Lies of Motherhood – You need to be perfect

The lie of perfectionism in motherhood can trap you and me. In this series we have been studying how the Gospel combats and defeats the lies that threaten to bind us or enslave us. Most of us would probably argue that we do not believe this lie, that we know we cannot be perfect mothers. There is no perfect mother we may confidently declare. We may even reject the struggle against this lie and know we cannot ever measure up to the perfect standard for motherhood.

Whatever the picture of motherhood looks like for you may be different than what it looks like to me. And while the perfect standard of motherhood may be something you say is elusive or unattainable, we still chase it and allow its measurements to find us falling woefully short.

Identify the lie

We can see our failings, point out our flaws, and roll our eyes at the ways we fall short. “I’m just unorganized, I’m very structured and rigid, I struggle with being patient, I’m not the ______________ “fill in the blank. But we believe we fall short of something. Unbidden within our hearts is the knowledge that we do not meet all the standards across the board. An elusive norm exists that is the measure of a good mother, and everything else ultimately falls short of this benchmark.

This lie captures us quickly with that new baby and then burrows underground, holding court deep in our hearts. It quietly mounts a savage attack with whispers of how you and I could be better, reminds us of everytime we miss the mark, every moment we lose our temper, every time we forget something important, every way we are just learning. You and I must be able to identify the lies being spoken in our mind and in our culture, especially the ones we believe and embrace.

Combat the Lie with the truth

The truth is this: You are a forgiven mother. Just as every other part of your identity is wrapped in Jesus Christ as a believer, so is your motherhood.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight.

Ephesians 1:7

His lavish grace and the forgiveness of all our sin overflows. It does not merely fill but overflows with all wisdom and insight. His grace is lavish for us, without limit, unending. His forgiveness is complete.

In motherhood the hardest thing to reconcile, to lay down is when I sin against a child. I have a confession: my tongue can stir up division and wound so quickly. I have also learned that my children can hurt or offend me. Early on I believed that I was impervious to their attacks, but as my children have matured, so has their ability to wound as well. Perhaps I am harsh, rude, selfish, “over it,” whatever my attitude – I wound a little heart or speak terribly to a teenager.

Gripped with conviction, I seek to confess and repent both to my child and to God. But standing in the fullness of forgiveness is hard when the lie creeps in. “You should be better than this, you always mess up this way, you never change, this is failure.” In those moments of whispered lies that seek to compare me to a standard, I must cling to the banner of the One who says I am complete in Him.

Standing in the fullness of forgiveness is hard when the lie creeps in.

Understanding the power of the Gospel begins to set me free and will set you free from the lie of perfectionism in motherhood and every other role we have. The Gospel clearly defines you and me as lost, trapped in our sinful ways (which includes a sharp tongue), dead and hopeless. But God who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for you and for me, even when you and I were as wicked as we could possibly be with our children, made us alive with Christ. (Ephesians 2:10) You and I have been saved by grace when we place our faith in Jesus as the only way to be changed and made new, in every part of our lives, including motherhood.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14

The truth becomes my message

We now live in a completely different kingdom! No more living as dead, darkness bound by our sins. In the kingdom of Christ we stand redeemed!

We now live as redeemed children of God, wholly loved and accepted. https://www.instagram.com/bethanykimsey/

Bought and paid for, lavishly loved, I am free to extend grace and mercy to my children in their own sin. Grace does NOT overlook sin, ignore it, or allow it to continue – NO – grace meets sin with the solution, Jesus Christ. Grace faces the flesh and extends living hope into the space of death. As mothers we are called to hold to His truth, extend the grace and mercy that has redeemed us, and point to Jesus for our children.

Lies of Motherhood – You are alone

One lie of motherhood is the whisper that you are alone. How we meet that lie is critical – we can turn to Christ or fill our lives with poor substitutes.

Loneliness opens a chasm with us, a quiet void that can grow pulling within itself our confidence, our joy, our peace, our contentment. We long to fill it and to feel connected. We seek to feel treasured, valued and deeply related to others. Motherhood can move this void to the forefront of our heart and mind in so many ways. The lie begins to whisper that you and I are alone in motherhood.

The lie is whispered in the quiet moments, “You are all alone in this.” It thunders in the chaotic toddler years, “No one else is living through what you are. Even your husband doesn’t experience this like you do.” Echoing off of every teenage interaction is the belief that you are the only one dealing with the rebellious or withdrawn child. You may be a single mother, wishing desperately for someone to share the load, believing that no one ever will. Unbidden, the lie creeps into your thoughts that no one really knows you, your day, and you have no true friends walking the same path or in the same stage. Perhaps the lie speaks to the fear that if anyone really knew you with your children, they wouldn’t like you so isolation is better.

So I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

Joshua 1:5

The ultimate lie is: You are all alone. No one truly sees you or walks with you in this journey of life. And the emptiness within your soul opens. Immediately thoughts leap to ways to fill the void and soothe the aching. Find girlfriends to support, give the kids to your husband for the day that he would finally understand, or buy that wine, those shoes, that purse, whatever in the moment will dampen those feelings and fill you. Do it because you deserve it, you are rocking this motherhood life alone juggling work, baby, house, food, laundry – no one does it like you and you deserve to feel better.

But we must cling to the truth and expunge the lie. You are not alone.

Keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6

I will never leave you

In Hebrews 13, the author is referencing back to Joshua 1:5 when Moses told Joshua that God would never leave or forsake him as he entered the Promised Land. Joshua was assuming leadership of the Israelites, and the path to victory would be arduous, full of battles, unknowns, fears, and would require trust and allegiance to God alone to ensure victory. And Hebrews brings this truth into the life of the believers.

To leave in Greek means “to slacken a grip; to desert.” His grip on me, the steadying of my foot, the assuredness of His presence doesn’t slacken, never loosens, and maintains His secure grasp. You and I are held as we walk out motherhood and all other life journeys just like Christ secured Peter as they walked on the water. The waves cannot envelope the believer whose hand is gripped by the Almighty.

Never will I forsake you

To forsake means “to leave behind.” The darkest parts of my heart, the fears and ideas that lurk in me that declare that no one should see – He sees and does NOT turn away. In every other relationship here on this earth, we hide and cover some parts of our darkened hearts, knowing inherently that exposing those places may lead to rejection. The truth is no matter how well anyone loves you, he or she will never fully know you or meet your needs. But God does. Sit a moment in worship there. My feeble attempts at relationship are met with the perfect flood of relationship. He never leaves me in a position of lack, whether it is lack of peace, joy, contentment, strength, power, love. He never leaves.

The desertion we experience, however desperate or empty we feel, is not because God has withdrawn Himself from you and me. As saved, redeemed children washed in His Son’s blood and made new, we are sealed with His presence, His Holy Spirit. But in my own experience I am so capable of walking away from the truth He offers and rushing to any tangible comfort to slake the thirst for companionship. When any other person or activity usurps my walk with Him, I will absolutely feel lonely and my ears will once again begin to hear the steady drumbeat of isolation.

The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear

When I replace the lie that I am all alone with the Truth that He is on my side as my Helper, I call on Him. He answers me and sets me free. We are created with a desperate need to walk with someone, to link arms and do this really hard job in relationship. God freely offers Himself, His grace filled presence to you and me!

The open declaration that He is my Helper comes straight out of Psalm 118. I encourage you to read this beautiful passage of worship and praise to the One who loves you and me steadfastly and responds to us. Worship becomes the song of a heart tied tightly to God. Grace becomes our melody. No longer should I dance to the song of this world that encourages me to placate my fears with anything other than Christ alone. In Christ I have everything for I have Him.

He is my Helper. Today in the laundry, cooking, cleaning, He is beside me in companionship. In the fighting and whining, He stands in solidarity with me, offering strength and wisdom. In the fear and discouragement, He offers His true hope and joy where I can trust. In the clamor of a thousand voices, He offers His peace to still my heart and mind and control my tongue. He never leaves. You and I can worship and walk fully in His presence. I am not alone. You are not alone when Jesus is your Redeemer.

practical thoughts about discipline

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. ~ Jeremiah 17:9-10

 

There have been SO many times in the Kimsey household where I have had children in every bathroom in our house and some more on their beds, thinking about what they did that contributed to the great conflagration that just occurred!   It only takes a little spark to begin to fuel an explosion between multiple factions and next thing I know, everyone is mad, taking sides, screeching and screaming!

Before I interact with any of them, I seek to set my own heart firmly in the truth of the Gospel. I want to begin with seeking out my own heart because more than likely I have been angered, short-tempered, or in some way put out by the disobedience, fighting, or whatever precipitated this time. The same truths for them apply to me. So I want to take a few minutes with Jesus and set my heart on Him, on the truth of my sin, on His love, on His great mercy and His pursuing grace.

I have found that removing children to quiet places works well. In our home, we use the bathrooms most often simply because there is not much in the bathroom to distract my child from the primary goal of this quiet time. I want to create quiet space for my child to begin to hear from the Holy Spirit about why he or she is struggling in relationship with the others in the family. This removal is not a timeout or a timed interval at all; rather, it is a space where emotions can calm down, their minds can stop racing, and their hearts can be tended to.

Can I encourage you to remember all the truths of the Gospel when parenting and disciplining your children? Romans 1:16 resonates in discipline moments, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, When I keep this before me, I have greater empathy and patience for my children; when I just want good behavior, I am short tempered and become a part of the problem. Your children are believing the same basic lies that have motivated all sin from the beginning of time – whether the lies are that they should be in control which promotes disobedience and rebellion, whether the lies are they are most important which leads to selfishness and cruelty, or some other lie that declares what they are worshiping. Their heart will deceive them, leading them away from the truth of God and towards the pursuit of loving themselves first. They will naturally seek their own good, their own control, their own protection. They will defend their own “wisdom” despite its futility. When we understand the heart of man, we can understand and not be surprised or offended by their behavior. Our goal is not to stop the heart of flesh. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our goal is to point to the Savior and illuminate their fierce need for Him.

So my bathroom conversations with my lost children as well as my saved children run on parallel tracks, both pointing to Christ. To my saved child, the goal of the conversation is to help them honestly look at their part, to guide them through what was motivating them and what lie they chased, and re-establish with them the truths of who they are because of Jesus Christ and what God is at work doing within them. To my lost child, it is my opportunity to point out their need for the salvation Jesus offers and offer hope to them.

Bathroom discipline often looks practically like this – I sit down, bringing myself down to their eye level and I ask them to stand in front of me with their hands on my knees. Really this just stills their little body and helps them focus their eyes on mine. I want them to hear me speak, which means emotions need to calm if they are upset, focus needs to come, and bodies need to quiet. I try to speak very softly, asking questions that purpose to lead them into a thoughtful examination of themselves, even at the little ages of 2 & 3. Questions like, “Why are you in here?” or “Tell me what happened that made you have to come in here?” let me know what they understand about what has happened. Conversations are the goal initially. I want to hear their heart, both to see what work the Spirit is already doing as well as to see what they may be believing that is not true. Listening intently and seeking to make sure that I have even gotten the complete picture of what offenses took place are very important tasks. Many times I have removed the loudest or the one with the most fingers pointing at them only to find that there are other guilty parties that need to be disciplined as well! 

One important truth that steadies my heart in the midst of the discouragement of everyday life with a bunch of sinners is that God pursues us continually. He does not cease. He is a God who values relationship, who declares His redeeming love through His Son, and who is at work transforming us from one degree to another. He does not get discouraged with my stubborn heart or sinful tendencies. He keeps on pursuing. And He is doing the same thing with each of your children and invites you to join Him in pursuit. What an honor!

I seek to chase the lies they are believing and introduce the truth God offers instead. God’s word holds the truth we need. To the one who is saved and walking in new life, this is encouraging; to the one who is lost, this is a holy invitation. Prayer covers the time with hugs and a final blessing is given as they walk back out the door.

The blessing launches them back. They more than likely need to go to the one(s) they have offended and apologize and own their wrongs. They have confessed their wrongs before God but now must confess again to their siblings or others. Just like Paul closed every letter with a blessing to the churches to launch them into the truths he had laid before them, I too want to bless my children. So I spend a few moments reminding them of my love for them and my belief that God is at work in them changing them to be more like Him (if they are saved) or calling them to know Him as their Savior (if they are lost). These are words of life that point to where God is working and moving in their hearts. I know God is working on you becoming a mighty peacemaker for Him (if they have been struggling with arguing) or I see the way God is changing your heart for others and making you a servant of others (if they are struggling with selfishness). Always point them to God’s work in their lives. This time of discipline is NOT your opinion or what makes your life easier today. This is God’s holy work, you are merely an ambassador for Him. Point to Him. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14)

The Gospel Changes Everything – Part 1

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ. ~Colossians 2:6-8

What would I tell my younger self, working out my major in college, worried about the way I looked, the way people perceived me, unsure of everything I was doing, crushed by the way it seemed life was going?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell my young married self? – trying to balance a new career and a new marriage, desiring to walk in marriage well but unsteady of every step, wanting to be like Jesus to my husband yet so unclear what this looked like

 The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell my new mother self, juggling 3 babies under the age of 3 with a husband who was working more than 120 hours a week as a surgical resident, trying to still work just a little to make ends meet, completely unsure about how to discipline little hearts, love them completely, and still pursue Jesus, exhausted at every turn by lack of sleep, lack of knowledge, and busyness.

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What do I want myself to remember every waking moment of each day as I parent 8 children, homeschooling, discipling hearts, encouraging anxious children, love my husband, work hard on the things God has called me to in this season of life?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What do I want myself to remember as the children leave, each launching in their own way, whether they are walking with God or not, whether my heart is thrilled with who they have become or perhaps grieved, walking into a new season with my husband as the nest empties? 

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell the woman here who says my life hasn’t turned out the way I planned, the way I wanted, the way I dreamed it would? What would I say to the woman who says I have such deep hurts, such great chasms in my very being where I have been betrayed, wounded, made to feel less than and unwanted? What would I say to the woman who feels like she cannot measure up, cannot do what she wants to do well, aches with a desire to be different than she is but feels stuck? What would I say to the woman says, “I simply don’t care anymore. “ what would I tell the woman who is all alone, either grieving the loss of a marriage, the loss of a spouse, this loss of a child?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough.

The Gospel is enough. He is enough. Whatever you walked into this room carrying, burdened and weighed down with worries, fears, bondage, grief, or pressure to perform. Everything about the way you live your life changes in the light of the Gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ. 

So the question becomes, what is the Gospel? Do I understand and live in light of the Gospel? How is the Gospel enough for me?

When we look at the passage, Paul says as you received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk in Him we want to understand exactly what it means to receive Christ Jesus the Lord and walk in Him. So we are going to look at the parts of the Gospel and break them apart:

Who is God

Who is man

Who is Jesus

Who am I now, and the work being done in me

Why is it so important to be on a Gospel hunt? Because all of the Word of God points to the good news of salvation and redemption. God lays out moment after moment in the Old Testament pointing to the coming Savior and illuminates His redemption in the New Testament. In the Old Testament He introduces us to Himself – His holiness, righteousness, steadfast love, and faithfulness to name a few. He gives us pictures of the “great rescue” that will come because of man’s sinfulness. In the New Testament redemption comes, Christ atones for our sin. We can be changed with His help alone. The truth of the gospel radically changes our understanding of our identity. God has issued an invitation to be His child, a new creation in Christ.

Who is God – 

God is holy, just, powerful, sovereign, maker of all things, all knowing and eternal. He is all knowing, self sufficient, and unchanging. Many more attributes comprise Him. Mankind is not any of these. Isaiah 40 – to whom will you compare me, that I should be like him? Says the Holy One. 1 Samuel 2:2 There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God… for the LORD is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed…The Lord kills and brings to life…The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.  Ps 93 – The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; … Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. 

1 Timothy 6:15-16 he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the KING of KINGs and LORD of LORDS, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. AMEN.  I praise you God

Who is man? 

Who are we? We are created beings, fashioned by God made in His image, designed for relationship – different than any other created being in this world. 

Colossians 1:21 says we are alienated, hostile in our minds, doing evil deeds, Colossians 1:13 living in a domain of darkness. Ephesians 2:1 says we are dead in sin, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now at work in the sons of disobedience, children of wrath, Galatians declares we are held captive and enslaved, 1 Peter 3:18 calls us unrighteous, and Romans 1-3 clearly lays out the unrighteousness and depravity of all man.  Galatians 6 calls us slaves to sin and Gal 6:23 states, The wages of sin is death, but… No one is without sin and thus all of us are separated from God and sentenced to death by Holy God.

Where is my hope? How do I please God? I don’t. I can’t. I cannot do enough, perform well enough, there is no good enough. 

Who is Jesus then?

How then is the gap between holiness and slavery/alienation bridged? God sent His son Jesus Christ as the payment for the debt of sin that traps mankind (Romans 3:21-26, Galatians 3:13-14, Ephesians 2:4-10)  Colossians 1:19-22. While this may seem basic, it is imperative to understand the important concept that God does all the work of salvation. We do nothing to earn the payment for sin that Jesus paid. We believe. We do nothing to deserve it; there is no way to merit the grace and mercy given.

Who am I in light of these 3? So what is my response? How does this change me?

 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior(Titus 3:5-6). The cleansing power comes because Jesus Christ died for your sin and mine on the cross many years ago. His payment paid for all the sin debt that mars our hearts and redeemed us from the curse of sin. Colossians 2:13-15 – And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.

Works and performance are worthless foundations, but many people carry a concept of being good or doing good as necessary for God’s forgiveness. Do you? Do you take the portions of scripture such as in Ephesians 4, Colossians 3 or 1 Thessalonians 4 that speak to our response to God’s unmerited grace (the way our life will look as we respond to the life we have been given) and place them ahead of your salvation? Do you struggle with thoughts that God may be mad at you or disappointed in you? Do you fear messing up or not walking well? Do you hear thoughts that say you aren’t good enough for God to help you or listen to your prayers? 

I want you to know today that while you were a sinner, Christ died for you (Rom. 5:8). He saved you, not because of works done by you in righteousness, but according to his own mercy (Titus 3:5). He has given Himself and all the blessings of being redeemed to you from the start – you have life abundantly (John 10:10), you have the fullness of Him (Col. 2:9-10), you have the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), you have been given His divine power (2 Peter 1:4-5) – You are His child (Rom. 8:16), secure in His love (1 John 4:9-10), and nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

The Gospel is enough

So How does it change everything?

 

strength & joy

And so from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. ~Colossians 1:9-12

I walk on a more unique path than some – my feet are in every area of mothering except fully adult children. I have infants, preschoolers, elementary and middle schoolers, teenagers and college kids. I joke that the babies get me up super early and my night owl teenagers want to talk only after 11:30 at night. But it really is true!

I long for the insight for the moments with each child, to be filled with His wisdom, His truth to flow from my lips to a child’s heart. To show them the faithfulness of Christ who always has a listening ear and steadfast love. But many times I fail or compromise. I justify my hard, selfish heart because I’m tired, or bad day, etc. I rationalize that I’ll do better tomorrow or grab them later today to address that heart issue they have. Sometimes I just want an escape.

But Paul prays for the church and for me in Colossians 1 that we would be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. The result will be a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, bearing fruit and increasing in the knowledge of God. Doesn’t that fill your heart with longing? I just want this more and more, and I pray this so much over my children. And then verse 11: May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. That is SO hard in motherhood!

Let’s be real – I might be strong, on a good day until lunch, but the wheels are going to come off the wagon because someone is picking on someone else, or someone is demanding or whining a lot today, or someone is just obstinate. But I assure you, the wheels will come off this wagon – I will lose it! It may be a “slow leak” day where I can keep most of it turned way down, or it may be a short fuse kind of day which is always a little scary for the little people! But apart from Christ, and seeking the strength of His power and his might, I will not be able to walk worthy of Him with my kids or in my marriage. I may be able to fool you out in public, but I will never fool my kids or my husband.

But Paul says that the strength comes from God’s glorious might – I don’t have to be strong, I have to be submitted. The verb be strengthened is a present participle verb implying an ongoing action. My strengthening is not one and done. He strengthens me moment by moment, day by day. His infusing of power flows from His might full of His glory. My choice is simply will I rely on Him? Will I turn to the fount of living water which flows and floods, or will I seek my own broken cistern as a source of power today?

And in the moments full of grief, pain, confusion, wonder, and uncertainty in parenting, will I seek Him? I love a quote from Maclaren, “Our sorrows make rents through which His strength flows.” Many moments in parenting are painful and uncertain, whether because a child suffers from an illness, makes decisions I know are unwise, or has circumstances that hurt their heart. My heart at times has wanted to rip apart in fear and grief, and in my flesh waves of confusion and discouragement flood my mind. But when I lift my eyes to the One who is my help, who loves my child more than I ever will, He provides the deepest source of strength and the calmest life-giving water to restore and fill me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness, and He commits fully to me.

Then His endurance for the long toddler/teenager day can go the distance. His patience comes flowing out of me in seasons of chaos and confusion. I rest with Him, in Him, on Him.

And His joy floods my soul.

Joy (xara, chara in the Greek) means grace recognized. Joy is not euphoria, bliss, or ecstasy the way our current culture uses the term. His joy in me centers on what He has done for me, rescuing me from the bondage of sin and death, walking me through each day in sanctifying commitment to me, and leading me ultimately to the great inheritance of life eternal with Him.  Recognizing grace, seeing His love, His work, and His plan despite my circumstances, settles my soul despite the hard, painful, demanding moments. Joy based in His Gospel becomes my bedrock.

So today, may we be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

 

 

Growing an Oak

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. ~Psalm 1

Many years ago, God showed me a word picture that realigned my thoughts on raising my children and gave me a vision that has helped so much in the difficulties of discipling and shepherding them. Troy and I moved into a home that was in essence new construction. I excitedly began planning how to landscape the lot, choosing trees, shrubs, and perennials with care with an extremely limited budget. I love gardening and could just imagine the beauty that would soon become my yard! I anticipated the maturing of all the plants and how different things would look in different seasons.

Over the course of the next few years, the yard became just that – a yard – to be cared for, weeded, tended. We had a house full of children and were very busy in the middle of raising them. I have been blessed with very exuberant children – full of zest for life, confidence, “leadership qualities” they say. One of my friends said that I don’t seem to get the quiet, retiring child (and I’m not sure that was a compliment!) And in a season of real challenge with one of my little ones, I remember beseeching the Lord on that child’s behalf, wondering what would work better, create better change, do what I saw happening in other people’s kids. And God brought me to 2 scriptures – Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17.  I began praying fiercely for this child with these passages, asking the Lord to show me this strong tree growing in my child. I was looking for tangible results, conversations of that child’s faith deepening, hearing beautiful prayers, seeing a child who managed their strong sin issues in family dynamics, desperately seeking to see the life that the Spirit brings.

And I will say this – none of those desires are wrong when put in their rightful place. Prayer, mommas, is THE MOST POWERFUL thing we can commit to doing for our children. Pray for their heart to be tender to the Gospel, open to His truth and His working in them. And look for the fruit that you may commend them and encourage them – but watch your reason. You see, in those moments I was hunting for this child’s maturing for my gain – my peace of mind, peace in my home, to look like I had a kid who was well behaved, to measure up to the other kids I saw around me and therefore to appear to have this parenting thing down, otherwise known as pride.

I would walk outside in my yard, tending to the flowerbeds and having conversations with God. One of these difficult parenting days, I escaped outside to walk in my yard. I walked to where I had planted an oak tree. When it had been planted, I remember being disappointed in its size compared to the cost for it. I knew oaks were slow growing, and when this baby tree came to my yard, all I could think was that I would never see it really be what it had the potential to become. Then I walked around the front of the house and noticed that our neighbors had lost a beautiful pear tree the night before in a storm. The tree was cracked in half, crumpled across their driveway.

And in that moment God defined for me His perspective for my children.

The root system of a tree serves as the anchor in a storm. It defines the health or illness of the tree.

A pear tree is a fast growing, ornamental tree with big branches and beautiful foliage in each season. Until it’s not. The root system of a pear tree is shallow or high and tends to circle around the narrow base of its trunk, sending out intertwining rootlets that fail to provide strength. They instead create instability that leads to falling or death. The branches of the tree all diverge from a single, short trunk as well which allows for the beautiful display in the early years. The wood however is weak, and the trunk of the tree often cannot take the stress of wind gusts causing the tree to crack.

 Oak trees have a slow growing root system that begins with a tap root. A tap root grows vertically downward. It will only then begin to grow its branches outward, but ultimately the roots of an oak occupy a diameter 4-7x the tree’s crown and total hundreds of miles. Oak trees grow very slowly because not until their taproot is established and root system in place will they begin to establish greater foliage and branch growth.

I need to embrace the fact that I must create environments that God can grow oak trees, not pear trees. But that’s all I do – I cannot ever grow the tree.

That is the work of God alone.

He sees the root, not me. He monitors the growth where it matters, but I only see the branches and leaves. My outlook needs to be committed to a long range vision, working daily in the short term for something that will take years to develop. And I need to stop looking at all the other trees being grown and comparing my trees to them because some of them may just be pear trees. Roots take a long time to grow in oak trees, but once established, oak trees aren’t easily damaged with a season of drought or even heat. Growth is abundant and consistent in trees well established.

Often the beauty of the oak tree is in its age. As a mother, I am committed for the lifetime. This task seems hard at times, discouraging at others – mainly because we cannot see the end result. We cannot see when or how our children will become the oaks of righteousness (Is. 61:3) we desire. The magic number for the maturation of an oak is not 18 years, nor is it the number for our children. We need to stop having that mindset! I’m not done when they turn 18 or leave for college or even when they get married.

My role has changed from nose wiper and discipliner to listener and exhorter with my older children, but the child hasn’t stopped growing, the branches may not be spread yet at all, and tap root growth may still be happening. Am I committed to the process of pointing back to Jesus if that means this oak tree doesn’t become one until I am gone?

Yes, and I hope I die with callused knees from many years of interceding on their behalf.

The threshing floor

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” ~Matthew 3:12

The threshing floor. It’s where I am, and I often do not want to be there. And yet it is where He is most glorious, most gracious and where I see Him at work in me, shaping and refining me.

I will never forget the teaching on the threshing floor by Ken Jenkins. I sat in the auditorium, and it was almost as if I could hear a thud, the sudden awareness that this picture was significant for my walk with the Lord. You see a threshing floor is what the ancient farmers used to separate wheat from chaff. The floor is a smooth, flat surface where the harvest would be spread over the floor. Cattle/oxen would be led over it, to crush and break the sheaves, and then sticks would be used to break sheaves and begin to separate the grain from the stalks. Then winnowing occurs where the grain is separated from the chaff ( the husks that cover each piece of grain) by tossing it all into the air so that chaff is blown away. All for the goal of separating the waste from the wheat and then the wheat is scooped up and filtered through a sieve to remove any last bits of chaff or undesired products.

Motherhood and marriage have been two threshing floors in my life. Both places demand more relationally of me than I am capable of giving by myself. Never have I seen more on display my selfishness, ugliness, rudeness, impatience, hate, and pride to name a few. And I desire to be so different than that!

God has used many moments to lay me down on the threshing floor and begin the painful process of removing the stalks that plant me in places I should never be and prying loose all the protective, hardened coverings around my heart. He desires to separate me from the sin that entangles me, peeling away the faulty thought processes that are self focused, self protective, self loving. He wants me as a mother to be rooted deep in His Word, not rooted in the thoughts/beliefs offered in the world, in order to be his ambassador, speaking on His behalf to these children He has given me that they may know the Gospel and so be changed.

The separation from my flesh is painful, the husks are so tight. But the thresher is patient, committed and lovingly tenacious.

 

Winnowing feels out of control, often like I will be blown completely away. You see the chaff is light and easily blows away in the wind, but the grain is heavy, weighty and will fall back down to the threshing floor. But there are so many times where I feel like all of me will blow away, so overwhelmed in the vast amounts of shell that covers my heart – the impatience with children, desire for alone time, fatigue with the mundane of motherhood, an urge to escape if just for a moment either into a book, a tv show, or my phone, the pride that prevents humility, the fear of what I cannot control.

For this picture to be true of my life, first and foremost I need to understand the Gospel. It is imperative. The Gospel simply is this: There is a God who is over all things and He created man in his image. But man has “sinned and fell short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and “all both Jews and Greeks, are under sin. None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God.” (Rom. 3:9-10) In our sin position we are enslaved to sin and destined for death, eternal separation from God. Jesus, God’s son, came while we were still sinners and died for us (Rom. 5:8) and His death substituted for our death, that we may be “set free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1, 6:6-7). And our response stops this from being just a great story for we are now called sons of God, part of His family (Rom. 8:14-16) and He engages in the process to make us more like Him in order to glorify His name. This is where the threshing and winnowing begin, the sanctifying that stretches and hurts at times but fashions a useful harvest.

So I want to see all of my life through the lens of threshing – all of the good and bad moments with my kids are opportunities for God to undo a little more of the hard, binding shell or blow away more residue to expose His work in me. He never stops seeking the harvest in me that He may be glorified. He never withholds His grace and His care from me as He works to refine me. All of my sin is met with all of His abounding grace.

A Foundation

As I begin this blog, I must confess this has been a battle raging in me for years. I opened this blog in january 2010 – 7 years ago! and yet never typed a single letter. To such a point of ignoring that I had forgotten the title of the blog itself! I wanted to walk, no, run away from this entire idea as if that would be ok with the One who had consistently and steadily been calling me to this. What could I possibly write? what about? why would anyone need to see it, let alone want to see it? why not ask someone else, someone who enjoys writing and who actually has time and spends time on a computer? For 6 years I have tried to write in other places, and the Lord keeps returning me to this idea. So here we are — The great Almighty LORD God, the great I AM who calls us forth, and me, the wanderer who thinks she can come up with a better plan that will keep her a little more secure, a little less exposed. All I really want is to be His, supremely sold out, useable as He sees fit, abiding in the One who will make the fruit that abides, daily walking with Him.

This verse has resonated with me now for months as I grapple with this: I Cor. 3:11 “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” This daily walk of faith for all of us must be with a foundation of Jesus Christ. It is when I think somehow I am responsible for the foundation, whether through eloquent words, great ideas, things I choose to do or not to do, that is when I stumble or freeze in fear or walk in the wrong direction. But if Jesus Christ is my foundation, the platform of my life on which all else builds then there will not be poorly aligned walls of belief, floors of understanding that slant towards the world, or poorly hung windows reflecting wrong images. The foundation is critical to the advancement of any building.

Never before has that been made more clear in our lives than a few years ago. Our home literally was not built on a foundation that was stable. The support poles on which the entire house was set were not actually connected to the house in some places and in others were not at the correct height. Outwardly the house seemed beautiful, yet to the ones who lived in the house, the slight rise in the floor, the way a ball would roll across the entire living room to one corner, and the slight slant of the crown molding in one corner all pointed to some severe structural problems that one day would be of great cause of concern if not fixed. So, many thousands of dollars and many loud days of construction later, the repairs were completed. Now the house must settle again, cracks in sheetrock must be repaired, crown molding redone, roof support completed. All because the foundation was not correctly laid.

How often does that occur in our own lives? we miss out on the truth that He alone must be our foundation – that at the moment of our salvation we were given the Holy Spirit, the indwelling power who raised Christ from the dead. Often we try to make something else, actions, thoughts, good things the foundation of our lives instead of Christ Himself. I have certainly been guilty of this here. I have sought to make writing in my journals or in the notes section of my iPad foundation enough, proof of my obedience. Instead of relying on the One who lives within me to lead the writing and trusting Him for the results, I have been trying to hang pictures on walls slightly slanted (lack of trust in His power), paint walls not fully plumb (based in disobedience), and walk on floors that aren’t level (because I’m not giving Him the opportunity to make my paths straight Proverbs 3:5-6) Now I choose to step out with Him, and allow His hand to shape my foundation in this area, trusting that His way of doing things far surpasses my own and will result in praise, glory and honor to Him forever!

and so a few foundation verses:
Rev. 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Col. 1:16-17 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”