This transcript is made possible by our generous donors. Learn how you can join them. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood! I’m Laura, and I’m excited to share a little bit about this special show. Today, it’s all about the church. You all have heard Emily and I talk about the importance of the church many times over the course of the Risen Motherhood podcast. We believe it plays a vital role in the Christian’s life, and while it’s not perfect, God uses the faithful gathering of believers as one of the main vehicles for his people grow in wisdom and maturity in their faith,and to sustain them until the end.
Emily wrote about the beauty in the diversity of the local church in the Risen Motherhood book, and to show that, we thought we’d have some of our own Risen Motherhood team share their experiences with their local church. But before we get to that, we just want to highlight that that if you’re looking for resources for you or the women in your local church, you’re always welcome to check out our free Bible study printables (We actually have them for both for adults and children.) as well as our resources page on our website, where we’ve compiled our favorite books, music, Bible studies, and more on various topics that we believe could be helpful to the Christian walk.
Okay. On today’s show, you’re going to hear Emily and me both share, as well as our Editor, Winfree Brisley, and our board member, Quina Aragon. If you haven’t met Winfree yet, you’re going to love her. She’s a wife and mom to three young boys who enjoys sharing her love of scripture through writing and teaching other women. She’s written for The Gospel Coalition, edited several books, and taught Engilsh in the past. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they are members of Uptown Church.
Quina is a wife, mother, and artist who enjoys writing, copyediting, and creating spoken word videos that have been featured all over the web. She is the author of the children’s book, Love Made, which is a poetic retelling of the creation story. She and her family live in Tampa, FL where they are members of Living Faith Bible Fellowship.
As you’ll hear, today’s show is a bit different than Emily and I’s usual conversation about a topic, but we’re hopeful hearing our reflections on the local church will help you to take time to meditate on God’s gracious provision of the local church, and deepen your love and gratefulness for it as small taste here on earth of what we’ll experience someday when Jesus returns for his people. In light of that, we’re not going to do our typical outro at the end of the show, so remember, if you want to read more about this topic, or are looking for the links to the resources pages I mentioned earlier, head to today’s show notes on risenmotherhood.com, or come visit us on social media, @risenmotherhood on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Okay, let’s jump into today’s show.
Emily: Still bleary-eyed after having twins, I remember walking through the dining room of my house. The sun poured in through the window as an older woman from church wiped counters, sorted laundry, and mopped floors. The details are foggy but the next thing I remember was peering over the couch at my toddler son who played around with an app on my phone. My stomach dropped and I laughed uncomfortably, trying to think of something to say to save face—to not look like a bad mom in front of a woman on the other side of faithfully laboring to raise her own family. I can’t remember what I said, but I remember what she said with a warm, genuine smile, “It’s just a season. It’s not the pattern of his whole life.”
She didn’t know it at the time, but she was teaching me about motherhood. About viewing things with measure and wisdom. She was showing me what grace looked like as she gently gave me a nugget of truth. I never felt condemned, but I had something to aspire to—not letting temporal pleasures and easy-outs become the pattern of my motherhood. I still think about that often when leaning on screen time starts to feel like a well-worn rut.
That wasn’t the only time women from the church came alongside me. Friends have watched children during a quick date night, organized my closets while I was on bedrest, cleaned out my refrigerator in a season of complete overwhelm, brought me meals, and even hosted me a bonus baby shower after learning I would become a mom to three kids under two. There have been the especially touching moments: the pastor who leans down to smile at and greet my son who, being non-verbal, can’t give him a reply. Who reached out and asked how the church could best love our family and accommodate his physical limitations. The single woman in our small group who helps feed our toddler, tend to a boo-boo, or sit with a child on her lap. The peer moms who stop to have a quick conversation about how they are handling superheroes, questions about gender, and read alouds. My church family has helped through the many questions of motherhood, from adding extra work and ministry, to dropping the pacifier and examining the idols of my child’s heart.
Most importantly, of all the memories I have—bleary-eyed, crystal clear, or otherwise—my church family has shown me the way of Christ. Watching other women serve their family with unique gifts stirs me up to love and good works, as the writer of Hebrews says.
It’s this topic that also stirs an older woman sitting beside me at last week’s church book discussion as she shared that she prays Ephesians 5:10 each day, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Without knowing it at the time, another saint teaches me another important thing that helps me persevere. This, she says, might look different from my agenda, but God-ordained days make up a well-stewarded life. I make a mental note.
For moms in a church body, wondering where and when you’ll learn all of the practical and deep truths about motherhood, make those memories and mental notes. Be listening, because there are chances to learn when someone doesn’t mean to teach. Look around at the small acts of service: the nursery worker volunteering and loving your child, the woman who gives you five quick minutes of encouragement in the church lobby, the grace to soak up like a sponge at the Bible study meeting.
It’s this soaking, noting, remembering, and stirring that helps us persevere when doing good to our families just feels too hard.
Quina Aragon: I’ve been incredibly blessed over the years to be a part of church families that have really modeled Christian fellowship and support for me in amazing ways. At the same time, there are definitely seasons where I’ve felt discouraged or hurt by some in my community. My temptation in those moments is to want to isolate, to not talk about it. But that only breeds bitterness in my heart, along with all types of things we know are not good.
What’s been helpful instead has been to identify one friend or sister-in-Christ that I know loves the Lord, cares for me, and wants the best for me in Christ. I let myself really be heard; I process through the circumstance or what I’m feeling through it no matter how messy my words are in that moment or how skewed my view is. Those types of friends that actively listen have been a massive blessing for me. I think, in many ways, those friends have modeled God. We see in scripture God is an incredible listener. We often view him as an incredible speaker—and of course, he is—but in Psalm 116:1 we see: I love the LORD for he has heard my voice and my please for mercy. In Psalm 1140:2 we see: I pour out my complaint before him, I tell my trouble before him. So if we only imagine God as someone who only speaks to us, only expresses and doesn’t listen to us intently or respond to us after listening, then we’ll likely to be quick to tell other moms, “Ah, well, you just need to…” or “If you just think of it like this…” instead of actually allowing them to be heard in a safe and gracious place.
It’s those times that I’ve felt heard that have allowed me to move forward with greater intimacy with the Lord, with that friend, or others who have listened. And of course, modeling prayer; those who have listened and gone to the Lord in prayer, which has modeled for me that God wants us to pour out our hearts to him. We don’t have the answers to everything or most things, but we have access to the one who wants to walk with us through it. So modeling listening, modeling prayer, and then of course, sharing any practical encouragements like sharing tasks with your partner, setting up a transportation plan, or pointing that person to church services—that’s important too. But making that space to first listen has been so helpful for me, and I think it’s because God does that with us.
Winfree Brisley: In the months after my oldest son was born, I was overwhelmed by a lot of things as I was confronted with the daunting responsibility that is motherhood and the way my sin and weaknesses were being exposed. In the midst of that, I was convicted about my need to start seriously memorizing scripture. I knew I needed truth on my mind and hidden in my heart.
And there was a woman in our church who had memorized hundreds of Bible verses. So I really felt like she was the person who could help me. But to be honest, approaching her was kind of intimidating. She had recently left a high profile political career and was extremely accomplished and involved in our community and our church. But I also knew she was a godly woman who loved to help others. So I sent her an email asking her to help me, and she wrote back and said, “What time does your son nap? I’ll come to you.” And she came and she taught me, and I still use that system for scripture memory.
When I think about that story, the passage in Titus 2 comes to mind where Paul talks about older women teaching and training young women. That’s been such an appealing idea to me as a mom because motherhood has made me aware of my need for wisdom and guidance more than probably any other experience in my life. So having older women in our local church who can teach me and train me about being a wife and a mom and a godly woman has been such a huge blessing.
And I think a lot of us love that idea of having older women come alongside us, but we struggle to know how that practically happens or we struggle with feeling like older women are too busy to help us or we think we’ll be a burden to them. But as I’ve approached older women in my church, I’ve found them to be incredibly willing to engage with me.
There have been women who I’ve asked to meet me for coffee to talk about school options or about being a mom to all boys. There are a couple of ladies who I’ll just stop when I see them in the hallway at church and say, “Hey, I’m running into this issue with discipline. Do you have any ideas?”
What I’ve finally realized is that going to these women for help is actually a way to honor and encourage them. Because when we go to them we’re saying, “I think you’re a godly mom, I think you have wisdom to share, I see the Lord working in you,” and they appreciate that.
But I’ve also realized that for the Titus 2 model to work, I can’t just be a receiver of teaching and training. It’s interesting that Paul refers to “older women” not “old women.” So even though in my mid-30s I wouldn’t call myself old yet, I am an older woman. There are younger moms coming behind me who can benefit from what little bit of experience and wisdom I have from my journey in motherhood so far. And it’s a blessing to me when younger moms ask me questions and come to me for help. So, I love this beautiful cycle that can take place in the local church where women are being poured into and pouring out to others all at the same time.
Laura: I’ve always believed blood is thicker than water. I grew up in a tight-knit family and we always had each other's backs. No matter how much we argued or how differently we saw a situation, I knew that at the end of the day, we'd always be there for one another. While still in the hospital from having my second baby, my husband got a job offer that would move us from Minneapolis to Chicago. We knew it was probably coming, so we quickly agreed, and two months later our family moved to a city 500 miles away from everything I knew, and from all of my family. In fact, I didn't know a soul in my new city. I didn't even know where to get groceries.
We took this job for my husband, knowing it would likely be temporary. A three-year commitment for him to climb the corporate ladder. We'd be back to our friends and family before our oldest was in school, so I just had to survive, right? But with two under two at home, and a husband that usually worked as long as the sun was up, I felt like I couldn't "just survive."
And the move found me mourning the loss of my family the most.
But God was teaching me to look further than bloodlines for my family. By his grace, three months after moving to Chicago, we found a church that we immediately found a home in. The people there didn’t care what our last name was–they loved us and cared for us, just like we’d grown up together. It didn’t matter our history or that they only just met us, they saw us as their brothers and sisters, their family–the water of the Spirit, thicker than the blood of biology.
They taught me where the best parks were, helped me find a babysitter, recommended an OBGYN when I got pregnant with my third child, and yes, even taught me where to shop for groceries. They called me out when I worried too much, asked me how my quiet times have been, and encouraged me to consider different perspectives. Like family, they challenged me, supported me, and sometimes even stuck their noses in places I didn't want them to be because I wanted to hide in my sin—but that's what family's for, right?
When my biological family couldn't be there because of the distance, my church family showed up. To celebrations and milestones, and also to nights, and weeks, and months of grief. When my daughter was born three weeks early and only a tiny, 4 lbs 10 oz, a family from our small group bought every girl premie item in a local Carter's store and gifted it to us. When two months later we found out our baby girl had a genetic abnormality—or in other words—special needs—our church flooded us with support. They lended their unquestionable support to us, showing up with home-cooked meals, babysitting offers, cleaning services, visits at the hospital, pick ups from preschool, restaurant gift cards, and my personal favorite – a bouquet of roses made with bacon. Some of the people I didn't even really know! They just heard there was a family in need, and they showed up to support us.
While my biological family did their best to visit and help walk with me through my grief, my church family took every tiny, shuffled step with me. In that season, God taught me there is something thicker than blood—the body of Christ. It’s like how in a letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul writes of how he cares for his fellow believers, because they shared in the gospel and also in “their own very selves, because they had become very dear to one another.” I keep thinking back to how I didn't even know those people only a year or two before all this happened—but because we shared the bond of Christ, we treated each other like family.
I know because of sin and brokenness the church isn't like this for everyone, and trust me, there were bumpy days even in this church, but I'll forever treasure the small shadows of the someday glory of the eternal Church. I also know for many people their family isn’t something to be desired. But that's why Christ came and died—to give us something better than what we know today. A holy family so much larger, and more diverse than any nuclear family, one of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. By his death and resurrection, he made us a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession."
He made us a family.
The church, this side of glory, is far from perfect. I've since moved a state away from that church, and I count it as a mercy of God that I was able to experience something like that first-hand. And I hope, for your sake, wherever you are, you too can experience the beauty of God’s family—however imperfect—here on earth. I love thinking about how there are fellow believers—who are my brothers and sisters—all over the world pursuing Jesus and his glory. It makes the anticipation of heaven and all its gifts even sweeter as I think of what a wonderful family I've been welcomed into and I get to spend eternity with. The church is, quite literally, my family forever.