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

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

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

Laura: Hello, hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: What?

Emily: Summer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Those are cool.

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

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

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

Laura: Oh it’s so good!

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

Laura: Love it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily: Yeah, almost six.

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

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

Laura: Gotta get to the end.

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

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

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

Laura: He always is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily: Thanks, guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Oh dear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: No, go ahead. [Laughter]

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

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

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

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

Laura: That’s very fitting.

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

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

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

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

Emily: So true.

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

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

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

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

Laura: Yeah, what’s easy.

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

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

Nancy: You are what you eat!

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

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

Laura: Of course! Please do.

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

Emily: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

Laura: Hey guys!

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

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

[Crowd cheers!]

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

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

Emily: I want my free shirt.

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

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

Laura: It will come. [Laughter]

Emily: I have bigger questions tonight, Laura.

Laura: We have a way bigger question.

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

How do I know if I’m a good mom?

Laura: This is the mother of all motherhood questions.

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

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

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

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

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

[Crowd laughter]

Laura: Fail. Yep.

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

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

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

[Crowd laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Super grace!

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

Oh! We forgot one: the methodology one.

Laura: Fill-in-the-blank.

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

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

[Crowd laughter]

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

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

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

Laura: Go listen to our food episode!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Crowd laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: She loves analogies.

[Crowd laughter]

Emily: But I have to give that caveat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Exactly.

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

Laura: Thanks, guys!

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

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

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

Emily: Hey, guys!

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

Emily: Woohoo! [Laughter]

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

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

Laura: Like privately or in secret.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Let’s go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Remember forever, child.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Just generally being really annoying. [Laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Hopefully not by us though! [Laughter]

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

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

Laura: Thank you!

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

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

Emily and Laura: Bye, guys! [Laughter]

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

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

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


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

Michael: Great to be with you both!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily: Jesus is good for women. [Laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael: Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Hey guys!

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

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

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

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

Emily: You’re not alone! [Laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: They do!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily: Hey!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can a young man keep his way pure?

   By guarding it according to your word.

With my whole heart I seek you;

   let me not wander from your commandments!

I have stored up your word in my heart,

   that I might not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O Lord;

   teach me your statutes!

With my lips I declare

   all the rules[c] of your mouth.

In the way of your testimonies I delight

   as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on your precepts

   and fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in your statutes;

   I will not forget your word.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily: Gummy vitamins. Fun vitamins.

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

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

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

Ep. 126 || Ask Us Anything! Spring 2019 Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I'm Emily, here with my sister-in-law, Laura and we’re so excited to bring you the Spring 2019 Ask Us Anything show. We do these two times a year: once in the spring and once in the fall. We reach out to our community on social media and ask what you want to know. So, we have an extra, extra long show.  [Laughter]

Laura:  Oh, it's so long. [Laughter]

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

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

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

Laura:  I'm ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura:  I need to listen.

Emily:  Listen with a notebook.

Laura:  Oh yeah, for sure.

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

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

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

Laura:  What are you watching right now?

Emily:  It’s Victoria.

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

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

Laura:  This is so Emily. [Laughter]

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

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

Emily:  It was on body image.

Laura:  Oh that sounds good.

Emily:  It was really good.

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

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

Laura:  That's still a lot.

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

Laura:  Oh, for sure.

Emily:  Wait until they are interested and motivated.

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

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

Laura:  Just wear undies outside all day.

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

Laura:  Oh, that’s nasty.

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

Laura:  Keep it positive.

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

Laura:  Very normal.

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

Laura:  The accidents are a little recurring.

Emily:  Right.

Laura:  Totally.

Emily:  Don't get discouraged.

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

Emily:  Go listen to our potty training episode.

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

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

Laura:  I wish we did more.

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

Laura:  All the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily:  I'm so excited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily:  Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura:  For sure.

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

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

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

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

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

Laura:  All the time.

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

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

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

Emily:  I needed every word.

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

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

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

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

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

Laura:  Trying to say. Yes, 100%.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily:  Nothing bad would happen.

Laura:  Oh, probably a ton.

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

Laura:  I’m amazing. [Laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

Laura:  No.

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

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

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

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

Laura:  100%.

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

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

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

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

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

Laura:  That’s so brilliant.

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

Laura:  Yeah, that’s true.

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

Laura:  I want to hear.

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

Laura:  Yay, exciting.

Emily:  What about you Laura?

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

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

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

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

Laura:  So many ways.

Emily:  This was a fun question to think about.

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

Emily:  They are hard years.

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

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

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

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

Laura:  Yeah, it’s taught us so much.

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

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

Laura:  Symbiotic.

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

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

Emily:  I don’t know what happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily:  This is a really interesting question.

Laura:  I know, I thought it was good.

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

Laura:  Do it.

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

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

Laura:  I like it.

Emily: How does that play out, Laura?

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

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

Emily:  I would say you express emotions a lot.

Laura:  I express emotions in a—

Emily:  Frequently.

Laura:  Frequently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura:  Yes.

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

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

Laura:  Engaged or not.

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

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

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

How do I love you better this week?

How can I love you better in intimacy this week?

What’s coming in the week ahead?

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

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

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

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

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

God give me the words to say in this situation.

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

Help me know how to love them better.

Forgive me.

Laura:  I'm sorry.

Emily:  I say that one a lot.

Help me understand what's in your word.

Thank you, God.

God, you are good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily:  This is orthodoxy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily:  Oops. [laughter]

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

Emily:  Thanks for joining us.

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

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

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim: It goes by really quick. [Laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: That’s a great point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim: My pleasure.

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

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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

Emily: Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily: Very true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily: Yeah, hopefully.

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

Emily: Ha-ha. [Laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily: Yeah, we don’t deserve it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily: I don’t know!

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

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

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

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

Laura: [So much laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Happy vacationing!

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

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

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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

Emily: Hey!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura: Three meals a day, taking them to school, helping them get their homework done…

Emily: Making sure they get to wellness checks, buying them clothes…

Laura: Changing their diapers. [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah, all of those things. They’re automatic. I think most moms see that need and do it. We want to note this is a super valid aspect of our ministry, because God makes us as physical bodies, hearts, and souls. God provides for our bodily needs. It’s kind of a building block or a foundation from which he can woo us at the heart-level. I think we see Jesus meeting physical needs. He’s healing a withered hand and feeding the 5,000 with bread and fish. Does he go beyond that? Yes, we’ll get to that in a minute. But it’s definitely a mercy to meet our children’s physical, tangible needs. Often they can’t meet them for themselves.

Laura: Another piece of that is seeing our children and meeting their deeper needs beyond the physical needs. It’s really diving into their hearts, their spiritual status, their emotions, and all of those kind of things. This is honestly, for me at least, way harder. It requires a lot more of who I am, of slowing down. It’s an active and passive passing on of Christ. There’s the verbal, intentional pieces, which are easier for me because I’m so verbal. But then there’s the passive modeling of Christlike qualities, which I’ll be honest, is a lot harder for me. [Laughter]

Emily: We want to talk through how we model Jesus to our children by looking at what he did in his ministry when he was here on Earth. One thing is we want to spend time with our children; when we look at the life of Christ, he spent so much time with his disciples. They did life together, they ate together, they slept together, they worked together teaching. I think that’s something motherhood—at whatever level this means for your life and the way God is orchestrating things—requires too. It requires our physical presence and an ongoing relationship of living life alongside our children.

Laura: Another one we see from the life of Christ is modeling what it really means to live by faith and daily dependence on the Father. I love that we see Jesus—the God-man, the King of the universe—still living in dependence on God. He went away when the crowds were clamoring and crying to him, I need you! I need you! He still said no and would disappear to spend time with God in prayer, talking with and asking him for help. This is the equipping piece we mentioned. It’s where you invest in your own fatih. As moms, we know often you have little kids around and you’re not solo on a mountainside, but Jesus still modeled to us the importance of going and speaking to the Father, pouring out our cares and concerns to him. This allows you to continue in ministry.

Emily: Another thing we see in the life of Christ that we can model in motherhood is giving grace to our children when they fail and reconciling that relationship. One way we see this in the life of Christ is with his disciple Peter. Peter said he’d die for Jesus and definitely wouldn’t deny him or forsake him, but we know he did. He denied even knowing Christ. When Jesus rose from the dead and saw Peter on the shore, Jesus extended grace and forgiveness to him, and Peter repented. They have this great exchange where Jesus says, If you love me, feed my sheep. I think we can model this to our kids by knowing our kids haven’t fully arrived; they’re works in progress. Our expectation should be that they’ll forsake our instruction, and be slow to obey, and mess up, and do things incorrectly. But we can extend opportunities for reconciliation and trying again. We can know we all need Jesus.

Laura: Another one is being attentive to them by listening and asking good questions. A story I love from Matthew 16 is when Jesus and his disciples are talking about who people thought he was. People thought he was a prophet, or John the Baptist, or all these different things. Jesus goes a little deeper and asks, Who do you say I am? He’s penetrating a little bit deeper and making the disciples think a little bit harder about their answers. We can model that to our own children as we’re talking to them. Sometimes when we’re having conversations with them, we’ll have a little red flag go off. It can be easy to think we’re too tired to get into it, or we may not know what to say or feel equipped with the right words. For example, my son has been asking about death, and hell, and all of these harder questions. I think one thing that’s great is being willing to go into those anyway. My kids are young—they’re five and under—but one thing I’ve really appreciated is as they dig in, I try to be willing to practice those questions. Often, they don’t remember the answer I gave. So while I’m trying to be as theologically sound and correct and give them what’s age-appropriate, it’s a great chance for you to practice how to answer harder questions and not shy away from something that’s more difficult to answer. At the same time, there’s another side of it which says knowing when not to speak, because kids will get exasperated with you if you’re over-spiritualizing everything. It’s definitely a fine balance. I think it’s a great way to model Christ to go a level deeper and talk about these things with open communication.

Emily: Right. It’s kind of like, I see you have a need for a snack, but I also see you have a need for some self-control and we’re going to press into that a little bit here. [Laughter]

Laura: Good mama! [Laughter]

Emily: Another thing is praying for and with our children. We see this in the life of Jesus when he prays the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 or in the garden before he goes to the cross. He’s praying and asking his disciples to pray alongside him. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. We want to bring our kids alongside us in prayer.

Laura: Another one is being aware of your kids’ personalities and their sin tendencies, even worldly enticements. The only example I could really think of this was kind of Peter and Jesus again. Jesus warns Peter that he’s going to deny Jesus three times. It’s gonna happen, Peter. And Peter says it won’t.

Emily: Yeah, and he was so hasty. A little more impulsive.

Laura: Totally. So Jesus warns him of that. We know that’s exactly what Peter did, and Jesus just knew Peter’s natural tendencies. We can do that with our own kids by trying to warn them as we care for them. Many of you who are listening have really young children and you’re wondering how you can protect them, like if yours is a natural leader or natural follower. HOw can I talk to my child as they’re with their peers? How do I give them wise counsel? What else, Emily? Maybe they’re prone to anger, so you want to focus in on that. I think sometimes it’s even picking a character trait in your child and then looking for strengths and weaknesses. And talk to your husband about how you can foster the great qualities you see and help them choose godliness in the midst of their sin.

Emily: Another one is being willing to affirm and encourage them. This is something Jesus did in Luke 10; he affirms Mary has chosen the good portion. Remember, this is when Mary and Martha were in their house, and Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. He acknowledges she kept her eyes on the right thing. There are a lot of those examples of when Jesus calls out something is honoring–even the anointing of the oil in public, not just in the hidden moments.

Laura: The last one we have is teaching the truth about scripture to our children. This is the active passing on of our faith. We see in Luke 24, Jesus meets the two people on the road, and he interpreted to them the scriptures about all the things concerning himself. We see an active teaching Jesus did, and that’s something we can do. Emily and I are going to post a video to Instagram stories...today?

Emily: Or this week. [Laughter]

Laura: Yes, or this week! [Laughter] We want to share some of the resources we use. It’s going to have a lot of options and ideas. Of course, we don’t want this to incite guilt for you. We want this to feel like you can pick one thing off this list to do today. There are one million ways to do intentional teaching! You can look at some past shows for lots of ideas or head to our show notes today. We feel like this is a really big one with lots of options, but it doesn’t mean you need to do all the options.

Emily: Right. We want to end here by saying don’t feel pressure to think that in order to serve your kids and do all this you have to spend all this money and have all these fancy resources. We can simply disciple, seeing and serving the needs of our children, and minister to them by having a relationship with the Lord, reading his word, being involved in the local church, and passing it along to them. And reading the Bible to them!

Laura: All you need is the Bible.

Emily: It can be that basic. And that’s a wonderful thing. There’s nothing wrong with that! Again, you can go to our website risenmotherhood.com to see all of the resources we recommend—but don’t get overwhelmed by that. If you want to find out more, you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @risenmotherhood. We’ll be sharing more about this topic this week.

Laura: Thanks for joining us, guys!

Ep. 122 || Building Friendships with Women in Different Seasons: An Interview with Elizabeth Woodson Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Well, hey guys! Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. Today, we’re so excited to have Elizabeth Woodson on the show talking about how moms can love women in different life stages—in particular, singles. She shares so many wonderful truths and tips on how women in different places can love one another and have flourishing relationships. We talk about the hard conversations, the ways to find common interests with one another, and what expectations we can have (and shouldn’t have) for one another. Elizabeth is a Bible teacher who loves to teach the truth of scripture. She’s a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a Master’s in Christian Education, and she currently works at The Village Church as the Institute’s Associate Minister, where she writes, teaches, and helps to develop leaders. She also serves on the Lead Team of the Sparrow Conference as the Director of Resources. The Sparrow Conference pursues racial harmony by equipping women on various topics. The conference is coming up on March 29-30th in Dallas, TX. We’ll have links to everything I mentioned in our show notes at risenmotherhood.com, if you’d like to check anything out. Okay, let’s get to the interview with Elizabeth, Emily, and me.

Laura: We’re excited! I have Emily Jensen, my sister-in-law, here as usual.

Emily: Yes, hello!

Laura: And we’re interviewing Elizabeth Woodson today and couldn’t be more honored to have her on our show.

Elizabeth: Oh, I’m so happy to be here with you all.

Laura: We’re actually recording today from the Proclaim Truth conference, which is so fun, because we’re in person. I’m looking into Elizabeth’s eyes. [Laughter]

Elizabeth: Yeah, this is great. [Laughter]

Emily: It’s so fun. Most of the interviews we do are over Skype or video. We hope this is a really great conversation about how singles can be in community with moms, some of the tensions that surround that, and we want to apply the gospel so we can think rightly about it.

Laura: We want to dive in with the basic question, How does it feel whenever you’re single to be around a lot of moms? Give it to us straight, because it’s all moms listening, so this is your chance. [Laughter]

Elizabeth: Hey, moms! [Laughter] When I’m in community with other moms, I feel that I’m not a mom. I feel that I don’t have kids, I’m not married. I think part of that weight comes from this cultural expectation we have—inside and outside the church. I’m in my 30s, so I’m supposed to have kids and be married; that’s what we raise little girls to from birth. We say, Your goal in life is to be a wife and mother. And it’s a beautiful thing—I don’t want anyone to ever hear me say I don’t think it’s a beautiful thing. But when it’s the crux of identity for women, then you feel this really big hole like, Something’s wrong with me, I’m missing something. I don’t know how to relate. I’m sitting with moms talking about vaccinating their kids, and I’m thinking, I don’t have kids! I don’t really know! [Laughter] It feels like I’m not a part of this in a way that’s more significant than being with a bunch of people who play sports when I don’t play sports. It’s like I’m not where I’m supposed to be as a woman. I think if single women were honest, they’d say they feel like they’re not fully able to participate in all the culture has for them, because they don’t have a husband or kids. It can be painful for some singles, because for some of us, it’s a wound.

Emily: I think that’s a really good word. There’s the culture at-large, but there’s also the church culture. And the church sometimes centers events and conversations—maybe so much—around it. It makes motherhood and marriage the crux of identity. I can’t imagine wondering, Well, if I’m not in that season of life, how do I get fed or enter these conversations? I appreciate you sharing that, and hopefully every mom listening can think, Oh yeah, I want to think about those things. I think we need to be reminded sometimes that not everyone is in this season, and where are we putting our identity?

Laura: Just to play off of that, how do you think deep friendships can be formed? If there’s an isolating bubble at times, how can we burst that and form relationships? What can we talk about?

Elizabeth: The reality is we have a lot more in common than we give ourselves credit for—both singles and married. Especially for women; we’re women. We got that! [Laughter] And that’s a lot. We got a lot to talk about being women! [Laughter] I want to say this with great kindness, because I’m not in this season, but I think sometimes my married friends lose themselves. All they talk about is their kids, because that’s their life—you try to keep four or five little humans alive! I can barely keep myself alive! [Laughter] So, I think to be able to talk about what you have in common is not to not talk about your kids or not to not talk about your husband or the reality of being married. I do think singles need to be in community with people who are in a different life season and learn what family looks like and the complexities within that. I think a great starting place, though, is to talk about what you have in common and build this bond not based upon life seasons. You’re human, I’m human. You’re a woman, I’m a woman. You love the Lord, I love the Lord. How do we fight this battle together in life where I can sit in your sorrows and you can sit in mine? You can rejoice with me and I can rejoice with you? I think it’s being sensitive about talking about the things the other person doesn’t have. And singles do the exact same thing with massive amounts of freedom and independence! I can talk about all the wonderful things I’m doing, which can make a mom feel uncomfortable or that she’s missing out on something because she’s not in that space. I think it’s being sensitive to what we have in common and talking about that in order to build, so we can share the rest of the pieces of our lives.

Laura: I think that’s so important because sometimes, it may not feel natural and that’s okay. We need to put the extra effort in, seeing the single is our sister-in-Christ and wanting to love her well. It could be having a conversation about topics you have in common. I think relationships are so tough, because we all dance around things and don’t want to talk about the hard things we’re struggling with. But to say, I love you, sister, and I want to know you. We’re fellowshipping, so how do we do this? Literally saying that to one another might be appropriate in some relationships.

Elizabeth: Exactly, yeah.

Emily: One of the ways I’ve seen this bond really form is in a Bible study setting in the local church. Sometimes when you’re talking about scripture together—we’ve moved beyond the intro discussion—and you’re hearing someone’s heart about the same passage, you make that bond and connection. That’s where I’ve really formed great topics of discussion that can really flourish outside of that environment, like after church on Sunday or at the store. We see we’re sisters-in-Christ first, and then you build on that.

Laura: One other thing I think of is even mom to mom, we find a lot of differences that make it hard for us to connect. Because we’re not similar, we can not want to connect—

Emily: We can do it in every relationship!

Elizabeth: Exactly.

Laura: Yes, it happens all the time. I think one thing I’ve noticed in motherhood, and all of life, is there are common threads with things you’re going through. So even if someone faces a different suffering than you, like a woman is experiencing the loss of a parent and another is experiencing grief over a child with special needs, there’s a common element of grief. It may not be exactly displayed the same, but the hope of the gospel is the same. So those are areas to bond. We stop picking at the little differences (“Mine’s a little bit harder!” “Mine’s a little more difficult!”), and we say, I want to love you through this. I understand, I’ve felt that way before, without having the measuring stick.

Elizabeth: Yeah, we have so much more in common that we want to give credit for. Sometimes we’re looking for ourselves in other people, but we’re actually able to meet other people where they’re at. I think people have such beautiful stories; I’m a story person, so I love seeking out other people and learning their stories. When you enter into their humanity, those so much more than you thought. We size people up, like we see a woman who’s married with four kids, and that’s just who she is to me. But there’s so much more there, so let me learn her story, and learn her heart, and live in that space.

Emily: Look at all these other things God is doing in your life and in this bigger story that you’re swept up into. I love that.

Laura: Well, let’s just talk about the gospel for a second. How does the gospel bridge the gap between the different life stages women are in? What hope does it offer?

Elizabeth: I think about the gospel in this context: God wants to dwell with his humanity, so he’s bridged the gap of sin to be able to make that happen through Jesus Christ. So, we’re responding to his love by loving other people. We love what God loves, and he loves his creation. So how are we supposed to be in community? Singles struggle with being isolated, because we’re by ourselves. Community for us is harder, because we can be transient in ways that, in marriage, you can’t. We have to press ourselves into what it looks like for me to do life with people, to stick around when it gets hard. We have to have those real, honest, direct conversations like, When you said that, it hurt my feelings, or, Hey, when ya’ll were talking about vaccinations, I felt like… Because I have a wound about marriage, I don’t allow that to be pent up. I tell my singles—I used to do singles ministry—the same muscles you need to be married, you need while single, because you need them for relationship. We just get away with doing relationships poorly, because we can just run away. In light of the gospel, if we’re to love God’s creation, we’re to love all of who God puts us into community with authentically by reflecting the character of God. That’s not easy, but it’s beautiful. I think that’s why I love singles in homes, being with families, and knowing what that looks like; and families getting to invite singles into their space and knowing what that looks like. We should be doing life together, because that’s what our God does within himself as the Triune God. So to me, it’s loving people; loving is hard, but it’s beautiful, and it’s something God calls us to. It’s an ultimate space for us to be.

Emily: I think that’s such a good word. Even with this thought about strengthening our muscles in relationship and not running from ones that are hard just because we’re not tied in covenant to them. I think that’s something moms feel tempted towards as well, so we try to speak to that on the podcast: What do you do with the person you’re not as comfortable with? I think that’s a unified, shared feeling in different ways. That’s a good challenge.

Laura: With that, I like how you talked about the single approaching the married mom or woman with children. What if the roles were reversed? Is there a way a mom can sensitively bring up areas, or how they can improve? Do you know what I’m asking? [Laughter]

Elizabeth: Oh, yeah yeah. I think it’s all in depths of relationship. So the more you know someone, the better you can ask the deeper questions. It’s being able to relate to somebody with what you have in common and then building. As friends, we need to ask the hard questions. I had this happen the other day in my office. One of my co-workers came in and said, Can I ask you a friend question? Help me love you better. Who’s going to say no to that? Of course! I think sometimes it can be really scary, but the people we appreciate the most are the ones who told us the truth and who asked the hard questions; we knew they cared about us. I think it can be a fear of rejection or a fear of being misunderstood, but we need to push past that to love a person. You can say, I notice when I talk about these things, you get silent or don’t respond in conversation, does it make you uncomfortable? Help me to understand. I want to love you well. I think anytime you couch a conversation in a “help me love you better,” the answer is “sure.” What are people going to say? No, I don’t want you to love me better. They’re going to let you do that. I think we, as women, are better at relationships than we give ourselves credit for. Love well, take our time, talk about what we have in common, and allow the Lord to expand our relationship to the fullness of who we are. I love my married friends, being in the house with their kids, and I need to hear about their families and their dynamics. But we’ve grown into that space of being able to be comfortable with saying things are hard and walking through that. The Lord does beautiful things by making what’s broken new.

Emily: Just today in our workshop, we were talking about how Jesus asks the harder question in relationship. So when we’re doing ministry to others, part of it is seeing that thing where they’re silent or knowing you need to press a little deeper somewhere. That’s really modeling the way Christ loved people. Obviously, we can’t do that exactly like the Lord does, but I think that’s a good challenge. It feels more comfortable for us to stay back, but who’s going to refuse the offer to love them better by understanding?

Laura: I think we could all ask that question a lot more, like to our husbands too. [Laughter] So I hear one thing I’ve heard you say frequently, and I want to press in a little bit: moms inviting women into their home. As a mom, I’m thinking about my house being messy, my kids being crazy and jumping all over her—

Emily: A new person to play with! [Laughter]

Laura: Right?! So I have all these thoughts about really wanting to treat her well and feel kind of strung out like I can’t give her this beautiful hospitality experience that I wish I could. So, what do you feel like, as a single woman, is your expectation? How can I extend an invitation and not be fearful because I have my own expectations in my head?

Elizabeth: I think we want to see—especially singles who come from broken homes—we want to see family. We don’t need to see the perfect house with the laundry put up and the food put out. I love when my friends do that, but when I come over, and there’s laundry over there and my friend is talking to me while stirring dinner, I love that. Because it’s real life, and we want to see real life. I remember there was a couple who had a single staying with them and they had a fight, and they had the single stay in the room. Which seems uncomfortable, but how do your work out conflict? They let them see it in real time. We want love and authenticity; we want you, we don’t want the perfection. I always give a disclaimer, because it’s a generalization and someone may have a different expectation. When you invite someone into your home, that’s a sacred space. You’re saying, Hey, come be a part of my life. That’s so valuable. I’m not going to judge you! My laundry’s not done! [Laughter] But I want to be in community with you, and if that means being there in the car, picking up your kids, that’s what we want.

Laura: That’s an encouragement for any mom listening! That removes the barrier of our excuse that we’re too busy, or running around, or feeling hasty and strung out. Just bring them into your life, exactly as you are. That’s a good word for all moms to hear, because that’s a hard spot.

Emily: So, shifting gears a little bit. In scripture, we have this call to pass on the gospel to the next generation and to have spiritual children in the faith. What do you feel like that looks like for you in your season of life? How do moms come alongside of you in that? How do you come alongside moms in that? I’d love to hear on that topic.

Elizabeth: For me, it’s making sure I always have someone I’m pouring into and just doing life with. Usually it’s a younger gal, and I’m walking alongside of her as she’s journeying in her faith—a sisterhood of an older sister pouring into a younger sister. How do we pour in good godly principle in real time? I had a conversation with a girl who’s a single mom about her child’s father coming back into the situation, so it’s that for me—those types of conversations. I think having women challenge me, Who are you pouring into? is helpful. It’s easy to get into myself as a single, because it is just me. So having friends who press me about who I’m pouring into and sharing the information God has pressed into me is important. The discipleship of an older mother and a younger gal is letting her see you go through life. For those in community, who are you doing life with? Who are you pouring into? My friends challenge me to do that. I stand on platforms all the time, and that’s beautiful ministry. But there’s also being in someone’s life, in their face, in their business, asking the hard questions. How am I being responsible stewarding the information God has given me?

Emily: A lot of time we’ll end the show with a last word. Do you have anything the Lord is bringing to mind? You have a captive audience of a lot of moms of young children. We know you’re a wonderful Bible teacher; you’re very gifted in that. How would you encourage them from the word?

Elizabeth: I think you’re in a season where you might not feel seen in the background, and you’re caring for lives, and maybe you’ve lost yourself in that. Remember nothing from the Lord is wasted, and the value of you being able to disciple your children—even though you may not feel it’s significant—is huge. For you to be able to shape them from the Word of God, and they know who God is huge. There’s only so much that can happen in an hour or an hour and a half service on Sunday morning. That they’re with you every day and you’re shaping children who will be warriors for Christ in this world is significant. You’re significant and God is making impact in the days that just seem crazy and you think, I don’t know where I am in all this. God is with you, and he sees you. What you’re doing is important. I think, to me, that’s always something I want to communicate to moms, especially young ones because I think they can feel overwhelmed with life. Nothing is wasted—even your dreams in your heart. You may not be living them right now, but God hasn’t forgotten.

Laura: That’s beautiful.

Emily: Amen.

Laura: I felt like you were talking right to me! [Laughter]

Emily: Hopefully, that was encouraging to those of you listening who haven’t heard that from a single woman. We can speak biblical truth into each other’s lives without having necessarily experienced every single thing that person has experienced. So thank you for encouraging us in that.

Laura: Thanks so much for coming on the show today, Elizabeth! It was a joy to have you. I feel like you’re becoming a friend.

Elizabeth: Yes! [Laughter] I had a great time. Thank you so much!

Laura: If you guys want to check out more about Elizabeth, head over to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. Of course, you guys can find us on all the social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Thanks for joining us!

Ep. 121 || Can You Make Any Life You Want? Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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

Laura: Hey guys!

Emily: Before we jump into today’s show, we want to encourage you to take a few minutes to leave us an iTunes review, if you’re willing. It’d be such a huge blessing to us. Laura and I read all of those, and it’s really encouraging to see the work God is doing. And it helps other people find our show! It just takes a couple of minutes, and if you need a tutorial, we’ll make sure it’s super easy for you to figure out how to do it on our show notes.

Laura: For today’s show, we’re talking about a really interesting topic. I think it’s one not discussed a ton, but every week, we get emails in our inbox or messages on Instagram and Facebook where women are processing career opportunities in motherhood. They’re asking, How do I know what decision to make? What do I weigh? How can I practically evaluate how costly this will be for my family, myself, and my children? There’s a lot to weigh in as we consider some career or work dreams we have as moms, because we have dependents and God has already called us there. So, how do these things mesh?

Emily: Right. And we certainly can’t answer all that in a show, but one of our heartbeats at R|M is to meet moms right where they’re at with the good news of Jesus Christ. We do think it applies to all these different things we’re facing. None of us have to have “arrived” yet in order to receive the good news and start to trust God, in faith, right where we’re at. So that’s one of our hopes for this show—we can get started but this isn’t an attempt to answer, Should I work outside of the home?

Laura: The age old Christian question!

Emily: Yes! Talk about that with your husband! But we want to meet the moms who are struggling with this question right where they’re at today. Before we go there, let’s stop to remember if you even have a choice, it’s a great thing that isn’t a given for every mom.

Laura: Yeah, it’s a huge privilege to have a chance to think about things like this and to say, Yes, no, maybe so. There are real hindrances to women being able to pursue their preferred career choice, or a secret dream they’ve had, or a small business they’ve wanted. Things like single motherhood, chronic health issues, care for a family member, aging, special needs, or even economic downturns. People lose their jobs, or there isn’t a lot of job opportunity in some communities or cultures. There are a lot of things outside of someone’s control that don’t allow them to even entertain the question we’re going to try to address today.

Emily: Right. Today, we’re talking about evaluating career decisions. Should I take on some more hours? Should I take on this special project? That’s something a lot of us have faced. I know for Laura and I, sometimes it’s a question of if we should take on extra writing opportunity, increase our hours, take a speaking gig, or add that extra arm to the R|M ministry we’ve been wanting to do. There are things that take real hours that come into our email inboxes that we have to struggle with week-in and week-out. What do we say to this stuff?

Laura: I think it applies to many of you whether or not you’re in a creative field like this. I know I have family members and friends who face things like picking up some extra shifts, like a nurse; or taking that other job opportunity that’s going to require a lot more travel. Even my husband faces stuff like that, especially when we were looking for new jobs and positions. There are also things like working on a special project where you might win a really great award if you put in the extra hours to do that. So, there are a lot of different things we face whether you’re full-time working or part-time working; maybe it’s even something like starting a business for the first time—MLMs, Etsy, Amazon. There are lots of opportunities to start your own business with a couple clicks of the button. You can be up and running! So, we’re all facing those things all the time. Should I be pursuing that or do I not?

Emily: The essential question is, What might be good for my career may possibly be detrimental to the family, church, Kingdom mission, or the community; or it might not be? Are there ways to evaluate that? So that’s where we’re stuck. Laura went through some great examples of things we face. I think there are a lot of online influencers, entrepreneurs, and even podcasts about philosophies around this. A lot of times they’re saying things like, Yeah, make the most of every opportunity you can, and do whatever it takes to say, ‘Yes,’ and make this happen. Nothing is really off-limits for you if you can just structure everything correctly.

Laura: I heard this radio ad just the other day, and I thought, Oh! This ties into the show we’re about to record! They said something like, Now you don’t have to make the choice between your professional life and your personal life. I thought, Really? There’s no way—

Emily: Somebody’s figured it out! [Laughter]

Laura: [Laughter] Every time you say yes to a professional opportunity, you’re saying no to something in your personal life. That has to happen! It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, but everything is a choice. So when I heard that ad, I thought, False! False! False! All my radars were going off, because these are real issues. Every yes, is a no.

Emily: I think other popular messages we hear are, You’re in control of your own life. That’s something. You’re in control. Just figure it out. Just pull the right strings, and you can arrange things rightly. Another one is, You have a right to your happiness, and no one should stop us from being happy. Ooh. We could do a whole show on that. [Laughter] Another one I remember hearing about as I grew up—even from my dad who worked in corporate America—was, At the end of every career opportunity, eventually there’s a magical life with the freedom and balance you’ve always wanted.

Laura: A magical life.

Emily: Yes! So you think if you keep taking these opportunities—because this is what you’re paying in—later, you don’t have to have all this stress. My dad would talk about people who did that for decades, and their lives were much worse off than when they started. You don’t realize it can be a trap if you’re not being strategic and thinking through those things. There are a lot of hard messages out there.

Laura: Today, we want to ask, How do we process these decisions? How do we know what to say yes or no to? How does motherhood play into that? Of course, we can start with the gospel, looking there to see what God’s word has to say. We know from the creation account that men and women were made to have purposeful work, to be fruitful and multiply, and to be stewards and caretakers of God’s creation. And that’s just in Genesis 1:28. We want to look a little bit closer at the Proverbs 31 woman, because she seems to be—oh, everyone likes to tee her up and say, Superwoman! Superwoman! [Laughter] So, we want to talk though and debunk that a little bit, and also see what principles we might learn from her.

Emily: She’s this archetype in scripture, in wisdom literature. So, if you’re not super familiar with Bible literacy, wisdom literature is a genre. It’s not something that’s supposed to be formulaic or prescriptive, but it paints pictures for us of principles about how we should live in light of God’s commands. In this passage, King Lemuel gives a nice picture of what an excellent wife might look like. In that, we get a snapshot of God’s design—a little bit like pre-fall—if everything was ideal. This would be kind of a sense of what an excellent wife might be like.

Laura: Right, we see things like she’s trustworthy, she does her husband and family good, she’s hard-working and sacrificial. She does all types of work with excellence; she’s like a real estate mogul, a seamstress, and doing all sorts of cool things. She’s working in and outside of the home. She’s generous, a good steward, and others-centered. She’s wise and kind. We could go on and on. Go read Proverbs 31 if you’re not familiar with this woman and see some of the character traits this queen is encouraging her son to look for in a wife.

Emily: Ultimately, we find the fulfillment of all of God’s design in Christ. He is the one who has to come to redeem creation. There’s no way any of us are going to model this or replicate it (and we’ll talk a little bit more about what the fall does). But basically, between what we see in Genesis in the creation account and the Old Testament and in this Proverbs 31 woman, we see God created us to worship him and care about the spread of Eden or the advance of the Kingdom. This means we’re going to steward our gifts, skills, and resources as we pass along the legacy of faith and love others in every role and responsibility we have—that means motherhood, any career we have, any ministry we have, our communities. It’s a holistic view of serving God with all he’s given us.

Laura: Unfortunately, because of the fall, we tend to get a very narrow viewpoint instead of the holistic one. We tend to look for personal identity in things outside of God. We might look for it in motherhood itself, in our husbands, in our job opportunities, or some kind of resume-builder and achievement. We do this by looking at what others around us are doing and working to make sure they think we’re cool or look really cool to them. We try to mold our lives to the world. We also tend to look at others and think, I want to look like her. She has it all or seems like it. What are those stepping stones I need to do to get there? That’s one area the fall has impacted our decision-making, especially when it comes to achievement, dreams, work, and things like that.

Emily: Another thing we struggle with in our sinful hearts is instead of looking at God and thinking about how we’re serving him, we’re often looking at ourselves and thinking about our own agendas and how we can build up our own kingdoms. We don’t want to be inconvenienced by having to consider others. Oh, I have to consider my husband? Or my children? What my church might need? What my community might need? What our local school might need? We just want to think about number one. And that’s all of us. I’m not picking on any one type of mom, I think we all don’t want to submit our ideas to God as fallen sinners.

Laura: Yeah. And I think another way we make decisions out of sin is we make them out of discontent. We feel this ache in our souls, and we believe it’s a sign we need to do something big or different when really, it’s an ache to find contentment in Christ. Sometimes we’re making decisions because we have fear, worry, and anxiety. When we make those decisions, we’re realize it didn’t feel so good. We thought it’d make us feel better, but really, we feel sad and sorry for ourselves. This discontent will never fulfill us; the only thing will fulfill us is Christ, which we’ll talk about in redemption. I think we can blame-shift in all of this, just like Adam and Eve did. We point fingers, saying this is someone else’s fault. I can’t do this right now, because I’m a mom, so I can’t pursue that. I can’t be a good mom, because I have this great career and need to keep pursuing that to do it well. We’re not making a decisions out of a place positioned on Christ and his work. Instead, we point the blame in other places and avoid taking responsibility for our own decisions and trusting God with them.

Emily: Luckily, although this point leaves us feeling a bit like downers, this is why God sent his Son, Jesus. We’re so messed up in how we approach everything. So, building off of that discontentment, in redemption, we see God is in control. We’re able to honor and follow him through Christ in whatever circumstance he’s given us. It’s not a matter of if our situation was different, we’d be different. Even when we feel like we have very few choices and opportunities, God can still lead us and shape us into Christlikeness. Again, to push back to the beginning of the show, let’s remember most people in the Bible and many people throughout the whole world today were or are in situations where they don’t have choices. Maybe they’re forced into slavery, overtaken by armies, living in poverty, and all kinds of things we see in scripture. This wasn’t the idea of, Just create the life you want! No, they literally couldn’t. But God made a way for them to hope and have faith in him, even when their circumstances were less than ideal.

Laura: Because Christ laid down his life for us, we can lay down ours. That means maybe we sacrifice some of our dreams, career opportunities, ability to climb the ladder, have our name published where we want it published, or whatever it is. It’s going to look different for every person, and, honestly, that’s going to be between you and the Lord. We’re all personally held accountable for those decisions we’re making, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we’re able to figure out a lot of those decisions in faith. It goes back to our personal conscience show we did a couple weeks ago. In a lot of these things, as long as we’re growing in holiness and living out the Great Commission, loving our neighbor, serving the Kingdom at home, in community, and at church, there’s freedom to make different decisions. We have to keep perspective: am I looking holistically at this picture or am I zeroing in on my own selfish desires?

Emily: Definitely. We want to spend some time getting into some practical ideas. Laura and I, as we said, face these decisions too. We know you guys are facing them. So, what do we do whenever we get an opportunity and we’re not sure if we should take this or not?

Laura: Yes, so the first thing to do is pray. Did you know we were going to say that? [Laughter] You can never do this for too often or too long. So please please please pray. We gotta say it.

Emily: We gotta say it. [Laughter]

Laura: It ain’t a good show if we don’t say it. [Laughter] The second one is consider your heart motives. This is a really, really good question we always want to encourage you to do, no matter what decision you’re making. The question to ask yourself is, Why do I really want to take this opportunity? Maybe it’s a promotion, a new job, a seasonal job, or special project or assignment at work. You need to ask yourself if there are any sin issues hidden beneath.

Emily: Yes, and there will be always. [Laughter]

Laura: Spoiler alert! [Laughter]

Emily: Right? I think it’s still an opportunity to recalibrate. Maybe you still make the same decision, but you’re able to do it submitting those and repenting those before God, asking him to help. I know for Laura and I, sometimes we take something because of fear. We think, If I don’t take this, this will never come around again.

Laura: Yep.

Emily: So we have to pause, because we’re not trusting God, and take a deep breath, so we can evaluate it with a clearer focus. Another thing we want to consider is to tune our heart to the word and not the world. Instruments have standard tuning requirements, so they can play beautiful music. It’s very important they’re tuned against that, because if not, they’re playing ugly, out of tune music. I think a lot of us are taking in the things we hear and read, like influencers—or like we said at the beginning—ads and podcasts, and we don’t realize that’s what we’re tuned into. So when we go to make a decision, those are the messages we’re basing our decisions on versus re-calibrating and tuning our hearts toward the Word of God. As we do that more and more, it’ll influence how we make decisions.

Laura: Yeah. With that, you also have to count the costs. This is where every yes means a no. As Emily said, if your heart is tuned in with the Word of God, sometimes it feels very costly—the yes and no. Lately, I’ve been working hard at time-stamping—this is uber practical for you guys. But if I say yes to a writing opportunity, that’s four hours I’m not going to have with my children or volunteering at school and church. So, really evaluate by putting some numbers down as you consider an opportunity to see what you have to give up if you’re going to say yes. It can feel kind of like a bummer either way sometimes, but that’s where you’ll be able to think more clearly—when you’re able to understand the consequences.

Emily: Right. Another one, if you’re married, talk with your husband. Try to understand his true feelings. If you guys are on different pages, pray God would bring you together in unity and maybe change one of your hearts. I think this is one of those things where being proactive is so helpful. Get together and ask, What is our vision? How are our careers or service or ministry life fitting together so we can love God and serve him as a family? It’s really important to have those conversations.

Laura: Seek counsel from older, wiser women. We say this one often—

Emily: It’s so good!

Laura: It’s so good! Can you find a woman who’s worked in that type of position before and has been a mom? Can you find someone who had a similar career path? Maybe even just someone a step ahead of you. We don’t always have to find someone like a grandmother. Maybe it’s just a woman who’s very recently transitioned out of this. Ask them what they did or what they wished they did differently. And if they know you well, ask them to advise you on this decision.

Emily: Laura and I have been helped so many times—

Laura: So much! We would be nowhere without them.

Emily: Yes! Those who’ve been willing to share things related to what we’ve thought about doing. Here’s what you need to be careful of. Here’s what I wish I would’ve done differently. That’s so helpful. Another thing to keep in mind is—What do they call it?—the Rule of Grief in transition?

Laura: Yes, I’m terrible at this.

Emily: Basically, the Rule of Grief is if you’re going through something really hard—

Laura: And this could be like a move, a baby, a major surgery, a family illness, so a big event in your life.

Emily: Right. It may or may not be the best time to make really big decisions about things that will impact you for a long time. Let’s be real; there are hormones involved, maybe we’re tired, sometimes we’re feeling the itch and pain of being in a season we’re not happy with. For example, who’s had a baby and cut six inches off their hair? [Laughter] Me!

Laura: I’ve not done that! [Laughter]

Emily: Oh yeah, twice. And every time I have a baby, I have to think, Don’t do it!

Laura: She needs some change! [Laughter]

Emily: I’m like, Brad, don’t let me go cut my hair off! It’s just a joke, but it’s a great example of the fact there’s something in us that wants to do something different.

Laura: Craves change.

Emily: We have to be aware of that tendency, and be cautious as we’re making decisions.

Laura: And with that caution, start small. Again, we’re talking about women who have the luxury of making these decisions. That probably means you don’t have to go full-force. When Emily and I are making decisions, we’re taking it one-by-one. We’re not saying we’re going to do this gigantic thing, especially in this season of life and where we’ve come to with our husbands. We want to start small and build, trusting that process and knowing there will be an exit strategy for some of those things. It’s important to blend those two things, if you’re able to and if the opportunity allows it.

Emily: Yes, I love what you said about exit strategy. Because, yes, while we don’t want to say that to our potential employer—[Laughter]

Laura: So, what is my exit strategy? [Laughter]

Emily: Ha! But it’s good, behind the scenes, to talk to your husband or whoever is giving you counsel. Think, What am I going to do in six months or in a year if this is so crazy and having a negative impact on all the things we care about and value? What are we going to do then? It’s good to have those check-in points and to know we’re not trapped in it forever.

Laura: Yes. With that, remember your capacity. Support systems—they matter. And everyone has a different one, so be realistic about what you’re able to do. I’m terrible at this. I’m preaching to myself here. Remember just because someone else is doing something doesn’t mean you even could do it if you wanted to.

Emily: Amen. [Laughter] I think we need to pause on that point: just because she can doesn’t mean I can or should. Keep re-evaluating and be open to change as God leads. If you look at this down the road and think you need to do something different, be willing to have open hands. We’re all evaluating different decisions in life. No matter where you’re at or how your days are made up, whatever you’re doing right now, you’re planting seeds for other seasons. For those of you who feel like your career goals aren’t being realized right now, God can continue to grow and cultivate you into the most important thing, which is Christlikeness. No matter your career goals, remember: have you counted the cost? Consider the little people in your home, and not just them, but the church, community, neighbors, and city that you live in. There are so many things and ways we can serve God and his Kingdom.

Laura: Yeah, we encourage you guys to consider these things deeply and to take every decision very, very seriously by putting it against the Word of God as you evaluate what you should be doing next. These are big choices and big decisions. We pray God will continue to give you the wisdom in navigating each one.

If you’d like to check out our show notes, head over to risenmotherhood.com. Of course you can follow us on social media @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Like we said at the beginning of the show, we’d love it if you head over to iTunes and left us a review. It takes, maybe, five minutes out of your day. Thanks again, guys, and have a great day!

Ep. 120 || When Mom & Dad Can’t Make Date Night Happen Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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

Laura: Hey, guys!

Emily: And before we jump in today’s show, we wanted to remind you—in case you forgot, because sometimes we forget—we have a book coming out in early September.

Laura: Yes, yes!

Emily: It’s really fun. We’re getting to a really exciting point in the process.

Laura: We’re done with the manuscript; we finished that last fall. Now we’re getting to the creative part like the book cover, editing, and marketing. It’s really fun! It’s kind of a different side to book writing I’d never really considered before I became an author and worked through this process.

Emily: Yeah, and we know a lot of you have so kindly asked, When can I be on your launch team? When can I preorder? Which is crazy we’re talking about that.

Laura: Yes, thank you! Such a gift to us.

Emily: We’ll let you guys know as soon as we know all those details. We’re excited for you to keep journeying with us in that and for you to read the book.

Laura: It’s going to be amazing to see it come to life and to see you all have it in your hands. I feel like that will be a huge, and awesome, and surreal day.

Emily: Okay, so for today’s show, we’re revisiting the topic of “date night” and a little bit about marriage—what makes a healthy marriage and where we need to put our hope in all of this. We’re trying to time this with Valentine’s Day.

Laura: I think this literally comes out on the 14th.

Emily: We know it’s also kind of the time of the year that highlights maybe some areas in your marriage—

Laura: All the awesome dates other people go on while you’re at home with the baby. [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah, it may be highlighting the points in your marriage where you wish things were a little bit different than they actually are.

Laura: I think this was stirred up because we talked about this a little bit on the Ask Us Anything show last fall, and we shared with you that this is one of the most popular question we get every single time we do a big question ask. This is what you guys want to know, which we love and we get it. It totally makes sense. But there’s also this other perspective to it that we want to share today. We touched on it really lightly in that Ask Us Anything show, but we want to dig into it a little bit more here, because we have lots of thoughts and we understand this being a pinch point. We’re hopeful today that we can give it a little more airtime.

Emily: We want to start by defining “date night” for you. Sometimes people use that term really broadly, meaning any time that you spend together as a couple investing in your relationship. But what we’re talking about is actually getting out of the house, away from the kids on a special outing that might require extra time or finances. You know, doing something really special. This is, again, date night in terms of we’re going out of the house and away from our kids on a date, which might be a little bit of a different definition.

Laura: Like “date night in.” People have those. Like when we watch Netflix with popcorn; it’s awesome.

Emily: Yeah, we’re putting that in a different category. Not what we’re talking about today.

Laura: These are the “getting out of the house, leaving the children behind” nights. So, one of the things we want to think about as we frame up this conversation about date night is we’re definitely not saying, Don’t have date night if you can get it, or that it’s a bad idea. The thing we see happening—and it’s happened to us as well—is date night can feel like it’s the only way we can be intimate or really grow in my marriage. There’s unfair pressure put on a stereotypical type of night out of the house. We don’t want to hold up this modern date night as the gold standard as growth in marriage.

Emily: I think, as humans, we’re really good at taking all kinds of wonderful gifts and great tools God gives—so we can seek growth in our lives and in our marriages—and make them laws to live by. We feel like everything is lost if we don’t get things a certain way. We hear from a lot of stressed wives and moms who want to invest in their marriages, but maybe their husbands work really long hours and travel regularly; maybe their husbands are overseas or in the military; maybe they have a child with special needs or their struggling to make ends meet; or maybe they just moved. There are all these different seasons in life. A lot of marriages just aren’t at a point where they can do this modern idea of a date night right now. We want to speak to those moms and say, We still have hope! There’s still good news for us in scripture for God’s design in marriage! So let’s not be discouraged.

Laura: I think the big reason why there’s a lot of discouragement is culture, relationship experts, and even Christian culture are telling us date nights are super important and critical to a healthy, thriving marriage. It’s like the date night is the secret sauce to keeping a close and romantic marriage. I think there’s this connection we all make that says a date night equals a romantic, thriving, long-lasting marriage. Yes, it can help; we want to acknowledge that it’s such a good piece of the puzzle. It’s really important to have one-on-one time. But we want to challenge that notion it has to look a certain way, particularly the way culture tells us it should look.

Emily: I think you’re so right. Americans, especially, have a tendency to be super child-centered, and we spend tons of time taking our children to activities and money making sure they get all this education and training, but we totally put our marriage on the backburner and neglect it. It’s good for kids to see mom and dad loving and prioritizing one another. I know I’m looking forward to—if and when we don’t have kiddos at home anymore or they’re all grown up—still having a relationship with my husband that wasn’t put on the backburner. For sure, that is so important and probably has to happen through quality time and investment in different ways. I know where date night has become a pinch point a few times for me is especially early on. I had the idea, My husband is supposed to be pursuing me by putting regular date nights on the calendar, and...he’s not.

Laura: He’s not pursuing you! [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah! [Laughter] We’re failing at this thing!

Laura: And it isn’t it interesting how we really want our husband to plan it? We want it, but we don’t really want to be the ones to plan it. It means even more if he’s the one; it means he’s invested in our marriage more than if he doesn’t plan it.

Emily: Yes, and it’s been interesting, because at different points I’ve been on bedrest for long seasons of time before when I was pregnant with twins or we’ve had chaotic times with five very young kids. Honestly, right now, to get out of the house we need two babysitters. Two babysitters!

Laura: Two babysitters. That’s expensive. [Laughter]

Emily: So it’s hard, you know? But I see the Lord growing us in our marriage and deepening our intimacy in other ways, so I think the longer we’ve been married—10 years this fall, woop woop!—I do see God has used a lot of different seasons—easy and hard, date nights and no date nights—to grow us. I kind of wish I could go back and tell newly-married Emily to enjoy her husband where she’s at today and find ways to serve each other, enjoying her date nights when she gets them but it’s going to be okay.

Laura: Mm, that’s good truth. You guys keep hearing us frame this as the concept of “modern date nights.” What really got Emily and I down this path was we were thinking about, What about people in the Bible? Did they have date nights? Is it in the Bible or even historically, like in the 1800s or 1900s? As we talked about this, we wanted to look at a two famous couples in Christian history to see what date night would look like for them if they had it or if they could even have it.

Emily: One couple we did some research on—and Laura and I had some good conversations back and forth—was Charles and Susannah Spurgeon. For those of you who don’t know—and I needed to get schooled up on this one—

Laura: It’s kind of one of those things you’re like, Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah…

Emily: Charles Spurgeon was a prolific preacher and writer in the 1800s. He and his wife, Susannah, had twin boys who both grew up to be believers and they really credited their mom for raising them in the Lord. While we don’t know a lot about the ends and outs of their marriage and how it worked—we’re not claiming to know all of that—we do know Susannah spent long seasons struggling through chronic illness. She was often confined to home; sometimes she couldn’t make it to church. We also know Charles had a lot of different physical illness, and he struggled with depression over the course of their lives. I know the little taste I’ve had of going through seasons of time where I was physically limited or the whole family is sick, I can’t imagine how hard it would make it on a marriage to get that time together, let alone a date night out of the house together. And yet God sustained their marriage until the end of their lives, and they had this powerful kingdom-impacting ministry together as a couple despite those challenges.

Laura: Spurgeon has some sermons where he preaches and speaks very highly of marriage. He uses the words, joyful love that it brings. Again, we totally admit that we’re speculating here, but we want to bring perspective that the Bible is applicable for all people for all of time, so what did it look like in the past when they didn’t have cars, as easy access to babysitters, all of these wonderful places to go to make all the memories? What would date night look like for these people? It kind of seems like maybe it wasn’t quite as prolific as we find it to be now.

Another couple we wanted to touch on was Hudson Taylor and Jane Elizabeth Fowling. Hudson Taylor was a well-known missionary. I’m going to link an autiobiography I read of him recently in the show notes that I found really helpful and enjoyed reading. I love missionary biographies. So, this was Hudson’s second marriage. He was actually a friend of Charles Spurgeon—

Emily: Ooh, fun fact.

Laura: Yeah, and he’s best known for his mission work in China; he started the China Inland Mission. If any of you guys have ever heard of that, hopefully that rings a bell. Anyway, Jane was Hudson’s second marriage; he had four children from his previous marriage, and when they got married, Hudson fell on or off a riverboat while he was in China and he was nearly paralyzed. So they went back to England for his recovery. About two years later, he was better. By that time, he and Jane had two children, so she had six kiddos, and Hudson went to China for a few years all by himself; we know she stayed back. Again, we don’t know all the details of their marriage and the ways God sustained them, but we do know, realistically, the distance between them did not allow for regular date nights. Eventually Hudson came back and they were reunited, but it’s interesting to see they had many, many years apart as Hudson was off doing mission work and Jane was home taking care of the six kids. What did that look like for them? We know they remained married until, I think, Jane died of cancer.

Emily: So I think what we wanted to draw out of these stories is that both of these couples—and many, many, many more throughout history both in scripture that we could reference or just around the world today—faced challenging and exhausting circumstances. There are still a lot of couples, through Christ, doing God’s work who will go down in redemptive history as being individuals and couples who made a huge impact for the spread of the gospel. Maybe they enjoyed some form of date night, maybe they didn’t—they probably didn’t in the way we define it. That doesn’t make date nights bad, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them, but we’re trying to illustrate God gives grace. We hope this encourages you if you feel like you’re in a season where you’re separated from your husband because of military or work, you feel encouraged you can still be unified in doing important work for the kingdom—without what we say is stereotypically “healthy” for a marriage.

Laura: So looking at these historical examples is fun, but what about modern day examples? All of you in this today, how can we encourage you? We asked our friend Hunter Beless from the Journeywomen podcast—hopefully you all listen, because we love her, her ministry with the podcast, and her awesome interviews, so head over there to listen—to share about she and her husband’s, Brooks, marriage. So you’re going to hear her talk in a minute, but just to give you a little background: he’s in the military, and he travels a lot. So she was someone who came to mind when we thought of someone who might not get date night regularly, but God is still being faithful in their marriage. Here is what she had to say about how God has sustained their marriage.

Hunter: Date nights are a dream, but my husband Brooks and I have a major logistical hang-up with the advice we’ve received to make them a regular reality. As a soldier, Brooks’ job actually requires him to be away anywhere from one-third to one-half of every year. When he’s home, he’s required to work long hours, sometimes even through the night. Deployments, trainings, living stationed away from family; all these things make even irregular date nights really tough. In our first years of marriage, I actually felt really guilty about not adhering to the well-intentioned wisdom of the weekly date night. Forget regularly dating, we couldn’t even talk on the daily. But, by God’s grace, despite these logistically-challenging circumstances in our inability to make a regular date night happen, Brooks and I actually do really experience intimacy and oneness in our marriage. The Lord has been faithful to sustain us as we seek to display his covenant-keeping love right where he has us. If you want practical application for what this looks like, we pray together at the same time, even when we’re separate in proximity; we write notes communicating value and dignity to one another; we strive to make the most of the time we actually do have together. We believe seeking to know and be known is more of a mindset and lifestyle beyond a literal date on the calendar; beyond that, as we seek to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might, we inevitably grow in our love for one another every day of every week.

Emily: So much good stuff in there, and I hope so many of you can relate! Hunter shared that so eloquently; thank you, Hunter!

We want to close the podcast with some encouragement. When we look at scripture and see what God chose to record as good news for marriages and his design. We see things like loving each other with Christ’s love and sacrifice in marriage. Our marriage is this mysterious picture of Christ and the Church, and it’s supposed to reflect that. God encourages us to love and respect one another, to engage in appropriate submission, to be on mission together. We see that all throughout scripture. This one’s hard for us to hear sometimes but having regular sexual intimacy is something the Lord emphasizes. Praying together, leaving and cleaving and becoming one flesh, keeping the marriage bed really pure and undefiled, staying committed to each other until death. I think when we look at scripture and what God says—this is my design for you, this is my hope for you—this is what we’re supposed to be doing in Christ (yes, sin will affect this). I think these are the things we can cling to, and uphold, and do with his help in a variety of different circumstances.

Laura: As Emily and I were talking about this concept before we recorded, we thought, Ultimately, all we really want is to be cherished. We want to feel loved and special. We really want to feel that Christlike love that—like Emily talked about—God has charged the marriage to be biblically. I think anyone who’s been married for a number of years and been on a handful of these date nights, you realize that date night isn’t actually a guarantee either. You can ask my husband, because he’s said, Laura, you are very good at ruining date night. [Laughter] You know, with my stubborn heart and bad attitude at times. Isn’t it funny? You build this up in your mind and you’re so excited and looking forward to it, and then something happens—let’s just say not from personal experience— like your husband is home late, so then you’re late to your date night. So then you don’t talk to him for a little bit. [Laughter] So, this was old Laura, but I think it’s important to remember date night is never a guarantee anyway. And wouldn’t it be a great way to cherish your husband not by expecting these grandiose acts through date night but instead really thinking, How can I love my husband in the little things in the life God has called us to today by serving him? Maybe it’s back rubs, emails, texts, just those some acts of service. Those are the things that can sustain a marriage for a long time instead of putting all your stock in this one, big, grand night that has a 50/50 chance of going well. [Laughter]

Emily: I think we’re saying instead of putting all the stock in date night, let’s broaden the view, thinking about how to cherish our husbands in everyday life. That’s so good. We say this on almost every show, but we have to have a relationship in the Lord and find our identity in our hope in Jesus.

Laura: I think that’s a good thing to say on every show. [Laughter] I do feel like a broken record, but if I’m going to say anything over and over again, I’m going to tell people to love Jesus and spend time with him.

Emily: Yep. Gotta say it! He’s the only person who’s going to meet your expectations and exceed them. Another one is rejoice and enjoy your marriage as a gift from God. We know there are tons of complexities, some of you are thinking of objections, but do it when it’s mundane, do it when you get a date night.

Laura: Yeah, and look for ways you guys are serving the kingdom or could start to serve on mission together and find joy in that. I think of Priscilla and Aquilla who were working side-by-side with Paul spreading the gospel with him. Of course, enjoying intimacy; we know there are a lot of nuances and different things to that, but as you can, invest in that way in your marriage. Pray for more time together. If it really is a huge desire in your heart to go on date nights—again, it’s not wrong, but don’t put all your expectations and hope in it— tell your husband and pray to God for it. Ask that he will make a way, and if not, ask he makes you content in the process. Lastly, don’t compare with other couples. This is like broad brush marriage advice—

Emily: We’re roller painting a wall of marriage right now. [Laughter]

Laura: We’re not edging the trim out right now. [Laughter] We have a big 18 inch roller.

But truly, don’t look side-to-side and think, That couple looks happy and they’re getting regular date night and I’m not because I’m in a different season. Comparison is truly never worth it. In all of this, we pray ad hope you get a version of date night, of course, but more than that, we pray your heart is tuned to the Lord and his desire for marriage; we pray you seek him above all things, even your ideal night out away from the kids. We know how good it sounds and can feel and what promises it brings, but ultimately, remember God is the only one who can truly sustain your marriage and keep you faithful to one another to the end. He is where your hope needs to lie, not in date night.

Emily: Amen. Well, if you guys want some more resources, head to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com, and you can also find us on social media @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thanks, guys!

Laura: Thanks, guys!

Ep. 119 || “But This is Just My Personality!”: How Christ Changes Us Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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

Emily: Hello, hello!

Laura: Today, we’re talking about personality tests, which is such a fun topic. We got super into these about a year ago; we took one of those free, online Enneagram tests and started texting memes to one another, saying, That’s just like a Three, or whatever. It was really fun for our team, and we had a really good time taking these tests.

Emily: Yeah, and last fall (2018) for our Ask Us Anything show, our most frequently asked question was, What is your Enneagram number? [Laughter] So we know it’s something that has a lot of interest right now. It’s very cool to say, Hey, what Enneagram number are you? But this has been around for a long time; certainly, it’s not a new thing.

Laura: Yeah definitely. I remember when I was young, we did the Love Languages and Spiritual Gifts tests—so fun. [Laughter]

Emily: I remember thinking I have this certain love language, and at times, it’s caused some conflict in our marriage, because I think, No, this is the way I have to be loved. I can’t receive love in any other way! [Laughter] And that’s not true! I enjoy a lot of different ways of being loved. But you can really hone in on that one thing.

Laura: You can! It’s amazing how we latch to it, which is sort of what we want to talk about in today’s show. We have two big ol’ questions we want to ask and try to answer. One is, Why do we all love these personality tests so much? The second is, What role can and should personality tests play in our motherhood and who we are as a person?

Emily: So, why do we all love personality tests so much? Why do we take the 10 minutes and click through the four websites with 100 pop-ups to find out what Disney princess we are?

Laura: Yes! I want to know. I have to know what my emojis say about me. [Laughter]

Emily: I think that question of why it feels good to find out our strengths and our giftings as if we’re special and now we’re able to display them—

Laura: Or share them on Facebook or put them on Instagram to tell everybody.

Emily: Yes. I think it’s interesting that we long to know other people’s personalities. What box do you fit in?

Laura: Right! We want to categorize people.

Emily: Yeah, and how do get our puzzle pieces to fit together really well so our boxes can join together? [Laughter] Isn’t that the next thing you do? You get your Enneagram, and then you think, Wait, what’s my husband’s number? How do those interplay?

Laura: And what are the wings doing? How can we be healthy together?! Totally, totally, totally.

So, to understand this, we can go back to the Creation account. We pulled out a couple of principles. One thing we see obviously in the Creation account is we really long to know ourselves and long to be known. We think things like, If they could only understand me, even my sinful tendencies, they would just love me more. We equate being known with being loved.

Emily: Yeah. Our kids, for the Christmas program this year, did this song called, “My Holy Holey Hole.” [Laughter] You’ve heard it! They sing, My holy holey hole! So, we all have a holy hole in our hearts that can only be filled by Jesus. [Laughter]

Laura: Aww.

Emily: So what I’m trying to say is we’re all created to be known by our Creator. There’s the deep holy hole in all our hearts that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God. They were naked, they were unashamed. They didn’t have any baggage they carried around, nothing they hid. They were known by God himself and enjoyed relationship with him. We long for that.

On the other side of the Fall, we experience separation from God, and we need Christ to come allow us to have that relationship with him again. Now, the reality is we can only pursue knowledge of ourselves—who we are and who we’re created to be—in the Word of God and getting to know him; we do all the things we talk about every week here on Risen Motherhood. But the way personality tests fit into this is they can take us down this path of pursuit that feels like a bandaid, like a little bit of a nugget of truth. You start to pull on that string, but what you realize is it’s never-ending, and it never really goes anywhere satisfying. It does make us start to think that it’ll give us a greater grasp on who we are, and our purpose in the world, and how we fit into the whole universe.

Laura: Mhmm, that’s totally right. The other piece we see is we long for the power the little piece of the personality tests brings.

Emily: I can now manipulate my personality and everyone around me to do what I need!

Laura: Yeah! And that’s why we advertise it everywhere and push it out on social media, so everyone will know how to interact with me, and why I sin and what I do. But we see that this is really nothing new. Eve did this when she took a bite of the fruit. She wanted knowledge. She walked with the source of all knowledge; she could’ve asked God absolutely anything, but she wanted to be in control, have the power, and be able to wield it at her own whims.

I think we do this same thing Eve did when we believe if we know our personality test, understand how we work and what makes us tick, we’ll gain knowledge to help us control our lives. Because personality tests are often kind of accurate, you know? They do reveal strengths and weaknesses. They have this promise if we can balance them correctly and figure out how to be the healthy version of whatever it is, we’re going to be the captain of our souls and the masters of our fate—that Invictus stuff. Since the Garden, we’ve longed to be God, but only he is fully sovereign. But personality tests makes us feel a little bit god-ly.

In the context of our relationships, all of us experience brokenness, whether that’s a repeated conflict with our husbands, parent, or coworker. We feel like if we can just figure it out, then the sin and pain in this relationship will be gone. We can equate personality tests with a savior. It just can’t do that; it will never heal or be perfect. We’re so tempted to think it will.

Laura: So that’s why we all love personality tests so much. We want to move to that second question about what role these play. We’re not against self-knowledge, and neither is God’s word. In fact, it encourages us to grow in self-knowledge but also in knowledge of God. And those things go in tandem.

There’s this element of relief when you find out your Enneagram number. You’re like, That’s me. Somebody knows me! We’re tempted when we make decisions to add our personality test to the mix, but should we be doing that? Is that something that should happen? Should we be spending hours and hours with our husband, our friends, and our family talking about our personality typology? These are some of the questions to ask to figure out the role of personality tests are supposed to play.

Emily: Yeah, I think in motherhood, specifically, we have to remember our personality isn’t ultimately what defines us. I know for me, it’s easy to take a typology or whatever I heard on this personality test and push that into motherhood, explaining away something that’s hard for me to do or something God is calling me to do. Some common examples might be:

You know, I’m an introvert, I just can’t deal with people at my house and being hospitable. I’m just not going to do that. It’s not my personality.

You know what? I’m an Enneagram 1, so I get upset when people don’t live up to my high standards, and that’s just the way I am and people need to deal with it. I need things to be my way or else—that’s just how God made me.

Laura: Ouch, Emmy, I’m an Enneagram 1. [Laughter] Did you remember that I am?

Emily: I have seven 1s around me, so… [Laughter]

Laura: You need us bossy 1s! [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah...that was an exaggeration. [Laughter]

Laura: I was thinking, I think she’s heard that from me before.

Emily: Okay, I’ll do one for me. I get really wrapped up about feeling scattered. I’m feeling scattered and disorganized; I’m just not really self-disciplined, so of course I can’t figure out how to plan meals, organize our schedule, or get everything under control! That’s just the way I am.

Laura: So, as we said, your personality isn’t what defines you. There’s value in understanding ourselves, but that knowledge of yourself shouldn’t confine you to certain boxes, decisions, or even an action. As believers, we’re only ultimately defined by Christ’s atoning work on the cross. I think that’s where we have to see the examples Emily gave; your type isn’t an excuse for a sinful behavior. It’s really dangerous territory when we start to do this. We’re basically saying, I can be anyone I want. It doesn’t matter who God says I should be like; this is who I am. But you know what? God says, Be holy as I am holy. That leaves no room for sin.

Emily: Yeah, ooh. And we have to compare everything against the Word of God as it provides everything we need for life and godliness. We have the helper, the Holy Spirit, if we’re trusting in Christ. Our type, or personality, or whatever our test results gave us say one thing, but what does God’s word say? I think something that plays out in this conversation is where we’re weak. Personality tests tend to point out where we’re strong and special, and where we’re weak, they say, Oh, just don’t worry about that, or, Just balance it out. But really, weakness is right where God wants us—a humble posture of recognizing our need for him. It’s not something to manipulate; it’s something to take to the Lord, and he can work and show his strength and his ability to transform us into the image of his Son as we continue to walk with him. That’s grace. And we want that in our lives. If we’re clinging so tightly to our personality tests that we can’t ever be weak and come to God asking for him to help us, we’re totally missing out on one of the essential things about Christianity and having a relationship with God.

Laura: Amen. That is so true. I think a lot of us are asking, How am I living up to being the Myer-Briggs letters I am? I don’t even know my own letters. Or, How am I living up to the Enneagram number? But our question really should be: How am I growing in holiness? How am I growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness? Into Christlikeness? Like Emily said, that knowledge of self shouldn’t lead us to pride or a desire to become that best version of our personality test, but it should lead us on our knees to Christ. That’s huge in all of this.

Emily: Right, and I think we said this earlier, but it’s worth saying again: we actually are designed to only understand ourselves in light of God and who he is and the way he has chosen to define us. I think it’s tempting to think we can understand ourselves more if we go down a path that has nothing to do with God. But we actually experience that greater fulfillment the more we’re in relationship with God. The more we know his character, the better we truly understand ourselves. It’s funny, because we just want to disconnect it, but it can’t be disconnected.

Laura: So now we want to look at the second principle: our personality isn’t our destiny. We talked about how our personality isn’t our definition; it doesn’t define who we are. We have to be very careful to be looking at who we are in Christ. With this piece, it’s looking at tomorrow and the next day as we grow and change, and ultimately, where we’re headed as we make our decisions in motherhood. We have to remember we can change. Just because you tested something on some personality test, doesn’t mean that’s who you are and you’re stuck in that forever.

Emily: In Isaiah 64:8, it talks about how God is the potter and we’re the clay; he molds us and shapes us according to his purposes. So he’s really the one who is formulating—and who we submit to as he formulates—who we’re going to become. Laura had a good example about this that I wanted her to share.

Laura: Growing up, my dad was a ceramic artist and professor. In the back of our house, we had a ceramic studio, which was really pretty cool. I remember going out there as a little girl and he’d be throwing pots, working with the clay, adding the glaze, and all of those things. He taught me how to do that as a little girl—or he tried to teach me. I remember watching him, and it was so amazing to watch his hands as he took this unsightly lump of clay and really molded and shaped it into something really beautiful and useful. I’d get on the wheel and try; he’d be behind me, of course, trying to help me. But ultimately, when I tried to do it, I’d put pressure in all the wrong places, and I didn’t use the right amount of water. The whole thing would start shaking and quaking, and the whole thing would slide right off the potter’s wheel. I never was good at it, and I actually kind of regret never really learning how to throw a pot well. It was just amazing  to watch him work with that clay! I think that plays really well into this, because often, we’re trying to take our own personalities into our hands. We believe we can become the ultimate version of our Myers-Briggs, or our Sandlot character, or whatever it is that we tested for, but we’re just like me behind the potter’s wheel. We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re on a path of destruction. We might start to take some shape, but it doesn’t last and it doesn’t allow us to reach our full potential of what we truly could be. God’s plans for us are higher than we could ever imagine and too wonderful for us to attain, but the potter—like my dad, the expert—is so skilled. God knows the exact amount of pressure we need in our life, and he knows where to put it. As we grow in our knowledge and understanding of ourselves, we have to trust God to do that work and for him to be the potter who presses, releases, and forms us in the way he desires us to become and grow in holiness—to be holy as he is holy, loving our neighbors, growing in wisdom, and mercy, and goodness, and all of those things. I think we have to remember who’s in charge and that we’re not very good at being in charge when we start taking it into our own hands.

Emily: I love that example and the words you’re using—pressure. That’s what it can feel like whenever God is conforming us to the image of Christ. These are all of those experiences that come up in motherhood everyday, the circumstances that feel like God is applying pressure to our lives as things don’t fit our personality the way we think should. I don’t feel like I have the personality to do x, y, and z. I’m not a mom that does whatever this thing is over here, so I’m not going to go that route. But God is actually applying pressure to us, saying, This is uncomfortable to you. This may hurt. It might make you cry and come to your knees. But this is what I’m using to conform you to Christlikeness—the trials, the things where you don’t feel like you’re doing a good enough job. That’s where we shouldn’t disregard the thing that isn’t our personality and throw it out the window in motherhood, because these are the moments God is often using to draw us to himself.

Laura: Yes, so that means be willing to take risks and jump out of your personality box, trusting God has great plans for you. If you feel him bringing things into your life that feel uncomfortable and you want to say, Nope, not gonna do it because that’s not who I am!, remember you can always change and grow. Ultimately, God is much more concerned about how you make the decision and the process of pruning you in that decision rather than the decision you make.

Thinking through this whole show, we want to remind you there’s a lot of value in being known and it’s okay to want to grow in your own understanding of yourself. We do think there are good things to personality tests; I know we’re kind of ripping on them a little bit here towards the end. We do believe they can be really helpful too.

Emily: Yeah, and one helpful thing in particular is sometimes as we want to look at our heart attitudes, examine what we worship, and see areas where we habitually sin—by not loving others and not worshipping God—personality tests can help us. They might help us see patterns, reveal things we’re wrapped around too much, and identify what motivates us when God should be motivating us. So they’re not an end in and of themselves, but they can be one of many tools used. Most importantly, we use the Word of God, but certainly, I’ve learned from personality tests. I need to be careful because my tendency is to do that, so what does that mean about my heart?

Laura: Yeah, I think they’ve been really helpful for revealing sin and areas of need for repentance. I think that’s really helpful. Also, personality tests can be really beneficial in expressing communication in your marriage or with other people. They can help put into words what you’ve known about yourself but don’t know how to articulate. And the same goes vice versa. Maybe you see something in your husband and think, I don’t really understand that, but then someone in a personality test has written it down and showed you. There are a lot of positive benefits in them for sure.

Emily: We’ve really seen that in Laura and I’s working relationship and in our own marriages. Having words for something can help you realize that something isn’t sin, it’s just that this person thinks differently than me. They were created differently than me. They like to do different things than I like to do. So, they’re not trying to hurt me, they’re not out to get me; they’re just different. Which is like, Oh! Now I can approach them with a greater degree of love and understanding! I think it can remind us God created everyone differently, so praise him. And I calm down a little bit now.

Laura: I think there are areas where personality tests sort of go wrong. That’s not me, that doesn’t sound like me! I think that reminds us the only one who can fully know us is God. There isn’t anyone else out there that can fully know every area and part of you intimately, but God does. What great hope that is that there is someone out there who knows every facet of our being even better than we know ourselves. That’s an area we can choose to worship God in, and in all of this.

Emily: We wanted to bring this up even in the context of motherhood, because we think it is a thing that impacts us on a daily basis—the way we think and the things we value. If you want to find out more, definitely visit our website risenmotherhood.com and follow us on social media @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Ep. 118 || Gray Areas: Personal Conscience in Motherhood Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood—the very first of 2019. I’m Emily, and I’m here with my sister-in-law, Laura.

Laura: Hello everyone!

Emily: And we’re really excited to be continuing our theme of “Unity in the Gospel.” We’ll be kicking off a new theme in September. We have a great spring line-up—even though it’s not spring yet. Let’s be honest, it’s freezing cold.

Laura: We’re pretending. [Laughter]

Emily: We’re pretending like spring is coming. We have a lot of great shows lined up for you about things like vacation, ministry, church, expectations, work and motherhood, dreams, and all kinds of things.

Laura: Yeah, topics that we’re both really excited to talk about, because Emily and I’ve had interest in. We’ve wanted to share them by going back to our roots of airing our conversations on the podcast.

Emily: We also have an exciting announcement to start the year! We’re officially a nonprofit, which is something we’ve been working towards since last summer. That’s definitely a huge behind-the-scenes task we’ve been pressing towards, and we’re so thankful those pieces came together. So now we have even more people on our team: our Board of Directors.

Laura: Yes! We have a phenomenal group of people God really pulled together. Emily and I were floored when all of them said, “Yes.” We’re going to list them here for you, and we hope you recognize some of the names and head to our site to check out the others. We have links to their ministries so you can get to know them more.

Karen Hodge serves as our Board Chair, and then we have Melissa Kruger, Abigail Dodds, Eric Schumacher, Ruth Simons, and Quina Aragon all serving as Board Members.

This is really exciting to us to have wise people over us shepherding R|M into the future. It’s going to be really great.

With becoming a nonprofit, usually your donations become tax-deductible. Many of you probably already know this. Because of that, we’re going to be moving our hosting platform for donations onto our own site (from Patreon), but we’re still offering perks! Let’s talk about that for a sec, because that’s fun.

Emily: Yes! So, at the $5 level, you’ll receive a new newsletter called, “The R|M Report.” It’s like a ministry report you’d get from a missionary you support. We’re going to show you behind-the-scenes things, ways God is working, updates about what’s going on at R|M. At the $30 level and above, you’ll receive an exclusive R|M donor thank-you mug. It’s all really exciting. And if you switch over from Patreon to our new platform, there will be an exclusive perk for you at the beginning of your switch!

Laura: Yeah, you should’ve gotten an email about that! We’re really grateful for your contributions. We definitely could not do it without your help. Head over to risenmotherhood.com/give to learn more, check out the platform, and learn about the Board of Directors!

Emily: So, we’re excited to kick off the year with a topic we can’t believe we haven’t talked about yet.

Laura: Oh my word, yes. Well, it’s sort of how R|M was born—we’re talking about personal conscience—but we didn’t know it yet. We didn’t necessarily have the label to explain what we were already talking about every week.

Emily: Right. You’ve probably heard us say things like, Oh that’s a gray area, or, That’s something the Bible doesn’t prescribe exactly, or, We have freedom in Christ here, or, This is a matter of conscience. I think we say something like that every show [laugher], because that’s what most of our shows deal in—the thousand daily choices we make that aren’t clear [in the Bible] about what we should do.

Laura: What kind of food am I going to feed my family? How much screen time should I show my kids? How am I going to educate my kids? How do I train, equip, disciple your kids practically? What is my work life/home life balance look like? What’s my childcare situation? We could go on and on; basically you can look at any show in our archive and see there’s personal conscience at play.

Emily: I think in our modern culture—specifically in motherhood—we have so many choices. If you’re somebody who hopes in Christ and you generally understand the commands of God, you know things like you’re not supposed to steal. But with all the other choices, it’s quite a bit more complicated. So Laura and I’ve been surprised at how little this topic is tackled by mainstream Christian resources out there.

Laura: There’s not enough.

Emily: This is something we deeply deal in every single day and has a huge impact on the choices we make, and yet, it’s something we don’t think very deeply about.

Laura: And I think it’s something if you really understood what a personal conscience is and how it’s different than the Holy Spirit—which we’re going to get into—it would change how you view things in motherhood. I know for me personally, I’ve seen a major change in my conscience in my time as a mom. I think when I was a first-time mom, I saw things more as black-and-white or as right-and-wrong. Now, as I’ve matured as a mom, had more experience, and seen more things—I’ve realized my conscience has changed. It’s not the right and wrong has changed, because those things hold fast to the Word of God. What I view as right and wrong has changed in motherhood. I think a lot of you can identify; prior to being a mom, you thought, When I’m mom, I’ll never let my kids do that, but that you’re a mom, you let your kids do that. That’s called personal conscience! [Laughter]

Emily: Yeah [laughter]. This past fall, I was going through some open submissions articles and ran across one that gave some good cultural examples that impacted me. I think when I’ve encountered these conscience topics in the context of cultural differences it makes more sense to me in the context of my local community. It helps me understand the mom at church who does something different than me. So, this lady’s story was she was living as a missionary with her husband. What do we do in America if your kid’s Cheez-It falls on the floor? You pick it back up!

Laura: It’s fine! Three second rule! [Laughter]

Emily: Or five or 10 second rule!

Laura: 20 minutes? Whatevs! [Laughter]

Emily: Most of us don’t think too hard about something that falls on your kitchen floors. You just quickly hand it back to your child. Well, in this country they lived in, that was considered something wrong and dangerous to do for children; it wasn’t okay to do. They had a babysitter who would throw food away every time it fell on the floor and stare at them like they were crazy for handing food back to their child. I thought it was a really interesting picture of two things. Both sides would probably say either, This is totally fine, or, This is totally wrong. It’s not prescribed by the Word of God, but their consciences were telling them how to respond in that situation. So, there are a lot of things like that in motherhood, especially when you look internationally.

Laura: Yeah, so today we want to tackle the question, If my conscience isn’t always right or wrong, and God’s word is never wrong but doesn’t speak to every situation, how do I know what to do in motherhood? Like we said, there aren’t a lot of great resources on personal conscience, but there is one we really like. A lot of what we’re talking about on this show stems from Emily and I reading this book and having discussions about how it applied to our own lives: Conscience: What it is, How to Train it, and Loving Those Who are Different. We’re going to link it in our show notes, and we hope you read it. It’d be a great book to read with your small group, a group of moms, or something like that. It helped us understand a lot, and we hope it will be even better at explaining this topic than we’ll be able to do in a 20 minute show.

Emily: And it has great graphs in it too! Things that make you think, Oh, that makes such sense when you draw it as a picture! I hope you guys are very curious about what we’re talking about.

Laura: Go read it!

Emily: We’re going to give a general picture of what personal conscience is and talk about its application in the life of a mom. First off, what is our personal conscience, Laura?

Laura: Oh, you’re going to ask me this?

Emily: Yeah, you’re on the spot. Answer it! [Laughter]

Laura: Okay, so this was a really good thing for me to draw a distinction in. Our personal conscience is your personal sense of right and wrong. It’s the moral compass we refer to in certain situations. God gives every human being a conscience; it’s that weird feeling you get when your kid watches too much tv, and you feel a little guilty; or maybe that feeling you wrestle with when you walk out the door to go to work, or if you’re not working but feel like you should be. It’s the pit in your stomach after you’ve gossiped about a friend at the playdate. It’s the moral compass inside of us, not the Holy Spirit. It’s your own personal law book.

Emily: One thing to note is God gave these to us to listen to and follow. We’re using the phrase “moral compass” because it’s a commonly understood phrase in culture, but it’s not the way the Bible talks about it. God provided the Bible as the universal truth for all people for all of time; it’s not relative, and it applies to everyone. But then there are gray areas for you personally that don’t apply to your friend, or mother-in-law, or anyone else; that personal conscience is meant for you individually.

Laura: Right. And everyone’s conscience is different—as Emily said—within these gray areas, because they’re not always calibrated to God’s word, which means they’re not always right. We have to remember we’re all sinful humans living in a broken world, and we have consciences that deviate from God’s word and his ways. We’re probably getting some things right, but we’re also probably getting some things wrong. Our consciences are really influenced by our upbringings, the culture we’re in, our personality, our parents, our fears; so they constantly need to be examined and submitted to God’s word.

Emily: Mhmm. Another thing about personal conscience is they can be further damaged or dulled. As Laura said, we’re all sinful, so all of our consciences are getting things wrong. But when we ignore our conscience without seeking to understand what’s going on or why we feel wrong about something—and don’t realign it with God’s word—we actually desensitize ourselves to it. One common example of desensitizing would be something like watching a tv show with a little more violence or intensity. We’ll get used to it, and then suddenly, we’re able to watch more of it, and over time, without even realizing it, we’ve been sliding away from what’s okay for us to be doing.

So that’s why we’ve said on so many shows that whenever we have that feeling of guilt, don’t stuff it down and run away. That desensitizes or dulls your conscience; examine it and realign your conscience with God’s word and possibly even repent if needed. So, they definitely can be shaped.

Laura: Yes, and with that shaping, they can slide away from God, his word, and what he deems is right. But they can also become more in line. I really liked the word they used in the book, which is, You can recalibrate your conscience. When dealing with the big, hot topics in mommy world, many of us have overactive consciences. Like we mentioned, our consciences are influenced by a lot of different things, but when we’re believers, the only thing that should inform them is our belief in God’s word. As we grow in our knowledge of him and grow in maturity through confession and prayer, I think we’ll find what we need to hold fast to in motherhood and life. We’ll figure out where our consciences are correct. We’ll figure out the things we can let go of and not judge one another or feel guilt over, because we’ll know there’s freedom to do them in different ways since the Bible doesn’t speak specifically to how it should play out.

Emily: Right, hence why at R|M we harp over and over again about why we need to continually study God’s word and live in community with other believers, because that’s how we recalibrate over time. Everybody has something a little wonky about how they think! [Laughter]

Laura: You’re not perfect! We’re not perfect! [Laughter]

Emily: And we need other strong believers help us suss out what’s true and what we’re holding too tightly to.

Laura: So we want to cover a couple more principles from scripture before we go into a scenario for you guys. First, remember God wants us to listen and act according to our conscience where it aligns with his word. Again, this is to the best we can determine it in our spiritual growth in that moment. If your conscience is pricked and you want to stuff it down, ignore it, and continue on without stopping to evaluate, that’s sin. God uses our personal conscience and some of the emotions it stirs up in us to help us see red flags. It may be something we can let go, but it may be something we need to confess, deal with, and change moving forward. We see a lot of this in Romans 14, which is the famous passage everyone pulls from on this. Go and read that passage. We referenced it on several shows in the past, if you want to learn more.

Emily: It’s the, For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin, bit. God wants us to do everything in faith for what we think is obedience towards him. Second, God doesn’t want us to be another person in a position where they violate their conscience. Again, Romans 14 goes into some interesting situations where Paul helps believers live together in unity by showing how they have freedom and can live things out differently, but they shouldn’t put their neighbor in the position to do something they feel is really wrong. It’s not very loving.

Laura: And God doesn’t want us to use our freedom in Christ to be unloving to other people. Christ laid down his rights for us. Just because our conscience is clear in doing something, we don’t have to keep doing it in a way that causes someone else to stumble. Paul conformed to what helped his fellow believers who were weaker in the faith; he didn’t hold us his flag to show he could do things without it bothering him. He changed according to what helped another believer not stumble. We never want to wear a big badge of pride, acting like it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

Emily: Laura and I had so many good conversations on this, because this is something our generation needs to be careful of. We can be more focused on, We’re believing the gospel, we’re free in Christ, and we can all make our own decisions, but we’re also called to love our neighbor and be holy. We don’t get to wear “freedom in Christ” as a means to hurt someone else. Jesus was the perfect example of laying down all of his rights and “freedom,” so we could be loved and have a relationship with God. It’s really important we’re not using it as an opportunity for sin or righteousness.

Laura: We want to talk quickly through a very high-level example, so don’t read too much into this. It’s something we think a lot of moms deal with, so we can show how personal conscience plays out differently for these two women.

First, we have Lucy, and she has a couple of kiddos. One of her children gets sick with a nasty cold virus, and she gives her some over-the-counter infant medication for the pain she seems to be in. She takes her to the doctor the next day just to make sure everything is okay. She has an ear infection; she puts her on prescription meds. Lucy gives it to her daughter, thanking God for the ability to have medicine. Her daughter seems back to normal in 24 hours.

Emily: All right, and then we have Sarah, another mom. She and her husband have twins, and they both get a nasty cold virus. They’re waking up in the night, they’re spiking fevers, and they seem to be in pain. But instead of going to the doctor, Sarah wants to try some at-home techniques first. So she thanks the Lord for the essential oils she has in the cabinet and the remedies she learned from her grandma and friends. She monitors and comforts her sons over the course of several days. Eventually, they start feeling better, and she’s really glad she didn’t take them to the doctor or use special medications. She feels totally at peace in the way she handled the situation.

Laura: There are a few base level assumptions here. There could be some heart issues going on, but we’re assuming we’re not dealing with a ton of pride or idolatry in their hearts. They’re just two moms acting according to their personal consciences doing what they thought would best honor God and love their children well.

Emily: The first thing to keep in mind—and we haven’t quite mentioned this yet—is there are a lot of strong feelings that accompany personal conscience. You may be feeling them just listening to that example! You’ve drawn battle lines! [Laughter]

Laura: You know who was right and who was wrong! [Laughter]

Emily: You’re team Lucy or team Sarah! [Laughter] Now you guys know how these mommy wars now happen. There are people who believe this is the most holy or godly way. We’re not saying you shouldn’t have an opinion or strong feelings about this, but this is an area of conscience. We need to put that aside to examine the situation.

Laura: We’re assuming this is a gray area, even if you have strong opinions about it. We see Lucy and Sarah both had a general freedom in Christ to use either type of medicinal treatment for their children, but they’re both bound to their consciences. This is where it gets fun and interesting to have these discussions and it’s why we wanted to talk about it today. We see Lucy’s conscience has no problem giving Tylenol or over-the-counter pain medications, and she also felt she was trusting God, in faith, to take action. It would’ve violated her own conscience if she chose to stay home and tried something different. She wouldn’t have felt comfortable; she probably would’ve felt immense guilt doing something like that, because her conscience wasn’t calibrated in a way that believed it was fine to keep her child at home and do what Sarah’s conscience said.

Emily: Sarah’s conscience, on the other hand, would’ve been violated if she ignored her strong conviction to use homeopathic remedies and grabbed the Tylenol right away. Her conscience might’ve told her it wasn’t right or the way to love her children. For her, acting in faith meant she used the tools at home, trusting God to act in that situation, as her first step.

Laura: One thing to keep in mind, conscience can be recalibrated. Neither of these women are doing something in direct violation to God’s word nor does God say we can’t use prescription meds or homeopathic meds; that isn’t found in the Bible. These women can recalibrate, change their ways later in life, so keep that in mind. Second, our hope and prayer for every mom listening and feeling differently on topics like this is to remember Lucy and Sarah can go to church, be great friends, and minister the gospel to one another in peace. They probably have a lot of other things in common besides this one issue they take different stances on.

Emily: This is where our unity in the gospel theme really comes into play. There are things we all hold to as Christian believers, things we hold to as individual, local believers; but then there are other things we spend each week saying, We need to apply the gospel here. It’s a slippery slope to think since it’s not in the Bible, we can just do it, but we take the biblical principles and in every situation ask, How can I best live, in faith and obedience, according to these in the circumstances God has given me with all the things he’s given me? That’s what applying personal conscience it.

Laura: I want to make a quick note, because maybe you’re wondering what the biblical principles are. If you’re new to R|M, we talk about it every week on the show. We’re to grow in holiness, live out the Great Commission, do the greatest commandments. Know there are true principles we hold to that we won’t compromise on, and no believer should. While we’re not talking about all the principles specifically on today’s show, our hope is you take the R|M ministry as a whole and see there are principles we would never compromise on. Today, we’re talking about these matters of third, fourth, seventh importance. [Laughter]

Remember what this means for Sarah and Lucy’s relationships. They’re not judging each other for what the other one did in the situation—going to the doctor or not. Sarah’s not passing oils to Lucy saying, You should’ve done this first.

Emily: And we don’t want to close the door for conversation. You can talk, but there’s a big difference between, Hey, why do you do it that way? Can you explain that to me? versus a judgment call saying, That’s sin. We’re all doing that everyday in our relationships—having conversations to understand why people do what they do. But we don’t need to judge and condemn it as sin. As we’re closing up this show, we have a couple of questions to leave you with:

What are some areas of motherhood where you’re continually feeling guilty? Have you pressed into that to see if you’re sinning against your conscience? Try to figure out how you can realign your conscience with God’s word in this area.

Laura: What gray areas of motherhood are you trying to make others conform to? This is a great spot to see if you’re really holding fast to God’s word and his principles, or if you’re trying to impose your own principles on other people. We know this is a big topic, and we barely even scratched the surface of it.

Emily: Barely.

Laura: So go read that book, have some conversations. And if you read it, share it on social media and tag us! We’d love to see it. This is an issue that’s really near and dear to our hearts; we’re excited to be able to at least introduce it to you guys in a way that brings it up to the surface.

Emily: So true. Laura and I have both seen huge areas of growth as we’ve recalibrated our consciences during our time of doing R|M. Every time we tackle a topic, we both realize—

Laura: I’m a sinner. [Laughter]

Emily: Yes, I’m a sinner, and I was a little off. [Laughter] It’s really cool to see how God grows you in that over time. Head over to risenmotherhood.com and follow us on social media—Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter—@risenmotherhood. Thanks, guys!

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.

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