Spiritual Leadership: A Mom’s Role

In today’s #DailyBibleReading, two things stood out to me:

  1. 1 Kings shows two kinds of leaders – leaders who followed God and did what was right in God’s eyes and leaders who did what was right in their own eyes and rejected God. And the people of Israel and Judah followed. When the king obeyed God, the people followed God. When the king followed other gods, the people followed other gods.
  2. Psalm 78 tells about the importance of teaching children about God.

I realize there is debate as to what a woman’s role is in terms of spiritual leadership in the house – especially if her husband chooses not to be a spiritual leader or if she is a single mom – but regardless of what a man is or isn’t doing in the house, a mom has a crucial role in shaping the next generation.

A Mom’s Role in the Spiritual Leadership of her Children

  • Reading and Teaching the Bible: As a mom, I need to be reading the Bible, meditating on it, studying it, memorizing it. And I need to be talking to my children about what the Bible says and what God is teaching me. 

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,  Deuteronomy 11:18-20

Grandmas: this applies to you as well.

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— Deuteronomy 4:9 

  • Honoring their Father: I love my husband, but this struggle is SO real. I catch myself rolling my eyes behind his back, teasing him a little too much, complaining about him in front of my children. But how can I teach them to honor him, if I am not demonstrating it myself?

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Ephesians 6:1-3 

  • Loving your Children: This is a no-brainer right . . . but what is love? Love is patient. Love is not irritable. Again, the struggle is real! I’ve got teen and tween girls with hormones and attitudes, and it is summer, so they are together all day and frequently arguing. And they have an often-irritated mom!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13

And once again, I’m back to Jesus. The only way for me to be full of love, rather than irritation, is to be spending time with Jesus.

Also, I try daily to do something intentionally loving –  in each of their love languages – to show them love. For my youngest, it usually involves playing with her one-on-one for 20 minutes (“quality time”) and for my oldest it usually consists of an “act of service.” And it usually involves food since she is always hungry.

  • Praying for Them: Again, a no-brainer, but sometimes easier said than done. I’ve found it helpful to keep a prayer journal with a list of things to pray for my children:
    • Their walk with God
    • That they will make good friends and be good friends
    • For their future husbands and in-laws
    • That they will make good choices
    • For God’s protection of their bodies – for their physical, emotional, and mental health, for protection from accidents, and for them to honor God with their bodies

 

Being a mom isn’t easy, and along with everything else in life, I mess up, daily. But the blessing of children comes with a responsibility to teach them about God and set an example of living for Jesus. The only way I can do it is by clinging to Jesus and asking Him to live and love through me.

 

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Who am I to the World?

I’ve just started a Bible study by A Fruitful Woman (check out her blog – she’s an awesome writer with a beautiful heart for Jesus), and assignment #1 is to journal my story. So I figured I’ll make a blog out of it and accomplish my blogging goal (which I am way behind on. Don’t read my post where I said I was going to post twice a week. I might need to change that to twice a month!)

So . . . here is my story.

I grew up in a conservative, “Christian” home in middle America. I fluctuated between being homeschooled and attending Christian schools, we didn’t have a TV, we listened to Christian music. We went to a very legalistic church. I had prayed the “salvation prayer” a million times out of fear of hell, and I considered myself a Christian, but did I really trust God? No. Was I following Him? No. Did I love Him with all my heart, soul, and mind? No.

In high school, we moved to another town and I started public school. We also changed churches to a more Jesus-centered church. It was a good move. I made great friends and I stayed out of trouble. But when it came to Jesus, my heart was confused. I still believed being a Christian meant how modest I dressed (or didn’t), what music I listened to, what shows I watched. Was I out drinking or smoking pot, or was I at youth group?

I’d read my Bible or devotional books occasionally, but I wasn’t seeking God.

Like most teens, I was insecure. I felt out-of-place because of my home school roots. I had acne. Money was tight. And things were starting to crumble at home. I knew my parents were heading to a divorce.

It wasn’t all bad. My mom was my rock. My siblings were wonderful humans (not that I would have admitted it at the time). I had good friends. I had a job. I was doing well at school.

But, I was hurting and empty inside, trying to follow all the rules to be a “Christian”. I  still wasn’t seeking God.

And then I found what I thought would be my escape: a guy. I got married young, just a few years out of high school. I won’t go into all the details, but it was a hot mess. I was a terrible wife. He wasn’t a great husband. We fought. A lot. And still, in the middle of the chaos, I wasn’t seeking God.

My personal life was messy. My spiritual life was non-existent, even though I went to church every Sunday, taught Sunday school, etc. But there was one area I excelled – work. I wanted more than anything to be successful in my career. I wanted to be financially secure. I was juggling work, college, and a crumbling marriage. Since I sucked at marriage, I focused all my energy on school and career. By age 23, I graduated Summa Cum Laude while working full-time at a job in my field. I had a 401(k), a house, a dog, and a new car. I was set.

By 25 I was divorced.

But I still didn’t seek God.

By 28 I was remarried. My priorities were 80% career, 10% marriage, 8% other, 2% God. We went to church and I went to occasional Bible studies. I prayed. But I wasn’t seeking God.

By 29, I was a Mom, but my priorities still didn’t really shift that much. My focus was still on my career and building a nest egg. If anything my career was still 80% of my focus, 15% kids, 4% husband and whatever was left-over went to God and other “priorities.” Thankfully, my second marriage was much better than my first. My kids were easy. Life was good. But God wasn’t my top priority. Not even close.

By 36, this life I was trying desperately to build came tumbling down. My career was extremely successful, but I was working from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., 6 days a week. I was never home. My husband was raising our kids by himself while struggling with his own inner demons. He couldn’t take it anymore. Things went from bad to worse. We ended up separating. My daughter was having panic attacks. I was a mess.

And I finally started to seek God. 

I pulled out my Bible and didn’t just read it to check something off my Christian to-do list. I opened it for answers. I opened it to find my savior.

There wasn’t some life-altering, noticeable change in me, but slowly God started to work in my life. He started to re-arrange my priorities. I started to see my husband and children with different eyes. I  started to really work at my marriage. I started to see Jesus, not just as a destination after death, but a daily companion.

At age 37, I attended a Bible study about finding God’s mission for my life. I went into the study thinking God was going to call me to some huge mission or massive undertaking. But God had a different message for me. He showed me my mission field: my husband and children.

At age 40, I “fired” all my clients, let all my employees go, and shut down my office. I read the entire Bible. I started my blog, “Becoming Mary”. I started making my time with Jesus my #1 priority. And He, in turn, has been changing me.

I’ll be 42 years old this year. I’m still a work in progress. If I go a day or two without reading the Bible my husband and kids can tell as I fall back into my old patterns. I still have to remind myself regularly to focus on the mission field God gave me, rather than chasing shiny career goals. I need reminders that I am not defined by my career, or lack of it. I am not defined by marriage or divorce. I am not defined by motherhood or the successes or failures of my children. I am not defined by the church I attend or my good works.

I am defined by my savior.

And when I go to bed at night and mull over my day, the question isn’t what I accomplished or failed to accomplish. But, was I faithful?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ Matthew 6:33

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:39-42 

 

 

 

Proverbs 31: A Virtuous and Capable Wife

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.

She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar. She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.

She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard. She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.

Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes.

She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns. Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders. She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.

Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
Proverbs 31:10-31 NLT

The Brevity of Life

Recently I was talking with a guy whose child has stage 4 cancer. He made a comment that stuck with me: “Sometimes you don’t realize that you are living in the ‘good-old-days’ until your life takes a bad turn. Looking back, I wish I had enjoyed life more and savored the moments, not realizing what the future held.”

I’ve thought about his comments many times over the last few weeks. I’m working to savor the little things.

Here are a few daily practices I’m trying to incorporate into my life to keep focused on what matters most.

  1. Sitting quietly for five minutes a day without distractions and reflecting on the blessing in my life. No TV. No phone.  Just me and Jesus.
  2. Gratitude Journal: In my regular S.O.A.P. journal I’m including a daily gratitude sentence or paragraph. I have so much to be grateful for and I need to recognize it and give thanks.
  3. Pray for God to help me realize the brevity of life, so that I may grow in wisdom. (Psalm 90:12) #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

Have you found any practices that help you to enjoy, remember, or savor the little things in life?

I am more aware of the how quickly the times of hand are ticking. I see the almost overnight changes in my daughters as they start and go through puberty. The summer has flown by and another school year is right around the corner.

I have one life to live.

And this life is short.

I am so grateful for this time in my life when I am able to work less and enjoy my kids more. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. #BecomingMary

Psalms 90-12 NLT

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

Psalms 90:12 NLT

 

Passport to Purity

#PassportToPurity #Passport2Purity @DennisRainey @FamilyLifeToday

I’ve been offline for several days . . . creating memories, bonding, and having important talks with my almost 12-year-old daughter. We had a Passport2Purity Getaway.  I highly recommend for parents of 10-13 year old kids.

travel guide

Passport2Purity is a product created and sold by Family Life.  The package includes CDs, a parent guide and a student journal. In the CDs, Dennis and Barbara Rainey cover topics like peer pressure, the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, making wise decisions in dating, and puberty and sex. All from a biblical perspective.

My daughter was very apprehensive of the trip. She absolutely did not want to talk to me about sex. Before we left she told me “this trip is going to be worse than my 7th grade shots.”  But on the last CD she said “Oh no, this is like being on the last chapter of a great book.”

Not only is the information on the CDs great and presented in a fun, age-appropriate style; but the way they have the getaway organized makes for a very memorable trip.

Here is our itinerary and my recommendations:

  • I reserved a cabin at a state park about two hours away. This length of drive worked well for us, though I recommend finding a place to stop part way through the drive to complete Project One (you’ll need a flat table to do puzzles). Then you can finish more of the CD on the drive.
  • We left on Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t start my shopping, preparing my projects, etc. until Wednesday morning. I DON’T recommend that! Read over the to-do and to-pack list at least a week in advance and start preparing.
  • For the puzzle project, instead of 100 piece puzzles (which I couldn’t find at Wal-Mart in my frazzled, last-minute shopping trip) I bought her a 1,000 piece puzzle. It got the point of the lesson across, but it also had pictures of dolphins, which she loves. We worked on the puzzle during some of the downtime. I did bring the puzzle box . . . I just kept it hidden until after the project was complete. Going forward, my plan is to take the puzzle out each summer and do it with her . . . and reminisce about the Passport2Purity Getaway. Or maybe we will finish the puzzle and I’ll frame it for her.
  • We didn’t eat out as there weren’t any restaurants nearby, but I packed foods that I knew she would like. (My healthy diet went completed out of the window as I gorged on powdered donuts and strawberry shortcake the entire time).
  • Thursday morning we listened to a CD – took a short hike – and listened to the next CD. Then we had lunch and headed to the pool. After an afternoon of swimming we went back to the cabin for more CDs, dinner and relaxing in front of the campfire.
  • I bought her a special gift to commemorate the weekend – a (lab created) ruby necklace and earring set. I found it for $49 at the Kay Jewelers Outlet. She hasn’t taken the necklace off since the trip and it looks beautiful on her.
  • I recently read The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman. Her top love languages are “Acts of Service” (by far), followed by “Words of Affirmation” and “Receiving Gifts”. I tried to incorporate all of these into every day of the getaway. I am also hoping to be more intentional about incorporating these into my daily life. If you are interested, you can have your teen take the quiz here to determine the best way to express love to him or her.
  • The Passport2Purity getaway is good for either boys or girls – there are different CDs and sections to listen to, depending on the sex.

I need to remember that my job as a mom is to:

  1. Love my daughter
  2. Pray for her
  3. Model a Christ-led life
  4. Equip her with knowledge and tools to make good decisions
  5. Encourage her in her walk with Jesus

I am not responsible for the decisions that she makes. She may choose to follow the advice of Dennis and Barbara Rainey and make good decisions about choosing friends, setting boundaries and dating. Or she may not. She may choose to love the Lord with all her heart and soul and seek his will, or she may treat God like a spare tire – only calling on him when she is in trouble and needs help (which is exactly how I treated him for 30+ years). I can’t control her decisions. I can’t control her heart.

But I can love her with all my heart, forgive her when she messes up, and keep pointing her toward Jesus.

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Stumbling (Motherhood: A Tough Job Part #2)

I don’t ever feel like I’ve got this motherhood thing down, but some days are worse than others.  I have moments when I pat myself on the back for handling a situation well . . . but then there are mornings like this morning when I wonder how much counseling my kids are going to need someday. Seriously.

I try to put safeguards in place. I try to have rules and consequences. I try to make sure they know I love them. I read plenty of parenting books. I pray for them. I read the Bible to them. I take them to church. I search for the balance between mercy and consequences.

There are many a days when life gets in the way of attentive and intentional parenting: Housework. Work work. Errands. Reality. A migraine. Emotions. I lose my temper. I don’t give my kids the time or attention they need. I am human.mother and daugther-863050_1920.jpg

Then there are other days when I feel like I am really on my A-game, yet still I watch my child making bad decisions. I catch her disobeying. And sometimes it isn’t just a little thing. Sometimes it is a big sin.

And I feel sick to my stomach.

But I have to remind myself: God is in control. He loves this kid more than I do. I will answer to God for my job as a parent and a wife . . . but she will answer to God for her own sin. I can shepherd her and guide her, but I can’t control her. She will make her own choices. I don’t answer to God for her choices.

I stumble. I fall. But if I keep my eyes on Jesus, I get back up.

She will stumble. She will fall.

And just like I am sure my heavenly Father aches for me when he watches me screw up; my heart breaks when my daughter makes bad choices.

My job is to be there for her; encouraging her to get back up. And reminding her to keep her eyes on Jesus.

 

 

 

Motherhood: A Tough Job Part #1

A Call for Advice from Experienced Moms

I love my kids, but there are days when being a mom is a punch in the gut. Parenting shows me how little I know. How can I set a good example when I struggle with the very things I need to teach my kids?

Other moms, do you feel the same way? Especially for those who now have grown kids . . . any words of wisdom to share? Any secrets of success? This is a call for advice from moms who have successfully navigated the tween and teen years.  Any moms of grown children want to chime in?

mother and daugther-103311_1920.jpg

Here is what I am struggling with right now.  And I know there will be many more decisions and dilemmas as my kids get older.

The Infamous Cell Phone Dilemma 

  • 6th grader wanted a cell phone.  She begged for one for about a year.  Cried many tears.  She wasn’t “cool” and was the only kid in her class without a phone.  She made lots of promises, including doing chores to help pay for it.
  • I read all the arguments for and against, but my husband and I ended up getting her a cell phone and gave her some basic rules on usage.
  • I snoop on her phone.  I know there are probably parents who disagree, but I paid for the phone and she is my kid in my house and I need to know what she is viewing and doing on the phone.
  • I added NetNanny . . . not sure if that is the best tool, but I wanted something on the phone to restrict her ability to get on inappropriate sites.
  • Last night I found out she was texting boys.  Ugh!  Nothing inappropriate, but one of the boys told her he wasn’t allowed to text girls and she has continued to text him. Double Ugh!
  • She hasn’t been completely obedient with the rules my husband and I set (she is only supposed to use it for games or texting after she has done her homework and cleaned her room), but we haven’t been consistent with making sure she follows the rules.  We’ve never really grounded her from the phone or taken it away.

So now my husband and I need to come up with a new game plan for the phone usage and rules.

Moms, I’m not looking for specific pros and cons on cell phones (I’ve read a million arguments for and against), but more high-level suggestions. I especially long for suggestions and encouragement from moms who have already raised preteens and teens.

  • What is the best parenting advice you ever received?
  • How did you guide your preteens and teens through relationships with the opposite sex?
  • What is the best parenting advice you can give?
  • Any suggestions on communicating with kids ages 12-18?
  • How did you teach your kids to be wise in choosing friends in middle school and high school?

Moms, we need each other.  For you moms with more experience, your wisdom is much-needed for us moms now entering the preteen years.  It is daunting . . . and any insight you can share would be much appreciated!

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