The Mist of Motherhood

RACHEL CRADDOCK|CONTRIBUTOR If I am being completely honest, laundry is my least favorite household chore. Like Mary Poppins, I can find an element of fun in most jobs that must be done around the house. But when it comes to laundry, I long for a fairy godmother’s power to simply swoosh away the piles of dirty clothes. Being a mom to four means my laundry basket is always full and sock-matching seems never-ending. We have forty-two pairs of socks in a week’s worth of laundry; the odds of finding all eighty-four socks in the same week are slim. In the new heavens and the new earth, when Christ returns to redeem and restore all things, I have a holy anticipation that socks will no longer go missing. I am convinced sock causalities must have something to do with the Fall. In my flesh, laundry is a begrudging chore. In my flesh, I can’t see laundry rightly as important kingdom work. When I focus my eyes on the earthly things I can see—the piles, the baskets, and oh-so-many socks—I easily become overwhelmed.

The Mist of Motherhood2022-05-03T21:30:53+00:00

Wrangling in the Pew

HEATHER MOLENDYK|CONTRIBUTOR A modified journal entry from not so many years ago… Today’s church service was such a blessing! Getting to witness my four children fight each other using subtle gladiator-style battle strategies to be the ones to sit right next to me in the church pew totally validated my worth as a human being. It was an enriching experience to helpfully point out each word in scripture to my younger children only to realize at the end that they had been studying a small ant crawling on the floor the entire time. It was so joyful to sing those old hymns as a family while my small ones bounced mosh-pit style, accidentally knocking my hymn book to the floor. I took such pride in the generosity of my offspring as I pried open his little fingers from the dollar bill that belonged in the offering plate instead of his snug, little pocket. But then, like the eye of a hurricane, I was able to buy myself a limited amount of uninterrupted time when I passed out a small suck-on candy to each child. The winds hadn’t stopped blowing quite yet. I knew full well that when the eye finished its journey overhead, the storm would continue with the winds blowing in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, while their little legs swung back and forth, their little fingers twisted empty candy wrappers, and their little mouths were momentarily occupied, I was able to take that deep breath I so desperately needed. I opened my Bible to the sermon text.

Wrangling in the Pew2022-05-04T00:21:58+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 Us2022-05-04T00:33:31+00:00

Cultivating the Art of Reading at Home

ANN MARIE MO|GUEST In a technology-driven world, books face stiff competition. Have a question about George Washington or what to make for dinner tonight? It’s just easier to google than to read an entire book. Books require time, concentration, effort. Reading War and Peace necessitates devoting weeks, if not months, to unlock the treasure within. In contrast, our handheld devices offer instant gratification. Why Read Good Books? Yet good books impart to their readers what no digital device can match: Some of my fondest childhood memories are the summers I spent living at the library immersed in one compelling hardbound story after another. I recall the summer before fifth grade when I discovered the genre of historical fiction and a few years later in middle school when I read Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and in high school, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Through these books, I learned the world is powerfully unjust and not everyone grows up with the same opportunities. By my junior year in high school, I knew I would major in English at college. Books were my gateway to understand another person’s experiences and be exposed to new ideas. Fast forward to adult life, teaching my children to read and cherish books has been of paramount importance.

Cultivating the Art of Reading at Home2022-05-04T00:41:13+00:00

Celebrating Advent with Your Family

ELIZABETH SANTELMANN|GUEST While I was pregnant with our first son, I dreamed of my near Christmas due date. The fresh smell of a newborn combined with the hymns of the season to make the Christmas story real in a new way for me.  However, when it arrived, the joyful expectation I had anticipated was drowned out by the needs of a baby. Nighttime feedings, a tender body needing to heal, and learning what it meant to be a mother consumed my energies. Rather than the breathtaking euphoria I had anticipated, I was overwhelmed with panic in December when I realized that I was now responsible for the traditions and culture of the Christmas season.  Growing up, my parents tried to focus on “Jesus is the Reason for the Season." As a first-generation Christian, my mom wanted Christmas to be deeply meaningful. She or my dad would read us the Christmas story before we opened presents. We also had a HUGE cookie production. We would bake hundreds of cookies and take them with a gospel-centered Christmas card to all our neighbors. In church, I remember hearing rumblings of anger about how people in the would say, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” and concern that people were “taking Christ out of Christmas.”  With our kids, I knew I wanted faith and Christmas to flow together more positively and naturally. But how?  Discovering Advent  The year after my first son was born, I discovered Advent. I had settled into my husband's childhood church. It frustrated me because none of the songs they sang in early December were familiar. I wanted the achingly beautiful songs of Christmas, the ones I remembered from my childhood. This was also the year I joined the choir at our church. One day, the choir director explained to us why and how the hymns in Advent season were chosen each week.  The songs from the first Sunday in December until Christmas Eve were picked to reflect the building desire of the Israelites’ longing for a Messiah...

Celebrating Advent with Your Family2022-05-04T23:31:02+00:00

God’s Promised Deliverance Precedes Our Difficulties

STEPHANIE HUBACH|CONTRIBUTOR “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15) In February 2020, we had the privilege of taking our youngest son Tim—who has Down syndrome—on his first ocean cruise. At that time, there were rumblings in the news about a concerning virus that was beginning to wreak havoc in Asia, but our chosen journey was thousands of miles from there. Surely, we had plenty of time to fulfill one of Tim’s long-held dreams. (A funny thing happened during our island-hopping expedition, however. Tim informed us that, when he said he wanted to go on a cruise, he really meant “the one with the little hotdogs.” Translate: Tim wanted a ferry ride on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, 45 minutes from our house. But I digress.) Our adventure took us to four countries in the Caribbean over the course of a week. Tim absolutely loved it! (Probably because there were much grander meals than just “little hotdogs.”) One of the highlights of the trip was the dining experience. Not only was the food abundant and well prepared but the service was exactly as advertised: intuitive. Our dedicated server quickly dis­cerned our personal preferences the first day, and from there on out, she anticipated our desires before we even expressed them. It was impressive! Now think about your own life. As extraordinary as a quality cruise line is at anticipating the wants of its customers, how much more extraordinary is it that our heavenly Father actually knows the needs of his people with full certainty? He promises—faithfully and sacrificially— to meet us in our deepest dilemmas before we are even aware of the seriousness of our situation. Today’s passage in Genesis 3 is often referred to by theologians as the protoevangelium or, in plain English, the “first gospel.” Even before the effects of our first par­ents’ fall are clearly pronounced on humanity in the remainder of the chapter (see Gen. 3:16–19), God first describes a way of salvation for humanity as he addresses the serpent. Not only does God decree a solution—his Son Jesus is the solution. And this declaration happens before his image­ bearing creatures even fully understand the predicament they have entered into...

God’s Promised Deliverance Precedes Our Difficulties2022-05-04T23:28:35+00:00

Prayers for Our Children

KATHLEEN NIELSON|GUEST Editor's Note: The following article includes excerpts from Prayers of a Parent (P&R, June 2021), used with permission. Praying for the children of the church is a church-wide job. Congregations often stand up and promise to help parents nurture a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord—and that includes praying for that child. I look back through years of parenting and see the church continually and prayerfully flanking our family, and I thank God for his people all along the way. We believers can help one another in praying for our children. That’s one reason I wrote the volumes of Prayers of a Parent: simply to encourage fellow Christian parents in Bible-based prayers for the various aspects of our children’s lives, in every different stage. I needed that encouragement from others, and still do. We can join our prayers together in a chorus for the generations coming after us. They need our prayers. Shared Words of Prayer Why write down our prayers? I often think of the prophet Hosea’s call to the people of Israel: “Take with you words and return to the Lord” (14:2). It’s easy to pray without giving our full attention. It’s easy for many of us to pray inarticulate prayers that are something like floating clouds of scattered thoughts. Sometimes it’s just a quick, muttered “Thank you” or “Help me,” and God surely hears and understands such prayers. But when we read many of the prayers of Scripture (the psalmists’, for example, or the apostle Paul’s), we learn the beauty of prayers developed in thoughtful, intentional words. Now, we can use Scripture’s prayers to pray; that is one of God’s gracious provisions in his Word. What a gift—perfect words that help and teach us to pray. But the Bible’s prayers also teach us the good pattern of prayer: taking regular time and effort to put the praises and petitions of our hearts into words that we bring into God’s presence, in the name of Jesus our Savior. We can help each other practice this good process, with spoken and written words shaped by his Word. Shared Benefits of Prayer Practicing together this process of articulating prayers, specifically for our children, is good for our children and good for our own souls. Christian parenting, as we all know, involves a lifelong releasing of our children into the hands of our Father in heaven, who made them, knows them, and loves them perfectly. As we offer words of prayer to our Father, our hearts trust him more and more, and our hands loosen their grip to give our children into his perfect providential care. Sharing our prayers is not a quick or casual process. And of course everyone uses words differently; that’s part of the beauty of coming together with diverse voices that blend, instruct, and encourage. The Spirit and the Word bind us together as we pray, because we share faith in the living Lord Jesus who took our sins, died in our place, and rose from the dead, as the Scriptures tell us....

Prayers for Our Children2022-05-04T23:15:46+00:00

A Mother’s Persistent Prayer

CHRISTINA FOX|EDITOR Like many moms, I started praying for my children before they were ever born. I’ve since prayed for all aspects of their life: physical health and development, emotional growth and maturity, behavioral challenges and struggles, and most importantly, their spiritual life. I’ve prayed they would never know a day in their life that they did not know who God is and what he has done for them in Christ. I’ve prayed the Lord would ratify the covenant and bring them to saving faith. I’ve prayed they would grow to love God’s word more and more and desire to grow in their faith. I’ve prayed God would protect their minds and hearts from evil. I’ve also prayed that the Lord would prepare and equip them for how he will use them throughout their lives for his Kingdom purposes. These are prayers I’ve prayed over and over. Perhaps you also have specific prayers you repeatedly pray for your children. Ones that bring you to your knees day in and day out. Ones where you quietly weep as you beseech the Lord on your child's behalf. Ones where you continue to wait on the Lord's response. We are not alone in such persistent prayers. There is another mother, one who lived long ago, who also prayed the same prayers over and over for her child. She also longed for her beloved child to come to saving faith. She persisted in this prayer, and in time, she witnessed the Lord answer it. A Mother’s Unceasing Prayer for Her Son The early church father, St. Augustine, is known for his influence on the early church. One of his most famous writings, Confessions, is an autobiography where he looks back on his life before coming to faith. It reveals how the Lord worked in his life to bring him to himself. Confessions is a conversation, a prayer from Augustine to God, confessing his sinful and wayward heart. In this work, we get an inside look at how God worked in Augustine’s life, bringing him on a winding journey through false religion, idolatry, loss, and hardship to see his great need for the grace of Christ. We see him wrestle with the doctrines of the faith. We see him try to find life and hope outside of God. We see him brought to his knees and receive the gift of grace. It’s an amazing story, one which in many ways mirrors our own journey to faith. One of the most influential people in Augustine’s life was his mother, Monica...

A Mother’s Persistent Prayer2022-05-04T23:17:54+00:00

Thankful for Godly Mothers

SHARON ROCKWELL|GUEST The prophet Jeremiah included words of encouragement for Jerusalem and especially for those who trusted in the Lord. When I think about Mother’s Day approaching, I think about all the amazing mothers who trust in the Lord while raising their families. The words in Jeremiah 17:7-8, apply to all the godly mothers I know, including my own. “Blessed is the man (or mother) who trusts in the Lord,    whose trust is the Lord. He (She) is like a tree planted by water,    that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes,    for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought,    for it does not cease to bear fruit” (words in parenthesis, mine). I am thankful for a mother who took me to church. And though she could not carry a tune, she also taught me her favorite hymns, so that sitting in church I could make a joyful noise unto the Lord and join in with corporate worship. I am thankful for a mother who taught me to say “Yes, I did it,” “I am sorry,” and “Please forgive me.” I learned the appropriate response for my sins, and how to ask forgiveness, first from others and later from God. I am thankful for a mother who taught me from a young age to say the “God is good” prayer at meals, then encouraged me to pray “thank you” prayers before I went to bed until prayer became a habit. As I grew, my mother would pray with me for all of my personal problems, big or small, and was quick to remind me when she saw God’s answers to our prayers, until I began to seek them out for myself. I am thankful for a mother who helped me memorize scripture. Our Sunday School class regularly rewarded us with bookmarks or pens when we learned the Ten Commandments, or other portions of scripture that were part of our lessons. My mother celebrated those rewards as if I had graduated with an advanced degree. To this day, those verses remain in my heart...

Thankful for Godly Mothers2022-05-04T23:12:02+00:00

Big Picture Parenting

SHEA PATRICK|GUEST Lately, it seems I am often at wit’s end in my parenting. We have five children in the home between the ages of 8 and 13, and many days it is a struggle to keep my head above water. In the midst of this chaos, I have found that an understanding of covenant theology—the big picture of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to His children— provides real gospel hope for parents just like me. These three specific truths have anchored my mind and heart: God has not left me alone; he is with me. I often feel crushed by the weight of the responsibility of parenting these children God has placed in my family. I desperately want to make the best decisions for them. Fortunately, I can rest in the fact that these children are the Lord’s; he loves them and is more committed to them than even my husband and I are! Even more, the promises God made to Abraham apply to my family because we are part of the covenant family. In Genesis 17:7, God promises “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” Through my union with Christ, this promise is extended to me as well. As Paul wrote in Galatians, “if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise” (3:29). What this means practically is that God walks with me as I parent my kids— as I try to address the needs that arise moment by moment. He does so as my Father, parenting my own heart as I then seek to parent my children. My elder brother, Jesus, is an ever-present friend and intercedes for me in my weakness and failures. The Spirit is at work in me, transforming and changing my heart even as he works in my own children’s hearts...

Big Picture Parenting2022-05-04T23:06:25+00:00
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