By Mary Mays
New mom and wonderful contributor
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
I have always struggled a bit with legalism, guilt and pride. I feel the need to do everything perfectly and when I don’t, I deal with guilt. On the other hand, when I think that I’ve accomplished a goal, I sometimes swell with arrogance from a job well done. This happens with spiritual things, for example evangelism. I feel extremely guilty when I don’t share Jesus with others, and pat my self on the back when I feel like someone has been receptive to the gospel. This shouldn’t be! I do the same thing with smaller things – I stress out about how my house looks and whether I’ve prepared a perfect meal – as if the people who enter my home are rating me on some sort of a scale.
Since having my son, I’ve realized that women, and specifically moms, are in desperate need of grace. I know that’s not something revolutionary, but I’ve learned it in fresh, new ways.
Yesterday, I went to a friend’s house. She is a mom of two who are under two – so clearly she has her hands full. She just got back from a ministry conference, out of state, and was getting ready to head out of town again for a friend’s wedding, followed by a beach vacation with her in-laws. I marvel at how she’s able to do all these things and mother her two children so well.
Anyhow, when I came into her home, she was holding her six week old boy, and her almost two year old was eating. We talked for only a few minutes before she offered an explanation for the chicken nuggets and pizza rolls on her toddler’s plate: “She doesn’t normally eat this, I just didn’t have anything fresh because we just got back from a trip and are going out of town again – so I didn’t want to get things that would go bad. Plus, it’s hard to get to the store with both of the kids, and I haven’t had a chance this week.” I nodded in agreement – I frequently do the same before a trip, and certainly can’t imagine a grocery store with two such small kiddos yet…. I’m still a rookie mom for sure.
We chatted and visited for a few hours, and didn’t speak anymore about the food items on her daughter’s plate. However, as I was leaving, I thought a bit more about her explanation. I wondered why she felt the need to explain it to me – did she think I was judging her choices? Then, I thought about how many times I’ve explained myself – wanting those around me to know that I am a “good mom” who is trying to make the best decisions possible for my son. I also thought about how many other moms have done the same thing. I’ve heard exhausted mothers explain that they don’t normally let their child watch TV or play video games, but it had been too rough a week. I’ve visited friends who apologized for the state of their homes, saying they hadn’t had a chance to clean. I’ve had multiple friends explain that what their child was eating wasn’t something he/she usually has. And, for the first time, I wondered, why? Are people really judging other moms as much as we think they are? And if so, why?
I’ve thought about the so called “mommy wars” – the battles mothers have over which methods are best and who is getting it right. And then I realized, that instead of judging other moms, defending our ways of parenting, or trying to convert someone else to do the same things we do, we need to practice extending grace – to ourselves and to each other. We need to stop pretending we have it all together, get real with one another, and come alongside each other to do this thing called motherhood together.
When our homes don’t look like could be showcased in a magazine, and our kids aren’t eating local organic food, we don’t need to hide it or make excuses. Similarly, when we see other moms making what seem like less than perfect choices, we need to offer them grace and prayer – who knows what they are going through. It’s hard to know the back story behind the decisions a mom has made, but we should pray that God would keep us from swelling with pride or arrogance, and ask him to remind us that we are all so desperately needy. We need His love and His grace for when we mess up. And, praise Him, He is always ready to extend it. Oh, that He would transform us into His image and make us more like Him.
Thank you for the grace you so readily extend to those who desperately need it. Help us, as moms, to do the same. Help us to come alongside each other and encourage one another in this journey of motherhood. Prevent us from swelling with pride over our parenting choices or judging others, and make us constantly aware of our desperate need for Your guidance and direction. Amen.
Sharing at Titus 2sday and NOBH.
By Mary Mays
Contributor at Cross Moms
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John3:1
Valentines Day 2011 was one of the best days I can remember. I’m a sucker for romantic gestures but I’ve probably watched one too many chic flicks, so my expectations aren’t always the most realistic. My husband, bless his heart, tries, but typical romance is not exactly his strong suit. He’s great at loving me though, and he knows that romance is one way I receive love, so he works at it.
Anyhow, on Valentines Day 2011, he outdid himself. When we discussed our plans, he asked what I wanted to do. I told him I’d love a home cooked meal – that I didn’t feel much like going out. When I got home from work – I was surprised and amazed. I walked in the door, and was greeted by a red balloon with a note that read, “Pop me”. I popped the balloon and inside was a note that said, “Continue popping the balloons up the stairs for a list of a few things I love about you.” I popped each one, and read, with tears, something my husband loves and appreciated about me. Then, in our room was the last balloon, which was a message that sent me on a scavenger hunt throughout the house, looking for a variety of sweet gifts. I giggled, like a school girl, as I ran throughout the house, finding my surprises. I also realized, the house was spotlessly cleaned (a vast improvement from it’s state when I had left for work that morning). My wonderful, sweet, loving husband had taken the day off, cleaned the house, and then planned and executed this incredibly romantic idea. I was amazed.
This past weekend, we moved out of our house, and into my parents for the summer. My husband packed until midnight on Friday, while I slept, exhausted from a week of packing, entertaining, teaching and being a mother. Saturday, he worked tirelessly, doing the manual labor of moving, loading and unloading boxes and furniture. Sunday, he helped clean our old house, as I tended to our sick child. Then, Monday, on his day off, he changed the oil in both our cars, and helped change my sister’s brake pads. My husband has worked diligently the past few months – preparing the house to go on the market, fixing things as dictated by the home inspection, preparing for our move – all while working full time and being a wonderful husband and daddy. And he did it so I can stay home with our son next year.
There were no red balloons, no sweet notes, and no presents this weekend, but my husband’s acts of service were more romantic, and demonstrated more love to me than anything else could have. His sacrifices on behalf of our family were tremendous, and I am so grateful. I fell asleep this past Saturday night thinking about how I haven’t felt a lack of “romance” lately, even though, tangibly, there haven’t been any great gestures. That “typical” romance wasn’t needed. I went to sleep with a deep, satisfying comfort – an assurance of and security in my husband’s love for me.
Then I thought about how it’s the same with God. Sometimes, he demonstrates his love with big, romantic gestures – those moments, like my Valentine’s Day, where he communicates with red balloons and love letters to us. Other times, it looks different. He shows us his love through the help of a friend, the beauty in nature, or even, sometimes, in his discipline. I’m learning to love and appreciate all of the ways my husband communicates love to me – and am trying to do the same with God. What ways does God show you love that you struggle to recognize? Look for signs of his love toward you this week – it’s all around!
Thank you for my wonderful husband, and how you use him to teach me about your love for me. Thank you that he loves me the way that Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her. You are so good, and you love me so perfectly. Please open my eyes to see your love, regardless of how it is demonstrated towards me.
This past Sunday was a very special first for me – the first Mother’s Day where I, too, was celebrated as a mom. With both my husband and my family living close by, we make a point to see both our families for most holidays. Knowing it would be a busy weekend, our little family of three celebrated my Mother’s Day on Saturday (with a 5K walk for my school, strawberry picking, a yummy dinner at home and strawberry shortcake). My son and husband also made me a picture gift (Eli is holding the letters to spell MOM – so precious). It was a sweet, sweet day I know I’ll always cherish.
Then, on Sunday, we visited both our moms. We took dinner and gifts for each one, hoping to make their day special and show them our appreciation for years of caring for us and loving us well. This year, because I am a mom, I was a bit more reflective about the holiday than normal.
I’m a gift-giver – it’s one of my love languages. Regardless of the holiday, I think long and hard about the gift I will give, and try to imagine the receiver’s response when they open it. I keep a little section in the back of my planner with ideas. Whenever I hear someone mention something they need, or would like to have, or something they really like that belongs to someone else, I make a note to refer back to when an occasion comes around (or, even better, for no occasion at all). It’s how I give and receive love.
Last year I got my mom pearl earrings. The freshwater pearls were beautifully nested in gold rings, and they were perfect for my mom. I remember thinking that I’d done it. I’d gotten her a wonderful gift, one that would adequately show my appreciation and “repay her” for all she had done as my mom.
Oh, how naïve I was! Though my son is only five months old, he has taught me a great deal about motherhood already. More than anything else, I’ve learned that being a mom requires a great deal of sacrifice. My needs and desires are secondary to his. My time is not my own. This dear, sweet little boy is completely and utterly dependent on me, and my job is to care for him well. This means getting up for feedings in the middle of the night, when I’m exhausted. It means missing a nap because he won’t go down, and reading countless children’s books instead of my own. It means buying onesies and rompers instead of jeans and dresses, diaper bags instead of purses. It means he eats before I do (and often heating and reheating food).
When I think of these few sacrifices I’ve made for Eli thus far, I am overwhelmed by all my mother did for me. She has loved me well, sacrificed tremendously, and met my needs and wants with delight. Oh, how silly to think that pearl earrings (or any other attempt at gift giving) could repay her. Also, what a joy to realize that her love for me, shown in these sacrifices, never asked to be repaid. She didn’t love me well for Mother’s Day – for the gifts she might one day receive. That’s not how a mother’s heart works.
I am reminded that it is the same with God. Because I am a gift-giver, and tend to be very performance-based, I often think that I need to earn God’s love and good gifts. And, certainly, I should at least try to “repay” him with my own “gifts”. I tend to think that if I share the gospel, pray and read my Bible enough, act better and give away more money, that I will somehow compensate God for what he’s done for me. Again, this is silly.
My gifts to God (or my mom), no matter how good they are, or how well thought out, will never be good enough. Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect and ultimate – my sacrifices for Eli, even when he is most needy, don’t come close. God didn’t send his Son to die for us so that we would try to repay him. He didn’t do it so that we might futilely attempt to compensate with prayer, Bible reading or evangelism. He did out of his loving heart – he considered it his JOY to give of himself for his children.
This Mother’s Day I was reminded of two things: to try to imitate God’s sacrificial love to my son, and to be thankful for all He’s done, grateful that I am not required to pay Him back.
By Mary M.
As I finished and read over my last post (entitled Great is Thy Faithfulness), I reflected on my struggle to “remember and not forget” as God instructed the Israelites to do. I thought about my tendency to choose fear instead of faith, without thinking on all the examples of God’s work and provision in my life. Mostly, I thought about my desire to change – to be a person who celebrates God’s faithfulness and lives a life centered around faith in a great God.
I remembered in college when my “core group” of girls (community/Bible study) studied Exodus and made “manna jars”. The Israelites kept a bit of manna in a jar for many years as a reminder of God’s ample provision for them when they were in the dessert. For our manna jars, we wrote down examples of times in our lives when we had clearly seen God work, times He answered prayers or provided for our difficult circumstances. My husband and I have a figurative “manna jar” – we talk about the different examples of “manna” in our life. However, I decided that since my memory isn’t so good (like the Israelites) and I struggle so often with remembering how God has been faithful in the past, I need a more tangible reminder. My husband and I are establishing a family manna jar, to go in our living room. We will write down on note cards examples of God’s provision in our life, examples of prayers he’s answered and ways we have seen him work in our lives. We will share these with Eli and any other children we have, and invite them to contribute to the jar. I’m excited to have a visual reminder of God’s goodness, and hope this will be a powerful display for our family, and those who enter our home.
I already have many things to put in my manna jar including the recent example of God’s provision for me to stay home with our son, countless ways God has worked in my relationship/marriage with my husband, and answered prayers for a church where we could grow and build meaningful, life giving relationships.
God says that we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9
Would you consider creating a “manna jar” for your family? What examples of God’s faithfulness would you include?
By Mary M.
Anyone who’s had a baby before knows how life altering and time consuming those first few weeks can be. It seems like almost every minute of each day is focused on caring for, or at least thinking about, your baby’s needs. Days blend into nights as the little routine repeats over and over and you feel like you will never function normally again. One night my husband and I went to bed at 6:30 p.m. because I knew I would be feeding our son every two hours anyway, so it would just be a series of naps in my bed instead of on the couch (looking back this was a really bad idea because I had to drag myself out of bed even more, although my husband got a good night’s sleep!).
There are a few scriptures that have repeatedly come to mind since having our son that I now understand much better. My understanding of them has changed since I’ve become a mother, and my new lens has helped me to learn more about God’s character and His love for me. One passage in particular is Isaiah 49:15-16:
15 Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.
Previously, I remember thinking, Of course a mother could never forget the baby at her breast, how silly! She obviously would love taking care of his every need, feel compassion towards every cry, and willingly sacrifice all of herself to meet his every need. However, I was quickly made aware of the battle between my selfish, human nature and love for my son. Even though my newborn’s survival depended 100% on my attentiveness to his needs, there were times when it was a deep struggle to want to take care of them. Even though I never truly forgot about him, there were definitely times early on when I begrudgingly got up to tend to him. As I climbed out of bed one night, after being yanked out of a blissful, deep sleep by his cries, I remember thinking about this verse. It dawned on me that God delights in taking care of my needs all the time. He never forgets about me. He always has compassion. I’m engraved on the palms of His hands, along with billions of others. Amazing!
When the demands of motherhood seem overwhelming, and it seems impossible to take care of one more person or meet one more need, we should remind ourselves that God wants to take care of us. He remembers us when life is easy and when life is painfully hard. He pours out compassion on us even when we don’t deserve it. His love is perfect and it is the ultimate display of true sacrifice. He will mother us when we feel unable to mother anyone, and some day’s that is exactly what we need.
By Nikki H.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21.
Not so long ago, I heard a sermon from Deuteronomy about God telling the people “remember and do not forget”. The Israelites’ calendar was structured around celebrations, which were times for them to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness in their lives. This was a necessity, as the Israelites didn’t have the best memory. God brought plagues on Egypt that brought them out of slavery, he parted the Red Sea so that they could cross, and he provided manna from heaven for them to eat each day. Still, when Moses was up on the mountain, they decided to make a golden calf to worship. This used to baffle me. God had provided for them, repeatedly and abundantly. Why would they not trust him? Why would they be so quick to seek another god?
Recently, though, I’ve stopped giving the Israelites such a hard time – because I am just like them. God has also done great things for me. His touch and hand on my life is unmistakeable, and yet, sometimes, I forget. I forget his faithfulness, his goodness and his power. I need the same reminder as the Israelites: remember and don’t forget.
I’m reminded of this because I recently failed in this area. Again. I chose fear instead of faith.
A little over a year ago, I became convicted that, whenever my husband and I had children, I was supposed to stay at home with them. This was not an easy decision for me, as I had always planned on having a highly successful career and working outside the home. However, as I sought God’s plan for my life (and as I realized that I could hardly keep up with everything on my plate even without having children), I realized I was supposed to be at home, focusing on God and my own family first.
With no plans for kids anytime in the near future, I was at peace with this decision. My husband and I decided that once he finished graduate school, we would try to get things in order for me to be a stay at home mom. We had a plan.
And then we had a positive pregnancy test.
Although I was so excited about our little one coming, I was also confused. I felt like God had clearly guided my decision to stay home, and I was convinced that was his will for my life. But then, it seemed my circumstances wouldn’t allow it. We owned a home that was appraised for less that we purchased it for just three years ago, and my husband had to go to graduate school, leaving me to provide for our growing family. I was crushed, defeated and fearful.
However, like he always does, God has provided. He has been so faithful to my little family. My husband was granted a full scholarship for graduate school, and a position that pays a small stipend (which is pretty much unheard of in the architecture field). I was so excited by this news, until we did the math and realized that I would still need to work unless the house sold, which seemed an unlikely prospect given the economy. But, we put the house on the market anyhow, and it sold – in just two weeks and three days. I jumped up and down sharing the news with a friend, and I cried in amazement at God’s goodness and provision. But, when I think about it, that’s really not the proper response. Yes, I should be grateful, but I shouldn’t be surprised. 1 John 5: 14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”
Why did I doubt? Why didn’t I have faith and confidence that God would provide as he has so many times before? When he puts a desire in our heart that is in accordance with his will, he will also make the way for it to happen. (1 Thessalonians 5:24 “The one who called you is faithful and he will do it.)
I am so thankful for his provision in my life. I am also determined to choose faith next time, instead of fear. I want to model that for my son, so that he becomes a child of faith, one who trusts in his great God to keep his promises and to care for him.
An old hymn has been in my head this past week “Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.” Indeed.
By Mary M.