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We Can’t “Mom” Alone

We Can’t “Mom” Alone

I can count the events that changed the trajectory of my life on one hand. And this moment launched me into motherhood.

In a short ten minutes, I went from exhausted pregnant woman, resting on the couch after traveling, to exhausted pregnant woman who couldn’t sit down because of a phone call that changed everything.

Nervous energy pulsing through my veins as I said to my husband, ‘Are we crazy? Does this make sense? Can we really do this?’

We’d prayed that God would allow us to adopt from the foster system. We hadn’t been specific about timing, and welcoming a newborn into our home four months before our biological child was due caused more than a handful of questions from concerned friends and family.

When we received the call, our ‘nursery’ consisted of any empty room with a glider and a Boppy pillow. Not exactly ‘everything you need.’

Word travels fast. The next morning at church, people provided a barrage of baby gear and diapers. While our heads were spinning with details, our church presented a beautiful picture of God’s love for his people.

During that transition, our church held us closely. They met our needs and loved us well. They even washed our dirty clothes. (Talk about being Jesus’ hands and feet!)

As our church provided for our needs, I was reminded of God’s perfect provision in Jesus, and his love for the Church—that he loves the Church like a perfect husband loves a wife.

Everyday we have the opportunity as the Church to be a picture of God’s love through the gospel to the world. We, as the Church, have the opportunity to teach truth clearly not just in word but in deed through the gospel.

As a new mom, my sweet church provided for me physically, but also gave me the blessing of accountability, guidance, and intercession.They consistently pointed us to the truth, building on the foundation of Jesus himself as cornerstone, acting as his body.

May we be his hands, feet, and mouthpiece too as we love our neighbors well, revealing the character and the goodness of the God we serve.

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.


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.

A Love That Speaks

A Love That Speaks

Nine weeks. Sixty-three days. Seven hundred fifty-six hours.

Those numbers measure the span of time I lived in the hospital in 2015.

The plan was simple: I was to continue carrying our second daughter, Alisa Jane, until it was no longer safe to keep her in my womb.

Recently, I told a friend about this experience, and she asked, ‘How did your family logistically make that happen?’

Thankfully, our little family didn’t just survive that season; we actually thrived, even in all the heartache and grief. Reflecting on the experience with the benefit of hindsight, I answered my new friend with the simple, yet profound, reason for this: ‘The body of Christ surrounded us.’

Speaking to the disciples on the eve of his death, Jesus said, ‘By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

We know God’s love means we are to offer this same type of love to those not yet covered by the blood of Christ. Yet sometimes, I wonder if we have neglected to remember the true intent of Christ’s words on the eve of his death. Jesus was concerned that night with how they would love one another.

Jesus anticipated that his followers would be known by their love for one another, because the uniqueness of their love would reflect the greatest love this world has ever known: God’s incomprehensible, unconditional love.

This is the distinguishing characteristic of the Church.

Those nine weeks I lived at Baylor Hospital were some of the most humbling days of my life. I watched as believers from our community surrounded us in support. Friends with children of their own gave of their time. Christians we hardly knew provided meals, grocery shopped, and gave financially to help us navigate that trying season. Believers—some I had never even met—visited me almost daily, bringing with them the fragrance of Christ to the 6th floor at Baylor.

When we operate as he intended for us to live, we, the body of Christ, are a magnificent reflection of the greatest love known to man—God’s love for us.

The Gospel Comes with a House Key

The Gospel Comes with a House Key

Peaceful sleep sounds echoed from my husband and two youngest children. Even the dogs were sleeping. My Bible was open, along with my copy of Tabletalk magazine and my notebook. My coffee cup was in arm’s reach, sitting on a calico mug mat that my ten-year-old daughter made in sewing class.

That morning, my prayer time stopped at the concentric circle labeled ‘neighbor.’ I was praying for my immediate neighbor, whose house I could see from my writing desk.

I love waking up and seeing the familiar van parked in the same spot, and as the sky yawns open, the house and people in it unveil their morning rituals (lights on, dogs out, paper retrieved, a wave of greeting, maybe a child running across the street to return a Tupperware or deliver a loose bouquet of red peonies).

Loving your neighbors brings comfort and peace.

So there I was, praying for my neighbor. A typical morning. Except that the phone I had turned off, which was in the other room, continued to receive text messages alerting me that something was terribly, dreadfully wrong in the house across the street. The house of the man for whom I was praying.

And then I noticed it: burly men ducking around the back of my house, wearing orange shirts marked DEA—Drug Enforcement Agency.

What does the conservative Bible believing family who lives across the street do in a crisis of this magnitude? How ought we to think about this? How ought we to live?

We could barrack ourselves in the house, remind ourselves and our children that ‘evil company perverts’ (see 1 Cor. 15:33), and, like the good Pharisees that we are always poised to become, thank God that we are not like evil meth addicts.

We could surround our home in our own version of yellow crime-scene tape, giving the message that we are better than this, that we make good choices, that we would never fall into this mess.

But that, of course, is not what Jesus calls us to do.


When You Don’t Fit In

When You Don’t Fit In

These littles of mine certainly stand out.

I was born to a white mother and a black father. And I should mention, I’m one of 7 kids. I had the muscle tone of a seasoned female wrestler and the hair of a trolls doll left in the water too long. As you can imagine, I didn’t quite fit in.

My husband, Oshiomogho, is the youngest son of Nigerian parents who left everything in Africa to bring a few dollars, his older sister, and their rich Nigerian history to Canada.

Soon after we found out we were pregnant, I realized in the Atogwe family, tradition says the grandparents name the babies. The Sloanes, Haydens, Micahs, Chloes, and Whitleys of my dreams were laid to rest.

My son is Oshiolema, and my daughter is Keogena Na’Airah.

They’re both different like their mama was different. Different like their daddy was different.

But I’m elated to assure them that their Savior was different too. Jesus knew what it was felt like to be unlike his peers, and unlike any human that ever lived. He certainly didn’t fit in. And yet, even though he’s different, Jesus securely knows his identity.

Christ proudly stood firm in hs identity, and in a beautiful exchange, Jesus humbled himself, choosing to say whose he is. Fully God, fully man, and the way he lived his life here on earth speaks powerfully about who he is.

Whether or not we fit in—if we are accepted or rejected—the deep desire to be understood is fulfilled when we remember Who is in us and what he has called us to do. As followers of Christ, we are called to be the lights of this world, and I’ve never once known a light to blend into the darkness.

No two of us are alike. We will all face moments where we don’t feel like we fit in-but in Christ we can walk in secure and beautiful identity until we meet him face to face.”

 

 

Do Good to Your Fellow Mom

Do Good to Your Fellow Mom

Right before my second son was born, my husband had emergency back surgery. Following my c-section, neither of us could lift more than ten pounds which made things really interesting as we tried to care for a newborn and a 30-pound toddler.

I remember calling an older mom the day I found out my husband needed surgery and just weeping. How were we going do this?

Thinking back on that season, I smile (and tear up) remembering each mom that did good to us. Some of them I knew and others I only recognized from a polite smile at church, but God knit my heart to theirs because of their kindness.

That’s what God does—he uses our acts of love to bind us together in unity.

Trying to do good to other moms in our own strength is a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, God doesn’t expect us to do it alone. His word tells us that he is ‘able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.’

It’s reassuring to know that we don’t have to come up with the grace on our own, isn’t it? He’ll give grace to you too, friend.

This week, mama, consider the opportunities that God has (or hasn’t) prepared for you, lean on his grace, and look forward to your reward in Heaven.

May he knit our hearts together as we do each other good.

 

When We're Offended: The Cost of Being a Peacemaker​​​​​​​

When We're Offended: The Cost of Being a Peacemaker​​​​​​​

He hurt my baby. In an effort to protect his beloved train from her intruding little fingers, the boy reached over and pushed my daughter headfirst into the pointed edge of another toy.

My heart raced with emotion as I swooped her up. Scenes like this are many in the world of children. And though maybe a bit more polished and professional, these interactions are not all that uncommon among the mommies of little ones, as well.

Created in God's image, we detect injustice acutely.

Injustice causes a gap. When a person wrongs us, intentionally or not, a breach in intimacy and connection occurs. Trust is severed. Security threatened.

Whether we discern the gap's existence or not, we sense innately that some act of justice must occur to overcome the divide.

Maybe you know the feeling. 

Maybe your husband doesn’t help as much as he should. Maybe your children sling mean words that pierce you with the feeling of rejection as a mother. Maybe another mom in your small group, or your mother-in-law, or your mom always offers you helpful suggestions on how to be a good mom, and you can never measure up to her standards.

Whether words and actions are simply inconsiderate or blatantly intentional, all of us know what it is to be wronged...

We lay down all our defenses because Jesus extends to us forgiveness undeserved.

Forgiveness that cancels our record of debt, our guilty standing, our condemnation. His blood reconciles us to God, inviting us into his presence. Jesus welcomes us when our experience is one of pain, ridicule, or shame. He hears our helpless cries when we choose not to defend ourselves. He whispers to us the most tender and comforting expression of one who's been there: I know.

We forsake giving others the power to stake claim on our identity, and we hide ourselves in this Savior, rather than use our own futile measures to defend our worth and dignity and thus widen the gap.

Members, Not Measures: A Call to Own One Another’s Joys and Sorrows

Members, Not Measures: A Call to Own One Another’s Joys and Sorrows

My husband and I host a weekly small group comprised of eight married couples who are all under the age of 35. At the close of each of our meetings, the girls and guys divide to share more intimately and to pray for one another specifically. Our semester’s praises and prayer requests were all over the map, especially in the realm of fertility and childbearing, and we rarely left our time together without the shedding of tears.

At times I feared that our group would not survive because of the fact that we were walking triggers for one another. We fought feelings of guilt in weeping and feelings of contempt in our rejoicing.

But instead, God caused this community to abound in love for each other. I witnessed the beauty that emerges in the tension when weeping and rejoicing are happening all at once.


We know that just as Christ assigns our roles, he is sovereign over our experiences. We can trust that whether our families are growing or we are in seasons of waiting or mourning, there is nothing that happens outside of his sovereign will, and that he is working all things for our good.

When the tension of weeping and rejoicing is painful and awkward, we must resist the temptation to avoid each other. We must continue to meet together, reminding each other of God’s goodness, and praying for one another.

There’s a reason we are called a body. We need one another.

Loving the Mom Who Is Different from Me

Loving the Mom Who Is Different from Me

While motherhood often brings women together, it can also highlight differences that challenge our love for one another. More than ever before, in this world of Motherhood-by-Instagram, opportunities abound for comparison, criticism, and misunderstandings.

Quite often I’m tempted to judge or criticize a mom who parents differently than I do, feeds her kids healthier than I do, prioritizes her family better than I do, keeps house better than I do, or exercises more than I do. If I find some fault in her, I am less apt to feel inferior in comparison to her...

But the message of the Gospel intersects all my sinful heart attitudes: "Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you".

Because of what Christ did for me, loving me to the cross while I was still his enemy, my identity in him is a foundation for loving unity toward other women, even and especially toward the mom who is different from me.

Bridges of Grace: Dealing with the Different Momma

Bridges of Grace: Dealing with the Different Momma

Do you build walls of division within your church?

I know what you are thinking—"No! I warmly greet anyone who I pass walking down the halls of my church." But… what about your small group? How unified are you when someone shares an opinion on a matter of preference with which you disagree? What do you do when someone is different than you?

As we draw near to our sister, are we supposed to forget our differences? No! We are to use them to build up our sisters in Christ. God gives us unique schools of circumstances that are meant to cultivate new knowledge of Him—whether it is singleness, infertility, aging parents, financial difficulty, or illness.

However, rather than building a wall because of difference with your sister, build a bridge because of grace. After listening to your sister’s struggle, consider how Christ has ministered to both of you in similar ways. From that place of humility and common ground, be a caring sister and tenderly apply truths of the gospel that you have learned in your school of circumstance to your hurting sister’s heart.

Our differences do not have to divide. We can build bridges of grace rather than walls of division... . And, we would get front row seats in witnessing the power of the gospel transform the lives of those we love… even in the midst of our differences.

Moms Make Peace Through Christ

Moms Make Peace Through Christ

Division and disunity with other moms can surprise us at every turn, even in the most common situations....

With so many gray-area choices in the context of orthodox, biblical motherhood, how can we love one another well? How can we get below the surface, resisting feelings of shame, embarrassment, comparison, and judgement when we see another mom doing it differently?...

...Instead of judging each other, sizing one another up, and making broad brush stroke statements about “moms who work” or “moms who stay at home” or “moms who homeschool” etc., let’s seek to be kind and generous with our assumptions. Let’s resolve to learn the scriptures together and pursue Christ, living out the gospel in our daily lives. Let’s lovingly help each other see different people groups, especially those who don’t have a voice in our culture, and advocate for them.

Peace with the different mom but sister-in-Christ is possible. It comes through the cross as a subsequent overflow from peace in our vertical relationship with God. Unity isn’t going to come from everything-is-like-me motherhood, but from every-believer-made-one-in-him theology.

Abide Together: How to Lead a Bible Study

Abide Together: How to Lead a Bible Study

Leading a Bible study can sound intimidating, nerve-wracking and maybe even a little awkward. But it doesn't have to be! Here's the deal: Just because you're leading, doesn't mean you need to have all the answers, sound holy, or speak in big words – if you can pray, stay somewhat organized, and ask questions, you can lead a Bible study. A Bible study is about studying scripture and learning more about God, it's not about making the leader look good (or awkward). 

By stepping out in faith to coordinate a study, you'll bless many women as you grow together in your knowledge and love of God. In our final post of the #abidetogether series on the #risenmotherhoodblog, we'll walk you through a few simple ways to lead your Bible study like keeping an eye on the time, understanding the personalities in your group, and constantly pointing one another to the gospel.


 

Abide Together: How To Navigate Small Group Discussions

Abide Together: How To Navigate Small Group Discussions

The best conversations with a friend leave you feeling encouraged, refreshed, and maybe with an empty coffee cup or two. While it may take a bit of effort, your Bible study discussions can feel like one of your memorable conversations with a close friend. By focusing on God's word through authenticity and humble sharing, we can be challenged, spurred on, and find fellowship with other women.

So how do you navigate good discussion in your Bible study? In today's installment of the Abide Together series on the Risen Motherhood Blog, we'll walk you through how to love your group members well and maximize your discussion.⠀