Winning the Mommy Wars

The term Mommy Wars refers to the contentious relationships between mothers over real or imagined slights, insults and thinly veiled criticisms over individual parenting choices. It is the high school mean girl, cafeteria sagas for “adults.” Moms criticize or judge based on their ideas of a perfect mother (which usually looks a lot like them, ahem).

What would a “perfect” mom look like? We certainly get bombarded with all sorts of messages, don’t we? Based on today’s parent media standards, she might look a little like the list below.

She would always be patient, kind, fun, and funny, never yelling or letting stress get to her. She would not work, or only work from home when the kids were napping. She would only feed her children organic, non-GMO, BPA free, locally grown produce and antibiotic/hormone/cage free lean meat (never fast food because she is too tired to cook), after, of course, having breastfed her children for at least the first year. Her children would never have anything less than hormone/antibiotic free milk, filtered water (the hose doesn’t count as a filter), or 100% (not from concentrate) juice. She would can her own fruits and vegetables, grown in her meticulously tended backyard garden.Momsforme Her children would all be potty trained by the age of two, speaking in complete sentences and possibly starting to learn basic math skills. She would engage them in fun, educational play, even making chores a fun, learning activity. Her kids engage in physical play everyday for 60 minutes, but not dangerous sports like football or soccer because she doesn’t want them to have early onset dementia at 50 from too much childhood head trauma. Her children would be perfectly behaved at all times, never melting down in Walmart (as if, she’s so a Whole Foods’ girl). She has never parked her kids in front of a Disney movie so she can finally take a shower. In fact, her children would never watch television, or only 30 minutes of PBS.  Her older children attend private school or are home-schooled. Her house looks like an HGTV set at all times. She does not allow disorganization or clutter in her home. Laundry does not spend three days in the dryer, cycling on the fluff setting over and over. Random toys do not spend a week in the middle of the living room being walked around because she refuses to pick them up, using them as an obstacle course instead of hiring a personal trainer. She is thin, naturally beautiful, but works out three times a week to stay healthy, but manages to do so without neglecting any of her other responsibilities, including book clubs, bible studies, volunteering at church, and coffee dates with friends several times a week. Of course she has two children, maybe three, but never just one lonely only or heaven forbid, four or more. And all of her cooking, projects, and crafts look like they are straight off Pinterest. showermomOf course her relationship with her husband is also perfect and wonderful so her children grow up with a great example of a loving marriage. She loves her family with her whole heart, and she serves Jesus in everything she does with a glad and joyful heart.

I’m sorry, I know, I didn’t even get into baking or recycling or cloth diapering. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I got exhausted just writing it! Please feel free to comment about a standard or expectation that I missed. I’m sure we all have personal examples of standards by which we’ve been or felt judged. But can we all agree that this list is impossible?

And can we all agree that the only absolute on that list is the very last sentence? Because everything else on that list is negotiable. When it comes to the Mommy Wars, really the only way to win, is not to play.

Unfortunately, we tend to be opinionated, thrusting our opinions on others in a ferocious display of arrogance and pride. We know how difficult being a mother is. I do not understand how we can simultaneously know how often we fail or compromise while holding someone else to the same ridiculous standards that we can’t achieve. That isn’t how we should treat each other as friends, neighbors, women, or Christians.

Proverbs 31:26 ESV “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

I have lots of opinions. I love to share them. I am an external processor. By teaching, writing or talking, my ideas and opinions come to life. I really have to assess my attitude and purpose before I say something to someone. Sometimes my foot goes into my mouth despite my best intentions. Am I saying something to be “right” or because I am trying to lovingly direct or guide them? Is it even my place, in this exact moment, to be his/her correction?

James 4:11-12 ESV  “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

James clearly says we are to be concerned not about judging, but only about following the law of Christ. Most of the debates and criticisms in these “Mommy Wars” have nothing to do with God or being Godly. Should you give your child chocolate cake and soda for breakfast? Maybe, maybe not, but some choices are simply between you, your family, and God. He is the only judge because he alone knows your every decision, every thought, and your heart and intentions. Maybe that person judging you doesn’t know that chocolate cake for breakfast is a birthday tradition for your child, or an upset tummy prompted you to allow a glass of soda, or since your husband deployed your child refused to wear anything except his superman costume because he thinks he can protect his daddy. Whatever the circumstance, it just doesn’t matter . . . there are some choices that we can just say aren’t important in the grand scheme of eternity.

Can I lovingly live my decisions in front of someone, allowing them to decide if they want to talk about it? Or can I simply be a Godly example and keep my mouth shut?

Ephesians 5:1-2  ESV “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

The internet has become an amazing resource for parents. I know that when we brought home our daughter, I was reading “What to Expect the First Year” and subscribed to every newsletter, email article, and parenting magazine as I could because I wanted to make informed choices as a parent. My neuroses not withstanding, having access to that much information, with the current level of unfettered access to each other’s lives through social media, can lead to a mess of assumptions, opinions, and hurt feelings.

In the past week, and by week, I mean this week, since Sunday (and I started writing this on Tuesday), more than 5 of my friends have made Facebook posts about feeling judged or criticized by others. Of course these are always the vague rants that are so defensive and angry. I hate knowing people I love are hurting, but I also wonder if there isn’t a better way to handle the Mommy Wars.

If I was all computer savvy, I would make you a nice little flow chart, but alas, I am not. So you’re going to have to tough it out and follow along in paragraph form.

1. Did someone say something to you or about you directly?

No?  Then ask yourself why are you feeling judged or criticized?

I have a friend whose blog has made me feel critical about my choices by no fault of hers. It is simply a sensitive subject for me. I really worry about what I’m feeding my family. Between blogs and articles about pesticides, GMOs, BPA, and chemicals, I just feel like everything in my home is poison. She has an amazing garden. They grow most of their own herbs and vegetables. I would love to have that at my disposal, but had to realize that I can celebrate her ability and enthusiasm without feeling criticized because her choices are not mine. I don’t enjoy gardening, at all. I do not have any successful experience growing plants. I do not have a good place to grow a garden in my yard with three kids and two dogs and a swimming pool. My sensitivity about my own choices was my problem. I had to adjust my attitude. Today, I can just marvel at how she does what she does, knowing that her gifts are not my gifts.

1 Peter 4:10 ESV “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:”

Yes, someone said something to you directly?  Then ask yourself  1) is it true?

This is the tough one, but before I even reply to a criticism, I have to search my heart. If what is being said is true, then I need to decide if it something of which I need to repent and change. I don’t want to search my heart. I want to lash out in righteous indignation, but thinking I am smarter and wiser than everyone else isn’t righteous, it’s self-righteous. God tells us to listen to the wisdom and reproof from others. I’m still working on knowing how to soften and listen in the moment, but I know God’s instruction can come in many forms. If I hold all things against the Bible as my source of truth, against who I know God to be, then I have to accept correction. Even if it wasn’t handled the way I would have wished, I can still choose to get wise or offended.

Proverbs 13:18 ESV “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.”

God puts people in our lives from whom we can learn and grow if we don’t let pride get in the way of instruction. Everyone has a perspective, learn to listen and be able to sort through what is good and useful without letting what isn’t hurt you.

Proverbs 19:20 ESV “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

1 Peter 5:5 ESV “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

And if it isn’t true?  Then you have to focus on the truth. You are known by God. He is the only judge who matters. The rest is rubbish and can be dealt with accordingly. Even when things aren’t true, we worry. We worry about if this becomes gossip, what will others think, etc. I have no easy solution for letting go of those feelings because the only way to let those things go is to know who you are in Christ so completely that other’s opinions can slide off your back. One of my earlier posts dealt with my personal experience on the Mommy battlefield, Holding Grudges.

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Was the statement false or based on a misunderstanding? Go to the person. Talk to her directly, once you have calmed down. If talking to her in a calm, clear manner, after searching your heart and scripture does not resolve the issue, chose someone wise in faith and life to take the issue before. If the other person will not discuss the issue or refuses to go before an elder, then . . .

Titus 3:10 ESV “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,”

Someone who is repeatedly contrary in nature to the kindness, gentleness, grace and forgiveness of Christ is directly in opposition to the relationships we are supposed to cultivate within each other.

Romans 16:17-18 ESV “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”

We are not called to to decide if someone is saved or judge if someone is truly a Christian. God will handle that, but we can walk away from someone whose current actions are not Christlike once we’ve followed all the Biblical steps to restoration.

2. Does the person criticizing or being criticized identify as a follower of Christ?

No? Then, as much as I wish she were, would lovingly invite her to know Him, she isn’t going to follow the same set of rules. If she’s playing Candy Land, it would be ridiculous to hold her to the Chutes & Ladders rules. My job as a Christian is to love her, to see her the way God does, in need of saving just like I am, but the Bible tells us we are not to judge outsiders. And Christians should only worry about the judgment of outsiders if our actions are truly interfering with our witness.

1 Corinthians 5:12 ESV “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

Yes? Both parties identify as Christians.  Then God’s rules are to govern all of our behavior, whether we’re the speaker or the target of the criticism.

John 7:24 ESV “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

We can’t know the truth of someone’s journey with God. We see someone smoking outside of church and judge her. We don’t know that if she weren’t smoking, she wouldn’t be able to fight her other addictions. I really believe it is better to pray for her for strength and go over to her, talk with her, give her a hug, tell her you’d love to get together.

1 Peter 3:8 ESV “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

Peter’s statement about ‘unity of mind’ means to have our affections focused on the same goal, God, and ‘sympathy’ or compassion meant literally to feel with each other, celebrating or grieving together. If we all are focused on loving God and on true empathy, we don’t have much room for the pride and anger that leads to judgment and criticism.

Galatians 5:13-15 ESV  “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

While I started this entry focusing on “the Mommy Wars,” I really think that people have a tendency to judge, and the Bible calls on us to love each other, help others, but not sit in judgment over anyone.

Sometimes really poor decisions do lead to appropriate church discipline, but God gave us guidelines for how to properly bring a brother/sister into loving restoration within the church, if he/she is willing to repent and be restored. If he isn’t, we are to let him go for a time, knowing that God never really wants to let us go and keep that brother or sister in our hearts in prayer.

Philippians 2:1-11 ESV  “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,”

We find the Bible is the only real source we need. Encourage each other in Christ with affection and sympathy, do not compete or be arrogant, do everything humbly considering the other better than yourself, and look out most for the interests of others. If tomorrow, every Christian lived this scripture in all our relationships, what a witness we could be to the world.

Again, the only way to win the ‘Mommy Wars’ is not to play at all.

Why Should You Stop Throwing Temper Tantrums

My temper tantrums? As parents, we don't often think about our tantrums, but I've grown increasingly convicted about my anger, especially towards my daughter.

My temper tantrums? As parents, those generally aren’t the tantrums we think about. But over the past few years, I have grown increasingly convicted about my anger, especially towards my daughter. And one verse today just wrecked me.

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And I want to come to you from that place right now: not a place of having conquered, but still conquering, sometimes still failing. But I see God’s work in my heart as I grow more and more.

My temper tantrums were damaging my family. Yours are, too.

God has called us to stop throwing temper tantrums now.

I’ve been trying to rewrite this post for days, but God was calling me to go deeper than I even understood yesterday.

We’re missing a correct perspective on the importance of the children in our homes. The worldly view either elevates children to the masters of the home or diminish them as satellites to the central parents.

Both perspectives grieve God.

God should be the center of our homes as the sun is the center of the solar system. When the sun is in its rightful place, all the planets are exactly where they should be. If the sun changed by even the tiniest degree, the planets would not hold their perfect orbits. Chaos would reign in the galaxy.

When God isn’t the center of your home and heart, chaos reigns. When you’re the angry mom (or dad), fear of provoking your temper changes the dynamic for every moment of your day. Even the most joyful moments are colored by the terrible knowledge that the peace is temporary.

Is that really the message we want for our homes, spouses and children-that peace isn’t real or permanent?

Hebrews 12:14 ESV  Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

How we live in God’s perfect peace with holiness is how others can see the Lord. How much more so should we live to demonstrate that peace for those God has given us the responsibility to love and raise.

This is the verse that just wrecked me today.

Matthew 18:10 ESV “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

I had to just stop and weep over how much I imagine my daughter’s angels have protected her from me.

I stand here with you today, grieving the temper tantrums I have thrown, walking beside you in changing our hearts.

Honestly, I still struggle with my temper at least once a day. Most days, I win the battle now, but some I don’t.  I’d rather not publicly admit that anger is an issue in my heart and home, but I’ve decided if my honesty can help other moms, my brokenness is better than staged perfection.

I stand with you, grieving my temper tantrums, walking beside you in changing our hearts. Click To Tweet

Being a mom is filled with lots of joy. My daughter’s giggles and snuggles cheer my heart, and I love watching her grow in her faith and become her own little person.

But parenting is also filled with HUGE mountains of frustration.

I swear, leaving the house is absolutely Kryptonite to my normally sweet child. “Go put on your socks” is met with a raging discourse against socks or a Supreme Court worthy debate about wearing cowboy slippers to the park.

“Yes, I picked up my room,” is almost certainly a lie.

(#MomProTip I discovered if I want her to play quietly in her room, send her to clean it. She won’t clean much but will pull out lots of toys and play.)

And frustrations build. Momming is enough to drive anyone crazy, full of routine requests, fighting the same battles over and over and over. Add the stress of housekeeping, bills, work, difficult relationships (even marriage), and I start to fall apart.

I’ll feel like I’m barely holding my Hindenburg emotions together with duct tape and the next frustration rips through my false calm like flames.

For me, the first step in healing came from realizing that the root cause of my temper tantrums is sin.

SIN? Really?!? How is it MY sin when my child doesn’t obey?

God expects us to have emotions, not be ruled by them. When we let anger overcome us, we are not demonstrating fruit of a Spirit-filled believer.

Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV “Be angry and do not sin . . . and give no opportunity to the devil.”

When we throw temper tantrums we damage the trust our children have in us, in our love, in our stability, in our faith.

God expects us to have emotions, not be ruled by them. Temper tantrums damage relationships. Click To Tweet

We give Satan footholds into the lives of our children. With our temper tantrums, we build weak places in their hearts that Satan can exploit.

I know that Satan will use any opening I give him. Totally unacceptable! So, I had to root out where my anger comes from. Primarily stress, pride, and lack of self-control. Yep, sin.

We hold onto stress like it’s our human right to explode during difficult circumstances, but God’s answer is not to.

In the calm moments of motherhood, It’s easy to write this, but when I have a headache and my kid won’t stop talking long enough to eat her dinner, it’s much harder to demonstrate self-control over the frustrations.

How Do temper tantrums come from selfishness and pride?

I wanted today to go my way. I wanted to be on time, or she asked for more of my attention than I wanted to give at that second.

And I used to snap.

Living with the me of the past had to be miserable. No one could anticipate my mood or my threshold for the day. I am truly grieved over the temper tantrums that ruled my life for years.

I am truly grieved over the temper tantrums that ruled my life for years.

Every day I would wake up and promise myself to be better, and most days I would fail, robbing me and my family of joy and peace.

I couldn’t control myself because there was an anger born of selfishness inside me. Until I began to die to that selfishness, I wasn’t able to be different.

I had to see others, including my children, as more important than myself. I had to grow in humility.

Philippians 2:3 ESV “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

God’s highest commandment to love others comes before keeping house, writing a blog, folding laundry.

Sometimes, I am still tempted when faced with blatant disobedience, but I am more often able to reflect humility and look at their sin with grace and compassion, without having to join them in anger.

James 1:19-20 ESV “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

The purpose of my life as a wife and mother is to produce righteous fruit in my life, in the lives of those with whom I fellowship, and the lives of my husband and children.

The anger of man doesn’t produce God’s righteousness.

So what are we supposed to do?

My temper tantrums? As parents, we don't often think about our tantrums, but I've grown increasingly convicted about my anger, especially towards my daughter.

Psalm 4:4 ESV / “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.”

If you’re angry, go sit on your bed, think about your own heart, and be quiet!

I love that – God invented time out.

Taking a few moments to get myself under control in prayer always changes my attitude, setting aside my selfishness, exchanging it for God’s peace.

Temper Tantrums? Psalm 4:4 - God invents time out. Go sit on your bed & search your own… Click To Tweet

When I quietly sit and reflect, God reminds me how He loves them and His perspective. He shows me how to solve the conflict over being right.

It sounds too good to be true. Just pray?

It’s where I start. Prayer opens my heart to hearing God. Then through scripture, His wisdom reaches into my life: guiding, convicting, changing.

In this communion with Him, we are granted His peace.

Philippians 4:7 ESV “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

In the face of heartbreaking struggles or mind-numbing frustrations, the peace of God is beyond my ability to explain, but is so real.

I’ve felt it, wash over my heart like silk, changing my perspective and emotions in an instant.

With joy and thankfulness for my full life, I ask to have the correct attitude toward this season as wife and mother and set aside my anger.

God has been working on my temper tantrums for years now.

I can safely say He’ll be done with me about five seconds before never, but I know I’m making perfectly imperfect progress every time I pray for His peace, patience, and maybe some time alone to pee.

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The Faith of a Child

The faith of a child is magical. If we point them in His direction, God truly works in them in ways we cannot understand. Only if we all had such faith.

The faith of a child is magical. If we point them in His direction, God truly works in them in ways we cannot understand. If only we all had such faith.

I realized the incredible beauty in the sweet faith of a child as I watched my daughter developing her own.

I had renewed my commitment to Christ, but hadn’t quite allowed His grace to extend to my mothering. God convicted me that my “perfect” parenting meant I wasn’t letting God be in control of her life.

I was still trying to get it right my way!

For both of our sakes, I needed Him to intervene in my heart, so I could learn to share my faith with her in ways that make it living and active in her life.

Romans 10:17 ESV “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

To build the faith of a child, they needed to see and hear and live God’s word.

I had to demonstrate my faith daily, especially in front of my daughter, making a point to live out loud for Him, which meant talking my inner prayer dialogue with her.

Building the faith of a child required living mine more completely, more transparently. Click To Tweet

We talked about obeying God when I made hard choices, when I lost my temper, when we struggled with using our kind voices.

The faith of a child is magical. If we point them in His direction, God truly works in them in ways we cannot understand. Only if we all had such faith.

We thanked God for each new day, for sending His son. We read her bible together, and I spent more time in mine.

After awhile, she began asking questions like, “Do I have Jesus in my heart?” “Am I a Christian?”

I answered she is learning who God is, and when she is old enough to understand, she can choose to ask Jesus into her heart.

With the innocent faith of a child, she asked to do it then, but I wasn’t sure if she really understood.

She was so little, only 4. She didn’t even understand the days of the week yet. How could I let her make this huge decision so young?

How young is too young to make a decision for Christ? Should we ask them to wait? #faithofachild Click To Tweet

Proverbs teaches,

Proverbs 22:6 ESV “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I became a Christian at 6, but have turned away from my faith many times. Only God’s grace has brought me back, and I really want to show her a faith that avoids falling away.

I really want her to know God’s love and Christ’s redemption, but I had concerns about her actual comprehension of what it all means.

But when she asked again a few months later, I could hear Jesus tell me not to turn her away from wanting to follow Him.

Even when Jesus was exhausted and weary, he would not turn away the children.

Mark 10:13-16 ESV “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”

Maybe she doesn’t quite understand yet all the details, but she knows she loves Jesus. And when Jesus said to let the children come to Him, He further taught that we adults should should strive to have the faith of a child ourselves.

So, we stopped eating lunch and prayed together.

“Dear Lord, she wants Jesus to be her savior, to come into her heart. If this is her time to come to you, Lord, please draw her close to and continue to work in her heart. If not, stay close and protect her until she’s truly ready.”

Then I let her pray what she wanted to say. “Dear Jesus, I want you in my heart to help keep the ‘debil’ out and God in me so I know how to not be naughty.” It was sweet and beautiful.

I don’t know if it was truly her decision day, but I don’t believe choosing Jesus is a magical formula of a single prayer. It is a daily life-long dying to our flesh and choosing Jesus as savior.

For now, I have to just keep living my witness; being real in my need for forgiveness when I fail.

Titus 2:7-8 “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned…”

 And celebrate with the angels over my sweet daughter tonight.

Luke 15:10 ESV “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Wish I could have heard the singing. I can only imagine.

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Packing Peanuts

My daughter had a science themed birthday party this year. I was searching for a cute gender neutral party theme, and thought science experiments would be something different and extra fun. All the kids wore labs coats and colorful safety glasses.DSCN7229 - Version 2 They blew touchable bubbles from test tubes, and we performed several easy experiments. We covered the lawn with mentos and diet coke, the kitchen with vinegar and baking soda. The party was a blast.

One of everyone’s favorites was the packing peanuts experiment. I took an empty 14 oz. can and on the sly, filled it with acetone. I had a large (2x3x2 ft) box FULL of packing peanuts sitting in the garage. I asked the kids how many packing peanuts I could fit inside the can. “Two?” “Ten!” “No, twenty!” Tiny voices shouted out estimates. I dropped a small handful into the can. The green styrofoam peanuts instantly disappeared. I added another larger handful, then another. Eventually, kids crowded around me, and we were all shoving packing peanuts into this little can as quickly as we could. They were disappearing as fast as we could get them into the can. Everyone was amazed, including me. I knew what it would do, but didn’t know how fast or that it would seriously devour the entire box of packing peanuts in minutes. Science is fun.

But the image of that empty can just consuming everything has really stuck with me over the past couple of months. God used this experiment as a tangible object lesson for me. That can represented my life, my heart.

Since my childhood, I’ve had a roaring emptiness inside me. Some of it has been there since the first day of kindergarten when my classmates teased and ridiculed me. I was bullied literally from the first day of school, coming to believe I was too weird and ugly for anyone to like me, too disgusting for anyone to love. Since that time, I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere. As a teen, trying to fill this yawning hole in my heart led me to make poor decisions. I longed for some social acceptance and sought it through a string of boys who further emptied my cup of self-esteem through various forms of physical and verbal abuse.

Of course the more I tried to fill my heart with the things of this earth and my flesh, the emptier I became. I tried to fill it with partying, drinking, men. Not only did nothing satisfy the aching need inside of me, the shame of my actions only tore at me more and more.

I had accepted Christ when I was six, but, after decades of falling away, I only became a disciple a few years ago after God had been gradually working on my heart for years. I can’t remember the date, but I can pinpoint the moment the Holy Spirit truly opened my eyes, helped me understand God’s love for me and others. I’ve realized now that my whole life, from boyfriends to husbands, even to adopting my daughter, I’ve been trying to fill my heart with things or people.

Holding my daughter’s little girl body, my heart bursting with love, I realize she is already 4, growing up way too fast, and even though she’ll always need me to some extent, being her mommy is only a temporary identity. I must have a permanent identity in Christ.  Loving her has come the closest, but even that falls short. Nothing of this earth can come close to a relationship with God. There’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled by You, Lord.

This may seem like a strange praise song. But the lyrics, can completely be pointed toward God. As I listen to it over and over now, writing this blog, I am teary-eyed, praising God for finally showing me the futility of my hamster-wheel-life, for softening my heart and teaching me to let Him fill my needs, be my comfort, my truth.

Life’s ambition occupies my time
Priorities confuse the mind
Happiness, one step behind
This inner peace, I’ve yet to find

Rivers flow into the sea
Yet even the sea is not so full of me
If I’m not blind why can’t I see?
That a circle can’t fit in where a square should be

There’s a hole in my heart
That can only be filled by you
And this hole in my heart
Can’t be filled with the things I do
Hole hearted
Hole hearted

This heart of stone is where I hide
These feet of clay kept warm inside
Day by day less satisfied
Not fade away, before I die

I spent years chasing ambition, earthly priorities, ‘happiness’, but could never find lasting peace. Why couldn’t I see that I couldn’t fill that hole with the things I do? My sin and pride had hardened my heart to such an extreme I was almost purposefully self-destructing. When I was near to crushed, I would call out to God, but, once the storm had passed, get distracted by self and flesh yet again. This last time, my husband’s fourth deployment, his absence during our daughter’s first year, his year in combat, another long separation, had just about destroyed us both. I called out for God in desperation, brokenhearted.

Psalm 34:18 ESV “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

And He, beautifully, pulled me out of my sin, graciously wrapped me in His arms, comforting me, drawing close to me.

James 4:8 ESV “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. . .”

God is putting verses, wisdom, and people in my life, showing me that He loves me and is calling me to Him. I am learning that I am forgiven and redeemed by grace, no sin too great to forgive. He continues to demonstrate that He is my portion, my comfort.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

As a Sunday school kid, raised in a Christian home, I should have known that I couldn’t fill my heart with my works, that I couldn’t ever do enough to earn salvation. It is a gift. He takes us as sinners, and cleans us up.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

My heart sings these words. What freedom to know that Christ has washed me clean, my old self has passed away. I am new in Him. And this glorious truth, brings me to His feet, wanting to learn, to follow.

Proverbs 3:5 ESV “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

My own understanding got me nowhere fast. I was broken and so violently destructive that I was unwittingly breaking everyone around me. God put my daughter in my life because He knew that my love of her and for her would challenge me to want to give her a heart full of Jesus, to do my best to protect her from the empty life I’ve lived.

Psalm 51:10 ESV “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

What a fantastic prayer. I am a new creation, and God will clean my heart and renew my spirit. I don’t have be a slave to my sin or shame anymore.

Hebrews 10:22 ESV “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

I was talking with my closest unsaved friend the other day. He said, “Man, you Christians must feel so beat down all the time from not being good enough.”

Ephesians 4:18 ESV “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

My heart broke for him, knowing that he is still in that struggle with the emptiness inside. I’ve been there.  Yet, I rejoiced that he opened the door to tell him the Truth.

2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

I said, “You might think that from the outside, but there is freedom in God’s grace, acceptance in His forgiveness. I don’t have to be good enough. I can’t be. I just have to accept God’s gift and follow Him.” I can’t know if he could hear me, or if his heart softened towards God at all in that moment, but I can pray that continuing to let God fill my heart, be my portion, lead my life can be a light to others still lost in their sin.

And be grateful . . .

Romans 6:17 ESV “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,”

 

 For more on a similar subject by a wonderful blogger, check out Kimberly Suchta “To All The Girls Who Didn’t Say No”

Swimming Lessons

“Mommy is right here. You know I won’t let you get hurt, right?”

“Right . . .” Tiny arm wraps around my neck, clutching me in a death grip.

“You know that I will be here the whole time, right?”

“Right . . .” Little fingers clutch at my hair.

“You’re going to have to trust me.”

“But I don’t trust you!” she wailed at a paint peeling decibel. I’m sure the neighbors were quite certain I was committing various acts of torture instead of just trying to get my child to float in the pool with her life jacket on.

Proverbs 3:5 ESV “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

I am asking her to trust me, not her own perceptions, but she can’t see that from just a few weeks old, I’ve been teaching her to swim. First we got her used to water, got used to getting her face wet, pouring water over her head, then we worked on blowing bubbles, then floating in various inflatables and life jackets, learning to kick and paddle even in the tub, then learning to lay flat in the water, kick with straight legs, pull with her arms. It was step by step, inch by inch, but she can’t see that. All she sees is “deep” water and I’m asking her to jump in with nothing to hold her up, promising her that I’ve given her the tools to swim, and that I’ll be there when she falters. But she is struggling to trust what she cannot see or understand.

So how will she ever trust me in the future when I try to stop her from making a huge poor decision, when she needs to respect and believe my wisdom? I am sure I will get many chances to answer this question in far fewer years than I would like, but for today the answer is swimming lessons that are really ‘trust me’ lessons.

I immediately switched my plan from trying to teach her to swim to teaching her that she can trust me. Someone might ask, “Shouldn’t she just trust you, you’ve been there her whole life?”Of course, but what will it hurt to show her again? Why not let her see that in everything, she can trust and believe me?

At some point, she will have to make a choice to look at who I’ve been to her and decide to trust me or not, but at 4, showing her that she can trust me gives her more evidence to trust me in the future. When I think about trusting God, we can look at the Bible and our lives and see He has forever been faithful and trustworthy. He proved it, over and over. I need to demonstrate that kind of steadfastness for her.

“I won’t let go until you say I can.” was my new mantra for the day. We still had quite a bit of screaming, but I just got quieter and closer every time she was scared. I’m just like most of you, winging this whole parenting gig, but I’m trying to understand who God wants me to be for her. Somehow, I just knew that she needed me to be close and comforting, and start small.

I put her chin on my shoulder, my hands under her tummy, my cheek against her cheek as she practiced kicking and paddling. When she got scared or nervous about falling, I whispered to her, like I picture God whispering to my heart when I need to hear Him, when I’m afraid, when trusting Him seems impossible even though I know He loves me, created me, knows me inside and out (better than I know myself, better than I know my daughter).

Psalm 56:3 ESV “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

It is easy to panic when we’re afraid. It is easy to be scared. When non-Christians see a believer meet a tough situation with strength and peace, they are often surprised to see such calm. We aren’t calm because everything is easy, but because we know God is trustworthy. He has us in the palm of His hand. God doesn’t promise us an easy life, but he promises us help to live it. He promises to be present for us in the darkest times, to hold us up when the world is trying to drag us down.

It took a long time, but she started to quiet down, to know I was with her. To be able to know I wasn’t letting go and would pick her up if she fell. That first day, we spent most of the time just working on trust. It was really hard for me not to push her to swim on her own, but just to let her get comfortable in my hands. We just did everything slowly, I held her tightly. I let her decide when she was brave enough to let go of me.

From a swimming lesson viewpoint, that day probably looked counterproductive. She did less than she had ever done in the past, but we were quiet, no screaming. We spent three or four afternoons in the pool like that, just gradually building trust, less crying and being afraid. We worked on taking off the life jacket and being more and more confident in the water. She is going to learn to swim, eventually. I would rather it take an extra summer and be a lesson in love and patience, rather than fear.

1 John 4:18 ESV  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

What is perfect love? I want that! I want to have it, to be it.

Romans 5:8 ESV

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God demonstrates perfect love for us in that while we were yet sinners, He sent His son to die for us. He loved us first because He did, not because we were worthy. He loved our children before our grandparents were born. God instructs us, but doesn’t want to hurt us. His instruction is to teach us, to draw us closer, to obey Him, to fear Him in the sense of awe and respect, not terror.

I could have thrown her into the pool. She would have been able to swim enough to pull herself up and get to the ladder. I knew this; she did not. Terrorizing her wouldn’t have made her a better swimmer. It would have broken a trust between us. She would have learned in fear, not confidence. In striving to be more like Christ, more like God, I chose to demonstrate the best understanding of love I have for today and to be patient and gentle, teaching her to trust me.

Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

As believers, we do not live in fear because we know we can trust God, even when life is hard and painful. He is steadfast. Obeying and loving God has given me a peace I never could have anticipated. A strength that I never would have understood with just human understanding. I was a swimmer tossed about by every wave, changing direction, getting pulled under time and time again. Focusing on God’s plan for my life, His purpose for me, gives me strength and peace about my future. I know I’m going to heaven, what else should I be concerned about? Making sure everyone I meet has the same peace and future to the best of my ability and purpose.

She will have to choose her own faith someday. She will have to decide if she loves God for herself, if the Bible is true. Today, I am the person she spends the most time with, the person who is a living demonstration of God for her. I am going to fail at this often, but am growing in my faith daily, which is helping me grow as a parent. I am actively working on reflecting God in all my interactions with her and the rest of my family and friends. Being steadfast and trustworthy in this little way will hopefully be an accurate reflection of our Heavenly Father, holding us, whispering, “I’ve got you” into our hearts when we’re afraid.

I pray that learning to trust me will not only teach her to swim, but to trust God because she could trust me and because I trust Him.

And little by little, she did learn to trust me and to have confidence in herself. Then, just two weeks of swimming (trust) lessons every couple of days, she did what I knew she could all along. She was confident and capable.

We’re still working on floating, but I hold her, and whisper to her, waiting for her to say, “Let go.” But today she swam the diameter of our pool twice without floaties and without my hand touching her. I simply swam beside her and encouraged her to kick harder.

She knows now that I’m trustworthy in this little thing, which will hopefully lead her to trust me in more than just swimming lessons, and lead to a growing trust in God as well.