’s okay for it to be difficult. So one of the first things that I would say is, it’s hard, and that’s okay. You can let it be hard. You’re going to have words for the wind at times, you’re going to have struggles and difficulties, and there’s room for your mess with God. I would also want to say to her, God has not given you a stone. He hasn’t. It might feel like that right now, but he has given you his Son, and along with his Son, all things. So raising the child with special needs may be the hardest, best thing that you ever do. You may be doing the things that no one sees, for the child who can’t say, “Thank you.” But you do not do them just for your child; you are doing them for Christ himself. And so love well because you have been loved so well. My prayer for that mom would be that she would be enabled to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. So in her grief, in her joy, in her sleepless nights, in the wild behavior that comes, that her life would be poured out as an offering to God. It’s such a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Laura: Emily I think you have no words. I, too, have nothing to add to that. It’s a great place to wrap up with those truths, and just letting them saturate our souls. Abigail, thank you so much for being on Risen Motherhood. We really appreciate you taking the time out to be here, and just to share encouragement with all of us moms.

Abigail: Thanks for having me.


Ep. 68 || How Can Mom Support Dad Spiritually?: An Interview With Jerrad Lopes Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. Just in time for Father’s Day, we are excited to have our very first male guest on the show to talk about some of the most Frequently Asked Questions we get about marriage and our husbands; including things like, how do we encourage them spiritually, specifically in the areas of scripture reading and family leadership, family worship, and more. He is going to address a lot of practical topics, and it so interesting to listen in, and hear what he has to say. I know Laura and I learned a lot from this show. Our guest today is Jerrad Lopes. He is from Dad Tired. He started this ministry to point men to Jesus and to help them understand how the gospel impacts their fatherhood. So it’s kind of a similar counterpart ministry to Risen Motherhood. We get asked a lot, “Hey, what’s something my husband can listen to, or learn from, about gospel-centred fatherhood?” Dad Tired is one of those ministries. Jerrad lives with his wife in Portland, Oregon. They have two kiddos, and they just started foster care. He also runs Dad Tired, and he has been busy getting his devotional ready to be released. It’s called Stop Behaving—a four-week, 28-day devotional written for men to take their family life and their marriage seriously in light of the gospel. You guys can check that out at his website, dadtired.com. We know you guys will have lots of things to think about after listening to this interview today. Hopefully, it will help you celebrate and encourage your husband in light of Father’s Day. So here we go, here’s Jerrad.

Laura: Hey Jerrad, thanks so much for joining us. We are so excited today to have Jerrad from Dad Tired. I know we’ve given you guys all a little bit of an intro. But this is the first male we’ve had on our show, and I feel that’s a mile marker, Emily.

Emily: It’s a big deal.

Laura: Yes, so thanks for being on.

Jerrad: Oh my gosh, no pressure [laughter]. I’ll try not to mess it up for every guy out there. [laughter]

Laura: We’re super excited because you’ve got a great podcast that we’ve promoted in the past, and we think that every dad should listen to. We often get asked, from our listeners, “Hey, what can my husband listen to? What’s the Risen Motherhood counterpart?” We feel that’s Dad Tired, so we’re thrilled to have you on the show today. Can you give us a little background about who you are, what’s your family make up?  What is the heart behind Dad Tired, and who you hope to reach?

Jerrad: Yes. My name is Jerrad, I am married—way up—to a woman named Leila. She’s a nurse, and the mother of my children, and just an amazing woman. We have two little ones—a three-year-old girl, five-year-old boy. Then, we’re foster parents now, and actually as of today, we’re getting our first foster child placement with us. So that’s our family dynamic.

I have been a pastor for 13 years, most of that was in the church. Then in the last two years, I stepped out of the church role, started Dad Tired, the ministry. Now I host that podcast, and help guys fall in love with Jesus.

Emily: Today, we are excited to have a guy and to ask you anything. [laughs]

Laura: Get all the details, all the things we want to know. So we’re going to dig into some of the most commonly asked questions we get about marriage and fatherhood, from moms who really want to love their husbands well and encourage them spiritually. Let’s kick it off with, "How can a wife best support her husband, in serving as a spiritual leader of her home?" A lot of times it can seem like, for some marriages, that maybe the husband isn’t initiating. Or maybe he’s not showing much interest in leading the family. What would you say to a wife who’s in that position, and just how to equip husbands well?

Jerrad: I was that husband for a season in our marriage; that’s kind of how the Dad Tired podcast started. I felt like I was sucking as a dad and as a husband, and I was not leading my family well. I was not serving my wife well; I was not engaged with my children in being any kind of spiritual leader. My wife knew it, and we were in a really tough season in our marriage. Relationally we weren’t getting along or connecting with each other, nor were we communicating with each other. I remember we were in the middle of a little bit of an argument and she said, “Jerrad, I just want you to know I’ve been waking up every morning at 2 a.m. and I go into the living room and I pray for you, and I pray that God brings your heart back to him.” I remember thinking like I would rather her cursed me out; [laughs] I could have handled that better. But it was so convicting to hear she really wants, more than my behavior to change, she really wants my heart to come back to Jesus. I would encourage women who are not seeing their husbands leading their family spiritually that some guys just don’t know how and it’s totally foreign to them. Also, they’ve never been taught that. Other guys just feel far from God for whatever reason. But what often happens is, it can seem that our wives really start to, for lack of better words, nag our behavior. “Hey, do this, do this, do this.” Or, “Step up”, or, “Stop doing this, stop doing this.” I always say that behavior modification lasts for a little bit, but it doesn’t last for a long time. What lasts for a long time is when a heart’s changed, and my wife can’t change my heart. She knew that, and so she went to the one who can change hearts, and that’s Jesus. It’s kind of like a churchy answer, but really, as a wife, you do not possess the ability to change your husband’s heart, and that’s what he needs; his heart changed. But there is One who can change hearts, and that’s the one we serve. So pray and beg and plead that the Holy Spirit will start to chase after your husband’s heart relentlessly.

Emily: I love that you gave that answer. I know that Laura and I have tried to share that before. Even as you were saying it, I was like, “Oh, I’ve got to remember that! I need to set my 2 a.m. alarm.” Definitely that ministry of prayer for our husbands just cannot be overstated how important it is. That verse in 1 Peter always comes to mind—I am not going to be able to quote it exactly—about winning him over without a word. The way that we do that is by living out the gospel, and then praying that God would change his heart. That’s just an incredible testimony that you shared. It may be churchy, but it’s the right idea.

Laura: That segues well into the idea that a lot of moms—depending on our work schedules and stuff—can be involved in church programming nearly everyday of the week. We can have time, while it may be loud and noisy, there is time to study the word, or to open your Bible, or just listen to the Bible playing on your phone. To really get soaked into that scripture, even if it’s maybe not exactly the way we want it to be in these little years. How would you encourage a mom to equip her husband to get in God’s word? Because they’re just so short on time, especially when they’re gone all day. What would you say are some ways for her to encourage him? Are there some resources that they could look to?

Jerrad: First I would say to the husbands—because I get guys all the time that are telling me, “I am just too busy,” and I just call them out on that—I don’t care if you’re a 16 year-old dude, or a 95-year-old grandpa, we all feel too busy, right? [laughter] I am not going to take you working full-time as an excuse to not be in God’s word. We’re just all busy—moms are busy, dads are busy, singles are busy. We’re all busy. When I am walking guys through discipleship, what we often do is I have them write out a list of things that they say are most valuable to them. Like, in your heart what are your priorities? They often give me the churchy answer which is like, “God, my wife, my kids, my work.” They put things in the right order, as it should be. Then I ask them to write, what are you actually spending your time on? Make a second list, and that list then is all over the place. It’s work, it’s sports, it’s the NBA playoffs, it’s whatever else is going on, it’s the golf times, it’s the long lunches, or whatever. So, the first thing is what are you saying “Yes” to, that you need to be saying “No” to? What are you saying “Yes” to that doesn’t make sense for the kingdom of God, that is affecting the other things that you should be saying “Yes” to? The first is of just calling them out on the time thing. The second thing is using all the things; you guys have a lot of great resources on your website, that you’ve pointed other of your listeners to. There’s also the Bible app where you can listen to the entire Bible for free. That is an easy way as you’re driving from work, as you’re commuting to and from work, or to lunch, or sitting at your desk filling out a spreadsheet. Listen to the word of God. Let it start to permeate your heart, instead of listening to whatever else you have on the radio, or whatever podcast is talking about—an MMA fight or whatever [laughter]. Listen to the Word of God. So, using times, in the midst of busyness, to be intentional is a huge tool.

Emily: Jerrad, maybe I am going to jump in a question here that, at least in my mind, maybe other moms’ minds. Let’s say I am a wife, and I am seeing that in my husband’s life. I know he really does want to get into the Word of God, but I don’t see him doing that. Is it okay for a wife to recommend that to her husband? How could a wife suggest some of those ideas to her husband without coming off like a nag? [laughs] Or like, “Oh, I just want to give you a quick behavior modification.” Is there a way that that could be received well?

Jerrad: That’s a really good question [laughter]. My wife has never asked me how I am doing with the Lord, when I am doing well with the Lord [laughs]. In other words, when I am doing well with the Lord, it’s obvious, and I am leading the family well, and I am in scripture and all that. She only asks me when I am not doing well with the Lord, and so it immediately comes off as offensive or antagonistic. Right or wrong, that’s how I feel, and that’s how most guys feel when we’re asked like, “Hey, how’s your relationship with Jesus?” One’s like, “Why the heck are you asking me that, because you know it sucks right now?” [laughter] That’s why you’re asking me that. [laughter]

Laura: It’s so passive-aggressive of us, but we do it. [laughter] I can hear my voice saying those things. [laughter]

Jerrad:  There are other ways. There’s ways that Leila’s approached me and I am trying to think off the top of my head. Like there’s times when she’s said like, “Hey babe, what kinds of things can I be praying for you for?” That feels gentle; that’s probably making the same point that she was trying to make by like, “How are you doing with Jesus?” It’s making the same point, but I just feel like it’s a lot harder for me to feel any aggression towards that, like my wife is asking me how can she pray for me. Okay, “Can you pray that God would draw my heart back to him because I feel far from him,” might be one of my answers. Or she might even say like, “Hey, I am feeling like I want to re-read through the Bible again this year. Maybe we could do that together, or maybe we can make date nights out of that, after the kids go to bed?” That’s her prompting and taking an initiative that really I should have been the one doing. But it’s just God using her, in my life, to point me back to him, and maybe capture my heart again so that I can lead well.

Laura: Yes. There’s always something too about saying, “I’ll come alongside you in this.” Like, “”Let’s do this together.” I know I got all revved up, read a prayer book and wanted to pray with my husband, or see him pray on his knees every night. I was like, “Okay, now let’s just start with praying before bed. I am going to do this with you. We’re tired, but we’re both going to do this because it is good for both of us. I don’t expect you to do something, especially if I am not doing it too.”

Jerrad: That made me think. I don’t think most guys would be offended if their wife said, “Babe, will you pray for me right now?” Like, “I am feeling vulnerable or weak” or whatever. “Would you just pray for me out loud?” Some guys may totally be intimidated by that, but they’ll step up to that challenge and they won’t feel threatened by that request. It gives them an opportunity to lead.

Laura: That’s good advice.

Emily: Yes. Thanks for that practical insight there of the difference between what’s gentle and coming alongside, and what’s accusatory, [laughs] and is a subtle way of going, “I am noticing that you’re falling in this area right now.”

Jerrad: Yes, totally.

Laura: From a dad’s perspective then, what is it like to transition home after work? When mom’s busy, the kids are crazy, the dad is super tired and probably, we know, we hear they want downtime a little bit to adjust. How can a mom best serve her husband during that transition period?

Jerrad: Again, my natural responses and answers are always thinking through for the guys, because I want to talk to the guys.

Laura: Which we love as moms. We’re like, “Yes, just bring it to the dads.”

Emily: Every mom is going to have her husband listen to this. [laughter]

Jerrad: For the dads, that’s what we’re preaching on Dad Tired all the time, is like, “Dude, you should be exhausted. It’s called dad tired.” Like, “You’re going to be tired, and if you’re not tired, you’re doing it wrong.” It means you’re probably spending too much time playing video games, or whatever else. Like, “You should be tired.” If you are living a life that God has called you to live, as an engaged husband, dad, worker, disciple, you’ll go to bed exhausted, and that’s the way it should be. We’re always telling guys like, “You pull up in the driveway, you turn off your car, you take a deep breath and you realize that the second shift has started. You move into your other titles that are going to last for eternity—your title as 'husband,' your title as 'dad.' You step up and get to it." So that’s what I’d say to the guys. For the wives, what’s helpful for us is clear expectations. For moms that have been in the routine all day, you know the rhythms of your kids, sometimes better than we do because you’re with them all the time and all the subtleties. There are times we’re like, “I accidentally gave them something to eat that they maybe shouldn’t have eaten.” [laughter] Or like, “Hey, let’s go get ice-cream,” and I didn’t know that mom had said earlier like, “No, you’re not having ice-cream today,” because of this whatever. But there’s should be clear expectations laid out so that we don’t have that guessing game or step into something that we didn’t know was outside of a rhythm because we were ignorant. We’re just straight up ignorant—we weren’t there, we didn’t know. It’s always best to give those expectations outside of the storm, not in the middle of the storm. You know, figuring out a time where before he comes home and steps in the door where you’re having conversations like, “Babe, how can we serve each other well when you get home from work? Here are some things that would be helpful for me. What would be helpful for you?” If it’s the dishes, then let him know, “The dishes.” If it’s the sweeping, if it’s the getting the kids through their bedtime routine. We often guess and we often guess wrong. [laughter]

Laura: Clear expectations are super info, and it’s helpful also for moms too, because sometimes I’ll find myself just keeping moving. Dad walks in the door and I am in the middle of dinner, or changing a diaper or whatever, and I am like, “Oh, hey hon,” and just ready to keep going, almost not acknowledging the fact that life has changed because Dad entered the door. It’s good for us as moms to stop and acknowledge that, “Dad is home,” and “Yay, this is exciting!" I remember my dad always went to my mom first before he went to the kids. He just went straight for her, and she welcomed him home, and then, he received the kids. I always thought that was a little unfair as a kid. [laughter] But I thought it’s a neat picture now of my mom and dad both prioritizing each other during a crazy time in the house.

Emily: Recently I’ve come back from some women’s conferences, or some times away, where I was super refreshed. Or maybe I was tired, but in a good way of something that I was really passionate about and worked hard at. I walked in the door, and heard everyone’s crazy, running around, my husband’s trying to hold it together, and thinking like, “Wooh, [laughter] this is a little abrasive.” I’ve even felt that, coming into these situations after I’ve been away. I think we have to remember that it can feel like that to a husband who just walks in the door and be handed a child or something. Even if you just know that he may be experiencing that, you’re probably going to treat him a little differently. [laughs]

Jerrad: One of the gifts that many men possess is the ability to compartmentalize, which we often use toward sin. We use it towards the negative, but it’s actually a strength, and it can be a strength in many ways. For a lot of men, we do have the ability to click off, literally. Like, “I am done with this, and now I am moving into dad-time.”  Even with what you said, part of me was thinking almost the opposite, like “Yep, I checked out of that conference, and now I’ve moved into my compartment of "Here I am as a dad."

Emily: I didn’t have a category for that. [laughter]

Laura: Sounds amazing.

Emily: It really does.

Jerrad: They say that women’s brain is spaghetti and men’s brain is waffles. Have you heard of that?

Laura & Emily: No.

Laura: I’ve never heard that. [laughter]

Jerrad: Women’s brain is spaghetti; everything touches everything. Like, this affects this, affects this, affects this. Guys’ brain is a waffle. We have compartments, and this does not touch this, does not touch this, does not touch this. [laughs]

Laura: I can’t imagine. Like Emily said, I can’t imagine [laughter]. One last practical, how do you handle family devotions in your house? Then, how can a mom, again, encourage her husband to be intentional with these types of things, especially if they’re lacking? Or if it’s just a crazy time to be able to settle down and know what to do. What’s mom’s role in a family devotion?

Jerrad: Good question. First, a bigger picture premise here is that I want my kids to see all of life as worship. So I am really trying to use every single opportunity to gospel them, and to teach them the gospel. As opposed to having the compartments that I just talked about. I don’t want my kids to think, “Okay, it’s devotional time. It’s church time. It’s Bible study time or community group time,” or whatever, and they see us as a family have very clear cut compartments. The scriptures say in Deuteronomy, whether you’re sleeping or eating or walking or talking, whatever you’re doing, train up your child towards the things of God. Don’t quote me on how I just said that.

Laura: Paraphrased.

Jerrad: But I want them to see that in everything, and I really push hard for that. When we’re driving to school, when we have interactions at the grocery store, I am looking for every single opportunity to point them back to the gospel. My kid just heard a secular song on the radio that they were saying, “Please have mercy on me.” I won’t quote the song, but that’s a line,  “Please have mercy on me,” and he’s like, “Dad, what’s mercy?” Okay, a beautiful opportunity to talk about the gospel here. That’s the bigger picture here —that’s the goal where we want all of our families to get is to that point where the gospel was permeating every area of our lives and not just these sections. There are some good resources you guys have actually done on this. I think you did an Instagram story feed. Or maybe you posted them on the resources page on your website. But some, like children’s Bibles, you listed out all the children’s Bibles. We go through as a family, the Jesus Story Book Bible, which is one of my favorite Bibles for kids. That’s my time, that’s daddy time. Mommy’s done her stuff all day and I do the bedtime routine, get their jammies, make sure they’re bathed, teeth brushed, and then when they crawl into bed with daddy, daddy gets to read the Jesus Story Book Bible with them and talk through that part of life with them. That’s one really practical way where a wife could do some research, or maybe even utilize the resources that you guys have put out there already. Get some of those resources, and then just say, “Hey husband, will you lead this time? Will you be the one that reads these stories to the kids?” It’s also subconsciously getting him in the word, even if it’s a children’s Bible. I have actually found myself weeping in the children’s Bible. [laughter]

Laura: I like that because it’s so simple. There’s no prep—I think that’s what can get daunting to both parents, is like, “Oh, I have to gather my materials and my art supplies and my dress up clothes, and then we’re going to have this devo with a guitar that we don’t know how to play.” [laughter] We have these images in our mind of how big and grand it needs to be, of what this perfect, Christian family worship looks like. When really it can look as simple as, in bed, reading the Bible, and answering questions that out kids have because God just uses his word and never returns void. So he will use that time well, and to invest in our kids.

Emily: Jerrad, I’d be interested to get your insight on this. Let’s say there is a mom who’s going, “I don’t know if my husband would ever even do something like that. I think approaching him with that would even be potentially offensive, or would come off as nagging.” Is that something that a wife could faithfully start—getting that routine ingrained with her kids? Maybe for two or three months she reads it before bed, and then one night, “Hey honey, could you just step in and read this?” I know that sounds really manipulative actually now that I am saying it. But, I mean in a good way of, would you see that as undermining your position? Or would you be honored that your wife stepped in there and was like, “Hey, I am going to help get this established?” So it’s even easier for Dad to come in one night and just do it.

Jerrad: Possibly. If you’re just setting it up as the, we-do-story-time-before-bed, and the stories that we happen to do before bed are Jesus centered or the Bible, like the children’s Bible. If the dad is offended by leading that time, there’s deeper issues going on. That’s when we go back to question one, and be praying for your husband. Dude should be doing story time and reading. Like we just talked about, there’s really no prep work. We’re not asking you to give a sermon. We’re asking you to read the Bible to your kids, so step up and do it. If that’s offensive, again, there’s probably some deeper heart stuff going on. I guess to not just give like a harsh answer to that, the answer would be, maybe if you have to soften it up, set it up as story time. “Can you lead story time?” And the stories that you happen to have are all the Jesus stories.

Emily: I see.

Jerrad: I really want guys to be able to equip their kids in every situation with the gospel. My son’s been super into fishing, if you’ve been watching my Instagram story. We go fishing like five, six times a week and we’re just always at the pond fishing. He’s super into it right now, and there’s tons of analogies within fishing that I can point my son back to the gospel and even Jesus. We’ve been talking a lot about how Jesus says, “Let’s be fishers of men.” So then we come home and we read the Fishers of Men stories at night. Or, when Jesus told his disciples, “Don’t cast your nets on this side of the boat, cast them on this side of the boat”, and they caught that many fish. Using the things that your kids are already into, and figuring out how scripture can tie into that, how the gospel can tie into that. But again, we don’t want to compartmentalize, we want everything to interweave with each other.

Laura: It’s just a word of encouragement to dad or mom listening to, what Jerrad’s talking about. It sounds so beautiful, but it is kind of hard or daunting at first. I know at least for myself, when I first became a mommy and my husband too. We were like, “Aah, what does the gospel have?” Or, “How do I tie in this bird that my child’s admiring in the yard, or the worm, and the gospel? I know there’s a connection there, but how do I articulate it?” Just to encourage you guys to practice. The best way to do that is to fumble through, and you’re going to misstep, and there’s probably going to be some like, “Whoop, that was kind of wonky theology there.” But God uses everything that we do, no matter what we say. When we’re doing it with the right heart, and looking to speak truths to our children, he is going to use that. You will grow in that skill to see the gospel. I know if what he’s talking about seems a little bit scary and you feel, “Oh, I don’t know if my husband could do that,” or, “I don’t know if I could do that,” just start practicing, and start getting comfortable with that kind of language.

Jerrad: It’s so true; practice. I remember literally thinking, "I’ve been a pastor 13 years," and I started doing this recently when we had kids, and, it was daunting for myself. I remember one of the first times my son could talk and start to comprehend things, there was what felt like a beautiful opportunity to share the gospel with him. I went into this like a long sermon basically [laughter]. I remember he was staring at me, and I am like, “This is it. He gets it.” Like “He’s comprehending it and he’s with me.” At the end of it, literally his remark was,“Daddy, can I have a bowl of cereal?” I was like, “Yeah. But did you hear anything I said?” [laughter] I don’t think he got any of it, but I’ve learned through practice to tighten up my language and to not give 30-minute sermons to a three-year-old.

Laura: Exactly, and they don’t judge you. They don’t know any better. They forget about it the next five minutes, so these little years are the great years to practice because they’re not going to hold it against you. That’s covered in high school, right, or middle school, or something like that. [laughter] Looking at you cross-eyed and wondering, “What did you just say?”

Emily: They’re going to ask really hard questions afterwards.

Laura: As we wrap up here Jerrad, any last thoughts or words of advise to wives? Any words of advise you’d like to give women in supporting their husbands in fatherhood?

Jerrad: So here would be my final thoughts. What we get in Jesus is the ability to be fully known and fully loved at the same time. Which is freaky; we don’t get that anywhere else. We’re usually fully known and not loved, or we’re fully loved and not known. I don’t know any other relationship outside of Jesus, where you can be fully known, and fully loved at the same exact time. The only other place that we get a glimpse of that is marriage—that my wife could know me fully, and love me fully. So I would encourage wives to be intentional about setting up an environment where your husband feels the confidence to share his junk with you, to share his sin, that he feels like you are a safe spot to land so that he can be fully known and fully loved at the same time. Even bigger than that, that would give him a glimpse of the God that he serves through his wife.

Emily: That’s wonderful.

Laura: That’s inspirational. [laughter]

Jerrad: That’s all I got.

Laura: That was great. No, thank you.

Emily: I know, thank you.

Laura: That’s a real challenge and incorporates a lot of different things for sure. That’s a good word to end on. So thanks for joining us today on Risen Motherhood.

Jerrad: Thanks for having me.


Ep. 65 || Finding My Tribe: Momma, Who Is Your Primary Community? Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Emily Jensen, here with my sister-in-law, Laura Wifler.   We are excited to talk about an exciting topic today. We’re going to use a trendy word, your “tribe.” [laughs]

Laura: Emily and I don’t love this word, we’ll be honest, but it is the word that is used. So we’re going with it. [laughter]

Emily: Sometimes you might also see people—this is a little younger than us I think—use #squad. [laughter]

Laura: I don’t think at our age we’re allowed to use that, Emily. #squadgoals [laughter]

Emily: There is a lot of talk out there about finding your “tribe” in motherhood. Sometimes when people use that, they mean my “tribe;” like, “Look at my little 'tribe,' my family.” Sometimes it’s my “tribe” like, “The group of moms that I work out with.” Or my “tribe” is like an entrepreneurial group. Or maybe it’s just a group of women like boy moms or adoptive moms or twin moms. You can go through the whole list, but there are so many places out there today where people are just encouraging you to find your “tribe.”

Laura:  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with finding like-minded moms. I am in a group called “little four eyes;” we’re about little kids and glasses. When my son was on  getting glasses, this was a lifeline for me to meet other moms. So there are really wonderful benefits, particularly with these online resources where you can find women who are like you. But there is also danger sometimes in at least having those people be your primary “tribe.” What we’re talking about today is an online “tribe” versus an in-person “tribe” within your local community, and specifically, your local church. How do we balance those and weigh those? There’s a greater discussion that’s going on in the church right now about the role of women’s ministry, different ministries—like Risen Motherhood for example—that are outside of the local church. How a lot of women are looking to these ministries as being their primary source of meat, or food, to grow and to learn spiritually, in particular. We want to talk about that a little bit today. We don’t often talk about popular topics.

Emily: Especially in terms of motherhood. There’s definitely a women’s ministry conversation and we see it happening, especially in moms. That’s a time in your life, especially when you have really young children, that you have a lot of these felt needs. A lot of these, “I don’t know if anybody understands me,” or “My spiritual needs aren’t being met in a way that I like, or that makes me comfortable.” Well, there’s a whole internet out there of places we can go to.  Again, like Laura’s saying, we definitely see a place for that. Obviously there would be no Risen Motherhood if we didn’t see a place for that. But we also want to have the conversation because if you were to peek into Laura and I’s lives on a weekly basis—in our home, in our community lives—you would see us both really heavily involved in our local churches. You would see us as a product of the people who are pouring into us in our local churches. Our community of peers around us that are talking through gospel stuff—our pastors, the teachers at our churches. It’s just hard because you don’t always get to see that when we just come record a podcast. But we want to be intentional to say it like, “That’s where this comes from.” 

Laura: It’s the real, in-life personal relationships that we have. Just to be very, very clear, Risen Motherhood can fill in some gaps; we hope that we are a supplemental resource for you to help launch you into thinking about things differently and to hopefully discuss these things in-person with your friends. But we do not want to become a replacement ministry for you or a replacement friend for you. We really desire to see each and every listener of Risen Motherhood invest well, locally, and for us not to be your primary source of food. I feel like we just want to say that. It is the heartbeat from our show since the beginning. Now it is out verbally and clearly. It’s out there.

Emily: We thought we’d just spend a few minutes and talk about community and God’s design for it, because it’s something that we’re not always educated well in. I’ve even realized that Laura and I have talked about that a ton in the last year, like, “Oh, we just take for granted what true gospel community is.” Starting of course with creation and the way that God made things to be: He is, as the Trinity, a picture of community and relationship. Out of that overflow, he created Adam and Eve who were different, but they’re also in his eyes equal in value. They were created to enjoy relationship with God and to worship him together. Then they were both to work together to carry out a mission and a purpose. That was the original community.

Laura:. But we know that community has been broken by sin. So the number one mark for that is we start looking about our own interest. We begin to really look for, specifically online, friends that are going to make us feel good. Friends that can soothe our itchy ears. We often stop looking for friends that are going to push us or exhort us or get us ready for the kingdom preparation and sanctification. The other thing that happens though, is that the church doesn’t meet our needs any longer. Not perfectly, at least. It’s relationships with other sinners; so we see that community is marked by people using their gifts for the benefits of themselves. They don’t love the church as they should. It’s marked by slander and lying and gossip. So sin entered in and broke community to function as well as God originally designed it.

Emily: It’s like when we start replacing Jesus, who is the cornerstone of our churches and the cornerstone of our communities, with shared interests. When we make that the primary thing, then we will start to become really dissatisfied with the church that God gave us and start to look outside. But, of course, the gospel obviously plays into that a ton. Because Jesus died for our sins and adopted all of believers into his family for a new purpose, and we were all set apart to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, we can be unified in that. We can see that we all have a part to play. That we need to treasure the church as Christ does, as his bride, which is really hard because we’re treasuring sinners. But God has given us a new heart with the Holy Spirit to be able to do that, even when it’s hard.

Laura: We can look at, again, the biblical example of women are to live life with one another. Men too, but specifically here, we’re called to live life together, to learn from one another, to teach each other. We can see that Paul lays it out in Titus 2 and we see that littered all over the Bible. That doesn’t happen; you can’t do life with someone online. There is a literal, physical block for you to be able to do that. Doing life means park play dates, and getting together to cook, and crying on each other’s shoulders, and going out for coffee. That has to happen as an in-person relationship. We’re going to talk through some of the dangers of finding your primary—again, we don’t want to say there’s no place for online ministries—but for it to be a primary crew, we’re going to talk about some of those dangers. The first one is you get really focused on having relationships and organizations meet your needs instead of the local church meeting your needs.

Emily:  And we talked through this a little bit in how sin has wrecked this whole situation. Something I have to go back and remind myself—and Laura and I were just having a conversation about this over the weekend—God has designed for the local church to be able to meet our spiritual needs as moms. The thing is, it’s not always in the way we think. We want it to be like, “I am going to lock arms with moms who I think are having the exact same circumstances as me, and are reacting to it the same way.” But God has designed that we would interact with different generations and people who come from different backgrounds and have different views on things, that love Christ, and are studying doctrine with us to help meet those needs that we have. It’s counter-intuitive, a little bit, from what we want, but it’s the way it was really designed to be.

Laura:  And with an online relationship, you only let people see what you want them to see. Even if you’re willing to be pretty vulnerable, and maybe email someone—and we’ve had many of you that have been sweet enough to email us some difficulties that you’re going through—we only see this very, very small picture online of each person. A real in-person relationship is really the only thing you’re able to ask a lot of questions and you’re able to get to the heart of the matter. Maybe they see the physical sin happening right in front of you. Maybe it’s something that you yelled at your kids and you’re struggling with that and they saw it happen and you’re able to say, “Oh, in this situation, what would you do?” A real, healthy in-person relationship won’t just leave you with inspiration and maybe some empathy, which is what a lot of online ministries do. A real, healthy in-person relationship sees your sin and sees your needs, and challenges and exhorts you. It monitors you to move beyond that in the light of the gospel.

Emily: Another danger we wanted to bring up is that, sometimes, if you are primarily finding your “tribe” in an online environment, it can sometimes cause you to have these skewed doctrines or skewed beliefs about what scripture actually says. This is because you are getting the bulk of your learning outside of your local body where there’s accountability. Again, examples of this might be that you’re reading blogs or, again, podcasts like Risen Motherhood, or those other online teaching ministries. There’s parent-church organizations. Again, all provide, sometimes, really amazing supplemental content, and we certainly hope that we do. But when that becomes your replacement and your main voice, again, it’s that you choose what you want to hear. When you view gaining good theology similar to going to the store or picking out what you want, you’re destined to get off-track at some point.

Laura: The true convicting question to ask yourself is are you more interested in what the latest, cool blogger or the new book or what the podcaster says? Or are you more interested in what God’s word says? So, really looking at, as Emily said, that God’s word isn’t just a store where you can take your shopping cart to. But instead, there are solid truths that you need to dig into and find out. Sometimes those are hard things to hear, and sometimes when we’re only seeking it online, we just don’t hear those things. Our eyes kind of glaze over to them.

Emily: Some of the hardest things I’ve been challenged by have been from the pulpit of my own local church or from the mouth of an older woman at my own local church. They weren’t just speaking off of the polls of the latest things that are circulating online. They’re committed to speaking the truth no matter what. Those are the times I am like, “Urrgh!.” It just gets you. But that’s good. That’s what’s supposed to happen, and it doesn’t always happen when we have a consumer mentality.

Laura:  So what are some of the benefits? We’ve been sort of hitting on those and hinting at them. One big benefit is that you have other women who will see you parent and help you work through the real issues. So I started touching on this when something’s happened even before their eyes. When you’re in a local community of believers, you’ll start seeing and finding, hopefully, that there are some peer-moms around you. Or maybe some moms that are a bit further down the road, but they still remember what it’s like having your littles, and it’s so much better than taking what little an online person can give you in a written format. Instead, they’re able to ask the right questions to get to the heart issue and to truly speak into your actual situation and not just a general one.

Emily: Also, you get the opinions of people who are going to do it a little differently from you, rather than just people who you feel are in the exact same spot you are. Sometimes that difference is valuable. Another thing is just that the benefit of teaching your kids to love and value the local church. Needing to model that and saying, “Our spiritual growth and our learning happens primarily in this body of believers and not out there online.”

Laura: It brings in, too, people from different walks of life. They can see younger college students or singles, grandparents-type figures doing things differently, but they’re all for Jesus. I love showing my kids, “Hey, it’s not just mom and dad that love Jesus. All of these people around us from all different walks of life, they love Jesus in their own way and have their own personal relationships. Look at all these people who are pursuing him.” For me as a younger girl, that was really inspiring that like, “Hey, this isn’t just for my parents’ faith. There are a whole lot of people who do this. It’s really individual and special for those people." The last one is knowing what we’re talking about a little bit, but your challenge and your discernment of your theology. It does help you to stay focused on what matters. Sometimes I might mention a popular author’s name, and be like, “Hey, did you read blah, blah, blah’s new book?” It’s so funny because some of the older women in my church will be like, “Who? I’ve no idea.” [laughter] They keep me grounded. Let’s just put it that way. [laughter] They remind me that I don’t need any resource besides God’s word. That is all that I need. I was just talking to a woman over the weekend and that’s what she said. She’s like, “What can you find online that you can’t get from the Bible?” I was like, “Uh, uh, uh...” She’s totally right and while it’s easier to consume—and again we see major benefit; we wouldn’t have Risen Motherhood without it—it was very convicting for me to remember, "Where is my primary source of truth coming from? Is it online, and is that how I expect to grow? Or do I expect to grow through God’s word?"

Emily: Do we expect to grow in the way that God has ultimately designed, which is within our church community? Even in motherhood, and especially in these motherhood things, it’s not just in a “tribe” we find outside. I was thinking about this; my husband and I had some hard days this week where we got some hard news. I had a woman stop by within an hour to give me a hug and two more offered to do it within two hours later. No Twitter follower or Instagram person can ever walk into your home and do that. Also just loving that we can’t hide; I love that. I love that the people who I go to church with see me and they see everything about me, and it’s there. That’s what we’re supposed to do; it’s live in community with one another.

Laura: That’s right. We’ve built the case for finding a local church and some of you might be thinking, “Oh, I don’t have a good local church.”

Emily: Or like, “I really don’t like that. We’re not in agreement with our local church.”

Laura: Start with finding one that you can agree with doctrinally. It may not be perfect with every single thing, but get it right on the big things, and get involved. None of this, “I showed up and nobody talked to me” jazz; it’s my pet peeve. You talk to people, you tell them that you’re there and that you want to help, that you want friends, and you initiate it. I know that it is hard, but be brave, moms. I have a whole blog post about this that we’ll link to. But essentially, I just want to encourage you to not just show up to things, but to say, “Okay, I am going to take that first step of saying, ‘Hi, my name is....’” and try to build that bridge. Because again, sin is in the room, so people aren’t always noticing all the needs.

Emily: Join the Bible study that they’re offering. Join the small groups that are being offered. Get involved. Intentionally get inter-generational relationships—find older women you can hang out with, find younger people than you that you can hang out with. Honestly, if these things don’t exist, and you’re going, “My church doesn’t have anything like that,” start it ! Something that Laura and I hear a lot with Risen Motherhood is, “No one else is talking about this in my friend group.” I am so grateful that Laura and I both have friends that are talking about these things. But if you’re in that situation, just start; like once a month, or once a week, or whatever. Have people over for a play date and say, “Would you guys be willing to talk about this? Would you guys be willing to tackle these topics intentionally?” My guess is there are other women out there who want to do that, and they’re just terrified, as well.

Laura: Be open to them looking a little bit different than you are. Another key is that sometimes we don’t have the exact same demographic for these people. We want all moms of littles, or we want whatever. But that’s where most growth happens; again, it’s when you bring all these women with different life experiences in. Don’t expect it to look exactly like you want to have an open hand as you start these things. Or you can get involved in these things, and say, “Lord, let it look like what I need, not what I want.” I think we’ve harped on this long enough. This was kind of a heavy show, guys, and we don’t want you to leave discouraged. But we also really wanted to speak truth into the situation. I am just encouraging and exalting each of you to take a hard look at where you’re finding your source of truth. From there, maybe make some adjustments or tweaks if you need to do that. Just look at how can you love your local church and be most invested there. We just hope that you guys will re-evaluate those things in your heart. Maybe you’re doing it awesome, but maybe there are some things that need to be tweaked.

Emily: Yes. Find your true “tribe.”

Laura: That’s right. So find us on—speaking of another “tribe,” the Risen Motherhood “tribe” is still [laughter] a “tribe”. But again, supplementary “tribe”. Let’s start using that word, that’s a hashtag.  Anyway, @risenmotherhood.com, find us on social media—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Check out the show notes for more resources on this topic. Yes, that’s it. Thanks for tuning in.