Ep. 81 || CELEBRATING ADVENT WITH LITTLE ONES TRANSCRIPT

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. 

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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. 

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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.

Ep. 59 || How Many Children Should We Have - 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 here, with my sister-in-law Laura Wifler. Some of you guys might be new listeners, and we wanted to do a really quick shout out. We try not to do this very often but every once in awhile, we remind you guys that one of the best ways to get the word out about Risen Motherhood and everything that we talk about on the show, is to leave us a rating and review on iTunes. They have these complex algorithms that we don't totally understand, but it definitely helps other people find the show. Many of you have already done this and we are so grateful.

We're always blown away and completely humbled when we read them and are rejoicing about what God is doing through this podcast. So if you haven't done that yet, if you would consider taking five minutes because I think it takes just a few minutes to do that for us. There's also a tutorial on our website, risenmotherhood.com. We always get little questions about how to do it and Laura has already prepped that for you. That would be super awesome. Today, we are talking about another follow up question from "Ask Us Anything" show, although we've been mulling about doing this topic for a very long time.

Laura: Yes. We're excited today to talk a little bit about family planning. I think some of the questions from the "Ask Us Anything" show really revolved around, how you decided to have more children. “Did you guys start out with knowing what your family would look like or did you change as it went along?” There are so many questions when you're planning your family. It's a complicated topic and a complicated question to answer.

There are things like, “How long after getting married do we have kids? What kind of birth control do we use? Do we need to be out of debt? How long do we wait for spacing? What if your husband and you want different things? What about foster care? What about adoption? What if we're not able to have children? “ And that fear that can come with infertility and how that plays into things. I mean, whoa! Right?

It's a lot happening in our minds and in our hearts, and then in conversations with your husband. We’re not going to answer all of those questions today, but we're going to try to bring some Biblical principles into it, and offer you guys some solid questions to get you those conversations going in your homes.

Emily: So to get started, we're going to jump right in here today with some personal stories. To share where Laura and I are at, and what our journeys have been mainly because they've actually been pretty different. We both have experienced some unexpected things in our family planning journey that have caused us to change things and to think about things in different ways.

So, real quick: Our story is we got married and we thought that, “Oh yes! We’ll wait five years to have kids.”That was just kind of a default. I don't think we had any real reason why we picked that number. My husband maybe wanted to go to grad school, and he had all these career goals and that's what we were going to do.

We set out on that path. And not too long into marriage, I started having some negative side effects to the type of birth control we were using and so we got off of that. As we started to research, it opened up this whole box of information that we had not previously processed through at all. Things like, "What does the Bible say about this? What are some of the different implications of family planning styles?" As we were doing that, we felt like God really worked in our hearts and showed us, that for us, we really didn't have any good reasons to be avoiding children except for things that were rooted in cultural ideals or our own selfishness. We pretty quickly after that said, “Okay Lord. Well, we'll try to start a family.” We weren't really sure how that would all turn out but after we had our first son, we just loved being parents way more than we ever imagined.

In that process again, God just started working in our hearts and I have tons of details, if you ever get a chance to sit over coffee with me about this, about how it all happened, but in my husband's heart, in my heart, he was working individually to cause both of us to desire a larger than average family. Somehow, at some point, we became very unified in that. And around that time, when we were still like, “Should we commit to this or not?” we found out we're pregnant with twins. And so it went forward from there.

We said, “Okay. We're pretty committed to this. We feel like God is calling our family into this vision. We know it's weird and we know it's going to require an insane amount of sacrifice.” But much like what people think when they start going to medical school to become a doctor, they're like, “I'm so passionate about being a doctor that I'm willing to go through all this crazy sacrifice,” we have felt that way about having a large family from the beginning.

Laura: I remember one time talking to you about it. I was like, “How do you deal with all the pregnancies so fast?” and you totally said something along those lines: “I see the long-term goal. I see the long-term vision and so I'm willing to put the work in now.” And it actually was a revelation to me because I think that happens to a lot of people, honestly. These childbearing years are tough and so were like, “It's hard and I'm done having kids.” I have always admired that about you and my brother. That you guys have really pressed through because you see this beautiful vision of a huge dinner table of 18-year oldish kids. It’s fun.

Emily: That is exactly what - my husband - don't get him started about his vision. But we really encourage each other on hard days. I always say, “Honey, don't ask me about the next kid when I'm in the middle of this pregnancy. I’ll think about that later.” But yes, that's the road we've been on. I'm pregnant with our fifth child now. But we do, I just wanted to mention, take it one child at a time. People always ask us, “Well, how many kids are you going to have?”  Maybe they observe that we have six barstools at our island. The reality is, we don't know. We have a child who's got some developmental things. There are always factors we consider every time we pray about it and make sure we're moving forward for the right reasons.

So that's where we're at. Laura your story is little different. I’m excited for you to share.

Laura: Yes. Different. My husband and I, when we were first married, were always in the "about three kids" camp. We wanted to wait the requisite five years. I don't know why that's such a popular number but it seems to be, before we had kids.

Over the course of the beginning of our marriage, God really grew in our hearts to adopt and desiring to add to our family in that way, even prior to having children. And so if you want to listen to the "Adoption and the Gospel" episode, you can find more of our story specific to that over there. Basically, I was on birth control and we went on a little trip to Europe. I got a little bit sick and ended up in the hospital in Prague and then I ended up back in the hospital in the US. I was on some antibiotics for about a month. Apparently, antibiotics null and void or at least, weaken the effects of birth control.

Emily: Oops! [laughter]

Laura: I didn’t know that. So anyway, we got pregnant and to be very honest, it was really hard for me. I cried when I first got pregnant. It wasn't in my “plan.” I am a planner. I felt like I wanted to continue working. I had some different dreams that I wanted to fulfill. I knew God had just kind of been like, “No! You’re starting your family. Here you are.” As we did that, we immediately moved ahead and had our daughter. It was again, part of our plan to have kids close together. I was like great; it's just a little early but we're doing it. At that time, right after my daughter was born, we started the adoption process. All of these things were according to plan, even though it was an early timeline.

Well, I ended up in December of last year…God started growing in my heart a desire for a third biological child. I didn't say a word to anyone until maybe 6-8 months later because I felt like I was insane. I was crazy. I finally brought it to my husband and said, “Can you tell me to stop? To let this go?” And he did. He was like, “No!” And I said, “But you have to take four weeks to pray about it first. Then I want your answer.”

Over time, it was amazing to see how God worked in his life and changed my husband's heart through some conversations, but just giving him time to think about it. Now, as you guys all know, I am pregnant with our third biological. And just like Emily, we’re taking it one day at time. We know adoption isn't a guarantee. We know pregnancy isn't a guarantee. I don't see our family as, “Okay this is done, this is our exact final plan,” but this is the course we're on until God changes it and we're trusting him with that.

Emily: As you heard those stories, I think a lot of these biblical principles we're going to talk about are going to come out. We've already kind of addressed them, but we're going to fly over some things. If you're just starting this journey, you're like, “Wow! I've never really thought that intentionally about this before. What does God even say about this? Does the Bible take a stance on families and family size and all those things?” We're going to fly through this really quick and talk about five principles.

God Loves Life

One is that we know God loves life. He is the creator of everything. He created people. He commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. We know that God brings forth spiritual life in Jesus from dead hearts and that he longs for us to live forever.  He just loves life.

God's Glory is Displayed in the Family Relationship

The second thing is that God's glory is displayed in the family relationship. Because of the Trinity, we know God is a Father and so he obviously values parenthood. He values family relationships. We image him in motherhood, in parenthood and as we carry out our role.

God is Lord Over the Womb

The third thing we wanted to mention is that God is Lord over the womb. If you skim through the Old Testament or much of any of the Bible, it seems like almost everywhere that childbirth, or getting pregnant is mentioned.

It's also mentioned that God opened the womb, or allowed that to happen. You see that that is God's hand. That although we think we have control over our bodies and our pregnancies, really it's God who does that.

God Loves Children

Four is that God loves children. He always calls them a blessing.  In scripture, you don't see them spoken of like it's burdensome to have more children, “Proceed with a major caution.” [laughter]  You don't see those things. It's always there. They’re a heritage. They’re a reward. They're a good thing.

It was normative for a long time and even in Israelite culture, to receive as many children as the Lord gave, within whatever those bounds were. That's not to say that's prescriptive for all of us now, but that's just something to keep in mind that that was considered a good thing.

God Wants Us To Be A Picture Of The Gospel

And the fifth thing is that God wants us to be a picture of the gospel in our lives as we enter motherhood. We do that as we sacrifice and lay down our lives so that we can nurture and give life to our children. It's just a picture of the gospel and that is why God loves families; loves children. This is part of his plan. This is a good thing.

Laura: Yes. All of this, of course being someone in the adoptive process, applies towards however your family is made up; in adoption, through maybe foster care, blended family, multigenerational. Families look really different and that is God's grace to us that we can form families through relationship and not just through sharing the same D.N.A. Part of that is a mercy because of the fall, I suppose, getting into the creation for redemption piece here.

Unfortunately, the fall brought in sin, pain, death, complications. So when we are thinking about having children, we have to consider the way that the fall impacts this. Sometimes our fertility is compromised, or the safety of a birth experience is - really unsafe actually. What are some of those lasting health impacts that we have with children, both psychological, the emotional toll of it? Your age; certain risks can happen from that.

There are a lot of decisions to take into account, based off of some of the things that happen simply because the fall entered the world. But, with redemption there are so many different pieces.. One beautiful thing that we want to make really clear is that no family type should be idolized. That's because we are no longer under the law.  There is no ability for you to earn holiness in front of the Lord because you have as many children as the Lord allows, or because you stopped at two and you were really wise with your financials.

However that may look to you or justify to you, it does not earn you favor in God's eyes because we are fully accepted by God only through the love of Jesus. We can’t have pride in whatever choice that we make, as long as we are clear in our conscience by seeking the Lord, as we form what our family looks like.

Emily: There is no perfect family size.

Laura: Yes! We want to make that so clear here today.

Emily: That is not in Scripture actually. Another thing we wanted to bring up, restoration. We live for Christ because of what he's done for us. Now, every decision that we make including family planning, comes under this umbrella of the great commission, which is that we're going to go and make disciples, and the great commandment which is that we need to love God and love others. While family is a huge portion of that obviously - we have an entire podcast on family. Family is a huge portion of fulfilling those two things. It's not the only thing or the ultimate thing, so we cannot put our family planning above every other component of fulfilling the great commission.

And then finally, we wanted to bring in a point that we are supposed to be loving children, loving our neighbor as ourselves, in a really big variety of ways. This is part of the diversity in God's family, in the unity. No matter what our family sizes, no matter how many biological children that we're given, our hearts are to be for children. That might look like your hearts are for your nieces and nephews, or the children in the church nursery and you love them and welcome them. Maybe it is orphans that you foster and you bring into your home through adoption. Maybe it's the neighborhood kids. I don't know what other kids are in your life, in addition maybe to your biological children. But that is a lifestyle that we want to live now, of welcoming and loving children and not viewing them as a burden.

Laura: Yes. I think just overall, we want to remember that God is sovereign as we talked about, over the womb. He often uses our plans to accomplish his will, but as we were chatting, Emily and I, we realized don't know one other mom that has really been like, "Yes it happened exactly the way my husband and I planned it from the beginning."

I know that we're always harping here at Risen Motherhood about figuring out what things look like to your unique family. There is no prescription from the gospel, from the Bible, that says this is exactly how you should space your children, when you should have them, how you should add them to your family.

What we want to dive into are some questions to ask for you and your husband. Actually Emily has a really full and robust document that when she shared it with me, I had no idea she had this but I was like, "Whoa! That is amazing. Where was that when my husband and I were going through our engagement classes, or talking about kids?"

It's really awesome. We're going to link to it in the show and you can print it out or share it with people. But I want to bring that up because we're not going to go through all the questions. We're going to highlight a few of the big ones, but she has this beautiful document that I just need to brag on for a second of her research. The girl is the queen of family planning, if you want to know anything about it. 

Emily: We've apparently thought about it a couple times before, I think. [laughter]

Laura: I know. When this question came in the "Ask Us Anything" show, I was like, "I don't know. We kind of flew by the seat of our pants a little bit." And Emily was like, “Oh, here you go sister.” She just whipped it out.  

Emily:  So because of some high level, always going back to the heart, which is the main thing right? It's like two families can make the exact same family planning decisions and one family can do it for very selfish cultural reasons or any other one can do it for godly reasons.

The first one is why do you want more or less children? Is it because there are medical reasons? Is it so that you can have a bigger bank account or you can travel more? Is it to fit into a certain model of what you think the best family is either in a church environment or in the cultural environment? Is it because you want to spread the gospel more and you're in an environment, maybe or even in another country, that is just not safe or conducive for a lot of children? Is it because you don't want to have more children because we don't want to be the weird family? There are a lot of reasons, but we always have to look at our heart - why do we want to have more or why are we restricting from adding more children to our family?

Laura: Yes. I think another one is that all believers have a charge to care for the orphan and to look at those children to see if that fits into your family; if adoption or foster care does. It doesn't make you any holier if you choose to do it but just to look at, how are you supporting this? How are you valuing it? Is it because you're intentionally bringing children into your home through these routes or are you supporting other families that are doing it?

Then, of course, we're going back to what does your husband think? We will always come back to that. This is so huge. Pray that you and your husband have unity. As you heard my example, I asked my husband to pray for four weeks, for at least a month, before he gave me his final answer. Sometimes the wife wants different things. I think it actually happens a lot where you guys start out at different places and God moves your hearts together. Seek to understand where each of you are coming from. Make sure you ask God to give you guys a shared vision of what your family will look like, and also share timing in how that potentially comes about.

Emily: Yes. I love that point about seeking to understand. Because sometimes that's how you find out what some of the hidden heart motives are. What are some of the hidden fears? Then you can actually work to process through some of those things and say, are these wise? Are these valid, or are these rooted in something that's not Biblical?

Finally I wanted to say, what are we replacing as the highest priority in our lives as we're considering family planning? I think like Laura said, without even meaning to, sometimes we can walk forward in this journey and we're not really thinking intentionally about it. Without meaning to, we're putting in cultural prosperity and having a certain lifestyle, or having a fitting end to what's normal. We take that route by default.

Maybe there are some good things about that but at least consider, what is God calling our family to? How is he calling us to live out the gospel? Are we considering children as a blessing in that? And what is that looking like in our lives? In general in our Christian life, a certain type of lifestyle should never be more important than Christ himself.

Laura: Okay. So head over to our show notes. You guys, you're going to want to see some of the more full resources that we're linking to. Study this for yourself. See what the Bible talks about. Get in there and don't trust our word; trust God's word. Maybe talk to older couples who love the Lord and have raised their families well that you really respect. See what they really liked about what they did, and maybe what they would have done differently. Then of course as we said, talk to your husband and just pray about what God might want for your families.

We hope that you'll visit our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. Of course, find us on all of the social media channels. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, we're @ risenmotherhood on all of them. We hope you'll join us. We'll be talking about this topic in general throughout the week. So thanks for joining us.

 

Ep. 34 || Recovering From a Traumatic Birth: Laura's Story - 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 here with my sister-in-law, Laura Wifler. Today we are doing something different than we’ve done before. We are doing an interview-style show today and we’ll be talking about traumatic birth. Laura has experienced a traumatic birth and I know we mentioned on one of our birth plan episodes a while back that we wanted to address this topic, so that’s what we’re doing today. For those of you who have been through a birth, maybe you’re not even ready to classify it as traumatic and maybe you already have, but we hope that this is a blessing to you.

Laura:  I feel a little bit nervous to be on the hot seat. It’s not any different than normal [laughter] but it feels like I’ve got to deliver today.

Emily:  We hope that this delivery will not be stressful for you. [laughter]  Laura, before we get started, I think there’s a lot of women out there who are like, “What is traumatic birth?” Does it mean you had a life threatening experience when you were delivering? Does it mean that you had an emergency C-section? What does traumatic birth mean?  

Laura:  It’s interesting because as I started to figure out, “This is what happened to me,” I went onto the Birth Trauma Association’s website, which was really helpful for me. I’d never known any of this stuff before. It is based on the mother’s experience of the events, regardless of what happened or what other people thought happened. It’s the mom’s perception, which was helpful because I didn’t have this classic story, this near death experience, or where my child was really sick, or something crazy was happening, or I was rushed to have a surgery, or anything like that.

It was helpful for me to hear that it was based on my experience or the mom’s experience. There are tons of triggers. A few I’ll list that I related to are: lengthy labor, poor pain relief, feelings of loss of control and impersonal treatment, or problems with staff attitudes, lack of information, or not being listened to. Those are the ones that I personally identified with but there are lots of others. With traumatic birth, it’s one of those things that technically, they would say 25% to 34% of moms are affected by this. I don’t know why that’s such a weird number but it’s a decent amount of women.

No matter what, we all have questions after birth of, “Did I make the right decision there? Did my husband or did the doctor make the right decision? Could there have been an easier way the birth could have gone? Could it have been better?” We all wonder that. This show hopefully will touch on some of those things as well.  

Emily:  I don’t think I would consider any of my deliveries traumatic. I certainly can relate to those feelings of disappointment in some areas, or evaluating some of the decisions that the doctor made or the way somebody treated me. I know you’ve mentioned to me in the past too, and I’ve even experienced this of, maybe you’re receiving some drugs after birth that can change your memory of what happened. That’s interesting too, how you were mentioning that sometimes people go through very intense events and they don’t even remember.    

Laura:  Once I was decompressing with my midwife, almost a year and a half later, I was telling her and she said, “Laura, a lot of women who experience crazy birth stuff don't feel the impact -everyone is like, 'Oh my word, how do you even ever want to give birth to a child again?'  They have drugs that have memory loss in them and so a lot of those women are like, 'Yes, it was really terrible,' but they don’t remember it." It’s funny because I didn’t get any of that. Three years later, I remember a lot of the detail. That is something you have to keep in mind, especially if you’re like, “Why am I struggling so much?” because you feel like maybe you didn’t struggle. That could be the reason. I know plenty of friends who have had difficult births and it truly is still traumatic. Again, it’s up to how you have perceived it and what happened.     

Emily:  What were the things that made it traumatic for you specifically? Give us a flyover of your birth story.  

Laura:  I can’t go into all the detail just to make it with time, but I’d been lying low at home with contractions all day. At 10:00 p.m., I went into the hospital. I was at a four, so I was super happy. It was my first baby and I didn’t have to go home and all that stuff.  Everything was very normal at that point. The biggest thing to know is that my son was OP or sunny-side up. I didn’t know that at the time and he never flipped so I actually ended up delivering him that way, which is not really common. Usually kids flip.   

Emily:  Laura and I always bond over this because [laughter] I’ve had two babies that were OP and with Laura, both were OP. Whenever we talk back pain, we can fist pump each other. [laughter]

Laura:  I ended up being in labor for about 32 hours and that made me pretty tired. I think a lot of people have labors like that. I was pretty normal for a couple of hours. By midnight, I was at a seven and a half so I was starting to transition. I remember my nurse was like, “You’re doing so great!" [laughter] I had planned for and really desired a natural birth and so I was feeling good at this point, but then about three hours later, nothing had changed at all. I was totally stalled and at that point it had been about 20 hours.

I was pretty against medical intervention. I was saying no to my water breaking; my doctor kept on suggesting it. Another key thing is that my midwife was actually gone for my birth so I had an OB that I never met, which wasn’t a big deal but I was like, “Well, if my midwife were here, she wouldn’t break my water.” I had these thoughts. I said "no" to that for a long time. I said no to Pitocin, and they were really encouraging me, “You need to do something to move this baby,” so finally I let them break my water and nothing happened. That’s typical with OP babies but I didn’t know that. No one had told me, “Hey, your baby is OP; this is why some of these things are hard.”

Then when I got Pitocin, they basically said, “You can get Pitocin now or you can get Pitocin later or we’re giving you a C-section. You better agree to this because your body is too tired to birth this baby.” That was hard for me. It made me question my womanhood, my maternal abilities and I felt really inadequate. Going into birth, I was like, “I can do this. I’m powerful,” and drinking all the juice that the world tells us and I was really bummed.

Then the most difficult part happened in a span of 10 minutes of time. When I agreed to the Pitocin, I also agreed to an epidural. They kept asking me and I said, “Let’s do it. Everything’s out the window. Let’s do it.” [laughter] The anesthesiologist came in and he was having a bad day. He was in a hurry, he was a little bit rough with straightening up my shoulders and things, and said a few unkind words to me. I’m not even going to repeat them but with my signature and my appearance. It wasn’t the greatest bedside manner. I remember thinking, “Did I dream that? Did he just say those things?” My husband confirmed them later after birth. The hardest part about that is the epidural never worked. I remember feeling this sense of excitement when I finally agreed to the epidural. I was like, “Everybody tells me this is God’s gift for women’s curse.” [laughter]      

Emily:  I think I might have told you that too. [laughs]

Laura:  I’m pretty sure it was you Emily, I’m pretty sure. A lot of women said it, but I had that ringing in my ears.

Emily:  Here comes the big relief!

Laura:  Yes, I was thinking, “I will be able to sleep!” You hear people wanting to sleep or to watch TV and no, no, no. The epidural didn’t work and the nurse, I kept telling her, “This doesn’t work, this doesn’t work,” she kept rolling me over. Long story short, a couple of hours of this back and forth, no one was really advocating for me. At that point, I was sleeping between contractions. I would wake up and have a contraction and fall back asleep. I felt so alone and I felt so angry at the nurse and the anesthesiologist. I blamed them for my pain and I felt like no one was advocating for me. My poor husband didn’t know what to do or say, and I felt like I was crazy, like I was making all this pain up in my head because she kept telling me, “No, it’s working.”   

Emily:  That’s the part of your story that’s so gut-wrenching for me because I know that at least two of the times that I’ve gotten to the point where I want the epidural, had it not worked, I was on the verge of exactly what you’re talking about. Of being literally terrified to experience another sharp painful contraction. I don’t know what I would have done had that relief not come. You’re counting on it and it would have been very scary and helpless to feel like, “I’m in pain and no one can do anything about it.”   

Laura:  I feel like that was the moment that I realized my humanity in a way. I was really close to my mortality as a woman, as a person, and the frailty of my existence. It was the closest I’ve ever come, like you said, to realizing my complete and utter helplessness in life. I was so hopeless and I remember saying to my husband, “Just let me go.” That’s so dramatic now but I meant it. I wanted whatever needed to happen to get this done. I needed to be done. I don’t care how it happens. That is the tipping point for me that made it a lot more difficult to recover from.   

Emily:  I know you’ve mentioned, on some of your blog posts about the anesthesiologist. Maybe we could get more into that. That that was something you had to go back and process and forgive later. I know only one time, in my last birth, my anesthesiologist said something to me on his way out about, "hoping I knew how kids happened." [laughter] He is, in essence, insulting like that was my fourth child. It’s near what you went through but in that moment, I was like, “Did you just say that to me? I hope this epidural works so I’m not mad about this in 10 minutes.” [laughter] But I cannot imagine. It is so hard because you have these people and you’re super, super vulnerable around them. You’re like, “This is the worst I’ve ever looked in my life.”     

Laura:  Exactly, and you have no control, and you’re pretty much naked. You’re just exposed. I felt mistreated and I was almost too tired to process it correctly or to say, “Hey, that’s not okay.” No one else stood up for me - and especially no one stood up for me when it didn't work. That was so hard for me because I told her so many times – I feel like I’m going to get emotional now but I told her so many times – “Can you please redo it?” and they kept telling me no. It doesn’t seem like that’s the way it should work.  

Emily:  You made it through your birth, and obviously, it had difficult points after that. How did that situation end? What were your first impressions about your birth experience?

Laura:  I bottled it up and powered through. I know that when my son was born, I felt distant from him. I felt suspicious. I did not feel like the joy of meeting my child made me forget the pain, as so many moms have said, which again, questioned my maternal instincts. I felt ashamed and I didn’t tell anyone that. Going home, I felt like, “I’m just going to bulldoze through all of this. I don’t know what these feelings are. I’m guess I'm not a kid person,” but I would start getting these sharp stomach pains. As you recover from birth, there’s pain from your uterus shrinking and I remember being sent into a tizzy of fear.

I would have flashbacks and I would tell my husband, “We’re never having another child again. We’re going to adopt all of our children,” because we had been talking about adoption at that point. I was like, “We’re done. I can’t do it again.” I did get pregnant again because, I was a mind over matter person and we knew we wanted a second child. At my 12-week appointment for my second baby, my midwife said to me, “What’s your concern about pregnancy?” I said, “Pregnancy? I’m scared to deliver,” and I just started bawling. That was the moment I knew, and she knew, that I had had a traumatic birth and she actually brought that up to me. I didn’t know it was a thing but it felt so good to hear some validation and to just tell someone.        

Emily:  People feel varying degrees of fear going into their next delivery, but yes, as you mentioned, that intense reaction is an indicator and maybe even for women listening, a good indicator too. Even as you’re listening to this or as you talk about it, do you feel like you have a very, very strong reaction to what happened during your birth?   

Laura:  I would totally agree.

Emily:  [laughs] I thought that was an interesting observation. You’re home and you’re processing through this in your second pregnancy. Transitioning into Risen Motherhood’s big mission. Although there are a ton of great clinical counseling type things women can do, on this show, we want to specifically look at how the Gospel impacts our mothering and even our birth experiences. What did that look like for you? How did your trust in God to uniquely play into this healing process for you?  

Laura:  The first thing was just to be okay admitting it. I think that as believers, we want to bring all things to the light, and sin, and shame, and inadequacy and, pain, and comparison - all of those things live in the dark. The moment I finally said it, and I hadn’t even said it to my husband yet besides making jokes and laughing around, I’d never admitted it until 14 months later but it felt so good to get it out there.

Then I think putting perspective on my suffering at a high level of trusting that God was sovereign over all that happened at my birth.  I don’t necessarily understand to this day everything that happened, but I know that I can trust Him and that He uses imperfect things, and all things to draw us closer to Him and to bring Him glory. I do think even the fact that we are recording this show and can talk with other women. I’m grateful because I feel like God has given me a deep passion for women who have experienced this that I would have never before known about prior to this.  

Emily:  I didn’t know about traumatic birth until you started talking about it. It’s like all things, like when we’ve talked about our miscarriage episode or other things that moms go through that can sometimes be silent pain. It’s even good for people who haven’t been through it to hear it and to have that realization that there are hard experiences out there, and we need to be sensitive and aware of that. I know I appreciate the ministry he’s given other moms who’ve been through traumatic delivery.   

Laura:  I think traumatic births or just birth, again, makes us feel so vulnerable. I really think through that, it represented my deep need for a Savior and I love that picture. I hated the experience, but I know now, deep within me, what it’s like to be completely helpless, and that’s how I am to save myself from my sin. It’s a good picture of, "I need help and I cannot do this on my own." It’s a shadow of the coming of the King and so I love that too.    

Emily:  I’m sure in that moment when you do feel helpless, it suddenly is real that nothing earthly can provide any help. All the things that I was trusting in, like my nurses or my doctor or my husband or whatever, they can’t ultimately deliver and be consistent and perfect. That’s hard because a lot of times I feel like when we have idols in life, we don’t ever get to that point where we truly realize this is a dead thing. It doesn’t have the power to do what I’m asking it to do.   

Laura:  I think I had to remember that. When sin entered, imperfect painful birth became a reality; part of the curse, but at the same time, I can look at my son today and know that God granted me grace. There are so many other things that could have gone wrong and there are so many other bad things that could have happened but I have my beautiful son. There were other ways that God gave me grace in the childbearing, of having my husband by my side the whole time. Em and I have talked about these, on some other previous birth episode, of all the ways that you can find God’s grace especially as a woman giving birth in the modern era or whatever.   

Emily:  [laughs] I wanted to touch back on this forgiveness element too. I know that I have not experienced it to a very large degree but I’ve had little things that I look back on and like, “Why didn’t this person advocate for me more?” or, “Why didn’t my doctor make this decision?” Just that element of being willing to forgive. Not saying, “It’s all okay,” but to validate it and then say, “But I’m going to forgive them.” How did that experience work for you with some of the people that you felt didn’t do their job well?  

Laura:  Forgiveness was a huge piece of it. For a long time, I did blame that anesthesiologist and the nurse and I felt very wronged and hurt. First of all, just saying, “How can I be the first to judge? I’m imperfect too. I have bad days and I make bad decisions. I treat people unkindly.” The whole, “I’ve been forgiven. I can forgive others.” Part of that healing process came about too, when my midwife suggested I write a letter to the hospital staff and let them know. You can read more about that on the blog. I think that was a huge part of my healing, not in a complainy, crazy way but just to let them know what happened. I ended up asking for those particular staff members to not service me in my next birth. That was a request put in there and I think that gave me a lot of peace. I know it’s more on the practical side but it gave me a lot of peace of, “I can forgive them and move on but that doesn’t mean that I have to use their services again necessarily.” [laughs]

Working that out in my heart of, again, God was sovereign over that. I can learn from that experience by not having them with me next time and let the hospital staff know we’re their customers. They want us to have a good experience. I ended up getting a call from the head of anesthesiology at that hospital. He gave me his home phone number and said, “You call me. When you go into labor, if you want me to come do it myself, I will.” I delivered on New Year’s Eve you guys and so this guy was willing to give up Christmas around my due date and say, “I’ll come in and service you myself.” It was so sweet and so kind. It wasn’t necessary but it was certainly a really neat thing that came out of it.         

Emily:  I love those personal things that the Lord does for us. When I feel like we are going through a healing process, I don’t know how many times I’ve had something like that where you’re like, “There’s no explanation for why this person or this thing is being so kind and so gracious to me.” Only the Lord knows how personally healing those things can be.

Laura:  It’s funny because I didn’t even take advantage of that. I told him, “No, no, no,” but it was pretty cool. It was like the offer was all I needed.

Emily:  If there’s a woman listening who is processing this and she’s like, “Wow, I think maybe this is me. Maybe I’ve had a traumatic birth,” or maybe she already knows she’s had a traumatic birth and she feels stuck, what would you say from the perspective of another believer, one sister in Christ to another?   

Laura: First, no matter who you are, I will validate you all day just to remind you that you are not crazy. No matter what happened, to not stuff that down, but to bring that to light. That is where we want to be as believers. It’s okay to mourn that experience and it’s okay to process it and to say what happened.

Also, remember that it’s our deepest need that brings us to the Lord. We can find shadows of the coming redemption of our Savior and what our need is for Him and so look at that from an eternal perspective. I know that doesn’t necessarily heal what happened in that moment, but it gives us good perspective and hope on what sin does and why we need Jesus.

I would also remind them to get professional help; there’s nothing wrong with that. I ended up having some counseling through my doula and my midwife. I didn’t see a counselor, but they were awesome and we talked through it back and forth. It was so good with my husband in the room. I think that that is a really important part. Also, remember this was my midwife - I so appreciated this - she said, “Remember that that traumatic experience doesn’t define any subsequent births.” It doesn’t define you as a woman. It doesn’t define your maternal instinct, or your ability to be a good mother. That was something that I needed to hear. Our culture so emphasizes pride as a woman and having these great births, however that looks, but epidural or not, natural or not, you got the one you wanted. There’s that shame that comes with feeling like you didn’t do it or you weren’t woman enough. The reality is we can’t do anything on our own. That we aren’t enough on our own. It’s Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross that bridges that. I would remind whoever is listening that feels this way that that is not who you are and it does not define you as a mom. Remember your identity in Christ and who He is and what He’s done for you.    

Emily:  We’ve tried to talk about this on previous episodes of when we are identifying ourselves with an experience or with an expectation that we had, or with something that we didn’t look up to. Sometimes the answer to that isn’t to analyze the situation to death but to learn to turn our eyes to Christ and to look at who He is and to worship Him. Remember that ultimately, it’s not about our story. We want to validate it like Laura said, and heal from it and talk about it, and then turn our eyes to Christ, and learn to worship Him in the midst of hard things.  

Laura:  That’s a really good point Em. One last thing, of just saying that you don’t have to analyze it to death, or figure out all the whys. I still don’t know why. I had to move on from that and let that go because I don’t think the healing will come unless you can say, “I give that to you Lord as a mystery of God.” As maybe someone who has experienced that, letting those questions go of, “Why did I have to go that way?” or, “Why did he/she do this at that point?” and stuff.   

Emily:  If you were listening, I would think you can relate, because as you mentioned at the beginning of the show, even if you haven’t had what would be considered a traumatic birth, we all have disappointments with birth and things are difficult to work through, and comments that someone made that are hard to hear, or [laughs] what not. I hope that this was helpful. Laura, and I have been and will continue pray for those of you who have been through this.

We will make sure that our show notes are loaded with resources for you guys as always and all of Laura’s things that she’s written because she’s written a lot on this. If you want more, definitely go there. Thanks again for listening. Leave us a rating and a review if you’d like. That’s awesome for us and awesome for getting the word out about Risen Motherhood.      

Laura:  Thanks for listening guys.

 

Ep. 43 || Serving Others Right Where You’re At - Transcript

The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  Hello and welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura Wifler and I have my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen here. First of all, we want to go out on a limb here and ask for an iTunes review. It’s always a little uncomfortable to ask for this but this honestly is the absolute best way to get word out about the show. If you have a friend who’s an author and you buy their book or if you have a friend with an Etsy shop and you buy something from it as a way to support that friend, that is a way that you can support Risen Motherhood completely free.

We really, really appreciate it when any of you take the time to take five minutes and write a review, to do the rating; all that good stuff. For those of you who have done it, we really want to thank you so much for doing that. If you haven’t had a chance yet, there’s a tutorial on the right side of risenmotherhood.com if you think that you’re not sure how to do it or how to go forward and write that. You can do it on mobile or on desktop, either way, we’ve got the tutorial there. We would really appreciate if you would take time out to do that, because we really want to get the word out to as many moms as possible, so that they can see how the Gospel applies to their motherhood and be encouraged to pursue Christ.    

Emily:  We are excited today to talk about a topic that sometimes we can be an afterthought or something that, “Hey, I’m a little bit too busy for that in these season, and that is doing ministry as a mom.  

Laura:  She says it like it’s a bad word. [laughs]

Emily:  Laura brought this up to me, that it’s like "Ministry of Magic" in Harry Potter and so now, whenever I say that word ministry as a mom... [laughter] we’re not talking about Harry Potter.    

Emily:  Ministry. Okay wanting to take the edge off that a little bit. It sounds daunting, it does sound like, “Okay, do I need to be a huge women’s Bible study leader or do I need to be spending this huge portion of my week on ministry?” I think that that is something that keeps us from doing ministry, is when we don’t realize that, no, ministry is just a part of your everyday life in your sphere of influence. Ministry is simply carrying out what God has called us to do and reporting to King Jesus, and then advancing His interests in whatever place in life He’s called us to. It doesn’t have to be this big extra outside thing.    

Laura:  Don’t be afraid of the word ‘ministry’. Think of it as service, or volunteerism. Some of those are some more cultural catch words or whatever, but really what it is, as Emily said, it’s just fitting this stuff into your daily life. We’re called to go and make disciples of all nations, so this starts with our children right at home. You literally don’t even have to walk outside your four walls to be doing ministry.  

Emily:  Because you have little unbelievers in your house. 

Laura:  It starts with our own children, and witnessing and ministering to them, and making them breakfast, and cleaning up the house, and taking them to school, and all of those things that we do. We are called to go to "all nations" but that doesn’t mean that you need to go to Turkey or another culture in order to do that. What that means, is that in your sphere of influence - your church, your neighborhood, the city that you live in, those are the areas that you can focus in as a mom who doesn’t necessarily have a family that’s planning a cross-cultural missions trip. This can be stuff right in your own backyard and so as a mom, you’re not exempt from "going and making disciples of all nations." That is something that is a command from the Lord. It looks different in different seasons but we do want to have that heart consistently, throughout our entire lives.      

Emily:  We thought we would give of some examples because one of our goals today is to take the edge off of that and just help you understand it. We are working this out, we have not arrived at this. I think there’s a ton of areas where Laura and I would both feel like, wow, we wish we did a better job of ministering to those around us. I think it was a light bulb moment for me, when I realized that ministry is about being faithful with what God has already entrusted to me.

Laura, I don’t know if you want to share. What are some of the ways that you both minister to your family, minister to your friends, and then people that you don’t know?  

Laura:  As Em has said, always tons of room for improvement in [laughter] some of these things. Right after I had a baby, I fell off the bandwagon on some of these things but I picked back up in different seasons, but I think as Emily said too, intentional motherhood - that’s the number one. It’s a faithful, quiet, daily thing but that’s our number one area of ministry.

Then as many of you guys know, I’m adopting so caring for orphans is a huge area that I’m passionate about; that God has laid on my heart. Looking for ways to financially, and now physically help with orphans. Taking meals to new moms, that’s something that I can do with my kids in tow - they could help me cook. I have to look for a lot of things that I can do with my children in tow or in the margins because I’m really protective, as most moms are, of family time and not doing things when my husband gets home late or on the weekends, if he’s home.

In addition, I think both Em and I, see Risen Motherhood as an area of ministry, using social media and the online presence that we have for God’s purposes and His glory. Then I’m involved in women’s ministry at my church as well. I’m a Bible study table leader there and I teach a three and four-year old classroom with my husband, so a variety of different things.       

Emily:  A lot of these opportunities do come through, like Laura is saying, obvious things that are in your life. Like this last year, my husband and I adopted a college student at our church, through a program. It’s stuff like remembering to have her over and make sure she’s getting a home cooked meal and we’re chatting with her. My husband has a high school student that he works with. Our family is like, “Okay, we can’t do all the kids, but we can do these people.”

Then as Laura mentioned, using social media well. I think that’s something that all of us interact with. If you’re on that let’s use that time intentionally. I’ve tried to think a lot about that and what I put out there and what kind of message it’s sending. Then something that I’ve enjoyed too, even though my husband and I are not adopting or doing foster care, we have really good friends that are adopting - obviously, my sister-in-law [laughter] is adopting. We’ve gotten to pray for and take meals to families that are doing foster care and come alongside them in different ways.

I think it’s a matter of looking at what God has entrusted and then being faithful there. There are obviously tons of challenges to this. I know one of my absolute number one objections is, I’m too busy. My kids are too young; I’m not able to do this. As Laura mentioned, I can’t drag them all around town. It’s really hard. I want to provide structure for my children and so it’s that inconvenience factor. That’s something that the Lord is continually helping me see, like, “Yes, I want to minister to my children well,” but also, as we mentioned at the beginning of the show, I’m not exempt from these other things and I want to be willing to lay down our comforts and to make sacrifices so we can love others.   

Laura:  I have been here and I know Emily has been here, we both will say this, but we can make every day regular, temporal things too important, things like decorating, or exercise, or trying to make way too crazy and elaborate meals, or having this amazing wardrobe and focusing on our makeup, and our hair, and how we look. None of those things are bad at all, but at times, if we give too much time and energy to those things, then they can take away our time for ministry or we may feel like, “Well, I have nothing left. I have no more capacity for ministry.” 

If that’s not an area of your life that’s currently being stewarded, maybe there are other things that need to go so that you are able to be freed up, or a little less time spent on some of those really fun things. Even having a perfect schedule and a perfect routine and not being flexible enough to say, “Oh, friend, I shall help you,” [laughter] in a time of need, but you know you have to keep your schedule. We don’t want to say any of those things are bad in and of themselves, but if the Lord’s bringing something to mind like, “Hey, I might be spending too much time on this and instead I could do ministry," that might be an area to look at.   

Emily:  We can totally feel scared too sometimes of, “That holds me back so often in doing a ministry thing or reaching out to someone in the name of Christ because I am scared of being rejected. I’m scared of persecution. I’m scared that if I invite that neighbor over, or walk across the street or talk to that mom at the park, it’s going to be awkward and uncomfortable, and I’m not going to know what to say and then they may give me a weird look.”

I think whatever it is, maybe you work and you’re a teacher or you’re a nurse or you’re something and you have coworkers that you want to be more intentional with, but there’s a fear there of, “I’m going to be rejected if I invite them to coffee or start getting to know them better.” We want to overcome these things and we believe that there is help to overcome them in Scripture and through the Holy Spirit to make these things important.    

Laura:  Here comes the Gospel on Risen Motherhood. [laughter] I always feel like we need to announce it or we need some music that’ll be bringing it in. [laughter] Why do we do ministry? Why, even if it’s scary, even if we feel like we are strapped for time or if our children’s incessant needs are too in our face? Many reasons. The Gospel lays out why ministry is important.

We are image bearers of God and that’s something that we want to exemplify Jesus to other people in our lives. Whether that’s our neighbors or through our church or the woman at the park. This is an area that we can show Christ to other people and that we can offer a picture of redemption to a very fallen and hurting world. This is something that when we serve and we lay down our lives, these are things that God uses to point others to Christ, and to bring them into His kingdom. We want to be sacrificial women. We want to have a motherhood that is "Risen," sort of playing off of our name, our motherhood and our lives should exemplify what it’s like to live in light of the resurrection.    

Emily:  This one is a little scary but in James, it talks about faith without works is dead. I think that if we’re not ministering and we’re not being willing to spread the Gospel, we’re not speaking about Jesus very often, we’re very inward focused about having our own lives a certain way, I think we have to ask ourselves, "What’s going on there?" Because there’s definitely a disconnect. That’s been challenging to me on many occasions to remember that we are called, or rather, I am called to good works and I’m called to go spread the Gospel. It’s an overflow and it’s something that all of us are called to, in whatever season of life that we’re in. If we’re not doing that, that’s a little bit of a red flag there.      

Laura:  As moms, we want to see our children living out that authentic faith so we want to bring them alongside us. I know as I spoke earlier, I look for opportunities. Okay, where can I bring my kids? What kind of service can I do with my kids? We’re probably not serving at a soup kitchen right now because it would be a hot mess [laughter] but I’m able to cook with my children and I try to babysit for new moms who are maybe stressed with adding another child. That’s something that’s been easy with my children and they get to play with their friends. I can have a crazy morning for a day and hopefully, give that mom some rest and time to do errands, or sleep or whatever that may be.

Those are two easy things that I’ve done that I can bring my children alongside me, and that is something that our children can see. So we ask, "What does a life look like that has a rhythm of service and ministry?" We want them to see mom and dad serving so that they can see how the Gospel is played out in the everyday.      

Emily:  Exactly, because we all are worshipers. We are all using our time, our energy, our talents, our mind, our words, and our hands. We’re all serving and worshiping something and so as much as possible, let’s make sure that that is King Jesus and not, as Laura said, the temporal things that are going to disappear, that are not real or they’re not alive. [laughter] Jesus is alive.

I’m getting ready to ramble for a really long list here because Laura and I want to give you guys some practical ideas. It could be different for you but your sphere of influence, where are some of the areas you can minister? We’ve already mentioned a lot of these. At home, maybe you have extended family members that need additional help, again, giving meals to people. Even if you don’t have time to cook, you can bring someone a pizza, or Chipotle, or whatever, or a gift card.   

Laura:  Sorry to interrupt your list, but this goes back to, I had a girlfriend who, worked a full-time job and then had her children and she was like, “I want to serve moms but I do not have time to make a meal. I can hardly get a meal on the table at the end of the day,” so she would send moms e-gift cards from Chipotle. I was like, “You know what, that is awesome and that is just as good as my home cooked meal.” Sometimes you don’t literally have that time but you can financially, so we can find unique ways to serve. 

Emily:  That was such a good example. Maybe in your church too, start with your sphere of influence. Are you in a small group of believers that you’re like, “Hey, I cannot take care of the entire church but I can take care of these few people that are in my small group.” Another thing that I’ve thought about a lot is where I frequent. I don’t get out of the house a ton but even if you’re a stay-at-home mom, do you go to Target? Can you go to the same check out person as many times as possible? 

Laura:  I have another idea to interrupt you with. [laughter] I had a friend who left scripture on a note card in Target near the baby aisle so do that. That’s a good one and easy. I should do that. 

Emily:  That’s so awesome. There’s so many examples of this. We should have a whole show. When I was pregnant with twins, I was going to the doctor a million times, just thinking intentionally about that. Whatever your vocation is, if you are around a lot of unbelievers, and you’re out in the world, minister to those people and build relationships.   

Laura:  Start a Bible study at work.  

Emily:  Other ideas: Even if you’re not planning an overseas mission trip with your whole family any time soon, you can fund missionaries, you can pray for them as a family. Maybe there are international people that you know that are in your community - befriend them. That’s super hard for me but our other sister-in-law is super awesome at that. Whatever your heart issue is, use your gifts. Whether you are creative or administrative, or you like writing and speaking, or facilitating, or you’re a great cook, or you’re great with kids, or you’re organized, or you’re a great teacher. Whatever it is, use those gifts to minister to others and find creative ways to bless others with them. There you go. My list is done.    

Laura:  That was a beautiful list Emily, [laughter] good job, sorry to interrupt. Ultimately, remember, seasons are okay. Don’t feel like you have to do all the things right now or you’re totally failing. Choose one thing and you can build on that or you can go back a little bit and try something different. There’s lots of ways that this can look in your life and be faithful with today. Start today with your children in seeing the opportunities to minister to them. Be faithful too as you go on your walk and the people that you see or you go to Target and all those things.

Hopefully, we made it really clear that this does not have to be "you’re the head leader of the women’s ministry para-church organization" or anything like that. Remember that quality and faithfulness is the most important. That God desires your heart to be right and that you do things well, we do things to the best of our abilities. It’s not about being busy, it’s not about having something on your resume, it’s not about looking good at your church because you do so many things. We want to do these things well, we want to be faithful in them and point people to the Gospel and do these things with the motivation that says, “I want you to know Jesus. If I can exemplify Him in your life and draw you closer to Him then that’s why I do this.” Do less well rather than being really burdened, frazzled and stressed.     

Emily:  As always, this is a wonderful big conversation and we will definitely include a lot of links and articles. You can find a ton of good articles on our Facebook page. We definitely try to do this throughout the week, pertaining to whatever we’ve been talking about and we’ll keep the conversation going over on Instagram. You can find us on all of our social media platforms @RisenMotherhood. It’s super simple, and there’s no symbols in there or anything. [laughter]

You can also find us at risenmotherhood.com, that’s where our show notes are. We’ll try to leave all the links and the details to anything we mentioned. Definitely leave us a rating or a review as that would be so helpful. That’s a great way you can minister, by helping spread the Gospel to other moms.      

All right, thanks for listening guys. 

Ep. 68 || How Can Mom Support Dad Spiritually? An Interview With Jerrad Lopes  - Transcript

The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Well, welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. Just in time for Father’s Day, we are excited to have our very first male guest on the show to talk about some of the most frequently asked questions we get about marriage and our husbands. Including things like, how to encourage them spiritually, specifically in the areas of scripture reading and family leadership, family worship, and more. So he is going to address some really practical topics and it is so, so interesting to listen in and hear what he has to say. I know Laura and I learned a lot from this show. 

So our guest today is Jerrad Lopes and he is from Dad Tired. He started this ministry to point men to Jesus and to really help them understand how the Gospel impacts their fatherhood. So it’s kind of a similar counterpart ministry to Risen Motherhood, we get asked a lot, “Hey, what’s something my husband can listen to or learn from about Gospel-centered fatherhood?” Dad Tired is one of those ministries. Jerrad lives with his wife in Portland, Oregon. They have two kiddos and they just started foster care and then he also runs Dad Tired and he has been busy getting his devotional ready to be released. It’s called, Stop Behaving, it’s a four week 28 day devotional written for men to take their family life and their marriage seriously in light of the Gospel. So you guys can check that out at his website, DadTired.com. Anyways, we know you guys will have lots of things to think about after listening to this interview today and hopefully it will help you celebrate and encourage your husband in light of Fathers Day. Here we go- here’s Jerrad …

Laura: Okay- Hey, Jerrad! Thanks so much for joining us; we are so excited today to have Jerrad from Dad Tired. I know we’ve given you guys all a little bit of an intro, but this is the first male we’ve had on our show, and I feel like that’s kind of a mile marker, Emily. I don’t know…

Emily: It’s a big deal. 

Laura: Yeah, so thanks for being on!

Jerrad: Oh my gosh, no pressure. [Laughter] I’ll try not to mess it up for every guy out there. 

Laura: We’re super excited because you’ve got a great podcast that we’ve promoted in the past and we think that every dad should listen to. We often get asked from our listeners, “Hey, what can my husband listen to? What’s the Risen Motherhood counterpart?” And so we really feel like that is Dad Tired so we are thrilled to have you on the show today. 

Can you just give us a little background about who you are, what’s your family make-up, and what is kind of the heart behind Dad Tired and who you hope to reach?  

Jerrad: Yes. My name is Jerrad, I’m married. I married way up to a woman named Leyla, she’s a nurse and the mother of my children and just an amazing, amazing woman. We have two little ones, a three and a five year-old … three-year-old girl and five year old boy and then we are foster parents now.  Actually as of today we are getting our first foster child placement with us. So that’s kind of our family dynamic. And then I’ve been a pastor for thirteen years; most of that was in the church and then in the last two years stepped out of the church role and started Dad Tired, the ministry, and now host that podcast and help guys fall in love with Jesus. 

Laura: Awesome. Today we are excited to have a guy in to ask you anything. To get all the details, all the things we wanted to know, so we are going to dig into some of the most commonly asked questions that we get about marriage and fatherhood from moms who really want to love their husbands well and encourage them spiritually. Let’s kick it off with, “How can a wife best support her husband in serving as a spiritual leader of her home?” But a lot of times it can seem like for some marriages that maybe the husband isn’t initiating or maybe he’s not showing much interest in leading the family. What would you say to a wife who is in that position? And just how to equip husbands well?

Jerrad: I was that husband for a season in our marriage… that’s kind of how the Dad Tired podcast started. I felt like I was sucking as a dad and as a husband and I was not leading my family well. I was not serving my wife well. I was not engaged with my children in being any kind of spiritual leader. My wife knew it – we were in a really tough season in our marriage, just relationally not getting along. We weren’t connecting with each other or communicating with each other. I remember we were in the middle of a little bit of an argument and she had said something to the effect of, she just stopped and paused… “Jerrad, I just want you to know that I’ve been waking up every morning at 2 a.m. and I go in the living room and pray for you. And I pray that God brings your heart back to Him.” And I remember thinking, I would have rather her cussed me out at that moment. I could have handled that better, but it was so convicting to hear – she really wants more than my behavior to change, she really wants my heart to come back to Jesus.

I would encourage women who are not seeing their husbands leading their family spiritually … some guys just don’t know how, it’s foreign to them, they’ve never been taught that.  Other guys just feel far from God for whatever reason but what often happens is- it can seem like wives really start to- for lack of a better word- nag behavior … “Hey, do this, do this, or step up, or stop doing this.” And I always say that behavior modification lasts for a little bit but it doesn’t last for a long time. What lasts for a long time is when a heart is changed, and my wife can’t change my heart. And she knew that so she went to the one who can change hearts, and that’s Jesus … It’s kind of like a churchy answer but really as a wife, you do not possess the ability to change your husband’s heart. And that’s what he needs is heart change, but there is one who can change hearts and that’s the one we serve. Pray, and beg, and plead that the Holy Spirit would start to chase after your husband’s heart relentlessly. 

Emily: I love that you gave that answer. I know that Laura and I have tried to share that before and even as you were saying it I was like, “Ah I gotta remember that – I need to set my 2 a.m. alarm.” But definitely that ministry of prayer for our husbands just cannot be overstated like how important it is. That verse in 1 Peter always comes to mind, I’m not going to be able to quote it exactly, about winning him over without a word. The way we do that is by living out the Gospel and then praying that God would change his heart. That’s just an incredible testimony that you shared and it may be churchy, but it’s the right answer. 

Laura: That segues well into the idea that- I think a lot of moms, depending on our work schedules and stuff we can be involved in church programming like, nearly everyday of the week.  And we can have time – while it may be loud and noisy, there is time to study the Word, or to open your Bible, or just listen to the Bible playing on your phone so to really get soaked into that Scripture… even if it’s maybe not exactly how we want it to be in these little years. How would you encourage a mom to equip her husband to get in God’s word, because they are just so short on time especially when they are gone all day- what would you say are some ways for her to encourage them or maybe some resources that they could look to?

Jerrad: First, I would say to the husbands, because I get guys all the time that are tell me, “I’m just too busy” … and I just kind of call them out on that because I don’t care if you’re a 16 year-old dude, or a 95 year-old grandma – we all feel too busy, right? I’m not going to take you “work full-time” as an excuse to not be in God’s word. We’re just all busy. Moms are busy; dads are busy, single- whatever. We’re all busy. So what I tell guys, when I’m walking through guys on discipleship – what we often do…I have them write out a list of things that they say are most valuable to them – like in your heart, what are your priorities?

They often give me the churchy answer, which is like, God, my wife, my kids, my work. They put them in the right order, as it should be. Then I ask them to write, what are you actually spending your time on and make a second list. That list then is all over the place – it’s work, it’s sports, it’s the NBA playoffs, it’s whatever else is going on – it’s the golf times, it’s the long lunches, or whatever. So at first it’s just like, “What are you saying yes to that you need to be saying no to? What are you saying yes to that doesn’t make sense for the kingdom of God?” That is affecting the other things you should be saying yes to. So the first thing is I’m just calling them out on the time thing.

The second thing – just using all the things – you guys have a lot of great things on your website you pointed your listeners to – but there’s lots of practical, like the Bible app, right? You can listen to the entire Bible for free on the Bible app. That is an easy way as you’re driving from work, as you’re commuting to and from work, or to lunch, or sitting at your desk filling out a spreadsheet. Listen to the word of God. Let it start to permeate your heart instead of listening to whatever else you have on the radio, like a podcast talking about a MMA fight. Listen to the word of God. So using times in the midst of your busyness to be intentional, I think is a huge tool. 

Emily: Jerrad, maybe I’m going to jump in a question that is at least on my mind, maybe other moms’ minds. Let’s say, I’m a wife, I’m seeing this in my husband’s life, I’m like, “I know he really does want to get into the word of God but I don’t see him doing that.” Is it OK for a wife to recommend that to her husband? How could a wife suggest some of those ideas to her husband without coming off like a nag?  Like “oh, I just want to give you a quick behavior modification.” Is there a way to be received well?

Jerrad: That’s a really good question. My wife has never asked me how I’m doing with the Lord when I’m doing well with the Lord. In other words, when I’m doing well with the Lord, it’s obvious and I’m leading us well and I’m in scripture and all that. She only asks me when I’m not doing well with the Lord, so it immediately comes off as offensive or antagonistic – and right or wrong, that’s how I feel. And that’s how most guys feel when asked, “How’s your relationship with Jesus?” and it’s like, “Why the heck are you asking me that because you know it sucks right now? That’s why you’re asking me that …” [laughter]

Laura: How passive aggressive of us… but we do it! I can hear my voice saying those things. [laughter]

Jerrad: There are other ways where Leyla has approached me … I’m trying to think off the top of my head – there’s times when she’s said, “Hey babe, what kinds of things can I be praying for you for?” That feels genuine. That’s probably making the same point that she was trying to make by, “How are you doing with Jesus?” It’s making the same point, I just feel like it’s a lot harder for me to feel any aggression towards that. My wife is asking how can she pray for me so it’s like, “OK, can you pray that God would draw my heart back to him because I feel far from Him?” might be one of my answers … Or she might even say, “Hey, I’m feeling like I just want to reread through the Bible again this year, maybe we can do that together or maybe we can make date nights out of it after the kids go to bed?” That’s her prompting, that’s her taking the initiative that really I should have been the one doing … but it’s just God using her in my life to point me back to Him and maybe capture my heart again so that I can lead well.

Laura: Yeah, I think there’s always something too about saying, “I’ll come along side you in this. Let’s do this together!” I know I wanted – I got all revved up, read a prayer book and wanted to pray with my husband. Or see him on his knees every night, and I was like, “OK, no- let’s just start with praying before bed. I’m going to do this with you, we are tired but we’re both going to do this because it’s good for both of us and I don’t just expect you to do something especially if I’m not doing it, too.” 

Jerrad: Totally, that made me think– I don’t think most guys would be offended if their wife just said, “Babe, will you pray for me right now. I’m feeling vulnerable or weak or whatever. Will you just pray fore me out loud?” Some guys may totally be intimidated by that, but they will totally step up to that challenge and they won’t feel threatened by that request. It gives them an opportunity to lead. 

Laura: That’s good advice.

Emily: Yes, thanks for that practical insight there of the difference between what’s gentle and coming alongside and what’s kind of accusatory and is a subtle way of going, “I’m noticing that you’re falling in this area right now.” [Laughter]

Laura: From a dad’s perspective then, what is it like to transition home from after work when the mom is busy, the kids are crazy, dad is super tired and probably they want downtime a little bit to adjust … How can a mom best serve her husband during that transition period? 

Jerrad: Again, my natural responses and answers are always thinking through for the guys…

Laura: Which we love – as moms, just bring it to the dad… [Laughter]

Emily: Every mom is going to have her husband listen to this. [Laughter]

Jerrad: Yes. For the dads, that’s what we are preaching on Dad Tired all the time, “Dude, you should be exhausted. It’s called "Dad Tired," like you are going to be tired. And if you’re not tired, you’re doing it wrong. You’re probably spending too much time playing video games or whatever else.  You should be tired if you are living a life that God has called you to live as an engaged husband, dad, worker, disciple – you will go to bed exhausted and that’s how it should be.” So we are always telling guys, “You pull up in the driveway, you turn off your car, you take a deep breath, and you realize your second shift has started. You move into your other titles that are going to last for eternity – your title as husband, your title as dad.” That’s what I’d say to the guys. [Laughter]

For the wives, I think what’s helpful for us is clear expectations. When we come in, for moms that have been in the routine all day, you know the rhythms of your kids sometimes better than we do because you’re with them all the time. And all the subtleties … there are times where I accidentally give them something to eat that they maybe shouldn’t have eaten [Laughter] or like, “Hey, let’s go get ice cream!” And I didn’t know that earlier mom had said, “No, we’re not having ice cream today because of this or whatever.”  But they’re just really clear expectations laid out so we don’t have that guessing game or step into something that we didn’t know was outside of a rhythm because we were ignorant. We were just straight up ignorant. We weren’t there, we didn’t know. It’s always best to give those expectations outside of the storm and not in the middle of the storm.

Figuring out a time, before he comes home and steps in the door, figuring out, “Babe, how can we serve each other well when you get home from work? Here’s some things that would be helpful for me. What would be helpful for you?” If it’s the dishes, then let him know- the dishes. If it’s the sweeping, if it’s the getting the kids through their bedtime routine,  whatever that is, we often guess, and we often guess wrong. 

Laura: Yes, clear expectations are super important. And it’s helpful on mom's end too because I think that sometimes I’ll find myself that just keeping moving. Dad walks in the door and I’m like in the middle of dinner or changing a diaper or whatever and I’m like, “Oh, hey hun!” and ready to kind of keep going and almost not even acknowledge the fact that life has changed because dad entered the door. It’s good to, as moms, for us to stop and acknowledge that, “Dad is home and, yay! This is exciting!”

I remember my dad growing up, he always went to my mom first before he went to the kids. He just went straight for her and she welcomed him home and then he received the kids. I always thought that was a neat – actually, I always thought it was a little unfair as a kid. [Laughter] But it was a neat picture of my mom and dad both prioritizing each other during a crazy time in the house. 

Emily: And I know, recently I’ve come back from some women’s conferences or some times away where I was super refreshed or maybe I was tired, but in a good way, of something I was really passionate about and worked hard at. And I’ve walked in the door and had everyone’s crazy and running around, my husbands trying to hold it together and I’m thinking, “Ugh! This is a little abrasive.” And I’ve even felt that coming into those situations after I’ve been away. I wonder too, how much of it is that we have to remember that it can feel like that to a husband, to walk in the door and be handed a child or something. Even if you’re just knowing that he may be experiencing that, you’re going to treat him a little differently. [Laughter]

Jerrad: Right. But I think one of the gifts that many men possess is the ability to compartmentalize, which we often use towards sin, we use it towards the negative. But it’s actually a strength and it can be a strength in many ways and so I think for a lot of men we do have the ability to click off literally and be like, “I’m done with this and now I’m moving into dad time.”

Laura: Crazy.

Emily: That’s awesome.

Jerrad: And so, even with what you said, part of me was thinking almost the opposite, “Yep, I’ve checked out of that conference and now I’ve moved into my compartment of here I am as a dad…”

Emily: Wow. I don’t even have a category for that.

[Laughter]

Laura: Sounds amazing…

Jerrad: They say that a woman’s brain is spaghetti and a mans brain is waffles. Have you heard of that?

Laura and Emily: No, I haven’t heard that… [Laughter]

Jerrad: So a woman’s brain is spaghetti, everything touches everything. This affects this, affects this, affects this. Guys brain is a waffle, we have compartments. This does not touch this, does not touch this, does not touch this.

[Laughter]

Laura: I can’t imagine, like Emily said. I can’t imagine…

[Laughter]

Laura: OK, one last practical. How do you handle family devotions in your house? And then how can a mom encourage her husband to be intentional with these types of things especially if they’re lacking? Or it’s just a crazy time to settle down and know what to do, what’s mom’s role in a family devotion?

Jerrad: Yes, good question. I think that first, bigger picture premise here: I want my kids to see all of life as worship so I’m really trying to use every single opportunity to Gospel them and to teach them the Gospel. As opposed to having the compartments that I just talked about. I don’t want my kids to think, “OK, it’s devotional time, it’s Bible study time or community group time or whatever” and they see us as a family have very clear cut compartments…

Laura: That’s really good. 

Jerrad: I want to bleed in – the scriptures say in Deuteronomy, whether you’re sleeping, or eating, or walking, or talking … whatever you’re doing – train up your child towards the things of God. Don’t quote me on how I just said that. That’s paraphrase. [Laughter]

Laura: Paraphrase. [Laughter]

Jerrad: I want them to see that in everything, and I really push hard for that. When we are driving to school or when we have interactions at the grocery store, I’m looking for every single opportunity to point them back to the Gospel. My kid just heard a secular song on the radio and they were saying, ‘please have mercy on me.’  I won’t quote the song, but that’s a line. [Laughter] ‘Please have mercy on me,’ and he’s like, “Dad, what’s mercy?” OK, beautiful opportunity to talk about the Gospel here, that’s a bigger picture … that’s the goal, that’s where we want all of our families to get is to that point where the Gospel is permeating every area of our life.

There are some good resources you guys have actually done.  I think you did an Instagram story feed or maybe you posted them on the resources page on your website. Some children’s Bibles- you listed out all the children’s Bibles. We go through as a family the Jesus Storybook Bible, which is one of my favorite Bibles for kids. That’s my time, that’s daddy time. Mommy has done her stuff all day but I do the bedtime routine, get their pajamas, make sure they’re bathed, teeth brushed and then they crawl into bed with daddy and daddy gets to read the Jesus Storybook Bible with them and talk through that part of life with them. That’s one really practical way a wife could do some research or maybe utilize the resources that you guys have put out there already and get some of those resources. And then just say, “Husband, lead this time. Will you be the one that reads these stories to the kids?” It’s also subconsciously getting him in the word, even if it’s children’s Bible… which by the way, I’ve been finding myself like weeping through the children’s Bible… [Laughter]

Laura: Right?! And I like that. It’s so simple, there’s no prep. I think that’s what can get daunting to both parents is, I have to gather my materials, my art supplies, and my dress up clothes. Then we’re going to have this devo with a guitar that we don’t know how to play… [Laughter] We have these images in our mind of how big and grand it needs to be of what this “perfect Christian family worship” looks like. When really, it can look as simple as in bed, reading the Bible, and answering questions that our kids have. Because our God, his word never returns void. And so he will use that time well and to invest in our kids… 

Emily: And Jerrad, I’d be interested to get your insight on this … Let’s say there’s a mom who’s going, “I don’t know if my husband would ever do something like that." I think approaching him with that would even be potentially kind of offensive or would come off as nagging. Is that something that a wife could faithfully start getting that routine ingrained with her kids, maybe for two or three months she reads it before bed? Then one night, “Hey honey, could you step in and read this?” It sounds really manipulative actually now that I’m saying it …

[Laughter]

I mean in a good way, would you see that as undermining your position or would you be honored that your wife stepped in there and was like, “Hey, I’m going to help get this established.”?  It’s even easier then for dad to come in one night and just do it? 

Jerrad: Yes, possibly. I think that if you’re just setting it up as we do story time before bed and the stories that we happen to do before bed are Jesus-centered or Bible- children’s Bible… If the dad is offended by leading that time, there’s deeper issues going on. We need to get to some heart– that’s when we go back to question one- and be praying for your husband. Dude should be doing story time and reading. Like we just talked about, there’s really no prep work- we’re not asking you to give a sermon. We’re asking you to read the Bible to your kids, so step up and do it. 

[Laughter]

If that’s offensive, again there’s probably some deeper heart stuff going on. I guess to not just give a harsh answer to that. I guess the answer would be, maybe if you have to soften it up, set it up as story time. And the stories you happen to have are all Jesus stories. 

Emily: I see.

Jerrad: My son has been really into – I really want guys to be able to equip their kids in every situation with the Gospel. My son has been super into fishing, if you watch my Instagram story … we go fishing five or six times a week. We are just always at the pond fishing. He’s super into it right now and fishing is amazing. There’s tons of analogies within fishing that I can point my son back to the Gospel and even Jesus. we’ve been talking about how Jesus says, “Let’s be fishers of men.” Then we come home, and we read the fishers of men stories at night. Or when Jesus told his disciples don’t cast your nets on this side of the boat, cast them on this side of the boat, and they caught that many fish. Using the things that your kids are already into and figuring out how scripture can tie into that, how the Gospel can tie into that. Again, we don’t want to compartmentalize, we want everything to interweave with each other. 

Laura: Just a word of encouragement too, to dad or mom listening about what Jerrad is talking about. It sounds so beautiful, but it is hard or daunting at first. I know for myself when I first became a momma – and my husband too, we were like, “What does the Gospel have – or how do I tie in the bird that my child is admiring or the worm and the Gospel? I know there’s a connection there but how do I articulate it?” Just to encourage you guys, to practice. The best way to do it is to fumble through and you’re going to misstep and there’s probably going to be some, “Whoops, that was kind of wonky theology there,” but God uses everything that we do – no matter what we say – when we are doing it with the right heart and looking to speak truth to our children. He’s going to use that. And you are going to grow in that skill. If what he is talking about you feel is a little bit scary and you feel like, “I don’t know if my husband could do that or I don’t know if I could do that.” Just start practicing and start getting comfortable with that kind of language. 

Jerrad: It’s so true.  I remember literally thinking – I’ve been a pastor 13 years and I just started doing this recently when we had kids. And feeling like it was daunting to myself. I remember one of the first times my son could talk and comprehend things, there was what felt like a beautiful opportunity to share the Gospel with him and I just went into this long sermon basically.

[Laughter]

I remember he was just staring at me … And I’m like, “This is it, he gets it. He’s comprehending, he’s with me.” And I think after it, literally his next words were, “Daddy, can I have a bowl of cereal?” And I was like, “Yes. [Laughter] But did you hear anything I said?”

Laura: I know. I know. [Laughter]

Jerrad: I don’t think he got any of it. I’ve learned through practice to tighten up my language and to not give 30 minute sermons to a three year old.

Laura: Exactly. And they don’t judge you. They don’t know any better, they forget about it in 5 minutes. These little years are great years to practice. They’re not going to hold it against you.  That’s coming in high school, right? Or middle school or something?

[Laughter]

Look at you with crossed eyes and wonder, “What did you just say?” 

Emily: They’re going to ask really hard questions afterwards.

Laura: Yes. Practice now. Alright. As we wrap up here, Jerrad, any last thoughts or advice, for wives to just in supporting their wives in fatherhood?

Jerrad: Yes. Here would be my final thoughts. The Gospel, what we get in Jesus is the ability to be fully known and fully loved at the same time. Which is freaky. We don’t get that anywhere else. We’re usually fully known and not loved or fully loved and not known. But I don’t know in any relationship outside of Jesus where you can be fully known and fully loved at the exact same time. The only other place we get a glimpse of that is marriage, that my wife could know me fully and love me fully. I would encourage wives to be intentional about setting up an environment where your husband feels the confidence to share his junk with you, to feel his sin. Where he feels like you’re a safe spot to land so that he can be fully known and fully loved at the same time. And even bigger than that, that it would give him a glimpse of the God that he serves through his wife. 

Laura: That’s inspirational! 

Emily: Yes. [Laughter]

Jerrad: That’s all I got.

Laura: No, thank you. And that’s a real challenge and incorporates a lot of different things for sure. That’s a good word to end on. Thanks for joining us today on Risen Motherhood. 

Jerrad: Thanks for having me. 

Ep. 49 || Mom Gets Mad - Part 1 - Transcript

The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I've got my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen here. Let's see. If you guys are new here to Risen Motherhood, we just want to say welcome. We're super excited that you are tuning in and joining the community. We are a podcast but we also consider ourselves a little bit of a larger community as well, with some online platforms and social media. We are talking about gospel-hope for moms and pointing moms to the resurrection and what it has to do with their everyday lives. 

We desire, here at Risen Motherhood, to encourage you in your walk. We tackle a lot of basic topics that you would think the gospel has nothing to do with. Like what you're going to wear or how you get dressed in the morning or potty training, breastfeeding, birth, all of those things. Our heart here is to really help to reveal how the gospel matters to what you do. Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection transforms how you respond, and how you react to all those things happening in motherhood. So that's what we're about here. We just wanted to give that brief intro to say welcome and to also let you know that you can find us over on social media. We are on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter @RisenMotherhood. We've got different content on those platforms so please come find us on whatever medium you enjoy. We'd love to see you over there and it's an awesome community. Emily and I are just blown away by the awesome moms that are tuning in and contributing to this project.

Emily: Yes. It's so encouraging.

Laura: Yes. So today we're talking about anger today. And guys, we're going to be honest. Emily and I are really nervous to talk about this topic.

Emily: Yeah. Call it whatever you like. You can call it impatience, frustration with your kids, losing your cool, having a crabby mom day, feeling a little off. I think we all have various ways that we say this. But yes, I think this is a hard topic for Laura and I because it's something that she and I are processing - we're kind of in the middle of it right now. 

This is a real issue for us in our mothering, that we are trying to fight by God’s grace. And so you're catching us as we are processing. I don't think we're the only ones out there who get those moments of frustration and impatience with our children. We really wanted to go ahead and start the conversation and just share where we're at, and what we are learning about the way the gospel applies.

Laura: Exactly. Yes. So know that we are, like Emily said, in process and we have not conquered this. We are not perfect. In fact, this is probably each of our real sin issues that we deal with literally on a daily basis, of asking and begging Christ for help. We're going to get pretty vulnerable here and talk about it.

Emily: I know. Like soul-baring.

Laura: I feel a little bit shaky here but it's okay. I tend to desire control and I like things to go in order to work the way that I have planned. I am a planner and so I really don't want children; I want robots. When my children don't do as I've taught them, or as I’ve told them to do, or quickly pick up on remembering what I would like to see and the behaviors that I expect, I think that pre-kids and even with one kid, I would get really quiet. I'm a talkative, chatty person normally and I was the opposite when I would get angry. I would not talk and I would basically kill “‘em with silence”. 

But recently I would say, as the noise in my house has gotten louder and I am pregnant with the third, as you guys know, I think there's some stress in other areas of my life that I feel like are sort of out of my control. Other things like the adoption and not knowing when our children will arrive, my husband works really long hours and when I feel like there are a lot of things in life that are out of my control, I feel like I want to exert control in my home. As the mess grows and they are like I said, making more noise, I feel like I have a lot more anger in the moment that is very visible and obvious. 

That's been surprising me lately and shocking me. I didn't know that that was in there. I guess it took two kids to bring out what was buried in there, that's been really surprising and shocking to me lately. What about you? Where are you at?

Emily: Totally. Yes, I can relate to a lot of that. What you're explaining Laura, of looking back and not really characterizing myself as somebody who loses their cool or gets frustrated easily. Before having nearly four kids, I can almost not remember a time in my life where I really got worked up. 

Laura: Yes. Me too. 

Emily: And I have this vivid memory of sitting in a small group one time. I think we had three under three. I remember telling someone I don’t really struggle with this. It hasn't been that bad because we're pretty cool and calm and collected. "I'm so thankful I'm not easily angered." You know looking back I'm just like, ‘Man, that was just trying to compensate.’ 

Laura: Kiss of death!

Emily: I can remember, even when I had one kid, kind of feeling bad for those moms. "All those poor angry moms, I’m so glad Lord you did not make me an angry mom." So little did I know. 
I literally can remember the first day I got so frustrated that I lost self-control. I was like, ‘You guys need to stop!’ I was literally in labor with my fourth child. I was early in having contractions but I knew this is the day that I’m going to go to the hospital. One of my kiddos was hitting another one of our kids. And I don't know, something snapped and I got really upset. I can remember being on the way to the hospital thinking to myself, and feeling horrible; that is never going to happen again. That was just because I was in labor. But really that didn't just stop when I came home. There was the stress of having a fourth baby. 

Like you were saying Laura, the noise got to a level, the chaos got to a level, where it revealed what was really lurking down in my heart. Which is, I want to be in control. I want my preferences. And if things don't go the way that I want them to go, and they don't go according to my preference, and they don't make me comfortable, I get upset. It's real. It's me now.

Laura: Exactly. That is why we are tackling it today even though we're in the heat of it; even though we feel very fallen in this area. We hope that this will lend encouragement to you where you are at, that you are not alone. And that we will also give you hope that you don't have to be that way, as we say ‘angry moms.’ You do not have to be characterized or defined by that.

It's going to be a two-part show. Today, we're going to be talking about the gospel. We're going to talk about: Where did this stuff come from? How did it originate? What is deep in our soul, that's causing these feelings of frustration and anger and patience? But then, what is the gospel? What did Jesus Christ come to do and why does that matter for us in the heat of the moment and the anger? 

And then next week, we have a show coming out. We're going to talk a little bit more about that nitty-gritty stuff. We're going to be talking about figuring out what's tipping you off. What are some of those reasons you're getting angry? And then also just sharing a little bit more practical things that Emily and I have found to be helpful - or have been told that are helpful - that we are working on applying in our own lives. 

Many of you have asked for longer shows. We are still pretty committed to the time frame, for various reasons, of about twenty minutes. But we hope that this will be a good way to tackle a very large topic in a two-week show. Definitely tune in next week if you're looking for more after this week.

Emily: The gospel. We’re going through another overarching story of the Bible with our kids and right there in the beginning, Eve takes the bite of the apple. Adam and Eve disobey God. I was talking with my kids about basically, what they really wanted was to be like God. They wanted to put themselves in that position and as soon as that happened obviously, sin entered. And now I think that characterizes our hearts as sinners. We want to put ourselves in the place of God. We want to be in control. We want to have all the knowledge. We want to have the right to control and be wrathful. And that is not only in our hearts, but you also see that in scripture passed down even to Cain and Abel.

Laura: Yes. You can totally look at Cain. When the Lord accepted his offering and not Abel’s, he was angry about that. And he decided to administer justice with his own hands which is essentially what we're doing. We have a very good example right there, at the beginning of God's word about what sin did to us as humans and our relationships, fracturing and breaking them. Often we think about this as husband to wife, but this happened mother to child; parent-child relationships were also fractured. That's often what we're going to be talking about today, specifically. But our frustration is the fact that we have limits and that we are not God, and that we want to put ourselves in that judgment seat.

In anger sometimes, there is righteous anger. But Em and I are willing to bet that about 95% of the time with a mom, with most humans, it's probably not a righteous anger. Or if it is, we still act incorrectly on that anger. As we were starting to say, the heart of anger and frustration is often pride.

Emily: Yes. And pride is a word we use a lot. But I think it can be one of those things that are always helpful to me when I go back and actually think about, what that really means. Pride in our culture; we think of somebody who's super puffed up about all their achievements and all the good stuff that they do, all the possessions that maybe they have. I think that, a little bit, describes Biblical pride. But I think what we're talking about is more like, again, rebellion against God. Putting yourself in God's place and not having a right understanding of where we belong. 
Because we tend to either equalize ourselves with God, or put ourselves above God and that is pride.

Humility, which is the opposite of pride, is having a right perspective of ourselves in relation to God which is like, woe is me. Prostrate on the ground, I fear you heavenly God. I am an unrighteous sinner who does not deserve to be in your presence and that is a humble correct understanding of ourselves. We just wanted to pull that out before we get into talking about pride too much, which is a lot of what's underlying, to say really it’s just us thinking of ourselves as God.

Laura: Exactly. I don't know about you guys that are listening, but Emily and I identified a few things that our anger produces. I think one of the things is that we will justify that anger. When I get upset at my children, I’ll often think, "Well it's because they're lollygagging. It’s because they’re back-talking."  I'm becoming my own defense lawyer. I'm sort of pretending to be the ultimate judge which is, as we know Jesus Christ, that's his place. God is the ultimate judge. His power is actually revealed in our inability to provide our own defense. We cannot justify or provide defense for the wrong that we do when we act out on our anger. 

Another thing that I definitely do is, I'll be like, "That's not me. That wasn't me, that wasn't who I really am. Tomorrow I’ll be better. I'm pregnant; I've got hormones and I'm just not myself right now." That's not true either, that's prideful. That is you. The anger that is coming out is your true sin nature and you can do nothing apart from Christ. It's again justifying, going back to that, and giving yourself all the credit of saying I can redo myself. I'll do it tomorrow. But that's what only Christ’s blood can do and not just your good intentions. 

Emily: Totally. And I think it's easy to get stuck there. Like Laura said, there's this really fine balance between going, "That's not me and I don't want to own that." And then owning it, and labeling ourselves to the point where we are so identified, and so buried in it, and so condemned that we are not believing the gospel. That's why we wanted to definitely take some significant time to talk through what our hope is because there is hope. 

I know that a lot of times, in situations like this where we have a sin that seems to just be incessant, or is something that you're like, "Why can I not just stop doing this?"  It's because we do not have the willpower to be able to overcome it on our own. We do not have the morality in and of ourselves to just do better, but Christ in us; the Holy Spirit in us, can help us overcome. I think we can be hopeful when we see our weakness. I'm preaching to myself right now. That I can be hopeful and say, I am so weak but this is why Christ died for me.

Laura: Exactly. I think that never before have I ever seen the gospel come out more clearly than when I started to see some of these thing happen. One thing I think about a lot is with Cain and Abel. God said to Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door but you must rule over it.” That means as Emily was saying, you can fight sin and you don't have to act on the anger that you feel. Often, I'm sure, Emily and many of you, feel like Paul, in Romans seven, when he says, "I fail to do that good that I want to do." I know the good but I don't have that ability to carry it out. But when we admit that, when we get to that point, we don't use it as an excuse to continue sinning. We just admit our weakness and that this anger is just a huge billboard that shows our desperate need for God's grace through Christ. 

Emily: As I was thinking about a wrathful parent. I was thinking how often, again going back to the way that we feel like we are under God's wrath whenever we sin against our children, or we lose our temper again. I had a little picture here. Imagine there is a parent and there are two children and one child is like two and doing everything right. Being kind, obeying the right away, is thinking of their sibling, is responding correctly to their parent; just the picture of sweet innocence. Only occasionally do we see that in our children, right? A little flicker of that. 

Then the other child is just being a complete and total stinker. Rebelling against everything, intentionally doing the exact opposite of what the parent asked, hitting their poor innocent sibling, stealing toys, biting and just a total terror. And the parent is wrathful and angry at this sin that they see it in their child. Right before the parent is getting ready to just unleash wrath on this naughty rebellious stinker child, the innocent child comes forward and says, I will take that punishment for my sibling. If you can imagine watching a parent unleash on a child who does not deserve it. 

I don't know if you've ever been in a situation out in public where you’ve seen a parent freak out on their kid and it doesn't look like they did anything wrong. I mean just imagine that and how undeserving. We are just like that rebellious child. And when we realize how unfair it is that Christ took that wrath and all of it, so that when that's over, God can turn to us and go, “It's over. I don't have any more wrath. It's all gone. Let's go to the park. Let's go play."

Laura: Amen.

Emily: I have to remember that is how God sees us now.

Laura: Exactly. I think remembering how he sees us now and knowing that someday in eternity we will be fully redeemed and that we won't have any more of these fractured relationships. We can look forward to that day when there will be healing in everything that we do and that we no longer will deal or struggle with this sin, which I think gives me a lot of hope. 

Okay, we are hitting the edge of our time. We will be back next week to talk about some of those practical things and get into that nitty gritty. So we do hope you'll join us. Find us on risenmotherhood.com for all of our social media links and lots of show notes on this topic. 
 

EP. 80 || HELP! HOW DO I DEAL WITH BAD INFLUENCES? TRANSCRIPT

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. Today we are talking about outside influences, and the influence that we have in our child’s life.

Before we jump into that, we thought it was important to mention that it’s good and necessary for mom to stay in the Word of God, so that she can have her mind transformed by truth and in turn, she can influence her children in the gospel.

We have free equipping resources for that on our website, risenmotherhood.com. You can find it under our “RM|EQUIPPING” tab.

We hope you guys go check those out. If you are not sure how to get started in the Bible study, we have some posts and things to help with that.

Should we jump into influences Laura?

Laura:  Yes, please. This is something that Emily and I consistently talk about, wanting to protect our kids, yet release them to go out into the world. Understanding that balance can be really tough.

As we were processing through and preparing for the Ask Us Anything show, one of the questions that kept coming up from all of you was a question about, “How do I deal with my in-law’s bad influence, or a sister’s bad influence, or the kid at the park’s influence?” That was something that Emily and I have thought about quite a bit, and that we know it’s a concern of all of yours as well.

We wanted to chat through a little bit about: Well, who really does have the most influence on your child? How do you deal with those outside influences on your child?

Emily: Yes. Like Laura was saying, our default question is like, “Well, what's the balance between how much I should protect them, and how much I should expose them at a certain age?” Rest assured Laura and I are not going to be able to answer that today. [laughter]

Laura: We don’t know.

Emily: [laughs] I think it’s so varied with each situation.

Laura: Yes, exactly.

Emily: But instead, we’re going to look at some gospel-motivated principles that are helping us as we’re considering outside influences in the lives of our children. Hopefully it will be encouraging to you, and maybe even start the ball rolling as you are thinking of specific situations you have in mind, that you're not sure how to deal with.

Laura: As we look to the gospel of course, we can look at creation and see that God made all things to be good, for all things to bring Him glory. Adam and Eve worshipped God alone; they had nothing to be ashamed of. They walked perfectly in step with God until the fall.

On that day, Adam and Eve were influenced by Satan, and sin infiltrated everything that they did. They became tempted to disobey God, and had a general unbelief, “Does God really have the best plan for me?” They doubted Him and they started to seek fulfillment outside of God’s boundaries.

We know now that Satan is the ruler of this world, he prowls around like a roaring lion. He’s looking for ways to kind of “knock us off our rocker” and make us change our course. He will do anything he can to distract you from worshipping and trusting in God. That might be through obviously terrible, horrible things, but also through really good things. He likes to take the truth and twist it just enough so it’s hard to recognize that it is still sin.

Emily: One thing I love about redemption and looking at what Jesus did is the fact that He always responded to everything perfectly. We see that Jesus, when He goes out into the wilderness, before He starts His ministry, Satan attempts to influence Him toward sin, just like he to Adam and Eve did in the garden.

But Jesus does not give in. He responds exactly the way He should, and He goes about His whole life this way – being in the world, among the influences, but not of the world. He always did God’s will so He did not deserve to be punished for sin, but He was, on our behalf.

When we trust in Him, then we receive a new heart through the Holy Spirit, and when that happens, we’re able to discern spiritual things. Suddenly we can start to see the difference between the schemes of Satan and the things that influence us towards evil. The things that are of God, and the things that God loves and He commands.

We also have some power - although we will not be perfect in this life - to resist the temptation that outside influences bring. We look forward to a time when Satan is crushed and judged and God makes everything new and there is no longer any influence toward sin.

Laura: So, what does all this mean for training up our children? Well, as we were prepping for the show, we realized there are a lot of ideas out there for how to protect our children from outside influences. Many of them can be found in the Bible, and many of them are also given out by wise teachers and leaders in the Christian sphere.

There are lots of different things that you can do. We’ll include some of those resources in the show notes, so you can go straight to the source and see for yourself. But today we’re sharing a few different things to keep in mind as we're processing these truths in a biblical manner. Processing how to protect our children from outside influences that we would consider to be harmful. I’ll let Emily kick us off here.

Emily: Yes, as Laura said, this is not the extent of what could be said about influences. But the first thing we feel is important to remember is that our children are going to be influenced towards ungodly things. We can’t prevent it as much as we want to. I really like what Paul David Tripp says on this - the hearts of our children have loves, and what our children love will determine what they worship. And what they worship will determine what they do.

In other words, our children will be influenced towards ungodliness because they are sinners in need of a Savior. We see in Proverbs there's a lot about this: Proverbs 22:15 says, Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” Anybody who's been around a little toddler can see that’s pretty evident. [laughter]

But anyway, because we are parenting children who were born to worship and might not yet worship Christ, we shouldn’t be shocked or surprised when they are drawn to ungodly things or bad influences.

Laura: One thing that we often think about as parents is that, “Oh, our family, we’re good. We’re good in here. But the world out there, that’s totally evil and that’s bad.” We feel like we have to protect them from the things “out there.”

But reality is, sin lives inside our homes. Like Emily was talking about from the Tripp quote, sin is inside our child’s heart. It is the most wicked and rebellious thing that they are going to have to deal with.

I don’t know about any other moms out there, but I am willing to bet that we all can all raise our hands and say, “Hey, we’re not perfect either, and at times, we are not a great influence on our own kids.” We lose our temper, we speak unkindly, we are selfish, or seek our own comfort.

At times, we are a negative influence on our child. It’s important to remember to put that in perspective, that we are all sinners. Even your child’s siblings, if they have them, those children are sinners, and will influence your child towards things that may not be biblical.

Emily: Yes, I know a lot of times we notice that at the dinner table, in particular, when behavior seems to go through the crowd like a fire [laughter]. But the good thing about us having a lot of influence over our children, inside our homes, is that we also get to be a powerful vehicle to influence them towards Christ.

One thing to keep in mind, I heard this quote recently that I thought was really good from John Stonestreet. He says, “Culture has the power to make things seem normal.” He actually describes culture as an undercurrent. It’s like when you think you're floating on the ocean and you're not going anywhere, and then all of a sudden you look up and you’ve moved far away from your towel.

There’s an undercurrent that’s pulled you away and you don’t even realize it. This is what culture does for our children. But we actually have the power to shape that undercurrent and Lord willing, to be drawing them towards Christ through the normal things in our home.

Laura: Yes, exactly. I have always appreciated the example of “defensive discipleship” versus “offensive discipleship.” In defensive discipleship, you wait for the bad things to come. You assume that everything’s pretty much good, but then if there's a fire, you think, “Okay, I guess I’ll put it out.”

But offensive discipleship really prepares and trains our children, knowing there is their sin and rebellion is everywhere even inside ourselves – especially inside ourselves. Offensive discipleship trains people in the gospel, and like Emily was saying, it works to make things that are biblical, normal.

I got this concept from another article that I will link to in the show notes - I am not this wise! [laughter] But I have always appreciated this example and thought I want to have offensive discipleship in my home.

Emily: Yes, and we have used this example on shows before but I love it, so we’ll use it again. [laughter] Matt Chandler talks about how we put kindling around the hearts of our children by, again, making things normal for them and teaching them in the ways of the gospel, and raising them up in the Lord. But, we can’t light their fire, right? The Holy Spirit comes in and does that.

Anyways, I think that’s such a good picture, like you're saying Laura. To be on the offensive, so that when the Holy Spirit is working there is already so much kindling that our children are going to have.

Laura: Exactly. With that, it’s not just the input. It’s also teaching your child about the output. We want to both put godly or positive influences in our child’s life. But we also want to train our children in discernment. This is our jobs as moms (and it’s dad’s job too). But it’s our job to train our children up in the way that they should go.

We can train our children in truth, but we also need to train them in that discernment piece, moving information from the head to the heart. We’re training them in the biblical thinking and what's normal in our homes, but we also need to help them translate that into biblical living. It’s just thinking about, “Hey, how do we move the indicative over to the imperative?”

Emily: That was awesome! [Laughs] I love it; it’s so good. Recently I heard this example of a parent – and this is maybe for a little-bit-older kids – but taking movies with children and showing it to them with the express purpose of discussing them afterwards. Being like, “How did that make you feel?” “Do you think that those were true things?” “Were those not true things?” “Where do you find that in scripture?”

I don’t know if you could do that with Paw Patrol or something, [laughter] but you might be able to!

But I love that concept of teaching them discernment, and asking them whenever they see something like, “Hey, do you think that that aligns with what we’re learning in God’s Word?” A super simple thing.

Then another thing we can do, like Laura was saying, just bringing in good outside influences in our children’s lives; thinking about things like, who are their friends, and who are the people that they are surrounded by the most? I feel like that can go a long way towards offsetting some of these random bad influences [laughs] that we’re not necessarily planning for, if that’s not their norm.

Laura: Yes, this can be church friends or mentors, or recalling thinking about who's going to provide childcare for your children. Really sussing out who those people are and what they're about. Also just finding quality friends through … I guess I had friends growing up that I was like, “Oh they're a family friend.” That meant that my parents were friends with their parents and therefore we were friends. [laughter]

That is a wonderful way to build in great friendships for your children, and other grandparents or family members that are believers. As much as you can, surround people who love Jesus so that they can see all these different people, and the way that they have a unique walk with the Lord. It will encourage them to develop their own personal relationship with God as well.

Emily: Another thing which we already kind of touched on this, talking about teaching our children discernment. But I feel like using these negative outside influences as an opportunity to talk about the gospel is super important as well.

Again, these things are going to come up when we’re not expecting it. We shouldn’t make our kid feel like, “Oh you heard something crazy at the park – stop, don’t repeat that!” Like, “Lets not even talk about it. Lets shut it down.” Instead, it’s a great time to have that conversation and ask, “Well, why do you think that child said that?” Or, “Do you think that’s something you should say? Why or why not?”

Let it be a conversation and let it be a training ground so that they can understand why, or why we don’t do things, versus this, “Ah, we don’t talk about it.” [laughs]

Laura: Yes, we all have been there where your child has been exposed to something that you probably wished that they wouldn’t have. Whether it’s seriously harmful or not, we’re all just like, “Oh, I wish that they wouldn’t have seen that.”

I remember the first time my son saw Aladdin, he was like a year old and it was a scary part. He didn’t see the whole movie, but it happened to be on when we were in a room, and it was one of the scary parts. I remember I was up all night, just tossing and turning thinking, “He's going to have nightmares for the rest of his life!” Really dramatic. [laughter]

Emily: He's scarred for life from Aladdin. [laughter]

Laura: It was pretty traumatic. [laughter] You know, feeling like, “How could that have been on? How could they have let that show be on?” and all this stuff. [laughter]

But reality is, he was much too young to really probably be impacted by that. But things happen. That’s what I am trying to say. No matter what kind of bubble wrap you put your child in, things happen.

We as Christian moms have to be prepared to have discussions about those things, and to not, as Emily’s saying, sweep it under the rug. We have a secure identity in Christ, so we are able to talk to our children about what happened in that moment, and then how that affects their heart. We want them to know that someday – Lord willing, this won’t happen, but reality is it will – they will get into trouble, they will be exposed to things by choice or not. But they can come to you and they can confess and they can repent.

You want to create and foster a space that says, “Hey, come talk to me. I want you to know that we can always be open with each other.” You can model the welcoming attitude of Christ so they don’t have to be afraid to share what happened, or to look to you to say, “Mom, what do I do with this now?” You can point them to Christ in that moment.

Emily: Yes. That is gospel culture right there when we don’t have to be defined by what we've come in contact with or what we've done. Just that repentance piece, all of that, is living off the gospel in our homes and allowing our children to enter in.

We thought we’d leave you guys with some final questions because we've probably left you with more questions than answers. [laughter] Now, we’re going to leave you with more.

The first question is, considering your family culture, what are your children being influenced by at home? Thinking about that, “what is ‘normal’ question?” Are we living out an authentic life of discipleship? Or are we not really modeling what that looks like?

This may things like reading scripture in front of them, praying, involving them in spiritual conversations. Maybe it’s singing songs or hymns at home, or prioritizing the family of God. Again, how are we making those things normal so that they can notice when an outside influence is not normal?

Laura: Our second question is, how are you addressing influences with your children at the heart level? Reminding them and remembering that the biggest problem that they have lies inside of them, not outside of them. How do we pray for our children to help them to know to worship God? How do we protect them from harm by seeking that wisdom from the Lord?

This one is very much what we were talking about, when we said we should be able speak to our children when something happens that we would prefer didn’t happen. Then, how are we shepherding their heart? How are we parenting them to understand they are always worshipping something? What is it at this moment that they are worshipping? Is it God or is it something else that they see in the world around them?

Helping them to discern those idols; that’s a huge role for you as a mom. That will also help to protect them as they grow, and you're able to help them to spread their wings, right? Spread their wings and fly! [laughter]

Emily: So good. Another one, what practical things can you do to surround your children with godly influences, in all different settings? Again, going back to looking at friendships, looking at who you're spending the most amount of time with. Honestly, how can you bring in people from all different generations and all different walks of life, who are living out the gospel so your children can see it in a lot of different contexts, and know that is doesn’t look just one way.

Laura:  Finally, do you believe that God is control of all things, and that your identity is secure in Christ? If your identity is rooted in the Lord, you don’t have to be anxious about what grandma just said to your son that day, if it was ungodly. Because you can trust that God is in control, and that He is using every circumstance, every moment to draw you and your children to Himself.

That is a great truth, just trusting that God is sovereign over your life, and that you don’t have to topple over just because some wind blew on you. You can instead stand secure and firm and trust that God is going to take care of these things and that He is overall.

Emily:  So good. Hopefully, there were some thoughts there that can help you process, help us process - [laughs] I feel like I am learning about this too – how to deal with outside influences in the lives of our children.

If you want to get more resources on this topic, go to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com and you can also find us on social media at Risen Motherhood on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We’ll probably be talking more about this and sharing resources over there.

Yes, thanks for joining us today guys. 

EP. 79 || SHE READS TRUTH: GOD’S WORD EVERYDAY, IN EVERY SEASON TRANSCRIPT

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. We are excited to share this interview with you today that we did with Raechel Myers and Amanda Williams from She Reads Truth

Rachel and Amanda are wives, moms and authors. But most importantly, they are followers of Christ who are passionate about seeing women get in the word of God everyday.

In today’s interview we discuss how moms can actually do that in the little years, by first changing their expectations, and intentionally reading scripture alongside a community of other women.

As a special treat to Risen Motherhood listeners, they also wanted you guys to get ten percent off anything from She Reads Truth, the shop, from November 1 through November 8, 2017.

We encourage you to check out their Advent reading series along with all of the beautiful prints that accompany it. The code is RISEN10, and you can find more of their stuff shereadstruth.com and risenmotherhood.com in our show notes.

Here’s Amanda and Raechel.

Laura: Hi Amanda and Raechel. Thank you so much for being on Risen Motherhood today.

Amanda/Rachel: Hi!

Amanda: Thank you so much for having us. What a fun treat.

Laura: Yes, we are so excited. Can you guys start us off with telling us a little bit about yourself, and your family makeup – we’re probably all interested in your kiddos.

Amanda: Yes, totally. Yes, go for it Rae, go for it.

Raechel: I am Raechel and I have been married to my husband for fourteen and a half years now.

He and I actually met when we were seven years old, grew up as good friends, and started dating when we were sixteen, and got married when we were twenty.

We just have this lifelong friendship that we got to base our marriage on. But now it’s strange because our daughter is seven, and so it’s strange to go like, “Hmmh, Certainly there’s nobody now in her class who she could marry.”

We have a ten-year-old son, he’s just about to turn eleven. He’s also just about to surpass me in height, just insane. It’s weird to have a whole person that’s like the same size as you, but, you know, he came out of you, and he belongs to you.

It’s just a really bizarre – I am sure the moms listening in can also agree – it’s just bizarre to watch them grow because you are not growing. But they just get bigger and bigger and it’s just...it’s bizarre.

We have a seven-year-old daughter. Our eleven-year-old is Oliver, and our seven-year-old is Hazel. We also have a daughter who would be turning ten this spring; her name was Evie Grace. She passed away, she was stillborn.

But she’s always worth mentioning when people ask about our family. Especially, I think, with an audience like this who, they’re in the trenches of motherhood, the bad and the really difficult.

Probably our story is unique to some, but not to all. Our little Evie Grace was born with Trisomy 9, she passed away just before she was born.

But she was wonderful, and she just continues to be one of the Lord’s greatest kindnesses, and greatest mercies to our family because of the way that, even through her little life, the way that he drew us to himself, and to his word honestly. To the way that we kind of had to truly anchor in the Word at that time.

She would be turning ten this Spring. We miss her a lot.

Emily: Thanks for being willing to be vulnerable and share that. I know Laura and I are both walking through the very early stages of kiddos who have different kinds of special needs.

We definitely have talked to a lot of moms who’ve lost infants in the womb, out of the womb, and so I know there’s going to be a lot of moms that relate to that.  Thanks for sharing.

Raechel: Sure.

Amanda: I am Amanda, I am married to my husband, David. We’ve been married fourteen years; it’s funny because Raechel and I have only been friends for a little over...

Raechel: I think five years.

Amanda: But our timelines are very similar. I’ve been married fourteen years to my husband, David, and we have three children who are the same ages as Raechel’s children.

We have our little girl who’s ten, and twin boys who are seven. We live here just outside of Nashville. She and I are both Nashvillians, but we’re both on the outskirts of Nashville and we’re kind of on opposite ends. Door to door apart, we’re an hour apart, but we’re both...

Laura: An hour?

Amanda: Yes, but we’re both in Nashville. We’re in the same place right now, we’re in our office.

That’s our families. We’re really just thankful for our husbands who are very much a part of not just our family life obviously, but of our ministry, She Reads Truth, and our kiddos are too. They’re just great, so yes, we’re all really thankful. It’s a family affair.

Laura: Wonderful. Yes, well let’s talk about She Reads Truth. I know that this is a wonderful ministry that a lot of our listeners utilize. You guys recently came out with a new Bible that we were commenting that it is one of the – no – the most beautiful Bible [laughter] that we have ever seen.

Can you guys tell us a little bit about the heart behind She Reads Truth, and kind of where the ministry is at today?

Raechel: Yes. She Reads Truth, the very simplest way to say, what She Reads Truth, is, of course is our mission. It’s pretty memorable, it’s about women and the word of God everyday. But we really mean that, and it’s really a lot more than just women everyday, but it’s a whole community of women. Right now, daily it’s almost half a million women who are opening scripture together, which just blows our minds.

We try and keep our head down, and not think about that because it’s pretty overwhelming. [laughter] Even if it were so few, this is just an incredible opportunity.

But the big deal is that even five years ago, there was this feeling for Amanda and for myself, of wanting to be in the word, but just needing help.

I needed help to know where to …l ike I needed to read the Bible, but where? Really, that’s what She Reads Truth is. It’s so simple. It’s painfully simple, and we love that, and we really never want to lose that.

It is simply just giving direction, and we don’t add a lot to it. That’s not the point because we really believe that. We say the Bible is for you, and it’s for now. It’s not for when you’re smarter or when you’re in a different season of life, or anything like that. It is meant for you however you understand it, because we truly believe what the Bible says.

That it’s living and active, and that the Holy Spirit is right there with us when we’re reading, and we can invite Him.

We think everybody is can read the Bible. Really we read through books in the Bible; right now we are reading through a bunch of minor prophets – Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah. We’re running through five of them in three weeks.

But it’s just great, it’s great for anybody who is listening to the podcast today. Who woke up this morning and thought, “I know I should be in the word. I know I want to be in the word, but what am I supposed to open right this second?”

She Reads Truth is for that girl, and a lot of other types of girls too. But we’re for that girl who just says, “I need to read the Bible today”, and she can open up the She Reads Truth app, or go to www.shereadstruth.com. I guarantee that we’re reading something today.

You can read it with us, and you won’t be reading it alone because there are women all over the place reading that same passage and talking about it.

It’s just a vehicle for women. Part of what we want to do is to reach the unreached with scripture. But a big part of what we do is to get the already reached to reach for the Bible.

Laura: To bring that down to specifically – for you as moms, and you can relate I know to our audiences really well – a lot of them are in the really little years – four and under, five and under – especially a lot of diaper changes, nursing, things like that.

Taking that tagline of “Women in the Word of God Everyday,” I love that. But why do you think that it’s important for the mom particularly, to be connected to the vine?

Amanda: You know it’s funny that you say connected to the vine [laughter]. We were just talking about John 13 [laughter] before you picked up the phone.

It’s funny too because we were talking about our families and the timelines of She Reads Truth when our children were very small when the community of She Reads Truth begun.

We were those moms with small children, who wanted to be, just like Raechel said, who just had a desire to be in scripture, and a heart to know God. We felt overwhelmed – I know I can speak for myself – in many areas of life, including motherhood. But also including our spiritual life, just wondering where to start.

It’s very important for mothers to be  connected to the vine, like you said, to Jesus, and to God’s Word. But honestly, I don’t know that it’s any more important than of is for any of us.

It’s important for the mother because it’s important for humans. It’s important for us as women, as God’s children who are made in his image, to know our Maker. And to know who he is, who we are in Him.

One of the primary ways that he has given to us, a grace that He has given us is scripture, is his Word. It has been protected for us so that we can read it now, even though it was written thousands of years ago.

It is given to us; it never changes. Our seasons of life change; we may have small children and then those children grow up. Then one day those children are out of the home.

Even women who are listening now, who’d long to be mothers, but maybe aren’t yet, our life is constantly changing. But God’s Word stays the same, and God’s Word remains even when everything ... the Bible says that, “The world will pass away, but His Words will not pass away.”

That is the thing that we can count on because, you know as moms, we love our children, we love our families, but we are not perfect. We have a Father who is good and who loves us, and who is perfect. When we need a sure thing, we open His Word.

Raechel: Like Amanda is saying, it’s important for moms to be in the Word just like it is important for human beings to be in the Word.

She and I were actually talking earlier today about that, even just anticipating this podcast, and talking about that it’s tough in that season of motherhood to be in the Word, and to make time for that. In the same way that it’s tough every season. Honestly I don’t know that there’s a season where it’s easy, and there’s reason for that. No matter what season we’re in, there is a certain involved discipline.

Amanda and I, our job is to read the Bible, and it is still a challenge to carve out that time where it is just us and the Lord, and not a task list.

I don’t say that to discourage moms who are like “Wait, it’s hard now and it’s always going to be hard. Cool.” [laughter]

But I’d like to say, “Don’t wait for a convenient time to develop a relationship with the Lord and His Word.” Because there will always be a reason that is hard, and there will always be a reason that it’s inconvenient. They’ll always be something more pressing.

I say that to say just fight for it, because this is worth it right now, in this season.

Amanda: Raechel often says, and so I am going to quote you Raechel, [laughter] that we know, especially those of us who have known Jesus for a long time, maybe we’ve known Jesus since we were kids.

We know that the Bible is His Word, we know that it’s important to read it. But there is a difference between knowing that it’s important, and understanding that it’s urgent. 

We believe that reading the Bible is not just important, that it’s urgent. That it is a primary means that God sustains us and breathes life into us.

It is the way that we know Him, and so it’s no wonder that we are at a loss for how to know Him better when we’re not in His Word because that’s what His Word does for us.

The thing is, the more time we spend in His Word, the more you understand how vital it is. That’s why it’s so important, what Raechel just said, it’s “just start somewhere.”

We say that so often, guys, it’s like we want so badly especially in our social media age where we have blog posts of five ways to do this. Or, if we want to know the best product to buy we Google it. We want the right answer the first time.

The thing with knowing God is that there is not a formula. We would have figured it out by now, right? There is no formula, and there is no formula for reading a Bible. It is simply starting, and starting somewhere. It’s all His Word, so just start.

Emily: Wow, there is so many amazing truths in there.

Raechel: You just get us started and we’ll just keep going …

Emily: I love it.

Amanda: We have strong feelings on the topic [laughter].

Emily: I just love it. I love it because especially like you’re saying, “Don’t wait” because I think that we all tell ourselves this tale, like, “Okay, this trial is going to be over, and then I’ve arrived.” Like, “There’s no more trials after that, if I can just get through this thing. I am going to put off my Bible reading and my prayer life, and these things until I get out of this trial.”

I know I heard from a wiser, older woman one time tell me a huge lightbulb went off whenever she realized that, no, life is one trial, and then it changes to a different trial, and a different one..

Again, that’s not to be discouraging, but encouraging to say, “Do it now.” I love that. In terms of our children, realizing that if we’re trying to pass along the gospel to them, then the best thing we can do is to be knowing God, and finding joy in Him in our own lives. If we’re not doing that, it’s going to be very difficult to be an authentic overflow to them. Thanks for sharing.

Amanda: There’s so much beauty in the trial. We say “beauty and the mess,” and the “messiness of motherhood.” You know these are these phrases that we have all kind of gotten used to of late.

It’s true that there’s beauty within that, and reading God’s Word is one of the ways that the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the beauty, and to the work that God is already doing right where we are.

It is true that our inclination is to wait until we feel like, “Okay, now I am ready.” But in that way, it’s kind of like motherhood. Like, you’re not really ready, [laughter] you just start, right?

In those trials and in the tough seasons, it’s like they are. Life is kind of like one tough season after another; like there’s something tough even about the good seasons.

When you’re in a good season, it’s tough to really keep your perspective right and your priorities straight, and all of that. When things are too easy, in a way, and then when things are really hard, you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got my perspective right, but I just can’t even stay above water.”

I feel like there’s struggle on both sides of that fence. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to be rooted in the Word of God because if we rely on our emotions to direct us where we’re going to go, where are we going to end up?

We need to rely on the Lord, and the wisdom that we find in His Word, and His revelation of Himself to us. That’s what we use as our guide.

Laura: Yes. You mentioned something there about if we rely on our emotion. There are a lot of ways to study the Bible. We’ve talked about that; that there are many ways, and the most important is to just start.

But there are also some ways that when engaging in study, aren’t smartest things to do. Can you guys talk to some of those common pitfalls that you do see women falling into in their study of scripture?

Amanda: That’s a good question.

Raechel: The first thing I think about is something... it’s funny, I may not have had conversations about this lately, but one of the first pitfalls is calling it “quiet time” [laughter] Because there’s a big expectation that just gets built all round that. And especially for moms.

Laura: Oh yes, no such thing.

Raechel: On Sunday I was sick, really like too sick for church. I just had a cold, sore throat, couldn’t swallow. It’s like, “Okay, well, we’re going to stay home today.” We stayed home all day Sunday, literally no one left the house.

But here’s what the Lord did for me on that day that I couldn’t go to church. And this is going to sound nerdy and weirdly like I am very holy, but it’s neither of those things. [laughter]

We were preparing to study the Book of Exodus for Lent. One of the things, it’s my job to prepare for that and to become familiar with that book. I knew I wanted to read the Book of Exodus over the weekend.

This was Sunday morning and I still hadn’t done it, and so I was like, “Okay, here’s what I  am going to do.” I am in the middle of – here is where it gets nerdy – a cross-stitch pattern that I am working on, which I really wanted to test it before we put the pattern in the book.

I am a needlework nerd, and I appreciate that some people accept that, and come to me. [laughter] So I sat down in our living room, turned the fire on. I sat in the living room first thing in the morning, got out my cross-stitch pattern and got out my phone, and just turned on an audio version of the book of Exodus.

I required nothing of anybody. Everyone was allowed to do whatever they wanted. [laughter] Evidently we can call that my quiet time for the day.

But I sat in that chair, I don’t even know that I for ate lunch. I just sat in that chair throughout the entire book, like all day long. It was hours. In and out and throughout the whole day, my family came to be with me. I mean, I was sick and so I just really didn’t move.

But they just came; like my daughter Hazel came and laid kind of on the blanket in front of the fire near my feet, and just listened to the parts of Exodus where the plagues – she was there for that – and the crossing of the Red Sea, and Miriam’s Song.

As the audio thing is reading Miriam’s Song, she starts singing along with it because she learned about that song in school. She came and she worshipped with me in this sweet way, to thank the Lord for all the good He’s done for us.

Then she went on with her day. Later on we were getting to the part about the instructions for the temple, and my husband was sitting there, reading his own book, like a business book. He’s sitting on the sofa, and I am still cross-stitching and still listening in to Exodus.

He came and he was there for that part, and he just kept lifting his head up, and laughing and being interested in all the details that went into designing the temple because he’s a designer.

It’s just fascinating to read about... I can’t remember his name Amanda, what’s the designer’s name?

Amanda: Oh gosh, don’t put me on the spot. I don’t know.

Raechel: Ezel, Bezel? Whatever, I can’t say it.

Amanda: I can’t say it either. Anyway, keep talking and I’ll find it.

Raechel: It was just an interesting conversation as the book went on. By the end of the day, I’d moved out to the back porch, and it was the very end where Moses is putting up the posts of the temple for the first time, and they’re putting the canvas over it or whatever.

I stopped and rewound it like three times because like that last part of chapter twenty, it’s where the temple gets set up, and then God’s cloud comes in and inhabits the temple. It’s like when the Holy of Holies becomes the Holy of Holies.

As a family, our eyes were wide. We were like, “Wow!” Like we’d never paid attention to the moment when the temple became the temple.

There was no formula, like, “Here’s quiet time for me today.” But it was just like a gift, like the Lord knew I had a hunger for knowing him. He carved out this quiet time for our family where we all just got to come in and out, with his word being read.

It was our own non-quiet time where it was just like a part of our day. I realized that’s not every Sunday or anybody’s real life ever. But it was a wonderful, little, happy gift day, where we got to just listen to scripture.

Maybe we weren’t going to read it out loud, and we weren’t going to impose it on anybody in the family. But everyone was blessed by the reading of the Word at our house, and it was a really sweet time.

Emily: I really love what you’re describing there. It’s a beautiful story. It’s like this bringing together of your discipline and your intentional choice to sit down and say, “I am going to listen to this.”

Also, like you said, non-quiet time, non-formula [laughs] thing where God made that into what He wanted it to be for you. You know, that day. Sometimes we don’t want to be disciplined, we want it to kind of like just magically happen, or whatever. It to just be this organic thing.

It does require that intentional first step. But then I love that you didn’t box it into that either, and allowed it to infiltrate your whole day and your family in. I feel like that’s true a lot times of quiet times, which maybe we’ll start to campaign to quit calling it that. [laughter]

I thought Bible study time is this combination of like, “I am going to sit down and make time for this. God, I am also going to let interruptions happen. I am going to see where you’re directing my time for this study.”

Amanda: Yes, a lot of times my car does this thing where, when you crank the car, if a lot of times I’ve been listening to something, then it won’t pick up. But for some reason the volume’s always up really loud. The kids will get in the car and be like, “And the Lord said...” [laughter] and they’ll all crack up.

But I love that. Raechel hadn’t told me that story, so I love that image of your family. I can just picture you guys in your living room and that happening.

You asked about common pitfalls, and I really think that is one of the big ones, is not the boxing in. Like expecting that it should look a certain way, or kind of putting these false restrictions or expectations on ourselves, that the Lord never puts on us, to be clear.

There are passages in the Bible where it’s just to go in your closet and pray. Jesus pulled away from the crowd, and so there is precedence.

Even in this song, like seeking the Lord in the morning, there are places where it calls for that. But somewhere along the way, we feel like, “Okay. Well that’s the one way that it looks.” Then when it doesn’t look that way, we feel like we’ve failed, or that we’re not spiritual enough, or that the Lord is disappointed in us.

That grieves my heart, especially for young mothers, and really just women in general. I think women – I don’t know if this true of men, I’ve never been a man - but women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves on what our time in God’s Word should look like.

What makes me really sad about that is that it steals our joy because the joy of reading God’s Word is the connection with our Father. To insist that it be at a certain time of the day, or that it be uninterrupted, or that it be a certain length. Any of those things automatically takes the focus off of God’s Word, and puts it back on our effort.

Our effort is never going to be perfect. One of our primary encouragements for women is to read, and to be open to what that looks like in different seasons. Be open to what that looks like on different days of the week.

Yes, definitely find space and time to read God’s Word in quiet, alone if you can. But also, read God’s Word for your family. Read God’s Word when you’re in line at the drive through at the bank. Read God’s Word in the car pickup line.

When the She Reads Truth app first came out, we had so many women who commented on how they were thankful to have access to God’s Word into devotional and stuff, when they were in the pickup line waiting for their kids at school. So many of us spend … it’s a solid like fifteen minutes of our day that we’re just kind of trapped, right? Anyway, that is a common pitfall, our own expectation.

Laura: Yes. I really appreciate how you guys are looking at this in really creative ways. I know that I am very much a creature of habit, I really enjoy my routine, which as a mom of little kids, there isn’t a lot of routines. That can be very difficult.

But I love how you guys are looking at it not having to be at the same time, it doesn’t have to be the same style. I mean, just to think about “Let’s listen to a whole book the whole day.”

You think about how many people have TVs running throughout the whole day, just in the background! Maybe they’re paying attention, maybe they’re not, and I just love that! Instead of TV it’s the Word of God speaking over your home throughout the day.

That’s a really great encouragement for moms to get creative with how they get the Word of God into their souls and into their minds because there are so many ways to do it in the world that we live in today.

Our option is not just the tangible Bible – which it is a wonderful gift to have the Bible in printed text – but we have so many options. That’s a great encouragement to mothers.

To tag onto that, for you guys in closing here, what kind of encouragement would you give young mothers today?

Raechel: [laughs] So much. Somebody was just telling me the other day, they were like, “Alive till 5.” That’s the rule. Just keep them alive. Just keep ‘em clothed and fed.

 

Amanda: That was us with our twins … but we meant five years old. But 5 o’clock in the day was …

 

[laughter]

Raechel: I forgot about when they were five-years-old!

 

Amanda: Yes! [laughter]

 

Emily: Speaking of, Amanda, I did not know you had twin boys. I have twin boys that are turning four this fall. Offline I may have to ask you some questions about how to survive. [laughs]

Amanda: That is enough information for me to know that you’re doing great. [laughter]

Raechel: Yes. Gosh, encouragement for young mothers. I never want to be the old lady that’s like, “It goes so fast.”

Amanda: Oh my gosh! Stop saying that Raechel. The first thing I always want to say to young moms is when I see them out, I have a rule – from twin mom to twin mom – I sort of have that rule when I see a mother or friend of toddler twins out in public, I make a point to go over to her and tell her she’s doing a great job.

Emily: I am so glad you said that. [laughs]

Amanda: Because it was hard, and motherhood is just hard. I don’t know that mothering twins is any harder, but it’s definitely logistically challenging.

One of the things that I always needed to hear and have the urge to say to young moms is that you’re not alone. It feels so isolating. Mothering young children, whether you’re a stay-at-home mom of young children, or if you’re a working mom of young children – when you’re the working mom, sometimes you can feel like you’re the only working mom. And when you’re the stay-at-home mom, sometimes you feel like, “I am the only human.” [laughter] It’s almost like there are no adults. “There are no adults over the age of five in the world, it’s just me!” [laughter]

So you’re not alone, and not just that there are other mothers all over the world that are in there with you, even though they’re not there physically present, Jesus is with you.

My mother-in-law is precious, and she has always told her kids when she tucked them in at night … the last thing that she says to them. She still does mind you – they’re grown, right - here I am married to one of them.

When she tucks my kids, her grandchildren, in at night, and the last thing she says is, “Jesus is with you,” it almost got on my nerves a little sometimes. I sound like a terrible person right now, but it’s true, because I just thought like, “Well that’s real sweet,” but like, “What’s that mean?” But it was so simple, but it always bothered me because it was such a simple truth that is so hard for me to understand. Just for the young moms, those who are mothering small children, you’re not alone. 

We’re either in there with you, or we’ve been where you are, and Jesus is with you. You are not alone; he sees every small act of faithfulness, every diaper you change, every time you sleep...

Raechel: Every time you cry.

Amanda: Every tear you cry. It’s good work, its holy work that you’re doing, I would say. He didn’t say that, but I am going to say it. [laughs]

Raechel: I’ll tell you one really practical thing. I think this is absolutely helpful, haha we’ll see.

When my oldest – this is like ten years ago – was a baby I started this habit of doing my future self favors. The day had come – it was probably born out of that thing where women our mom’s age would say, “It goes by so fast.” Like, “You’re going to be so sad when this is over,” and you’re like, “Oh my word, I can’t. I just want to sleep.” [laughter]

I remember I started it when he was a baby, and I would rock him at night – and I didn’t do this every night – but I would give him a kiss, and rock him in the room, and then lay him down in his crib.

When I was ready to do it, like here’s the kiss, here’s the lay you down, I said, “And I know that when I am older, and when he’s older, I am going to wish I could kiss him one more time. And I am going to wish that I could rock him one more minute.”

I would always kiss him one more time, and rock him one more minute as a favor to my future self. I don’t know, that sounds maybe crazy, but...

Laura: No, it doesn’t! I am tearing up over here.

Emily: Let’s talk about that [laughter].

Raechel: Literally I was cooking dinner in my house the other night and he was away at soccer, and he’s ten. I was feeling sentimental about how he’s not a baby any more. Then I just closed my eyes and I cashed in one of those one last kisses and one last rocks, and I was like, “I am so glad I did that for future me.”

It goes so fast, and so do little favors for your future-self. Give them one last kiss and one more minute of rocking while you can, so you can cash in that later.

Amanda: That’s sweet Raechel.

Laura: Well, I am like a total ball baby over here, thinking about how I need to be doing that [laughs].

Amanda: One in each arm, you can to it. [laughter]

Laura: Yes, exactly! Well, Amanda and Raechel, we just really appreciate your time today. We are just thrilled to have you guys on the show.

We hope everyone goes and checks out all the She Reads Truth resources at shereadstruth.com, as well as please, pick up a copy of this Bible.

You’ll be inspired to read the text just because it is so beautiful. Of course it is more than that, the Word of God is living and active. This Bible is not only beautiful, but will also profoundly impact your life.

Thank you ladies for being on the show, we truly appreciate it.

Raechel: Thanks for having us.

Amanda: Thanks for having us. Good to talk to you guys.

Ep.78 || Birthday Parties: Celebrating God’s Good Work Transcript

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. Today we are talking about something super fun; we're talking about birthdays. Before that, we wanted to ask you guys if you would take a moment to give us a rating and review on iTunes. These ratings and reviews might seem small and meaningless, but they are actually really important in the crazy iTunes algorithm that they have in order to serve our podcasts to new listeners. We have heard time and time again from new moms who have found us through random searches on iTunes all because of your reviews. If you would take maybe 5-10 minutes max – I mean if it's on your iPhone, it might even take three minutes. Take a few minutes out of your day to rate and review us on iTunes. That would make our day, and help us continue to spread the word to more moms about the gospel and motherhood.

Did I cover that Em?

Emily: Yes [laughter] and speaking of the gospel and motherhood, we have a topic today that may seem kind of fluffy, but the gospel applies to everything, right Laura? We're going to chat a little bit about birthday parties and celebrating our children's birthdays in general. It doesn't have to be a party, you'll find as we go through this. But Laura what do you guys do for your kids’ birthdays?

Laura:  We have done the gamut. We've done everything from the big first birthday bash where we invite a lot of people, to the simple things like families getting together, some donuts and a candle – where we're throwing it together and making sure there's just at least a moment of “specialness.” What about you guys?

Emily:  I feel like we did the same thing. Our first child's first birthday was this amazing backyard barbecue [laughter] but after that, the word we use for birthday parties is “sustainability.” A lot of our kids have birthdays close together or close to holidays. It is just not realistic for us to do like a ton of stuff for each child. Either my parents or your parents, Laura, are very gracious to host a dinner at their house. Grandparents come and usually grandma bakes a cake, there's a few presents, and we try to affirm them, and it's very simple.

Laura:  It is sort of funny to be asking you, “What do you do Emily?” Because I know exactly what you do for birthdays because we are at many of your birthdays [laughter] and same with your kids at mine.

My daughter was born on New Year's Eve and so often, on the Christmas celebration for my side with Emily, we’ll just have some donuts and we do it on the other side too. She gets quite a few birthdays at every family gathering around Christmas.

Emily:  When I was growing up, I felt like my parents knocked it out of the park with birthdays. I feel like my husband and I do low-key things. I can remember this one time my dad built a castle structure for the outside of our house, so that it would look like a legit princess party with a castle people were walking into. It fell over in the middle of a sleepover and we were all terrified. We were crying. That is just an example of extremes with birthday parties. I think they can be big, and people can really emphasize it, and then there can also be very simple things.

Laura: Well and then you turned 30, 31 – you have an older birthday, and it passes with nothing – and you're like, “Well this is mom-life.” [laughter]

Emily: I think my kids say “Happy birthday” to themselves on that day. [laughter]

Laura:  Basically, as Emily said, birthdays can mean a lot of different things. While phrased it at first as a “birthday parties,” what we're really talking about here today is celebrating birthdays. Whatever that means to you, there are a lot of different ways to do it. The culture’s pressure is for us to be throwing these amazing, elaborate, intense and beautiful birthday celebrations. Some of that does come from culture or from your kids being influenced by culture, like wanting what their friend had, or what they saw on T.V. Sometimes it can feel like a competition against yourself, or social media, or what you've seen other people throw, or that party that your neighbors threw. You feel like you want to have the most beautiful thoughtful birthday party out of all the other birthday parties in the land. You're trying to create this beautiful thing for your kids.

Emily:  The main thing we really wanted to touch on today is what’s your heart motivation? Because I think on the flip-side of that, we can sometimes be overwhelmed and just be exhausted with life and we don't want to take the time to celebrate our children and the work that God has done in their lives. I see all of the beautiful birthdays on Instagram and I feel grumbly, like, “Well my kid's not going to have a gold number balloon because everybody does!” And it's weird. I feel like we can play the game on both sides. What it really drills down to is, how are we encouraging our child and pointing them to Christ? How are we using this as a time to love them well? We don't want to over analyze birthday parties, but we do want to have a fun conversation that helps us think more intentionally about something that does come around every year.

Laura: I think there are a lot of messy motivations when it comes to birthday parties and as Emily was saying, that can be you wanting to buck the trend and not really do anything simply because you want to be different or not “play the birthday game.” Maybe you love to bake and craft and are into all of this stuff, but you're killing yourself to execute this gorgeous birthday party that is Pinterest-perfect. As Em said, there's a lot of motivations that go into it.

But today specifically, we are going to be talking about moms’ heart motivations. As Emily and I were chatting about this offline, we were like, what about the child's expectations? Or how do you love your child all through this?How do you instill gratefulness? We know those are questions you guys will bring to us and we are asking ourselves. We want you to know we are saving those questions for another day on how to instill gratefulness into your child. Today of course, in classic Risen Motherhood style, we're talking about mom’s heart motivations.

Emily: And we'll have some resources linked on our show notes too. And we’ll point you guys to other people who started the conversation. [laughter]

Let's go through the Gospels since it’s Risen Motherhood and talk first about what the Gospel has to say about this.

First, it’s important to remember that God values life and he is the author of birth. He made Adam and Eve in His own image so that they could enjoy him, and bring glory to Him and work and worship in their work. We see that all throughout Scripture, God values generations going on and he also values us being born again, right? He sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we could be resurrected to a new life with him. So obviously God values birth, He values life, and He is the creator of all things.

Laura: We know that God values traditions that help people remember what he has done. We talked about this on last year's Advent show which we’ll link to in the show notes, but if you look back in the Old Testament, you see that all the ceremonies and festivals were God's invention: Passover, Festivals of Booths, Feast of Unleavened Bread, were designed for the Israelites to remember the things that God had done. A birthday, often, is a great tradition for us to look back and remember the things that God has done in that person's life and the things he has yet to do – which we'll get to more in a bit.

Emily:  Another thing we talked about in our design show, interior decorating, was that God values creativity, beauty, and art and he is a great designer. If you look at the beautiful intricacies of the tabernacle, the priestly garments, the creation around us, like a flower or a bird or anything like that, it is obvious that God values color and order and thoughtfulness and all of that. He created us as image bearers in ways that we're going to live that out too. That's not a bad thing to love beautiful design and even blessing people with that.

Laura: And God values parties. I mean dancing, singing, rejoicing; all those celebrations are found in the Bible. Even in the traditional festivals that we were talking about. One of my favorites is looking at the story of the prodigal son when the father threw a huge party when his son came home. With a Biblical mindset and a right heart – parties and delighting yourself in the Lord– when that delight and joy is found in Him, that is a great party and one that God is celebrating in.

Emily:  Absolutely and Lord willing, we're all going to be partying in heaven someday. It’s the greatest birthday party of all time.

Laura: I can't wait. [laughter]

Emily:  But of course we are sinners, so if we look at the fall, the reality is that our motivations are sinful and they're about us, ultimately. Our joy starts to not be found in the Lord and how we can bring Him glory, but kind in how we can bring ourselves glory. Laura already mentioned this earlier but some ways that this might play out is just wanting people to like us or appreciate us because of this great party that we've thrown or, “Wow look at the decorations.” Or how well we planned or even how well we're hospitable to those who come in our door.

On the other hand, maybe you are just totally burned out and you don't want to have to take the extra time to love your children well, by maybe doing something extra that that would make them feel loved and special that day. It becomes about you in that way too and just finding your hope in your comfort. Wherever we are in that spectrum, we all sin and bring that to the table.

Laura: But there is hope, of course, because of Christ's sacrifice, we have new life in Christ. We have an even better birthday than the earthly birthday that we're about to celebrate for our kids, husband, or even ourselves. If we're feeling sad about a birthday, we can remember we are adopted as daughters into God's kingdom and now we share a glorious inheritance with Jesus Christ Himself. That is something that we can celebrate within these birthdays, if or when our child has become a believer, we can consider throwing them a party that day or even just acknowledging it during their birthday party celebration that year.  We'll get more to it later but it’s just being able to say, “Let's recognize some of the spiritual milestones in your life. As we celebrate your physical birthday, let's also celebrate your spiritual birthday.”

Emily:  I think another thing that redemption and restoration brings to reality is the fact that we are defined in Christ, and our identity is completely secure. We're not defined by the way we “do” birthdays. It doesn't matter if we're doing an awesome job at them, or maybe we're doing something simple. We don't have to feel prideful or ashamed or anything about the way that we are choosing to celebrate our children. We can rest in Christ and know that this is an area of freedom and this is another way that we get to glorify God and serve Him. We want to obey Him and delight in Him but we don't have to be ashamed or burdened by the birthday.

Laura:  We hope that you're hearing on the show like it doesn't matter which way you sway. If you are a person who loves to craft and do these amazing decorations and you have monogrammed gift bags, or you've made these amazing Clifford cupcakes, please do that and enjoy that. If you love doing that – love your family and bless them in that way. If you're a mom who says “Hey, my giftings are in other areas and I like the simple birthdays,” or like Emily you like “sustainability,”  (that sounds like a word my engineering brother would use) that is wonderful as well. It's not about how you celebrate. It’s not about the party or the lack of a party, it's really about your heart. If you're getting cranky and stressed because you're trying to bite off too much to plan a party, maybe it's time to take a step back a little bit.

Or maybe your child really would value doing something to recognize that day and just wants to feel a little bit more special on that day, but for some reason you're refusing, it's time to probably evaluate your heart. Are the reasons that I don't want to do this right before the throne of God, or are they seeking my own comfort, desires and wants over the way that I can best love my child?

Emily: Side note: Laura and I got into this contingent conversation as we were prepping for this show today, about loving our children well. Even in our culture today, sometimes life revolves around our kids too much and there can be expectations, entitlements and ungratefulness, because the birthday party thing can become an expectation, instead of a joyful celebration. One way that we can sometimes love our children and train them in godliness might be to pull back a little bit and do something less. The main thing we're trying to communicate as Laura said well, is thinking strategically about how to do this in another way. We can train our kids in godliness, love them, disciple them, and then also consider our own motives.

Okay, we wanted to transition to a few little practical takeaways here for the end.

Laura:  Okay, here are three things to consider when you're looking towards your child's next birthday party. Again, you can throw the most elaborate bash of the year and it could be fine. Or you can be super low-key with pancakes and a candle – whatever you want. Some things to think about with that: 1) How can you take time during anyone’s birthday to verbally affirm God's work in their lives? A birthday is a great chance to honor and affirm how the Lord is working in your child's life. You can take time to talk as a family about how the Lord has grown and changed them over the years and also look forward to the things that God will yet do. I think something that we were joking about – it’s comforting for a 30-year-old but a little heavy for a 5-year-old –  is the fact that every day we get older we grow more into the image of Christ and that is something to be celebrated. Every day we're closer to glory and get sanctified. That is a celebration in and of itself and so a birthday is a great chance to mark that.

Emily:  I love that you guys do that so well, Laura. I can still remember the very first birthday I celebrated around Laura’s family and they all started affirming me about all these things that God was doing in my life. I was like, “Wow! This is great.” And I should say that with my parents, I always get a sweet card from my dad too.

2) The second thing is to make memories around people and relationships instead of stuff. There is nothing wrong with presents. We love giving good gifts to our children and God is the ultimate giver of good gifts. There's nothing wrong with that, but what is going to last forever is not that plastic dinosaur that your child got but it's going to be their relationship with you, their siblings, and the things that God is doing in and through those relationships. I think it's good emphasize that and emphasize fun and memory making and not necessarily focus on the stuff.

Laura:  It's a good reminder for sure. Finally, think about how can you use birthdays as a chance to minister to other people. I have friends who, especially when their kids are really young and don't really have preferences on who comes to their parties, they'll invite their whole neighborhood with people of all ages and it's a great chance for people to get together. It's sort of an excuse to have a gathering and they can then see the way that you are affirming your child or the way that you use that party in order to have a godly influence on your child and those around you. I think it's a great chance for a ministry opportunity. Again, inviting friends from your child's class or having their parents come; anything like that. I think we can always be on the lookout for, “What are some ways that I can use milestones and events in our family's life to minister to those who are lost and are unbelievers and don't know Christ. How can I show God's glory to them through the natural things that I'm already doing?”

Emily: How cool would it be to have a party where you have some people over and you start talking about your child like, “Hey, we're going to take 1.5 minutes to say we're so grateful for what we see God doing in this child's heart and the way that we see him.” Helping this child to obey and helping this child to love others – what a cool witness opportunity that can be.

To wrap up, remember that there is freedom in this. Again it goes back to our heart motivations. What are we worshipping? What are we putting our hope in? Where we are putting our identity? All these different things. We get an opportunity to bring glory to God through our unique giftings and circumstances.

Laura: Check out our show notes for more on birthdays and gift giving and what wiser people than us have said about instilling gratefulness in your child. Also, follow us on social media. We are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter as @risenmotherhood. We would love it if you would come join us there. Thanks for listening guys. 

Ep. 41 || Adoption & The Gospel - Transcript

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily Jensen here with my sister-in-law, Laura Wifler. We’re really excited about today’s topic. It’s about adoption. Laura and I have been chatting about this for a while. We know some of you guys are interested in hearing this story, about adoption and how it is a picture of the Gospel. Laura is going to share a little bit of her story today and how she came to that understanding. 

This is a process she’s been going through with her husband for a while now, so she’ll be talking about that, but just wanted to put a quick plug for anyone out there who’s not adopting and wondering, “Okay, should I go ahead and listen to the next episode instead?” Stay tuned because this is wonderful for anyone. You may have a family member that adopts, you may have someone at your church who adopts, or you just need a reminder today of how beautiful the Gospel is and how much God loves you. Please stay tuned and I think you’ll be encouraged by this. You never know when God is going to plant a seed of adoption in your own hearts. [laughter] 

We’re excited. Laura, would you share really quick where you guys are at, in the process of adoption and all that?    

Laura:  We have in the process for under a year. We just completed our dossier, which basically is a collection of documents that represents us in front of the government of the country that we’re adopting from. We’ve just completed that; we’re waiting for approval. Once that approval comes, we are eligible for our children, so that’s really exciting. We’re adopting, hopefully, two children, ages zero to four, from Bulgaria. From the time of approval, it will probably be somewhere from one to three years for when we bring our children home. That is the massive nutshell of where we’ve been, [laughter] where we are and where we hope to be.   

Emily:  It is such a nutshell, and as Laura will talk about more, it’s an all-consuming thing when you decide to adopt so it’s a big process. Backing up, because a lot of times, this is something that people process through silently or just with their spouse, can you describe how you warmed up to the idea of adoption and how God brought that from something you saw somebody else doing, to something that became real for your life?

Laura:  I can totally attest to doing a 180 on adoption. It was a few months after we got married and my husband randomly brought up in the car: “Hey, let’s adopt some day. I think we should adopt.” It was like thought he grew a third eye. [laughter]  I was like, “No, that’s a plan B. That is sort of weird. That’s if you can’t have children. We’re not even talking about children; let’s wait.” That was the first time that I had thought to myself, “Weird, should that be something that we do?” and it was an immediate no. 

Then, we were living in Minneapolis at the time, and we were going to a church and there was a strong adoption culture there. We didn’t pick the church for that reason, but there were a lot of families that looked different from another and international and domestic adoption were everywhere. They were having conferences, people were talking about it; it was very much a culture. That was a God thing, I think, of putting us in a church where it became normalized for me to see families with bio kids and adopted kids or all adopted kids. It was really neat to see it lived out.

Then the nail in the coffin for me was when we started volunteering at an inner city ministry through our church and we were paired with cousins, my husband and I – this was before we had children. It was really difficult to see their plight first-hand and to see the difficulties that not having involved or loving present parents created. These children were not orphans, but they were very displaced, often not living with their parents and in different places. It was crazy because we knew these kids were good kids. We knew these kids desired to do what is right but because they really didn’t have anyone to guide them, or love them, or show them the right things to do, or how to behave, or how to conduct and process emotions and things like that, there were a lot of struggles and problems. That for me was just – I had these wishes and hopes for these children, seeing the difference parenting makes and I wasn’t even a mom yet. I thought, “Gosh, if we can help a couple of kids who are even more disadvantaged than these children, or don’t even have parents, that’s something that maybe I want to do.” It was a very weird feeling. 

Emily:  Having talked to you, I know that’s a huge flyover. Whenever people tell these stories, there’s always 500 more details. If you want to read more about that, I know Laura started to write about that on her blog. We’ll include those things in the show notes because I know those of you who may be considering adoption are wanting to know all of those things too. Today specifically, especially because it’s Risen Motherhood and we love talking about the Gospel here and how it impacts us, we wanted to talk about how adoption is a picture of the Gospel. Laura, can you get us started by sharing a little bit about why adoption became important to you because the Gospel is important to you? That’s a huge ask. [laughter]   

Laura:  Basically, adoption should matter to every believer, to all of the moms that are listening, and to everyone, because we have been adopted. The Gospel of redemption is adoption. I was adopted when I was five years old. That is a pale representation, of course. It’s not the way that we think of adoption, but it is adoption in its greatest form. God went so much more above and beyond than what we humans do in our adoption efforts. 

I love it because unlike my own plans, God’s plan for adoption wasn’t plan B; it was always plan A. He always wanted to redeem us. He predestined us before the foundation of the world to be adopted as his heirs. On Risen Motherhood, we like to talk about creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. If we get into the fall, you can think about when Eve ate that fruit. The day she took a bite, the world turned into an orphanage. We became distant from God, our sin separated us from our true home and the whole world became filled with orphans and we were orphans that didn’t even realize what we were. 

That’s where the great story of adoption comes in - our redemptive story. Christ came here to earth, sacrificed for us, He died for our sins and when our hearts begin to understand this and to believe this, then we become part of a new family. I am blown away, when I think about how God, the righteous judge, became my father. I am his daughter and so adoption is this beautiful wonderful picture of our identity, of our inheritance and even what our mission is as believers, which we’ll go through hopefully throughout today’s show.       

Emily:  Laura, I love everything you said, I think with inheritance of how undeserved it is. My husband and I only have a very small experience with inheritance. Over and over again, we realize the only reason why we have this resource or this thing coming is because of our family name. We didn’t do anything to earn it; we didn’t do anything to deserve it. It wasn’t because we jumped through a bunch of hoops or said we were grateful or did something right. It was just because we were in the family. I think that is so true of adoption, of the benefits that adopted children receive, are not because they’ve done something particularly good to deserve to be adopted. They were chosen and then then they get to receive all of the benefits of being in that family just because they’re loved. I love thinking through that part of adoption.     

Laura:  That goes along with identity because adoption should show you that you don’t have a right to God’s mercy, to His glory, His grace, or His kindness. That isn’t something that you deserve, like the inheritance that Emily was speaking of, it is simply because of your family name. Before Christ, we were lost but now we’re found. Before Christ, we were the stranger, now we’re the child. We lived in fear, now live in hope. We were a slave and now we’re an heir. We no longer have to serve the accuser but now we can cry “Abba Father.” 

I love that identity factor, exactly what you were talking about and that makes me want to repent of my sins. It reminds me of, “Man, I cannot do this on my own.” I am so grateful for this undeserved, unrelenting, this love that I cannot stop no matter how bad I am, but that Christ continues to say, “You are still my daughter and you still will receive this inheritance.”     

Emily:  The other exciting thing about our identity is that once we are identified with Christ, we become like Him and we are sanctified and we are made more and more into His image. Likewise, that’s another thing I’ve come to think about with adoption, of watching your process and thinking through the concept of, that child, wherever they are, whoever they are, doing whatever they are doing, and then they get brought into a family. They get that last name, and they are officially in the family, but it takes time for them to become like the family. For them to start taking on some of the characteristics or the behaviors or the traditions or the expectations. It takes time, it takes discipline, it takes love and all of that. 

That is what God does for us. He brings us into His family before we’ve done anything; adopts us, give us a new last name, a new identity, but then from there on out, it’s about becoming like Jesus; becoming like our Brother -becoming like our Father. It’s so fun to watch an adopted family – if you’ve ever seen one – their kids come in and what they are like from day one to three, four, five years later. You get to watch that child become like their family and that is what Jesus does for us.        

Laura:  That last piece of our identity, that mission part, it really plays a lot into whoever is listening today. If you have never thought about adoption and thought it was sort of weird, or wanted to just admire it from afar, (I know that was me) it’s something I’m learning. In Adopted For Life by Russell Moore – it’s a great book if you’re even considering adoption or you know anyone who’s adopting, read that book – in that book, he talks a lot about how adoption isn’t mere charity; it isn’t just that - it’s war. It’s war against the accuser because the world would have us believe that caring for the orphan is charity. It’s because we’re nice and because we’re good people. Instead, as believers, part of our mission is part of the great commission and to go and to care for the orphan because it’s part of our theology as believers, because Jesus called us to love our neighbors. We want to love others more than ourselves and we are called to advocate for disadvantaged, for the helpless, for the abandoned because Christ first loved us. 

Emily, maybe you can speak too as someone who is watching it not from that far away. 

Emily:  I think the other side to that is even if you’re not specifically called to adoption, I’m still called to love orphans. One way we can do that is even if we’re not directly bringing an orphan into our home, it’s been amazing to come alongside Laura and her husband, and pray for them and say, “Hey, can we help financially with this?” or, “How can we support you?” and pray for those children. I know that there’s going to be many, many years to come where there will be love that we can pour into those children. It takes a village and we get to participate in telling those once orphans and someday Wiflers, all about Jesus and coming alongside them. Even if you aren’t adopting, that doesn’t absolve us of getting involved in the lives of people who are on the front lines of caring for orphans in whatever way that looks like, and it’s going to look different for all of us; that’s okay.    

Laura:  I would say as someone who is going through this process, it means so much when people ask. It means so much when they remember what is going on. People are always like, “I don’t remember what that word means. I don’t remember this or that,” and I’m like, “No problem, I’ll re-update you,” because if you think about a regular pregnancy, how much a pregnant mom wants to talk about babies, that’s how an adoptive momma feels. She wants it to be celebrated and it to be exciting for people. If you’re not adopting or feeling like, “That’s what I’m called to,” showing that excitement to an adoptive mom is really loving. And praying for her as Emily said. There are a lot of ways. Even driving to a crisis pregnancy center and dropping of diapers or volunteering at a local shelter. There are a lot of ways to care for the orphan or those that are less advantaged than us.     

Emily:  Even just acknowledging the sacrifice that they’re making. Everybody talks about how hard pregnancy is and how hard labor and delivery. I have watched Laura and I don’t think I could make it through the paperwork. [laughter] It is sacrifice too. It is a choice to go and fill out that mundane paperwork over and over, and have all the visits, and run all over town, and get all these official things, and it costs a lot financially. It’s costly to give life. It was costly for Christ to give life to us – much, much more than this – but it is a picture of that too, to validate that process I think for the parents.  

Laura:  I feel like we could do a whole show on how to help an adoptive mom and we will someday. I know that this will be a continual conversation on Risen Motherhood because it is so close to Emily and myself and any believer’s heart. Adoption is something that we don’t really think about in terms of what’s happened to us. We like to think we’re “in.” That is was coming to us and we get to be with Christ one day in glory, but really, that is because we are adopted! We can all be deeply grateful and we are deeply indebted to adoption and what it’s done for us.   

Emily:  We know that was a huge flyover and we did not get to get into Laura’s personal story quite as much as we were originally planning but we always pray for the show and ask God to use whatever words He wants and so this is where we started today. As Laura said, we’ll be doing follow-up shows as time goes by. If there’s a specific aspect of adoption that you are wanting to hear more about, definitely let us know. As we mentioned before, we are going to have show notes of more of the details of Laura’s story and some of the other things she’s written so you can go read about that and then some of the other resources mentioned on the show.  Don’t forget, find us on social media, @RisenMotherhood, go like the Facebook page or Instagram if you want more content like this. You can find everything on our website risenmotherhood.com. Finally, as we always mention, it would be so helpful to us if you could leave a rating or a review on iTunes and review, of probably both. Thank you in advance for doing that and thanks for joining us today. 

Ep. 77 || Ask Us Anything! Fall 2017 Edition Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. Emily and Laura here. Very excited to welcome you guys to our second Ask Us Anything show. 

Laura: Yes, it’s very exciting to have another stab at this from last spring. 

So really quick, before we jump into a lot of questions, we wanted to share a couple of really exciting announcements. Some of you guys, if you follow us on social media may have noticed awhile back that we posted a job opening at Risen Motherhood for a Community Manager position. We were completely overwhelmed by a ton of amazing applications – we wanted to be friends with all of you. [Laughs] Totally humbled at how many gifted women there are out there and God did provide somebody for that position. 

So we are excited to welcome, Kaitlin Simmons to the team. Kaitlin has some awesome skills that you guys will be seeing, if you haven’t already noticed that we’ve upped our game. [laughter] It is all Kaitlin, you guys – she’s helping us with things like being more organized and all the behind-the-scenes stuff so that Emily and I are a bit more freed up to do shows and things like that. She’s also working on some branding stuff and helping us to be more consistent all around. I feel like, what was life without Kaitlin? I don’t even know. She’s so great; she can never leave us. 

And we also have another really fun addition, Autumn Kern, she came onto the team around the same time as Kaitlin and she is helping us doing some editing for the blog. As you guys probably heard, we are adding some guest contributions to our blog so she is going to help us coordinate a lot of those things. She’s also a really gifted writer and has a really good mind for solid theology so we’re excited because she’s going to be doing some additional posts and some of these “wish lists” projects that Emily and I have – she’s going to be helping us to execute those things. Pretty crazy Risen Motherhood is a team of five now, if you include our third sister-in-law, Becca, who is still working very hard on a lot of things on the financial side and some other special projects that we have coming down the pipes… Isn’t that crazy?

Emily: It is – It’s so crazy! [laughter] And you also might have seen if you were perusing our show notes that there are some experimental discussion questions there. We’ve heard from some of you guys that you discuss the podcast with friends from church or in your community. So this fall we are going to be testing those out. So if you seem them, and you use them, and you have some feedback for us – let us know how those are going so we can figure out what that might look like in the future. 

Laura: Yes, alright. So let’s get to the show. We polled you guys on Instagram and Facebook and were just overwhelmed with how many questions came in… which we love – we love how interactive you guys are, we love how you guys feel even some ownership towards Risen Motherhood and that you really value contributing to the conversation. A lot of your questions we did answer in our last Ask Us Anything show and we tried to respond to some of you as we could, but we know we didn’t reach everyone so maybe check that old show just in case you feel like your question was not answered. 

We like to do this show because we feel like we get a lot of the same questions pretty frequently, so hopefully by answering them somewhere that we can reference it later.

Emily: Yes, we also like it because we don’t always share tons of personal anecdotes on the show because of time and so hopefully it’s a good way for you guys to get to know us a little bit better and get some context from even what’s going on in the background in Laura and I’s lives as you are listening to us respond to some of these other topics that we cover. 

Laura: Right. And many of you guys asked about topics like birth control, pornography, sexual intimacy, a lot of these more “hard topics” – or “heavier topics” – for this show, we are tabling those topics, mainly because they deserve shows in and of themselves. And at this point, we’re really just not sure how to speak to those things in a public way that protects our family, portrays Christian freedom, and doesn’t distract from the heartbeat of our show. So as we are able to, we will try to address some of those questions, but we know that there are other people out there that are tackling those things. Or of course, what we really always recommend – getting with women in your church, getting in the local church, talking to with them about your unique situation is always the best bet, rather than hearing it from an online source. They’re able to give you that biblical truth and help guide you forward. So we just wanted to say that we hear those things. We know those are very hard things but we want to encourage you to try to talk with women in-person so you can really get gospel-centered advice. 

Emily: Alright. This is going to be pretty light hearted… Laura and I are just going to be bouncing questions back and forth to each other. For those of you who have requested longer shows, here it comes. 

Laura: Man, we are going to be exhausted by the end of this. [laughter]

Laura: So Emily, what are you currently reading?

Emily: Alright. I’m going to start from the thing I’m closest to being finished with to the thing I just started – how about that? 

Laura: Sounds good.

Emily: I have been listening to the audio version of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, which is kind of a memoir, not something I typically venture into but it’s been a very interesting listen. And I’m also in the middle of Good and Angry by David Powlison, which I started last February. But it’s a very deep book and so it’s one that I have to digest one chapter at a time, here and there. I’ll finish it maybe by the end of the year, we’ll see. And then I’m in the last book of the Wingfeather Saga. And what I’ve really been loving and consuming the most is the Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson.

Laura: I know – that’s on my list. 

Emily: It’s new non-fiction Christian read that – I think the tagline is something like, Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together. 

Laura: Sounds like me…

Emily: I saw that and was kind of like, “Hey, that’s me!” [laughs] So anyways, what are you reading now, Laura?

Laura: Yes, well I usually read six to eight books at a time. I know that sounds crazy but I keep them all over my house ,so prior to having my youngest daughter, Eden, I was reading a lot of books. And didn’t finish any of them. I mean, I had her and just stopped reading, stopped everything besides caring for my daughter. And so I picked up a couple of new books about three or four weeks ago, when I started feeling like I’m getting my new-baby-sea-legs under me. I’m reading Ordinary by Michael Horton, which is really good if you feel like you’re just an ordinary, normal person and that’s not doing something crazy radical for the faith – I highly recommend it. And then I’m reading Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, which is about racial reconciliation and the church. Very good. And then, this fall, my church is doing the Keri Folmar study on Ephesians so I’m also reading Gloria Furman’s, Alive In Him, as sort of a companion book. It goes along with it, and I’m just really slowly reading it as I work through the book of Ephesians. 

Emily: Nice. Alright. Another question that we get a lot – kind of going along with that is, what is your ratio of bible reading to spiritual book reading and how do you find time for both?

Laura: As I mentioned, I read a lot of books at one time. And I do keep them all over, one is in my diaper bag, four are by my nightstand, a couple are downstairs, one is in the car – they’re all over the place. I do just squeeze reading in where I can. As far as ratio of bible reading to spiritual book reading, in terms of sheer word count, I definitely read more non-fiction.  But that’s because typically I’m trying to deeper study the Bible, word by word, paragraph by paragraph, or chapter by chapter. Although, I do try to take time to try to read large chunks of the Bible, so when I do that – I don’t know, the balance gets shifted. But I wouldn’t say I have a real – “Oh, it’s 60% and 40%,” Or that it needs to be that, I think there’s different seasons for different times, and I think it’s a matter of, are you getting in God’s Word? Or are you only reading non-fiction? You need to be getting in God’s Word, so just make it happen. 

Emily: Yes, totally. I’m with you there. I think I don’t see them as the same thing or they’re not in competition with each other at all. My mental goal is that, four morning a week on weekdays I would be in the Word consistently doing a deeper Word study – even if that’s only 15-20 minutes of sitting down and being in the Word. And then non-fiction is something that I find myself reading in spurts because usually at the end of the day if I’m tired, if I find myself reading a book, I would just fall right asleep [laughs] and I can’t digest it. So I often find myself reading on trips or over the holidays, if I get a little bit of time at a coffee shop, taking a bath, and that’s kind of how I get through books these days. I think one thing that I love about non-fiction, Christian writing, it can kind of be a companion, often times it can help me process the biblical truth I’m learning in a new and fresh way and can help me apply it differently. So I do feel like it’s a pretty important part of meditating or digesting scripture. 

Laura: Yes. Okay, Emily. Will you share your testimony?

Emily: Phew! We’re just going to jump right in– I love it! [laughs] This is fun. I can’t believe we’ve never shared this on the show before. I grew up in a Christian home, both my parents are believers; we went to church a lot. I can never remember a time when I didn’t believe in God or think the Bible is true. But I was not following the Lord when I was younger. I think if you were to look into my life and I was to even articulate what is the deepest desire of my heart – the deepest desire in my heart was to find comfort in worldly things, to feel loved and accepted in the ways of the world, so that is what I pursued. Although I was kind of churchy on the outside, on the inside I was really trying to fit into the world around me. You can extrapolate, obviously there’s a ton of details. 

But around the age of 20, I started to realize that I wasn’t able to find fulfillment in some of those worldly things like relationships and achievement and doing everything right on the outside. And God was really gracious to bring me to a point where I was at the end of myself. And I can very vividly remember sitting in my car after a broken relationship with someone I had, just crying out to God for help. It was probably the first time I remember crying out and knowing I could not get myself together. I could not get my act together. I needed the grace of God to help me do that. It was a turning point moment for me. 

I don’t ever remember “going back” after that, and I had a passion for reading the Word, I got involved in a local church. I don’t know, my whole life changed course. What I found pleasure in, who I was spending my time with – all of those things changed. From there, it was really the first couple of years was healing from a lot of the baggage and the trail of destruction in my life from different sins I was involved in. There was a couple of years of bursting in growth and understanding in scripture. And from there, it’s been slower growth in theology, growth in understanding the gospel, applying that to my life – and now I think I’m going on 11 plus years of faithfully walking with the Lord. Although, I’m still a big sinner.  [laughter]

Laura: Isn’t it funny how we just never arrive? [laughs] 

Emily: Alright. There was my testimony in two and a half minutes. 

Laura: Good job. I’m impressed. That was quick. 

Emily: Alright. Go for it, Laura. 

Laura: Okay, so I am blessed to never know a day without Christ. I think often these can be coined the “boring testimony” but I have to remind myself that it is never a boring testimony when you remember the incredible miracle for God to take a dead heart and make it alive again, so that is never, ever boring. I have taken great comfort in that, because at times I’ve thought, “Oh I want one of those really cool conversion stories,” or “I want even one more like Emily’s where it shows how God just took me out of sin and brought me to new life. Well, that’s exactly what He did. It’s a real mercy to never know a day without the Lord. 

I came from a family who taught me Christ from the beginning – we moved around a lot when I was little and that also meant we moved through a lot of churches.  We finally settled in central Iowa and we found a really, really wonderful church that was really integral to the understanding of my faith and helped us to apply it to our everyday lives. I think they were really, really good at that and in many ways I was groomed as a Christian from a young age. I was definitely a good, moral kid, I went to church multiple times a week, my main friend group was found through the youth group. 

But particularly in high school there were the natural pressures and there were some more difficult trials that happened in my life at that time where I think my faith was tested. And I can say, at that point, it stopped being my parent’s faith, it stopped being something I did because it was the only thing I’d ever really known and it really became my own. Then I went on to college and that was when I started growing my love for theology and understanding why is it important to know why you believe what you believe. I took some theology classes at my local church in college, began doing some more leadership work in small groups and bible studies. Those things deepened my faith to the point where I was able to pour into other women and to invest well. There are definitely things that happened in there and still things that are happening now that are hard, and difficult, and have deepened my faith. But I’ve been really grateful for a solid foundation since I was born. 

Emily: Yes, so hopefully that gives some context and background. I feel like we have a little bit of different testimonies– although, God has forged us together in relationship. Which is exciting – and moves us onto our next question so well… 

Laura: I was going to say, “That ties well to our next question!” Someone asked, “Ws sister-in-laws, how did your friendship develop? Did it come naturally? And how much did you work for it in the beginning?” 

Emily: [laughs] So Laura, I don’t know if you remember this as vividly –

Laura: I don’t – I don’t remember first meeting you… Is that terrible? [laughs]

Emily: Okay, I can remember every detail … I can remember what you were wearing when you came down the stairs at your parent’s house. So it was October 2008, I’m taking everyone back there now…

Laura: Oh my goodness! I literally don’t remember this – this is terrible.

Emily: Well, it was probably a bigger deal to me. So Laura’s brother, Brad, had never had a girlfriend before and they were very close growing up and very close friends in college. So I knew I had to pass “Laura” [laughs] to keep going. I felt like there was a lot of, “I want Laura to like me, I want us to get along.” I was also very self-conscious because I was a pretty new believer at that time; and my husband was surrounded by a community of very mature believers … It was a really strong Christian community and I was like, “Oh no, I don’t know the lingo.” I just kind of felt like a misfit a little bit. And I remember sleeping in a twin bed in Laura’s apartment and staying up and talking with you a little bit for the very first time. 

Laura: [laughs] I remember that. 

Emily: Okay, good! It’s funny, that’s what I remember about the beginning of our relationship. But I think we’ve always gotten along and had good discussions and stuff. 

Laura: Yes, I mean it hasn’t been without some bumps. Especially in the beginning – I don’t know, I can’t believe how easily I accepted you! [laughter] You were dating my brother, who was like, one of my best friends and I immediately liked you. We immediately hit it off. I was just excited because both my brothers were dating and bringing some girls around. And I was excited for sisters I think – for the concept of future sisters. 

But if we want to get real, I think a lot of people have asked us, “How do you guys have such a good relationship?” Or, “How are you all able to work together?” Because now, Becca, is with us as well … And I’m always like, “By the grace and mercy of God!” 

There are things that we’ve done through just learning what friendship looks like through communicating really well to being open to seeking forgiveness. Emily and I have definitely had to say, “we’re sorry” to each other. I don’t do that with all my friends – or I maybe I just don’t get to that point – but one thing that I’ve always really appreciated about the way that I was brought up and the way that I know Emily and Becca have also taken in this concept as well: family, you fight for family. You strive for those relationships. 

So family comes first – meaning over Risen Motherhood, over whatever petty argument we have, over whatever thing we are going to do. Emily and I have always strived to say, “We value each other more than any of these things, so what can we do to preserve our relationship?” And to be very honest, I will say this candidly – we are willing to say “no” to Risen Motherhood if it comes between Emily and I. And God has been merciful that that has not needed to happen yet. But that’s how committed we are to one another and preserving that family relationship. 

Emily: Absolutely. And I think one of the things I really value about Laura and I’s relationship is that Laura and I are very different. We have the same heartbeat in theology; we have the same heartbeat in life and in motherhood and all of that. But our personalities are different, so it has just been a mercy and a gift in my life to have Laura, who I think helps refine me and push me in areas where I am weak and quick to maybe turn to what’s more comfortable for me. 

So I think whenever a relationship gets to a level where you can both sin and still love each other and work through that and be like, “This isn’t a perfect person or a perfect relationship, but yet I love it and God’s using it in my life and it’s so valuable to me ..” It’s just so beautiful – it’s kind of like when you get to that point in marriage and you realize your husband is a sinner. [laughs] And yet, you’re like, “I love him and I’m on his team and he and I are partners together in this.” It’s cool to get to that level in a friendship so I’m very grateful. 

Laura: Yes, we are always on each other’s team. And that’s even when we disagree and it can be really hard to see – yet we sit back for two hot seconds and remember … we want to sit on the same side of the table. It does sound like a marriage relationship, Emily. [laughter]

Emily: I know! 

Laura: I think that’s what makes it work, when you covenant with another person and you say, “I’m sticking by your side and we are together.” And so just know that Risen Motherhood isn’t without its bumps, that our relationship is imperfect. That there have been really hard days but I that’s what makes it work – the mercy and grace of God and two people who are willing to say, “I’m really sorry, will you forgive me?”

Emily: Amen. There can never be too much forgiving in any relationship. 

Laura: Yes. So some more behind the scenes about Risen Motherhood – we had a lot of questions about this, so how do you try to balance ministry work life (Risen Motherhood) with everything else? And how many hours or days are you working on the ministry and how do you make the most of your time? 

Emily: So Laura and I – I think we will answer this separate because it looks differently for each of us. We have different capacities, different family lives, different things that we enjoy doing, as part of Risen Motherhood, and different things that are harder for us each to do. So we have really – like Laura said – by the grace of God, over two years now Laura? Is that right?

Laura: A year and three-quarters.

Emily: We have tried to understand what each person needs in order to be able to do Risen Motherhood, and how we can help one another and accommodate that. The way it looks for me is, I try to do Risen Motherhood in chunks of time, in terms of “hard time.” Each day, I do all the normal things for my family, whether that’s keeping the house clean, getting laundry done and making sure that everybody’s eating. All of these things. Then, when my pocket of time comes up during the day, I will sit down and work on whatever content creation or email, or prepping for a show, writing, etcetera for Risen Motherhood. My hard time probably averages anywhere from two to five hours a week. It just depends; sometimes there’s no real hard time, and other weeks there’s a lot. 

Then there’s these soft hours that are hard to quantify [laughter] for Risen Motherhood. Like, if I do an Instagram story, does that count? If I check Instagram, if Laura and I are having a conversation about strategy. Like, if I do that while cleaning, does that count? That’s where it can be kind of be murky, and it’s difficult to explain how it fits into life. It’s something that I’ve had to push harder than I feel comfortable with sometimes. Then there’s other times when I’ve had to pull back, and put boundaries where it’s creeping in too far. It’s all just a balance and praying, and checking in with my husband and all of those good things.

Laura: Yes, as Emily mentioned, we’ve really figured out different roles. At one point though, I was probably spending something like 30 hours a week on Risen Motherhood, doing more of the main behind-the-scenes running of it. It was too much time. It was all that I did. I did it anytime I had a chance, even if my kids were present or not. It really probably wasn’t the most healthy, especially because I still desired to be generally a stay-at-home mom. Through the encouragement of Emily and Becca; that is one thing I think that Emily is really, really good at, is saying, “How can you love your family best in this season, and what boundaries, or what things do you need to set into place so that you can do that?” I probably would not have done this on my own. But I am so glad that they encouraged me to do so. 

With Becca coming on, and then as we mentioned, we have Kaitlin and Autumn. I really don’t have to do nearly as much, it’s really freed me up, even to a point where I am like, “Okay, what do I do now?” I do tend to be a type-A, go-getter person. I am now learning what a new routine looks like. I can’t really speak to it quite yet because we’re sort of in transition mode, but I have four hours of childcare a week. My youngest is still with me, but I do try to do bigger projects like the writing projects, or different, higher-level thinking things, during that time. Then, I would say I am an early riser, and so I do a lot of things before the kids get up, now that we’re getting back into routine. But it has been all over the place. Now that we’re trying to get into a more healthy routine, I am really grateful for that. I needed it more than I knew.

Emily: There’s obviously lots of details of the ins and outs. But another behind-the-scenes questions that we were asked is, do you live close to each other? How do you record together? Do you do a bunch of podcasts at once or separately, and how do you choose your topics? If we just talk through the logistics really quick here, Laura?

Laura: We do not live close to each other; we’re five hours away. I am in Chicago and Emily’s in central Iowa. We both record locally into our computers while we use Skype. Like right now I am looking at Emily on Skype [laughter]. Then I edit the shows into Garageband. But we both listen to the final show for clarity and for content. We do try to record a couple shows at once; that’s also a new thing. We used to record really early in the morning, so if you’ve been a long time follower you might have seen us on IG Stories that we’d post at 6 a.m.

Emily: I can’t believe we did that Laura.

Laura: I can’t either, I don’t know what got into us. But now, we are trying to use childcare time in order to record because we’re a littler peppier, we’re a little more with it. We both just feel like it’s just not as hard. It was really hard.

Emily: It was the most efficient at the time.

Laura: Yes.

Emily: We theoretically set aside a couple of afternoons a month during naptime or school time or morning time. Whatever. Just trying to make the most of it. The topics that we choose are a combination of a few things. First of all, it’s often things that God is laying in our hearts to talk about. It’s things that we’re learning in our own journey of motherhood, and what He’s teaching us about gospel application, in our own lives. Then, honestly, a lot of it is Frequently Asked Questions from listeners. That, coupled with what we feel God is leading us to talk about a topic now. Sometimes our topics are just reason or direction-motivated. By that, I mean we may look at the year and say, “Hey, this is something we think that should be understood or talked about sometime in the next year.” So we will try and put that in our editorial calendar, or add in some type of perspective, or get a different kind of interview on a topic. So that’s how they come together.

Laura: We do have a Frequently Asked Questions page on our website, which, particularly for the logistics of, if we hear from some of you, you want to start a community like this, or you want to start a podcast. If you want some of our links, we’re happy to share; there is an answer in there that you can look at and see more nitty-gritty to this. Another layered-on question someone asked is, do you get paid for Risen Motherhood? We love having the free access, all the resources on the website, but I am just wondering if you make anything. [laughter]

Emily: No. Not right now.

Laura: Nope, we don’t make anything! [laughs]

Emily: We don’t make anything right now. It’s definitely been an interesting journey, so when we first started out. Honestly this is just been a passion project for Laura and I. This is an area where we feel like God’s gifted us and given us a calling for. It’s something we’ve done in our spare time. Podcasting is not free, so we did start out paying the expenses out-of-pocket. That’s where we’re still at, but maybe Laura you can speak to what the plan is as we continue to grow.

Laura: Well, the plan is always changing. [laughter]

Emily: That’s why I popped that question over to you.

Laura: Because neither of us knows the answer! Yes, it has been a passion project for Em and I, and as the podcast has grown … when it started, it wasn’t super expensive, but as it grows and we have more listeners, we have more resources, we have more things that are necessary, those expenses have just grown with it. We have been really grateful because we’ve had donors just pop up – God has provided where we haven’t had to seek anything.

Emily: We’ve had some incredible stories with that, where we’ve literally had an expense for a new thing, where we’re like, “Oh we really want to add this in, but we aren’t sure if we want to have that expense yet.” Then a check will show up in the mail. It just floors us; it’s amazing.

Laura: For the exact cost of whatever that expense was. We’re modern day George Millers you guys. [laughter] It’s been pretty amazing. But, we are looking ahead to, “Okay, how can we stabilize?” The expenses are getting enough that it’s a bit more difficult for Emily and I to cover. There some things that you’re going to see. We are fairly committed to not wanting to do ads. Not that ads are bad, but for us, they add a little bit more work and complexity. Also, we feel that with the very short show that we have of twenty minutes, it’s pretty precious to give up even one minute of an ad. So we’re looking into different things. They’ll probably be more information for you guys on that. But yes, we’re not really sure. We want to steward this platform well, and we are just trusting God to lead us to each stp, and how we need to move forward. How we can care for our families well, but also be able to continue to engage with you guys, and just encourage other moms on to a higher level of motherhood. So we’ll see.

Emily: We’re always encouraged because God provides. Like I said, whenever we get to a point with Risen Motherhood where we’re both like, “We don’t know how we’re going to keep doing this,” either because of time, or finances or whatever, God has been so gracious to provide a solution that we would not have thought of, or a resource that we didn’t previously have available. Or a person, or a helper. We just praise the Lord. He’s been very good to us.

Laura: Yes. 

Moving on to some other motherhood stuff, what things did you get, or do you get hung up on pertaining to little ones? Or what things did you obsess over, and try to control, and how did you give those things to God?

Emily: Well, currently, [laughs] if you want to know what I am hang up on, kind of a little thing - I am hung up on my kids not climbing on our upstairs couches right now. [laughter] Not because I care about the couch necessarily, but because I want one area of our home that I am like, “We don’t climb on this part of the home. We sit like nice, little, civilized people with our bottoms on the cushion. There is another area over there where you can climb.” 

We’re pretty rigid about 7 p.m. bedtime at our house, and pretty much have always been. Honestly, that has some really good things about it, and has some things that are hard at times, and some things that is like, “Hey, we should be more flexible with that.” Another thing right now is touching the baby’s hands and face. That’s something I can be kind of crazy about. Little kids, or a little kid comes up and is like, “Ooh, baby”, and they rub their snot inside. I am like, “Get away!” [laughter]

Laura: And on the outside you’re like, “Ooh, sweet little thing.” 

Emily: I am like, “Ooh, let me just hide my baby. Lock him away.” There’s always that part of me that is like, “Okay, you know what, we live life and we’re all like, “These are just burgers, this isn’t a severe illness, and I can trust the Lord. Even if something happens, I am going to trust Him with her life, and all of that.” It’s always that rehearsing the truth. I don’t know if there’s anything else right now. Our three-year-old twins are really into whining right now and I am very much into correcting them the whole day. I feel like their main area of training right now is, “No, you need to stop and say that to mommy in a kind voice. You need to try again.” [laughs] It’s a good stubbornness, but it’s also something that I have to remember like, “This is obviously a heart change. This isn’t something that just saying it over and over and over again is going to make the change. You need to be praying for them in this, and trusting that God is working in their hearts, and working through my parenting.” 

Laura, what are all the things you’re stuck on?

Laura: I can identify with many of yours. I often I am just like, “Kids, how hard is it to ask kindly?” Like, “Come on.” But yet we repeat our sins all the time. I have to remind myself that, but it does seem like, “When will that set in?” [laughter] 

Right now, not a lot of things are sending me into a true tizzy, and that doesn’t mean that I am not uptight at times. But in the past, I really was, especially with my firstborn. I just remember being really, really rigid about sleep schedules and what kind of food they were served, or being green and eco. None of those things are wrong, but I would have very, very visceral reactions if things got off track. Or if I wasn’t respected in some of those rules, or the way that I wanted to raise my firstborn, in the physical aspects of raising him. Part of that is sort of a natural learning process that every mom goes through. We have to sift through what matters, what doesn’t matter, and we feel like – especially as first-time moms – that a lot more things matter than when you have subsequent children. You just have to start picking and choosing a little bit more.

Emily: You can’t control every detail any more, and then you’re like, “Ah, oh. This really isn’t all under my care and control all the time.”

Laura: Exactly. Even now, looking at – I know Emily and I have shared this on the show so many times, so this won’t be new to you – but asking, “Hey, what am I worshipping right now?” Am I super bent out of shape because grandma held the baby for a nap? Or because someone just gave them sugar before dinner?” Or dad said, “Let’s go out for ice cream,” or something like that, right before dinner. Whatever that may be, I continually, even today, have to ask myself, “Does my response match the offense?” Going back to that and being honest about how I am really feeling, and checking my heart, and where it’s at. That just applies to motherhood no matter where you’re at, when we get uptight about things that aren’t really worth getting uptight over.

Emily: That right there was great advice Laura. Which leads us to the next question - what is the best spiritual and most practical advice you’ve received during your time as a mom?

Practical, right off the bat, I had a light-bulb moment when a mom sat down with me and we were talking about discipline. I was prepared for her to share all of her tips and tricks with me, and she spent a lot of time telling me about training. [laughter] Which is teaching my children in advance what I want them to do, and preparing them and setting expectations. Honestly, that’s my number one most helpful thing I need to do, when it comes to helping my children do what I’ve asked, and it’s usually the thing I forget the most. 

The best spiritual advice – and this is not an exciting answer – but stay in the Word. If I am not growing in my relationship with God, and I am not feasting on true food that’s going to fill me up, I am going to have nothing to pour out to my family. Again, that’s something that is easy to lay by the wayside, but I keep coming back to it over and over again.

Laura: As far as practical, for me I want to use Emily’s because that truly is mine as well. But if I have to give something else, this probably isn’t the best thing that I’ve ever received, but it’s one of the best things that sucker punched me in the gut. Once when I started counting to three – I was just disciplining in front of this person – they said to me, “Oh, counting to three only teaches them to obey on three.” I was like, “Oh, that’s a really good point.” [laughter] That’s not necessarily the best advice that I’ve gotten, but I just thought it was a really good point. 

Something else that helped me is when my mom once told me when I was trying to make some decisions about some stuff, she said, “What will matter for eternity, just do that.” I was like, “Yes, that’s actually a really good point. That’s really helpful, to evaluate: “Will it matter if my kids eat a cookie for eternity?” Probably not. But if I don’t help them shape a grateful heart, or help them with their heart attitudes, that will matter for eternity. It’s helped me keep my focus. Actually going back to that question we just answered, it’s a good question for determining what matters in motherhood and where to lay down our battles and draw our lines, that’s a good … thermostat … right?

Emily: Yes. Thermostat … 

Laura: I am trying to say, “It’s a good measuring stick.” Whatever. It’s a good measuring stick [laughter]. 

Emily: There you go.

Laura: Moving on. Somebody else asked, how do you do more than just survive with multiple kiddos? There are so many needs all day, I feel like all I am doing is nursing, or trying to get the baby to sleep. 

Emily: Well, can I just say we’re right there with you [laughs]. 

Laura: That’s pretty accurate though, isn’t it?

Emily: Yes. But one thing that I’ve learned and it’s taken me – for the last three-and-a-half years – I’ve felt like we were in survival mode ever since we had twins enter the picture. But even before that too. It’s just like, that is where my life is happening. I keep thinking I am going to get out of this stage and that we’re going to move on to something else. 

But honestly, the way that we’re interacting with our kids - we can help train them so that they can sleep well. Fill up their tummies with good things, and help intervene with thingg. Showing them how to clean up their toys when they’ve spilled them everywhere. Helping get them from point A to point B. That is life. That is where this good stuff is happening. That’s where the training ground is happening, that’s where the gospel’s being passed on. So I am learning to, I won’t say embrace survival mode, but see it as not something that I should put my life on hold until I get out of it.

Laura: Another good point to bring in here was Ruth’s comments about God not letting us dominate every area of our lives. Remembering that, as Emily was saying, survival mode is His mercy, showing us that we can’t always be in control. We can’t always have it all together, so seeing that truth as evidence in your home, when you feel like you’re in survival mode. As Emily was saying too, I feel like it’s just my “mode.” Like, just take out the word “survival,” I am like, “This is just the M.O. right now.” For the first five years of motherhood, it’s just one big “survival mode.”

Emily: Practically, because I know you’re probably wanting a little practical titbit, [laughter] something that’s helped me over the last few years is developing a really stable home management routine. That means our house is in order and for us, that’s going to bed with a really clean kitchen every night, and having a picked-up house. It’s not perfect every single day, but honestly, that is the first thing that I add back in, as soon as I can when we go through a transition. So if everything else is chaotic, our house feels under a routine. Then starting to add in one little thing as you can, like, “Now I’ve got to meal plan a little bit.” Or, “Now I’ve got to take a little time away so I can figure out how to organize that closet.” It’s just doing it in little bite-sized chunks. Then not being upset if for one day your baby was sick, and all you did was sit on the couch with them and rock them. [laughs]

Laura: Speaking of babies to rock, “how do you cope with little sleep? Pregnancy insomnia, new-born’s stage, temporary illnesses?” 

We did do a show that talks about transitions and times with little sleep, so check out episode 60 which we’ll link in our show notes. But on top of that, I know Emily and everybody else can identify with this question so much. My second born \had colic, and she crushed me. I was getting about three to five hours of sleep a night, and was not able to nap during the day because my toddler went on a different schedule, we had just moved, and there were a lot of transitions happening in our life. It was a very, very difficult season, and one that was actually really painful, and really revealed a lot of sin issues in my life. When I don’t get sleep I am totally the worst version of myself.

What I can tell you is during that season, I did cry a lot, I was a total train wreck. I read my Bible out loud and felt like, “Mmm, I feel nothing.” I felt like nothing had meaning, that God wasn’t listening to me, that He wasn’t hearing me. I prayed so much that He would bring us out of that season more quickly than He did. But I realized that as he progressed me through that season, he took me to a really sweet season of rest and recuperation, and so I was able to look back on that time. While I don’t have any practical tips for getting through a lot those things besides “catching sleep where you can,” which was something that I wasn’t able to do in that season, it really dug a lot of truths into me. So much deeper than a season of rest would have been able to do. Remembering that it may be a season that is really, really hard and really difficult, but it does have meaning. All suffering has meaning, and sleep depravation is a type of suffering. Suffering always has meaning; God works in that. So if you are there, I understand how difficult that is, and I am sorry I don’t have super practical advice. All I can say is that, where you’re at, God is going to work in that time, and He’s probably really, really refining your heart.

Emily: I am with you Laura of, if you want to see the worst version of who I am, catch me when I haven’t been sleeping for a period of time. I know I am super irritable with my family, I feel short, I feel like I’ve no self-control with food, [laughter] it’s like, “Whatever.” 

But on a note of, let’s say it’s not like an illness, or a baby has colic or something that you have absolutely no control over, and God is just truly sustaining you. One thing is knowing that sleep has a direct correlation to how I treat my family. How I am feeling, in general, has helped us prioritize sleep - when I have babies - in terms of training, and some of the different sleep arrangements that we make. There’s complete freedom in the way that each family wants to do that. 

But that is something we take into consideration when we are going, “Hey, where should this baby sleep? How should we help train them in that?” I just know if we can do what we can, knowing we cannot control everything, to help them sleep well so that we can be rested, I can, and my husband can really come alongside our kids a lot better during the day. It’s usually a better situation for our family, but it doesn’t always work out perfectly. [laughter]

Laura: Okay, how have your marriages weathered the recent health issues of your kids, and what do fights and reconciliation look like?

Emily: I thought this was a really insightful question.

Laura: I do too.

Emily: If you haven’t heard, your probably you’re like, “What are they talking about?” Go back and listen to a recent episode about questions and evaluations and appointments, and when your child does not fit the mold. On there, Laura and I shared a little bit about where we have been recently with kiddos who are going through different medical needs and therapy needs, etc. 

Laura, you and I have different journeys in this. One thing that God has been really, really gracious to my husband and I, is to keep us unified in this season, and lockstep. That’s something I do not take for granted because my background is a little bit … I have one sibling who has significant special needs. I have a degree in special education, and most of my work experience has been with people who have special needs. By the time my husband and I had gotten married, we already had lots of conversations about the special needs community, and how that would maybe impact our family some day. Not our own children; we had no idea that was going to come into our life as parents. It wasn’t like a brand new thing to us, but I was under no illusions that it was going to be an easy thing when it happened to us as parents. I have seen first-hand in my own parents’ marriage, and in families who have children with special needs, that each parent absolutely grieves differently. They process differently and have different ideas about the way treatment should happen sometimes. That was something I was very fearful of as the situation started to unfold in our family. 

But my husband and I have prayed and asked people. Every time someone is like, “How can we pray for you in this challenge you’re facing?” Over and over again, our number one prayer request is, “Pray that we are unified. Pray that our hearts would stay together in this.” So far, He has been so faithful to answer that prayer, and that is something that I am going to continue to cry out for as the years go on.

Laura: We’re pretty new to this journey, and my story’s very different than Emily’s. I really haven’t had much experience with special needs, or any major differences really. We’re still only a couple months into understanding diagnosis, so it’s a bit hard to say. But we are similar to Emily and Brad and we’re really grateful to have them in our lives. It’s pretty amazing that, again, God would just put Emily in my life, and Brad and Mike. So just unifying all of us in some senses of understanding, and being able to comfort one another as we work through the different diagnoses of our children. 

One thing I would say is that my husband and I have talked – when we talk about grieving for our daughter – when my father-in-law passed in our first year of marriage, it was a really difficult imbalance in the grief levels. I had of course grown close with my father-in-law, over the five years that I knew him, but it was nothing like what my husband was experiencing, having lost his dad. At that time, I had no idea how to comfort my husband, and he could not comfort me. We were both very lost as we process grief differently. It was the first time we’d gone though that, and in many ways I felt like I needed to hide my grief because I didn’t deserve it, because his was so much more. 

Not to get into what was right or wrong about some of that thinking or what happened during that time – the point is, when you have a child that is experiencing any type of health issue, as parents, you’re both grieving at the same level. So we can be allowed whatever amount of grief we need to have, we can have that. Maybe it looks different, but there’s this element of just knowing – for me and my husband – that we are experiencing the exact same thing. We both 10,000 percent get each other, and we 10,000 percent need each other during this time. It’s been really neat to be unified at that level, having experienced two different types of grief in my marriage, that we’re really able to support one another, even though we process these things differently. We both have the same dreams and we both feel like some of the hopes that we had for her have changed. We are allowed to be sad about that; we just understand each other more than anyone else can because she’s our daughter, and no one really loves her as much as we do – besides God of course. [laughter]

Emily: The next question is husbands -– about husbands getting leftovers because you’re so tired when he comes home. A version of that question was asked many, many times - how do you best balance the needs of your husband and your infant or your child? We have episode 35 about this, and we also have a show we did on the DadTired podcast that talked to this a little bit.

Laura: I’d say check out our marriage tab on our show notes. There’s a whole tab on marriage, and we’ve done like five shows. All of them will have probably pretty good nuggets of truth. But episode 35, I literally think it’s called “giving your husband more than the leftovers.” Something like that.

Emily: There you go. All of our answers are probably there.

Laura: We’re going to move past this question. It was asked a lot, so we wanted to address it. But that is one of those that we have done an entire episode on, so we will just encourage you to listen to it. We will link this on our show notes, and you can just check it out.

Emily: Alright. Another husband question - we would love to hear about how you balance housework with your hubby.

 When I had just one kiddo, it was mostly me doing the vast majority of the housework on the inside. My husband did much work and he did a lot of that outside the house. When we added twins to the family, I felt like everything changed. It was like, “No, all hands on deck.” [laughter] We have been in that mode ever since. Our oldest is five so we have five kids, five and under. When my husband comes home from work, it’s like, “Okay, we’re all in this together.” 

We have this unspoken rule of, “If you see it and it needs to done, you do it.” That’s where we’re at with housework right now. During the day, I try to keep the house as picked-up as possible. Usually my husband will do breakfast, I get meals cleaned up, ect. I do laundry during the day and prep dinner. Then when my husband comes home, after bedtime we both clean up the kitchen together, we load the dishwasher, we sweep together, we wipe counters, we do all of that stuff. Then when we’re done, we crash on the couch and look at each other and go, “Wooh!” Sometimes we chat after that. It’s just become more of a partnership; I do this, my husband does that. That’s where we’re at right now, and it’s totally fine. It changes season to season, especially on the weekends. We both just work at home; whatever needs to be done, we do together. It’s usually a mountain of laundry on our kitchen island; we put on a podcast, or we put on Audiobook and our kids play, and we fold laundry together. [laughter]

Laura: For me, my husband broke his leg in July. It is now the end of September when we are recording this episode. He is still on crutches, which, I just had to laugh when I saw this question because I thought, “Well, right now it’s kind of all landing on me though that is not our choice.” When he broke his leg I was like, “Your arms aren’t broken, here’s the basket of laundry.” He definitely has been helping where he can, but it’s a little bit of a weird season for us. 

Prior to that, typically I usually do almost all of the housework. Even things like, I will mow the lawn or shovel the driveway. My husband does help out where he can, but my husband as you guys know, he does work pretty long hours. Because I have capacity, and where I have capacity, I really try to keep the house running because he is really the primary breadwinner in our home, and he is working very hard out there. So I do what I can here. That’s not to say it’s always like that; he was helping me cook lunch the other day, just sitting on a chair and cutting vegetables. I feel like, again, we don’t have strict rules, and as we’ve added more children to our life, especially with our youngest daughter’s health needs, with a lot of appointments and things like that. It has also been similar to what Emily said, it’s all hands on deck, so whatever he can do he does. I know that once his leg is better – please pray that it’s soon and he can walk and do it - that he will also just be contributing a lot more. [laughter] But yes, we’re in a funny season right now.

Emily: I would jump in too and say it’s the same as becoming true for our children too. Like, all hands on deck in this house, and they are now expected to help clean up as well. It’s not just us splitting our duties with our husbands. I know Laura and I are both intentionally saying, “Hey, kiddos, we need your help in this family too, and you need to pick this up.” Or, “You have this chore, or that thing that you’re responsible for.” It’s nice to be getting to that point where it’s not just mom and dad; it’s the whole family working together to make the house run well.

Laura: Very true. Yes, my kids can put away laundry, they put away the colorful dishes out of the washer. There’s lots of good chores they can do.

Emily: Next question was, do you keep your kids with you on Sunday, or send them to nursery? Do you send them to Sunday school, and how do you balance receiving from the Lord and caring for children?

Laura: This is a good one. Right now we actually kind of switched this up over the summer, my husband and I. All three of our children are with us for the first half of the worship service. There is Sunday school offered for our kids, but right now, we’re just keeping them with us. Our son had some questions about, “What do you guys do in there while I go and play?” We’re like, “Come see,” and it just stayed that way where we wanted to show them what it looks like, to see adults worshipping the Lord. Seeing their mom and dad, seeing the other kids’ parents and friends worshipping God, and see what it really looks like. 

In terms of how that balances of getting things from the Lord, I am sure Emily you and I will have the same answer, about training our children, [laughter] back to what Emily had referenced eariler in the show. We prep them in the car, we talk about what the expectations are. Our only real expectations are that they sit or stand quietly with whatever the order the service is going in. But they don’t have to sing, they don’t really have to do anything special. They just have to behave and be quiet during the service. [laughter] It’s really fun and enjoyable to have them with us. To see them looking around and watching and coming home singing the songs that we’re singing. It’s not difficult to have them with us.

Emily: We are similar to you Laura. We just went through a transition. Our church at the age of five there is no more nursery or anything you can go to. So our oldest now is in the service with us the whole time. Like you said, we just have some activities. Right now the baseline is, “Be quiet, and don’t disturb any one.” But it is fun, and the goal obviously is integrating them into the church service. But other than that, I feel like we’re pretty liberal with the church nursery, just because of the quantity and ages of our kiddos. As it is, somebody will end up crying or needing us pretty regularly anyway. We definitely send our twins to the nursery, and we know that their time will come to start training them to be with us. That’s the way we’ve handled it this far, but it’s nice when your church culture dictates it for you. We’re just taking the lead of our church.  

Laura: Alright. This next one is a related question which we have answered before. But we got it quite a few times, we continue to hear it, so we thought we would address it on air. The question is, how much should I sacrifice my child’s own needs in order to be able to attend church, or growth group? Basically to attend types of things that allow for spiritual growth. Emily, do you want to tell them where to find that answer?

Emily: We talked about this on our last Ask Us Anything Show, so you can definitely go check that out and we’ll link it in the show notes. We also touched on it a little bit in our show about finding your primary tribe. Definitely go check those out. But in a short answer, basically Laura and I would say that going to church as a family is super important. Being a part of a small group of people that meets weekly is really important. A Bible study is very worthwhile, and all of those things once or twice a week – disrupting that schedule is probably worthwhile, in our opinion, in order to fill up yourself spiritually and grow as a family.

Laura: Another one we got a lot is how do you balance housework versus playing with your kids? “Do you play with your children all the time?” That was how the question was phrased a couple times to us. [laughter] The answer’s “no, we don’t.” But we have also answered this before, again it comes into our inbox quite frequently, and it popped up here again. Check out the last Ask Us Anything Show for our answer on that, and how we balance the juggle because we know it is tough for sure.

Emily: Yes. Actually I am going to link in the show notes a resource too from Hannah Anderson and Erin Straza. They did a podcast episode at the very end of the summer about going back to school. They actually referenced this topic, and I thought they did a really great job of covering it. That just came into my mind. I’ll make sure we link to that. 

Another question we have is, what resources do you have for training our toddlers, or for general discipline? We always get the question about resources for discipline and training. We have episode 57 about discipline, and you can also check out our resources page on our website, or the show notes for that show. We try to link to a lot of our favorite things, or at least a few things to help get the conversation started.

Laura: As we mentioned at the very beginning of the show, a lot of the topics we aren’t able to cover in full today, and they’re great questions, but we chose not to cover them because they really deserve their own shows. Some that we had already slated and we wanted to tell you about because they were asked about so many times: We are definitely going to talk about school. Emily and I [laughter] are definitely facing that right now, we’re dealing with that decision and working through all of the different options. So know that there is a three-part series coming up that we’re very excited about. We will cover all the major styles of schooling. That is coming down the pipe. Then, also we have a full-time working mom that’s coming on the show as well; that’s something that we’ve been trying to get, and we keep ending up with these very wonderful entrepreneurs, but they have a more flexible work-life balance. So we wanted to bring on someone who would really connect with all of you working moms. We hear you, and so we are bringing on a woman who has a really neat background, and we’re excited for her to apply the gospel to this topic. We want you guys to also know that we are working on that topic for sure.

Emily: Along that same vein, we are also frequently asked about working moms versus stay-at-home moms, and the whole mommy wars debate. We thought we would attempt to give an elevator speech to answer that question on this show. Even though we hope that over the course of many, many shows – if you’ve listened to us for a while – you can maybe even predict what our answer will be. [laughs]

Laura: Emily and I always joke about this question, because the question, “Should a mom work outside the home?” isn’t really the question that should be asked. The question that really needs to be asked is, “How can mom best fulfill her calling to raise her children in the Lord, in the unique circumstances that she is in, in a way that honors her husband and worships God with her gifts, skills and abilities for His glory?” It’s a longer question, and probably a much more difficult question. Oftentimes we go about this in the wrong direction. We want to basically say, “Yes,” or, “No.” Or, “Thirty-hours-a-week-maximum.” We really want this easy answer. But reality is – and this is what Emily and I talk about all the time on the show – there is freedom in Christ on this topic. There are a lot of different ways that this will play out. As we often also say about things, we can’t speak into every situation. We can’t know your heart, and why someone chooses to work and why someone doesn’t work. We think that you can work for a lot of wrong reasons, but you can also be at home for a lot of wrong reasons. It can go both directions. Emily I’ll let you jump in.

Emily: Yes, I echo all of that. As I saw somebody tweet the other day, “I echo that echo.” [laughter] It just always goes back to the heart; when you start on this practical level and try to draw lines, it’s like, “Well, how many hours away from your kids is okay each week?” It just falls apart really fast. What we want to do on Risen Motherhood is always go back to our mission as moms – what God is calling all of us to do - encouraging moms to be in the Word, to be involved in their local church, to have people in their lives who can speak into their unique situation. To have moms discipling one another and valuing the role of motherhood and how important it is to pass on the gospel to our children. We are trusting that God will be working in, and through that in families, to help moms make wise choices about what work may look like for their family in each season.

Laura: We hope that non-answer is helpful for you. [laughter]

Emily: It answers a different question right? Or asks a different question.

Laura: Exactly. It does not answer it for you. That’s your job. [laughter]

Emily: Oh! And speaking of choice, we know that it isn’t always even a choice. There are a lot of difficult situations that moms, and whole families find themselves in. Anyways, all that to say it really is a complex topic that goes back to the heart and trusting God with each person’s unique circumstances. 

Laura: Okay, that’s our final question though, Emily. We’ve finally wrapped up.

Emily: Okay, thanks for joining us on another episode of Ask Us Anything. We will hopefully have another one of these in the future, so store up your questions! [laughter]

Laura: If you like what we’re doing here, please head over to iTunes and give us a rating and review. Those really, really help other moms find the show. Of course we are always engaged and listening to you guys over on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. All three of those platforms. At this point you might get any one of the five Risen Motherhood team members. It may not be Emily or I, but at the same time, we all keep each other very updated. We’re a tight-knit community, and we so appreciate hearing from all of you guys, so know that we are still listening, still engaging, and we love hearing about this stuff that you guys want to see on Risen Motherhood, and about the ways God is growing and changing you.

Emily: Yes. Thanks for joining us guys.

Ep. 76 || Sally Clarkson: Nourishing & Training Up Your Children at the Table - Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity. 

Emily: Welcome back to Risen Motherhood. We are so excited to share this interview with you guys today with Sally Clarkson, someone who has influenced both Laura and I so much in motherhood. Sally is the author of many books including The Mission of Motherhood and The Ministry of Motherhood which are a couple of our favorites. She just released a new book called The Lifegiving Table, that’s all about discipleship and nourishing the faith of your children in the everyday rhythms of mealtime. Today she is joining us to discuss the impact that moms can have in the lives of their little ones. She provides lots of encouragement for utilizing mealtime to communicate the grace of Christ to our kids. If you want more details on this book, or any of her other ones that we’ve enjoyed, you can find those resources on our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. I will let you guys get started on the interview.


Laura: Hi Sally, thanks so much for being on the show today. 

Sally: I am so excited. This is so much fun. I love being with kindred spirits. [laughter]

Emily: We have both personally benefited from your ministry and so we are really excited to pick your brain. 

Laura: For our listeners who haven’t heard of you – I know many of them probably have read one or more of your books, and we promote them on Risen Motherhood because we have been so impacted by them – tell us just a little bit about yourself; maybe your heart for your ministry to moms and the concept behind your new book.

Sally: I have four children – Sarah, 33, Joel, 31, Nathan, 28 and Joy, 22. Somehow they turned out well, and they love the Lord [laughter]. 

Emily: By God’s grace, right?

Sally:  That makes things easier. After college, I was in missions in Vienna, Austria and in Eastern Europe so I cut my teeth on discipleship and building into leaders in Eastern Europe – thinking if we left the country, what would we have to do to really leave a legacy of faith and encouragement? Eventually, after being there for six years, I married my husband that I’d known for years. Then we had children, and then we went back over to Vienna to work in a chapel there, we both talked about the fact that we wished that we could apply all that we were learning in our ministry, to our children, to pass on a legacy of faith and education and morality and vision, for their own lives’ story. 

Many years ago, we moved out to this tiny little place in the middle of nowhere with my mother-in-law, which is a whole other story. We moved to the middle of Texas, into this tiny little town called Warner Springs, and we worked on some books, and started our ministry, went for almost five years without a salary. We thought, if we’re interested in mentoring our children, I bet a lot of other families are too. Eventually, we started getting hundreds and hundreds, then thousands of requests from people all over the world to say, “Will you pass on your materials to us? Will you come speak for us? We are interested in really having an impact on our children too.” 

That was 21 years ago. We started mom’s conferences and did those for 21 years. I have written 14 books, together we’ve written 20 books. Our kids are all authors, it’s kind of genetic in our family. [laughter] That leads to this new book, The Lifegiving Table

I had written The Lifegiving Home which was my daughter and I trying to give a vision, for what it looks like to have the organic life of love and faith in a mom’s home, how to create traditions and rhythms and all that. I had so much response to that, and I started praying about this book, which is The Lifegiving Table, because our children grew up in a home where the oxygen of our home was talking and learning and encouragement and feasting all the time. We’re like hobbits; we love to eat. [laughter] My daughter Sarah just graduated from Oxford. My daughter Joy just got her Masters atSt. Andrews and Joel is a composer, and also getting his Masters, Joy is getting her PhD this year. Nathan, my ADHD, ODD, OCD, out-of-the-box son also ended up being a writer. He's written books and he's also written movies. I realized that our family table was where we really discipled, and where our children learned ideas, and we talked about ideals and faith. 

I really believed that in a generation where women are isolated, and they spend so much time in technology, and there's so much fast food, that when you ponder the idea that your children will probably consume almost 20,000 meals in their first 18 years, you begin to realize, “Oh my goodness, if 18/19,000 times, I was intentional about just speaking to them, encouraging them, loving them and giving them the messages of Christ and of my faith, then that would be an amazing way to lay one brick at a time, of developing the convictions in their hearts and minds, and developing a vocabulary, developing ideas, if I just did it one little day at a time. So that’s where the idea came from.

Emily: Laura and I are both newly postpartum - we have newborns – and even at the very beginning, the amount of time that you spend feeding your child, and preparing to feed, and then coming down off of that, and then getting ready to feed again is so much, right from the very beginning. That’s where soul nourishment can happen, or even just connecting with your newborn. Then they get into the toddler years and they want a snack [laughter] every two hours.

Sally: And that’s how you appease them.

Emily: Yes. Then you get to where, “Okay, wow, I maybe did five small meals with my child today”. It really does add up fast, and it’s totally relatable to say, “Wow, what if you did redeem that time and you're really intentional with it?” So I am really excited to hear more about that.

Laura: Can we come back to that in a minute? Sally, you have this really beautiful larger vision about why daily work of the home of a mother matters to God, and how it helps us communicate that message of the gospel to our children. I know mealtimes will be a part of that, so I wanted to take time, later, to talk about that specifically, but right now could you cast that vision? I know you’ve really inspired Emily and I many times to say, “Whoa, what we’re doing as moms is way more than just changing diapers and taking them to school and things like that.” We’d love to hear you talk a little bit about that.

Sally: I was raised in a family of all boys, and I was the youngest child. I was a preemie so I was a spoiled brat because [laughter] my parents treated me in a fragile sort of way. So really by the time I had children, I wasn’t prepared; I had only babysat a couple of times my whole life; I was almost 31 years old. But I remember when Sarah came out and I was holding her – Sarah’s my first child – it was almost as though I felt the impression of God saying to me, “Do you realize that this child that you're holding will have implications for eternity? I am trusting this child into your hands so that you can show this child what the love of God feels like, what the truth of God looks like, what the integrity of God is like in daily life. I am trusting you to be a picture to her, of what all of this, that it encompasses your faith, will be in your home so that she will believe in me. So that she can go into her world and have an impact. She will have a story to tell because of the way that you raise her, and I am trusting this to you as a gift.” 

It was over a little bit of time, of course, that I developed that idea more, but I realized that children are these precious treasures that will go into the next generation. They are going to become either the leaders of the next generation, or those who will make immoral choices. In other words, we get this amazing opportunity in our home, to create a life so that they can grow strong, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. Of course, I developed that over the years and it took me forever to figure out that it’s more about relationship than it is about – I think all mothers want a formula. [laughter] “Just tell me, what are the nine ways to build an excellent child? I realized that each of my children had a totally different personality – I have two boys and two girls, two introverts, two extroverts – and so it seems like everything that we started doing, after the years, was about the heart. 

How do you reach that internal personality – the heart, the mind, the life? It’s been so much fun for me, to see my children go into their own worlds, and they're all excited, they're driven, they want to be intentional, they want to bring God’s light to their worlds, and all their very secular arenas – loving people, teaching people. I realized that nobody has ever said to me, “Sally, what were your SAT scores?” They’ve never said that to my children, but they have said, “Tell me about your life. Tell me who you are.” I realized as a culture, we focus so much on the performance and so little on the relationship, that I was inspired to write about it, and to speak about it.

Emily: That’s something we are trying to learn ourselves as moms of young children - to go back to the heart - because exactly like you said, it is easy to want to rely on a formula. The thing that seems to make the most difference is getting down on their level, speaking to their heart motivations and their heart attitudes, and helping them understand, as we understand, like, “This is what God really cares about – why I am doing this, and who I am worshiping? I want to help you think through that too”. Like, “Who are you worshiping? What's going to make you the most happy?” It’s just obeying God.

Sally:  I was surprised at how much I realized, I love home. I was a professional working woman before I got married, and I begun to realize that my sweet, little ones; I tried to pour love into them at the beginning, just thinking, “I want them to feel the acceptance and the love that they need.” I had to learn that all babies don’t sleep, [laughter] that all babies start out immaturely, moving towards maturity, but I fell in love with them. Eventually over the years, I would read them a story, and I would think, “Oh my goodness, they learned from me.” I realized that it was really fulfilling for me to be raising my own best friends, right in my home. Were there messes? Yes. Did I struggle? Yes. Was I ever depressed? Of course. [laughs] I just slowly gained a vision of, “These little human beings are part of me and I want to do this work well because I care about what happens to them.” 

Laura: Speaking about those responsibilities that we have and staying focused on the right order of things, how does the gospel free a mom of her guilt when she's sort of failing – or feels that she's failing – in motherhood? How would you encourage her to be able to serve diligently in her own unique way, through the gospel?

Sally: You have to be focused. If you have too many goals on your plate at the same time; if you think, “I can work, and I am going to get my Masters degree, and I am going to raise these four children under five, and I am going to have a perfect house, and they're going to speak Greek by four.” [laughter] 

I feel like sometimes the pressure that moms feel, that they have to be perfect, is ridiculous. I was praying one day, and this is where the Lord said, “Don’t you know that I have understood toddlers since the beginning of time, and as a matter of fact, you're kind of like a toddler to me? [laughter] You aren’t quite as quick to learn these things as you think. You aren’t quite as mature as me, but I still love you.” It’s a long road and God is gracious. I love the story, in the Bible, about the little boy who brought his fish and loaves to Jesus and said, “Lord, but here’s my offering to feed the five thousand”. His sacrifice became enough, and I begun to realize that that’s how I was with my kids. I didn’t know all the answers, I wasn’t a perfect mom, but I would say, “God, would you reach their hearts and would you make what I give to you enough? Here’s my fish and loaves.” To understand that God never expected me to be perfect. 

There's two verses I loved over the years. One of them was in Psalm 103, and it says, “He is mindful that you are but dust.” I thought, “Oh my goodness, so God knows I am already just dust to begin with?” [laughter] In other words, He knew my limitations, and He made my personality, and I have strengths and weaknesses. The other verse that I loved was, Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean.” I thought, “Oh my goodness, I have six oxen every day; [laughter] I am surprised there are that many oxen in my home. It’s okay for it to be in and out of mess and in and out of order.” I learned little by little and of course you get stronger, your mother muscle, I will say, gets stronger over the years and you can handle more and your capacity grows. But I realized that one of the most important things for me is that my children wanted a happy mom. 

So many mothers give the legacy of their children, of guilt, of criticism – “Why do you always do this?” I thought, no matter what else, I want to choose to be joyful, practice over and over again, learning to be content. It takes a long time and I am still learning. But I realized that when I could just live in the grace of the moment, of that phase of life, and of that difficulty, if I didn’t react to everything, the happier I was at accepting my limitations, the happier everyone else was in the family.

Emily: I love that you give that statement of like, “We don’t want to pass on a legacy of guilt. When we believe in the gospel, it does produce authentic joy and happiness because we realize we’re free. Like you said, we’re dust, and we can expect our limitations. It’s when moms are trying to live up to this perfect standard that it is, that’s not believing what Christ did for us. Of course it’s going to pass on guilt because that’s what's still there in our hearts when we’re not rooting our identity in Christ. So I love that point.

Sally: I do too. I really feel that my whole life is based on pondering Christ. He loves children, He gave grace to Peter when he failed. He said, “Woe to the one who causes the least of these little ones to stumble.” He wanted us to be shepherds to them like He was the shepherd to us. I would just read a passage and I would ponder it and think, “If Christ did this, then I can love my children, I can shepherd them, I can walk in grace.” For me, the whole key to even who my kids have become, is that they learned early to live in the love and the grace of Christ. That He would be with them wherever they went, and that He had a story for them to tell because He created their personalities. Everything that I would learn became the foundation of what I passed on to them, in terms of His message and His love for us.

Laura: Going back to the idea of mealtimes and what we started diving into at the beginning of the interview, I know that, that is a great chance for communication as you said –  20,000 meals in the course of a child’s life [laugher].

Emily: “Wow”

Laura: That’s so many!

Sally: Yes, it makes me tired just thinking about it.

Emily: I know!

Laura: Like we’re saying, that’s not even counting snacks. Oh my goodness.

Sally: Tea times.

Laura: Yes, there you go. How do we use mealtimes as a gospel training ground? Or what can a mom do practically, at mealtime, to really invest well in her children? 

Sally: There are several things that are important; first of all, when you have little ones, there are so many things you get to pass on at the table – consideration of other people, manners, for them to learn to sit still for five minutes. The beginning of what you're doing with them is gathering them together. Even when my kids were little, I would light a candle, put on music, and say, “This is such a special time because we belong to each other. We are a family.” Even if it was just for a few minutes, I would try to be sure to feed them before they were so starving that they fell apart. I would try to always say, “I am so honored to have you as my children. Tell me one of the most important thoughts you’ve been thinking today.” You start out with few expectations in the sense of knowing that they're young, but you are shaping them nonetheless. So you see it as a training ground, as a time to build community and love and relationships and stuff. 

The second thing is, you can’t really be building into their lives unless you have a treasure chest of ideas and goodness in your life. I begun to realize that the more I would read, or the more people I would learn from, or the more books I would collect, or magazines or articles, then I would have something interesting for them to draw from. A lot of moms come to the table not realizing that it’s such a great place to mentor. I look at Jesus, in one of the very last stories in the Bible about Him, is Peter and his friends had fished all night and caught nothing, which was reminiscent of the first time that they’d met Christ. All of a sudden, they look on the shore, and they smell fish sizzling, and they see that somebody is there. They go, “Oh my goodness, it’s Christ!” So he jumps into the water, swims quickly over, and all the men come. But Christ had prepared this wonderful, smell-good meal for these men and then He said, “Peter, feed my sheep.” He basically put him back in charge of being the rock. In the Last Supper, it says that Jesus “prepared for them.” I am thinking He got a room that He prepared for them, that was based on looking towards the sunset, because He created the sunset. He created the Passover meal, and when they came in, He washed their feet and He spoke these wonderful words of love to them. Then He fed them and then He gave them the most profound message at the end of His life. 

So I begun to realize God made us to love eating; He made lots of great food. When we can come to table where the atmosphere is acceptance, and where we’re thinking about, “When I go to the table, I can become an influencer of my precious children.” You have to reset your mindset when you come to the table, and it’s not perfect everyday of course. I have this opportunity to communicate, they have a place to belong, that we have a message as a family, that I want to hear their ideas, and that I will help them shape faith in their future stories. It’s just such a life-giving place. People have often said, “How did your kids get into these highbrow schools?” which was never my goal. I said, “It’s because of our table and because all we did was talk.” It’s talking every night, and that will accomplish a lot more than finding the perfect school, or the perfect teacher, or the perfect curriculum, if you’ve prepared your heart with ideas and things to share.

Laura: Yes, and even with our littlest children. I know a lot of our listeners, some of their kids are under age two, or under age four. In our home, during dinner; maybe it’s Mac and Cheese on the table. But we’re at dinner and I am just glad everybody has bottoms and chairs, right? [laughter]

Sally: Yes, exactly.

Laura: But we work through “high-lows,” and that’s something that is really like an easy take-away practical idea. We say, “What's the “high” from your day and what's the “low” from your day?” My daughter’s is always “Swinging” because she goes “high.” She’s still learning the concept of that, “No, that’s the best part of your day honey, but that’s okay.” But it’s really been fun because they’ll say, “Mom, let’s talk about ‘high-lows!’” and I’ll say, “What made you sad? Share your ‘low.’” Or, “What made your ‘high’ -  something that you did that’s fun.” It’s been amazing how those conversations, even with a four-year-old and a two-year-old, have sort of led to, my four-year-old is sad today because he fought today with his sister, and that’s a good opportunity, like you were saying, for a training ground, of talking about, “Well, why does it hurt your feelings?” We all do bad things; we all sin and we can be grateful for Jesus. 

I love how you said too, that you belong together, because that’s something that I talk with my kids about a lot too, is that, “We are Wiflers, we belong together, we have each other’s backs.” Just even using that time around the table to really build that, or ingrain it deeper. We also use it in discipline, when they are fighting together. I talk about, “You guys, we’re family; family is forever.” Wanting them to remember that we are a unit and we support one another, we always love one another. So I really like that phrase that you used, and you are so right about these mealtimes being critical to the future.

Sally: Sometimes a child can be rolling their eyes or playing with a truck or spilling the milk or whining or complaining, and you think, “Does this even matter? Am I making any inroads?” It’s funny because both our boys– one of them was overseas and the other one was actually living in Hollywood – called home, right before Christmas one year and they said, “I can’t wait to come home.” I said, “What's your favorite thing about home?” They both said, “It’s feasting at our table where we belong, and talking with each other and being friends because there is just nothing like this.”

 It started out when they were wee little ones, and I think your “high-low” is excellent in just, “Tell daddy about the story your day, what you did,” because that creates an environment where children perceive themselves as communicators, and that what they have to say matters. I didn’t know that’s what I was developing, but I look back now and I realize that, when we engage their little brains, it’s building mental muscles, and they look forward to it. 

You're just developing it little by little; you’re developing their habits. When you have total chaos, and you close the book on that day, and then you have another day, and it gets better and better. But if you don’t establish the expectation of table, and that this is who we are, this is what we do – you set the table, you do this, you do that – you have a harder time building those rhythms and those expectations of conversation that will build them into great friends.  

Emily: Yes, and it’s definitely something that’s hard to do. As you're describing it, I have this ideal in my mind; I am like, “I would love for it to be this picturesque way, and our kids respond the way I want them to and all of that.” But the reality of it is that it’s very mundane, and it’s very like what you're describing - somebody spills milk and somebody brought their three stuffed animals to the table, and you're like, “Well, I don’t think those should sit near your syrup, I think we should put those over here.” [laughter] It looks a little sloppier than that in real life, and that’s okay with young children because as you're saying, that rhythm is still there and that’s something that the grace of God frees us, every day to say, “You know what, yesterday it did get crazy, we didn’t use mealtime intentionally, but hey, everyone is here today and we’re ready to talk through this thing, the ‘high-lows.’” I know we sometimes use it for training and catechisms, or telling stories or something like that. It’s like, “Mom can start over, again.” I have to remember that because when you feel like you’ve had a hard day, it sometimes feels like, “Oh no, this is what it is always going to be like.”

Sally: The other thing you can is – Okay, it’s 19,658 meals – I actually multiplied it out one day. [laughter] You can also say, “Oh, I have that many chances to have do-overs.”

Emily: Chances; I like that.

Sally: I wrote a book called Different. I have a different child who loves to argue, still loves to argue, [laughter] and did argue yesterday. What I mean is, it doesn’t mean that it is stress-free, but it does mean that we recognize it as a place where life, and good life, can take place. But it doesn’t happen unless there's somebody who conducts the beauty and the life of the table. I've even said, “What if you did it once a week,” for people who generally aren’t together. “What if you start doing it three times a week?” But it’s more that you see the value of it, and a lot of people think that I am talking about china and crystal because I've older kids now. So some of the pictures, of course you'll see of me because they’re videos, might be these fancy dishes or whatever, but it’s not about that. It’s about, it might be paper plates and some cheerios, or some little crackers or some little vegetables or apples. It’s more about saying, “We all love to eat, so let’s use this moment.” 

Everybody has different tastes. It’s really not about the performance, it’s about the love and the friendships and the life that if you do that 19,000 times, and maybe in the direction and the foundation of love, at the end of the day, no matter what, we will love each other and forgive each other. Then they will be prepared to say that and do that in their adult lives.

Laura: Yes. I love that. I want to go home and make dinner right now! [laughter] 

 

Emily: I want to get out my paper plates and display the apples really pretty and talk about how we love each other.

Sally: Light a candles with those apples. [laughter]

Laura: I love that; it’s a rhythm in everyone’s day. We all eat, and as you said, for us to be able to just reorient and say, “Hey, this is my goal and my mission as a mom, and this is a great chance for me to slow down and be intentional with my kids.” Like you said, building that culture - as a family – of communication. Mealtimes just serve as that vehicle. 

Sally, as we close here, is there anything that you would want to encourage a young mom? From the perspective of an older, wiser woman, what would you say to some of us young moms who are still really battling what they call “the trenches?” [laughter]

Sally: One of my loves in the ministry, that I've been doing all these years, is to start small groups. A small group can be two people - read a book together, have that encouragement that you can have from another mom who's in the same place. She can listen to your complaints, she can love you, she can pray for you. So I would first say, a woman in her own home who's alone with sinful children and messes all day long will be discouraged. 

We were created for friendship and community, so I was always having to start my groups. I would always have to have my antennae out and look for somebody, either a little bit older than me that I thought could teach me something if I liked her family, or what she looked like. Or, I would look for somebody who's kids, my kids could play with, that I had some similar values, and I would have them over for a play date or for a group or whatever. For me, as I look back, having a handful of friends – and they live all over the United States – but we have walked with each other through miscarriages, and difficulties, and rebellious children and toddler days, and I-don’t-think-I-can-make-it- another-day, can-you-take-my-children days. So first of all, real fellowship. 

Second, staying in the Word, and if you don’t know what that means, I would say, read a couple of my books because I tried to write Bible verses in the back of each book, so that women could start having anchors for things that they would remember, and that would be there for them. 

The third thing that I would say is, cultivate a sustainable life. If you are an introvert, you have to really create, in your own life, a time – it seems impossible but it is possible – where you can be by yourself, and where you can have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee, whatever you want. Or have one time a week; I know eventually my husband said, “You just need to get away from here.” So, a couple of days a week, he would stay home until 8:00 o’clock in the morning before he went to the office, and I would go to this French restaurant at 6.30 in the morning and I would have my own piece of quiche that no-one else tasted. [laughter]

Laura: A dream; and you probably had it warm! [laughter]

Sally: He would get the kids up, and he would give them whatever they were eating, and then I would have an hour and a half, twice a week at a particular time. That’s when I wrote my first book actually. But whatever you need - if you need a friend, if you need more sleep – you need to plan your life to be sustainable so that you’ll continually be able to have something your children can draw from. If you become empty, you'll have nothing to give. I would say that those are some things to think about it. 

Also to remember that God loves you, He’s on your side, He's cheering you on. He's saying, “You are amazing. I made women and moms to be the civilizers of the whole world, and I believe in you.” Living in grace and not in condemnation is so important.

Laura: Thank you Sally. I feel this has been such a truth-filled interview. I am sure it’s going to be so encouraging to many of our listeners. We really truly appreciate you being on Risen Motherhood today. 

Sally: I just love being with you all, and I love what you do, so thank you for encouraging all of us out there.

Emily: Thank you.

Ep. 75 || Grandparents & The Gospel: Approach Them With Grace Transcript

The following is a transcript of the audio. The transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to Risen Motherhood. Emily and Laura here, excited to do Part 2 of the Grandparents Show.

Laura: Here we go. This is the “big beast” part of the show. I feel like we are tackling a little bit of the tougher side, but I think it’ll be good.

Emily: Just as a reminder last week, we talked about where we place our identity and wanting to put that in Christ, and then how our identity impacts our response to grandparent relationships. So if you haven’t heard it, definitely go back and listen because that’s what we’re building off of, and I feel like you can’t quite jump into some of these principles without having thought about the log in your own eye first.

Laura: Just as a friendly reminder, most of you guys know, but we are sister-in-laws, which means that we share grandparents. My parents are Emily’s in-laws. Many of our children’s grandparents listen to the show. Again, what we’re talking about today are a lot of hypotheticals that you all shared with us on Instagram, you had a lot of really great examples that helped us get things going. Just know that we’re not getting super personal because we want to protect our own relationships with our in-laws as well.

Emily: Principle number one. [laughter]

Laura: Protect the family relationship.[laughter]

Emily: Another thing we just want to mention really quick because this show is going to get into a little bit more of practical principles, is that we cannot speak into the details of every specific situation. We know that there are legitimate, hard, scary things that happen in grandparent-grandchild relationships and that there are things that take serious consideration and counsel from others. We want to encourage you to let this get the ball rolling, and maybe it’ll trigger an idea. But in the end, you probably need to bring in somebody who is wiser, that can counsel you and that knows your situation.

Laura: Someone that’s wiser than us.

Emily: Yes, way wiser than us, [laughter] lived a little bit longer, has kids that are a little bit older. Our hope is to share some of the things we’ve learned as we’ve walked through relationships with grandparents.

Laura: And just a quick recap of last week’s show, when we have the gospel in mind to our responses, we know that we don’t have to be threatened by other people, we don’t have to be threatened by a mother-in-law, or our own parents. But a mom who’s remembering the gospel is going to be humble, quiet-spirited, patient, wise, and desire to honor her children’s grandparents as she lays down her own pride and control because she trusts in the Lord. This week we’ll get down into that nitty-gritty practical, but first, we’re going to talk through a little bit of the gospel. We cannot have Risen Motherhood without the gospel, so we’re going to talk about, what does the gospel have to do with grandparents and relationships?

Emily: We know that God originally created relationships to be peaceful and whole and to be rooted and grounded in Him. In the garden, Adam and Eve loved one another well, and they didn’t use one another for their own means and ends until sin entered. Then relationships were broken. That wasn’t just the marriage relationship; that was also parent to child, generation to generation. You see all of those types of family stories – just skim through the Old Testament and you’ll see all kinds of messed up things that families are dealing with: divorce, re-marriage, single parents, early deaths of parents. All of those things can really infiltrate relationships and they’re all broken by sin.

Laura: But because of Christ’s sacrifice, and because of His love for us, we know that we can pour that out to others, even when people are acting unlovable. The thing we want to remember here is that the person and work of Jesus Christ should motivate our behaviors to love our in-laws and to love our own parents unconditionally.

A lot of these things that we’re talking about are grey areas. A lot of the frustration points we have with grandparents are of some importance, but they’re not of ultimate importance, and they aren’t our identity. We can remember that even if a grandparent wants us to do things differently, or suggests different ways, or whatever they’re doing, their actions or words are not where we find our hope. Their approval of us isn’t ultimately where our identity is; because of Christ’s sacrifice we can now live with a secure identity before the throne, knowing that as we trust and walk with the Lord, we’re in secure communion with Him and that our responses don’t have to rise or fall depending on how grandma or grandpa did that day.

Emily: Something we mentioned on the last show that’s worth bringing up again is how much grace costs; it is really costly. If you look in the Old Testament, all the bloodiness of the sacrifice and the hundreds of thousands of millions of animals that had to be killed for the ceremonial laws to be fulfilled –hen you look at Christ having to die for our sins. We have to remember that grace, in these relationships, is going to cost us something too and like Laura said, the motivation for that is because we know how much we’ve been forgiven, and how costly that was.

Laura: Because of the sacrifice too, we can encourage the differences that our children’s grandparents bring to the table. We don’t have to see their differences as barriers anymore, but opportunities for us to learn and grow in our role as mothers, and as people who can see beyond the differences.One thing that Emily and I talk about is that, because both of us have believing parents, that shows our kids that everybody has a unique and individual relationship with Christ, and they can see the different ways that that plays out. It’s not just mom and dad’s faith, it’s also grandma and grandpas, and it looks different for them. They can say, “I can have my own unique, special relationship with Jesus Christ too,” because they’re seeing it lived out in multiple people, beyond just hearing it from you. It’s really a huge blessing if you have believing grandparents. That’s something to be grateful for.

Emily: The main thing we want to bring out in this show and the way the gospel applies is: Your kids’ grandparents are like your neighbors. Love your neighbor well – this is part of the great commission and they are part of that. Care about their interests, be willing to lay down your own agenda before the throne of God, and treat others with grace and kindness. Now that gets into the nitty-gritty, like practically, what does that look like? It’s hard.

Laura: We’re calling them “principles.” Emily and I don’t like the word “practical” because we feel like, “We don’t really know what we’re doing.” [laughter]

Basically, a big principle to remember is that your children are your children. If we look at Ephesians 6: 1– 4, it tells us that it’s our job to raise our children and instruct them in the way that they should go. So ultimately, this is good news because that means we don’t have to listen to our mother’s or our mother-in-law’s advice on how to raise our child. You and your husband do ultimately have the final say. While you’re supposed to honor your parents, you do not have to obey them anymore.

Emily: Yes, and remembering our allegiance is to Christ as it says, “You should hate everyone else including your family in comparison to how much you love Christ.” So together with our husbands, we get an opportunity to set the boundaries and the guidelines for our family, and to uphold those. The kicker is – again, going back to the last episode, we don’t do that to spite the grandparents, or to punish the grandparents because they’re not doing what we want. We do that because we’ve genuinely decided that’s what’s best for our family.

Laura: That’s a tricky line, you’ve got to be careful. [laughter] So in general, we want to always remember to let our words and actions be seasoned with grace. This goes back to the idea that we were just talking about, of honoring your mother and father, and your husband’s mother and father. But also knowing that you don’t have to obey them, you’re not under that any longer. So think through your speech and actions, modeling wise behavior, because your own children are watching. And someday, you’ll probably think, “I want to be honored still.” [laughter] Your children are watching you, so it’s really important you’re modeling those behaviors today because they’re going to do that to you in thirty years or something. [laughter]

Emily: Some of the ways we can honor grandparents is to value the relationship, and whether that’s if you live really close to them – I literally live right next door to a set of grandparents, and not very far from the others – and being intentional about honouring those relationships and spending time together in healthy ways. Or if you live further away from them like Laura does – maybe she can share a few examples.

Laura: It’s an interesting and different dynamic that one has, whether you live in town versus out of town. I know we’ve really had to really make the connections really important and intentional with our children’s grandparents. I have to work pretty hard at them, so we’d call and FaceTime, we’d do Voxer. Or my kids will color a picture and we’ll mail it to grandma and grandpa. There are a lot of touch points that I want my kids to have with their grandparents, but I have to work hard at them. But Emily, something you’ve talked about with being nearby is not feeling like, “Here’s the rules,” or delivering rule after rule after rule.

Emily: Yes, like making sure grandparents can be grandparents. That’s hopefully one way we can honor them because we live so close, and we do so much life with them, it’s important that we still allow a lot of those fun connections, and some of those organic interactions to happen. We don’t want it to be like, “Can you help us with childcare 24/7 and take all of our burdens?” We want to have that attitude of prioritizing the relationship.

Laura: Also, being really grateful for the things they do well. So a lot of times we can all think of the things where we’re like, “I really wish this area would be improved,” or “I wish, hey would listen to me on that.” But one thing we want to always do with any relationship – but particularly with grandparents – is affirm them in those areas they do well. Instead of focusing on all the negative things, find those things that your children’s grandparents are doing well, and vocalize it. Write it in a note, or have your child sing them a little song or something like that. It’s a huge gift that you have parents or in-laws that are involved in your child’s life, and so you want to take that time to pay them a compliment, and it helps give them confidence. Really, telling them that you like something, helps them want to keep doing it more.

Emily: Yes. Practically, it just re-enforces the good things. Our kids’ grandparents are sometimes strong in areas that my husband and I are weak. So they give our kids experiences that we aren’t giving them for whatever reason. Just see those areas where you guys can overlap together to train the children well.

Laura: Okay, we’re getting into a little bit [laughter] of the battles. I think we talked about this on our last show, but a lot of those things are just disputable matters or grey areas; they’re of some value, of some importance, but they are not the ultimate. We always want to keep that proper perspective. And I know I sometimes I have made big deals out of things that shouldn’t have been.

Emily: Yes; like the next day they didn’t matter. Or like three years, five years, ten years later they just don’t matter anymore.

Laura: Yes, like it can feel like a really big deal to follow a sleep schedule. I am trying to think of some small things, I think we can all think of them – like making sure they drink the proper ounces from a bottle maybe or are wearing warm enough clothes, that they’re getting the right bedtimes as a toddler – different things like that. We want to be careful about what kind of battles we choose because you want them to be more about spiritual things or real safety issues.

If you’re making a battle over every little thing, it’s going to be much more difficult for the grandparent to adhere your advice and be ready to listen because they can feel like you’re nit-picking them. I know that is something that I fall into even now where I feel like, “I just want them to get a healthy meal,” or, “We’re going to need to have a massive detox after this.” [laughter] It can be really hard to separate long-lasting things and short-term things that we see.

Emily: It is really hard, and whenever we have these battles too, we have to honor the grandparents as we approach this subject. A lot of that goes back to again to show one - looking at our own hearts, looking at our own motives, trying to do everything we can upfront, to prepare our children well for whatever the thing is they’re going to come up against. It’s communicating well with our husband so we have a plan. It’s being proactive and all of those good things so that if and when something does have to be brought up, which hopefully shouldn’t be all of the time, it can be taken seriously and heeded, and they feel loved, even if they don’t understand why you brought that thing up, or they’re hurt by it in some way.

Laura: Something too that Emily and I were both laughing about is that you get better at having a relationship with grandparents. You get better; the first child is always a little bit wonky and everyone’s adjusting to new rules. You’re trying to figure out, “What are my boundaries? How do I draw them? How do I keep a good relationship?” But also figure out how you can both feel loved and respected, and you’re just not sure a lot of time how to do that.

Emily: Or like, “How do I talk to my husband about something that happened with his mom?” There’s just a ton of dynamics to figure out, especially if you have the first grandchild in the family. [laughs]

Laura: If you have siblings who have gone before you, thank them. [laughter] Give them a big “Thank you.” I have given my big brothers a thank you because I know that they have paved the way. I’ve reaped some benefit from them.

Emily: We want to encourage you guys although we’re not very far along on this journey – I have a five-year-old; that’s my oldest.

Laura: Mine’s four.

Emily: I feel like we’ve already gotten better, my husband and I, at just navigating some of these things. It just doesn’t feel like quite as big of a deal as it did earlier on. Even then, I look back and like, I don’t think that those things were that big of a deal, but they felt like it. It felt real, it feels really hard, and really hurtful, and it just takes time pressing through, and trying to do things that are renewing your identity in Christ, and then approaching the situation based on that, and trying to love and honor grandparents. It reaps a lot of good fruit in the long-term.

Laura: Something else we’ve heard from some of you, that there are some really difficult situations that, maybe your child has special needs and they need medication, and maybe your grandparent is just forgetting to give it to them, or for some reason or another, they’re unable to execute that. Maybe their health isn’t good enough to take care of the kids, but they don’t really get it. There could be a multitude of reasons, and we want to first say, we can’t speak into every situation because we need to have thousands of cups of coffee with all of you to hear everything and understand. [laughter]

So we want to encourage you that if you’re dealing with a really difficult situation, one thing I heard from another wise mom, she said, “I had to learn to be okay with not everything being okay.” That sometimes there are situations where you’re going to misunderstand each other, and that you are going to have to say, “My husband and I have evaluated this and we’ve talked about this. We’re on the same page where we believe that before the Lord, we have thought this through with pure motives, and here is where our boundary line is.” You have to be okay with them not understanding that, or maybe not being okay with it. But you have to have safety for your child in place.

Emily: Yes, that’s one of the things that the gospel frees us to do, is being in situations where the circumstances haven’t cleared themselves up yet. God does not promise us the answer to every problem is going to be, “I just fix it.” We have to learn, in everything in life, to live in this tension where we’re walking, Lord willing, according to the Spirit, in hard situations. That is just as much a picture of the gospel, even more so sometimes than the situation getting cleared up. It’s definitely real; it’s definitely hard to be in those ongoing situations. But God can give grace for that...

Laura: We encourage you to get with other women who can hear you and give you sound, biblical advice for a lot of your situation, because those are real realities, and we don’t want to undermine that. We know we’ve been really blessed with healthy relationships with our children’s grandparents. But we want to encourage you that if you are in that place that is a very difficult spot, there is gospel-hope for that as well.

Emily: Another thing is just being unified with your husband; that’s a good point to bring up. Here, I know that sometimes when it’s your parents versus their parents, all of those things can get dramatic. So always, we need to remember that we’re sitting on the same side of the table, we’re the family unit, and like Laura said, being unified there, and then figuring out how to approach it is super important.

Laura: In closing, we hope that you guys take away that, first off, the most important thing to do is to look at yourself. Really evaluate your own heart, your own motivations, and where are you over-reacting and where are you going to draw that line of, what is most of ultimate importance? Just looking and saying, “How can I allow my identity in Christ to not be shaken by every little thing, or rattled by everything that my children’s grandparents do?”

Emily: After we’ve examined our own hearts, and we’ve wondered, “Hey, where am I pinning my hope and my worship?” then trying to figure out, with the help of others – maybe your husband, maybe other people like in your local church, whoever you can trust – just say, “Can you help us navigate this in a way that’s going to love and honor the grandparents of our children well, and is ultimately going to be a display of God’s love in those situations?” That is going to play itself out way different in every situation.

Laura: We’re dealing with sinners.

Emily: And you’re a sinner.

Laura: We’re all sinners, which always makes lots of conflict and tension in relationships. But thankfully, because of the cross, those relationships can be renewed and restored. We hope that you guys take some encouragement from this show, and feel like you can have a couple of next steps; there are just some things to think about, going forward. Check out our Show Notes too, we’ll have some articles linked in there to help you dig a little bit deeper into this topic. And please if you have time, give us a rating and review on iTunes. Those mean a lot to us and really help other people find this show. Then, come find us on social media, where we’ll be talking about this topic all week, hopefully. [laughter] We’re on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter @risenmotherhood. Thanks for joining us.

 

Ep. 39 | Infertility, Miscarriage & Motherhood with Courtney Reissig - Transcript

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. We are so excited to share this interview with you with Courtney Reissig. She is a wife and a mom to three little boys, one set of twins. In this show, you are going to hear about her journey through miscarriage and a two-year season of infertility. She talks about how her suffering has purpose, and not to just be living for the next season or hope that God is going to give her something good now because she’s been through something hard, which is a mindset we can all fall into. Listen in as she shares about how she is looking ahead to the day where her body will no longer be under the curse but will be healed, and she has so much good encouragement about our future hope in the gospel. If you have been through a season of infertility or you’ve experienced miscarriages, we hope you are going to be blessed by this. Even if not, this is still a show full of encouragement for anyone who’s in a season of waiting or suffering, or is struggling under the weight of the hardship that everyday life brings. Definitely listen in. We are so excited for you to hear this interview with Courtney.  


Laura:  Welcome to the show Courtney. We are so happy to have you here on Risen Motherhood today. 

Courtney:  Thanks for having me. 

Laura:  Can you dive in and tell us a little bit about yourself? You’re a writer, a speaker, an author, give us a little bit about your background and your family make up and things like that. 

Courtney:  I’m a wife and a mom. I’m married to Daniel, he is a lay pastor in our church here in Little Rock. For his day job he is in sales so it’s a multifaceted life. Sometimes we’re doing ministry and sometimes he’s on business trips. We’ve been married for seven years and we have three children. We have twins who are three and a half; their names are Luke and Zach, and we have a 15-month-old boy named Seth, so we have a lot of budding testosterone in our home. [laughter] I’m also a writer. I wrote the book The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design a couple of years ago, and continued to write and continued to speak as I have availability – as I can fit it in during that time and [laughter] when they go to bed. I have a new book coming out in April. It’s called Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God. It’s along the lines of the faith in work discussion; showing how our work in the home is valuable to God and is a vital contribution to society. It’s taking all the stuff that we have out there on faith and work, and applying it to the work at the home.       

Emily:  It’s going to be so applicable.

Courtney:  I hope so. I’m so excited about it and I feel like maybe I’m too excited about it. I don’t want [laughter] to burst with excitement but I’m really excited to get it out there and hopefully encourage people. 

Laura:  It sounds like something that would fit right in with all of our Risen Motherhood listeners so that’s definitely something we’ll all want to check out. 

Can you share a little bit about your journey to motherhood with us? We know you’ve experienced some seasons of infertility and miscarriage. Can you tell us a bit about your story?  

Courtney:  When we got married, I always knew that we would probably have a hard time getting pregnant. I had endometriosis and so I had known that prior to getting married. I’d had some surgery and some treatment with it. We didn’t wait super long to try to get pregnant because I was already in my late 20s when we got married. We got pregnant fairly quickly so we were thankful, and then we miscarried really quickly after that. I had pretty high hopes that I would get pregnant again, pretty fast after the miscarriage, and was completely blindsided by the miscarriage because it was obviously our first time. 

It took us two more years after that to get pregnant and a lot of treatment. I had more surgeries, I had some medical treatment that put me in menopause for six months, which was crazy, so now I have empathy with women are in menopause. They talk about being in menopause and I understand, and they think, “Oh, you poor young person, you don’t understand,” [laughter] and I’m like, “No, really, I understand what it’s like being in menopause. I always say I hope I’ll be more sanctified when I go through real menopause than I was [laughter] when I was 28 going through menopause. 

Then we started trying to get pregnant again after that and got pregnant; we were totally surprised. It was my last month of trying without any drugs to get pregnant and I actually didn’t think I was pregnant. I was taking a pregnancy test for formality because I was like, “I’m not pregnant,” – and I was. I was so excited and so nervous because it was our first pregnancy after two years of waiting and then after the miscarriage. We went in for our ultrasound and we just wanted to hear one heartbeat. The sound tech was smiling and she took a while, and we were like, “Can you please say something?” and then she said, “Well, there’s one heartbeat and there’s the other heartbeat.” I was like, “Why are there two heartbeats?” [laughter] I didn’t understand. I thought, “What is wrong with my baby that my baby has two heartbeats?” and today we have twins. 

We were completely blindsided there – identical twins. They shared a placenta so it was a high-risk pregnancy. I felt like my journey to pregnancy and then my journey through pregnancy was the Lord teaching me again, to continue to trust Him, to continue to trust that He is for my good, and that He is caring for me. They were born eight weeks early, really unexpectedly, and they were in the NICU for five weeks. One of my sons had about eight months of therapy and then had to wear a helmet so we had a lot of doctors’ appointments that first year. Then I wanted to get pregnant quickly and then I miscarried again. That one was really complicated and so it was prolonged. The baby wouldn’t pass and I almost had some hemorrhaging and then had to have D&C finally at the end of it. 

The end of that made us really think, especially my husband, “Do we even want to do this again? Do we even want to try to have a baby again?” God changed our heart and eventually opened our heart more to, “We do want another baby,” and so the Lord gave us Seth. We had Seth. My pregnancy with him was fairly normal but I get diabetes when I’m pregnant. His delivery was really complicated but he is healthy and he was healthy, and he was big and he was probably the best baby I’ll ever have. [laughter] I don’t think I’ll ever have a baby as easy as him again. 

It’s been a lot of ups and downs. I feel like pregnancy is the Lord’s way of confronting me with … living in a broken world and confronting me with my expectations of what I think life should be like, but also confronting me with my need to trust him. I am completely out of control in this situation.                     

Laura:  That’s an incredible story Courtney and thanks for walking us through that. I don’t think I’ve heard that in its entirety. I’ve just read bits and pieces.  

Courtney:  One of these days I need to write the whole thing down.  

Emily:  One of the things we wanted to talk about on this show was, you’ve explained your journey through miscarriage and infertility but also, it wasn’t like there was this magical ending when you first gave birth to those twins. Was that what you were expecting, like, “Okay, I’m pregnant now. I’m getting ready to have these babies. This is our family story as we imagined it.” Or how did that go for you?

Courtney:  It was nothing like I imagined it would be. One of the things I was really confronted with after I had them was the expectation in my heart that somehow because I’d gone through all I had gone through, that this next experience was going to be easy. I deserved an easy experience because I had had infertility and loss and a difficult pregnancy, and God did not give that to me. 

We had the five weeks of a NICU stay and I had a lot of difficulty trying to nurse them. They were really small and they were really, really hard babies. Then to be confronted with Luke who needed therapy and having to go to therapy with him. We didn’t have family around so I was trying to find sitters for Zach and then take Luke to therapy and fit these into a schedule of twins, and I was so bitter. They got sick a lot so we were always at the doctor. 

I got so bitter and thought, “Lord, I deserve something easy. You took me through this hardship and now I deserve to smooth sail through having babies,” and that’s not what God gave me. I realized how much I was viewing my previous suffering like this consolation prize; getting these kids instead of viewing the suffering that I endured as preparation for continued suffering throughout my life. 

I wish I could say I’ve learned that lesson, I haven’t, [laughter] but that’s what it was doing, is it was shaping me and molding me and teaching me to trust the Lord. It was purging me of all the expectations and idols and sin in my life that was keeping me from seeing God for who He was, so that when another trial came, I could then respond in a way that was more worshipful rather than resentful. I’m a really slow learner so it takes a really long time unfortunately. [laughter] 

God keeps giving me the same thing over and over and over again and I’m like, “Okay, obviously, you want me to learn this lesson,” but that was the biggest thing I was confronted with; thinking I deserved something easy.    

Laura:  That’s common in so many situations where we go through a season of suffering and we do expect it to let up. Like you said, it’s often preparing us for more and for us to further identify with Christ in those sufferings. What would you say were some of the things you had to preach to yourself or say to yourself, maybe some lies that you believed and how you could counteract them with truth in those seasons?   

Courtney:  I remember after our second miscarriage, lying in bed the night after. We’d gone in and we were not expecting to have miscarried because I had symptoms and everything so we thought this was just normal. We went in for an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat. 

I remember lying in bed and repeating over and over again, “I know God is good. I know He’s good.” I have to remind myself with those things regularly in those seasons of loss or when I was dealing with infertility and I would see another person get pregnant. People were having one and two kids when we were dealing with infertility. They would have their first and then they would get pregnant with their second. 

When you’re having to walk through, “I have gone through a couple of seasons of pregnancy with people and I still don’t have a baby,” I had to remind myself that God is good. That He’s not withholding anything good from me; He is only giving me good things. Those are really hard things to come to terms with when the good things you want are a baby, or a baby that you were pregnant with to hold in your arms. Those are hard things to come in terms with for people like us who are pro-life, we’re like, “But babies are good. We love babies and we value life,” and yet God is saying no to that thing. 

I had to continually remind myself that He’s for my good. He is not for my evil, that this is serving His greater purposes for me, and that one day I’ll look back and see why He was doing it. Maybe not until I’m in heaven but one day I’ll look back and see that He had a good purpose in this. 

In Knowing God, J.I. Packer talks about unanswered prayers and how when we have unanswered prayers, we think that God doesn’t care about us or that He is ignoring us. Packer says that our unanswered prayers, if we were God, if we had all the knowledge that God has, we would only answer them in the way He answers them. We would never answer them in the way we want them answered. Again, those are hard things to come to terms with when you’re asking for a very good thing but it’s another reminder that God is God and I am not.         

Emily:  It’s like, “Could God work another way besides through suffering and hardthings?” but those are often the things that cause us to be the most dependent on Him and to render Him in prayer and to get on our knees. I was telling Laura, yesterday I had a hard moment with parenting earlier this week, and I’m like, “This reminds me that I am not superwoman and I do not have it all together and this hard and I need Jesus.” I know that on varying levels, that happens every day and that’s God’s mercy for us.  

Laura:  I love remembering that there is meaning in suffering. Like you kept saying, there is purpose and it’s not meaningless, remembering that all of these things are building us towards that eternal way of glory. Like you said, we may not know until we’re in heaven but there is purpose today, here and now, for us to suffer well, and that our God is an intentional God.  

Courtney:  Daniel - Daniel’s my husband - early on, we were very intentional and we were very committed that we were going to walk openly through these things. We wanted to value the life of the babies that we lost and so we were going to talk about that and not shy away from that. I’ve always written openly about these things. A friend of mine recently miscarried. She’s a writer friend of mine. We’ve actually never met in person but I’ve been emailing her back and forth talking about it. 

She emailed me and she said that the day she miscarried, the first thing she thought of was how much I had talked about it, and how much she wanted to talk to me about it because she remembered the things I had written. When I read her email, I started crying because I felt like six years later, the Lord is redeeming the pain. She was saying she hopes the Lord will redeem her pain in the same way. That’s my hope in the midst of it. 

I also write openly about it because if I retreat into my own hole, I feel like I would wither and die. [laughter] If a bunch of people know I’m struggling with something then maybe that’s enough protection that I’m not going to fall off the deep end or something. It was a really encouraging moment to see that the Lord, again, is not wasting anything in our life.      

Laura:  A lot of our listeners are moms now and many have travelled through these same seasons like you have. How have the sorrows that you experienced presented themselves now in motherhood after the fact? Do those things come back or do you think about them?  

Courtney:  Yes, I do. One of the things I think about a lot, that still gives me some sorrow and some grief is that none of my pregnancies have been what you would call textbook normal. None of my ways of getting pregnant have been textbook normal. Those are always hard for me when I see people having babies in a way that seems normal. I can tend to be really self-pitying and struggle with, “It’s not easy for me. I’ve had miscarriages or I’ve had difficult pregnancies or I don’t just blink and get pregnant.” [laughter]

In my worst days and in my most sinful moments, I do struggle with the reality that my body is broken. Everyone’s body is broken but I’ve had to really come to terms with the reality of the curse in a way that I didn’t ever anticipate in my own life. My husband and I often joke, “The curse on women is alive and well in my body.” [laughter]  

What it’s done is drive me to the scriptures and drive me to see how that’s not the end of my story and that’s not the end of anyone’s story. We’re all cursed. We all face the curse but Christ came and reversed the curse. I’ve had to continually remind myself that, yes, my body is broken, my body is fading away but one day, Christ’s going to redeem this body and then this is not my home. Even if I have issues my whole life and I’m living with the reality of a broken body, that I get eternity with one that’s not broken, which is more exciting. [laughter]   

Emily:  That is exciting. That’s something to look forward to. 

Courtney:  It is. It’s really propelled me to long for the new heavens and the new earth more than I probably ever would have. I was a pretty even-keeled person, llife wasn’t super hard, I didn’t have any issues before all this happened. I feel like the Lord has definitely used it to humble me, and to really bring me into myself and see my need for Him and my dependence on Him, and so I’m thankful for that. I would have been a different person if pregnancy would have come easily to me. I would have probably been a far less empathetic person if that had come easy.   

Laura:  That’s true. Suffering and trials definitely have humbled me and made me more empathetic. Where I can relate to others, where before I probably would have, unfortunately, judged them or unfairly thought things even in my mind. Suffering levels that playing field, doesn’t it? [laughter]  

Courtney:  Yes, I thought I was the best parent ever before I had twins and then I had them. [laughter] I thought I knew everything about parenting. I feel like having twins totally leveled me and I’m like, “I have no idea how to be a parent.” 

Laura:  I’ll tell you though, one levels you as well. [laughter] 

Courtney:  Yes, I’m like, “You figure it out as you go,” and somehow they make it. 

Laura:  Everyone’s the best parent until they become a parent; it’s how it is. 

We want to close with, what are some encouragements that you would say to a mom travelling through this right now? You mentioned you have a friend you’ve been emailing back and forth with, but what would you say to a mom who is in the midst, maybe in between children longing for another child? What are some encouragements you would give her that are Gospel-centered?   

Courtney:  Again, one of the things that I feel the Lord did in my life was drive me to the scriptures throughout our infertility and miscarriage season. I was so helped by the long list of women in scripture who were barren. God is preserving His line, God’s preserving His promise in the Messiah through this family line and through these women. These women couldn’t bear children and so he chose the women who were despised by society. He chose the women who couldn’t do what everyone expected them to do. He opened their wombs and He gave them children and then he continued with the line of bringing Christ into the world. 

I found great kinship in those women as I read my Bible. I found great encouragement in those women. What I continually came back to is that God didn’t forget them. I think of Hannah, who is praying in the Temple and remaining faithful while she is despised, and she is barren. God meets her there and gives her a child. Elizabeth and Zachariah being faithful in their old age and God gives them a child. 

It’s not a formula for getting pregnant obviously, because that’s not how God works, but I found so much hope in the fact that God didn’t forget these women who were despised far more than any infertile woman in our society would be despised. That God not only didn’t forget them but he used them in his greater purposes to bring Christ into the world. The same God who didn’t forget them, doesn’t forget us either. He doesn’t leave us to ourselves in our suffering and in our loss and in our waiting. 

Then again, encouragement of that this season is not a stepping-stone to something greater. It’s God’s good purposes for us now, and so there are things to learn and things to see about His character that He wants for us in our suffering. He wants to use our suffering to shape us and to make us more like Himself. Often, suffering is what He uses to chisel away the sin, and to mold us more into His image. That’s what He wants for us. 

It can be easy for someone to look on the outside of it, now that I have children now, but everyone has suffering that they’re facing that God is using to make them more into the image of Christ. For some that’s infertility and in that moment, we don’t want to waste it. We don’t want to look back and say, “I pined away and I didn’t see what God had for me in that moment.”      

Emily:  That’s a good word for anyone listening who is going through some season of struggle, or suffering or waiting, or, “Why has God not given me this good thing?” I tend to think in terms of like, “If I just get through this struggle, if I get through this season ...” Like you said Courtney, I think, “Everything’s going to be okay for a while or God owes me a good season.” 

Remember, that is not what this life is about. We will have a season where we are resting in Christ, where we are having joy in our work, where we are no longer waiting because everything we could ever have wanted is here but that’s not now. That’s a little hard for us to grasp, but I appreciate your encouragement to look at suffering as a merciful tool that God uses to draw us nearer to Him, and give us hope and remind us of who He is, and what He’s doing.    

Laura:  Courtney, I feel like we could talk to you forever. [laughter] I love hearing your wisdom in this and your openness. I think that’s so commendable; that you really are proclaiming the gospel in the midst of that suffering and using your trials well. Thank you so much for being on the show.    

Courtney:  Thank you for having me. 

 


Laura: Wasn’t that an incredible interview? We loved having Courtney on the show. Even though I haven’t personally experienced infertility or miscarriage, I still felt like there were so many things I could take away and apply to things and trials that I’m going through right now. I loved how she talked about the purposes in waiting and remembering God is always good, that He is never withholding good things from us in a trial as we wait, but that He has a higher plan. 

That as she talked about, the J. I. Packer quote, that if we had all the knowledge that God had, then we would understand the decisions and that we would make the same decisions that He had but we see so little here on this life. We can all look forward to one day when all will be redeemed and restored. When all will make sense because we have a purposeful, meaningful God, that lets nothing go to waste. 

If you want to hear more from Courtney, you can find her on her website, courtneyreissig.com. We will have a link to that on the show notes so you can easily find it there. In addition, definitely check out her book, The Accidental Feminist, that’s on Amazon. Again, we’ll have a link in the show notes, and of course, look forward to her new book, Glory in the Ordinary: Why Our Work in the Home Matters to God coming out on April 30, 2017. 

In addition, you can find her on Twitter, @courtneyreissig. Again, everything could be found in the show notes; all the things that she mentioned today on the show. We’ll also have some additional things that Courtney has written. She writes for a lot of big websites so she has great articles on this topic that will really help support the interview today. If you want to find out more, head over to our website risenmotherhood.com. In addition, please find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all those social media sites. We are there sharing the word about everything we talk about each week on the show. We have built a really wonderful community so we’d love it if you joined us.