Encouragement for the Weary Mom

KATIE POLSKI|CONTRIBUTOR Just a few days ago, I picked up my phone to facetime my oldest. I looked at my reflection in the phone as I waited for my daughter to answer and noticed how tired I looked. “Does my face always look this exhausted?”  I asked my daughter when she answered the call. “Mom,” she said, “you look like you always do.” I suppose it should be no surprise that the daily grind begins to show itself physically. Work, grad school, and other responsibilities certainly make me look forward to laying my head on the pillow each night. But where I feel the greatest weariness, at times, is in mothering. Being a mom is one of the most rewarding jobs the Lord has given me, but it has also been the most wearing. From infancy on, a mother regularly plays the role of referee, chauffeur, counselor, comforter, guider, provider, educator, prayer warrior, discipliner, and the list runs on. It’s no wonder motherhood can make us to feel worn down and inadequate. There are many days that I just don’t feel up for the job of being a mom. And thank the Lord for this. Gratitude For Our Insufficiencies Why be grateful for my inadequacy? Because if my children always obey, if I always feel like supermom, then I would have no reason to cling daily to the cross. Without coming to the end of my rope, I would stand in my supposed self-sufficiency rather than recognize the necessity of Jesus’ grace...

Encouragement for the Weary Mom2023-05-01T14:09:56+00:00

New Beginnings: On God’s Mercy and Grace

SHARON ROCKWELL|CONTRIBUTOR The beginning of a new school year was always one of my favorite times. There was something exciting about seeing unopened textbooks and knowing that by the end of the year, I would have a thorough understanding of that new subject, or at least evidence that I gave it my best effort. It was a time of new beginnings, regardless of last year’s results. I feel the same way about New Year’s resolutions. The idea of starting over toward a new goal encourages me to persist in improving some skill, tackle some sin which has been plaguing me with temptation, or sharpen my commitment to daily Bible reading, even if I don’t make it all the way through the year. The idea that I can still have a fresh start again next January is comforting. Thankfully, God meets us on a much more abbreviated timeline. Sometimes I can hardly make it through the day in keeping the promises I committed to in my morning prayers. But God’s mercies are new each morning. It does not matter if it is a repeat sin, a failed attempt to do better in my walk with Christ, or simply that the “the flesh is weak.” The Lord extends mercy to us daily when we fall. He also abundantly pardons us. Isaiah 55:7 says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”...

New Beginnings: On God’s Mercy and Grace2023-03-24T17:45:17+00:00

Labor Day for Caregivers

STEPHANIE HUBACH|CONTRIBUTOR Most of us think about Labor Day as a day for eating hot dogs and hamburgers, getting that last taste of fresh farmstand produce, and signifying the beginning-of-the end of summer. Where I grew up in Maryland, it also represented the last day of childhood freedom before the new school year began. The actual history of Labor Day, however, harkens back to the late nineteenth century, when organized labor groups sought recognition for the work of laborers in society during the Industrial Revolution. Today, I’d like to honor a group of laborers who are as diverse and disconnected as can be imagined, and yet contribute significantly to the health and well-being of society: caregivers. When we think of labor, our minds tend to gravitate to manual labor and workers who receive wages in the marketplace in exchange for their efforts. But there is an entire army of laborers who care for people who lack the ability to care for themselves. Caregiving is a voluntary role, borne out of the need for assistance. This care can include physical care, emotional care, spiritual care, financial care, and logistical supports. Caregivers may care for young children, people with disabilities, people with chronic illnesses, or the elderly. In other words, caregivers are the unsung heroes and the unpaid labor force of the family economic system...

Labor Day for Caregivers2023-03-24T17:50:08+00:00

When All I Have is a Mustard Seed

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST I had the noblest of intentions. Really, I did. It was just a six-week study, and there are ten weeks of summer break. How hard could it be? I even picked up the book and paid for it on time, and then, it sat wrapped in plastic on my piano. The first few weeks of summer had proved to be busier than expected-imagine that. Driver’s Ed, tennis lessons, the book I needed to read for the class I’m taking, long-neglected projects at home soon took over, and I didn’t even peel the plastic off the book. Then, the weekend before we were to start the summer Bible study, I realized I needed to take my son to his first flute lesson on the night of the first meeting. Sigh. So, as I waited for him to finish, I reluctantly tore the wrapping off of the book and began to read. I only got through day one during those 30 minutes. Where was I supposed to be? Starting week two. When I taught special education and at-risk students, I had a saying: There is no time for perfectionism here. For many of my students, getting the needed credits for graduation required that they focus on the larger, more important assignments and tests and let some of the small things go. Their learning and personal challenges did not allow for them to do everything on the class list. While I don’t usually struggle with perfectionism, my struggle with my immediate failure to keep up with a summer Bible study disappointed me. I needed this focus on scripture in my life; how could I fail so miserably? The Bible has good news for those who fail to maintain spiritual discipline and it has less to do with us, and everything to do with God...

When All I Have is a Mustard Seed2023-03-24T17:50:37+00:00

Mercy in Modesty

MELISSA MCPHAIL|GUEST So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12-13) I’ve read and studied James’ book of wisdom multiple times throughout the years, but this morning I realized the law of liberty is a New Testament explanation of Christ’s gospel of grace. Immediate conviction overwhelmed me. So speak and so act according to [grace]. Do I do that? No, most of the time, I do not. The recipients of this letter did not do that either. James instructed the believers to hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, and in so doing, they were to show no partiality (James 2:1). None. Zero. They were not to have a spirit of judgmentalism or display a critical eye having strong opinions of others. They were not to make distinctions among Christ’s people and become judges with evil thoughts. They, too, knew the right thing to do and struggled to obey...

Mercy in Modesty2023-03-24T17:55:26+00:00

Parenting as Our Father Parents Us

CHRISTINA FOX | EDITOR When my son was little, he was prone to wander. Those days, he lived more in his imagination than in real life. This often led him away from us when we were in a crowd. I remember during a visit to Disney World I urged and cautioned my son in the importance of staying beside us as we navigated the crowded park. Yet not long later, I watched as he meandered away from us. Rather than going after him, I kept an eye from a distance. I wanted him to realize what he had done. So I followed him, ensuring he was safe, but waited for him to stop and look for us. Eventually, he did realize he had gotten separated from us and I could see him searching the crowds, a look of worry stretched across his face. He spotted us and ran up to us in relief. I then reminded him of the rule of staying together. And he did so. At least for the rest of that trip. Prone to Wander So often as a mom I grow frustrated when I have to teach and reteach my children the same lessons. I find myself impatient with how easy they forget. After all, how many times does one have to get lost in a crowd before he learns his lesson? How many times does a lesson have to be taught before it sticks? In my own heart, far too many times.

Parenting as Our Father Parents Us2023-03-24T18:07:48+00:00

On Suffering Well and the Mercy of God

MARISSA BONDURANT | GUEST She stood next to me one Sunday with tears streaming down her cheeks. Without looking at her, I gave her arm a squeeze. Both our faces were up; both of us were singing loudly. But I was singing of God’s faithfulness with a new baby strapped to my body, and she was singing of God’s faithfulness with the stinging news of another failed IVF treatment. In my heart I wondered, “How is my friend doing it? If I were in her shoes, there is no way I’d be able to sing to the Lord this morning.” Suffering Well Have you ever had a similar thought? Have you ever watched a fellow believer suffer well and wondered how she did it? It might help to define “suffering well.” To suffer well is to suffer like Jesus. To acknowledge the real pain and sorrow of the experience, while simultaneously holding on to the hope that the pain will not last forever. Before he went to the cross, Jesus was honest with his Father about his pain – asking God to “let this cup pass from me” (Matt 26:39). Then his prayer moved directly into hope and trust, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39). My friend who sang praises to the Lord in the middle of heartache was not ignoring her pain. She was pleading with God to make her a mom, but she also held onto God’s promise to make beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Perhaps hardest of all, she trusted that God’s version of beauty would be better than any version she could imagine.

On Suffering Well and the Mercy of God2023-03-24T18:09:56+00:00

Not me! Not I…but Christ

One of the perks of studying abroad with a college theater group was free or cheap tickets to theatrical productions playing wherever we were. Actors like to play to full houses, so if there are spare tickets, they are happy to find worthy recipients. On one such occasion while I was studying in Italy, the British National Theatre was touring with their production of The Passion Play, and we somehow gleaned tickets for a performance in Rome. Because we had the “cheap seats” (the groundlings), we got to be very close to the action, sometimes part of the action, as we stood on the floor (for six hours with one dinner break). The first act told stories from the Old Testament, and the second act, the story of Christ from the gospels. Of course, during the Palm Sunday scene, everyone was excitedly cheering. Then during the Good Friday scenes, most of the audience was excitedly jeering. Except me. As one who seemed to be the “token Christian” in my group, I was not about to cry out, “Crucify Him!” I loved Jesus and wanted no part in demanding His crucifixion. And that’s what I shared when a couple of the others asked why I had been quiet. I thought of myself like one of the women who had followed Him and watched the crucifixion, devastated by His murder. I had even portrayed Mary Magdalene several times in an Easter monologue―but I had not considered why she followed Him even to death. (See Mark 16:9.) That kind of gratitude was not part of my response at the play, nor even part of my testimony....

Not me! Not I…but Christ2023-03-24T18:18:20+00:00

A Desperate Saint

SUSAN TYNER|CONTRIBUTOR A desperate woman can do some crazy stuff. Like tricking your father-in-law to sleep with you to get pregnant. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been that desperate, but let me introduce you to someone who was. Tamar was stuck . . . desperate. (Genesis 38). Tamar was a Canaanite who married into Judah’s family, a family who belonged to the God of Israel. But, when Tamar’s husband died as a judgment for his evil behavior, she was left without a secure future. Thankfully, God provided a practice for widows stuck in this position. The next son in line was to marry the widow and father an heir for the dead brother and his widow, thus ensuring the dead husband a line as well as provision for the widow. Judah, as head of a God-fearing family, told his second son Onan to do the honors. But Onan didn’t like the idea of his son being considered his brother’s, and Onan weaseled out of his duty at the last minute. God judged him as well. Judah’s second son died.   And although their deaths were not her fault, Tamar got the blame. Tamar became a “bad luck bride.” By this point Judah probably felt desperate, too. He was down to his third and last son. What about his dreams for an heir, a name, a future? Judah decided to buy some time. He sent her back to her parents’ tent with the promise of his youngest son once he grew up. Maybe he hoped she would just recede back into her Canaanite tribe, taking her bad luck streak with her. But Tamar was patient, and she must have valued belonging to this family (and perhaps their God?) enough to wait. However, when she saw Judah’s last son had become a man and yet not given to her as promised, she took matters into her own hands. She disguised herself as a prostitute, waited for Judah on the side of a road, and let him hire her services. Three months later, Judah heard his daughter-in-law had “played the harlot” and was pregnant. How dare she! Judah judged Tamar and declared she should be punished by fire. Thankfully, Tamar was as smart as she was desperate. She produced Judah’s identifying cord, staff, and signet she’d kept as a deposit for his sex payment. Convicted of his wrong, he admitted Tamar was “more righteous than I.” Her desperate – and to our way of thinking, plain out crazy – plan forever put Tamar in Judah’s family tree. But I doubt Tamar realized just how much a part of God’s family she’d become. Not only did Tamar get pregnant, she had twin boys. Their birth was so legendary, generations later Tamar’s daring story became an Israelite blessing when Boaz marries Ruth, another Canaanite who married an Israelite...

A Desperate Saint2023-03-24T18:20:35+00:00

Perfectionism, Shame, and Freedom in Christ

DUSKI VAN FLEET|GUEST Sitting in my counselor’s office the day after I lost my temper with one of my children, I shared the details of our hard day and my disappointment with how I responded. I tell her how puzzled I am when I mention my failures as a mom, because people often tell me they could never see me angry or yelling at anyone. They rave about what a wonderful mom I am and point out the ways they see me getting things right. It seems to me they think I have it all together, while all I think is, “If you only knew me. If you could only see how hurtful I can be.”  Her response takes me by surprise. “Well, why can’t both be true?  Does it really have to be one or the other? Is it possible for you to be both a really good mom and a mom who makes mistakes?” Hold please, while I let this one sink in.  Considering her questions, I began to think of other similar scenarios that trigger the same thought pattern within my brain. For instance, when I realize I forgot about a friend’s text from days ago expressing a need for help, I suddenly declare myself a thoughtless, selfish friend. When I interrupt my husband again and he becomes frustrated, I pronounce I am a terrible wife. As I thought about my roles in life throughout the rest of the day, I realized how often my failures define my identity.  Stuck in a Thought Cycle Black and white thinking keeps me stuck in a cycle of perfectionism and shame. I invest a lot of my time, thought, and emotional energy into learning how to love my people well. I also work hard to put what I am learning into practice. I love my husband and my kids so much, and I care deeply about their hearts and the stories God is writing for them. I want to be a part of those stories and impact them for good. I am a good wife and a good mom. That is one truth.  There is also another truth. I am a sinner. I carry in my body the sin passed on to me and every human when Adam and Eve chose to sin. I live in a fallen world that has broken and wounded me. Evil is hunting me and through deception, wants to obliterate the good God desires for me, my husband, and our children. There are times I choose to believe the devil’s lies, and I emotionally wound the people I love. This grieves my heart...

Perfectionism, Shame, and Freedom in Christ2023-03-24T18:21:06+00:00
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