Thriving as a Mom

The Joyful Discomfort of Motherhood

The Joyful Discomfort of Motherhood

We all crave comfort. Comfort food, comfort zones, comfy clothes, comfortable jobs. Our decisions are often motivated by a desire to mitigate distress, discomfort, or inconvenience. Being comfortable isn’t always a bad thing. It can be one way God demonstrates his grace to people.

The privilege of Christian motherhood has challenged my notions of comfortable living in full force.

It’s uncomfortable as our bodies are broken for the sake of another’s welfare through pregnancy, delivery, feeding, & sleeplessness. It’s not easy consistently training up our children in the way they should go through fights over food & school work, tantrums & unwise choices. It’s humbling to tell our young ones about the mighty deeds of God & then display gospel-kindness when faced with their rebellion. 

Yet we pray, forbear, & show mercy because God, in Christ, forgave us. There’s no ease on this battleground because it’s a 24/7 job. 

...This role is rife with opportunities to image what God is like in his self-sacrificing, nurturing, & life-sustaining attributes. In God’s supreme design, mothers were made to image him in unique ways to our families, in our churches, at work, in the community, to ‘the authorities & the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.’ (Eph. 6:12)

This sometimes-uncomfortable work of mothering draws our attention to our need for the great shepherd’s comfort. Only his rod & staff can give us a lasting sense of safety in hard places. 

Just like we wean our children from milk to solid food, the God of all comfort weans us from a taste for only physical comfort to delight in the divine comfort of his everlasting presence. Knowledge of his presence drives us to joyfully live an uncomfortable life for God’s glory. As we share abundantly in Christ’s suffering, we share in his comfort too.

Dear sisters, when tempted to begrudge the costly & uncomfortable work of mothering, let’s remember Jesus went before us. His joyful obedience in hard things accomplished our redemption & adoption & will result in our resurrection one glorious day.

Come to Jesus With the Details

Come to Jesus With the Details

‘Mom, I was calling for you very quietly. It was hard to wait, so I prayed.’

Are the endless repetitions of prayers and practicing and talking really registering with her? Many times we’ve prayed with her to ask Jesus to help her obey, be kind, calm down. In this one instance, she took the initiative to do this on her own.

And my daughter’s childlike faith encouraged my own heart as well. It caused me to ask myself, ‘When I get frustrated or angry or impatient, do I invite him to help me and do I believe he will? Do I believe that when things are hard, he really does love to help me?’

Jesus told his disciples he would send the Holy Spirit to be their “Helper.” Jesus knows life is difficult, and he doesn’t intend for us to do it alone. The Holy Spirit can be present with, minister to, and help every believer as they have need.

In the flurry of life, we often go about our own ways, thinking we’re doing things for Jesus when really he wants to do things with us. It’s his pleasure and desire to counsel, advise, and walk with us step-by-step, even in the things that feel mundane or insignificant.

This is a precious, treasured reminder that the seeds we sow in our children matter, and Jesus desires to help us in every moment.

So this morning, I sat with my journal and listed all the things bearing down on me. The anxiety didn’t fully disappear, but there’s comfort knowing Jesus is with me in it.

This whole experience feels full circle.

We model the practice of seeking Jesus and asking him for his help to our little ones, over and over again. Then, when they do it on their own, we’re encouraged and our faith takes the example to heart. When we model relationship with Jesus for our little ones, there is truly power, for them and for us.

He is our helper, he is near, and he desires to walk with us every step of the way, every moment of the day.

For the Mom Who Keeps Blowing It

For the Mom Who Keeps Blowing It

I looked at my husband across the couch and heard myself say, ‘I’m tired of blowing it, of sinning the same way over and over again with our kids. Can’t I trade this in for another sin or something?!’

Ever since I can remember, I’ve fallen into what some have called the ‘performance trap,’ setting standards for what it means to be a good friend, a good student, a good wife, a good mom, even a good Christian.

But having young kids exposed my sin again and again. It felt impossible to ‘perform’ in this role, to hit the benchmark I had in my head of what a good, Christian mom should look like. I’d hold it together for awhile, but eventually I’d totally blow it. Feeling terrible, I’d apologize profusely to the kids and try to make it up to them. Then, I’d pull up my proverbial bootstraps and determine to do better next time. But, inevitably, I’d blow it again. And the cycle of sin and shame and ‘trying harder’ would repeat.

Sometimes, when I felt really frustrated and defeated, I wanted to give up and declare: “This is just part of my personality, and parenting is so hard!”

But this is not the gospel!

In his mercy, God repeatedly brought me to a point of desperation. God helped me realize that no amount of staring at my sin, or beating myself up, or ‘trying harder; would ever help me hit that standard.

God taught me to fix my eyes on Christ, who already fixed his eyes on me in love.

In Christ, we meet God’s standard.

In Christ, we’re free from the condemning power of sin.

In Christ, we’re free from the enslaving power of sin.

In Christ, we still struggle with the presence of sin.

In Christ, we never outgrow the gospel.

Our journeys in motherhood aren’t over. Though we’re growing, we’ll still blow it. But we can ask our kids for forgiveness and point them not to a perfect mom, but to a perfect Savior.

We can walk in the good work of motherhood in an attitude of worship, resting, and rejoicing in the undeserved friendship of Jesus and point our children to the same.”

What Does It Mean for a Mom to Have Freedom in Christ?

What Does It Mean for a Mom to Have Freedom in Christ?

Ask a group of Christian moms (even seemingly similar ones) questions on parenting practices, social media use, and the specifics of modest dressing and you’ll will get various responses based on past teaching, present circumstances, and personal conscience.

Is it okay for believers to disagree on these points? How does our freedom in Christ apply within scripturally gray (and sometimes contentious) areas of daily life?

As Israel was delivered from the bondage of slavery by God, so we are freed from the clutches of sin by the work of Christ. By grace, God makes unregenerate people alive in Christ. The Spirit enables us to turn from sin as we cling to Jesus in trust. Sister, if that is true of you then are free indeed!

You are set free to enjoy and delight in God.

Where the gospel and essential orthodox beliefs are at stake, we contend & admonish. Where lesser matters are involved, we ask questions and invite discussion but try not to divide. The Spirit that guides you into all truth is also at work in your sister and it is before him that she stands or falls. We exercise our liberty according to the principles of scripture and we allow others the same freedom of conscience, trusting that we all serve and desire to honor Christ.

So momma, what does it mean to have freedom in Christ? It means you’re free from the penalty, condemnation, and guilt of sin. Right now, you’re free from the control of sin as the Spirit empowers you in the word. And you’re being conformed to the image of your Liberator.

You’ll be like Jesus—and this is the full consummation of your freedom!

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.

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.


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.
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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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More from @jennywrenreed on the blog! Link in profile.

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.

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.

 

 

For the Mom Who Feels Helpless

For the Mom Who Feels Helpless

I called my husband one day in tears about our child, saying, "I just don't know what to do."

It was a deja vu experience because I had said the same thing with the same tears multiple times since becoming a mother. I guess I assumed that as my children got older I would grow in wisdom and understanding and things would be smoother than they were when everything was all new andconfusing and exhausting—when they were babies, then toddlers, then preschoolers. 

But the truth is, I still feel just as helpless as I did the first day I held my oldest son at the hospital.

I don't know about you, but I don’t like feeling helpless; I like knowing what to do in every circumstance. I like to be equipped, prepared, and ready. I like to have plans in place to prevent chaos. I like to control the unexpected. But as I quickly learned, there's no controlling motherhood.

And while I am helpless as a mom, I am never hopeless. Never. And neither are you.

In all our helpless situations, Christ is our hope. He has redeemed us from our sin and given us his righteousness. Through faith in his perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection, he made us right with God.

In our greatest helplessness and in our small daily helplessness, Christ is our hope. 

He is sovereign over all things. 

He knows all things. 

He bears all burdens and hears our every cry. 

He works all our circumstances together for our ultimate good. 

He is our comfort, our peace, and our rest.

So, moms, yes we are helpless. But in Christ we are never hopeless.