God’s Grace Beyond Our “Mom Tribes”

God’s Grace Beyond Our “Mom Tribes”

It’s easy to think what we need to survive as mothers is that group of other moms in the trenches.

Mommy blogs and parenting sites offer advice about finding that ‘Mom Tribe,’ and you can download apps for meeting mom friends near you. You can join Facebook groups or follow Instagram tags of mothers with similar philosophies or life circumstances from the safety of your phone. With these dynamics, the shared experience of motherhood seems like the key to really belonging and understanding each other.

By God’s good design, my church community doesn’t meet typical ‘Mom Tribe’ qualifications. It’s full of different races, different jobs, different lifestyles, and cultural backgrounds coming together as one body. It’s nothing like I would have expected before, but it does remind me of the church being ‘one body with diverse parts.’

These women encourage and challenge me in ways I’d take for granted if my friends looked and lived just like I do.

I’m learning to celebrate the ways other moms love selflessly, proclaim the gospel, and guide the character of their children, even when outsiders might just see different family sizes, race or cultural heritage, financial status, or various educational choices.

I see wider possibilities that God might be preparing my children to follow these godly examples in careers, singleness, large family life, and ministry.

We were made to connect with other people, and with the right perspective, the internet can be a great tool for building relationships. But for all the good connecting with like-minded friends brings, keep your eyes open to the greater blessings of investing in the real lives of the people around you, too, even the ones who are different from you.

It’s not good to be alone, but it is good to be with God’s people, all one in Christ Jesus.


Meet the R|M Team!

Meet the R|M Team!

Hey Friends! 

We’re taking the week off posting new articles because we’re over on Instagram and Facebook stories all week giving a behind-the-scenes look at everyone on the team! We know many of you have joined us over the summer, and we’re so glad you’re here! To help you get to know us, we’re answering questions like,

“What are you doing as your quiet time? 
“What are you doing for quiet time with your kiddos?”
“What are your favorite Bible study aids?
“What current verse are you using to “preach the gospel to yourself?” 

And get excited, the R|M podcast returns in less than a month, September 5, 2018! We can’t wait to back in your earbuds! 

Where Are We Going? Leading Your Family with a Gospel-Centered Vision

Where Are We Going? Leading Your Family with a Gospel-Centered Vision

The most effective parents I know are those who communicate a vision to their kids—those who say, ‘This is who we are. This is who we follow. And this is where we’re going.’

These are parents who take into account the unique giftings, talents, and challenges within their family and work together toward God’s purpose for their family.

In Matthew 28, Jesus gives his disciples one last important charge before he went back to heaven: ‘Make disciples.’

Now, sometimes we read this charge with overseas missionaries in mind—they have gone out into all the world and are making disciples in other lands. But did you know that as a parent, you also have a wide-open mission field right in your own home?

Although the reality of faithfully and daily discipling our kids can be hard, discipleship is simply helping our children see what their faith in Jesus means in the day-to-day.

When we craft a family vision, we’re asking our kids to take this journey of discipleship along with us.

We tell them who we are and where we’re going as a family.

We teach our kids the characteristics of the Christian life that we value most.

We help them see that living a life of following Jesus is the most fulfilling and exciting way to live.

How do we begin to figure out a vision for our family?

Gospel Hope When You Feel Like You’re Not Enough

Gospel Hope When You Feel Like You’re Not Enough

I’m exhausted.

Literally. As in I’m physically, emotionally, & mentally reaching the end of my strength most days. At no other time in my life has opening my eyes in the morning been painful,—oh, how it hurts.

I’m not the polished, level headed, organized mom I aspire to be. In fact, I’m more aware of my inability than ever.

Yet somehow here, in the mere minutes of prayer before my kids wake, despite my sleep-deprivation & all the details that must be managed for the day, yes, in my weakness, God is meeting me.

He’s showing himself strong & keeping his promises.

In 1 Cor. 1:8-9, Paul writes, ‘For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.’

Do you see it? The trial Paul experienced exposed his weakness & forced his reliance on God. A few verses later, he writes:

‘For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory’ (v. 20).

Slowly but surely I’m learning to rejoice in the inadequacies that bind me to Jesus & release me to abide in him. I’m finding freedom—not guilt—in the fact that I bring absolutely nothing to the banquet table & yet his banner over me is love.

I’m learning to find joy in seeing Christ work through my weakness & in spite of me, for his own glory.

In this way, the hard work of motherhood is a gift, a sharp lens through which we clearly see our own weakness & our Savior’s all-encompassing strength. This was never about us or our motherhood journey. Our every life circumstance is orchestrated by his grace for his pleasure.

He knew motherhood, like life, would lead us here—to the end of ourselves, so he made a way for us to experience the joy of confessing our weakness, surrendering our strength, and resting in him.

This is gospel hope.


Tending Your Garden

 Tending Your Garden

One of the challenges of being a mom is that most days are spent doing things that don’t feel important. The tasks you accomplish are quickly undone—laundry, dishes, picking up toys. Whether your days are spent primarily in an office or at home (or in an office at home), every mom understands that motherhood can seem a bit like shoveling snow off your driveway during a snowstorm, and it often doesn’t feel like ministry. 

So what is ministry, exactly? 

One way to think about ministry is a person or agency through which image-bearing and disciple-making are accomplished within particular spaces. 

In Genesis, we read that God planted a garden called Eden, and he placed Adam in the garden to work it and keep it. Adam and Eve were not commanded to work and keep the whole world; they were to work and keep the garden in which God had placed them. 

If I could go back and give myself a pep talk while in the midst of raising babies, I would clap my hands and say with great enthusiasm, ‘You are doing real ministry right now! Real ministry is not only ahead of you when you do a podcast or complete an in-depth line-by-line Bible study on the Minor Prophets. I know it feels like a lot of wiping, but you are bearing God’s image and raising children to bear his image. You are promoting life and doing good work in the space God ordained for you. And it matters.’

So embrace the wiping. Embrace the chaos and the endless laundry. Don’t just embrace it, enjoy it. 

Instead of lamenting the unwanted limitations that accompany being a mom of young children, focus on the hugs and the way their eyes light up when you pick them up from school. Sing the song for them again today, and read the same book tonight. 

You have been given meaningful work to do. The God of creation has given you the ministry of bearing his image, making disciples, and tending your garden.

Unity Rather Than Uniformity

Unity Rather Than Uniformity

There was a time when I struggled when other moms in our church made choices for their children different than my own. I worried that I was not spiritual enough, or that others were judging me, or that perhaps I was actually missing how God was leading me.

My struggle wasn’t with God’s will but rather with my own insecurity.

I’ve found that my discomfort with differences is not unusual among women in the church, particularly among young mothers who are navigating many important decisions for the first time. Our greatest struggles and misunderstandings leading to disunity are typically about secondary, non-gospel issues, such as education, working versus non-working, financial choices, and parenting practices.

Instead of secondary, we often make these choices primary identity markers for who we are and how we’re doing as mothers and disciples of Jesus. As a result, we self-divide within the church, huddling into groups that share our convictions and can best relate to us.

In order to experience unity as mothers, we must intentionally reject uniformity and instead celebrate the unique gifts, skills, life circumstances, and choices others may use to adorn the gospel.

Paul tells us that a grace-filled response will allow for differences on secondary issues. We don’t all have to do everything the same way, and in fact we can’t all do everything the same way.

Each of us lives by faith as unto the Lord, and we will account only to God for how we lived in response to him. Because of this, we aren’t to judge others who think or act differently on these issues. Just as we trust God to lead and care for us, we must trust God to lead and care for others.

When we see more quickly what unifies us rather than what makes us different, we focus on what is truly at the heart of the kingdom of God, and we’re able to speak grace into the lives of others who are weary, dry, and desperate for it.

And isn’t that every mother within the church?

Sharing Jesus at Home and with the Nations

 Sharing Jesus at Home and with the Nations

I’ve cared about evangelism for as long as I can remember.

Three years or so ago, the old me wouldn’t have believed my struggle with evangelism and the number of excuses I’ve made since becoming a mom. It’s true we’re busy, and our life goes from taking care of ourselves to not looking in the mirror for an entire 6 hours while also forgetting to eat lunch again—something I never would’ve done in my pre-mommy life.

We may think of evangelism like the fairy tales we tell our little princes and princesses. We imagine a special place where we will meet the right person who needs to hear the gospel. They will be saved. We will become best friends who study the Bible together over coffee and blueberry scones—everything will be happily ever after!

If evangelism likens to a fairy tale, we can play the role of the knight who has shiny armor of his own and doesn’t need God almighty and his spiritual armor to help him.

But to live a life that seeks to evangelize, we must recognize we are weak, inadequate, and unable to orchestrate the ideal scenario. We can’t change anyone’s heart either. The strength of Christ helps us obey when life seems chaotic, and God’s word holds the power to save souls.

So, let’s forget about the perfect evangelism opportunity and invite our children into the life of one who is ready at all times to give reason for the hope you have in Christ. 1 Cor. 5:20 says, ‘Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

Obeying the Great Commission will look different now that you are a mom. Let God make his appeal through you inside and outside of your home, through prayer and direct interaction, to your children and other future children of God who wait for someone to tell them, for they cannot believe unless they hear the good news.

When Motherhood Meets Cancer

When Motherhood Meets Cancer

In October 2010, my husband and I sat on the floor in our boys’ bedroom as they ran around us in a pre-bedtime frenzy. Surrounded by bunk beds, toys, and trains, we told our young sons I had cancer.

Angiosarcoma has a five-year survival rate of 30%. My boys were six and four, and their little sister was 18 months old. I closed my tear-filled eyes and started begging the Lord to give us those five years. I wasn’t bold enough to ask for more. 

My cancer diagnosis shattered my illusion of having control over mine or my children’s lives. I knew my children would face suffering, but I assumed I would be the one to comfort them, pray for them, and guide them through the hardships. I couldn’t imagine not being there as they grieved.

Mothering through cancer was never easy. I hated missing school programs, awards ceremonies, tee-ball games, birthdays, and holidays. I hated letting others care for my family while I fought for my life in another state. I hated the harshness of our present circumstances and the uncertainty in our future.

But God was always at work.

I learned to rest in his presence with us through the hard times. When I wasn’t able to trust his plans, he poured out his peace. When our needs were extreme, so was his provision through the body of Christ. When I wondered how my children would be impacted, he showed us how he was filling them with his strength.

I revisited the familiar promises of God’s word, seeing them through the new lens of a cancer diagnosis. Did I believe that God loved my children with an everlasting love and would continue his faithfulness to them? Did I have confidence that he would work all things together for good, even if his plans involved suffering and heartache?

Because it all comes down to this: Is God enough?

I still struggle to pray, ‘Thy will be done.’ But I’m thankful that I can plead the righteousness of the One who prayed those words with perfect trust. As he grows my faith, I am able to more wholeheartedly believe he is truly sufficient.

Mommas, We Speak From the Overflow of Our Hearts

Mommas, We Speak From the Overflow of Our Hearts

I yelled at my daughter the other day. Not a gentle ‘Don’t do that, honey,’ kind of correction, but an angry, ‘What on earth were you thinking?’ reaction.

She, in turn, yelled at her two year old brother for making her do it, and pretty quickly there was a lot of frustration going around for a little bit of spilled sparkling water. A simple misstep halted my child’s creative idea on a nice day, and there we were, yelling at each other as if the offense merited some sort of punishment.

After we cleaned up, I thought about how quickly that moment went from fun to frenzied. Rather than parenting my children with the patience and instruction they need, I responded to a common sibling squabble like I was one of the siblings. 

If a mama speaks out of the overflow of her heart, my overflow had been speaking loud and clear, pointing to the fact that I wasn’t guarding the sources filling my heart-well.

The problem is really simple: it’s me. My heart is. My misplaced worship is. The idolatry of my time and performance is. And the way I feed these things by comparing myself to other mothers, that’s the problem.

And the way I’ve sought to fill my life with the things God tells us will not satisfy—these are the barrier between me and the mom that I want to be. As I’ve escaped to worldly influences, I’ve robbed my soul of the fellowship with my Savior that it needs, and I’ve seen firsthand the difference between the overflow of a heart filled with treasure and a heart filled with idols.

Motherhood is one way God makes his goodness tangible, and I am learning each day that to be the mom I want to be, to experience that goodness, I have to begin with a posture of humility; which is sometimes as simple as the choice between one of the many temporary comforts fighting for my affection, and repentance. Simple, pure, childlike repentance of my sin. Because we’re all in need of saving from the thing that keeps us from God and from one another.

But the best news for all of us is that grace is already there.

All in All: How Jesus Transforms Our Relationships

All in All: How Jesus Transforms Our Relationships

“It was one of my first ventures out into society as a new mama. We were visiting the home of some new friends & he started crying a little bit. Then, it got louder & I excused myself to the other room as I attempted to quiet him.
.
I tried bouncing him. I tried singing lullabies. I tried feeding him & changing his diaper. Still he continued to wail.
.
All my visions of motherhood were crashing down hard as I tasted my own failure to soothe this real-life baby.
.
Fast forward a few weeks. I’m listening to scripture on audio as I fold laundry. One short phrase rings out strong. It’s the second part of Colossians 3:11, which says, ‘But Christ is all & in all.’
.
That is, he is everything, everywhere, for every moment. He provides the meaning & purpose & beauty—not just for some days or some people—but for all & for everything, even this moment as I fold my laundry, even that moment when my child is crying and crying, even when I am crying myself. 
.
Jesus is the beginning, middle & end of my story & your story & everyone else’s story.
.
We live in a world where relationships tend to be defined by divisions & distinctions. This is the reality of my heart—that I look on others & instinctively measure myself as either inadequate or superior in comparison.
.
But there is something bigger than all our differences, bigger than all the measurements & status. Christ is bigger. He is all.
.
When we look at ourselves & at others, we look for Christ, in & through all our differences. We are no longer worrying what others think of us or racing to prove ourselves, to peg ourselves as inferior or superior to another mama. Rather, we clothe ourselves in humility. 
.
We’re on a treasure hunt of sorts, looking for Christ, searching to delight in His glory in those around us & his grace in our own weaknesses. We’re living out this identity as a people holy & dearly loved, freed to bear with each other & forgive each other & live in peace as one body.
.
Because Christ is all & is in all, we can live in sweet peace & experience genuine love.”
.
More from @jennywrenreed on the blog! Link in profile.

Planting Seeds of Gospel Hope

Planting Seeds of Gospel Hope

I spent much of my high school and college years intentionally building relationships with unbelievers, sharing the gospel with strangers, and passing out tracts. I even wanted to bring this message to other nations as a missionary. 

But God was leading me to a different season than I imagined for myself. A season that didn’t look like typical missions work or much of an evangelistic opportunity. I was to become a wife and mother. 

My interactions with the outside world were mainly the cashier at the grocery store, the children’s librarian, and people at the park. My limited interactions were fraught with countless interruptions, distractions, and little moments of crises.

I didn’t understand how this desire to evangelize matched up with motherhood, especially the part of motherhood that involved changing diapers and cleaning spit up. And I would feel guilty for not actively sharing the gospel with someone else.

But I was thinking about motherhood and evangelism wrong.

When Jesus walked this earth, he made disciples. He called them to come and follow him. He didn’t share a brief three point sermon, knock on a door, pass out a tract, and then walk away. He walked the same roads as his followers and traveled in their shoes. Jesus went the distance.

Because making a disciple takes time. 

I can change the baby’s diaper as an expression of a type of sacrificial love that reflects Jesus. I can teach both my boys that the gospel is their only hope for change and right living, while I reach out to the mom next door. I can love my children and the mom from story time. They are both my neighbor. 

When I offer my children grace, love, and acceptance in their failures I’m pointing them to a greater version of these things in Christ. Just the same, when I extend an invitation for a playdate with an unbeliever I’m reflecting a greater invitation from the Savior. 

I’m being faithful where God has me.


I can trust God with the new seeds I plant now.

Debunking the Ideal-Mother Identity

Debunking the Ideal-Mother Identity

‘What do people think of me?’

Our attempt to shape the answer to that question can control our lives. It’s often there in the home furnishings we choose, the table we set & the planter we place on the patio. It can be there in the car we drive, the books we read & the places we choose for vacation. By means of our clothes, our weight, our gym routine & the interior of our home, we are so easily driven by a craving for an acceptable answer to that question.

It can begin before our children are born. 

As our baby grows within us, we seek advice & do research on how to be the best possible mother. We note what other moms do & how they do it, setting standards for our mothering techniques along the way. Our goal is to distinguish not only good from bad, but better from best. 

Sometimes, though, we wind up not only wanting to be the ideal mom but yearning to be known as that mom. 

If we live self-conscious lives, we harm those we love most & mar our witness of Christ. And trying to live out an ideal-mother identity makes us critical toward mothers whose parenting choices differ from ours. We silently (or not so silently) judge rather than come alongside them to encourage their efforts to love their children. 

It seems counterintuitive, but joy & genuine love result not from being thought well of but by thinking less of ourselves altogether. 

As Christ followers, we can toss ‘What do people think of me?’ out the window. That’s because we’re called to ask a different question: What do people think of Christ? 

When we’re driven by a concern for how people perceive him, we can live free from the bondage of what people think of us. 

As we begin to grasp this truth more deeply, we’ll enjoy the freedom of self-forgetfulness. 

Because our identity is in Christ, we have no reason to fear our weaknesses. After all, those weaknesses are the very place where his strength is most powerfully at work.

As we open our hearts & lives, we become a resource of God’s grace & encouragement to the struggling mothers all around us.

Transitions

Transitions

My four daughters have been raised on three continents. They cut their teeth in Asia, experienced some middle years in Europe, and now live in the United States. These sweet babes have traversed everything from squatty potties and flying cockroaches to endless gray days and desperately wanting to buy a vowel in a language that has almost none.

Now that we’ve settled down in Colorado, I’ve noticed there are few natives here. Americans are increasingly transient. We’re less and less obligated to stay close to our roots. We move for school, work, climate, friends, a new lifestyle, even on a whim.

It was one thing to relocate when we were footloose and fancy-free college kids or young adults. But now that we’ve got a toddler or elementary-aged boy or tween girl or a teen in tow, we need a game plan.

Moves across the state, the country, or even the world can be both traumatic and exciting at the same time. As our families experience upheaval, we need to be firmly grounded in the unchanging nature of our God and his good news.

Here are some gospel foundations for making a move as a family:

1. Jesus will hold everything together.

2. You cannot escape God’s presence.

3. God ordains when and where we live.

4. As Christians we have family wherever we go.

Though difficult, transitions can be an immense blessing. Trust the Lord to work in yours. As far as you are able, be faithful in preparing your own heart and the hearts of your children. Beyond that, know that our God is good and gracious and he will not only meet you there, but he will meet your kids there in ways you never knew possible.

Birthing and Longing

Birthing and Longing

‘You know, babe, I wish I could have known you would be all into this … birth stuff before we got married.’

We became pregnant just a few short months after our honeymoon, which unlocked inside of me what has become an enduring life passion: childbirth.

My favorite portion of Romans 8 is where Paul uses childbirth as a metaphor to teach us about our ultimate future glory.

‘For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God … For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.’

Whether it’s something as significant as a waiting to see a child to come to saving faith in Christ or something more temporal but strongly felt as waiting for a child to fall asleep (PLEASE!), we all know what it means to wait for something with eager longing.

But the waiting of childbirth—and, so, creation—is marked by groaning. This is not a comfortable waiting. It is waiting punctuated by great effort and, oftentimes, pain. The tension of ‘already but not yet’ is palabable in the delivery room. Every birth attendant knows that the baby is coming; but often as the hours or days of labor creep by, it is easy to fall into wondering if the baby will actually ever come

Christians are a people keenly aware that this world is not as it should be. When we look around and see hatred and bigotry, inequality and racism, poverty and wars, it would be right for us to literally moan, ‘When will Jesus redeem this once and for all!?’

Praise God that we have assurance that day IS coming—the baby WILL be born!—though it will be at an ‘hour no one knows.’

Just like a woman in labor, may we endeavor to put those groanings to work. May our groans sound like women who shout gospel truth through the labor halls of life. And may we know when we get to see our Savior face to face, it will be cause for infinite joy—a moment that will make the breathtaking moment of looking into the faces of our own children once they’ve been born pale in comparison.

When Your Husband Isn't the Father You Imagined: Gracious Truths for the Disillusioned Mom

When Your Husband Isn't the Father You Imagined: Gracious Truths for the Disillusioned Mom

I remember the first time I ever saw my husband with a baby. I found myself in a daydream in that moment, as love struck young women do, of what it would be like to raise a family with this kind, servant-hearted, steady man.

The daydream crumbled shortly after we came home from the hospital with our newborn son four years later.

Those first few weeks were really difficult. Caring for our child came much more naturally to me. Gradually, I started to just do things myself instead of asking for help because it was easier that way, but it didn't stop resentment from growing in my heart. I had looked forward to all the ways that parenthood would make us closer and more in love, but those first few months were nothing like I had imagined.

It was so much lonelier.

I wish I could sit down for coffee with that grieving, disillusioned mama and offer her the encouragement in this article, but instead, I pray that if you are struggling the way that I was in that first year, that this article would meet you in that place and offer hope.

Your Father sees, hears, and knows.

Your Father has given you all that you need.

Your Father is sovereign over this season.

Your Father is able to change hearts.

So this Father’s Day, if you have experienced something similar, celebrate your husband for what he is: the father of your children.

Reach deeply for the things he is doing well. Encourage him with the ways that you see God working in him and through him.Tell him that you know what a great responsibility it is and how much of a challenge it is and how you are committed to supporting him and praying for him.

Most of all, feel the blessing of your heavenly Father loving you not according to what you have done, but because of who you are in Christ, and extend that same patience, grace, and favor to your spouse.