Ep. 137 || Walking & Learning Together: How Moms in the Local Church Help One Another Transcript

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood! I’m Laura, and I’m excited to share a little bit about this special show. Today, it’s all about the church. You all have heard Emily and I talk about the importance of the church many times over the course of the Risen Motherhood podcast. We believe it plays a vital role in the Christian’s life, and while it’s not perfect, God uses the faithful gathering of believers as one of the main vehicles for his people grow in wisdom and maturity in their faith,and to sustain them until the end. 

Emily wrote about the beauty in the diversity of the local church in the Risen Motherhood book, and to show that, we thought we’d have some of our own Risen Motherhood team share their experiences with their local church. But before we get to that, we just want to highlight that that if you’re looking for resources for you or the women in your local church, you’re always welcome to check out our free Bible study printables (We actually have them for both for adults and children.) as well as our resources page on our website, where we’ve compiled our favorite books, music, Bible studies, and more on various topics that we believe could be helpful to the Christian walk. 

Okay. On today’s show, you’re going to hear Emily and me both share, as well as our Editor, Winfree Brisley, and our board member, Quina Aragon. If you haven’t met Winfree yet, you’re going to love her. She’s a wife and mom to three young boys who enjoys sharing her love of scripture through writing and teaching other women. She’s written for The Gospel Coalition, edited several books, and taught Engilsh in the past. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they are members of Uptown Church. 

Quina is a wife, mother, and artist who enjoys writing, copyediting, and creating spoken word videos that have been featured all over the web. She is the author of  the children’s book, Love Made, which is a poetic retelling of the creation story. She and her family live in Tampa, FL where they are members of Living Faith Bible Fellowship

As you’ll hear, today’s show is a bit different than Emily and I’s usual conversation about a topic, but we’re hopeful hearing our reflections on the local church will help you to take time to meditate on God’s gracious provision of the local church, and deepen your love and gratefulness for it as small taste here on earth of what we’ll experience someday when Jesus returns for his people. In light of that, we’re not going to do our typical outro at the end of the show, so remember, if you want to read more about this topic, or are looking for the links to the resources pages I mentioned earlier, head to today’s show notes on risenmotherhood.com, or come visit us on social media, @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

Okay, let’s jump into today’s show.


Emily: Still bleary-eyed after having twins, I remember walking through the dining room of my house. The sun poured in through the window as an older woman from church wiped counters, sorted laundry, and mopped floors. The details are foggy but the next thing I remember was peering over the couch at my toddler son who played around with an app on my phone. My stomach dropped and I laughed uncomfortably, trying to think of something to say to save face—to not look like a bad mom in front of a woman on the other side of faithfully laboring to raise her own family. I can’t remember what I said, but I remember what she said with a warm, genuine smile, “It’s just a season. It’s not the pattern of his whole life.” 

She didn’t know it at the time, but she was teaching me about motherhood. About viewing things with measure and wisdom. She was showing me what grace looked like as she gently gave me a nugget of truth. I never felt condemned, but I had something to aspire to—not letting temporal pleasures and easy-outs become the pattern of my motherhood. I still think about that often when leaning on screen time starts to feel like a well-worn rut. 

That wasn’t the only time women from the church came alongside me. Friends have watched children during a quick date night, organized my closets while I was on bedrest, cleaned out my refrigerator in a season of complete overwhelm, brought me meals, and even hosted me a bonus baby shower after learning I would become a mom to three kids under two. There have been the especially touching moments: the pastor who leans down to smile at and greet my son who, being non-verbal, can’t give him a reply. Who reached out and asked how the church could best love our family and accommodate his physical limitations. The single woman in our small group who helps feed our toddler, tend to a boo-boo, or sit with a child on her lap. The peer moms who stop to have a quick conversation about how they are handling superheroes, questions about gender, and read alouds. My church family has helped through the many questions of motherhood, from adding extra work and ministry, to dropping the pacifier and examining the idols of my child’s heart.

Most importantly, of all the memories I have—bleary-eyed, crystal clear, or otherwise—my church family has shown me the way of Christ. Watching other women serve their family with unique gifts stirs me up to love and good works, as the writer of Hebrews says.

It’s this topic that also stirs an older woman sitting beside me at last week’s church book discussion as she shared that she prays Ephesians 5:10 each day, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Without knowing it at the time, another saint teaches me another important thing that helps me persevere. This, she says, might look different from my agenda, but God-ordained days make up a well-stewarded life. I make a mental note.

For moms in a church body, wondering where and when you’ll learn all of the practical and deep truths about motherhood, make those memories and mental notes. Be listening, because there are chances to learn when someone doesn’t mean to teach. Look around at the small acts of service: the nursery worker volunteering and loving your child, the woman who gives you five quick minutes of encouragement in the church lobby, the grace to soak up like a sponge at the Bible study meeting.

It’s this soaking, noting, remembering, and stirring that helps us persevere when doing good to our families just feels too hard.

Quina Aragon: I’ve been incredibly blessed over the years to be a part of church families that have really modeled Christian fellowship and support for me in amazing ways. At the same time, there are definitely seasons where I’ve felt discouraged or hurt by some in my community. My temptation in those moments is to want to isolate, to not talk about it. But that only breeds bitterness in my heart, along with all types of things we know are not good. 

What’s been helpful instead has been to identify one friend or sister-in-Christ that I know loves the Lord, cares for me, and wants the best for me in Christ. I let myself really be heard; I process through the circumstance or what I’m feeling through it no matter how messy my words are in that moment or how skewed my view is. Those types of friends that actively listen have been a massive blessing for me. I think, in many ways, those friends have modeled God. We see in scripture God is an incredible listener. We often view him as an incredible speaker—and of course, he is—but in Psalm 116:1 we see: I love the LORD for he has heard my voice and my please for mercy. In Psalm 1140:2 we see: I pour out my complaint before him, I tell my trouble before him. So if we only imagine God as someone who only speaks to us, only expresses and doesn’t listen to us intently or respond to us after listening, then we’ll likely to be quick to tell other moms, “Ah, well, you just need to…” or “If you just think of it like this…” instead of actually allowing them to be heard in a safe and gracious place. 

It’s those times that I’ve felt heard that have allowed me to move forward with greater intimacy with the Lord, with that friend, or others who have listened. And of course, modeling prayer; those who have listened and gone to the Lord in prayer, which has modeled for me that God wants us to pour out our hearts to him. We don’t have the answers to everything or most things, but we have access to the one who wants to walk with us through it. So modeling listening, modeling prayer, and then of course, sharing any practical encouragements like sharing tasks with your partner, setting up a transportation plan, or pointing that person to church services—that’s important too. But making that space to first listen has been so helpful for me, and I think it’s because God does that with us. 

Winfree Brisley: In the months after my oldest son was born, I was overwhelmed by a lot of things as I was confronted with the daunting responsibility that is motherhood and the way my sin and weaknesses were being exposed. In the midst of that, I was convicted about my need to start seriously memorizing scripture. I knew I needed truth on my mind and hidden in my heart. 

And there was a woman in our church who had memorized hundreds of Bible verses. So I really felt like she was the person who could help me. But to be honest, approaching her was kind of intimidating. She had recently left a high profile political career and was extremely accomplished and involved in our community and our church. But I also knew she was a godly woman who loved to help others.  So I sent her an email asking her to help me, and she wrote back and said, “What time does your son nap? I’ll come to you.” And she came and she taught me, and I still use that system for scripture memory. 

When I think about that story, the passage in Titus 2 comes to mind where Paul talks about older women teaching and training young women. That’s been such an appealing idea to me as a mom because motherhood has made me aware of my need for wisdom and guidance more than probably any other experience in my life. So having older women in our local church who can teach me and train me about being a wife and a mom and a godly woman has been such a huge blessing.

And I think a lot of us love that idea of having older women come alongside us, but we struggle to know how that practically happens or we struggle with feeling like older women are too busy to help us or we think we’ll be a burden to them. But as I’ve approached older women in my church, I’ve found them to be incredibly willing to engage with me. 

There have been women who I’ve asked to meet me for coffee to talk about school options or about being a mom to all boys. There are a couple of ladies who I’ll just stop when I see them in the hallway at church and say, “Hey, I’m running into this issue with discipline. Do you have any ideas?” 

What I’ve finally realized is that going to these women for help is actually a way to honor and encourage them. Because when we go to them we’re saying, “I think you’re a godly mom, I think you have wisdom to share, I see the Lord working in you,” and they appreciate that. 

But I’ve also realized that for the Titus 2 model to work, I can’t just be a receiver of teaching and training. It’s interesting that Paul refers to “older women” not “old women.” So even though in my mid-30s I wouldn’t call myself old yet, I am an older woman. There are younger moms coming behind me who can benefit from what little bit of experience and wisdom I have from my journey in motherhood so far. And it’s a blessing to me when younger moms ask me questions and come to me for help. So, I love this beautiful cycle that can take place in the local church where women are being poured into and pouring out to others all at the same time. 

Laura: I’ve always believed blood is thicker than water. I grew up in a tight-knit family and we always had each other's backs. No matter how much we argued or how differently we saw a situation, I knew that at the end of the day, we'd always be there for one another. While still in the hospital from having my second baby, my husband got a job offer that would move us from Minneapolis to Chicago. We knew it was probably coming, so we quickly agreed, and two months later our family moved to a city 500 miles away from everything I knew, and from all of my family. In fact, I didn't know a soul in my new city. I didn't even know where to get groceries. 

We took this job for my husband, knowing it would likely be temporary. A three-year commitment for him to climb the corporate ladder. We'd be back to our friends and family before our oldest was in school, so I just had to survive, right? But with two under two at home, and a husband that usually worked as long as the sun was up, I felt like I couldn't "just survive." 

And the move found me mourning the loss of my family the most.

But God was teaching me to look further than bloodlines for my family. By his grace, three months after moving to Chicago, we found a church that we immediately found a home in. The people there didn’t care what our last name was–they loved us and cared for us, just like we’d grown up together. It didn’t matter our history or that they only just met us, they saw us as their brothers and sisters, their family–the water of the Spirit, thicker than the blood of biology.

They taught me where the best parks were, helped me find a babysitter, recommended an OBGYN when I got pregnant with my third child, and yes, even taught me where to shop for groceries. They called me out when I worried too much, asked me how my quiet times have been, and encouraged me to consider different perspectives. Like family, they challenged me, supported me, and sometimes even stuck their noses in places I didn't want them to be because I wanted to hide in my sin—but that's what family's for, right? 

When my biological family couldn't be there because of the distance, my church family showed up. To celebrations and milestones, and also to nights, and weeks, and months of grief. When my daughter was born three weeks early and only a tiny, 4 lbs 10 oz, a family from our small group bought every girl premie item in a local Carter's store and gifted it to us. When two months later we found out our baby girl had a genetic abnormality—or in other words—special needs—our church flooded us with support. They lended their unquestionable support to us, showing up with home-cooked meals, babysitting offers, cleaning services, visits at the hospital, pick ups from preschool, restaurant gift cards, and my personal favorite – a bouquet of roses made with bacon. Some of the people I didn't even really know! They just heard there was a family in need, and they showed up to support us. 

While my biological family did their best to visit and help walk with me through my grief, my church family took every tiny, shuffled step with me. In that season, God taught me there is something thicker than blood—the body of Christ. It’s like how in a letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul writes of how he cares for his fellow believers, because they shared in the gospel and also in “their own very selves, because they had become very dear to one another.” I keep thinking back to how I didn't even know those people only a year or two before all this happened—but because we shared the bond of Christ, we treated each other like family. 

I know because of sin and brokenness the church isn't like this for everyone, and trust me, there were bumpy days even in this church, but I'll forever treasure the small shadows of the someday glory of the eternal Church. I also know for many people their family isn’t something to be desired. But that's why Christ came and died—to give us something better than what we know today. A holy family so much larger, and more diverse than any nuclear family, one of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. By his death and resurrection, he made us a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession." 

He made us a family. 

The church, this side of glory, is far from perfect. I've since moved a state away from that church, and I count it as a mercy of God that I was able to experience something like that first-hand. And I hope, for your sake, wherever you are, you too can experience the beauty of God’s family—however imperfect—here on earth. I love thinking about how there are fellow believers—who are my brothers and sisters—all over the world pursuing Jesus and his glory. It makes the anticipation of heaven and all its gifts even sweeter as I think of what a wonderful family I've been welcomed into and I get to spend eternity with. The church is, quite literally, my family forever. 

Ep. 136 || Give Me All the Gurus: Where To Find True Answers to Our Motherhood Questions Transcript

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Well, welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood! I have my sister-in-law, Emily, here.

Emily: Hey. 

Laura: We want to start off by saying thank you so much for your support of the Risen Motherhood book! As you know, it was released last week. 

Emily: On Laura’s birthday!

Laura: On my birthday. It was quite the dual celebration. 

Emily: Yeah, we’re really grateful. It was so amazing to see all your pictures on social media as the actual hard copy arrived to your door. It’s been fun, too, to read the reviews and hear feedback about how God is using this book and his gospel to encourage you and help you look to Christ wherever you’re at. Again, we’re so thankful. If you haven’t left a review or rating on Amazon, that would really help. If you love the book and want to get it in the hands of other moms so they can read these hope-filled words, definitely leave a review. That’s super helpful. 

Laura: And speaking of the book, our tagline for the book is gospel hope for everyday moments. Of course, that came from our podcast—what we’re talking on right now. It’s the intro we came up with it three years ago. We didn’t have the ministry tagline at the time or the book tagline; it was just in our show about applying the gospel to everyday moments. But it’s been an interesting thing that’s come up as Emily and I’ve been chatting. One day, she said she’s intrigued by this trend of everyone talking about the gospel and everyday moments.

Emily: Yeah, and I think we hear it in different ways, like how does your faith apply to ordinary life? I think there are also different pockets, like how does our faith apply to our work in its everyday moments? How does our faith apply to...anything. 

Laura: We want to know the specific thing too. It’s not just general. We want to take a very specific topic and know how our faith applies to that little thing.

Emily: Right! Which is what we do here on our show, as Laura said. Certainly we understand the need and desire to apply something we care about deeply–which is the good news—to these everyday things, but it’s curious and interesting to us that this is such a trend and such a need among our generation of moms. 

Laura: It feels very millennial-generation. Our generation wants to find our “guru” or “expert” for decorating our houses, working out, how we should eat, how we should clean our houses. If you look at your Instagram feed—if it’s anything like mine—you have your “expert” for every facet of your life. They tell you, “This is what I like. This is what I do. So, this is what you should do in your life.”

Emily: So we want to think through why do we want an expert? What in us finds satisfaction in that?

First and foremost, we love things to be fast and easy. It’s nice to have something packaged and delivered to you—right to your earbuds—instead of the slow art of learning by reading, or having face-to-face conversations over coffee, or observing and living life with other families. Even in motherhood, we have a sense of googling a blog post quickly to get the three steps for a sleep training method or check out a couple of books from the library to flip through for a few nuggets that’ll help us be this fantastic mom. We think if we follow this online guru, they’ll tell us the dietary snack tricks for our kids and then we don’t have to think about it. It’s just faster and easier.

Laura: Yeah, and from there, it strokes our pride. Suddenly, we’re the experts. We’ve learned from these other experts, so we can now go and share that with other people. Everyone likes to feel smart and valued, like they have something to contribute.

Emily: Awhile back, I shared this gif with Laura of a duck waddling off and it says, “Me. Waddling off to tell everyone something I learned five minutes ago.” [Laughter] And I thought it was a picture of our generation: I just saw this on somebody’s Instagram story and now I’m posting it on my stories as if I’m the expert! And we get it; we’re totally there too. 

But we live pretty isolated lives; we’re connected by technology and it’s a pick-and-choose society. You can turn on the voices and experts you want to hear, and you don’t listen to the things you don’t want to hear. It’s kind of like a Netflix-queue: here’s your next up; here’s what’s recommended for you. So we don’t necessarily always have these other voices speaking in who may say things we’re not comfortable with, but we need to understand them. We also need to live life with other moms and learn from how they apply the gospel.

Laura: One thing we want to point out is we do think there is a healthy amount of motherhood experts or helpers or “gurus.” There’s help in that. In fact, Emily and I looked at each as we thought about this show because we kind of fall into this category. We hope by listening to our show you’ve been helped and have found it truthful and edifying and able to apply it to your everyday life. So we’re definitely not advocating to throw everyone out and clean out your Instagram feed, get rid of them all. Today, we want to talk about why we’re always looking for an expert and why do we want to have someone teach us? And how do we actually grow in truth and knowledge as a believer? Is that through other people? Should we rely on that? What are we supposed to go to as Christian moms trying to live out our faith in our everyday lives? Where do we go for answers?

Emily: Of course, we want to go back to creation to see how God designed us. We see humans were created with the capacity to learn. In the garden, they were supposed to learn and receive information and knowledge from God. He was the expert about his creation. He was the one with the authority on their mission and what it is they were supposed to do. He taught them what to do and what not to do. He gave them the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth, to subdue and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the heavens, and every living thing that moves on the earth. And then he gave them what they shouldn’t do: you may surely eat of every tree in the garden but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat. They had the formula and the answer right there—and God was right there to teach, help, and guide them. It’s interesting that’s how humanity started.

Laura: Yeah. I love the idea of God being our teacher and being the expert for Adam and Eve. He was right there, walking with them day-in and day-out. But eventually, Adam and Eve decided that wasn’t enough, because they wanted to be the experts. They went against their teacher in the garden, who was literally the source of all knowledge and understanding, who created everything and knew every answer they could ever wonder, but they wanted more. That’s what they got; their eyes were opened to the sin in this world. It ended up not being what they thought it would be; it wasn’t as great as they thought it’d be. I think it’s interesting to think about how Adam and Eve had one rule to follow. God laid out a really simple model for them. They couldn’t follow that—

Emily: You had one job, Adam and Eve.

Laura: One job! [Laughter] Come on. 

We’re all looking for that, right? Just give me the rule book! Just give me the manual! Just give me the one thing–or even the 55 things—I should do! Then I would be good. I’d get it done. I’d excel or succeed! We see the example Adam and Eve set for us, and we’re no different from them. Even if there was only one rule for us, we wouldn’t be able to follow it. 

Emily: What’s interesting is in our sin nature, we’re now looking to things apart from God for answers. It can be other humans, false religions, false gods, or even inside of ourselves. We think maybe we have the answers, and we want to be like God—but we’re not. That can manifest in a couple of different ways:

We doubt God is sufficient as our expert. Again, as moms, we may wonder if God really sees our situations or if he’ll really give us the answers we need when we ask. We feel overwhelmed and want clear-cut, easy things, and we doubt God will give us that. So we look anywhere and everywhere else besides God and his word. 

Laura: On the other side, we swing into pride. We get to be the experts ourselves, and with the internet, this feels pretty possible. We all want to feel godlike, like we can do it all. If we feel like we can get that one golden ticket, we’ll be happy, successful, awesome moms. Going back to that duck gif Emily talked about, we want to take our information and spew it out the other direction so we look good and feel good and confident in what we’re doing instead of humbling ourselves to learn. 

Emily: But there is good news for us expert wannabes or for the guru followers among us. God sent his Son, Jesus, who lived according to God’s will expertly and perfectly. He was a teacher who showed us what it looks like to follow God and live a godly life. But not only was he a teacher, he was a Savior. Just like Laura was saying, if we had one rule—just like Adam and Eve—we wouldn’t be able to follow God’s one command. We can’t follow any of God’s commands well, so the good news is there’s an invitation for us to stop trying to be the expert or live according to human experts around us—which we’ve never able to do perfectly. It sometimes feels like a hamster wheel we can’t get off of, but we can follow the only one who lived God’s plan perfectly. We can turn from our sin and follow Christ, which is what we do in redemption: we repent, turn to God, follow Christ, and walk in the way he walked. 

Laura: When Christ ascended into heaven, he left us with his Spirit. He left us with the promise that the Spirit would help us. And now we have the inspired, living, and active Word of God that we can live by and look to. So while the perfect teacher, Jesus, isn’t walking among us anymore, we still have his word. We have a record of his life that is truthful, and real, and God-breathed, and inspired. That’s something we can look to as we’re trying to live out these things. The Expert is still teaching and guiding us, because we have the Holy Spirit inside of us. Now we don’t have to doubt, because we know Christ is our true expert. He’s the final word on things. We can trust he will do what he says he will. He’ll show up for us. If we ask for things according to his will, he’ll do those things. We can think about Psalm 18:2-3: The Lord is my rock and fortress and my deliverer, my rock in whom I take refuge. I call upon the Lord, he is worthy to be praised, and I’m safe from my enemies. 

Emily: I think as moms, when we’re in Christ, we can trust he wants to give us wisdom to answer our questions. And for the pride angle we can go to in our sin: when we’re in Christ, we have humility. We realize our confidence isn’t in ourselves or in our ability to accumulate information and act on it. Our confidence is in our Savior and Redeemer. Psalm 105 says: for the Lord is good and his loving kindness is everlasting and his faithfulness is to all generations. That’s who our confidence is in. It’s not in an expert or in five tips and tricks. It’s in Christ himself.

Laura: So we want to reiterate, we fully admit it’s a natural and normal human need to learn, to grow in knowledge. We’re not born knowing everything. We need to be taught. Just look at your own children; there needs to be investment and training in education so these children know how to live out their lives! We’re the same: we never stop learning or growing. For all of us, there is a point at which motherhood is a first. There’s your first child, and everything you go through is a “first time.” None of us are experts, because we’re all experiencing something new—even if you’re an empty nester. 

Emily: And there’s a true need to learn and understand. If you have a two-year old at your knees and they’re throwing a big tantrum, it’s normal and practical to think, “I need to figure out how to deal with a two-year old and a tantrum.” Or if you’re dealing with how to lay your child down for a nap, it’s perfectly normal and natural to find some information to figure out what’s a good routine for laying a child down for a nap so they can get rest. Those are good, normal things.

Laura: God, in his graciousness, teaches us in a variety of ways! Some of that may be asking a fellow mom for advice. But the best way we can process through these decisions is to first go to the Word of God and compare that mom’s advice to God’s word. I think it’s always the unsatisfactory answer at times: typically, the way we find out how out answers to life and how our faith is applied to our lives is through the hard work of studying God’s word for ourselves. We want the quick fix, but God asks us for hard work.

Emily: Thinking about our generation and all the information at our fingertips, we want God or the Bible to be like Google. We want to be able to put in our needs and get out exactly the answer we want in the form we want. We know God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t bend to our will or submit to what we want and how we want it delivered on a plate. We’re swept up into his story. So often, we can look at the way people responded to Jesus in the New Testament. He was doing a lot of miracles and providing healing for their ailments. Some people came to him for what he could give them. Just give me my miracle. Just give me my healing. Just give me my answer to my question. But he wants followers and disciples. So as moms, when we’re really thinking about our posture to God, it’s not just, “Give me the answer so I can go on with my life or help me with this thing and I’ll leave you be.” It’s a relationship with him and loving him. It’s about beholding him and enjoying life with him. Know that some of these things will be a hard process of learning. It’s not going to be an instant, quick-fix, but that’s not what Christianity is.

Laura: The point we’re trying to drive towards is while experts and motherhood tips and articles that help us out are really wonderful, we want to encourage you—as the R|M community—to compare everything against the Word of God. He promises he’ll teach us by his Spirit and his word. He’s also given us the local church to cross-check things. We may hear things around us that say this is how to do this or this is how to be a good mom, but ultimately, our identity rests in Christ. Our joy is found in him, not in a perfect way or method of doing something. It’s found in our resting securely in the work Christ has done on our behalf. Then we can live out some of those things, those tips, the practical nitty-gritty of our motherhood in freedom. Because of the gospel, we can change or try a new idea from an expert—and it won’t be a big deal because that’s not where our identity is found. We don’t follow an expert or guru; we follow Jesus. 

Emily: Yeah, so just to get down to the nitty gritty: we’re moms, we want answers, and we want to follow different experts for how to live our lives. Just remember if you’re following Jesus, part of a local church, and reading the word, you’re going to get wisdom over time. You don’t have to live in fear. Don’t feel like you need to run to Instagram and follow every person, or Google everything. You can stop and pray. You can call a friend who’s also seeking after the Lord to ask opinions. But trust the Lord. 

And remember you don’t have to be known or posture yourself as an expert on motherhood either. It’s okay if you don’t feel like a guru yourself or a perfect display of motherhood in every area. Your identity is found in Christ, and God is asking you to follow him and live like Jesus. He’s not asking you to be a motherhood guru so all your friends can ask you for your practical tips and advice. 

Laura: I think that’s a good word to end on. For more info, head to risenmotherhood.com. There’s a big, ol’ podcast button you can push and find today’s show notes. In addition, we’ll be talking about this topic on social media this week, so head over to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @risenmotherhood. We hope you’ll join our community over there; it’s a lovely bunch of people! And if you haven’t yet, we hope you’ll check out our book, Risen Motherhood. It talks so much about this topic about how to apply your faith to everyday moments, but you don’t have to do it like Emily or Laura. We’re hoping by reading that book, you’ll feel equipped to go forth and do motherhood in your own unique way, and honor God in the things you’ll do, and trust Jesus to guide and lead you as your expert. All right, have a great day! 

Ep. 135 || The Husbands Weigh In: How Does the Gospel Shape Marriage in the Little Years? Transcript

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood! First, we want to thank you for all your support and the excitement surrounding the Risen Motherhood book. We dedicated the book to all of you: the moms in our community who are in the trenches alongside us, looking to Jesus in the midst of all motherhood brings. In the book, we talk about many common topics moms face and apply the gospel to postpartum body image, school choices, feeding your family, service, marriage, and so many more things. We hope this is a timeless resource that not only encourages you in your current season, but shows you how to apply the gospel to your own unique circumstances and follow Christ right where you’re at. If you haven’t already, you can snag a copy anywhere books are sold. Okay so to celebrate this big week, we wanted to do something really different. We invited our husbands, Brad and Mike, to talk about marriage in the little years. Keep in mind, they’ve never been interviewed on a podcast before, but we were so encouraged to hear their thoughts, experiences, and insights in this season of life. They do a good job of introducing themselves, so let’s jump into the conversation with my husband, Brad, and Laura’s husband, Mike.

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

Laura: Hey guys!

Emily: And then we have two of our most special guests ever here. 

Laura: For sure.

Emily: It’s our husbands! My husband, Brad. 

Brad: Hello!

Emily: And Laura’s husband, Mike. 

Mike: Hey everybody.

Emily: We want our audience to get to know you a little bit. Why don’t we start off by having Brad share how long we’ve been married, your occupation, hobbies if you have them. Tell them a little about you.

Brad: Absolutely. Well one thing, I’ve been married to Emily for 10 years, but I’ve known Laura for over three decades. [Laughter]

Laura: Brad is my brother. Did we say that yet? 

Emily: I don’t know if we’ve made that clear. That’s a good clarification. 

Laura: It’s so funny to know how long people might go without knowing we’re sisters-in-law—even though we try to say it most times. So that’s the relationship dynamic in this room.

Brad: I’m the connecting link. 

Laura: Well, I like to think I am. [Laughter]

Brad: So, I’ve been married to Emily for ten years. If anyone’s curious, we did meet through mutual friends, and the rest is history. I enjoy cooking breakfast for our family. I’ve got zero musical talents. Some special interest would be trying to influence, as much as I can, our kids to do a couple different things. One, for them to walk fast.

Laura: Ah, yes. That was a big one for Dad; that we all walk quickly.

Brad: We don’t want them being slow walkers. Two, have good handwriting; legibility is key there.

Laura: Brad writes in a centimeter script.

Brad: It’s very readable. 

Laura: It’s perfect and precise. But very small.

Brad: And the last thing is for our five kids to learn how to say no to things. There are lots of opportunities and invitations to say yes, and I think a good life skill to learn how to say no. 

Laura: That’s a good one. I need that. 

Emily: What about you, Mike? Introduce yourself. 

Mike: I’ve been married to Laura for just over nine years now. Brad talked about meeting Emily through mutual friends, so a fun fact is that Brad and I were actually buddies in college before I knew Laura. Another link. 

I worked in engineering/production management type roles in the petrochemical industry for about ten years. Recently, I’ve transitions to more bio-based/food production industry. For special interests or hobbies, I’m not really a big hobby guy. I love being outside and doing that with our family as much as possible. 

Laura: You’re into birding right now. Mike has binoculars, and we bought a few bird books. He’s out on the front porch looking for birds all the time now. I think that’s a real hobby for you.

Mike: I love wildlife. Tent camping; I try to do that once in awhile with the kids. 

Brad: Mike’s an outdoorsman. I’m more of an indoorsman. [Laughter]

Emily: Well, while everyone is googling the petrochemical industry, Brad you should say what you do for a living.

Brad: I live and work in central Iowa in real estate. I’m starting another business soon that coincides with the book launch; we’re doubling up around here. I stay pretty busy between work and family. 

Emily: Brad is very entrepreneurial. 

Mike: Very entrepreneurial. 

Laura: And organized.

Brad: And good handwriting. 

Laura: Great handwriting. [Laughter] Real quick for our listeners: what's one thing they may not know about us? 

Brad: Emily is not a morning person, and she can talk very loudly. I have to ask her to down her volume. That’s interesting though, because we recently discovered that Emily does have mild to moderate hearing loss. That was some news to us—

Emily: I’m talking loudly for a reason! [Laughter]

Brad: She’s talking loudly for a reason. I would also say that Emily is very future-oriented, which gives her a good perspective on life and decisions—big or small. She can place those in context. One thing we learned early on is she doesn’t understand why people drink milk at dinner. She thinks it’s a rule or an agricultural—

Laura: Like an Iowa thing?! [Laughter]

Brad: Yes, like an Iowa thing. 

Laura: What? Mike doesn’t understand why people drink it either! 

Mike: I think there’s some truth to that.

Laura: Brad and I grew up drinking a big glass of milk at dinner. Didn’t we?

Brad: Sure. It’s what you do.

Laura: It’s what you do. And Mike always thought that was disgusting. So, we drink water now. 

Emily: Air high-five, Mike. 

Laura: I had no idea that more people than Mike thought it was weird. 

Mike: It’s a heart-land thing.

Emily: Yeah, you come to Iowa and you drink milk. 

Mike: Or go to the barn and get hydrated. 

Emily: We’re all learning new things. 

Brad: Mike, what do you have?

Mike: So, Laura is kind of adventurous, or she can be. That’s what sealed the deal for me early on in our relationship. We were dating—I can’t remember for how long—and she took me sky-diving. 

Laura: Yeah, that was true love. 

Mike: We jumped out of a plane. That’s pretty wild. 

Laura: It took our relationship to new heights. [Laughter]

Mike: It was a big deal. I talked about being outdoorsy before. She’ll go camping with me; she’s gone a couple of times while pregnant. 

Laura: That’s also true love.

Mike: How far along were you?

Laura: 12 weeks and 34 weeks. I mean, that is commitment.

Emily: Thanks, Brad, for never taking me camping. [Laughter]

Mike: But you enjoy it, right?

Laura: The 34 week one was hard. I was pretty big. I enjoy the daytime, just not the sleeping. 

Mike: They’re pretty intense camping trips.

Laura: Like we have to bring our own water, people! We put gallons of water in packs and carry it with us. There’s no fresh water. 

Mike: Pretty remote areas of northern Minnesota. We’ve backpacked across Europe. There’s definitely some adventure there. So, Laura has an adventurous side. 

Emily: Thanks, guys. So today’s show is about marriage and the little years. We get a lot of questions from listeners asking what it looks like to grow in marriage when you have lots of little kids at home, and how do we overcome challenges. So, let’s talk. What’s the hardest thing about marriage?

Brad: I think one of the challenges about marriage in the little years for us was making time for one another. I remember we used to go on exciting dates that were involved—jet-skiing or going to shows—but now, we’re pretty happy if we can sneak away after the kids are down. Maybe a grandparent can pop over for an hour and a half so we can get away and have time with each other. It’s morphed, but I think having time for that relationship in the little years is an important piece; it’s hard, but you can do it. 

Emily: I totally agree with that. I think it’s harder to have fun, to cultivate hobbies, because that takes time. We may be able to check off the box that we were able to go out and have dinner, but there’s the transition time of easing into the conversation and then jumping back into home life. I think that’s something you go without in the little years. What do you think, Mike?

Mike: Parenting is such a joy, such a blast, and there are so many amazing things about it; but at the same time, it’s draining. It takes so much energy—whether it’s physical, emotional, or intellectual. There are so many things to discuss and so many decisions to make all the time. How are we disciplining in this area? And each kid is different and unique. That investment takes away from your marriage. So it’s kind of similar to the time thing, but it’s a lot harder with that focus on parenting to love each other well and stay connected. 

Laura: That emotional toll of pouring so much out into your kids. It’s that idea of giving your husband the leftovers. I concur. So then, on the flipside, how has God actually grown you or used marriage to grow you in this season?

Mike: I think I have grown some—Laura can tell us how much—in respect to serving in our marriage. We talked about the different kinds of energy investments into parenting, I think all that lends itself to have more opportunities to serve more. You can see chances to help your spouse. I think I’ve started to learn how to do that without being asked, and learning how to do it with the right place in my heart. A lot of times, if Laura was really busy—even with the ministry—I’d step up in a certain way here or there, and I’d hope she’d notice it and say something. That’s doing things for the wrong reason. I’ve started to come to grips with everything Laura does. She’s running a ministry, she wrote a book; there are a lot of ways I can help out more and not come home and prioritize what I want, whether that’s relaxing or doing stuff outside. In the end, those things aren’t going to fulfill me in the end anyways. 

Laura: You have grown a lot in that. I think you’ve always been a huge servant to our family, but over the last few years, it’s been neat to see that with the circumstances the Lord has put in our life, we’ve been forced to lean on one another. I think there are certain things in life where you can decide to be more dependent or work more as a team and give more of yourself, or it could push you the other direction. I think God has been gracious to push us towards serving one another really well. I remember our pastor asked, “Who is the biggest servant you know?” And he said, “Your answer should be your spouse.” And I was so grateful, because I did think of you! It was really sweet, because he said, “You have a front-row seat to their life. You see them more than anyone else. So hopefully, the person who is the biggest person in your life is your spouse, because you spend the most time with them.” That was challenging to me; am I serving my husband well? Will he think of me? It was a good question to ask myself. 

Brad: I would definitely say Emily and I have a solid, happy, fulfilling marriage. We have moments and time of disagreement, for sure, but I think God has used marriage to show a spotlight on my own sinfulness and selfishness. When you’re in the context of front-row seat or life-on-life living, the other person can’t help but see the best and the worst. I think before marriage, I thought I was doing okay. But when you’re with somebody, you’re confronted by all the ugliness—and you’re experiencing it with somebody you love. Yes, I’m a new creation in Christ, but the marks of the fall are still clear. I think God has used these little years to refine and shape my life; and to reveal the need to hear and preach the gospel to myself, to have it preached to me, and then to preach it to others. I need that encouragement, Emily needs that encouragement; we all need that encouragement. 

Emily: It’s interesting thinking about how in marriage, we come in with a lot of expectations. Early on, that’s one of the first thing revealed. I expected we’d eat dinner at this time, and you expected to eat at this time. There’s an opportunity for conflict! I think that’s one way we’ve both grown, Brad: putting our expectations on Christ and coming to one another with different expectations or seeing ourselves as co-laborers, unified in this mission God’s given us to raise our family and to show everyone around us—as business owners, parents, or working in the church nursery. It’s amazing, ten years later, I think there are things we still have expectations we have for one another that we have to take to the Lord and ask, “Where are my needs being met?” You’re my partner, not my primary need-meeter. 

Laura: Not only with expectations, but also assumptions. I think I’d often find myself thinking—if the baby was crying at night—that he was just sleeping or pretending he couldn’t hear them, because he didn’t want to get up with the baby. Or on a night he might work late, I’d assume he wanted to be at work and not home with our family. I needed to change my assumption; I needed to believe that what he told me was true. No, he does want to be at home; there’s a lot of pressure at work. He does want to get up with the baby, he’s just really sleeping through it. All moms out there: just remember they really do sleep through the crying. It’s amazing! But believing the best in him, his motives, and his assumptions has been a big mindshift in extending generosity towards what’s happening in his life. I don’t assume the worst or assume I know all his motives and heart. I have to remember that I’m not his Holy Spirit. I can say things all day long, but ultimately, I cannot change my husband’s heart. That can only be done by a work of God and the Holy Spirit. 

It was really helpful for me to remember my place and role in your life, trusting that God will change you as he sees fit on his timeline. He’s sanctifying you, and in that, he’s working on me the most. The first place I need to look is in my own heart for the sin I have, not trying to look into you and what you can fix. I think the Lord has worked on me the most by saying, “No, look at you first. Look at your own heart, not the other person’s. I’ll deal with them as I deal with them. You’re responsible for you.”

Emily: Yeah. Building on that, one of the questions we get the most from moms is, “How can I encourage my husband to grow spiritually or lead the family?” Or, “I do see these areas of life that I see he needs to grow or change, but how do I approach it?” That can be really tough to figure out what that posture should be. There’s tension between praying and trusting the Lord, and figuring out what our actions should look like practically. Brad and Mike, we’ll put you in the hot seat. How do you feel most encouraged to grow spiritually in our relationships? 

Mike: I think one of the best things wives can do is find ways for dad to partner with them. At least in our marriage, Laura is way more nurturing. She’s worked on it, but I also think she just knows better how to disciple our kids. When she can give me insight into what she’s doing with the kids, how she’s working through heart issues and disciplining well, and how she’s having really good conversations with them, it gives me chances to join with her in that. It gives me insight into what happened that day and tees me up to step in alongside her. That’s huge. It’s encouraging to me when she trusts me I can help with those things. And it helps me grow spiritually when I step into those conversations and help our kids work on sin issues or matters of the heart—that works on my heart. When you have those conversations with your kids, you have to address things in your own heart. I’d encourage moms to find ways to do that with their husbands. 

Brad: I think this is a great question. It’s some ways it an easy one for me, because Emily does encourage me to grow spiritually and lead our family simply by her example. When I say that, I’m saying how she lives in the 24-hour period in the day—she’s faithful, she prays, she reads and teaches truth to our family. Many of the children’s resources seen on social media come to our home, and she’ll sit and walk through them with the kids at the breakfast table as we’re getting ready. So she makes time and is intentional. Another example I have is that this year, I took my oldest to school. Emily gave us some flashcard questions that have a Bible verse on one side and two questions on the backside as conversation starters. I’d talk with my son about those things on this 12-minute drive to school, and I think if mom didn’t do that, we’d be doing mental math or thinking about landmarks along the way, making sure they could pronounce road correctly. 

[Everyone laughs.]

Instead, we used that time—because of what mom did—well. I keep them in the center console so I can pull them out and read them, pass them back so he can read them, and we talk about what it means to be strong in the Lord or putting on the armor of God. I don’t even know where to find that stuff; they come in a little plastic baggie, and we keep ‘em. 

Laura: They just magically appear! [Laughter]

Brad: Yeah, it works. She’s a tremendous example. She makes it easy for us, like Mike said, but her example is inspiring. 

Laura: I think being an example is such a good point. I know Mike invests well in me by my seeing his example of desiring to follow the Lord, wanting to have conversations, wanting to grow. So often in parenting, we feel like we need to be perfect or already have arrived. We need to know the right answer or the resources. But really, it’s been neat that every time I’ve seen Mike want to invest well in our kids, to grow spiritually, to read a Christian book, or to read the Bible, I’m caught up in that too. I think that works that way with both of us; we’re people moving forward together. That’s a beautiful picture of marriage and something I love about my relationship with Mike: when he’s inspired, I’m inspired, and vice versa. I think that’s what’s marriage designed to be. We’re all striving for “our future glory selves” (Tim Keller). I can see what Mike could be, and Mike can see what I could be, so we’re encouraging each other today towards the ways God could sanctify us in the future. I love that idea of examples: running the race and caring for ourselves first, recognizing that’ll sweep up the other person in the story you’re playing out in your life. 

Emily: I remember sitting at a wedding years ago, hearing the officiant talk about how this couple’s joys would now be linked. This one person’s success was this other person’s success; one person’s struggle and lack of flourishing would affect the other person. That can be discouraging or incredibly encouraging as a married couple. Our spiritual progress and joys are linked, and can often encourage one another. 

Hopefully something in there was encouraging to you guys today as you listened. We’re grateful Brad and Mike were willing to sit in the hot seat and come on the show!

Laura: Nice job, guys. 

Brad: Absolutely! Thank you for having us. 

Mike: Yeah, thanks guys. This was fun.

Emily: You can find out more about the topic of marriage and motherhood, especially in the little years on our website, risenmotherhood.com. We’ll also have show notes with additional resources. You may also see some behind-the-scenes footage if you head to our social media, @risenmotherhood, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thanks, guys!

Ep. 134 || Moms in Process Transcript

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Hey guys, Laura here! We’re excited to be back with new podcast episodes after a summer break. There are so many fun things going on, so we’re going to share a few of them with you before we dive into today’s extra special show. First, you might’ve heard something unfamiliar when the show started. That’s because this season of shows are sponsored. We’re so grateful for the brands, organizations, and ministries that are willing to support the work we do to bring the gospel to moms all over the world. Their support—and the support of our donors—helps bring these episodes and all our content to you each week. Secondly, many of you have already share about this, but the Risen Motherhood book—co-written by Emily and I—releases next week on September 3rd. We’re so grateful for all of your excitement. And if you haven’t pre-ordered yet, I want to make sure you know about a great additional offer we have right now—to anyone who pre-orders the Risen Motherhood book, you’ll receive two free bonus chapters that Emily and I wrote. These won’t be available after the book comes out and we really want all of you to have them, but you only get them if you pre-order. There’s only one week left to get these, then they disappear. If you want in, head to any major online retailer, like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook.com, and place your order today. Now to those of you who have already pre-ordered if you haven’t redeemed your bonus chapters (thank you!)q, head to our website at risenmotherhood.com/bonuschapters to enter your confirmation code and get your chapters sent straight to your email! They come right away, so you don’t even need to wait until the book ships!

Finally, we want to give you a heads up that to celebrate the release of the book, we have a really fun fall ahead. While you’ll still hear a lot of episodes with Emily and I talking about motherhood and the gospel in our regular format, we’ve also recorded interviews with our husbands, parents, and friends. We even have some fun roundtable discussions planned. We can’t wait for you to join us! To kick off the season, we’ve invited our Communications Manager, Autumn Kern, to host an interview about what it looks like to trust God and walk in faith when you’re still in process. Autumn’s married to Josh, and is mom to two adorable children, Wren and Cohen. In addition to her work at Risen Motherhood, she’s a budding writer and an acclaimed wedding photographer. And, of course, we consider her a close friend. On today’s episode, we’re going to give an inside look at the book writing process, but also talk about what it looks like to be faithful in any area of life—including motherhood—when you feel you just haven’t arrived yet. Okay, let’s get to the show with Autumn, Emily, and myself.

Autumn: Hey guys, welcome to this episode of Risen Motherhood! I’m Autumn, the Communications Manager for the R|M team, and I’m here with Laura and Emily who are joining me to talk about their book today along with the idea of being women who are in process. 

So, hey guys. How are you doing?

Emily: We’re really good! We’re so excited to be chatting with you.

Laura: I’m impressed. Autumn, that was super good. That was legit. 

Autumn: Does this feel weird?

Laura: A little bit. I love getting to talk to you, because it’s sort of like Voxer. I can pretend by closing my eyes and not seeing you on the video. [Laughter]

Autumn: Well, I’m really excited to be talking to you. Thanks for having me on to talk about the book and to share with our audience a bit of the behind-the-scenes for what it was like to write a book. And I think a lot of it connects to what many women experience in wanting to share the gospel in their own lives. So, to kick us off, I would love for you to tell us how you got a book deal. Was it something you were looking for? Something that landed in the realm of possibilities? And how did you feel when you found out you’d be writing one?

Emily: Well, we started out, of course, as a podcast. We came up with a five-episode pilot to see where it would go. That was all we had on the horizon to begin with. Over time, we kept planning more and more content a few weeks out or a couple months out. Our focus when we began Risen Motherhood was to be faithful to the message God had laid on our hearts and to proclaim the good news to moms in a way that could reach them right where they were at, as we processed those things too. I think about a year into the podcast, Laura and I were power-recording over a weekend, and an email popped up inviting us to connect with an agent about potentially writing a book! That was one of the first times we considered it in a serious way.

Laura: Yeah, there had been some inquiries prior to that from publishers or agents, but nothing that really sounded super promising. But this one was actually from a Risen Motherhood community member, which was really cool. She was someone who’d listened to the show for a long time, and her brother is an agent from a reputable firm, so we wanted to take a second look at it. She was willing, as we emailed back and forth, to connect us with them. The ball got rolling from there!

I remember Emily and I were both pregnant at the time. I was with my third, and she was with her fifth. Much of us was feeling like, “Eh, I don’t really know. We’ll talk but maybe we won’t write a book for a few more years.” It was kind of neat how it happened. It was a little sneaky. [Laughter] They passed us each little piece of the proposal—which is typically 25 pages or longer—really slowly. We had no idea how to write a proposal or what it contained. Our agent just led us forward little by little; these two pregnant ladies who were very overwhelmed. Before we knew it, we got an email from him that said, “Congratulations! You’ve written a book proposal.” [Laughter] 

Emily: It was really cool to see that come together. It was scary to release that out to different publishing houses and see what the response would be. We were overwhelmed with this good response from a lot of different people. Others were excited about the message we were sharing and it seemed to resonate with people. It probably took a few months from proposal to securing a final deal, but it was exciting.

Laura: From there, we had about a year to write the book. I moved during that transition, so that was a big thing we’ll probably talk about later. It was plenty of time to write the book, and then you move into this marketing season, which is what we’re in now. It feels odd and a little strange, but it’s a fun season. That’s kind of the journey in a nutshell.

Autumn: I think that’s great. I love, as someone on the team, watching you be co-laborers for the gospel. I think it’s really wonderful and unique. I’d love to know through this process what you learned about each other and individually? What did you learn about the gospel and motherhood? This was a long season, and the Lord did a lot through your relationship and through your time writing.

Emily: Well, I learned I don’t know very much. [Laughter]

Laura: Me too. I’m just going to ditto that. [Laughter]

Emily: Again, before we started, we’d been podcasting on subjects relating to motherhood and the gospel for about a year and a half. There was this baseline that I kind of had a sense for how we wanted to communicate things because it was already laid out. I had written for many years before and I read a lot! But the deeper I got into it, the more I realized I have a lot to learn about these topics still. I think another thing I learned about myself, which was probably the biggest revelation or lesson for me, is that I have a lot of critics living in my little brain that I’m always trying to please. This was a huge battle for me. Every time I sat down at my computer, it felt like I was sitting down at a table and I could picture the personalities and people around me, and the things they were saying about my writing. “Ooh, that’s not very smart!” “Ah, that’s not very funny! I’m done reading this book. I’m going to put this down; she’s not very relatable.” Or all those different things that made it difficult to stay focused on the essence of what we were trying to communicate while not being self-focused but focused on the Lord. 

I think at the end of it, I felt freedom from that. I had to come up against it so much, there was a point at which there was no way this book was going to be written unless I battled them with truth and was willing to say, “You might be right, but God has still called me to do this, and I can communicate the gospel with his help.” 

And then, in terms of learning about Laura, I was impressed over and over again with what a fabulous writer she is. She’s so good at taking a theme and sticking to it like glue and carrying it or weaving through all of her chapters. That was something I learned from her along the way. I also think she was a really good editor for me. Again, I already knew those things, but it was fun to watch in-action her ability to pull out different things I needed to shift and tweak, and help me hone in on how I could connect with people better. I really value her as an editor.

Laura: Aw, thanks, Em!

I would have to ditto Emily. It definitely brings you to your knees with all the things you didn’t know you didn’t know. That was a great reality check. I think we talk a lot about how humbling it is to write a book.

And similar to Emily and the critics, it’s a twist for me. I have a deep desire for people to like what I wrote; for them to think I’m clever, funny, or what I wrote is witty and winsome. To Emily’s credit, she’s very good at reminding me it’s never worth sacrificing truth for cleverness. They always say, “Writers love their own words the most. Nobody will love them as much as you.” That rang in my ears so often, because I’d want to cling to a rhythm or poetic moment, and I wanted that more than I wanted truth. That’s a really hard thing to get around as a writer. I had to be willing and remember truth and clarity are of most importance, whether or not I’m the best writer. I had to ask myself, “Is this something that might be helpful? Is it going to blow her away and most amazing thing she’s ever read?” Most of the time, I felt like, “No, probably not.” But hopefully God is going to work through that and move her—not because of the words I use and my sentence structure or my powerful argument—because the Holy Spirit is working through her life. I can trust God to do the work and my words don’t have to. That was a huge thing for me to overcome and feel freedom in as I write. 

In terms of Emily, I’d say a lot of similar things. She’s a wonderful writer. She’d draft a lot; she’d have a chapter and we’d say, “Let’s move forward with it,” and the next thing I know, she rewrote it. So there’d be a new chapter in my inbox, and then oh!, she rewrote it again! [Laughter] She builds on her ideas really well, and you want to hone them in. I loved seeing that. You worked so hard on the chapters and have all these amazing ideas. I still stand behind the idea that a lot of those ideas could’ve worked because they all were wonderful. But ultimately, I value Emily’s value of truth and clarity. I think we balance each other out really well with our different strengths. You were really helpful in encouraging me and helping me process through an argument, making sure it was really logical and helpful for the mom on the other side. It needed to be true to scripture and not bounce around, which I can tend to do. I’m so thankful to have had her by my side the entire time.

Emily: Aw, well it was really fun to work together.

And I think we learned a lot about the gospel and motherhood along the way. We touched on it a little bit, but one thing I learned is on one hand it’s hard to apply the gospel to motherhood. You have to stop and think. Sometimes I’d have a chapter I was trying to apply the gospel framework in, and I’d have to do a mindmap on a piece of paper. 

Pencil paper, draw lines, and connect things. 

Laura: Ha! Ha! I’ve never done one of those. [Laughter]

Emily: It was complicated! [Laughter] I still have those somewhere. It was hard. But then, the funny thing is it’s also quite simple. We’re often the ones wanting to overcomplicate it. And that’s true of the good news and the Bible. A child can sit and listen to it and comprehend the most essential and wonderful things, like, “God loves me, “ and “I trust Jesus.” But then an adult scholar with a PhD can sit and read the text and feel a little confounded by it. I think I learned that tension as we wrote the book. 

Autumn: That’s great. Thanks for sharing all that. I think you’re pulling out this tension point of wanting to share the gospel really well but also realizing your still in process, therefore it’s not going to be perfect. I think that’s something a lot of moms feel as they think about sharing the gospel—whether that’s written down or verbally amongst friends—is you can look back at what you’ve said or written and you sort of cringe. You wish you hadn’t said it a particular way, or that you understood nuance better, or even that you better understood what you were talking about. That desire and inability to carry out the gospel perfectly is the reality of being women who are moving towards holiness but aren’t holy yet. And that’s all of us. Whether you’re in a ministry position like Risen Motherhood or if you’re doing ministry in your everyday life with the people around you in your community. It can be really nerve-wracking, but I imagine putting those words in a book that’ll sit on bookshelves indefinitely seems a little higher stake. So do you have encouragement for the moms who feel that tension how they, as women in-process, can share the gospel even if we can’t be perfect in our theology, application, or rhetoric?

Laura: I think that’s a really great question and something I struggle with beyond just my work here at Risen Motherhood. I’m consistently reminded when you love someone, you share about that person. I’ve been thinking about Luke 8, when Jesus heals a demon-possessed man. Jesus says, “Go home and tell everyone how much I have done for you.” Or Jesus with the woman at the well. The woman ends up saying, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did.” Jesus did great things for these people, and they couldn’t help but talk about him and share him. When your life has been changed the way Christ has changed mine, I can’t help but share. I know I’ve touched on this, but I struggled with the idea that there’s nothing new under the sun. I can’t produce something new; someone’s going to do this better than me or say it in a more fabulous way. I had to remind myself that the message itself doesn’t rely on me and God is going to carry it; and if I adore Christ as much as I say I do, I’d be compelled to share for all of the amazing things the Lord has done for me. That’s something I want to remember: I want to glorify God with my words, actions, and speech no matter where I am on the journey, because of the good, amazing, and wonderful gift he’s given me. The way I speak about him, or share about him. or the time I invest in this book or other things is because I love God so much. I long to honor him with my life, and this is what’s in front of me and the way I’m able to do that. 

Emily: Amen. I piggyback on all of that. The reality is as Christians, if we love him and hope in him, we’re compelled to share about him. For me, it was also going back to the perfection of theology. That can paralyze me. I want to wait to say something until I can get it exactly right. Or if I felt like there was a knob I could turn to make it even better, it was extremely difficult for me to say, “This is as good as I can reasonably do with the time God has given me and with the mental capabilities and resources I have right now.” I think one thing that’s encouraged me was Paul. He shares that compared to the speakers of the age, he wasn’t eloquent or well spoken. He didn’t have fancy, elaborate arguments.  But he preached the gospel; he preached Christ crucified. The great thing is it’s really God who is powerful in our weakness, and it’s the gospel that’s the power for salvation. People come to faith as they hear God’s word and God’s good news shared. When I’d remember that, it’d take the weight off of me and put the weight on God, who can most certainly carry it, and be powerful and transform lives. I think we need to remember God isn’t thwarted or caught off guard by human failure or sin or mistakes. In fact, we have lots of evidence in scripture of how he used sin, failure, and mistakes to further his plan, make his gospel more beautiful and go further, and show his glory brighter. I take comfort in that. There may be things I didn’t say right, but even in that, God can still be glorified as we learn and grow in humility. 

Autumn: I think that truth transforms it from being a burden of trying to make it perfect and instead makes it a delight to go and share. The gospel has clearly advanced—in its entire timeline—through sinful people. There’s never been a perfect person, other than Christ, to share the Word of God. I love to think that God is faithful to his church and the Holy Spirit is shaping our hearts towards what the word teaches. So we can take in great content and trust, if we’re studying the word, God will continue to teach us the way that he does. We can be faithful and then we can rest, which has been the theme we’ve been talking about: being faithful in the next step and trusting God with what you’re offering. 

So, I think that tension causes some fear because of the vulnerability required. Being in process requires vulnerability. When you’re being taught, stretched, and changed, you come up against your own sin, weaknesses, and all the ways you misplace your affections. I think women feel desperate for anything that answers those issues they see, especially the quick fix offers. A lot of what the world offers seems really easy; it’s usually “10 steps to this” or “The one trick you need to keep your child in bed at naptime!” Instead what we ought to be doing is the slow plod of scripture study and prayer. That can require waiting and some heavy mind-lifting. I’m curious what you think are some of the most tempting false hope surrounding moms today? And how is the gospel the true hope we really need?

Emily: I think for me it’s pretty straightforward. I think I can mother well enough to buy my kids a good future. If I’m careful enough, keep them safe in the right ways, and I’m super nice and friendly, and I offer them all the right life experiences, they’ll be happy, healthy, and thriving adults. It’s a formula in my mind, and it’s hard not to think that if I do all these things right, God owes me good kids. Or on the reverse side, I live in fear that as I make mistakes, God will punish me by allowing my kids to be bad if I can’t be everything we need. I think we dive into this a lot in our episode, “Is My Child’s Faith My Responsibility?” For me, I find that most tempting to put my hope in. Frankly, it’s myself.

Laura: Yeah, I’m the same way I think. So often I’m a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of gal. I think I’m the answer; if I do a little more research, ask better questions, study a bit harder, stay up later, Google the right thing, I’ll create a great life for us. And some day, my kids will look back and call me, “Blessed.” [Laughter] Right? That’s the measure of a good mom. But I think some days I do want to hear that. I forget the true measure of success. We did a whole show on that, “What is Your Measure of Success?” For me, I think someday I want my kids to tell me I did a really good job. My hope is in them liking me and them thinking I helped create the success they are. So often, it’s a wordly version of what success is instead of a godly one. I think that theme is common with moms in general. We all have our different ways, methods, things we can subscribe to create successful children. Even Christian circles have their own way of saying this or that is a great lifestyle or parenting choice that will create a successful child today or make you a successful mom. The reality is there isn’t a formula for being a successful mom outside of God’s plan. God’s plan is that we’ve all failed—none of us have been great moms—but in Jesus, we have redemption and reconciliation with God. Jesus gives us that “good mom” status, so we can be confident in knowing we have his word, the Holy Spirit, and his church to grow us and sustain us. God will provide everything we need every single day, as we live faithfully according to his plan, to be good moms for our children. Ultimately, every act of good we do is a grace and mercy of God, giving that to us. That’s the heartbeat of our book. That’s what we really care about here at Risen Motherhood; a mom learning reliance on God, not herself. I think there’s a lot of freedom when that’s fully understood in your heart.

Emily: Yeah, to build off that, another thing we see is when we’re in seasons of feeling really overwhelmed or like we’re not doing a good enough job, we can try to self-medicate. So another direction people can steer from the formula is I’m going to self-actualize and become the best version of me I can be. It’ll be through self-care, or a life balance I’ll strike on my own, or becoming a victim to our own circumstances. Moms can really wrestle with that.

I think the good news has an answer for moms there as well. We are limited, and we do need to care for ourselves. We’re women who matter to God. We’re created in his image. Our feelings matter to God. But we gain our lives by losing them in Christ. I think that can be really hard to hear and comprehend, but it’s for our joy. We’re not a victim to motherhood, we’re actually a servant of God. That’s another way we can find hope in the midst of our struggle and hopelessness. 

Autumn: It’s so beautiful that the gospel meets us where we are in process, because we’re all at different points. I love knowing the hope of the gospel is true no matter what stage of motherhood you’re in, or what’s happening in your house on a Tuesday, or how bad your week’s been; God’s grace meets you there and enables you to enjoy his gift of joy to you. 

So I’d love to know if you could stand by the shelves in a bookstore as women are looking at your book, what would you say to them? Knowing this is the heartbeat of the book, what would you want to say as she touches the cover?

Emily: I want to know if I can have childcare so I can go to a bookstore and stand around the shelves. [Laughter]

Laura: Seriously.

Emily: That sounds fun. 

Laura: Oh man. Well, I hope it makes them think. I hope they’re convicted by it and encouraged by it. I think we’d both say we hope women who read it are willing to wrestle with it and do some heart work. It’s not just a quick read, but some thought that goes into it about how their thought patterns might change and what heart tendencies might be revealed. Our hope and prayer is that God will use it in the lives of moms to point them to himself. I don’t care if you remember my name, but remember I love Jesus. As women read this book, I don’t care if they’re impressed by my writing or Emily’s writing but that they’re impressed by God and desire to know him more. Not Emily. Not Laura. Not Risen Motherhood. It’s about God. I hope they go and get involved in their local church, and pull their Bible off the bookshelf even if it’s been a really long time. I hope they invest in their relationship with him after reading, and that God would be their source of life that they cling to forever. The reason I went through the pain to write the book is because I believe in the message so much. I believe in the power of God to change hearts. So we’re hopeful it is a blessing to anyone who picks it up, and that it starts great discussions. 

Autumn: Well, Emily and Laura, thanks so much for joining me on this episode of Risen Motherhood. If you’d like to check out our show notes, you can find them at the link on our website at www.risenmotherhood.com. You can also follow us on social media @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. And these guys will see you next week!

Emily: Great job, Autumn.

Laura: Thanks everybody for listening!

Ep. 133 || Summer Expectations: Setting Our Sights on Grace Transcript

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood! I’m Emily, here with Laura.

Laura: Hello, hello!

Emily: Before we jump into today’s show, we want to tell you about something you’ve been asking about for a long time: our launch team for the book! It’s going to be paired with something really exciting: some great additional bonus content in the form of an e-course.

Laura: We want to do things a little non-traditionally for a launch team. We’re going to have an e-course you can participate in. Each week, Emily or I—or probably both of us—will pop in and talk you through the framework we use every week to take a topic and work it through the gospel. You can take your own unique circumstances—whatever you’re facing in the moment—and apply the gospel yourself. There actually is a real system I feel we’ve developed.

Emily: Yeah, there are questions we process through every time. There are some dangers Laura and I have run into as well, so we want to share some things to avoid in the way you apply the gospel. We think this is really helpful stuff in addition to the book; we don’t really dive into this super deep in the book. We’d love for you to join us! So, how do you get into the launch team, Laura?

Laura: The first thing you have to do is preorder the book. Once you’ve done that, you can submit your receipt; there’s some technical stuff that we’ll have on the website. But then we’re hosting the group on Facebook. You can join by August 2nd, so think ahead right now to the summer. The actual group will run from August 5th to September 13th; it’s a six-week e-course training ground.

Emily: You’re going to get a PDF of the book, and we’re going to give you a bookplate, which makes your book a signed copy. There will be weekly giveaways. Since it’s a launch team, we’d love for you to come alongside us by reviewing the book and sharing it on social media. We’ll be giving you all the help to do that and cheering you along as you help us launch this book out into the world!

Laura: We hope you come and join us! We’d love to meet all of you in the Facebook group. It’s a great way for us to have a little more contact with you, which we think is really exciting.

Emily: Oh! There’s another thing we can’t wait for!

Laura: What?

Emily: Summer!

Laura: Oh! Ha! [Laughter] I wasn’t sure where you were going with that. But it’s true! Very good transition, Emily. I ruined it. I apologize.

Emily: That’s what we’re chatting about today: our summer expectations, hopes, and dreams. The weather is finally nice! We live in central Iowa, as most of you know, so our winter goes on and on and on…

Laura: It’s like six months. Maybe seven.

Emily: And when you think it’s over, you can wake up to snow scattered on the ground even though our plants are trying to come up. We’re always really excited when summer gets here.

Laura: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I love summer, because I love all the extra time. I think I’m going to be so productive. I’m going to read with my kids and do all these crafts. I’m going to turn into Pinterest mom, and we’re going to do all these dinners outside, and all this stuff. Some of that gets accomplished, which is really fun. But some of it doesn’t. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Emily: I’ve seen more and more these summer bucket lists people have.

Laura: Those are cool.

Emily: And you think you’re going to go to all these parks, every splash pad, and the zoo—

Laura: And read 100 books. We’re going to earn the personal pan pizza. For sure. [Laughter] It’s so important.

Emily: Maybe it’s something like all the playdates. I know that’s something Laura and I have been talking about: how we’re going to get our kids together more often. Another thing we love about summer is there’s usually less illness.

Laura: Oh it’s so good!

Emily:  There’s not a cold every single week or a stomach bug. Like Laura said, the availability to eat outside and hopefully less sweeping. When my kids were really little, I remember making them eat lunch on a picnic blanket in the backyard. When they stood up, I’d just shake that thing.

Laura: Love it!

Emily: Shake those little sandwich pieces all over the yard. [Laughter] The birds would come eat them or whatever. In general, a lot of us look forward to travel, vacation, or memories. We think this is kind of the golden time for our kids when they look back and remember these super fun summers. There’s definitely a lot of pressure put on summer.

Laura: A lot of expectations. That’s for sure. One thing I think is hard too is for those who work, because a lot of times, work doesn’t slow down. It doesn’t for us at Risen Motherhood.

Emily: Work doesn’t know it’s summer! [Laughter]

Laura: Exactly. Our kids are home with a different schedule, but we don’t have a different one. That can be a tough part of summer. You might be piecing together childcare or different day camps. Some of you are teachers, so maybe you have a shortened schedule which means you might have more expectations placed on how you’ll spend the summer. But no matter what, in general for most people, the summer brings a pretty significant change in the schedule. For all of us, there’s something about the summer, where things just get a little...wild. [Laughter]

Emily: They do! It’s later bedtimes, longer days, and there’s an exhaustion that occurs over the summer. We think it’s going to be fun, but now we’re tired because we’ve been doing more than we usually do. What’s interesting is for some parts of the country or parts of the world, this is the time of the year they’re stuck inside.

Laura: Which is so strange! I can’t imagine spending your summer inside. But I’d take your winters; that sounds awesome. [Laughter]

Emily: Everything is a trade-off. But regardless of what this looks like for you or what you see as pros and cons, we want to give everybody—including ourselves—a little pep talk. We’re staring down the summer months; it’s May now and we’re making our plans. We know a lot of the things we’re about to talk about, but we still need a reminder of God’s grace and how that changes us.

Laura: We know some of you might be listening to this later in the summer. Welcome if you joined us over the summer for the first time! Know that we’re dividing this up by months, but any of these can be applied at any time throughout the summer or your year.

Emily: Yeah. So June. We need perspective. What we wanted to bring out in this June month is the perspective that we’re living for something eternal. We’re not storing up our treasures here on earth. Our lives aren’t meant to be lived for our own pleasure, or our own fun, or getting our bucket list done. We’re part of a bigger story. Jesus knew it’d be easy for us to take care of ourselves and help ourselves, but he calls us to something that’s greater in his kingdom.

Laura: He calls us to love others more than ourselves. In fact, we’ve talked in a previous show about how God sets the standard. He said, “I know you’ll love yourself so easily and so well, that I want you to love others the way you love yourself.” Christ calls us to love others and prioritize them. That includes our children and our husbands, of course; but also the poor, and the needy, and the hard-to-love, and those less fortunate. We want to think as we go into the summer: what does that look like for each family to make sure they are carrying out the Great Commission and greatest commandments? As a personal example, something I’ve realized is that I have to work pretty hard to find ways to involve my children in service or else it doesn’t really happy. We may make a meal or two when it crops up. But this year, we’re working with a nonprofit that works with transitional housing for those who can’t afford traditional housing. So we come and clean the apartment before the new person comes. When I first heard about this opportunity, we specifically signed up for it because we thought it was a good way to involve our kids. It has accountability and has been great for my kids to see not everyone lives the way we do. It’s also offered some great conversations.

Emily: To build off that, one of the questions we wanted to leave you with in this month is considering how you can live out the greatest commandments? How can you structure your summer in a way that shows not only how you love God but also how you love others? Our default is going to be to design these months to take care of number one and is about the betterment of our own lives and enjoyment. Can you think of someone you know you can serve? Is there a neighbor you want to get to know better? A mom with a new baby this summer that you can bring a meal or watch her other kids? Maybe there’s something at church you’ve been meaning to get involved in and now’s a good time to sign-up? Think about those things as you look ahead to your summer.

Laura: So, July. This month we need grace.

Emily: We need grace for all the plans we made in June. [Laughter] And all the good intentions we had that didn’t happen.

Laura: That’s exactly right. By June, it’s pretty obvious our summer bucket list isn’t going to be totally accomplished. The schedule has gone awry, right? Kids have gotten weirdly sick even though there’s less illness in summer. Maybe they were stung by a wasp or a bee. My daughter is deathly afraid of bees. If there’s a bee around, we can’t do anything. Maybe it rained on the day you planned to go to the amusement park or zoo. There are a lot of failures. Not just in our plans going awry, but in our hearts. The kids are fighting, bickering, and complaining; they’re impolite and ungrateful. For us as moms, we’re caught off-guard by our kids’ ungrateful attitudes. We’re kind of annoyed ourselves. We’re frustrated. We want a nap. [Laughter]

Emily: Exactly, which is why we need to remember grace. We talked about perspective in the previous month, and this perspective reminds us that we live a life in Christ in God’s favor. This means we get to experience his joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, love, and kindness even though we’re sinners who’ve fallen short of his standard. Whenever we realize that and think about how short we fall, and yet in Christ he gives us all of these pleasures—a lot like the pleasures we get to experience in summertime—our attitude is different. We also get to point our children back to him as well as we see these things that pop up during the summer that aren’t what we wanted. We get to tell them about the grace God gives us in Christ and all the gifts he gives us that we don’t deserve.

Laura: I think of the Greek word—I’ll probably mispronounce it—charis. Somebody out there is a scholar, and they’re correcting me. [Laughter] We’re not trained students in this stuff. It’s a way to talk about God’s favor. We don’t earn his favor. I think the summer season is a great time to remember that. And it’d be a fun word study if you’re looking for one.

Emily: For me, I can tend to be very future-oriented and idealistic. I always have these really fun ideas in my mind. But the reality is by the time we get to July, I have tension in my house that creates a lot of conflict. My older kids feel like they deserve to go to the pool everyday or do super fun things outside. I feel pulled because I can’t supervise them at that moment; I need to do housework, or stuff for our family, or get the little ones down for a nap. There can be tension that starts to boil up in our house, creating sibling conflict, tears, complaining. Things aren’t turning out the way we expected. But it’s good for us to sit down and remember. I’m prepping myself already for the days that will come in July when there are tears because someone didn’t get to do what they wanted to do. We can reorient our perspective: we feel this tension because we live in this world that’s fallen. But we can look to Christ and hope in him, not our circumstances. We can remember God’s grace.

Laura: Our July question and challenge for you is what verse can you post or memorize who you are in Christ even when things get hard? So Emily, get working on your verse.

Emily: I know! I probably do need to get one out.

Laura: Another nice challenge might be to find time to read a book or discuss with your kids the gospel theme. Working through all the stuff God has given us that we don’t deserve? That’s the gospel. Talk through what we deserve, what we’ve been given in grace and mercy. It’d be a great chance to remind yourself of some gospel hope. If you don’t know what book to read, we have a million on our website under the kids resources page. Or just go read a portion of the New Testament.

Emily: Yes! Last summer, we studied 1 John with my oldest son, and it provided so many opportunities because there are so many good verses in there. “Whoever loves God must love his brother.” “We must walk in the way Jesus walked.” It gave us a lot of natural opportunities as a day went south to recall that study with my son.

Laura: Your son was six at the time, right?

Emily: Yeah, almost six.

Laura: So, our Abide study cards are a great method to walk through if you’re thinking you don’t know how to study 1 John with your kids. Well don’t worry, we have provided all you need, moms. Excuses gone. [Laughter]

Emily: A free printable! Okay, so let’s get to August, when we’re in need of perseverance.

Laura: Gotta get to the end.

Emily: We’re nearing the summer finish line, but we’re not there yet. This is the point in the season when some of us are getting anxious about another schedule change coming in the fall. Things are on the calendar. Our kids are getting bored by all the things that sounded fun at the beginning of the summer. Things have been done or played through. It just feels like there’s dissatisfaction, even though we’re not quite at the end of the summer.

Laura: It’s when we want to give into our selfish desires, but now is not the time to grow weary of doing good or stirring one another up in love and good works. Just remember during this season—all the time but especially in August—because of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit. So now we have the power to live like Jesus, no matter how hard it is, how tired we are, how much we want to give up. Just remember you can change. Actually Christ is always changing you; he’s making all things new. He never leaves you how he found you. When God shows us his love, it does shape and affect our hearts. We want to encourage you during this season that you can turn to God in prayer, and you can read the word and ask him to make it real in your life in this season. Ask him to help you to keep loving others, even though it probably feels tiring and challenging. Maybe you’re starting to look forward to school. I know, for me, the hard thing about August is I’m ready for September.

Emily: It’s easy to think once our circumstances change, I’m going to pull myself together again. So once September is here and we’re back in the swing of school, then things will be easier or better. But that’s never the reality. We always need to stay the course right where we’re at. So the August question is considering what is one area you feel weak? What are God’s promises that sustain you in that area? Or how is he sustaining you in that area? Sometimes he is and we just need to stop and acknowledge it.

Laura: He always is.

Emily: Yes, that’s true. [Laughter] In Christ, he’s always sustaining us. But the unique ways…

Laura: Yes, yes, Amen, amen. [Laughter]

Emily: And let’s say, “Thank you God” for how he’s carrying us through something even though we’re not doing a great job.

Laura: So for the August challenge: put on some music and dance a little. Have a little hope in those lyrics, and help the whole family persevere to the end. I know music changes our heart attitudes. We have a whole episode on music if you want to learn about how it does. Take a look at your June goals, and remember it’s never too late to restart. Even if you only have a few weeks of summer left, it may be good to look back and think how you can love others and how you can serve people. Pull out the summer bucket list, because maybe you can finish a few things on there. It’s not about doing things; it’s about resting in God’s grace. I think it’s a reminder that it’s never too late to restart.

Emily: So we wanted to leave you with this little word picture.

Laura: This is all Emily. 1,000% Emily.

Emily: This is way too deep, but bear with me. We live among a bunch of cornfields in central Iowa, and more and more, I’ve gotten to the point where I think of things in terms of agriculture and farming. During the spring season, the farmers are sowing seeds. Even the hobby gardener knows you get out there and plant your seeds. But it’s really in these summer months that there’s a hard, daily grind of going out, tending to the crops. Or going out to your garden and weeding every day. This is when you’re getting your hands dirty and all your tools are out. Maybe you’re having to work from what feels like sunrise to sunset; it’s not the time to sit back and eat all the tomatoes and sweet corn. It’s not time to enjoy the harvest. It’s the really important hard time. I think this can be true of motherhood as well—especially in the little years. There’s this new life; we’re sowing seeds. But now is the summer season. Now’s the time we’re getting our hands dirty. We’re putting in the long hours and tending to their hearts, even though we haven’t seen the fruit of our work yet. We haven’t gotten to the harvest part yet. We want to leave you with that, because sometimes we want to be in the next season. We want to be in the part when we’re enjoying the fruit of what’s been done. But let’s stay the course. It’s summer, moms. It’s summer outside, and it’s summer in your home. It’s the time to cultivate the gospel growth and not giving up.

Laura: I love it. So with that, I think we’ll end. We’re signing off for the summer ourselves! So we wish you the very best for the next three months! We’ll return on Wednesday, August 28th with our fall season. We could not be more excited to get into that as we work through the book release, which is September 3rd. Don’t forget about that launch team we talked about at the beginning of the show. We’d definitely love to see you guys there. I think that’s about if for summer stuff! Head to risenmotherhood.com. We’ll be on social media—Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—and releasing articles all summer long. Only the podcast goes on break; the rest of the Risen Motherhood ministry is going, going, going. Emily and I are doing lots behind the scenes. We look forward to being in your earbuds in a couple of months.

Emily: Thanks, guys!

Ep. 132 || Habits of Faithfulness in Every Season: An Interview with Nancy Wolgemuth Transcript

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Hey, friends! Today I’m excited to share with you a very special episode with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Nancy Wolgemuth is someone who’s influenced Emily and me from afar for many years. I remember growing up listening to Nancy through the Revive Our Hearts ministry and doing her studies through the True Woman movement. She’s had a deep impact on both Emily and me, and it’s an honor to have her on today’s show. It’s not just us that Nancy’s impacted. She’s touched the lives of millions of women, calling women all over the world to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and his word is infectious and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and her two daily nationally syndicated radio programs, Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him—all of which you can find links to in our show notes. Nancy has a new book coming out that she co-wrote with her husband, Robert, which actually comes out the same day as Emily and I’s new book, Risen Motherhood, on September 3, 2019. The book is titled You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mystery of Providence, and it’s all about how no matter what happens, you can trust God to write you a good story. He redeems all situations, no matter how unlikely. We’ll talk a bit more about this book and Nancy’s story on today’s show, so let’s get to it! Here’s the interview with Nancy, Emily, and myself.

Laura: Hi, Nancy! Thanks for joining us on Risen Motherhood today!

Nancy: I’m so excited to meet both of you and to learn more about your ministry. I’m excited about the calling God’s given you and the way you’re encouraging moms. I don’t know what more important thing you could do, so thanks so much for the chance to connect.

Emily: It’s a joy to chat with you. We were talking before we jumped on this recording about how much of an impact Nancy has made in our lives personally, so we’re grateful for your faithfulness to the Word of God and to pass on the things he’s teaching you in Christ to the next generation. We can’t wait for our listeners to hear this interview and glena some of that wisdom if they haven’t listened to Revive Our Hearts. Thanks for being here.

Nancy: You’re so welcome. It’s really an honor.

Laura: I’d love it if you’d give our listeners a quick peek into what your daily life looks like and what kind of ministry you’re up to. I know you have a book coming out in September. I think it’s the same date as our book! Two book birthdays happening at the same time! So tell us about all the fun things you’re up to these days.

Nancy: I love that. Well, what a day looks like in my life? There are no two days alike. That’s like mothering, right? [Laughter] There’s a lot of tedium, a lot of tasks like writing and preparing messages to speak. I have a conference ministry and write books, so most of what I do is behind the scenes preparing for public outreach. The Lord has given me the opportunity for almost 20 years to be involved in a ministry I started, Revive Our Hearts. Our byline is “calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.” That’s something that applies to every season of life.

When the ministry started, I was single. In fact, I was single until I was 57 years old. I really felt God would have me single for all of my life. I loved serving him, I loved ministry, and I loved being single. I was a champion of marriage, motherhood, and family–a big champion of it—and I loved coming alongside families and encouraging them, but I didn’t think God had that plan for my life. Long story short, when I was 56, a man came into my life. I had actually already known him; he was my agent years ago. I knew him, I knew his wife; they were married for almost 45 years. Bobbie, his wife, had two years of ovarian cancer that ultimately took her home to heaven. Many of us were praying for Robert Wolgemuth and his family as they walked through this. Not long after the Lord took her to heaven, Robert came back into my life and said, “Would you be interested in pursuing a friendship?” I was so taken aback; it was like God sent earth-moving equipment into my heart. [Laughter] I said to him in that first conversation, “If I were ever to be married, God would have to awaken love in my heart in a way that has never happened before.” And it did! [Laughter] So, at 57, I was married for the first time; he had been married for a long time. This is a huge new season of my life. We celebrate month anniversaries, because that’s the only way we’ll ever catch up to our friends. So, we had our 41st anniversary—months, that is—and I’m in a sweet, new season.

It’s been a good reminder that whether you’re a young mom, leading a ministry, having a career in the workplace, or whatever, that our lives as women do function as seasons. One of the lies the world tells us is you can do everything now, and you can’t. I’ve had to make some changes and adjustments in my life—the same way you were married and didn’t have children looked different than now having five children. In every season of life—here’s the sweet thing—God is faithful, his word is true, his grace is sufficient.

So now, Robert and I have written our first book together, which is the one you referenced. It’s coming out in September, and I don’t say that to promote the book, but I want to promote the concept. The book is called You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mystery of Providence. In this book we tell a little bit about our story, but our story isn’t anything spectacular. We talk about people whose stories have taken them through hard places—infertility, a sick child, loss of a loved one, financial challenges, difficult marriage. Every woman who’s listening to this conversation right now, may or may not be in a hard place right now, but she will be in a hard place at different times in her life. We all will. We can’t predict those, we can’t control them, we can’t determine what they are. There are some hard placed we get into because we did stupid or sinful things. But there are a lot of hard places we get into from no fault of our own, no choosing of our own; it may be something in our past or present.

As we interviewed people for this book and listened to their stories, we realized when you look back, you realize you really can trust God to write your story. I want to say that as a word of encouragement to moms. We hear stories all the time at Revive Our Hearts: women who have a really sick child, lose a child; or fear about how their child will make it in today’s world, which there are a lot of things to be fearful about. There are times as a mom when your own marriage isn’t doing well, or you’re a single mom doing this by yourself, or you have a lot of little ones at the same time, which means you’ll have a lot of teenagers at the same time. [Laughter]

Laura: Oh dear.

Emily: I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet.

Nancy: I’ve never had children of my own, but my parents had six children in their first five years of marriage, which means they had six teenagers at one time. My mom was widowed at the age of 40 with seven children, ages 8-21. I don’t say that to make anyone afraid, but my dad was 53 and died of a heart attack. So my mom, who’s now 80, has spent the last 40 years of her life as a widow. There have been some really hard things, some hard places. I had a brother who was killed in a car accident, so she lost a child after losing a husband. You don’t know what that’s going to look like. I married an older man—Robert is 10 years older than I am—and I don’t know what his health is going to look like. I don’t know what my health is going to look like! Whatever season of life you’re in, the encouragement I try to give women and myself all of the time is: you can trust God to write your story.

I’m not sure how I got on all that, but that’s the book we’ve been working on this year. I really believe that applies as much to young mom as women in any season of their lives.

Emily: Thanks for sharing all that. I hope all our listeners got to have this treasured one-on-one coffee date with a woman who is farther along and able to look back and say, “This is what a lifetime of following and trusting God produces.” We have a lot of moms of young kids listening who are craving the voice of an older woman with the wisdom of years. It’s a joy for us to be able to hear that today and ponder what that means as we walk forward.

Nancy: If I can insert this thought: you women are in your early 30s, and you have a lot of young moms listening. I turned 60 this past fall, and I have to tell you that the distance from 20 or 30 to 60 is faster than you can imagine. [Laughter] I’m totally gray-haired. I don’t have nearly the energy I did at 30. I’ve never been a woman who’s afraid to get older; I’ve always looked forward to it. But I was at the gym this morning, and I told my trainer, “Sixty is so different. I’m physically having a lot of changes, and it happened so fast.” I look back at 20, 30, and 40, and I say, “How did I get to 60?!” [Laughter] It happens faster than you can imagine.

The habits, the choices, the faithfulness that younger women are making today—to love God and his word, to say “yes” to his promises, to cling to him when you can’t understand what he’s doing, to praise him when your eyes are filled with tears—are hard choices. Seeking God, putting him first, getting in his word when you feel like you don’t have a spare minute in your day, prioritizing your spiritual life and development—not just your to-list for the day—will reap the beautiful fruit and benefits and blessings when you’re 30, 40, 50, or 60. Now, you can blow it too. Whether you’re 30, 40, 50, or 60, or older, there are days we totally blow it. We fail and we don’t trust God at times, we lean on our own understanding; we get self-conscious, we get caught up in activity and busyness, we forget the Lord. That’s why the gospel is such good news—no matter what age you are. We can go back, humbling ourselves, and say Lord, “I tried to live this day without you. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t intend to, but that’s just what I did. I lost my cool. I got sharp-edged, or angry, or critical with one of my kids or my husband or somebody in the workplace.” The gospel is for sinners. It’s for people who blow it. The goal isn’t, at any age, to be perfect and then beat ourselves up when we fail. That’s a form of pride in itself, because did we think we could be perfect on our own? Living out the gospel in that season when you’re younger and have younger children will stand with you and will prepare a solid foundation on the rock, so that when worse storms come—as Jesus says in Matthew 7—and beat up on your house, you’ve built it on the rock, Christ Jesus, and the truth of his word. You’re going to find your house will stand even when those storms do beat up against it. I’m trying not to lecture—

Laura: No, go ahead. [Laughter]

Nancy: Now I’m looking back and saying, “Thank you, Lord, for putting some older women in my life who encouraged me to stay the course and press into you and your word.” And conversely, I have friends who spent their younger years and some now who are younger who chase things that won’t stand. I look on social media—and I know them personally—and see the things they seem to be giving their lives to right now won’t stand when they’re a wife, mom, older woman, grandmom, or empty nester. If you’re living for pleasure, for stuff, or for beauty, there’s no sin in those things. But if those are the priorities of your life, if your time is being spent on things that are temporal, if that’s where you’re focusing your heart, then when those storms come up in your life, you’ll find your house has been built on sand instead of the rock. As Jesus said, that house is going to fall. You’re going to ask how your faith didn’t stand strong. It’ll seem like your life blew away. The choices you make now—that we all make now—are the things that will determine in large measure the fruitfulness, the success, the joy of our lives down the road. So, what you’re doing today really does matter. The kind word to that child when you feel like there was no textbook ever written for this child. Stay in there, hang in there, stay the course, and God is going to honor and bless the godly and wise choices you make today.

Laura: I love that, Nancy. That was so encouraging. It was a good reminder, because as moms, we can get really bogged down in the day-to-day. We don’t step back and really remember what the goal is in this life, or where we’re headed, or where we’ll end up if we’re focused on social media, building a beautiful home, or creating amazing meals. What’s that going to lead me to in 30 years from now? Am I investing my time in God’s word today? Where’s that going to get me in 30 years? I think we all can say that we want to put our stock, weight, and time into reading God’s word. That’s going to be a more fruitful ending. Can you help us with a few tips or a step a mom could take today to dig more into God’s word? Something I love about your ministry and what you stand for is encouraging women to be in the Word of God, but sometimes for moms that can feel a bit elusive. Can you encourage that mom who’s struggling to know what that might look like?

Nancy: I think it’s not as complicated as we make it sometimes. We all heard it said, “You are what you eat.” And we hear that usually about our diet, right? My dietary habits were terrible in my 20s. Terrible. I lived in fast-food drive-thrus. When I hit 30, I realized I wasn’t feeling well and paying the price for all those Wendy’s burgers in my 20s. Because you are what you eat. You don’t see the good or bad result of what you eat that day, but over the course of weeks, or months, or years, you see it. You put on the weight, you feel sluggish, you don’t feel as strong. Spiritually, you are what you eat. You’re whatever you’re taking in. So what I’m taking in on social media, in the books I read or music I listen to, the conversations I have impact me. I spend a lot of time on social media reading and keeping up on trends, and some of that is really helpful, but some of it isn’t nourishing my soul. That’s not to say those things are wrong; I’m not talking about sinful stuff. If I don’t have a steady diet of the word in my system, I’m not going to have the spiritual strength, stamina, wisdom, insight, or discernment to do what God’s called me to do. What God has called you women to do right now is to love your husbands, love your children, keep your home—and by that I don’t just mean house cleaning, I mean building a home for the glory of God. You may have other aspects of your calling too: you may have a job outside of your home, a podcast, some writing. But whatever those things are that God has called you to do, you won’t be able to do them or the grace to do it if you haven’t been taking in a steady diet of God’s words.

There are tools about how to study God’s word and lots of resources online and out there, but I come back to reading and meditating on scripture—however you have to do it. If you want to get an appetite for God’s word, just read Psalm 119 out loud. You can do it in 13-15 minutes, depending on how fast you read. Just read it out loud and highlight where it talks about delighting in God’s word, loving God’s word. Make a note about what it says God’s word will do for you, what it will do in you, what it will give you. Just make a list of the benefits and the blessings that come from having God’s word in your system. You are what you eat. As you read that psalm, ask, “What can I do to get more of God’s word in my system?” I started reading God’s word as soon as I could read, like first grade. Now they’re reading at three, but whatever. [Laughter] I have a shelf full of Bibles that I’ve read through many times over the years. My life is very full, very busy. I work long days, hard days, and now that I’m married, I have a husband whom I love and I want to spend time with him too. So I don’t have extra margin in my life; I thought as I got older, maybe I would, but it doesn’t happen. We’re all busy. We all have full lives. But take time, find things that are not essential in this season of life and get rid of them. Now, don’t get rid of your kids, because they are essential. [Laughter] But if there are some things you’re doing that you don’t have to do right now—they may be okay or good things—don’t do them. You can’t do everything. David says in Psalm 27, “One thing have I desired, that will I seek after, that I may behold the beauty of the Lord and dwell in his temple inquire in his presence every day of my life.” I just paraphrased it, but that’s the gist of it: one thing. I’ve come to in my life numerous times when I came into that spiritual fast-food drive-thru—grabbing a psalm or a proverb and running into my day. I come back and say, “Lord, if there’s only one thing I can do in this day, it can’t be all the deadlines, demands, and things other people are begging for or screaming at me that they need.” My husband calls those things on the to-do list, “screaming babies.” And you guys have real screaming babies. [Laughter]

Laura: That’s very fitting.

Nancy: Even with your kids. There’s so much pressure today to compare what other people are doing today with their kids—sports, music, art, drama. Look at this recent college acception scandal; what kind of pressure was a mom feeling to think it was worth 500,000 illegal expense to get my kid into this or that school? I’m not slamming those moms, I’m slamming the tendency of our hearts to perform, to say we have to look like this or that, rather than saying, “All we have to have is Jesus.” If we don’t have him, we don’t have anything really worth having. If we’re not looking to him to guide our day and our steps, to raise our kids, to love our husbands, or do whatever is in our day at the workplace or church, then we’re going to be a frazzled, frenzied, frenetic Martha in Luke 10. She’s running around, barking out orders, and losing it. We can have these nice podcasts where we’re on our best behaviors, but the real test is when I’m pushed and stretched in my home with the people who know me best. I don’t have to be nice to them; am I breathing grace in, breathing grace out? I blow it so often. I’m not going to blow it on this podcast, but if it’s just Robert and me, or the people in our office, where am I going to get the grace to breath out when a staff member or a family member steps on my last nerve? What about when one of your kids does that? Or one of Robert’s family members? I inherited five teenage grandkids when we married. I’m supposed to love them well, to be gentle, compassionate, and kind. That grace is going to be in God’s word. Because you are what you eat. Do what you have to do. As a mom of little ones, you may not have an uninterrupted hour ever in your day, so take the minutes you do have!

I mentioned the gym earlier, and today I was in pain. I’ve been sick, and traveling, and whatever. When I left, my trainer said I needed to eat something little every four hours. It didn’t need to be a feast, just some almonds or cheese or whatever. That’s sometimes what it’s like for moms of little ones or anyone with a busy life. Sometimes it’s snacks. Get a verse and go back to it every hour on the hour through the day. Snacks don’t take the place of having really good meals on some sort of basis also. So when you can, set aside time to take a deeper soak in the word. There are a lot of different ways of reading through the scriptures. Put a microscope on it and spend a month on Psalm 23. Use a telescope on a journaling Bible for two and a half years. Get those meals, but get the snacks—when you’re nursing, feeding your kids, during naptime, when you think you’re so tired. Just get a verse you can cling to.

Emily: Wow, there was so much wonderful wisdom you gave there, along with practical things. I know that’s been Laura’s and my experience. When we’re going through seasons when we can spend those hours throughout the week to soak in the word, study deeply, prepare for Bible study, it’s those investments that allow us to snack on the other days where things are going crazy. Because of some longer investments, we’re able to jump right in to meditate on something or listen through a hymn and really understand what those words mean. I like what you described: those deposits do not return void. They build up over time; they’re living and active, and God uses those to transform us. He’s faithful to do that, even when we’re incredibly weak and very aware we didn’t check all the boxes. He still gives us grace in those moments through his word.

Nancy: I think part of the battle is having the desire or appetite. Here’s the thing: physically, the more you eat, the more full you are and the less you want. When you get stuffed, you can’t eat another bite. But spiritually, I’ve found the more you eat of God’s word, the more you crave it.

Emily: So true.

Nancy: If you don’t have a desire, tell God that and start reading. You’ll find you really start to long for God’s word. Again, there are tools that can help you in a meaningful way, especially if it’s new to you. But I think, a lot of times, the reason we’re not hungry for God’s word is because we’re filling up on other things. You know how you tell your kids not to fill up on sugar before dinner? You don’t want them to lose their appetite for the good stuff. Well, spiritually, if we’re filling our mental, emotional, and spiritual appetites with junk food on social media, it fills our appetite.

Social media can be a great way to connect meaningfully with people, but it can also strip us of an appetite for things that matter most: human touch, human relationship, and human connection with God. I’m not saying swear off it unless it’s hurting you and you need to get off. Just make sure it’s not the thing stealing or killing your appetite for God. If it is, then replace some of that with meditating on God’s word. I heard third and fourth graders quote most of Isaiah 53; that’s a long, hard passage. Those kids spent a lot of time memorizing that passage! If you think you can’t memorize all that, memorize one verse. Keep saying that one. The more you’re listening to God’s word, the more you’ll hunger for it.

Emily: I love that analogy! It’s like sugar before dinner. Within reason, there’s nothing wrong with eating something sweet or enjoying a dessert, but you can spoil your appetite for the true nourishment if you’re doing it out of moderation and at the wrong time. What you really need is bread, not Skittles.

Nancy: And that’s what we do when we’re really tired; we go to the junk food, right?

Laura: Yeah, what’s easy.

Nancy: When we’re tired spiritually, it’s so much easier to start scrolling through Instagram than it is to pick up my Bible. I get that. I do. I’m kind of a news junkie. My husband goes to sleep earlier than I do, so I’m laying in bed and it’s much easier to get into the news. But if I do too much of that for too long of a period of time, my soul will be starved. I’m not really helping my tiredness or refreshing my soul. I think I’m doing this to relax, but it doesn’t really do what I’m hoping it will. The Word of God will do that for me.

Laura: What goes in is what comes out. So you’re going to end up seeing the effects of whatever you’re feeding yourself.

Nancy: You are what you eat!

Laura: Yes, exactly. Well, Nancy, unfortunately, we already have to wrap up. We’re so grateful for the time you spent with us and our audience. I’m sure they’re feeling so excited about God’s word and so grateful for your words of encouragement and exhortation. We really appreciate the time you spent with us today. I feel like your love of the Lord is so contagious! We’re grateful for you sharing that with us today.

Nancy: Thank you! Can I just pray a brief prayer for the moms who are listening?

Laura: Of course! Please do.

Nancy: Lord, I want to lift up every mom. You know where she is and what she’s going through and facing in her day. I pray she’d be able to breathe grace in and breathe grace out; that you’d encourage her and strengthen her, giving her life according to your word. May she look up instead of just in or out, and find there that you’re pleased with her and favoring her, and that you will give her all the grace she needs for all you’ve called her to do this day. So give her courage, faith, and stamina, and may the investment she’s making this day produce much fruit for your glory. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Emily: Thank you.

Laura: Amen, amen. Thank you so much, again, Nancy. We appreciate your time. If you guys want to learn more about Nancy, what she’s up to over at Revive Our Hearts, and more about the new book that she and her husband have written, please visit risenmotherhood.com and find our show notes for today’s show. We’ll have links for all sorts of things that Nancy’s involved with. You can also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @risenmotherhood. We’ll have some stuff from this interview and other things Nancy does online this week that you can check out. Thanks guys for joining us!

Ep. 131 || How Do I Know if I’m a Good Mom? Transcript

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. 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.

Laura: Hey guys!

Emily: And this is fun, because if you’re listening to this in your car or while you’re doing dishes or on a walk, you should know we’re in front of a live audience right now.

Laura: Yeah! We’re not in Emily’s closet!

[Crowd cheers!]

Emily: It’s fun, because we’re recording live at my home church, Grand Avenue Baptist. It’s the church Laura grew up in. We have deep roots here: pastors, older women, peers who have shaped us over the years.

Laura: This church is a gift. I see some mugs here, let’s pull these up. So you can buy these if you’re here in person. But for our listeners: we’ve had a lot of questions about a Risen Motherhood shop online. A lot of our stuff sells out really fast when we do our once-a-year sale. Next fall, be looking for the shop! Watch social media; that’s where we’ll post updates on that.

Emily: I want my free shirt.

Laura: Emily’s obsessed with swag. She’ll vox me, “Where’s my stuff? Where’s my stuff?” She always wants to know when it’s coming.

Emily: I always want to know when I’m getting my Risen Motherhood t-shirt.

Laura: It will come. [Laughter]

Emily: I have bigger questions tonight, Laura.

Laura: We have a way bigger question.

Emily: This is a huge question. This is a question every mom asks. It’s one that keeps us up at night. It can make us toss and turn. It can put that pit in our stomachs.

How do I know if I’m a good mom?

Laura: This is the mother of all motherhood questions.

Emily: And I think some of us ask this in different ways. One way is, “How do I know if I’m enough?” We wonder if we’re meeting our children’s needs and if we can say we’ve done a good enough job as a mom.

Laura: Or maybe you’ll see that other sweet, cool mom and you ask, “Am I as good as her?” We wonder if we’re doing as good as another mom because she’s good. We ask, “How do I know if I’m like her?”

Emily: As I ask myself this question, I think about it as a spectrum of needs. At the beginning of the day, I’ll tally that I’ve fed them, got them where they’re supposed to go like school. They’re clothed, they’re hugged, and hopefully I’ve been loving to them. You get to the end of the day and you think you’ve done pretty well meeting all their needs. But then I realize there’s this whole laundry list of things I didn’t get done but feel pressure to do. The thing that always reminds of that is the calendar that comes home from school. You’re supposed to color every night—

Laura: You’re supposed to read for 20 minutes! [Laughter] Our kids go to the same school so I know this chart she’s talking about!

Emily: No matter how good of a day, the chart is still empty.

[Crowd laughter]

Laura: Fail. Yep.

Emily: And they also didn’t play outside long enough. There’s always a list of things I didn’t get done; the list is kind of infinite. No matter how many needs I meet, I didn’t meet enough needs.

Laura: Yes! I know you’ll relate to this part. Even if on my very best days I actually get it all done—I read for 20 minutes and color whatever it is—

Emily: Wait, it’s for one slice of pizza.

[Crowd laughter]

Laura: My son is very motivated for that slice of pizza! Those personal pans at Pizza Hut—

Emily: Wait, is it a whole pi...never mind.

Laura: We’ll talk about this after! [Laughter]

But no matter if I can do all those physical, tangible things for my kids, there’s still that Christian moral standard. Was I kind? Was I patient? Tender? Merciful towards my children? Much more than once that day, I can look back and find a time I definitely wasn’t. I may meet the outside physical measure of being a good mom—very rarely, but it can happen—but I can’t meet the inside standard. I’ll always fail.

Emily: One thing we want to get at as we discuss some of the things we struggle with is the reality that the definition of a “good mom” is elusive. If we’re going to answer the question, we have to be able to answer What is a good mom? That’s going to change for everyone. We want to walk through some things our culture says or thing we believe makes a good mom.

Laura: Well, I did a little bit of research, because I love research. In a 2017 Time Magazine article, “The Goddess Myth,” it talked about how every mom—especially when she first becomes a mom—builds a goddess mom who is perfect and good. She builds it through her doctor’s advice, influencers, her mother, or somebody she really respects. Culture recognizes that moms feel guilt and failure because they can’t meet whatever the standard is. Even though the standard is arbitrary and different for every mom, culture recognizes no one can meet this standard; it’s a myth.

Emily: It’s interesting how we put this together in our minds. It’s totally natural and normal that we’d look around at our own mom, mother-in-law, favorite aunt, or friend we think does it really well and piece together the image of what a good mom must do because this is what all the moms we respect around us do.

Laura: Or even if you don’t make it from a woman you know. Maybe you want to provide your kids with a better life than you had—that’s the standard. If it can be better than what you had, that’s a good mom. Maybe it’s about intentions; that’s a common one. If your intentions were good, that means you’re a good mom because you’re trying.

Emily: To go along with that, I think one we hear a lot in Christian culture is to try really hard to be really good and when you fail, just give yourself grace. Just try and then give yourself—

Laura: Super grace!

Emily: Yeah, like feel good, warm fuzzies when you fall short. The reality is, for a lot of us, these images change daily. We’re so fickle. One day, it’s this specific thing.

Oh! We forgot one: the methodology one.

Laura: Fill-in-the-blank.

Emily: So this would be “if.” I’m a good mom if...and you can fill that in with—

Laura: Co-sleeper. Babywise. Organic food. Junk food.

[Crowd laughter]

Emily: Junk food? Oh is that a method? [Laughter]

Laura: I don’t know. Probably. [Laughter]

Emily: I’m a good mom! I’m a good mom! [Laughter] Okay, let’s get back on track.

Laura: Go listen to our food episode!

Emily: What we wanted to get down to is clearly this impacts all of us. This reality that we’re not measuring up to whichever standard it is leads to all kinds of hard feelings, emotions, guilt, and shame in our lives.

Laura: A little more research for you. Mental illness affects one in nine mothers. Depression in young, expecting mothers is 51% more common today than it was 25 years ago. In that Time article, they did a survey to beef up the article. Seventy percent of the participants said they felt pressure to mother in specific ways, and over 50% felt guilt and shame when things didn’t go according to plan.

Emily: We want to ask this question tonight, or whenever you’re listening, because we think there’s an answer, a better question, and hope. Let’s jump in a layer deeper and ask why we’re so concerned with knowing whether or not we’re a “good mom.”

Laura: We want to walk through a very ancient story that has so many truths for us today. In the very first pages of the Bible, God created the heavens and the earth, man and woman. The woman was able to bear life, sustain life; she was made to be a woman and in Genesis 1:31 it says, “God saw everything he made and he declared it ‘very good.’” That means man, woman, the possibility for Eve to be a mother was declared very good. The question of, “Am I good mom?” was settled. In that moment, God declared that to be true.

Emily: The hard thing is it didn’t stay that way. We know Adam and Eve had one thing God told them not to do in the garden: eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve were tempted by this. They thought maybe there was something more that God hadn’t given to them. They wondered if there was additional good to be had. So they broke that commandment and ate from that tree, and sin and brokenness entered the world. It severed that reality of God’s very good creation that he had pronounced over them. It’s interesting because their response was to go and hide from God in shame and try to cover themselves. They tried to be away from him, which is really similar to the kind of response we have today when we realize we don’t want to stand in God’s presence because we don’t feel very good.

Laura: Because of sin, we actually can’t be the kind of mom God designed us to be. We can’t be the kind of woman God designed us to be. That’s because of a variety of things. There are things outside of our control: broken relationships with your husband, children, in-laws; death, disability. Things that feel like they’re constantly working against us. Then there are also things within our control in our hearts—the way we respond to our circumstances. They’re riddled with sin too: we’re not patient with our family, not longsuffering with our children, don’t show mercy, don’t offer grace; we’re unorganized, ficke, hot-cold, in-out, non-committal about things. All of this tends to push against us, against the design God originally had for all of us.

Emily: We were talking about this question, “Am I a good mom?” by thinking of a mirror and a fun house. I don’t know if you’ve stood in front of one of those—

Laura: Or maybe it’s like standing in front of a cheapo mirror we all have in our closets from Target for $10. If you put it this way, you look really skinny. So I like that mirror.

[Crowd laughter]

Emily: Those are great mirrors. [Laughter] No matter what way you shape shift, in the fun-house mirror something is always knocked out of shape and looks distorted and ugly. You can see this image of your reflection; it’s not that you can’t see yourself as a woman, but you’re trying to make something look good that’s not. It’s always going to be ugly and distorted no matter how you try to shape your body.

Laura: That’s a really good picture for how we can’t measure up to God’s good standard for who we should be. I think, at some level, all of us feel this. Whether or not we acknowledge the fact that there’s a true purpose and design for us, we can feel dissension. There’s a place deep in our bones and souls that we know something is bigger. Romans 1:20 says, “For his invisible attributes, names his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made.” God’s presence has been made known to all since the creation of the world.

Emily: So we want to take this reality and question and longing to know we’re good—not that we’re just a good mom, but that we’re good. What’s the hope for that? Hope is a person, hope is Jesus. This is God’s Son who came to earth as a man. He actually lived a perfect life; he did everything right all the time. He was without sin. He wasn’t just a good man; he was a perfect man. He did all of that on our behalf.

Laura: Jesus knew we weren’t perfect, but he came anyway to save us. He took his perfect record and gave it to us. He went all the way to the cross, he died and rose again in three days. If we believe it in our hearts and confess it with our mouths, in God’s eyes, we actually get Jesus’ perfect record. We can’t meet the standard; we’ve never been able to and we’ll never be able to. Jesus did that on our behalf. He went into the courtroom of God and said, “I give them my record so they can meet the standard.”

Emily: What’s really encouraging for us is if we believe that, we actually get help and begin to change in motherhood. We don’t have to focus so much on if we’re measuring up or not. We can say, in Christ, we have measured up, and we have the helper, the Holy Spirit, living inside of us to help us walk through this life.

Laura: We still live with the effects of sin, even if you’re in Christ. You still feel this tension, you still mess up, and you realize this world is not perfect. That’s where we have the help of the Holy Spirit. When we fail, we can know our status as a daughter of the King isn’t in question. God isn’t going to ask us to jump through a hoop or do something really special to earn our status back. Our status is secure and it lasts, so we can strive to grow and change—not to become a better mom but to become more like Christ.

Emily: The question we want to fixate on is not, “How do I know if I’m a good mom?” but it’s, “Do I know and love the One who makes me good?” That’s really who we need to have a relationship with and know. Like Laura said, it’s really not about motherhood, it’s about us as whole women being before the throne of God, seen as holy and fully good in Christ.

Laura: So we can go back to that fun-house mirror, or my IKEA mirror. When you think about that, what has actually happened is Christ took away that distorted mirror we’re trying to look into to figure out what good motherhood is. He’s replaced it with this perfect image of who he is. Now, when we look into that mirror, we see our righteousness and eternity is secure in him, so now we can strive and follow after Christ, not this distorted image of motherhood. Ultimately, our goal is to be transformed day-by-day into Christlikeness.

Emily: When we fixate on Christ and we look into the mirror and see him, and he becomes our focus, it actually frees us up to do good to others. I like to imagine how much mental space frees up in your heart and in your day when you’re not constantly trying to judge if you meet whatever image you’ve decided on for that day as a “good mom.” It frees us up to pay attention to our children, to grow, to love others, to have joy and peace in circumstances when things don’t go exactly our way. There are all these incredible fruits and joys that come out of having that question settled.

Laura: I love that. There’s so much fruit that can happen. If my identity is secure in Christ, and I know I’m saved in him, then when I see some sweet mom doing some sweet stuff, I know it’s okay and I’m content with who Christ made me. I don’t have to feel jealousy or frustration or that not-enough-ness. I can be a better steward of the gifts God has given me, because I’m not pouring them out in an effort to be this rockstar mom. I’m pouring them out to make good for the Kingdom.

Emily: If we’re looking into this—well, no analogy is perfect.

Laura: She loves analogies.

[Crowd laughter]

Emily: But I have to give that caveat.

Laura: She’s like, “They always break down. Every single one.” [Laughter]

Emily: Okay but when we’re looking at the mirror, we’re looking at Christ. We’re focused on and fixated on him. So our lives can also get wrapped up in him. It’s self-forgetfulness when we’re not always staring at our own reflection. Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the more I stare at my own motherhood and try to fix it, I just can’t. You only get more and more entangled. But fixing our eyes on Christ and this redeemed, new person we are flows out into every role and relationship that we have. That’s really neat. The other day, while processing through these things, I said to Laura, “Redemption is not this isolated incident. It impacts everything else in our lives.”

Laura: Amen. So, if you’re struggling with this question, we know this is a hard concept. It might feel like, “I get the concept, so what’s next?” The first thing to ask yourself is, “Is Jesus my King?” For many of you in here, you might be able to say that you remember a time you asked Jesus in your heart and all that. But this is a great question to constantly reask yourself if Jesus is your King today? Right now? Who is on the throne? I know for me, a lot of times, it’s just me up there. So reasking yourself that question is always a really good place to start.

Emily: And because these are such big concepts and we’ll continue to struggle with this throughout our lives—

Laura: And this is a 20-minute show. [Laughter]

Emily: And this is a 20-minute show. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and do something that isn’t consistent with how Jesus would respond to others, so it’s going to be this lifelong battle and an area we continually need to grow and change. We have to have other people around us. We weren’t meant to do this alone. It’s important to get plugged in with a community of believers who can help keep your eyes on Christ.

Laura: Of course, studying your Bible and understanding this for yourself with a first-hand knowledge of God will always grow your love and understanding of how this plays out. And prayer. Even just a simple prayer of, “Help me, Lord,” or “I want to understand.” God promises he will answer us, be near to us; he hears us when we pray.

Emily: If you’ve listened to the show for awhile, you’ll recognize this term: preach the gospel to yourself, which is effectively what we did this evening. It’s remembering all those truths. Laura and I have repeated this so many times; I don’t know how many episodes we’ve recorded now. Guess what? I still need to repeat through it every week, and sometimes every single day. If you’re struggling, always go back to that remembering—what is the truth?

Laura: It’s remembering the story we told you tonight. Lastly, see the long-game. We keep saying, “You’re not going to change over night!” I think we have to remember God works on a timeline that’s much different than ours. If we were to snap overnight, I’d learn nothing. I’d be like, “Rockstar!” [Laughter] Thankfully, God works through hard things and slowly over time. Trust that long-game of the Lord; he’s growing you day-by-day more into Christlikeness.

Emily: Sometimes we think we’ve got this, now we’re ready for our circumstances to be really different. But we may wake up and nothing has changed. That’s the very place God wants to use us and transform us into Christlikeness—even in the midst of hard things.

Laura: We hope you can take a nugget from this and remember the next time you’re asking, “Am I good mom? Good enough for my kids?” you can remember instead to ask yourself, “Do I know and love the One who makes me good?” Even that sentence is preaching the gospel to yourself.

Emily:  It’s re-fixing your eyes on the only One who can make you good.

Laura: Exactly.

Emily: Well, thank you guys for listening. You can find our show notes and other information at risenmotherhood.com. You can follow us on social media @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Thanks to our live audience and to our listeners!

Laura: Thanks, guys!

Ep. 130 || Gospel Hope When You’re Annoyed as a Mom Transcript

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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

Emily: Hey, guys!

Laura: I think the first thing we want to talk about is we released the cover of our book!

Emily: Woohoo! [Laughter]

Laura: Yeah, it was so crazy and fun to share the cover with you. The response was unbelievably overwhelming, humbling...so generous.

Emily: It was really fun, because it’s been a project we’ve spent almost two years working on in some form or fashion.

Laura: Like privately or in secret.

Emily: Yes! So it was a joy to reveal the look and feel of the book. Hopefully there will be more sneak peeks to come. If you haven’t seen it, definitely go to our website risenmotherhood.com/book to see the cover, find out how to pre-order, and find another really exciting thing we created recently.

Laura: Oh, you’re talking about our little printables! Yes! People asked us if it’d be ready for Mother’s Day, and unfortunately, our book doesn’t release until September 3rd of this year. But! We created a little card, so if you want to get this—maybe your husband wants to for you or you want to for a friend or baby shower gift—you can give the card to say, “Hey, I got this Risen Motherhood book and it’s on its way to you! It’ll be in your mailbox after it releases!” It’s super fun. You can print them for free and stick them in a card. If you want to pre-order now, you can still tell someone the book is coming their way.

Emily: It’s super beautiful and a great placeholder.

We want this to get the book in front of moms who are weary and tired and stressed out and maybe annoyed—like we’re talking about today! [Laughter] They need the hope of the gospel. It’s a joy to be on a shelf where a mom shops, because she might see it and grab it. Or maybe she’s on Amazon and it’s in that recommended section, so she clicks on it and puts it in her cart. We want it to get to moms right where they’re at. Pre-orders help us do that.

Laura: That’s what book distributors look at to decide whether they’ll carry the book or how many they’ll carry or who they’ll show it to. Like Em said, our hope is a mom whose never heard of Risen Motherhood sees the cover of the book, reads the back, and thinks she might check it out; inside is the hope of the gospel. We pray God uses that in her heart, because it’s not us. It’s not our words. It will be the Lord using it. We’re grateful for your support and you; we wouldn’t be here—or even have a book deal—without you. So, thank you so, so much. We’re really grateful to you guys.

Emily: Yes. All right, speaking of Risen Motherhood—

Laura: Let’s go!

Emily: We’re going to jump into today’s show. As we launch off, we want to start by acknowledging motherhood is a gift. Sometimes we don’t acknowledge that enough.

Laura: Yes, especially in a show like today. [Laughter]

Emily: As we share the good news with you, we spend a lot of time talking about the “bad news” or hard things because we’re in the trenches and dealing with the struggles. But motherhood is a joy and a blessing. It’s something many of us—Laura and I included—spend years of our lives hoping for and looking toward this season when we have children.

Laura: This show isn’t meant to minimize that motherhood isn’t good or wonderful. Motherhood is designed by God for us to be life-givers to adopted children or biological children. But still, you know, because of the fall and sin, there are hard days when this overwhelming feeling of annoyance seems to sneak up on us.

Emily: I think being annoyed as a mom is similar to anger. That was the topic we kept going back to as we talked about this show. It’s similar to anger, but a lot of times, it’s not there yet. It doesn’t seem that bad. But to say, “Oh, I’m feeling really angry right now,” seems powerful and intense. It seems easier for us to say, “You know, I’m kind of feeling annoyed.”

Laura: You can say it and not get in trouble with anybody, right? [Laughter] You can be annoyed and people say, “Mhmmm! That’s fine! You deserve to be annoyed.”

Emily: It’s the sense of feeling kind of impatient or irritated. The stress meter is rising, but we’re not at the point of saying we’re flat-out angry. We can just feel a little bothered.

Laura: ...which is kind of okay, you know? [Laughter]

So, we looked up what it means to annoy on Webster. There were some interesting definitions. The first one was “to disturb or irritate, especially repeated acts.” Oh my word.

Emily: That doesn’t sound like children at all. [Laughter]

Laura: I have one kiddo who loves to talk about what we’re eating and to know what we’re eating. And we eat—at minimum—three times a day! It drives me bonkers; all of the discussion around food, what we’re going to have, if we’re going to have the same thing every single day. If there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s having to repeat myself due to my child’s repeated acts.

Emily: Which is interesting, because children are hardwired to love repetition. And to love the routine, consistency. As a mom, it seems like we’ve said it one time, that’s enough.

Laura: Remember forever, child.

Emily: Yeah! They love it. “I want to hear it again!” [Laughter]

Laura: “What are we doing today?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” [Laughter]

Emily: Another part of the definition is “to harass especially by brief attacks.” [Laughter] Which sounds funny, but who among us gets attacked by our children? I know lately we have a “How to Train a Dragon” thing going on in our house. So our three oldest boys are regularly behaving like dragons. They’re acting like kids, which is fine—breathing fire at each other, sticking arms out funnily like dragon wings. But it really bothers me when somebody barrels into me while I’m trying to carry laundry to the other room and nearly knocks me over while they’re pretending to be a dragon. Those things do get annoying.

Laura: Exactly. So I think all of you can think of times when you’ve experienced these things. In general, I think it’s fair to say being annoyed as a mom is a normal thing. Sometimes it feels like you’re in a constant state of being annoyed, and sometimes it just pops up every once in awhile. But it happens to all moms; that’s the point. It might depend on a lot of things: what season you’re in, what ages your kids are, what stage they’re in, where your kids spend most of their time. Maybe they’re in daycare and you have less time with them. Maybe you’re home with them all day. Winter versus summer season, for me. Winter is just a little bit more annoying. [Laughter]

Emily: Definitely the noise level in the house depending on the time of year. I think some of what we’re consuming as a family matters. Whether it’s certain types of media, screen time, or books versus consuming scriptural things, talking about things that are truthful. It’s the “what goes in, what comes out.” So if you’re putting “How to Train a Dragon” in, “How to Train a Dragon” might come out. [Laughter]

Laura: We have solved your annoying problems! [Laughter]

Emily: There you go! [Laughter] That’s why they’re running around and acting like that.

Laura: But what’s some gospel hope for this situation? We’re going to kick it old school, and go through creation, fall, redemption, consummation for your guys. We haven’t done it in the past couple of episodes. We’ve done the gospel of course, but not in our traditional way. We want to do that today for you.

Emily: When we look back at God’s design for the world and mankind, we see everything functioned as it should. Things made sense. Cause and effect. Sowing seeds yielded good fruit. This work and labor Adam and Eve put their hands and minds to would’ve been profitable. Even though they were going to subdue the world, the world wasn’t pushing against them as it is now.

Laura: I think many of the daily annoyances we experience weren’t in Eden. Like Emily said, you’d plant a seed and there’s fruit. Rather than something dying or getting gnats—like my fiddle leaf tree recently. Their bodies never struggled with back aches, bruises, or blisters. They never stubbed their toe on the Ikea high chair with those really wide legs. [Laughter]

Emily: Essentially, their hearts would’ve been in this state of worship, focusing on the purpose God had for them, knowing God is God and they were there to carry out the creation mandate God gave them. But we know that not everything stayed that way.

Laura: They rebelled. So now because of the fall, life is full of true annoyances. Things are broken, so there are some things we’re annoyed by that are truly outside of our control. It’s annoying when our produce rots too quickly, and we have to go to the store. Our backs hurt when we’re pregnant. When we get mosquito bites when we were planning for a lovely hike on a Sunday afternoon with the family. It’s annoying when you spend hours on the phone fighting insurance to pay for our child’s medical needs. It’s annoying to be in traffic. We could go on and on! [Laughter]

Emily: It feels like no matter where you go or what you do, frustrating things happen you have to deal with.

Laura: But how we respond to those annoying things is within our control. Because of the fall, our natural inclinations are to respond in a way that may be self-justified. I know I can often think that being asked a question one million times a day is actually annoying. So anyone in their right mind would be annoyed by this.

Emily: Another thing we do is self-protect. It’s the feeling that if our children didn’t do this, we wouldn’t be so impatient or unkind. Maybe we even withdraw from a situation because something is annoying and we don’t want to be around that feeling.

Laura: Yeah, we can self-soothe in those moments, thinking we deserve to be treated better because we do so much to serve our families, so why can they see that and appreciate it? It’s functionally a nice pity party we throw for ourselves.

Emily: Proverbs 12:16 says, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” When we think about this concept of annoyance and overlooking an insult, the reality is we’re all going to be annoyed at some point. Our kids will act like kids. And sometimes it’s just part of the fallen world we live in. We’re going to sigh and wish things weren’t as they are. But the prudent is able to experience that annoyed feeling and turn to the Lord. The fool is going to immediately—or soon after—express their annoyance. It’s going to give birth to sin in the way we treat other people, make demands, or try to self-preserve. We thought that verse showed the difference between handling an annoyance and turning to Christ versus handling it in a way that probably hurts others.

Laura: Exactly. It can often lead towards sin, but that’s why Christ came to die. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all struggle with this. One area I take a lot of hope in is when I think of annoyance, I think the opposite is patience or long-suffering. We can look to the Lord and see places in the Bible where God has revealed absolute perfect patience. The first example is the Old Testament with the Israelites. Who hasn’t read those stories and thought of how annoying the Israelites must’ve been? But how patient God was with them! How often he repeated himself over and over again, telling them about his love and his good deeds, his mercy and his kindness! They constantly forgot and complained, but God was willing to come back and repeat himself. He showed up for them over and over again, caring for a very annoying people. Exodus 4:6 says, “He is a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Emily: Mhmm. Very different from the way we often respond. Even in the New Testament, we think of Christ coming to save his people and fulfill the things the prophets had said about him and things that pointed to him. People don’t even notice as they chase him around, asking him for miracles or trying to find a question he can’t answer. Or they misunderstood his intentions and tried to corner him—

Laura: Just generally being really annoying. [Laughter]

Emily: I read this morning in Hebrews how Jesus was tempted in all the ways we were tempted, and yet, he resisted temptation even to the point of death on the cross. That is an example for us. He did it on our behalf so we can be in those situations and see his perfect record for us.

Laura: And all of this flows into today; this isn’t just for Bible times. Think of all the opportunities Christ has to be annoyed with us as we’re in, we’re out, saying yes, saying no, we’re hot, we’re cold, we do our quiet time, we don’t, we had the right motives, we didn’t have the right motives—all of these things! But Christ is continually so patient with us as our hearts are way worse than some of our toddlers’ outward behavior we’re struggling with.

Emily: Yeah, that’s always a really sobering thought, isn’t it? When you think of your child and some of their behaviors, but then you realize you treat the Lord that way all the time. I think one thing to look ahead to is 2 Peter 3:9, which says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient to you, not wishing any should perish but all should reach repentance.” As we’re dealing with these annoyances in our lives, God is patiently hoping these draw us to him, that we turn to him in this fallen world as we come up against things that are a struggle for us or frustrating for us—that we’d repent and turn to Christ.

Laura: It’s a great chance to see it as sanctification. As mothers, it’s really challenging to see the patience of God with a very, very annoying people. Like Emily said, we may be annoyed by childish behavior in motherhood, but because we have Christ in us, we can model him and have godly responses toward different things that aren’t as fun in our lives—particularly those annoying things. We want to talk through a few practical things if you’re in a season of feeling annoyed more often than not or not sure what to do with those feelings.

Emily: One thing we want to consider is are we caring for our souls? Not necessarily like a good bath after the kids go to bed or reading your favorite blogs or getting a girls night out. Now, we definitely think those things are nice and good and can be helpful at times. But we really ought to regularly be finding our soul’s rest in the Lord. That’s going to help us in these situations when our kids are acting childish or different things annoy us. This is sometimes proactive; it’s making our time with God a priority. We need to stay in the word. We need to keep our Bibles open on the counter so we can look at it throughout the day or listening to an audio version of the Bible. Maybe it’s listening to good music or having a Bible verse in the car. Whatever those things are that can constantly remind us that God is God and we’re not God. We live in his world, and we’re here to advance his Kingdom. I know I always need that reorienting perspective.

Laura: Another one is to take a hard look at your schedule. I know whenever I have too full of a schedule or am not dealing with stress the right way, I’m often 1,000 more times likely to act on annoying behaviors or act out in that moment. Is your schedule too full? Are you able to slow down and deal with those unexpected kiddo needs? Is it too jammed pack that any inconvenience or deviation really frustrates you? It can be a good thing to identify pinch points. Are there days when your attitude is worse than others? I know “witching hour” after school is often a hard time for a lot of families. You’re not alone if that’s true for you. So, what can you do now to be proactive to change that? Maybe talk to your husband and see what he thinks. Maybe talk to a friend and find some new strategies. Those are really practical things, but they can make a pretty big difference.

Emily: Which goes back to our hearts leading to our attitudes. Something I ask myself when I constantly feel annoyed is, “What rights do I functionally believe I have right now? Do I think I have a right to a quiet house? Finish my task list without interference?” How can I speak truth into those situations to remind myself of my role in the bigger Kingdom and the things I actually deserve, because Christ has given me what I don’t deserve: favor. That can quickly—but sometimes not so quickly [Laughter]—reorient our perspective rightly.

Laura: Make it a practice to stop and pray any time you struggle with annoyance. This can be as simple as a short prayer for help. I’ve pulled my kids aside and asked for prayer right in front of them. Sometimes they’re so shocked, the behavior stops immediately. [Laughter] If anything, it’s a great chance for a reset and to share vulnerably with the kids about my own sin and areas where I need God’s help.

Emily: Yeah, we hope wherever you’re at with this feeling of annoyance today—maybe you’ve been annoyed while listening to this show because of a kid in the background… [Laughter]

Laura: Hopefully not by us though! [Laughter]

Emily: So, whether you’re feeling annoyed right now, yesterday, or you’ll face it later in the week, we hope you’ll turn to Christ. Laura and I are preaching the same things to ourselves.

Also, a reminder that if you want to take a look at the Risen Motherhood book, you can at risenmotherhood.com/book. You can also find our show notes at our website. Find us on social media this week @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thanks, guys!

Laura: Thank you!

Emily: Thank you! [Laughter] I was being annoying right there.

Laura: Ha! I just gave Emily the weirdest look right there. [Laughter] Like, “What was that?!”

Emily and Laura: Bye, guys! [Laughter]

Ep. 129 || How Ordinary Women Spread the Gospel Story: An Interview with Dr. Michael Kruger Transcription

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. Today we’re chatting with Dr. Michael Kruger about a topic we love: church history. Even though that might feel a million miles away from your everyday life and motherhood, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and encouraged by God’s work in that time period and its impact on us today. We discuss how women can have important work and influence for the Kingdom in seemingly ordinary ways, how the gospel brings us together in the midst of external differences, and how knowing the scriptures helps us discern and live counter-culturally in the world around us. We think you’re going to love this interview with Dr. Kruger. He’s the president and professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. His recent book, Christianity at the Crossroads, expands on this topic. He currently serves as an associate pastor at his home church, Uptown PCA. Some of you guys might recognize his name, because he’s married to Melissa Kruger. She’s a Board member here at Risen Motherhood. Okay, let’s jump into today’s interview with myself, Emily, and Michael.


Laura: Hi, Michael! Thanks for joining us on Risen Motherhood today.

Michael: Great to be with you both!

Laura: We’re thrilled you’re here. We gave a little bit of an intro a couple of minutes ago, but we’d love for you, in your own words, introduce yourself, your family, and what your daily life looks like right now.

Michael: Thank you! My name is Mike Kruger. I’m currently the president and New Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. I teach the Bible—mainly New Testament courses—and help run this particular campus. I’m married to my wife, Melissa, who many of your listeners may know. She’s the Director of Women’s Content for The Gospel Coalition and has written a number of books. I’m blessed to be married to her. We have three children—Emma (18), John (15), and Kate (12).

Emily: That’s great. We’ve loved getting to know your wife; she’s been a huge blessing to us and our ministry. We really appreciate a lot of the wisdom you two have shared on parenting. For the listeners’ sake, Laura and I really wanted to invite Michael on, because we sat through a really excellent break out session at TGCW on the topic we’re diving into today. It was one of our favorite things we came away with from TGCW. So, we’re really excited to hear more.

Michael: Very good. I’m glad you guys were there. That was a fun time.

Laura: Why don’t we start at a base level here? We love talking about church history on Risen Motherhood, and we love encouraging all our listeners to study it. Can you help us understand why this might be important? Especially for a mom—how might it be useful in her daily life?

Michael: That’s a great question. For the average woman whose wondering, Why should I listen to this podcast?, I’ll mention two reasons out of many. I think women—like any believer—are always wondering, How do I fit into the Church? What’s my place? What can I do to contribute? How can I be involved? And maybe even more than that, Does anything I do matter? We typically answer that by looking around us in the present and asking, What are other people doing? What’s my church like? and so forth. When we look at church history, we get a bigger and broader perspective. And what I hope people take-away is this realization that women have played a critical role in Christianity long before the modern day. In fact, they played a role in the founding of the Church, one of the most critical roles in the founding of the Church. In that sense, I think this will hopefully be encouraging to women listening that there’s a great, long heritage in history of women being a part of the ministry of Christ and they can be a part of it too. That’s one reason. I think the second is also important. There’s a myth out there that Christianity as a religion is somehow hostile to women, or maybe not a place that welcomes women, or women can’t find a home in, or what have you. Those are comments we get from the world that sound like somehow there’s this conflict between women’s interests and the Christian faith. I think when you look at church history that wasn’t what the early Christians thought. Women flocked to Christianity in droves in early centuries, and I think that’s a great lesson for people too.

Emily: I think you got right to the heart of what many moms feel and face: does this stuff I do everyday matter? Where do I fit in this Kingdom work? That’s so helpful to know it’s not just dishes, but we’re swept up into this greater story throughout history with a broader purpose. That’s really helpful.

Michael: I think the average person out there—male or female—doesn’t know what happened in early Christianity. In the talk you were apart of, I highlighted many different dynamic ministries women were involved in. It should be exciting for people, and hopefully, motivating.

Laura: Your work has been mainly focused on the second century church, and we’d love for you to give us more of a background. We know you wrote an entire book on it that’s really helpful, so can you help us understand why these years are so important to the life of the Church as a whole and Christian faith as we know it today?

Michael: Yeah, that’s a great question. A couple things to note about the second century. One, it’s an overlooked century. Most scholars—and even lay folks—just don’t think much about it. Usually when we think about church history, we think about fourth, fifth century church councils and big events; the second century kind of gets neglected. It’s even been called by some, “The Cinderella Century of the Church.” There’s a sense it’s bypassed and not noticed. But the other thing to note is how critical it was to the life of the Church. It’s the first century where Christians had to make their way in a hostile Roman world without the help of a living apostle. The apostles had all died by the time the second century came around. The Church was on its own, trying to figure out how to make it in the world—kind of like a newborn animal on the Serengeti plains looking around thinking, “I was born in a very scary world, and I’m not very strong, and I can’t run very fast. What’s going to happen to me?” I think people forget how frightening that must’ve been for the earliest Christians; how tenuous things were.

Emily: I think that’s really helpful. As moms, we can feel like some of the issues we’re struggling with in coming together in community with other women with different views or backgrounds are hard; we have a lot of fear and anxiety about the world we’re raising children in; we want to raise them up in the Lord with Christian values, but we can feel like there’s a terrifying culture and we don’t know what to do. But we’re not the first people to face this. We can go back and look at what the second century was facing, which can give us some comfort about what God did in that challenging time for them: growing and expanding the Church. I like that you drew that out.

Michael: Yeah, well a lot of people who are watching our current cultural moment—and it’s a scary cultural moment when you look around and see all the trends—think it looks like everything is spiraling out of control. We’re envisioning for the first time being in a world that’s a post-Christian world. When you look at the second century, you realize this isn’t a new scenario for Christians; we’ve been here before. In fact, what’s the unusual scenario is how good we’ve had it for the last two centuries in the United States; that’s actually the anomaly. I think we’re kind of back to status quo now, or at least getting there.

Laura: That’s really insightful and really interesting to think about. Okay, so in your book, you highlight the value of women; can you walk us through some of that core evidence that you bring up? You highlighted it in the talk we listened to and in the book. How did women play a major role in the growth of Christianity? And what were some of their significant contributions?

Michael: I think I’d begin that Christians in the early centuries were very much misfits; they didn’t fit in very well for a lot of reasons. They were an unusual bunch. The Greco-Roman world looked at the Christian community and found them to be odd. There’s a lot of things that made them odd, but one of the things that made them particularly unusual was how many women were around the Christian communities. The reason that was unusual was because in the Greco-Roman world, women made up about one-third of the population, meaning in the average scenario it was two-thirds men, one-third women. There are a lot of historical reasons for that but I won’t get into that here. Women were definitely in the minority numerically. But then if you were to go to a Christian gathering—from what we can tell statistically—it seemed to be the inverse that most of the Christians were women; about two-thirds of them. So it seemed to be an almost complete flip-flop from the Roman world. Scholars noted this as fascinating. Apparently Christian women were around in great numbers and represented a large number of the earliest Christians we have on record. There are so many things that show the prominence of Christians within the early centuries; I can walk through some of that evidence if we want to. I’ll just give one example and we can dive deeper if you guys want to. One example I think is particularly intriguing is hostility of one of the Roman governors, Pliny. Pliny the Younger had Christians in his province that were driving him crazy, and he was looking for relief. He wrote a letter to the emperor—at this time was Trajan—and complained about all the Christians. He said he found some to torture for information. And when he said that, he says he found two female Christians to torture. So it looks like, from Pliny’s perspective, when he wants to find a Christian to talk to about what Christians really believe, the first two examples he found were women. I think that’s indicative of the larger scene. So I think step one in this conversation is to recognize—numerically speaking—Christianity was very popular among women. Now in terms of what they did, we can get to that in a second. But I hope this is an encouraging point in its own right apart from what women were doing in particular. The fact that they found it to be such a comfortable and inviting place is certainly noteworthy historically.

Emily: Jesus is good for women. [Laughter]

Michael: Well apparently the early Christians thought so! I always envision a scenario where someone might walk up to a Roman woman whose become a Christian and say, “Don’t you think Christianty oppresses women?” And they would probably look at them like, “Are you kidding me? Christianity is the solution to the oppression of women in the early centuries—not the problem.”

Emily: What an important countercultural word for us today. Some of the popular messages that moms run across on Instagram from influencers tell them the answer to their problems is to pursue their own dreams, and to break free from their own mold, and to follow everything the world has to offer. In contract, it makes it look like Christianity and obeying God is what’s oppressive. But really, as we know, the Kingdom flips everything upside down. So that’s a breath of fresh air to hear that in the early church, this was a very free and life-giving thing for women to know Jesus and be apart of his Church.

Michael: I think in the early centuries, they found Christianity very refreshing. It seemed to be a place of safety, comfort, and relief from many of the problems they faced in the Greco-Roman world. It’s curious to note some of Christianity’s harshest critics often mocked them for having so many women around. What’s funny is our modern world says Christianity should be mocked for being anti-women, but what I want to point out is that in the ancient world, they were mocked for being pro-women. I think that’s something people need to hear. That’s not the way it was then. Christianity had so many women around they were seen as the place for women.

Laura: You mentioned a little more evidence for some of the reasons women were flocking to Christianity. Can you give a little bit more? We have some time here, and I think that’d be so interesting to dive a bit deeper.

Michael: Yes! We have all the evidence for the prevalence for women, and the evidence I gave of Pliny is one. But even in the New Testament we have numerous examples as well. I mentioned in my talk Paul’s letter to the Romans. At the end—chapter 16—he mentions all the people he’s thanking for their involvement in ministry. A large chunk of that list—nearly half—are the names of women. When he goes through that list, he thanks them for the many ministries they’re involved in. We see they’re doing all kinds of things in Christianity: they’re involved in mercy ministry, helping orphans and widows; financial support, a lot of wealthy women are patrons; some of them are hosting churches in their houses; some are missionaries traveling and evangelizing. There are so many things women were doing. You can see even in that letter, there’s sense that Paul’s already hinting at a number of those activities. We have other sources later that confirm the same thing later: women were involved in a multiplicity of ministries that were all central to the health and life of the early Christian movement.

Laura: I love that. All those women were doing different things and fulfilling their gifts in the roles and places that God had them. That’s so encouraging as a mom, because we all look really different in our day-to-day, but we can still do Kingdom work right where God has placed us and make huge impacts in furthering the gospel mission. That’s really helpful. And I love that it’s not just in the second century church but we see it in the Bible.

I’d like to switch our focus for a moment. Our theme this year at Risen Motherhood is unity in the gospel. We’re talking about all these people coming together, a mash-up of different backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities; even different socio-economic statuses. Can you draw out what the second century church can show us about how the gospel makes us one in Christ? Where do we find that unity?

Michael: There are so many different examples, wow. You’ve touched on a few. One of the things that was peculiar about Christianity was the way it brought despair-groups together. In the ancient world, there was a very strong stratification of society—usually along socioeconomic lines but also in other ways. You just didn’t mix classes in the way we think of today. When the Christian church came around, suddenly you’ve thrown in the “same pot” all these people from different backgrounds—cultural, economic. There was a bringing together of people in an unprecedented fashion in the early Christian movement. This was perplexing to the Greco-Roman world that you would reach out to people who were in a social status different than yours—in particular, lower ones than yours. Early Christians were known for the way they’d care for the poor in their midst: widows and orphans in need. That wasn’t what you did in the Greco-Roman world; you didn’t care for those in need, you just looked out for yourself. The idea that disposition was what set Christians apart. It’s what made it clear they loved each other and were unified and drawn together. The Bible is very clear on this, “They know us by the way we love one another.” Jesus himself taught that in the garden discourse. You could see it play out very plainly in the second century.

Laura: I think that’s such a good picture for today, because we all want to be in our own tribes of like-minded people. As moms, we can create little camps that no one ever knew existed by things we identify with. But what a picture we can be when we lift our eyes from women who do things the same as us, look the same as us, or are in the same class as us. I think that’s a great word to all of us to recognize we don’t need to have this tribalism among mom camps or that “mommy wars” don’t need to exist if we were all imaging Christ to all the women around us. If we really reached out, we could be a light like the early Christians were. We could be a bridge to women in other stages of life and other life situations.

Emily: Yeah, and I was thinking about, “They’re known by the way they love one another.” How countercultural and what message it would send to the world if moms in other spheres outside of Christianity really battle over these issues of choices and the way you parent, but in the Christian church, all these different moms are gathering and getting along and loving one another, even though they parent differently. They’d ask, “How is that? What’s the answer to that?” Maybe we could give an answer for the hope we have in Christ.

Michael: Absolutely. And I think from a historical perspective, people forget tribalism is a luxury during a time period when you’re not struggling with persecution. In the ancient world, they didn’t have time for tribalism. They were in survival mode. There’s nothing that binds a community together more quickly than suffering together. Honestly in America, in the last two centuries and more, we’ve had a situation where there hasn’t been any serious persecution at all. So we can all fight and bicker about all kinds of things. In the ancient church—not that they never disagree—it was more core and serious issues of survival that knit them together. I think this new phase we’re in culturally may end up blessing the church in a paradoxical way by knitting us together in ways we never have before.

Laura: So in your book you talk a little about how different version of Christianity were competing for the right to be the authentic version of the faith. As we’re talking about different things we can be divided over, one main thing is true orthodoxy. There can seem to be a lot of division around what it is and who’s saying what. Are there some lessons we can see from the early church as they navigated how to hold onto that truth orthodoxy that we might be able to apply to ourselves today?

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. Wow, you guys have read the book! I’m impressed. [Laughter] You’re pulling in some of those other chapters, and that’s great. There are a number of lessons we can draw from that. One lesson I’d start with is people need to realize false teaching is not a new problem in the Church. In the early church, they faced it too. There were people who were leading the Church astray and teaching things that were not faithful to scripture. The Church took that very seriously back then and worked hard to make sure people stayed on course. We can translate that into the modern day: we shouldn’t be naive about the seriousness about maintaining truth and keeping an eye out for people who would lead us astray. I think there’s a sense in the world—even in the Christian world—that theology doesn’t matter that much or let’s forget about our doctrinal positions and all just get along. Certainly we want unity, but we have to realize those theological truths really do matter; there will be people who want to pull us away from them. I think that’s step one: realizing we have great lessons to learn from the early centuries about fighting for good theology. That needs to still happen today.

There are other lessons too. One of the things the second century church did repeatedly when it faced these theological challenges is they continued to point people back to scripture and the core truths of what we believe. The Bible has to be central to everything we do as Christians, and that was true of the earliest Christians. They disagreed over extraneous things, but there were core things in scripture they had to be united on: the core elements of the gospel message. They always pointed people back to the Word of God. It wasn’t simply opinions winning the day; it was ultimately about what scripture taught. The only way to survive in the modern day is to keep ahold of God’s word like that.

Emily: I know your wife, Melissa, gave a great talk on discernment at TGC, which is also something we talk about at Risen Motherhood. To build on what you’re saying, in order to be able to separate good theology from wrong theology—or even self-correct over the years because we’re all growing and changing—we have to know scripture better. We have to have those discussions within a gospel-community of believers who also love scripture. That helps us so much over time to be able to hear the truth in something and also spot the lies more easily, because it doesn’t necessary come from evaluating bad sources; it comes from knowing the true source really, really well.

Michael: I think in our modern day, people—if they’re honest with themselves—make their decisions about what they believe based entirely on what they feel at the time. It’s easy to do that; we all struggle to do that. The early centuries remind us you can’t let that be the determining factor; you have to anchor into scriptural truth even if it’s hard, even if it’s not what you would pick. I tell people all the time, “If you read the Bible and find yourself in immediate agreement with everything in it, you need to ask yourself if you’re really reading it.” God is going to challenge you. You can assume all your views are what the Bible says. What if the Bible has a view you don’t have? You have to be willing to submit to it. That is the heartbeat of the Christian life: following God’s word even if doesn’t always make sense to us.

Emily: Praise the Lord he is sovereign. We can look back at the struggles happening in the second century church up to now and know he preserves his word. Over time, over the course of history, as people ebb and flow, push and pull, and form their theological thoughts, God’s word stays true. He really does preserve his church. I’m encouraged by that.

Michael: I think anyone who studies scripture or church history has that as a main take-away: God’s perpetual faithfulness to his people over the years. It’s particularly acute in the second century. On the human level, it looked like at a couple of points, the whole thing was going to end. It looked like it’d be snuffed out, like they wouldn’t make it. But God was true, and he didn’t let the Church fail. He’s going to keep it strong. Even when it looks down and out, it’s going to make it. That reminds you we’re not the first to do this thing called Christianity. We stand in a long line of people who’ve gone before us. That’s a humbling and encouraging thing for us.

Laura: Amen, that’s good. The last thing we typically do with anyone who comes on our show is we allow them to say a word to a whole lot of moms—most of them with young children in the throes of early motherhood. We want to give you some space to share. We know you’re a dad and you’ve been through raising children, so we’re curious if you have anything you’d like to say to our listeners?

Michael: Wow, that’s a generous opening there. [Laughter]

Laura: Yeah, maybe a little dangerous. I don’t know. [Laughter]

Michael: You may want to pull that invitation back depending on which route I go. Wow, there’s so much to say. Yeah, we’ve all been there. Melissa and I have been there, and we still have kids at home, even though they’re older now. But we can remember the younger years in particular. I can remember days and weeks—if not months and years—where you feel like you’re just barely coming up for air. Life becomes a blur. But I want to return to a point we made a minute ago: in the midst of that crazy life, always be looking for ways to anchor yourself in scripture again and again. I know for women listening in, the show does that; other mediums do that in helping people get back to the world. And I think sometimes in the world of parenting, you can think you’ll just put that off for awhile because you don’t have time for that or you don’t need to dive deep into the Bible and theology until your kids are grown. I’d encourage people to rethink that. Being in the word and taking theology seriously is like eating. You don’t say you’re not going to eat for a few years and see how you do. You need spiritual food. It’s as important as any meal. It’s as important as anything else. And here’s the big payoff: when you do that, you’re going to be a better parent. I think people think it’s going to steal time away, but never is time with the Lord at odds with time with your kids. It’s going to reshape you and help you be what God calls you to be with your children. And if nothing else, it shows the example to your children that God is number one, not them. Your children are not number one, God is number one. Your children need to see that, because if they begin to think they’re number one, that’ll put an unhealthy burden on them to live up to that. They don’t actually want to be number one, despite what we think. They want to know God is number one in our lives as parents. That is actually relieving for children in ways we probably don’t understand. So stick with that commitment to scripture. That’s my biggest advice.

Laura: That’s really encouraging. When I first entered motherhood, I was gobbling up the motherhood books—every single one I could find. As I have progressed through motherhood, I’ve realized more and more how God’s word holds everything that I need. All those extra books and resources are wonderful and can be so helpful, but ultimately, scripture is the only thing I can rely on and the only thing I can love and adore. As I grow in understanding his word, I think it pays off in so many ways. I see God provides all I need for conversations and raising my kids and training them and discipling them. I see it filter well. It doesn’t always feel like a direct application to parenting as I study God’s word, but I can see it is changing me, growing me, and molding me as a mom. Again, I don’t want to say resources aren’t helpful. But just like you said, God’s word is sufficient and we shouldn’t be distracted by all the flashy things that seem a little more direct or applicable to our exact situation. God will use his word faithfully in our lives.

Michael: Amen.

Emily: Well thank you so much, Michael, for your time and coming on our show today to share about this topic. We hope many of our listeners are now very interested and curious to know more about this. And thank you for sharing a little bit of your heart for parenting, the Word of God, and God’s sovereignty throughout history. It’s been a blessing to us. We really appreciate it.

Michael:  Thanks so much. I enjoyed talking to both of you.

Emily: You guys can find out more at risenmotherhood.com or on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @risenmotherhood. Thanks for joining us!

Ep. 128 || “I Just Can’t Make it to Bible Study!”: How Busy Moms Get Involved Transcript

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with Laura.

Laura: Hey guys!

Emily: Today we’re talking about getting involved in ministry in the local church. This is a topic near and dear to our hearts. We did a workshop on this at a conference in early 2019, and we felt like this would be applicable to all Risen Motherhood listeners. And I need to hear it too—over and over again. So we’re excited to dive into this a little bit today. It’s a slightly different format of show than we usually do.

Laura: Yes. If you’ve listened to our show for any amount of time, you know this is a major passion area for each of us. We’re hopeful we’re not your primary source of nourishment or encouragement. We love having you guys here; you’re seriously the best and it’s been so fun to meet some of you and hear your stories firsthand this year as we’ve done some conferences. But really, truly, we hope you put your best and first efforts into your local church and women’s ministry. We’re going to talk through the practical things: What are the hindrances a mom faces? How can she overcome those in the years with little kids?

Emily: I feel like it’s a decisive time. When you go from not having children to having a baby for the first time, or maybe you adopted and you’ve got a toddler or two—however that worked out. It kind of feels like all the balls in your life go back up in the air, and you don’t know how everything will fall. Maybe you’re experiencing new vulnerabilities you haven’t in the past and you feel the need for a different type of community—more support spiritually and emotionally. I think we’ve seen it can be an easy time to pull out of the church, and it can also be a great time—we think one of the best times—to really press in where you can. We wanted to start by talking through some things we’ve experienced in the little years and some of the myths we’re tempted to believe when things get hard.

Laura: I think when I became a first time mom, I remember the idea around me: “moms are victims who are constantly overwhelmed, because there’s so much around them that they don’t have any time for themselves; they’re just surviving.” I felt that. It wasn’t just that I heard those things reinforced, I also did feel them. I think it’s a very real feeling. If you’re feeling that way right now—that you’re not able to manage a lot and you’re just surviving—I don’t think you’re weird. [Laughter]

Emily: You’re not alone! [Laughter]

Laura: But mom culture at-large really reinforces that message: “Moms are hot messes!” You know?

Emily: Yeah, and I think that translates into the church. Laura and I have both been in settings where someone has made a comment at a Bible study about us being moms with little ones who are too busy to do our study, be on time, be consistent—because we need to care for our kids. It can feed into the feeling that we can’t do it or be there. It can be a difficult thing to process through.

Laura: It’s hard, because we really appreciate that grace people give us when they say it’s okay if we can’t get our Bible study done to still show up. That is so needed, and we’re so grateful for that. At the same time, I remember being told, “Honey, you don’t have to do your Bible study. You’re a mom; you have better things to do.” That was a message that settled in my heart in the wrong way. I knew right away being in the word was the most important thing, but those comments feed what we’re talking about. We want to get to that truth right now about how motherhood and being involved in ministry in the little years really is achievable. It may look different in this season of life than it has in the past and will in the future. I think motherhood is busy, but you’re busy with really different things. For me, it was a season where suddenly I went from working full-time to being at home full-time. There were nap schedules and feeding schedules, so it was really busy, but I also had a weird amount of free time as well. I became a stay-at-home mom, which I know isn’t the same for everyone, but I think there are a lot of you listening who may be in that boat.

Emily: I think another reason why it’s such a great time is because it can really establish habits. We know in Bible study—we talked about this in Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word—you make little deposits over a long period of time; it adds up to a lot. So if we want to fill our hearts with the truth of the word so we can apply it in our lives, we need to continue planting those seeds and starting those habits when our kids are young. I think it makes it easier to keep doing it. Something I’ve believed is that along the way, it’ll get easier and I’ll jump back in later. I can tell you my oldest will be seven this summer, and there still hasn’t been an easy season. Every season brings different pressures on your schedule and challenges. It is a great time where you can. I think it builds really good patterns.

Laura: So we’re going to go through a handful of things to try to help you get involved in women’s ministry. We know this feels a bit different than our typical shows, but we do see this as equipping you with the gospel, because you’re going to get that from your local church. Part of our mission at R|M is to help you be equipped to apply the gospel to your everyday lives.

Emily: Let’s do some practical touchpoints here. First, consider the various opportunities available at your church. Some women’s ministries offer more program choices, some offer a lot less. But there’s probably a variety whether that’s an on-going Bible study, some type of devotional book group, or moms of little ones or toddlers get together to encourage one another. Sometimes there’s formal discipleship connections you can make with an older woman. There are lots of things; some are high-time commitments, some are low. Some might even be a one-time event where you can meet people to connect with in the future. I think it’s good to see that even if you can’t sign up for the 10-week Bible study today, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do or no way to get involved.

Laura: I had a friend who did the Bible study but didn’t attend the Bible study meetings. In that season, she had a nursing babe, and while it wasn’t ideal, she felt like she could have conversations at church and over Voxer. So she planned to get fully involved in the next season. Be creative, and don’t feel limited by those things.

Okay, so this one is the hard one to hear, but we’re going to say it: be prepared to get some skin in the game. It’s going to feel costly. It’s going to feel like a big event: you prepped your kids 1.5 hours before the Bible study started, you were there for one hour, there’s the transition time once you’re home again. I think expecting what you’re going to get out of this is so worthwhile, valuable, and important helps when you don’t see immediate fruit. That cost will come with benefits. It’s worth it.

Emily: Another thing is to remember to ask for help. Sometimes we want people to read our minds or see our needs and respond without us ever having to say anything, but occasionally, we need to speak up and ask for help—childcare so you can go to an event, reimbursement program, suggestions. Also, ask your women’s ministry leader for suggestions on books, Bible study, resources. I’ve talked to so many women’s ministry leaders who want to help but don’t know who needs it until someone asks. Another thing is when somebody reaches out, say, “Thank you. That really helped me.” I know when I was bringing my littles to Bible study many years ago—when I had three kids, three and under—there were ladies who’d hold doors open for me and help me get the kids in from the snow. I remember telling them, “This met a really tangible need for me and was really helpful.” And they continued to do it. Honestly, it made getting in the door that much less treacherous and scary. So I think planning ahead and being willing to advocate for yourself...in a nice, kind way. [Laughter]

Laura: Gently. [Laughter] I feel like I’m getting all the hard ones here, but the next one is: make sure you’re prepared when you come. You put so much effort to get there, so it’s good to come and be ready to participate in the discussion because you’re read the book or done whatever homework was assigned to you. And of course, there’s grace for not getting it done. Any women’s ministry leader would say to still come, which is great. But since you put so much energy to get there, you’re going to get that much more out if you prepare and spend time reading. Of course, know that there are a lot of weeks I’ve shown up to some event or Bible study after only getting through two pages. [Laughter] And that’s okay! That’s real life! Things do happen, but at the same time, we want to encourage you to put in that effort. Mom culture at-large often says it’s okay not to worry about it or do it. But we want to say to push a little harder and dig a little deeper, because those are deposits you make in your spiritual life that flow out into other parts of your life. It’ll be so beneficial to you.

Emily: And it serves others. We often feel like what we contributed to the conversation isn’t very smart or no one really wants to hear what we have to say, but—

Laura: They do!

Emily: Yeah, that’s the reason for being in that environment: we learn from one another whenever we discuss what we’ve read in the Bible and the way we’re interpreting it and applying it to life. It actually detracts from the group when we don’t show up prepared and ready to contribute. That’s something I have to remind myself, because I can think it’s okay if I’m not prepared because no one wanted to hear what I had to say. Another one is to stay connected and look for the information! [Laughter]

Laura: This seems so obvious, but I went through a whole season of not being signed up for email alerts. I had no idea what was happening. People would ask if I was going to something, and I hadn’t heard of any of it. I needed to simply get on the email list to hear about it.

Emily: Yes! Follow on social media, check the website. One thing our church does is releases a schedule at the beginning of the year. I’m on the women’s ministry team, and I still need to sit down and input all those dates on my calendar right off the bat. Sometimes I forget something’s happening, but it reminds me that I need to get prepared. Do whatever you need to do to be aware of what’s going on.

Laura: Another one is see how you can serve and get involved. I know from serving in leadership and regular roles, women’s ministries are hungry and open and excited about women getting involved at a service or leadership level. If you’re interested in something like that, don’t be afraid to raise your hand or share what you’re interested in. Maybe you love making meals, serving in the nursery, facilitating a small group discussion, or hosting a book club in your home. There are so many different things you could do. Emily and I have served at both levels in women’s ministry, and when a woman says, “I want to start this or I want to do that”—

Emily: Great, I’ll find a job for you! I’m so excited!

Laura: 100%. We love our ideas, but we love it even more when someone says they can do it. If you see ways you can serve, please speak up and talk to your women’s ministry leader to see how it can happen. You may be really surprised by the opportunities that present themselves. Go! Go do that!

Emily: Another thing we wanted to mention is that some of you may be thinking, “I’ve tried that. I’ve tried to get involved in my local church. I’ve tried to raise my hand and serve.” And you feel like you’ve been burnt. We want to acknowledge the Church—both globally and locally—is full of sinners, full of people who don’t have it together on this side of heaven. We’re redeemed and saved, being transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ, but that’s happening progressively for everyone. We know you’ve been in situations where you haven’t been heard or seen: maybe you’re unable to serve in the way you want. But we want to encourage you to bear with the saints in your local church. If you’re in a church where they’re not preaching the gospel or it isn’t a healthy place, maybe you need to talk with your husband or whoever about what to do with that. But if you’re in a church that loves Jesus and is preaching the gospel, we have to extend forgiveness and persevere by God’s strength. This is a group of people who is your family, if you’re in the local church. And we all know, family can be hard to get along with sometimes. [Laughter]

Laura: Oh Emily, you are so hard to get along with. [Laughter]

Emily: But they’re still family, and you should still work to get along with those sisters and brothers. We want to encourage you in that.

Laura: Good word. The last one is to receive grace. We’ve sprinkled this in here, but just know, there’s grace for this season. If you’re hearing this and feeling like you can’t get there, know there’s grace for all seasons. Emily and I like to joke that a mom’s season changes every three months. [Laughter] Maybe quicker.

Emily: As soon as you get that schedule figured out.

Laura: It’s for sure changing! Just know, especially if you’re on the front end of motherhood, hang in there. Things will change, and it will look brighter tomorrow. There are seasons of high and low involvement, but don’t give up. Remind yourself of the gospel day-in and day-out; of the grace God gives us. We’re not earning our salvation. Attendance in Bible study isn’t what gets you to heaven—praise the Lord. But those are things God does use in your life to grow you and draw you closer to him. So it’s still really important to be faithful, to be involved, and to make those efforts. But I’m so thankful that external involvement doesn’t necessarily reveal the faithfulness of your heart. Be encouraged with that too.

Emily: Our final word is to remember Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride. We hear that in God’s word. This means he loves the Church; he loved her so much he died for her. He’s coming back for the Church. There are some verses in the New Testament that are so intense like, “The gates of hell will not prevail against his church.” He’s going to rescue, love, and live with his bride—the Church—forever. Some of that may seem kind of heady, but what we’re trying to communicate is Jesus loves the Church. God puts a huge emphasis on this. If we’re following Jesus and walking the way he walked, we should experience that love too. We should show it in our actions and involvement and desire to meet together with people—even though it’s not perfect.

Laura: Amen, Emily. We hope you’re feeling encouraged to be involved in the local church; maybe you already are and that’s awesome. Just share this with another mom! If you want more, we’ll link lots of resources in our show notes this week at risenmotherhood.com. Of course, we’d love it if you’d join us on social media @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’d appreciate if you stayed connected, because that’s how you find out about new shows, what’s going on at R|M, the book updates, and all sorts of things like that. Come join us! It’s a good time over there. We hope you have a great day!

Ep. 127 || Wisdom for the Everyday: Scripture Memory & Motherhood Transcript

This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Karen Hodge: Hi friends, my name is Karen Hodge. I have the privilege of serving as the Chair of the Risen Motherhood Board of Directors alongside some extraordinarily gifted board members. I’m also blessed to be surrounded by a lot of new life. I go to a lot of baby showers. I sit in the circle, and I see things, and I wonder, “Where was that clever fill-in-the-blank project when I had my children twenty plus years ago?” And even though the baby product industry has come a long way, what I really wish what I had back then was a resource like Risen Motherhood. Don’t get me wrong; I was blessed to have good gospel mom friends who reminded me about the hope of the gospel when the days were very long. Risen Motherhood is a good gospel friend. They help us think biblically about how the gospel applies to the majestic and the mundane moments of motherhood. And Risen Motherhood is also a good gift I love to give to the young moms in my life. So, would you join me in giving a gift that would make an eternal impact? The Risen Motherhood ministry currently runs through donations. As the Lord leads, I want to encourage you to give a one-time gift or—even better—monthly at risenmotherhood.com/give. They have a new initiative I’d like to take a moment to highlight: you can give in honor or memory of someone you love. Now with $100 or more one-time gift, Risen Motherhood will send a handwritten card to someone you care about. It’s a wonderful way to recognize those special milestones in life. By making a contribution to Risen Motherhood for birthdays, baby showers, Mother’s Day (which is just right around the corner), or even just to celebrate all the kids sleeping through the night, you can bring the hope of the gospel to moms all around the world by showing someone you love and care. You can give in memory of a parent, a grandparent, a friend, or even a miscarriage. It’s a special way to honor and recognize the deceased while furthering the gospel mission. Head to risenmotherhood.com/dedicategift to learn more about how you can do this. So thanks for partnering with us, friend, because your gifts are going to help a mom who’s listening today to better understand her calling by equipping her with God’s word. You also serve as a good gospel friend reminding her the gospel really does make a difference in every aspect of motherhood. Most importantly, your gift will not only impact this woman, but prayerfully, it will multiply by impacting the next generation.

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

Emily: Hey!

Laura: We want to give a big thanks to Karen for being willing to do the intro for pledge week! It was super kind of her. As she mentioned, you can head to risenmotherhood.com/give to learn more if you’d like to join us in our ministry. On to today’s show! We’re talking about a really fun, but also sometimes hard, topic: scripture memory.

Emily: I think it feels particularly hard in motherhood, because so many of the things we’re met with each day are urgent. I need my shoe tied now! I need a snack right now! Or I see the mountain of dishes growing out of my sink, and I’m starting to set things down on the counter, so that needs to be done right now. Something like scripture memory feels like it can always go to the back of the list.

Laura: Oh, definitely! It’s something that requires you to slow down. I think that’s very difficult in motherhood. And it requires a lot of thinking...and my brain hurts.

Emily: Yes, it does! And our mental capacity has real limits when we’re not getting as much sleep as normal, or we’re really busy with a lot of things that are important—like caring for people. Our brain power can go to those things, and it can feel like we have none left.

Laura: The other hard thing for me in scripture memory is: there are other things that have more rewards for me to learn or things I see more immediate results in. Things like cooking a meal, decorating, or planning a kid’s party. I think there’s this element of scripture memory that’s so difficult because it takes a lot of time, brain power, and slowing down, but also there’s a lot of review involved in it. It’s something that feels different than other things, like I can one-and-done this meal tonight! I never have to think about it again!

Emily: Yes, but it’s really similar to other areas of life where we learn a topic. I think back to college when I was trained to be a special education teacher. There was a point when I couldn’t remember all the different diagnoses and all the ways they would impact my teaching strategies. In a real life situation, I’d have to go back to my textbooks or Internet, and search for it. I couldn’t do my job until I went back and looked at my notes word-for-word. It can make real-life responses cumbersome, and that’s the reality of scripture memory we don’t often think of today. It’s like learning anything else. Until it’s in our minds and hearts, we’re almost unable to use it in a nimble way, because we’re going back to look to see what God’s word says. Which we do want to go back; I’m not saying abandon your text! [Laughter] I think you guys get what I’m saying: it’s really helpful to have it wherever you are in your mind.

Laura: I like to think of scripture memory a little bit like exercising. I remind myself—although I’m not great at exercising all the time—it pays off dividends in so many other ways. It’s not just so I can do another push-up or not pass out during a workout program online; it’s so I can run and play with my kids, and feel strong enough to carry my daughter on a hike. I put in the work—for exercise or scripture memory—not for the moment but for all other areas of my life where I’ll reap a lot of benefit.

Emily: Yes, there are definitely a lot of benefits. We’re going to dive into some of them for today’s show. But before we jump in, we want to define scripture a little bit, because we realized sometimes we use a lot of different words and phrases: God’s word, the Bible, the law, the canon, the Word of Christ—

Laura: Do you say “the Word of Christ” very often?

Emily: Uh, yeah, like “the word of Christ dwell richly in you…”

Laura: Oh! Look at her quoting scripture! [Laughter]

Emily: Boom. Boom. So, basically, if you’re new to this, it can feel like these might be different or separate things, like the Bible is different than scripture. What we want to lay out today is a definition for what we’re talking about.

Laura: When we talk about memorizing scripture, we’re talking about memorizing the canon or the body of writing God has given to rule the church. That’s from John Frame’s Systematic Theology. Essentially, it’s the 66 books in the Bible that are bound together on a bookshelf somewhere in your home. That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about memorizing scripture or God’s word or all those other words.

Emily: So let’s jump in with some reasons for why we should memorize scripture with all of the busy things we have going on. We’ve talked a bit about textbooks and exercising, but what does God’s word tell us? There are so many scriptures that tell us: You should do this!

Laura: We started looking them up for the show, and it was an endless well of, “Memorize God’s law!” We’ll just list a couple here for you, but know this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The first one is from Psalm 119. We were going to share a snippet but decided to read a longer section, because it’s so compelling. I’m going to read it quickly (v. 9-16):

How can a young man keep his way pure?

   By guarding it according to your word.

With my whole heart I seek you;

   let me not wander from your commandments!

I have stored up your word in my heart,

   that I might not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O Lord;

   teach me your statutes!

With my lips I declare

   all the rules[c] of your mouth.

In the way of your testimonies I delight

   as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on your precepts

   and fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in your statutes;

   I will not forget your word.

Emily: It’s such a compelling picture of the goodness of God’s word and the way it transforms us when it’s on our minds and in our hearts—when we can think about it all the time. That transitions us to the New Testament verse we wanted to share, which is Colossians 3:16:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing you in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

This is a model given in the early church for how this truth transformed them from the inside out and impacted their whole community in really important ways.

Laura: Another reason we want to memorize scripture is because we’re called to image Christ in this life. We see Jesus knew scripture and used it. In Matthew 4, when Jesus was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he spoke scripture to Satan from memory. He did it every time; it was his response to the temptation. We see in Matthew 4:

Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.

You shall worship the Lord your God and in him only shall you serve.

So we see Jesus fighting temptation and all he used was God’s word. Another interesting fact is in the New Testament, he quoted the Old Testament 180 times, which I could never do if I tried. [Laughter]

Emily: It’s awesome! When you read through, you see him using the Old Testament scripture to answer questions and correct wrong thinking. He uses it to explain the circumstances and things happening in the past, present, and future. He uses it to respond to criticism, to resist temptation, to help him obey God, and to teach other people about God’s will and plan. It’s this incredibly robust and important part of who Jesus was, his ministry, and the words he used. We definitely want to model it.

Laura: So let’s talk through some benefits of memorizing scripture. We feel these are compelling reasons to want to store God’s word in our hearts. Sometimes we need to remember all of the wonderful benefits of the work of memorizing scripture and how it’ll pay off. The first thing is it gives you words to remember the gospel. Sometimes when we get stuck in anger, self-pity, sadness, or different things like that, we don’t know how to reset our hearts or pull out of a bad moment. Relying on scripture is a great way to preach the gospel to ourselves, because sometimes we forget truth or we get it a little twisted. Sometimes we’re not exactly sure what that truth is, especially when our emotions aren’t in line with God’s word. It’s a great chance for us to pull out the words we have stored in our hearts from God’s word. He promises to provide all we need, so the Holy Spirit is often working through that scripture we’re reciting in our heads.

Emily: I think another way it helps us is helping us resist temptation and obey God. That’s something Jackie Hill Perry brought up in her interview about identity with us a long time ago. God always provides a way of escape when we’re in temptation. Sometimes we’re looking for our circumstances to change, but sometimes the way of escape he provides is remember his word. His word helps us turn and repent, and escape the situation. We read in Hebrews 4:12:

The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edge sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

That’s something we talk a lot about at Risen Motherhood: check your heart, discern your heart. Well, what helps us do that? God’s very word.

Laura: Another reason to memorize scripture is it gives you words in ministry. I know having a toolkit for scripture in my arsenal has been so helpful as I’ve worked to evangelize. I haven’t done that as much as I wish, but in those moments, it’s been great to go back to something like the “Romans Road.” There are different programs like that one that help you memorize a selection of verses to help communicate the four parts of the gospel. As we’re evangelizing, making disciples, or training others in God’s word, having scripture is helpful to feel confident and to be bold as we interact with others. I know the words I’m speaking aren’t my own, their God’s word, so they’re truthful, powerful, and the Holy Spirit works through them.

Emily: To build on that: the friendship and relationship component. Maybe you have a family member or friend experiencing grief or sorrow; there are some common things in motherhood we face like miscarriage, struggles with infertility, slow-moving adoption, difficult diagnosis, or discouragment in marriage. Even when we can’t relate specifically, sometimes we can go back to scripture and find words of comfort, love, and support. These are not words to put a bandaid on their problem or a quick, “Everything’s going to be okay!” but to truly meet them with encouragement so they have hope.

Laura: Another one relates to our children. How do we teach our children what we don’t know? We can’t. A lot of times we’re met with situations where we don’t have the Bible handy, or even if we did, we may not know exactly where to look. But hiding God’s word in our hearts will help us as we equip, train, and raise our children. We can use it in discipline and counsel. And also I think this models a great practice for our kids; seeing that we value it shows them, as they grow older, what they should be valuing as well.

Emily: Another one that comes up a lot in motherhood is the need for wisdom in decision-making. Again, a lot of these things feel like gray areas; as we know the Word of God, it can help us remember what we should hold fast to and if it’s a clear command from the Lord. Then we can more easily discern the gray areas where we might need to consider what’s going on in our hearts.

Laura: God’s word says it’ll bring us blessing. This isn’t necessarily health or wealth. Joshua 1:8 says:

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth...for then you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success.

This doesn’t mean monetarily necessarily. This means the blessing is greater love, care, and delight in God, which is really the greatest gift of all.

Emily: Another thing is it strengthens all of our spiritual disciplines the more we have God’s word stored in our heart. It helps us pray. We know what to pray, because we want to focus our prayers on what God has already revealed in his word and ask him things based on that. Bible study helps us make connections and draw conclusions, because you’re reading the Old Testament passage and realize it sounds familiar! Even if you need to use handy ol’ Google, you can find that scripture. It helps you with personal meditation on God and his attributes. Overall, it helps you love God more. When you can sit on your couch, maybe with a sick kid on your lap, and you’re able to draw to mind truth from his word and really chew on it for a little while, it really does help encourage you and increase your love for God.

Laura: Yes! Now, very quickly, we want to jump into a couple of practical pieces. We don’t have a ton of time for this, but we’ll put a lot of stuff in our show notes for this. There are a ton of people talking about this and a lot of books—easy to read books—you can check out on this. But we’re going to talk a little bit about the way we do this.

The first thing is: study and understand the passage. If you’re going to do the work to memorize something, make sure you understand the context, that you’ve studied the context, and make sure you have a handle on it. When it comes down to actually memorizing it, the meaning will help you remember.

Emily: I think that’s my tip right there. I’ve pretty much memorized scripture by reading it over and over and over again—or listening to it. A lot of times that happens as I’m studying a book of the Bible, because I have to read it so much to get to that point of interpretation and application. I look back in hindsight and see I knew it because I spent so much time in it.

Laura: Emily’s always whipping out little phrases of scripture—

Emily: I can’t tell you where it’s at. [Laughter]

Laura: But she’s like, “Goooogle! Here we go.” [Laughter] But that’s helpful to have those phrases captured. I think another quick tip is to involve your kids. As moms, we’re around our kids all day and often, they’re better at memorizing scripture than we are. At least mine are better than I am. I think it’s helpful, because they get really excited. I think I’ve shared this before, but when I’m in the rhythm of scripture memory, my kids will get vitamins after we’ve practiced for the day.

Emily: Gummy vitamins. Fun vitamins.

Laura: Yes! They’re super motivated. They’ll ask, “Mom, mom! Are we going to memorize scripture?” It’s really helpful for me, because if my kids want to, I’m held accountable. That’s a super practical tip for you!

Emily: Yeah, so definitely head over to our show notes for many more ideas. We wanted to give this word at the end, because I know after hearing after this–even recording a show like this—my first instinct is to feel really guilty and burdened that this is another thing I’m not doing well enough or another thing I’m failing at or disappointing God in. So we wanted to stop and say: moms, we are justified by grace through faith. This means God declares who he is and takes initiative on our behalf while we were still dead in our sins, and after we’re free, he gives us the expectations, commands, and commissions. Whenever we hear things like, “Go memorize scripture!” it can sound like, “If you store up God’s word in your heart, he’s going to like you or accept you or help you.” But it’s really the other way around. He loves you and accepts you and helps you in Christ first. With that mindset, we can excitedly go and memorize scripture.

Laura: Amen. Well, we hope you’re motivated to get started today! Head over to our show notes for tons of resources on this. You probably have lots of practical questions; well, we have answered them on our show notes. On risenmotherhood.com you’ll find the link to our show notes, and of course, check us out on social media @risenmotherhood across all the platforms—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Have a great day, guys!

Ep. 126 || Ask Us Anything! Spring 2019 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 and we’re so excited to bring you the Spring 2019 Ask Us Anything show. We do these two times a year: once in the spring and once in the fall. We reach out to our community on social media and ask what you want to know. So, we have an extra, extra long show.  [Laughter]

Laura:  Oh, it's so long. [Laughter]

Emily:  Extra, extra, extra long. We go through the most frequently asked questions and try to focus on ones we haven't answered in the past. So if you don't hear your question on here, definitely look through past AUA shows or other content—we may have answered it.

Laura:  We also do a blog post where we round up. I don't know if all of your questions will be in there, but a version of your question will probably be in there if we’ve answered it before. We'll point you to an article or a past show that we've done that you can go listen to.

Emily: Alright. Well, let's jump in Laura. You ready?

Laura:  I'm ready.

Emily:  The first question asked was, What other podcasts do you recommend?

Laura:  Yeah, this was asked a ton. People want to know what podcasters are listening to, which I get.

Emily:  We love that! First off, you can check out our FAQ page on our Risen Motherhood website.

Laura:  We have a nice robust list linked to the podcasts we more frequently listen to.

Emily:  Check that out for what we recommend, but I thought it'd be fun for us to share the last three podcast episodes that Laura and I listened to. No filter; you have to tell us what’s actually on your phone. What have you listened to most recently, Laura?

Laura:  Mine are all Nonprofit Ally. [Laughter] I don't have some cool theological podcast I'm listening to and learning from. I’m learning how to run a nonprofit, and how to be an executive director. I have no idea what I'm doing; I'm going to admit that to everyone. I’m learning as rapidly as I can and have found that show to be really helpful. If you run a nonprofit, or if you’re thinking about starting one or turning your business into one, it's really been helpful. He asks, I don't want to say dumb questions, but the questions that you're too scared to ask. He asks them and answers them.

Emily:  We're all benefiting from what Laura is learning from bingeing on Nonprofit Ally. [Laughter]

Laura:  I’m totally bingeing it. [laughter]

Emily:  That's awesome. I had to search through my phone, but over the weekend I listened to Help Me Teach the Bible with Nancy Guthrie. She had Ligon Duncan on to talk about covenant theology versus dispensationalism.

Laura:  I need to listen.

Emily:  Listen with a notebook.

Laura:  Oh yeah, for sure.

Emily:  I literally found a scrap piece of paper to map out all the different things he's said. Then that led me to then reading another theology book I had on my shelf, because I was so interested in what he said and also very confused by it. I think I'm starting to get my arms around it. [Laughter] That one was really enjoyable. Then I sometimes listen to Masterpiece Studio.

Laura:  Oh yes, I know you do. [Laughter]

Emily:  My husband and I like to watch PBS Masterpiece on Sunday night.

Laura:  What are you watching right now?

Emily:  It’s Victoria.

Laura:  Oh, Victoria's on? See, I'm so behind. I need to catch up.

Emily: I like it, because they have short podcasts where they talk to the actors and give behind-the-scenes. They're usually historical pieces, so they'll do “Fact or Fiction.”

Laura:  This is so Emily. [Laughter]

Emily:  I look so forward to this on Monday! And I listen to an enCourage Podcast episode with Karen Hodge.

Laura:  I love enCourage! Karen is our board chair; love her.

Emily:  It was on body image.

Laura:  Oh that sounds good.

Emily:  It was really good.

Laura:  Okay, next question. This one was asked a few times: tips on potty training boys, specifically boys. What are our tips? Emily, what are your tips? You have four of them.

Emily:  I have four of them. I've only potty trained three of them. [Laughter]

Laura:  That's still a lot.

Emily:   I think potty training is really challenging. I would say: wait until they're ready.

Laura:  Oh, for sure.

Emily:  Wait until they are interested and motivated.

Laura:  Don't try to force it early, because you'll just be frustrated.

Emily:  I would also say: do it during a time of the year when pants are easy to pull on and off, and it's easy to change clothes and do the laundry.

Laura:  Just wear undies outside all day.

Emily:  Do it in shorts season if you can. It’s much harder when they pee over their jeans and you're trying to pry them off their body.

Laura:  Oh, that’s nasty.

Emily:  Yeah. Those are probably my two main things. Keep it positive and –

Laura:  Keep it positive.

Emily:  Have hope you’ll get to the other side of it. Try not to get discouraged; I think I felt really discouraged because I remember we potty trained our twins not long before our daughter was born—actually, now I'm getting confused about what child it was that was born. Someone was born and they had all these accidents again. It was a ton of accidents.

Laura:  Very normal.

Emily:  It was very normal and very frustrating. Now in hindsight I think that that can be part of the process.

Laura:  The accidents are a little recurring.

Emily:  Right.

Laura:  Totally.

Emily:  Don't get discouraged.

Laura:  I would say: be really patient. I think it can take boys a really long time. We accidentally forgot to put a diaper on my three-year-old daughter, and she woke up dry. She's a total rock star. I hear that’s very common with girls, not always, but it's common. I only have one boy, but I hear from friends they just take longer. That's really normal; so don't get frustrated. (And you'll get frustrated.) Potty training was how Risen Motherhood got started.

Emily:  Go listen to our potty training episode.

Laura:  Yeah, we have a whole episode on it. I forgot about that. We recorded it when we were in the thick of it. Okay, move on. Next question.

Emily:  The next question is do you guys hang out a lot outside of podcast/book stuff?

Laura:  I wish we did more.

Emily:  I feel like we hang out a lot because we talk all the time.

Laura:  All the time.

Emily:  Laura will sometimes Facetime me in the middle of the day, which I'm always like, “Uh-oh. What did we get an email about?”

Laura: You just get worried. Then I'm like, “Hey, just saying hey.”

Emily: It's a nice way to interact if we need to have a fun conversation or a business conversation face-to-face. We can't be face to face because we're running our kids back and forth to school.

Laura: We're not in person very often to be honest. We see each other; I'll wave at Emily from the school pickup line or from therapy. Generally, we actually don't see each other all that much. I think that's the way it is a lot of times with motherhood friendships. In this stage, you wish you were with your friends a little more, but unless you have a natural connection, say church or some type of weekly thing, it's more of cultivating that friendship with the little pieces you can get. Emily and I talk all throughout the day consistently. Emily’s the only main person I do that with for sure—just not as much in person. [Laughter]

Emily:  Yeah. It's fun because we're talking about the summer and asking, “How can we be intentional to get our kids together?”

Laura:  We're going to start a book club with our boys.

Emily:  I'm so excited.

Laura:  They are five, six, and seven. Our other sister-in-law, Becca, is included, and we're going to get the oldest cousins together for a book club. We're starting them young.

Emily:  Yeah. Gabe and Cal already asked to be invited–

Laura:  Yeah, Colette wants in too. Whoever wants to come, eat ice cream, talk about a book…sort of—

Emily: There'll be snacks there and other stuff. [Laughter]

Laura: It’s for the moms. What are we saying?

Emily:  Yeah, we're going to try to hang out a little bit more, but good question.

Laura:  The next question is how did you guys find time to write your book with kids and a podcast to manage? Do you still consider yourself a stay-at-home mom? We chose this question because it was asked a ton of times in a ton of different ways. We've had a lot of you ask us if we do consider ourselves stay-at-home moms still. I’m not sure why that's the specific question, but that was something Emily and I wanted to address. Emily, are you a stay-at-home mom?

Emily:  Well, I think it depends how you define that. I've thought more about some of these boxes, and the labels that we have, and the stereotypes that come with them. Everyone I know has a lot of different things they do on any given day, and their lives don't fit into this neat definition. I do stay-at-home almost all day, every day. In fact, there are some weeks when I barely leave home other than to take kids to and from school. I am “at home” full-time.

I’d also say I prioritize most of my time around caring for the needs of our family, home management things, and doing some things for my husband. That’s kind of a major focus of my time. I also have time when I'm “working from home,” when my kids are napping or I may have some childcare hours. I guess, yes. I think so.

Laura:  When people ask me that, I always think of it as I’m the primary caretaker of my kids, but I wouldn't call myself a stay-at-home mom, according to culture’s version of that word. Which I think most people think of stay-at-home mom as not doing any outside income-producing work. That might not be correct.

Emily:  I get so confused about what the definitions are.

Laura:  See, so it doesn't really matter. I think ultimately—I bet I can speak on behalf of you as well—we both work. We could both be put in a category. We just recently recorded a show about how you decide on work decisions when you have options. We both have a foot in the working mom category, and we have a foot in the stay-at-home mom category. I think that's going to be more and more common. Online jobs are available, and there's a lot of push in the workplace and culture for flexible jobs. I think it's going to be really common.

Like Emily said, there are boxes we like to put people in, and I don't know if it really matters ultimately. We don't want to speak in to what it's like to be a working mom if you've not been a mom that was working outside the home or for income. At the same time, I think there's a lot of blur to that and there are concepts, which is what we try to show on Risen Motherhood, that are universal across motherhood regardless of what your days look like.

Emily:  Right.

Laura:  How do we do what we do, Em? How do you do what you do?

Emily:  How do I do what I do? I thought about this answer in parts, because like most things in life, it's complicated. Sometimes I think we want to be able to give an easy answer like, “Oh, I just structure things this way.” For the book, it was written in spurts for me.

It was less about finding this time every single week—although I did schedule time for it—and more about using planned times on evenings and weekends that my husband and I preplanned, because I needed a lot of focus. I also went on a writing retreat to Florida one time. That was a couple of days. I would set aside whole afternoons here or there.

For me, the most draining thing and the hardest thing about writing the book was it took so much of my heart and so much of my mind. If I had five hours to go sit at a coffee shop and write, the next day I could be really tired. That was kind of hard. What about you with the book, Laura?

Laura:  That's the exact same way I wrote. I think a lot of authors have said this: you don't write a book in 45 minutes spurts here and there. You have to ramp up. You have to write a significant amount. Then you kind of, like you said, wind down. We found writing in a more long form to be more beneficial.

I remember going to Minnesota and staying with my mother-in-law and her husband. She’d watch my kids, and I’d sneak away to a coffee shop for eight hours. That’s where I'd write an entire chapter. The book feels like a special project rather than, “Hey, this is this regular routine.”

Then for how we do regular ongoing work with Risen Motherhood? I have about four hours of childcare a week. I work something around twenty hours a week for Risen Motherhood. My mom helps when she's in town and available for longer spurts, especially in the winter. It's not very consistent, but she’s someone who’s a big help in my life; I will definitely say that. Then I tend to be a type of person that gets up really early, like 4:00 or 5:00 AM. My husband also leaves early, so it makes life a little bit easier to do that. We also go to bed really early, but I still get a lot of sleep I guess.

I'm still navigating this; it’s something I'm still asking: how this will work? Over the summer of 2018, I experienced a lot of burnout. Some of you guys heard me talk about it a little bit: I was writing the book, building a house; I had a lot of therapy and medical for my youngest who has special needs; and I was living temporarily with my parents. Then, of course, I had all the normal Risen Motherhood work, while turning it in to a nonprofit. It was a lot. It was too much actually.

At some point, I think Emily and I want to talk more about burnout in life and in motherhood. It might sound cool to some people like, “Oh, she does so much.” Ultimately, I think it was a time where I was too prideful, and self-sufficient, and reliant on my own efforts. I think going forward, I'm still figuring out this exact balance, but I'm committed to getting more childcare, and trying to say no to more things, and having accountability in my life. I'm naturally a “yes” person and naturally love doing a lot of things. I have to be really careful to draw boundaries. Otherwise, I'll really do nothing very well at all. Em, now it's your turn, because we're pretty different people.

Emily:  I think my husband has been really helpful in this, in encouraging me and working with me to compartmentalize certain things. We put boundaries on things and use our “yes”es in the places where we really want to. It does change regularly. I want to affirm what Laura said and say it's something we're constantly figuring out and working out. Ever six months or so, we restructure and the balls go back up in the air, and we see how they're going to land and what kind of help we need, etcetera.

I also want affirm a lot of what R|M does these days is because of Laura. It looks like there are all these things going on, but I actually have pretty clear boundaries around my job and my responsibilities. We have a whole team working on the things that come out of Risen Motherhood—it's not just Laura and I. We have a lot of awesome team members working with us that put in a lot of time, and heart, and special skills.

For me, I have three and a half hours of childcare one afternoon a week, and that’s when Laura and I do stuff like this. We know we can record a podcast. We can have video call meetings. We can strategize on certain things. Otherwise, like Laura, I just do my work while the kids are at school or they're napping. That’s probably where we're at right now, because our five kids are still six and under; one of them is a busy toddler and one has special needs. Realistically, outside of those hour,s I don't do much work for Risen Motherhood. That means I don't typically do things early morning. I don't usually work on nights and weekends. One thing that's helped me with that is realizing Risen Motherhood, and these types of things, will always take as much as I want to give it.

Laura:  For sure.

Emily:  My to-do list is so long, and I could do so much more. It's a discipline to say, “No, this is the time that my husband and I have thoughtfully allotted for me to do this work.” On paper it should be enough time; I have to just trust the Lord in that. If I ever get in over my head, I can communicate with Laura and communicate with our team.

Then like Laura said, I think another thing that people don't see us post about on social media is I live next door to my parents and Laura’s parents are in town. My dad helps out a lot with rides and impromptu childcare. My husband works really flexible and reasonable hours. Neither of us are super over-committed to stuff, so we can cover for each other a lot. He really helps out at home a ton. I think sometimes it's hard to really get a sense, when you see all this content coming out, of what our lives looks like, and how much help we actually have, and how much of a team effort it really is.

Laura:  We have really good organizational structures at R|M. I don't want to say I'm proud of them, but I'm proud of them. That's due to an amazing team, as Emily said. It’s not just Emily and I anymore; there are a lot of women working. Then there’s an army of people—call them lay people in a sense—that are not on staff at R|M who are so supportive of us. Our husbands, our kids, our in-laws; all of them contribute to the work of Risen Motherhood.

Next question. What advice would you give to those wanting to grow in their writing?

Emily:  I love this question. I can do this all day. [Laughter] First and foremost, Laura and I would both say: write.

Laura:  All the time.

Emily:  Write, write, write. Strive to do this well with the things you're already writing. Whether that's sending emails, text messages, a thank you note. Whatever it is you're currently doing, work hard to make that clear, to serve the person who's reading, and to really practice getting your message across.

I would say, personally, the thing that's helped me the most, in addition to writing a lot of words, is writing for special projects or special assignments. Because it really forces you to hone in, keep your word count a specific length, to be really ruthless in a good way about what you're saying, and every single word has to count. That has helped me be more precise with my writing.

Laura:  That's a good point. I think that that falls in line with having an editor or someone who's willing to read your work. They have to be ruthless themselves. Join a writing group, find a friend who's a great writer, or maybe if you’re on assignment, they’ll give you an editor. Listen to them. Truly believe them when they say, “This needs to go. This didn't make sense. This needs clarification.” They're coming in with fresh eyes just like the reader would. They care about you, and they care about the reader. So trust what they offer is true and real. I know it's really hard to take criticism or feedback, but Emily and I always talk about how we’re in love with our own words the most. I just love every word I write. I think it’s so good.

Emily:  I needed every word.

Laura: No, it's not. You can probably cut 20%.  Do it. [Laughter]

Emily:  I think so much of it is really viewing it as a craft, viewing it as a skill. Just like any skill, it requires training, and practice, and discipline, and all those good things. Other things you can do: read, read nonfiction and fiction, read about writing, read for fun; read things that interest you, and pique your curiosity, and give you good ideas. Another thing I would say is read writers whose style you might want to emulate, and then take mental note of what they do. Read it, not just for the content but for the style.

Laura:  To really analyze it in a way of, “Oh look, I see what they did there. That's neat.” Then lastly, I would say think about writing. Emily and I always talked about how so much of the book was actually written on walks, at the grocery store, driving to school, things like that. We were constantly thinking about the book: how we were going to frame an argument or what analogy we were going to have or whatever that may be. Those were written in our heads first. Then we sat down to write the actual chapter when we had already spent a lot of hours writing in our heads. Then your first chapter is probably not going to be all that good. [Laughter]

Emily:  Then you get it on paper and you're like, “Uh-oh.” [Laughter]

I would say something that has been frustrating and enlightening for me is realizing that when I'm having a hard time writing clearly and well about something, it's because I don't really know what I'm trying to say.

Laura:  Trying to say. Yes, 100%.

Emily:  That goes back to thinking. That goes back to really understanding a concept well. You're not going to be able to write well about it until you really get it and you can explain it to a child.

Laura:  And that you've picked an angle. Because I think a lot of times what we'll do is that we'll say, “Okay, I have to write about self care.” Then you think, “Here are 55 things I can say about self-care, and I'm going to put them all in there.” No, pick one. Do it well. That is part of that thinking process, “I'm going to latch onto this. I'm going to ride that to the end of the chapter and hang on for dear life.” Pick a good focus, because having a lot of points will really make things muddy.

Emily:  Have a thesis. We can talk about this forever. This is a cool topic.

Laura:  Yes, maybe we should do a special writing episode.

Emily: Hopefully we gave you some good tips there. I'll make sure we include some good resources in the show notes.

Laura:  Yeah, lots of people have written about this.

Emily:  Alright, so the next question is, do you ever struggle with comparing yourselves to each other? How do you fight this? Well, Laura?

Laura:  Oh man, I have to go first. [Laughter] Not usually. I can say that with all honesty. I think it may have been a little bit harder at the beginning, but now I’ve fallen so much more in love with Emily's specific skill sets and giftings, it isn't as hard anymore. I think that she’s so incredibly different from me.

She's smiling and batting her eyes at me right now. [Laughter] I'm trying to be nice, and now I'm getting weird.

She's so incredibly different from me that I think I know I can't be like her. We're just opposites. There's not necessarily a desire for me to feel like I need to be like her. Sometimes, of course, I wish I was maybe more thoughtful or analytical about the things we're dealing with. She's a naturally gifted writer. So, especially during the book writing process, I felt insecure because we'd swap chapters and I'd read one of hers and just feel like mine was terrible compared to this.

Emily:  For the record, I felt the exact same thing about Laura's chapters. I didn't know that, so it goes both ways. [Laughter]

Laura:  That makes me feel a little better. That's one of those things where there have been times where I've definitely wished I was as good at creating analogies, or sharing, or being so theologically accurate no one could ever debate with me. [Laughter] She's good at that stuff, and it's helpful.

In general, I would say how I fight it is I take joy in her gifts, and I'm so thankful that God has put her in my life. I feel immensely grateful I get to learn from her; and have her input, and different thinking, and different skill sets in my life to make my stuff better. If anything, I get afraid if I don't have her, what would happen?

Emily:  Nothing bad would happen.

Laura:  Oh, probably a ton.

Emily:  We need each other. Yeah, I would affirm what Laura's saying—not the things about me. [Laughter]

Laura:  I’m amazing. [Laughter]

Emily:  No, I don't mean that part. [Laughter]

Laura:  Emily only compares herself to herself. She's like, “I just want to be me.” [Laughter]

Emily:  No, I mean the part about I don't struggle that much comparing myself to Laura. For the same reason: we’re really differently gifted. I’d say we also have different future goals, and dreams, and desires. I see our gifts as complementary to each other and some of our desires as complementary.

Whenever I see Laura taking on a new thing, or blazing a new trail, or getting something done 100 times faster than I could ever do it on my best day, I don't feel jealous of that because I couldn't do that. Even if I could for a day, I’d fizzle out.  It's okay to know we're different in that way. I desperately need a Laura in my life, because I wouldn’t be productive with my gifts and I wouldn’t use them well. It's really a value.

I think occasionally, in my sin, I can get competitive with writing or theology, because there’s a part of me that wants to find my value in how smart I'm perceived to be or how well I laid something out. Then when I work crazy hard on a project or an article, and I give it my very best—like it was all I could give—I see Laura’s and I think, “Oh my goodness, that's amazing. And it just came out super easy for her. I must be terrible.”

Laura:  No.

Emily:  Then I have to immediately speak truth and say, “No.” In reality, we both have good days, we both have off days. Sometimes it's easy for us, sometimes it's hard for us. We both have that equally. Those insecurities are not about Laura; they’re about things in my own heart that needed to be dealt with before Jesus. Where am I finding my value and my worth? These thoughts only get a few seconds, because I immediately tell myself to stop.

Laura:  Or I think each of us would tell each other to knock it off if we talked about it. We really haven't ever talked about this actually; this was the first time. I think it's pretty natural to feel a little bit of a competitive thing. Then I remember, we're on mission for the gospel; we can find unity in that. There's no need for that competitive spirit because the gospel goes forth; that's what matters. If God chooses to do that more publicly through Emily or through her success or whatever, that's awesome. I want the gospel to go forward in whatever way God decides. I hope and pray that forever we’ll be each other's cheerleaders and biggest fans.  

Like Emily said, we have really different dreams, and I think that's been good. I’ve probably struggled with wondering if my dreams need to be like Emily's, because of the world and ministry God has me in right now. This is more deep than I probably need to get. It's definitely been a big process for me to work through. Is it okay that my dreams might be different than what hers are? Yeah, it’s okay, but it's taken me a little bit to get there.

Emily:  I think another thing that helped me—not just with Laura because I haven't had this a ton with her—with others, in general, is when I look at somebody who maybe does have similar giftings to me and I see them being what I would consider as more successful is to be content with where God has me. To be really thankful for any ministry he gives me and seeing that as a gift. Also, recognize sometimes you don't see the whole picture of someone else's story.

Laura:  100%.

Emily:  One thing Laura and I have learned very quickly is sometimes the world's idea of success also comes with new hardships, and new burdens, and things that aren't necessarily as enjoyable, or everything you thought they were cracked up to be. I try to remind myself that I don't know— when I'm comparing myself to someone else—what new and unique burdens they're carrying that they need more grace for.

Laura:  They’re paying a price. Everybody's paying a price in a way.

Emily:  I don’t want to think, “Oh, if I just had X, Y, and Z, I would’ve arrived and everything will be better.” I might’ve achieved something, but I also might be dealing with new sorrows. I don’t want to be too quick to want that.

Laura:  So, a place where some of this comparison happens: social media is the topic of the next question. Do you have limits or personal policies that you use to limit or guard yourself from too much social media intake?

Emily: Not long ago, I started setting a one-hour limit across all social media on my iPhone each day. It’s something in the iPhone settings. Basically what happens is once I've used up my hour across all my social media apps, it puts a little lock on them.

Laura:  That’s so brilliant.

Emily:  It looks like a little time thing. I can ignore it or tell it to go away. Overall, I try to honor it if I can; there are exceptions. It just helps me get a sense of time, because I don't always have a great sense for how long I'm spending on something.

Laura:  Yeah, that’s true.

Emily:  I have to be very careful, because I can zone out on social media and I can really get sucked in, because I feel overwhelmed. It can be a way for me to numb the feeling of being overwhelmed, not knowing what to do next, my house is really loud, or I don't know how to engage with my kids right now. For me, it's been really important to have those limits. Then I usually take Sunday off of social media informally. Then I like to take month off a year, which I'm planning. I’ll tell you about that, Laura. [Laughter]

Laura:  I want to hear.

Emily:  I’m planning to get off social media pretty soon for about a month.

Laura:  Yay, exciting.

Emily:  What about you Laura?

Laura:  Yeah, I think that I'm more of a phone user. I don't know, social media doesn't suck me in as much as maybe the next person. I'm not sure. I'm not trying to say I'm so great. I'm being Emily right now, “I’m so awesome.” [Laughter] That's not what I mean. I get a lot of emails every day, so I can get sucked into the email hole. I can get sucked into listening to podcasts, editing pictures on my phone, taking pictures. I don't know. I don't even know what I do on my phone, but I'm wasting time just like anybody else.

I put my phone in a drawer, and then I go hang out with my kids. I can be a little bit hard at first, and I’ll feel kind of itchy and want to grab it. But it has been so helpful for when I really want to engage my kids and enjoy them that I'm not doing the mindless checking we're talking about here.

I do that twice a day: typically mid morning if I'm home in the morning with my girls and then when my kids get home from school in the afternoon. I'll put it away. Again, there are some days where I have to do this one thing. But it’s been really helpful.

Emily:  Really good stuff to think about. Another question is how are you a different mom now than in the first year or two of mothering?

Laura:  So many ways.

Emily:  This was a fun question to think about.

Laura:  Totally, and we have talked about it before. Emily and I have joked we’re so glad we're not first time moms. We love you first time moms. We love you so much. But man, those are some hard days.

Emily:  They are hard years.

Laura:  They’re hard years. [Laughter] I feel like the Lord has chilled me out so much. I think, overall, I was pretty high strung as a mom. I don’t think I’m a really high strung person. In general, I was very careful with my first-born and had a lot of worry about doing things right. I did a lot of Google searching. I read lot of manuals and books. I wanted to do things right. I really did feel like I was loving my son the best way that I knew how when I did that.

As I progressed and had more children and more time, and especially having a child with special needs, I realized how different moms can do different things in different ways and still be awesome moms who are glorifying God. I think that’s really been a wakeup call for me to relax with how much energy I spent on my child's schedule, or what they ate, or their doctor's visits, or different things like that.

The Lord taught me to trust in him and to be faithful moment by moment. I don't have to worry and project out, looking far forward into the future or even into tomorrow when I feel like my kid's not going to sleep because he missed a nap time today. I can trust God's going to bring me each thing that I need to do. And I can walk in faith through each day and know he’s growing me towards holiness. That's ultimately what matters. I realized how much energy I wasted, I think, on some of the wrong things when I was younger. Now I feel like the Lord is teaching me to be able to use that energy towards things for his kingdom.

Emily:  Definitely. I’d piggyback off that and say that's something Laura and I have both been blessed by through Risen Motherhood.

Laura:  Yeah, it’s taught us so much.

Emily:  It's as we’ve processed through the gospel a million times on a lot of different subjects. I'm really grateful the Lord has shown us he cares so much about our character. He does give us what we need to know in his word. We can cling to that and spend a lot of energy on the things he tells us to spend energy on, so we can care about the ways that that manifests itself practically.

As we've said about in so many episodes, it's not, “Oh, it doesn't matter at all what you feed your kids.” It does matter, but we can keep that in the right perspective. I think for me there's been a freedom of not having to do it like other moms in the sense that I've realized I’m accountable before the Lord for the choices I make. I will reap what I sow, and there's so much grace in that. Also I need to be in unity with my husband and be doing things we’re both excited about and believe are the way we're carrying out God's mission in our own home and in our own community. When those two things are happening—

Laura:  Symbiotic.

Emily:  Yes, symbiotic. I can say like, “Yeah, I thought about this before the Lord, and I'm in unity with my husband.” There is so much freedom. I don't feel worried anymore about not doing it like my friend. That's the gospel at work. I know I've talked about this on a show in the past, but God has grown my capacity to be a hard worker under him and to use my time well. I remember praying for years that God would help me to become a hard worker. I don't know when that happened exactly. [Laughter]

Laura:  About two years ago. I feel like I know the transition.

Emily:  I don’t know what happened.

Laura:  I watched it happen, a metamorphosis into a butterfly. [Laughter]

Emily:  I have not arrived, and I have a ton of help. There are still days where I can feel my mind slip into this paralysis of, “I can't do anything.” Overall, I'm amazed that God has helped me figure out how to manage a home for seven people every day.

Laura:  She's way different, guys. I can attest to that.

Emily:  It's not a struggle to do those basic things anymore.

Laura:  Emily is awesome; the theme of today’s show. [Laughter]

Emily:  Oh my goodness, stop it. No, that’s not what I’m trying to say. I'm trying to say –

Laura:  God is good. Emily is awesome. I’m messing! [Laughter]

Emily:  God is good. God changed me. What else? Now, I can't think of anything. [Laughter]

Laura:  I love getting her flustered, because she's always so poised. That's what Ask Us Anything is for.

Emily:  I’m trying to give a polished speech. [Laughter]

Laura:  Nope, not today. Not today. All right, next question. How do you practically handle being real about your emotions with your kids: anger, sadness, or crying while still giving them the stability they need from their mom?

Emily:  This is a really interesting question.

Laura:  I know, I thought it was good.

Emily:  I want to start throw something out at a high level.

Laura:  Do it.

Emily:  First, as I was thinking about this, I realized the Lord shows a wide range of emotions. We see his delight. We see his wrath. We see his jealousy. We see all of these different emotions he displays. Even with Jesus, we see him cry. We see him rebuke. We see all of these emotions come out. I think right off the bat, it's safe to say emotions and showing emotions is a way we image God. They’re not bad or wrong in and of themselves. As I was thinking about this, what came out to me is even though the Lord displays different emotions at different times, his character is very stable and consistent.

As a mom, that was something that I wanted to think about more. What does it mean for our character to be like Christ? Regardless of how our emotions are, they're an overflow of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. So, our kids can count on us to love them. Our kids can count on us to be self-controlled. Our kids can feel confident we're doing what's best for them and we're feeling emotional about the things that God loves. We're loving those things, and we’re hating things God hates. That was what was swirling around in my mind.

Laura:  I like it.

Emily: How does that play out, Laura?

Laura:  I think those are really good thoughts. I also thought about being an image bearer of God in our emotions. I think the first caveat we want to make is if you’re crying all the time or really struggling with major bouts of unrighteous anger or dealing with it in unrighteous ways, those are things to probably get help with. Because you're probably not stable, and you’re not giving your kids stability. We want to caveat; you know us, always good for a caveat. There’s that.

I’d call myself an emotional person. I said that the other day to a group of people and my husband looked at me and he was like, “You're not emotional.” I was  shocked. He didn't think I was. But I would call myself kind of—Emily's nodding. You think I'm emotional?

Emily:  I would say you express emotions a lot.

Laura:  I express emotions in a—

Emily:  Frequently.

Laura:  Frequently.

Emily:  I mean, you can see what you're feeling.

Laura:  Oh yeah. You know, you can read me like a book. Being that type of person, I’ve cried in front of my kids many times. I’ve cried from being so happy, because I heard some amazing story on a podcast and the kids were like, “Momma, what's going on?” “Momma's just so glad that people are so generous or whatever. God's working in their lives.” [Laughter]

Or I’ve cried because I've been genuinely broken over things and really sad about things that are going on in the world. Honestly, I'm always really honest with my kids about why I'm crying. As they've gotten older, I've seen a little bit of a shift in them of their ability to understand or to even cope. First, they’d sit there and stare at me confused or maybe bring me their favorite stuffed animal.

It's also sparked some good conversations about what joy is, or what sorrow is, or about the brokenness in the world. I think I want to show my kids it's okay to have emotions and it's okay to express them. They’re real things we feel, but they don't dictate our actions. Feelings are things we have, but they don't necessarily mean we need to act on those things. I show my kids what we do with our emotions. We bring them to God. I remember once in Chicago, I had all three kids, and I was nursing my youngest daughter. I was losing it, you guys. My husband was working a lot and really late. We were in the midst of my daughter’s diagnosis and I was totally broken and sobbing uncontrollably. I've never lost it like that. The kids were kind of worried while looking at me. [Laughter] Eventually I calmed down, and I shared with them that Mommy was sad because she missed Daddy. Then we prayed. We spent a lot of time praying together and it was a really sweet moment in the end. I'm going to cry now thinking about it. These emotions get me.

I think it's a good way to show your children, especially your boys, that emotions are okay to have, but we need to know what to do with them and where to bring them. God cares about a broken heart and he cares about being so happy over something you can't hide your excitement. We want to bring those things to God. I think revealing that to your kids can be a healthy thing.

Emily:  Like normal, Laura and I are a little opposite.

Laura:  Yeah, Emily’s just a stone cold mom. Just kidding. [Laughter]

Emily:  I’m stoic. I would say I'm not outwardly emotional. I tried to think if I’ve ever cried in front of my kids and I don't know if I can think of a time.

Laura:  Oh man. I can’t not think of a time. [Laughter]

Emily:  I only cry like a few times a year.

Laura:  Yeah. I don't know if I've ever seen you cry. Wait, I've seen you cry. Yes, I'll have that in my memory forever. [Laughter]

Emily:  Yes, you’ve gotten one of my few times.

Laura:  Yes.

Emily:  At first I want to say, “Well, I don't really have this, I must be so…” because my emotions don't necessarily go up and down in front of my kids. What it is for me is that some days I’m super productive and proactive, and I've got a plan and I've got fun activities. and I'm a great disciplinarian. Then the next day I can be a very unmotivated mom and a very passive mom and letting everyone do whatever they want because I'm on my phone. I may seem really distant and I'm just surviving mentally.

That pattern is absolutely tied to how I'm feeling and what’s going on in my heart and my mind. While I may not show it in tears, or throwing a party or whatever, I am showing it. It's just more in my actions and the way I'm handling my day. I've realized for me, that stability comes in taking my heart issues and what's going on in my mind to the Lord, so that my kids don't feel like they don’t know what kind of mom they’re getting today. Not is she going to be happy or sad, but is she going to be giving me structure and consistency?

Laura:  Engaged or not.

Emily:  And engaged or is she going to be distant like, “Oh whatever guys, just do your own thing today.” That for me has been really important. I want to offer my kids that predictability of character and be willing to express what's going on. “Mommy needs to come to Jesus with some of these things and this is why it's hard for me.”

Laura:  Yeah, those are good. I think being honest with your kids is just always a pretty good— mostly a good—policy.

What are some of your go-to questions to ask your husband to help you connect? I don't know exactly, but essentially there are four or five questions I've heard that have been helpful. My husband and I use them and call it a Sunday check in. We actually haven't done it in a while, but these questions reminded me I want to do that again. I'm just going to tick them off here and we can go to the next question:

How do I love you better this week?

How can I love you better in intimacy this week?

What’s coming in the week ahead?

What’s one way that I can serve you in the week ahead?

Those are just helpful questions to be thoughtful. You could even ask them about the past week. What's one way that I did serve you last week? Or what's one way that you felt loved by something I did last week? That’s great affirmation, especially if you're someone who does well with that—to think and affirm one another. You can alter those questions for your specific situation too.

Emily:  Another question we had are what are some of your most common prayers throughout any given day? Help me. I would say the first one is, “Help me, God. Help me, Lord.” [Laughter]

Laura: “Jesus, please come. Come back please, Lord Jesus.” [Laughter]

Emily:  Okay. Laura and I just wrote some phrases down here that I think we both pray a lot:

God give me the words to say in this situation.

Help me know what to say yes to, what to say no to, how to spend my time.

Help me know how to love them better.

Forgive me.

Laura:  I'm sorry.

Emily:  I say that one a lot.

Help me understand what's in your word.

Thank you, God.

God, you are good.

I think one that I know Laura and I have both pray a lot is, “Give me wisdom,” for a specific parenting challenge. I’m amazed that whenever I've prayed this, God either gives me some perseverance that I didn't have, or some graciousness, or softens my heart. Or he gives me a great idea I didn’t have before.

Laura:  Those are our short, quick prayers. Another question we've actually received a lot is are there rules for prayer? This particular question was phrased, “Do I have to kneel or fold my hands? This all feels so awkward to me. Am I being disrespectful?” We wanted to talk for a couple of minutes about what prayer looks like, what it is, why we do it, and things like that.

I think the biggest piece of the puzzle is the folding hands, the open eyes or closed eyes, the posture of our bodies is not necessarily what God's looking at. He's looking at the posture of your heart. You can fold your hands and close your eyes, and still be praying to God in a way that’s disrespectful. Or you can be on a walk with your eyes wide open, and moving around, and be praying in a way that’s respectful of a holy God who is big and deserves our utmost respect, and attention, and care.

Technically, are there rules? No. You can pray however you want. That's what I talked to my kids about: prayer is talking to God. Just like Emily and I are chatting with each other here, I want to talk to God in that way. But at the same time, with prayer, there's this element of he is the God of the universe and demands holiness.

Because of Jesus, we can approach him and we can talk to him. We can be casual; we can laugh, we can joke, we can cry, we can do all those things. We also want to have a lot of care in what a big deal this really is and approach him in fear and reverence, knowing our proper place before the Lord.

Emily:  We're holding in tension two things that feel opposite, but we need both of them in order to know how to rightly pray. I would also say—like most things in life—at different times of the day or depending what the prayer is, there may be times where we approach with a more physical and emotional posture of reverence.

This morning I prayed about God being a jealous God. That type of prayer felt much heavier to me. I recited back to the Lord the ways he is deserving of my loyalty and all of those different things. Then there are other times where we pray, “Thank you God for the food that you've given our family. Amen.”

Laura:  Or, “Help me.” That's prayer, just saying two words.

Emily:  It's more simple. It's just hard because it's both. There are whole books written about this.

Laura:  One that you should check out is for kids, but I would recommend it for any mom who has questions. Nancy Guthrie wrote a book, What Every Child Should Know About Prayer. I've actually been going through it with my kiddos, and it's been great. We do four or five pages a day. It's just the basics of what prayer is. If you feel like you don't know how to pray or what it should look like. While it's for kids, I'd recommend it for anyone who wants a really simple read about prayer.

Emily:  Next question. Do you have any friends who you disagree with theologically and how do you navigate this?

Laura:  We do. Yeah, I think it's good to have friends who disagree with you at different levels of theological points. Emily and I will readily admit, you guys have heard us admit it before, we know that we don't have it all right. As much as we want to study, and know, and be true to God's word, we're human and we'll mess up. There's just a posture of humility that comes with respecting other people who have different theological opinions than you do, of recognizing, “I'm not the know-all master. I’m not God.” So I’m not going to pretend like I have the ownership over perfect theology.

Emily:  Most definitely. When we were doing our conscience show, there was something in that book that was helpful. There’s a triangle graph that talked about how, with every person, there are some things that we're getting right that that person might not be getting right. And there may be things that they're getting right that we’re misunderstanding about God.

In all of this, we want to sharpen one another and not be afraid. I heard a quote recently by Milton Vincent that said something to the effect of, “You already know the worst thing about me because I nailed Christ to the cross.” We'll try to put that correct quote in the show notes because I’m paraphrasing.  [Laughter]

In essence, when the worst thing about us that we’re guilty of the cross and that’s already known, we don't have to be afraid our wrong theology is going to be exposed in some area. We can be open with these conversations even when they're hard. I think we wanted to run through really quick like what the different levels of doctrine are, so that that can help us put some of these discussions into different categories.

Laura:  So if you're new to this conversation, a lot of Christians divide it into first, second, and third order doctrine. First-order doctrine would be the gospel, right? Understanding that you're a sinner, you need a savior, and that savior is Jesus.

Emily:  This is orthodoxy.

Laura:  Straight up orthodoxy. If you believe this, you’re a Christian. If you don't, you're not a Christian.

Emily:  You’re missing a major aspect of what it means to be a true believer.

Laura:  It's really not a question of theology. It's a question of do you have authentic faith?

Then second-order doctrine: these are more like big convictions in the Christian faith. These are places where the Bible may not be absolutely clear on things, although some would say the Bible is absolutely clear on these things. [Laughter] This is what would form a denomination or a different church. These are things like what baptism looks like in church or the role of women in a church. These things are pretty significant. They really do matter. Typically, how you pick your church is based off of these second-order doctrines.

Emily:  Then the third-order doctrine are the things where you can be in a local church with someone and disagree on the way that maybe a doctrine is applied practically. You can still fellowship with a believer. These are more nuanced things. Things like, “Well, how is Christ going to return? When is he going to return? What might judgment look like?”

Or even further than that is, “Well, what kind of schooling do you think is okay for your child?” These are some of the choices we make in motherhood that we would say our personal conscience falls or they’re gray areas we might have a developed theology of them. It's okay for us to worship with someone on Sunday and have a different idea of the way that this plays out.

Laura:  Assuming we're talking about second and third-order doctrine again, we're probably not talking about whether or not they're a Christian. Start with the third-order doctrine. The people you agree with on the big things, but might have some gray areas that are different.

I know my brother-in-law and I love to debate these things. We love talking about it. We'll get in pretty heated but fun arguments. I think that’s the point: it's fun and we both can have a great conversation and really learn from one another. At the end of the day, we can either agree to disagree or we can even know like, “Hey, we don't know. Nobody knows the answer to this.” Or, “Hey, the Bible isn't clear, and we're okay with that.”

I think the key point is it’s okay and healthy to have debates and discussion around these things. I definitely have big conversations about these kinds of things, but I’d say normally we actually usually agree on these things.

Emily:  It’s scary how much we agree on stuff.

Laura:  It's really actually quite strange. It's God's gift in our lives. I think these are really healthy. But again, the key to this is you both can say, “We’re friends, and we love one another at the end, and we want to learn from one another.”

Emily: Yeah. I think another posture of this conversation is trusting the Holy Spirit is who really does the work of illuminating truths, and removes biases or things that maybe cloud our view of what God's word actually is and how it applies. We can't do that. It's not on us to convert someone to my interpretation of this way.

Let's have a healthy conversation about what I know and what you know. Let's have a healthy conversation about how our culture, and how our upbringing, and how our feelings might be impacting this as well. Then trust that God is going to work. It doesn't have to be like, “At the end of this, you must convert otherwise we can't be friends anymore.”

Laura:  Yeah, that really should never be your posture.  If it is, you're coming at it totally wrong, and not in a spirit of humility. I think earlier I focused on that third-order doctrine, but there’s also that second-order stuff where there are bigger things. That’s where people can get pretty heated and passionate. Major divisions can occur over those things. I know, at times on certain issues, I've thought, “Are they really Christians? Are they as godly as I am?”

I think over time as God has matured and grown me in my faith, I know I only answer to the Lord. I have to be faithful to what he has revealed to me in scripture, and I have to trust that my sister over there—who is quite a different Christian than I am in the way that her faith and her doctrine lines up—is answering to the Lord too and that she’s being as faithful as she can.

We keep saying it's not our job to be competitive with them. It's not our job to convince them. But we should learn and grow from one another, and love each other as sisters and to agree to disagree and meet at the cross. Just know Jesus is our savior and you love him and I love him.

I think what matters is that the gospel goes forth. There can be healthy disagreement and great discussion, and I think people can change. But I feel like if you carry that responsibility into your relationship to be the person that is the change, then that is going to be destined for failure. It's just not going to go well.

Emily:  It's interesting. The other day I was having a conversation with my husband. I was discouraged about something and in the midst of the conversation, the words spilled out of the overflow of my heart, “My theology is all I have.”  [Laughter] I wanted to stuff those back in. Don’t you just wish you could just eat them right back up sometimes?

My husband’s eyes got really big, and we both knew I'd said something really wrong. I was like, “Oh, that just shows what's going on in my heart.” Basically it was a good reminder. We had this great talk afterwards that Jesus is all I have. My hope is resting in him. It's not in the perfection of my theology.

Certainly there’s a level of which I must have an orthodox understanding of salvation and righteousness and all of those things if salvation is to be genuine. But assuming I have that saving faith in Christ, which I do, I don't put my hope in having it perfect. That doesn't define my worth and my value. I have that reality that it's by God's grace that I make any progress. It's by grace that I understand anything from his word. It’s by grace my eyes can see and my ears can hear. I can be grateful for that and know that my theology isn’t all I have; Christ is all I have.

Laura:  I'm so glad you admitted that on the show.

Emily:  Oops. [laughter]

Laura: That's all the questions that we had time for today. We hope that you guys enjoyed this casual episode of Ask Us Anything. It's always a fun show to record. Head over to our show notes if you want the extra links that we will include. Also look for that blog post where we list out all these questions. Everything can be found at www.risenmotherhood.com. Of course we’ll also be on Instagram, and Facebook, and Twitter this week; @risenmotherhood on all of the platforms. We'll see you guys next week.

Emily:  Thanks for joining us.

The Ministry of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast, please consider joining them www.risenmotherhood.com/give.

Ep. 125 || How Do We Talk About Death with Our Kids?: An Interview with Tim Challies Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Hey guys, Emily here. On today’s episode of Risen Motherhood, we’ll be talking to Tim Challies about the topic of death. This is a really weighty topic, but it’s one we want to be able to address in a biblical way. In this show, Tim gives a theology of death. He provides tips and talking points for talking about death with our children. He even walks us through how to address the death of pets with young kids. As a Christian, husband, and father of three teenage children, Tim has some really rich and simple wisdom for parents. Laura and I were really encouraged, and we know you will be too. Tim Challies worships and serves as pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, where he primarily gives attention to mentoring and discipleship. He’s a book reviewer for World Magazine, the co-founder of Cruciform Press, and he’s written several books including one we think will be of particular interest to our listeners: Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms. He has a podcast called The Art of Godliness, and he writes daily at Challies.com. Now let’s get to the interview with myself, Laura, and Tim.

Laura: Hi, Tim! Thanks for being on Risen Motherhood today!

Tim: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me!

Laura: Can you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself? We’ve talked about you in the intro, including your main sites and a great book you have, but we want to hear you talk about those things for yourself. So let us know about your family and what you’re up to during a normal day.

Tim: Sure, you just want me to talk about myself, eh? [Laughter] I’m a writer who lives right outside of Toronto, Canada. I’ve been writing for 16-17 years as a part-time and then a full-time gig. I’m married to Aileen, and we’ve been married for almost 21 years. We have three kids; one who’s 19, one who’s 16, and one who’s just about 13.

Emily: Awesome. I think you’re a little bit further ahead than we are.

Laura: That’s good. That’s why we want you on the show. [Laughter]

Tim: It goes by really quick. [Laughter]

Emily: One thing we do at Risen Motherhood is try to go through frequently asked questions we get, especially where we see there’s a gap in gospel-centered resources available. One of those questions and topics we’ve been asked about is the concept of death. Death is something that happens to all of us, but it can still feel like this difficult concept to grasp. Would you start us off with a basic theology of death? What is it really? Why do we need to know about it?

Tim: As you said, it’s an universal experience. None of us are going to cheat it, and all of us will encounter it at some point in our lives, so it’s wise we think about it. And as parents, it’s wise we prepare ourselves so we have some answers for our kids when they inevitably encounter it. To understand death, we first need to understand creation: knowing God created us in his image, and he created us in his image spiritually. He gave us a soul. God created us from nothing, giving us life that was physical and spiritual. This kind of life was meant to last forever. Unfortunately, humanity sinned, and the consequences of sin would be that death would now enter the world. Instead of life everlasting, life would be fragile and temporary. What we see is death is really a reversal of creation. God, in creation, gathered man from the dust and breathed life into him. Now in death, we return to the dust. But our souls, of course, live on and will one day be judged on the basis of if we’re in Christ or out of Christ. That’s a lot, but really death is the separating of our physical form from our spiritual form, if only temporary.

Emily: That’s good and really helpful. I like that you brought in the concept of the soul and the physical reality. I think that’s something we don’t usually talk about immediately when we consider the concept of death. So thanks for breaking that down.

Laura: So Tim, you know most of our listeners have children under the age of eight. We’re getting a lot of questions from kiddos about death when they experience it or hear about it, but they can’t fully understand what you just shared with us. Can you help us understand how we might go about explaining the concept of death to young children? How does it change from what you just shared, and what can we expect in that conversation?

Tim: Sure. The first thing is when we do podcasts or write books, we like to ask questions in neat little categories. We can sort of put boundaries on it and make it an abstract thing. In reality, when the question of death comes up with your kids, there’s probably going to be context to it. Maybe there’s been an Easter service and they’ve heard about Jesus dying. Maybe somebody they love has died or a pseudo-stranger at church has died. Maybe they’ve seen the news or a headline. Usually there’s some context, so that’s going to change things; you’re going to speak out of that context to your kids. I think it’s important to establish that death is different for Christians and non-Christians. As we explain death to our kids, we want them to know it’s a different reality for believers. We want to explain the basics. The Bible compares it to sleep for Christians. We can tell our kids the person went to be with Jesus or something like that. But I think it’s important to always—at some point—to turn it back to our kids: are you ready? You don’t want to scare them or terrify them beyond their age, but the important part of death for our children is to consider their own mortality, in an age-appropriate way. Are they trusting Christ? We want to somehow advance the conversation to that point. It’s not death in the abstract; death is a human reality that is much more joyful for the believer than the unbeliever.

Emily: Very helpful reminder to tie it to the real context. That is so true that these conversations are happening as a reaction to something that’s happened in family life or at church. Turning it back on them and asking those hard questions is really good.

Tim: It’s the same as most of our conversations in parenting. I’ve found it to be true in other things, like the birds and the bees conversation. Rarely is that going to happen in this purely abstract, neat, and tidy thing. You’re going to have some awkward context or something is going to come up, and now you have to talk about it. It seems to me, from most of these difficult conversations, it comes up before you think your kids are ready for them. Normally just by asking the question, they’re proving they’re more ready than you thought they were. That death question can come up a lot earlier than you think is appropriate or when you’re ready to talk about it. A bunch of parenting is figuring out what’s appropriate for our kids at a certain age or what they can handle. You have to be very, very truthful with them in a way that hopefully serves them at their age.

Laura: I appreciated that you mentioned it might be a little awkward. I think that’s something I have to get more comfortable with when I’m talking to my children about this. I also like what you said about being truthful by telling them what you know and what the BIble says. It won’t be wrong if you’re telling them what the BIble says. I think, as a mom of young children, I’m still getting my feet under me for explaining these more difficult theological topics. It’s a good reminder for me that if I stay with truth and with God’s word, I’m not going to lead them astray. I think that’s what we’re all kind of fearing deep down: giving them bad advice or offering untruthful encouragement.

Tim: Ultimately, as Christian, all we have is the Bible to explain life, and death, and the hereafter. So, we don’t have any authority outside of that. It’s always turning to the authority of scripture and rooting our kids in that. All these conversations are an opportunity to point our kids to the ultimate truth and ultimate source of answers. If we’re missing the Bible or missing the opportunity to point them to scripture, to open it with them, or to explain thing biblically, I think we’re missing the best opportunity of all.

Emily: Speaking of giving our children the truth even when it’s particularly hard, one challenge we’ve experienced in talking to our children about death is talking about those who aren’t believers and what happens to someone who doesn’t trust in Christ. Do you have any suggestions or verbiage for navigating these conversations with young children? Especially if the answer is not hopeful, or is sad and discouraging?

Tim: The Bible deals pretty frankly with those who don’t know Christ, so we have a lot of information to go on. I don’t think we need to pretend the experience for unbelievers is the same for believers. On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s appropriate with very young children to necessarily explain the full reality of eternal conscious torment. Again, I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to address them. The ultimate answer is we don’t know if somebody makes a deathbed conversion or turn to Christ in that last moment. I think we’ll be surprised at the end by those who are in heaven and those who aren’t. I think we can turn to that big question: are you trusting Christ? If that person trusted Christ, then he’s with Jesus. I don’t think that’s evading the question—it might seem that way—but we turn to truth and challenge our kids to address the state of their own souls and hope.

Laura: That’s a great point. With offering the gospel hope, how can we encourage our children when they do experience death for the first time? A lot of times, it can feel pretty devastating for a child. They’re not able to process it and understand it the same way. How can we support them? Not just the one conversation but as they process their grief?

Tim: I think we’re always pointing them beyond themselves. Our kids are not self-sufficient; they don’t have the knowledge, wisdom, or understanding they need. We’re always pointing them to Christ. If they do have hope, it’s not hope in themselves or hope in their faith; it’s hope in Jesus Christ. As we look at somebody who’s died, whether that person is a believer or not, our ultimate hope is not in that person or what they professed. Our ultimate hope is in the goodness, kindness, and mercy of God, of Christ. I think, again, push them towards that. Don’t take comfort in a profession of faith or in that other person’s profession of faith. Take comfort in the goodness of our God. Point them to Jesus Christ, not the person that died.

Emily: How comforting it is for us to know he experienced grief and understands our humanness in that way. I like that they can see a friend in Jesus, someone who understands what they’re experiencing.

Laura: Okay, so this is kind of a hotly debated topic, but we want you to answer it. [Laughter] It’s one of those things people have a lot of opinions on. We want to talk about pets. For many children, sometimes their very first experience with a more sorrowful death is with their pet. We’re curious if you’re willing to share your stance, and will you offer advice on how we can help our children process through this type of loss?

Tim: I think you’re right. It’s a very serious question for children. It can be a little bit flippant or silly for us to think about it, but for kids, it’s very present and pressing. So, it’s worth talking about. For all that, generally, where the Bible is silent, I’m not sure there’s a lot of value in speculating. You can’t go to the BIble and say for sure whether or not pets will be in heaven. What we’re pointing to is what the Bible makes clear, which is human beings have souls. And it’s because human beings have souls that they themselves have to be concerned about heaven or hell. We believe pets don’t have souls, at least no in the same way human beings do. Whether that means they go to heaven or not—I’m not sure anyone advocated they go to hell either. If you really believe animals can go to heaven, surely you have to believe evil animals go to hell—I don’t know. I think one of the reasons kids want to think about that is they want to be assured heaven will be a happy place for them. They can’t imagine being happy in eternity without their pet. Perhaps address that—heaven will be a place of no sorrows with no lack—by pointing to the goodness and mercy of God. My view is, honestly, I don’t know. I’m not willing to take a stance on whether pets are there or not. I suspect probably not if I had to lean one way. Animals will be there, but I don’t know if specific animals will be. Either way, I don’t know if it’s that pressing of an issue, because we will be lacking nothing and fully content. We won’t look back with regret that that pet isn’t there. Another thing to point out is this is a 21st century, Western question. As you travel around the world or through history, you’ll find people had very different relationships with animals on the whole. So we concern ourselves with things that probably aren’t relevant or that pressing over the course of church history and around the expanse of the world.

Laura: That’s a great point.

Emily: What you mentioned is transitioning to that deeper question for kids: they want to be assured it’s going to be happy in heaven and the things they love and tangibly enjoy will be there with Jesus forever. In the tiny bit we’ve dabbled in this, I think helping our children see Mommy and Daddy will be there, and different people we know in our lives will be there, helps them make a connection they understand. And it helps them to learn the most important person who will be there is Jesus. The fact that he’ll be there is enough, and the fact he says all the tears will be gone and the sorrow will be made right is enough. I think that’s helped give our kids a relationship they know and love very well—that Mommy will be there with Jesus and she hopes you will be too. That’s a great way to transition that conversation; thanks for sharing.

Tim: A couple of other things come to mind. One is I think with our kids, we don’t want them to become Bible speculators instead of standing on what it says. We have to allow that we don’t know certain things. Where the BIble is silent and doesn’t give us firm answers, it’s probably best for us not to give firm answers. As we refuse to take a firm stance, hopefully we’re helping our kids live in that appropriate tension; the Bible doesn’t address absolutely everything, even those things that are important to us. I think it’s okay to leave that tension there. The other thing is I want to be careful not to narrow the distance between human beings and animals, which is happening in our culture. When you live an evolutionary mindest, we’re all the same species in a sense; we’re all the same origin. The Bible says humanity is very, very different than from animals or any other form of life—even angelic beings, for whom there isn’t salvation in the way it’s available to us. I want to be careful that we’re not saying animals are a lot like us; they’re very, very different from us. That doesn’t mean they can’t be in heaven, because the Bible doesn’t leave that out. But I want our kids to understand animals are not people or almost-people. They’re entirely different from people.

Laura: That’s good. So we touched on this a little bit, but one big piece is a child wants to know God is still good when they’re going through something hard or dealing with loss. How can we support our child that God is still worthy of our trust even in the midst of hard things?

Tim: I guess the answer for kids is basically the same answer for adults: point them to the cross where we see the most evil thing humanity has ever been able to do or experience brought the greatest good that humanity has ever experienced. If the cross can be deemed something good—and it is something good for us as the path for redemption—then God can make good of anything that happens in this world. We see the goodness of God displayed even through grief, pain, wrath on the cross. Therefore, we can say anything that happens in this life can bring good to us and can display the goodness of God. We’re trying to point back to the character of God. And we can also point out that death is our fault, not God’s. We die, because we’re the ones who sinned, but we can live again in eternal life if we trust in Jesus Christ. I think these little conversations we have with little children bear long-term fruit. It’s unlikely you’ll sit down with your child and have a long conversation on a theology of death. Most of the time, you’ll be offering statements here and there as you encounter situations in life. We trust we’re going to have the opportunity over many years to address this, not just one time that requires you laying out a complete systematic theology of life and death.

Emily: I think that’s good comfort to any mom who’s listening. Sometimes, we can feel like if our child asks that question, we need to be ready and armed with the truth for a short sermon of all the things we’ve stored up to tell them. It feels like everything hangs on that one moment. But parenting is a long-game, and there are many conversations. That’s good encouragement that we trust the Lord in being able to deliver information a little bit at a time, and that he’ll use that in their hearts to shape them to know him and to know truth over the course of their lives.

Tim: Absolutely. We have a long time with our kids; I know it seems really short, but so often, it’s just building little things over time—here and there—until it all adds up to something. One other thing that strikes me is—assuming someone listening is in a similar culture or background—we don’t experience death the way people used to. When infant mortality was 50%, as was the case in many places for many times, people had to deal with this, and kids became more accustomed to death. It’s because of our medical care and low infant mortality—all these great blessings we enjoy—that this conversation seems so abstract. For so many of our brothers and sisters who’ve gone on before, this was just a conversation all the time as little brothers and sisters died in infancy. It’s an almost luxury we have because of the amazing world we live in right now.

Laura: As we wrap up here, we typically like to end by seeing if our guests have anything they want to share with an audience of moms with young children. We’d love to open the floor to you for any encouragements, exhortations, or anything you’d like to tell a bunch of moms.

Tim: Maybe just this: parenting isn’t as hard as we make it out to be sometimes. I think God really equips up to do well with it. If we’re in God’s word and doing the basics of the Christian life—being in the word, praying, fellowshipping—I think we have most of what we need to do really, really well in life and parenting. We’re in what I’d say is the era of the expert, where we believe we need an expert for everything or a book about gospel-centered everything. We’ve sort of lost confidence that we can do all right in life by living a simple life close to the Lord. I want to encourage you that you don’t need an expert for every area of life—just be prayerful and thoughtful. Tell your kids you don’t know but you’re going to think about it and get back to them. Be willing to have a long period with your kids where you’re teaching them and sharing with them. The Lord’s going to work through you. So avoid that thought that you need to read three or four books before you can speak to your kids about death or that sort of thing. Just be a parent to them; the Lord’s giving you what you need. You can be an effective mom, and the Lord will bless that.

Emily: Thank you so much for ending us on that word! I think in our generation, there are so many resources available—many of which are good and helpful. But we all need that reminder God has given us his word to equip us for good work, and godliness, and for living a life as a disciple of Christ who disciples children. Thank you for that reminder of the importance of those disciplines God gave us. Thanks also for being on our show!

Tim: I know you’re trying to wrap up here, but I want to throw out one more thing. I want to append something to what I just said: when you do have a question, instead of going on Google, how about asking one of the ladies in your church, especially one of the older ladies? That’s a practice that was once so important, especially in smaller communities in an era before social media or Google. There were natural opportunities for older and younger women to interact, and that’s where you’d have these conversations and learn from people. I think there are a lot of older women who are dying to be asked those questions and have really good things to say, but they’re just not being asked because we go on websites. God has given you the local church as an incredible resource to work these things out. Aileen and I have found a lot of value in couples who are raising kids in a way we think, “We want our kids to be like that.” I’ll go up to them and say, “I want my kids to be like your kids. What can I do?” I think that’s a perfectly legitimate question, and you’ll learn a lot from them that you may not learn from the websites and experts. Take advantage of what God’s given you in your church.

Laura: That’s a great word and something we really encourage here at Risen Motherhood. I hope any listener of our show has heard that one million times. [Laughter] I’m glad you reinforced it. We appreciate you coming on our show, Tim. This has been a joy to interview you and have you speak to our women. We want to point everyone to a lot of your resources, so everyone, please head to risenmotherhood.com for our show notes. There you’re going to find more information on this topic and Tim. Of course, @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can follow us there this week for more info too! Thanks again, Tim! We really appreciate it.

Tim: My pleasure.

Ep. 124 || Traveling With Kids: The Adventure You Didn’t Hope For Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Hey guys! Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Laura Wifler, and I have my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen, here.

Emily: Hello!

Laura: The first thing we want to talk about is that we have a newsletter! If you haven’t signed up yet, you definitely should. It’s edited and largely written by one of our team members, Autumn. She does a phenomenal job of rounding up great resources, articles, and music. She writes a motherhood tip every time, and it’s really helpful. I feel like I’m learning from it too. There’s insider info, like our “happies” that month. It’s a fun thing she does that’s really, really helpful. It only comes once a month, so it’s not that often and it won’t clog your inboxes. You’ll be excited to see it, I hope! We’ve heard lots of people are. [Laughter]

Emily: So sign up! You can find it in our show notes today, or you can go onto our website and scroll to the bottom for the link. Just put your email in there, and wait for your awesome newsletter.

Laura: Yeah, it’s a good one. You guys will like it.

Emily: Okay, so we’re hopefully doing a light-hearted show for you this week. We hope we’re able to laugh about this, but it may not be funny to you yet. [Laughter] But we want to apply the gospel to something that can cause true grumbling and frustration even for the most cheerful mom: the family trip.

Laura: Dun, dun, dun! [Laughter] We’re doing this around spring break, and maybe some of you are taking spring break trips, or planning for an awesome summer vacation, or maybe you’re just seeing family. First we were talking about vacations, and then we realized—no, no—this happens when you travel anytime with children. That might be visiting a grandparent or a camping trip or…

Emily: All kinds of different family weekend outings you might do. It’s just any travel with children in tow.

Laura: 100 percent. It can get hard. Traveling with kids brings out fun things in us that we never knew were there.

Emily: But first off, we want to acknowledge that having the resources and the margin to travel is a gift and a privilege. Sometimes we’re in seasons of life where that’s not possible. Maybe you have a child with significant special needs, and it’s really challenging to go places. Maybe your finances are tight. Maybe it’s hard to go see your family for a variety of reasons. All of those different life experiences and expectations can mean we view this topic really differently. Some people really want to value it and do it. Some people really value it and feel like they can’t do it in this season. We want to be sensitive to that and acknowledge up front not everyone is in a spot where they’d love to worry about this. We know that’s hard, but we want to apply the gospel to this, because there are definitely hard heart things about this that are worth thinking about.

Laura: Every time we travel, my husband and I will say, It doesn’t matter if we’re go for a nap or ten days, we pack the same amount of stuff. [Laughter]

Emily: Very true.

Laura: Especially when you have a baby or nap-er, it can feel like there’s so much gear to pack. When we travel, there are a lot of things that go into it, right? Maybe you’re trapped in the car with a screaming toddler or baby that won’t settle, and you don’t know where or if you should pull over. Or pumping at rest stops is always a fun one. Or nursing in a bathroom.

Emily: Recently, we had to give a child a wipes-bath in a parking lot because of a massive blow out that happened. We had to go “all hands on deck, everyone stop what you’re doing, pull over the car “sort of thing. So, yes, things like that hypothetically happen. [Laughter]

Laura: Food in your car that you find for the next three years or so much screen time if you have one of those little flip-down screens in your car. Oh man. There’s a lot of stuff that happens on a trip that makes you think, All these things are things I don’t want to happen right now! [Laughter]

Emily: Exactly. So today we want to ask a couple of questions. First, we want to ask, What kind of pressure are you putting on vacation or traveling with your kids? In general, a lot of us expect traveling with kids not to be as hard as it actually is.

Laura: It’s so much harder than you think.

Emily: Yes! And you’re thinking, I’m looking forward to seeing my family or resting at the beach or reading by the mountains. You think you’ll make these fun memories like exploring a museum, which you’ll remember and think about it for years. You have these great expectations, but it doesn’t really work out that way.

Laura: I think we think the cares of the home will be gone. We know there will be work—we’re moms—like food to make and diapers to change. But we know there won’t be bills, homework, school flyers, and things like that. And husband is there!

Emily: Yeah, hopefully.

Laura: Hopefully. He’s not just there for after work time; he gets to come for the entire day. So you’re only working 50 percent of the time! [Laughter]

Emily: Ha-ha. [Laughter]

Laura: So that’s kind of the idea. Every year, my family takes a trip to the lake. It’s my husband’s extended family, and it’s always so much fun. One year—as an extreme version to illustrate the point—my daughter had recently been diagnosed with special needs and my husband had broken his leg. We were debating on whether or not to go to the lake that year. I remember thinking, No, let’s go. I need a break. I need some help. I need a distraction. So we went on this trip with my husband on crutches and barely able to stand for long periods of time without passing out. I’m a wreck; I’m grieving, I’m sad. While I had a ton of help from my generous family, there were so many things only mom could do. By the end, the trip was really, really hard. I felt like I didn’t get the break, or the relief, or all the things I had put into that lake trip and hoped to get out of it. I came home exhausted and defeated, feeling like we should’ve stayed home so things would’ve been easier. While they may or may not have been true, the issue here was putting all of my stock for relief and hope into the weekend. That’s not where my hope should’ve been at all.

Emily: Right. I think a lot of us do that on the level you shared: we want a break, the help, the distraction. And then I think there’s another aspect of feeling like this vacation or trip will be the pinnacle and highlight of our year. There’s nothing wrong with this, but we’re saving money, putting things aside, and making big sacrifices to travel with our family. Maybe we take days off work or save up travel miles. We don’t say it out loud but there’s part of us that feels like this one event really needs to pull through for us. We think it’ll be what solidifies us as a family or the thing our kids talk about for the next 20 years. This trip and together time will make up for all these other things during the year that we felt a little disappointed about. Overall, we want wonderful memories—that is totally okay. That’s a good thing! But since we put so much hope, pressure, and expectation in that…

Laura: Whether that’s a lake or Disney World. But there’s still sin—even at Disney World. [Laughter] People are still affected by the fall. While we don’t necessarily verbalize it, I think we believe if we take them to Disney World, everyone will be on their best behavior, really obedient, and grateful. Everyone’s going to be saying, “Thank you!” while I’m mom-of-the-year because we put together this amazing vacation! We shouldn’t be surprised when hard things happen, or things don’t go according to our plan, or people behave in ways we do not understand. These things are natural effects of living on this broken earth. We have to focus more on our own hearts and preparing them well rather than preparing this perfect trip that will fulfill all my hopes and dreams.

Emily: Here’s a quick practical tip. Something we talked a lot about is how over the years, we’ve had to shape our minds from thinking about how this is a time we’re going to be served or how our agendas for the family are going to be served. Instead it’s a time to plan to serve and to be the servant. That might mean as I’m prepping my mind for a trip, I think about how this is a time of intensive sacrifice—more than what I normally do on a regular week at home. This is going to be for the sake of giving an experience for others or honoring others. Sometimes grandparents or family has asked you to travel or your husband wants to plan a fun trip, so you’re traveling and serving to honor them; you’re honoring the investment they’ve made. We want to go into it with the mindset of depending on God for help. He’s not withholding a good gift from us, so this is a chance to serve and love our families, laying aside some things we want to do in order to trust God and have right expectations. It’s really helpful.

Laura: We’re called to lay down our lives for others. I think on vacations we think this is the time we get to live our lives how we want—with a few interruptions. But overall, we think we’re going to get this big break. Em and I have joked our family vacations are just family trips. We don’t even use the word “vacation” anymore if the kids are coming along, because it’s a joke that helps us prepare our minds and our hearts to say, I’m going on this trip to serve others, not to be served. I want to love them well. And yes, we hope we get to read by the beach or do these other things, but being surprised by that gift is better than coming in grumbling because you felt like you didn’t get what you deserved.

Emily: And I think that’s the key right there. When I go in ready to serve and sacrifice and ask, How can I love others on this trip?, I see thing after thing to thank God for because we weren’t expecting them, and we can actually appreciate them with contentment and thank God for what they are.

Laura: We don’t deserve this amazing family vacation—

Emily: Yeah, we don’t deserve it!

Laura: Yeah, let’s just talk about that for a second! [Laughter] Next question we ask is, Who’s to blame when vacation or travel with kids goes bad? This is when your kid gets sick on vacation and you’re like, Where is patient zero? I’m going to find him! [Laughter] You’re going after the source of the cold or the flu!

Emily: Yes, when you see your responses start to come out. I know on a recent trip, my husband and I took our kids to Florida for an extended period of time. After a week, it was just my husband and I in the room, and I was frustrated because things weren’t going according to my preference. I felt like I wasn’t in control of everything, and I threw down some stuff on the bed and kind of huffed. [Laughter] It was like something one of my kids would do. My husband was like, Oh, wow! [Laughter] I was surprised at my response too. I wanted to feel like I responded that way because things were going the way I wanted them to go, so I was justified in this little huffing moment I had. But the reality was my response in these kinds of situations is not someone else’s fault. If we want to think more broadly: it’s not the terrible airline attendant’s fault, or the bad traffic, or the contagious person, or the kids’ bad sleeping arrangement, or our husband’s travel style. We’re responsible for bringing our own heart to the Lord in a way that’s Christlike—even if our circumstances are really challenging.

Laura: This goes straight back to the garden when Adam and Eve are pointing fingers at everybody. Adam’s like, Well, the woman gave it to me, and Eve’s like, Well, it was the serpent! It’s a very classic human game that we love to play. Our anger, choices, unkind words, or complaining is someone else’s fault. The truth is those circumstances or pressures reveal what’s already inside. James 4 talks about quarrels and fights. He says, What’s causing it? It’s not these other things, it’s the passions at war inside of you. I think that shows what we value. When we get something taken away from us, we see the sin in our hearts.

Emily: Exactly. What’s interesting is in daily life, we get in our routines and we go through the motions. When we go on our travel, our routine is disrupted and our kids aren’t as well-behaved as they are at home. But God is in control. I read something interesting lately about God being Lord. He has both control and authority in our lives. So when we’re experiencing something hard or uncomfortable, we have to trust he is good and he’s not surprised by the circumstances—even if they haven’t gone as we hoped. Maybe people have sinned against us or treated us poorly. But he’s still there for us. His presence is there. He wants to help us learn to follow him and go to him for wisdom in each situation. We don’t have to lose hope. We can still anchor our responses to him even when things are, in our mind, going wrong.

Laura: A practical piece for that is having a plan for difficulty in conflict. Just like we talked about with expectations earlier, I think when I’m prepared that someone is probably going to get sick, or a flight will be delayed, or the travel isn’t going to go as I want it, or there’ll be a problem at the AirBnb, or whatever, my heart is prepared ahead of time. I can say, Lord, whatever circumstances are brought into our lives, use that to grow me in holiness towards you. I want to pray God changes me on that trip. We know God uses all things for good for those who love him, and we can trust God allows circumstances into our lives to refine and grow us. Those difficult things we face, those are things that help us learn to love each other better in more Christlikeness.

Emily: So before we close out this show, we want to do a “mom’s heart check,” and ask, How might Christ transform our attitude before, during, and after a trip with the kids? So this is going to be a little bit more practical. Keep in mind: I’ve been crucified with Christ. It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. That’s our mindset and frame of reference whether we’re in day-to-day life, going about our normal responsibilities or Disney World or a camping experience of a lifetime—

Laura: [Laughter] Is there a camping experience of a lifetime?! Is that a real thing? [Laughter]

Emily: I don’t know!

Laura: Emily Jensen, did you just say that? [Laughter] My husband would say, “Yes,” but you would say, “No.” [Laughter]

Emily: I’d say that’d be very sanctifying.

Laura: [Laughter] We gotta get you on one.

Emily: But it is not I who live, but Christ in me.

Laura: [So much laughter]

Emily: So, back on track here. Let’s talk about the practical outworking of what this might look like to do vacation with Christ in us.

Laura: So the first piece is preparing yourself and your kids. Jesus trained his disciples before sending them out. This something that’s really practical, but get your kids thinking: What are we going to do? How are we going to behave? What kind of challenges might we face? How should we respond when these things happen? Talking with your kids is helpful to set proper expectations and think about how to handle conflict.

Emily: I think on the trip, whenever you see them doing something that’s honoring Mommy and Daddy, or loving a neighbor, or being kind or responding to some of the training you gave them, affirm that and praise that. Talk about how that glorifies God and how it serves and helps your family. Another thing to do for you is time in the word, prayer, and anticipating giving God the cares for your travel beforehand. Ask for God’s help with the details before and on the trip. If you need to get out your Bible on the trip, that may be a great thing to do! Remember the key verses or things that will orient your heart and mind on Christ when things are getting really challenging.

Laura: To bounce off that prayer piece, I think we need to thank him for the gift of the vacation and the fun things we’re experiencing but also for the hard things that are shaping you into the image of Christ. Pray continually on the trip! Another piece is keeping your eyes open for opportunities for discipleship, or processing things with your kids, or having gospel-centered conversations. It’s not just you who might be discouraged on that trip; your whole family may go through different things at different times. They may feel discouraged, hurt, or angry. So those are great changes for you to train them and to see the need and meet your family with the gospel.

Emily: Another thing my husband and I like to talk about is how we’re going to encounter a lot of “neighbors” on this trip. So, how is our family going to show dignity to strangers? People like those in line for our tickets, the people next to us on the plane, at the hotel pool—how are we thinking about how our behavior and noise affects others around us? There are so many opportunities to display God’s kindness, even if you’re not giving someone a full presentation of the gospel. You can do it through the way you’re conducting yourself. You’re not irate you had to wait. You’re treating someone with kindness when your hotel room was messed up. That can really display the love of Christ.

Laura: And lastly, you’re going to fail and not do this perfectly. Just remember you can always turn to the Lord, repent, and ask forgiveness. You can reconcile with him and others. Ask God to help you on the trip before it, during it, and after it. Just know he’s with you; he goes with you wherever you go. I’m so thankful God is omnipresent, and he can be everywhere at once. Know that, and trust him to be faithful to you on the trip. So, that’s our tip!

Emily: And we hope you have a fun trip wherever you’re going.

Laura: Happy vacationing!

Emily: You can find more on our website risenmotherhood.com, or find us across social media @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thanks, guys!

Ep. 123 || Motherhood is Ministry: How to See and Serve Your Kids Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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

Emily: Hey!

Laura: Today we’re excited, because we’re giving a repurposed talk we gave earlier this spring at the Proclaim Truth Conference in Dallas, TX. We talked about the ministry of motherhood at the conference, and that’s what we want to talk about today: How can we serve our children? There’s kind of that first level of needs—the obvious ones—but then there’s that second level of meeting the needs of their hearts. That’s what we want to discuss, because ministry is hard. Both of these types of ministry are really hard. But let’s start with defining the word ministry.

Emily: I think often when we hear the word “ministry,” we’re speaking in terms of a vocation through our local church or through a nonprofit organization. Oh, you’re in women’s ministry or a Bible study leader! We may use that term to talk about someone who’s a pastor. But really the concept of ministry in the Bible is more of a broad term used to describe the work and service we do for God. There are a few types of ministry that are an office, but overall this is the service we do for Christ. He’s of a superior rank, and we’re carrying out his mission. We’re kind of the boots-on-the-ground. This is service for God in our community, our local church, our workplace, and all the different spheres of influence we have in the world. We also have work to do for the Lord in our homes with the little neighbors around us that we’re hopefully raising up to know and love him. So that’s what we’re honing in on today.

Laura: Something Emily and I have discussed—especially in the last few months—is the recognition that ministry—the one you do for your children and other people—looks a lot of different ways individually. We have all been called to do ministry; that’s kind of a non-negotiable. How that looks really depends on if you work out of the home, part-time in the home, full-time stay-at-home, or  a single mom. There are so many ways this can look! I think it’s up to you as an individual—who’s in community with others—to really sort out how that looks. So the stuff we’re giving today isn’t a prescription for how ministry should look. We want to say that caveat first and recognize it’s hard to figure this out.

Emily: In ministry, whenever we want to do the work of God and serve others, we’re also giving of ourselves to them. So let’s start with, What does a mom need in order to do ministry? It seems like an obvious point but it’s important we don’t gloss over it, so first and foremost, we’re unable to truly serve and bear fruit for the Kingdom of God unless we’ve died to ourselves and taken up Christ’s mission.

Laura: Emily and I sort of joke that motherhood brings a thousand tiny deaths. [Laughter] It’s one of those things where we’re not dying to self once during that moment of conversion when we came to life in Christ. We’re dying every single day. It’s a process of growth for us. We have these decision points where we can either choose the way of the Lord or choose our own path wherever our natural, sinful desires want to go. These are the points we have to choose ministry and service unto God, or we can choose service unto self.

Okay, so to understand how to have this ministry in motherhood, to be able to minister to our families well, we put it into two buckets for today’s show. One is we need to be equipped. The other is we need to obey. We’ll dig into them in a little bit. The reason why we have this process and ongoing conversion is because we grow in motherhood. It’s not like we’re just magically “there.” You don’t have your first child and suddenly find yourself as the best mom in the universe. There’s a lot of growth in motherhood. Something I love—and have clung to—is this passage in 1 Tim. 4:15. Paul is talking to Timothy, sharing godly character traits to pursue, and he says, Practice these things. Immerse yourself in them so all may see your progress. And that “so all may see your progress” piece is pointing out we don’t have it all together and your process of sanctification and growth towards godliness is helpful to others. It’s okay for others to see you don’t have it all together. And that’s motherhood; you aren’t perfect at it today, and that’s okay. It’s a chance for other people to be encouraged and edified. And even for yourself to be encouraged to see how different you are from last year. Praise God for that work in my life!

Emily: Building on that equipping piece, how do we get trained for the work of ministry? Because it doesn’t just happen overnight. I think we all know that for other ministries, like leading a Bible study, you have to get trained and practice it. We know we won’t be as good at it on the first time as we will be on the 60th time we lead a Bible study. In motherhood, we really need to do the proactive things: we need the spiritual disciplines, to be reading and understanding the Bible rightly, to pray and be involved in our local church, to remember the gospel, to memorize scripture. So all of these little deposits we put in are shaping our thinking and tuning our hearts to the Word of God. Whenever we’re in our moment when we need to die that death—100 times a day—we know what it looks like to obey and what we need to remember.

Laura: Right. So in obedience, this is the chance to make the right decision where we can say we’re going to live unto God and his word, because we’ve learned to do so during that equipping stage, or we can go our own way and give in to our natural, sinful inclinations. These are the pieces where we’re living by faith day-in and day-out. These are the one million tiny moments for you to have the chance to die to self and choose Christ instead.

Emily: Now we’re going to transition a little bit to what does a mom do in ministry? As we were thinking through this, there are so many things we do to serve God and love our children. We want to break it into two buckets again. The first is we serve our children. What we mean by that is we’re meeting their tangible physical needs. This is all of the stuff we can rattle off—

Laura: Three meals a day, taking them to school, helping them get their homework done…

Emily: Making sure they get to wellness checks, buying them clothes…

Laura: Changing their diapers. [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah, all of those things. They’re automatic. I think most moms see that need and do it. We want to note this is a super valid aspect of our ministry, because God makes us as physical bodies, hearts, and souls. God provides for our bodily needs. It’s kind of a building block or a foundation from which he can woo us at the heart-level. I think we see Jesus meeting physical needs. He’s healing a withered hand and feeding the 5,000 with bread and fish. Does he go beyond that? Yes, we’ll get to that in a minute. But it’s definitely a mercy to meet our children’s physical, tangible needs. Often they can’t meet them for themselves.

Laura: Another piece of that is seeing our children and meeting their deeper needs beyond the physical needs. It’s really diving into their hearts, their spiritual status, their emotions, and all of those kind of things. This is honestly, for me at least, way harder. It requires a lot more of who I am, of slowing down. It’s an active and passive passing on of Christ. There’s the verbal, intentional pieces, which are easier for me because I’m so verbal. But then there’s the passive modeling of Christlike qualities, which I’ll be honest, is a lot harder for me. [Laughter]

Emily: We want to talk through how we model Jesus to our children by looking at what he did in his ministry when he was here on Earth. One thing is we want to spend time with our children; when we look at the life of Christ, he spent so much time with his disciples. They did life together, they ate together, they slept together, they worked together teaching. I think that’s something motherhood—at whatever level this means for your life and the way God is orchestrating things—requires too. It requires our physical presence and an ongoing relationship of living life alongside our children.

Laura: Another one we see from the life of Christ is modeling what it really means to live by faith and daily dependence on the Father. I love that we see Jesus—the God-man, the King of the universe—still living in dependence on God. He went away when the crowds were clamoring and crying to him, I need you! I need you! He still said no and would disappear to spend time with God in prayer, talking with and asking him for help. This is the equipping piece we mentioned. It’s where you invest in your own fatih. As moms, we know often you have little kids around and you’re not solo on a mountainside, but Jesus still modeled to us the importance of going and speaking to the Father, pouring out our cares and concerns to him. This allows you to continue in ministry.

Emily: Another thing we see in the life of Christ that we can model in motherhood is giving grace to our children when they fail and reconciling that relationship. One way we see this in the life of Christ is with his disciple Peter. Peter said he’d die for Jesus and definitely wouldn’t deny him or forsake him, but we know he did. He denied even knowing Christ. When Jesus rose from the dead and saw Peter on the shore, Jesus extended grace and forgiveness to him, and Peter repented. They have this great exchange where Jesus says, If you love me, feed my sheep. I think we can model this to our kids by knowing our kids haven’t fully arrived; they’re works in progress. Our expectation should be that they’ll forsake our instruction, and be slow to obey, and mess up, and do things incorrectly. But we can extend opportunities for reconciliation and trying again. We can know we all need Jesus.

Laura: Another one is being attentive to them by listening and asking good questions. A story I love from Matthew 16 is when Jesus and his disciples are talking about who people thought he was. People thought he was a prophet, or John the Baptist, or all these different things. Jesus goes a little deeper and asks, Who do you say I am? He’s penetrating a little bit deeper and making the disciples think a little bit harder about their answers. We can model that to our own children as we’re talking to them. Sometimes when we’re having conversations with them, we’ll have a little red flag go off. It can be easy to think we’re too tired to get into it, or we may not know what to say or feel equipped with the right words. For example, my son has been asking about death, and hell, and all of these harder questions. I think one thing that’s great is being willing to go into those anyway. My kids are young—they’re five and under—but one thing I’ve really appreciated is as they dig in, I try to be willing to practice those questions. Often, they don’t remember the answer I gave. So while I’m trying to be as theologically sound and correct and give them what’s age-appropriate, it’s a great chance for you to practice how to answer harder questions and not shy away from something that’s more difficult to answer. At the same time, there’s another side of it which says knowing when not to speak, because kids will get exasperated with you if you’re over-spiritualizing everything. It’s definitely a fine balance. I think it’s a great way to model Christ to go a level deeper and talk about these things with open communication.

Emily: Right. It’s kind of like, I see you have a need for a snack, but I also see you have a need for some self-control and we’re going to press into that a little bit here. [Laughter]

Laura: Good mama! [Laughter]

Emily: Another thing is praying for and with our children. We see this in the life of Jesus when he prays the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 or in the garden before he goes to the cross. He’s praying and asking his disciples to pray alongside him. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. We want to bring our kids alongside us in prayer.

Laura: Another one is being aware of your kids’ personalities and their sin tendencies, even worldly enticements. The only example I could really think of this was kind of Peter and Jesus again. Jesus warns Peter that he’s going to deny Jesus three times. It’s gonna happen, Peter. And Peter says it won’t.

Emily: Yeah, and he was so hasty. A little more impulsive.

Laura: Totally. So Jesus warns him of that. We know that’s exactly what Peter did, and Jesus just knew Peter’s natural tendencies. We can do that with our own kids by trying to warn them as we care for them. Many of you who are listening have really young children and you’re wondering how you can protect them, like if yours is a natural leader or natural follower. HOw can I talk to my child as they’re with their peers? How do I give them wise counsel? What else, Emily? Maybe they’re prone to anger, so you want to focus in on that. I think sometimes it’s even picking a character trait in your child and then looking for strengths and weaknesses. And talk to your husband about how you can foster the great qualities you see and help them choose godliness in the midst of their sin.

Emily: Another one is being willing to affirm and encourage them. This is something Jesus did in Luke 10; he affirms Mary has chosen the good portion. Remember, this is when Mary and Martha were in their house, and Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. He acknowledges she kept her eyes on the right thing. There are a lot of those examples of when Jesus calls out something is honoring–even the anointing of the oil in public, not just in the hidden moments.

Laura: The last one we have is teaching the truth about scripture to our children. This is the active passing on of our faith. We see in Luke 24, Jesus meets the two people on the road, and he interpreted to them the scriptures about all the things concerning himself. We see an active teaching Jesus did, and that’s something we can do. Emily and I are going to post a video to Instagram stories...today?

Emily: Or this week. [Laughter]

Laura: Yes, or this week! [Laughter] We want to share some of the resources we use. It’s going to have a lot of options and ideas. Of course, we don’t want this to incite guilt for you. We want this to feel like you can pick one thing off this list to do today. There are one million ways to do intentional teaching! You can look at some past shows for lots of ideas or head to our show notes today. We feel like this is a really big one with lots of options, but it doesn’t mean you need to do all the options.

Emily: Right. We want to end here by saying don’t feel pressure to think that in order to serve your kids and do all this you have to spend all this money and have all these fancy resources. We can simply disciple, seeing and serving the needs of our children, and minister to them by having a relationship with the Lord, reading his word, being involved in the local church, and passing it along to them. And reading the Bible to them!

Laura: All you need is the Bible.

Emily: It can be that basic. And that’s a wonderful thing. There’s nothing wrong with that! Again, you can go to our website risenmotherhood.com to see all of the resources we recommend—but don’t get overwhelmed by that. If you want to find out more, you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @risenmotherhood. We’ll be sharing more about this topic this week.

Laura: Thanks for joining us, guys!

Ep. 122 || Building Friendships with Women in Different Seasons: An Interview with Elizabeth Woodson Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Well, hey guys! Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. Today, we’re so excited to have Elizabeth Woodson on the show talking about how moms can love women in different life stages—in particular, singles. She shares so many wonderful truths and tips on how women in different places can love one another and have flourishing relationships. We talk about the hard conversations, the ways to find common interests with one another, and what expectations we can have (and shouldn’t have) for one another. Elizabeth is a Bible teacher who loves to teach the truth of scripture. She’s a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a Master’s in Christian Education, and she currently works at The Village Church as the Institute’s Associate Minister, where she writes, teaches, and helps to develop leaders. She also serves on the Lead Team of the Sparrow Conference as the Director of Resources. The Sparrow Conference pursues racial harmony by equipping women on various topics. The conference is coming up on March 29-30th in Dallas, TX. We’ll have links to everything I mentioned in our show notes at risenmotherhood.com, if you’d like to check anything out. Okay, let’s get to the interview with Elizabeth, Emily, and me.

Laura: We’re excited! I have Emily Jensen, my sister-in-law, here as usual.

Emily: Yes, hello!

Laura: And we’re interviewing Elizabeth Woodson today and couldn’t be more honored to have her on our show.

Elizabeth: Oh, I’m so happy to be here with you all.

Laura: We’re actually recording today from the Proclaim Truth conference, which is so fun, because we’re in person. I’m looking into Elizabeth’s eyes. [Laughter]

Elizabeth: Yeah, this is great. [Laughter]

Emily: It’s so fun. Most of the interviews we do are over Skype or video. We hope this is a really great conversation about how singles can be in community with moms, some of the tensions that surround that, and we want to apply the gospel so we can think rightly about it.

Laura: We want to dive in with the basic question, How does it feel whenever you’re single to be around a lot of moms? Give it to us straight, because it’s all moms listening, so this is your chance. [Laughter]

Elizabeth: Hey, moms! [Laughter] When I’m in community with other moms, I feel that I’m not a mom. I feel that I don’t have kids, I’m not married. I think part of that weight comes from this cultural expectation we have—inside and outside the church. I’m in my 30s, so I’m supposed to have kids and be married; that’s what we raise little girls to from birth. We say, Your goal in life is to be a wife and mother. And it’s a beautiful thing—I don’t want anyone to ever hear me say I don’t think it’s a beautiful thing. But when it’s the crux of identity for women, then you feel this really big hole like, Something’s wrong with me, I’m missing something. I don’t know how to relate. I’m sitting with moms talking about vaccinating their kids, and I’m thinking, I don’t have kids! I don’t really know! [Laughter] It feels like I’m not a part of this in a way that’s more significant than being with a bunch of people who play sports when I don’t play sports. It’s like I’m not where I’m supposed to be as a woman. I think if single women were honest, they’d say they feel like they’re not fully able to participate in all the culture has for them, because they don’t have a husband or kids. It can be painful for some singles, because for some of us, it’s a wound.

Emily: I think that’s a really good word. There’s the culture at-large, but there’s also the church culture. And the church sometimes centers events and conversations—maybe so much—around it. It makes motherhood and marriage the crux of identity. I can’t imagine wondering, Well, if I’m not in that season of life, how do I get fed or enter these conversations? I appreciate you sharing that, and hopefully every mom listening can think, Oh yeah, I want to think about those things. I think we need to be reminded sometimes that not everyone is in this season, and where are we putting our identity?

Laura: Just to play off of that, how do you think deep friendships can be formed? If there’s an isolating bubble at times, how can we burst that and form relationships? What can we talk about?

Elizabeth: The reality is we have a lot more in common than we give ourselves credit for—both singles and married. Especially for women; we’re women. We got that! [Laughter] And that’s a lot. We got a lot to talk about being women! [Laughter] I want to say this with great kindness, because I’m not in this season, but I think sometimes my married friends lose themselves. All they talk about is their kids, because that’s their life—you try to keep four or five little humans alive! I can barely keep myself alive! [Laughter] So, I think to be able to talk about what you have in common is not to not talk about your kids or not to not talk about your husband or the reality of being married. I do think singles need to be in community with people who are in a different life season and learn what family looks like and the complexities within that. I think a great starting place, though, is to talk about what you have in common and build this bond not based upon life seasons. You’re human, I’m human. You’re a woman, I’m a woman. You love the Lord, I love the Lord. How do we fight this battle together in life where I can sit in your sorrows and you can sit in mine? You can rejoice with me and I can rejoice with you? I think it’s being sensitive about talking about the things the other person doesn’t have. And singles do the exact same thing with massive amounts of freedom and independence! I can talk about all the wonderful things I’m doing, which can make a mom feel uncomfortable or that she’s missing out on something because she’s not in that space. I think it’s being sensitive to what we have in common and talking about that in order to build, so we can share the rest of the pieces of our lives.

Laura: I think that’s so important because sometimes, it may not feel natural and that’s okay. We need to put the extra effort in, seeing the single is our sister-in-Christ and wanting to love her well. It could be having a conversation about topics you have in common. I think relationships are so tough, because we all dance around things and don’t want to talk about the hard things we’re struggling with. But to say, I love you, sister, and I want to know you. We’re fellowshipping, so how do we do this? Literally saying that to one another might be appropriate in some relationships.

Elizabeth: Exactly, yeah.

Emily: One of the ways I’ve seen this bond really form is in a Bible study setting in the local church. Sometimes when you’re talking about scripture together—we’ve moved beyond the intro discussion—and you’re hearing someone’s heart about the same passage, you make that bond and connection. That’s where I’ve really formed great topics of discussion that can really flourish outside of that environment, like after church on Sunday or at the store. We see we’re sisters-in-Christ first, and then you build on that.

Laura: One other thing I think of is even mom to mom, we find a lot of differences that make it hard for us to connect. Because we’re not similar, we can not want to connect—

Emily: We can do it in every relationship!

Elizabeth: Exactly.

Laura: Yes, it happens all the time. I think one thing I’ve noticed in motherhood, and all of life, is there are common threads with things you’re going through. So even if someone faces a different suffering than you, like a woman is experiencing the loss of a parent and another is experiencing grief over a child with special needs, there’s a common element of grief. It may not be exactly displayed the same, but the hope of the gospel is the same. So those are areas to bond. We stop picking at the little differences (“Mine’s a little bit harder!” “Mine’s a little more difficult!”), and we say, I want to love you through this. I understand, I’ve felt that way before, without having the measuring stick.

Elizabeth: Yeah, we have so much more in common that we want to give credit for. Sometimes we’re looking for ourselves in other people, but we’re actually able to meet other people where they’re at. I think people have such beautiful stories; I’m a story person, so I love seeking out other people and learning their stories. When you enter into their humanity, those so much more than you thought. We size people up, like we see a woman who’s married with four kids, and that’s just who she is to me. But there’s so much more there, so let me learn her story, and learn her heart, and live in that space.

Emily: Look at all these other things God is doing in your life and in this bigger story that you’re swept up into. I love that.

Laura: Well, let’s just talk about the gospel for a second. How does the gospel bridge the gap between the different life stages women are in? What hope does it offer?

Elizabeth: I think about the gospel in this context: God wants to dwell with his humanity, so he’s bridged the gap of sin to be able to make that happen through Jesus Christ. So, we’re responding to his love by loving other people. We love what God loves, and he loves his creation. So how are we supposed to be in community? Singles struggle with being isolated, because we’re by ourselves. Community for us is harder, because we can be transient in ways that, in marriage, you can’t. We have to press ourselves into what it looks like for me to do life with people, to stick around when it gets hard. We have to have those real, honest, direct conversations like, When you said that, it hurt my feelings, or, Hey, when ya’ll were talking about vaccinations, I felt like… Because I have a wound about marriage, I don’t allow that to be pent up. I tell my singles—I used to do singles ministry—the same muscles you need to be married, you need while single, because you need them for relationship. We just get away with doing relationships poorly, because we can just run away. In light of the gospel, if we’re to love God’s creation, we’re to love all of who God puts us into community with authentically by reflecting the character of God. That’s not easy, but it’s beautiful. I think that’s why I love singles in homes, being with families, and knowing what that looks like; and families getting to invite singles into their space and knowing what that looks like. We should be doing life together, because that’s what our God does within himself as the Triune God. So to me, it’s loving people; loving is hard, but it’s beautiful, and it’s something God calls us to. It’s an ultimate space for us to be.

Emily: I think that’s such a good word. Even with this thought about strengthening our muscles in relationship and not running from ones that are hard just because we’re not tied in covenant to them. I think that’s something moms feel tempted towards as well, so we try to speak to that on the podcast: What do you do with the person you’re not as comfortable with? I think that’s a unified, shared feeling in different ways. That’s a good challenge.

Laura: With that, I like how you talked about the single approaching the married mom or woman with children. What if the roles were reversed? Is there a way a mom can sensitively bring up areas, or how they can improve? Do you know what I’m asking? [Laughter]

Elizabeth: Oh, yeah yeah. I think it’s all in depths of relationship. So the more you know someone, the better you can ask the deeper questions. It’s being able to relate to somebody with what you have in common and then building. As friends, we need to ask the hard questions. I had this happen the other day in my office. One of my co-workers came in and said, Can I ask you a friend question? Help me love you better. Who’s going to say no to that? Of course! I think sometimes it can be really scary, but the people we appreciate the most are the ones who told us the truth and who asked the hard questions; we knew they cared about us. I think it can be a fear of rejection or a fear of being misunderstood, but we need to push past that to love a person. You can say, I notice when I talk about these things, you get silent or don’t respond in conversation, does it make you uncomfortable? Help me to understand. I want to love you well. I think anytime you couch a conversation in a “help me love you better,” the answer is “sure.” What are people going to say? No, I don’t want you to love me better. They’re going to let you do that. I think we, as women, are better at relationships than we give ourselves credit for. Love well, take our time, talk about what we have in common, and allow the Lord to expand our relationship to the fullness of who we are. I love my married friends, being in the house with their kids, and I need to hear about their families and their dynamics. But we’ve grown into that space of being able to be comfortable with saying things are hard and walking through that. The Lord does beautiful things by making what’s broken new.

Emily: Just today in our workshop, we were talking about how Jesus asks the harder question in relationship. So when we’re doing ministry to others, part of it is seeing that thing where they’re silent or knowing you need to press a little deeper somewhere. That’s really modeling the way Christ loved people. Obviously, we can’t do that exactly like the Lord does, but I think that’s a good challenge. It feels more comfortable for us to stay back, but who’s going to refuse the offer to love them better by understanding?

Laura: I think we could all ask that question a lot more, like to our husbands too. [Laughter] So I hear one thing I’ve heard you say frequently, and I want to press in a little bit: moms inviting women into their home. As a mom, I’m thinking about my house being messy, my kids being crazy and jumping all over her—

Emily: A new person to play with! [Laughter]

Laura: Right?! So I have all these thoughts about really wanting to treat her well and feel kind of strung out like I can’t give her this beautiful hospitality experience that I wish I could. So, what do you feel like, as a single woman, is your expectation? How can I extend an invitation and not be fearful because I have my own expectations in my head?

Elizabeth: I think we want to see—especially singles who come from broken homes—we want to see family. We don’t need to see the perfect house with the laundry put up and the food put out. I love when my friends do that, but when I come over, and there’s laundry over there and my friend is talking to me while stirring dinner, I love that. Because it’s real life, and we want to see real life. I remember there was a couple who had a single staying with them and they had a fight, and they had the single stay in the room. Which seems uncomfortable, but how do your work out conflict? They let them see it in real time. We want love and authenticity; we want you, we don’t want the perfection. I always give a disclaimer, because it’s a generalization and someone may have a different expectation. When you invite someone into your home, that’s a sacred space. You’re saying, Hey, come be a part of my life. That’s so valuable. I’m not going to judge you! My laundry’s not done! [Laughter] But I want to be in community with you, and if that means being there in the car, picking up your kids, that’s what we want.

Laura: That’s an encouragement for any mom listening! That removes the barrier of our excuse that we’re too busy, or running around, or feeling hasty and strung out. Just bring them into your life, exactly as you are. That’s a good word for all moms to hear, because that’s a hard spot.

Emily: So, shifting gears a little bit. In scripture, we have this call to pass on the gospel to the next generation and to have spiritual children in the faith. What do you feel like that looks like for you in your season of life? How do moms come alongside of you in that? How do you come alongside moms in that? I’d love to hear on that topic.

Elizabeth: For me, it’s making sure I always have someone I’m pouring into and just doing life with. Usually it’s a younger gal, and I’m walking alongside of her as she’s journeying in her faith—a sisterhood of an older sister pouring into a younger sister. How do we pour in good godly principle in real time? I had a conversation with a girl who’s a single mom about her child’s father coming back into the situation, so it’s that for me—those types of conversations. I think having women challenge me, Who are you pouring into? is helpful. It’s easy to get into myself as a single, because it is just me. So having friends who press me about who I’m pouring into and sharing the information God has pressed into me is important. The discipleship of an older mother and a younger gal is letting her see you go through life. For those in community, who are you doing life with? Who are you pouring into? My friends challenge me to do that. I stand on platforms all the time, and that’s beautiful ministry. But there’s also being in someone’s life, in their face, in their business, asking the hard questions. How am I being responsible stewarding the information God has given me?

Emily: A lot of time we’ll end the show with a last word. Do you have anything the Lord is bringing to mind? You have a captive audience of a lot of moms of young children. We know you’re a wonderful Bible teacher; you’re very gifted in that. How would you encourage them from the word?

Elizabeth: I think you’re in a season where you might not feel seen in the background, and you’re caring for lives, and maybe you’ve lost yourself in that. Remember nothing from the Lord is wasted, and the value of you being able to disciple your children—even though you may not feel it’s significant—is huge. For you to be able to shape them from the Word of God, and they know who God is huge. There’s only so much that can happen in an hour or an hour and a half service on Sunday morning. That they’re with you every day and you’re shaping children who will be warriors for Christ in this world is significant. You’re significant and God is making impact in the days that just seem crazy and you think, I don’t know where I am in all this. God is with you, and he sees you. What you’re doing is important. I think, to me, that’s always something I want to communicate to moms, especially young ones because I think they can feel overwhelmed with life. Nothing is wasted—even your dreams in your heart. You may not be living them right now, but God hasn’t forgotten.

Laura: That’s beautiful.

Emily: Amen.

Laura: I felt like you were talking right to me! [Laughter]

Emily: Hopefully, that was encouraging to those of you listening who haven’t heard that from a single woman. We can speak biblical truth into each other’s lives without having necessarily experienced every single thing that person has experienced. So thank you for encouraging us in that.

Laura: Thanks so much for coming on the show today, Elizabeth! It was a joy to have you. I feel like you’re becoming a friend.

Elizabeth: Yes! [Laughter] I had a great time. Thank you so much!

Laura: If you guys want to check out more about Elizabeth, head over to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. Of course, you guys can find us on all the social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Thanks for joining us!

Ep. 121 || Can You Make Any Life You Want? Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with Laura.

Laura: Hey guys!

Emily: Before we jump into today’s show, we want to encourage you to take a few minutes to leave us an iTunes review, if you’re willing. It’d be such a huge blessing to us. Laura and I read all of those, and it’s really encouraging to see the work God is doing. And it helps other people find our show! It just takes a couple of minutes, and if you need a tutorial, we’ll make sure it’s super easy for you to figure out how to do it on our show notes.

Laura: For today’s show, we’re talking about a really interesting topic. I think it’s one not discussed a ton, but every week, we get emails in our inbox or messages on Instagram and Facebook where women are processing career opportunities in motherhood. They’re asking, How do I know what decision to make? What do I weigh? How can I practically evaluate how costly this will be for my family, myself, and my children? There’s a lot to weigh in as we consider some career or work dreams we have as moms, because we have dependents and God has already called us there. So, how do these things mesh?

Emily: Right. And we certainly can’t answer all that in a show, but one of our heartbeats at R|M is to meet moms right where they’re at with the good news of Jesus Christ. We do think it applies to all these different things we’re facing. None of us have to have “arrived” yet in order to receive the good news and start to trust God, in faith, right where we’re at. So that’s one of our hopes for this show—we can get started but this isn’t an attempt to answer, Should I work outside of the home?

Laura: The age old Christian question!

Emily: Yes! Talk about that with your husband! But we want to meet the moms who are struggling with this question right where they’re at today. Before we go there, let’s stop to remember if you even have a choice, it’s a great thing that isn’t a given for every mom.

Laura: Yeah, it’s a huge privilege to have a chance to think about things like this and to say, Yes, no, maybe so. There are real hindrances to women being able to pursue their preferred career choice, or a secret dream they’ve had, or a small business they’ve wanted. Things like single motherhood, chronic health issues, care for a family member, aging, special needs, or even economic downturns. People lose their jobs, or there isn’t a lot of job opportunity in some communities or cultures. There are a lot of things outside of someone’s control that don’t allow them to even entertain the question we’re going to try to address today.

Emily: Right. Today, we’re talking about evaluating career decisions. Should I take on some more hours? Should I take on this special project? That’s something a lot of us have faced. I know for Laura and I, sometimes it’s a question of if we should take on extra writing opportunity, increase our hours, take a speaking gig, or add that extra arm to the R|M ministry we’ve been wanting to do. There are things that take real hours that come into our email inboxes that we have to struggle with week-in and week-out. What do we say to this stuff?

Laura: I think it applies to many of you whether or not you’re in a creative field like this. I know I have family members and friends who face things like picking up some extra shifts, like a nurse; or taking that other job opportunity that’s going to require a lot more travel. Even my husband faces stuff like that, especially when we were looking for new jobs and positions. There are also things like working on a special project where you might win a really great award if you put in the extra hours to do that. So, there are a lot of different things we face whether you’re full-time working or part-time working; maybe it’s even something like starting a business for the first time—MLMs, Etsy, Amazon. There are lots of opportunities to start your own business with a couple clicks of the button. You can be up and running! So, we’re all facing those things all the time. Should I be pursuing that or do I not?

Emily: The essential question is, What might be good for my career may possibly be detrimental to the family, church, Kingdom mission, or the community; or it might not be? Are there ways to evaluate that? So that’s where we’re stuck. Laura went through some great examples of things we face. I think there are a lot of online influencers, entrepreneurs, and even podcasts about philosophies around this. A lot of times they’re saying things like, Yeah, make the most of every opportunity you can, and do whatever it takes to say, ‘Yes,’ and make this happen. Nothing is really off-limits for you if you can just structure everything correctly.

Laura: I heard this radio ad just the other day, and I thought, Oh! This ties into the show we’re about to record! They said something like, Now you don’t have to make the choice between your professional life and your personal life. I thought, Really? There’s no way—

Emily: Somebody’s figured it out! [Laughter]

Laura: [Laughter] Every time you say yes to a professional opportunity, you’re saying no to something in your personal life. That has to happen! It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, but everything is a choice. So when I heard that ad, I thought, False! False! False! All my radars were going off, because these are real issues. Every yes, is a no.

Emily: I think other popular messages we hear are, You’re in control of your own life. That’s something. You’re in control. Just figure it out. Just pull the right strings, and you can arrange things rightly. Another one is, You have a right to your happiness, and no one should stop us from being happy. Ooh. We could do a whole show on that. [Laughter] Another one I remember hearing about as I grew up—even from my dad who worked in corporate America—was, At the end of every career opportunity, eventually there’s a magical life with the freedom and balance you’ve always wanted.

Laura: A magical life.

Emily: Yes! So you think if you keep taking these opportunities—because this is what you’re paying in—later, you don’t have to have all this stress. My dad would talk about people who did that for decades, and their lives were much worse off than when they started. You don’t realize it can be a trap if you’re not being strategic and thinking through those things. There are a lot of hard messages out there.

Laura: Today, we want to ask, How do we process these decisions? How do we know what to say yes or no to? How does motherhood play into that? Of course, we can start with the gospel, looking there to see what God’s word has to say. We know from the creation account that men and women were made to have purposeful work, to be fruitful and multiply, and to be stewards and caretakers of God’s creation. And that’s just in Genesis 1:28. We want to look a little bit closer at the Proverbs 31 woman, because she seems to be—oh, everyone likes to tee her up and say, Superwoman! Superwoman! [Laughter] So, we want to talk though and debunk that a little bit, and also see what principles we might learn from her.

Emily: She’s this archetype in scripture, in wisdom literature. So, if you’re not super familiar with Bible literacy, wisdom literature is a genre. It’s not something that’s supposed to be formulaic or prescriptive, but it paints pictures for us of principles about how we should live in light of God’s commands. In this passage, King Lemuel gives a nice picture of what an excellent wife might look like. In that, we get a snapshot of God’s design—a little bit like pre-fall—if everything was ideal. This would be kind of a sense of what an excellent wife might be like.

Laura: Right, we see things like she’s trustworthy, she does her husband and family good, she’s hard-working and sacrificial. She does all types of work with excellence; she’s like a real estate mogul, a seamstress, and doing all sorts of cool things. She’s working in and outside of the home. She’s generous, a good steward, and others-centered. She’s wise and kind. We could go on and on. Go read Proverbs 31 if you’re not familiar with this woman and see some of the character traits this queen is encouraging her son to look for in a wife.

Emily: Ultimately, we find the fulfillment of all of God’s design in Christ. He is the one who has to come to redeem creation. There’s no way any of us are going to model this or replicate it (and we’ll talk a little bit more about what the fall does). But basically, between what we see in Genesis in the creation account and the Old Testament and in this Proverbs 31 woman, we see God created us to worship him and care about the spread of Eden or the advance of the Kingdom. This means we’re going to steward our gifts, skills, and resources as we pass along the legacy of faith and love others in every role and responsibility we have—that means motherhood, any career we have, any ministry we have, our communities. It’s a holistic view of serving God with all he’s given us.

Laura: Unfortunately, because of the fall, we tend to get a very narrow viewpoint instead of the holistic one. We tend to look for personal identity in things outside of God. We might look for it in motherhood itself, in our husbands, in our job opportunities, or some kind of resume-builder and achievement. We do this by looking at what others around us are doing and working to make sure they think we’re cool or look really cool to them. We try to mold our lives to the world. We also tend to look at others and think, I want to look like her. She has it all or seems like it. What are those stepping stones I need to do to get there? That’s one area the fall has impacted our decision-making, especially when it comes to achievement, dreams, work, and things like that.

Emily: Another thing we struggle with in our sinful hearts is instead of looking at God and thinking about how we’re serving him, we’re often looking at ourselves and thinking about our own agendas and how we can build up our own kingdoms. We don’t want to be inconvenienced by having to consider others. Oh, I have to consider my husband? Or my children? What my church might need? What my community might need? What our local school might need? We just want to think about number one. And that’s all of us. I’m not picking on any one type of mom, I think we all don’t want to submit our ideas to God as fallen sinners.

Laura: Yeah. And I think another way we make decisions out of sin is we make them out of discontent. We feel this ache in our souls, and we believe it’s a sign we need to do something big or different when really, it’s an ache to find contentment in Christ. Sometimes we’re making decisions because we have fear, worry, and anxiety. When we make those decisions, we’re realize it didn’t feel so good. We thought it’d make us feel better, but really, we feel sad and sorry for ourselves. This discontent will never fulfill us; the only thing will fulfill us is Christ, which we’ll talk about in redemption. I think we can blame-shift in all of this, just like Adam and Eve did. We point fingers, saying this is someone else’s fault. I can’t do this right now, because I’m a mom, so I can’t pursue that. I can’t be a good mom, because I have this great career and need to keep pursuing that to do it well. We’re not making a decisions out of a place positioned on Christ and his work. Instead, we point the blame in other places and avoid taking responsibility for our own decisions and trusting God with them.

Emily: Luckily, although this point leaves us feeling a bit like downers, this is why God sent his Son, Jesus. We’re so messed up in how we approach everything. So, building off of that discontentment, in redemption, we see God is in control. We’re able to honor and follow him through Christ in whatever circumstance he’s given us. It’s not a matter of if our situation was different, we’d be different. Even when we feel like we have very few choices and opportunities, God can still lead us and shape us into Christlikeness. Again, to push back to the beginning of the show, let’s remember most people in the Bible and many people throughout the whole world today were or are in situations where they don’t have choices. Maybe they’re forced into slavery, overtaken by armies, living in poverty, and all kinds of things we see in scripture. This wasn’t the idea of, Just create the life you want! No, they literally couldn’t. But God made a way for them to hope and have faith in him, even when their circumstances were less than ideal.

Laura: Because Christ laid down his life for us, we can lay down ours. That means maybe we sacrifice some of our dreams, career opportunities, ability to climb the ladder, have our name published where we want it published, or whatever it is. It’s going to look different for every person, and, honestly, that’s going to be between you and the Lord. We’re all personally held accountable for those decisions we’re making, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we’re able to figure out a lot of those decisions in faith. It goes back to our personal conscience show we did a couple weeks ago. In a lot of these things, as long as we’re growing in holiness and living out the Great Commission, loving our neighbor, serving the Kingdom at home, in community, and at church, there’s freedom to make different decisions. We have to keep perspective: am I looking holistically at this picture or am I zeroing in on my own selfish desires?

Emily: Definitely. We want to spend some time getting into some practical ideas. Laura and I, as we said, face these decisions too. We know you guys are facing them. So, what do we do whenever we get an opportunity and we’re not sure if we should take this or not?

Laura: Yes, so the first thing to do is pray. Did you know we were going to say that? [Laughter] You can never do this for too often or too long. So please please please pray. We gotta say it.

Emily: We gotta say it. [Laughter]

Laura: It ain’t a good show if we don’t say it. [Laughter] The second one is consider your heart motives. This is a really, really good question we always want to encourage you to do, no matter what decision you’re making. The question to ask yourself is, Why do I really want to take this opportunity? Maybe it’s a promotion, a new job, a seasonal job, or special project or assignment at work. You need to ask yourself if there are any sin issues hidden beneath.

Emily: Yes, and there will be always. [Laughter]

Laura: Spoiler alert! [Laughter]

Emily: Right? I think it’s still an opportunity to recalibrate. Maybe you still make the same decision, but you’re able to do it submitting those and repenting those before God, asking him to help. I know for Laura and I, sometimes we take something because of fear. We think, If I don’t take this, this will never come around again.

Laura: Yep.

Emily: So we have to pause, because we’re not trusting God, and take a deep breath, so we can evaluate it with a clearer focus. Another thing we want to consider is to tune our heart to the word and not the world. Instruments have standard tuning requirements, so they can play beautiful music. It’s very important they’re tuned against that, because if not, they’re playing ugly, out of tune music. I think a lot of us are taking in the things we hear and read, like influencers—or like we said at the beginning—ads and podcasts, and we don’t realize that’s what we’re tuned into. So when we go to make a decision, those are the messages we’re basing our decisions on versus re-calibrating and tuning our hearts toward the Word of God. As we do that more and more, it’ll influence how we make decisions.

Laura: Yeah. With that, you also have to count the costs. This is where every yes means a no. As Emily said, if your heart is tuned in with the Word of God, sometimes it feels very costly—the yes and no. Lately, I’ve been working hard at time-stamping—this is uber practical for you guys. But if I say yes to a writing opportunity, that’s four hours I’m not going to have with my children or volunteering at school and church. So, really evaluate by putting some numbers down as you consider an opportunity to see what you have to give up if you’re going to say yes. It can feel kind of like a bummer either way sometimes, but that’s where you’ll be able to think more clearly—when you’re able to understand the consequences.

Emily: Right. Another one, if you’re married, talk with your husband. Try to understand his true feelings. If you guys are on different pages, pray God would bring you together in unity and maybe change one of your hearts. I think this is one of those things where being proactive is so helpful. Get together and ask, What is our vision? How are our careers or service or ministry life fitting together so we can love God and serve him as a family? It’s really important to have those conversations.

Laura: Seek counsel from older, wiser women. We say this one often—

Emily: It’s so good!

Laura: It’s so good! Can you find a woman who’s worked in that type of position before and has been a mom? Can you find someone who had a similar career path? Maybe even just someone a step ahead of you. We don’t always have to find someone like a grandmother. Maybe it’s just a woman who’s very recently transitioned out of this. Ask them what they did or what they wished they did differently. And if they know you well, ask them to advise you on this decision.

Emily: Laura and I have been helped so many times—

Laura: So much! We would be nowhere without them.

Emily: Yes! Those who’ve been willing to share things related to what we’ve thought about doing. Here’s what you need to be careful of. Here’s what I wish I would’ve done differently. That’s so helpful. Another thing to keep in mind is—What do they call it?—the Rule of Grief in transition?

Laura: Yes, I’m terrible at this.

Emily: Basically, the Rule of Grief is if you’re going through something really hard—

Laura: And this could be like a move, a baby, a major surgery, a family illness, so a big event in your life.

Emily: Right. It may or may not be the best time to make really big decisions about things that will impact you for a long time. Let’s be real; there are hormones involved, maybe we’re tired, sometimes we’re feeling the itch and pain of being in a season we’re not happy with. For example, who’s had a baby and cut six inches off their hair? [Laughter] Me!

Laura: I’ve not done that! [Laughter]

Emily: Oh yeah, twice. And every time I have a baby, I have to think, Don’t do it!

Laura: She needs some change! [Laughter]

Emily: I’m like, Brad, don’t let me go cut my hair off! It’s just a joke, but it’s a great example of the fact there’s something in us that wants to do something different.

Laura: Craves change.

Emily: We have to be aware of that tendency, and be cautious as we’re making decisions.

Laura: And with that caution, start small. Again, we’re talking about women who have the luxury of making these decisions. That probably means you don’t have to go full-force. When Emily and I are making decisions, we’re taking it one-by-one. We’re not saying we’re going to do this gigantic thing, especially in this season of life and where we’ve come to with our husbands. We want to start small and build, trusting that process and knowing there will be an exit strategy for some of those things. It’s important to blend those two things, if you’re able to and if the opportunity allows it.

Emily: Yes, I love what you said about exit strategy. Because, yes, while we don’t want to say that to our potential employer—[Laughter]

Laura: So, what is my exit strategy? [Laughter]

Emily: Ha! But it’s good, behind the scenes, to talk to your husband or whoever is giving you counsel. Think, What am I going to do in six months or in a year if this is so crazy and having a negative impact on all the things we care about and value? What are we going to do then? It’s good to have those check-in points and to know we’re not trapped in it forever.

Laura: Yes. With that, remember your capacity. Support systems—they matter. And everyone has a different one, so be realistic about what you’re able to do. I’m terrible at this. I’m preaching to myself here. Remember just because someone else is doing something doesn’t mean you even could do it if you wanted to.

Emily: Amen. [Laughter] I think we need to pause on that point: just because she can doesn’t mean I can or should. Keep re-evaluating and be open to change as God leads. If you look at this down the road and think you need to do something different, be willing to have open hands. We’re all evaluating different decisions in life. No matter where you’re at or how your days are made up, whatever you’re doing right now, you’re planting seeds for other seasons. For those of you who feel like your career goals aren’t being realized right now, God can continue to grow and cultivate you into the most important thing, which is Christlikeness. No matter your career goals, remember: have you counted the cost? Consider the little people in your home, and not just them, but the church, community, neighbors, and city that you live in. There are so many things and ways we can serve God and his Kingdom.

Laura: Yeah, we encourage you guys to consider these things deeply and to take every decision very, very seriously by putting it against the Word of God as you evaluate what you should be doing next. These are big choices and big decisions. We pray God will continue to give you the wisdom in navigating each one.

If you’d like to check out our show notes, head over to risenmotherhood.com. Of course you can follow us on social media @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Like we said at the beginning of the show, we’d love it if you head over to iTunes and left us a review. It takes, maybe, five minutes out of your day. Thanks again, guys, and have a great day!

Ep. 120 || When Mom & Dad Can’t Make Date Night Happen 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.

Laura: Hey, guys!

Emily: And before we jump in today’s show, we wanted to remind you—in case you forgot, because sometimes we forget—we have a book coming out in early September.

Laura: Yes, yes!

Emily: It’s really fun. We’re getting to a really exciting point in the process.

Laura: We’re done with the manuscript; we finished that last fall. Now we’re getting to the creative part like the book cover, editing, and marketing. It’s really fun! It’s kind of a different side to book writing I’d never really considered before I became an author and worked through this process.

Emily: Yeah, and we know a lot of you have so kindly asked, When can I be on your launch team? When can I preorder? Which is crazy we’re talking about that.

Laura: Yes, thank you! Such a gift to us.

Emily: We’ll let you guys know as soon as we know all those details. We’re excited for you to keep journeying with us in that and for you to read the book.

Laura: It’s going to be amazing to see it come to life and to see you all have it in your hands. I feel like that will be a huge, and awesome, and surreal day.

Emily: Okay, so for today’s show, we’re revisiting the topic of “date night” and a little bit about marriage—what makes a healthy marriage and where we need to put our hope in all of this. We’re trying to time this with Valentine’s Day.

Laura: I think this literally comes out on the 14th.

Emily: We know it’s also kind of the time of the year that highlights maybe some areas in your marriage—

Laura: All the awesome dates other people go on while you’re at home with the baby. [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah, it may be highlighting the points in your marriage where you wish things were a little bit different than they actually are.

Laura: I think this was stirred up because we talked about this a little bit on the Ask Us Anything show last fall, and we shared with you that this is one of the most popular question we get every single time we do a big question ask. This is what you guys want to know, which we love and we get it. It totally makes sense. But there’s also this other perspective to it that we want to share today. We touched on it really lightly in that Ask Us Anything show, but we want to dig into it a little bit more here, because we have lots of thoughts and we understand this being a pinch point. We’re hopeful today that we can give it a little more airtime.

Emily: We want to start by defining “date night” for you. Sometimes people use that term really broadly, meaning any time that you spend together as a couple investing in your relationship. But what we’re talking about is actually getting out of the house, away from the kids on a special outing that might require extra time or finances. You know, doing something really special. This is, again, date night in terms of we’re going out of the house and away from our kids on a date, which might be a little bit of a different definition.

Laura: Like “date night in.” People have those. Like when we watch Netflix with popcorn; it’s awesome.

Emily: Yeah, we’re putting that in a different category. Not what we’re talking about today.

Laura: These are the “getting out of the house, leaving the children behind” nights. So, one of the things we want to think about as we frame up this conversation about date night is we’re definitely not saying, Don’t have date night if you can get it, or that it’s a bad idea. The thing we see happening—and it’s happened to us as well—is date night can feel like it’s the only way we can be intimate or really grow in my marriage. There’s unfair pressure put on a stereotypical type of night out of the house. We don’t want to hold up this modern date night as the gold standard as growth in marriage.

Emily: I think, as humans, we’re really good at taking all kinds of wonderful gifts and great tools God gives—so we can seek growth in our lives and in our marriages—and make them laws to live by. We feel like everything is lost if we don’t get things a certain way. We hear from a lot of stressed wives and moms who want to invest in their marriages, but maybe their husbands work really long hours and travel regularly; maybe their husbands are overseas or in the military; maybe they have a child with special needs or their struggling to make ends meet; or maybe they just moved. There are all these different seasons in life. A lot of marriages just aren’t at a point where they can do this modern idea of a date night right now. We want to speak to those moms and say, We still have hope! There’s still good news for us in scripture for God’s design in marriage! So let’s not be discouraged.

Laura: I think the big reason why there’s a lot of discouragement is culture, relationship experts, and even Christian culture are telling us date nights are super important and critical to a healthy, thriving marriage. It’s like the date night is the secret sauce to keeping a close and romantic marriage. I think there’s this connection we all make that says a date night equals a romantic, thriving, long-lasting marriage. Yes, it can help; we want to acknowledge that it’s such a good piece of the puzzle. It’s really important to have one-on-one time. But we want to challenge that notion it has to look a certain way, particularly the way culture tells us it should look.

Emily: I think you’re so right. Americans, especially, have a tendency to be super child-centered, and we spend tons of time taking our children to activities and money making sure they get all this education and training, but we totally put our marriage on the backburner and neglect it. It’s good for kids to see mom and dad loving and prioritizing one another. I know I’m looking forward to—if and when we don’t have kiddos at home anymore or they’re all grown up—still having a relationship with my husband that wasn’t put on the backburner. For sure, that is so important and probably has to happen through quality time and investment in different ways. I know where date night has become a pinch point a few times for me is especially early on. I had the idea, My husband is supposed to be pursuing me by putting regular date nights on the calendar, and...he’s not.

Laura: He’s not pursuing you! [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah! [Laughter] We’re failing at this thing!

Laura: And it isn’t it interesting how we really want our husband to plan it? We want it, but we don’t really want to be the ones to plan it. It means even more if he’s the one; it means he’s invested in our marriage more than if he doesn’t plan it.

Emily: Yes, and it’s been interesting, because at different points I’ve been on bedrest for long seasons of time before when I was pregnant with twins or we’ve had chaotic times with five very young kids. Honestly, right now, to get out of the house we need two babysitters. Two babysitters!

Laura: Two babysitters. That’s expensive. [Laughter]

Emily: So it’s hard, you know? But I see the Lord growing us in our marriage and deepening our intimacy in other ways, so I think the longer we’ve been married—10 years this fall, woop woop!—I do see God has used a lot of different seasons—easy and hard, date nights and no date nights—to grow us. I kind of wish I could go back and tell newly-married Emily to enjoy her husband where she’s at today and find ways to serve each other, enjoying her date nights when she gets them but it’s going to be okay.

Laura: Mm, that’s good truth. You guys keep hearing us frame this as the concept of “modern date nights.” What really got Emily and I down this path was we were thinking about, What about people in the Bible? Did they have date nights? Is it in the Bible or even historically, like in the 1800s or 1900s? As we talked about this, we wanted to look at a two famous couples in Christian history to see what date night would look like for them if they had it or if they could even have it.

Emily: One couple we did some research on—and Laura and I had some good conversations back and forth—was Charles and Susannah Spurgeon. For those of you who don’t know—and I needed to get schooled up on this one—

Laura: It’s kind of one of those things you’re like, Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah…

Emily: Charles Spurgeon was a prolific preacher and writer in the 1800s. He and his wife, Susannah, had twin boys who both grew up to be believers and they really credited their mom for raising them in the Lord. While we don’t know a lot about the ends and outs of their marriage and how it worked—we’re not claiming to know all of that—we do know Susannah spent long seasons struggling through chronic illness. She was often confined to home; sometimes she couldn’t make it to church. We also know Charles had a lot of different physical illness, and he struggled with depression over the course of their lives. I know the little taste I’ve had of going through seasons of time where I was physically limited or the whole family is sick, I can’t imagine how hard it would make it on a marriage to get that time together, let alone a date night out of the house together. And yet God sustained their marriage until the end of their lives, and they had this powerful kingdom-impacting ministry together as a couple despite those challenges.

Laura: Spurgeon has some sermons where he preaches and speaks very highly of marriage. He uses the words, joyful love that it brings. Again, we totally admit that we’re speculating here, but we want to bring perspective that the Bible is applicable for all people for all of time, so what did it look like in the past when they didn’t have cars, as easy access to babysitters, all of these wonderful places to go to make all the memories? What would date night look like for these people? It kind of seems like maybe it wasn’t quite as prolific as we find it to be now.

Another couple we wanted to touch on was Hudson Taylor and Jane Elizabeth Fowling. Hudson Taylor was a well-known missionary. I’m going to link an autiobiography I read of him recently in the show notes that I found really helpful and enjoyed reading. I love missionary biographies. So, this was Hudson’s second marriage. He was actually a friend of Charles Spurgeon—

Emily: Ooh, fun fact.

Laura: Yeah, and he’s best known for his mission work in China; he started the China Inland Mission. If any of you guys have ever heard of that, hopefully that rings a bell. Anyway, Jane was Hudson’s second marriage; he had four children from his previous marriage, and when they got married, Hudson fell on or off a riverboat while he was in China and he was nearly paralyzed. So they went back to England for his recovery. About two years later, he was better. By that time, he and Jane had two children, so she had six kiddos, and Hudson went to China for a few years all by himself; we know she stayed back. Again, we don’t know all the details of their marriage and the ways God sustained them, but we do know, realistically, the distance between them did not allow for regular date nights. Eventually Hudson came back and they were reunited, but it’s interesting to see they had many, many years apart as Hudson was off doing mission work and Jane was home taking care of the six kids. What did that look like for them? We know they remained married until, I think, Jane died of cancer.

Emily: So I think what we wanted to draw out of these stories is that both of these couples—and many, many, many more throughout history both in scripture that we could reference or just around the world today—faced challenging and exhausting circumstances. There are still a lot of couples, through Christ, doing God’s work who will go down in redemptive history as being individuals and couples who made a huge impact for the spread of the gospel. Maybe they enjoyed some form of date night, maybe they didn’t—they probably didn’t in the way we define it. That doesn’t make date nights bad, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them, but we’re trying to illustrate God gives grace. We hope this encourages you if you feel like you’re in a season where you’re separated from your husband because of military or work, you feel encouraged you can still be unified in doing important work for the kingdom—without what we say is stereotypically “healthy” for a marriage.

Laura: So looking at these historical examples is fun, but what about modern day examples? All of you in this today, how can we encourage you? We asked our friend Hunter Beless from the Journeywomen podcast—hopefully you all listen, because we love her, her ministry with the podcast, and her awesome interviews, so head over there to listen—to share about she and her husband’s, Brooks, marriage. So you’re going to hear her talk in a minute, but just to give you a little background: he’s in the military, and he travels a lot. So she was someone who came to mind when we thought of someone who might not get date night regularly, but God is still being faithful in their marriage. Here is what she had to say about how God has sustained their marriage.

Hunter: Date nights are a dream, but my husband Brooks and I have a major logistical hang-up with the advice we’ve received to make them a regular reality. As a soldier, Brooks’ job actually requires him to be away anywhere from one-third to one-half of every year. When he’s home, he’s required to work long hours, sometimes even through the night. Deployments, trainings, living stationed away from family; all these things make even irregular date nights really tough. In our first years of marriage, I actually felt really guilty about not adhering to the well-intentioned wisdom of the weekly date night. Forget regularly dating, we couldn’t even talk on the daily. But, by God’s grace, despite these logistically-challenging circumstances in our inability to make a regular date night happen, Brooks and I actually do really experience intimacy and oneness in our marriage. The Lord has been faithful to sustain us as we seek to display his covenant-keeping love right where he has us. If you want practical application for what this looks like, we pray together at the same time, even when we’re separate in proximity; we write notes communicating value and dignity to one another; we strive to make the most of the time we actually do have together. We believe seeking to know and be known is more of a mindset and lifestyle beyond a literal date on the calendar; beyond that, as we seek to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might, we inevitably grow in our love for one another every day of every week.

Emily: So much good stuff in there, and I hope so many of you can relate! Hunter shared that so eloquently; thank you, Hunter!

We want to close the podcast with some encouragement. When we look at scripture and see what God chose to record as good news for marriages and his design. We see things like loving each other with Christ’s love and sacrifice in marriage. Our marriage is this mysterious picture of Christ and the Church, and it’s supposed to reflect that. God encourages us to love and respect one another, to engage in appropriate submission, to be on mission together. We see that all throughout scripture. This one’s hard for us to hear sometimes but having regular sexual intimacy is something the Lord emphasizes. Praying together, leaving and cleaving and becoming one flesh, keeping the marriage bed really pure and undefiled, staying committed to each other until death. I think when we look at scripture and what God says—this is my design for you, this is my hope for you—this is what we’re supposed to be doing in Christ (yes, sin will affect this). I think these are the things we can cling to, and uphold, and do with his help in a variety of different circumstances.

Laura: As Emily and I were talking about this concept before we recorded, we thought, Ultimately, all we really want is to be cherished. We want to feel loved and special. We really want to feel that Christlike love that—like Emily talked about—God has charged the marriage to be biblically. I think anyone who’s been married for a number of years and been on a handful of these date nights, you realize that date night isn’t actually a guarantee either. You can ask my husband, because he’s said, Laura, you are very good at ruining date night. [Laughter] You know, with my stubborn heart and bad attitude at times. Isn’t it funny? You build this up in your mind and you’re so excited and looking forward to it, and then something happens—let’s just say not from personal experience— like your husband is home late, so then you’re late to your date night. So then you don’t talk to him for a little bit. [Laughter] So, this was old Laura, but I think it’s important to remember date night is never a guarantee anyway. And wouldn’t it be a great way to cherish your husband not by expecting these grandiose acts through date night but instead really thinking, How can I love my husband in the little things in the life God has called us to today by serving him? Maybe it’s back rubs, emails, texts, just those some acts of service. Those are the things that can sustain a marriage for a long time instead of putting all your stock in this one, big, grand night that has a 50/50 chance of going well. [Laughter]

Emily: I think we’re saying instead of putting all the stock in date night, let’s broaden the view, thinking about how to cherish our husbands in everyday life. That’s so good. We say this on almost every show, but we have to have a relationship in the Lord and find our identity in our hope in Jesus.

Laura: I think that’s a good thing to say on every show. [Laughter] I do feel like a broken record, but if I’m going to say anything over and over again, I’m going to tell people to love Jesus and spend time with him.

Emily: Yep. Gotta say it! He’s the only person who’s going to meet your expectations and exceed them. Another one is rejoice and enjoy your marriage as a gift from God. We know there are tons of complexities, some of you are thinking of objections, but do it when it’s mundane, do it when you get a date night.

Laura: Yeah, and look for ways you guys are serving the kingdom or could start to serve on mission together and find joy in that. I think of Priscilla and Aquilla who were working side-by-side with Paul spreading the gospel with him. Of course, enjoying intimacy; we know there are a lot of nuances and different things to that, but as you can, invest in that way in your marriage. Pray for more time together. If it really is a huge desire in your heart to go on date nights—again, it’s not wrong, but don’t put all your expectations and hope in it— tell your husband and pray to God for it. Ask that he will make a way, and if not, ask he makes you content in the process. Lastly, don’t compare with other couples. This is like broad brush marriage advice—

Emily: We’re roller painting a wall of marriage right now. [Laughter]

Laura: We’re not edging the trim out right now. [Laughter] We have a big 18 inch roller.

But truly, don’t look side-to-side and think, That couple looks happy and they’re getting regular date night and I’m not because I’m in a different season. Comparison is truly never worth it. In all of this, we pray ad hope you get a version of date night, of course, but more than that, we pray your heart is tuned to the Lord and his desire for marriage; we pray you seek him above all things, even your ideal night out away from the kids. We know how good it sounds and can feel and what promises it brings, but ultimately, remember God is the only one who can truly sustain your marriage and keep you faithful to one another to the end. He is where your hope needs to lie, not in date night.

Emily: Amen. Well, if you guys want some more resources, head to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com, and you can also find us on social media @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thanks, guys!

Laura: Thanks, guys!

Ep. 119 || “But This is Just My Personality!”: How Christ Changes Us Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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

Emily: Hello, hello!

Laura: Today, we’re talking about personality tests, which is such a fun topic. We got super into these about a year ago; we took one of those free, online Enneagram tests and started texting memes to one another, saying, That’s just like a Three, or whatever. It was really fun for our team, and we had a really good time taking these tests.

Emily: Yeah, and last fall (2018) for our Ask Us Anything show, our most frequently asked question was, What is your Enneagram number? [Laughter] So we know it’s something that has a lot of interest right now. It’s very cool to say, Hey, what Enneagram number are you? But this has been around for a long time; certainly, it’s not a new thing.

Laura: Yeah definitely. I remember when I was young, we did the Love Languages and Spiritual Gifts tests—so fun. [Laughter]

Emily: I remember thinking I have this certain love language, and at times, it’s caused some conflict in our marriage, because I think, No, this is the way I have to be loved. I can’t receive love in any other way! [Laughter] And that’s not true! I enjoy a lot of different ways of being loved. But you can really hone in on that one thing.

Laura: You can! It’s amazing how we latch to it, which is sort of what we want to talk about in today’s show. We have two big ol’ questions we want to ask and try to answer. One is, Why do we all love these personality tests so much? The second is, What role can and should personality tests play in our motherhood and who we are as a person?

Emily: So, why do we all love personality tests so much? Why do we take the 10 minutes and click through the four websites with 100 pop-ups to find out what Disney princess we are?

Laura: Yes! I want to know. I have to know what my emojis say about me. [Laughter]

Emily: I think that question of why it feels good to find out our strengths and our giftings as if we’re special and now we’re able to display them—

Laura: Or share them on Facebook or put them on Instagram to tell everybody.

Emily: Yes. I think it’s interesting that we long to know other people’s personalities. What box do you fit in?

Laura: Right! We want to categorize people.

Emily: Yeah, and how do get our puzzle pieces to fit together really well so our boxes can join together? [Laughter] Isn’t that the next thing you do? You get your Enneagram, and then you think, Wait, what’s my husband’s number? How do those interplay?

Laura: And what are the wings doing? How can we be healthy together?! Totally, totally, totally.

So, to understand this, we can go back to the Creation account. We pulled out a couple of principles. One thing we see obviously in the Creation account is we really long to know ourselves and long to be known. We think things like, If they could only understand me, even my sinful tendencies, they would just love me more. We equate being known with being loved.

Emily: Yeah. Our kids, for the Christmas program this year, did this song called, “My Holy Holey Hole.” [Laughter] You’ve heard it! They sing, My holy holey hole! So, we all have a holy hole in our hearts that can only be filled by Jesus. [Laughter]

Laura: Aww.

Emily: So what I’m trying to say is we’re all created to be known by our Creator. There’s the deep holy hole in all our hearts that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God. They were naked, they were unashamed. They didn’t have any baggage they carried around, nothing they hid. They were known by God himself and enjoyed relationship with him. We long for that.

On the other side of the Fall, we experience separation from God, and we need Christ to come allow us to have that relationship with him again. Now, the reality is we can only pursue knowledge of ourselves—who we are and who we’re created to be—in the Word of God and getting to know him; we do all the things we talk about every week here on Risen Motherhood. But the way personality tests fit into this is they can take us down this path of pursuit that feels like a bandaid, like a little bit of a nugget of truth. You start to pull on that string, but what you realize is it’s never-ending, and it never really goes anywhere satisfying. It does make us start to think that it’ll give us a greater grasp on who we are, and our purpose in the world, and how we fit into the whole universe.

Laura: Mhmm, that’s totally right. The other piece we see is we long for the power the little piece of the personality tests brings.

Emily: I can now manipulate my personality and everyone around me to do what I need!

Laura: Yeah! And that’s why we advertise it everywhere and push it out on social media, so everyone will know how to interact with me, and why I sin and what I do. But we see that this is really nothing new. Eve did this when she took a bite of the fruit. She wanted knowledge. She walked with the source of all knowledge; she could’ve asked God absolutely anything, but she wanted to be in control, have the power, and be able to wield it at her own whims.

I think we do this same thing Eve did when we believe if we know our personality test, understand how we work and what makes us tick, we’ll gain knowledge to help us control our lives. Because personality tests are often kind of accurate, you know? They do reveal strengths and weaknesses. They have this promise if we can balance them correctly and figure out how to be the healthy version of whatever it is, we’re going to be the captain of our souls and the masters of our fate—that Invictus stuff. Since the Garden, we’ve longed to be God, but only he is fully sovereign. But personality tests makes us feel a little bit god-ly.

In the context of our relationships, all of us experience brokenness, whether that’s a repeated conflict with our husbands, parent, or coworker. We feel like if we can just figure it out, then the sin and pain in this relationship will be gone. We can equate personality tests with a savior. It just can’t do that; it will never heal or be perfect. We’re so tempted to think it will.

Laura: So that’s why we all love personality tests so much. We want to move to that second question about what role these play. We’re not against self-knowledge, and neither is God’s word. In fact, it encourages us to grow in self-knowledge but also in knowledge of God. And those things go in tandem.

There’s this element of relief when you find out your Enneagram number. You’re like, That’s me. Somebody knows me! We’re tempted when we make decisions to add our personality test to the mix, but should we be doing that? Is that something that should happen? Should we be spending hours and hours with our husband, our friends, and our family talking about our personality typology? These are some of the questions to ask to figure out the role of personality tests are supposed to play.

Emily: Yeah, I think in motherhood, specifically, we have to remember our personality isn’t ultimately what defines us. I know for me, it’s easy to take a typology or whatever I heard on this personality test and push that into motherhood, explaining away something that’s hard for me to do or something God is calling me to do. Some common examples might be:

You know, I’m an introvert, I just can’t deal with people at my house and being hospitable. I’m just not going to do that. It’s not my personality.

You know what? I’m an Enneagram 1, so I get upset when people don’t live up to my high standards, and that’s just the way I am and people need to deal with it. I need things to be my way or else—that’s just how God made me.

Laura: Ouch, Emmy, I’m an Enneagram 1. [Laughter] Did you remember that I am?

Emily: I have seven 1s around me, so… [Laughter]

Laura: You need us bossy 1s! [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah...that was an exaggeration. [Laughter]

Laura: I was thinking, I think she’s heard that from me before.

Emily: Okay, I’ll do one for me. I get really wrapped up about feeling scattered. I’m feeling scattered and disorganized; I’m just not really self-disciplined, so of course I can’t figure out how to plan meals, organize our schedule, or get everything under control! That’s just the way I am.

Laura: So, as we said, your personality isn’t what defines you. There’s value in understanding ourselves, but that knowledge of yourself shouldn’t confine you to certain boxes, decisions, or even an action. As believers, we’re only ultimately defined by Christ’s atoning work on the cross. I think that’s where we have to see the examples Emily gave; your type isn’t an excuse for a sinful behavior. It’s really dangerous territory when we start to do this. We’re basically saying, I can be anyone I want. It doesn’t matter who God says I should be like; this is who I am. But you know what? God says, Be holy as I am holy. That leaves no room for sin.

Emily: Yeah, ooh. And we have to compare everything against the Word of God as it provides everything we need for life and godliness. We have the helper, the Holy Spirit, if we’re trusting in Christ. Our type, or personality, or whatever our test results gave us say one thing, but what does God’s word say? I think something that plays out in this conversation is where we’re weak. Personality tests tend to point out where we’re strong and special, and where we’re weak, they say, Oh, just don’t worry about that, or, Just balance it out. But really, weakness is right where God wants us—a humble posture of recognizing our need for him. It’s not something to manipulate; it’s something to take to the Lord, and he can work and show his strength and his ability to transform us into the image of his Son as we continue to walk with him. That’s grace. And we want that in our lives. If we’re clinging so tightly to our personality tests that we can’t ever be weak and come to God asking for him to help us, we’re totally missing out on one of the essential things about Christianity and having a relationship with God.

Laura: Amen. That is so true. I think a lot of us are asking, How am I living up to being the Myer-Briggs letters I am? I don’t even know my own letters. Or, How am I living up to the Enneagram number? But our question really should be: How am I growing in holiness? How am I growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness? Into Christlikeness? Like Emily said, that knowledge of self shouldn’t lead us to pride or a desire to become that best version of our personality test, but it should lead us on our knees to Christ. That’s huge in all of this.

Emily: Right, and I think we said this earlier, but it’s worth saying again: we actually are designed to only understand ourselves in light of God and who he is and the way he has chosen to define us. I think it’s tempting to think we can understand ourselves more if we go down a path that has nothing to do with God. But we actually experience that greater fulfillment the more we’re in relationship with God. The more we know his character, the better we truly understand ourselves. It’s funny, because we just want to disconnect it, but it can’t be disconnected.

Laura: So now we want to look at the second principle: our personality isn’t our destiny. We talked about how our personality isn’t our definition; it doesn’t define who we are. We have to be very careful to be looking at who we are in Christ. With this piece, it’s looking at tomorrow and the next day as we grow and change, and ultimately, where we’re headed as we make our decisions in motherhood. We have to remember we can change. Just because you tested something on some personality test, doesn’t mean that’s who you are and you’re stuck in that forever.

Emily: In Isaiah 64:8, it talks about how God is the potter and we’re the clay; he molds us and shapes us according to his purposes. So he’s really the one who is formulating—and who we submit to as he formulates—who we’re going to become. Laura had a good example about this that I wanted her to share.

Laura: Growing up, my dad was a ceramic artist and professor. In the back of our house, we had a ceramic studio, which was really pretty cool. I remember going out there as a little girl and he’d be throwing pots, working with the clay, adding the glaze, and all of those things. He taught me how to do that as a little girl—or he tried to teach me. I remember watching him, and it was so amazing to watch his hands as he took this unsightly lump of clay and really molded and shaped it into something really beautiful and useful. I’d get on the wheel and try; he’d be behind me, of course, trying to help me. But ultimately, when I tried to do it, I’d put pressure in all the wrong places, and I didn’t use the right amount of water. The whole thing would start shaking and quaking, and the whole thing would slide right off the potter’s wheel. I never was good at it, and I actually kind of regret never really learning how to throw a pot well. It was just amazing  to watch him work with that clay! I think that plays really well into this, because often, we’re trying to take our own personalities into our hands. We believe we can become the ultimate version of our Myers-Briggs, or our Sandlot character, or whatever it is that we tested for, but we’re just like me behind the potter’s wheel. We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re on a path of destruction. We might start to take some shape, but it doesn’t last and it doesn’t allow us to reach our full potential of what we truly could be. God’s plans for us are higher than we could ever imagine and too wonderful for us to attain, but the potter—like my dad, the expert—is so skilled. God knows the exact amount of pressure we need in our life, and he knows where to put it. As we grow in our knowledge and understanding of ourselves, we have to trust God to do that work and for him to be the potter who presses, releases, and forms us in the way he desires us to become and grow in holiness—to be holy as he is holy, loving our neighbors, growing in wisdom, and mercy, and goodness, and all of those things. I think we have to remember who’s in charge and that we’re not very good at being in charge when we start taking it into our own hands.

Emily: I love that example and the words you’re using—pressure. That’s what it can feel like whenever God is conforming us to the image of Christ. These are all of those experiences that come up in motherhood everyday, the circumstances that feel like God is applying pressure to our lives as things don’t fit our personality the way we think should. I don’t feel like I have the personality to do x, y, and z. I’m not a mom that does whatever this thing is over here, so I’m not going to go that route. But God is actually applying pressure to us, saying, This is uncomfortable to you. This may hurt. It might make you cry and come to your knees. But this is what I’m using to conform you to Christlikeness—the trials, the things where you don’t feel like you’re doing a good enough job. That’s where we shouldn’t disregard the thing that isn’t our personality and throw it out the window in motherhood, because these are the moments God is often using to draw us to himself.

Laura: Yes, so that means be willing to take risks and jump out of your personality box, trusting God has great plans for you. If you feel him bringing things into your life that feel uncomfortable and you want to say, Nope, not gonna do it because that’s not who I am!, remember you can always change and grow. Ultimately, God is much more concerned about how you make the decision and the process of pruning you in that decision rather than the decision you make.

Thinking through this whole show, we want to remind you there’s a lot of value in being known and it’s okay to want to grow in your own understanding of yourself. We do think there are good things to personality tests; I know we’re kind of ripping on them a little bit here towards the end. We do believe they can be really helpful too.

Emily: Yeah, and one helpful thing in particular is sometimes as we want to look at our heart attitudes, examine what we worship, and see areas where we habitually sin—by not loving others and not worshipping God—personality tests can help us. They might help us see patterns, reveal things we’re wrapped around too much, and identify what motivates us when God should be motivating us. So they’re not an end in and of themselves, but they can be one of many tools used. Most importantly, we use the Word of God, but certainly, I’ve learned from personality tests. I need to be careful because my tendency is to do that, so what does that mean about my heart?

Laura: Yeah, I think they’ve been really helpful for revealing sin and areas of need for repentance. I think that’s really helpful. Also, personality tests can be really beneficial in expressing communication in your marriage or with other people. They can help put into words what you’ve known about yourself but don’t know how to articulate. And the same goes vice versa. Maybe you see something in your husband and think, I don’t really understand that, but then someone in a personality test has written it down and showed you. There are a lot of positive benefits in them for sure.

Emily: We’ve really seen that in Laura and I’s working relationship and in our own marriages. Having words for something can help you realize that something isn’t sin, it’s just that this person thinks differently than me. They were created differently than me. They like to do different things than I like to do. So, they’re not trying to hurt me, they’re not out to get me; they’re just different. Which is like, Oh! Now I can approach them with a greater degree of love and understanding! I think it can remind us God created everyone differently, so praise him. And I calm down a little bit now.

Laura: I think there are areas where personality tests sort of go wrong. That’s not me, that doesn’t sound like me! I think that reminds us the only one who can fully know us is God. There isn’t anyone else out there that can fully know every area and part of you intimately, but God does. What great hope that is that there is someone out there who knows every facet of our being even better than we know ourselves. That’s an area we can choose to worship God in, and in all of this.

Emily: We wanted to bring this up even in the context of motherhood, because we think it is a thing that impacts us on a daily basis—the way we think and the things we value. If you want to find out more, definitely visit our website risenmotherhood.com and follow us on social media @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Ep. 118 || Gray Areas: Personal Conscience in Motherhood Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood—the very first of 2019. I’m Emily, and I’m here with my sister-in-law, Laura.

Laura: Hello everyone!

Emily: And we’re really excited to be continuing our theme of “Unity in the Gospel.” We’ll be kicking off a new theme in September. We have a great spring line-up—even though it’s not spring yet. Let’s be honest, it’s freezing cold.

Laura: We’re pretending. [Laughter]

Emily: We’re pretending like spring is coming. We have a lot of great shows lined up for you about things like vacation, ministry, church, expectations, work and motherhood, dreams, and all kinds of things.

Laura: Yeah, topics that we’re both really excited to talk about, because Emily and I’ve had interest in. We’ve wanted to share them by going back to our roots of airing our conversations on the podcast.

Emily: We also have an exciting announcement to start the year! We’re officially a nonprofit, which is something we’ve been working towards since last summer. That’s definitely a huge behind-the-scenes task we’ve been pressing towards, and we’re so thankful those pieces came together. So now we have even more people on our team: our Board of Directors.

Laura: Yes! We have a phenomenal group of people God really pulled together. Emily and I were floored when all of them said, “Yes.” We’re going to list them here for you, and we hope you recognize some of the names and head to our site to check out the others. We have links to their ministries so you can get to know them more.

Karen Hodge serves as our Board Chair, and then we have Melissa Kruger, Abigail Dodds, Eric Schumacher, Ruth Simons, and Quina Aragon all serving as Board Members.

This is really exciting to us to have wise people over us shepherding R|M into the future. It’s going to be really great.

With becoming a nonprofit, usually your donations become tax-deductible. Many of you probably already know this. Because of that, we’re going to be moving our hosting platform for donations onto our own site (from Patreon), but we’re still offering perks! Let’s talk about that for a sec, because that’s fun.

Emily: Yes! So, at the $5 level, you’ll receive a new newsletter called, “The R|M Report.” It’s like a ministry report you’d get from a missionary you support. We’re going to show you behind-the-scenes things, ways God is working, updates about what’s going on at R|M. At the $30 level and above, you’ll receive an exclusive R|M donor thank-you mug. It’s all really exciting. And if you switch over from Patreon to our new platform, there will be an exclusive perk for you at the beginning of your switch!

Laura: Yeah, you should’ve gotten an email about that! We’re really grateful for your contributions. We definitely could not do it without your help. Head over to risenmotherhood.com/give to learn more, check out the platform, and learn about the Board of Directors!

Emily: So, we’re excited to kick off the year with a topic we can’t believe we haven’t talked about yet.

Laura: Oh my word, yes. Well, it’s sort of how R|M was born—we’re talking about personal conscience—but we didn’t know it yet. We didn’t necessarily have the label to explain what we were already talking about every week.

Emily: Right. You’ve probably heard us say things like, Oh that’s a gray area, or, That’s something the Bible doesn’t prescribe exactly, or, We have freedom in Christ here, or, This is a matter of conscience. I think we say something like that every show [laugher], because that’s what most of our shows deal in—the thousand daily choices we make that aren’t clear [in the Bible] about what we should do.

Laura: What kind of food am I going to feed my family? How much screen time should I show my kids? How am I going to educate my kids? How do I train, equip, disciple your kids practically? What is my work life/home life balance look like? What’s my childcare situation? We could go on and on; basically you can look at any show in our archive and see there’s personal conscience at play.

Emily: I think in our modern culture—specifically in motherhood—we have so many choices. If you’re somebody who hopes in Christ and you generally understand the commands of God, you know things like you’re not supposed to steal. But with all the other choices, it’s quite a bit more complicated. So Laura and I’ve been surprised at how little this topic is tackled by mainstream Christian resources out there.

Laura: There’s not enough.

Emily: This is something we deeply deal in every single day and has a huge impact on the choices we make, and yet, it’s something we don’t think very deeply about.

Laura: And I think it’s something if you really understood what a personal conscience is and how it’s different than the Holy Spirit—which we’re going to get into—it would change how you view things in motherhood. I know for me personally, I’ve seen a major change in my conscience in my time as a mom. I think when I was a first-time mom, I saw things more as black-and-white or as right-and-wrong. Now, as I’ve matured as a mom, had more experience, and seen more things—I’ve realized my conscience has changed. It’s not the right and wrong has changed, because those things hold fast to the Word of God. What I view as right and wrong has changed in motherhood. I think a lot of you can identify; prior to being a mom, you thought, When I’m mom, I’ll never let my kids do that, but that you’re a mom, you let your kids do that. That’s called personal conscience! [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah [laughter]. This past fall, I was going through some open submissions articles and ran across one that gave some good cultural examples that impacted me. I think when I’ve encountered these conscience topics in the context of cultural differences it makes more sense to me in the context of my local community. It helps me understand the mom at church who does something different than me. So, this lady’s story was she was living as a missionary with her husband. What do we do in America if your kid’s Cheez-It falls on the floor? You pick it back up!

Laura: It’s fine! Three second rule! [Laughter]

Emily: Or five or 10 second rule!

Laura: 20 minutes? Whatevs! [Laughter]

Emily: Most of us don’t think too hard about something that falls on your kitchen floors. You just quickly hand it back to your child. Well, in this country they lived in, that was considered something wrong and dangerous to do for children; it wasn’t okay to do. They had a babysitter who would throw food away every time it fell on the floor and stare at them like they were crazy for handing food back to their child. I thought it was a really interesting picture of two things. Both sides would probably say either, This is totally fine, or, This is totally wrong. It’s not prescribed by the Word of God, but their consciences were telling them how to respond in that situation. So, there are a lot of things like that in motherhood, especially when you look internationally.

Laura: Yeah, so today we want to tackle the question, If my conscience isn’t always right or wrong, and God’s word is never wrong but doesn’t speak to every situation, how do I know what to do in motherhood? Like we said, there aren’t a lot of great resources on personal conscience, but there is one we really like. A lot of what we’re talking about on this show stems from Emily and I reading this book and having discussions about how it applied to our own lives: Conscience: What it is, How to Train it, and Loving Those Who are Different. We’re going to link it in our show notes, and we hope you read it. It’d be a great book to read with your small group, a group of moms, or something like that. It helped us understand a lot, and we hope it will be even better at explaining this topic than we’ll be able to do in a 20 minute show.

Emily: And it has great graphs in it too! Things that make you think, Oh, that makes such sense when you draw it as a picture! I hope you guys are very curious about what we’re talking about.

Laura: Go read it!

Emily: We’re going to give a general picture of what personal conscience is and talk about its application in the life of a mom. First off, what is our personal conscience, Laura?

Laura: Oh, you’re going to ask me this?

Emily: Yeah, you’re on the spot. Answer it! [Laughter]

Laura: Okay, so this was a really good thing for me to draw a distinction in. Our personal conscience is your personal sense of right and wrong. It’s the moral compass we refer to in certain situations. God gives every human being a conscience; it’s that weird feeling you get when your kid watches too much tv, and you feel a little guilty; or maybe that feeling you wrestle with when you walk out the door to go to work, or if you’re not working but feel like you should be. It’s the pit in your stomach after you’ve gossiped about a friend at the playdate. It’s the moral compass inside of us, not the Holy Spirit. It’s your own personal law book.

Emily: One thing to note is God gave these to us to listen to and follow. We’re using the phrase “moral compass” because it’s a commonly understood phrase in culture, but it’s not the way the Bible talks about it. God provided the Bible as the universal truth for all people for all of time; it’s not relative, and it applies to everyone. But then there are gray areas for you personally that don’t apply to your friend, or mother-in-law, or anyone else; that personal conscience is meant for you individually.

Laura: Right. And everyone’s conscience is different—as Emily said—within these gray areas, because they’re not always calibrated to God’s word, which means they’re not always right. We have to remember we’re all sinful humans living in a broken world, and we have consciences that deviate from God’s word and his ways. We’re probably getting some things right, but we’re also probably getting some things wrong. Our consciences are really influenced by our upbringings, the culture we’re in, our personality, our parents, our fears; so they constantly need to be examined and submitted to God’s word.

Emily: Mhmm. Another thing about personal conscience is they can be further damaged or dulled. As Laura said, we’re all sinful, so all of our consciences are getting things wrong. But when we ignore our conscience without seeking to understand what’s going on or why we feel wrong about something—and don’t realign it with God’s word—we actually desensitize ourselves to it. One common example of desensitizing would be something like watching a tv show with a little more violence or intensity. We’ll get used to it, and then suddenly, we’re able to watch more of it, and over time, without even realizing it, we’ve been sliding away from what’s okay for us to be doing.

So that’s why we’ve said on so many shows that whenever we have that feeling of guilt, don’t stuff it down and run away. That desensitizes or dulls your conscience; examine it and realign your conscience with God’s word and possibly even repent if needed. So, they definitely can be shaped.

Laura: Yes, and with that shaping, they can slide away from God, his word, and what he deems is right. But they can also become more in line. I really liked the word they used in the book, which is, You can recalibrate your conscience. When dealing with the big, hot topics in mommy world, many of us have overactive consciences. Like we mentioned, our consciences are influenced by a lot of different things, but when we’re believers, the only thing that should inform them is our belief in God’s word. As we grow in our knowledge of him and grow in maturity through confession and prayer, I think we’ll find what we need to hold fast to in motherhood and life. We’ll figure out where our consciences are correct. We’ll figure out the things we can let go of and not judge one another or feel guilt over, because we’ll know there’s freedom to do them in different ways since the Bible doesn’t speak specifically to how it should play out.

Emily: Right, hence why at R|M we harp over and over again about why we need to continually study God’s word and live in community with other believers, because that’s how we recalibrate over time. Everybody has something a little wonky about how they think! [Laughter]

Laura: You’re not perfect! We’re not perfect! [Laughter]

Emily: And we need other strong believers help us suss out what’s true and what we’re holding too tightly to.

Laura: So we want to cover a couple more principles from scripture before we go into a scenario for you guys. First, remember God wants us to listen and act according to our conscience where it aligns with his word. Again, this is to the best we can determine it in our spiritual growth in that moment. If your conscience is pricked and you want to stuff it down, ignore it, and continue on without stopping to evaluate, that’s sin. God uses our personal conscience and some of the emotions it stirs up in us to help us see red flags. It may be something we can let go, but it may be something we need to confess, deal with, and change moving forward. We see a lot of this in Romans 14, which is the famous passage everyone pulls from on this. Go and read that passage. We referenced it on several shows in the past, if you want to learn more.

Emily: It’s the, For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin, bit. God wants us to do everything in faith for what we think is obedience towards him. Second, God doesn’t want us to be another person in a position where they violate their conscience. Again, Romans 14 goes into some interesting situations where Paul helps believers live together in unity by showing how they have freedom and can live things out differently, but they shouldn’t put their neighbor in the position to do something they feel is really wrong. It’s not very loving.

Laura: And God doesn’t want us to use our freedom in Christ to be unloving to other people. Christ laid down his rights for us. Just because our conscience is clear in doing something, we don’t have to keep doing it in a way that causes someone else to stumble. Paul conformed to what helped his fellow believers who were weaker in the faith; he didn’t hold us his flag to show he could do things without it bothering him. He changed according to what helped another believer not stumble. We never want to wear a big badge of pride, acting like it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

Emily: Laura and I had so many good conversations on this, because this is something our generation needs to be careful of. We can be more focused on, We’re believing the gospel, we’re free in Christ, and we can all make our own decisions, but we’re also called to love our neighbor and be holy. We don’t get to wear “freedom in Christ” as a means to hurt someone else. Jesus was the perfect example of laying down all of his rights and “freedom,” so we could be loved and have a relationship with God. It’s really important we’re not using it as an opportunity for sin or righteousness.

Laura: We want to talk quickly through a very high-level example, so don’t read too much into this. It’s something we think a lot of moms deal with, so we can show how personal conscience plays out differently for these two women.

First, we have Lucy, and she has a couple of kiddos. One of her children gets sick with a nasty cold virus, and she gives her some over-the-counter infant medication for the pain she seems to be in. She takes her to the doctor the next day just to make sure everything is okay. She has an ear infection; she puts her on prescription meds. Lucy gives it to her daughter, thanking God for the ability to have medicine. Her daughter seems back to normal in 24 hours.

Emily: All right, and then we have Sarah, another mom. She and her husband have twins, and they both get a nasty cold virus. They’re waking up in the night, they’re spiking fevers, and they seem to be in pain. But instead of going to the doctor, Sarah wants to try some at-home techniques first. So she thanks the Lord for the essential oils she has in the cabinet and the remedies she learned from her grandma and friends. She monitors and comforts her sons over the course of several days. Eventually, they start feeling better, and she’s really glad she didn’t take them to the doctor or use special medications. She feels totally at peace in the way she handled the situation.

Laura: There are a few base level assumptions here. There could be some heart issues going on, but we’re assuming we’re not dealing with a ton of pride or idolatry in their hearts. They’re just two moms acting according to their personal consciences doing what they thought would best honor God and love their children well.

Emily: The first thing to keep in mind—and we haven’t quite mentioned this yet—is there are a lot of strong feelings that accompany personal conscience. You may be feeling them just listening to that example! You’ve drawn battle lines! [Laughter]

Laura: You know who was right and who was wrong! [Laughter]

Emily: You’re team Lucy or team Sarah! [Laughter] Now you guys know how these mommy wars now happen. There are people who believe this is the most holy or godly way. We’re not saying you shouldn’t have an opinion or strong feelings about this, but this is an area of conscience. We need to put that aside to examine the situation.

Laura: We’re assuming this is a gray area, even if you have strong opinions about it. We see Lucy and Sarah both had a general freedom in Christ to use either type of medicinal treatment for their children, but they’re both bound to their consciences. This is where it gets fun and interesting to have these discussions and it’s why we wanted to talk about it today. We see Lucy’s conscience has no problem giving Tylenol or over-the-counter pain medications, and she also felt she was trusting God, in faith, to take action. It would’ve violated her own conscience if she chose to stay home and tried something different. She wouldn’t have felt comfortable; she probably would’ve felt immense guilt doing something like that, because her conscience wasn’t calibrated in a way that believed it was fine to keep her child at home and do what Sarah’s conscience said.

Emily: Sarah’s conscience, on the other hand, would’ve been violated if she ignored her strong conviction to use homeopathic remedies and grabbed the Tylenol right away. Her conscience might’ve told her it wasn’t right or the way to love her children. For her, acting in faith meant she used the tools at home, trusting God to act in that situation, as her first step.

Laura: One thing to keep in mind, conscience can be recalibrated. Neither of these women are doing something in direct violation to God’s word nor does God say we can’t use prescription meds or homeopathic meds; that isn’t found in the Bible. These women can recalibrate, change their ways later in life, so keep that in mind. Second, our hope and prayer for every mom listening and feeling differently on topics like this is to remember Lucy and Sarah can go to church, be great friends, and minister the gospel to one another in peace. They probably have a lot of other things in common besides this one issue they take different stances on.

Emily: This is where our unity in the gospel theme really comes into play. There are things we all hold to as Christian believers, things we hold to as individual, local believers; but then there are other things we spend each week saying, We need to apply the gospel here. It’s a slippery slope to think since it’s not in the Bible, we can just do it, but we take the biblical principles and in every situation ask, How can I best live, in faith and obedience, according to these in the circumstances God has given me with all the things he’s given me? That’s what applying personal conscience it.

Laura: I want to make a quick note, because maybe you’re wondering what the biblical principles are. If you’re new to R|M, we talk about it every week on the show. We’re to grow in holiness, live out the Great Commission, do the greatest commandments. Know there are true principles we hold to that we won’t compromise on, and no believer should. While we’re not talking about all the principles specifically on today’s show, our hope is you take the R|M ministry as a whole and see there are principles we would never compromise on. Today, we’re talking about these matters of third, fourth, seventh importance. [Laughter]

Remember what this means for Sarah and Lucy’s relationships. They’re not judging each other for what the other one did in the situation—going to the doctor or not. Sarah’s not passing oils to Lucy saying, You should’ve done this first.

Emily: And we don’t want to close the door for conversation. You can talk, but there’s a big difference between, Hey, why do you do it that way? Can you explain that to me? versus a judgment call saying, That’s sin. We’re all doing that everyday in our relationships—having conversations to understand why people do what they do. But we don’t need to judge and condemn it as sin. As we’re closing up this show, we have a couple of questions to leave you with:

What are some areas of motherhood where you’re continually feeling guilty? Have you pressed into that to see if you’re sinning against your conscience? Try to figure out how you can realign your conscience with God’s word in this area.

Laura: What gray areas of motherhood are you trying to make others conform to? This is a great spot to see if you’re really holding fast to God’s word and his principles, or if you’re trying to impose your own principles on other people. We know this is a big topic, and we barely even scratched the surface of it.

Emily: Barely.

Laura: So go read that book, have some conversations. And if you read it, share it on social media and tag us! We’d love to see it. This is an issue that’s really near and dear to our hearts; we’re excited to be able to at least introduce it to you guys in a way that brings it up to the surface.

Emily: So true. Laura and I have both seen huge areas of growth as we’ve recalibrated our consciences during our time of doing R|M. Every time we tackle a topic, we both realize—

Laura: I’m a sinner. [Laughter]

Emily: Yes, I’m a sinner, and I was a little off. [Laughter] It’s really cool to see how God grows you in that over time. Head over to risenmotherhood.com and follow us on social media—Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter—@risenmotherhood. Thanks, guys!