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: 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.
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.”
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.
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—
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: 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.
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.
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.