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!

Ep. 117 || “Mommy, Can I Watch a Show?”: Screen Time & the Gospel 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: We’re excited to jump that most every mom faces into today’s topic: screen time. But first, we want to let you guys know we’re going on a Christmas break at Risen Motherhood. We’re going dark on social media; our website will be up, but we won’t be posting new content from December 22nd to January 1st. We do this to rest and recharge as a team, and to trust that even though we’re not producing new content or putting things out there, God still uses the ministry to reach people with the gospel—even when we’re enjoying time with our families, celebrating the birth of Christ, and looking forward to his return again. That’s what we’ll be doing during that nice black out time!

Laura: We’ll be back in January with a whole new season for you. We’ve already planned all the content, and we’re really excited. It’ll be full of some great shows for you. Now, onto our topic for today: screen time. We thought this was kind of apropos, because a lot of your children—at least ours—over the holidays probably—

Emily: Also, it’s winter! We’re inside. What is there to do? [Laughter]

Laura: —are watching a lot of tv. Right? [Laughter] Or maybe you’re traveling and you have the flip down tvs in your car. That’s why we want to tackle it today. We know all of us—at least Emily and I, and we think you’re like us—kind of want to know, How much is too much? Pediatrician, just tell me. Well, they have told us. It’s two hours a day.

Emily: We’re talking about a holy amount. Just tell me the amount that makes me a bad mom. [Laughter]

Laura: What’s godly? Yes, mhmm. That’s right!  [Laughter] So, what’s that perfect formula for knowing this is how much screen time to give and this is how my kids will turn out in a great way. But it doesn’t play out that way; every day is a little different in the life of a mom. This topic tends to be a bit divisive. So even if you want to bring it up with your mom friends, you’re not really sure if you’re dropping a bomb or not. [Laughter[

Emily: Exactly. We’re going to be discussing how the gospel applies to the How much screen time? question today. But before we jump into that, we want to clarify what we’re talking about. The screen time conversation runs the gamut from the type of content you’re showing them to how you define screen time. (What do you mean? Do you mean full access to the internet? Do you mean on a tv screen? Is it educational?)

Laura: Education is a different category. [Laughter]

Emily: So today, we’re going to narrow in on the assumptions we’re making for this conversation:

  1. We assume we’re talking to a mom who’s already using wisdom and monitoring the content. She knows what shows and videos her children are watching. She’s discussing with her husband or critically thinking on her own about what’s appropriate for her kids to watch.

  2. We assume we’re talking to a mom who’s already aware of the research out there on screen time—quantity and content quality—in terms of how that can impact development. She knows there are implications—just like in the food conversations—to the amount and type of screen time her kids are getting.

We assume you guys already know that stuff. You’ve read the Facebook articles and whatever there is out there. [ Laughter]

Laura: That’s right. All the terrifying articles. [Laughter] Instead of addressing, Are screens good or bad? or parsing out the type of content you should show your children, what we’re going to do is talk about our hearts. What is driving your use of the screen? That’s the question for today. So Emily, do you want to tell our own problems to everybody? [Laughter]

Emily: I love this part. [Laughter] Well, yeah. My biggest struggle with screen time is wanting to use if for my own convenience. Sometimes things get chaotic in our home, and I feel, This is getting really stressful, really loud. How can I get everybody to calm down and quiet down? Oh, there’s a screen for that! That can be a real temptation for me. I’ve done lots of thing throughout the years to curb that and think through that, so that’s not to say it’s unchecked. However, that’s a struggle each day as I’m think, Oh, we’re getting ready to have a little screen time here, I need to always ask myself that question, because underneath that things may feel a little too hard in parenting. Sometimes I want to use screen time instead of depending on the Lord and pressing into a really hard parenting moment. So, that’s my problem.

Laura: That’s a good one. So, as usual, Emily and I are polar opposites. I can easily feel a lot of guilt about screen time. I have a tendency to believe there’s a right and wrong amount of time for my kids to be in front of a screen. I wouldn’t say it’s a hard line; it’s a feeling of my own line I created. If they’re sick, there can be a little bit more. If they’re not, let’s stay well within those guidelines I’ve set. It’s definitely something where if I feel like I’ve surpassed the certain level, I’ll feel guilt and that there are major potential implications down the road for my children. I’ll even try to hoard up screen time. They haven’t watched anything for a couple of days, so—

Emily: No, that’s a real strategy!

Laura: Oh? Okay! It works! [Laughter]

Emily: I mean it sounds really normal! [Laughter] It’s a mental game. Well, they didn’t watch any yesterday, so we can do double today.

Laura: Double.

Emily: I hope some of you are laughing out there. [Laughter] My kids are watching double right now.

Laura: But again, the educational videos are totally a different category, right? If they’re learning to draw while watching YouTube videos, that’s “Arts and Crafts” time, not TV time. [Laughter]

Emily: As Laura and I talked through our own heart issues with screen time, we thought this was pretty representative of two big pitfalls mom can fall into. We know there are a lot of others and everything in between. We want to speak to the mom that relates to the feeling of, My screen time choices for my kids are driven by my convenience, what’s easiest, and what gets my to-do list done. And we want to speak to the mom that relates to the feeling of, I have lots of rules, everything is firm and controlled; if I hold to this standard, everything will be okay, and they’ll develop wonderfully. We want to speak the gospel into both those situations, and maybe you’ll fall somewhere in there.

Laura: We’re probably oversimplifying the heart attitudes around it, but we’re using ourselves as case studies. So, the gospel for each pitfall or tendency:

For the mom who lets convenience direct her screen time, remember God’s design. God gave moms a specific role and job to do with her children: to train, to give them instruction, to raise them in the ways of the Lord. This includes being thoughtful about screen time, using it as a tool rather than as a crutch. We have a limited amount of time with our kids, so we need to be good stewards of that time, helping them walk in what’s wise and not unwise. I think what’s important to remember is God promises he’s going to be with a mom ever step of the way, he will equip her for every good work—even when things get hard.

Emily: Another thing for that mom is to acknowledge the struggle. She’s not going to get the balance right every day. Her bent might be towards finding what’s easier either through finding the temporary fix for a situation to avoid the hard feeling or hoping to do better tomorrow. There’s good news: because of Christ, we’re a new creation. This is something I have to repeat to myself: God doesn’t want us to use our new life or our freedom in him as an opportunity for sin. He wants us to use our freedom and the grace he’s given us for good works and service. I often have to remember—and maybe the mom struggling with this pitfall has to remember too—God can work through the Holy Spirit, he’s powerful, and he’s able to help grow, change, and equip a mom. She can remember to focus on God and the design he has for her life, and to trust him to help her accomplish that.

Laura: Just a quick note: the sin issue isn’t her handing her child a screen or turning on a show. That’s not a sin; it’s the heart attitude behind the reason for why you’re running to that show. Are you running to a TV show or to God? We’ll parse this out later, but when we talk about sin, we want to clarify it’s the heart.

Okay, the next mom. We’re talking to me. [Laughter] This mom uses screen time’s rules to feel in control. She often believes—whether spoken or even known—it will aide in a specific outcome. I often think, Oh no, I don’t believe it’ll make my child a better child. But deep down, as I think about all the things I try and want to control in my children’s lives, that’s my ultimate goal; I think finagling these things will help me produce more godly or well-rounded children. Again, we need to remember God’s design for this mom. Ultimately, remember God is in control of all things, not her. He’s in control of the hearts and lives of our children. A mom doesn’t have control over how her children turn out; even if she manages the screen time perfectly, she can’t manufacture their future, personalities, or tendencies. It’s so important for me to remember external regulations don’t change hearts; they reveal how short we really fall.

Emily: Yeah, and underneath that, it’s a pride issue of wanting to play God or being legalistic about how she can check a box or follow the rules—instead of thinking how to love others and love God. That mom can remember the good news: her righteousness isn’t found in keeping all the rules she’s made for herself or holding to certain screen time standards; her righteousness is only found in Christ. His blood and payment for her sin is the only thing to justify her or her children in life.

Laura: I think it’s good to remember God doesn’t love a family that watches TV more or a family that watches less; it’s not a means of our justification. However, God often uses screen time, or TV, or move, or all those things for our sanctification.

Emily: This mom can focus on loving God and loving others. She can rely on him one moment at a time, one day at a time, and assess situations through the lense of, How can I love this person right now? Sometimes that might include being more flexible with the rules—

Laura: This mama needs to relax. [Laughter] I’m preaching to myself.

Emily: And sometimes it does mean loving them by keeping those standards. We’re not saying to sin against your conscience. Think through those things and check if the standards reveal your beliefs are biblical and conscience-binding or because it’s an arbitrary line you made up.

Laura: As the measure of your good mom status. There are a lot of circumstantial and cultural influences around screen time as all of us know. The Bible doesn’t prescribe what the right amount is for each family. This is so good for both moms to remember. What does the Bible tell us to do? Well, it tells us we’re justified by faith, not the law. We’re to live out the Great Commision and greatest commandment. We’re to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. We’re to bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. We’re to teach God’s word and commands diligently to our children. We’re to teach them to walk in the truth. As we walk out in obedience what God and his word says, the Holy Spirit is going to be faithful to convict you and to guide your screen time decisions as you take it step by step, day by day. Know that it’s probably going to change at different times throughout the day, weeks, and years.

Emily: Let’s get into some practical. I want to go down a tangent right there, but I’m going to stop and move on. [Laughter] We want to throw out a question to ask yourself as you try to live according to the word, through the power of the Spirit, as you do this day by day:

What are your family values and how do your screen time practices help you achieve those or hinder those? If God’s design for us, as moms, is to disciple our children, minister to our families, value the local church, practice hospitality, and all these other things like jobs and community work—that’s going to take a lot of time. We have to consider all the complexities and understand there may be some times our kids may use more screen time while we complete those things; there may be other times when we realize we’ve eaten up a lot of productive time for the Kingdom by entertaining ourselves or our children, so we need to watch less screen time in order to minister or disciple our children. It could be both. It could be either. And it could be all in the same day. [Laughter]

Laura: I love it. [Laughter] We have a few concrete examples. I think I may have shared this on the show before, but a girlfriend of mine texted us all before a playdate and asked, Hey can we put on a show for the kids, so us moms can take time to pray and talk about the deeper things of the heart? And all of us moms were like, Oh yeah! So there can be times when you’ve all agreed on a helpful use for screens. But there can be other times, like Emily said, when instead of watching an evening show, we should have family quiet time, spending time reading the Bible or reading books together. Maybe one of your family values is building a culture of literature, which means a little less time watching screens. It’s very much a matter of heart and your purpose for the screen time; you have to be thoughtful and intentional. We really believe the Holy Spirit is going to convict every mama and in a slightly different way. Emily and I are convicted differently in how we use screen time in our families, and that’s okay.

Emily: Yeah, and those are super helpful examples. There also doesn’t have to be a super holy reason for using screens. We don’t want to overthink it; we’re not saying to overcomplicate it. Over the course of time—whether it’s weeks or months—sometimes we’ll see a pattern developing. It’s more when you see that pattern, or you’re feeling conviction regularly, or something seems off, that maybe it’s time to sit down with your husband to evaluate this against the Word of God. Dig into the guilt a little bit—

Laura: Or fear.

Emily: —yes, or fear. See what’s under there, and see if that aligns with the truth or where it’s coming from. It’s a good reason to dig.

Laura: Dig a little. The second thing we want to bring up are a couple of thoughts to help you think through your screen time and  figure out which way you lean or if you’re feeling guilt or fear:

Do you feel a need to justify how much or how little screen time you use? Emily’s probably saying things like, I have a lot of kids, it’s been a hard day, I was up all night. And I’m probably saying, Oh, I’m so thoughtful and careful about quantity levels, because this is so important to brain development. There can be things we both say in our hearts, say aloud, or even use to convince others to convert to our way, whether that be, Hey, just be a little more relaxed about it! Or, Here’s some education and research you can think about! Those are some things to ask yourself about what you’re saying to yourself and to others, and what you’re thinking in your heart when another mom talks about the way she uses screen time.

Emily: We’re all going to have different personal convictions around screen time, and that’s totally fine. We’re asking ourselves how we reflect Christ’s love to our family and to those around us, what we’re known for, and what we love the most. That leads to the question of, How do we change in this if we want to be healthy? It doesn’t start with coming up with new rules or different rules. It might include that, but it starts with being in relationship with God and others, daily renewing our minds with the Word of God and the truth of the gospel. Out of the overflow fo that, God may give us practical ideas or encourage us that part of walking this out is taking a break from the screen for awhile or slotting it into a specific part of our day. We may need to relax for a little while, trusting God and praying when it comes up. There are a million practical ways we could respond. The practical, we hope, follows the heart transformation through focus and dependence on God.

Laura: I think that sums it up really well. I think it’s a big responsibility to raise children in the Lord, but God has also given us a life we can enjoy. No matter which way you swing, love holiness more than you love the screen. With that, we hope you’ll head to our show notes to check out more information on this topic. We’ll dig up some good resources and share them with you. Of course, you can follow us on social media @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thanks guys for joining us. Have a wonderful holiday break!

Ep. 116 || Leaning into Grace: An Interview on Faithful Motherhood with Debbie Martens Transcript

Laura: Today we’re excited to welcome Debbie Martens to the Risen Motherhood podcast. Debbie is a woman who’s invested deeply in both Emily and I at different points in our lives, pointing us to Christ and challenging us in our walks with God. Debbie’s interview is part of our series “Faithful Motherhood,” where we talk with women whose children are grown about how the gospel has impacted their motherhood over the years. These aren’t meant to be prescriptive interviews for how to do motherhood; they’re just a glimpse at one woman’s unique walk and lessons learned as she lived out her calling in the Lord. Today we’re talking with Debbie about the value of bringing her children alongside her in her work, what it looks like to maintain a commitment to God’s word in the little years, and she opens up about struggling through a season of anger while raising her young children. Debbie is a wife and a mom to seven grown children, and a grandmother to five. She leads her local church’s children’s ministry, maintains a small acreage in central Iowa, and is an avid bread baker and seamstress. Now let’s get to the show with Emily, Debbie, and myself.

Laura: Well, hi Debbie. Thanks for so much for joining us on Risen Motherhood today!

Debbie: Thank you. It’s a privilege to get to be with you.

Laura: Oh, we’re so excited to have you. I have Emily here with me as well. As you heard in the intro, Debbie is one of these people who will always hold a special place in Emily and my life. She’s invested in us at different points in our lives, which is neat; maybe we can share a little bit of that. She’s someone who’s really lived a faithful and godly life. So, we’re excited for her to be able to share her wisdom today with all of you guys.

Emily: I know! I feel like we’re letting you in on a little treat. [Laughter] We’re actually recording in Debbie’s kitchen, which Laura and I have both spent lots of time in. So, it’s a joy to give you guys a peek into our local lives and our personal relationships that have really formed us as we communicate the gospel. Debbie is someone who poured gospel truth into us, and she’s one of the many reasons why we have anything to share.

Laura: When we talk about older, wiser women on the show, this is one of them. You guys are going to hear her firsthand. So, with all that lead-in, Debbie—


Debbie: No pressure. [Laughter]

Laura: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Help our listeners get to know you. How many children do you have? What’s a day look like in your life?

Debbie: Well, thank you for that gracious introduction, but honestly, it’s fun to be with you girls. I tell people often that I try to rub shoulders with the younger generation, because I don’t want to grow old but also because I have so much yet to learn from you. Thank you for faithfully proclaiming the gospel to young women. It’s a privilege to get to be a part of that.

So, I’m married to Terry, and we’ve been married for 41 years—if you can believe that. We’re blessed with seven precious children, and they really are precious. We have two girls, then five boys; they range in age from 37 to 22. Four of our seven children are married, so we’ve added to our children; I regard them as additions. We have a son-in-law and three daughters-in-law. So, we’ve expanded our family. We currently have six grandchildren I absolutely adore. Right now, we’re open nesters.

Emily: I like that!

Debbie: Yeah, we’re not empty, we’re just open to whatever God might bring our way. All our children have moved out of our home. Some are close by, some far away.

Laura: And what does one of your days look like? What are you involved with?

Debbie: My days look a whole lot different than they did when the children were around and growing up. I seek to volunteer where I can within my local community like through the schools. Right now, I’m part of a tutor program in our county, and I really appreciate that. I tutor some children in reading. My days are filled with whatever Terry needs me to be doing, and life on the acreage keeps me pretty busy. Through that and my church involvement, my days are filled. I’ll tell you a little bit later about some of the ways my days looked when they were growing up.

I’ll introduce myself by saying my early years of motherhood started out in Chicago. We moved from where we now live to suburban Chicago with one child, and we came back with five. My days were really full, and I had a lot of young motherhood days in the Chicago-area. I really, really liked that, but after our fifth child was born, we moved back to this acreage where we currently live. For the sake of most of my kids, this is all they’ve ever known; life here on the acreage and all that goes with that.

You asked me at one point about what my involvement was like in children’s ministry. So, Terry and I, together, have been involved in various forms of children’s ministry for about 30 years now. We’ve been nursery directors, Sunday school teachers, helped with mid-week programs, and we currently direct the children’s ministry at our local church. My commitment to children’s ministry usually revolved around whatever my children were involved in. If I took them, I thought, I might as well be involved in what they’re learning too. And I wanted to be involved. I chose to be where they were and supported the teachers in whatever was happening in that environment.

So even today, my days are filled with children. I spent the better part of this morning making schedules and plans for the fall for what we’ll be doing for children’s ministry, and I like that.

Laura: Did you work when you were a young mom? I know these answers. [Laughter] But for the benefit of our audience, tell us a little about work and ministry commitments you may have had.

Debbie: I always tell everyone my degree was in child development from Iowa State University, so I’ve been practicing my degree; I’ve developed children through the years. [Laughter] I did teach in the public school for three years. When Terry and I married, he said, I’d really like you to stay home and volunteer your time, doing what you can do at the church and the community. So, I retired after three years of teaching, and we were at home. When we started having children, God led us to begin to homeschool our kids. We homeschooled all of our children, probably through most of their junior high years, and then we did some cooperative networking with other homeschoolers in the community. My days of motherhood were filled with a lot of homeschooling. I did work outside the home, you might say. We wanted to teach our children how to work and how to work well. An opportunity arose for us to do some cleaning as a family, so we—largely me—would take the children to clean. They would go with me, one at a time, and we would clean apartments or whatever needed to be done. I feel like that was a good tool. For one thing, they got paid. So the monetary value encouraged them. But also, they learned how to work alongside me doing that. Also, life on the acreage always involved work of some kind they had to be a part of. Believe it or not, when a local retail store needed blankets made for photo ops, I’d sew the binding on those late at night. I did this when we were in the suburban Chicago area. It was a little source of pocket income but not anything that supported us at all. And I had a bread business. I baked bread—

Emily: I didn’t know any of this!

Laura: My jaw just dropped. I didn’t know that either! [Laughter] It’s not a surprise, because Debbie is a master baker and a wonderful seamstress. She taught me how to sew. [Laughter] I didn’t do very well, but she did try to teach me.

Debbie: I must not have been a great teacher. [Laughter] Someone exposed me to grinding our own wheat and making our own bread that way. So I started selling it when we lived in Wheaton, and when we moved back here, we thought, Let’s just try this at the farmers’ market. Well, it was a huge hit. I even won Grand Champion at the State Fair. I put my little ribbon there, and that sure helped the bread to sell. [Laughter]

Laura: People in Iowa love their State Fair. It’s a big deal. [Laughter]

Debbie: So I dabbled in a lot of things but never anything that was very time-consuming. If it started to impose on our time—my time in particular—then we didn’t do it. A lot of those things fell in the summer—the bread baking, the farmers’ market, the other things we did related to gardening. That was during the summertime when I took a break from teaching.

Emily: That’s one of the things I really—and I’m sure Laura has too—gleaned from you: the value of hard work and modeling that for children. Whether or not we have paid jobs to some capacity, there’s a ton of work involved in running a home, managing an acreage. And you use your gifts in all kinds of ways: in the church, in the community. I see a little snippet of that now and think, Wow, Debbie really works hard. You wake in the morning, work hard all day, and you’ve passed that along to your children. It’s fun, because we have relationships with several of your children who serve and know how to serve; like when someone comes over to your house, you have things prepared and show hospitality. I can really tell that’s something you modeled through the years. You modeled how to do really hard work in whatever it is that you’re doing. I know that’s something that God has taught you, as well.

Laura: So to get to our first meatier question: can you tell us a little bit about one of your bigger fears or worries as a mom of young children? Did that fear turn out to be grounded in truth? Did God meet you there and sustain you in the face of fears and challenges?

Debbie: I’m glad you gave me some of these questions in advance so I could think about them. It’s hard to identify the biggest fear, because I had several fears as a young mom. I think I can sum it up by saying: I feared I wouldn’t be enough mom for all those children. There wouldn’t be enough of me to meet their needs. I wasn’t really concerned about our status, or whether or not the kids dressed in the latest fashion; I wasn’t trying to keep up with the Joneses in that. But I would wrestle with, Are they going to have what they need in character? In what they need in knowledge to help them succeed in life and to do what they need to do? The truth that really encouraged me during those times when fear would grip me is that God reminded me, You’re not enough, Debbie. But Jesus is. That may sound trite, but it was freeing to realize I don’t have all it takes to give these kids the character they should have. I don’t have all the energy it’s going to take at the end of the day to be sure they’ve done all the assignments they need to get done. But I can trust God to be big in their lives. I sought then to obey and listen to what God would have me do, and then leave the future and whatever direction he had for their lives in his hands. I have a little saying downstairs in the basement that says, God is the blessed controller of all things. I put that there for my sake to remind me he’s in control of all things, and he’s loving and shaping character far more than I could ever do. Now, that didn’t abdicate my responsibility as a parent; I still had to listen, obey, and do what it was God wanted me to do, but I saw myself as more of a tool, not the one bearing the burden or the whole weight of what I was doing wrong or right in my children’s lives. I realized early on I was going to do plenty of wrong things. Prior to having children, Terry and I thought we knew all there was to know about parenting. We had the privilege of watching different children before we had kids; we’d talk, Oh, our kids shouldn’t do that. That’s the way we’ll handle that. And then we had children, and that all went by the wayside, which I’ve heard more than one parent say.

Laura: I’m pretty sure every parent’s gone through that. [Laughter]

Debbie: And that’s good to be stripped of ourselves and to rely on the Lord. I’m really glad that happened.

Emily: Yes, that’s definitely relatable. [Laughter] We all learn to throw our expectations out the window once we realize how insufficient we are. Can you tell us about one time when you thought, Oh no, I’ve completely messed up my children? How did God work in that? How did God turn your eyes back to him and help you depend on the sufficiency of Christ in that?

Debbie: I’m given to emotion, but I may cry as I tell you this story. When I read that question, I remember thinking about how I really struggled with anger as a young mom. When I would respond that way, I’d think, Oh my word, I’ve really messed these kids up, because I’m modeling a behavior I don’t want them to model or repeat as they parent. And I hurt inside, because I knew my actions and my responses were not pleasing to God. I had this vicious cycle of recognizing it, repenting, going back to recognizing and repenting. It was a cycle in my life. I knew it wasn’t honoring to God, and I was fearful I was going to mess up my kids’ lives. But God was faithful to bring me to a book that someone wrote about the heart of anger. I read that book. I journaled through that book, chapter after chapter. God spoke to me and showed me applications he wanted to make in my life from that and from through the word. It helped me to understand what triggered my anger: expectations that I had of myself, of Terry, of the children; comparing my family to another family; holding too tightly to my own plans and if they weren’t fulfilled, that would cause anger. I had to call those things what they were in my life, which was sin, and not excuse them or put them under a rug, saying, Oh, every mom has times when they’re frustrated with their kids. Rather, I needed to nip it in the bud by telling God, This is sin. I was wrong. I can’t excuse myself any longer. I began to seek his forgiveness more frequently, and I sought my children’s forgiveness for where I modeled that wrongly. The hardest part was to learn to forgive myself; I was hardest on myself. But God did work and continues to work in my life. I’ve had conversations with some of my children since then, and they can tell you there was a turning point for me. They weren’t concerned I was going to respond in anger. God did that work. Of course, I really regret any consequences from my wrong actions and the poor example I was to my family, but that drove me to the gospel. It helped me to see that I was inadequate—I remain inadequate—but he is adequate. And I trust him for those memories that may be difficult for the children when they recall my anger, but also for when they see they lived with a sinful mom with a faithful God.  He will meet them at the point where they have need as well. It’s also helped that some of my children have become parents, and they’ve said, I get it. I understand! [Laughter] And so we’re much more forgiving of everybody. [Laughter]

Emily: Wow, isn’t that the case? [Laughter] I love that you shared about that, because knowing you personally, it’s always so hard for me to imagine you responding to someone in anger, let alone a child. You’re so patient and gracious with young children. What’s encouraging to me in that is the reality that God did work in your life and transformed you through the Holy Spirit, because I can’t even imagine that now. It’s also encouraging to me, because I think that’s something I’ve wrestled with—that cycle of responding in anger with a harsh word, and repenting, and beating myself up, and all of those things. It’s really encouraging to know God is not done with me, and he’s still working to transform me, causing me to hate my sin and depend more on Christ. I really appreciate you were vulnerable and shared that.

Laura: I appreciate that too. I echo everything both of you said. I think a lot of moms can really relate. We did a show—maybe two years ago—on anger, and it was really, really popular. It was a two-part series, and we’ll link it in the show notes. But you can just listen to Debbie, because she got it all there. I appreciate you being vulnerable; it’s really meaningful, and I think a lot of moms can relate to that. Emily and I always talk about how we’re excited for the maturity that comes with aging. There are some things we’re not excited for, but generally, we’re really excited about continuing to grow spiritually and being transformed more into Christlikeness. We know it takes time, and it doesn’t happen overnight; God plays the long game. It’s a good reminder to see God’s faithfulness right in front of us.

Another struggle young moms have is getting into Bible reading. Can you tell us a little bit about what did your time spent in the word look like when you had young children?

Debbie: I’m really blessed that when I was a young mom, someone challenged me to take at least five minutes a day in the word. That didn’t seem like a lot of time, but as a young mom, sometimes five minutes was a lot of time. I really accepted that challenge and took it to heart. I’ve greatly benefited from the spiritual discipline, because it’s helped to build within me the habit of scripture reading. My day doesn’t feel complete in some ways if I’ve not had that time. I happen to be an early morning person, so that makes it a little bit easier for me. I like to get up early, and I found it kind of helpful to tune up for the day and be ready for whatever is going to come. I’ve also discovered the Bible really has a cleansing effect in my life. You know, I like to shower consistently, so spending time in the word helps to reveal my sin, to give me affirmation, to give me direction, to give me a word that helps me know, This is the right way. Stay in it, and it gives me comfort. But there have been days when I’ve read my Bible and shut the cover thinking, Now what did I read? How does that apply to my life? Or I can’t even remember by the time I fix breakfast what it was I read. [Laughter] But I haven’t looked for huge inspiration every day to be my reason for staying in the word, but rather, if I believe his word is eternal, I want to spend time in it. Sometimes I’ve read and I’ve been interrupted by little ones, and I didn’t get as much out of it as I hoped to. Or my mind strayed as I read, and I had other things on my mind. I’m grateful that throughout those times as a young mom—and even in the teen years and now when I have more time to spend in my quiet time—that God allowed that discipline to continue. He’s to be praised and credited for that, because I don’t have it within myself to always get up and want to do that. God has really driven me to the word, and I’ve seen such hope come from it that I want to spend time in it. I often begin by reading or thinking about Psalms 139:23-24 which says, Search me O God and know my heart, and try me and know my anxious thoughts, and see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. That helps me to go to the word with purpose and say, I need you to know my heart, because I don’t know my own heart. I need you to know my anxious thoughts and deal with them. I need you to give me direction. I’m looking to you Lord for those very things, so help me. I’ve had the privilege of being involved in a lot of different studies through the years. Early on with young children, I was more able to do that than I was during the homeschooling years. I had to pull back and not be as involved, because I didn’t have the time to prepare and study like I wanted to. I think God allows those seasons; there are times like that when you’re busy as a mom and you can’t be as involved as you’d like to be. So again, I’d try to take advantage of summer, or do an early morning something with another woman, or something like that. Even though I couldn’t always be involved in those things, Terry and I made it a point to be involved in the local church and hear the word preached. I felt like I was being fed—not only through my own personal time in the word but also through time of hearing the word preached. We’ve usually always been involved in a small group or some kind of community and fellowship; we’ve sought to have people in our home. The word has been important to me. I can remember this quite vividly because I had morning sickness with all my pregnancies, so I didn’t feel well for the first three months and ate a lot of popcorn and laid on the couch. [Laughter] I remember thinking, I made this commitment to read the Bible for five minutes, but I can barely keep my eyes open for five minutes! But I would, only by God’s faithfulness. It was cleansing, and it was helpful. It also helped me, when I came out of that season, to think, Lord, you walked with me through that, you’re going to walk with me through the rest of motherhood too, instead of setting that aside and trying to get reacquainted—if that makes sense. So, I’m grateful for his faithfulness to me by keeping me in the word.

Emily: What’s funny is I was over here this morning discussing the gospel, and we were talking about this very principle. I asked Debbie, How do I stop and remember the gospel? I can’t even get space from my situation. You brought up the idea of “five minutes” and how we can waste five minutes really fast on our phones, computers, or who knows what. But I could set a timer for five minutes and get my journal or Bible out, and spend that time remembering the gospel and those truths. What a difference that could make to refocus my eyes on Christ. I think that’s a really tangible thing that any mom can do. We probably all have five minutes.

Laura: Or even listen to it on an audio Bible. You can still wash the dishes or whatever it may be. Okay Debbie, tell us—I’m excited for this answer—a little bit of insight of what you did in motherhood that yielded the most fruit.

Debbie: This was came to me right away, because I’ve seen this carried out in my children’s lives, and it brings me such great joy. Early on in our married life, Terry and I shared a mutual desire to have people in the home and to open our home up to share life with people. We started doing that when we were early married with no children, and we’ve continued to do that. Sharing a meal, or an overnight, or whatever might happen meant that our children sometimes had to share their space, to share around the table and meal, to share their toys; and we all had to be vulnerable to the messiness that comes with having others in your life. It really does thrill my heart to see each and every one of them involved in hospitality in their own way with whatever God has blessed them with—some great, some small. But they love people, and they’re involved with people. I used to say—and still say—there are only two things that will be with you in eternity: the Word of God and people. So, I want to invest my time well on earth in those two things, because if I’m going to spend eternity with them, I should get used to how to do that. I was also challenged that I didn’t just want to be hospitable to others, but I wanted to do that with my own family. I wanted to make mealtimes a special time for them; I didn’t want them to feel like I only set the table nicely when we had company, but that they were company in my life. We’d create memories by spreading a picnic blanket out on the living room floor and having a picnic. Or I spent weekly visits to the local store to pick up empty cardboard refrigerator boxes so the boys could create forts or who knows what. I wanted to allow space and time for little, simple things like that to make memories with my kids in a way to be hospitable to them, so they felt loved here at home. I’m grateful my kids invited their friends to come over as well. Our table included a lot of people that we maybe wouldn’t have otherwise known had my kids not reached out to them and been friends with them.

Laura: I spent a ton of time in my young years with Debbie over here—or Mrs. Martens, I should say. [Laughter] Old habits die hard! I told her today I sometimes still struggle to call her Debbie, because I grew up calling her Mrs. Martens. I spent hours here at the house with her boys and girls. You guys showed me such wonderful hospitality; I don’t know how many dinners I had here, how much time I spent playing in the asparagus patch in the backyard, and Debbie put me to work. [Laughter] Talk about wanting people to work hard; my parents were big on that too, so you guys must’ve been talking. But I also learned that very much here.

I want to jump to our last question, Debbie, just in the essence of time. Can you share with us what is one of the biggest encouragements you’d give to moms of young children who want to be faithful in their role to discipline their children in the Lord?

Debbie: Yes. In my college years, when my mind seemed able to memorize better, I memorized the book of Philippians. I’m so grateful those verses have been drawn back to memory at different times to give me encouragement in my walk with the Lord. In 3:13-14 says, Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. In that context, Paul is encouraging the church to recognize they’re not perfect, they live in a fallen world, they’re going to sin, but he encourages them to press on. I think there’s application for all of us, especially moms. Sometimes the days are long, the needs are many, and you’re just plain exhausted at the end of it all. That’s just the way it’s going to be. Young mom, I encourage you to press on. Now that I’m in the retirement years, I’m grateful God gave strength—and he does give strength for each new day. I often think of Matthew 6:34 that says, Sufficient is the day for its own trouble. Don’t be anxious or worried about the next day may bring forth but pour yourself into what you need to do today. I see my life, in Jesus—more so now as we’re entering in these retirement years—as more like a marathon rather than a sprint race. He’s sufficient. He has been and will continue to be sufficient in my weaknesses, in my discouragements, and in my accomplishments as well. Recognize it’s all about pressing forward to get to know him. We’re not going to attain “it,” this perfection, until we reach eternity, but his sufficiency grants grace and strength for each season of motherhood. Embrace that season. My final words would be to continue to stay in the word, remain in community, read good books and listen to good podcasts that are now available, rest in him, and focus on eternity. Faithful is he who called you, who will also bring it to pass. We can rest in his faithfulness, not our own.

Emily: Wow, I think we can end on that note! [Laughter]

Laura: Yeah, there’s nothing for us to add.

Emily: We really, really appreciate you coming on and being willing to share these truths, pointing all the moms who are listening to Christ, as you’ve done for Laura and I and lots of women in our local context. Thanks for coming on.

Debbie: Thanks for having me.

Ep. 115 || When Motherhood Brings Deep Suffering Transcript

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

Emily: Hello.

Laura: Before we get to today’s show, we want to remind you—hopefully you know by now—we post two articles a week on our website. Today on the show, we’re talking about a tougher topic: suffering. If something comes to mind as we’re talking, please feel free to search our past podcast shows—you may find something on what you’re thinking about—or search the articles on our site. We often talk about specific motherhood topics in more depth in our articles than we’re able to on a show. We want to encourage you to head to the site and click the “Article” tab to look a little bit deeper.

Emily: And you can get those articles right to your inbox by subscribing to our RSS feed. They’ll come straight to you twice a week and you’ll be up-to-date with what’s on our site.

Laura: We’ll post a link to the subscribe button in our show notes too, so it’s easy to find.

Okay, we’re talking about suffering today. A lot of shows we do at R|M talk about the daily hardships we all experience in motherhood. We all get bogged down by life, feel overwhelmed quickly with all the responsibilities we have, have challenging relationships; and there are a lot of big and small decisions we face every day. So we talk about those types of topics in almost every show.

Emily: Yeah, regularly. But we definitely know we often experience more profound suffering in motherhood. Those are harder things to jump into; we don’t talk about those as frequently on our show because it’s really difficult to sit and linger in that, to experience the depth of it, and to speak to the ends and outs of it in a short 20-minute show. But we know there are those of you out there dealing with really significant hard things in motherhood that make you say, Why God? It can feel like there isn’t a reason or explanation for them, and it makes it really painful. So, instead of diving into any of those specific things that cause deep suffering in motherhood, we want to cover what hope we have in the midst of that type of suffering.

Laura: Suffering can take a lot of forms; the word can mean a lot of different things to different people. Some of us have experienced more suffering than others, especially depending on your life’s circumstances. We know suffering is a very complex topic, but, as Emily said, we’re trying to apply the gospel to the situations that feel very unfair and leave you asking, Why God? Why is this happening?  So this might include, but not limited to, miscarriage, infertility, loss of a child at or after birth, a child with extra needs or medical concerns, a child with disabilities, a broken marriage, difficulties in foster care or adoption, or living with a chronic illness. There are more we could mention, but those are a few of the heavier topics we’re generally covering today.

Emily: Even if you’re not someone walking through one of these things specifically, we hope you’ll still listen. I think one thing Laura and I’ve both learned is one of the best ways you can prepare for suffering is to have a theology of it. We should be aware these things happen to people and ask these questions before we go through it, so we anchor our faith in something really deep like the tangible, eternal good news we’ll talk about later. Maybe you have a friend, family member, or someone in your church who’s walking through these things, and it’d be really helpful to hear specific encouragement that might be helpful for certain times.

Laura: We want to do a couple of caveats before we jump in. The first is—as you know—we have a 20-minute show. There’s absolutely no way we can cover the theology of suffering and why bad things happen in 20 minutes. These are things that have entire books written about them, and we’ll point you to some of our favorites on the show notes. But be prepared that we want to start the discussion, as usual, but please go talk about it in your podcast clubs, small groups; or with a counselor, pastor, or mentor. This is just scratching the surface of the conversation. Second, know that Emily and I haven’t experience all of these things personally. We’ve had friends or family who’ve experienced the gamut of different topics, but we may not say everything perfectly depending on where you’re specifically at. We know when you’re suffering—and when we suffer—you’re extra sensitive to things. We want to be gracious and speak kindly, and we also ask for grace as we’re talking too.

Emily: And the final thing before we move forward is we know it’s hard when walking through something really challenging to feel like your experience is being grouped together with something lighter. You may think, Well, I’d rather trade my issue for that issue, because that seems better. But we want to minister to a wide group of moms, so please keep that in mind today. We know everyone experiences suffering differently and it’s complicated. It isn’t necessarily all the same, and we wouldn’t deal with every situation in the same way. We know for sure the gospel does meet us and does give us hope no matter what type of suffering we walk through. So, let’s just into the gospel and see what hope there is.

Laura: In creation, we know in the garden there was good, purposeful, meaningful work that Adam and Eve did for the Kingdom of God. There wasn’t suffering in the way we know it. Their work didn’t include distress, pain, or hardship. Everything was very good in God’s original creation.

Emily: We know after Adam and Eve sinned in the fall, they were banished from the Garden. Life outside of Eden includes profound suffering; we see that from the very beginning. This immediately begs the question, Why is this specific type of suffering happening to me? That’s a question a lot of us ask. It’s really normal to ask it. Laura and I have asked that question before. And asking the question is a really great opportunity to study it throughout scripture. Just grazing over the top, we see sin directly causes suffering, Satan causes suffering; suffering happens without any clear explanation because it’s a general result of living in a broken, cursed world in the “already but not yet.” We also see that God allows and uses suffering, which can be a really difficult thing for us to understand and comprehend. But we see that God has this sovereignty over the sad, hard things; and he uses them for his good purposes, which we’ll get into more. Suffering can be caused by a lot of things, but ultimately, it goes back to sin and God’s sovereignty.

Laura: Suffering is really complicated and multi-layered. It’s hard to live in the not knowing or understanding, but we know that we have redemption. Jesus, who knew no sin at all, became sin for us, so we might be children of God. We know Christ identifies with us in our suffering, because he entered into it and experienced it himself—to the point of death. And he gained victory when he died and rose again. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he sent the Holy Spirit for us. We don’t mourn or have this hardship or suffering without hope. I think that’s what sets us apart as believers is knowing the suffering we experience today is not the final word for us. We know there is work being done in our suffering and our hearts are being transformed. So we can walk in faith, even in the midst of really, really difficult, hard things. We have a wonderful relationship with God the Father who is a good and perfect comforter for us. We also get the local church, a body of believers who weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. We band together in the hardships of the broken world we live in, knowing there is a future, which we’ll talk about in consummation. Again, this isn’t the end.

Emily: I love that this is the unique thing we look forward to as believers. Jesus says Behold, I am coming again! I read that not too long ago and I got tears in my eyes just thinking he’s coming back for us. Someday, when that happens, those who died in Christ will be raised to be with him forever. There will be no more tears in the new earth where we go to live with God and reign with Christ forever. There will be an end to suffering. Also, we can know there won’t be suffering that goes overlooked, or unpunished, or unreconciled. God will be just over that, and we can know there will be a satisfactory answer someday, even if we don’t know it now.

Laura: So we want to talk through a few truths that have really encouraged Emily and I as we’ve gone through difficult hardships in our lives. We want to share them with you as general encouragements in no particular order. The first one is in your suffering, God sees you. I think that’s a huge encouragement that what you’re going through is not unseen. I love the verse in 2 Chronicles for the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. I love that picture of the Lord looking over the entire earth and he sees the distress and hardship. He sees the evil. He sees the good. His eyes are on the ways of man, and he understands what you’re going through; the Bible assures us of that.

Emily: Laura and I have been studying the book of Genesis this fall with our church. I remember one of the passages that really struck me was before God said he was going to flood the whole earth, it says God “saw.” He saw all the evil going on, and he acted in a way that showed his character. It’s really heartening. Another one we wanted to mention—which we’ve touched on a little before—is God enters into and doesn’t exempt himself from suffering, which is super encouraging to me. Sometimes it can feel like God is just up there and I’m just down here in the midst of all the suffering, and he doesn’t have to get in the middle of any of it. But the reality is God the Father watched his own son die. So if any parent understands, God does. He didn’t keep himself out of this; he entered into it. Christ entered into it. There are several parts of the Bible that talk about all the different types of suffering Christ experienced when he was here on earth. He can relate to us in every way. He didn’t hold himself out of the mess of suffering; he really experienced that alongside us.

Laura: That plays into the next one. God is with us; he is our comforter and supporter. We mentioned it earlier, but the Holy Spirit was sent to help, comfort, and guide us until Jesus returns. I think if you’ve gone through any deep suffering, you can attest to the fact that there’s a supernatural comfort of the soul that comes when you know the suffering you’re experiencing today has an end. There’s a future full of hope and joy waiting for you. God loves to comfort and bind the brokenhearted. He loves to be near us all the time, especially when we’re in pain. He’s there and he’s close. I think that’s when he does some of the deepest heart work to really reveal who he is to us. I think feeling that comfort is one of the gifts of suffering.

Emily: I think the times when I look back on my life and know—in the deepest part of my soul—God was and is with me were the same moments I was also in the midst of profound suffering. There maybe were tears falling, but I can remember distinctly knowing it was well with my soul. That is a gift God gives us through the Holy Spirit.

Laura: It’s one of those things where you see someone—maybe at a funeral or in a season of deep suffering—and you wonder, How are they doing it? Because they seem at peace. That’s the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in their life. That’s something all believers have access to. It doesn’t mean it always be perfect for you in suffering, but I think there’s a really beautiful comfort that can come over your soul when you’re in Christ.

Emily: Another one is to remember God uses our suffering. This is something we’re not always going to know how right away or always have the answer, but our suffering is not meaningless. We see this throughout so many aspects of scripture where God’s people were struggling and going through really difficult, painful things. And yet, he was using it to either work towards redemption or, after redemption, he was working to grow his church and spread his gospel. I think we can be confident that trials of various kinds can really test and grow our faith. They can be used for other ministries and other ways for comforting other people that we hadn’t previously even thought about. He uses it to spread the gospel in ways that are sometimes a mystery to us.

Laura: This is probably my most hopeful piece in the suffering as I’ve gone through things. I don’t know why stuff is happening or how it’s happening, but maybe five years later, I can see better. While I still don’t love that I experienced that, I’m thankful, because now I’m able to minister to this other woman or I’m able to share my firsthand experience on the show, like sharing about our children with special needs. That’s really hard for Emily and I; that’s not always this perfectly, easy thing, but it’s something God’s given us deep joy in and he’s used to minister to other people through. That’s just one example of many, but I love knowing how our suffering has purpose—even if it’s just to have us long for heaven with Christ, point us to God, and long to go deeper into what he loves and cares about. Suffering has a way of melting off the dross and taking away the things that cloud our vision when life is really good and easy. It has that way of pressing it out and really bringing out the gold.

Emily: Finally, we want to acknowledge that this last point is hard to hear sometimes or hard to comprehend, depending on where we are in our suffering, but we want to remember God is good in the midst of it. He saved us from the very worst suffering of all, which would be life and eternity without him. This is an undeserved gift he gave us. No matter what we’re going through in life, that gift is there if we’ve trusted in Christ. And his character is always good; he never wavers or lets his promises go unfulfilled. It’s difficult for us to sometime see, because we’re not looking back with hindsight knowing all the things God knows. This is where trust comes into play and believing God’s promises in his word, even when we don’t necessarily feel it in that moment.

Laura: We know that this is some hard and complicated stuff that—you can tell—we’re still wrapping our minds around. But if you are going through a deep season of suffering, we’re sorry and sad along with you. We want to encourage you to keep pressing into truth and crying out to God. I speak from experience, some of the seasons of suffering are up and down. Some days, I’m really believing truth and it somehow feels a little bit easier. There are other days that I feel very sad, and it’s very hard to remember truth; I have a lot of doubts and fears. I think that’s very normal if you’re going through suffering, but that’s why it’s so important to remind yourself of truth over and over again, finding the Lord everyday to ask him to reveal himself to you in that suffering. God will be faithful to that—even if it takes a few days, a few weeks, or a long season. It’s not a magic potion; I think that’s important to remember. But I think as you continue to invest—even when you’re heart is screaming inside—there is good work being done, and God will be faithful.

Emily: You can head over to our show notes. We worked really hard this week to curate resources that will be helpful if you’re looking for a book to read or other resources that we’ve found helpful. Remember you can always pray. And another thing we’ve found helpful is reading through the Psalms; there are also great devotionals to pair with that. Preach the gospel to yourself, which is repeating and remembering all the things we said on the show today. There are also incredible hymns out there. I think hymns have been one of the most incredible things to me in suffering. I almost can’t even bring myself to have some deep devotional time, but I can turn on “How Firm a Foundation,” and you just cry because the scriptural ideas are woven in there. The truths are there; it’s such a good reminder. Also, talk with people who will listen and meet with you. It’s okay to get counseling and to reach out to somebody who can walk deeply with you for a longer time. Keep trusting God; his mercies are new. If you’re in Christ, he’s going to help you persevere and grow your faith and joy in him, even in the midst of sorrow.

Laura: As we mentioned earlier, we’re going to curate some resources for you, so head over to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. You’ll find the podcast link to view our show notes and we’ll have more resources there. We’re also on social media @risenmotherhood on all the platforms. I think that’s it. Thanks so much for joining us, guys. We really appreciate all of you tuning in.

Ep. 114 || Wish List Ignored? Loving the Giver More Than the Gift 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:  Hello! Hello!

Emily:  We’re excited to talk gift-giving, a little bit about gratefulness, and definitely a lot about the gospel.

Laura: [laughter] Hopefully.

Emily:  Before we jump into that just a reminder that Advent season is here.

Laura:  It’s upon us.

Emily:  Definitely check out our website risenmotherhood.com for ideas of what to do during Advent. We have some round ups on our social media, articles, podcasts, and a lot of ideas for ways to make this season not more rushed or stressful but hopefully peaceful, intentional, and a good reminder of Christ. Check that out.

Laura:  It's a good time to implement it. You still got like a week or so. But in light of that, all our kids are busy working on their Christmas lists, which they've been adding to all year.

Emily:  I think my kids started their Christmas list in July.

Laura: Or January? [laughter]

Emily:  They started right after Christmas. And I've been using that excuse with my kids since the summer: We're not getting something because Christmas is coming.

Laura:  That’s exactly right. The other day, my son said, “Christmas takes forever!” We all love Christmas, but as moms, there's definitely a sort of an angst that can come out, especially when you become a mom and realize the selfish spirit that can come out of your child (Which you know is in you too, but they're not as good at hiding it). I know Emily and I have both experienced things like this. When there’s a child crying at a family Christmas in front of all sorts of people when the present opening is over and they're bawling, “No more presents? 

Emily: “Nothing I got is good enough. I’ve played with that toy for 35 seconds and now I'm over it!” and you feel so frustrated. I don't know what age this stops a little. It is really hard. There have been years too—I don't know about you Laura—where we've really tried to prep our kids like, “Here's what's going to happen. It’s going to stop, say thank you, and we’re going to give everyone hugs, we're going to be very grateful.” Even with all the training, it's just a part of our hearts that takes a long time to uproot.  

Laura:  It's really humbling as a mom, let's be real. A question we often get asked along the same vein is, “How do I instill gratefulness in my kids?” We get asked this question in all sorts of ways. I mean, birthday parties, or service projects, or summer vacations, and it always pops up around Christmas time because of all the gifts and indulgences that our kids get. As we shared, we don't really have the answer for how to instill the gratefulness in our kids, because we’re still working on that. We don't have proof quite yet, but one angle we want to look at today is something we hear a lot of people ask in preparation for the Ask Us  Anything show.

We’ll get random emails about it quite a bit: How do you deal with the grandparents, aunt or uncle, or another family member, or friend that wants to love on your kids by giving them tons of gifts or deviating from your carefully curated list. Maybe they get the light up toy that blares music at 5 million decibels for 20 minutes straight, maybe they're just giving your kids something you deem a little bit too extravagant and you don't really know what to do with that, or maybe it's something that you've actually expressly forbidden and it might be potentially harmful to your child, or something that falls on similar lines.

There are a lot of different ways that this gift giver can manifest in your life. We want to set up the show today so that you understand the show. This isn’t necessarily about how you or your husband give gifts to instill gratitude because it's fairly easy to control your own purchasing decisions, but we want to talk a little bit about how the gospel applies and meets us when we have someone else in our lives that can be a frustrating gift giver. Is that an okay way to put it? [laughter]

Emily:  That's definitely where we start with our thinking. It’s frustrating—

Laura:  You might not be so frustrated after the show.

Emily:  Hopefully not. Before we jump in any further, we want to recognize that not everyone has this ‘problem,’ and that this really wouldn't be a problem to a lot of you. You think this would be a great issue to have if relatives and people in your kid’s life were showering them with gifts. It could be that Christmas is a really hard time of year because you feel like you're trying to make ends meet, and you would love to be able to gift a little bit more extravagant things to your kids or give them any gifts at all.

I think that's a good perspective for all of us to bear in mind, no matter where you're at, is that this is something to be grateful for, and we shouldn't take for granted the fact that we can give our children things and good gifts just like God gives us good gifts. We hope that no matter where you're at that you can get some gospel encouragement from the show today, and know that there is there's broad application to a variety of different scenarios. 

Laura:  There are a lot of mom philosophies on giving gifts. Emily, what are some of the ones that you can think of?

Emily:  I know that one that became popular in the last few years—I think we tried it one year—was you get them something they want, something they need, something they wear, something they read. They're all categorized or there's only a three plus present rule because that’s how many presents Jesus got.

Laura:  Jesus gotta model that.

Emily:  Or maybe you feel like they need all the minimal, and organic, and wood toys from a Narnia tree. 

Laura:  Yes, Give me that! [laughter]

Emily:  Sometimes it’s things like no electronics, nothing with small pieces, only learning toys. Brad’s probably going to laugh when he hears this, [laughter] because he fits into this category of getting them things they need. In the summer, he’ll say, “Why don't you start writing the list? Our kids need more black socks.” [laughter] And he’s specific.

Laura:  When they open that, what are they going to think?

Emily:  He’s very much like, “Christmas is the time to get those needs met and get all the things we're going to buy at the store for the next year.” Maybe it’s something you guys don't think too hard about it at all, but overall, maybe you have limitations to how many toys you want to see coming through your door or you're just still trying to figure out what to do with the ones that are spilling out of your bins, so the thought of giving more gifts around Christmas is pretty daunting.

Laura:  We totally get all this is. As Emily shared, we have been these moms at a variety of points in our lives and we’ve tried the same things as probably many of you have—having restrictions or hinting to somebody these are the things that we prefer. When someone doesn't necessarily listen to that list, sometimes it can leave us feeling hurt by the fact they don't seem to care about what you're trying to teach your children or the gratitude that you're trying to instill in them.

Sometimes it leaves us really frustrated, because we weren’t respected or we felt not respected in our wishes. Sometimes we’re vindictive. We want to pay them back for not being as kind to us as we want, maybe we give them the silent treatment or we withdraw our kids from relationship, and sometimes this leads up to the great Christmas event. We’ll feel nervous or anxious. We’ll be worried about what each year will bring and feel, “Oh, will our kids ever be generous or grateful because they have that one person in their life that seems to spoil them?”

What do we do with those feelings? And that's what we want to talk through today. How do we handle gift giving that doesn't seem to align with our personal philosophies and should we be worried when someone comes into our child's life and seems to spoil them with Christmas presents?

Emily:  I think the first thing we want to remember, when we're considering this lavish gift giver or somebody who's so excited to love on our kids with gifts that they don't even like adhere to our list because they saw this cool toy and they impulse buy—

Laura:  Gotta get it. 

Emily: —is to remember, the most lavish gift giver ever is God himself. He is constantly giving his children good gifts they don't deserve, especially to whiny, complaining, ungrateful children. In his common grace, people who reject him, and despise him, and are his enemies, are given good things in their life here on earth by God, even before people have come to Christ.

Like the beauty of creation and the joy of the relationships we have. Then to his redeemed children, he gives the most costly gift ever which is Christ himself. Whenever we're feeling frustrated about someone else's generous lavish giving to someone who's potentially ungrateful or not comprehending it, I do think there's a point where we need to stop and remember, that is how God is towards us.

He did it first so if anything, that can point us back to God and be really grateful for the ways. We don't deserve his amazing gifts, we’re not always grateful for his generosity or his lavish giving, but we are created like him in some respects and that comes out in people in all different ways because we were created to image him. 

Laura:  Preach it Emily. I like it.

Emily:  That’s a hard one to swallow.

Laura:  It is a hard one.

Emily:  Because you think, it's this person who's being indulgent.

Laura: I love it when she gets on a soapbox like that. It's always good. Now we're going to walk through some of the fears from a mom's perspective, and how you can find hope in the gospel.

Emily:  I think we’ve already alluded to this but we fear that our children are going to be spoiled, they're going to turn into ungrateful, materialistic little people because of this person. 

Laura:  We’ve all thought that even because of ourselves, right? I have had moments like the Christmas Gift Cry of 2017, or whatever year it was, when I've thought, “Oh my word, I'm not doing enough.”

Emily:  I’ve ruined my children—

Laura:  They're going to be ungrateful, materialistic people.

Emily:  The gospel truth there is the reality that God is the only one who can turn a heart from death to life. The gospel knows no bounds; he can reach even the most selfish person and we all are, apart from Christ, selfish. There isn't like, “I'm going to spoil the heart into sin;” we already have that inside of us. God can transform us and continue to work on us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He works in our children too, so we want to trust God to be the author of our child's faith—not us—and to keep that in mind that we can’t twist the knob on some of these external circumstances and do the deep heart-transforming work. We might build a change in behavior but that deep heart work belongs to God.

Laura:  On a practical note too, remember that you’re to disciple your child in the things of the Lord and you're going to be doing that around 365 days a year. So a lavish present once or twice a year from a person who is going off of your list, isn’t going to undo all the other time spent investing in them. That's one thing to keep in mind: they can't undo all of the efforts that you're doing over the work of a lifetime.

Emily:  Another concern is we’re worried we’re going to be replaced by someone else who is more generous or fun towards our child. One gospel truth to remember is hopefully we want Christ to win our children's full affections, not ourselves. We're going to fall short and we are going to fail to meet our children's needs, and even their wants and their desires, and their relationship with us. That is going to happen. We're going to fall short, but Christ gives of himself and he is the greatest gift our children can ever receive. That should even make the most amazing gift giver kind of pale in comparison.

Laura. And when we feel insecure, just ask yourself, “Hey, where I’m I finding my identity? Is it in Christ and in his acceptance of me?” Because when we humbly observe his sacrifice, we don't live for a love of ourselves or love from others—a.k.a our children in this instance—but we live for him, knowing that our reward is ultimately in heaven. Whatever is happening in the moment is momentary and not eternal. 

Emily: Something I do in this scenario is often remember back to my own childhood and think nobody was competing for those relationships with my parents. Even if my grandparents gave me really great presents, it wasn't like, “Oh I love them more,” and that replaced the role of parents. There’s a difference of relationship, a difference of influence. Parents are the ones giving kids stability and routine, who they trust to secure for their needs and everyone else holds a different spot. I think on a practical level, we can breathe.

Laura:  When your kids’ skins their knee, where are they going to go? That's the question.

Emily:  This holiday or something is probably not going to approve the whole relationship.

Laura:  Another fear we can feel is insecure about our own abilities to give good gifts. We feel maybe a little competitive with another person or maybe competitive with the culture at large. What we mean by this is that sometimes our insecurities can come out, because maybe we want to give our kids the same gifts that this person is giving, but we can't afford to give our children the hottest toy of the season. Or maybe out of pride, we want to look more successful in front of other people, but we’re not able to at this point financially.

A gospel truth to remind ourselves of in these times is that we rise or fall before the throne of God alone, and when we're feeling that competitiveness with another person, what we're doing ultimately is saying, “Hey, this is my standard of goodness. In order to be a good mom, I have to give this certain gift or I have to out-give this other gift giver,” and we're not actually looking at the real standard of what a good mom is, which is actually the holiness of God.

We can recognize our good standing is actually only by the grace of God. We can even stand in his presence and see our differences with another person as a great opportunity to learn and to grow. And for your child to see that God works in unique ways in individuals. He's blessed them in different ways, so let's rejoice in other people's giftings and the way they want to love on our kids.

Emily:  I think also remembering—like you were saying Laura with standards—that there isn't this hard rule from God with how to give good gifts to our children, so we can be generous. Giving can look like non-material things as well—giving experiences, or a nice letter to our children. or whatever. Jesus exemplified this here on earth by pouring out and giving of his very self, so whenever we think, “Oh, my gifting to my children is it going to look this certain way,” we can still go to the Lord and ask how we can express love and generosity towards those within our care, even if it's going to look different than what the culture says it should look like.

Laura:  On a practical note, this one’s pretty hard, at least for me. Maybe to that overly generous gift giver, write a thank you note for all those extra things, even if you're kind of looking at them and feeling like, “Why are all those lined up toys in my toy bins right now?” Or maybe have your child write a thank you note; that's just good practice.

Also choose to engage them and display authentic joy as your child opens those gifts. That is a true show of a heart that is soft to the Lord and soft to understanding and knowing your identity rests in him, not in your ability to give good gifts. 

Emily:  Finally, I think one of the fears or things that we struggle with, is feeling out of control. The reality is, we have preferences. We want them to actually be donating towards our child's college fund, we actually want them to be giving money to an organization in lieu of this toy so your child can learn generosity.

I mean, we joke about it, but when it gets down to it, we feel unheard. It feels like this person isn't supporting in the way that I want to parent. In general, the gospel meets us when we are angry and feeling like our wishes are not being met, because we're really just angry that were not being treated like God himself. He is the one who is worthy of all worship and praise, and while we would like to be the king or queen of the universe and perfectly control everything in our child's environment, we can’t be.

God wants us to submit to him and learn to be grateful in all things and know that rules, and standards, and expectations, and meeting those things is not what's going to make us ultimately happy. Only God himself is going to do that, and he really has the best plan for our family, and all of the knowledge and the resources to make that possible.

Laura: A practical thing to ask yourself is, “Hey, is this a grey area? Is this really something that I should go to bat on?” Or “How can we best love both parties, both my child and the gift giver?” That’s just a quick one to evaluate where the status of your heart is and then on a practical front: toy rotation.

I mean, that's pretty awesome. If you're getting way too many gifts, rotate those toys. Another thing is to give toys away. I know a lot of moms implement the one-in, one-out rule. If you get eight gifts, you donate eight gifts.

Emily:  We also want to recognize there really are situations where someone is giving your child a gift that is potentially dangerous, harmful, immoral, illegal, or something that requires your investment financially, over and over again. There are situations where conversations need to be had, maybe gifts need to not be received, things need to be put to a halt. Particularly, this may even be something like electronics where somebody's giving your child a full internet access gift and you're like, “Hey, we're not there yet as a family, and we don't think that's appropriate for a child to have.” It is okay to approach these conversations in love, because some people may have good intentions in giving those, some may not, and we know that there are definitely those times when you need to be firm and have healthy boundaries.

Laura:  We know that not everyone has great relationships with this gift giver, and if you do plan on talking with them about it, here's a couple of quick guidelines (but we do talk about this more in the grandparents in the gospel show especially like how to navigate a harder discussions). The first thing is just talk with your husband and get his opinion.

Ask if this should this really be that important to you. I think that eliminates a lot of the issues and it will tell you very quickly, “Hey, we should talk about this.” Take time to pray about it, seek counsel from someone who is wiser, then consider what impact it's going to have on the relationship. Weighing those pros and cons is really important for any conversation. Have something to say. Write it down and have some alternatives for them in a game plan.

A lot of times, some people just need to be educated. They're not really getting the jokes, or the eye rolls, or the list. They don't really understand that you actually care about the list, so if you can have some alternatives, they may understand you're serious about this, and you want them to continue giving to your child, but needs to be within certain boundaries.

Another one is, don't do it in the heat of the moment. I know that that's probably a temptation for all of us. Don't do it at Christmas, don't do it at a birthday. Wait a little while and then bring it up with them and before you do, take time to affirm them. Everyone's more welcome or warm to taking criticism, if you affirm them prior and then recognize, “Hey, they're probably not going to be perfect after one conversation,” and this is where we remember to forgive as Christ has forgiven you.

As you have these conversations, we hope that these are some tools to equip you through them. But it's hard, and we understand that. We don't want to make light of this, like it's so easy. But I think there are times, more often than not, where we can let things go and trust that God's going to continue working on our child's heart, even if they get all these gifts. But yes, proper boundaries are really important.

Emily:  Me and Christmas brings out all of this sin issues. [laughter] If you want to find out more on this topic, we’ll be talking about it on social media this week @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Also check out our show notes at risenmotherhood.com, you'll find all of those resources there. Thanks for joining us and we hope you have a great Advent season!

Laura:  Oh, yes.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast please consider joining them at risenmotherhood.com/give

Ep. 113 || Trusting God with Our Children: An Interview on Faithful Motherhood with Nancy Guthrie Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  Today, we're excited to welcome Nancy Guthrie to the Risen Motherhood podcast. Nancy's interview is part of our series, Faithful Motherhood, where we’re talking with women whose children are grown and how the gospel has impacted their motherhood had over the years. These aren’t meant to be prescriptive interviews for how to do motherhood, just a glimpse at one woman's unique walk and lessons learned as she lives out her calling in the Lord.

We're talking with Nancy about trusting God with the lives of our children, how we can handle anxiety in comparison as a mom, and stick with us until the very end because she gives us a clear overview of how God is the only perfect parent, so you don't have to fear your own imperfections. Nancy teaches the Bible through books and conferences. Some of our favorite resources from Nancy include her book, Holding on to Hope and her Bible studies from the Seeing Jesus series. She also has a great book on prayer called, One Year of Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids and her newest book is, Even Better than Eden, and she has a podcast. She’s the host of the Help Me Teach the Bible podcast at The Gospel Coalition. You’ll find links to all of this at risenmotherhood.com.

Now, let's get to the show with Nancy, Emily, and me. 

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

Nancy:  I'm so glad to get to talk to you guys today.

Laura: We’re thrilled. Emily and I have been reading your books for as long as I can remember. [laughter]

Nancy:  Wait a minute. You’re already making me feel old. [laughter]

Laura:  [Laughter] We’ve done your studies, we read your books. I mean, you’re a prolific author, you’ve written so many amazing things. We've also seen you speak. You're someone we’ve so appreciated your ministry of applying the gospel, of really encouraging women—well all people—to look at the metanarrative of scripture, and you have been instrumental for us to grasp that concept apply it to our own lives. We want to start off with a big thank you for all of the work that you've done.

Nancy:  I'm grateful for that. That aspect of coming to understand the Bible, as one story, has been so significant in my own life and it always means a lot to me to hear that what's flowed out of that, in terms of what I've written and taught, is helpful to someone else. Thanks.

Emily: We’re so excited to introduce you to our audience. Would you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and even what a typical day looks like for you right now?

Nancy:  Certainly. Well, I'm talking to you from my office in my house in Nashville.  We just moved into a new house a year ago. It's so fun to start with fresh paint in modern colors. I work here all day long, except for when I sneak away from here to go take a walk in the park near my house with some of my friends. I texted a couple of them this morning and they said no, they won’t go, so it looks like I'm going to be going by myself after our interview. My husband has a business called Little Big Stuff Music.

He creates kids musicals for the church and that business is based here in our house— that's why we moved because all of his boxes of cd's and books were growing out of our two-car garage at our old house. The other cool thing about that is a couple of years ago, our son started working for him, so here in our little house in Nashville, we create a lot of stuff, but the best thing is we all work here all day and we have lunch together. That makes for a lot of great days here at the Guthrie house.

Laura:  How fun! I know my family has a family business that Emily's husband works for, my brother works for, and lots of family all together. We're a very tight-knit family too, so that's so fun when you can all spend your days together.

Nancy:  It's great.

Emily:  We’re excited to have you on to look back on your years as a mom and discuss how the gospel has intersected throughout different seasons of your life. Could you just jump in? What do you think it means to be a gospel-centered parent, and how is your understanding of that changed over your 28 years of being a mom?

Nancy:  Well, it’s changed a lot! I think for most of my parenting years, I would’ve thought that being a gospel-centered parent means that I put all of my efforts into trying to get my child to take hold of the gospel of Jesus Christ and become a Christian. I suppose that's an aspect of it, but there’s so much more to it than that. I think I've had a couple of big wakeup calls, in regard to the gospel and parenting.

I mentioned that we have a son who's 28 who works here in our house; my husband David and I have also had two other children who lived just a short time. We had a daughter named Hope, who would be 19 years old right now, and we had a son named Gabe who would be 17 and they were both born with a rare metabolic disorder called Zellweger Syndrome which meant that their lives were very short and very difficult, honestly.

I don't remember a lot about what our pastor said when we put Hope into the grave—which I've got to tell you, I look back at it as maybe the lowest day of my life—but I remember one thing, he’d looked at me and he said, “This is where we ask the question, is the gospel really true?”  I remember it, because it was so profound. I just wanted to yell out, “Yes, it is!”

When you're putting your child into the ground, you face whether or not you believe the claims of the gospel; whether or not you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that it means that those who belong to him are going to one day be raised from the dead and joined with him forever. That's the place that really matters. I think that's one place in my life, as a mom, where the gospel has come to certainly mean a lot more than it did at the beginning. 

As I’ve continued to parent, over these last almost 20 years since then, I realize that a lot of times I’ve operated as if my child actually needs the gospel more than I do. It's been so easy for me as a parent. I don't know if it's been like trying to maintain my credibility as a parent or authority, but if I had it to do over again, I think one thing that I would do would be to be a little bit quicker, to be honest about my own sin with my growing child, because, you see, the gospel means that it's not all about my righteous life.

It’s about Christ’s righteous life and the gospel means that there is forgiveness for my failures, as well as power to forsake sin. 

I think I would have done better at this mom thing if, along the way, rather than trying to look so perfect with all of my good choices that I had been more honest about struggles in my life. If I'd sit at the dinner table and be willing to confess, “You know how I got so mad about this thing today? Well, I've thought about it and I realize I'm really jealous of her and that's why I am so annoyed by her and as we pray tonight at the dinner table, will you pray that the Lord will help rid me of this jealousy and instead replace it in my life with a sense of joy and celebration for the way God is working in her life?” I think that would have had a lot more power and express to my child the benefits of the gospel. That's one way. I could go on and on about that—

Laura:  I would like to let you go on and on. [laughter] That was wonderful. First off, thank you for being so vulnerable to share about your children and your experience there. Second, I think that's something we all can really relate to, of having the shell around ourselves and not wanting to let our kids in and see our own need. Instead we’re like, “Well, you talk about your need and all of your sin issues.” But as a mom, we’re not being vulnerable with our own children and really leading by example and modeling what that life looks like—continual repentance, growing in sanctification along our walk as a Christian.

One thing that I think we see, especially as moms, is that we can get very bent out of shape with our kids doing different types of behaviors or having certain tendencies or even making choices that we would prefer that they didn’t. How does the gospel help us keep the main thing when we think of our mothering?

Nancy:  Well, all along the way parenting, especially as our kids get into their teens and even more, I can say from personal experience as they get into young adulthood, we have to keep coming back to, what is the main thing? Because we can have a tendency as a mom to be looking at all these surface choices and behaviors, and we can get all bent out of shape about them and neglect what's underneath them. 

The main thing is, is my child savingly connected to Jesus Christ? Is my child spiritually dead or spiritually alive? Because everything else flows out of that. Everything is built on that, so this means, as our children grow, as we get so frustrated about certain aspects of their lives or their behaviors or actions, we just have to keep coming back to the fact of asking ourselves, “Is my child savingly connected to Jesus Christ?”

If my child is, then one way that we can rest as moms is to recognize, “Okay, then I can trust that the Holy Spirit is going to do a work in my child's life. The Spirit and the word is going to go to work on my child bring them to a place of conviction and empower them to change.”

One big challenge for me, as a mom, has been to simply trust God's timing to do that. I have to tell you, if we'd been having this conversation even five years ago, I wouldn't have been able to say that, because I was still in so much turmoil, waiting for some things to happen. It's timely to talk to you now, because I am seeing that some things four, five years ago that I was praying for. And I'll just be honest with you, some of those things I was praying for, I really didn't have the faith to believe God was going to do. I'm embarrassed to say, but it's just true.

I was praying intently, but I couldn't see for myself how that was going to happen and I'm telling you now, I look at it and I have seen God work in some ways beyond what I could imagine. I'm realizing now what has been important is for me to trust God's timing to work and bring about change in my child, because my child is savingly connected to Jesus Christ and he has done a work.

I guess the other thing is that, if we don't see any signs of spiritual life in our child and we come to the conclusion—I mean we never know about the interior of anyone's life— but if we're seeing zero fruits of spiritual life in our child, then instead of getting so uptight about all those things on the surface, we want to be pouring ourselves into begging God to do what only God can do, by the way, which is, take our child from spiritual death to spiritual life. Only he can do that.

I think sometimes, as moms we think that it's going to happen by my great witness, my great example, I'm going to get somebody to talk to my child, I’ve got to get my child in this group of friends, I've got to get my child to read this book, I've got to get my child to go to this event.

We tend to take the reins of control and think we can manipulate to make it happen, that our children will become spiritually alive. Certainly, it's our role as moms and dads to put our children in situations where they are going to hear the gospel, to put them under God's word in terms of preaching, week to week, in the church, have them be with us seeing us experience partaking of the sacraments, but ultimately, this is something only God can do. 

It becomes an incredible matter of prayer for us rather than presume upon God to save our children, we begin to pray, even beg, God to save our children.

Emily:  I really appreciate that overview of what it’s looked like for you to trust God even when you can't see the outcome. I think we live in a social media, instant gratification, microwave society and when we discipline one time, we wonder where’s the change?

God really has the long game in mind, and we get that from the metanarrative of scripture seeing how God took a long time and is taking a long time to play out this redemptive story. And it's not finished yet; it’s still coming. We have to remember that's the character of the God when we're parenting our kids. It is hard to keep that in mind.

Nancy:  Absolutely. It's hard to wait on him.

Laura:  Speaking of trusting in God with our children, can you give us a closer look at what it's looked like in your life to trust God with your children? 

Nancy:  First of all, isn't trusting God like Christianity 101? [laughter] It's the very foundation. I think, as we spend our lives in this world, that the essence of the Christian life is that God keeps giving us new opportunities to trust him in new ways, but that's not one of those things we get down like, ”Yes, I’ve trusted God.” I wish it was. I wish it was like, “I trusted God with this hard thing,” because you know what, I did trust God with a really hard thing. Two times. Trusting him with the deaths of two of my children.

I can remember right when Hope was born, I was still in the hospital and I called a good friend of mine. She said something to me, over the phone, that kind of set the course for me to begin to see what it was going to mean to trust God with Hope’s life. She said to me that God's purpose would be completely accomplished in Hope’s life in the number of days that he gave to her. During the 199 days of Hope's life, part of trusting God in that situation was trusting that that was true.

I remember a couple of weeks later I was rocking her, in what was intended to be our nursery, and things had finally settled down a little bit and I thought to myself, “Okay, I'm going to pray and I'm going to ask God to extend Hope’s life as long as possible.” I thought to myself, “I've been so generous to God to be able to accept that she's not going to grow old with us but I am going to just ask him to extend her life as long as possible.” I took a breath to begin to pray that and I thought to myself, “But wait a minute, maybe a longer life isn't better for her, or for me.” I thought to myself, “Maybe, what's more significant is that I will be willing to trust God to give her exactly the number of days that are right for her and right for me.” So my prayer changed.

I just asked God, “Would you give me the grace I need to accept the number of days that you give us with Hope?” I was trusting God with her life. My husband David and I, we took surgical steps to prevent another pregnancy and evidently it didn't work, and then I discovered that I was pregnant again with a son. This time, our son Gabriel would also have Zellweger Syndrome. I'd been asking God why during Hope’s life. The second time was why again? Is there something I didn’t learn the first time? I remember going away by myself; I just needed some time to think and pray and cry.

I remember saying to the Lord, “Okay, if you are going to ask me to do this again, then do something significant with it. Do everything you intend even if what you intend is only what you intend to do inside me. I don’t want this to be wasted pain.” 

I think that's what trusting God looked like there, but I think in more recent years, through some struggles in our son's life, I remember sensing one day that God was saying to me, “Okay, you trusted me with the deaths of two of your children, are you willing to trust me with the life of your living child?” I got to admit to you, often times for me, that's been a lot harder—a lot of waking up in the middle of the night worrying and strategizing and all of those things.

I was really helped by something I read on a blog post. I was feeling so guilty for my sinning inability to trust God with my child's life, and I read this blog post where he was talking about what trust really looks like. He said trust doesn't look like you never have anxiety about it. Trusting God is every time that anxiety rises up in you, you go to God with it. That really helped me because I think it's unrealistic for us as moms to think we're just going to live a totally worry-free, anxiety-free life, in regard to our children, so the real issue of trusting God is not that we never feel anxiety, it’s what we do with it. Do we simmer in it?

Do we strategize to somehow fix it ourselves or do we come to God with it and say, “You must act. I’m fully depending on you to act on my child's life, as well as to give me the peace I need to get through this day. Lord, you can probably expect that I'm going to be back here tomorrow. I'm just going to keep coming back to you to give me what I need and to work in my child's life.”

Laura:  I so appreciate you opening up with a very real raw look of what it looks like to trust God. Emily and I both have children with special needs, and I know it's not the same, but it's something where you feel like you want a different path for your child, and you think that you know better that this type of genetics would mean that your child would have a good life. I just love how you’ve reframed it. I teared up as you reframed the question of, ”Let it be what is best for that child. God, let your glory shine through how you change me and how you change our family because of it.”

It's so easy to become very self-focused with what we want to see and how we assume our life will go, and in those moments where you realize, “Hey, this isn't the way it's supposed to be first of all but also that it isn't what you expected.” That is the question: is the gospel true? Is God who he says he is, and can he work through this, and do I believe that? I love and appreciate you giving an understanding of the ping pong game, that it is trusting God. If I believe, help my unbelief.

Nancy:  Do I believe that he's for me?

Laura:  Yes.

Nancy:  Or do I think he’s against me? Do I believe that he really does know what is best and is committed to what is best? We just have to keep asking and answering those questions, in our own hearts and minds, and that's what builds our ability to trust. 

Emily:  I’m still processing right here. It is so helpful to think about, yes, the gospel meets us—like you're saying—at the grave. It definitely meets us at the kitchen table, and it meets us when our child isn't speaking, when they're supposed to be speaking. It just meets us at every level.

Nancy:  It does.

Emily:  We’re so thankful for that.

Nancy:  Me too.

Laura:  This is hitting a chord for Emily and me, especially as we walk through our children’s needs, so thank you, Nancy.

Nancy:  We share knowing what it's like to go sit in the waiting room in that geneticist’s office. 

Emily: That's brutal.

Nancy:  Right?

Emily:  Deep breath processing through that. This is a good indication of how we feel as moms. We’re just looking at motherhood and feel like there's a formula to this, there's an expectation of what I think my life should look like, my friends life should look like, my kids life should look like. So we’ll see families that turned out well and feel like, “I want to know what their secret is so that I can copy that and then maybe my kids will turn out fine too.” Or we see families where there are kids who are struggling and walking away from the faith and we want to find out, “What was the weird thing they did in their families?” so that we won’t do that. What would you say to those assumptions that we bring to the table?

Nancy:  I was walking in the park recently with a woman who had some teenage sons, and she was talking to some older moms including me. I heard her doing exactly this. She was like, “What do you do to get your child to do that?” We're all that way. I mean, we want to know the secret formula, and it seems like the media starts handing us those from the very first time when we’re pregnant. Do you remember how when you're pregnant, you instantly started getting baby magazines and diaper coupons? All of those first little things you started getting, they all had five ways to, ten ways to, here's how you can, and you almost start out as a mom thinking, “I got to read it all, I got to do it all right and if I do, then I am somehow in control of how my child turns out.” 

That's just false. All we have to do is look around. We all know where there are numerous children who are raised in the same home and they take very different paths, make very different promises. I think the bottom line is to know there are no formulas. Does this mean we're not responsible as parents for what we do? I don't mean that at all, but I think it means, first of all, that if we think it's a formula, then we're ignoring the reality of grace. 

Grace gives us even better than we deserve as parents; grace goes to work in our child's life. When we want a formula, we're ignoring mercy—the mercy that we all need, that we don't get what we really deserve for the way we are as parents.

What's perhaps most significant is to know that as you seek to love your child and make the best choices possible for your child, the day may come when you're looking at your child and you're just thinking, “What did we do wrong? Where did we go wrong?” You're filled with a sense of regret, and if I'm speaking to a mom who's feeling that way today, what I would want to say to her is, don't make the assumption that the direction of your child's life, the bad choices, perhaps that your child is making, is completely up to you.

If you have taken hold of Christ, you’ve done the best you can to live before your child a godly life, and you’ve put your child in places where he can hear God's word, then understand that perhaps the problem is, as much as you did to set it out there for him or her, your child just simply didn't take hold of it. And that's not your fault. 

So, stop beating yourself up over it. Instead, take hold of the grace that is yours in Christ Jesus and let it saturate your soul and sooth that sense of regret. 

Emily: That's really powerful. Something we ought to remember is, the gospel is the power for salvation, and salvation belongs to the Lord. We want to wield that and think, as you said, “If I just do it a certain way, I can change them but we don't have the power to resurrect the dead—“

Nancy:  It’s not in our hands.

Emily:  I have to remind myself of that over and over and over again. I want to have the power, but I don't. 

Laura:  Nancy, as we close here, as I mentioned in the beginning, you're someone who speaks often to the metanarrative of scripture, and we know you have a deep love for biblical theology. Can you speak to the moms?  Something we have a passion for here at Risen Motherhood, as well, is biblical literacy and understanding that everyone is a theologian, and it's very important to have a biblical theology. Can you walk us through why it's important to have that, as we think about the challenges of being a mom?

Nancy:  I'm so glad you asked that because there's probably nothing more than seeing a story in the Bible that has helped me with some of those struggles I’ve had in parenting, and perhaps nothing more significant than this one central truth which is, there is only ever been one perfect parent.

God himself is the only perfect parent, and he's had rebellious children. I mean, that's a stunning truth, is it not? You think about it. God put his first children, Adam and Eve, in this perfect environment, this pristine environment of Eden and they rebelled. How many of us as parents sometimes think, “Well, if I can just create the right environment in my home, my kids will turn out well”? 

It didn't work that way for them, and as we think about Adam and Eve, they were actually the first parents who had the potential to be perfect parents but because of sin, they were not perfect parents. Because of sin, we read something that explains all of our angst and struggle in the parenting department: this curse that came upon Eve in the midst of the curse given to the serpent. The impact of the curse on the serpent on Eve was going to be that she was going to have pain in childbearing.

Now, when we read that, we think immediately about the pain of labor and delivery but it means so much more than that. This is the pain of giving birth to children with birth defects, this is the pain of miscarriage and infertility, this is the pain of being a sinful mom raising a sinful child in a sin-cursed world—all of that brings pain.

So, rather than thinking that something's wrong, if we feel pain as a mother, we should recognize that this is inherent in living in a world under a curse. Imagine that God was the only perfect parent. Think about him. He had these first children, Adam and Eve, they rebelled and as we trace the story of the Bible, God’s next son—as God called him—was actually a nation; the nation of Israel. You remember that he sent Moses to Pharaoh and he said Israel is my first-born son. He brings them out of Egypt and he leads them once again into what's meant to be a beautiful environment; this land of milk and honey, and he's really clear with them what they need to do.

He's given them his law and he's been clear that if you obey, you will live, and if you do not obey, then here's all the terrible things that will happen to you. Likewise, we tend to think of parents like, “Maybe I wasn't clear, maybe I didn't say a certain thing enough, if I'd just told my child this,” right? But here's God, the perfect parent, making his law really clear to his people. And what happened with his people? They’re in the Promised Land and they rebel. They disobeyed, so that they got kicked out of the house. Basically, they were exiled.

It becomes clear in the Bible story that there’s a need for that perfect son, that obedient son, and that's who Jesus was. Jesus was the second Adam who, when tempted, obeyed. Jesus was the true Israel who obeyed rather than rebelled. Jesus embodied everything Israel was meant to be. He was everything God ever wanted in a son. We realize there is only one perfect child and the hope for sinful moms like me, is that I take hold of the perfect obedience of Christ and it is merited to my account and in that I find forgiveness. For all of my failures, all of my failures to live before my children in obedience to God, all the failures in my hypocrisy for saying one thing and doing another, all of my failures to talk a lot about the gospel and then not think that I actually need the gospel, all of those are found in that one perfect son, Jesus Christ. I need him and as I take hold of him, I find hope. 

Emily:  You guys can probably all now hear why we love the way God is using Nancy to write Bible studies and to help us understand how we can see Christ and see God's plan for the redemptive story in all of scripture. We're really thankful that you were able to join us Nancy, and we’ll definitely include a lot more resources for you guys on our show notes including new books out: Even better than Eden and What Every Child Should Know About Prayer and then there's also another great book that I think you guys will like, When You're Praying for you Kids. [laughter]

Laura:  As I was going to say, the Seeing Jesus Series that you have Nancy, the Bible study, it's all about the Old Testament. We get a lot of moms asking, “How do I start studying the Old Testament? What does it matter to my life?” I would highly recommend those. [laughter]

Emily:  You’ll find everything.

Laura:  We are really grateful for you being on the show Nancy. Again, where you can find those resources at risenmotherhood.com and then there'll be a link. Of course, we’re on social media at @risenmotherhood. Thank you, Nancy, we really appreciate you taking time out to talk with us.

Nancy:  Thank you so much, it’s been such a joy to talk about such meaningful things with you guys.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast please consider joining them at risenmotherhood.com/give.

Ep. 112 || Living the Lifestyle You Want: Money, Motherhood, & the Gospel Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you liked this podcast, please consider joining them at www.risenmotherhood.com/give 

Laura: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I'm Laura Wifler, and I have my sister in law, Emily, here with me.

Today, we’re talking about somewhat of a sensitive topic. Emily and I hope to give you a  discussion starter on money, materialism, and resources—how we spend it and how we think about it. It gets kind of messy in there.

Before we do that, we did want to just let you guys know about some free resources we have on our website.

Emily: Yeah, if you go to www.risenmotherhood.com/abide, you’ll find some great, free Bible study resources there. We give some simple tutorials. There are even printables for your kids that are really beautiful, and we hope are very helpful. If you're getting ready to go into the Christmas and winter season here without any formal Bible studies at church and you need something to do, we have something for you. You can just click download and print! So definitely head over there.

Laura: Yeah. As I mentioned today, we're talking about money. Emily and I have been learning a lot, especially as we prepared for the show. We want to share some takeaways. We want to start off recognizing that this is literally just a discussion starter. There’s no way we can cover the gamut of money and all the things that go into it, especially as a believer. Today we want to focus on: how does the gospel reshape our financial priorities in motherhood, especially because, if you're like us, motherhood can feel really expensive.

Emily:  It was interesting, as we were processing this, one of the questions that came up first was, “What even gives us an idea of the right kind of motherhood and what we should be putting our financial resources into?” We just thought of a few that are familiar for us.

One, and probably the most primary, is the culture around us; whatever our friends at church are valuing with their financial resources, or in our local community, or in our neighborhoods. Even online we fall into different subsets on social media. Sometimes whatever I'm seeing those moms having in their homes or what their kids are wearing feels like that's what my kids need to be wearing in order to have that good mom life.

Laura:  Also your upbringing—whatever your parents were valuing, whatever they instilled in you. Or maybe you want to do the opposite of what your parents did. I know sometimes that happens. And what are those things that you personally worship or that you value? We're going to give a couple of examples and no, we aren’t stereotyping here just to make a point. We’re picking on ourselves.

Emily:  We're included somewhere in this list. Maybe you'll be able to guess where.

Laura:  We thought this was helpful as we consider, “What's our ultimate aim in mind and how does that drive what we go spend money on today?” For some people it's thinking, “Hi, if I have the best sports training for my child and the best sports gear, that's going to equal a college scholarship or professional athlete status.”

Emily:  Another one is just investment in creativity and the arts. Maybe special lessons or investing in really expensive instruments—that's a future worship leader right there.

Laura:  Most definitely. Don't we all want our kids to be the one up on stage?

Emily:  No, I want a well rounded sophisticated adult from that equation. Another one is just thinking that, “Hi, that's going to gain my child popularity or social acceptance.” Or even like the admiration of the other moms around you. Like, “Oh look how cute he looks.”

Laura:  “They're so adorable.”

Emily:  I know. I’ve always wanted that compliment.

Laura:  Oh you do. I mean, we all do, not just you. That European farmhouse style living. This is the one that we see on Instagram and we're all just like, “How do they do it?” The wooden toys, the genuine leather saddle shoes, the floral dresses. It's one of those things that just looks so simple and quaint and we're all like, “How do I get that?”

Emily:  If I just spent money on that dress, will we have a simpler life? Or maybe your kids aren't older yet. I know even in those little years thinking that the stylish baby wraps or the highly rated strollers or like this year's diaper bag, which frustratingly literally changes every year—

Laura:  Oh yeah.

Emily:  —Is going to mean you’re a cool mom. You don't look ordinary. You don't look like motherhood has messed you up.

Laura:  You don’t even look like a mom.

Emily:  You just can’t even look like a mom. We can easily fall into that. Even education. I think when we look ahead, we totally, naturally, and rightly want our children to experience some level of success. We think we can buy that for them with the right type of education or frequent trips to the museum, purchasing all the science kits, or maybe even investing in private school tuition.

Laura:  Another one is having a nanny or a house cleaner or the grocery delivery. As moms, we often value comfort and freedom to have this convenient life that we want, and we justify it in a lot of ways. Sometimes it's necessary but sometimes it's not. Maybe you're somebody who's very intentionally frugal and you budget, and you're just the master of sales and coupon clipping.

This is the person that I’m not. Although I very much sometimes wish that I could be, but there's always another side to that. Of course, having a tight grip on every penny that goes in and out can equate to wanting that financial security and control. It could be even an admiration from others who maybe don't manage money quite as well as you.

Emily:  Mm-hmm. I feel like as we were constructing these examples we were like, “This could go on and on and on,” but the point of this was to show this connection between our actions in spending and how they actually reveal what our hearts treasure. Jesus talks about where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. It's really important that we see this tangible connecting line between how we're spending our money and what it is that we often value and treasure.

Laura:  And we want to make a quick note here that you may be someone who's just barely getting by. As you're hearing us talk about this stuff, you might be eye-rolling pretty hard, because you're just trying to make sure that everyone has their basic needs met right now.

We actually received a note from somebody that was really helpful for Emily and I. We admit we speak from a middle class lifestyle, just so you guys know where we're coming from. But we heard from a mom and we felt like this was really helpful and a perspective to keep in mind.

She says, “It's so easy for me to fall into bitterness and envy when I see other families who can take their children to museums and music lessons, swim lessons, etcetera. Mothers who have regular weekly help with their children from their mother-in-laws and I don't have anybody, even though I also work full time from home. Mothers who can provide clothing, and seasonal décor, and fun activities for their children when I can't, because there's no discretionary money in the budget for even clothing. Bitterness, anger, jealousy; I'm fighting against this every day.”

Emily:  We want to acknowledge that at some level, we all struggle with this desire to acquire material things. Sometimes that desire is really good and normal and it's born of this desire to provide for our children, which is right and good. Other times it's born out of discontentment.

You can have plenty of financial resources and still thoughtlessly do that if-then thinking, “If I spend money on A, B and C, then my child is going to have the life that I want them to have or I'm going to be the type of mom that I really want to be.”

Laura:  It's interesting how money and sin levels us all right? None of us really deal with anything in life perfectly. It doesn't matter if you have too much, if you have too little, or you have just a medium amount. No matter what you have for income and finances, it's hard. I think Satan uses it to manipulate our heart motivations and make things really hard, so our sin manifests out of it.

One side note I think that's interesting is if you're having a lot of if-then statements in your mind, it's usually a really good indication of what we think we need to be content, or joyful, or justified. If we’re thinking, “Oh, if I do this, then I'll be a better mom, or I'll be a good mom, or my kids will be more set up for the future.”

This is a hard conversation that we're having today, but we still hope that the gospel hope we're going to share in a minute reaches you in a very new and convicting way, and that you take away some hope from today's show.

Emily:  Creation is always a very stark reminder that God owns everything. Every resource originally belongs to him. He's the one that breathes everything into existence. We tell our toddler that when you build that tower, your brother cannot come in and destroy it. [laughter] The creator has that special authority.

Ultimately he gave us all the good gifts in creation to worship him alone. His intention was that people would find their worth and their value in him and enjoy him the most. What I think is interesting is wherever we look in scripture to see God's design for finances, it's always rooted in his agenda, in his desires. When he does give riches, it's for the purpose of saying, “Hi, we're going to pull these together and build the tabernacle or the temple, a place to worship me or give sacrifices.” Or, “Hi, set aside some of this for the poor who are among you.”

His design always assumes that we're going to serve him first and not serve our money, and that he has all of our allegiance. It's really only when we get into the fall, which we'll touch on next, that we see money as a tool—that's a very good gift—as being something that's used wrongly for our own ends.

Laura:  And as Emily mentioned, in the fall, Adam and Eve took a hold of God's resources for their own purposes and their own gain through eating the fruit. They are banished from the garden, and now they are sent out to live in a world that's corrupted—by sin we act out and also a fallen world and the state that we live in.

Because of our sin, our hearts don't want God, they want stuff, or experiences, or cute dresses, or little bows, or soccer balls, whatever that may be. They want little idols that we use to replace God. As moms, we believe we have the power to make our children happy and give them this roadmap to success.

Society tells us that the roadmap is going to cost you money. We're told that in order to make them good people, or to make them accepted in school, or to be the popular kids, they need certain things. You need to buy these clothes. You need to put them in these lessons. You need to do all of these things. We buy into that lie, thinking that our success and our goodness as a mother is measured by our ability to give them a certain lifestyle.

Emily:  What's interesting is that our freedom, our greatest good, the thing that would turn us into the best citizens of the world, the most successful people, the most joyful, happy children, wasn't something that could be purchased with money or his created goods. God pays the greatest cost in the life and punishment of his own son.

Where we have used our monetary resources for our gain and for our glory, God turns around and he gives his most precious Son for our gain and for his glory. It's really interesting that he understands our need goes beyond these physical things and he sees the needs of our hearts and like, yes, those physical things are important, but he says, “Seek the Kingdom of God first.”

He is gracious to meet our needs even in lean seasons, but he wants to ultimately teach us that our wandering hearts will never ever be fully satisfied except in him. Instead of focusing on giving us stuff, God gives us himself.

Laura:  Something else I love is when we get to consummation, there's going to be streets of gold, foundations of precious stone, gates of pearls. The thought would be, “Well, geez, we're going to be wanting to worship that. It's going to be so beautiful. That's what we're going to want. We're going to be idolizing that.” Even with all of that around us, our hearts will finally be content.

We'll be worshiping, focusing, and desiring only God, because we're going to fully see his presence and we're going to fully see his glory. It'll sort of be laughable that we ever desired anything else in this life. So we'll finally fully live out that first commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Oh, praise the Lord.

Emily:  I look forward to that. Just to keep this conversation moving towards a little bit more practical principles, again, knowing that there's no way we can cover all the ideas in this show. First off, Christ is the greatest treasure we’ll ever have. It sounds a little bit like I'm saying it to little Tuck, “Christ is the greatest treasure you'll ever have,” but it's true for us too. It's something we need to take hold of and remember.

In the Gospels, in Matthew 13, we see this parable of the hidden treasure. Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God being like this treasure hidden in a field. When this man finds it, he sells everything he has to go buy this field because the most precious thing is there. I think that is true of our lives too, that whenever we realize the value of Christ, we can really elevate him above all the other earthly treasures that we have.

Laura:  As some practical takeaways, just remembering that this starts with us and making sure our treasurer truly is Christ. Is that what our kids are seeing? What would they say if we ask them? As we're communicating our values to our children, let's make sure that we're encouraging them to hope in Christ alone, not in their achievements or the worldly things that money can buy. No matter what, just remember that you can have that treasure of Christ, no matter how much is in your bank account.

Just a little side note, I've noticed a great time to do that is at birthday parties or after Christmas when they've gotten a lot of new stuff and they are still not satisfied. You're like, “Guess what, you just got all the things you ever wanted and you are still not happy. Why do you think that is?” It leads to a great conversation about how none of that stuff is ever really going to satisfy them.

Emily: Good mom truth right there. That's a great practical nugget there.

Laura:  Just throwing it out there.

Emily:  So another principle that we see is that everything belongs to God. We are stewards of the things that he's given us. Psalms and Proverbs talks about this a lot: the earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants belong to the Lord. Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest.

When we think about a steward, it's someone who uses and wisely cares for something that belongs to someone else. We're just holding onto it. As we talked about previously, God is the one who casts the vision and designs how we should be using our money. In the Bible, he's asked us to use our resources to support the spread of the gospel. That's through church and missionaries to help the poor, the widow, the vulnerable, and to love others and invest well for the gain of the Kingdom.

When I hear these things, I immediately kind of clench up and start to question every single spending habit I have. There's a lot of room for personal conscience here, for working this out in community, working this out with your own husband. Just for the mom who's listening, a takeaway would be to ask questions and say like, “Do my purchases and the lifestyle that I'm building reflect God's desire for his kingdom?” That’s a scary question to ask.

Again, be on the same page with your husband. I think that that is a really difficult conversation to have at times. It's important when you see that red flag. Oftentimes I know my husband will see it. This fall, in fact, he asked, “Are you planning on buying any more clothes this fall because I feel like there's been a lot coming in lately?” It was a gentle way of reminding me, “Emily, you have enough; let's stop.” We moved on. I didn't buy any more fall clothes.

Laura:  The last principle is the only things that last are God, his word, and his people. This is really helpful for me in all of life, not just money. God cautions us against falling in love with certain lifestyles or a certain image, things that the world touts as significant. If you're anything like me, you get caught up in that Instagram-worthy living, feeling like I need, as Emily said, some cute, new fall trendy clothes. Or that I want to have this great meal for dinner tonight, and it needs to be these types of ingredients. Or these are the new hot toys for Christmas.

A lot of times those things, as we chase after them in our hearts and in our minds, they're taking us away from our love of God. We're not recognizing what really matters; what is eternal. It's God, his word, and his people.

Emily:  Just some good takeaway questions for this are to evaluate, “What do my spending choices show about what I love?” Asking that question, “Am I investing primarily in the things that are going to last for eternity?” “What am I in love with? Is it being trendy or having these toys, or is it furthering God's mission and his Kingdom?

We know there are many more things that could be said on this topic, but we really hope this is just a small start to get conversations started. Whether it's with your husband at home or maybe in a small group with your local church, or just other moms that you meet and talk about the gospel with, to discuss, “How do our hearts shape what we spend?”

Laura:  And as a response, we're hopeful that you're willing to ask yourself the hard questions. I think money is one of those uncomfortable topics that we just all want to squirm away from when we feel the pressure on, or maybe some conviction or some guilt with the way that we've been spending our money.

We hope that you're willing, as Emily said, to discuss these things and then take action. Just remember that the Bible says, “No man can serve two masters.” You cannot serve both God and money. God's word is really clear on this. We're hopeful that after you listen to this show, you evaluate the ways you're using your money that he's given you as a tool for service to him, not as ways that you can serve yourself or your children.

Emily:  We hope that just scratches the surface for you guys, and that there are some good reminders that everything we have belongs to the Lord and we are to glorify him with what we have. You can find more about this at www.risenmotherhood.com or find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @risenmotherhood. Thanks for joining us, guys.


Ep. 111 || Seasons and Rhythms: Incorporating Gospel Reminders Into Your Year 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:  Hello.

Emily:  It's Reformation Day, [laughter] Halloween.  

Laura:  [Laughter] Not sure very few people can say it with that excited of a voice, but it is exciting. [Laughter]

Emily:  [Laughter] Yeah, it’s Reformation Day. There's no candy today. [Laughter] I’m just kidding. We're not taking all about Halloween actually, but we are going to be talking about another exciting church calendar thing that can help us remember the gospel. Before we do that, we just want to let you know that on Friday our newsletter comes out.

Our newsletter is a really helpful compilation of a lot of fun resources, everything from podcasts, articles, books we’re enjoying, things for mom and for your kids. There's also some personal kind of get to know you things about the Risen Motherhood team. Sign up for that at the bottom of our www.risenmotherhood.com homepage, or there will be a direct link in the show notes. That's coming out this Friday so make sure you sign up now.

Laura:  Yes, it's a good one, everybody. We get a lot of emails where people say, “Hi, this is my favorite RM resource.”

Emily:  It’s fun. I like reading it. [Laughter]

Laura:  We always learn something new. Okay, as Emily mentioned today, we’re talking about how Em and I have been trying to grow and adding seasonal rhythms into our lives and our family discipleship.

This would be things like reading certain books during the same month every year or the same weeks each year, depending on how long it is. Singing certain songs or working through a specific study or maybe a topic or the same topic each year. Or maybe having a season of particular focus like Advent or Lent. There are some big ones that are already out there that you can think of.

As Emily mentioned, today is Reformation Day. A quick teaser example of what she and I have been doing is that we take the month of October to study church history with our families. Now, this is not an official thing. This isn't part of any church calendar or anybody else's official calendar, but it just seems to fit nicely with Reformation Day being on the 31st. We're just spreading out that month because we both love church history. We enjoy it, and so we're going to have our families study it.

Emily:  That sounds really studious, but what we really mean is we have a kids’ book that we can go through [laughter] at the breakfast table. It's just having those rhythms, throughout the year, so that we can continue to remind ourselves, “Oh yeah, we want to be talking about these things. We want to be thinking about creation, fall, redemption and consummation in our everyday lives.”

Before we get too deep, as we always say when it comes to talking about practical things, there are a ton of ways to live this out. There is no formula for this in the Bible or any mandate. These are simply examples of how family rhythms can point us back to Christ. Also we're really learning and growing in this.

This year, it's church history month in October and next year it's, I don't know, [laughter] but it could be something different next year. [Laughter]

Laura:  She's looking at me for ideas but I have none. Think about them as traditions that might be specific to your family, but it's just like a tradition in a sense that you do it every year to try to remember something special. One place we can look right away to see rhythms are helpful to life is in the creation account.

We see in the very beginning in Genesis 1:14 that God said, “Let there be light in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.” God created life with an order and seasons and rhythms. There is snow in the winter, if you live up in the north. There is sunshine in the summer. Creation exemplifies how God made our lives filled with rhythm and seasons since the very beginning.

Emily:  We also see this in the Old Testament as we read about the rhythms God created for Israel. They had all of these worship celebrations that God commanded them to practice and obey, like the Passover, to remember how God rescued them out of slavery in Egypt. Or the Feast of Booths, to remember their journey in the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread to remember their haste in leaving Egypt.

We're going to talk about this more in a bit, so don't worry about all those words. [Laughter] Just remember God established these points throughout their year for them to remember their story, of the way he redeemed them.

Laura:  And another reason is we're just naturally drawn to things that feel bigger than ourselves. We've talked about this before in our show about stories and children, episode 82. Celebrating significant events or just having little traditions throughout the year helps us remember that we are swept up into a bigger story, and we play a part in it, but it's not ultimately about us.

Emily:  And we can be really self-focused. I know if we don't have anything like this on the calendar coming up, it's easy for us to go long seasons where we're just busy with our schedule. We're focused on family events. We forget to see what God is doing in the midst of all of that and how God has already provided and loved us through the sacrifice of Christ.

Laura:  Finally, it’s just to naturally teach our children the way and rhythms of a believer. We had a show about this a couple of weeks ago about how do I disciple my children. We were asking ourselves, “What do I teach my children? How do I disciple them?”

As we've shared before, God's not asking you to think up anything or to reinvent the wheel. He's just asking you to share what you're already learning. By building a pattern into the year, it gives us signposts to look back and think, “What am I supposed to be teaching my children? What do I want to invest in them?” We've got these markers to help keep us focused.

Emily:  Absolutely. If you have fallen off your horse and you’re laying by the side of the road, the horse is coming back around so you can get back on [laughter]. It's a carousel. It's a merry-go-around.

Laura:  A carousel. [Laughter]

Emily:  I think I need that because sometimes, especially in this time of year, Thanksgiving can get really busy. But you know what? Advent is coming and that’s going to be another point where we can hit the restart button and remember to remember the gospel.

Laura:  I think that's a good point you make there. Because I think I used to always run through the year very quickly, and the Christmas season was hasty and quick. It was hard for me to slow down. I didn't do Advent. Until a few years ago, I didn't really take time to celebrate Advent. That has been something that, as Emily said, it's just like, “Hi, this is coming and I can rest and sit and I know what I'm going to focus on during that season.” That is a major reason why I just love it.

Emily:  It is a good reminder. I just want to fill in kind of some gospel gaps here because I think we’ve already talked about the design and why God established good rhythms and traditions that help us—who are really fickle—remember to think about the gospel and see the ways that he has been good and given us a hope and a future.

I think one of the aspects of the fall that we should keep in mind, is just our tendency to go through the motion of traditions and to be really quick. As soon as we put these things on our calendar, they can sometimes become a way to just do it on the outside, but on the inside we're not really honoring God.

In Mark 7:6-7 Jesus talks about people who honor him with their lips, but their heart was far from him. That's vain worship— whenever we are keeping to these external traditions but inside we are far from God.

Laura:  We don't want any of you guys to walk away from the show feeling guilty or bad if you've never thought to do these types of things. Or even superior or prideful if you're a rockstar at these things and feel like you've already got it mastered.

Just to remember, just like the Israelites, it's the same with us. We’re not found righteous by the way we engage in traditions, or the way that we remember God, or the way that we have crafts or singing, or the thoughtfulness that we put throughout the year. It's not about any of those things at all. We're always only found righteous through the work of Christ on the cross.

We're hopeful that incorporating family rhythms like these will be helpful and bring you joy. That they would lighten your heart, as you meditate on God's plan for your life and for all of creation. The best part is that someday we won't need these reminders. We’re going to be with God. We are going to be with Jesus Christ when he returns. We’re never going to forget him; it will be impossible. We can enjoy these traditions today, but also look forward to the day when we're not going to need those traditions because he is with us.

Emily:  We are going to transition now into some more practical ideas. To start off, we wanted to discuss the church calendar a little bit. Because if you're starting from scratch and you're like, “Hi, how do I even begin to add this in?” Well, the historical church has things like Advent or Easter or Lent, and we can definitely build off of those things.

Before we get into that, we also want to say, we know some of you guys may have grown up in a home where you lived by the church calendar or you did see your parents model it. That could have been a good thing or that may have brought a lot of confusing, wrong doctrinal ideas.

You may have found it really legalistic and empty. You may be bringing that into the conversation. You may not even really know what it is and maybe coming in with no knowledge. We know that the church calendar means a lot of different things to different people. Hopefully, for today's conversation, just take it at face value. Take what's helpful and leave the rest, but let's get into exactly what it is. Laura, you want to explain the liturgical year for us?

Laura:  Oh I’m going to try [laughter]. Yeah, the liturgical calendar or the church calendar—you can call it either one—is a calendar that divides the year into seasons to help believers remember the story of the Bible and God's redemptive plan. The dates can vary between churches or different denominations, but the general logic or sequence is usually the same.

You have Advent, the birth of Christ; Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ; Lent, the temptation and death of Christ; Easter, the resurrection of Christ ;and Pentecost, the spirit of Christ. There are other dates in there that you'll recognize, things like Good Friday or Christmas. As a church or at home, you'll typically sing songs together, do readings, prayers, fastings, different activities that helps you remember certain aspects of the gospel.

Now, if you're curious about this and want to learn a lot more, there is a really good handout from the Village Church that gives a great overview and also has things like devotions and activities for you to be able to do during some of the major seasons. We'll link to that in our show notes and you can check it out.

We hope that just gives you an idea, a little piece, of what it is. You can go so much deeper that you could dive into it. Emily and I, at least for our own home purposes, have found there to be different aspects of it that are helpful tools for us to remember God's plan all throughout the year.

Just remember, it's all meaningless if you're just going through motions, and that this is all about the heart. It's easy to be like the Israelites in this. We give this to you, not so that you can just do all of these actions, but so that it’s something that's helpful and brings you joy.

Emily:  One you can jump on right away, that's coming up, is Advent. This is the season that looks at the birth of Christ. It's the four weeks leading up to Christmas. During this season, we’re building anticipation, waiting in hopeful expectation that Jesus comes as a man. Now we are preparing our hearts for the day he's going to return again, to bring us to himself and finish his great redemptive work so we can be with him forever.

We did a whole show on this that you can find on our show notes, but often people do Advent calendars or they light candles. They do certain devotionals during this season. For kids, there are coloring books and chain countdowns and Bible studies and reading plans. There are so many awesome things you can do with your kids.

Instead of recapping all that, we’re just going to point you to our show notes where we have all of those great resources. It's a great time if you're like, “Yeah, I want to go ahead and start adding in some of these gospel rhythms to our year.” There is one coming right up in a few weeks that you can get prepped for.

Laura:  It's a good one. Okay, so another really popular one would be Lent. Again, this probably comes with a lot of mixed emotions for various listeners. This one begins on Ash Wednesday. It starts 40 days of prayer and fasting that represents Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. The last week is known as Holy Week and that celebrates Jesus’ triumph and entry into Jerusalem, the last supper on Maundy Thursday, and his death on the cross, Good Friday.

Lent is typically known for fasting and self denial. It's a symbolic emptying of ourselves of these trivial things so we can be filled with the goodness of the gospel. You hear a lot about people, “I'm giving up pop for Lent. I'm giving up TV. I'm giving up social media.” There are a lot of activities that people give up. It's not about giving up the activity or the food at all. It's really about the heart and saying, “Hi, my hunger needs to be for Jesus, not for the things of this world.” The season of Lent is supposed to prepare our hearts for the resurrection, knowing that it had to come after the crucifixion.

It's a really serious season; a more reflective season. There are some really beautiful things people do during it, like Lenten Wreath or T lights and a cross shape. Symbols typically are rocks or palm trees. There are just like Advent coloring books and Bible Studies and reading plans and all sorts of things that you can get into for it.

Emily:  This culminates with kind of Easter, which is very well known. This celebrates the climax of the story of the Bible. While most of us think of this as just a day, it actually is the beginning of another season; seven weeks to be exact, that goes from the resurrection of Christ to the Ascension of Christ.

Easter Day is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. You don't need to remember that. [Laughter] Just look at your calendar, look up your Google calendar. Basically it's a season marked by victory and hope, remembering that death is not the end of the story for Jesus. If we are with him it is not the end of our story either. On Easter Sunday or even we've started doing things the week leading up to actual Easter –

Laura:  Holy Week is where it's at. If you can't get into all of Lent. [Laughter]

Emily:  All the crafts on the Holy Week. Basically, you can do things like displaying empty tombs, singing certain songs during resurrection, displaying flowers, or Easter lilies on a cross. It just goes on and on. You can do something every day of that week to talk about with your kids, this is the path of Jesus to the cross and then on Sunday you get to have the big, “He is risen. He is risen indeed!” party.

Laura:  [Laughter] So another one is books. Now, we're kind of moving away from the traditional church calendar that you might think of. We just want to talk about books in general. You guys know Emily and I love books.

Emily:  Love books.

Laura:  [Laughter] Books, books, books, give us books. We really enjoy books. One thing that we really like to do is to repeat the reading of a particular book during a certain time every year. By this we mean typically Christian books that have meaning, not some romance novel or something crazy. We're talking about books that have meaning and that have Christian themes we can draw out.

Some that we've mentioned before would be Pilgrim's Progress, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings. This all depends obviously on your child's age and their maturity levels and things like that. Something else, you could watch a movie together every year on the same date every year. Then you talk about that movie or talk about the themes and the way you saw the characters change and things like that.

Books are a big one for Emily and I. They’re easy for us. Every January growing up, my family read Pilgrim's Progress. That was something that I really looked forward to. Think about what books you're enjoying and that you could maybe repeat.

Emily:  Sure. In that, either with books or with other resources, you could also take times of the year to focus on the Great Commission or even other cultures. Maybe once a month you can cook a meal from another culture and you can study that culture for a week, and talk about that country and you can pray for those people.

Maybe your kids are a little older and you are able to watch documentaries or videos about other cultures. Maybe, this is one I am really looking forward to doing with our kids, is reading books about missionaries and taking different times of the year to learn about missionaries and say, “Wow, look what God did, in this part of the world, and through this person.” You could do that every year too.

Laura:  This is just literally us saying, “Hi, pick a month that works for you. Pick a week that works for you.” “Hi, every spring or right when the kids are out of school or whatever,” these are not prescriptive. Make this work with what you have and the time you have available. Another idea is service. Finding a seasonal volunteer opportunity or for your family to go on a missions trip. Maybe it's just to a neighboring city or you guys go overseas; wherever that may be. Maybe every year you guys try to do some acts of service together.

Emily:  Maybe it's just that you study the same things during the same seasons with your family. Again, like we shared earlier in the show, this is church history, like “Oh, during the month of October we're going to go through the ABCs of the Reformation book with our family.” Or, “Every summer we like to talk through Psalm 119 together as a family.” Or, “We have topics that we discuss: creation, redemption, the life of Christ on earth.” Basically a really good place to look for other ideas is to look at what your church is doing. One thing Laura and I are a big proponent of is don't reinvent something from scratch.

Laura:  Don't make it hard.

Emily:  Look at what your kid is bringing home from Sunday school. Look at what they're bringing home from Wednesday night church. Look at what you're doing on Sunday or in your own Bible study and just build upon that. Let that help decide what it is you're going to get into, instead of coming up with a totally different curriculum on your own if that's really hard for you.

Laura:  I am major advocate that VBS can be part of your seasonal calendar.

Emily:  There you go.

Laura:  Or Backyard Kids Club, whatever your church calls it, part of your seasonal calendar. Man, you got a whole week filled. That's awesome. Now we want to give you guys two quick closing thoughts that we have said this throughout the show. We did not give you all of the hows or all of the right materials or all of the perfect book to execute all of this.

We hope and pray that many of you guys have podcasts clubs where we know you discuss our shows or you're talking about these things naturally with your mom friends. We just hope that you will go away and talk with other women about some ideas. We will link some books or resources on social media and in the show notes.

Part of the fun is coming up with your own unique way of doing things within the life that you are already living. If something stinks, get rid of it. Never be afraid to start and then restart and try again.

Emily:  Pull an Emily; just do a new thing every year.

Laura:  Yeah, [laughter] Emily has no consistency in her life.

Emily:  I'll consistently do something related to the gospel, but other than that –

Laura:  She’ll consistently quit [laughter] and then restart.

Emily:  Mommy is a mixed bag of what she’s going to do.

Laura:  [Laughter] Surprise. I just know that there is so much freedom in this. That there is nothing bound and tied. As Emily did jokingly, but truly said, just keep giving them the gospel.

Emily:  Yes. If you have a little one, remember to start small. Even just build them into your own lives. If you have a baby and you're like, “Okay, so should I be doing this certain Advent reading plan with my baby?” Do it for yourself and get that into your own life. Get that rhythm there every year and then you can build upon it. That's something we've done over the years. What I was doing when my kids were all three and under is really different than what I'm going to do this year, having a six year old, two five year olds, and just a couple of younger children.

Laura:  Those years are important and you are learning so much. As Emily said, do it for yourself. If the baby may not be internalizing every word, hopefully you are learning from just the mere act of trying to live that out.

Anyway, check out our show notes. As we said, we'll have more information in there. We'll be talking about this on social media. We are @RisenMotherhood, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then of course www.risenmotherhood.com is where you're going to find our show notes. Yeah. We just hope you'll join us there all week and thanks for joining us here.

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


Ep. 110 || Creativity and Motherhood: An Interview with Quina Aragon Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  Today, we’re excited to welcome Quina Aragon to the Risen Motherhood podcast. Quina is wife to Jon and mother to a beautiful two-year-old girl, Jael. Today we’ll be discussing creativity in motherhood, and how being made in the image of God and identified with Christ gives us freedom to cultivate his glory in our everyday lives. Quina is an artist who enjoys writing, copyediting, and creating spoken word videos. You can find more of her work at her website, QuinaAragon.com. Let’s get to the show with Emily, Quina, and myself.

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

Quina:  Hello, thanks for having me.

Laura:  We are super excited to have you on. You are someone that Emily and I have been watching over the past year or two. We’ve seen more and more and more of your ministry and really enjoyed what we see you pouring out and the way God is spreading the gospel through your message and the arts that you create. One thing that we’re really excited about—that we can’t wait to share—is your new book called Love Made, and it’s a children's book.

Emily and I had a chance to have a quick glance at it ahead of time. I told Emily that it made me tear up [laughter]; it was really beautiful work and I just shared it with our audience, so thank you so much. Sorry, that was a big, long [laughter] introduction to tell everyone how excited I am about you.

Quina:  Thank you. Thank God, thank you, and thank you guys for taking a look at that. I am really excited to share that with everyone, and my ministry as well. I was surprised to be reached out to to write an article for you guys; I think it was last year?

Laura/Emily:  Yes!

Quina:  That was one of my favorite articles to write and really think through, and it really blessed my marriage because I was talking about how to cultivate and get a healthy marriage when you have a young one, or when you're new parents. That was actually very helpful for our marriage. I really thank you guys for that opportunity and also the content you guys are always putting out from the podcast to the articles, even that little Facebook post [laughter]. I've seen people sharing that. Yes, thank you guys.

Emily:  Well we want you to be more formally introduced to our listeners. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your family is like, and then what you do?

Quina:  Sure. My name is Quina Aragon, or if you want to be super Spanish you can say Aragón [laughter]—that’s how Jon’s, my husband, family says it. I was born in the Philippines; my mom’s Filipino-Puerto Rican and my dad’s Jamaican. I was raised in Orlando, Florida and ended up going to college in Tampa, Florida, which is not too far—like two hours from there. I now live in Tampa with my husband, and we've been married about four years, and we have a two-year-old daughter named Jael Sophia.

My husband and I serve as small group ministry leaders at our church which is Living Faith Bible Fellowship, and we also run our business which is called Jon Doulos, which is his creative name. He’s a visual artist—he's a designer, developer, creative director for a company called Native Supply. I am a writer and editor, so we sometimes get to work together on some projects. Mostly we do our own projects, but I perform spoken words sometimes and create spoken words videos when I have the opportunity. We’re a little bit all over the place, but that’s kind of [laughs] a little bit about our family.

Laura:  Awesome. That just teased it up right there; by anyone’s standards you are an incredibly creative woman. That’s just something that I know some women feel like, “Oh, I am not super creative,” and then you have your friends who are like, “She is so creative.” [laughter] And we tend to have these boxes that we put people in—either you're creative or you're not creative. That’s why we want to have you talk on the show today because I know a lot of moms—especially if you don’t feel creative—are wishing that you were that creative mom.

We want to dive into what it looks like. Can you help us understand this? Is creativity reserved for just a select few or can anyone be creative? How does being made in the image of God really redefine our definition of creativity?

Quina:  I love that question, because I think it’s important to define what the image of God is in order to understand creativity. As a side note, I always wish that I was the very visually artistic person. I was sharing the gospel with someone the other day and I realized I was making Adam and Eve stick figures [laughter] and the birds were like the ants, so I get that [laughter]. It sometimes feels weird to say, “I am creative,” but I think biblically, the short answer to your question is: no, creativity isn’t reserved to just a select few.

The long answer though means we’d have to define what it means to be made in the image of God, so that we can appreciate the call for us to exercise our creativity in various ways as God’s image bearers. “Image of God;” we get that phrase from Genesis 1:26-27 where it says that God said, “Let us make man in our image,” and man there is like humanity in our image, after our likeness. “And let them have dominion over the face of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Then it says, “So God created man in his own image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.”

That’s where we get the phrase, “image of God” in modern day, and that affects everything we do. I know pinning down an exact definition of that can be a little tricky sometimes. People emphasize the ability to reason and to think, and some people emphasize the fact that we can have relationship with God and others. But when we consider the original audience of Genesis, being the Israelites in an Ancient Near Eastern context that gives us a bit of a more holistic view of the image of God, which includes all of those qualities I just mentioned.

Sometimes that view’s called the Vice-Regency View which is just a fancy word. A Vice-Regent is just somebody who acts on behalf of a ruler, and you see that in the verses I just mentioned there. When God made humans in his image, he's acting like an Ancient Near Eastern King would act, when he would place statues of himself or his image throughout his territory to indicate like, “Hey, this is an area of my sovereign rule, authority, and protection.” Therefore anywhere the king’s image is, so is his rule and his reign.

Humans were here created to be God’s vice-regents or representatives, or partners even, on his earth so that wherever we were when we fill the earth, there is God’s rule in his reign. Which of course necessitates our ability to reason, think, and communicate in relationship. In Listen and Live, the short film we did for the Gospel Coalition Women's conference, I tried to summarize the image of God through poetry. Oh, and I tried to give a quick example; it says, “But Moses says that when God made us, he breathed into dust, a careful craftsman replicating royal image to cover every inch of the earth. Our existence meant partnering with God in his mission to cultivate or to reign and flourish like a garden well watered, a fruitful people, friends with their God.”

The idea in that is that God wanted to spread his image throughout the whole earth to take the temple that Eden was, and basically brought in Eden in a sense, to make the whole earth like the garden of Eden. Or to make the whole earth God’s temple, which should sound familiar to us as Christians because Jesus told us to pray that way, right? “May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So when you think, “Okay, what is God’s mission?” Habakkuk 2:14 summarizes it really beautifully for us, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

That’s what makes Genesis 3 in the fall of humanity and our sin coming into this world so tragic, because when we think of who we were made to be as these image bearers of the King of kings and then we think about how far we have fallen short of the glory of God, even though Genesis 9 tells us we’re still made in the image of God. But we’re no longer these perfect image bearers of the invisible God, and we don’t properly image God. Therefore that makes the good news important for us when we think about creativity or about being made in the image of God. It makes the good news very good [laughs] because God sent his Son, Jesus, the King of kings, who's the perfect image of the invisible God as Colossians says.

He perfectly lives out this Imago Dei; this image of God on our behalf. He takes the just punishment for our sins at the cross, and he raises the life in victory. And when we place our trust in Jesus, we are a new creation as 2 Corinthians 5 talks about. In Colossians it says, “Our new self is being renewed in knowledge after the image…”—there’s that word, “image” —“of its creator.” So Jesus is renewing this image of God in us as Christians, and Romans 8:29 says, “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Therefore, every human being, Christian or not, bears the image of God. But as Christians, we also bear the image of Christ which means that our character’s becoming like his; our affections are becoming like his. But it also means that just like in Genesis 1 and 2, where Adam and Eve were these vice-regents or representatives of God the King, that we now— Paul calls us ambassadors; again, representatives—are image bearers of the King Jesus. He says, “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us will employ you on behalf of Christ. Be reconciled to God.|”

When Jesus is resurrected and he gives his disciples this great commission which means a shared mission—again we think back to Genesis 1 as partnering with God in his mission— he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” which sounds very kingly, right? That’s authority. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always to the end of the age.” In other words Jesus is saying, “I am the King of kings. I am endowing you with power of the Holy Spirit to fill the whole earth with my image by making disciples of all nations. And remember, as you spread my image to the ends of the earth I am always with you.”

We see this kind of come to full circle from the beginning to now being in Christ where we can truly live out the image of God, and be God’s partners as his image bearers, to spread his authority and his glory to the ends of the earth. Which is my long winded version [laughter] of saying the image of God is both who we are and what we do. And if all of that is true, then that means creativity is isn’t specific to just visual arts or the written word.

If we understand creativity broadly as the ability to imagine or make new things, then that means creativity is just one aspect of what it means to be made in the image of God. And if you're made in the image of God which means are you human, then yes, you have the ability to be creative. Or you are, by your very nature, creative because that concept of creativity is related to the concept of cultivating, which we see in Genesis 2:15, which says, “The Lord God took the man Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it…”—“work” meaning to cultivate, serve, even to worship—“and to keep it.” “Keep” meaning guard or protect. Genesis 1 and 2 tells us God makes everything – the heavens, the earth; so there's only one capital C Creator.

But he made us humans in his likeness, which in part implies that we have the ability, and I think the mandate, to cultivate the materials of the earth which God created. And when we do that; when we take what God has made - whether its plants, colors, language, dirt, whatever it may be – and we make something out of it, what we’re doing is cultivating the earth, or in other words, making culture. When I take language and I piece together certain words to make a poem, a book, a blog post, or even a social media post, I am cultivating the earth.

Laura, I remember on one of your podcasts, you mentioned that you love creating new recipes or trying out new recipes. When you take vegetables or pasta, you didn’t make the carrots or the tomatoes or whatever. God made that. But you take what he's made and you cultivate it. You mix it and you heat it in a specific way and it creates something new in a sense—a specific dish for dinner. Therefore you're cultivating the earth in that. So that was my long winded way of just saying no, you don’t have to be a professional creative in order to be creative because you're made in the image of God.

Laura:  I am never going to look at my dinner [laughter] in the same way again. Seriously, I love that. Oh my goodness, this was so good.

Emily:  I am completely noting that over here, and I am swooning because I love that ability to hear something as “simple” or surface level as creativity, and hear God’s plan for it and the gospel in it interwoven all throughout scripture. And then for that to connect to all of the little things we do in our everyday life, whether it is the full craft you're doing with your kids, or a meal that you're making, or the pillows that you're arranging on your couch to make this beautiful space. And that it really intersects with all of the things that we put our hand to when we image God in that cultivating, and making new, different, interesting things. That is absolutely what God does. So thank you for that phenomenal description of imaging God in our creativity.

Quina:  Yes. I was thinking of Elizabeth Elliot, and I’ll just paraphrase. She says something on the lines of, “Even when you comb your son’s hair to bring order from that chaos of his messy hair, you're imaging God.” You're bringing order out of chaos which is very God-like, so yes, in that sense you could be creative too.

Laura:  I love that. Now that we've established literally everyone is creative, [laughter] so no one is off the hook here, [laughter] what if you're a mom though, and you're still feeling like, “Oh, I am just not super creative?” Or you're still in the classic creational gifts, “I am not that creative.” Maybe you don’t think you have a great singing voice, or you're just not the best at chalk art on the driveway, or things like that. How does the gospel apply when we are fearful or we feel discouraged in that area? Maybe we don’t want to engage with our kids in those creative tasks.

Quina:  I think the gospel applies in that. It is humbling definitely to not be gifted at everything. I mean I Peter 4 talks about God’s very grace. So his grace comes in different forms, and I might not be graced to be able to draw birds very well [laughter]. They look like ants for me, which can be embarrassing. But when we’re tempted to fear or feel a little bit embarrassed that we’re not good or particularly gifted or creative at something, it’s important to remember Romans 8:1 talks about, “There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Ephesians 1 talks about that, “We’re accepted or blessed in the beloved Jesus.”

If I know that I am already loved and accepted, then I could blow a creative project [laughter] and my acceptance and my being loved is not going to be changed one bit. Colossians 3 is also good and talks about being hidden in Christ. That was always a very comforting passage for me when I fell into the trap of comparing myself to other people’s gifts—whether they have the same similar gifts as me and I think they're just better, or they had different gifts that I wish I had. It’s important for me to go back to Colossians 3 and remember I am hidden in Christ, and that means that God sees me, loves me, and accepts me as his child. Coming out of that, you're able to take risks or even just to do silly things [laughs] with your children that you might not be good at and you can be secure at the same time.

Laura: I literally make a new recipe almost every night. I never make the same thing twice. Very rarely.

Quina:  That’s amazing.

Laura:  I don’t know if it’s amazing or crazy, but it’s something that people are always like, “How do you find new ones all the time?” I think for me there's no fear of failing in the creative process and I attribute that much to the way that my parents raised me, of feeling like mistakes are a part of the process. Mistakes are going to happen, so let them happen because you're going to grow and that means you're making progress.

Often we look at like, “Oh, I didn’t draw that very well.” Or, “No one can tell it’s a dinosaur.” Or, “I am not going to sing during family quiet times, because I just don’t like the sound of my voice.” Realizing that it doesn’t really matter how you perform in those things because part of it is just that, you're going to get better as you try things. And that’s the beauty and the growth as a Christian and in our spiritual life, and even in the things we engage in day to day. But also that we don’t have to fear failing especially when these things aren’t sin issues; these are things where we have freedom to fail and to try new things, and it’s kind of just getting out of your comfort zone and being okay in that space.

Quina:  And I would tell you, I wish I grasped that when I was a little kid. And I see it in my two-year-old daughter; that I am a recovering perfectionist who Jesus is constantly humbling and reminding me [laughs] that I run on grace and not on my performance. I see it in my two-year-old, like her personality; she doesn’t want to try things in front of people if she might fail. Just little things and I am like, “Oh man, how can I raise her in a way to think—like everything you just said—that “you’re free to fail in these areas because it’s a part of the learning process and growing, and you're secure in who you are in Christ?” That’s such a helpful thing to know and I am learning that still as an almost 30-year-old. [laughter]

Emily:  Something we all need to keep learning. And on the flipside of that, there are people who really enjoy traditional creativity. I know that Laura and I both really enjoy writing, for instance, and there have been seasons of motherhood where we felt like, “Oh we don’t necessarily have the super valid outlet for it.” Or like, “I don’t know at what point I can call myself a writer,” and maybe there are people out there who can relate to that. “I don’t know if I can call myself an artist or if I have to have this certain outlet for that.”

What would you say to a mom who may be mourning and confused about what it looks like, in her role of motherhood, to be living out these gifts that God has given and walking in this type of creativity? How can she continue to magnify God’s beauty right where she's at in her season of motherhood?

Quina:  I like that question. First, if you are that mom I really feel you, [laughter] because this last year for me has meant a lot of new creative opportunities that are pretty much in line with my gifts and passions. But the years before that it felt completely confusing for me just because I didn’t have as much time or opportunity to really exercise the gifts God has given me, in the ways that I am now. But really even now with these opportunities, I am still not able to do half of what I’d like to do with these gifts. I don’t work fulltime; a lot of time is spent taking care of my two-year-old which is a blessing in itself. But I feel like there are always like five concepts in my mind that I really want to execute and that [laughs] I still can’t get to. So I feel you first of all.

And then secondly, it’s been helpful for me to remember that seasons are seasons, and that a chapter in a book isn’t really the whole story. Therefore in this season of maybe young children or whatever the season within motherhood it is for you, it’s a season. Our main goal in every season is to know Christ in that season and to make him known. It does make me think; before I had a child I was working for three years at a hospital in an administrative job and in my mind it really had nothing to do with my passion or burdens or giftings, but I just needed to pay the bills. That was the only door that God really opened for me at that time.

The verse that can be comforting for mothers—it was comforting for me and convicting—was Philippians 1:12 where Paul being under house arrest is saying to the Philippian church, “I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” This man was under house arrest; he wasn’t working a 9 to 5 like I was, but he could still rejoice that his imprisonment served to advance the gospel. That’s convicting just because there are times, and I am not saying motherhood is the same thing as prison [laughter], I am saying that—maybe some people think so [laughter], I don’t think it is; I think it’s wonderful—but there are ways where you are limited as a mom to be able to exercise the fullness of your gifts and crafts and all of that.

But just asking yourself, “How can this limitation still be used by God in my intentionality to know him and to make him known?” I think also praying very specifically for opportunities to cultivate some of those gifts. Actually with Love Me, the book you looked at, I had originally done an animation video for that and one of the pastors at my church saw it and he's also an English poet. He pulled me aside and he was like, “Hey, I am telling you this was exceptional. What are you doing with this gift?” I proceeded to give him a list of excuses like, “Well, you know, with motherhood, dah, dah. I am not famous or have money so people don’t necessarily run to me when I have opportunities because I can’t really pay them a lot. I usually end up spending money to do these things.” [laughter]

I gave him my list of excuses and he just listened, nodded his head and then said, “Have you prayed about it?” and I was like, “Well, no, I can’t say I have.” I think that really pushed me to pray, pretty specifically, that God would help me have opportunities to use my gifts. I have seen this year a lot of answered prayer with that, and I am not saying it will always look the same for everybody. But there's definitely a call for us to pray for those opportunities, and if God doesn’t change your situation tomorrow, could you consider how you might seek him in this season and make him known still.

Emily:  A really helpful way to look at it is that these limitations are also ordained by God, just as Paul was in prison glorifying him and spreading the gospel that no matter what circumstances we have, God is shaping us into the image of Christ because we depend on him. He is providing a lot of times, even small opportunities, and that when we are faithful in those small opportunities that he gives us, and even in unseen and quiet places, and we’re glorifying him in the little tasks or doing with our children.

I know whenever my kids were really young, I’d put together a few little books for them that we would talk through. And they were literally bound, had staples or something, and [laughter] a horrible clip art in them. But it was just that way and I am like, “I don’t really have time. I am not running children's books for everybody else right now, but I can write something creative for you and instructive for you.” I think a lot of times those things are available to us in some form or another; it’s just a matter of seeing them and putting thought to it.

Quina:  That’s good. That’s challenging for me because I need time to think in my own sphere of influence, which obviously, my closest sphere of influence is my child, [laughter] and wanting to disciple her, and that means sacrificing. I am just being honest; sometimes I look past her and think like, “How can I serve the king? How can I advance God’s kingdom?” And then she's sitting right there and it might not look like how I would have wanted it to look or how I think I am geared or created to be creative. But I have this little two-year-old, so I could exercise my God-given creativity to serve her and to point her to Christ, or to help her thrive. So yes, that’s really good.

Laura:  And we talk to so many people, so many women have been on the show, or Emily and I have talked to them in their private life, and countless women have said, “The little years, the hidden, unseen work, that’s what prepared me for greater ministry later.” They were saying that those are the years that God was cultivating in them the patience, the long suffering and even the thoughts—that he was challenging them in their thought process and revealing sin issues and teaching and growing them.

So many of those women, wouldn’t you say Emily, they’ve all said, “Those little years when I felt like I was suffocating,” or like, “I couldn’t live out my calling in the way that I wanted it to be displayed.” Looking back and hindsight being 20-20, those were very special years of growth for them to where it prepared them for mission. That’s something that we get. Yes, we feel you. I feel like motherhood cramps my style all the time with professional [laughter] endeavors; it’s one of those things where we have to say no to a lot of things so that we can say yes at home. But hopefully some day, that leads not necessarily public or famous or whatever that may be, but a different type of ministry when we have more time. I think that these years are more precious than we give them credit—for not only our children or babies, but also for our own hearts and what we will someday do.

Quina:  Amen. That’s really good. The verse that comes to mind when you say that is Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men. Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” There's two motivations there—one is that we get to serve Jesus by changing poopy diapers, [laughter] whereas we may preferred to be speaking on a podcast or something in that moment. But you're serving Christ; that’s one motivation.

The other one is that knowing that from the Lord you'll receive the inheritance as your reward, there will be affirmation. For all that you do in faith, to the glory of God, including the most mundane, boring, or poopy situations [laughter] that you're in—the tasks that you have as a mother. That’s comforting. None of it is wasted on the Lord; he sees even what's done in secret.

Emily:  Totally. We don’t know what he's going to use or not use for “big things,” so it’s pretty presumptuous of us to think like, “I don’t know if it’s going to be that silly spiral bound book I made when my son was three.” [laughter] It was bad; Laura’s seen it [laughter]. Or it was something I did publicly. It could be that the little spiral bound book “did more” in a sense, and it yielded more. We just don’t know.

So as we close here, could you share a few ways that your family incorporates more intentional creativity into your daily rhythms? As we know, both you and your husband are probably naturally more traditionally creative, but I feel that’s inspiring and encouraging to those of us who want to walk in this and be more aware of how we can image God.

Quina:  That’s good. When we think of being creative as a family, we like to pray about and consider creative ways or different ways to encourage each other, our daughter, our neighbors, our friends, or our church members. That means may seem really simple, but I found in my marriage, as well as my friendships, that when I am really praying intentionally and specifically asking God, “Please show me creative ways to encourage this person.”

It’s not that I write every person a poem, although I've done that sometimes. But I really do feel like God places them on my heart in a specific way where I think like, “You know what, this person needs this specific thing,” or, “This person will be very encouraged by this specific thing.” And I do believe that those are answers to prayers for creative ways to encourage each other and others. That’s the basic thing that comes to mind. I also appreciate taking prayer walks. Especially when my daughter couldn’t walk, this was very helpful; putting her in the stroller and letting her sit there. Take walks and using that time to pray instead of thinking of it as, “I need an hour on my knees,” which I didn’t have usually because she was with me. Then sometimes, though not as much as Laura, [laughter] I do try new recipes [laughter]. Not nearly as much as you [laughter].

Laura:  I love that so much. I love all of those tips and they are really easy ones for women to incorporate into their daily lives. I hope everyone tries a new recipe this week; [laughter] we’ll just put it out there. And be creative; image God and be creative. Quina, thank you so much for being on Risen Motherhood today, we truly appreciate it.

We want all of our listeners to check out Quina’s new book. We’ll show you a little glimpse hopefully on social media this week, and if it’s available for preorder, we’ll definitely let you know. It comes out in February of 2019, but it’s called Love Made, and it is a beautiful book. Lots of Quina’s creativity went into that, so we’re really excited about this book. Of course, we’ll have lots of other things on our show notes about Quina and her work, so you can find it on her website and on her social media handles from there. Check out the show notes and thanks again, Quina.

Quina:  Amen. Thank you guys. Love you all.

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

Ep. 109 || Ask Us Anything! Fall 2018 Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast please consider joining them at risenmotherhood.com/give

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with my sister in law, Laura and today is our bi-annual Ask Us Anything show. We do one of these in the fall and one in the spring where we just gather questions from our community and have a little bit of a longer show, which people ask for from time to time.

Laura:  Buckle up people! We're feeling very chatty today. You should have heard us before we started recording. 

Emily:  Exactly. First off, we just want to let you guys know that tomorrow we are having a flash sale.

Laura:  We are so excited. This is sort of the moment I feel like Emily and I have been waiting for, our team has been waiting for, and you guys have really let us know that you are waiting for this. You guys have been asking us for T-shirts and mugs and other paraphernalia and we are finally able to be in a spot where we can open a shop. It'll be a kind of a quick flash sale type of thing. We only ordered a limited quantity so we’ll basically run the shop for a few days, Lord willing, until it sells out. We have really cute tees.

Emily and I are wearing them and they're adorable. We wear them pretty much every day, so definitely check them out. You can see the designs. There are all sorts, so no matter whether you like cursive, cute handwriting, straight lines, or the classic arm logo, we have every type of style for you hopefully to meet whatever you prefer. We are working on mugs while we’re recording this, so we’re not sure if we'll have the mugs. So we just want to let you guys know that we have this awesome shop and we hope you guys will go visit.

Emily:  Now we're going to dive right in. I already gave a little bit of background on this but whenever Laura and I are curating these questions, we go through and we try to look for what were some of the most commonly or frequently asked things. We try to think about things that we don't have a show on but we’ll link everything in the show notes for you because your question may be on our site, on a post that we did with either some type of answer or some resources that we’ve provided for that, so if you don't hear your question today look there.

Laura:  We've answered a lot. We've had like four Ask Us Anything shows. We've answered a lot of these questions and as Emily said, there are a lot of shows that really go in depth. You probably don't even want your big heart question answered here today, because we won't go into depth. So you can head to the show notes and we'll link as much as we possibly physically can for the hundreds of questions that come in. We do try to figure out if we haven’t answered it, how can we point you to the right resource? Head to those show notes.

[3:37] Emily:  All right. Let's dive right in. This is a light-hearted one to start. Minivan or SUV, Laura?  What kind of car do you use for your family?

Laura:  I don't want to talk about my car; I want to talk about Emily’s car.

Emily: Oh my.

Laura:  Not car, that thing is a tank.

Emily:  Giant van. Last year we purchased a giant nine-passenger conversion van.

Laura:  It is so hilarious because my kids will see delivery trucks and be like, “It's Aunt Emmy!” 

Emily:  It's been really awesome. It's actually been a pleasant surprise but the story is really cool. Laura wants me to share on here because it is a big answer to prayer and the story’s going to include some details that I don't typically share on the show—so just take them in stride with the rest of the story. After our fifth child was born, all of our kids and their car seats were growing out of the current van that we had so it was an option to get one of those minivans with that third middle seat—

Laura:  This is what I drive, a Honda Odyssey basically.

Emily:  Because you can just pack those car seats in.

Laura:  That is a classic mom car. Every parking lot I roll into, it’s like, “Which one’s my van? There are 55 of the same one.” There's my answer for you to this one.

Emily:  That was one of our options and that would have worked, but if you've heard the gospel in family size/family planning show, you know we wanted to have a larger than average family, potentially have more children. We were like, “We’re just going to go for it.”

Laura:  They were committed, you guys.

Emily:  We were going to get the big van and we did. As time went on, our son’s developmental delays, became more significant and we started to realize that this was going to be a really long-term journey for our family. It was just a lot more difficult. It kind of started to change our plans for our family size and we got to this point where we felt like, “I think for now, unless God changes our hearts, we may be done having children.”

At that point I was driving around this massive van around town feeling like, “Lord, why did we get this big van? Because you’ve really changed our plans for a family and we could have done something different.” I brought that up to my husband and literally that same week we took my son into a doctor who told us he’s going to need a pediatric wheelchair. He's not going to be walking independently for a long time and even if he can walk a little bit, he’s going to need a transport wheelchair for a very long time. 

That was obviously very hard news, although we’d already had a seed of doubt planted. That day I walked out of the appointment and I flung open the doors to the side of my giant van and you guys know what was right there? A big spot that was the perfect size for a pediatric wheelchair. I just lost it and in that moment, those times when God just gives you special comfort and reminds you, “I already know what you need before you know that you need it. I am a billion steps ahead of you, I care about you, and I’m going to be with you through this process.” I think so many of God's promises came flooding back. Now we drive around a big van with five kids and a perfect spot for a wheelchair in it and it's just been a tremendous blessing for the family. That's my van story. 

[7:25] Laura: That’s why I wanted her to answer because I wanted you guys to hear that and just be encouraged. I am definitely an emotional person but that is a legit tear-jerker, amazing story of God's providence and provision for Emily's family. The next question we have is, “What is it like living with your parents, Laura? Any tips on clashing with parents?”

Emily:  For those of you who don't know, Laura moved to Iowa at the beginning of last year and she's been living with her parents, my in-laws, for how many months now?

Laura: It's nine months, right now. I have the recording. It’s been a long time.

Emily: It's been fun to watch the process because whenever I ask either Laura or my in-laws about it, everyone just says it's been a really great experience and they're all getting along and it's been great. So share your tips Laura!.

Laura:  You guys have heard me talk about my parents. I do really think the world of them and I think honestly, living with them has been great. I don't say that just to honor them as they listen or anything but because it's true. I think I'm ready to be at my own place for sure. We should be in in a few months so I don't want to act like, “I'm just going to camp out forever with them,” but one beautiful thing is we do have our own space. My parents live in a really gigantic old school house so there is a lot of space and as far as what kind of logistical things have worked well for us, we definitely had a talk before we moved in and talked through stuff like, how are our finances going to work? How’s the living situation going to work? Whose roles are what? Generally, without spilling all the details, I think the biggest thing that you have to figure out is food, right?

So we talked through I'm going to be making all the food. Mike and I—my husband—are making sure that the pantry and the fridge are always full. I think because meals are just the biggest part of the community in a home and everyone has to eat. We also talked through common grandparent thing like gum or what happens when they ask you to do something. What's the authority chain?

That was really helpful to lay some ground rules. Generally, I always say I try to live like my parents don't live here, meaning I don't expect them to babysit. It's not an assumption for me. I pick up the toys; I don't expect them to do that. I cook the food. If we need food, I make the food. I answer my kids’ questions even if they're directed to my mom or someone else, I try to intervene and protect my parents. I assume that I want to live in a way that doesn't expect them to help me but at the same time, I also live as my parents do live there.

I remind my kids to have inside voices, no jumping on the couch or other rules that my parents appreciate that maybe I wouldn't necessarily mind in my own home, but because I want to honor them. We definitely shuffled some things around and I make sure that I am enforcing those and I don't expect my own parents to enforce those things. I grew up with my parents and so I know how they live and I think that is an advantage. If I were living with maybe my mother-in-law, who is another wonderful woman, I could see more tension with a daughter and a mother-in-law.

Emily: I know what you mean.

Laura:  I could see that being more difficult. I also think that that's advantageous for us but we chat about things. If something's bothersome we bring it up, not in the heat of the moment but we do address it so there aren't things that are just festering that's really important. My family is a just a big communicative family and we always believe the best to one another and that has really really helped.

Emily:  It's been a joy to watch you guys do that and I know we had my parents live with us for the first six months after my twins were born. They moved to Iowa and we lived in a very small space together with actually my brother as well. It was a trying time not because of living with each other was hard personality-wise but just because it was a lot of people together and a lot to manage, but when I look back on that season I am so thankful and I think, “Wow, I really needed their help during that time.”

It was just a joy and something that I think overall was a great privilege for both of us to be able to help each other out in that way and then come out of that season with a really strong relationship on the other end. Good tips.

[11:40] Laura:  Good advice. Emily, do you use essential oils? This was a big time asked question.

Emily:  Yes, it was. No, I do not. I did buy a starter kit years ago when it was first becoming popular so I don't know if I just didn't do it right—I'll take the responsibility for not being able to figure it out—but it wasn't that effective for our family. I also feel like my husband wasn't on board. He kind of teased me about it, which was totally fine. I haven't really looked back after that. I do still use lavender sometimes.

Laura:  It smells amazing.

Emily:  Epsom salts or bath bomb are awesome. I still use it for that sometimes when I'm trying to go to bed but I am so happy for those of you who do use them. Seriously, if you use essential oils and they work wonderfully for you and you love them, two thumbs up.

Laura:  I would say I'm definitely similar to Emily. I have a lot of friends who love them, swear by them, think they're amazing and that is awesome, but it just wasn't for me. It's just not something that we've ever really gotten into. I don't even know if I've ever spent any money on them.

Emily: I’ve tried to be given the samples.

Laura:  Yes, you probably have. We probably have some samples. They seem really neat and they do smell amazing. 

[12:54] Emily: All right. The next question is what do you think about forcing your child to hug grandma and grandpa?

Laura:   We could even just expand this to anybody who asks for a hug. This happens all the time. I have stories of random people coming up and trying to hug my kids. People dote on them and use physical touch. I think that there's definitely a lot going around that the experts would say, “Hey, you don't really want to encourage any unwanted physical contact,” so we always want to show caution and step in.

I think that's something that I've learned is to be brave and be willing to step in and redirect the person or whatever. The biggest thing we do with our kids is that when we walk in—whether it's a grandparent they know well or a great grandma or somebody else—we’ll say, “Hey, do you want to give a hug, a handshake, or a high five?” and just saying it in a fun and friendly voice gives kids the option. If they want to just high five, then that's totally fine and if they want to run in for a big hug, they can do that too. I think that that's been a helpful way to avoid unwanted touch. Obviously, it doesn't protect from zero touch at all but especially if someone you know and trust but your child is not really into it, it's a pretty great thing.

Emily: I feel that's an element of using discernment and wisdom. As a parent, I think you can kind of look at your child and say, “They’re really genuinely uncomfortably, they're afraid.” I don't want to force them to hold someone or touch someone if they don't want to, but there are other times when you can tell your child is just being a stinker. It’s a very safe great grandma that they could give a high five to. I think that’s that type of situation it just takes mom and dad's awareness and knowing what to do there.

Laura: You can prep your kids before you go and especially like if it’s a great-grandmother in a nursing home, where your child's being more nervous because the environment is different, but I think you could certainly prep them and say, just to be polite, you have the option to do these things and talk it through with them. I think that's always really helpful.

Emily:  I like that as an opportunity to talk about why we may greet someone that way—

Laura:  Yes, what’s respectful?

Emily:  Yes, and for them to explain why maybe they don't want to greet someone that way.

Laura:  Totally.

Emily:  Great conversations. 

[15:19] Laura:  All right. Oh, this one's a fun one. This is the most asked question both the last Ask Us Anything, which we didn't answer it, and this Ask Us Anything. You guys want to know what our Enneagram numbers are.

Emily: All right. Stay tuned for this entire answer because there's part one and then there's part two. Part one is our Enneagram numbers. Laura, do you want to share first?

Laura:  Okay. I am a one. I used to think I was a three for a really long time. I tested positive for three. That sounds weird. On the free test, I kept getting a three and I would get a one as my runner-up. It wasn't until I was listening to a podcast about the Enneagram—and I will link to it in the show notes because then you can all go listen to your own numbers—that I just felt like they lifted up something inside of my soul and saw right inside of it.

I was bawling in the car as I was listening because it hit on every fear or sin issue, every little thing that motivates and drives me, I felt like, “Oh, this is terrifying how accurate it is,” how known I felt which, I think is—what we'll get to a little bit later and talk about—why we like things like the Enneagram.

But ones tend to have a very strong sense of right and wrong, they want to improve the world using any influence they have. I think that they believe they can change the world. I believe that I can change the world, and not in like a big-headed way because I believe Emily can change the world, I believe you listening can do it as well. I believe in people. I believe that one person can make a huge difference and that was like a core belief for me, and it's something that typically a one will take everything they have and throw it at whatever it is. For me, I think its Risen Motherhood. And I'm really huge on honesty and fairness.

Ones are supposedly super hard working people, they're big on stewarding resources really well. The downfall is it can seem kind of intense at times, but we’re also people who don't get afraid of hard things. Adversity sort of energizes me and if something is kind of hard, I'm totally okay with it. I could go on and on.

I feel like we all like to talk about ourselves a little bit so I can stop there, but I know that one of the hardest things that I struggle with is having a lot of personal high standards and I can put them on to other people and expect them to meet those standards or feel hurt when they don't meet them. And with that fairness aspect, I really like to justify my actions. I want people to understand I came from a good place and I am trying my best and so let me tell you the 15 million reasons why this is the decision that I made. Anyway, that's kind of the nutshell of me about one.

Emily:  I am a seven and Autumn, our Content Manager, wanted me to tell you that apparently, the Enneagram princess for that is Ariel.

Laura:  Oh, and the one is Belle which I love. Books! Books!

Emily:  Which I can relate too, because she's always in her little chamber of all her little treasures and she's like, “I want more!”

Laura:  Floating around! That's Emily. Oh, my word. Trying to pin that girl down. 

Emily:  I am a seven and I'm not sure if I have any wings. I haven't looked into that. This is information from  a free test. I also think there are aspects of the seven that I don't relate to. I don't think I'm that person in the room that's super loud and boisterous, cracking all the jokes all the time and—

Laura:  But you're funny when you don't mean to be—

Emily:  When I'm sneaky.

Laura:  See! Stuff like that. What? Okay, Ariel.

Emily:  I think that is maybe true of the Enneagram. It’s not going to clearly define us but the thing that I do relate to is the description of the deeper motivations. When I look at the same patterns throughout my life, one thing that sevens struggle with is trying to find ways to avoid pain and discomfort. If you've listened probably to any of the shows, you've heard me talk a million times about how I don’t really want to do that, that’s kind of hard, that’s kind of uncomfortable, that makes me squirm a little bit.

How can I do something that's fun or new or exciting? I’m the type of person who is going to be pouring my time, my energy, my resources into new and different experiences whether that's intellectual experiences or relational. I love to have as many options and possibilities as possible so I'm going to keep everything open, it makes me a little sick—

Laura:  No commitment. She hates commitment. I’m like, commitment or die!

Emily:  What's funny is, that doesn't apply to my marriage for me or my kids. That doesn't scare me at all. It's more like, “I don’t really want to put that on my calendar because then what if something more fun comes up?”

Laura:  I know. She’s like a toddler.

Emily:  And I’m already committed to this. Those are the types of things that go through my mind and I think I can struggle with being scattered. Because there are so many things like I'm kind of a little bit good at everything, I’m a little bit interested in everything, it can be hard to hold that in and really focus that towards something productive.

As you can see from Laura and I explaining this, we’re different, and one thing I would say that's been helpful about the Enneagram—we took this as a team at Risen Motherhood—was to see where Laura and I have some potential pinch points in our relationship and where we actually help each other and can strengthen each other in the areas where we may need to just be more understanding. We need to remember that that person is literally just thinking about this differently than me, and that doesn't mean that they're sinning or they're wrong and I should actually step back and see if their perspective could be helpful, and is maybe something that I need to hear.

Laura:  For Emily and I, it’s definitely almost every time that we've had a disagreement or just discord within our relationship, we’re coming around and saying, “I think we're saying the same thing but we're going out at different ways or at the heart level we want the same thing it's just we're displaying that differently.” It's been helpful as a whole team to see but then also especially I think Emily and I’s professional relationship.

We want to talk about this more. We were thinking about doing a whole show on personality tests at some point down the road but with the Enneagram stuff or any type of personality test, I think for both of us, we never want to get too deep into it or too defined by it—even though I was expressing to you guys that the one I felt like they understood me, the guy that was talking on the podcast. Ultimately, we can't really be known or defined by any personality tests. The only one that can know us fully is Christ, so I feel like we need to drop that little truth bomb in here. We try to always not get too wrapped up in personality tests or descriptions or Emily being Arial or me being Belle. I mean, those are really fun things but-—

Emily:  But not ultimate things. I think for me the experience was: week one was like, “Oh wow, this is so interesting, cool, new and exciting,” and then week two was like, “Okay, there are some helpful things here. I should consider this,” and then week three was, “I'm really navel-gazing and I'm taking my eyes off of scripture and off of God, and I'm starting to get down this path of introspection and getting into all these other resources.” For me, that was very unhelpful and that was a point where—I actually haven't looked into anything Enneagram related since then—-it was too hard for me to keep my eyes on God and his sufficiency and the fact that God's word gives us everything we need for life and godliness in Christ. So I actually don't need a personality test to tell me how to be like Christ or how to repent and follow him.

I was reading a totally different book the other day and in it was describing a way that they used to categorize personalities hundreds of years ago and was based on your bile. Have you heard this before?

Laura:   Like your stomach bile?

Emily:  Like your blood. And they thought if you had a melancholy personality or a happy personality it was based on your bodily fluids. We would look at that today and be like, “That’s crazy!” I'm just saying keep it all in context.

[23:54] Laura:  Next question. How have your husbands been a part of Risen Motherhood?

Emily:  Very behind the scenes. They're not on the podcast.

Laura:  They’re not writing articles. 

Emily:  Both Laura and I have husbands that work jobs completely different than ministry-related jobs. My husband is in property ownership, development, and management. Although he loves God and the gospel, his bent is not towards this type of ministry. But I feel he's really partnered with us by just I think laying down so much of his time and energy to just really help me and by being a co-laborer at home. Literally cleaning, cooking meals, grocery shopping, waking up with the kids, just being with them sometimes while I have to prep or travel. I really appreciate whenever we were looking into the book, he was the first person to be like, “Emily, yes you have to do this. You absolutely should do it. What can we do to make it happen?” He is definitely big on boundaries and he is not impressed by me—

Laura:  Neither of our husbands is.

Emily:  Hopefully you take that in the right way like, yes on one level he is but another level he sees me and he's able to help me evaluate things. But overall I would just say he's been sacrificial and that has allowed me to do this.

Laura:   My husband is probably very similar. He's really good to ask me how it's going and to celebrate the good things that God has done through it and praying for it. I'm the dreamer and he's much more steady and stable. I call him the sieve to my dream. He definitely filters them, but especially when it comes to Risen Motherhood, he has been so incredibly supportive and—I should have asked him—but I know that he's really, really proud of the work that we do here.

He just loves the work that we do and he's proud that we’re able to participate in this and he sees all of the behind the scenes working. He knows how many hours go into this, he knows the frustrations and the sadness, and the wonderful good things that happen too. He's just been my rock through all of it, and I know I couldn't do it without him. And he also, as Emily was saying, is not being impressed.

He always jokes with me like, “You're never going to get a big head, don't worry about it, you live with me, I won't ever let you.” That’s been really good. I am very appreciative that we have husbands that know how normal we are. I always say to other people who I've met in real life or with Risen Motherhood, I feel like anyone could do this. God could have picked anyone. We're just trying to be faithful in the little bit that we know but there isn't anything special about Emily and I. Truly, we want you to know we are co-labors with you guys in this and that we are not better moms than you, or smarter, or wiser. We’re just two regular people that are thinking and attempting to apply the gospel to our daily lives and thankfully our husbands see that and they're also very encouraging of it.

[27:06] Emily:  You can attest to this next one Laura but we have this one a lot. Do you wrestle with the influence you have and how has the Lord guided you in this?

Laura:  I would say yes. 

Emily:  Majorly struggled. Laura and I did not get in this to have a platform or to be influencers. We got in this to share the gospel and to learn and grow and to be faithful to the next thing that God was leading us to do. I feel like the influencer, the platform or whatever has kind of been a surprise or it wasn't something that we were striving after.

For me, I think it can feel like it's a thing that always has me on my knees and it's something that God has used to show me areas where I have shame or idolatry that I need to deal with and place my worship and my identity more fully in him, so that I can trust in his gospel and in his word to go out and do the work and for me to continue serving in whatever capacity that is. Oh! It's really hard though.

Laura: As I said, I definitely struggle with the normalness of who I am and I feel like I'm not very good at this, I'm not cut out for it, I say too much. If you could hear me in real life, I tend to be very free with my words and probably more open and overshare naturally, and I worry about saying something untrue but then when I have to think about my words and I think about them too hard, I kind of get tongue-tied and I feel like I can't find this balance.

I'm continually praying for God to allow me to articulate the gospel really clearly and concisely for you guys but to also do it in a personal and relatable way, and that balance has been really hard for me. I think the more that I have come to know God and know about him, I realize there's so much more for me to learn and there's so much room for error and that's terrifying.

It's paralyzing really because we don't want to mislead anyone nor do we want to speak untruths, but it's that reality that we're human and unless we're God, we won't deliver the message perfectly.

We're kind of conduits, we’re vessels that he's using and we're thankful that he is faithful. We can trust that but we also know that we are very fallible. It's such a precious message that we really want to be able to handle it with care, and I often don't feel that I am able to treat it as delicately as I should.

We have a really neat team around us. We have people praying for us, we have our husbands as we mentioned, lots of people supporting us who are willing to call us out, who have called us out, and who have helped us. I think another little twist on that too would just be figuring out what to do next year or the year after. We're in the season of raising young children and there are so many opportunities to say yes to and there are so many ways we could go, there are so many new products we could take on, and there are so many ways to continue to grow in notoriety.

Emily and I have talked a lot about the value of a quiet life and the value of simplicity and how someone who is very faithfully working at home with no blog, no podcasts, no online presence is doing more for the Kingdom, or could be doing more for the Kingdom, than what we're doing. It may be a surprise someday how things pan out. I think we wrestle with how much time to put into things, how much to say yes to things and often we’ll say, “Just because we're saying no doesn’t mean we’re saying no enough.” Figuring out how often to say no has been hard to and to wrestle with “Hey, Is the opportunity now? Is it going to pass and I’ll never get it again?” I don't think that’s true. We don't think that's true.

Emily:  Absolutely. I think for somebody out there who really wants to grow or “I’m going to be satisfied once more people like me or my Instagram account grows or my following is more impressive,” and you start to  say, “Okay, I'm going to start to do some of the popular things online in order to get there.” Just know that no matter how many followers you have, as two people who've seen their follower count grow, you always want another follower.

It will not ever be enough unless you are fully satisfied in Christ and in what you have in him in the quiet life that you have. Also I would say influence and notoriety or fame or platform or whatever word you want to use, there is a sourness to it and don't believe that that is worth chasing after. If God gives that to you in the midst of sharing the gospel faithfully and that's just part of what he does to grow it, then that is what God does. But it's definitely not something that I would say chase after or get excited about because it comes with a lot of responsibilities and things that are more difficult as well. Laura and I have had to grapple with some of these.

We're very grateful. I don't want to sound like we're not grateful. We are very grateful to be able to share the gospel with so many people, but also I am thankful that God has both Laura and I in a place where I am literally wiping a bottom a million times a day. Kids are burping on me and I'm helping my child who can't talk.  There are real struggles in our lives and those things help keep our eyes on Christ alone.

[33:14] Laura:  That was kind of a heavier one. We can go on probably forever but will go to the next question. We get a lot of marriage questions with Ask Us Anything all variations but most of them culminate to this very important question, “How do you do date night in your marriage? How do you strengthen your marriage in the busyness of littles? Do you go out? Do you do at home date nights? What does it look like?” Emily’s a little bit passionate about this topic right now.

Emily:  I don't know why I’m on this. Maybe because I'm in a season we’re just—

Laura:  I'm full board in support of this so just buckle up ladies!

Emily:  I think we’re in a season, we both are, where if date night is the indicator of how our marriage is doing, we’re all failing but I think we want to talk about this. Date night is fine and we're going to come back around to that—

Laura:  And we have addressed it. We have talked about in a couple of our AUA shows. We will link it for you so you can hear. I don't think the answer has really changed from like a year ago or something but we're taking a different angle, probably more mature Risen Motherhood angle this time.

Emily:  In Christian culture, it feels like whenever marriage comes up, the very next sentence is something about date night. It's something Christian couples are like, “Oh! How do we get this on the calendar more?”  But I think one thing that's been helpful for us in this season is to remember, what is our marriage actually founded on? Because God's word is true for all people, for all of time, and not all people for all of the time have been in cultures or in situations where there's this idea that you go out to dinner at the restaurant or you have these romantic outings with each other, you travel, or that you're at home together and—that's again not to say it's not important, but—we have to remember God's word equips us to have a healthy marriage that doesn't necessarily include our modern Western idea of having time together as a couple.

Laura:  I think that we all think that our marriage will be enhanced or better or our communications problems will be solved if we get out on a date night. If we just have that alone time with our husband, then our marriage will be better or we’ll feel loved or there will be romance or all of those things. Ultimately, date night isn’t the end in and of itself and we can tell you to do at home date nights, we can tell you to get out, we can tell you take a yearly vacation. All of those practical tips are really true and they're really helpful, but we also want encourage you to not have an expectation that a date night is going to transform your heart or your husband's heart or change the marriage.

Only God does that work and he can do it in the little years with no date nights and months and months on end of your husband traveling—maybe he’s in the military, maybe he travels for work, and there is literally not even an opportunity for date night, but God can strengthen and transform that marriage. If you want a changed marriage more than planning a date night and saving for a babysitter or whatever that may be, start with praying for your marriage, with reading God’s word, with serving and loving your husband right where you guys are at in the daily grind. That is ultimately what is going to change your marriage. It’s not just a night out where you get to wear wedges. 

Emily:  Which is super fun!

Laura:  I never wear wedges even on a date nights.  Flats is where it's at for me. I don't know why I said that.

Emily:  I think it's just good to remember, what is this marriage founded on?  Even in the little years, even when we're exhausted, even when we don't feel this big spark of romance, it’s founded on a covenant—the solemn promise that we made before God and before others that we've promised to uphold. It's just a reminder that it’s not built on a romance. It's built on this promise and additionally, the purpose of our marriage is to be this picture of Christ and his church, so that the world can see God's glory. Yet we do this as we have passionate outward affection for our husbands. Sure, we make time for one another but we also show the world this beautiful picture when we're loving each other well in the every day, when it is hard and it takes perseverance, and it takes working together and laying down our lives.

That can be a way, just the mundane everyday faithfulness, that we fulfill that purpose. Hopefully, we’ll do a show on this in the spring and get into this a little bit more. I don't know. We'll put it on our list, but we just want to encourage you for the mom who is very stressed out about the date night: it is a wonderful, joyful thing but look for how can you strengthen your marriage today in the everyday grind. If date night isn't on the horizon for a while, what does it look like to have time for sexual intimacy with your husband—we actually answered that on another AUA show—to serve him, and just show him that you enjoy him, and that you're collaborating with him for the sake of the gospel right where you're at today, and praying that God would give you that strong marriage?

Laura:  Sorry if that was a rah rah answer, but hopefully you're more encouraged than just hearing about our tips and tricks but if you still want those, we totally get it. Head on over to the AUA show. That will be linked in our show notes.

[38:34] Emily:  All right. Next. How do you introduce or encourage a toddler to pray?

Laura: This is a good question. Generally, we would say model it in front of them. Be doing it at the standard traditional times; meal times, before bed, when they're struggling to obey, when you’re struggling to obey God, when mommy messed up. Just show them what a life of regular prayer looks like. Feel like you can use real simple language with them. “Dear God, thanks for this food, Amen.” Whatever words they have, if they've got ten words, “Thank you, God.” That too is prayer. Remind them that they can talk to God anytime. That’s something that especially with my five and three year old we talk about a lot. It's just like talking to me. They can tell God if they're scared or if they're worried and ask him for strength and protection, they can tell God if they're happy or excited about any birthday present or something upcoming, and they can also tell God if they want to see something happen like, they don't want to be sick anymore. We talk through a lot of those things. “Talking to God is like talking to mama so you can do that anytime even if mom is not there.”

Emily:  That’s exactly what I would say.

Laura:  Okay. No more tips. What do you think?

Emily: I think if you're modeling it and doing it in front of them, it's a normal part of their lives and then it's very easy to just say—

Laura:  “It’s not scary”—

Emily:  “Repeat after me.” I think all of our kids that can talk can pray independently now and it's not because —

Laura:  We did anything intentionally—

Emily:  Right. They just watched what we did and probably the time they can talk, we've been asking them to, “Hey, why don’t you pray for us for dinner tonight?”

[40:41] Laura:  We were in the car yesterday and there was a storm and right away my son was like, “Let's pray for God to protect us on the way home,” and it's just because we've done that before. One time, there was literally a tornado not very far away. We were driving home and we prayed that time, so I think he picked up on the one time we did it. I liked this question. I have a hard time explaining image bearers to my young kids. How do you do it?

Emily:  There's a lot of ways to do this—and as with any big theological concept that we're presenting with the kids—one little idea and then building upon that over the course of a long period of time. This isn't probably, “Let me present to you the concept—

Laura:  Hey, three year old.

Emily:  Although I would love to try to do that.

Laura:  Emily probably has.

Emily:  I did try that. I think it's good to keep that long view in mind so as we're giving some these answers, remember this is—

Laura:  Built over years. 

Emily:  I'm still trying to figure out what image bearer means, but one way to start the conversation is pointing out the way a child looks like their parents, even if you have an adopted child or foster care child, even explaining, “Look, we both have hair and eyes and hands and God made us both people,” but for your biological children, even saying things like, “Our hair's the same color. Look, we both have freckles, we both have brown eyes.” Reminding them of a time, “Has anyone ever stopped you and told you, you look like Daddy, you look just like your Mommy,” and just making that connection that parents have similarities to their children and often times, children kind of look like a miniature example of their parents. So we can just explain that God our Father in heaven created humans to image him too, right? We’re not exactly like him, our kids are not exactly like us, but we're similar so when people see us, they're supposed to see this little picture of what God is like.

I even think of this in terms of character qualities. “Hey, when you're out at the park or you're at school and you’re behaving in a certain way, people think you're representing our family and what we're like and what we value and how we talk at home, so you're kind of a little picture for people; a little representation of what the Jensens are like.” Obviously, these analogies break down, but I think they're helpful initial connections to give kids when you're starting this conversation. Another thing we did recently, when we had a kid that was lying to us, is talking about the difference between God and Satan or you could use the serpent in the gardens. What did God do? He was a creator, he was kind, he provided things, he made life, he loved beauty and relationships, and he told Adam and Eve the truth, he helped them do what he asked them to do. What was the serpent-like? My kids know the gospel story. This is where this constant stream of discipleship—

Laura:  She’s building on the foundation she’s already laid.

Emily:  They already know the story. The serpent was a liar, he was sneaky. 

Laura:  He’s a trickster. That’s what my kids call him.

Emily:  He was encouraging them to do bad things. He wanted people to die, he wanted to destroy people, and he was making beautiful things really ugly. Then we can talk about how God made you to be like him. He wants you to love the things that he loves and he doesn't want us to be like that sneaky snake who is destroying things and making beautiful things ugly and lying and manipulating people. Obviously, we can use kid language in that.  I think that is another perfect way to say, “But you’re not imaging God all the time, are you? You don't look just like God, what are you going to do about that problem?”

Laura:  That's why we need Jesus. A perfect way to share the gospel.

Emily:  There you go. Those are just some examples of conversations we've had. It comes out a lot in discipline conversations. It’s when it comes up a lot for us.

Laura:  I would just say, don't over complicate it either. Kids learn the meaning of words all the time without you giving an explanation. They are just sponges picking up everything that you're saying, so if you're using that word in regular conversation, as in the context of God's word and with Jesus and with all of those things—yes they may at some point ask for explanations or there may be really appropriate times for you to just naturally segue into one. I’ll also just say, “Remember you're an image bearer of Jesus and so go out and show people what Jesus looks like,” and that's as complicated as it gets.

I don't understand the full way of being an image bearer, he probably doesn’t either, but he knows, “I want to act like Jesus at school,” and it's just a quick friendly reminder. And over time, those truths are built in our heart and as we've both been saying, just recognizing that these big concepts are things that yes, even a young child can understand but the depth and weight and breadth of them are learned over years and years of Christian life and study and maturity. Allow your kids to be kids too.

[45:50] Emily: I think that transitions to another question. Somebody talking about starting catechisms with their 18-month-old and saying that they found themselves getting discouraged so they're asking, “Am I having too high expectations when my toddler can only say nine words?” Building upon this answer is, yes. I understand this question, because I thought this when my oldest was young. It’s wonderful and I do not regret an ounce of energy that I spent trying to teach him vocabulary words and help him memorize the gospel, those were all good things. Now that I'm a little bit further ahead, not much further ahead, I realized that his language, his output was not meeting my expectations. I would never discourage a mom from starting with those things, that's fine. Have high expectations for your input but as far as their output goes, if they can only say nine words, they're not going to build or repeat their catechism back to you and that is okay.

Laura:  Think of it as practice for yourself. I remember those first few years with my son at home or even my son and daughter, when they were too young to really speak very much, it was really, really good practice for me to say, “I love these books,” and get out all the jitters. You need years—speaking of how long this takes—years of learning the gospel language, learning how to turn into something that a two-year-old can understand, learning how to gather the supplies that you would say, “Oh, this is how we would like to do  family quite times in our home.” They don't have to look like Sally Smith over there; they can look like this in our home. These years, they matter, but don't expect the output, as Emily keeps saying, to feel gratifying. It’s probably not going to.

[48:07] Emily:  We have some shows about this. Another thing we're doing, in addition to giving that knowledge, is being a representative to them of what God is like in his love, in the fact that we're trustworthy and we’re caring for them and we’re nurturing them, so I would definitely keep a lot of focus on that too. All right. Next question. How do you approach Santa and other non-advent type Christmas traditions?

Laura:  This is a question, funnily enough, we actually get year around. People are thinking about Santa in June, which is hilarious to me but it's a good question. It's one that we were asked a lot. Emily and I without talking with one another, without really saying, “What are you going to do?” we have taken sort of the same position on Santa. This is something that we want to say: first off, do your own research, talk with your husband, make your own decision for your family. We are speaking here about what our personal families have decided. There are a ton of opinions about Santa, which is why we have not tackled it head-on in a show or something because we feel like Christians all over the board have really taken a lot of different stances on Santa and I feel maybe we’re in the middle. I don't even know, but for us, Christmas is about Christ. During Advent, during Christmas, our family doesn’t really incorporate a lot of Santa. It's not that Santa is off limits, it's not that Santa is a dirty word.

Emily:  Don’t say Santa!

Laura:  He's just another—I want to say fairy man but that's not true. One of those things. Fairytale?

Emily:  Yes.

Laura:  He's just another character in storybooks. We are not anti-Santa, but we're not necessarily pro-Santa. Our kids are raised knowing that Santa is a really fun make-believe thing and he's a lot like the cow at Chick-fil-A.

Emily:  It’s like Winnie the Pooh.

Laura:  Yes, Exactly.

Emily:  Totally. That's how we approach it as well, and we’ve even talked about Santa originated like a real person. There's actually some really neat stories that you can then tie back into the gospel, but as much as possible, we take Christmas as an opportunity to focus on Christ and then Santa stays like the fantasy category like the Mickey Mouse category. For us he's not a threat. He can show up in a movie, he can show up in a storybook, he can show up at the mall, and we honestly don't even take our kids to see Santa at the mall but if we did, I’d be cool.

Laura:  We have a picture with our kids with Santa because he was free and we were at this Christmas thing. I'm was like, “Cool and my kids crying really hard.” 

Emily:  He looks like somebody dressed up as Santa.  Like the Santa character—

Laura: It’s like a mascot—

Emily: Yes, like a mascot.

Laura: The cow and Chick-fil-A. That’s where I was headed with that.

Emily:  That's how we treat it. The next question that we always get whenever we say this is, “What do you do about your child spoiling Santa for other people?” I will just say, for us, we have never had that happen but before when we’ve gone somewhere, if I know that we're going to be in that situation, I've just told our kids, “Hey, please don't make a big deal about Santa or don't talk about Santa.”

We just have a conversation beforehand but I assume if that ever happened, I would take my husband and I would talk to that parent and take responsibility for it. I cannot control their language completely, but that has for us been more of like a hypothetical fear and not something that we've really seen boots on the ground. In fact, the biggest issue we've had is adults questioning our kids. When an adult says, “Well, what is Santa bringing you for Christmas?” and they're like, “Huh? Grandma and grandpa get me presents,” and the adult is actually the one who's offended even more, so we've never really had an issue with the kids.

Laura:  My mom had Santa spoiled to her when she was a little bit older in school, which is why my family did not participate growing up, because she did not want that devastation for her own children, just to give another perspective which was really interesting. I was raised without Santa. Emily, were you raised with or without Santa?

Emily:  We did Santa when I was young.

Laura:  I wasn't because of what I just mentioned, but I always appreciate—and this is what my mom did and kind of how we’ve handled it with our kids that are verbal—that we talk about how Santa is make-believe, but some parents handle it differently but it's the mommies and daddies decision to tell their child when they want to that Santa is just pretend. That Santa is actually mommy or daddy.

We talk about, “Hey, when you talk with a friend just remember that that's their mommy and daddy's job, that's not your job and you wouldn't want someone to spoil something for you.” I mean, as Emily said, I've never had an issue. My son has been around a lot of kids that do believe in Santa and families that do practice Santa that are dear friends of ours, and I don't even know what he does, at least we've never had it come back to us. I’ve even asked him around the holiday season “Hey, have any of your friends talked about Santa?” and he'll say yes and I’ll ask how the conversations go and he’ll go, “I didn’t say anything.” I think kids are fairly mature.

If they get the concept of Santa at a deeper level a little bit then I think they can also understand that that's not something that they need to share.

Emily:  Totally. I think that brings up a good point. My parents said Santa with me and overall though, Christmas was about Christ. Even though I believed in Santa and Christmas presents showed up from Santa, when I look back at the course of my whole childhood, that's not what stuck in my mind. Like this was the meaning of Christmas.

Laura:  It didn’t ruin what truth is for you. There are a lot of things out there. I think we see merit in different arguments so you’re not going to get in a position on whose right because we may have opinions a little bit further than this but generally what we wanted to advise you on is let's all not make it such a big deal and talk with your husband and handle it.

Emily:  Okay. Next one. Also, this is how you handle the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny—

Laura:  Any follow-up questions, just so you know, all those are fairy-

Emily:  They all fit in—

Laura:  I don’t call them fairy people. What are they?

Emily: They are make believe characters.

Laura:  Holiday characters. I think that that is our last question. We had quite the range of emotions going on in the show. We cried, I yelled, I think. Oh my goodness.

Emily:  Seems like a typical AUA. AUA is Ask Us Anything. I just realized. You guys are smart. I think they’ve figured it out.

Laura:  All right. Well, as you heard us mention about the show notes about 400 times, but we definitely hope that you guys go over there and visit them to find a lot of relatable links to this. We will be answering a few additional things, I think on stories at some point, and prior to this being released, there are some roundups that have been released. It'll all be at the landing page of the show notes so that's really what you need to know. We will link show notes and if you don't know what they are, head over to our website risenmotherhood.com. Click on the big gigantic podcast button and then you'll see the image for the show right on that page and you can click there. Show notes are basically just a a landing page for each individual show for all the links and the resources that we mentioned. That’s it. Oh my goodness. All right.

Emily:  You persevered to the end.

Laura:  Persevered to the end. Head over to social media to find us @risenmotherhood on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and we'll see you guys next week.

Emily:  See you. 

Ep. 108 || How Do I Disciple My Children? Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I have my sister-in-law, Emily, here with me. We’re super excited today to talk about a basic question in motherhood, but something that seems more difficult in practice, and that is, “How do I disciple my children?” But before we get to that, we want to ask you guys for a quick favor.

Emily:  If you have not done so already, we would love it if you guys would consider leaving a rating or a review on iTunes. It takes five minutes or less, and it’s actually a huge blessing to us. We read all of them, and they really help other people find the podcast on iTunes, so if you're enjoying it, definitely head on over. We have a tutorial in our show notes if it’s seems hard to do or if you feel like, “I don’t know how to do this,” you can head on over there and see how to do it.

Laura: We’re going to start off today talking about our personal fears when it comes to the terms “discipling our children.” Emmy, you want to kick us off and tell us a little bit about what’s hard about discipling our children?

Emily:  I just worry that I am literally not clocking enough minutes talking about Jesus-y things [laughter]. So I get to the end of my day and just feel like, “Oh, did I spend enough time getting down at their level and explaining things in light of the Bible and in light of the gospel?” Or, “Is my example maybe communicating that I love something more than Jesus?” Yes, that’s bad [laughter]. If I said enough things about Jesus, maybe my life looked differently.

I guess in general to sum that up, it’s feeling like, “I am not enough; I am not doing a good enough job at this. What is the line? No matter how much discipleship I do I feel like I've not done enough?” There you go; not enough [laughter]. What about you Laura?

Laura:  Oh, very similar, but a little tweak on that. Clocking the number of hours is definitely a very true fear, but also that I’ll say something wrong. Theology is so complex, and the deeper and the more that I learn and get into it, I feel like I know how much room there is for error. So when I am trying to bring those truths down to my child’s level, I get so twisted up inside that I can hardly even speak about it. Or I just feel frustrated that I can’t articulate it in a way that I think is both clear and theologically sound. Therefore I become sort of ineffective in that way.

But I definitely would agree with you Emily; it’s just a base fear that I am not doing a good enough job, or that I am not doing it well, and that they're not going to become Christians just because I am not doing my role right.

Emily:  It’s all my fault.

Laura:  Yes, exactly. [laughter] 

Emily:  Which is a really common underlying fear for moms. And when we get a lot of these questions about discipleship at Risen Motherhood, the questions have a lot to do with time. Like, how much time do I need to put in to be discipling my children? What do they learn organically? What do I need to teach them? When can I start? (Particularly for moms that have babies and toddlers.) We’re just wondering what the first step is. Then people wonder about things like, “How much is my job versus the church’s job versus my neighbor’s job, or whoever?” Also, we’re wondering what are our sins and failures doing to our children in our effort to disciple them?

And finally, what kind of resources do I need to make or buy or own or craft? [laughter] What activity do I need to be coming up with in order to disciple them? These are all questions we get on a regular basis. And we experience those questions too.

Laura:  Totally. We get it. And we want you to hear that you’re not alone in this question. I think every Christian mother in the universe is asking these same questions, but we want to demystify it just a little bit and talk about is, “Hey, what really is discipleship?” kind of like Discipleship 101 for moms. We also want to give you guys hope in the midst of this and what has been found hopeful and truthful for us—we want to share that with you. So let’s just start with defining what is a disciple. What does a disciple mean?

Emily:  Yes, my little vocabulary mind was thinking [laughter] “Oh, there's a disciple noun, and then there's ‘to disciple,’ which is more of a verb.” Thinking about it in terms of a noun, a disciple refers to Jesus’ followers in the New Testament; we see it as a wide reference, like, “Any person who is following Jesus.” But also we hear him referring to that 12 small group of people as his disciples.

In general, disciples were, again, people who learning from him how to follow God, how to love others, and how to share the gospel; so, people who were following him with an intent to learn something.

Laura:  And sometimes these people were religious or they were wealthy. And sometimes they were really lowly people; the unlikely people, unqualified, uneducated. But all of the disciples recognized one thing, and that’s their need for grace. They knew they didn’t have the right knowledge or they didn’t have all the abilities. They had things that they needed to learn and the ultimate goal for them would be to be sent out to go and make other disciples.

Not that they were just stuck to Jesus’ side—although that happened often—they were with him, following him in all sorts of settings, but also that they would eventually go out and duplicate those efforts by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Emily:  And one thing that is really interesting when you look at the disciples is that it was difficult to tell the true disciples from the false disciples. Some people followed Jesus around all the time and they looked like they were learning from him and doing things in his name. But even Jesus acknowledges, “Some people are doing things in my name,” but we’re going to find out later that they were not authentic. We also know that Judas was in his tribe of disciples and he turned from Christ. Therefore, it’s just something to keep in mind that on the outside sometimes it can be hard to tell who an authentic disciple really is.

Laura:  Then if we move to ‘disciple’ the verb— to disciple—this is having someone follow you around and learning from you about obedience to God and sharing the gospel with others. The biggest key in some of the observations we find about discipleship in the New Testament is that it’s through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who equips, transforms, and produces any good fruit out of someone who is discipled.

Emily:  We also see it strongly tied to the local church, and what God is doing in a church body, as all of the members are coming together with their different gifts, abilities, and resources, and helping one another follow Christ and perpetuate the spread of the gospel.

Laura:  And really, “to be disciple,” you’re learning by watching and by doing, so it’s a lot of exposure. It’s doing life together; its being in relationship and we see that, as Emily mentioned, in the local church. This is the primary mission of the believer—to disciple others.

Emily:  That’s kind of a fly-over of discipleship in general, because it’s important to know what it is we’re actually talking about here. But as we were going though that, hopefully that pinged a lot of things in your mind like, “Oh, this sounds a lot like what we’re naturally doing in motherhood as we have these little people coming alongside us, living life with us, learning what to do and how to live, and most importantly, how to follow God as they are living life beside us.”

Laura:  So as we shared previously, a lot of these disciples were uneducated and unequipped, and it’s very similar to our children. They come to Jesus in need of grace, and we are in need of grace ourselves. We feel unequipped and unqualified for the task ahead, but God gives us the Holy Spirit that produces the fruit in our lives, to do the discipleship work that he's asked us to do as we grow in maturity and obedience to him.

Emily:  I think much like we've talked about culture—how we all have a culture in our family—the question is not, “Do you have one?” it’s, “What is it and what is it communicating?” We’re all discipling our children in something because they're following us and learning from us and figuring out how to live. The question, therefore, is what are we discipling our children in? We hope it’s the gospel [laughter].

Laura:  We hope it’s the gospel, and if you are like us, you are hoping that that is the gospel. Although sometimes, like Emily and I shared at the beginning, we’re like, “Oh, what are we discipling to them?” Just wanting to make sure that that’s what it is. But let’s just talk through the actual gospel to get a little bit of gospel hope on this topic.

Emily:  In Genesis in creation, we see God give Adam and Eve this creation mandate, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” And then in the new covenant we see that modeled as Jesus is saying, “Go make disciples. Be fruitful, fill the earth and multiply these disciples and teach them to obey God.” It’s kind of this mirror image, as you can see. This is part of God’s design for humanity—that we would multiply image bearers and everybody would be worshiping and giving glory to God.

Laura:  Of course—and you know where we’re going with the fall—we cannot live out the Great Commission perfectly. Now we have divided affections and worship, and we’re hypocritical in the things that we say and the things that we do. We deny Jesus in moments of weakness, and we lack faith in God’s plans. We experience a lot of those same things that we saw the disciples in scripture experience. But with restoration, we know that God works through our weaknesses, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we depend on him through his word and prayer, and we stay in community with the local church.

Emily:  And we can be hopeful because some day he is going to complete this work of discipleship by conforming us fully to the image of Christ, and we will reign with him with our brothers and sisters forever. Ultimately it’s not up to us to complete that work or to have done it perfectly, or be enough because for those who are in him, he is going to cause us and our children, who are in him, to persevere to the end, and we can have hope in that. The next question is, “Okay, how? What do I do in order to live this out as a mom?”

Laura:  There's an easy answer and a hard answer, which we’ll talk through. The easy answer is just live faithfully as you can as a disciple of Jesus in front of your kids and bring them alongside you, in whatever you're doing. For example, you’ve heard us say all these things on the show, but if you're praying, have them pray with you. If you're reading the Bible and they ask questions or they want to know what you're doing, have them sit and read with you. If you go to church, bring them with, and if you're serving others, try to include them in the way that you're serving them.

If you need to repent, do it in front of your kids; show them what it looks like to confess your sin and to repent in turn and follow Jesus. There are so many ways; it’s just natural that whatever rhythms that you're doing as a believer, those are things that you just want to naturally bring them into.

Emily:  But the hard truth is that we don’t always live as faithful disciples, and so there's nothing to bring our kids into if we’re not living that out ourselves. That really is where the challenge and the struggle and those feelings of failures come in, because we are all humans. We have these dry seasons, and we are not faithful in doing that each and every day.

We therefore thought we would give a few practical tips as this gospel-minded approach to motherhood and discipleship if you're feeling like, “Yes, I am not faithful and I want to continue to grow in this. What do we do next?”

Laura:  The first thing is to invest in your own relationship with God. The primary thing that we can do is to have an authentic relationship behind closed doors. If your kids are going to do as you do or to follow you, it has to be a reality in your own life. This is something that Emily and I have talked about so often in our own relationship of the dry seasons, “What do you do in those?” Or the parts where you feel like God isn’t as present as normal, or you don’t feel like there's love and devotion, and you're not oozing love for God.

Emily:  One thing that can be hard is as we go through transitional seasons or times when schedules are busy. I know something Laura and I have experienced is where you wake up in the morning and you are met with urgent need after urgent need. Pretty soon you go a few days, and hey, you're surviving without God right at your side, or at least that you're perceiving him to be right there. That then turns into weeks and maybe that turns into months for you, and there can be this awkwardness that develops. Then you feel like, “Oh well, I haven’t been meeting with God. I haven’t been intentionally worshiping or intentionally talking about these things.” How do you break that and change and repent and go back? That’s a reality that a lot of us face in the early years of motherhood, especially.

Laura:  It’s so true and it can feel, like Emily was asking, “How?” The answer is far less complicated than we want to make it out to be [laughter], because I even remember saying to Emily the other day, “I don’t really feel like reading my Bible,” but I know the answer isn’t to stop reading my Bible. I know that the answer is to get back in to God’s word and to live by faith and to trust that dry seasons will change into seasons of fruit and redemption and sweet seasons of relationship with God. And just knowing that that’s the ebb and flow of the believer’s life. I think too, continuing to invest, as I was saying, in your faith. Even though you may not feel all of the emotions, you're still reading theologically sound books, listening to worship music, singing worship songs at home, and praying to God. The answer is to just keep doing what you're doing and to keep living life as a believer.

Emily:  And that shame or that wanting to pull back is the Adam-and-Eve-in-the-garden thing happening in our hearts, where they sinned against God. And their response was, “Okay, I am going to go and get away from him now so that I don’t have to be near him.” We have to remember the gospel in that moment—that Jesus has paid for that and he's absorbed the wrath so that we don’t have to go hide in the bushes away from God. We can keep going back to him, and that’s really hard to feel that that’s true, but we have to keep remembering it, like Laura said, and live by faith.

That brings us in to point two which would be remain connected to a community of believers who love God and are faithful to his word and are saturated in the gospel, because they're going to help in this endeavor. So yes, kids follow their parents and are discipled by them, but they also watch and learn from other adults too. This may be grandparents or teachers, great friends of your family, or church leaders. It is a good thing to immerse them in a life of people who love God and know him and follow him.

Laura: The last one would be, as we said previously, pull them alongside you. Whatever you're doing, keep involving them. For some examples, this is where that investing in your own relationship with God overflows. Therefore if your kids interrupt you in quiet time, that’s okay. Let’s not have a fast and hard rule that’s like, “Mom sits and reads her Bible over here and the kids have to play there and not speak to her.” Well, I think that’s appropriate [laughter] in some situations, I won’t lie.

Let them come down next to you and draw with you, or read their own little Bible. Bring them with you to church; even a baby. This just shows them what the regular rhythms of a believer look like. And just having regular conversations with them; often if I am not careful I miss a lot of opportunities to disciple my kids in an intentional way verbally. What I mean by that is that sometimes my kids will say something that seems a little bit off and I am like, “I don’t think I say so or talk like that.”

Instead of telling them, “Hey, don’t say that,” I may ask them, “Hey, where did you hear that?” or, “Why did you say that? Do you know what that means?” Often this opens a really good door for us to have a deeper conversation about what certain words mean, why certain people say different words. And I found that to be one of the most helpful ways for me to have really intentional conversations with my kids through things that are naturally happening in their lives.

Emily:  And this little bonus point here [laughter] is we need to look for ways we can fill in the gaps. In the New Testament, we see Jesus pulling his disciples aside and he's almost providing this extra commentary for them like, “Okay, here’s what happened. Let me explain to you in detail what this meant.” Although they were still left wanting [laughs].

But he challenged them, he rebuked them sometimes, he looked for ways to reconcile and help them. Therefore, for our kids this may look more like family Bible reading time or a specific morning prayer time every day or doing specific service projects together with the intent of explaining why we do service. This may be a little bit more formal sometimes, because we see a gap where we need to explain something really clearly. Catechisms would be another example, but I know for our kids, even with movies and stuff, sometimes I’ll show them something—I am not talking about something ridiculous or extreme—but something that’s a little bit pushing my boundaries because they really want to watch it. I’ll sit with them and we’ll pause and talk about things like, “Okay, this is a great example of a time I can provide commentary and say, ‘Hey, I’ll just compare it to what we’re learning in the Bible.’”

Laura:  That’s a really good one, and there are lots of creative ways that moms do this. Talk with your mom friends and see some of the ways they’ve set up opportunities for learning. We hope that this has been an encouragement to you today. We have a lot of other shows, resources, and articles that have been written on this subject and we will link all of those in the show notes.

Head on over to risenmotherhood.com, there's a big old button called “podcast” on the top right you can click on and easily visit all of our show notes for all of our shows of all the time. Check us out on social media; we’ll be writing more about this topic this week @risenmotherhood.com, on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And as Emily mentioned at the beginning of the show, we’d love it if you had time to give us a rating or a review over on iTunes. We’d really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

This episode of Risen Motherhood is funded by our generous donors. If you like this podcast, please consider joining them @risenmotherhood/give.


Ep. 107 || Grace in Discipline: An Interview on Faithful Motherhood with Elyse Fitzpatrick Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily:  Today, we’re excited to welcome Elyse Fitzpatrick to the Risen Motherhood podcast. Elyse’s interview is part of our series “Faithful Motherhood,” where we’re talking with women whose children are grown about how the gospel has impacted their motherhood over the years. These are not meant to be prescriptive interviews for how to do motherhood, but just a glimpse at one woman’s unique walk and lessons she's learned as she's lived out her calling in the Lord.

Today we’re talking with Elyse about what it was like to be a first generation Christian and what pressures and fears she faced as a young mom. She also opens up about what she wishes she would have done differently. Elyse holds a Certificate in Biblical Counseling from CCEF, San Diego, and a Master’s in Biblical Counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary. She's authored 23 books on daily living and the Christian life, many of which you can find on our resources page at risenmotherhood.com. Let’s get to the show with Elyse, Laura, and myself.

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

Elyse:  Thank you, I am glad to be here.

Laura:  We are super excited. Emily and I have been reading your books before we became mothers, [laughter] but one of our favorites is Give Them Grace. We love that book, and so it’s just a delight to have you on and to get to speak with you, because I know so much of your work has shaped us as moms and as women of God, as well.

Elyse:  Thank you so much. I am really glad to hear that.

Laura:  To start us off, can you give us a little picture into what your life looks like today – how many children you have, what your days look like? Give us a little glimpse into the life of Elyse.

Elyse:  I am almost 68, and what that means is I am an empty nester. I have three adult kids and six grandkids. All three of my kids live near us in Southern California because, I mean, Southern California. [laughter]

Laura:  Exactly.

Elyse:  Why would we leave? My kids and grandkids all live about 20 minutes away from us, so we get to see them a lot. What I do during the day, when I am not going down to watch one of them play some sort of sport [laughter] or something like that, is I write. And just generally pester my husband. [laughter]

Laura:  I love that. I look forward to being retired and pestering my husband. [laughter]  

Elyse:  It’s the best.

Emily:  You have really shaped us in our ability to think in a gospel-centered way. That’s something you have a real gift for and have really benefited the church at large­—your ability to keep us focused on the cross as the most essential piece in that, and our behavior and living flows out of that as we honor God. Therefore, as we were thinking about someone to talk about motherhood, we were like, “Oh, our show is all about the gospel and motherhood, so of course we want to hear about what you’ve learned related to that.”

Can you tell us a little bit about your early years of motherhood—where you were living? Were you involved in any kind of work or ministry commitments during the little years of raising children? Give us a little picture of what that season of life looked like for you.

Elyse:  I am glad to do that. Let me back it up a tiny bit though [laughter] and just let you know that I was not raised in what we would call a Christian home. My mom worked outside the home and my parents were divorced. When I became a Christian, which wasn’t really until right before my 21st birthday, I had made some sort of decisions about the kind of mother I was going to be. Basically, what that meant to me at that time was that I was going to be right up in my kid’s business all the time. [laughter]

Laura:  Sounds like a lot of us. [laughter]

Emily:  I know, that sounds familiar. [laughter] 

Elyse:  It wasn’t really her fault, but it was just the way things work out, but my mom was really pretty much an absentee. But starting in my early teenage years—again, Southern California—I fell into a life of debauchery and unbelief. Then just before my 21st birthday, the Lord saved me; really at the time of the Jesus movement in California, and I made the decision that I wasn’t going to be like my mom. I was going to be really involved, and I was going to make sure that my kids were Christians. I came into my marriage to Phil—Phil and I have been married about 44 years.

Laura:  Woohoo!

Elyse:  Well, proves that there's a God [laughter]. I came into the marriage; I already had a little boy, James, when Phil and I got married, and we didn’t have a lot of money at that point. We both wanted our kids to get a Christian education, and this was really the beginning, in some ways, of the Christian education movement.

I got a job teaching in Christian school so my kids could go to school. The primary reason was so that I would get free tuition. I did that for a number of years—maybe six or seven years total—but then when our middle child, Jessica, was in sixth or seventh grade, which was right at the beginning of homeschooling. It was the beginning of the homeschool movement in Southern California, which makes me sound so old. [laughter] Honestly, the primary reason I homeschooled was I didn’t think that I was able to  control what they were learning enough, even though they were in Christian school.

I want to hear that there's this overriding motivation that I had that I was going to make sure that my kids didn’t live the kind of life that I lived. Therefore I thought like, “Alright, I can’t control what's going on in the middle school and experience even in Christian school.” I decided to homeschool, and at that point, there weren’t a lot of people who were homeschooling. There were some, so I was able to join a co-op and all of that sort of business, but I was I was pretty much on my own as far as all of my friends and everything were concerned.

I homeschooled them, and I am sure that there are women who listen to your podcast and think like, “Oh, homeschool.” I’ll just be really honest; every year it was a, “I don’t think that I am going to be able to do this again.” That’s how I spent my time; basically I was focused on trying to make sure that my kids were not going to live the kind of life that I lived.

Laura:  That’s something so many of us can relate to, whether it’s in schooling or just in how we control their diets or what they wear or what they're involved in. So Elyse, can you walk us through how you discovered that fear and your eyes were awakened to it, and how God met you there or transformed your mind to have gospel hope in the midst of those challenges and that desire to control everything in their environment?

Elyse:  Let me talk about kind of the bad fruit that came out of that. What came out of that was, anytime that you try to control any other human being, you're going to end up either feeling sorry for yourself or angry or proud. That’s really the only way that it’s going to go. Some people probably know Jessica Thompson. She's married, she’s a Christian writer, and a mom. Joel is a pastor in the PCA.

They’ve turned out well, but they haven’t turned out well because of me. This is my primary message to the women who are listening to this today, hoping that somehow they're going to hear maybe a secret to having kids who grow up and are in ministry. I mean, we can all see our kids being the pastor, and what I want to say is it was just the grace of God. It is the grace of God that they will even talk to me at this point because quite frankly, I was very controlling and when I saw them doing things that I didn’t like, I was angry and demanding. Or, I felt sorry for myself. Or, I was angry with my husband because I didn’t think he was doing everything he ought to do.

Laura:  Yes. It’s easy to blame the other person. [laughter]

Elyse:  Absolutely. My husband, Phil, came out of a Christian home, but they weren’t crazy like I was [laughter]. Phil was really the normalizing influence in the home. Whereas I would have been the person that would have been really controlling about everything, Phil was not that way.

We ended up doing a lot of really fun things with our kids and, primarily, that was not me. That was actually Phil. His desire to make childhood fun for the children has had a huge benefit in their lives. I watch them now and how they are with their kids, and they're all about having a good time with their kids. That doesn’t mean that they don’t discipline or aren’t serious—they totally are—but I had to ask them to forgive me for the ways in which I tried to make them into being Christians and really never gave them grace.

So yes, we wrote that book. We wrote Give Them Grace, but it wasn’t because that’s what I did with them. It was because I was beginning to see that the gospel was really central to the Christian, which is a funny thing to say because you would think like, “Yeah, duh.” [laughter]  But no, it really wasn’t. When I became a Christian, I was thrilled about the gospel, but then it became all about me and how I was supposed to get the bus down the road.

That’s what I did with my parenting. Therefore with my kids, I have apologized and asked for forgiveness from each one of my kids for the way that I rode them because it was all coming out of my fear—the fear that they would do the kinds of things I did.

It really wasn’t all that; I mean to be honest here, yes I really loved them, but what I wanted was my own righteousness. I wanted my reputation as a mom to be good because I am trying to make up for the fact that I was such a train wreck. It was really all about trying to approve of myself and get other peoples’ approval that I was a good mom, and my kids were going to make that happen.

Emily:  One of the reasons why we wanted to do this series—about faithfulness and motherhood from women who are on the other side and have grandchildren now and can look back—is so that moms who are listening and who are at our stage with young children can hear there isn’t a formula, and it’s by God’s grace alone. I think we want a formula; I feel that in myself. I could describe myself like that a little bit [laughs]—before I was saved at 20—like a train wreck, and I look at my kids and think, “Okay, what can I do to make you not do what I did?” [laughs] Then I’ll pursue that versus going like, “No God. How are you asking me to parent them with grace and entrusting them to you?”

Regardless of what decisions they make, I am not in control of that. I just want to be faithful to what he's asking me to do and not parent in a reactionary way. I think so many young women can relate to that and need to hear this word that’s so hard it makes you want to stamp your foot a little bit. Of, aarg, there isn’t like, “Just do A, B, and C and your kids will be protected or turn out a certain way.”

Elyse:  And every mother who's listening to this knows that when you're called on to perform in a certain way, it’s not a wonderful thing. I used to take my kids and parade them in front of the pastor [laughter]. I swear to you. And make them tell the pastor the verse I taught them. Quite honestly I know now that well, yes, did I have a desire for my children to serve Christ? Of course I did. That was the way that I baptized my idolatry.

Laura:  Elyse, can you walk us through then what you would have done differently? If you could go back and have a do over, how would you train your children now? And how would you direct them in the ways of the Lord? How do you separate your own messy motivations with desiring from a pure place for your children to know and love the Lord for their own sake and their own relationship with him?

Elyse:  Let’s take your last question first [laughter]. You're not going to have pure motives, so let’s settle that. There is not a person on the planet aside from the Lord Jesus who ever had a completely pure motivation. Therefore you may look at your children and say, “I really love them and I think my motive in loving them is good.” Well, it is good. That’s good, but it’s never going to be pure.

We therefore don’t want to spend a ton of time trying to figure out, “Is this pure? Is this not pure?” Just assume that part of what you're going to do is have a selfish motivation. You’re going to know that you have that by the way you respond when they fail. You know what your motivation is not by spending a lot of time trying to figure out your motive, but actually by looking at the way that you respond when they fail.

If you get overly angry, if you feel sorry for yourself, or like you just want to give up—and everybody feels like they just want to give up sometimes— but I am talking about that, “Okay, you guys just do whatever you want. I am tired!” That [laughs] kind of response is going to tell you.

Here’s another way you can know—when you walk into church and here’s the Von Trapp family [laughter]. I used to say the Duggars but I don’t say that anymore [laughter]. Here’s the Von Trapp family; all of the little kids are dressed perfectly and they're all perfectly obedient. There's the husband and he's just perfect and you're supposed to be the perfect mom. They sit so sweetly during church and actually take notes on the sermon and all that sort of business. When you look at that family and you're jealous, then you know.  

Or, here’s another way; when you look at a family that’s a train wreck—the kids are leaping off the pews and all of that. Or you hear that there are older kids going off the rails and you say to yourself, “I am so glad I am not like that.” Okay? That. Then you know, “Alright, Lord help me to have the right motivation.”

You asked me, “What should I have done?” What I should have done was realized that salvation belongs to the Lord, right? The salvation of my children and their children is not something I can control. Are we called as moms to be people who faithfully seek to teach, nurture, and discipline our children? Yes, we are. We’re called to do that, but only because God might use us. And you understand I said that word, “might.” God might use us as means and the way that he will draw our children. But that’s not guaranteed. I am not going to look at how my child responds then from day to day. I can remember we would sit there and, let’s say we were going to have a time of prayer as a family. If they were messing around, which they're always messing around, right?

Laura: Yes, always. [laughter]

Elyse:  I would look at that and I would think, “Oh, they're lost.” And then the next thing I would think is, “That means I am a terrible mother.” Or, “Phil’s a terrible dad.” Or, “We’re both terrible.” Then I would double down on what I wanted them to do, which of course, we always respond to the law in the same way. So if the law says to you, “Don’t wiggle when mom is reading Proverbs,” in your heart, you’re going to automatically want to wiggle, [laughter] right?

That’s our heart’s response particularly to some sort of person who wants to control you all the time. So what would I have done differently? Honestly, I watch my kids raise their kids—and just to say, my kids are not perfect at all, and their kids are not perfect at all. I mean, they're not even close [laughter]—but I watch how they interact with them and my kids’ reputation as parents is not the primary motivation for the way they interact with their kids. They're seeking to be fellow sinners with their children who run to Jesus together.

I’ll give you an example—Jessica’s eldest son, Wesley is 19 now, and Haden, his younger brother, who's now a senior in high school, was three. This happened a number of years ago; Jessica was in the other room and she heard this blood curdling scream which every mom has heard that scream [laughter]. And you come running out of the bedroom, you find Wesley straddling on top of Haden, just basically pounding him. Let’s just say that’s what little kids do [laughter]. She looked at Wesley and he had this big bite mark on his back.

What had happened was Haden had messed with Wesley’s Thomas Trains [laughter]. As a first child, Wesley was all into making sure that his Thomas Trains were lined up perfectly, right? And then Haden, of course, is the second child; really probably relished, messing up his trains [laughter] just to make him mad. So he did.

Jessica picks up Wesley up off of Haden and says, “Wesley, you must love your brother.” When she does that, what is she doing? She’s telling Wesley the law. This is the law; you have to love God with your whole heart, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. She's giving Wesley the law, and that’s the appropriate thing to do. We give our kids rules and laws because they need to know what is expected of them. But that’s not the only reason.

She picks up Wesley off of Haden and says, “You must love your brother.” And through tears and anger, Wesley looks at her and just basically screams, “I can’t!” How do we respond to that? I know how I would have responded to it. I would have said, “Oh, yes you can, and I am going to make sure you do. And if you don’t, I am going to know the reason why.” But the way she responded to him [laughs] was, “He says, ‘I can’t’, and she says, ‘You're right, flee to Jesus.’” Do you hear that? That’s the difference. And I never would have said that.

Emily:  It is just a phrase difference, but the heart of the response is so different. I know I am so tempted to threaten my kids into good behavior. Sometimes my response in that situation would be, “Yes, you can and if you don’t, here’s the consequence. So behave so that you avoid consequences.” And while it’s helpful to present consequences; that acknowledgement piece of, “You're right, you cannot love, obey, or follow all these rules. Now what are we going to do?” There's only one good answer to this, and it’s Jesus. It takes some real mind shift, but once we see it for ourselves, it is like, “I am desperate for this too.” I therefore want to give this same desperate Christ-hungry response to my children. Yes, really good example. [laughs]

Elyse:  Yes, that’s the thing. Instead of Jessica being self-righteous like I was and saying, “Oh yeah, you better, and I can’t even believe you're acting that way as if I don’t myself have trouble loving my neighbor [laughter]—i.e. the children right now.” Instead of that, she's encouraging them to run to Christ and ask for grace and mercy. That’s what makes our message different. What makes our message different from what any kind of moral, fine, upstanding parent would do is we’re saying, “There is a law, and the law can’t make you good. But what it can do is tell you that there was one who was good in your place, and you can flee to him.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t discipline your children. Of course you do; you discipline them in whatever way in your family you do. But you don’t depend on the rules to make the children good because rules don’t make kids good. Only Jesus Christ can change their heart and make them want to love their brother.

Laura:  And for any young mom who's listening, let me be the first to say, and I know Emily will join me in this, this takes practice and a mind shift. This is something that I feel like, as you were saying Elyse, our natural inclination is self righteous parenting. It is to immediately go, “Let’s go to consequences. Let’s mold a child’s behavior to exactly what we want immediately,” instead of stepping back and reminding yourself of the gospel and the moment. I know, at least for me, my natural inclination isn’t to love that child in the middle of something where they're misbehaving and I feel embarrassed, frustrated, or inconvenienced.

So just an encouragement, this is such good truth that you're sharing Elyse. I know we have a lot of new believers that are listening, and a lot of first generation Christians, so I just love that you’ve also shared your story in that because I know we've been asked a lot for shows or discussion points on that. But if you are new to this, this is real.

I want to plug Elyse’s book here—Give Them Grace. You're getting a taste of what's in that book, and she walks through a lot of scenarios in that. It’s just very helpful to get a little deeper dive into what she's discussing today. And then, don’t be afraid to practice because it’s only going to come by digging in and doing the hard work of applying these types of skills. Elyse, as we close here, can you give some steps a mom might be able to take today to behold God and to enjoy him more fully?

Elyse:  The thing that I want to encourage moms in today is that they would see Jesus. That they would remember Jesus. What that means is as they're going through their day, they would remember that Jesus, who was the second person in the trinity, became a human being. Jesus was a little boy and he had to learn language, table manners. He had to learn all of this stuff because he was completely human, so he understands that first of all. This is great news for the children. Jesus understands what it’s like to be a child and what it’s like to have brothers and sisters, because he did.

Jesus understands, and this is for moms who maybe are single parents or feel like they're all on their own: Jesus understands what it’s like to be the single head of a household because at some point after age 12, his father died. So he became the male person in the home who had to care for his mom and siblings. And we see him doing that all through the gospels—interacting with his mom. Then at the very end of his life, there he is hanging on the cross and what is he doing? He’s caring for his mother.

Therefore Jesus was a single head of a household, and for all of the women who are listening today who feel like God couldn’t possibly help them or understand, Jesus knows exactly what you're going through and he can help you.  He lived a perfect life; you see, in a sense, he had to parent his siblings. He understands what it’s like to parent little sinners [laughter], and he had disciples who really never listened to what he was talking about. They were completely clueless [laughter] and at the resurrection, I mean, really, these guys.

He understands the frustration that we feel when we feel like we've been saying the same thing over and over again, and it just never penetrates their little hearts or minds. Jesus understands that, because at least five times in the gospels, we know that he said, “I am on my way to Jerusalem to die, and I will be raised again.” It went right over their heads. They didn’t get it. What they were doing, right before the betrayal, when he's going to be hang on the cross, was fighting about who was going to be greatest.

Doesn’t that sound like our family? [laughter] Who's the best? Who's the best at this sport? Who's the best at this game?  [laughter] Who has the most stuff? Who’s the greatest? Who has the most friends? Who's the best? We need to see him. He understands all of that and he did his parenting perfectly. My primary message to moms today is this: you may struggle, and you do, as a mom. But the really great news, if you’ve put your trust in Jesus Christ, you have his perfect record of being a perfect parent. So when God looks at you, he doesn’t see the ways you’ve blown it and he doesn’t see your sin. You are completely forgiven and you are completely righteous. Therefore you don’t have to try to work out your guilt about being a bad parent. You don’t have to try to work that out somehow. You are forgiven and you are completely righteous. And then the really great news is Jesus who understands everything you're going through, not just because he's God but also by experience, is praying for you right now.

What do I say to parents? What do I say to moms? Remember the gospel. And you know what? Listen to me; I've written x number of books about the gospel and how to remember it in your daily life, and I forget it [laughter]. Okay? I mean, seriously. We’re in the middle of moving and I am all freaked out about where we’re going to move. And here’s Jesus who said, “I have no place to lay my head.” He understands, and he will care for me and get us to where we need to be when we need to be there.

Relax a little bit mom, enjoy your children. Be free to enjoy them, and when they fail, which they will, and when they sin, which they will, take their hand as a fellow sinner and run to Jesus together because he loves to pour out mercy on sinners.

Laura:  I think this needs a slow clap right there [laughter]. Thank you, Elyse.

Emily:  Yes.

Elyse:  And you know one other thing to say to your kids is, “Don’t think that you're going to be good enough or bad enough. I am your mama, and I am not good enough. I've certainly sinned enough, and the reality is Jesus has it all. Just flee to him, and I’ll go with you.”

Laura:  Thank you so much Elyse for coming on the show today. We really appreciate you sharing your wisdom. I am sure there are many moms who have been touched by your words today, and hopefully feeling more relief as they know they don’t have to work through all the guilt. But they can walk in freedom because Christ has already banished that and already given that eternal hope that we can trust in today. Thank you so much for your time, we really appreciate it.

Elyse:  Thank you.

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Ep. 106 || Seeing & Serving the Vulnerable Mom Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Hello. Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura Wifler, and I have my sister-in-law Emily here with me.

Emily: Hello.

Laura:  Okay, today we’re talking about the vulnerable mom. Emily and I came into the show with a decent amount of trepidation, and also wanting to be careful and gentle and treat this as carefully as we can, because we know that both of us have a lot of support, even in our most weak moments.

We have a lot of family and friends and church support around us. We have financial resources, flexibility in our schedules, we have educational opportunities, and husbands that are really supportive. Emily and I both know that it’s very easy to take those things for granted and forget what a privilege those things are, and how God has provided for us.

Something that we've noticed as Risen Motherhood has grown and we've had more and more moms interacting with our content is we've seen a lot of different sides to motherhood. God’s been really gracious to make our hearts tender towards moms that have different lives than us, have different upbringings, and are struggling and in vulnerable places.

We want to talk about this this year with our “unity in the gospel” theme because we know that God cares for the outcast, the oppressed, for the struggling. He also desires for his people to love and to see those people too, and to give them dignity, grace, compassion, and help.

Therefore we want to take time on today’s show to talk through who the vulnerable mom is. Like who we might be talking about, how we as listeners, especially if you're in a position that's similar to what Emily and I are in, can live out God’s call and his charge, meeting these women where they're at. What can we do? That's the question Em and I have been asking.

Emily:  I feel, like Laura was saying, we need to start by defining it because people have different ideas of what “vulnerable mom” means. And they may all be right definitions, and for this, there's nothing official. We’re defining this as a mom who is in need of maybe special care or support or protection because of maybe age or different disabilities, risk of abuse or neglect, or things in her past. We’re going to talk through what this may look like.

Although there are other definitions of this, we’re particularly thinking about the mom who is single with kids, the mom who's living from paycheck to paycheck whether she's married or unmarried. Maybe a mom who's living in a dangerous situation with a boyfriend or a husband or a family member. Maybe a mom who just doesn’t have the education, the resources, or the opportunities to care for her kids in the way that she really wants to.

Maybe this is a mom who has struggled through a past history of abuse, mental illness, or other life trauma that makes motherhood and work extra difficult. This could be a mom who is a widow or a mom who is a minority, or has emigrated from another country, or is a refugee. We have all kinds of women who fit into this category.

Laura:  We want to be upfront—and I know I started to profess this show a little bit—we’re not experts in this. There are people out there that specialize in understanding things like mental health, or poverty, or social work, or shelters. All sorts of things.

Therefore we’re not able to give that kind of perspective today. We’re just two moms who want to be able to talk with you at the same table with you—peer to peer, speaking with you. Our hope, therefore, is to speak to those of you who are hopefully plugged in to a local church, and you are financially stable. But oftentimes, like us, you're busy with your life and you're overwhelmed with what's going on right in front of you.

It’s hard to know how to help these women or keep them at the forefront, but we want to ask the question, what if we did? What would happen if we use the gospel to bridge the gap with women like this?

Emily:  Again, trying to hone in on what it is we’re going to be talking about in this show versus what we’re not talking about: there are a lot of ways to deal with this problem on a political front in your community. There are questions like, “Well, should our family get involved in foster care, or different types of organizations that help women in these situations? How should I give financially, or of my time?” We hope that you get ideas about practical things that you can do. But primarily we’re going to be starting at, “How does the gospel change us at a heart level, so that we can shift our eyes off of ourselves and remember and see these moms and care about them even in the midst of our own busyness?” Another thing we wanted to say is, again, we want to really tread lightly here. We know that sometimes when people have a heart to help someone who is vulnerable, it can sound very superior, very privileged and very, “Oh, we have the tools. We can help you. We can save you. We have it altogether.” This is a touchy conversation to navigate.

We will not do it perfectly, and we’ll probably say something offensive and not even know it. But we hope that you guys can engage this with us because we want to try. Too many of us, and in my past I’d say I’d have avoided this conversation, are  afraid to say something wrong.

Laura:  Me too.

Emily:  Anyways, we’re going to try to set some of those self-conscious feelings aside and just say, we want to see this issue. We want to care in our heart today, even if we say something that we haven’t learned how to say it correctly yet. Our heart is to love these women and not to heap shame on them.

Laura:  We’re thankful that we can talk to a community that does love us. We have had so many emails from listeners who have written in, who have either lovingly corrected us, who have supported us whenever we have done things like this where we kind of stepped out of our comfort zone, and you guys have cheered us on.

I am not asking for that today, but I am just saying that this community is much of why Emily and I want to have this conversation because we feel you guys have created a safe space. But also because you've taught us so much yourselves through your stories, your emails, and messages and just different things, so we just want to thank you.

But to dive in, we’re going to start with the gospel because that's what we typically do, and give that a high level overview. And then we’re also going to talk about some things Em and I are learning in. When we look at creation, we can start there and know that Eden was pretty wonderful. Adam and Eve had all their needs met by God, and there wasn’t pain or sorrow or tears or anything that wasn’t wonderful.

After the fall, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, the world changed quite a bit. They became people who were vulnerable and struggling because of whether creation was cursed, and things just don’t go as they should. Also because of the deeds of man and the evil sin in this world; so now we grapple in that tension. But we have hope in Christ in the midst of all of that.

Emily:  We see God’s heart for the vulnerable, because God has a heart for sinners and a heart for people who are in desperate need and can do nothing for themselves on their own. In the Old Testament, we see God protecting them and caring for them, especially women.

Even in Jesus’ lineage, we see a good handful of women that come from a lifestyle or a background that most of us would say, “That's a vulnerable mom.” This is a complicated topic. Laura and I were going into examples of like, “Oh, what are some good ways we could share this in the Old Testament? What are some good stories?”

Everything we came up with made us realize this usually takes a lot of sober study and deep thought, and the people who have done this well have really dug in deep here. So if this is something you're wanting to know more about, we’re going to put some links in our show notes from women who have really dug into this topic and have done a good job of showing how God really cares for the vulnerable woman throughout redemptive history.

Laura:  It’s one of those things that we get it; the Old Testament confuses us too [laughter] and the fact that some of the things that happened to women in the Old Testament do seem confusing at face value. But when you look at the Bible in context, and when you study these things as Emily said, in a sober mindse, and in a way that says, “I want to learn. I don’t want to bring in my own assumptions, or my own biases, or just assume I know what's right. I want to come and know the heart of God.”

We promise that God will reveal to you his love and kindness and his mercy in some of those stories. At least I personally have often really struggled with and tried to figure out, “How does God value women? Show me that when I read the story.” But it’s true, and it’s there, and so yes, we’re going to point you to some really good resources for that because we don’t have the time or probably really the know-how to do that for you here.

Emily:  But we can be united in our vulnerability because all of us, no matter what your vulnerability looks like on the outside, are dependent in our need for a rescuer, for a savior, and for someone to protect us and to restore us to our ultimate protector in God. God does that through Jesus, and Jesus actually comes and makes himself vulnerable and allows himself to be exposed, disrespected, shamed, despised, and rejected. And ultimately, he dies for that, so that no matter what kind of lot we have in this life, we can be healed some day, and we can be fully restored to God in eternity. One thing, this is a little bit of a different angle, but even looking at Jesus' care for the despised, the rejected, and the vulnerable, and his time on earth is just amazing.

Laura:  I always want to remember it’s nothing that I did to get myself in this position. I get it’s purely God’s grace, and so me and another woman who is in a more vulnerable position, we’re not so different after all. First of all, at the cross, it’s a level playing field—we’re both sinners, we’re both in need of grace, and we both need Christ to come and redeem us.

Any good that I do is not because of my financial status or because I’ve had college education. But it is purely because of the grace of God and his work in me. Therefore out of an overflow of my gratefulness and out of my thankfulness for what Christ has done for me, I want to do everything I can to bless the other women in my life and image. What Emily was talking about—imaging Christ as he loved the vulnerable. I’m recognizing that until the day I die, I want to wave my banner for the cross.

But like Em, everyday I live here. My goal is to reach people with the gospel, and how can I do that? This podcast is one way, but one way Emily and I have really been impacted by is there are women in our midst who are hurting and who need face to face time, and who need us to come alongside them.

Thankfully, to move into consummation, we can be so thankful that we can know today we’re co-heirs with Christ, which means that everything he received in his adoption of God is ours.

It’s that for vulnerable mom too. And we won’t be alone. No one will be alone someday, no one will be in a dangerous situation, no one will be hurting, fearful, or living paycheck to paycheck. It will be an abundant life.

Emily:  And God is going to be a just judge. He’s going to take care of all of the injustices that are happening. It’s hard for us to understand or to see that—that we have a heavenly Father who takes a long view, and people are not getting away with the things that they are doing. It’s either going to be paid for by Christ, or they are going to receive the full punishment and the full wrath of that. So he is a just God.

One thing that I love considering in consummation is when we look at the picture of what is to come, and what it’ll be like, we’ll be standing side by side with a lot of these moms who placed their faith in Christ.

On earth, maybe we felt like there were a lot of these differences. But we’re going to be worshipping in Christ together with them, and have the same status and the same sisterhood. Let’s live that out now in that relationship, just like Jesus did. If we read through the gospels, we see him over and over and over again having these counter-cultural controversial interactions with vulnerable women.

Laura:  It didn’t make sense.

Emily:  He went ahead and paved that path. So anyways, it’s definitely something we, as followers of Christ, need to follow in that example.

Laura:  Even when it feels uncomfortable to us or not easy. We’re going to walk through a couple of principles here. The first one is to remind us we’re not better than a vulnerable mom. I think I started jumping into this a little bit already, that idea that for some reason I can save someone else. We can all get the savior mentality that we've got these resources, or we can just throw them at them and solve all their problems.

But, again, really, we have to recognize that we’re just as sinful as that other mom and any good that we have should just be given from a humble heart and with a lot of humility of recognizing that may not be the best way to solve this issue, and so I want to take a step and recognize that first of all I am like that mom although I may not know the best way to help her.

Emily:  Another thing is to see that and be aware. Life moves so fast, and sometimes we need to go the extra mile to get in relationship with people that we don’t know. Or have that conversation with someone you've never met before and really invest in them. Take the time to see what it is that they're struggling through because sometimes too, it may be harder for us to come in contact with these moms because of life’s circumstances.

Maybe they're going to have a harder time making it to church on Sunday, or attending that women’s event, or coming to that Bible study. And when they come, maybe they're going to feel like they don’t really fit in, or they can’t really share with you what's going on, or they're kind of on the outskirts of the event and they're self-conscious. We want to get to know people and invest in relationships enough that we can find those things out, and then meet them in their struggle and welcome them as Christ has welcomed us.

Laura:  And as we’re getting to know them, treating them how you would want to be treated. It’s important to listen to their story and to not come in with your own ideals with maybe how that must have happened, or how maybe they did something to contribute to that. But just trust and believe their story and take it at face value.

Make sure to listen; being present, not mentally drifting off and thinking about other things, but to really engage and to really talk with that mom and ask yourself, “Gosh, what would that have been like if that happened to me? What if I didn’t have a support network anymore? What if I couldn’t trust the people around me? What if my job was physically exhausting and I just came home every day from being away from my kids all day and not being able to give them what I would like to give them? What if you had a baby before you were able to have your life be stable? Or what if you were a single mom?”

We know some of you listening may even be in this position. So for those of us that aren’t currently there—of course we can’t know what it’s like, but it’s good to go through that thought process because it develops sympathy for the other mom. And it helps you say, “Wow, I really would want someone to reach out and care for me and to help me.” It kind of gives you perspective.

Emily:  And on a more tangible side of things, first you have to start with prayer. Pray that God would help us see and invest in relationships with all kinds of moms that we come in contact with. And then also just praying for God to help us see how to offer tangible support, giving us eyes to see opportunities. And as we pray for people by name, that also helps reshape our focus and helps us see things we might not have seen before.

We thought we’d share a few practical ways that we've seen women live this out because—I don’t want to speak for them, but I’ll speak for myself—this feels like a weak area for me and something that I am just starting to grow in, understanding what this looks like.

Laura:  Emily, I totally agree that this is a real area of necessary growth for me, and it’s been this slow awakening. I admit that, but I am thankful that God is waking me up to this. Initially, my first reaction is often like, “I’ll just give money.” Or, “I’ll give resources. I have so many things going on in my life I don’t have time to go invest in that so I am going to give money.”

While that's valuable and helpful in some ways, what we've been challenged by lately is, how can we be in the flesh helping? How can we take our time in our relationships? Be involved in a way that feels uncomfortable at times, it feels stretching and maybe not exactly where we want to be in that moment.

But it’s valuable and important, and so, is there a mom of a child at school that you can intentionally love and invest in? Or is there a neighbor down the street that you've overlooked for a long time, but you can invite them into your home or for a meal, or just start the process of getting to know them, as awkward as it may feel? I don’t know.

Emily:  Yes. I think that's definitely the challenge of, “What does it like it to throw someone a stick in the game relationally?” That is often the harder thing for some of us that are in a more privileged position. We definitely don’t have the answers, and we don’t know what this is going to look like for each and every one of you, and some of you are probably already down this path.

Laura:  We have a ton of friends who are doing this really well. And some of you may be doing this.

Emily:  And some of us are doing the baby steps at the beginning of prayer and thinking of one mom. But whatever it is, we hope that this starts good conversations for you guys, good things to think on and see, and scripture to do further study on.

Laura:  Thanks for joining us. We appreciate you guys getting involved in this conversation with us. Of course we’ll likely be talking about this a little bit more on social media as we can. We hope that you guys will join us there. Again, we’re grateful for all of you for giving us a chance to talk about this and to air our conversation. We just hope that you have something that you can take away and apply today.


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