Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from Molly Jaeger, yet another college friend of mine. Molly teaches online courses when she isn’t chasing after her busy boys. Molly and her husband Nate, are raising their handsome twin sons in Prattville, Alabama. If you enjoy reading Molly’s thoughts, you should check out her blog.
Dear Mom Friend:
I write to you as a fellow warrior in the trenches of dirty dishes, piles of laundry, trails of toys, and snotty noses. In other words, as a mother of two delightful ten-month-old boys. I am also a wife to a godly man who loves me well and who extends grace to me daily in our marriage.
I don’t remember the first time I thought, “I would like to be a mother some day,” perhaps because I always assumed that I would be eventually, but I can say with certainty that I have wanted to be a stay-at-home mother since I was about nine years old. My own mom went back to work when I was in preschool. I recall a day in third grade when my mom let me stay at home from school and play hooky so that we could make cupcakes together (I suppose she was not working that day), and I made a resolution that one day I would not work so that I could be home with my children every day when they got home from school. I do not know what the future holds, but I am very grateful that God has provided a way for now that I can spend each day with my sons.
While I always wanted to be a mother, and a stay-at-home mother at that, I was a bit terrified of the prospect since I never loved babysitting small children. What I didn’t realize was that motherhood is not some glorified version of babysitting. It is a serious, thrilling, adventure-filled, fun, tiring, and challenging calling to train up a child in the ways of the Father.
That calling starts with pregnancy, not when the child is old enough to talk and understand. It starts with a praying heart. A heart that feels utterly helpless to die to self, to love a child as God loves him, to make wise decisions in raising him, and to ultimately change his heart from an enemy of God and lover of self to a child of God and lover of Christ, his neighbor, and his enemy. I aim to pray for my children daily, and yet I fall so short. Sometimes I feel my helplessness and am driven to Christ, but so often I feel my self-sufficiency and pat myself on my back, sure that with the right combination of hard work, advice-giving books and parenting philosophies, I will raise two honorable, obedient sons. The dependent heart, though, is so full of abundant life and peace and noticeably lacking in self-help methods and anxiety. Think of all of the opportunities the mothering life brings each day to PRAY! As I was asking my baby boy to please hold STILL today on the changing table, the verse “ Be still and know that I am God” came to mind, so I prayed aloud that when hard times come his way one day, that Mark will call upon God and be STILL, trusting God and letting Him fight for him. Oh sister in Christ, think of how our day-to-day lives would look if we mothered out of a praying heart! To encourage you in this path, I would highly recommend the book A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (Miller).
So if the calling is to train up a child in the Father’s ways, what does that look like for a mother of small children, other than constant prayer? The beauty of this question is that it depends on your unique personality and set of gifts, talents, and interests. But I will answer it in two ways.
- If your children are not yet at an age where they can talk, think of ways or opportunities that might teach them the character and ways of God in the future and start practicing now. For example, one day I would really like to begin each morning with my boys by reading a Psalm, singing a hymn of praise, and praying for the day. So why wait until they can understand? We began this about a month ago. I start by reading a Psalm aloud (which is never uneventful, as my babies take turns trying to grab my Bible in order to rip out a page or chew on it), then I pick out the main theme and restate it in my own words in a way that a child could understand. I just so happen to play piano, so I hand my boys their homemade instruments (black beans and rice in a medicine bottle and spice jar), and I sit down and play and sing a few songs of praise. They shake their rattles enthusiastically for about 30 seconds before rolling off to find something else more exciting, but the point is that I am able to worship the Father and think upon Him, and also practice because one day the boys will understand! I know you may not play the piano or enjoy singing, but that’s not the point. Think about your unique interests and gifts and use them to get into the habit of teaching your child God’s name. This doesn’t even have to be an activity. Just talk to your child! When you get into the car to go to church, explain that you are going to worship God with His people, because He is worthy! Or when you read a fairy tale, end by telling your child that the story is just like the Gospel—the Prince coming to rescue His bride and set the world free from the evil curse so that His Kingdom can have a happy ending. Practice explaining the gospel now!
- Let your children and your home be a blessing to others, and similarly think of ways you can love your neighbor and serve the body of Christ and your community within the life you’re already living. If you’re like me, you don’t have a lot of free time. So if you think that the only way to serve God is to go on short-term mission trip, serve breakfast at the homeless shelter, or teach a Bible club at a local elementary school, you might end up feeling disillusioned and useless. After all, what can you do when your schedule is packed with frequent feedings, diaper changes, or much needed naps? But don’t forget that your child is a precious gift from the Lord that He wants to use to bless others. Think about your daily routine and the places you go. Who do you encounter that might enjoy spending time with your child? Think about your home. If it’s difficult to leave your home often with your crew, how might you practice hospitality to God’s people and to people who don’t know Him? Think about your resources. Is there someone who might benefit from your stocked pantry, unused coupons, a phone call with your extra minutes, or your toddler’s retired high chair? Think about your gifts and abilities. Is there someone who might benefit from a note of encouragement, your resume-writing skills, or your love to bake or save money at the grocery store? Think about your current interests. Is there someone who might find comradery in your desire to eat healthier or run a 5K or make homemade cleaning supplies? Think about your desires. Could you get to know an elderly neighbor by asking her to teach you to garden or sew a pillow? For me in this busy season of life, this looks like taking frequent walks in the neighborhood to meet our immediate community, visiting two of the widows on our street once a week (one of whom I met while walking with the boys) and hosting a small group from church in our home on Sunday afternoons.
As we consider our callings as mothers, let’s not forget our primary earthly calling as wives. One day we will watch our children leave our home, but we will remain with our husbands. It is so challenging to constantly talk about the needs of the children to the neglect of our husband’s desires and needs. It is hard to pursue intimacy when children tug on us all day long and all too easy to treat our husbands as go-fetch-and-do-this-for-me men, rather than as lovers, best friends, and partners in kingdom expansion and parenting. I cannot fulfill these roles apart from the Holy Spirit’s help, and I need accountability from my sisters in Christ in order to love my husband well.
Finally, as we think about our lives as we learn to depend on Christ for our marriages and parenting, let’s not isolate ourselves. Remember, if we are children of God, then we are members of the Body of Christ called to worship with a local body regularly and serve the body with the gift(s) the Spirit has given each of us. Let’s get to know our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in all seasons of life—not just other moms—so that we can learn from one another. But do pursue relationship with other moms, because we just might be one another’s greatest cheerleaders while our children are small and so dependent on us. And be persistent—an unreturned phone call probably doesn’t mean she’s not interested, but rather that she’s busy, like you—and she might just need you to try her again in a day or so.
What about you? Do you think of motherhood as a calling, and if so, in what ways? How do you serve alongside your children? How do you balance your callings as a mother and as a wife?
The Mother of Not-Yet-One Year Old Twins
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