Intentional Motherhood

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.

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.
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I tried bouncing him. I tried singing lullabies. I tried feeding him & changing his diaper. Still he continued to wail.
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All my visions of motherhood were crashing down hard as I tasted my own failure to soothe this real-life baby.
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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.’
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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. 
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Jesus is the beginning, middle & end of my story & your story & everyone else’s story.
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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.
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But there is something bigger than all our differences, bigger than all the measurements & status. Christ is bigger. He is all.
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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. 
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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.
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Because Christ is all & is in all, we can live in sweet peace & experience genuine love.”
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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.

Contentment in Motherhood

Contentment in Motherhood

Stomach bugs. Hitting. Biting. Lice. Bed-wetting. Tantrums. Sleepless nights. Exhausting days.

Each day you wake up with a plan, only to find your efforts dismantled before you’ve even finished your first cup of coffee. Like a rudderless boat tossed back & forth on the waves, our days rarely go the way we hope. With so many ups & downs, plans made & plans delayed, how do we learn the secret of contentment in the season of motherhood?

Is it even possible?

The short answer? Yes, I believe it is possible.

Often, I picture contentment being a moment of stillness when everything surrounding me is calm & peaceful. Beds are made, dishes are done, children are napping, & I’m sitting on a cool porch in the sunlight with a hot cup of tea.

In this situation, I’m hoping for outward peace in my circumstances to work inward peace in my soul.

However, Christian contentment works in the opposite direction.

Christian contentment is an inward assurance in God’s sovereignty & goodness that produces the fruit of joy & peace & thanksgiving in the life of a believer, regardless of outward circumstances.

Notice the difference—Christian contentment begins inward & is independent of daily events & circumstances. Its source is God’s character & his plan, not our own. It’s rooted in the belief that God is working all things for our greatest good—fashioning & shaping us into the image of Jesus.

This belief allows us to view every tantrum & trial as a means by which God is at work in us, not just us at work in our child.

How do we take hold of Christ’s strength? He tells us, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me & I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’

We need time with Jesus each day because without him, we’re powerless. He’s the source of strength we need & the refreshment we seek.

We desperately need the truth of God’s word to remind us of the good news of the gospel.

Today, God is at work in every detail of your day. He never forgets you & he always sees you. Take your worries & concerns, hopes & dreams to him. Trust in him, rest in him.

Moms, Embrace Your Need

 Moms, Embrace Your Need

Mom friends—you’re doing it. You’re fulfilling the work of ministry God has planned for you! He’s given you a wonderful gift in your children, and though the days feel long and nights, even longer, this is precisely where he wants you. Right here with your kids.

You’re exactly where you should be.

We can’t foresee all that will happen, but we can anticipate our hearts—our struggles, anxieties, and fears—and proactively preach God’s Word to ourselves.

When you struggle with feeling depleted from lack of sleep, remember that God’s grace is sufficient for each moment, that he will give you what you need with every breath you take.

When you struggle with choosing motherhood over other things, remember that for everything there is a season, perfectly planned by God for the advance of his purposes in the world.

When you struggle with a sense of purpose in the routine, remember that motherhood is a calling from God, an important work of faith and labor of love that images Jesus Christ.

When you struggle with guilt over time in God’s word, know that the basis of your salvation isn’t dependent on this, but on Christ.

You and I can embrace our need for an all-sufficient, perfectly wise Lord and Savior in this unique season of motherhood.

We can praise God for a new grasp of what it means to cling to him—because we know that when we are weak, he is strong.

Identify in Christ

Identify in Christ

Have you ever considered how your identity was shaped?

Our identities are who we are at our core. The things that often define us can be connected to our family’s achievements, or possibly our own abilities, the things we’ve accomplished or even failed at.

If you’re anything like me, you take pride in your roles.

I grew up in the church as a preacher’s kid, I was a cheerleader for most of my life, a sorority girl in college, & after graduation, I soon became a wife. After marriage, we unexpectedly struggled with infertility, experienced failed adoptions, then—by the grace of God—became pregnant with twins, & I finally became a mama. Oh, the pride!

Unfortunately, when my marriage shattered, so did my self-esteem.

I became a single mama in 2015 & I was lost, broken, hurting & fearful of how life was going to turn out. I desperately needed the Lord & needed him to redefine who I was, my life, & mend my heart.

Christ constantly challenged the root of people’s identities, but also graciously & freely gave newness to those who believed in him. These pictures of unconditional acceptance, grace, & love caused me to see myself the way he does; in spite of my circumstances or what other people may think of me.

2 Cor. 5:17 tells us, ‘If we are in Christ, we are new creatures and made new.’ Paul is talking about our identities—who we are. Those old labels & attachments rooted in anything besides the work of the Lord will pass away.

As single mamas, it is easy to wear that label & deal with the empowering or negative connotations of it. Although we are doing a two person job alone most days of the week, we have to remember where our true identity lies. Raising our babies alone is what we do, it is not who we are.

Christ was never concerned with job titles & status; he surrounded himself with tax collectors, the sick, prostitutes, & known sinners. He knew who they were & he used their lives for his glory. He came to have a life altering interaction with us that would change what & how we do all things forever.

Out of those truths of who we are, what we do is done differently.

Can Moms be Missionaries?

Can Moms be Missionaries?

When reading about Paul in the New Testament what comes to mind? A gifted missionary perhaps? Paul wrote letters to various churches, traveled from city to city, to the Jew and to the Gentile, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ!

As encouraging as this is, I can’t help but wonder what I have in common with Paul.

From the Chick-fil-A drive through to daycare pickups, from dirty diapers to spilled Cheerios, from grocery store trips to dance recitals, the life of a mama with kids seems very different from his.

Yet just like Paul, we have been given the same mission.

Simply put, evangelism is sharing the gospel or the good news of Jesus Christ. It can seem intimidating not knowing where to start or having the right words to say, but when Jesus gave us the great commission, he ended it with a powerful reminder as we seek to obey this command.

He reminds us that he will be with us always.

The first thing we can do is to pray that God would press onto our hearts people who he wants us to witness to.

Think about those who are around you that may not know who Jesus is. Prayer shows our dependency on God to give us opportunities to share the truth about him with those people whose hearts he has already been working in. We, the messengers, just need to be ready to share.

The second thing we can do is practice.

As often as I could, I started sharing the gospel with my one-year-old son who would, at worst, ignore me and, at best, clap at my feeble attempts. Reciting the full gospel out loud to my child gave me the opportunity to practice what I would say in a way that sounded natural.

We can allow an embarrassing moment to keep us from experiencing a powerful promise that follows after our obedience, or we can continue to press forward—placing one foot of faith in front of the other.

We’re not alone in this. As we begin to share our faith with others and teach them to know and follow Christ, we will actively see God working in our lives and in the lives of others.”

The Curse of Complaining

The Curse of Complaining

How do you react when something doesn’t go your way?

I’ve noticed that even when I’m on cloud nine after a mountaintop experience—whether a conference, retreat, or vacation—all it takes is some small annoyance and a fountain of complaints begin spewing from my mouth.

How quickly our fickle hearts are exposed by our words.

In Exodus 16 the Israelites had just come from a mountaintop experience. After wandering in the wilderness for three days without any water, God led them to the desert resort of Elim.

But just after they left Elim they entered the wilderness of Sin. Complaints poured from their mouths as their stomachs rumbled with hunger. They quickly focused their whining on the two men who were leading them, Moses and Aaron. Moses rebukes the Israelites because their complaints against him and his brother are ultimately against God.

Sometimes we do the same sort of thing, don’t we?

We need to remember the One who is sovereign over every interruption and unsavory circumstance in our lives. When we grumble, we’re really telling God that we know better, that our plan should win out.

He is not unaware of your child’s temper tantrums or your overbearing relative or your tight budget. Instead, he’s using these trials to shape us and cause us to rely on His all-sufficient grace. He’s working in our lives for our good and his glory.

So the next time you’re tempted to open your mouth in complaint, pray for the Lord to put a guard over your mouth and keep you from making the same mistake as the Israelites. Instead, ask him to fill your heart and mouth with gratitude, to bring glory to the Lord over all.

Five Ways My Mom Invested the Gospel in Me

Five Ways My Mom Invested the Gospel in Me

Every mother wants a strong relationship with their daughter. Or at least, I think they do. I actually don’t know for certain since I’m not a mother. I’m a daughter who just graduated from her teens last year.

As I look back on my teen years, I loved hanging out with mom. I loved learning from her. I even took her correction pretty well because she exposed my sin truthfully yet tenderly. I loved praying with her, baking with her, going on adventures with her, and reading books with her. What’s more: I still do.

So what’s so special about my mom?

It actually isn’t anything particularly special at all. It’s merely two things: she prioritized her relationship with her kids and she relied on the grace of God.

As I consider my teen years, I’m mindful of five things my mom did to build this relationship with me: she started young, she prayed for and with me, she risked vulnerability, she learned with me, and she had fun with me.

I wish you could meet my mom. She’d say she’s far from a spiritual giant and that raising godly kids wasn’t about her.

‘It just took intentionality,’ she’d tell you. ‘But most of all, the grace of God.’

For both my mom and you, there is gospel grace to meet you at every turn. No mom is ‘mom enough.’

Every mom needs infinite grace to forgive her sins, to work through her mistakes, and to point her and her kids to Jesus.

Remember: he is the savior of your family, not you.

When Trials and Tears Become Opportunities

When Trials and Tears Become Opportunities

The fear in the room was palpable.

I had just spoken to a group of moms and girls on the primary topic of social media under a gospel-centered framework, and I was left to field questions from the moms. But you know how one person’s anxiety can get a whole group riled up? That’s what happened.

But I get it. Raising kids in today’s culture is hard. Especially raising kids who love the Lord. .

However, it is far from hopeless.

I can recall one trial in particular I would not want to relive, but I would also not undo the good that came from it. When my daughter was in high school she battled an eating disorder, a struggle that stemmed largely from how she saw herself compared to others. Social media was the primary avenue for the comparison (thus the reason for my talk to those fear-filled mothers), but not the heart of the problem.

Had life as her mom remained problem-free, I would have never believed that—deep down—the notion I really held to was that God is good as long as he works according to my plan, my way, my timetable.

I was forced to face my idols of control, comfort, and ease.

It’s never easy to see our sin, but seeing our sin is good because until we do, we don’t know how much we need a Savior. So with the struggle, pain, and worry also came the opportunity to grow in my own need of grace and dependence on God for all things.

So those things we fear and try at all costs to avoid, I get. No parent wants to wade through difficult issues with their kids. But sometimes the unavoidable things are God’s grace to us and our child.

Sometimes they are the very things he uses to draw us more to himself, and lead us to greater compassion and grace for others.


What Does It Mean to Find My Hope in Christ?

What Does It Mean to Find My Hope in Christ?

“One of the first lessons a pilot learns is to trust his instruments over his feelings. A pilot’s feelings may mislead, but his plane’s instruments provide him the true information to keep him safe and focused.

Life sometimes feels like a flying in a storm, doesn’t it? We bump up against difficult circumstances, find our faith shaken by loss, lack, or trials; & struggle to reconcile the feelings we experience with the wisdom we know from scripture.

We reach out to social media & blogs like air masks to maintain some semblance of control when what we need is the lifegiving air of our hope in Christ.

But what does that mean? To ‘find our hope in Christ?’

When people talk about hope, it’s usually in uncertain terms. We hope that thing happens. We hope that situation changes. We hope, but we wait to know the outcome.

And since we can’t be sure of what will happen next, our hearts are tempted to look at our circumstances & assess God’s faithfulness to us by the state of our current realities.

‘Is there enough money in the budget?’ ‘Are my kids healthy?’ ‘Does my marriage feel strained?’ ‘Does God love me?’

But the result of circumstantial hope is despair. If we can’t be sure of an outcome, we feel an urge to self-promote & self-preserve in order to care for ourselves in the face of uncertainty.

The truth is, life is full of suffering, painful consequences of sin, & a general brokenness that affects every relationship, conversation, & trip to the grocery store with five kids under five.

But as Christians, we know hope in an unchanging & eternal Christ is a certain thing.

When we look at the cross, we see that God gave up his most precious Son to save his enemies who delighted in their rebellion. In Christ, we have a fixed point of God’s faithfulness to us.

If God has given us all that we need through Christ, will he let us falter when we grow weary in training defiant children or haven’t slept in seven months? When the weight of our feelings are crushing & we can’t see if we’re flying right-side up or upside down?

No, mama, he will not. Because Who we hope in was & is victorious.”

 

Might As Well Laugh, Mama

Might As Well Laugh, Mama

“When my oldest was three, we had a small concrete pad poured to host our trash and recycling bins. Just as the workers were finishing up, she and my husband, David, went outside to check on the progress, see if they needed anything, and admire their work from a safe distance.

Five seconds of small talk later, the three-year-old looked up at him, looked up at the workers, and took off in a sprint. I need not tell you in which direction.

David reports she ran full-tilt and leaped, arms and fingers splayed, with the slow-mo perfect form angle of an Olympic long jumper, landing three-year-old feet, hands, and booty into freshly-poured concrete.

Now, it’s easy to tell David’s funny story here. It’s easy to laugh, because I wasn’t in it.

But the truth is I’m “in it” a hundred times in a normal day. And I’m rarely laughing. Because I can rarely see in the moment anything beyond the loads of laundry or how many Brawneys it’s going to take to clean this up or whether or not this is going to make us late for school.

Which is why I’m so thankful for my sisterfriends—the women who are also “in it” every day, who still take the time to remind me to laugh and lean into the crazy and not get swallowed up by it.

They remind me that God—not me—is responsible for setting concrete and growing babies, and perhaps I’m freer to laugh than I realized, particularly when my daughter reports she just successfully flushed the potty with her mouth.

When you put your trust in his son Jesus, you find he’s had his arms wrapped around you all along. And just as we whisper into the ears of a tearful child, “I’ve got you,” God’s promises ring true in scripture to remind us of his sovereignty and grace in our lives.

God has us, even in the hard, even in the ridiculous.

So laugh, my friend. Laugh with the abandon of your head tossed back and loud enough for others to hear and with the delight of a daughter.”
 

God’s Unexpected Purpose for Motherhood

God’s Unexpected Purpose for Motherhood

I don’t need to tell you that motherhood is hard work. It’s physically grueling, emotionally exhausting, and intellectually numbing. But one hardship we often overlook as moms is the challenge it makes to our sense of purpose.

Through the consuming trials of motherhood, we lose many of the earthly ways we used to understand the purpose of our lives before—we may no longer work out of the home, our friendships may change, our relationships with our husbands may differ as we make room for the family, and so on.

Because the challenges of motherhood strip away our old identity markers, we are tempted to replace them by finding our purpose in godly motherhood.

Although godly motherhood is valuable, it is not our purpose. It is not our first calling, but the result of it.

Our purpose is first and foremost to love God more.

Therefore, we don’t wrap our purpose up in our children—or in any other relationship. Roles and relationships don’t define who we are and why we are here. Only one relationship defines us: our relationship with God.

Dear Mommies, we are so much more than the summation of our children. His purpose for your motherhood is that you would know him better, love him more, depend completely on his strength, and understand his faithfulness in a new way.