Ep. 94 || Freedom in Education Choices: An Interview with Melissa Kruger on Private Schooling, Part Two Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  Hey guys, Laura here. Welcome to part two of our 4-part series on educating our children and the gospel. If you missed it, last week Emily and I kicked it off with an overall discussion about education. Since we’re on the front end of making the choice for our own children, we chatted through all of the emotions that come with the decision, and the freedom that we can find in the gospel for individual families to come to different conclusions on this decision. Today we’ll be talking with Melissa Kruger who is using private education for her children. She’ll be sharing how God uniquely led her family to educate her children in this way.

Melissa serves on staff as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at her church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the author of multiple books. One is a devotional that we often recommend at Risen Motherhood, Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood. Her newest book, In All Things: A Nine-Week Devotional on Unshakeable Joy, releases later this year. She blogs for The Gospel Coalition at Wits End, and you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. All of those will be linked on the show notes for this week. In addition, I just want to make sure all of you know about our landing page at risenmotherhood.com/education. This will be a special spot designated on our site for all our education resources. We know this is a big, important topic, so we want to make it super easy to find everything. There you’ll find the links to all of the interviews as we have them available, all the extra resources and tools that we found helpful, and the questionnaire document that we’ve developed. This is a document that you can use with your family to help serve as a springboard of things to think about as you and your family consider the decision of how to educate your child. Okay, now it’s time for the interview. Here is Melissa, Emily, and me.

Laura: Hi Melissa. Thank you so much for joining us today on Risen Motherhood.

Melissa:  Thanks for having me.

Laura: We are really happy to have you here. Can you start off by telling us a bit about your family, and what your typical day looks like? Of course, on Risen Motherhood we always love learning about your kiddos too.

Melissa:  Great. I am a mom to three kids; I have a 17-year-old daughter. I can’t believe she’s that old, which sounds terrible to say. Then I have a 14-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, as well. So we’re in 5th, 8th, and I have a Junior in high school right now. We’re kind of in that tween and teen years, and I love these years. It’s been a lot of fun. My husband is Mike, a professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary. I spend my days working for my church – Uptown Church – and I also work for a ministry called The Gospel Coalition, editing for them. Those are the things we’re busy doing all day.

Emily:  That’s awesome. We are so excited to hear more about that season of life too; I feel like it’s a different world that we’re not in yet.

Laura:  We’re looking forward to that world. [laughter]

Melissa:  I think it’s a great stage.

Emily:  I like hearing that.

Laura:  I know!

Emily:  That’s so encouraging.

Melissa:  I love it. I remember the young years, which I loved when I was in them with my kids. But they are hard. I mean, there’s just day after day of a lot of needs. It’s therefore nice to have some different type of work now. But I’ve enjoyed the teen years. I like talking to my kids.

Laura:  I love hearing that. I know, I like talking to my kids too when they learn to talk back. [Laughter]

Emily:  I want to talk to them about things other than, “Where are your shoes? Can you please go find those?” I want to have different conversations, so that’s encouraging.

Laura:  Melissa we wanted to have you on the show today to talk a little bit about your choice to privately educate your children. We know that you’ve been doing that for a while. Can you walk us through a little bit, like how long your kids have been in the private schooling system, and why you chose to educate them in that way?

Melissa: It is surprising to me. We’ve been in the private school system from the very beginning. When my oldest was 5, we started her at a great school here in Charlotte. I’ll be honest, it was much to my surprise since I grew up public school all the way and even taught in public high school. And I loved getting to do that. We moved to Charlotte, and we had researched different choices. We went to visit the school that we ended up at and just fell in love with what they were doing in the school. It reinforced everything we were doing in the home, which was a real positive thing to us. But one other big factor for us was that it was just so much smaller. As an educator, I had always been a fan of small classroom sizes, so that was one of the benefits.

But even as we made the choice that first year, we viewed it as a, “We will take this year by year as to what we will choose.” Therefore, we were open to all the options, and it has just turned out that, year by year, we have stayed in the same place, and we’ve been very thankful to be there.

Emily:  I love what you’re sharing. We have just dipped a toe in the education world with our oldest in early kindergarten. We have been in private school, and we’ve experienced some of the same things. I’ve seen a reinforcement of what we’re doing at home and the very small class sizes, which is kind of a neat feature of some private schools. But I like how you shared that it is year by year. I am amazed that even what we set out and planned to do when our kids were born – and when they were two-years-old –just changes every year. Every plan changes every year, so that’s just really encouraging to hear that you guys are still evaluating that, and there are different factors to consider as time goes on.

Laura: Along with that, we wanted to have you on to talk a little bit about that freedom in our decision. I know, as Emily said, we’re dipping our toes – both of us are right on the precipice of really making longer-term schooling decisions for our kids. But can you talk us through the gospel, and how and why we as Christian parents do have freedom to make the choice? Because it can feel so hard; it just feels like your whole life rides on this decision, your child’s life rides on this decision, and it’s going to be so defining. So what comfort can we get from the gospel?

Melissa: What I like to tell parents is you’re the biggest influencer of your child’s education, which can actually be terrifying maybe, depending on how you feel about your parenting that day. But it is helpful to remember that whatever school option you pick – if you are in a public school, or homeschooling or in private, Christian school, or just private school. I mean, there are a lot of private schools out there that are not Christian in their emphasis – they will be influenced by whatever teacher they have during these different years in school. But what I see over and over again is that the defining factor in our children is the feel of the home that they are in everyday. The habits that we create in the home are teaching our children much more than they are actually learning in the school system is what we have seen. You can have that even in private Christian school, and there a lot of different ways people are viewing faith, even in our situation. A lot has to do with what’s going on in the home, and this is where the passage in Deuteronomy is so important. When Moses is talking to the Israelites and he’s saying, “Teach them when you’re walking along the road, when you’re sitting down, when you’re standing up.” What we’re doing in the little moments of our days with our children teaches them so much about life. How we respond, how we are prayerful or not prayerful, if we’re women of the word or not women of the word – all of those are teaching our children about life in deeper ways than we realize. Therefore, whatever school option we pick, it’s always good to remember that no matter where we put them for schooling, we’re always their primary educators. I find that pretty helpful most days. Some days, maybe not so much. But overall, it’s encouraging to know that even if our children are around other people, our habits in the home – what we’re teaching them – are the things that, over the long haul, are really going to teach our children.

Emily: Something that we keep learning over and over again, as Laura and I have been talking through these issues, is that the culture of the home has a tremendous influence on our kids. The culture of our homes is really formed by the habits of mom and dad and what they’re seeing us doing. I am curious; when your kiddos are in school all day, what does it look like to model that walk with Christ when they are at home for those few hours in the evening before they go to bed? Or in the morning? Are there a few things that you do intentionally to kind of shape them in those hours?

Melissa: One of the things that we do, we used to have family Bible reading time at night. Actually I’ll be honest, my husband would do that; that was my break time. He would go and read them a Bible story or whatever, and they’d talk about it. Now that they’re all in school, that time has actually changed to the morning. We all sit at the breakfast table, we have a devotional and some time to talk about it, and we take time as a family to pray together. We have cards for each day. It’s nice having a family of five, so each day we pray for a different person in our family. Then we have a missionary or a leader in our community that we pray for. What’s been great about that is that our kids get to know a little bit about the different missionaries we support, and they get to pray for their school, the community of our city, and our state, and our president. We’re trying to teach these habits again by actually doing it. I hope that when they go off, they’ll remember like, “Oh, you don’t just pray for your needs. You’re supposed to pray for what’s going on in your community and for missionaries who are far from us,” and things like that. Again, we’ve just found example in day-to-day life impacts more than anything else. I never really sat down with my kids and said, “You need to read the Bible everyday.” I mean, I am sure maybe I’ve said that at some point, but I’ll see all of my children choosing to read their Bibles. It’s this amazing thing – you pray for that for years, and they really do follow our example of what they see our lives being about. That’s a beautiful thing. My 11-year-old will say, “I need a devotional mom. I’ve got to get on it.” I am glad she’s holding me accountable to get hold of one. I like it.

Emily:  It’s so encouraging too because no matter what we choose for our education method, that’s still something we can all do in the home. It’s just something that can be universal, and sometimes people can feel like, “Oh, if you homeschooled, it may be a little bit easier to do that later in your day.” But you can still do that, whether you do private school or public school. I love that.

Melissa:  That’s right.

Laura:  Melissa, something that I know in any major decision that we make outside of schooling is a lot of times we just go through a lot of second-guessing or anxiety. Maybe you’ve made the decision, but down the road you’re feeling, “Oh my goodness, I’m not sure if that was right.” Did you ever struggle through guilt or anxiety over your decision? And what gospel hope did you kind of preach to yourself in that moment?

Melissa: Every time the bill comes through the mail, I am just like, “Huh, are we going to be able to do this every year?” Because I would say definitely with private, Christian education, the reality is there’s a very literal cost that you’re seeing every month. You have to say, “Could this money have gone to missionaries?” This is the guilt I feel sometimes; like better use of resources. I mean, that’s always the question you’re asking yourself when it comes to paying for private school. At that point you have to go back, you look at each other and you say, “This is probably what we want to keep doing.” You therefore pray about it a lot and then realize that there is freedom to how we do use our money. We’ve decided that this is worth it in the end, and we’re so thankful for what they’re getting to learn and to be a part of there, and how it’s reinforcing some of the things that we hope for them to love: just to see all of education through the lens of “God made the world” and “God cares about these different subjects.” I have good friends who’ve made every single choice. Some have made every single choice as one individual for public school. They’ve done all of the different private schools. The good news of the gospel is we are not saved by our parenting choice about what school they go to. There’s definitely the sense of God can work in their lives in the public school system. I mean, I became a Christian through the public school system through ministry at public school. That’s one reason why I wanted to go back into the public school. But he can also build up their faith through private, Christian education. He can also build up the family and the home through homeschooling. He is at work in all of these places.

That’s the hope for us as parents – that we can trust he is going to lead and guide us based on numerous factors about where he puts us. That he has a reason for us to be in whichever place he’s placed us. That’s what we hold onto. We have a good God who is over all things, and we can trust he’s leading our family’s lives.

Emily:  That is a big encouragement. Something you pulled out that I notice I’ve done is oftentimes we bring our own experiences of school into the equation. Which, I think, is good in a lot of ways because we should learn from experiences from the past. But also, more than that, we need to trust God with whatever circumstances he’s given us, and whatever he’s leading us to do. I know for me, I sometimes bring bad memories or experiences into it, and it’s like, “No, I can trust God that he can work differently than maybe what experience I had.” But then you’re saying, as well, even if we don’t get to do exactly what we preferred, or how he worked in our situation, it’s still, “No, he can work in our children’s lives. He’s not constrained by our schooling choice, and he’s actually sovereign over that.” Thanks for bringing that out.

Melissa:  It’s interesting. I really had a hard time deciding to do private, Christian school because I felt like my faith had grown so much because I was in a public environment. It just was always the opposite. I had to learn to be bold in sharing the gospel with people, because I was in this large public high school. I was concerned that my kids would never learn to do that. But what I’ve loved watching is how every year, all throughout elementary school, they have Missions Week at my kids’ school. Every one of my kids just has this heart for the nations. My oldest daughter right now is actually working with this soccer ministry, and she is with this whole group of young girls from Nepal. They’re here in our city, and she comes back glowing, giddy to work with them. God has worked on her heart to give her a love for sharing the gospel with people and working with these kids. It’s just wonderful to see that it’s him in our children that makes them love sharing the gospel with people. It’s not just the experiences we have, which, so often we can think, “Oh, it’s because I grew up this way.” But that is just how he worked in me, so he can work differently in them. But yes, it’s tough and you always worry about these things as you’re parenting. [Laughter]

Laura:  And with that Melissa, what would you say to a mom listening, and even her husband – I know a lot of husbands listen to Risen Motherhood actually, which is pretty cool. [Laughter] Maybe the wives are making them, I am not really sure – But what advice would you offer to two parents, or a mom that is thoughtfully and prayerfully wanting to work through the various education options? How do they really find out what the right fit is? The million dollar question, right? [laughter]

Melissa:  Yes, that’s right. The first thing, obviously, is to pray that the Lord would give you not just wisdom, but also what I like to call kind of “divine encounters.” That you talk to just the right person at just the right time, and that the Lord will guide you in that. That he would just give you really good insight on what is going on. But also I do think it matters so much for your individual child. As we all know, every child is different even if they come from the same two parents. We have three very different children, so every education choice isn’t necessarily the same, even for every child. I know friends who have children who are really gifted in certain musical talents; they’ve chosen public school for high school because the kids had more opportunity there than they could at a private school in our situation. Be open to all the options and really research them as you’re thinking through this. Be open-hearted before the Lord and willing to do what he might ask you to do. That might seem very outside of your box; I know for many of my friends, homeschooling did not feel like anything they ever thought they would do. They have found themselves homeschooling and actually loved it. I’ve watched different people make choices that were kind of outside of their box. I feel like they’ve been women who I respect so much because they’ve been open-hearted to what the Lord wanted. They haven’t just said, “No, this is what I want.” They’ve really looked at their child and said, “I need to do what’s best for my child. Not just what I think might be easiest.” Or, “I have something to prove by doing either option.” I do believe he just directs us in all these things.

Laura:   I wonder how many moms out there who are past the decision-making stage, or at least the initial decision-making stage, will actually say that they did what they thought they would do with their education choice. [Laughter]

Melissa:  I know. That’s a really good question. I was even a teacher, and I was terrified to homeschool. But I ended up homeschooling my kids one semester. We lived overseas in England, so it was just easier to homeschool them because we were there for just a little time. I asked my kids afterwards, “Would you all want to do that again?” [They were like, “No!” I laughed. I was actually a teacher; it should have been easy. They were like, “We’d really rather go back to the school mom.” I said, “That’s great, we’ll do that.” [Laughter]

Emily:  That’s great. Well, we really appreciate you being willing to come on and share from somebody who’s much further ahead of us in the process and to offer encouragement and hope. I know it’s the same for many moms who are listening and kind of wringing their hands, wondering what to do and feeling afraid of making the wrong choice– that we do have freedom in Christ and we can trust God. More than anything, we can pour into the culture of our home by just working out an authentic relationship with Christ in front of our kids and living out that day by day. Yes, and just trusting him. Here I am just preaching it to myself instead of listening. [Laughter] Thank you so much for joining us.

Melissa:  Thanks for having me. It’s been fun.

Laura:  Thanks Melissa. Thanks for tuning in today to the Risen Motherhood podcast. We encourage you to check out our web page, risenmotherhood.com/education. On that page, we’ve made it easy to find all our resources on this topic, with links to interviews and the education questionnaire. Plus tons of additional articles and tools that we’ve found helpful for our families as we navigate this topic. And of course we’d love it if you came and found us on social media, where you can keep up with the ministry of Risen Motherhood. You’ll find us @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thanks for joining us.



This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Emily, here with Laura, and we are really excited to kick off a 4-part series all about education and the gospel. This is something that has been on our minds and hearts to talk about for a really long time. We’ve been planning this for a very long time and it’s finally happening. We’re really excited.

Laura:  We’re really excited. It feels like we didn’t know how to do it justice, but we’re hopeful that through doing this 4-part series, we can really run the gamut about education. Just a quick note: if you’re looking for any of our resources, or the interviews, head to risenmotherhood.com/education. That’s where you’re going to find all of our information that we’ve referenced on today’s show, or any of the future shows. That is going to be a learning page. We’ve created a special spot, so it’s really easy for you to find anything that we mention, talk about, or do on education.

Emily:  This came out of the reality that Laura and I now have older kiddos – mine is five-and-a-half, and Laura’s is about to turn five. Over the last couple of years, we’ve really been processing education decisions. But it’s really on our doorstep now, and we, first hand, have to test all the different factors that can make this decision really challenging and scary at times. First of all, there’s a lot of options. Even if you get down to a specific category—let’s say you’re looking at homeschool—there’s co-ops, or there’s classical education. So even within a category, there’s a lot of options. That can be overwhelming.

Laura: And along with options, there are a lot of opinions. There are people that you love and respect and that you admire greatly in your life. Maybe they’re speaking into how you should educate your child, and maybe you disagree. Or maybe you agree. It doesn’t matter, but there are a lot of opinions, and they can come at you pretty fast.

Emily:  There’s also pressure, even from the culture. The culture sends a message about our children and their education, and how critical it is for their survival in the world. But even Christian culture, as well, can put a lot of pressure on feeling like, “I’ve got to protect my kids in a certain way. Or I’ve got to bring them up in this certain way that feels like it conflicts with the culture’s expectations.” There’s just lots of pressure.

Laura:  Then there are all of the different needs of your individual child or your individual family. There are learning differences and personalities needs. Some of our kids respond differently to peer pressure, extra-curricula activities, or all these things. Therefore, you’re not only taking in all of these outside things, but then you’re also trying to look at what is the best decision for my own children and for our family, while looking at their different needs.

Emily:  Laura and I have personally experienced going through—even when our first child was born—kind of what we thought we would do and now, what we’re actually doing, and we’ve made different decisions along the way. One thing for us—I mentioned on a previous show—we kind of thought, “Oh, we’re going to homeschool.” Then a lot of different things in our lives changed, including having a child with special needs, who’s probably going to need to be in a public school environment where he can have a lot of adaptations and help, like special staff set up for him. Also, we have our hands more full than we thought, and we have a great private, Christian school in our community that does a lot of things that we’re doing at home. It’s just really interesting how with more information, time, and circumstance, we’ve had to take the decision—already—one year at a time. I think we will continue to do that over the course of our lives.

Laura:  Emily, you’ve felt like you were pretty sure in your decision originally. Then slowly, every time, God has changed your heart through outside circumstances, unity with your husband, and things like that. For me, I am a little bit different, where I’ve always felt pretty loosey-goosey about school. Kind of like, “Oh, I don’t know, we’ll deal. I am open to all the options.” I mean, literally I’ve gone the gamut between homeschool to private to public, and I had a lot of stress about all the decisions. As it got nearer and nearer I felt like, “Oh, this is the deal.” Now I am really stressing out about it, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Actually, I am still not completely sure what next year looks like. We’re still not sure!

Emily:  None of us are still sure. [laughs]

Laura:  It’s just day-by-day around here. That’s just a small example from two moms who are seeking the Lord in our education decisions for our children. You can see how we’ve come at this from totally different perspectives actually.

Emily:  Yes, we have, and it’s something that you bring all these factors together. What we want to do on this show is set the tone for these upcoming interviews. To say that there really isn’t one clear, biblical, superior choice in terms of schools, or certain types of private school, or public school, or homeschool. There are a lot of different options that can work and still accomplish our mission and our calling as parents. These interviews that we have coming up are really not to talk on the pros and cons, or to try to convince you of a specific option. But they’re more for you to see how different parents in different situations came to their different choices. Hopefully, at the end you’ll feel like, “Oh, they all had really different and good reasoning for what they decided ultimately.”

Laura: One caveat that we do want to make on this show is that we want to recognize that it is a real blessing to even have so many choices in the different ways that we educate our children. And like math, science, and reading, and all of those things, it’s a real luxury how we’re able to have a lot of different choices. We also know that maybe some of you don’t have great options around you. Or maybe you don’t have the resources to execute what your preferred option would be. Maybe you’re a single mom, or maybe both parents work outside the home. Or maybe you have a child with significant needs, like Emily was talking about, where it feels a little bit like the choice is being made for you. We just want to recognize that for a moment, and then also say that we still hope that you will get some hope from these shows from knowing that there is freedom in the decision that you make. Even if you feel like there aren’t a lot of options for you at the moment.

Emily:  Even if you are a parent who’s felt like there is a “one way is the best way” we also hope that, as you’re listening through these shows, it’ll just give you a wider view of the way that people come to their decisions, as well as all of the different factors that are out there. When you’re conversing with a friend who’s made a different decision, maybe you’re a little bit more charitable in trying to understand where she’s coming from. Both of you can look together at, “How are we going to fulfil the calling that God has in our lives to raise our children in the Lord?”

Laura:  Here’s who you’re going to be hearing from. You’re going to hear from Melissa Kruger about private education, from Irene Sun about homeschool, and Jen Wilkin will be back on the show—our first returning guest—to talk about public school. We’re really thrilled for these shows; we’ve already obviously recorded them and listened to them. We think you’re going to be very encouraged by what these women have to say about freedom in the gospel for education choices. Let’s jump in to see what the gospel really says.

Emily:  First of all, I guess the Bible has a lot to say about how we educate our children in general. I am just using that as a broad sweep of all of the things that we need to teach them.

Laura:  The most common verses that people look at are Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which talks all about how you should teach your children diligently to know the Lord. That one’s really common one, and most of you have probably heard those verses. You can look it up, and we’ll obviously include all of this scripture on our show notes. Another couple are Proverbs 22:6-9, “Train the child up in a way that he should go. Even when he’s old he will not depart from it.” And Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” But of course when we read the Bible, we read as it a whole, and we look at the whole story of the gospel. As we look at it from even an aerial view, we see that what we’re called to do is just to raise our children up in knowing God. We want to teach wisdom, things like how do you select friends, how do you do your finances, how do you make decisions, how do you resist temptation, teach what it looks like to walk in righteousness, what it looks like to walk in the path of destruction, and this is just simply discipleship. Then finally, we want to just teach the greatest commandments of loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and then to love your neighbor. We want to teach our children what the Bible says, who God is, and the great story and great plan that he has for our lives.

Emily:  We’ve talked about this a lot on many shows; I think we touch on it in some way on every show. That the culture of our home matters, and that’s really how we are making disciples of our children—that it is what goes on with mom and dad. Or if you’re married to an unbelieving husband, even what you can do as a mom to pass on your authentic faith to your children and teach them to obey God. The reality is we are all called in some ways to give our children a Christian education in the sense that we should be passing along things of the Lord to them. The question is when and how does that happen? What does that actually look like in your own family? That’s going to vary and differ from person to person. Additionally, we have another question sometimes, which is, where are they going to learn math, science, social studies, reading, music, art? Some of those other things. That, again, may have a different answer for each family. Just because they go somewhere to learn their subjects doesn’t mean that they are not still getting their Christian education in the home, or that they’re still not being exposed to the things of the Lord. They can still be learning all of those critical things and hear about these other subjects in a lot of different ways.

Laura:  Something that Emily and I have talked a lot about is the tension with all of this. It can feel very heavy when selecting a school, even though we see that there’s freedom in the gospel. On one level, there’s this big burden about feeling like, “Oh my goodness, school matters too. Is it enough? Is what I am doing at home enough? If they’re out there, exposed to all of these other things, or if they’re homeschooled and exposed to all of my sin and failure.” It doesn’t matter what direction, but it feels so heavy about, “How am I going to do this, and invest well in my children on the one hand?” But at the same time, we know there is a freedom from the law, and from feeling like we have to get everything perfectly, or else our kids are going to turn out terribly.

Emily:  That’s a tension that we’re learning to hold—that the gospel doesn’t diminish either one of those. It doesn’t say God’s laws and standards don’t matter. The gospel says, “Jesus came to fulfil the law.” He came to be perfect and to take the punishment on our behalf, and to give us full righteousness before God. Because that’s the way we’re operating, then out of the gratitude in our heart and a desire to love the Lord, we want to obey him. Even though it’s still really hard, and there are still challenges. These two things are real, and you may feel them as you’re listening through the rest of the shows and interviews. Just remember that the gospel has an answer to that tension.

Laura:  I think, too, it’s good to look at Romans 14; we talked about this more in-depth on Episode 56: Freedom with Food. But we see how Paul is talking to the believers in the early church all about how we shouldnt be quarrelling about differences and opinions. He’s specifically speaking about food. How you eat does matter to the body; there is an element of, “You need to be careful about what you eat.” But at the same time, food isn’t what makes us clean or unclean. It isn’t our identity. It’s something that we can apply to education; that the way we educate our children in the math and sciences and different things like that is really important. But it’s not the end all, be all. It’s not where we’re going to find our identity or righteousness.

Emily:  It’s not what we put in us from the outside that defiles us. It’s what’s inside, and we talked about that on an episode we did on influences. If you want to go down that path a little bit, then what really makes us clean is Christ. We don’t need to rely on a certain method of education, or a certain way of keeping what we think is a righteous law in our lives to make us right before God.

Laura:  When we hold that, and we understand the place of education in a Christian’s life, we don’t need to feel this sense of superiority or even a sense of inferiority, based on the schooling method that we choose. Especially when, at home, that child is receiving—as we were saying—the Christian education which is the baseline that the Lord is charging us with. We don’t have to look at a certain education style as being sinful, wrong, or unwise. It’s important to acknowledge strengths and weaknesses of course, and every option has strengths and every option has weaknesses. But that doesn’t mean that we are allowed to snob our nose because someone’s picked something different, or that there is something so inferior and beneath us.

Emily:  Going along with that, we don’t have to make decisions out of fear. I know something that I’ve wrestled with a lot in the schooling choice is of being afraid of how something is going to impact my child. We can be aware of it, and we can know that there are implications of every choice you make, but God is sovereign over that, and he can work for our good and his glory in the midst of whatever thing we choose. I love that Jen Wilkin is going to bring this up: “We’re the parent. We can change our minds if there’s something we feel is impacting our children down the road.  We deal with that and we take that to the Lord.” It’s just so important for me to remember that we need to fear God, not our schooling choice, or the people around us and what they’re going to think.

Laura: I like that point Emily, how there is freedom to change. We talked about that on just our previous episode, Changing Our Minds in Motherhood. How commonly that can happen both in little things and even in big things like this. Whenever we trust in God and in his plan for our lives, things are going to happen. We can’t foresee the future; maybe you’re going to move, maybe the charter school you have chosen has closed. Maybe you end up needing to work when you had previously wanted to homeschool. I don’t know all the ways or all the different things that might happen in your life, but you might be surprised by some of the decisions you have to make. It is therefore important to hold that very loosely.

Emily:  No matter what we decide - our theme for this year is unity in the gospel. It’s to remember even within our own church body, or friend group, that people are going to make different decisions. We want to look at it like, “What is our mission as moms? How can we encourage our sister in Christ—that general term ‘Christian education’—to be discipling her child? How can we come alongside each other in that instead of dividing and kind of judging?” Just assuming the worst of somebody’s choice when you don’t always know all the ins and outs of what went into their decision. We can do a lot more of encouraging each other to walk in grace and to obey God in whatever our circumstances are, rather than trying to pass out what’s the best way for all of us to do it.

Laura:  In light of this, we’ve actually put together a document. Emily and I have worked pretty hard on this document to bring together a bunch of questions that you can work through. Our hope is that maybe you work through this with your husband, or maybe with some other believing moms friends, or some other couple friends. This will be something that will help you at least get the conversation started and to think about, “What does scripture says about education? What do our current lives look like? What are the options that we have around us?” Maybe we should jump into a couple of the questions. But before that, I want to say you are going to find this @risenmotherhood.com/education. It’s a free pdf; we want all of you guys to be able to access this. Head over there if you’re intrigued or you’re thinking about the school option. But let’s jump through a few questions as a little teaser.

Emily:  First off, we walk through some questions like we did on the show of, “What is God’s Word say about education? What are his expectations for us as parents, and how we’re to raise our children?”

Laura:  I want to say here, don’t take our word for it.

Emily:  Go find out for yourselves. [laughs]

Laura:  Yes! You guys, don’t just listen to our podcast like, “This is what the Bible says.” If you’ve listened to Risen Motherhood long enough, you know that we want you to double check us and to be make sure that this stuff is true and really biblically aligned.

Emily:  Then, thinking about the vision for your family. Or maybe thinking about the unique culture that you have in your homes, and how you are going to help align your education method with the culture that you have in your home.

Laura:  Other types of questions that we have on there are thinking about, “What are some educational options that are even available to you?” Like we talked about, not everybody has the privilege of having 15 different types of methods that they can choose to educate their children. Looking at idols: are you holding anything too tightly or are you not considering a very valid choice? Even thinking about, “Hey, let’s think about our children—what are some strengths and weaknesses? What are their needs?” As Emily and I have talked about a lot, we have kids with special needs, and that’s something that really impacts our decisions.

Emily:  Even holding that intentionally like, “What are the whole family’s needs?” and saying, “Is it okay? Is there something creative that we can do here?” Also, have you even considered the strengths and weaknesses of what you are choosing? Maybe for whatever reason, you are a person who’s like, “Well, I don’t really have a choice right now.” You can still look at that education decision and say, “What are some areas I might need to fill in a gap as a parent because that school, or that option, isn’t going to offer that?” And, “What are some things that are really strengths that that style has that we can play to and be excited about?”

Laura: We hope that you guys will check out this entire pdf, and we really hope that it will serve as a launch pad, or a springboard, for further discussion in your own homes. Also, we hope that you will tune in to all of our subsequent interviews that we have coming up. These women are so wise, they’re down the path farther than us, and they can offer a lot more. We hope that you’ll tune in to all three, even if you feel like, “Oh no, I am naturally gravitating towards this.” As we said, it’s not about, “Hey, here’s why you should choose this schooling method.” It’s all about freedom in the gospel, and how different families come to different decisions for their own way of educating. So head over to risenmotherhood.com/education for all of this stuff. We’ll be continuing to add to it throughout the month as we have more interviews released or more blog posts. If you like stuff like this, we want to ask if you’d be willing to contribute and support us on Patreon.

Emily:  This obviously takes a lot of time, and we use a lot of different equipment. There’s a lot of coordinating and just a ton that goes into something like this; not just our regular show, but to do a special 4-part series. Again, that would be really helpful to us as we continue running Risen Motherhood, doing new things, and investing so that we can continue to reach moms with the gospel. You can find that @patreon.com/risenmotherhood.

Laura:  There are also other links from our sites; it should be very easy to find that. We’d really appreciate it as we’re entirely funded by our community at Risen Motherhood, and we’re very grateful for that. Head over to Risen Motherhood, and follow us on social media for more stuff like this, @risenmotherhood - Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and we will see you next week with our very first interview with Melissa Kruger.

Emily:  Thanks, guys.


EP. 92 || Learning, Growing, & Changing Our Minds: How the Gospel Frees us to Do Something Different Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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

Today we just want to highlight one quick thing for you guys. Did you all know that we have a blog?

Emily:  Yes, we do! [ laughter]

Laura:  Well, if you haven’t seen our blog yet, we would encourage you to check it out on risenmotherhood.com. We’ve added a lot of different voices, which we’re really excited about. And we try to talk about more specific topics than what we talk about here on the show.

In general, we try to reserve the show for some pretty broad topics that every mom can find some ability to relate to. For the blog though, our hope is to be able to not only do that, but also dive into some specific topics that maybe we can’t go into depth here on the show.

You can subscribe to get our blog and new shows straight to your inbox, via email, on our website. It’s on our homepage. We’ll toss a link in the show notes too so you can see where it’s at.

Emily:  Also, you can subscribe to our newsletter which comes out once a month. It’s put together by our blog editor, Autumn Kern. She does an amazing job; she pulls together a lot of resources that we share with her, as well as writes a sweet letter. It’s full of really good stuff.

In fact, I was reading it when it came out in February, and was just like, “I am going to click on this stuff. This stuff is really good!” [laughter]

Laura:  Yes, she does a great job curating a lot of things. It’s things that we don’t necessarily share on social media, so it’s new stuff and we definitely think you’re going to love it.

Hit “subscribe” for that. It’s also on our website. It’s a different email subscription though, and just because you subscribe to one, doesn’t mean you will get both. We want to make sure that it’s easy for you to get the information you want from Risen Motherhood.

Emily:  Today we’re talking about changing our mind in motherhood. Some of you can think of times you changed your mind on something small and silly. [laughter] But you still felt a little awkward and embarrassed about it.

Laura:  Yes. I remember I cloth-diapered my son for the first year of his life. It was good, like nothing really went wrong with it. But I ended up switching to disposable diapers by baby two. It was one of those things where I had touted the benefits of cloth-diapering ––Emily:  You had all these blog posts about it, you preached the word on it!

Laura:  –– I was like, “I am done spraying the poop off the diaper! I would really like to just throw it away and never deal with it again.” [laughter]

Emily:  We all have those things before we come into motherhood that you’re like, “I am never going to let my kid _____.” Then one day you realize, “Oh, that’s my kid right there doing that thing I said they were not going to do.” There are definitely little things that we change our mind about.

Laura:  But then there are the big things that we change our minds on, and these ones are a little bit harder and a little more dicey. But Emily and I are both going to share some quick examples of ways that we have changed our minds.

Emily:  One that we’ve really wrestled through a lot with schooling. Some of you guys may have heard me talk about it - on previous podcasts two years ago or something - that we were planning to homeschool.

I mean, we wrote this in our family vision statement, we built our house and put a place in our house that was for homeschooling. We were going to do this, and then as time went on and we had five kids in five years, we just found our hands very full.

Our now two-year-old has developmental delays, and I take him to doctors and therapists all the time. When I had our fifth baby, I was just like, “Wow, we are just trying to hold it together.”

We ended up putting our oldest son in early kindergarten, at a school here in town. Through a lot of discussion, we just ended up looking at the next year or two and saying, “Hey, this probably isn’t the best thing for our family right now. The best thing would be to go ahead and partner with a school that can help educate our children.”

It was something that was difficult and I felt like, “Oh, I am doing something different. Does that mean that I am being unfaithful or that I am a failure?” But that’s not what it means. It just means we didn’t have all the information, and we want to continue to grow and change as God brings new things into our lives.

Laura:  I’ve a very similar story, but on a different topic. We ended up going through the adoption process – about halfway through it. You guys have heard me talk about it – and we have a whole show about adoption – where I talked about our journey.

It’s funny because God has changed our family plan so many times. [laughter]

We started out not wanting to adopt, then he moved our hearts to wanting to adopt, then wanting a third biological baby. And that third baby also has some significant delays as well. To be really honest, it feels like I’ve never been able to pin down our family plan. But we were still moving through the adoption process.

But this past fall, we came to a new milestone where we’d be looking at needing to put some significant funds down and also possibly getting our children a little bit earlier than we expected – all of that combined with our daughter who has needs and our move to Iowa. It just felt like it wouldn’t be a wise decision at this time to bring two additional children into our family with their own needs. Like Emily said, it’s hard when you change your mind on something big and that you’ve been public about. [laughter] I feel like, “Gosh, this is all over social media. I’ve talked about my passion and love for adoption on the show, on social media, with my friends. Everybody knows we’re doing this.” I felt a lot of shame and sadness, and like, “Gosh, we’re not fulfilling what we set out to do.” I felt like a failure because I felt like, “We should be able to do this. This is something that is good, and it’s not wrong.” But as we were evaluating and praying, God led my husband and I to unity on these things, and we knew it was the right decision. But that doesn’t change a lot of those hard feelings that come with it.

Emily:  You may be thinking right now of a decision that you’re either struggling to change your mind on because you are feeling those same things. Like, “I already told everyone in my church or friend group that we were going to do this or that thing. Now what? Do I take it back? Does that make me look like a bad mom? A bad parent? Does that make me look like I’m not very godly?”

We also have to admit that we’re not in control. When we change our minds, even though we don’t say it out loud, it’s like, “Woops, I didn’t know everything at the time, and there’s new circumstances. I am human and I am limited.” [laughs]

Laura:  It’s definitely very humbling to change your mind, especially on these big things. There’s a lot of uncomfortable feelings that come with that: shame, humiliation and embarrassment. It’s just uncomfortable to talk about it.

Emily:   I will say something I’ve noticed is that the discomfort for us, at least in some of these big decisions, hasn’t been between my husband and I. We can come to a consensus and feel at peace with where God has us and our conscience can be totally clean.

But then when I go to tell a friend about it, or I go tell somebody else, that’s when I start to feel a little embarrassed. That’s not conviction from the Lord. That’s me being afraid of what other people think.

Laura:  Fear of man. And for you it may not be adoption or schooling. Maybe it’s a change in how you work, how much you work, or where you work. Maybe it’s a change in your discipline strategy, or the method of how you breastfeed or bottle-feed. Or how you sleep train your kids or structure your day. A lot of those things can feel very big. Possibly it’s a change in how you work your childcare – maybe it’s changing up babysitters, or it’s childcare to day-care. Maybe it’s switching what day-care you use. Or change in where you live. I know for me, I said that I would never move away from my family. And three years ago, we moved away from family to Chicago, with no family at all. Now we’re back, but that was something where I had to say like, “Oh, I’ve been touting this, that I’ll never move away. And then woop, we’re moving away.” [laughter]

Emily:   Yes. One thing that can help us as we’re processing this is to think about who we are in relation to God. God is unlimited; he doesn’t have to keep learning and growing because he’s unchangeable and he already knows everything. He can make the best decision in any situation because he sees every single facet of every factor. He has every bit of information, and he’s wise – he knows the best thing to do with that for his glory and for our good. We are not God though. [laughs]

Laura:  Right. That leads us to why we change our minds so frequently. One is just the fact that there is sin in our lives, and we make the wrong choices for the wrong reasons. Another is because of human limitations. But if we look at just the sin part first, that’s where our motives are tainted with wrong thinking. We are inherently selfish, we’re prideful, and we don’t just worship God. We’re constantly having to reorient our hearts. Sometimes we have to change our minds because we simply made a wrong decision out of sin. We have to learn to grow in maturity as a believer, and we’re able to repent. We’ll get to that in a minute – I’m jumping ahead. But that is one of the reasons; it’s just that sin taints our decision-making.

Emily:   Another reason that Laura alluded to is our limitations as people. I recently read this kind of funny article about how we always tend to look back at our past selves and think, “I was kind of an idiot back then.” [laughter] But we know our future selves are going to look back on our current selves and think that too. In the article this guy said, “You would never look at your two-year-old and chastise him for not being able to tie his shoelaces. He literally couldn’t have done that at that point in time. That didn’t mean he was an idiot. He just wasn’t there yet.” In our limitations, we grow and change in our lives; we don’t have all the information. Even if we’re making a decision, we can’t know every facet of the way everything is going to turn out. We just have to make the best choice we can at the time with the information that we have – because we’re human.

Laura:  In redemption, because of Jesus, we know that we can be changed at a heart level. We now have the Holy Spirit that allows us to see and understand the wisdom of the Lord. We can start to discern spiritual truths to grow as a believer. We can repent and we can turn back to God over and over again, and improve and learn from those mistakes.

We can also walk by faith, knowing and trusting in God’s plan, even when we don’t know the future. I often think of the many characters in the Bible who made a lot of decisions without knowing the future.  Like the midwives in Egypt; when they saved those babies, they didn’t know if Pharaoh was going to kill them. But they were able to make those decisions in faith, not because they knew the future but because they trusted in God’s sovereignty.

Emily:   God used that as part of his redemptive plan. That’s key; we don’t know how God is using our decisions to further his kingdom, and we probably won’t know all the ins and outs of that. And that’s okay. Just a few principles as we think about our lives and how to apply this when we are struggling through a situation where we may need to change our minds is to remember first of all, that Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man‘s heart plans his ways. But the Lord determines his steps.” Again, it’s great to be prudent, to make plans and to have hopes and expectations that we think are in line with God’s will. But ultimately, God brings circumstances into our lives that we couldn’t have predicted. Or he shows us our limitations [laughs] in a new way - like you just hit a wall. Then he changes things, and that’s okay for things to be different than we originally planned. Because they are not different from what God originally planned [laughs]

Laura:  You make the best decision that you can with the information that you have at the time. That’s what I continue to go back to as my husband and I talk. As we were talking about some things that were frustrating and we didn’t understand, “Why did we make those decisions? Why did God lead us down that path?” We just have to remind ourselves we were faithful in that moment to make those decisions. But ultimately, the Lord determines our steps; therefore we want to hold our plans with a loose hand, knowing that we want to give those to God.

Emily:   Just to give some practical examples, maybe one of you – you or your husband – lost your job. Or you ended up with a child with special needs – kind of like what happened with Laura and I. Maybe you have twins or triplets and that changes things for your family dynamics. Maybe you have a parent or a family member who becomes really sick and you need to devote more time to caring for them or being near them. Or maybe your house is damaged. There could be so many things that come up in life that should be taken into consideration, and God brings those with his sovereignty.

Laura:  Yes. Another thing that we can apply from scripture is how we can grow and change as believers. I think of Romans 12:2 – “Don’t conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good and pleasing and perfect will.”

When we keep our eyes fixed on the ultimate goal, which is Christ, and growing in righteousness and in our relationship with him, we will continue to lay down our lives, desires, and personal preferences all to do the will of the Father. It is a wonderful mark of the believer to be able to grow and change and realize like, “Whoa, I am starting to think like God thinks.” You know, thinking thoughts like him. Not that you are all powerful and omnipotent, but you know him so well that you love the same things that he loves and hate the same things that he hates. That is something that we grow in as believers. It is a wonderful gift that our faith would mature and then we start changing – maybe – how you spend your time, or you change in what you do with your kids. This could be something as simple as, “Hey, I am going to change the way we do screen time because I feel like I am growing in my faith.” This starts to infiltrate every area of a believer’s life. You may see areas that you didn’t two years ago, but that now you start to say, “Hmm, in order to really live out my calling and be faithful to what God has for me, we’re going to tweak a few of these things.” It might be small and it might be really big.

Emily:  That’s the goal – that we are conforming our will to God’s will, which can be little things. Laura and I talk about this in our personal relationship all the time – things that we are noticing or doing or changing. Laura mentioned screen time; that was a change we made in our family recently because we realized we’re getting too wrapped up in it and making it too important. I think it’s a mark of a true believer to see things like that, and notice what’s going on in our heart and repent. It should be encouraging to us that the Holy Spirit is bringing to mind things that we need to change and repent of. You may be listening and things are coming to your mind that you feel like, “I kind of sense that God’s been asking me to re-evaluate this,” or, “I think we do need to change our mind on something and I am afraid to tell people about it.” It’s good to be able to process what that means.

Laura:  It could be something really small like, “Ooh, this day is going way off track. I’m off track and on a total warpath with my kids.” You know what, you can change. We have a whole show about that called “A Bad Moment Doesn’t Make a Bad Day,” and it is such a relief to me. I need to actually probably re-listen to that show, because I love remembering that I do not have to stay the same and I can change even in this moment. I can choose my attitude and align my heart to God’s. Another thing, is there a grey matter, or a personal preference that you’re holding tightly to? As Emily was talking about, you might be feeling some conviction from the Holy Spirit. I want to encourage you that if you’re feeling a nudge from the Holy Spirit to change, listen to your nudge. When we ignore that, it impacts our ability to continue discerning God’s will and to grow and change. So listen to that, and don’t ignore it, mom.

Emily:  Just because you want to change your mind, repent, and conform to God’s will, there may be a biblical ideal or standard you’re holding to that’s starting to feel really hard. Maybe you’re feeling tempted to change your mind and go in the other direction because you want to do something easier. A last, little encouragement – if we are tempted, God can offer a way of escape. He can sustain us and help us to persevere. This definitely doesn’t mean change your mind because things are too hard. But continue growing into the likeness of Christ and re-evaluating your decisions as God brings new circumstances into your life.

Laura:  One quick note I want to point out. Emily and I both talked about some really big changes that we made in our lives. If you are struggling to make a change because of fear of man, or fear of what other people will think, I want to encourage you to trust God with those responses of other people. Know that your standing is before the Lord. You do not have to worry about what other people think or say about you behind your back, or whatever their opinions may be because you’re ultimate worth is found in the Lord. That has been so key for me to remember: My worth isn’t found in someone else’s disappointment. Thank goodness. [laughter]

Emily:  Praise the Lord. If you want more information on this, go to our show notes, Risenmotherhood, and we’ll be talking more about some of these things @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for joining us.

If you’re thinking about the school thing, and this came up in your mind, definitely tune back in next week. We have a 4-part series all about school and evaluating that very difficult decision.

Laura:  Thanks, guys.



This transcript was edited for clarity.  

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. We’re excited to kick off today’s show with a special announcement you may have heard if you’re following us over on social media @RisenMotherhood. That’s where we tend to make new, big announcements because we record these in advance. But we are writing a book!  “Risen Motherhood,” the book!

Laura:  It’s always weird to make announcements to Emily’s closet; [laughter] basically that’s what we’re doing right now.

Emily:  Yes, my husband’s work jeans just got really excited [laughter] about that. It’s coming out Fall 2019. We don’t have a ton of details yet because we’re in the manuscript writing phase, so pray for us.

Laura:  Brutal phase, but it’s fun.

Emily:  It’s this cool combination of really enjoyable and gratifying work, but also difficult in some ways. But we are excited to share the journey with you guys, so follow us - like I said – on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @risenmotherhood. But mostly Instagram is where we’ll share this.

Laura:  We do a lot of behind-the-scenes on Stories, so if you don’t watch our Stories, it’s totally fine. [laughter] But that’s where we’ll hop on and share behind-the-scenes looks.So on our show today we’re talking about what can sometimes feel like a little bit of a sensitive topic. We all have little crutches that we like to lean on, and we don’t want anybody to mess with our crutches.

We’re going to start off though by talking a little bit about ... just how motherhood drains you. [Laughs]

Emily:  Yes it does, and there are certainly seasons where it’s more draining than others. But one I always vividly remember is not long after my twins were born, I was actually pumping and bottle-feeding them, and at the time, our older child was like 16-months-old.

Laura:  We were all tired for you. [laughter]

Emily:  One of the first days that I was home all by myself all day long, I remember pumping with a bra. I was literally walking and pumping with my backpack on, trying to feed and take care of twins. My toddler baby is pushing a chair into the kitchen and climbing on stuff. Once I got everyone safe, I remember going to my room and literally hitting my knees and being like, “God, why did you do this to me? You have to help me.” Just being completely desperate and completely at the end of my rope and just feeling like, “I don’t know how I am going to survive this.” [laughter]

Laura:  I know. It’s funny now, but it’s never funny at the time, right?

Emily:  It’s not funny.

Laura:  We all have those moments we think of immediately. Every time someone asks me, “When were you at the most weak in motherhood?” I go back to my daughter’s colic. But I have talked about that so much on the show I am going to talk about a different time. [laughter] I think you guys are all like, “We know your daughter had colic, Laura.”

But the most recent was just this past summer – we were transitioning into having our third baby who was actually diagnosed with special needs. This was the same week that my husband broke his leg, ended up having surgery and was on crutches for three months. He was in a wheelchair for a few weeks, and it was just a really hard season with young, little kids. I had a husband that really could not help, and actually needed a lot of my help, and then dealing with a lot of grief on top of all of that. That was a season that I cried, not everyday, but I cried a lot of days. And when I cried, I cried really hard. [laughter] I just found it was a time where I was like, “I literally can’t do it. I’ve hit the wall.” You think you hit the wall a lot in motherhood. But then you slam into it one day, [laughter] and you’re like, “Oh, that’s the wall. [Laughter] Okay, I really did find the wall this time.”

Emily:  Maybe it’s something you can’t relate to, something that intense yet. But it’s something like you’ve just had three or four days in a row without much sleep. You just feel like, “I don’t know how I can carry on today.” Or maybe you have been trying to balance work and motherhood for whatever reason. You just feel like, “Hey, I am not doing a good enough job in either area and I am tired; I am worn out.” Maybe you just have a lot of work in the home that you’re having a hard time keeping up with. We all have laundry, and dishes and things that we have to coordinate on calendars. It can just be a lot and really overwhelming.

Laura:  It doesn’t have to be huge things; it can be a lot of these little things. Maybe even feeling lonely or isolated. Maybe it’s not something you’re doing everyday; it’s the fact that you don’t have friendships. Or maybe you don’t have fellow believers around you because you’re a single mom and feel really alone in your role. Or maybe you’re a missionary and you feel like there isn’t that local church support that you wish you had.

Emily:  But whatever it is, we all have these seasons, big and small, where we feel like we’re at the end of our rope. One thing we can do – Laura and I can relate to this – is rely on crutches or survival tools, aside from Jesus, which we’ll get to. I know one for me is – I have a lot – but I’ll share just one example.[laughter]

Laura:  We’re going to get vulnerable with you guys and tell you about our crutches.

Emily:  Yes. I think sweets is one of my crutches. Honestly if I don’t have them in my house, I am not too bad. But if I know I’ve got a bag of cookies sitting around, if it’s been a really stressful day, it’s usually about two in the afternoon, I just have one and I am like, “Hmm, that tasted good, and I deserve more of these.” Then – here’s the way my reasoning goes – “I am just going to eat the whole bag so they’re not a temptation anymore.” [Laughter]

Laura:  Incredibly logical.

Emily:  Then they’re not there anymore and I don’t have to walk by them. That’s one of many for me that can be after the fact that I know that was a gross overindulgence and completely unnecessary, but it made me think it was going to help me get through the day.

Laura:  Yes. For me, it’s similar because it’s a sweet treat, but it’s coffee. I love the froufrou coffee drinks. I don’t normally drink it; I usually have black. But I know that whenever I am having a hard day, or a hard season, I definitely go through the drive-through lane thinking, “I deserve this.” It’s very different than having a couple cups of coffee. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but definitely my heart attitude towards getting a froufrou, $5 drink is like, “Argh, I’ve had such a hard day. I totally need this.” I mean, I will go out of my way to get that coffee, and I feel like I can’t feel good until I have it. Then I get upset if I am not able to have it.

For me in certain seasons, I [laughs] definitely notice the coffee.

And for both of us – Emily and I were talking - our phones can be something we want to check out on. Or maybe it’s just a hard moment and we’re like, “Okay, let’s just go see what’s happening on pretty Instagram.”

Emily:  I’ll get to where I am sitting on the couch – again, this is usually at the end of the day, and I am yell-parenting from the couch. [laughter] I am just done and I am like, let me just sit here and look at my phone ... “Hey, what are you guys doing down there? Stop that!” [laughter]

We all have these things, and maybe you can’t relate to any of those. But maybe for you it’s wine - that’s something in mom culture we see a lot, and that’s fine. Laura and I have the occasional glass of wine. But maybe you’re drinking it to the point of drunkenness, you’re hiding it from people, or you’re doing it alone to cope. Maybe it’s the gym or exercising. Again, nothing wrong with being healthy, getting those endorphins and getting out your stress. But it can become a way that we’re just trying to cope with something.

Laura:  Or maybe it’s the fact that you are leaning on your friends; you need them to survive throughout the day. You’re constantly texting them, wanting to be with them and you feel like you can’t be home or you can’t be alone with yourself. Or maybe it’s inspirational quotes or sayings that are secular or of the world, telling you that you are doing enough, and you’re going to be okay, just try harder. Online shopping – it feels good. You get a thrill when you purchase new jeans on the internet. Or work – wanting to detach from your current home life and invest into work because you can see the productivity. You feel a little more successful, and there’s not a bunch of tiny barriers in your way for getting things done.

Emily:  Again, what we want to say, these, in and of themselves are not necessarily bad things. But when we’re using them as a crutch, that’s when it kind of goes into this area where our hearts are wrong. Laura shared a little bit about her husband breaking his leg, but what was that season like? He would have been hobbling around, but explain what happened. [laughter]

Laura:  The biggest thing that I always remember is that he was unable to use his hands during that season because they were full with the crutches. They were leaning on crutches, so he couldn’t really help me do anything.  He was incapable of really getting any work done, [laughter] or getting through anything. It was really hard as a wife. I was like, “Get a little fanny pack, honey. Just tuck your things there.” [laughter] Crutches – well let’s not take this analogy too far – but something with that is we’re looking for that quick fix. But ultimately, it’s sort of paralyzes you, and you’re not able to be effective.

Long term being on crutches doesn’t heal what is broken, it only helps you limp along. What helped my husband heal was having the surgery on his leg, and taking the time that it needed to heal. Not the crutches themselves; it just limped him along for a while. [Laughter] That’s kind of what we do with crutches. But really what we need is the healing of our savior. Instead, we’re just putting this band aid on through online shopping, or wine, or coffee or whatever it maybe.

Emily:  Yes. The gospel gives us a better way. We thought for this show, instead of going into creation, fall, redemption and restoration – we love that – we just wanted to bring out a couple stories about people who hit the end of their rope, or were completely paralyzed, or just needy people, and Jesus was so compassionate and merciful to them. This isn’t from the perspective of two Bible teachers; we know there’s a lot of different ways that you can apply stories and unpack them and things. But just things that have impacted us as we look at the scriptures and say, “Wow! Jesus is really the best. He is the only one who’s able to offer this.”

Laura:  Yes. First off, we can look at Mark 2, the paralytic - this is a man who cannot walk. He is totally paralyzed, and his friends lower him through the roof to be in front of Jesus. At that moment, Jesus sees their faith and he forgives the man’s sins, which is his eternal need, but he also heals his body, and from there, the man gets up and walks. He’s no longer laying on the mat. God gets the glory, and people are just amazed.

We think that that parallels well to motherhood – how we feel so paralyzed sometimes. But it is okay to come to Jesus, completely incapable. That man could not do anything to save himself, or to help him to walk. That’s how we approach the throne, and when we approach with faith, Jesus can forgive our sins and bring us into true fellowship with God, healing us in a way that really counts. Then we have the Holy Spirit who helps us to keep going in his strength, and give God glory. That also is a great picture for other people to see God’s strength and our weaknesses.

Emily:  I loved that the end of that parable talks about people were amazed, and God got glory. That is what is so cool when we turn to Jesus instead of some of our crutches. It’s God getting glory as well, and other people going like, “Wow, how is she sustained?” It’s through the grace of God.

Another story that comes to mind is from Mark 5 - this is the woman who has been bleeding for 12 years. In their culture, she would have been considered unclean. She probably would have been out of fellowship with people that she wanted to be around. She’d tried everything, been to every doctor. If you want to use this language, she tried every crutch, [laughter] every means of getting by with temporary healing. We find out from the parable that all of this actually just makes her worse. That her problem has gotten worse from all of those things. She hears about Jesus, and she comes to just touch his robe. She thinks, “Okay, if I just do this, I will be healed.”

That is what happens. She is fully, completely healed from her affliction. When Jesus realizes what happens, he turns around to address her, and she just falls down, prostrate before him. He tells her that it’s her faith that has made her well, and now she can get up and go in peace. She has now been made clean. There’s all these things in her life that are going to start, little by little, to be restored because of the healing that she received.

In motherhood, we are often trying every means to take care of ourselves; [laughs] like we’re going to see every doctor possible. And really it’s just making us worse when we don’t approach Jesus. But we can come to him in faith, with our deepest hurts and issues, and he’s not afraid of that. We’re not going to make him unclean.

Laura:  One thing we want to point out is that sometimes this process can take awhile – that sanctification takes time. One thing that always comes to mind for me is my husband worked a lot. We’ve done a show about it before, When Husbands Work Long Hours, that you can check out the link in the show notes. But in that season, my husband worked for a long time – about seven years – and I had a very bad attitude for many of those years. I didn’t understand why God wouldn’t take away that thorn, or help us to fix that issue, and have him not work quite so much.

But the transformation that I needed in order to understand where Christ was at in my life and how he sustained me took a lot of time. Sometimes God sees it good for us to be in the wait, and to travel through a very long season of surrender. We want to point out that this isn’t always a quick fix. That just because you say, “Okay, I am going to get rid of my crutch,” doesn’t mean you’re going to turn around and always have this great attitude and perspective.

But it’s constantly going back to the cross, and continually repenting and saying, “Lord, I want you more than I want this quick fix.” We learn a lot in that longer season. Emily you have a really good quote. I want you to read it.

Emily:  I just ran across this from Zack Eswine. He’s talking in response to some of these stories where we see Jesus do these miraculous healings. He says, “The presence of inconsolable things reminds us that healing is not the same as heaven. Miracles are real and powerful, but they do not remove the inconsolable things.” He goes on to talk about how these people that received healing; let’s say the lame man who walks, he could still trip and break his leg later in life. There were still situations that came up that were hurtful, so it’s still a long process. Whatever it is, whatever situation you’re in, God may actually be working for his glory as you turn to him day in and day out, over and over again. As you feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back. That is really normal.

Laura:  Bringing this down, what does all this mean for us moms who are struggling? Which, I think, is every woman listening to this podcast. [laughter] It is a good place when we are weak. Being weak shows how Jesus is strong. When we are poor in spirit, and meek and humble, when we’re at the end of our rope, we can be a lot like that paralytic. We can realize that we can’t do this on our own, but that’s where Christ shows up, and he fills us up, and we rely on him. We can turn to him in prayer and confession, crying out to him. He wants that and he knows how you feel already, so don’t be afraid to show your weakness in front of the Lord.

Emily:  Yes. This next one, it’s hard to believe at times. But it’s true, and it’s that Jesus is better than anything that you are using as a crutch. He is more wonderful and more enjoyable. We may be running to more Netflix shows, or social media, and they do satisfy a little bit. One thing I say to my kids a lot is like, “This might make you a little bit happy for a little while, but only God is going to make you the most happy for the longest period of time.” We have to say that truth to ourselves.

There is a hymn that I love that speaks to this.

“Come you sinners, poor and needy,

weak and wounded, sick and sore.

Jesus ready stands to save you,

full of pity, love and power.”

Then it goes on to say this;

“When we arise, I will arise and go to Jesus.

He will embrace me in his arms.

 In the arms of my dear savior, oh there are ten thousand charms.”

I love that because it’s not just a picture of us coming weak and wounded, which we are. But it’s a picture of us finding ten thousand charms - endless things to enjoy in Jesus. That is a hard thing to believe, but we can embrace him more and more.

Laura:  Finally, we know that God has everything he needs to sustain us. He is the source of our power, patience, and long suffering. Jesus is all of that for us. Often we can come to him thinking that he’s withholding from us, or that he might withhold something from us. Or that he doesn’t really care about something. But we have to remember that he owns everything. He controls everything. He is sovereign over all, and so this should give us a lot of confidence that when we go to him, we will get the help that we need. He can provide all of that for us, and he will, because he loves you, mom.

Emily:  We know that this show doesn’t solve everything. You may still have situations in your life that you’re like, “I don’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel, and this feels like it’s never ending. What I am going to do if I give up my crutches? How I am going to survive?” But we’re just trusting that God is working in your heart as he’s working in ours to begin to see ways that we can turn to God, turn to Christ in those hard situations. Begin to put some of those things that are good in their rightful place in our lives, which may still be enjoying a cup of coffee, or going to the gym, but not relying on that for sustenance.

Anyway, if you want to find out more about this, you can go to our website, risenmotherhood.com. We’ll have show notes there with lots of links to different, helpful things and quotes in the show. You can also find us on @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Laura:  Thanks for joining us guys.




This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Emily, here with my sister-in-law, Laura, and its Valentine’s Day when this show is coming out. We felt like with Valentine’s Day, we wanted to do a show that has to do with marriage and husbands because that's usually what's on our mind on Valentine’s Day. [laughter]

Laura:  That's right; we get asked a lot of questions about marriage. I mean, marriage in the little years is hard, so these shows are fun to do. But know we’re in the midst of all of this with you guys, trying to figure it out.

I was reading a book on parenting the other day, and there were so many wonderful ideas inside. They were very practical ideas and some heart issue ideas as well. But by the time I got to chapter three or four I just started feeling really anxious about how much I wasn’t doing. Quite honestly, I started thinking about how much my husband wasn’t doing, and immediately I felt like, “We need to talk and to get on the same page. We need to get unified on this stuff, and we don’t have any time left to shape our children’s character. The time is going by way too fast.” 

It was just funny because that wasn’t the author’s intention at all. But it goes to show just how intentional parenting can quickly start to feel very overwhelming. There can just be lots of issues that come up between those things. But the great thing is that God has called us, as two parents together, to share the load, and do all of this together. 

Emily:  Yes. One thing that my husband and I – I don’t want to say struggle with, but - just live with the reality of is that we have really different strengths and personalities. Of the two of us, I am kind of the more teacher type [laughs] for lack of a better way to say it. I am the one who's more likely to come up with a reading plan, or to help our kids study and learn catechisms and talk to them about church history, or explain the word “doctrine.” So I am more naturally bent towards that, and I think that's the cool, right way to do it. 

But my husband is really a lot more practical, and he is really good about teaching them obedience to God’s Word in everyday situations. He talks to them about practical, spiritual things in the midst of what they're doing and how they're serving. 

Again, sometimes I can feel like we’re not unified because it looks so different. When in reality, I am very thankful that there isn’t two of me because our children would be little Pharisees spouting off doctrinal statements, but maybe not living it as well and/or the other way. It’s just a beautiful picture of unity – how we both bring our strengths to the table, and hopefully, help our children learn what it means to follow Christ in different ways.

Laura:  Some of you, when saw the title of the show might not have wanted to listen because you're frustrated in this area, or maybe your husband doesn’t seem to be as interested in intentional parenting as you. Or maybe you're not married, or you have a husband who is not a believer. Maybe you do have a husband who you feel is doing a really good job at this point to do his best to lead your family.

Primarily today, we want to make a quick caveat that we are addressing those of you who have a believing husband who does want to be involved in being an intentional parent. But we do hope that there will be application for every mom who listens on this show. Even as you think about the way that you are unified within the body of Christ, and whoever your community is, that it takes a whole village to help raise your children in the Lord, whether you're married or not. 

Emily:  That’s a beautiful truth that you just pointed out Laura; that we have unity in the body of Christ too, in terms of our mission to bring up children in the Lord. Whether that is thinking about it in that context, or thinking about it in the context of marriage - which is what we’re going to be talking through - the gospel definitely applies.

As we look at creation, we see that God designed husband and wife: Adam and Eve, to be in unity in terms of their mission. That the first time that a union is mentioned is in Genesis 2: 24, when he talks about a man leaving his mother and father and being united to his wife, becoming one flesh. That is a thing that we see right off the bat in creation that is good - for Adam and Eve to be together, on mission for the same purpose.

Laura:  Right. As moms and dads, our calling is the same as any other believer’s. Our calling is to know God, follow his will for our lives, live to glorify him, and help others - aka our children - to do the same. 

We know as parents, we are charged to intentionally teach our children about God. Like in Deuteronomy 6, where it talks about how everyone should, “Love the Lord your God with all your hearts, soul, and all your mind.” You should teach these words diligently to your children - talk about them when you sit down, walk by the way, lie down, or when you rise – all the time, essentially. There’s not a moment that we are not teaching and investing in our children to teach them in the way of the Lord.

Emily:  Although we were created to do that, and that sounds wonderful and amazing, we know that sin wrecks everything, including unity, even in marriage. It’s okay that we have differences between one another; God created us beautiful, with differences. But disunity is really a result of the fall. 

Now, when we’re striving to raise godly children alongside each other, all of a sudden there's tension, miscommunication, misunderstanding, wrong assumptions, selfish motives, and it can look really messy. It sometimes looks like two people who are not working together towards the same goal. But two people who are really out of step with each other and are struggling to be on the same page about the end goal of the family. 

Laura:  Right. But that's where the hope of the gospel comes in. We know that – as Emily said – our marriages (our unity within them), the way that we parent our children is not going to be perfect. But we can be thankful for Christ because he did live a perfect life. 

He had perfect character, decision-making skills, communication, actions, goals, and all of those things. He died in place of us so that we could receive this perfect record that he had. He fills every gap of ours, he’s sufficient for every failure that we have, and he sustains every effort we take.

We can place our identity in him, rather than how unified we’re feeling at the moment with our husband, or in the way that we feel like our husband is lacking in intentionality. Or if we feel like we’re judging them for the things that they're doing. We can remember and trust that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, that the pressure is off. We can rest secure in both our efforts and our husband’s because Jesus lived a perfect life in our stead.

Emily:  It’s so good that we don’t have to put our hope in our husbands. That is one of the biggest truths I have to remember over and over again - that when our identity is found in Christ, we don’t have to tie ourselves to the rollercoaster of how someone else is doing. Or what they're not doing. We can just love them freely because Christ has loved us. 

Then we can be hopeful as we look ahead to a time we are going to be unified with the whole body of Christ, with him forever. We can trust that God is going to be sovereign over how everything plays out until then. We are just called to be faithful, and when we’re imperfect, we’re called to repent and to model the gospel to our children. Then trust God that he is going to do what is in our best interest, do what is for our good for his glory.

That's kind of a little bit of gospel there, in terms of unity with our husband. But there are also practical things that we can do to be unified.

Laura:  That's right. We’re going to tick through another list here of some high level, practical pieces. The first one - as is usual with our lists I am starting to realize, and [laughter] which is good - is to pray. 

Something that I always appreciated with Jerrad Lopes from Dad Tired - when he was on our show almost a year ago now – he shared a story about his wife who got up at 2 a.m. for a long period of time to pray for him, instead of telling him all of the grievances that she had.

She spent time praying for him in the wee hours of the morning. That is so convicting for me, and was good advice. Especially if your husband is a little bit more checked out, or not interested in these things of growing spiritually in this way. Pray for your husband, and even with your husband - if he is open to that, pray with him for unity, for growth and direction as intentional parents.

Pray for God to guide your family as a whole, and for you to lay down your lives through one another. A good thing to go back to is holding your tongue before we come out with all of our grievances. To first say, “I am going to stop and pray, and not just one time. But I am going to spend a good season in prayer, and coming before the Lord about this issue before I lay it all out in front of my husband. Before I slay him!” [laughter]

Emily:  Again, we talk about this a lot on Risen Motherhood, about communication with our husbands, and talking with them about what we’re learning. I know that oftentimes, on long car trips or on extended date nights, we will have conversations that just kind of pop up about our children and how things are going. We can talk through the details of how we are trying to parent intentionally so that our children know what's most important in life.

Then other times, communication can just look like a short check in. Today in the afternoon, I sent my husband a text and said, “Hey, when you get home we need to talk to one of our children about lying because there have been four or five untruths that have been said today and we need to talk about this.” 

When he got home, he knew he needed to pull that child aside. Guess what? The conversation he had with that child was different than what I would have said. But the point is we were unified in knowing that, “We want you to represent the truth, son. Dad is going to talk to you about that and we’re going to have a conversation.” So unity can really come through communication.

Laura:  That's a huge piece. Even things like, for my husband, he doesn’t have a lot of time to read stuff, so often I will earmark pages in a book and just be like, “Just read page 54.” [laughter] Or, I’ll send him a quick link and I think it’s good because I am out there – my natural personality is I am reading, I am doing a lot of the out-there-looking-at-things. Therefore I can be a kind of a curator of content for my husband, giving him the cliff notes of these pieces so that we are, as we keep saying, unified and on the same page.

Emily:  As we’re seeking to communicate, it’s super important to believe the best in each other, and not always assume that our husband has a bad idea. I really do think my husband has good ideas.  But it’s just that every time I am like, “Why didn’t I think to ask you this before?” And “I should have believed that you had a great idea about how to handle this.” He does, so it’s just great. 

To build upon that, sometimes because our husbands – and I’m making a broad-brush statement here – they’re sometimes a little bit more objective and not as deep in the mommy wars. They're not on Instagram, seeing what everyone else is doing with their children. Sometimes they can help us get out of the muck and mire, and make decisions that are appropriate for our own families. Decisions that aren’t worth worrying so much about what other people think or what other people are doing, and just be really faithful to the gospel. That’s something I am very thankful about my husband helps me do.

Laura:  Me too. Another one that has been really helpful for me over the years is when we’re feeling really lost as parents – oftentimes my husband and I will read a book, or we’ll be talking after a parenting conference or whatever – we’ll just be real overwhelmed [laughter] because there's all these really wonderful things that we can implement but we’re not really sure what or how.

Focus on the gospel; this is really the only thing that has true power to change or grow your children into the likeness of Christ. This is one of those pieces that I just fall back on the gospel - if I teach them nothing else, let it be the gospel.

Emily:  So good.

Laura:  It’s a good safety net, and one of those things that can wash away all of the overwhelming and anxious feelings. Even for my husband, who is not a naturally anxious person at all; he’s the most even-keeled person, but he can feel overwhelmed by all the heavy responsibilities of raising children. So this is a great thing to just go back to each time. 

Emily:  Another conversation that Laura and I have had in the past that's kind of related to this topic is creating a family vision statement. We have episode 46 on Intentional Motherhood: Communicating Your Family’s Mission.

God gave Adam Eve and unified them together, and then said, “Here’s what I want you to do.” He did that for us as parents, so it’s good for us to come together with our husband and rehearse that. Then understand what that looks like, more specifically for our family as much as we can. That could be another helpful thing if you're feeling like, “Hey, we both want to come together on the same page, but we don’t know how.” That's one potential piece of the puzzle.

Laura:  Yes. What's nice about that is that hopefully you're doing that when you're both feeling real collaborative, [laughter] you're on the same page and just really excited. So that in those more tense moments where you're making decisions and maybe things are a little bit heated and a little more stressful in your life, that family mission statement can be very helpful to fall back on. To understand, “This is why we’re saying ‘No,’ and this is why we’re saying, ‘Yes.’”

 Emily:  To summarize the gospel application here, we are unified in Christ. I always have to remember to put on the hat that’s like, “Yes, my husband is my husband, but he’s also my brother in Christ. We are unified on multiple fronts in our mission in this life, in what we’re both looking and hoping towards.”

But when we remember that we are sinners, we've fallen short and we need a Savior that humbles us and allows us to see that God’s grace has covered our husband’s sin as well. Now we can both go forward, knowing that, of course it’s going to take a lot of correcting – I need a course correct every day – so I shouldn’t be surprised when my husband needs to do that too, and when we need to come together in that.

We have never arrived, but we can be unified. In the process, we can trust that God is in control, and pray desperately that he helps our children love and know him because that's who does it all.

Laura:  Ultimately it’s all God. [laughter] On that note, head to our show notes for more resources on this topic. Of course you can also check out our social media platforms where we’ll be talking about topics like this throughout the week. We are at risenmotherhood.com,  and @risenmotherhood on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Emily:  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Laura:  Happy Valentine’s Day. Hope you're doing something fun this week, next week … within the month. Let’s just go for within the month. [laughter] Hopefully you get some special time with your husband. I know for my husband and I, we very rarely actually celebrate on the day of Valentine.

Emily:  Maybe watch a whole Netflix show together without falling asleep.

Laura:  Or a baby interrupting. 

Emily:  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Ep. 89 || Trillia Newbell: Helping Our Kids Celebrate God’s Beautifully Diverse Design Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Laura:  Hi friends. Today I am excited to introduce you to Trillia Newbell. On today’s show, Emily and I are chatting with her all about diversity, and how and why to talk to your children about it. Diversity is a bit of a hot topic in our culture today, but it’s so important to have conversations around it. Because while we all have differences – from the color of our skin, to where we live, how we talk, to how we spend time – we were all made in God’s image. Someday we will all gather - every tribe, tongue and nation together - to worship God and today in an imperfect way, we can image that. 

Trillia is a woman I admire and respect so much for how outspoken she has been about the importance of loving those around us. The wisdom she shares on today’s show will both challenge and encourage you to invest in celebrating diversity in your family. She gives a lot of practical tips, including how to address the somewhat dreaded, “What’s that?” question that kiddos ask when they someone with a difference from them. 

Trillia is the author of many books, some of our favorites being Enjoy, which is all about learning to love God’s good gifts. Also, God’s Very Good Idea, a book you all have likely seen us shared before. It’s one that we would encourage all of you to have on your bookshelves as a fun and simple way to chat with your kids about the beauty of God’s diverse creation. It’s a favorite book of our children’s, and we think it will be for your kiddos too. Trillia is not only an author, she’s also a speaker, and she’s currently a host on two podcasts that Emily and I both regularly listen to: United We Pray and the ERLC Podcast. We’ll link to all of these things in our show notes so you can easily find Trillia and check out all the different things she’s involved in, which you won’t want to miss. 

Okay, time for the show. 

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

Trillia:  Thanks for having me. I am glad to be here.

Laura:  Can you just start us off and tell us a little bit about yourself, your family makeup and what makes up your day to day – for any of our listeners who haven’t heard of you by some crazy chance? Just let them know a little bit more about yourself.

Trillia:  Sure. I don’t even know where to start with my day to day, [laughter] so I’ll start with my family because my day to day looks different every single day. 

Laura:  Oh yes, amen!

Trillia:  But my family, I am actually in a sweet interracial marriage – my husband’s white - and I am black. I have two bi-racial babies who are no longer babies; [laughter] they are 12 and 8. We live in the Nashville area, and that’s about it. That’s about it … [laughter]

Laura:  You have a podcast called “United? We Pray,” that everyone should listen to. 

Trillia:  Why don’t you tell them? [laughter] I do a lot of writing – I have several books - and we’re going to talk about one today. I speak, and I work for the ERLC as well, under Dr. Russell Moore. I also do a podcast called, “United? We Pray,” with Isaac Adams, and it’s been an absolute joy to think through topics and pray, which is something that you need in the podcast world. Am I right podcasters?

Emily:  Definitely.

Laura:  Yes.

Trillia:  [laughs] Most of my day to day looks like: I get up really early. I am a really early riser; I love early mornings. That’s probably the only thing that’s consistent. [laughter] I wake up early and get in the Word; that’s about all that’s consistent. Each day looks so different – it’s anywhere from writing, to meetings, to doing something like this for a morning podcast. Or talking to people, interviews, whatever. That’s me.

Laura:  Wonderful. As you mentioned, there is a book of yours that we have really enjoyed, and talked about a lot on social media, on Risen Motherhood. It’s your book, God’s Very Good Idea. In that book you talk about the beautiful plan that God has for diversity. Can you just give us a high level of what is the gospel concerning diversity? What is God’s plan in creation, and how did he make us so beautifully unique as individuals?

Trillia: It really starts in Genesis 1. God created male and female; he creates us equally but different. But then he creates the world, and you see all these nations, tribes and people, all created in the image of God. But all created differently. We see that throughout all of scripture, God has a rescuing plan for the nations. We messed it up in Genesis 3, when sin comes into the world, and there is hostility among people. But then we read Jesus gives the disciples a charge to go and make other disciples of all nations. He dies, and when he died, he didn’t discriminate who he would die for. He died for everyone who would believe – everyone made in the image of God from every tribe, tongue and nation. Then in Ephesians 2 we see, not only that by grace we’ve been saved through faith, but that the veil of hostility has been broken down in the body of Christ. He’s created one new man – the Christian; we’re united, and the veil of hostility has been broken down so that we can love and be united with one another. 

Then in Revelation, we see that every tongue, tribe and nation will be worshiping together – all of us. We aren’t living out that reality now, but one day, for eternity, we will be worshiping together. The gospel is what makes all this possible. The fact that Jesus died on the cross, bearing the wrath that we deserve - every single person - any who walk on this earth, everyone. That he rose, and he’s in that seat right now. He defeated death, and it is for all of us. What makes it beautiful is just that it’s possible. What makes it hard is that we’re not living in it.

Emily: That was such an amazing explanation, but it can be hard to communicate that to our children sometimes. I would encourage you to pick up Trillia’s book because she really goes through that well. 

I love that you did that at a child’s level, and gave these great examples of what different looks like kind of through a child’s eyes. Kids typically are looking at hair, glasses, what people like, or what their hobbies are. You really go through that in the book, and we really appreciated that. That’s what we try to go through on Risen Motherhood, is that creation, fall, redemption, restoration piece, because it is amazing and that can be so helpful when it comes to understanding it in its full picture.

Trillia:  First of all, thanks about the book. It was such a joy to write, but it was also agonizing to think through. Okay, how can a child understand this? We should be able to read the scriptures, that’s what he says. To have that child-like faith, and to be able to read it like a child. It was a joy, but yes, it was a task. [laughter]

Laura:  That’s an interesting point Trillia because one thing all of us moms who are listening want to instill in our children is helping them – just like you did in the book – to understand God’s plan for diversity.  Can you talk a little bit – especially as a mom yourself – what are our children are inclined to believe about diversity? But then, what should we be teaching them, and why is this such an important message for our kids?

Trillia:  That’s an interesting question. What are kids inclined to believe about diversity? I don’t know that kids come out and they’re thinking like, “Okay, this is what I am going to believe about...” I think instead, they’re going to ask a lot of questions. “Mommy, why is that person ...” Something totally embarrassing. [laughter]

Emily:  They do it at the time that it’s most embarrassing for you. [laughter]

Trillia:  Absolutely. More than likely, a kid is going to ask questions. What we need to know is that these are good and okay questions. It’s good to ask questions, and it’s okay for them to explore. I remember when my son, Weston was two, he would identify me as “brown” and his dad as “peach.” He would call me “brown,” his dad “peach” and then himself “peach.” At one point he changed it and called me “chocolate,” which was adorable. [laughter] Kids are going to look and see differences. What we need to be equipped and ready to do is teach them about differences. That it was God’s idea to create mommy brown and daddy peach.

What we just need to remember is that kids ask these questions, and they think, “Wait a minute, it’s God’s idea. These are God’s ideas to create someone with curly hair and someone else with straight hair. It’s God’s idea to create someone with really deep, dark skin, and someone with freckles and light skin. What we need to do as parents is to instill in them that these differences are good, and that they’re okay. Then, that it’s okay for us to think about differences; and not only think about it but celebrate these differences.  

In our culture, we so often fear differences. That’s how we approach the conversation about race, or about anything. We fear our differences, rather than celebrate and embrace them. I think that that will help when kids ask questions about differences. If we’re thinking, “Wait a minute, it’s okay and it’s good,” we can talk to them about this, and we can even celebrate our differences.

Emily:  I love how you’re taking it a step further – acknowledging to affirming that it’s good, and it’s God’s good plan. Because I think that without some of these good educations in gospel-thinking, even for adults our natural inclination might be to brush it aside or just affirm it and move on as quickly as we can. But I love that God goes a step further; he is sovereign, and he has a good plan for everyone in everything that he does. We can know the way that we’re created was by his hand and for our good in his glory, and to share that with our children. Celebrating it is really going to speak a better word than, “Oh yes, that child is this, but okay, let’s move on quickly.” 

Trillia:  Oh good. Yes, God speaks a better word to this whole topic. Any topic when we’re thinking about diversity or race is beautiful in the scriptures. It’s also hard in the scriptures, but it’s beautiful. If we can turn our gaze and eyes to the Word of God and to God’s plan, it will always direct us better, and in the right way. I am really thankful for The Good Book Company giving me this opportunity to write this book, and I do pray that it serves parents in this way.

Laura:  I would imagine that a key piece of everything that we’re talking about is just having your children exposed to diversity. I mean, to even begin to understand that there are people who live at different levels than maybe your family or your children do, or they have a different skin tone, or glasses, or assistive devices, or all sorts of things contribute to diversity. 

Trillia, what are some practical ways that a parent could expose their child to diversity? I know a lot of America is just made up of these very homogenous pockets. We are so separated among a lot of different levels, not just race. Are there some practical tips that you could give a mom for how to expose their children well to diversity?

Trillia:  There’s different ways that we are divided, and it takes effort. If you want your kids to celebrate diversities, the nations and people, you have to do it yourself. That could look something like having people in your home, inviting people, opening your door, looking out and meeting people in other neighborhoods. It could literally be just one block away because in some neighborhoods, that’s how strangely divided they are. It’s one block; it’s not just a whole community, it’s just a block.

I would say invite people too in your home, and when possible, go do things like grocery shop in a different neighborhood. Get really creative – take your kids to cultural events where they’re displaying different art and food. They do these cultural events in different cities all the time and in different towns. If that is not possible; if for some reason there is no neighborhood looks different than you, which of course there is, even if it’s socio-economic, and not necessarily your skin tone. If it really is difficult to bring diversity in the form of a person, to your home, then there’s still loads of books. You can still expose your children through history and talking about culture and current events. Bringing that to your table, and making sure that they’re exposed, they will learn in way or another. 

Wouldn’t it be great if we’re on top of it as parents? If we’re the first people to teach them about culture? Exposing our kids as much as we can to different cultures, even if that means not the person, is really essential, if we’re wanting to build a heart of a love for the nations and a love of diversity of people. Let me just tell you one thing that I did last summer. We have a heart and desire for the nations, but we don’t have all of the nations around us; we have some. So I got the kids together and I said, “Okay, this summer we are going to cook through the nations.” We went through and listed up all these different countries, from Australia, to England, to Ethiopia, all these different places. Week by week, one day a week, I would cook something, and then we would listen to the music and watch something. It was so much fun. 

I remember one particular week, cooking Doro Wat, which is an Ethiopian dish (which was delicious). They loved it. Then listening to the music, and reading about the culture. We did not have an Ethiopian in our home, but in so many ways, we did. There’s nothing that can replace a person, right? But it was so sweet for my family to be not only exposed to food, but culture, history and music. We were reading and learning, and we just spent that one night doing that. That’s just one way that you can expose your kids, family and yourself to different cultures, and people if you can’t have someone physically in your home. But getting to know people physically in your home or church is the first step. Proximity really changes everything.

Emily:  What you’re sharing is so encouraging, and it’s such a good, practical idea. What came to mind as you were talking is like, “Wow!” We keep hearing this on interviews, and talking about this in Risen Motherhood over and over again. That it’s really hard for us to pour into our children, what we are not already doing, or have a heart for. Even as you were sharing, I was just convicted, and was like, “Wow, I need to continue to pray for a heart for the nations, and for God to grow me in stepping out to reach out to our neighbors.” We have a very diverse community we’re living in in the middle of Iowa because we’re living in a college town, with lots of international people. But just, “Do we authentically make that a part of our lives?” And if we do, we have an opportunity to shape the culture of our whole family. I love that these are great ideas, but you are explaining that they’re built on a foundation of something that’s already going on in our heart and in our relationship with God.

Laura:  What else is really cool is how you’re essentially saying, “Let’s make diversity normal.” As we were talking about at the beginning of the interview, when you’re not having these conversations with your kids, or having positive conversations around them, or using encouraging, good words around these things … If it’s hidden, secret or hard, it definitely shapes them to feel like, “Oh, that’s like this untouchable thing.” Like, “We don’t talk about diversity.” But when you just make it the base line of saying, “Oh my goodness, isn’t it amazing how God made us all so unique?” 

I mean, even the fact that my kids like different colors, they can be individual in that. I remember my daughter had a crying fit because her brother’s favorite color wasn’t the same as hers. I was like, “Isn’t it awesome that God made you guys so different? That’s something that we can celebrate and enjoy.” It was just a good conversation of talking about how God makes us with different talents, giftings and skills. That’s at a two-year-old level, and so I love what you’re talking about - it’s not jus engaging in all these huge things but it’s also just the climate of conversation that you have in your home. To make it a baseline that diversity is awesome.

 Trillia:  It is! Okay, you just hit on a few things that [laughter] I got very excited because one of the things that I hope that we can do is one, that we would rescue it from the culture. The topic of diversity in race has been so politicized, that’s why people are afraid of it. That’s the thing. We just immediately think “division,” “politics,” “hate,” and for good reason in the United States. We have been divided since the creation of the United States but we speak a better word which we said over and over again, because we know Jesus and we have the Bible. We know we have a better word for this. 

It’s a beautiful thing if we approach it appropriately, and with the gospel in mind. So one, yes, we can rescue it a bit, from this cultural conversation that often is heavy and negative, and celebrate it. We need to have those conversations as well; I am not saying let’s not have those conversations. I am just saying if we could start framing this conversation in such a way that it’s celebration. If that’s the reason why we want to have those cultural conversations, then I think it would change everything. 

Another thing that you said that got me excited was this conversation is so much more beyond just a race topic. The beauty of diversity is that God – and I am thinking of Corinthians – has created the body, the church unique, with all these different parts and giftings. We are so unique and different, yet we need one another. When we’re thinking about our children, if we want to guard against comparison or unrealistic expectations of them, we will get to know them as image bearers. That they are uniquely designed by the Lord, and their personalities and giftings are going to be different. 

If we can begin to celebrate that in others, how much more will we celebrate that in our own children? We won’t hold them to these expectations, compare them and try to make them in our own image. Rather, we want them to reflect the image of the Lord. There’s so much that God can really help in changing and grow us in, as we are learning to delight in his design. Rather than what we have created. I just think there’s so much that we can really learn and grow when we’re thinking about diversity in biblical terms, rather than in our culture, the way that we do.

Emily:  Yes, definitely.

Laura:  I agree. When you think about your kiddos and the fact that they haven’t been tainted by politics, culture and all of those things yet, you appreciate that. We have a wonderful, amazing opportunity to really show them God’s design from the start. Yes, as they get older they’ll be exposed to different opinions and things. But we can lay the foundation so in the future, they can be a light in the world, in politics and all of those different things. They can say, “Hey, this isn’t the right design, and it doesn’t have to be this way.” I just love that as moms, we can set the stage from the beginning for what our children perceive about this conversation. As you’re saying Trillia, it goes so far beyond race - all of the different ways that God made us uniquely. 

In addition, I am sure a lot of moms are wondering about this, and every mom will bring a story to mind as I share this, But how do you handle it when your child does point out another person’s differences in a very – as we shared out earlier – very loud or visible way? I have two children in therapy right now. When we go into therapy, we often see children that are very different than our family makeup is right now. A lot of them have assistive devices, walkers or wheelchairs. I have definitely had multiple moments where one or both children say, “Hey, why does she have that?” Or, “Why is he using that?” Or, “What’s going on with that?” Very loudly, and everyone in the room can hear. 

I am curious Trillia, what on earth should I say? [laughter] And how can I use it as a teaching moment?

Trillia:  Okay, so there is a difference between, “Hey mommy, why does she have that device?” And, “Why is she so fat?” Right? [laughter] One of them is just a curious thing, the other is rude and unkind. That is where we can divide it. I have heard kids walking in grocery stores and they say something about someone’s size; something that is clearly unkind. That’s when you correct; you pull them aside and you say something corrective. When a kid is asking like, “Well mommy, what is that device?” And they’re just kind of curious about something, I just think, “Oh, answer the question.” [laughter] 

I am going to tell you a funny story, [laughter] when I did this terribly wrong. My kids were pointing with their middle finger, okay? [laughter] Instead of me just not making it a big deal, I made it huge. I said, “Oh my goodness kids, point your finger down.” [laughter] I made this huge deal. They didn’t know what that meant. For the rest of the week, they would giggle and point with their finger. [laughter] The rest of the week was me trying to undo the damage. [laughs] I made it this big deal, and now it’s almost like they ate the fruit in the garden, and they’re all of a sudden, they could see the sin. They didn’t fully understand because they were young. But I guess my point is that we can make things bigger deals than they need to be. 

If the kid asks about a walker or something, you could just say, “Oh, she needs assistance with that walker,” and move on. Maybe we could talk about inside voices, later, and not make it a big deal. Like, “Hey, let’s use a voice an inside voice when we’re out in public.” But what we often do is we make it like, “Oh, oh, oh!” and then they’re thinking, “Oh, that’s bad that she’s in a walker.” And, “I should think of her as something uniquely different.” When I say uniquely different, not just someone made in the image of God, but someone who is: “I can’t relate to their difference,” in so far as we can relate to them. I would be really cautious about our response. Not so much what our kids do, but ask ourselves, “What is the proper response?” And the proper response is probably not to go big. Don’t make it a big deal, and then maybe later, have a conversation. Just really thinking, “How do I love my neighbor at that time? How do I love my neighbor as myself, and make her feel completely comfortable?”

Emily:  First of all, every mom’s shaking her head and thinking about that time that they made way too much out of something. [laughter]

Trillia: Then it became a thing.

Emily:  I love that distinction between something that is rude and unloving, and something that is curiosity. Sometimes from an adult’s perspective, when I’ve had that happen, I am still doing it through culture, politics and different things. I worry about that other person’s heart, even though I know our child is asking in complete curiosity.

Even just trying to, like you said, celebrate the diversity in that moment. The few times I’ve had that happen as well it’s reminded me like, “Wow, I want to have these conversations with our kids before we get in that situation, as much as we can.” Knowing that we can’t do that all the time, but that’s where something like your book comes in. That’s a good conversation starter, so that it’s not a shock, and that we’ve already covered a lot of things that are different. Or even just starting the conversation like you said, in the car later. Maybe they didn’t ask when they were right there, but in the car, like, “Hey did you notice that there were these different things? What did you think about that?” I am just learning more that I want to have that conversation first if I can beat them to it. [laughs]

Trillia:  There is a time for sorrow and for weeping. If your child noticed that there is someone who is suffering, then you can explain to them like, “Okay yes, this person needs this because of that. Let’s pray for them.” Because there are some cases where it’s actually a suffering, and so we want to be really aware that our kids are going to notice that. I know my kids will notice things, and they are so sensitive and will pry. We therefore want to be aware that, “Okay yes, you noticed someone who has the joy, but looks like they’re clearly suffering.” At that point, you can explain what hardships and suffering looks like, and then pray. Ask them if we could pray together for the kid. That’s just such a sweet opportunity to teach so much about God’s sovereignty and goodness, about Jesus – that he entered our pain, suffering and sorrows. It’s an opportunity to pray for our neighbors. You had mentioned you’re thinking about their heart, but we may not be able to go up to them and say anything, but we can instill in our kids our love for our neighbors through prayer. 

Laura:  That’s so important to teach our children compassion for others. Emily and I both have children with extra needs. We don’t know what the future holds, but that makes both of us extra tender to children with differences, children that look or act differently. I know that that’s something that I believe and trust that God is using in my own children’s life and in people who know us. That their children will learn compassion towards those that maybe don’t look or act the same, or have the same opportunities. 

Again, this is just a wonderful chance to be having these conversations in our home. That this is a regular, normal thing that we are really talking about – diversity and God’s great plan. It’s also a very small shadow and picture of what someday it will look like when we are all rejoicing at the throne. That is just a day to look forward to as we see just small glimpses of it here, and get to live that out here on the earth. I am just grateful that we have that to look forward to, when there will be no more tears, crying, or dissension between all of these differences. That will just be a great day when we are all united.

Trillia:  It will, and I look towards that day. It motivates my today, and it motivates me to talk about this because I know one day we’ll be together anyways. What a joy that will be when we’re united, there’s no more sin, confusion, and no more division. 

We will still be every tribe, tongue and nation. It’s unique, and we need to remember that God doesn’t get rid of the tribes, tongues and nations with each new creation. We’ll still have them, so why not start celebrating them today?

Emily:  Love it. [laughter]

Laura:  That is a great word to end on Trillia. We are so grateful that you joined us on the Risen Motherhood podcast today. We would encourage all you listeners, if you have not checked out Trillia’s book, God’s Very Good Idea, it is a wonderful book, and a great way to get these discussions started in your home. We just hope that all of you will have some little nugget that you can take home today to start celebrating diversity in your own homes.

Trillia:  Thank you.


This transcript is edited for clarity. 

Laura:  Hello, and welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura and I have my sister-in-law, Emily, here with me today. We’re excited because we’re talking about a pretty big, hot, mom topic – sleep and our lack of it – or our need for it. Or maybe you are one of the lucky few that feels like your sleep tank is full right now! 

But before we get to that, we wanted to just mention to you guys, maybe you know or maybe you don’t, that you can subscribe (via email) to our shows, and our blog post, and all of the content that Risen Motherhood puts out, through an email subscription we have on our website. We’ll post a link for it in the show notes, or you can head to our home page. Scroll to the very bottom - there's a little form you will fill out, and then you will never miss a show or a blog post. We also have a very fun new newsletter; it’s kind of a new endeavor for Risen Motherhood that we’re taking on this year. You can also get access to it if you subscribe there.

Emily:  We are really excited about that. 

Talking about sleep, Laura, I am tired as we’re recording this [laughter].

Laura:  Me too. Emily and I always pray before the show, and during the prayer, I was rubbing my eyes super deep. [laughter] You know how good that feels? [laughter] 

Emily:  It just starts like a downward spiral though; [laughter] it’s like being more tired. But I think for most of us, by the time you have a child in your arms, you’ve already had a taste of what it feels like to sacrifice some of your comforts and desires for the sake of someone else - whether that’s through a journey of adoption, or because you carried a pregnancy. But it kind of goes to a whole new level whenever you have a baby in your arms. 

You’re completely, physically exhausted, and the baby is up in the night crying.  Or you are up responding to a toddler who is sick, or the number of things that cause a child to wake up in the night. Over time, it can be something that starts out as this joke, but it’s not funny. It’s really bad. [laughter]

Laura:  I am laughing now, but you’re right. It’s so not funny. [laughter]

Emily:  When you're on your seventh cup of coffee, and you're like, “I am not waking up any more,” it’s not funny. I actually had fun doing a tiny bit of research for this show, because it just confirmed everything I thought about what I felt when I am really tired. Sleep deprivation makes you stressed out, hungry, moody.  One article said if you go without sleep for a certain period of time, it’s actually like you're drunk, and we can’t respond to things correctly and think straight – the little bit that I read says that sleep is actually when your brain solidifies memories and processes things. It’s no wonder we get so crazy feeling, and can’t even remember our keys on the counter when we go to the car [laughter] because we’re just exhausted. It has a very real impact on our ability to not only survive, but thrive.

Laura:  Mom Brain. Don’t they say, that mom brain is right after you have a baby?I am like, “No, Mom Brain is your entire life!” [laughter] Now we know it is probably due to lack of sleep.

Emily:  Laura, what do you feel like? How would you describe you on little bit of sleep or not much sleep?

Laura:  Mmm... I don’t even know if I want to admit it, [laughter] but irritable, cranky. I always play that game with my kids where I am like, “Oh, let’s take a nap together and see who can be the quietest. Mommy’s just going to close her eyes right here,” and I see how long I get these itty bitty naps. But definitely yes, going without sleep; my daughter had colic (I’ve shared a little bit before in the show) and that was a true season for me of just absolute desperation. I was so lost, so alone and crying pretty much all day. It was just like I dreaded the nights; I think every mom can - that newborn stage you go through; that period of really dreading going into your room. I don’t know, Emily, did you ever feel like this, “I don’t want to go into the room because that just means a crying baby all night?” You know, like certain seasons of motherhood I feel like that's been really hard. It feels like it’s an endless cycle you're never going to get out of. But you do.

Emily:  Yes. That's one of the reasons why we can feel things like sleep training, or just talking about sleep amongst other mom friends can be kind of a hot topic. This is because we feel legitimate envy when somebody else’s child is sleeping really well through the night, and ours isn’t. Or maybe if, like you said, you've gone through a season of sleeplessness, and then your child is sleeping really well, and you just employed this amazing sleep training method. You can actually feel pride whenever you hear your friend complaining, and you're like, “Oh, I was so there a few months ago.”

Laura:  “All you need to do is these 15 steps and then you'll be like me.” 

Emily: There's a legitimate kind of panic and frustration over this real, physical need that we have.  It’s hard because there's not a simple solution; if you look at different cultures across all of time, there's different standards for even what it means to have a child that is sleeping well. Again, there's no passage in the Bible about sleep training your children. [laughs]

Laura:  Oh, come on Proverbs, come on. [laughter]

Emily:  But God does speak to that, and the gospel does apply. So, let’s go there. It’s Risen Motherhood. [laughter]

Laura:  Let’s go. It’s interesting to note that there isn’t necessarily explicit proof as to whether or not Adam and Eve were created to sleep, at least in the same way that we know sleep as today. But we do they were created to rest, just like God did on the seventh day. We talked about this a little bit on the self-care episode which was just our previous episode that you can check out.

The first time that sleep is really mentioned in the creation story is when God puts Adam into a deep sleep, removes the rib and creates Eve, as we know. But, it’s not exactly the same type of sleep as we know today. But we do know that in creation, Adam and Eve had human limitations; they weren’t like God and they were definitely like us. We can look to God, and know one really amazing thing about him, is he doesn’t need any sleep. He never slumbers, never sleeps; Psalm 121:4 talks about that. We know that rest is a way to image God as he did, but he doesn’t actually need the sleep, which is a great relief to serve a God who doesn’t need sleep. 

Emily:  Yes, can you imagine? [Laughter] He’s getting so much done while we’re sleeping.

Laura:  God’s on break. Wouldn’t that be crazy? [Laughter]

Emily:  After the fall, after Adam and Even sinned and disobeyed God and sin just stained everything, we know that we do need sleep, now. We are needy and dependent in everything we do. It’s really interesting that for around a third of the day, every day, we have to do nothing but lay in bed. [laughter] God keeps everything going, and it’s a reminder of our limitations and our temptation towards pride. Sleep is a gift; in Psalm 127:1 – 2, it actually says, “He gives to his beloved, sleep.” He talks about it as a gift, and it’s a time of restoration. That's really interesting – this idea that our bodies are experiencing some level of restoration when they sleep. That's one of our gospel words. But in the fall, now we can actually – sometimes - idolize sleep, we can worship it and want it in a selfish way, just so that we can check out of our responsibilities, or so that we don’t have to run to God. But we can also be really prideful in our avoidance of it, and thinking that we can always just go. There's definitely lots of ways we can sin in relation to sleep.

Laura:  That's right. But it’s so wonderful that we can take great hope in redemption because Christ came to save us from that pride that we experience through the worship of sleep and to save us from the curse of sin and our slavery to it. Jesus came and he lived a perfect life. But he also lived as a man who needed sleep. Just like we do, he slept and he rested. He didn’t do everything that he could have done while he was here on earth, but he did do all that the Father commanded him to do. When we are living as free in Christ, we can rest, both in deed, when we’re resting from our striving and having to do it all. Or when we actually take time to rest, and we literally lay down our head at night, on the pillow, we know that we don’t have to be anxious because God is in control. That is just something that for me, I really struggle with at night when I get a chance to sleep. Oftentimes, it is plagued by anxiousness. For me, this is a really a huge hope that I remember that God isn’t taking a break, he isn’t resting, and he is continuing to move all things towards his eternal plan.

Emily:  Just a little note on restoration; some day, we’re not going to be exhausted any more. Praise the Lord! [laughs] That is something that we can look ahead to while we are living this life, and sacrificing for the sake of others, in order to love them and show them mercy. We can know this isn’t our forever reality, and that someday, Jesus is going to come back. He's going to set everything right, make everything new again, and we’re going to be rejoicing in heaven. Not tired, not stumbling over our words because we can’t remember anything, [laughter] but just fully awake in him. 

Just to bring us down to earth a little bit, what does this mean for us today? When Laura and I were thinking of this show, we started a conversation about sleep training. But as we started thinking about it more, the real underlying issue is just what do moms do with sleeplessness, and the stressors around that? The gospel speaks to how our heart should be oriented as we go without sleep – whether it’s a few hours here and there, or a really long season because children have health problems sometimes, disabilities, or they even have colic. That is really where the gospel applies.

Laura:  We’re going to tick through a few points here of taking that gospel down to practical. The first piece is we can now trust God, and accept that sleep is a good gift from him, and a real physical need, instead of trying to act like we’re superhuman. Or that we are like God, and just recognizing our limits. We do need sleep; that is a reality. We love others better when we are rested. It is okay to desire sleep and to take practical steps to be able to sleep in a healthy way. Naps [laughter] are okay; I feel like especially for me, that's something where I do struggle with taking naps! Not to feel selfish, or feel like I am not being productive. For some personalities and some people, that can be really hard. It’s important to remember within certain boundaries, those things are okay. Go to bed at 8 p.m. and don’t feel guilty about it [laughter] when you have a newborn, or other seasons. You don’t have to be a martyr.

Emily:  And that you’re not more holy for foregoing more sleep because you're going to push it out and grind it out. [laughs]

Laura:  That's right because you're only made holy in Christ! [laughter] You know that this isn’t going to make you become a better mom somehow because you've gutted it out on no sleep. 

Emily:  The second thing is we need to trust God when we can’t sleep, and we need to give it up sometimes for the sake of loving others. This is really hard; we talked about how Jesus did sleep because we need it. But he also laid down his rights in order to show mercy to others. Sometimes he might have wanted to sleep or rest, but he wanted do the will of the Father. I have to remind myself of this. That it is merciful to get up and change a diaper in the middle of the night for a child who cannot take care of themselves, to feed a helpless, hungry baby, or to be in bed with a sick child and be up stroking their head. These are all sacrifices that image God’s love for us, and show mercy to others. 

Laura:  That's right. The third point is we believe that God will, and can sustain us, no matter what happens or what season we are in. We can depend on him in all things; even in those really difficult situations. There are times where you will not be getting the sleep that you need, and there will be times where you will get that. But in those seasons when you're not getting it - maybe due to medical or dietary needs, pregnancy insomnia or postpartum insomnia, or colic, we could go on and on for probably some of these reasons or seasons. But in these situations, remember that God will sustain you. There are scripture after scripture that talks about this; of just casting all your anxieties on God for he cares for you, and casting your burdens on the Lord, he sustains you.

We can list a few of these in the show notes since we don’t have time to go through them today. But the verses go on forever, and remember that God delights in helping the weak and needy, and those who know their need for him.

Emily:  We can definitely list some of those references because they're very encouraging. 

Then we just wanted to make a quick note about gospel application to sleep training. No, the point of the show is not to give a bunch of practical examples. [laughter] 

Laura:  And we’re not telling you how we sleep train our children [laughter], or what position we have on sleep training because there is freedom in Christ within boundaries, right Em?

Emily:  Yes!

Laura:  On the surface, here are some general (the classic Risen Motherhood style that we do) guidelines to think about when considering methods to help your child sleep.

Emily:  Yes. First of all, Laura already said it, we have freedom in Christ. Again, there is no scripture reference on sleep training. God does not have a formula for it; it’s going to vary by time and culture, family situation, child needs and the millions things. I would just say -  Laura and I would both admit that every single one of our kids has been different.

Laura:  That's right. We have eight kids between us, and we’ve done different methods for all of our kids. Even on one child, we've tried different things. Remember no matter what kind of method that you choose to use, that it all goes back to the heart. It can be very easy if you find success, or if you find failure to think and feel a lot of different things. Thinking that you're superior to others maybe, or judging a mom who is doing a different method than you. Even giving off a certain attitude about your method, your language and advice, or your talking with others. 

Just be careful to not generalize, or make another mom feel shame or badly because her child is sleeping in a different way than yours, or she's employing a different method than you. 

Also, just to speak to the mom who's struggling with making a decision right now, or who's struggling in the midst of a child who is having difficulties sleeping. Remember to give yourself grace, and give the method grace in the process. Just remember where your identity is found. It’s not found in the way you sleep train, or in the way your child ends up actually sleeping. Your child is not a robot; they're not going to live by the handbooks. We just want to encourage that mom who is really struggling right now; that this is a hard season, but Christ has not left you alone. Keep rehearsing the gospel to yourself and remember that God is using even this to prune and sharpen your heart towards him.

Emily:  Yes. So persevere. It is okay to want to teach and train our children towards healthy habits. Sleep, just like healthy food, is one of their basic needs, so go forth mom. But again, like Laura said, don’t put your identity there. We want to be willing to lay down what we need sometimes for the sake of loving others. 

Just to end on another note, pray for sleep. That's okay to pray for – cry out to the Lord when you're exhausted. Get advice from others that you trust. Maybe even look for moments where you are wrongly putting your hope in sleep, instead of putting it in Christ. Trust that God can sustain you, even in your tiredness because true rest is found in Christ alone. We hope that gives you at least something to think about while you're rubbing your tired eyes. [laughter] 

Hopefully you did not fall asleep while listening to this – wake up! [laughter] You can find more resources, verses and all kinds of good stuff in our show notes on risenmotherhood.com. You can also check us out on social media @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter



This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. First off, we just wanted to ask you guys, if you haven’t yet to consider jumping on iTunes and leaving us a review. It really helps other moms find the podcast, and it’s a huge blessing to us. There is a short tutorial for that on our website that we’ll link to on our show notes if you need to know how. Or there’s some troubleshooting there. But it should just take a few minutes of your time.

Then, today we’re going to talk about something that is a little bit of a “Christianese” - Christian language that gets thrown around a lot. It’s one of those you’re like, “Can I say that; I don’t really know what that means!” It’s “preaching the gospel to yourself.”

Laura:  Exactly. It’s totally one of those things that there’s a hashtag on Instagram for, or people say a lot and it sounds really nice. But you’re like, “That sounds kind of theoretically ambiguous. What does that really look like on a practical level?” That’s something that Emily and I are going to talk through today - what does it look like for a mom – or really, any human – but what does it look like for us as believers to preach the gospel to ourselves?

Emily you were telling me about a funny picture that you always have when you hear it?

Emily:  Yes! Whenever I’ve heard “preach the gospel to yourself …” Okay I am just kind of a literal person. I just imagine that you go shut yourself in your room, and you’re like, “Okay, Lord, I need to remember that my identity is in Christ.” [laughter] And we’re saying it out loud. I just cannot get a preacher out of my head! [laughter]

Laura:  You go get your podium, you get your congregation in front of you and you just preach it! [laughter]

Emily:  I know. I am like, if that is literally what that means, my kids would destroy my house by the time that sermon was over. [laughter]

Laura:  What exactly is it to preach the gospel to yourself? It’s really simple in actuality, but it does sound a little bit hard in theory. 

It is a very vital part of the Christian walk. We all know that you’re always telling yourself something and you’re always kind of preaching to yourself. The question is, are you preaching the gospel to yourself, or are you preaching your own desires and wants, or maybe the messages of the world? That’s something we’re going to talk through – how to change the conversation in your mind. What’s that quote Emily? There is a quote that’s like, “Most of your problems are because you’re listening to yourself, not speaking to yourself …?” I feel like there’s a quote out there that’s very deep and wise, and it’s all about basically “talk to yourself; don’t just listen to yourself.”

Emily:   We can’t really talk to ourselves about the gospel, and again, I am not necessarily saying talking out loud – that’s what always comes to my mind – but just thinking thoughts in your head about the gospel, if we don’t know and understand it. There is no way to understand the gospel without spending time in the Word of God. Also having some sort of mnemonic device like we use on the show – creation, fall, redemption, restoration – to help us anchor some of our thoughts to these different pieces, and really become fluent in it. That is something we’ve got to understand and have solid in our brain , in order to even put right thoughts into our mind. We have to be transformed with the truth of God’s Word.

Laura:  Even for today’s show, something that I’ve been realizing is the words, “the gospel” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, especially in different cultures. If you’ve been a listener of the show, I think you’ll know exactly what we mean with creation, fall, redemption, restoration. But for today’s purposes, basically, it’s what we talk about every week. We’re created by God for his purposes, and for his glory. We sinned and that separated us from God. But God, in his mercy, sent his son Jesus Christ to be the ultimate sacrifice for our behalf, rescuing us from his rightful judgement so that we can enjoy fellowship with him again. Now, we’re able to look forward to the day when Christ will return and restore creation, for us to be with him forever. 

That is the gospel; that is the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s bad news and then it’s good news followed right up from the bad news. We wouldn’t know that it’s good news if it didn’t have the bad news and understanding of what that is. Now that we’ve defined what the gospel is, and that we want to start preaching that truth to ourselves, what does it mean for a mom in 2018? 

Emily:  Yes. We’re going to work through some examples of things that probably happened to Laura and I [laughter] ...

Laura:  We won’t say they're real examples, but then we won’t say they’re not real examples.

Emily:  But maybe they’ve happened to you before. But even if they haven’t, hopefully this gives you an example of what we’re talking about. Let’s just say [laughter] that your kids are getting all up in your biz, and they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing. Your reaction is to yell at them. You realize as soon as you’ve done that – you know, somebody starts crying – and you're like, “Oh man, they're crying, not because they feel godly sorrow, but because I rebuked them in a way I should not have.” Then the horrible mom feeling (the cloud of “I am a horrible mom”) comes down on you.

Laura:  Yes, guilt, condemnation. Basically you're feeling all this guilt and all of this condemnation. You feel bad for what you did, and you're starting to feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit prompting you in your heart.  A lot of times for me I am fighting it. I don’t want to repent; my pride is in there and I am just fighting it so much. Especially when it concerns my children because “I am superior, I am the adult, and I can do what I want.” I tell myself I don’t owe them anything. 

Emily:  Step one is self-justification.

Laura:  Yes! [laughs] That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in and nudges, and I feel like, “Mm, that is not truth. That is my sinful self talking to me.” As we're talking about, that’s listening  to yourself and listening to your natural inclinations. This is where you start to preach the gospel to yourself. 

Basically preaching the gospel boils down to looking at yourself through a gospel lens. So the first piece is recognizing and repenting of your sin. What that might look like here is admitting that you should not have yelled at your children, admitting that that was sinful the way that you reacted out in pride, and you reacted out of selfishness. It could be different for different people for different reasons. Admit that sin, stop and repent that, and then remind yourself of truth. Reminding yourself of God’s goodness, of his beauty, and placing your identity back in him. 

What that part will look like is you remind yourself that you're not defined by how you just yelled at your children. You are defined by Christ’s righteousness. Emily has used this example on the show a few times before, but you receive Christ’s perfect record of an A, when yours is actually a terrible, awful, big, fat F. Not only do you receive his perfect record, but you also have access to all that Christ has, which means that you can now be patient with your children, and you can speak kindly to them. You can actually go over and apologize; humble yourself, and apologize to your children. Also forgive them for whatever grievance that they have caused you, even if they don’t recognize it, or apologize for it themselves. But because Christ is in you and your identity is found in him, he is working in your heart, and you are able to access the wealth of resources that he has provided for you.  

Emily:   That is kind of a compilation of some thoughts that might go through your mind as you are processing through this situation. Either right when it happened or after it happened, later in the day or whenever that is. This is where scripture memory is also really important, and knowing what God’s Word says because his Word is living and active. These truths come with a punch. Romans 8:1 is a good example. “There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Also remembering something like Psalms 103:12 – “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” When we think about, how I am really, totally free from the penalty of this sin that I deserve, it produces a worshipful heart. It can actually usher us into joy as we look and turn our eyes onto Christ. Instead of remembering and reviewing this situation we were just in with our kids over and over again, and rehearsing, we can move on from it, which is just amazing. That is just one example.

Laura:  Really practically, I feel like some of you guys are probably sitting there thinking, “Okay, that sounds really good but I don’t have that kind of vocabulary.” Or, “That doesn’t come super easily to me.” Or, “My thoughts don’t go that way.” I know we’re going to talk a little bit more about the practical later on in the show on how you grow in this skill. But that is what I want to encourage you with here, right in the middle of the show, that don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel like you know how to talk to yourself like this.  This is a skillset that you will grow in. Know that Emily and I aren’t perfect at this; we’re growing in this skill, and we’re doing a show on it! In the show, we’re really speaking out of a place that says, “Hey, we’re learning and growing and getting better at this skillset, and we want to get better at it along with you guys.” 

Emily, do you think it would be helpful to walk through a couple more examples? 

Emily:  Because there are other examples. Some of you can’t relate to yelling, [laughs] or outbursts of anger. 

Laura:  Cannot relate to yelling? Who are you? I want to meet you! [laughter]

Emily:  But maybe another thing that happens to some of us is, maybe you're just having a hard day. You’re stressed out, and there's lots of pressure. Maybe during that time, or whenever it is, you kind of sneak off into the pantry and break open a bag of M&Ms, or cookies or chips. I don’t know what it is for you, and you just lose self control and eat way too much. It is just a direct coping mechanism, so you can just comfort yourself while you're stressing out.

Laura:  Stress eating, yes. Okay, how do you preach the gospel to yourself in this situation? A lot of times we’re probably eating this yummy, sweet treat, and we’re thinking, “I deserve this.” Or, “I worked so hard today.” Or, “This tastes so good.” Or whatever we’re thinking. Reality is, we have to stop up and repent, and recognize our sin. Right? That is the first step. We shouldn’t have responded to whatever that stressor is that caused our binge by losing our self control, and finding our comfort in other things than God. That is the sin issue; that is just recognizing it and then we repent and just remind ourselves, “I should have gone to Christ and I should have leaned on him. But I have already eaten this food, I have already stress-ate hardcore, and so now it’s time to remember.” A great example is in Christ; that he never responded wrongly to stress, and he actually paid for our sin by dying on the cross for our sins. Now we don’t have to be defined by that big, old food binge that we just went through. 

Emily:  We can be thankful for what he did, and that can help us remember like, “Hey, because of Christ, because of the Holy Spirit in us, we can have self control. Or at least pray for self control going forward, and have hope. Know that at least, at the very least, someday we’re going to be delivered from our inability to control ourselves in certain situations when we want to run to, and depend on God. 

I love this line in the New Testament; Jesus says, “Go and sin no more.” Again that is another thing we have in Christ is this “go and sin no more” mentality. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be perfect, but we can continue to turn our eyes upon God, and remember what it is we’re living for. What it is that is the most important thing. 

Another example really quick is gossip. Maybe you went to a play date, and you sat down and started talking with someone and sharing about another mom in a way that made her look bad. Maybe you were being judgmental about her choices, or about her heart motivations. As Laura said, the first place to start is to recognize that you’ve already started to doubt your identity in Christ when you're gossiping about someone. You're basically, in so many words, trying to compare yourself to others and make yourself feel better. There is this feeling of, “Well, if she looks bad, and I share this truth, well then does that make what I am doing a little bit more right? Do I feel a little bit more justified?” That in itself is a denial of the gospel.

Laura:  In that instance, you haven’t loved your sister-in-Christ well, and you haven’t loved her as a fellow image bearer. That, again, as Emily was talking about, you recognize that sin and then you repent and recognize, “That was wrong, and I don’t want to do that anymore, or be that way. I don’t have to be that way any longer because Christ paid the penalty that I deserve for the sin that I just committed against God. Therefore I am not defined by those words that I just spoke. I am defined by Christ.” 

So putting our identity back in him, and while we know that we do deserve judgement for the wrong things that we said, how amazing is it that we receive grace? This is the part of preaching the gospel to our self. Where, as Emily said, it can induce and incite worship and joy because we recognize, “Oh man, I just screwed up really terribly, and I am so thankful that because of Christ, I am going to receive grace right now, and have an inheritance of an eternity with my King because of his sacrifice and death on the cross.” Now we’re able to cross correct - we can speak words of life, we can focus on speaking words that come from the fruit of the Spirit, and tame our tongue with self control. We can walk in freedom. We may need to go back and also apologize to whomever we were with on that play date as well. Make sure that we ask forgiveness for those grievances against the Lord and against others.  

Emily:  Another thing we can do in addition to preaching the gospel to ourselves that can help us grow in this is sharing this truth with your friends and with those who we are trying to grow in gospel-centered motherhood with. That would be when they are sharing a struggle or a problem. Affirming the reality of the curse and of sin, and how hard that is, and coming alongside them in that, and saying, “Yes, this is hard sister.” But then also reminding her as you’re reminding yourself that we’re no longer defined in that. That’s something we can do with other moms who are trusting in Christ. In that, we can learn to preach the gospel to ourselves as we are telling it to each other because sometimes it’s easier to say to another person than it is to speak it into your own life.

Laura:  That is a great way to train those thoughts. Something that I’ve been challenged by this year with my Bible study at my church, is when a mom or any woman shares something that’s going on in her life and is difficult, they have challenged us to ask the question, “Hey, what has God been teaching you in that?” Or, “Have you read anything lately in the Bible that has really challenged you in applying what you're learning towards that situation?” 

That’s just some key phrases that have helped me to talk to other moms, and to take a conversation deeper than the whole like, “Oh, I don’t know whether or not to use Pampers or Huggies. What do I do?” That’s a great way to take a conversation deeper when you see a mom having anxiety about diaper brands, which I have seen happen. Preach the gospel to her in that, and remind her where her true peace and identity is found. Obviously a lot of the situations will be a lot bigger, and deeper and more important than diaper choices. But just as an example of just speaking the truth to her in love, and remembering too that, if you don’t speak in love, you're just a clanging gong. So part of the gospel is the love of Christ. 

Emily:  Definitely pray. This is a major area where I’ve learned to preach the gospel to myself is praying God’s Word, and praying these different pieces over some of the stressors in my day. You can also, again, just study the Bible, and know the big story of the Bible and how it fits together. We have lots of resources on our website for that. 

Then there's lots of great books out there that can train you in doing this. Things like a Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent, or Show Them Jesus, by Jack Klumpenhower. Or CrossTalk by Michael Emlet. There's all these different ones – Gospel Fluency - Laura and I have not read that, but we’ve heard it goes through all of these things. We’ll have all of these things on our show notes, but just practice, read about it, think about it and meditate on it. It’s just amazing to see how that can transform our lives. 

Laura:  Em, did you want to share a little bit of the practical about where this happens – preaching the gospel to yourself?

Emily:  Yes. It doesn’t have to happen in a bedroom by yourself with the door closed, speaking out loud. For me, it just happens in the quiet of my mind. When sometimes I can be in the car driving - a lot of stuff happened before we got in the car and I am feeling kind of down about that. That’s when that can happen. Other times it can happen almost when I am laying in bed at night before I go to sleep, or in the early mornings. Sometimes I just need to sequester myself a little bit and take a moment after we’ve had a stressful time. It can happen all throughout the day, and it’s just something I am processing in my mind. Is that true for you Laura?

Laura:  It’s not usually audible for me. So for Emily’s literal mind [laughter] over there – trying to appease it – but it’s definitely in my mind, and sometimes it’s in the moment of something happening. Like I will be overreacting to something, or whatever, and I am reminding myself of that truth. There's a tension and it’s hard. Thankfully the gospel will always win. But there is an element too – as Emily was saying – it might happen a few hours later, or a day later. I think that God brings things to mind at different points. 

But a lot of this is just really being in tune and in step with the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, and trusting him to work in your life, and respond to that prompting. It is a gift – when you are prompted to repent, that is a true mark of a believer. We just want to encourage you; those nudges that you feel in your heart, do not ignore them. Really pay attention to those pieces - that is where you can preach the gospel to yourself and transform your outlook on your day, and on who you are. Placing that identity right back to where it should be – on Christ. 

Emily:  Yes. Amen. If you want to find out more about this, you can check out our show notes @risenmotherhood.com. We’ll be talking about it this week on our social media platforms at Risen Motherhood on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for joining us guys.


This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura, with my sister-in-law, Emily, and today we want to invite all of you guys to check out our resources page. We talked about this a little bit on the last show, but essentially, on the resources page we have is a bunch of books, music, Bible study tools – I can’t think of anything else – [laughter] but there’s a lot of really cool stuff over there that Emily and I and the rest of the Risen Motherhood team has curated, all to help equip you in gospel-centered motherhood. Something that Emily and I say on the show a lot is we do not know everything, but we have learned a lot from wise people, authors, wise women in our lives, and people who’ve  developed amazing products. We’ve learned a lot from them and we want to share those resources with you, to help equip you. 

Because today’s show is all about self-care, maybe a piece of that puzzle for you will be reading a new book, or finding a way to set up some new tools in your quiet time. We thought that might be a nice piece to point you towards at risenmotherhood.com\resources. Or you can find that link all over our social media pages and very easily from the homebase of risenmotherhood.com. We encourage you to go over there and check that out.

Emily:  As Laura said, we are talking about self-care. This is actually kind of a 2.0 episode for us because if you dig way deep into our archives, this was the second show we ever released. I literally don’t even know what we said. I am not encouraging you to listen to it, I am just saying that it’s there. [laughter] We’ve grown a lot since that time, but we wanted to just talk about this again because it is something that comes up over and over for us in motherhood. Us personally, and for all moms because we’re exhausted. [laughter]  No matter how many children you have, you’re tired, and you’re like, “I don’t know how to function.” “I don’t know how to balance my need for basic things like sleep and mental processing time with all the things that my children and family need.”

Laura:  I tend to be on the side of go, go, go. Never stopping, very little self-care, and living like I don’t have any limits. I know that that’s something that this year God has really been teaching me. I feel like he has just piled on many things where I’ve been forced to stop and say, “I need help. I can’t do this.” I am really thankful for that lesson, and I am excited to talk about it more today.

Emily:  It’s been really interesting. Laura added a child this year, and I added our fifth child. I keep thinking that I am going to understand this balance a little bit better, but it’s still so hard. Every time I think there’s nothing left to give, there is more to give [laughter] and lay down for the sake of caring for others. But this time around too, I’ve also just been faced with my own limitations – like Laura said – in all of the fact that I cannot just go and do everything forever. I need to also rest in Christ. Sometimes I need practical things to help me serve and love others better. We’re going to try to talk about that a little bit today, and we totally get that it feels selfish to take time for yourself.

Laura:  That’s one of the hardest pieces! I just feel so selfish whenever I do take time away because I see the to-do list, I see the needs of the family, my own needs that are outside of that self-care piece. 

So, let’s walk through the gospel. We can find a nice balance in this because a lot of people can sway into two different ditches. With creation, we can see that God created Adam and Eve, and he provided everything that they needed. They had very purposeful work to do, they were to rule over creation, subdue the earth, bring order to the chaos, be fruitful and multiply. They had purpose and they had work that they were supposed to do. They also trusted God to care for them. They trusted him to provide everything that they needed. They didn’t need extra self-care and they didn’t need to carve away time for self-care. 

God was there caring for them. He walked and talked with them. I like that you can look at creation and see how God has self-care in a way, where he took a day of rest. He took a break, and he doesn’t even need to. That’s just a really neat piece that we can see, rest is a gift from God. It reminds us that we are human, and that we serve a gracious and generous God that provides for all of our needs. 

Emily:  When we look at the fall, of course we see that Adam and Eve unfortunately were not fully satisfied in everything God created. They disobeyed him by trying to seek fulfillment outside of what he had provided, and when they did that, sin entered the world. Now, in a post-sin world, we know that our bodies get physically sick and worn down. Our bodies die; they lose energy and strength. Our minds cannot handle everything – we have mental health issues. There are things like anxiety, depression and chronic stress that impact all different types of people. We get overwhelmed easily, we are limited– just in general. 

There are now a couple of camps that we can kind of fall into, or ditches, if you want to use that term. One is that we’re too tempted to think that we’re unlimited as God is unlimited. Like, “I am never going to take a break.” “I can always just forego more sleep.” “I don’t need reasonable refreshment or physical nourishment or healthy habits, community or spiritual disciplines. I can just do it all if I just try harder.” That is one area that we fall into.

Laura:  The other side of the ditch, or camp that Emily was saying, we start to abuse the gift of rest and self-care. We can escape through it. We say like, “Oh, there’s just too much to do, I am so overwhelmed that God has asked me to take care of all these things.” Instead of going to Christ and relying on his strength, we basically just shut down. We start thinking, “I just need a little bit more sleep, TV, exercise, hobbies or time with my friends. I just want to be really comfortable in my life then I’ll be happier. If I can just find this extra piece, I am going to be happier instead of relying on Christ to be my strength.” We start running to all the wrong places.

Emily:  But we know in redemption that Jesus has struck this balance perfectly, and in a way we should emulate. Instead of staying comfy in heaven with God, where he had all these things, he loved us so much that he came to earth. He lay down the pleasures of heaven for the sake of loving us and dwelling with us. He experienced all of these types of human stressors and discomforts that we experience. 

But we also know that he took appropriate time to rest, to care for the needs that he had in a physical body – he ate food, slept, even when it seemed crazy to others. He took time away to be alone with God. He stopped and lingered over the teaching of scripture. He did skilled work (that we assume he enjoyed doing), and he lived in a community of people. Again, Jesus lived as a human, and he did take appropriate self-care.
But we also know there were times when he went without food. There were times when he stayed awake later than he probably felt like. He was probably tired because he needed to minister to others. There were times when he prayed when other people were sleeping. He allowed himself to be swarmed with these needy people when he probably just wanted to be alone. We also know that he lays down his will in every circumstance in order to do the Father’s will. That is an example for us.

Laura:  Exactly. We know that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we are now able to serve Christ and his purposes. That our lives are no longer our own, but we belong to God. We no longer need to look out for our own comforts, or act like we’re totally limitless and can do anything that we want. But instead, that we’re able to emulate the life and work of Jesus Christ – spreading the gospel, and having an opportunity to love others through it. 

In this restoration piece, we can be reminded that we live in this tension, “the already, but not yet.” We want to be able to do these things and emulate the life of Christ. But at the same time, we’re living in these broken bodies that we were talking about in the fall. We have limits. We have true and real needs. In this tension, we can recognize that these needs are what makes us human, but they also remind us that we can take on this good gift from God for rest. 

When we rest in Christ it’s really a state of our hearts. That’s the big piece at this point is that we can rest in the future hope of knowing that one day we will live with Christ. We also can know that we have the Holy Spirit. We have the promise of him today, and the ability to serve other people through power that is not our own. Something that has been really challenging to me in 1st Peter 3 – the whole idea of a gentle and quiet spirit. For me, as an extrovert, I used to feel like that meant I need to be really quiet, and to not laugh so loudly or things like that. But really, it’s speaking to the state of your heart. It’s about: Are you finding your peace, your rest, and your hope in God to sustain you and all that you need? Not in your God-given personality and changing it. But really it’s all about resting in the peace that God provides, and knowing that he’s your ultimate sustainer. He will get you through each day with the things that you need to get done. That he’s going to provide the rest that you do need.

Emily:  Of course this applies differently, in many different situations. We all come from different backgrounds, and have different challenges and temptations. Like Laura was alluding to, sometimes our personality can cause us to bend one way or the other. Or maybe be again, too reliant on like, “I can’t give up this comfort” or, “I am going to go, go and I am never going to enjoy the good gift of physical rest that God gave.” We just wanted to share some principles we can remember and think about as we’re processing what we should do with self-care. 

The first thing that we already mentioned, but we’re saying again, is weaknesses and limitations are part of our humanness. Rest is a good gift from God. I’ll just have to remember this – God does not rely on me to keep the entire world or my entire family running. [laughter] He is in control, and he owns everything and is able to supply any need. To think that it all relies upon me is a really wrong, warped view. [laughs]

Laura:  Yes. Something that the Lord has really taught me this year, as I was sharing a little bit, of being pushed down to my knees and basically saying that I cannot do all of this, is when we recognize our limits and our humanness, that ultimately provides an opportunity for other people to help and to serve us. That is a gift. For the first time in my life I really saw like, “Oh, this is amazing to receive help.” 

In the past I’d always felt so equipped for whatever the day-to-day brought. When I finally reached my limit and people were like, “Let me bring you meals,” or, “Let me just take your kids for a couple of hours,” I was finally like, “Yes! This is a huge gift. [laughter] Thank you so much.” It’s a gift to those people too who are serving. It’s a blessing for them to be able to help you. I know you guys are probably heard that before, but it is true.

Emily:  Yes. Even for your husband, or your family members, your friends from church to come alongside you, it is a very difficult thing to receive help sometimes but it is a good gift from God. That’s why we live in community. 

The second principle I just wanted to bring to the table is that we have to submit ourselves to Christ and know that a life following him is going to require sacrifice and make us uncomfortable. [laughs] It’s right there in scripture - I can’t remember the verse right off the top of my head. But it’s something about if you desire to follow Christ you will suffer [laughter].

Laura:  It’s true. Even as moms, when kids wake up in the middle of the night, they’re puking in the car. That recently happened to me - a huge sickness hit the car. [laughter] We feel like we’re constantly running late because there are all these little needs that we’re having to take care of. I know that it can just feel like there’s constantly not only little things that are coming our way, there are also big trials that make our lives uncomfortable or difficult. But we also know, as Emily said, that as a believer, it’s a costly life. If you’re a mom, loving your children, passing along the gospel to them, doing ministry for others, it’s very costly. That might mean giving up temporal things for eternal gain. We don’t know what that exact balance is. Emily and I keep talking about this big pendulum swing that’s happening. We don’t know what that exact balance is for you, but that is why we want to know scripture and walk in the light of Christ.

Emily:  The third thing we would just wanted to bring to the table again is that true rest and self-care is found in Christ alone. While there are physical and practical things we can do for ourselves which we absolutely should do, if we can. There was a time, again, after this transition with our fifth child, I was like, “Why do I feel so ragged?” A short examination of my life was like, “Well, these are really basic things you need to re-insert into hour life.” So do those things. But the reality is, no self-care time you’ve carved away, no Friday night out with your friends, no special date night, to special 24 hours to yourself, or a full night of sleep can really quench that part of you that needs rest, that is emotionally exhausted and stressed out. I feel like I am still learning this. It’s hard because you think like, “If I just get this thing, I am going to be rested.” But the only thing that fills that is Christ.

Laura:  That’s exactly right. I know there are so many times where for naptime I am so looking forward to like, “Okay, I can just sit down.” Especially when I was pregnant, I was like, “Okay, the first half hour will be a nap. The second half hour will be TV and snack time. The third half hour I’ll maybe get some work done.”

I am living for the nap; I am so excited for the nap. I have it all mapped out, and then what happens? My four-year-old’s coming downstairs like ten times and my two-year-old decides to not nap that day or whatever that may be. That is where it’s like, “Okay  Lord, all I have is you. I can only trust for you to be my sufficiency, not my naptime.” I know there’s a Gloria Furman quote that we put on Instagram a few times, I am kind of doing it from memory here, but she talks about, “Naps are well and good, but if I put my hope in that, it will fail me.” [laughter] That is essentially what’s happening here. Any time that we start to idolize that self-care, or that moment where we feel like, “I just have to get to bedtime.” “I just have to get to that play date and everything will be fine and I’ll feel so much better.” That is putting our hope on shifting sands, and we cannot count on anything other than Christ.

Emily:  Again, consider your heart; everything goes back to that. We cannot look in from the outside and say, “Oh, you must be getting too much self-care. Looks like you’re going out with your friends a lot more than this other person is. You must be wrongly valuing that.” No, we cannot tell from the outside. It’s all a matter of the heart, and where you’re putting your hope and your trust. 

A few questions to leave you guys with today is: What areas of life might you be failing to acknowledge your own limitations? Are you thinking that you can literally do everything without taking a break, saying no, or having a rest, and you’re just going to be able to keep going? Or are you willing to do less in some areas, and trust God that he has other ways of providing for those things?

Laura:  On the flipside of that, a good question to ask yourself is: What areas are you using self-care time as a crutch, or really living for self-care? Are you avoiding responsibilities that God has given you as a mom? Are you trying to find some extra ways to squeeze it in where it doesn’t really fit? That’s where you can just pray. Ask God to strength you, and remember where your identity and your eternal reward is found in heaven.

Emily:  Definitely get time in the Word of God. That’s going to be the most refreshing thing we can do is to just be connected to the truth of his Word. Remember always that God is unchanging. 

We hope that we were able to give you guys a few things to chew on as you are processing through what self-care looks like. If you are sometimes exhausted and ran ragged [laughter] like Laura and I are, [laughs] and you’re wondering how do I experience true and lasting rest? There’s definitely some things to consider.

Laura:  If you want to check out those resources that we talked about, maybe a great new book might be something that you can do for self-care. Head over to risenmotherhood.com. you’ll also find all the show notes there where we’ll post links and other things about this topic of self-care that we just discussed today on the show. Of course we’ll have more on social media. As always find us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook @risenmotherhood.com. That’s it, thanks guys.


Ep. 85 || Same Grace, Unique Circumstances: Every Mom is your Neighbor TRANSCRIPT

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. We are so excited to be back for 2018 and a whole new year, a whole new theme. I am Emily Jensen, here with my sister-in-law, Laura Wifler. 

Fun fact, we’re actually recording this pre-2018 because when this episode airs, Laura is going to be moving into my neighborhood. 

Laura:  [laughs] At least a couple of cornfields away, right Emily? [laughter] Right now the news isn’t public when we’re recording here in December. But by the time the show airs, I will likely be up to my ears in moving boxes. We are moving to Central Iowa, where Emily and Becca, both of my sisters-in-law, are living. We are really excited that my husband was able to get a position there – something that affords much better work-life balance. I think that most of you guys know this is something we have been pursuing for a few years now.

Of course I am really going to miss our community here in Chicago. We have been blessed with an amazing church family that you guys have heard me talk about a lot on the show. But at the same time, really looking forward to being so close to Emily and Becca and their families. We get to record shows in person in the future, which is going to be awesome! [laughter]

Emily:  Although for those of you guys who’ve listened to this show for a while know when we record in person we get a little bit sillier [laughter] and we laugh a little bit more. We’re just excited to grow in that, and have Laura around in person. It’s so cool. Another change coming in 2018 is the launch of Patreon. We are really excited about this and we’ll explain more. But in short, it is a way for you guys to join our community and support what we’re doing as a ministry.

Laura:  So long story short, and to not take up a ton of the show, as you guys can imagine as the ministry grows, so do the expenses associated with running it. Over the past few years, Emily and I have consistently paid for Risen Motherhood out of pocket. Just know that it has not been a burden; it has been a joy to us. We have loved this ministry – we love the eternal work that we’re able to participate in and we feel very humbled to have a platform like this. Over the past two years, that has just been a gift to us to support this ministry. 

In this past six months, we have been blessed by being able to supplement with affiliate sales and with generous spot donations from women, that we didn’t solicit for, that God has just truly provided in his wonderful way. But at this point, it’s getting too expensive for us to consistently pay for that out-of-pocket and to even be covered by some of these other pieces that women and affiliate sales are providing. 

So we are launching Patreon. It’s a platform where fans of ministries or brands can support those brands to continue through their dollars. We have different levels for you to be able to give at - it’s  $2, $5, $10 and $30 each month. There are different perks that you unlock, which is an exciting feature.

Emily:  There’s things like prints, so you can get them for the background of your phone, and downloadables. There’s also some great handbooks; you can start a Podcast Club, which is something you may not have ever heard of before, but you can find out about it on Patreon. There’s also handbooks for starting Bible study and there’s an opportunity to have a video call with Laura and I. Potentially, depending on what level you’re at, you can also get a Risen Motherhood t-shirt. I am actually jealous of that because I don’t have one, and I want one Laura.

Laura:  You’re going to donate at that level Emily. Sorry! [laughter]

Emily:  There are a ton of things that come with it if you are able to contribute. We would just love it if you guys would come alongside us in what we are getting to do, to share the gospel with moms all over the world. We get amazing emails every week, and messages from moms everywhere, that are in various circumstances and different countries. Some that are missionaries, and some that just want to learn and grow and know how does the gospel impact this really mundane thing that I am dealing with in my everyday life? Laura and I are learning about that; that’s what we’re sharing about. But we are excited to continue providing resources. Though we also need – again, like Laura said – financial help to keep doing that.

Laura:  Yes. If you’re looking for a detailed tick list on where that money is going, head over to patreon.com/risenmotherhood, and you can see exactly how we’re going to use all of the funding. We’re sure that some of you are wondering why we’re not doing ads. This is a really good question, and something that Emily and I thought through for a really long time. We know that these are a great option for a lot of podcasts out there. But for us right now, part of it is that we don’t want to give up 1 – 3 minutes of the show in order to do an ad. Since we have such short shows that are 20 minutes, and we hear from a lot of you that you love the timeframe of the show, we don’t want to feel like we’re eating up precious minutes, or extending the show beyond that time. 

Another piece is because right now, Emily and I are able to endorse all of our products very authentically. If you’ve been a follower of Risen Motherhood for any amount of time, you know that we have a very robust resources page that is heavily accessed by many of you. We also share a lot of resources on Instagram and Facebook, IG Stories, and all of those things. We want to be able to continue feeling like, “Oh, we don’t have to hawk this product because we’re getting sponsored for it.” Right now you guys can know that every single product that we do show you through the show or social media is all very authentic. It’s not muddied with dollars and feeling like, “Hey, this is something that we’re getting paid for versus something that we’re not.”

Emily:  Another way that you can support Risen Motherhood, just to throw this in there, is, if you buy something off of our resources page where an Amazon affiliate program, and that doesn’t change what we put on that page since Laura and I authentically curate those resources. It takes like a tiny, small percentage that helps support what we do at Risen Motherhood. That is even helpful if you utilize our resources page to buy various things that you want to use to help you learn in gospel-centered motherhood. 

Again, Patreon is very simple. This isn’t something we want to talk about every single show; this is something we hope we only have to mention maybe a couple of times a year. It was just a way for us to partner with you guys in the spread of the gospel to moms all over the world. We would just be so honored if you would just consider giving. The last thing really quick to say is everything is going to remain free that’s already free.

Laura:  Right. Nothing is changing. We want all moms to have access to the resources that are already out there, and to be able to grow together in gospel-centered motherhood. If you did choose to support us, your funding would go towards continuing to create great resources like that. While, yes, there are some perks for the insiders that are within the Patreon community, everything that you see now will continue to remain free. Even if you’re able to give $1 a month, know that that makes a really big difference for the continued running of this ministry. If every listener gave a dollar a month, we would never talk about Patreon again!

Emily:  Exactly!

Laura:  We know that God will provide all that we need. That we won’t get a penny more or less than we need. It’s exactly what he has ordained for us, and so we trust that. But we would just be so humbled if you’d head over and at the very least, check out the page and see what the perks are. Maybe you’ll be enticed to want to join the community. Again, patreon.com/risenmotherhood. Thanks for listening to our spiel.

Okay, let’s get to some real, good meat of the show Emily.

Emily:  [laughs] Yes. For those of you who missed it, we’d like to let you know we had a theme for the year, and it was “Biblical Literacy.” If you caught the last episode of 2018 you heard us introduce our 2017 – 

Laura:  Aah, 2017! 

Emily:  Ah! I love it. I am already wanting to get into the new year – 2017 you heard us introduce our theme for 2018, which is “Unity In The Gospel.” We just wanted to take a few minutes to talk about what we mean by that, where that came from, and how it applies to us as moms.

Laura:  A lot of this came out of the same study that Emily and I did of Ephesians by Keri Fulmar. It was just really neat because as God would ordain it, Emily did it at her church, Spring of 2017, and then I did it at my church the Fall of 2017. And no, our churches did not talk. [laughter] It wasn’t anything like that; it was totally a God thing. If you have studied Ephesians before, or maybe you’ve even done this study that we’re talking about, you know that Paul wrote this letter to a church that was pretty newly formed. The Jews and Gentiles were getting mashed together for the very first time and they were super different from one another. 

But they were also learning at this time how to live life together. The Jews had all these laws that they were used to following – they only ate certain things and did certain practices. The Gentiles were like, “No rules ever!” [laughter] They were just so excited about Jesus. It was interesting to see how Paul just wrote to them, exhorting them to find unity in Christ. Even when there were times when it was very difficult for them to find commonalities. Especially when initially meeting and learning to live life with one another.

They had a lot of external differences that they were dealing with - different behaviors, ethnicities, cultural practice, giftings, social economic levels. Sounds a little bit like us moms today. [laughter]

Emily:  They just had tons of differences. I think it’s really interesting that Paul wasn’t just like, “Okay, there’s no guidelines. Everybody do whatever you want.” He actually spends the last part of Ephesians laying down like, “Here’s the things that matter that all of you do.” He gave structure to the church and to families. He gave a lot of clear instructions, but he was also saying beyond this, the heart of what we need to remember is that in Christ, we are fellow heirs. We all have the same status before God - we are all sinners, we have all fallen short of his glory, and are all desperately in need of the grace of Christ. When he died on the cross, when we put our faith in him, we all become fellow heirs and we all receive his righteousness and the same Holy Spirit inside of our hearts. Then he is building all of us his whole body together, which we need to be a light for Christ in the world. We are unified in that. God sees differences and they’re beautiful, but we’re equal before him. He loves us equally; we’re equally righteous. That’s an important thing that the church in Ephesus needed to remember.

Laura:  If you take that, you can very easily apply it to our world today. Which is what Emily and I are hoping to do, is talking about how as moms, we get into these mom camps. Right? We have, “Oh, I am a home school mom,” “I am a public school mom,” “I am a private school mom.” Maybe it’s food choices – breastfeeding, bottle feeding, how you dress, how your kids are dressed, how you throw a birthday party, what your family dinners look like. We can go on and on about all of these different mom camps. The really big ones that start the mommy wars, and all of the other little ones that we all notice. 

We see that as moms today, we are not so different from the Ephesians. We need the same charge that Paul gave to those moms. We need that in our lives today. Our hope with the theme of “Unity In The Gospel” is that all the things that Emily was saying of being fellow heirs in Christ and image bearers of God, created with the same purpose - to bring God glory. All of those things are applicable to all moms today, no matter what you look like, or what your day is filled with. No matter if you spend it at work, or if you’re at home, or if your kids go to different schools, or they have different types of activities that they participate in. All of us moms, yes, we are very different. But at the heart of it, as believing moms, we all are striving for the same purpose. 

Emily:  I was just listening to a podcast I’ll include on the show notes, where K.A. Ellis was sharing this story of these two Muslim men that were from differing backgrounds – different tribes within the Muslim world – that are just absolutely opposed to each other. These groups hate each other, and these two men became believers and they were in prison together. People could just not believe that they would talk to each other, and they were like brothers in Christ because in the world’s eyes, these two groups were not reconcilable. But in Christ they were reconciled. In Christ, they were in the same family. 

That does apply to us as moms, and we even see we have the same call, like Laura was saying. We’ve tried to lay the foundation for it in Risen Motherhood, but what we want to keep saying is that God has called all of us moms to do the same thing. We want to make disciples of everyone that we come in contact with. We want to love our neighbors as ourselves, to love God, and to honor our husbands. This is going to play out really differently. It’s not that there are no rules, no expectations, [laughs] “live however you want, do whatever makes you feel good, live by your own lot.” No, God does give clear boundaries and expectations. He has standards that he lays out in scripture. But there’s a bunch of grey areas, [laughter] and things that are not spelt out. What we need to do is lay our lives down just as Christ has, and obey God in whatever circumstances he has given us. 

Laura:  Yes. What this looks like practically, first off, we just need to be praying for unity. So in your own life, in interactions with your local church and even for the whole global church. I love that picture that Emily shared about these two brothers-in-Christ really coming together, despite what the world would tell them that they needed to do. Or the way they needed to behave. But they united in the gospel. That’s something that we can be praying for in our own lives. 

Another one is just extending grace to people in your own lives. Modeling unity in the gospel, and encouraging others to do the same. Doing that with our children, talking about what our purpose is here on earth as believers. What are we supposed to be about? So modeling that for your kids. 

Then of course drawing on last year’s theme, growing in biblical literacy – what goes in must come out in. As you get to know God and his word more, your heart will begin to follow. Just remember that we can pray for these things, we can model these things. But we also really need to be asking God to continue to transform our heart. We do that through reading his word and knowing who he is more. Only God is going to enable you to model the love for others that Christ has shown you. To really begin to be unified with moms across cultures, boundaries, different looks and day to days – God is going to do that and transform your life. 

Just like last year, remember that this theme is not going to be explicit in every show. Don’t worry if you’re not super pumped about the theme. [laughter] But hopefully you are pumped, and that we will hopefully weave it in throughout the year. That it will just become this over-arching piece of the puzzle as we do our shows throughout 2018.

Emily:  Thanks also for listening to our Patreon spiel. We hope that you guys go and contribute. It’s patreon.com/risenmotherhood. We’ll be doing a lot more on launch week. On social media, you can find us @risenmotherhood.com on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. There’s lots that you can unlock there; just remember to head over and see what it’s all about. But we are so thankful that you guys have joined us for this crazy journey. Yes, hope you guys have a great 2018.



This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Hello and welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura, and I have my sister-in-law, Emily here with me. We’re excited because this is our last show of 2017!

Emily: Indeed. It’s been a whirlwind year. When we think about planning for 2017, last year and writing down some of our very little goals [laughter] that we just thought would be amazing, it’s just incredible for Laura and I to look back and see what the Lord has done to spread his Word, his gospel, and his kingdom through this ministry. It’s completely blown any little ideas we had out of the water without us [laughs] really feeling like we did anything. God is just so good.

Laura: And all glory to Him for sure. Emily was alluding to this, and I won’t name what our goals were, but they were very small. [laughter]

Emily: But we thought they were huge!

Laura: [laughter] We thought they were huge at the time, good point. It’s been exciting because this year we hit one million downloads, which was a huge milestone. We also have over 1,000 ratings on iTunes and all thanks to you guys. Literally, as we said, this is totally God working and moving to spread the gospel through this podcast. But also you guys have done the hard work of sharing this podcast with your friends; that is the highest honor. We are so humbled to even think that you would share this with your girlfriends because that is the greatest endorsement you could ever give us. Then to leave a review on iTunes because as you guys know iTunes does these weird algorithms that are a combination of downloads, reviews, ratings, and all sorts of other wizardry. [laughter] I’m not really sure. But we are thankful that women are finding us because of the reviews that you’re leaving, because of the iTunes rankings. Thank you for doing that and we just wanted to say just a big thank you on this show.

Emily:  Thank you too for sharing with us how God is using it. We think the numbers are cool, and they’re definitely interesting, and they’re evidence of the way that God’s using it. But even more than that, is when we get emails or messages from you guys, sharing the specific way that God has impacted your motherhood as you’ve meditated on what you have in Christ. We get messages from women all over the world. We’ve gotten notes from women who are missionaries in other countries, where they have don’t have a lot of fellowship with other believers and they’re saying, “I am getting to hear the way that the gospel applies to my motherhood in this area, where I don’t have a lot of other people to connect with.”

We’ve heard from women in Australia, India, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, the U.K. I mean, just all over the world. That is a joy to us to be reaching the nations with the gospel from our living room, or wherever we record. [laughter]

Laura:  We continue to feel like we need to tell you, and you know this, but we are a couple of sinful women. We are unqualified - we do not have seminary degrees, or broadcasting degrees. We’ve never learned anything about podcasting or professionalism in this area, and we are so thankful for God intervening in our imperfections. Him being strong where we are weak. We want to thank you guys for sticking with us; some of you guys have probably been around for two years now, some of you guys have only just recently joined us. But we are thankful for each and every one of you.

We want to do a quick recap of our theme from this year - if you guys will remember way back to January 2017, we talked about our theme being “Biblical Literacy.”

Emily: And literacy is just a big word for being competent in an area of knowledge. Specifically, our goal and desire was to talk all about how we become competent in the scriptures, and God’s Word, knowing that if we are connecting with God, we’re reading what He has to say to us, the word is living and active, and we know that that has to power to help us know what to do in these daily situations - to enjoy God more. We know when we’re enjoying Him, and when we’re in authentic relationship with God, that is going to overflow to our families, to all the people we interact with.  That was something Laura and I were like, “If we can get excited about biblical literacy and we can get you guys excited about it, God is going to do the work through his word.” We tried to weave that into every show in a little way, throughout the whole year.

Laura:  We covered things like why the Old Testament should matter to moms, how to develop discernment when engaging with various resources, how to encourage your husband in spiritual growth, and his own biblical literacy. Things like what does it look like to accept our limitations? What’s it look like to have our identity in Christ? What is the importance of sharing the Bible with our children? We talked about that in like every different way, [laughter] it feels like. We definitely covered it in a whole range of shows. If you haven’t tuned into all of those shows, definitely go back into our archives; they’re pretty easy to search on our website. There is just so much great wisdom and truth, especially from our interviewees – that’s what I mean when I say [laughter] wisdom and truth from our interviewees. They just brought it. We definitely encourage you to go back and listen to those.

Emily:  Laura and I thought we would go over some of our favorite things that we took away when we think about, over the year, what we learned about biblical literacy. The first thing was a reoccurring theme over and over again, was just learning that quiet times don’t have to be quiet. In fact, we should probably just stop thinking about it like that. Cut the word “quiet time” –  not the concept of it [laughter], just the idea that, of course, we want to get alone with God, we want to have a secret, quiet relationship with Him in certain times and ways. But if we are always waiting for the hot coffee, and the sunrise, and the blanket then we won’t ever read our Bibles, and meet with God. Because if you have young children at home – most of our listeners do – you know that if they hear you wake up, they wake up. [laughter] That it’s just really hard to sneak away. But also, just read your Bible when ever you can, as much as you can.

Laura:  That’s right. I always appreciate Jen Wilkin talking about reading a book of the Bible over and over again. Read it for comprehension. It’s just such a basic thing where you don’t have to think a lot, you don’t have to have note books or pens. Just have your Bible on your phone, or a physical Bible; it’s easy.

Along with that, something that we talked a lot about this year, and that was also challenging for Emily and I (especially after we had our baby girls), is trusting God with our to-do list, and not saying, “Okay, I am going to get these things done because I’ve a few minutes of quiet, then later today, I’ll read my Bible then.”  

No, we want to be giving God the best of our day. We want to give Him the first fruits of our time and of our efforts. Trusting him that if we do the work of getting in God’s Word, of re-orienting our day around him - first of all, it’s going to bless us. We are going to be changed, and we’re going to have a better focus on what our identity is, in Christ. Our family is going to be blessed for it. Oftentimes, I’ll skip reading the Bible, and then I’ll be grumpier, [laughter] crabbier, angrier, all throughout the day. If I get in God’s Word, and re-orient my heart towards Him first thing in the morning, my whole family benefits that entire day. You can trust that God will either help you to get things done that you need to get done. Or, He’s going to basically show you, “No, not that. That didn’t need to get done.”

Emily:  Yes, it is true. It’s important that if we really say that God, and our relationship with Him is the most important thing, then at some level, our time and our resources have to show that. And I am literally saying that back to myself.


Laura:  Preaching to ourselves here ladies.

Emily:  Yes. Am I giving Him the first fruits of my time? Especially if you feel that little prick in the morning when you get on your phone and you’re laying in bed. You’re like, “In the time I looked at Instagram, I could have spent 10 minutes in the Word of God.” Another thing that we drew out this year was needing women to come alongside us, so that we can all study the Bible together. Learning about God’s Word is not something we do in isolation. We certainly read it on our own, but then we should also get together with groups of women so that they can refine us and help us think about things more clearly. Bring up points that we didn’t think of, and correct our ideas when we’re just thinking something really wonky about scripture – and we do this with all different generations and cultural backgrounds.

Laura:  That’s right. Another one we talked about was creating a gospel culture in our home - recognizing that our children are watching what we’re doing. When they see an authentic love for God’s Word displayed in front of them, that is a perfect opportunity for everyday discipleship. Which is also another argument for not feeling like, “I have to squeeze my quiet time into these two seconds that I have of quiet.”

Instead, welcome your child to come alongside you, letting them know that, “Hey, momma’s reading God’s Word right now. Do you want to sit down with your Bible and your pens, and you to have a quiet time too?” Of course it’s very different than what you’re doing, but you are teaching them what a rhythm of someone who loves God looks like in their daily life. This is where we want to bring our kids alongside us in our faith, and not separate the two lives – not separate the “sacred from the secular.” I’ve been using that quote a lot lately! [laughter]

Emily:  But it’s good. It’s evident of something. Even just in the She Reads Truth interview, I was really reminded, “Yes, it is good to just bring it into our family. I want them to think reading the Bible throughout the day and listening to it, hearing mom pray through it is normal.”

Laura:  Yes. We want to make it normal.

Emily:  That it’s not normal to go a whole day without opening your Bible, or a whole week. I mean, days happen without it. [ laughter]. But hopefully, you’re not going days at a time.

Laura:  Another piece that we talked about is that it takes practice to grow in biblical literacy. Oftentimes, it can feel sort of like that “duty into delight” piece. We need to take time to learn how to study God’s Word. We have an entire tutorial up on our website. We actually changed the name (this is a good moment to tell you all) [laughter] to “The Abide Method,” though it’s the same tutorial. We named it that because we want to abide in Christ and be in Him, as we get in God’s Word. It’s basically the inductive study method, however, we’ve added our own “Risen Motherhood take” on it, and some of the things that Emily and I personally add to our study.

If you’re looking to grow deeper and learn how to study God’s Word for yourself, that would be a great place to start. Or to gather a group of women to use The Abide Method to study God’s Word. We have to learn how to study His Word to really be able to engage in it, and understand who God, is and how that changes who we are.

Emily:  We have a ton of resources on our website for that. Check those out.

Finally, we talked a lot this year about not walking in guilt and shame over the fact that maybe we haven’t been in the Word of God. I know this is something that Laura and I have both experienced, but I feel like I am working through, in this post-partum season, feeling bad that I am not in it as much as I want to be. The temptation is to just stay there, and to let that distance feel like it’s growing. I feel like I am getting colder and colder, versus running back to the Lord. Knowing  that my salvation is through faith alone, by grace alone, just gives me confidence to know it’s not about how many minutes I’ve racked up reading scripture. That is not why God has loved and accepted me. It’s through Christ’s righteousness. We have complete freedom to keep going back over and over again. I feel like there was a quote in one of our episodes about family devotions. Like we want to just keep restarting them, to be just so stubborn in our starting over and over again. Don’t give up going back to reading your Bible. Even if it’s been like six months. Pick it back up.

Laura:  Yes, do it today.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about our favorite episode, or one piece that really stuck out because it’s impossible to pick a favorite. Emily, do you want to kick us off with just your one little nugget?

Emily:  One nugget. I really liked Ruth’s interview that she did with us. That was in September, I believe when that came out. I remember being really impacted by what she said about setting expectations for kids. One thing we’ve struggled with throughout the years - we’ve added another baby to the family, I have a kiddo in school now, who wasn’t in school before, I am doing more Risen Motherhood stuff than ever. It’s just this feeling like I don’t know how to manage expectations. If I am going to sit down and write on the computer for a little while, I am going to do something else. I really liked how she said, “Making different times of the day, being clear with children about what it is we expect for them then being really present, when we are present. Engaging them and being intentional about that.” That’s something I am still stewing on, but I really liked that.

Laura:  It’s interesting because I didn’t realize that ours favorite things are actually really close. Mine was from Sally Clarkson, which was an our October interview. But she said this one little nugget; she just zinged it at the end.

Emily:  It’s always those little one-liners, and you’re like...

Laura:  “That just changed my whole world.”

Emily:  Exactly!

Laura:  It wasn’t even the point of the interview, but she said, “Cultivate a sustainable life.” Like Emily, I’ve had a lot of changes this year in my life. I remember just being hit to the core by that and thinking, “My life is not sustainable.” I feel like I just keep telling myself, “I’ll just get to the next week, the next month, whatever it may be. Pass that milestone and then it’ll be sustainable.”  And as Emily was sort of saying, I want to be intentional with my life. I want to be able to say, “This is my time with my children.” Or, “This is my time to do work.” If you could just imagine me as Stretch Armstrong; [laughter] my everything going everywhere – that is a challenge for me, that I am still trying to make tweaks and changes to my schedule – of how can I have a sustainable life long term, so that I can invest well in my family and keep the right priority in order of things in my heart?

Emily: One more titbit; I was just thinking about Ruth’s comment about doing nothing. I am like, “You know I’ve just got to slow down.” Ruth would have said, “No, you have to do nothing. You’ve got to plan for nothing.” I think both Laura and I are trying to figure out how you just plan for nothing and enjoy that feeding with the baby or whatever it is, [laughter] and stop trying to do ten things at one time?

Laura: Yes!

Okay, because the theme of “Biblical Literacy” went so well last year, we decided to do another theme, for 2018. It’s just amazing because Emily and I had the same thoughts individually. Then we kicked it by our team, (the other three women on the Risen Motherhood team) and they all felt like this would be a great piece for next year as well. The theme is “Unity In The Gospel,” and we all had unity, on the unity theme. [laughter] But we want to tell you all a little about the back story, how we got there, and why we’ve chosen this.

Emily: When we first started Risen Motherhood, all Laura and I were really thinking about is, literally, how do we physically get it recorded? [laughter] What do we say? What kind of issues are we walking through in our own personal lives? How are we applying the gospel to that? That’s how Risen Motherhood was born, and that’s taken us almost two years to just process through that. It’s grown into all these things. But we had this moment last summer, when we were on break, and we were sharing this picture of all these interviewees. Somebody pointed out to us how homogeneous that group of women - one man - [laughter] were. For Laura and I the blinders were lifted off and we were like, [gasps] “Oh, you are right. It is!”

Now that we’ve kind of stabilized a little bit, we want to represent more prerspectives and to think through things beyond just what Laura and I are dealing with. Which never came from a bad intention, but we also want to look out and see that there is a lot of different types of moms out there.

Laura: We recognize that not all of you are work-from-home mothers, or working moms, or stay-at-home moms. Not all of you live in middle-class suburbia. Some of you live in other countries, some of you live in small apartments in the city, some of you live on rural farms. You guys are incredibly diverse and different and you’re all dealing with individual issues, and your daily life looks really different. Emily and I can only speak from our experiences. One commitment we’ve always made is to say, “We don’t want to speak into topics we haven’t experienced.” We’re still not an interview show. Interviews are still only about 20%. But one piece of bringing on the blog is to have more voices along with the interviews that we will engage in. Our whole goal is to just be more intentional about what God’s kingdom looks like, what it will be like for eternity and what that picture of the true church is. We want Risen Motherhood to represent that well.

Emily: Living in that already but not yet - like Laura was saying – someday, because we are all in Christ. If you do believe in the gospel and confess Christ as your Lord, we will be in heaven together, worshipping the same God and there’s going to be moms in that group that speak different languages. There’s going to be moms who did public school, moms that did home school, moms that fed their children organic food, moms that didn’t. There’s going to be moms from every race, tongue, tribe, nation and every choice. We want to live in that right now as much as we can, knowing that we are in a broken world. We know that the gospel can give hope to every single mom, no matter what her situation is. God meets us where we are and through His Word, He transforms us and helps us to live more in His likeness, and more in accordance with His will. We want to do that more as we can this coming year, and have that become a picture for Risen Motherhood.

Laura: One quick caveat to make sure that we do say, is that by “unity”, we don’t mean “believe whatever you want.” We’re talking about Orthodox Christianity. There are true things; things that we never deviate from. But with this unity, we want to be united around those truths, knowing that those truths will stand long after us. Anyway, [laughter] I feel like that’s just an important little note to add in there.

I think that’s it for today’s show. Right Em?

Emily: Right. We will be back on January 10th and we will go more into this great unity concept. We have an amazing line-up of shows for you guys, all through the Spring, about school.

Laura: Yes, a whole month on school, a whole month! [laughter].

Emily: Education. Sleep training is on our list. We’ve got moms from all different areas on our list – like urban, suburban. We’re just going to dive into all kinds of different things next year.

Laura: Yes, it’s going to be great. If you want some more info that we talked about on today’s show, head to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. Of course come find us on social media; we will still be active there through this Christmas break. We are @risenmotherhood on all the platforms - Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Have a great Christmas everyone.





This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Laura:  Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. Today we have a very special episode, especially for all of you working moms out there. I am excited to introduce to you, Nikki Daniels. She is a wife and mom to three elementary age school kids, and the Assistant Headmaster for Advancement, at Monte Vista Christian School in California. Nikki and I actually know each other. We attended the same church in the Chicagoland area, until her recent move up to California for this position. She’s incredibly wise – she wrote an article on this topic a few years ago, that was posted on The Gospel Coalition, which we’ll link to in the show notes and we knew she’d be a great fit for this topic. No matter where you are on the spectrum of working mom, part-time mom, or even as a stay-at-home mom, I promise there are wonderful nuggets of truth in here for all moms. With that, I’ll let you get to the interview with Nikki, Emily and me. 

Laura: Hi Nikki, thank you so much for being on Risen Motherhood today.

Nikki:  Thank you for having me on. I am super excited to be here.

Laura:  Yes, we are thrilled to have you on the show. Can you kick us off by telling us a little bit about yourself, your family makeup, and of course, tell us a little bit about your job.

Nikki:  Absolutely. I am the proud mother of three little ones – I have Lenaiah, age 9; Thomas, age 7; and Naomi, age 5. My husband and I, and our whole family just recently relocated to the Watsonville, California area (Central Coast of California). I am working currently as the Assistant Headmaster at Monte Vista Christian School. It is 1,000 students, 6 through 12, here in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. We are enjoying all of three months of our California adventure so far, and everybody tells us we’re going to love the winter. [laughter]

Laura:  Nikki, just to give our listeners some background as well, you were talking with us while pre-recording, that you live on campus. Can you explain exactly how all that works? [laughter]

Nikki:  Yes. It’s a very unique situation. Monte Vista is a residential campus for about 100 of our high schoolers, most of whom come from China, Taiwan and Korea. Also, part of our 100 acre campus is housing that we provide for many of our faculty and staff. Many people are familiar with the cost of living in and around the Bay area, and this is something that we do in order to recruit the best faculty and staff. When we moved here, my family and I moved into on-campus housing. That has been a unique and fun, really great experience. My role as Assistant Headmaster - my focus is advancement, fundraising, and alumni relations. 

But I have a number of other roles as well that involve the operations and the business side of the school. I was sharing that there’s all kinds of unique situations I find myself in where living on campus and being in this role creates all kinds of unique opportunities to administrate and lead while wearing one’s pajamas. It’s just a fun adventure, and I am looking forward to figuring it out more and more as the months go by.

Laura:  Wonderful. Okay, we’re going to dive in pretty deep, pretty fast. Our first question and to kick it off is speaking to comparison. We know that it is a real struggle for all moms. Not just working moms, or stay-at-home moms. We’re curious if you could just speak to what does comparison look like as a working mom? And how do you stay focused on obedience to Christ in each moment, when you’re tempted to look at others around you?

Nikki:  Yes, absolutely. I agree wholeheartedly, comparison is a human problem; it’s definitely a female problem. We are so relational by nature, and sometimes there’s just the good and the bad that comes with that. Part of that is that tendency towards comparison. One of the things that I work really hard on in this area is to be disciplined with understanding my own personal triggers. I am sure it looks different for every woman and every mom depending on their situation. But I know for myself personally, I have to be really careful with my use of social media. Not so much in my own posting - as in how much I allow myself time-wise. Also, my thought patterns and viewing other people’s best sides of their lives and things like that. 

I have to be really careful about the kinds of parenting books or blogs that I read. Again, just making sure that my filter is strong for gospel-centered things. Not letting myself get distracted by other things that can lead down that comparison road. One of the things for me early on in being a mom, was just accepting that my experience is unique. That each of our experiences are unique. One thing that helped me was the fact that each of my three children individually, were intensely colicky babies. As I learned how to parent each one of them in their infant years, it was all about getting them to stop screaming. [laughter] I remember bouncing on an exercise ball in a dark room with my middle child, and just thinking about all those books that I had read, and this wasn’t in any of the books. How could it possibly be the right thing to be doing? It wasn’t what everybody else was doing, or what I had thought, or I had always been told to do. Learning that my uniquely colicky baby happened to like extended periods of time in a dark room, bouncing on an actual ball – [laughter] that was the way I could be the best mom I could be - just accepting that uniqueness, and then really focusing on obedience to Christ. I mean, this is what he’s called me to be – mom to this colicky baby - and therefore I am bouncing on this ball. [laughter]

Emily:  Yes. I just love that we all struggle with comparison. Sometimes like you said, even we see things on social media and on blogs, and they could be good be good things to do. You can start to imagine all the ways; like, “Oh, should I be doing that good thing, instead of the bouncing on an exercise ball thing,” or whatever it is? [laugher] I agree with you, there’s that layer of protection that’s needed. Not because these needs are really bad things, but just because it gets us distracted from Christ Himself, and from the things that He has given us instruction, and to do in His Word. Then also looking into that moment, and going like, “Okay God. What would you have me do for this child now? How am I best going to serve my family?” You’re thinking of that person you saw that was doing this cool homeschool thing at the table. You’re like, “Oh, that was so awesome!” It might have been great, but potentially distracting from what it is you have right in front of you.

Nikki:  Absolutely. 

Laura:  Yes. Another common struggle that moms or women all face beyond comparison, is putting our identity in our motherhood. Or, Nikki for you, maybe putting your identity in the work that you do each day. I am curious as to how you try to keep your identity rooted in Christ, rather than your success in your career?

Nikki:  This is one area that’s the bifurcation of my life - the flipsides of this coin has actually been a real help. This is because in any given day, I am interacting with two sets of people. All of the two sides in me, that set of people only care about one. When I am with my kids, they could care less what I accomplished at work that day, if I accomplished anything, or if I messed something up royally at work. It doesn’t faze them the least. On the flipside, here in my professional environment with my colleagues, they have no clue about my parenting. Well, except for the funny stories I tell them. [laughter] But  for the most part, what kind of parent I am, or was the night before is completely separate - in that sense I often use the analogy of being a two sport athlete. So, I suppose you could say, “Oh, then you’re in better shape, and dah, dah.” That’s true, definitely, but it also means that at any given moment, I am focusing on one, and not the other. The reality is, you have to be focused, that’s what it’s going to take to being able to do both [working and motherhood] at the same time. I am a firm disbeliever in the concept of multi-tasking. [laughs] At least for me personally, it doesn’t work – my mind has to be on one or the other. 

Then I would also say, just thinking about where we put our identity – really, just that constant, daily reminder that Christ is really the only thing that applies across the board in any of our lives. He equally values me as a mom, and me as a professional. He’s the only one. The good news of the gospel is that He’s called me to do these things, that He’s the only one that cares about those things. But actually, He doesn’t really care about those things. He cares about me. Again, going back to my kids don’t care if I screw up at work, Christ-- my success or failure in either of those areas, it’s really not an issue because I am His daughter, and I am free from that.

Emily:  Yes, that’s so good. We all need that reminder that in Christ we are free from the law. [laughs] We’re free from having to define ourselves in any sphere of life, by our perceived successes or failures. Then riding that rollercoaster of, “Oh, I did well, so I feel good.” Or, “I wasn’t doing that well, so now I am going to be really down in the dumps.” You know what, Christ has bought us for a price, and He’s redeemed us. Like you said, it’s true for any role we inhabit. We’re still in Christ. 

Nikki:  It’s freeing, that’s the word that comes to mind so often.

Laura:  When you live with your identity rooted in motherhood, or your performance at work, or what that person thinks of you, that is a very heavy calling. Emily and I have had a lot of offline conversations lately about being really grateful that our standing before the throne does not depend on us performing like puppets to some standard that we’ve set for ourselves, but that we can just come freely to the throne and say, “Hey, I’ve messed up. I didn’t do this perfectly, but there is grace that meets me there.” That is just something that I can be brought to tears by, of being grateful for the future – and that the present doesn’t rely on my success or abilities as a mom because I will always fail. [laughter]

Nikki:  Absolutely.

Laura:  Speaking of all the things we need to do, as a working mom, your time is probably really divided. It sounds like again, for you, your lines are blurred between even your two lines. How do you make wise choices with how your time is spent? Another way to phrase is maybe how does the gospel guide your to-do list?

Nikki:  Yes. One of the big pieces of that process for me is the acceptance of so many good things that I cannot do. Whether that’s ministry opportunities, relational opportunities, or even recreational opportunities. I don’t say that in a martyr way, but just really coming to terms with prioritization, and what I am called to do, which is care for my family. I put my work in that category as well because my work is what provides materially for my family. That ultimate calling is what my priority is. Beyond that, nearly everything else has to be on the chopping block. 

In the early years of motherhood in particular, I learned the hard way that just because a task or specific role is something that is “good” - or could be a morally good thing - doesn’t mean that it is good for me to take it on, or to add it to my plate. I am sure it will change as my children age, but for right now, this stage that we’re in, the most crucial thing they need from me is time. That’s a precious resource that I have to guard jealously for my family. That impacts the decisions I make for my schedule certainly. But it also impacts the decisions we make for them. We’re not a family that does a lot of after-school activities. We’re not running around from practice, to lessons, to whatever. Those are all really good things, and in my weaker moments, I am having anxiety because my children aren’t going to know how to play the flute, or whatever it could be. [laughter] But, again, for right now, where we’re at, that time together is so much more important. Just trying to weigh those and keep the priorities that, even ones that... there are times when, how could it possibly not be the right thing for me to be a room mother? Or things like that. Just accepting that in my case and in my situation, oftentimes it’s not.

Emily:  But I love what I hear you saying, is like, “Okay, I understand my calling.” Our family is going to evaluate our circumstances and say, “How can we live that out and that is going to require us, as it does every family, to make a counter-cultural decision in order to have that time to invest well in our children?” I feel like every mom understands that there are sacrifices we make that the world would say, “You need to have this for your kids.” We are like, “We either don’t have time for that.” Or, “We can’t do that because of this or that reason.” I just love that you guys have looked at that, and are saying, “We’re going to protect our time this way.” It is going to be costly, but that’s okay because this is about what God is asking us to do, and not about what the world says is normative or important.

Nikki:  It goes back to that idea of the uniqueness of each of our calling. I firmly believe that God is calling the family next door to go to soccer three times a week. But I also understand, and can reconcile that that’s not what He’s calling our family to do. I am letting those two co-exist, and I am accepting that is a key piece of all this, I believe.

Laura:  The stewardship of time is a real difficult thing for any mom or parent when there are so many things calling at us. It’s how do we steward our time well, through not just doing good things or better things – but how do we do the best thing? That’s what my husband and I always talk about is, “What is the best thing that our family can engage in?” Speaking of some of those things that you can engage in, Nikki, how do you make time for ministry with such a busy life and a lot of things calling for your attention? What is the importance of being involved in your local church, and how do you carve out time for that?

Nikki:  This is probably the piece that is the most complex because you can say, “Well, I am going to forego those recreational opportunities.” Or, “I am going to forego those relational opportunities.” But ministry, in my mind, is not a choice of whether or not. That is a universal calling for all of us. So then in my situation, it becomes what does that look like for me? 

A reality for me over these last nine years since I became a mom is that I hadn’t learned that what I do ministry-wise is not always necessarily the thing that I am most drawn to. Or the thing that I really want to do actually. My call becomes a thing that fits and works well within the context of my other calling. In the end, of course, it’s always works because of God’s providence. Because that is where He called me, though He called me through a different way. Then it does become the best scenario, and He works in and through it. 

An example might be women’s ministry. I love women’s ministry, and when I was younger, before, and had more time, was just so impacted by various women’s Bible studies and things in different churches that I’d been in. That would probably be a natural inclination for me, to be a part of that. But the reality is, for the way that that works, logistically, it doesn’t work for me. What I’ve ended up looking at has been more things like teaching, and things that happen on a Sunday. Again, because I can maybe teach my own childrens’ class. Or at the very least, they’re in a class while I am doing my ministry. Not taking away time when the five of us would have been together, and things like that. 

Some of the things that I’ve done over the years – we had a capital campaign exploration committee which, honestly, even though that’s what I do for a living so you’d think, “Oh, of course she wants to do that.” But I think, “Oh, I’d rather do something different.” But at the end of the day, that was a group that met at 6 am, at Panera every other week, and that worked for me. That was a way that I could plug in, and a way that I could minister within my church. It ended up being an incredibly rewarding experience for me, and I developed relationships that I never anticipated. So on and so forth. 

All those different ways that ministry for me as a mom has just needed to be reframed into what is possible within the context of these other things. Then God blesses it and it flourishes from there. Even f I can’t see it when I first sign up for it. [laughs]

Emily:  God is so good in the way that He brings about ministry opportunities [laughs] and then puts things on their heads that we don’t see necessarily in that way he does. He makes it all work when we trust in Him, and I love how you brought that piece of providence in. It’s so true, He does it again and again, just to provide the way that all of these things fit together. 

Laura:  We’d love to hear from your position, what do you think is one of the most difficult things that a working mom faces? How would you respond to that with the gospel in mind?

Nikki:  The thing that comes to my mind when I think about a challenge of working motherhood is really my own fear, and particularly a fear of judgement. Within our Christian community, the high value that we place on parenting and motherhood, that’s something that unites us. That is a shared part of our faith community. That’s a beautiful thing, but on the flip-side of it, there’s a difficulty that comes with that. This is because it looks different for different people. I have found that there is a sense of … mutual insecurity … maybe would be how I would define it. In relating with each other as Christian moms, when we’re doing it so differently, we all have to fight against this fear that, “Well, if she’s doing it that way, and I am doing it a different way, she must think her way is the right way. Therefore she must think my way is the wrong way.” Does that make sense?

That’s a very oversimplified way of thinking about it, and I don’t know that anyone really thinks about it that specifically. But I have found over the years, and again it’s either me perceiving it, or me inventing it in my head, which I firmly believe happens quite a bit. But it’s just that idea of how we get to a place - as stay-at-home moms and working moms, and just moms in general. That we can go back to the idea of the gospel freeing us. That your mothering, my mothering doesn’t impact our status as daughters of Christ. We can still come together; we can mother differently, and still support and encourage one another. I have been blessed with many relationships where that does take place – just really some formative friendships and one in particular during my mothering years that has just really helped me to understand that, to rise above that fear and to fight against it. But ultimately, what really counteracts it, I believe is again, going back to the gospel and our understanding of who we are, and how we’re viewed by Christ.

Emily:  I love how you articulate it – that “mutual insecurity.” [laughter]

Laura:  Brilliant. [laughter]

Emily:  You explained it exactly like you said – even if it’s at a subconscious level, it is what we do when we meet a mom who mothers differently than we do. We don’t have to be afraid of missing out because of what Christ has done with us, and for us. We don’t have to be afraid of man’s judgement because of what Christ has done for us. But we have to stop, and intentionally remember that in those moments, we can, like you said, be different, but also be in Christ. 

Another thing I always have to remember too is in our culture, we very much have this dialogue of like, “Working mom, stay-at-home mom,” whatever. Around the world, throughout history, in different cultures and socio-economic areas, these types of insecurities aren’t necessarily even happening, because it’s like, “Feed your family! Do your work and take care of those around you.” It’s maybe a little bit more urgent than that, but I always have to get that perspective too, that God’s truth is universal in Christ, yet the gospel applies to us universally for those who trust in Him. There isn’t some specific thing for our culture that is different than it is for moms through all of time.

Nikki:  Absolutely. There are distinctions that we have generated culturally, over time that I do think we have to strive against.

Laura:  At the beginning, when you were speaking about the high calling that Christianity or Christian circles have put on motherhood, one of those things that we do all have a biblical calling to do, is to pass on the gospel to our children. Whether one is a working mom, stay-at-home mom, part-time mom or any of those “types” that we’re talking about - all these different “camps,” – we all have one united goal.  How do you balance this? How does that come in? What’s it look like for you? Especially for the mom who’s working and wondering like, “How on earth do I juggle both of these roles, and really invest intentionality in my kids?” What are some choices you’ve had to make, and how does that play out in your life?

Nikki:  My biggest encouragement to a mom scratching her head and wondering about that is if God has blessed her with a spouse who’s also committed to the gospel, lean on him. [laughs] When I think about gospel-centered parenting, and how I do or do not do that on any given day, the level to which I rely on my husband cannot be overstated. It’s more than logistical. I had mentioned that for years, I have worked days and he has worked nights and weekends in the mental health counseling practice. Obviously we had the integration going there. We used to joke like we were a tag team - I’d come home, we slap hands [laughter] and he would walk out the door, and my shift was on. That had it’s own challenges to be sure but that idea of the two of us really sharing everything about our parenting role. There was never anything that I did as a parent that he didn’t do, or vice versa. We were completely interwoven in that way. 

I have found that so critical when it comes to how we are portraying the gospel to our children because so much of that just happens in life and in the daily tasks of doing life. When you’re a working mom, and you are absent from things more than you would want to be, to have a spouse who is striving for the same things that you’re striving for, as far as how the gospel interrelates with what we’re doing in our home and how our families are interrelating that gives you a multiplying factor, and just peace of mind. It’s almost like you’ve got this teammate who is going for the same thing you’re going for. Even if you can’t be there scoring points for the team, he is. Just knowing that, and having each other’s back in that way has been huge for me because it is such a challenge in and of itself - to be away, and still be figuring out how to weave it into his life. It’s hard.

Emily:  Yes, so true. We talk a lot to moms, but assuredly, God says a lot to parents in general, and especially fathers in terms of passing along wisdom and instruction to their children certainly being a team in that is critical, no matter what your work situation looks like. [laughs]

And it’s amazing with both parents being all hands on deck because everybody drops the ball and everybody has off days. I was telling that to my husband the other day. I was like, “One of the things I love about you is that when I am having a hard day and I am just done being patient, I am done saying the right, godly thing. A lot of times I’ll see you swoop in with a smile on your face and grab a book.” It’s like, “Wow, I am so glad there’s a partner in this” 

Nikki:  Yes. I’ve really seen it; it’s evolved over the years because a lot of the toddler years was just like, “Oh my goodness, help me keep control of myself!” [laughter] That’s still happens too, don’t get me wrong, but now that we’re starting to get into the more complexities of emotional things. I am with my nine-year-old daughter, and there are times where we’re in discipline situations, and I honestly don’t know what to do. I almost have to call a timeout, like, “Just freeze because your father and I have to go talk because I don’t know what to say to you right now.” [laughter] It’s kind of funny because I can see how she starts to sense that rhythm. I think she can tell when I am in unchartered waters and I need Dad, and that kind of thing. But I don’t really mind that because I also want her to see that modeled in the way that we are interconnected and need each other because yeah, I get stumped on a regular basis to figure out how I should respond to [laughter]

Laura:  I think we all do. [Laughs] Well Nikki, as we wrap up here, what is one thing that you have really learned about who God is, and what His plan is for you in motherhood? As you’ve grown in your role, how has your understanding of the gospel changed?

Nikki:  Motherhood (and probably most all of us moms would agree with this to some degree or other), has been the most transformative piece of my life thus far. Apart from becoming a believer in God, and being His daughter. The process of becoming a mother has broadened my vision and my understanding of life. I have a sense of the complexities of life. Since becoming a mother, there’s not much left in life that I see as black and white and simple. Just the understanding of life’s complexities is one thing that my children have really taught me. 

Then, the other thing I would say, they have really taught me, they stripped away any semblance of hope that I am in any way, shape or form in control of my life. [laughter] I say “they” like it’s my three little children, but obviously it’s not. It’s what Christ is doing in me, through the experience of being their mother. But I am a personality as far as type A, go-getter, where I could be tempted to lean on the crutch of different ways. But I am holding it together. They keep the crutches out from underneath me, [laughter] and I am holding on by a string most days. But I consider that such a blessing because it’s left room for the gospel. Daily, it has allowed me to keep coming back to the understanding of who I am and who Christ is, and how my smallness is a pointer to His greatness. Yes, in a lot of ways, yes, I would say that motherhood has shrunk me [laughs]. But it has expanded and deepened me in all the better ways.

Laura:  That’s beautiful.

Emily:  So good.

Laura:  It reminds me of this quote that I’ve had on my wall for a little bit that said, “Oh my precious friend, it is a mercy to be made and kept poor enough for Jesus to be all.” That has rung very true in motherhood; that our weaknesses keep us poor – I like how you use the word “shrunk.” Those drive us to the cross; the more that we see that we’re insufficient, that we cannot do it all, we can’t keep up with all the people around us – they’re not keeping up either – but the more that we recognize that, the closer that we can come to Christ, and recognize that He fills all those empty places. That when we are low, that is when He is our all. That is certainly a truth that rings universal in motherhood. 

Nikki:  Absolutely. Yes.

Laura:  Thank you so much today for being on the show Nikki. We’ve really appreciated your time.

Emily:  Yes.

Nikki:  Thank you for having me. It’s been a joy.



This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with my sister-in-law, Laura and we are really excited about this topic today because it’s close to our hearts.

Laura:  Yes. We’re both big readers. You guys have probably noticed the exponential amounts of books that we showcase [laughter] on Instagram, Facebook and on our resources page. Emily and I have been so influenced by books that we’re super excited to have an entire show all about books.

Emily:  Yes. One thing that we’re starting to dabble in, remember, again, my oldest is five-and-a-half-ish – and Laura’s is four, going on five. We’re just beginning to read really good stories to our children, and use those stories as a means to pass along the gospel to them, and to talk about godly character traits. We do that to use it as a jumping off point for conversation. I felt like one of the most classic examples of that is Chronicles of Narnia.

Laura:  Oh, it’s the classic [laughter]. If you’re going to start with a book, that’s the first thing that comes to every mom’s mind.

Emily:  Yes, and we were just starting the other day, which I realized as I did, a “C.S. Lewis faux pas…” [laughter]

Laura:  Major faux pas.

Emily:  I started the series with the Magician’s Nephew.

Laura:  For background though, that’s book 1 she started with. Which makes logical sense. 

Emily:  It makes sense.

Laura:  If you Google it, that’s what happens, but anyone who is familiar with Lewis’ work, will know to start with book 2, which is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, sort of the “classic” that stands alone. So that’s the back story.

Emily:  That’s neither here nor there. But we were listening out loud to it the other day. I don’t often do this read out loud, but we do listen to audio books. It was just so fun to fill our house with this good story. I actually found myself as I was walking past the table where they were coloring, listening to sections of the story, especially when Aslan who is kind of the “god-figure” in this story is approached by Digory who has a sick mom. He’s feeling very sad and wonders if this lion will help him cure his mother. He sees tears in Aslan’s eyes, and just realizes that Aslan cares more than he even does, for his mother and his situation. 

Here I am busy doing laundry, tearing up, thinking about how God is with us in our grief, and in our sorrow, having all these biblical promises come to mind. It was just a really good example of the way that these well written stories can trigger reminders of deep, biblical truths for us and for our kids.

Laura:  I remember always reading Anne of Green Gables growing up, and literally wanting to be best friends with Anne. [laughter] I recently re-read the books – I think there are three of them– but I re-read them and I just fell in love with Anne all over again, her zeal and zest for life. Just her imagination, her ability to see God in so many things. I especially remember as a young child, really loving the way Anne included everyone, and noticed people, and found value in all people. I didn’t necessarily understand the depths of the meaning of that, but I knew I wanted to be like Anne. There were a lot of biblical character traits that she was displaying, that was written in story. I didn’t even understand all that I was taking in, but it was making a really profound impact on the way I lived my life, and interacted on the playground, or with kids in school and things like that. 

So, what we’re talking about today is the power that story has to shape our children, and to help them understand the gospel as a whole. Also, different biblical character traits that we desire to instill in our young children. How they infiltrate our children in a way that’s not obvious or intrusive. We’re just going to chat through that today. 

Emily:  Yes. Exactly what Laura was saying even just using books that maybe aren’t overtly Christian, which is really cool, and we’ll get into that more too. Whether that’s something like Winnie the Pooh, which is very straightforward to just talk through the plot and character traits, or there’s a lot of good moral stories out there, which of course in and of themselves, we aren’t just going to teach our children like, “Oh, just follow this, just behave.” As Laura said, it’s a great jumping off point for discussion. 

What is really interesting about this, and why we love story so much, is because God is the great storyteller. 

Laura:  Exactly. Looking back at creation, you can just even see that God spoke the world into existence. Words were at the very beginning of time. God used words to bring the world forth. That just shows a great way how we can be image bearers of God every time we use words to talk about Him, to share His gifts and His creation with our children. Every time we speak, read, or use words, we image God, and I love that. It’s a communicable attribute of God that we can image.

Emily:  Yes, and if you’re considering the way that God’s story went to his people for a long time before written words went onto a page, in a way that was easily transferrable, what did each generation do? They had to tell the next generation the word of God through these memorable narratives. Even if you look at the beautiful, poetic way that God spoke the creation story into existence, that was told that way for a reason. So that people could retell it over and over again, and not lose that important aspect. 

Also we see that the whole Bible – we’ve talked about this in other episodes too – is this big metanarrative, which is a word that means there’s one story, and one theme throughout, and that’s the redemption story.  But within that, there’s also these small narratives - maybe it’s the story of the way that Israel was rescued from Egypt. Or even smaller within that, maybe the way that Israelites worshipped their golden calf instead of God. There’s all these miniature stories that all point to a greater story. He’s just a great novelist. [laughter]

Laura:  Exactly. It’s amazing to think about how God is the original, the ultimate storyteller. There’s a reason we all love a big and amazing story. There’s a reason that we can get caught up in a love story, a warrior story, or in a hero story. It’s like Emily was saying, we can see all these small stories in the Bible, and just recognize how amazing it is that God wove them all together to create one story. Something that Tim Keller says, “It’s important to note that the Bible isn’t just a random collection of stories. It’s united together under one plotline. The tangent between God’s justice and His grace, and it’s all resolved in one thing, the person and work of Jesus.” I love that; we love resolution in stories right? That’s because Jesus Christ is our resolution; we image those things that we see in the Bible. That’s why we’re caught up in the resolution to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Or those other epic, big stories that we love getting to the end of.

Emily:  What is so fun to me when I get to the end of a well written series, is when you find that detail that was the crux of the whole thing. You realize, “Oh, that was mentioned back at the very beginning...”

Laura: Yes, the foreshadowing!

Emily:  And your realize you had no idea what that meant until right then! 

There’s so much of that even if you look in Revelation. There’s all these pieces that you go, “Oh, that was like back in Genesis.” Or, “That was in Exodus.” Or, “This happened during the prophets.” Or, “This happened when Jesus was here, and they didn’t know that. Now we know.” They’re like, “Look how it all wraps up together just perfectly.” He is just so good at that, and that’s why we love that. That’s why our children love good stories as well, and why they can be engaged in stories in a meaningful way. 

Laura:  Another way we see story is just looking at the life of Jesus. We see that He taught His people through parables, to shed fresh light on things that were hidden in scripture. A lot of the really famous stories that we all know that Jesus told are things like the Good Samaritan, The Rich Man and Lazarus, the laborers in the vineyard who were all paid the same even though they worked those different amounts. Jesus used story to drive home important points, to tell the same points he’s already made in a different way. We can look at that too to see how story is so important.

Emily:  Again, thinking about how memorable that is. Sometimes we can’t memorize the exact verses, I am like, “Oh I don’t know if I can quote that exactly but I can retell that story of the Good Samaritan.” Again, as we are sharing good stories with our children, it sometimes can leave an impression and help their heart understand something that can be difficult with technical language. Jesus obviously utilized that technique too. 

Laura:  Right. The great thing about story is that anyone can understand them. So you can be very simple minded or child-like, and understand the story and so can an adult too. One thing I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t matter how much we learn about God, how much we study His Word, there is always new truths to mine. No one has ever plumbed the depths of God. 

Something amazing about stories is, as Emily was saying, it’ll take these really complex truths and be simple enough for even a child to understand. That’s just another argument or reason to use story to teach our children.

Emily:  As we move forward to some more practical things, first off, we just wanted to say don’t take this as another means of pressure in your life. As another burning thought of, “Oh no, another person reminded me that I didn’t read to my children for 30 minutes, minimum today.” [laughter]  We know we all feel that. Or you go to the pediatrician and they’re like, “Just remember that you’re supposed to be doing this.” It’s like...

Laura:  “Okay.”

Emily:  We don’t want you to feel like that; Laura and I understand that pressure. But we also want to just get you excited about this, just as we need reminders to be excited about this. Sometimes I will listen to a good podcast or something and it just reminds me why I want to do it, why it is important and how it does make an impact. That is our heart as we’re sharing this today. Not to just add one more thing to your to-do list that you feel guilty about.

Laura:  Literacy can make you feel kind of guilty as Emily was saying. We don’t want to bring that guilt, we’re just bringing a friendly reminder, and to get you excited about it.

Okay, we’re sure you guys are all thinking right now, “Okay Laura and Emily, you’ve got me re-inspired. What book should I start with?” Well, we mentioned Chronicles of Narnia, is always a safe one. My four-year-old is loving it. In terms of what other books that you could read, our suggestion is to look to wiser people than us who have compiled amazing lists. So on our Show Notes we are going to have a whole bunch of blogs where we get our book resources from – from people who have degrees in literature and different things like that. Unfortunately we’re not going to get down to the practical of exactly what books to start with. But we will list some of our favorites, and our favorite places to find those books to start with over there.

Emily: It’s not just Christian books, although there are a ton of wonderful books out there that are explicitly based on the gospel. We have this book I’ve read to my older children – The Quiltmaker’s Gift. It’s a great example of this king who has all of these presents and things that he owns. He’s really miserable, and there’s one thing he wants that he can’t have – this beautiful, rare quilt. The quilt maker says, “Well, I will make you one if you start giving away all of your gifts and you become humble of heart.” He starts to give away all of his presents, at first very resentfully. Then at the end, he’s given away everything he has and he’s kind of happy, but in tattered clothing. 

It’s of course more of a moral story, but it is a beautiful example, and a great jumping off point for conversation to talk about, “Why was the king happier when he was giving away, versus when he was receiving?” Well, that’s something we read about in scripture; it’s more blessed to give than receive. So there’s a lot of stories out there like that, and even actually stories that are not representative of biblical truths. We have to be careful with how we introduce this, and how age-appropriate they are or even talking about characters that are not kind. We’ve had this same thing; this is a kind of different topic, but like shows lately with my kids, like, “Hey why does mommy choose this one and not that one?” Why do you think? What’s in that, that is good for your mind? What’s in that that’s not good for your mind? Early discernment is key.

Laura:  Yes, it’s important to remember that in any book, Christian or non-Christian, those truths will push themselves out on their own. I’ve always heard great books challenge people to wonder, and then wonder why. As Emily was talking about – like, “Oh, I wonder what it felt like to give away all of his stuff?” Or, “I wonder why he gave away all of his stuff?” Then like, “I wonder what he feet like after he gave it all away?” Or even things like, “Wow, look at that amazing bike that he built. I wonder how he did that?” Or, “She was so brave. I wonder where she find the courage?” 

A lot of those things, you’re children are already probably thinking, but you can help them along. It’s a really simple question to say, “Wow, what do you think she felt when she did that?” Those help your kids begin to articulate the thoughts that are probably going on, but they don’t really know how to make sense of them. But also know, that Emily and I have had multiple conversations with our children, where they completely changed the subject. [laughter] Or they want a snack, they want a TV show, or are completely bored. 

Know this, it’s not this idyllic like, “We’re just snuggling on the couch and we’re talking about Jesus for 20 minutes.” No, this is real life. Sometimes those moments happen, and you better believe that we soak them up. But often, it’s just nuggets. It’s just seeds, all the time that we’re planting, and we’re going to capture those moments as we can. Know that most stories – well, there are really some depraved stories so this is where I say “most” – because there are some really bad stories we don’t want to share with our children – most stories are echoes of the greater story. They are echoes of God’s word and his kingdom and his ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Trust that those things will stir in your child’s heart, and that as you see moments that you can tap into those, and talk with them about it.

Emily:  That’s something that comes up a lot, and a question we get asked often at Risen Motherhood is, “How do I have these gospel conversations with my children?” Or, “How do I train my children?” This is one piece of that discipleship puzzle. Obviously it’s living the gospel in front of our kids, but adding story is an element where we can talk candidly and openly about things, even hard things, I think. Trillia Newbell’s God’s Very Good Idea has a lot of good talking points with our kids about differences that we see in people, and how God made everyone in His image. That’s why we need to love everyone, and everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. 

Sometimes when I am telling my kids that over breakfast, maybe we’re memorizing the catechism, it can come across kind of dry. But then suddenly when you open up this book and it’s got pictures, and there’s things they can recognize, and things that they think are interesting, it just totally opens up the conversation fresh again. This is just another discipleship piece for building relationship with our kids.

Laura:  With that, along with it, don’t be afraid to stop in the middle of the book and help with comprehension. Exactly what Emily is saying, but essentially be like, “Oh, what’s happening in the story? Can you tell me what’s going on?” Oftentimes I’ll realize my son has a couple of the pieces, but I can help him put them all together. 

Especially when we’re talking about children that are so young, they’re going to need that. Explain words, and say, “Did you know what that meant?” If not, you can help them. A couple of times you’d better believe, I am looking at the dictionary on my phone. [laughter] That’s an important piece to not just blaze through a book, and not stop at all, especially with these young children. 

Emily:  Yes. A word to moms of really little ones, whether they are one year old, or two years old and you feel like, “Oh, can I even make any impact?” I have a lot of friends who started reading the Jesus Storybook Bible to their children when they were really young, like one and two years old. By the time they were talking, they were nearly remembering a lot of the stories word for word. Even though it may seem like it’s above your child’s head, I still feel like it’s a good habit. I remember an older, wiser mom told me one time, “If nothing, do it so that you can start the habit of reading books with your children.” Even if you’re not sure whether they’re comprehending, but often, they are remembering a lot.

Laura:  I would even challenge you guys with a baby. I know that when you have a three-month-old at home, say you only have one child. My husband and I would read the Bible to our three-month-old because they’re just laying there … I mean, it’s completely over their head, don’t get me wrong … but those truths are soaking in, We’ve shared about it on the Intentional Motherhood Starts From Day One show. We talked a lot about these really neat stories about children who have things that happen under the age of one, that somehow show up later in ways that they remembered something or were impacted by something. Your child is just soaking up things even then. So we read the Jesus Storybook Bible, then we switched to a little bit of an easier Bible for the toddlers. Then we came back to the Jesus Storybook Bible as they’ve gotten older. 

Emily: Totally. It’s just growing with your kids and being willing to try new things, and experimenting too. If you feel like something’s not working, change it. I wanted the kind of idyllic read-a lot experience with my kids. For a long season, it was very frustrating, and I didn’t read much to them because it didn’t look that way. But then we got into, “Okay, we’re all going to play Legos while we listen to this.” We’re going to draw.” “We’re going to listen to a story during lunch, and we’re going to be eating while we’re listening in.” It’s been fun to try out different ways that our kids can still enjoy reading aloud, while still being very busy. [laughs]

Laura:  Right. Couple final notes also. Don’t be afraid to repeat books. My mom read Pilgrim’s Progress to my family every January. She’d sit in the hallway where the bedrooms split, and she would read a couple chapters every night. That is something that has become very special to our family; that book. They’ve now since gifted different copies to our children, and it’s just really special. I remember thinking about the “Celestial City,” thinking about the “burden on my back (sin).” Having these images for sin, for eternity, for the journey of Christian going through life. Even some of these more complex books, children can understand.  Just set up a time each year, then you don’t even need to find a new book. I mean, how great is that? It’s like, “Great, we’re going to read Pilgrim’s Progress every January,” or whatever that may be. A good tool to use is a liturgical calendar which is just the church calendar. We’ll pop that in the show notes too so you can see how that looks.

Emily: Just to sum today, that it is really a great opportunity to use stories, both Christian stories, and maybe just secular stories to talk to our children about Jesus. To remind them of that big redemption story, and get them excited about that for their own lives, and just help open up good conversations with them. You can find more on our show notes @risenmotherhood.com. Or also find us on social media discussing these things this week @risenmotherhood.com on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Thanks for joining us.

Laura:  Thanks guys.


This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Laura:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I have my sister-in-law Emily here with me. We are doing an Advent show and we’re excited. I'm proud of us Emily, for how far ahead we're planning.

Emily: We don't even have a Christmas tree up right now as we're recording this.

Laura: It’s October when we are recording, that's how far ahead we are planning! This is so it gets to you nice and early so you can plan for Advent. 

Every year we get a lot a lot of questions about Advent, what resources we like, what traditions we do, how we keep things focused on Christ, and we have an entire resources page dedicated just to Advent resources. There are a lot of great ideas on there. Some of the things that Emily and I will be referencing today will be on the resources page. In addition, we also have all of Emily’s and I favorite books for kids, different C.D.'s and music, and general resources for training your children in the gospel, and lots for moms as well. If you're looking for some Christmas present ideas or anything like that, head over there, check out the list, see what you like, and hopefully you find some good stuff for Christmas.

Emily:  Speaking of Advent resources, I feel like it's getting to be trendier or cooler to do something for Advent. There is a lot more stuff out there than I ever remember. Growing up, I had one of those chocolate Advent calendars that you open a little door every day. 

Laura:  I know! I didn’t even know what the word Advent meant until about five years ago.

Emily:  I feel like it can be a little overwhelming to try to discern what you should use with what stage of life and then there's a lot of pressure on, “What if I pick the wrong thing?” 

Laura:  I agree. We have another show on Advent that we did last year. If you haven't listened to that one and you're curious about traditions and the whole concept of traditions and why we are big fans of traditions, head back there and listen to that show. We'll link to it in the show notes. On that show, we talk a little bit about different upbringings with Christmas. Emily is like the tradition-happy family. I grew up with very few traditions. I think there is so much pressure on building these beautiful traditions that you're going to remember forever, that your children will talk about someday when they come home from college and do with their own families. But the beautiful thing is it doesn't have to be that way at all. 

One thing that I have really enjoyed about learning more about Advent, is that it really extends the season. It doesn't feel like it's just like this one day a year where suddenly it’s past.

Emily:  I feel like once I learned more about what Advent is and I focus on the true purpose of the Advent season, then I feel like there's a lot of freedom and a lot of joy in getting to continually bring the children and the family back to getting excited about Christ – which we're going to talk about. 

Laura has done some awesome research to give you Advent in a nutshell.

Laura: I did a little research for you guys, about what “Advent” means and what it is. If this isn't a term that's familiar to you, the word “Advent” comes from the Latin word Adventus and in Greek Parousia.[laughter] That's the Greek term and it is the word that is used for both the coming of Christ in human flesh, and his second coming. It means looking backwards and looking forward. We can look to that night in Bethlehem where God became flesh and that's looking backward, but then we're also looking forward because we all know that baby Jesus isn't the end of the story. Praise the Lord! There is so much more to come and even after the cross that we are still waiting yet today in 2017, we're waiting for Jesus to come back as the conquering King. 

I've always appreciated this saying from John Piper. He says, “It's patient waiting and hopeful expectation.” It's acknowledging our in-betweeness. We live in this already but not yet. I think that's what Advent is all about. Typically, it starts on the 4th Sunday before Christmas day. This year, 2017, it starts on December 3rd. Mark your calendar so you can start it if you like. 

It started way back in the 4th century with Christians. In the medieval traditions, they would fast and go to church every day during this time. It was a time for them to focus on the return of Christ like I talked about, but then also focus on Christ who came as a baby fulfilling all the prophecies and in the Old Testament. A handy comparison is Lent and Easter. You have Lent, and you have Advent, to prepare for more significant holidays that are ahead. Advent is a longer time to prepare your heart for Christmas. 

The biggest thing you guys probably need to note is Advent isn't in the Bible. [laughter] That means it's optional. As much pressure as it can feel like Christians put on this holiday or the season, it's optional. It's a traditional from church history that is wonderful, but it is not a requirement. We want you guys all to just breathe a big sigh of relief about that right now.

Emily: The important thing to remember, exactly like you're saying Laura, is that it's a chance to celebrate what God set in motion long before the beginning of time, what he does in this whole Ceation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration story, that we see all throughout scripture, that we talk about every week on Risen Motherhood, we get a chance to spend four weeks focusing our family on that. It’s basically an excuse to talk to your kids about the gospel. 


Laura: It’s a perfect chance for us to talk with our kids and to help them to understand that we are not so different from God's people in the Old Testament. They were waiting for the coming of God in human flesh, just like today we wait for Christ to come back and to rescue us. Advent is about the “longing and waiting,” that's what you hear people using those phrases for. We can look back and identify a lot with the people in the Old Testament: Moses and the Israelites who were seeking the one who would free them, the judges waiting for the true judge to come and reign, the kings who were looking for the final perfect King, and the prophets who were looking for the one they prophesied about. 

We can take this season of Advent to look back and know that we play a part in the story and we are not any different from the people in the Bible, even though we live on this side of the cross. That's what we can drive home with our kids; taking time to talk with them and reminding ourselves that we are embedded in the redemption story. We are part of it.

Emily: I wanted to pull this out because I thought Lori Wilbert who recently wrote on the Risen Motherhood blog said it well: “Waiting is the whole story of Scripture. For the Old Testament believers waiting for their Messiah for what God had promised them, this was their story and for the New Testament believer. This is us. We are waiting for the second coming of our groom. The whole story of Scripture is the middle, the wait. We know the beginning and the end, but we exist in that hollow space.” 

This is an important concept to share with our children. Hopefully this is another opportunity to share with our families because our hearts become really numb to it. I think that's something I struggle with and it is amazing how hard-headed we are. I can say it as I’m recording an episode, [laughs] I can share it with my children over breakfast, and then like three minutes later, I am not living like those things are true. Advent is a wonderful time to rehearse the good truths repeatedly.

Laura: We all know, as we started out the show, how hard it is to really keep focused during the Christmas season. As Emily just got done saying, this is a great chance for a reset in our Christian life to remember the grand story that God set into motion before the beginning of time. There are a lot of traditions, as we also discussed, but we're only going to share three common ways with you today just to keep it simple – because we know how easy it is to get overwhelmed. And we all need to remember that the point isn't about what you do; it's not about the tradition, but about your heart during this season. We'll kick it off with the first one which is Advent wreaths or candles.

Emily: This is something that a lot of people may know from their church. This is something that is often done in corporate worship but it's something you could do at home too. Essentially, it's lighting a group of four candles. You light one each Sunday of Advent, and then some people add a fifth for the day of Christmas. There are special colors and you can do different arrangements, but the point is, it's a way to mark the passing of time, and obviously light is a symbol of Christ – and I feel like … if you Google that, there's deep imagery for each candle. [laughter] You could get deep into the wreath thing. 

Laura: Do not be surprised if your kids just want to blow them out and have you re-light them like a million times over. 

Okay, so, the next one is an Advent calendar. These can look all sorts of different ways. If you do a quick Pinterest search, you're going to get a vast variety of different calendars. I have one that we typically do, and I can post a link on the show notes. We tend to do the Jesse Tree ornaments with it. We're not going to go into what that is on the show today, but we will post links to things that give you more information about it. I've also seen people use Advent calendars to write attributes of God each day or maybe inside the calendar they have service opportunities or Emily's pieces of chocolate. [laughter]

Emily:  We even do … .well, what we have done the last few years is a simple paper chain as a visual, instead of doing numbers. When all of our kids were three and under, they didn't necessarily recognize the numbers, they were having a hard time with the whole concept of sitting and reading every day. So I would literally just take a piece off the chain and we would do a simple activity. Sometimes as simple as like reading a story or singing a Christmas carol together and then they could visually watch the chain get smaller and smaller until they were freaking out because there were one or two links left. [laughter] 

There's so many different ways you can do it. 

Laura: This leads us into our final recommendation for celebrating the Advent season, doing a devotional or a scripture reading. Typically, people will take a selection of biblical texts that hint towards the first and second comings of Jesus. There are a lot of good ones which we will post links on the show notes. I'm excited this year for Paul David Tripp’s Come Let Us Adore Him devotional. If you like New Morning Mercies, I assume you'll like this one. 

Emily: Some other ones of note: Nancy Guthrie, Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room, Russ Ramsey has Behold the Lamb of God, John Piper has a good one, and She Reads Truth has a beautiful Advent devotional that you can get off their website. There are lots of them out there and we will link to some of our favorites in the show notes.

Laura: But for your kids though, one of our favorites is the Jesus Story Book Bible. You've heard us talking about it on the show many times. They release an Advent reading plan for free, so we will link to that. If you have the JSB Bible you've already got everything you need to work on that with your kiddos. There are so many options out there if you quick Google search you’ll find some. Just know we were sort of sifting through the materials just like you are. Go out there and find what works for your family. [laughter]

Emily: Obviously, there have been a ton of things created to help us celebrate Advent, but the main thing is not getting caught up in feeling burden, heavy-laden, and guilty. Like, we do not need one more thing to feel guilty about in December that we are not doing right. [laughter] It’s important to convey the message of true rest in Christ to our families. This is a joy that we get to have this devotional time or do this Advent activity. It's meant to bring joy, not to burden.

Laura: I think as soon as I switched my mindset to Advent being a time of rest and peace and not like a legalistic-crazy-woman attitude, it really helped. I have started looking forward to Advent since September! I can’t wait for the break with Advent and Christmas. That is some backwards thinking for our culture today, isn't it? That is something that over time has been freeing for me. I hope that it is for you as well. 

A few final thoughts that have helped me in this thinking. The first thing is you may have to say no to things during the month of December. Make sure that you add space because you are adding something new in.

Emily:  Just pick one or two simple ways to celebrate Advent. Don't do all the Advent activities all at the same time. It is okay to choose one small thing and try to be consistent. Honestly, even if you miss several days, it's okay. Get right back on. Your kids don't know you skipped three readings. [laughter] That happens to us a lot, but I still feel like even if you were to only do something, let's say three days a week, over the course of the whole month of December, that is still going to make an impact in the culture of your family.

Laura: And with that, keep it fun. One thing that I often think about with my kids, is that I want my kids to understand the weight, importance, and the heaviness of the gospel because it is heavy - but in a good way. But I also want them to understand that God loves fun too. He invented fun. He is humorous, he makes jokes, he gave us those things and we image him in those things. Emily and I, especially having little kids, we do not expect them to sit still for 20 minutes during our monologues. We don't even really expect them to sit still for three minutes! Just roll with your family and know that stuff is getting in there. God is using that time, He's using you and every little deposit you make is a true investment in their eternity.

Emily:  Finally if you did something last year and it didn't work, you don't have to do the same thing this year. You can start something and change it up midway through the month there are no rules on this. [laughter] I think we're going to do something new this year. Have fun, be free, celebrate Jesus. There you go. 

Laura: As we wrap up today’s show, we hope you guys will come and find us over on social media as we will talk about that more this week. We're on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @RisenMotherhood. You can head to our website for the show notes at risenmotherhood.com, you'll find the show notes and lots more at the resources page where we've neatly curated lots of things that Emily and I really enjoy. Have a great Advent!


Ep. 52 || Gospel–Hope for Postpartum Depression with Lindsey Carlson - Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Laura: Hello and welcome to a very special episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura Wifler, half of the duo on the show that I co-host with my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen. Today we have a very special episode for all of you. We have invited Lindsey Carlson on the show today to talk about a highly requested and very sensitive topic – postpartum depression. Lindsey is a wife, mother, speaker and writer and you can find her work all over the internet, but her home base is her blog, worshiprejoices@worshiprejoices.com.

We actually found Lindsey through a Christianity Today article written on the topic of Postpartum Depression, and we wanted to invite her on the show as she applied such a well-rounded mix of research, personal experience and biblical truth to a topic that can be very difficult to discuss.

Now, we just want to remind everyone upfront that we’re not doctors, nor do we claim any medical expertise, so please before making any decisions, do consult your doctor. During today's interview, you'll hear Lindsey share her personal experience with PPD - she's actually experienced it three different times between her five pregnancies - and how to determine if what you're experiencing is PPD, or if it’s something different like the baby blues, or even just a spiritually dry season. She’ll also talk about the next steps if you think you or a friend or a family member might have PPD. Who do you talk to and what do you do? She's even going to talk about what the role of medication is, and of course she applies gospel-hope all throughout the interview.

Now, if I can leave you with anything, let me leave you with one thing Lindsey said that really stuck out. She said, “PPD is not at the end of your story, God is doing bigger things through it. And with Christ, we know that all things are possible, even postpartum depression.” This is the heartbeat of today's episode, and we hope after listening, you feel encouraged, equipped and loved by God. And just one final note; I was actually out with a summer flu during this interview, so Emily is flying solo with Lindsey. But I don’t think you're going to miss me too much. Here’s Lindsey and Emily. 

Emily: We are excited to have Lindsey Carlson on today to talk about postpartum depression with us, which is one of the most requested shows and it’s something that has been in our heart to do for a while. Welcome Lindsey.

Lindsey: Thank you for having me. I am excited to be here.

Emily: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What does a typical day look like for you and how do you spend your days? What does your family look like?

Lindsey: We actually moved from Texas – I have lived in Texas my whole life – and about a year and a half ago, my family uprooted from Texas and moved to Baltimore, Maryland to plant a church. We have five kids and they are in the range of 12, all the way down to 9 months. My twelve-year-old is my only girl, and we have a ten-year-old, an eight-year-old, a six-year-old. Then we jumped down to nine months; my son just turned nine months. My older kids are in school now, but I did not have any time with no kids in the home because as soon as I was about to hit that magic window, we had the baby. So I spend most of my days helping my husband with his church plans - doing graphic design and things like that, and then writing in my free time, which there’s very little of. [laughter] 

Emily: We know that word, “free time” is held very loosely in motherhood! [laughter] Lindsey mentioned her writing, and one of the things that got us connected with you, Lindsey, is Laura and I both came across an article that you wrote for Christianity Today, about your experience with postpartum depression, and how you applied the gospel. In your article you talked about how you saw some warning signs after having your fourth child, and then after you'd had your fifth child. You definitely got to a point where you needed some help, so can you just tell us about your experience with postpartum depression, and describe it?

Lindsey: I think I first experienced it with my third pregnancy and I was talking with my husband about that recently, because it’s even hard to remember it now. But my first two, I had waited all my life to be a mom, so I took it for granted that, “Oh, this is going to be a really easy transition because I've had babies before, and my first two babies."  I don’t want to say it was easy, adjusting to motherhood is always difficult - but I didn’t have postpartum depression that I can remember with my first two.

Then with my third, I remember that there was a day where I went to my OB and she was asking how I was handling things. I said, “Most of the days actually I feel like just locking myself in my closet and crying all the time.” I loved my baby, I loved being a mom, I absolutely wanted to be a stay-at-home mom since I was little, and having this overwhelming feeling of, “I can’t get away. I can’t breathe. I am overwhelmed all the time.” I remember thinking that the laundry was just overwhelming, and cooking was overwhelming, and it felt like everything was just closing in on me. So my doctor, in that moment, looked at me and said, “You know, it doesn’t have to be like that. I think that you're having some postpartum depression.” I burst into tears because I think that was the first time that I had really realized, “Oh, this is isn’t just how it is to transition from two to three kids. That time I had a four-year- old and a two-year-old and then the baby. There's a lot of that where you think, “Oh well, I just have three kids – that’s hard,” but trying to understand that adjustment between what's just hard and what's more than hard. But with my fourth, I will say – not to scare anybody – but I feel like it did get progressively worse after my third, then after my fourth, and after my fifth. Each time I was thinking, “Oh well, this time it won’t be as bad because I know what to expect,” and then it was still as hard. [laughs] I think that knowing from the third, to be watching out for it and to be expecting it, that element at least was helpful –  to know that that might be coming. 

Emily: Thanks for sharing your story, I am sure there are moms in various stages that can relate with that, and one of the things you mentioned, that we wanted to get into just a little bit, is motherhood is hard and transitioning, whether it’s your first, or your third, or your fifth, there are days that every mom feels like, “I am so overwhelmed,” and, “How am I going to cook dinner?” "Or that laundry pile is closing in," that kind of hyperventilating feeling, and sometimes, life has hard seasons. Can you describe a little bit how a mom would know, or if she could know, what the difference is between if transitioning to more children is difficult, or this has been a hard season versus “I may have postpartum depression,” and then, “I may need to talk to a friend or a doctor about this?" 

Lindsey: That’s a great question. Actually the National Institute of Mental Health say that 80% of women experience the baby blues. So you're going to assume that you're going to experience the baby blues  in some form or fashion. But I feel that the difference for me between, “Wow, this is hard for me to go from being pregnant to having a newborn and not sleeping all of the time,” was when it becomes debilitating, when it starts to become “unable to cope.” So for me, I couldn’t get out of bed and I couldn’t do the laundry. Or if I could, I’d say I couldn’t, but I had enough kids that I had to. I’d say I couldn’t, but I did because when your husband leaves for work, and you have three small children, you have no choice but to get out of the bed. But it felt impossible; everything felt heavier and I was crying all the time.

That being said, everyone experiences it very differently, but the category of being extremely sad or extremely anxious, I would even say constantly anxious. Things that typically wouldn’t get you anxious, but all of a sudden you feel, “This is more intense than I've ever felt,” this anxiety. And the category of exhaustion; when you're very exhausted to the point that all day long, all you're doing is thinking about sleeping, and it’s a means to escape, to get away from life and what's going on, that’s a time that I would start thinking, “You know what, this might be past the point of a baby blues type thing.” 

Also, you have to have people in your life that can look in, and when you're sharing those things with them, and you're saying, “I am really anxious or I am really worried,” or “I am really tired,” or whatever those things are that they can say, “You know what, you always worry about these things and it’s not that much different,” or, “That’s really different; you don’t normally do that.” People that know you and know your personality and your temperament can sometimes have more insight than you might be able to have in these moments.

Emily: That was something in your article that I really appreciated you mentioned, the importance of having community. Something that we talk about a lot on Risen Motherhood is being in relationships with other women in your local church, and having those people who value the same thing that you do, and you're willing to let into your life, and willing to be vulnerable with, and all of those things.

That’s a great reminder, and one of the things - since we are a show that values the gospel - is talking about the spiritual aspect. I can think of times in my life where I have felt more irritable or short tempered or anxious, and I also look at my spiritual disciplines and see how, “I really haven’t been meeting with the Lord,” or, “I haven’t been reading my Bible consistently, I haven’t been praying about this,” could be a result of where I am at in my relationship with the Lord and believing God’s promises. So can you just speak to that, spiritual side just a little bit? Or if a mom is feeling really anxious after she's had a baby, or she is feeling those overwhelmed feelings, again, how does she determine if it isn’t just a spiritual dry season, or because she's not praying. Does the same principle still apply there?

Lindsey: I think you’ve actually hit on one of the most dangerous things about postpartum depression. I absolutely believe the enemy gets in right there and is able to attack us because we typically don’t like to be weak as women. A lot of the time we find our identity in being able to be strong and being able to be good moms, and so anything that challenges that is an entry point for Satan to come in and attack and condemn. With postpartum depression, it being something that you can’t go to the doctor, you can’t have a blood test, and they can’t look at it and say, “Oh, clearly you have postpartum depression.” With diabetes, or something like heart disease or something like that, you could go in, they can show on a test, and you can say, “I need to take medication.” With postpartum depression, it feels so open to interpretation and it feels so personal, and then when you talk about things like anxiousness and how much the Bible talks about “Do not fear,” and “Do not be afraid,” and all of those things, and you think, “Gosh, I am doing all those things!" 

I would say the point where you open the Word and you say, “Lord, speak to me,” and, “I want to hear from you,” and “I want to know what you have to say about this.” In times where I wasn’t dealing with postpartum depression and I could do that, and my soul would act like dry ground and it would take in the Word, and it would be saturated and I would think, “Wow, Lord help me trust you.” And then I would walk away and my soul would be refreshed.

In seasons where I have struggled with anxiety and depression, specifically with postpartum depression, I would sit in front of the Word and I would read, and my mind would know, “Yes Lord, you are good,” “Yes Lord, this is true, this is right, and I want this to guide me.” But the ability to walk away from that any different, was just completely void; it wasn’t there. When you start to notice that even the truths of God are not able to saturate you, that’s when you want to start paying attention and asking some bigger questions. 

In the article I mentioned a girl, Allison Goldstein; she was a woman that lost her battle with postpartum depression – she went as far as to commit suicide. When I wrote this article I mentioned her by name, and about a week or two later, I heard from her father. He emailed me, and one of the things he said was, “Thank you so much for talking about this. I wish that my daughter had had your article before this happened because she went to a Christian counselor, and the Christian counselor said, ‘Here are some verses to memorize.” It killed me to think about a woman walking in, and saying, “I need help,” and being handed scripture, which we know is the word of life, we know it’s the bread of life, and its good, and it’s supposed to encourage and help us.

But when someone says, “Okay, I am trying this and I really want to hear from the Lord, but I am not able to get up in the morning and take care of my family, and I am not able to breathe through these panic attacks,” that is when we know, "Okay, we’re not fighting with the right tools." I would say that sometimes what happens is you have this fire kind of raging in the house of your body, and we’re trying to put it out with the Word of God which is good, and it’s applicable for everything and it’s supposed to be helpful, and it is helpful. But if the wrong fire is burning, and we’re putting out the wrong fire, it’s going to keep burning even if you're feeding yourself with the Word of God. So you have to decide which fire you're putting out.

Emily: You're getting into one of the things that we love to talk about on the show, which is the gospel, and how we live in this. We’re broken, we’re fallen and in our humanness, we experience things that don’t allow for us to have a right relationship with God, and even when we are in Christ, we still face lots and lots of challenges and in our ability to believe God’s promises. Can you just flesh that out a little bit – I know you did in your article – but how does the gospel apply to this? If a mom is in that situation, or maybe this is someone listening, who has a friend who's going to either come to her, or has a family member who's struggling through this. How can the gospel be applied? 

Lindsey: Sure. Hebrews 4 tells us that, “We do not have a High Priest that’s unable to sympathize, but He knows our weaknesses.” And we know that Romans 8 talks about, “There's no condemnation in Christ.” When you start to feel like, “I can’t do this, I can’t be a mom,” or, “I can’t be a good mom,” those are things that we know; that we live in broken bodies. We have fallen and our bodies are not working the way that they're supposed to work, and so when we experience illness in the form of postpartum depression, we know this is not a result of my ability to be a good mom. This is a result of my flesh is broken and messed up, and so it’s another opportunity to point back to the gospel, in a way that says, “I am not finding my standing before the Lord, in the fact that I am an awesome mom, or that I can kick postpartum depression to the curb." 

Sometimes we think that if we can be a good enough mom and get over postpartum depression, or if I can just memorize enough scripture or read my Bible enough, that I can pull myself out of this. When you say things like that, you hear the word "I, I, I, I" over and over and over again. But if we really believe that we have this High Priest who suffered for us so that He could understand our weakness, this is a perfect opportunity to say, “Lord, I am weak, and I am a broken jar of clay that needs you to come and dwell in me,” and I need to be able to say, “Thank you Lord that my salvation does not depend on my ability to get better, by myself.” 

You have the piece of the puzzle where you want to deal with your postpartum depression in healthy ways, but having friends that can also come alongside of you and say, “This is not a self-specific issue, dealing with this kind of illness is not going to commend you to God. This is something that is hurtful, painful, it’s a hard season, but we’re going to deal with this, and God’s grace is going to be sufficient in it, and God is going to speak and breathe life into you, in the middle of the season, just like he does in every other season of your life.” 

Emily: Yer, some verses that were coming to mind as you were saying that, just sink in, just like Romans talks about, “Nothing can separate us from God, no angels, princes, rulers, principalities,” all those things, and neither postpartum depression. God is working all things for good, even when it looks really bad to us, so I appreciate that. And another thing that Laura and I talk a lot about in Risen Motherhood is our eternal hope and our future hope and all the things that we deal with in life, whether it be depression or anxiety, or physical issues, or whatever those things are, we struggle with, we can be  hopeful that it is not in our future forever if we’re for Christ.

Two more things, before we wrap up here, that we really wanted to get from you Lindsey is one; and if there is a mom listening who is on the border, she's like, “Oh, I feel that a little beating in my heart of, “Maybe this is me,” or, “I don’t know if this is me, and I don’t know what to do.” Or maybe there's someone listening in who has a friend come to mind, what is the next thing that a mom can do? Is it reach out to a friend? Is it reach out to a counselor? What's the next thing? Do you have a final word of gospel encouragement for a mom who's listening, and is walking through some of this?

Lindsey: Absolutely. I would say first of all, someone else needs to be inside of your head, which is a really hard thing to do when you have to admit that you're struggling. For me, it was my husband, but I think that it would be foolish to assume that we all have husbands that are going to be super sensitive and understand those struggles. Some of us are not in that place, so I don’t want to say, “Go talk to your husband.” I want to say, “Go talk to someone that you trust, and that loves you and that you know, knows you and all of those scary thoughts that are in your head, or those sub-thoughts – whatever they may be; even though it feels really scary to admit that those things are going though your head. Those are things that need to be in the mind of someone else; they need to know.

Several of these girls that I wrote about, their families said, “We had no idea that she was struggling with this.” I told my husband at some point, after my fifth pregnancy, I told him some of the things that were going through my head and he looked shocked. He had no idea because even though I was feeling these horrible things, I was coping because I had to. I was getting up every day and I was doing the motions, but he had no idea how bad it really was inside my head. To admit those things to someone that is listening is vital. And then again to also be your own advocate, which, because no one else is in your head, if you are not saying, “I am not getting as much help as I need,” or, “This is getting to the point where its past me just needing to memorize scripture,” or “It’s getting past me needing a listening ear, or extra help with the laundry. I need to talk to somebody.”

And then even with that counselor, just as there are good and bad in every other profession, there are really great counselors out there, and there are some other counselors that may not be so helpful. So even if you go to a counselor, and you get the guts up to do it, [laughs] the time, the babysitter to be able to go, if you get there and you walk away and you feel like you were not heard, have the kind of guts to keep knocking on doors until you're heard, because you're the only one that knows what's going on in your head and in your heart. And you're the only one that can ask for help. That’s the most important thing is to make sure that somebody understands what's going on.

Emily: What about medication, Lindsey? Is that something that can be really helpful, or where does that really fit into the equation?

Lindsey: That is really a sensitive subject to a lot of people, and so I want to make it very clear that this is just my opinion. I am not a medical expert at all. But I would say that when I have a headache, I take Tylenol. And when I have an illness that requires an antibiotic, I take an antibiotic. So if you see a physical need, if a doctor’s able to assess and say, “You know what, a lot of women struggle with postpartum depression, and often it has to do with your hormone levels, and it has to do sometimes with your thyroid even. My thyroid was completely out of wack after I had babies. If a doctor’s able to look at that and say, “You know what, until your body levels out, an anti-depressant might be really helpful for you.” Clearly you need to pray about that, and your family needs to be comfortable with that, but I would say if there are absolute situations where medication can be incredibly helpful and beneficial.

Like I said before, if that’s the fire that you're fighting, and you get to a point where you say, “You know what, in my quiet times, I get in the Word and I am weeping in the Word and I can’t find solace in that.” Scripture talks about, “Give strong drink to the man who is hurting,” and sometimes the most compassionate thing that we can do for people is to give them medication that’s actually helping them until their body physically heals itself and gets to a point where you don’t need that medication any more. Understanding, even with medication, you're not sentencing yourself to something necessarily that’s lifelong. Sometimes it can even be a breakthrough, just to cover you until you come out of that season of your life. But your doctor’s clearly going to be the best one to discuss that with, but there is absolutely no shame in that.

When we see there's no condemnation in Christ, that applies. Jesus knows our every weakness, and sometimes medication is a grace and a mercy that in this modern time, we have the ability to utilize, when we need it. As for hope, I get hope from the Psalms all the time because I feel like David understood depression. He wrote about very high highs and very low lows.

When I start to feel like I am desperate, I like to go to any part in the Psalms, honestly, where he's talking about being so low and “Why is my soul downcast?” But then he goes back and says, “But yet, even though my soul is downcast, I put my hope in the Lord.” I like to constantly refresh myself that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and he's good, and he is right there with us. And at some point, that depression is going to part, and it’s going to break way. I have no idea how the Lord is going to do that, but He has mercy and goodness for us.

My final encouragement would be that postpartum depression isn’t the end of your story. God is doing bigger things through it, and with Christ, we know that all things are possible, and it’s the same with postpartum depression. Even when admitting weakness and accepting help, God is still good in those times and there's still help on the other side of it.

Emily: Lindsey, we really appreciate you taking time to share your story and sharing the hope and God’s Word, even in the midst of really scary, hard dark times. If there is someone listening who's still not sure what to do next, we will have our resources on our Show Notes. I know Lindsey had included  in her Christianity Today article a great little resource that says, “Hey, here are some Help Lines that you can call.” And so we’ll definitely include those things as well. Thank you so much Lindsey for being with us.

Lindsey: Thank you for having me.

Ep. 48 || Gretchen Saffles: Looking To Christ in Work & Motherhood - Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. Today, Laura and I are so excited for you to hear from our friend Gretchen Saffles from Life Lived Beautifully. She is a wife and a mom, an entrepreneur, a business owner and a minister of the Gospel in everything she does. She is on Risen Motherhood today talking about all about her journey into being a working mom, and how she has learned to balance the different aspects of her roles with the grace that God provides, looking to Christ for His sufficiency in everything that she does. We know you are going to be encouraged by this interview today. Anything that she mentions in the show, you can find in our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. Again, we know that you are going to be encouraged by this practical and Christ-exalting interview and you’re going to love Gretchen. Enjoy!   

Laura:  Hey Gretchen. Thank you so much for joining us today on Risen Motherhood. We are so happy to have you here. 

Gretchen:  Thank you for having me. I’ve been looking forward to it.  

Laura:  Us too. Let’s dive in fast. Can you tell us a little bit about what your day looks like? You’re a mom to Nolan, you’re a wife, and you have a business too.  We want to hear a little bit about Gretchen!  

Gretchen:  This is a fun question because we have no typical day and I’m actually okay with that. Every day has its own different rhythm. Right now in this season, I work three days a week from home. For us, those three days, my son goes to someone’s house who watches him. That’s from about 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. During those hours are when I buckle down and I work really, really hard. I try to plan out that day really well so I’m utilizing all of that time. Usually, I go in and out and I try to do some housework too in between all of that. The other four days, I’ve got my son with me and so we have different rhythms for those days. We go to the gym, we have play dates, we run errands and tackle all of the different home projects that we have as well.   

Laura:  I love the mix up of the days. Even not being a working mom, I know Emily and I can attest to every day looks different as a mom, no matter what you do, right? 

Gretchen:  Absolutely. It depends too on your child and how they are doing that day. You can have an amazing plan for the day and then everybody wakes up not feeling good or something. You’ve got to have the grace of flexibility. [laughter] 

Laura:  Can you tell us a little bit about your business, Life Lived Beautifully? Emily and I are huge fans. All of our listeners will probably have heard already about your journal, and your business, and how much we love you, but give us a little synopsis of what the business is and what your days look like with that.   

Gretchen:  I run a business that I never really intended on it becoming what it is, which is definitely how the Lord works. My vision behind it is to equip women to study God’s word and to stir in their hearts a passion to live for Christ every single day right where they are. I do this mainly through social media because I think that’s an amazing way to reach women across the world, which is beyond my comprehension that we can do that. 

I also view it as a great opportunity. Women are on social media. You’re standing in the grocery line flipping through it and I hope that I can reach them with the truth of the Gospel where they are. That whenever they are maybe seeing something that’s discouraging or something that they would compare themselves to, that immediately they would stop and see Christ, and see the glory of His word. 

Through Life Lived Beautifully, we create different Bible study tools, or journals, Bible studies and even things like coffee mugs that we hope are a beacon of hope for women as they sip their fifth cup of coffee during the day, [laughter] that they can see a reminder of who God is. My biggest vision is to meet women. I hope in the future, for us to be able to connect with them a little bit more than just through the internet, maybe in more face-to-face interactions and things like that.       

Emily:  That’s so encouraging Gretchen. I know I’m speaking for Laura and I when I say we both directly benefit from time that you spend. God is definitely using you as a conduit for His grace and reaching women with the Gospel. I don’t know how many times I’m scrolling through Instagram and just like you said, there’s something a little discouraging, and then I will run across a post that you write that reminds me to focus on Christ. It really is making an impact in the life of other women and I know that that is a really worthwhile investment. Laura and I would both affirm that. We’re glad that you take the time to do it and we will make sure and link to everything you guys need in our show notes because if you’re not following her, you should.    

Gretchen:  Everything I write is preaching to myself so it’s not like, “Oh, people need to hear this.” It’s, “Oh, I’ve got to know this for myself,” so somebody else probably does too.  

Laura:  That’s the heart behind Risen Motherhood as well. We are not telling people what to do. We’re like, “This is for our own souls,” and so we understand that. Your days are more than social media, of course. You’ve got a team of women that you manage, you’ve got accounting and books, you’ve got a shop. Your days are more than just putting up a meaningful social media post, which is valuable but as a full businesswoman, you’re an entrepreneur.   

Gretchen:  Yes, so I didn’t even mention any of that, [laughter] the team. We’re actually in different states, which adds a whole different dynamic. I’m the only one who’s in Tennessee so we communicate mainly through video chat, texting, email, things like that. Throughout the day, I’m designing and writing and communicating with our creative director. Her name is Rachael and she’s amazing. Then we’re constantly casting vision about, okay, what are we going to do next? The part of my business that I don’t love is the whole number crunching and figuring out, “Can we afford this? Can we do this? What does this look like?” Thankfully, I’ve got a wonderful business partner who handles all of the accounting, the numbers, the things that are not my strong suit. We are able to come together and really partner and strengthen each other in that, which is amazing.   

Emily:  Incredible to hear about all the different gifts that are even on your team of women that are willing to bring their stuff to the table so your guys can all fit together and make this amazing business in ministry.  

Gretchen:  I got to the point where I realized I couldn’t do it on my own. I wasn’t doing anybody a favor trying to do everything on my own because I can’t do it all. It was causing our family to not have the time that we needed, my marriage and it was a lot of stress on our shoulders.  We prayed and God brought alongside people that could come and bear up some of the load and they could take on different aspects of the business where they are made to do that. They are strongly gifted in those areas and I’m so thankful. I’m getting to the point where I’m able to focus more on the things that God has called me to, instead of all these other things that can be a little side tracking. I’m very, very thankful for that. It’s neat to learn how to champion other women to do what God’s called them to do.    

Laura:  Did you always think that you would be a mom and be working or did you want to be a stay-at-home mom? What did you think it would be like and any misconceptions that you had?  

Gretchen:  I never dreamed of working at all. I always dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom. I saw that as such a gift and a treasure and an opportunity. Like I said, I never imagined Life Lived Beautifully to become what it was or what it is today. When I got pregnant, I wrestled through, “What does this look like?” I had all the mom guilt even before I became a mom. I think no matter season you’re in, whether you work or you don’t work, we all carry different guilt. The enemy has his way of finding that one little area that he can pin point on us, to make us feel like we’re not doing enough or we’re not being enough. I struggled with that at first. What does that look like to stay at home too? I love what I do administering in business, but then I also love being a stay-at-home mom.

I’ve had to walk this line with a whole lot of grace because sometimes also there’s way too much and not on the other. Finding where the two meet in the middle is a daily surrender to the Lord and saying, “God, what does this look like today?” because it changes every single day with the needs. Some of the misconceptions that I had was, one, I think that working outside the home, you can often look inside the home and go, “It would be so much easier to be a stay-at-home mom.” Or if you’re a stay-at-home mom, you think, “It would be so much easier to be working so I don’t have to do all these things here,” and so I think it goes both ways. Being in the middle where I also work from home is a really weird dynamic because literally, my laundry room is in my office. I have a whole pile of laundry sitting next to us right now that as I’m working, I have to think, “God, what is my role in this second? Am I supposed to be doing the laundry right now or am I supposed to be writing something, or creating something, or emailing?” Really relying on the Lord and learning to plan my days well. I think that we are always looking to the other thing, like, “It would be so much easier if it was like that,” and it’s really not. Even as a stay-at-home mom, you’re working. You are working. You’re working so hard for the Kingdom. If you are working outside the home, if that’s what God’s called you to or stay at home, there’s different obstacles that come with all of those but really, they can be opportunities. For us to see, “Okay God, you called me to this, in this season,” that’s what gives us hope and purpose in what we do.                

Emily:  Such a good lesson for every single mom. We tend to put things in a box and think that it is simple, like what you’re saying Gretchen but we all need to view it as that second by second surrender of, “Lord, what have you called me to do right now?” We all have to be willing to lay aside our plans and our preconceived notions about how the day was going to go, or our agendas so that we can work hard for Him in that moment. That can be working hard at home or working hard outside the home. I think that’s such a universal need that we all have to continually surrender to the Lord.    

Gretchen:  One thing that came to my mind, I think it was last year, was, “I can’t run my race wearing my sister’s shoes.” I can’t be constantly looking to what somebody else is doing and thinking, “I should be doing that,” or, “I’m not doing enough,” or comparing motherhood and working and all of these different aspects. We can’t do that and be faithful to the Lord. We’ve got to keep our eyes on Him. We’ve got to constantly go back to the Lord, see what He’s called us to do and then align everything we do with that. I’ve gotten a lot of freedom from that and it’s something I have to remind myself of pretty much every day.      

Laura:  A little bit into that, but did God convict you of anything in particular as you grew in your role in motherhood? Some of these issues that you’re talking about facing. Can you explain through some of these things that you had to make changes on as you grew as a mom and a working mom? 

Gretchen:  Honestly, in every season and every stage of my son’s life, there’s been different convictions the Lord has brought. In the beginning honestly, one of the hardest things was trying to get something done and then viewing my son as more of an interruption. I would be working on something, maybe a blog post to encourage women and he would wake up from his nap early. Immediately, my heart would start to grumble and go, “Lord, I’m doing something for you, [laughter] and my son is awake and I can’t finish it.” I had this misconception of the fact that that’s Kingdom work. Going and nursing my son and taking care of him, that the moment he wakes up, God has switched my role and I am his momma right then. 

He really convicted me about my son and my future children.  They are not obstacles, or interruptions. They are a blessing and they are God’s calling in my life. I had to really learn the grace of flexibility and saying, “In this moment, it’s changed. I want to be faithful to God and what He has given me.” But then as he got older and I was able to get some help and maybe even be a little bit more independent. I wasn’t nursing anymore so I could be away from him a little bit longer. The big conviction came in with comparing myself to other women and saying, “They are doing all of these things. Surely, I can do all of this.” I found myself taking on way too much, even in the past year, to the point where I ran myself into the ground. I was saying yes to everything and not yes to the things that God had called me to and no to the right things. 

That comparison actually led me to this pit where I had to stop everything for a while. I actually had health problems that arose at the same time too but those were God’s grace. They were His wake up call for me to say, “Hey, you can’t do it all. Nobody can do it all other than Jesus.” I had to lay aside all of my roles, my dreams, and my passions and say, “Okay God, what have you called me to in this season?” He’s really showed me that my limits are for His glory because He’s limitless. I recognize that I can’t do it all but I know the one who can do it all and I can be faithful with the things He’s called me to each day. That changed everything for me.       

Emily:  That is such an incredible lesson and encouragement. As you were talking about interruptions, I was thinking about, whether it’s a blog post or a phone call that your kiddo is not feeling well, I know there are mommies who are on their nurse shift or they’re at school or whatever and that thing comes up with their kiddos, and I’m sure it is really easy to view that as an interruption. I view it as an interruption when I am trying to fold laundry and somebody needs a snack. I think we all have that feeling of, “This is getting in the way of what I wanted to do,” and like you said, shifting that focus to, “No, this is Kingdom work. This is also part of my ministry.  This is another aspect of my role,” and acknowledging our limits is so important. I feel like you’re speaking to my soul. 

Gretchen:  I looked to Jesus’ life and He constantly had interruptions. In Mark 1:35, Jesus goes away to pray and to be alone with the Father and the disciples come and interrupt Him. Immediately, Jesus isn’t like, “Excuse me! I am alone with the Father!” No! Jesus talks to them and He goes straight away with them and He says, “Look, I’ve got some new direction. We’re going to go to this place and I’m going to preach the good news there.” He didn’t view interruptions as obstacles but as opportunities. 

There’s even a time when He was going through the crowd and the bleeding woman is touching Him and He’s going to heal somebody, and yet He stops right away and He doesn’t get angry with her. Instead, He heals her because of her faith. I saw those things in Scripture and I constantly do, and I see Jesus in no way was impatient with those people. He saw it as Kingdom work. He saw it as, “In this moment, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to bless this person. I’m going to get to them and I’m going to see that God is in control of time.” 

We don’t even understand time. We get imprisoned by the clock and by our planners when really, we need to look to the Lord and He sees it all. Some days where we don’t get anything done on our to-do list, we did exactly what God was calling us to do that day, whether it’s taking care of a sick child or dealing with a lot of interruptions and things like that. I think that it is that constant surrender, constantly looking to Christ who has already gone before us, and who goes with us every single step of the way. I wanted to read a verse to you all that I constantly go back to. It’s Colossians 1:29. Paul was talking about doing His ministry and he’s there to proclaim the Gospel. He wants to encourage people with the hope of Jesus Christ and he says, “For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me,” and that changes everything. We’re not working with our own energy. We are working with energy of Christ within us. He equips us to do what He’s called us to do.          

Laura:  That’s such good news, for any mom, as Emily was saying. I can see it really fitting well into my day. Even for someone who is at an accounting job all day or like Emily said, a nurse and she’s working a 12-hour shift and then has to go home and be a mom, that we are working for Christ for eternity. Both of these jobs matter and have value. 

If you’re listening to Gretchen, it can be easy to see where Gretchen is doing Kingdom work at home as a mom and also in her business because it really is focused on an obvious way of encouraging women for eternity. But we want to encourage the mom who’s listening, who feels like, “My job doesn’t exactly relate.” How is it Gospel-centered to be a teacher or to work in public relations or communications or whatever you are doing at your corporate job, for example. We want to encourage you guys to all know that no matter what you are doing, those things are for eternity and for the Gospel. That these limits that are placed on us, you have them as well as any mom at home, but that Christ strengthens you in everything you do. The Gospel matters no matter what you day looks like and what your job description is.          

Gretchen:  Absolutely, and we can serve the Lord in everything that we do, which is amazing. Like you said, all of those different jobs. Before I did this, I actually worked in a store, in a clothing store and this looked so different. How do I serve the Lord whenever I’m picking out clothes for women? God really brought so many opportunities once I changed my perspective to see, “I can serve people in this area. I can serve them with the love of Christ working within me and not just to get something done.” 

Can I recommend a book that I read that is so good and I think would encourage anybody listening. It’s called What’s Best Next, by Matt Perman. It has really helped give me this reality check with how I spend my time. How am I serving other people in Jesus name? How am I living out with this greater picture of the Gospel, driving everything that I do? Even when I’m grocery shopping and I’m in the store, connecting with people there. How am I loving them in Jesus’ name? How do they see that I’m the salt and light of the earth because Christ is within me? It really changes my perspective on everything that I do. Even when I’m not doing things with Life Lived Beautifully, there’s so much of our life that nobody sees whenever I’m folding laundry. Nobody can see my heart attitude, and nobody can see yours but the Lord does and that’s what matters the most.  

Laura:  As mothers, we all know we have this Biblical calling to pass on the Gospel to our children. That’s no matter what your day looks like and where you spend the majority of your time or some of your time. Gretchen, this is something that takes, as you know, a lot of planning, a lot of intentionality and understanding your purpose. How do you balance this while being a working mom and what are some of those difficult choices that you’ve had to make?  

Gretchen:  My son is 20 months right now so he’s at the stage where he’s young to comprehend a lot of things but he’s also getting older where he can come alongside with me. There’s a few ways that I try to do this in our own family. The first thing is I want to bring Nolan along with me, in what I’m doing. I want him to see that this is kingdom work, that this matters for the Lord and that this is important. I want to show him the value of hard work and the value of reaching out to people and serving them in Jesus’ name. I try to bring him along with me as much as I can. Whether it’s traveling, even if he sees me doing something, working on something, I know once he gets older and starts asking questions, I’ll be able to explain the purpose more. Right now, I want him to be able to see my actions and my attitude, and my heart’s response to these things. 

The other thing, since he’s still young, I still am trying to bring in Scripture into our day. Whether it’s reading Scripture out loud whenever he’s sitting at breakfast. Psalm 100 is a Psalm, it’s only five verses and I want to teach him that Psalm. It’s a simple one and I want to go ahead and hide that truth in his heart so I read that out loud to him. I made a book for him for Christmas. You know how you can make those picture books with their pictures throughout? I made one of those. I wrote a short little story but I included Scripture throughout it too, because little kids love looking at pictures of themselves. I was like, “Okay, he can look at himself and then I can also have scripture that I want him to know.” That was one way that I was trying to think of, “What’s a creative way to hide this truth in his heart so it’s right before his eyes?” 

Then the last way that I’m learning to do this and to pass on the Gospel to him is through loving discipline. This is a hard one but learning to discipline him right now, to show him his boundaries and the things that he can’t do. If he’s learning his own personality and he has his own will, to discipline him in a loving corrective way and to show him the right way to go, is actually passing on the Gospel to him because that’s what the Father does for us. Because He loves us so much, He disciplines us and He shows us this is the better way to go. He wants us to be more like Christ. This one is probably the hardest one for me right now is learning that I don’t want to let these things slide. I want him to see why it’s important to not touch the stove or things like that. To lovingly correct him in the name of Christ and to show him, “This is the better way because I love you.” I’m sure you all can show me a lot more about that! [laughter]

Emily:  I don’t know. Laura and I are really still trying to figure it out. But you gave so many good examples in there Gretchen of really practical things that moms can do. One thing that I wanted to pull out that I think would be helpful for any mom whether you are working or not, is passing along the Gospel to a rhythm in your day that’s already happening with your children. Whether that’s breakfast or before bed or in the car on the way to take them to whoever their caregiver is. I need that as a stay-at-home mom. It does happen naturally a little bit but I need that reminder of the thing that happens every day. I think that that’s something that, if a mom is wondering, “What’s one thing I can start to do right now in our busy life, to be intentional?” is like you said, find that time of day where it can trigger that repeated routine. You’re not adding something new. You’re just capitalizing on a time that you already have with your child.     

Gretchen:  Yes, and just leaving the things out, the tools out that are necessary to do that. If you want to teach them scripture, leave the Scripture cards sitting out where they are going to grab them and you can say, “Let’s read this out loud,” having it right there. We listen to Seeds Family Worship, which is like scripture, they sing Scripture and I love it. First of all, Greg and I are singing it all the time. Nolan, he’ll clap to it and I’m thinking, “The Lord is hiding these things in his heart. These are little seeds that God is planting and I trust that he’s going to water it to make it grow up, to be this fruit of the Gospel in his own life.    

Laura:  I have to be honest. We do a quiet time each morning with our kids in the morning at breakfast. There have been some days that I haven’t really wanted to do it because I want to get some stuff done because we’re trying to get out the door and I need to make lunches or do whatever. My son will point at the counter where we keep our book and Bible and he will say, “We’ve got to do our quiet time mom. We can’t miss our quiet time!” The Lord has used him to convict me of something I said, “That needs to wait because something else is more important or more pressing at this moment.” But my son, my three-year old, will remind me of, “Hey this is what’s important.” Because we’ve built it into a rhythm and as a routine, it’s pretty neat to see how God uses that to keep it in the forefront of our minds, and how children really do latch on and love those things. While they love it, let’s do it. These little years are the years that they are going to soak it up willingly and hopefully, for a very long time. Especially now, we’re really building that foundation, as we’re all talking about, with these younger children with habits that should hopefully last forever.     

Gretchen:  That is so neat to hear. 

Laura:  I know. It’s embarrassing for me to admit [laughter] because I’m like, “Urgh.”   

Gretchen:  Yes, motherhood is humbling!

Laura:  It so is. Anything else Gretchen as we wrap up our time together? Any charge you would like to give to working moms or encouragement or something that’s been especially edifying to you, that you would like to leave as a last word?   

Gretchen:  Yes, one of the things that I learned so much about is that God is greater than my ability. We work with His ability and His power within us. Our insufficiencies and the things that we try to hide from other people, those are the things that we can truly boast and then say, “God, I am weak but you are strong.” A prayer that I pray all the time, I was actually looking through some old journals the other day and I found, when I started writing it years ago is, “Jesus, be in me all that I cannot be.” I cannot be the wife, the mother, the worker that created all of these things, the daughter, the friend, without Christ within me because in my own strength, I can’t measure up. But with Christ within me, He is the one who measures up. He equips us for what He calls us to do. Our insufficiencies and the things that we feel like we don’t measure up, those are things that we can lay at the cross and see that Christ, He is the fullness of all in all. He is everything that we need. He gives us what we need, for every single moment of the day and that changes everything. 

For the wife, for the momma who’s listening, if you stay at home, if you work and if you’re feeling like you are less than or not enough or you can’t accomplish the things that God has called you to, I want to challenge you to look to Christ, to see that He is your sufficiency. He is everything that you need. To pray that prayer, “Jesus, be in me all that I cannot be.” To know that He absolutely is going to do that. He is going to come and He is going to show up in your days and He is so faithful to do that. That’s something that I have to preach to myself often and that I hope encourages you as well.       

Emily:  So good. It’s early morning here and I know we’re feeling all the warm fuzzies of, “Yes, I’m going to go look to Christ today to be all that I cannot be.” [laughter] 

Laura:  We have not faced the day yet but we’re feeling real good right now while our kids are sleeping. [laughter] That is such great encouragement Gretchen. Thank you so much for being on the show. We truly appreciate it. I know there’s so much wisdom here for moms from all walks of life. We appreciate your business, we are grateful for what you do and thanks so much for joining us. 

Gretchen:  Thank you for having me. 

Ep. 63 || Jen Wilkin: Growing In God’s Word As A Mom of Little Ones - Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. We are so excited to be sharing this with you today. We got to sit down and chat with Jen Wilkin who is a wife, mom, author, speaker, and Bible teacher, at the Village Church in Texas. If you have listened to this show for any length of time, you know how much we appreciate her ministry. We love her book, Women of the Word. We’ve both done Bible studies from Jen, and she has so much wisdom and insight. It speaks to the biblical literacy issues that are going on in our culture and in our churches. 

Today she took time out of her day to talk to talk to us about what this looks like, and more specifically in the season of young children. She talks about everything from what does “quiet time” look like? What does it look like to be involved in ministry in a meaningful way? It’s a wonderful conversation and we know you guys will be so encouraged. 

If you want to find more about Jen, you can head over to our website, risenmotherhood.com. In the show notes, we will link to her books, and many resources from her that Laura and I have personally benefited from. 


Laura: Hey Jen, thank you so much for joining us on Risen Motherhood today.

Jen: I am so glad to be on. Thanks for having me.

Laura: Let’s get started with having you tell us a little bit about yourself. We know you’re an author, a writer, a speaker, a mom and a wife too. We also know that you, at one time, had four under four. Those kids are now grown, but for all the moms out there, Jen has been through the season of littles that’s been a little bit crazy. [laughter] Tell us about your family, and about what your day looks like at this point.

Jen: Yes, my kids are all grown, it’s terrible and wonderful at the same time. My oldest, Matt, just turned 21, and then Mary Kate is 20, Claire is 19, and Calvin is 17. Calvin is a junior, and I was calculating yesterday, I have him for another 15 months before I get my heart ripped out for the final and fourth time. The three oldest are actually all at school together, which is nice. They see each other on a weekly basis, and they hang out, and probably it’s the easiest version of empty nesting that anybody can have. I am married to Jeff  – we’ve been married for almost 24 years, and he’s great. We’re re-discovering each other. [laughter]

Laura: I feel like I say that about my husband all the time! [laughter] 


Okay, let’s jump in with some of those heavy questions that we have for you. Let’s start off with that broad overview - can you just explain why is biblical literacy is so important in motherhood? What does it have to do with changing the diapers, choosing pre-schools, choosing if you’re going to vaccinate, all those things. Why does it matter?

Jen: First of all, I would say it’s a general problem in the church and Bible literacy is heightened by a general literacy issue that exists in our culture. Not only are most believers uncertain how to read the Bible, many people in general are uncertain how to read, period. Bible literacy, in particular, matters because we are going to be encountering increasingly from outside challenges to what we believe, and a second-hand knowledge of your sacred text is not going to get you through. Not only are there challenges to our faith from outside, but even within the church, there are those who are teaching error. We will not be able to identify the truth from the lie if we’re not familiar with what the truth looks like. 

A pretty common illustration I use for this would be a counterfeit bill. You can’t understand what a counterfeit 20 looks like unless you study what a real $20 bill looks like. That’s how they train people to detect counterfeits, by telling them not to study counterfeits, but to study the original. You can draw a parallel to knowing your Bible then as it relates to motherhood, specifically. A pretty common experience for young moms is that, when that first baby comes, they have a renewed understanding of their lack, with regard to matters of faith. We’re responsible for passing down this faith heritage to our children. We can’t pass down something that we don’t have direct knowledge of. 

When I talk about this, the heart cannot love what the mind does not know, and biblical literacy is an act of loving God with your mind, which translates to greater affection in your heart because by its own report, the Bible is living and active. For the believer, we cannot encounter the scriptures and come away unchanged. For young moms in particular, you’re at a place where you know your vulnerability like you perhaps didn’t before you had children, and that provides a unique opportunity for you to begin investing in some good tools for literacy now.

Emily: That’s something Laura and I try and talk a lot about – discerning if we’ve just seen the counterfeit. I do it, Laura does it; we’re on Instagram, we’re on Facebook, we’re consuming all these articles, the latest book comes out and we want to snatch it up and read it. There is time and space to do some of those things, but for some reason, we have this hard time going, “Oh, there is also time to be sitting down and investing deeply in and consuming God’s Word, and really knowing what that says, [laughs] so that we can determine how to evaluate all these other things.” Then there is that weakness part we can all relate to. [laughter]

Jen: Well, I do always like for young moms to consider that, at that particular stage of life where you may have pockets of discretionary time, but you never can predict really when they’re going to be, or how long they’re going to be. Perhaps more than at any other time in your adult life, when it comes to learning the Bible, you really need an outside structure, and some accountability. It’s a really great time if you have a local church that is providing some structure and some predictability around Bible study. That’s a great time to get involved because sometimes you need someone who can take your kids for a little bit, while you sit down and do this, and often local churches provide that. If you’re just trying to gut it out on your own, it’s going to be really hard during this season of life. You really need the help of the local church, perhaps more than you might at any other stage.

Laura: I agree. A lot of times, too, as young moms, the message we can hear from people is, “Oh, these little years, you don’t have time to read your Bible. It’s very difficult to find that time.” I think there’s an element of truth to that, but there’s also an element of an excuse to that, and we can sort of say, “The little years are the lost years. We’ll do that when they’re older.” [laughter]  So is there, from your perspective, something special about being a mom of little kids that does make theological growth challenging, or is that just a myth?

Jen: It can be an excuse, but it is not always an excuse. Women have different capacities, and it’s important to know yourself pretty well, and know, am I the kind of person who’s looking for an excuse not to do this, or am I drowning right now? One of the things I don’t love about mommy blogging is there’s a lot of validation, of failure for one thing, like, “Y’all, you guys, y’all, it’s so messy.” [laughter] Life is messy and it’s all messy y’all.” I am like, “Okay, I hear ya.” I definitely lived in the messy house and some things were messy, and I was wiping faces and all that stuff. But we all find time for the things that matter to us. I also know that often, though the kids are consuming all of our time, they do go to bed eventually. 

I remember one of the things that was really important to me was to have that regular bedtime. Jeff didn’t travel or anything, so this was an easy thing for me. That’s another thing that you have to take into consideration, is how much support you have from a spouse, or from someone who’s helping you with caregiving. The more that that responsibility falls on just you, the more valid it is that you may not have time for this in this season. But many of us have some good support there that we may not be utilizing like we could. Or, when we do have free time, it’s just easier to pick up the phone and scroll, or binge on Netflix. I am all for a good binge on Netflix, [laughter] just not if it’s a replacement for something that’s transcending.

Emily: Sure. I would like to say it’s like a workout, but I don’t work out that often. [laughs] But it’s one of those things that always feels like, once you do it and you sit down, and maybe my kids are playing after breakfast, and it’s been crazy and I just sit down at the breakfast table, and get out my Bible study and work on it. It’s amazing how faithful God is to use that time to re-orient my perspective. Like, remind me, “Oh yes, there’s eternity.” There’s just so much more than the Word, and it’s just so much bigger than what I am doing and focusing on in this tiny, little, minute moment. Like, what’s my true purpose? What’s my true identity? What’s my true calling? That’s something I always have to remember, it’s like a workout; if I did it more often, it feels good.

Jen: Working out feels great. I’ve talked about this in other places; our children are our neighbors, which means that if we’re going to treat them as the people that they are, we’re going to need to have a solid grasp of the “one anothers” in the scripture. We’re going to need to know what it means to be patient and bear with one another. That those one anothers include not just my adult friends or my co-workers, but also these tiny people who I hang out with a lot in my own home. We tend to forget that.

Motherhood, particularly young motherhood, was such a time of selfishness and selflessness intertwined for me. I told myself that it was “beating the selfishness out of me” because you have to give up all your personal freedoms, etcetera. But then it turned out that as soon as the kids got older and were able to do things on their own, I just took all the selfishness right back. Nothing is going to get to that underlying issue of self-centeredness, like spending time in the scriptures will. And then on top of that, like you just said Emily, when you’re sitting at the breakfast table doing that, there’s another really important thing happening. You’re modeling that for your kiddos. One of the most frequent questions that I get from parents is, how did you get your kids to read the Bible? 

As though you can have some program in place where you put gold stars on a chart for them doing a quiet time. We never did that. We never had a structured approach where we said, “Now you need to sit down and read your Bible.” I am not actually against that; I think a lot of times the way we address these things has a lot to do with our own personalities, and the way that our marriages and our homes function. But in our case, we didn’t want to require that, or structure it. We just modeled it. So the kids understand that that’s what you do when you are an adult. Then they started wanting to do it on their own because children want to be grown up; they want to take on the next thing. 

Laura: Going back to how do we make time for growing spiritually, a lot of it is actually changing those expectations of when we didn’t have kids – and hopefully some day in the future, we look forward to – not necessarily having to sit with our mug of coffee and have the quiet, comfy chair and have everything set up. But like Emily said, being willing to say that, “There’s chaos around me, but I am still going to get in God’s Word.” Then, also as you said, with modeling that allows our children to see it, because I want the 5 a.m. wake up when I am able, with the quiet house. But my kids then never see it. That was something that I was like, “Oh, how do I balance my desires for this alone time with the Lord, versus also really wanting to have my kids see me live my faith authentically?”

Emily: Then if they watch you do it and if you have a little pharisee in your house, and you don’t do your Bible study that day, they will ask you later, “Mommy, when are you going to sit down and do your Bible study? I didn’t see you do it earlier.” [laughs] 

Jen: Thank you, little child, small person in my home. An accountability partner who’s three feet tall.

Laura: “I didn’t ask you for it, but thank you.” [laughter] 

Okay, let’s say we have a mom who really does want to get into the Word more, and she’s just starting to learn to study God’s Word. You have a book that we talk a lot about on Risen Motherhood - Women of the Word – we’ve both found immense value in it. What are some things that you would say for how to be consistent? Or just where to start? 

Jen: The most basic thing to start doing is to read repetitively. I know that doesn’t sound not exciting, and maybe even boring, but it actually is the piece that most of us run right past. We want to read a passage and we want to understand it immediately and know what to do with it. That’s just not the way that learning works, and it’s not the way that good reading skills happen. If you’re a young mom, and you have a limited time, you are far better served by picking a book of the Bible, starting at the beginning and read to the end. Don’t ask a lot of yourself as you’re reading through it the first time. Just read it, like you would read a book for a book club, or you would read a magazine article. Just read it. 

My favorite thing to do because I learn by marking things, is I print out a copy of the text double spaced, and I write my notes on it, I ask questions, I mark words that I see repeated, all those kinds of things. But before I do that, I just read, and I might mark something the first time through. I am probably going to mark things more on the second and third time through. Maybe for you, this is easier to do by listening instead of by reading. You can have e-version on your phone, or if you’re a person who works out, you can listen to it while you’re walking or running. If you’re in the car with your kids - if it’s the book of Ephesians - put on the Book of Ephesians and listen to it, every time you’re in the car. Those are ways to start getting the text inside of you. 

One of the things that I like to debunk, as often as I can especially with young moms, is the glorification of the idea of quiet time. We are going to face challenges in growing in literacy if we carve out 10 minutes a day, versus if we had one or two times a week where we spend 30-minute blocks or 45-minute blocks. Sometimes for a young mom, that can work out better than trying to each day get, “Well, if I am not in it daily …” You can have some moment of reflection or whatever if you wanted daily contact with the scriptures that’s getting you set for the day, or if it’s the end of the day, winding you down. But in terms of learning your sacred text, you probably need a longer stretch of time than that. Doing that one or two times a week can make a big dent in your ability to start taking in the scriptures.

Emily: Yes, I appreciate you bringing that up because I feel like that’s realistically how my Bible study works out. Even though I think, “Okay, I am going to sit down after breakfast everyday and I am going to have this 30 minutes of time.” There’s three days a week where I get interrupted right away, whatever happens, and it ends up being two or three really big blocks of this really deep digging. Also it’s hard if you sit down for ten minutes and then you walk away and come back and I am like, “Wait, where was I? I’ve no idea what my thought was.” I think that’s really encouraging to hear - a lot of different ways - and that if you’re able to make that block of time where you can really sit and think and process, every day, that’s awesome. If not, then there’s other ways we can remain, just meditating on God’s Word and connecting with God and praying. But there may also be benefit in protecting some bigger chunks here and there, throughout the week, to really dig.

Jen: In the book, I give a lot of tools that you can use. I know that can feel overwhelming to a young mom who’s like, “Are you kidding me!” If during the young mom years, all you did was read for comprehension, when you come out of the young mom years, and you have more time and you’re ready to pick up more of those tools, you will hit the ground running. The reality is, most of us are like, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the Bible,” and then once you start reading it, you’re like, “Well I did not remember that.” So just the whole getting familiar, because really again, when you’re trying to decide between the counterfeit and the real thing, it’s not about interpretation and application, as much as it’s about comprehension. “Whoa, it doesn’t even say that, so how can he even give that application when he’s pulled that verse out of context!” If you spend the young years just learning contextual comprehension pieces of the Bible, then when you get your brain back a little bit, and you’re ready to start addressing interpretation and application beyond what might just fall into your lap as you’re reading, you’re going to be way more ready to do that.

Laura: I love that you’re saying this, Jen. I feel like I tend to be pretty legalistic, or really want to do things “by the book” and do things the way they’re supposed to be done, and this daily thing is what I was taught. This gives enormous freedom to a young mom, especially what you’re saying about, “Hey, try to preserve some larger chunks of time.” It doesn’t have to be this daily, big hunk of steak every single day.
Allowing some freedom and trusting that God’s Word will work in your life, even if you’re not doing it the major inductive Bible study. But just saturating your heart and mind in God’s Word and trusting that that will give you the ability to discern truth. Like you said, of just being able to see that counterfeit. That, hopefully, should give a lot of freedom to moms, especially in different seasons. 

We’re always joke, Emily and I, that our routines as moms last about three months and then we have to find a new routine. Maybe that’s a good fit too, for certain three-month stretches, and then you can switch too. Maybe you’ll have time for something a little bit deeper, or more consistent, or longer. But knowing that we can take God’s Word, and how it can come to us, and we just need to access it as much as we can, when we can.

Jen: Another thing that is important too, for young moms to take into account, is to discern how much of the time I am spending in contact with the scriptures is devotional reading, and how much is literacy building. We lose track of it, and before you know it, all we’re doing is reading devotionally or topically. Devotional reading is great, and it’s probably particularly useful for the young mom who wants to have some daily contact with the scriptures. But devotional reading gives us something in the moment. It’s like, “Oh, I got a take-away from that I can hang on to.” 

The literacy building elements don’t necessarily do that for you; we may not gravitate towards them as naturally as we should. The thing with devotional reading is, while it does one thing, while it might give you an emotional boost for the day, it is not giving you comprehensive knowledge of the text. When we become overly dependent on it, we can actually decrease in our ability to read scripture in context and in long stretches. It’s almost like sort of the short attention span thing that you see, with all those smartphone use; where you’re used to things in little bites, and you’re no longer able to eat the meal. I tend to look at devotional content more like dessert, on the menu of content of the Bible, so-to-speak. Devotional reading will be way more impactful if you have a foundational knowledge of the entire book that that passage is being pulled out of for you to digest. You’ll also be able to tell if it’s a decent devotional or not – because a lot of them are kind of dumb.

Emily: I know, I’ve heard you say it before...[laughter]

Jen: Too honest? Is that too honest?

Laura: We love honesty here on Risen Motherhood. [laughter] That’s such a good point; we are all looking for that emotional high, that quick pick-me-up. I look for it in a bag of candy! We’re constantly trying to say, “What is going to be the quick fix right now,” and not think about dealing with the sugar crush later. That’s such a good point because we actually get asked pretty frequently about, “What Bible study should I do?” There is a struggle where people consider devotionals or even books nowadays, as their Bible study. That’s a real gap in knowledge, of saying, “I want to hear what God has said,” versus saying, “What did somebody else say that God said.” We need to look at God’s Word, and get it from the source itself. Not trying to digest how someone has made it maybe a little bit easier and giving us that high high.

Jen: For sure. The biggest issue that I see is people consuming content about the Bible without having spent first-hand time in the Bible beforehand. It’s in everything; it’s from podcasts to sermons. My pastor’s preaching through Exodus right now, and we pushed out a reading plan to everyone, because we wanted them to read the passage before they heard the sermon. That just rarely happens anymore, so we’d sit and we hear a sermon or a passage in Exodus, and we’re like, “Oh, now I know that.” But what you did is take his word for it because you have no basis for disagreement, having only spent that moment in the text, while he’s talking about it. That’s the case with devotional books, it’s the case with books written on topics. Often it’s that because they’re not layered on top of the foundational first-hand knowledge of the text, we’re taking someone else’s word for it all the time.

Laura: That’s what we try and emphasize here too – don’t take Laura and Emily’s word for it. Don’t take Jen Wilkin’s word for it.

Jen: Yes, don’t take my word for it. Disagree with me. For goodness sake disagree with me.

Laura: Yes. Just get in the Word, and you tell us if you see something differently because we are imperfect. [laughter] 

Jen: This raises another interesting point. Women are not good at disagreement with one another; we view that as rejection. We need to get better at being able to respectfully disagree with female teachers. Male teachers as well, but, we should be able to say, “I like these six things this person said, but these two things I absolutely do not agree with, and I could show you in scripture why.” It doesn’t mean that I reject this person, or that I think this person is a terrible person, or that I think this person is a false teacher. The definition of a false teacher in scripture is an unbeliever who is trying to drag people away from the faith. So you’ve got to be really careful with that.

Increasingly, as we get closer to the text, we will become more discerning about some of the voices that we have listened to. There needs to be room for others to discern whether what has been taught that we disagree with, is a first-order doctrine, something that is essential to orthodoxy, or whether it’s lower down the chain, and we’re allowed to disagree about it, without walking away from someone.

Emily: That’s really good, deep stuff. 

Laura: I feel like I have about 50 other questions on that exact topic, [laughter] but we have to move forward, and stay focused here. As we wrap up here, how should moms of young children think about ministry in their season of life? I know a lot of times we can go back to saying, “I don’t have time for ministry, I don’t have time for pouring out.” What would you say, are some of the best ways to invest and grow and serve the church?

Jen: Again, you need to know your own capacity, and you need to know what support you have as you’re taking on these conversations. People always ask me what I did, and I am kind of hesitant to say that because I had fantastic support from Jeff. I had a sense of calling regarding a lot of what I was involved in when the kids were small. People will say, “Getting involved in ministry has a cost.” Yes, absolutely, it will always have a cost. The question is whether the cost is worth it or not, and that’s where you have to weigh for yourself. In my case, teaching regularly, using my discretionally times such as it was, to write curriculum and then eventually take on a leadership position in women’s ministry in my last church when the kids were little, those were all decisions that Jeff and I made together, weighed the cost, and agreed that the cost was worth it.

That’s what you have to get to, and know your capacity; it may be that it’s a six-month period where you need to pull completely out of everything you’re doing and focus on what’s going on at home. You can usually tell; like when your kids start to unravel, and you’re like, “What’s the matter with that kid?” Then you’re like, “Oh, because I’ve basically ignored him for three days straight.” [laugher] You have to keep a tab on it. Jeff and I have always sat down and evaluated things like on a three to six months basis. Is this getting better, is this getting worse? In terms of our stress level or our commitment level. That’s it too; it’s not a one time decision and then you just stick with it forever. 

For me personally, being involved in ministry, in addition to the ministry of motherhood, has always been life-giving. For women who recognize that they have the capacity to do that, you should do it because you’ll be a better mom. It’s a part of who you are as the mom. That’s another thing I try to tell moms all the time. That when I would leave to go do ministry, I didn’t stop being the mom. I was being the mom that was given to my kids; a mom who is involved in this ministry element. As the kids got older, we told them, “Hey, when you guys manage your business while mom is teaching on Tuesday night, and when she gets home, you’ve done your homework and your laundry’s folded and you did the dishes, or whatever, you’ve actually partnered with her in doing women’s ministry. You are my ministry partners.” It wasn’t just a con game, it was absolutely true. 

Emily: I love that. I am going to use that when this interview is over and I go out; “You guys partnered with me in ministry. You stayed so quiet.” [laughter]

Laura: Jen, as we wrap up, do you have any final exhortation or encouragement that you would like to give to young mothers today?

Jen: Yes. You can do this, you can be in the scriptures in ways that are drawing you closer to what they say, what they mean, how it should change you. You need to have a transcending vision of God, high and lifted up, to get through this season of life. It has been given to us, it’s in scripture. 

Find the time to just get yourself into it, reading and taking it in, and as you’re able. Your love for it will grow the more you do it. I would compare it to the exercise thing – this is not first-hand knowledge by the way [laughter] – that it’s something that you learn to love, the more you do it. I guess it’s true of any area that we invest in. It’s true of this as well, but it’s true in a deeper and more personal way because what you’re growing in love for is not the scriptures, but the God of the scriptures. 

Laura: Amen. That’s a good note to end on. Thank you so much for being on the show today Jen.

Jen: Thanks for having me. 


Ep. 66 || Hannah Anderson: How Humility Nourishes A Weary Mom’s Soul - Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Laura: Hey guys, Laura here. Welcome back to another very special episode of Risen Motherhood. This week on the show, we’re excited to have Hannah Anderson on, as a guest. If you’ve been a listener of the show for much time at all, you’ve probably heard us talk about her book, Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul. This book was one of the first books in a long time, that both Emily and I found to be one that we literally needed to put down and think about what Hannah wrote. We needed to think about the implications of the truths that she shared, and what they had for our lives. 

Today, Hannah will be sharing a bit about her book, but specifically she’ll be speaking to how humility and giving our burdens to Christ impacts motherhood. She’ll be answering questions regarding dealing with comparison, shaking off that feeling of trying to do it all, and how to determine your calling. We’re even getting deep into postpartum body image. Of course Hannah is not just an author. She’s also a pastor’s wife, a mother to three children, and she hosts her own weekly podcast, Persuasion, which you should totally check out. You can find her writing on many of the major websites, as well as her Homebase, sometimesalight.com. Or find her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Let’s get to the interview. 


Laura: Hi Hannah, thank you so much for joining us on Risen Motherhood today.

Hannah: Hello. I am so glad to be here.

Laura: Yes, and of course I have my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen here as well. We are both big fans of your book, as we have expressed online, offline, and [laughter] I am sure it’ll come out a lot here today on the show. But Humble Roots was really one of those books that just challenged our thinking a lot, and we’ve found a lot of ways to apply it to motherhood. We are excited to pick your brain, especially about the concepts from Humble Roots that you wrote about. But really, diving into how that applies to mothers, and the things we’re facing these days.

Hannah:  Like I tell people, Humble Roots was born out of my own crises, both as a mom and a pastor’s wife, in trying to navigate this space, with all these things that I was responsible for. It does have a unique connection to moms and women. Men can read it and enjoy it, but it was born out of the heart of a woman wrestling with these questions. So I am very eager to be able to share it with you today.

Laura: Perfect. Yes, they’re all things that we wrestle with as well. To dive right in, one thing I love at the beginning of your book, you’re kind of struggling to articulate the connection between anxiety and busyness, and then humility. You run into a man and he says, simply, “Oh, I know what the problem is. You’re not God.” I now repeat that to myself, “Laura, you are not God.” It’s [laughter] actually quite soothing to remember. Can you explain a little bit more about the premise of this book, and how biblical humility offers mothers rest from the rat race –the feeling of needing to do it all?

Hannah: The full title of the book is, Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul. The concept comes from the passage in Matthew 11, where Christ calls all of us, who are burdened and weary, to come to Him, who are heavy laden. If that doesn’t describe motherhood, I don’t know what does. [laughter] Christ calls us to Himself and He says, “Come to me, take my yolk upon you. Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly.” That word “lowly” is humble. He says, “I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” 

As I was looking for scripture to soothe and calm my own spirit in the midst of restlessness and anxiety, the Holy Spirit led me to that passage, and He let me see it for the first time. Let me read it and understand, “Wait a minute, there’s something else going on here.” In this call that Christ gives us to come to Him, He intends for us to become like Him; to be made humble. That is what’s going to bring us rest. So then I had to step back and say, “Okay, wait a minute. What does humility have to do with rest, with peace?” 

Some of the reasons I never understood that passage before, is because we have these false notions of humility. Or we tend to think of it as being self deprecating, or maybe focusing on our sin, or maybe turning down compliments. What humility really is, for us as human beings, is recognizing that we’re not God. It is giving honor and attributing glory to God that He deserves, and recognizing that we, while we’re made to reflect His nature, we are limited human beings. The core concept; when my friend said that to me, he said, “Oh, I know what your problem is. You are not God.” [laughter] and I thought, “Yes, that is what humility is. A humble person knows, understands and lives in this truth, “You’re not God.” That truth is also freeing; it frees us to rest in God Himself, rather than our incompetences. 

Emily: I can’t remember if you said in that introduction, or in that first chapter, you describe your life, and how you were feeling, which a lot of moms can relate to. You know, I have a good life. We have food on the table, our family is pretty healthy and intact and things are overall going well. So why do I feel dissatisfied? Or, why do I feel the anxiety and the burden? Exactly like you’re saying, why do I feel so heavy laden? I really appreciated that connection because that’s something we often miss, is that, that heavy feeling is because we think it’s our responsibility to accomplish everything, and to always be on top of everything. It’s just a very easy trap to fall into.

Hannah: Absolutely. That’s exactly the trap I was in. I was constantly thinking of all the things I had to do, all my responsibilities, and where I was failing. Not only was I failing my children and they were going to turn out needing therapy when they grow up, [laughter] not only was I failing to keep the house organized and to do the laundry, I also had too many clothes. What kind of good person has this much stuff? [laughter]  All these layers of guilt and self-accusation, and this constant feeling of never being sufficient to the things I thought, “I have to keep this together, I have to make this family run, I have to raise these children to turn out well. I have to be a good friend, and look at all these ways I am failing.” My mind would just race with these accusations, and like I said, it would go from everything to my parenting, to my ability to manage my home, to my relationships. Even to my body – why can’t I lose these extra ten pounds? Why can’t I get myself organized to exercise and be toned and fit? It was the anxiety and the restlessness was directly related to my belief that I had to keep all these things together. That it was dependent on me.

Emily: That is a perfect description of how most of us walk through every day feeling. You see it all over online, it’s what all of the blogs and a lot of the mommy ministries are trying to speak to. Which is, that desperate feeling we have, that we’re not doing it good enough, and that’s so overwhelming.

Laura: That ties well into another question we wanted to ask you about, especially comparison – the rise of social media, and all the mommy blogs. Just to get down to it, what advice would you give a mom who tends to compare herself to, maybe other moms, the world’s ever-changing standards, or even just self-imposed standards?

Hannah: Like you said, this feeling is feeling a lot of the mommy bloggers fear. We’re offering women a lot of potential solutions that turn out to be not lasting. We feel this way, and good people are trying to comfort women in this space and say to them, “Well, just embrace the messiness. Just embrace the brokenness, okay? This is just who we are and how we live.” They’re honestly trying to help women overcome this culture of comparison, and comfort that they’re feeling internally. 

Or maybe they’ll offer a truth of, “Live your own life. Live your own truth. Don’t look at other people, don’t listen to other people.” That’s one way we’ll get rid of the comparison trap. The way that humility leads us to get rid of the comparison trap, to escape this cycle of always feeling less than, or looking to other women, it goes back to what humility is. It goes back to the verse that Christ calls us to. He says, “Come to me, take my yolk, learn from me.” What Christ is doing in that section is, He is calling us to remember that He is God. He is the one we’re to be submitted to. He is the one who leads us and guides us. Humility rightly places us in a position to rightly honor God’s voice above these other voices. 

When I am listening to other women, or I am looking to the lives that other women are living online, and I am comparing myself to them, I am not listening to the call of Jesus. I am listening to the call of these other women and these other platforms and Instagram, they have become God in my life. I am trying to make myself to look like them, to respond to them, to be submitted to this entire false paradigm. What frees us, what gives us rest is when we humbly acknowledge that God and God alone in Jesus Christ, the incandescent of God, is Lord. 

What He is calling us to is what we’re faithful to. He is calling us to our families. He is calling us to the particular challenges of our family. He is calling us to the particular challenges of our DNA and our genetic makeup. He has sovereignly ordained that we would be certain shapes and sizes, and even if those shapes and sizes don’t match what culture is telling us we should be, humility draws us back to hear His voice and His voice alone. To know that in the embrace of Christ, there is love and power and care that has uniquely crafted us the way He intends for us to be, to fulfill His purposes, not to fulfill the purposes of society. 

Emily: That is so good. We get exactly what you’re saying, the comparison trap is true when we look horizontally for what we’re supposed to be doing. I feel like it becomes the law on our shoulders; these are not bad things to do, these cultural expectations. A lot of times they’re good – they can be helpful things. But they’re very burdensome, and they’re not always what God has called us to do in scripture. When I stop and think about, “What has God actually asked me to do today, this morning?” Love my kids, worship Him, serve this person; this thing you put on my calendar for the day. It’s not that same burdensome feeling, it’s a freeing feeling. [laughs] It’s born out of love. Whereas if I look online and start to see, “Oh, somebody’s home looks really nice this way,” and I start to get stressed about my home and then I put that on myself, that’s where those burdens start to come in, and the Lord didn’t even give me for that morning. So I really appreciate how you said that, it’s a timely message.

Laura: To jump ahead to another part you’ve hit on already, but another big comparison part, is body image. You have a chapter about that in the book that I really like. But as most of our listeners are moms, we’re dealing with the whole “postpartum bodies.” It can be really difficult to adjust to the reality of, “This is my new body,” [laughter] even when it’s been years since you had kiddos. You said it yourself, you said, “Sometimes I cannot lose these last ten pounds. What is wrong?” How does humility specifically apply to postpartum body image, and how does it change the way we view ourselves?

Hannah: Again, we have to go back to this definition of humility, as recognizing and honoring the difference between God as God, and our identity as created, limited creatures who are dependent on Him. If we have that frame, and we move to talk about our bodies, it’s amazing to realize that one of the very things that defines the difference between us and a transcendent God, is our physical bodies. 

One of the catechisms that children often learn is, your God does not have a body. God is a spirit; He does not have a body. Even living within the boundaries of this physical flesh and bone is a limitation to begin with. Our bodies are our first reminder that we are not God. We fight this all the time, whether we’re skimping on sleep, or we’re skimping on food, or skimping on exercise, we’re essentially saying, “I don’t have to live within the boundaries of my physical body. I can live beyond them.” The first thing that humility teaches us about our body is that, it has been given to us to remind us of our limits. It is a walking, 24/7 reminder that we are not God. 

But Christ, when he entered human flesh, He also elevated and honored it, so there is no shame in our bodies. We feel the shame because we feel the limitations, and we press against those limitations. We look at our body, we feel them decaying and we feel them breaking down, and we are, quite frankly, embarrassed by them. We are ashamed of them in ways that God is not ashamed of them. Jesus Christ was not ashamed to carry human flesh. 

I find it fascinating that when He was raised from the dead, He was not ashamed to have marred flesh. He was not ashamed to carry the marks of love and sacrifice in His body. Again, this goes back to who are we listening to about our bodies? Jesus Christ is saying, “Your body is valuable and honoring and it’s been given to you to remind you of your limits, but also to make you dependent. It has been given to you to serve in sacrifice, and it’s going to carry marks.” That’s what Christ is telling us about our body. The world is telling us, “Your body is given to you to be a goddess. You are to transcend normal human limits. You are to look like Aphrodite. You are to look like all of these goddesses of the ancient world.” 

At the root, there is essential conflict of, who we are going to listen to? Are we going to listen to culture around us that tells us a broken, limited body is a shameful thing? Or are we going to listen to the voice of Christ who says, “Come to me, I’ve got the same kind of body? And mine’s as messed up as yours is.” Not what the world is saying is beautiful, but high honor and value and love the things that the world does not love. So humility frees us, again like you said, takes that burden off, when we’re seeing our bodies the way God sees them. We don’t feel the weight that the world is putting on us for our bodies.

Emily: That’s a soothing word to every mom listening, who has a stretchmark, or disappointment. Laura and I are both seven, eight months pregnant as we’re recording this right now. Is that right Laura?

Laura: Yes.

Emily: That is a daily battle, to say, “Who am I going to listen to about my body?” What it is for, and whether or not I am going to be ashamed of that purpose? I have never heard that comparison before.

Laura: I love how you talk about Jesus Christ came back with a marred body. That is, truly with a postpartum body, all of us find that no matter how hard we work, there’s still something happening that feels marred. We know that we’re not a teenager, we’re not the 18-year-old anymore, and it’s a lot more effort and work. That He was not ashamed of that. I just think about how often that happens for me, when I go work out, or I am going to put on this special cream to get rid of something, or whatever. But in my mind, I am very ashamed of things on my body, that actually mark something beautiful, they mark new life, and a gift that the Lord has given me and my children. Instead I can be grateful for the way that they show the sacrifice that I gave for my kids, or the gifts that God has given me It’s crazy how I can be so ashamed of them, and not recognize them for what they are.

Hannah: This has great potential for us to teach our children, and even our daughters, to honor what their bodies are, and will be. If you think about Christ coming back with wounds in His hands, it is these very wounds that He used to convince Thomas of His love, and to draw him to Himself. In many ways, whether we’re coming up in a swimsuit season, or whether we’re going to be outside more, and we can’t wear jeans and sweaters, all the time any more, [laughter] we are going to be exposed. Yet it’s these very things that can be a connection, especially with our daughters to say, “Hey, this is where I carried you, this space.” Obviously not exposing all of these spaces, but in context of our daughters not hearing condemning messages about bodies. But celebrating and honoring the same way Jesus said, “Come touch my hands. Come see it and believe that this was a good, valuable sacrifice. I am here and I did this for you.” We’re carrying a parallel kind of mark of sacrifice and love, and our children need to see that love embodied in us, rather than us shamefully covering and self condemning. 

Laura: A huge lesson for all of us, and one of those that I just need to keep chewing on and appreciate you saying. 

But switching gears here, to a little bit of a different topic. Two things that we hear from a lot of our listeners is; one, let’s say there’s a mom who’s wrestling with a lot of different desires and callings. She still wants to be with her children a lot while they’re young, but feels a bit dissatisfied or unsettled. How does humility really impact the decision of, “Does this mean that I need to do something more?” We can often feel like, “Oh, I need to start a business, or do all these cool things again” – the online world and the impact that it seems to have on what we feel we need to do. So how does humility allow a mom to discern, “I am doing enough in this season, and this is sufficient.” Or, “Hey, this is a real calling that I need to pursue?” 

Hannah: Again, humility is establishing that channel where we acknowledge God’s Lordship in our life, and we submit to His plans for us. Instead of looking at what other women are doing, either more or less, we have to align our priorities and our sense of vocation with what God seems to be revealing for the calling of our life at that point. Humility, the first thing it does in relation to how we spend our days and our hours, is it sets up the channel of communication to be coming from God and the Holy Spirit. That being revealed in context of the people closest to us - in our family, our spouse, trusted friends, trusted community, and in the church. Rather than feeling this pressure from voices that are in no way attached to us, and have no invested interest in the well-being of our calling, or our vocation, or our families. We set up this channel of communication, and humility places us to hear God’s voice. It also compels us to obey. 

Some seasons, that obedience will be not doing extra things. In some seasons, the obedience will be stepping outside of our comfort zone. Not because we have determined that we need this for ourselves, but because God is calling us. That word “vocation.” When we think of how we spend our time and our days as moms, or those extra things we feel like we need to do, vocation is rooted in the word for vocal, it means “a call.” It’s something outside of us. It’s not an internal pressure where I just think, “I need to be doing more.” It is a call of the Holy Spirit pulling us in a direction and in a movement toward His purposes and the kingdom. As long as we’re obeying that, it doesn’t really matter what we accomplish or don’t accomplish, in terms of the world’s, or even the church’s views. 

Sometimes the churches put just as much pressure on young women to be doing it all – raise your kids and be involved in church, and teach Sunday school, and work in the nursery, and do all of these things. Prioritizing the voice of the Lord gives us the ability to say, “No” when we need to say no. But it also gives us the freedom to say, “Yes” when we are. I started writing when my youngest was two. My oldest daughter was six or seven, I had a son who was maybe five, and my youngest was two. I had this process of a couple months of just wrestling with this sense of God calling me out into some more spaces, and slowly taking those steps toward that. But interestingly, it was not in opposition to my motherhood. That’s one way you can discern whether a call is truly from God. If it is from God, it will merge with the other calls that you have already. For me, moving into spaces of writing became about letting my daughter see a mother who obeyed God’s voice. There was a very definable sense through me, that I needed to model for her what a Christian woman does. When God calls, a Christian woman follows. It wasn’t this paradigm of, “I am unsatisfied at home, I need more,” it was out of my mothering and out of my relationship with God. He is calling me into something that’s a little bit different than just the domestic work at home.

Emily: This was one of the most powerful parts of your book for me; Laura and I have had lots of discussions about this. I can remember sitting in the bathtub and reading this page and you said something about agreeing with God, about who He created you to be. [laughs] I remember closing the book and thinking, “Okay, I am going to have to think about that one for a few weeks,” because just like you said, really wrestling with this image I had created in my mind. I don’t necessarily think it came from the Lord. It was just a Christian culture - this is the kind of mom I want to be, and this is how much I want to provide care for my kids, and this is how I want to keep my home. 

Striving for that, and then seeing the conflict with a calling that God had also placed on my life, and going like, “Well, if I follow that calling, I am going to have to break a little bit of this image that I have, of who I think I need to be as a mom.” It’s just been a really beautiful process of saying, “You know what God is calling me to my motherhood, and what God might be calling me to in terms of the ministry. I am in conflict.”

He’s really provided everything I need to be able to, in small ways, do both well, and accept also limitations to say, “No” where I need to. I just love that idea of, instead of trying to fight the calling or to fight maybe even the season of life to say, “No, this is what God has ordained for me.” It’s okay if it doesn’t look like my idea of what it should look like. [laughs]

Hannah: I still regularly get angry with God [laughter] for making me the way He made me. My ideal woman is not who I think I am. I think, “Oh I wish. Why can’t I just be the mom who always has everything together, and she doesn’t have these extra things she’s doing because she’s so invested here?” She’s making cookies, and she’s quiet. [laughter] She’s a nest fluffer. [laughter]  Why did my kids, when they know me – and true story, they make a Mother’s Day list of “Why I love mom”, and one of the things was, “Because she teaches common sense and ethics.” [laughter] I am like, “Why is that the woman I am?” 

It has been years of just submitting; submitting to God’s sovereignty, submitting to the Holy Spirit’s transforming my heart, my willfulness of saying, “No, I am going to be this kind of woman that I have decided is more godly, or I have decided is who I should be.” And God just slowly humbling, humbling, humbling, humbling me, saying, “No, I had a plan. Let’s work the plan Hannah.” [laughter] 

Emily: Even as I read your book, I love all the gardening references. In my mind I am gardener and I’ve got chickens in the back. Laura’s probably smiling, laughing right now [laughter] because she knows I’m exactly the opposite. I am probably the girl holding the mug that says, “I love not camping.” [laughter] It’s okay if those are not my real life passions. We all have those things.

Laura: Ultimately, again you hit about this on the book, but really digging into who God has made us and not trying to be someone else, allows us to use our resources so much better, and to be so much more effective for the kingdom. Once we stop trying to split ourselves in two, ultimately, I have found so much freedom, and just feeling like, “Wow, I can actually keep up with some of these things that I feel God is calling me to.” Not to say that it’s super easy, but some of that tension just finally releases when I fully give in to, as you said, “God’s plan.” Like, “Let’s work the plan” and don’t keep looking to the left, don’t look to the right. Stay the course.

That has freed me to be able to do certain things even if they aren’t active in obedience. Something I was thinking about - this isn’t a vocation - but a calling towards adoption for our family. Or maybe I think about a mom with foster care, or some sort of other ministry piece of really releasing all of those other things that strap us down, that we expect ourselves to be to able to do. This allows us to fully invest and to dive deep into one or two areas really, really well, maximizing the gifts and talents and abilities that God’s given us. It’s really freeing when we finally let go.

Hannah: The call to humility, when Christ calls us in Matthew 11, it is, “Come to me.” It is, come give me your singular focus. Half of the struggle to cultivate humility in our life, and to reach this place of rest that Christ promises, is we’re in that process of coming. We’re in the process of leaving all of our other expectations and all of the other things that we have been pursuing or looking to give us satisfaction and rest. It is this lifelong journey of coming, and giving Him that singular attention. Then allowing that to guide the choices we make, and it being okay because we’ve shut out these other voices, and we’ve been able to say, “I am singlehandedly coming to Christ. I am submitting myself to His Lordship,” even if that doesn’t look like what I think it should look like. Even if my vision for my life is “more godly” [laughter] than what I think Christ is calling me to. It is the difference between being committed to Christ, and being surrendered to Christ. A lot of the times, our good works, and our good commitment to good things, actually hinder us from the full humility, that full surrender, which is what ultimately brings us rest and frees us from this cycle of anxiety.

Laura: Amen, Hannah. [laughter] We have a whole bunch more questions for you. I feel like we could talk forever, but we are hitting our time limits. We just want to thank you so much for being on the show. Listeners, as we’ve said repeatedly, if you want more of this kind of information, if you want to learn more about humility, and really feel freedom from comparison, anxiety, the rat race of life, please check out Hanna’s book, Humble Roots. It’s incredible. Thanks again Hannah for being on the show.

Ep. 42 || Making Christmas Traditions Matter - Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily Jensen here with my sister-in-law, Laura Wifler. We are so excited today to be talking about the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas. Some of you guys have maybe been listening to Christmas music since Halloween, [laughter] you’re those type of people, but some of you guys are probably getting ready to think about your decorations and what you’re going to do this season. We thought it would be fun to do a lighthearted, yet truthful show about traditions, and children, and the Gospel and all that good stuff.   

Laura:  Ever since I became a mom, it’s felt so exciting because I have control over what happens at Christmas and it can be as special as I want it to be. Other times, it’s also this huge pressure because it’s never very easy to do that, or things go haywire with kids and it’s a little crazy. I think it’s a learning process for me with Christmas of having these fun things to do, but then also needing to have an open hand.   

Emily:  Yes, Laura, because I know that family you grew up in obviously, and you know the family I grew up in to some degree, and we can share a little bit about how you and I came from pretty different backgrounds tradition wise. What was it like for you? How has that impacted what you are trying to do as a mom? 

Laura:  I grew up without a lot of traditions. It was a very loose schedule. We often did not even celebrate Christmas in Christmas Day. It would have been December 17th or January 1st or whatever day we had. We traveled a lot, maybe seeing family, we didn’t do stockings, we didn’t do a traditional meal, I’m trying to think of all the things that regular families do. Not that Christmas wasn’t special; it was wonderful. It was all about family and being together and coziness. That’s the memories I have, but I don’t have these memories of waking up on Christmas morning in my pajamas and eating cookies and this big breakfast and then opening gifts. My dad would be so excited about gifts; he’d be like, “Let’s open one!” on December 3rd!    

Emily:  Which is how I understand my husband so well. [laughter] 

Laura:  Yes, that’s funny because even by the time we get to the real Christmas, we’d have like two presents. That’s fine but it’s very different from the traditional way my husband grew up, and like Em will share in a minute, with lots of intense, elaborate, “We do it this way and it doesn’t change,” traditions, which is really, really special. I think that’s something that, as a mom, I want to implement. I’ve seen that and thought, “I would like to do that for my kids.” I think it has helped for me to come from a background that is like, “Anything goes! Whatever we want to do this year!” but at the same time, I also do want to give some of those traditions to my kids, and I think we’ll talk about that going forward. One thing we did have, this is an awesome idea, I’ll share it later but we had a promise tree. We will go into what that was later. That was awesome; my mom killed it on that one.    

Emily:  I know you guys have a couple of things, but it’s totally interesting when you bring two families together and you see all of those things come out - all those differences. As Laura mentioned, I came from a pretty tradition-heavy background. Actually, my one younger brother has special needs. If you’ve ever been around some people with special needs, they’re very routine oriented, they want a lot of consistency and they will remind you if you forget the consistency. [laughter] 

Even if my parents ever wanted to change, they probably couldn’t because my brother knew that on Thanksgiving night, by seven o'clock, we need to be unloading the tree out of the basement and putting it up. [laughter] We really stuck to tradition. Everything from, again, decorating on Thanksgiving night; we had these chocolates, advent calendars, we had stockings, literally down to the specific type of food we ate on Christmas Eve, and the dishes that we ate off of. Everything was really consistent and so I have very vivid Christmas memories. On some ways, I feel like that’s created pressure for me because I feel like, “I want to recreate some of these things for my kids. I have such good memories,” but I find that our life has been unpredictable and challenging.         

Laura:  She married into my family. [laughter] 

Emily:  I’ll get more into it later in the show as we talk more, but one Christmas I had newborn twins, another Christmas I had three toddlers. It hasn’t been this ideal thing. I think I’m trying to take a long-term view of Christmas now and say, “My kids probably won’t even remember anything before they’re five.”

Laura:  I love that fact. I love that! [laughter] I take that to the bank. 

Emily:  The things that really stick with them are probably, when I look back, it’s what I did in high school or maybe middle school are the things that I would consider. I don’t really know if we were that strict with traditions when we were young but I’m counting on the fact that I have a few more years to figure it out and get stable.  

Laura:  I think that’s a huge thing to remember for all of us. I get to Pinterest and I get really excited because I’m like, “Look at all these wonderful ideas!” Then I get super depressed because how much time it takes to implement. The kids are picking their nose in the corner and screaming around, and it never looks like what it’s going to look like, but that doesn’t mean traditions shouldn’t happen.   

Emily:  I love looking at some of the Biblical reasons for traditions because it’s more than just a cultural thing that we do. Laura brought this out to me and it really hadn’t crossed my mind before that God is the inventor of tradition.  

Laura:  You’re not going to find the word in the Bible but He did create them. [laughs] 

Emily:  I love that because as soon as you said it, I was like, “Well, duh, look at the whole Old Testament,” but I had never put two and two together before.  

Laura:  The entire Old Testament, if you look at any of their ceremonies, any of their festivals, always, it began with God saying, “Remember the Lord your God; remember what He has done for you.” I was thinking about a few different ones of like the Festival of Booths - that was to remember the Jews 40 years in the desert, The Passover was for those that sprinkled the blood of the lamb over their door post, they were “passed over” and saved in Egypt. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, remembering their haste or their quick exodus from Egypt. There are so many that the Israelites celebrated; all these festivals and these ceremonies and these rituals. 

If you think about it, that’s what traditions are. Traditions are things that we do over and over again. They can be really small like a daily quiet time or they can be really “big” like a Christmas advent calendar or something that takes a little bit more time and happens just once a year. Those things are built to remember what God has done for you in the past.       

Emily:  It’s a generational thing, especially in the Old Testament. In the New Testament too, you see this model of, that’s how people were passing along the law and the great stories of their faith and the redemption story and how they knew that they were looking forward to a Messiah and how those in the New Testament knew they were looking forward to the second coming of Christ. It was really word of mouth and being faithful to share from one generation to the next. As we are thinking about traditions, we are keeping in mind that this is our overall goal as parents, is to remind our children about what God has already done and to point them ahead to what He is going to still do. Getting them to do things for Christmas is a part of that big plan and it’s one more exciting way you can shake things up. I always like it because it gets me reinvigorated and refocused in a time of the year when I’m typically stressed or I’m busy, so it would probably more fall by the wayside.       

Laura:  I’ve always felt like traditions are a kiddy thing, and they’re not really for the adults – they just do them for the kids. But as I looked at the Old Testament and I read this book that we’ll share in the show notes, Noel Piper’s Treasuring God in Our Traditions – as I was studying and looking into this stuff, I really felt like, “I’m going to do this for my kids,” but what I started realizing was that, “No, this is for the grownups. This is for me to remember what God has done because He has worked in my own life.” Not only did He work in the Israelites, in the whole past in the redemptive story and bringing everything together and one day waiting for the Messiah, but He’s done that for me. This isn’t just about the Israelites. It’s for His chosen people and it’s about me. That was something that was a big realization for me, is that, “No, I want to do traditions not just for my children but for me to remember what God has done in my life.”             

Emily:  I love that being able to stay focused on what really matters and the way it can make space for our families to have not only good memories but to remember to focus on Christ, which is the point of the whole season. However you choose to do that in your family is great and keeping that in mind is super important. Laura mentioned Advent and some of you guys may have weird thoughts attached to that.   

Laura:  I did. I totally did. 

Emily:  We want to take a few minutes to explain what we mean when we say Advent, if that’s a new word to you or a concept that maybe you haven’t practiced a lot.  

Laura:  I thought, “That’s for other people or somebody else,” [laughter] I don’t know. 

Advent is a season of anticipation. It’s the season leading up to Christmas. You typically start it four Sundays before Christmas and that’s when believers look back to the Old Testament. We’ve been talking about all these things that God did. At the time, in the Old Testament, they didn’t know what God’s plan for redemption exactly was. We get to live on this side of the cross and so we know but they were looking forward with anticipation, with longing for God’s redemption, which was ultimately as we know, Jesus. We get to celebrate these things now but we can take the season of Advent to remember the longing for the Savior. 

For us, our longing will be to be reunited with Christ at the end, when He comes back to meet our Savior in full glory. Advent is a season for both looking back at what God’s done, again, I feel like a broken record, but also looking forward to what Christ will yet do. 

There are some things around that that people do. I mentioned an Advent calendar or Advent candles; you light a candle on each Sunday leading up to it. Advent calendars have a daily thing, you’ve probably seen them. They’re Pinterest hits so you’ve probably seen them. We can link to a couple of ideas. I have an Advent calendar that I really like that I just made. If you want to do those things, that’s what that is and I think it’s a great, great time to do a devotional. There are millions of devotionals out there for Advent and to really just think about what God’s done for you and be grateful for His work in your life, and His plan to someday fully redeem all of us.     

Emily:  Like Laura said, definitely go to our show notes and we will try to include some resources so you can get a better idea of what Advent is and different ideas. I think whatever you do, we wanted to give some ideas, principles, again, of how to apply. One of the things that’s been hard for me is planning ahead because I don’t think about Advent until one week into Advent. [laughs]    

Laura:  Unfortunately, the show is coming out end of November and so I feel like, “We should have started in October!” 

Emily:  But in October, it’s hard to click on something called “Christmas.”   

Laura:  So true. This is for this year and next year!

Emily:  Especially if you have young children, again, just start something and figure it out. I have a little chain link that counts down in the whole month of December that I hang up for our kids. This will be my third year of using it and literally, when I take it down in January, I put it in a zip lock bag and put it in a drawer so it’s ready to go for the next year. It’s nice because sometimes, once you invest that upfront time one year, it’s something that you can use over and over again.     

Laura:  Last year was when I finally implemented the Advent calendar that I landed on, so I’ve tried a few of these. Totally a home job but it’s funny because I realized the ones I was doing in the past were maybe a bit too old for my kids, so it took a bit to find an age-appropriate one. 

I feel like there are times when it feels like your kids are too young and crazy to be doing these traditions, but even if they are running around and going crazy and saying, “I don’t want to do this,” you can still talk to them about the importance of trying to sit even though they’re squirming and playing with Legos. I remember a lot of times my kids would play with the Nativity while we would do our Advent calendar. 

That’s one thing; don’t idealize it. Remember that it’s not going to be perfect, that there’s going to be fights, there’s going to be tears, all those things, but they are taking things in more than you know. I think Emily mentioned this on a show in the past, of a lot of these things that we start doing when they’re really little, they will grow up knowing that, “This is the way that we go. This is the thing that my family does.” If you’re diligent to work with them now, a lot of times in the future, it gets easier and easier with these rhythms and routines.    

Emily:  Just wanted to jump on too, this point of, don’t idealize it because I think that I came into motherhood idealizing traditions and idealizing routines. I’ve really struggled because in the last three to four years, like I mentioned early in the show, I had newborn twins one year, I had three children under three years and I didn’t even put up a Christmas tree because it would have gotten torn down [laughter] in a second. Last year, I had a miniature tree that was up on a shelf where no one would reach. [laughter]   

Laura:  It was so high up; it was really funny. 

Emily:  This year, my husband and I, we’re going to be moving right at Christmas time and we may not even have a tree. That is four years in a row of not my ideal and craziness, and so I’ve had to lay that down and say, “It’s not about my decorations, it’s not about the foods I’m doing, it’s not about my perfect activities.” My kids probably won’t sit through a dressed up tree for several years, but that’s okay. However, I can point my children to Christ, even in things like, we drink hot cocoa and talk about Jesus or, we listen to Christmas music in the car, good hymns and look at Christmas lights, or whatever those things are. It’s okay that they’re small and crazy and again, trying to take that long-term view. I wanted to point that out, of if you feel like, “Hey, I’m failing at this,” I’m going on four years [laughter] of not anything like what I planned or what I hope for the future, but want to have an open hand and not let Advent turn me into a crazy-stressed out-angry mom.         

Laura:  That’s a great way that you can show your children the reason of the season, to use that silly catch phrase, [laughter] but your attitude is going to reflect to them what they’re going to remember about Christmas. That is something that I really took from my mom, is that this is about family. If I’m going to tell you what Christmas was about growing up, it was about being together as a family. I couldn’t even tell you any of the other things because they changed all the time and everything was a little bit crazy, but I really appreciate that that’s that it was about. 

We can do all these fun other things, but ultimately, it’s about Jesus Christ being the center, and you guys being together as a family. As Emily said, don’t have this perfect picture of what it’s going to look like. Hopefully, you can incorporate traditions in. Hopefully, for any of the young moms too, we have lots of years to really build that. [laughter] Other ideas that we wanted to shoot out - service. Go bake cookies together, operation Christmas Child is a big one, make cards, go sing carols at a nursing home. Those are easy things that you don’t have to do anything with décor every single night.    

Emily:  Laura mentioned, which I love this idea, getting a nativity set that your children can play with. We have one and I’ll link to in the show notes. It’s just little people; it’s totally plastic. They love it and they play with it every day for like a month and it’s a perfect way to talk about the Gospel and the story of Christmas with your children.   

Laura:  Then Jesus’ birthday cake, that’s something I grew up doing. Remembering that this is Jesus’ birthday, we forget that very easily, so you can do a cake for Him. Making traditional foods. I know that my husband has so many memories around food. [laughter] Again, I don’t, but I want to incorporate that in, those are easy things, hopefully, makes our lives easier - we always do cinnamon rolls. Singing carols as Emily mentioned. Memories in music. I know too, letting my son pick out the gifts for family and friends. That’s a huge life lesson for him because we go to the store specifically for that family member. He’s not getting a toy out of it. We have to think about, “Okay, why are we doing this?” We talk through why we buy our friends or cousins or whomever gifts, and then we also say, “What would your friend or your cousin like?” not, “What would you like?” I think that’s been a huge lesson for him to think of others. That’s something you’re already going to do anyway so why not turn it into a special time to teach your child about Jesus?      

Emily:  Now I am so excited to go get out all my Christmas decorations and then put them back in a few weeks when I maybe move! [laughter] Anyways, we will try to have a ton more resources for you guys on the show notes. I know I’ve written about this. I don’t know Laura if you’ve written about it but we’ll have anything that we have on the topic. Definitely go check those out at risenmotherhood.com. If you enjoyed the show and you’re a regular listener, please think of leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. It’s really, really helpful for other moms to find us and hear the Gospel applies to motherhood. Again, we are in social media as @RisenMotherhood so hope you guys have a great Christmas. I’m not going to start singing for you because you’ll turn it off. [laughter]    

Laura:  Have a great Christmas everyone. 

Ep. 62 || When Your Husband Works Long Hours - Transcript

The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I'm Emily Jensen and I have my interviewee sister-in-law, Laura Wifler, sitting right next to me today.

Laura: Yes, we're together which is super fun.

Emily: We do this occasionally, record together in person. We have a special episode for you guys today, a topic that has come up several times over the course of Risen Motherhood. We’re speaking to moms who have a husband who isn't home as much as they would like, due to potentially longer working hours or other commitments, and trying to talk through how to deal with that. Many of you guys have heard Laura - either she's written about this on her blog, or has mentioned it on past podcasts. It's definitely a question we've gotten and we wanted to interview her. Put her on the spot. 

Laura: Yes. We're going to try to answer some stuff because I have seven long years of learning to work with a husband of long hours.

Emily: It's something that Laura and I have talked about a lot in our personal relationship. I can attest to the fact that Laura is facing this with the truth of the Gospel and trying to grow in God's grace as she's facing this process.  Let's start by sharing your story a little bit. What does your husband do and what are his hours? 

Laura:  My husband is an engineer at a large chemical and petroleum company. He works typically 12-hour days. Then he goes through these longer seasons, once or twice a year, where he’ll work like 15 hours, up to that amount, sometimes longer but usually less, anywhere from about 30-90 days straight. He did have one that was three months long. And yes, he works even on the weekends. He’s supposed to have every other Friday off but those don't always happen.

It's always been this way with him. He's always worked a lot but especially after we moved here to the Chicago area. It became a lot more frequent for him to be working Fridays and weekends. He's always connected. 2 a.m. conference calls, for him to take them in the guest room, are not unusual. I've gone to birthday parties alone, Christmases, weddings, lots of different things. We're not going to get in to the why he works so much just to protect him and our family but it's necessary in this season. That's the season God has us in. 

Emily: Yes. As you're listening, you guys may definitely relate to that. Even if your husband doesn't work quite that much, we don't want to get into the comparison game, but maybe you can relate to that feeling of my husband does have to take these calls, or I am going to events alone with the kids. Laura, what is your schedule in light of his schedule?

Laura: That's a little bit on the "Ask Us Anything" show but we keep a later schedule so the kids get to see him more. They go to bed anywhere between 8-10pm. We have a really flex bedtime and the wake time does reflect that. He typically leaves around 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning. So we don't see him in the morning and we try to see him at night but sometimes that doesn't happen. Our evenings are really fluid. A lot of times I do errands after nap time, kind of a weird time. Or the kids and I eat and we keep a meal hot for him or warm it up in the microwave. Unfortunately, we don't have family dinners right now either, except we do get them on weekends. I don't want to make it sound like he's never home but typically on a weekday, that's what it will look like.

Emily: It's funny. He's home right now. He's making sure kids don't pop out of bed while we get to record this.

Laura: Yes. We’re in the basement and he's upstairs. Thank goodness.

Emily: We're just going to dive in deep, really quick here. Maybe you can go ahead and start to share. What are the biggest obstacles that you’ve faced in this process?

Laura: I think when you have a husband that works a lot or more than what you want - whatever your "perfect" is - and then it is more than that - especially when you're at home all day or maybe you don't work full time, you feel those hours away. I think at first, I took it really personal when he wasn't home. Things like, "Are you doing this intentionally because you don't want to be home?" or wondering if he prefers work over you and the kids. 

I think you expect him to have a lot more control over his schedule than he does. Something that I would do is, I would take it so personally and I would want to hurt him back personally. Super petty and immature, but I would get so mad at him I wouldn’t even speak. Or I would ignore him and give him the silent treatment willing him to cross me so that I could explode. 

Emily: But I know that you're not in that pattern now and we've talked through a lot of those things. What were some of those realities about the Gospel, and about who you are in Christ, all of that good stuff, how did that come in and start to change your response to him?

Laura: First of all, wanting to do it that way, silently grumbling and then exploding doesn't line up with the Gospel at all. When I sin against God, it's a personal offense to him but what did he do for me instead? He hasn't exploded back on me. He gave me Jesus and he paid that cost and all that I get in return for my sin is grace and love and mercy, a wonderful relationship with my creator. And that's something that can extend to my husband even when I felt personally wronged.

I think it just took me years to understand conflict management and resolution. It doesn't mean that you're just a doormat and that you let your husband do anything he wants - and this applies in a lot of areas of conflict - but it does mean that you extend grace. You don't make your husband pay for being home late by frittering away those precious minutes that you have with him; instead working on modeling the Gospel to my husband and my kids and remembering that I'm not my husband's Holy Spirit. I wanted to convict him with my holier-than-thou-actions, or my words that we're going to zing him in the heart. I'm not his Holy Spirit. I cannot convict him so it doesn't do anything.

Emily: Yes and that's something you and I have talked a ton about, personally in terms of marriage.  Everybody's got their own marriage things going on, where we want to see our husband change in an area. The question of how do you walk alongside them in love, on the same side of the table, facing it together, saying, "I'm going to pray for you and lock arms with you and not be your enemy." Because we're really not enemies with our spouse.

Laura: Yes, you’ve got to learn to live in that tension together.

Emily: Okay. Another thing we've talked about a little bit but wanted to dive into more is that comparison game. What did you learn about comparing your situation to other moms?

Laura: It's pretty easy to compare. I know it is in any situation but you know, I'd hear a friend say, “My husband didn't come home for lunch today” and I would about die. Or, "My husband came home at 5:30 p.m." Or different things like that - and it genuinely is hard for them. They're in a different season of life and they have their own hard things. I think I've had to learn every mom has hard. It doesn't ever do any good to compare the hards because it either leads you to pride or it leads you to despair. 

Honestly, I can only compare my standard to God. And what is his standard? Complete and perfect holiness. I do not measure up. I fall short of that every moment of every day. But because of Christ’s work on the cross, I'm redeemed, which frees me from needing to judge anyone else. To say they're a wimp and for me to be prideful in that or feeling superior, or feeling jealous of their home situation too and falling into despair. I think I can swing between both types of feeling and it just never leads us anywhere good. 

Emily: Yes. We have to trust that God is good and what he has given us. Super hard. Another thing we honestly talk a lot about on Risen Motherhood is we're replacing our identity. I guess in this journey, as you’ve figured out that, “Hey, I can't necessarily count on my husband to be at this event. I can't necessarily count on him to do bedtime with the kids for me or give me this break.” 
What have you learned about where your identity is and where to place your expectations?

Laura: I feel like this is one that God continues to work on. I think that it's easy to wrap our identity up in our husbands, no matter what situation we're in. And that's just the fall, front and center in our faces. We were created to worship God but once the fall happened, we were immediately worshipping anything else. Like I said earlier, I would get so upset, giving a disproportionate response with my husband to what it needed to be that I got to a point, I guess this isn't the best, but I couldn’t live like that anymore. I was over it. 

I was like, “Fine God. I’ve tried it my way and it doesn't work. I'll try yours.” Unfortunately, I’m sometimes sad to admit that it took that but I'm so thankful that God really brought me to my knees, to recognize that God's the only one that deserves my worship. He created me and his son died for me. 

My husband will always fail me no matter what. If it wasn't work, it would be something else. But when I put my hope and my trust in God, then I'm fully satisfied. He brings me full joy and I think that I find my attitude is a lot more stable. It's not so up and down; not so rattled easily. And there's that perspective too, of keeping eternity in mind and knowing that my present can change all it wants but my future never does. That is a hope that I think gets me through a lot of those hard days.

Emily: Yes. It's unchangeable, undefiled, unfading, kept in heaven for you, Laura.

Laura: Oh yes, keep it coming! 

Emily: I like how you pointed out that differentiation between being able to love our husbands well, can only happen when we're fully satisfied in God. Because then we're not putting those… 

Laura: Explanations, needs…

Emily: Yes. It's not a you-fill-my-need based love. It’s I love you, because I've been loved. 

Laura: Exactly. Yes, no-strings-attached love.

Emily: Yes, no strings attached. Another hard one. What do you feel you've learned about being able to honor your husband? Because even though again we've talked about learning your identity and all these things, but it still doesn't necessarily change the circumstances. How do you continue to go forward and honor him?

Laura: Yes. One phrase we like to joke about in our house is, "We always give daddy the best." "Daddy gets the best." Daddy gets the best piece of pizza. I think I stole this from a blog. It’s not my own thing. He gets the best piece of pizza. He gets the best comfy chair. He gets the best smiles from mom. I want him to know that I value him and for my kids to see that too.

One big thing I've had to learn a lot is to protect my husband in front of other people and in front of my children. When dad works a lot, it means they miss a lot. It can feel like nothing’s safe, nothing's off the table, even a vacation. A lot of people don't understand why he has to work, or they can't really comprehend how much he works. I think that you want to justify that or defend that. But what I'm learning to do is always speak highly of him even if I'm not jiving with him in that moment, but honoring him with my words. It doesn't mean it's false, but I means that I'm obedient to Christ and I'm honoring him even when I'm feeling hurt because he's not with me. 

Emily: And let me interject because in case somebody is going, "Oh no. Who does she talk to then?" Just know Laura, does have safe relationships where you process the hurts.

Laura: Yes. True. 

Emily: But in general, for the average acquaintance or person, that is going to look different. I think that's the differentiator there.

Laura: That's true. Like someone who isn't super close in the moment of, "Hey how's it going? Where is Mike?" I'm not going to say, "Oh my word!"

I think I'm not a super naturally merciful person. But God is teaching me that Godly womanhood looks like protecting my husband and also like winning him and having kind and gentle words - or sometimes no words at all. You’ll win him without words. I think that even when I don't understand what's going on, or why he has to work, it's choosing to trust him and if I cannot trust him, knowing I can trust God with our situation. 

The last thing is, I spent some time memorizing verses that would help me when I was in the heat of it: wanting to lash out, wanting to be angry, wanting to get upset and just saying - "Let me say these verses, take ten hot seconds to chill out and move on." I will link some in the show notes.

Emily: That will be awesome. And that's a nice practical thing and a good segue way into some practical tips of a mom who is going okay, "I'm starting to internalize these truths. I want to rely on God and begin to be transformed in my desires towards my husband and in my responses. But in the meantime, practical tips. Help! What do those things look like?"

Laura: Well, we always start with prayer and get in the Word. This is Risen Motherhood, we are going to talk about that. But pray that you would be gracious and that God would give you stamina and endurance in this season. Pray for the same for your husband. Praying for success at work, or that God would make his time more efficient, that your situation would change if that is something that you guys want. 

And also that God would change your husband's heart, not you. 

Then, of course, getting in the Word and having the Bible out to talk with God. Believe the best of him. I kind of talked about that a little bit. Knowing that he feels a lot of pressure to provide financial especially if you're a stay-at-home mom and if he tells you he’d rather be home, trust that he's telling the truth. It's hard, but choose to believe what he says. Talk about it with him. You want things to change, let him know. Again, going back don't be a doormat. Have these discussions but don't exhaust the topic. I think it's very easy for us to nag on that.

Emily: And timing is everything.

Laura: Emily has taught me that one. She is the best husband timer ever. 

Emily: It just took a few poorly timed conversations. 

Laura: But I think what you're saying is true. Again, these types of conversations don't happen necessarily in the heat of, he walked in the door late, let's have a convo right now about how many hours you work.

Emily: Exactly. It's like okay. I'm going to be patient. I'm going to trust God. I'm going to wait. And then in a situation that's more controlled, where you can all be rational and you can hear each other, that is the time. 

Laura: Yes. There was a season where I would hand him my son when he walked in the door and say, "I'm frustrated with you right now, but let's talk about it later." It was literately in that tone of voice because I need to let him know, I'm a verbal processor. I was like, "I'm going to choose to enjoy this with you because I love you and I want what's best for us but I need you to know how I feel right now." Choosing that timing of when the discussion should come. 

Another one is making him look good. This goes back to some other things that I said. Sign the card for him, send the thank you notes, say the right words for him, like on behalf of him. I feel like I'm literally doing all this stuff and then I'm like, “Honey. Sign here” and I prep it all up for him. I want him to look good. I want to serve him in that way.

Also with your kids, have them call him and tell stories, or make special videos art, photos for him. Our kids mirror us so much and so we want to model that positive attitude in letting them know daddy loves you and wants to be with you, and can't wait to see that. No matter where you're at in motherhood, I think that that's just a good practice to talk up your husband. You want to be talked up? I feel like I would want my husband to do that for me.

Emily: And again it's like some of you go, ‘Oh, that’s so unfair.’ I totally can hear that in my mind too. That's not fair. He didn't do any of those things but the Gospel is not fair and God is constantly making us look good. By his grace, and he is extending mercy to us and we don't deserve it. Again, it's just another opportunity to model and walk in what we believe God has done for us.

Laura: That's a good one. Last couple I think: Be flexible with your routine. Like I talked about, our evenings look a little different than other people's. Self-care. Do not be afraid. Ask for what you need. I have three hours of childcare a week and I love it. I'm not ashamed and it's for whatever I want to do. I don't have to do anything motherhood related. 

Emily: Sort of mother, but not directly.

Laura: Yes. At first I felt really selfish for wanting alone time especially as a stay-at-home mom. I felt like that's my contribution. It’s watching the kids and giving my all to them and not needing childcare. But really I don't really get a lot of built-in breaks and so how can we build that in? My husband was so supportive of that when I came to him and said, what do you think about this? 
I think we started with this thing called “Selfie Saturdays," and my husband would watch the kids and I would go out. But it kind of became inconsistent and also stole precious invaluable family time. So we do it now during the week and I have a babysitter, which is great. I would encourage you to advocate for yourself, don't ask for the moon, but be realistic and come to your husband saying, “I love you and I want to support you and here are some things I need to be able to do that.” 

Emily: Yes. A lesson for all moms to figure out how to ask for what we need, so we can really love our families well. Laura has some writing on this that we will link to in the show notes risenmotherhood.com. I know hopefully this week too, she’ll share extra wisdom on Instagram stories or something. Anyways, we hope you'll find us on social media @risenmotherhood Instagram, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. So come check us out and thanks Laura for baring your soul. 

Laura: Thanks for interviewing me, Emily.