Strong Woman, Good Mom

MothersDayFlowersMother’s Day 2015. Today we celebrate moms. We celebrate our moms, our stepmoms, our grandmothers, and our mother-in-laws. We send cards and flowers to some, and share brunch with others.

And we celebrate the joy of getting to be moms. We are thankful for our husbands and the children who made us moms. We celebrate the privilege of getting to be the one that they call “Mom.”

This year more than ever before have I seen the need to celebrate moms- not just on this day, but on every day. So many moms I’ve met are needing encouragement. Visiting with women on international mission trips and sitting beside the baseball field, swimming pool, and dance studio here at home, I have talked with countless moms who are beat down, stressed out, overwhelmed, and just plain exhausted.  And while all of us are wrestling with the many daily tasks moms must take on, we are wrestling with even deeper questions of value and worth. Am I doing enough to help my child succeed? Am I helping my child make the right choices?  Am I spending our time and money the right way? Will my child be okay?

Being a mom is hard. It is hard physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. People sometimes compare parenting toddlers and parenting teenagers, as if one is easier than the other. While the demands and challenges may be different at different ages, it’s all very hard. And it’s hard everyday.

I think just admitting that to ourselves first, and then to others, can bring a great deal of relief and freedom. In Romania last summer, I met several groups of mothers of children with special needs. Each time I met with them, I would start out with the simple phrase, “I know it’s hard.”  It would amaze me what a difference that would make in the look on their faces. “And I know it’s hard everyday.” Their whole countenance would relax, and several would start to cry, when we admitted this is not easy, and no one does it perfectly, and acknowledged the daily challenge that rules their world.

We open ourselves to grace and to the strength God provides when we admit the task is bigger than we can handle on our own.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When I would finish meeting with these precious mothers, I would take hold of their hands, look them straight in the eye, and with the help of a translator, tell them simply, “You are a strong woman and a good mom.”

That’s what I wanted to resonate with them long after they went home that day. Those simple, true words of blessing that I prayed would counter the discouragement and despair they came in carrying. I pray today that I could share those words with other mothers in need of the same encouragement.

You are a strong woman. Just as God gave you the strength to bring your children into the world, so will He give you the strength to carry them through it for the time He’s given them to you.

You are strong physically- loads of laundry, bags of groceries, double strollers, and sleeping toddlers. Her arms are strong for the task. Proverbs 31:17

You are strong mentally- balancing checkbooks, calculating pre-algebra problems, dispensing medications, and following new recipes.

You are strong emotionally- managing anger, dealing with disappointment, working through sadness, and giving patience.

And you are strong spiritually- drawing near to God, leaning on the Holy Spirit, following Christ and resting in Him.

And you are a good mom. Good moms want the very best for their children, which of course every loving mother does. Good moms work hard with the resources they have to make the best life for their children. Good moms do the best they can in each day, and wake up again to try again the next day.

Good moms, however, are not perfect moms.

Good moms make mistakes, and give themselves grace when they do. They let their children make mistakes, and give the same grace to them.

Good moms know that God is taking care of them, as they take care of their children. And they trust God to be the perfect provider and protector for all of them.

Good moms know we are all on a journey, growing closer to Christ and to each other as we grow up in years. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:6

You are strong woman. You are a good mom. Who do you know needs to hear this today? Do you need to tell yourself this today? Let’s be moms that admit how hard our jobs are, and build one another up as we tackle this one hard day at a time. Let’s turn far away from comparing and criticizing and expecting perfection from others and from ourselves. Let’s trust God with our children, and lean on the strength, wisdom and joy He provides. Let’s serve Him as we serve them.

And let’s remember that the motherly love we have for our kids is meant to be only a small taste of the perfect Heavenly Father love God has for us. The love He had for us before we were mothers, the love He has for us as we mother, and the love He will have for us forever.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Colossians 3:12

We love because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19

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Hope Surrenders to God’s Word

OpenBible

(Continuing on with earlier posts- Hope surrenders. Hope surrenders to God’s will. Hope surrenders to God’s Word.)

Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your Word. I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.  Psalm 119:73-77

Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.  Psalm 1:2

Hope delights in God’s Word, and surrenders to the commands and promises found there. We often run ourselves nearly to the ground, seeking answers and encouragement elsewhere, when all the while God’s Word holds all that we need. The richness of God’s Word and all it has for us await for us to take in. So often, it is a treasure yet undiscovered, waiting to bless and enrich our lives.

I rise before dawn and cry for help. I have put my hope in your Word.  Psalm 119:147

 With two testaments, sixty-six books and 1,189 chapters, the Bible can be overwhelming. Where do we even start? I think we all know we need to read our Bibles more and we all would like to read our Bibles more, but we can get stuck wondering where to begin. Having a plan for when, where and how to study can help get us on our way.

The psalmist here as in other places in scripture tells us to start our day off with prayer and Bible Study in the morning. Whether you are a morning person or not, a few minutes of devotional reading and laying out your praises and prayers for the day can make an incredible difference. For me the few moments I lose in sleep to get up before my children far makes up for itself in peace and direction for the day. My Bible and a cup of coffee in my comfy chair in the quiet before the chaos have become absolutely critical. Find a way to put time with Christ in your morning. “She gets up while it is still dark.” (Proverbs 31:15)

Where to read in your Bible can be a challenge. There are so many verses to take in. I suggest two kinds of reading- devotional reading and in-depth study. Devotional reading may be guided by a devotional book, or maybe a daily reading plan, and usually covers a short part of scripture. Some of the most popular books for devotional reading are Psalms, Proverbs (try reading one chapter a day), the gospel of John, or one of Paul’s letters like Philippians or Colossians.  In-depth Bible study may happen in a longer period of time later in your day. If you are a night person, you may best study at night. In-depth study takes one book or one passage and looks intently into its context, meaning and application. While we should read devotionally every day, we may only study in-depth several times each week. Consider working through a New Testament book, and then alternate with an Old Testament book.

How to read the Bible could fill a year’s worth of seminary classes, but what is helpful for us as we commit to daily Bible study? As we look at a verse, or several verses, we should always look for meaning in its context. Read the verses before and after to get a greater feel for its true meaning. Then see if you can find out who wrote the verses. What you can learn about the author and his purpose for writing will add further understanding. And most important of all, ask the question, “What does this teach me about God?” The Bible is a book about God, not me. I can be quick to jump to the question, “What does this teach me about me?” and look for a personal application, before seeing first all that I can learn about God, His character and His purposes.

Another great way to learn God’s Word is to teach it to our children. As we share the stories of Old Testament heroes and prophets, or the New Testament gospels of Jesus’ life and the early church, we learn them better ourselves. I learned the names of the books of the Bible singing children’s Bible songs. We learn as we teach.

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees, then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the paths of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things, preserve my life according to your Word.  Psalm 119: 33-37

Hope surrenders to God’s Word. Cling to His laws, delight in His decrees, and find freedom in the paths of His commands.