If then mothering

Awoken by the upbeat tune of her alarm clock while she's bunking with big sisters after a late night movie, I sit with coffee, moving her latest piece of artwork from my seat. Ah, that little girl is growing up too fast! I don't spend enough time with her. How could I engage more with her? Enter her world? 
I open my Bible to Proverbs 2 and ponder wisdom.
My thoughts shift to the littlest one in our gang and I thank God for the good night's rest and then ask forgiveness for doubting that I'd get it. As I went to bed last night, I was already begrudging and fretting over a presumed middle of the night crying. Ah, selfish mom. 
The buzz word in my circle of friends is, "mom guilt." And it's not even true. It's a lie from Satan himself. But I hear those lies: you're not enough, you messed up again, he's not thriving...
Then I look out the window and up to see cotton ball clouds scattered across the light blue skyline. Considering my grand, awe-inspiring God, stops me in my tracks. That's the answer: God. Where does my help come from? How do I combat mom-guilt? How do I not fall for the lies? How do I mother well? God.
Tucked in Proverbs 2, is a amazing if then formula for mothering.
IF I make my ear attentive to God's wisdom;
IF I turn and make my heart to understand;
IF I ask God for insight and understanding;
IF I pursue God's perspective and wisdom and insight like I would pursue cold hard cash,
THEN I WILL understand the best way to live and discover His know how.
For God gives wisdom...
And I will be delivered from "mom guilt,"
Satan's path of lies leads to death: depression, lack of an abundant life and shame.
"Mom guilt" is a dead end street.
Escape the dead end: ask God how. Proverbs 2, my paraphrase
The truth is, despite my seeking, I will mess up. My life is a string of messing up, heading down that dead end road, believing Satan's lies, following the way of guilt and then making a u-turn, headed on God's road.
For instance, two days later, my morning mind fast-forwarded to the list of tasks in the bursting-full day ahead and she entered the kitchen in a mood. I fell for the trap, the dead end, reacting in my own snappy voice, rushing hastily and rudely. Though I realized my mistake, the whole day felt drab and heavy. It was almost as if I couldn't believe God's grace really was meant for me AGAIN. Would He really lead me out of this "mom guilt" (and wife guilt) road again? Why was Romans 8:1 (no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus) so hard to accept, to believe?
Because it's truly unfathomable! Even though I choose to forgive a wrong done to me, do I forget it? No, it's always there, in the back of my mind. Sometimes in the forefront when I think of that person. But God doesn't work that way. He forgives and forgets.
How do I move on, out of the guilt that lingers even though theologically I believe I'm forgiven? The answer might be tucked deeper in Romans 8. "For the mind set on flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." I can't move out of the "mom guilt" because I'm thinking about my sin, my shortcoming, my inability. What I started thinking about God's unfathomable grace, His forgiveness (and forgetting) and the abundant life He's promised me instead? That's God's perspective and I must set my thoughts on His way, then I will find wisdom in mothering.
Whether you're a mom, dad, employee, neighbor, friend or co-worker, where is your thought life today? Are you feeling insecure, condemned, not enough? These are lies luring you down a dead end road. Ask God to lead you in a u-turn, teaching you His perspective, His way of life and peace.


"This is what you always do," she groans. "You tell me to do something I have no idea how to do. You just expect me to know."
I hate that word, "always." Really, "always"? I almost wonder if we should take it out of the English dictionary. Or at least my vocabulary.
I want to retaliate. Really, do we need to wash the dress right now at 7:30am? The kitchen is a mess, the baby wants to be held and I'd rather just drink a cup of coffee. And there's that stinkin' word always. Why does she always have to make mornings so difficult?
"Okay, let's go wash the dress." We muddle through the function of each machine dial and while holding baby brother, get the dress she wanted to wear to school today in the wash machine.
I retreat to the kitchen mess and begin my one-handed clean-up. While singing "So Rise and Shine," the umpteenth time, I ponder.
She stomps back to the kitchen, throwing herself into her chair at the table. "Draw a goldenrod."
"What?" I ask in bewilderment. What does the goldenrod she learned about in iNature have anything to do with washing clothes?
"See, you don't know how to draw it. You need me to show you," she makes her point and spins back out of my sight.
Finally, I hear her say that I don't teach her. She's saying she'd like to know how and I'm not taking the five minutes to teach.
I return to her pouting body sprawled out on the living room floor, admit that I've not done a good job of teaching her, I'd like to do better and I suggest we return to the whirling washing machine to review the dials on the machine. Why do moms need to be willing to change? Can't I just be right all the time?
Thankfully, she bounded off to the bus with a kiss, hug and smile while I retreated to my coffee cup and study of 1 Peter.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9
I've been studying the meaning of the word translated, "bless." Our English word, eulogy is derived from this greek word. Zodhiates argues that it would be better translated "speak well of one" and also in 1 Peter three, it implies asking God to act in one's life. The application couldn't have been more spot on for the morning that had just unfolded. Every inch of my being wanted to retaliate, yell, justify my actions but God says through Peter, don't shout back, don't criticize or insult your child but instead speak well of her, listen to her and ask God to work in her life.
So often, I think of Scripture applying to the really big things in life, like being hauled to court and sued for holding fast to your moral convictions. Not what happened over the breakfast table, at the checkout lane or on the highway. Thankfully, my nine-year old helped me see that it indeed applies to the seemly little occurrences and encounters.
The rest of verse nine says, speaking well of others no matter how they treat us is why we were called into God's family or saved, so that we can be spoken well of by God and invite His work in our lives. Through this loving, sympathetic conversation with the golden head, humbly admitting my wrong and inviting Him to work in her life, He will also always work in my life. These encounters refine me to make me more like Jesus. And I think that's a better use of the word always.
The next verses in 1 Peter 3 reference Psalm 34:12-16, which I understand to be a formula for wisdom or the fear of the Lord. ("Come, o children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord," Psalm 34:11.) Take a few minutes right now to mediate on these verses. How does God want you to pursue peace today so that He might work in your life as well as those you speak well of, no matter how they may criticize you.

What's enough?

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
This is why we were created: to show the world God's goodness. But when I think of being God's handiwork, I wonder what's enough?
Struggling with certainty in my roles, I wonder if I am suppose to do more outside or even within these four walls (our family's home). I know I'm called to do the urgent within these walls, just as the engineer is called to provide for his family, but am I missing a call or ministry outside (or from within) these walls?
I've heard over and over, give yourself grace the first year with baby. Heck, I've preached this message myself, but something in me can't help but wonder if I'm missing a work for which God has made me. What about other goals or ministries: freelance graphics; writing; intentional bedtime prayers, hugs and chitchats; date nights; relationships with unbelievers; volunteering at church...? Every time I attempt to add one of these, I get overwhelmed.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:4-8
I am God's creation gone wild and then by His goodness alone, reclaimed because of my faith in Jesus' perfect offering of Himself in place of my life. And God did this for His glory and my good joy. He gets glory when I show the world how good and kind He is.
Whatever I do, has to show God's grace to the "world" in which I'm sitting. Show them that I am nothing and God in His mercy, love, riches, and kindness, gave me a gift: salvation, joy, peace and contentment (just to name a few).
Today, I need to wear His salvation "on my sleeve" for all in my sphere of influence to see. I have to believe that this is enough work. It's gotta be; it's all I got most days!
How can I do this while pursuing other ministries or life goals? I need to be real. The people I meet along the way have to know who I was before God's grace gift to really know His infinite rich grace to me and that it is also available to them. They have to know how rebellious and sneaky I was as a teenager, wanting to fit in with the world and yet have a good face on Sunday. They need to know how self-righteous I was in college, thinking I could gain God's favor through my own self discipline and depravation. They need to know I was a nervous, sleepless wreck last night and God in His goodness gave me peace in the morning. Everyone I meet today, needs to know that the same God who rescued me from who I was before wants to rescue them. He wants to show them mercy, love, generosity and kindness. It's never too late and He never says never.
So what's enough work? Well, we can set out with big goals, but achievement is secondary to showing people the patience and goodness of Jesus along the way.
No matter the goal of your work, what is one way you can show or tell those in your sphere of influence today God's goodness toward you and how in His kindness, He gave you a grace gift and it's changed who you are today.


Writing the date in my journal and wondering why darkness hovers over me this morning, I remembered. Two years ago today, I sat in an outpatient surgery prep room, fighting nausea and waiting for the wee lifeless baby to be removed from my womb. This was my first lost little one. And even though two years of goodness and growth have been graced to me since that 2015 spring morning, my eyes still weep, my chest still heaves in sobs. I am a puddle.
Just this morning, over yogurt, strawberries and granola, the golden heads read the account of George Mueller's miraculous orphanage provision in the breakfast devotion and were encouraged by Romans 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." We were challenged to remember throughout our day that Scripture says, all things. Not just a few things. Or a lot of things. Most things? No, ALL things.
I can testify to God's goodness and working even in my miscarriage: a stronger faith and trust in God, a strengthened marriage, a beautiful space between children and a healthy little baby boy. But that doesn't mean I don't cry for what was lost. I feel at loss of where to turn. Trusting God in the big picture, but remembering that stroke right now hurts. What do I do, right now in the hurt?
Likewise (waiting with full confidence for heaven) the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27
I am trusting the Spirit to minister and direct my course of action and thoughts today. And then I ask those who know me best to pray.
Sometimes, I fault the engineer for being seemingly indulgent with our golden heads: too many Wild hockey games, downhill skiing, vacations, Twins games... But the truth is, we get to hold these children and kiss them in the morning and at night. We get to spoil them and it's just money anyway. Money we can't take and won't need in heaven. Hmmm. I think we need to celebrate with icecream today after school.
During these days with a four-month baby, I'm frequently quoting that song by The Shirelles, "Momma said there'll be days like this..." or Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, "Some days are like that, even in Australia." Don't you agree? Some days are just tough! What we do on those days? It's okay to shed a tear. It's okay to have an extra cup of coffee. It's wise to sit at the feet of Jesus and let Him speak to you and reassure you that even though there are days like this, He will work it out for our good and His glory!


Setting about my morning shower, her words before catching the school bus echoed through my mind, "I'm trying." We called her out on the attitude and she said she was trying to get over it; trying to be pleasant.
Lately, I've been wrestling with this idea that Christ followers try too hard. The beauty of the gospel is that we don't have to try harder but rather let God do the heavy lifting. Being saved from eternal death comes through faith in Jesus alone, not Jesus plus this or that (Ephesians 2:8).  Jesus already did the hard work when he set his face toward death on the cross. Yet, like my teenager, I find myself trying harder to be patient or kind or humble or ____. You fill in the blank.
Recently, while mediating on Romans 8:6, I had this little revelation: it's not about doing but thinking deeply on Christ, on the good news of salvation, on the Holy Spirit.
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace...
Letting my thoughts linger on the good news of freedom from death, that's why Jesus went to the cross. So we can win! We see this command to think on the Spirit in Colossians 3:2 as well.
Jesus paid the ultimate price (His life) to set us free from trying harder to get over our habits, hurts and hang-ups!
...you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ... 1 Peter 3:18-19
Then, putting on mascara and thinking about how to not try harder to have a good attitude, I saw the log in my own eye. Typically, my contentment and joy is bound in my family's contentment and joy. But when someone in our family is out of sorts, I easily take on the same attitude, even though I'm telling myself to try hard not to have a sinful disposition. Even if there are moments in our home when no one is happy, my focus, my thoughts need to be on Jesus! My joy and peace and contentment should be from the good news: freedom, reconciliation, peace, hope of heaven. If I get to see happiness within the walls of my home, it's icing on the cake. And Lord willing, I may win them over with a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4).
Jesus talked about this himself, the idea of not trying harder in Matthew 11:25-30:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
This understanding or revelation indeed is a gift to those who find it. Dwell deeply on the gospel. Come to Me (Jesus), not try harder or pull yourself up by the boot straps but rather, think about Me.
This isn't to say we sit around and do nothing. 1 Peter 1:17 begins, "If you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear (respect, reverence) throughout the time of your exile." You don't have license to do whatever you want because of your faith in Jesus. You will want to do the right thing. In fact, right after we read that salvation comes from faith ALONE in Jesus, Ephesians 2:10 goes on to tell us that we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR good works, which God planned for us to do. When we can do something good, we shouldn't sit back and say, "I could give money toward digging wells in Africa, but I'm just going to sit here and think about Jesus." When given the opportunity to encourage, to give gifts, to serve others, we will want to and we should.
However, when you feel like you can't win, can't seem to do the good you really want to do, when the right attitude is hard to come by or patience alludes you, you don't try harder. You stop and think on the gospel. On the Spirit.
Admittedly, I fail miserably, especially when the baby's crying and needs to be fed simultaneously as the big golden heads. Or when I'm tired. Or when I crave more sugary, sweet stuff. Ahh! Think deeply. Feel deeply. About Jesus. About my freedom. About the Holy Spirit.
Is letting the Spirit work in me really only a cerebral effort on my part? I think and the Spirit works. I'm thinking life-giving, holy characteristics: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, love, obedience, reverence, glory of eternal life... That's where I stop and then let the Spirit do the work? Really? It sounds too easy. But then, so does salvation from eternal death by faith alone in Jesus Christ: Jesus lives a perfect life, dies on the cross as a payment for my sins and then God raises Him to life. I believe it and and I'm given eternal life.
For two weeks, I've been experimenting with this idea. And every time I stop to think about my attitude and actions, they truly are always a reflection of my thought patterns.
So what will you think about today? Are you sick and tired of trying harder only to fail or win sometimes? Will you join me in thinking deeply about Jesus? About the cross? About the Holy Spirit? About the gratitude? About the fruit of the Spirit? If so, I'd love to hear how it works for you. Leave a comment below and encourage us all with your thought pattern experiences.


As I stepped outside into the winter air to start the grill, I thanked God that He caused the ignition switch to work so I didn't have to hunt down matches, try light the gas grill in the cold wind and thus delaying dinner which needs to be completed on a tight schedule so our family is punctual for evening activities. Is it unspiritual for me to think that a grill ignition switch is something for which to be thankful? I've been conducting a little experiment this week: tracking my attitude and my thought patterns throughout the day, then seeing how they relate.
As I returned inside from preheating the grill, I noticed how calm and peaceful I was before a busy night. Indeed, I think choosing to thank Jesus for the little gift of a working ignition switch rather just chalking it up to good luck is giving God glory and it changes my attitude to one of joy and peace.
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6
Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2 
One way, among many, to set my mind toward things of the Spirit (yielding life and peace) is practicing thanksgiving. Paul commands thankfulness in all circumstances to the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
However, I admit that I'm not good at thanking Jesus for a screaming baby. Just a day ago, our 12-week old decided he would have nothing to do with cuddling before nap time. Nothing! Squirm, squirm, cry, scream. Set him in his crib and within minutes, he's soothing himself to sleep. Thinking on this later (not in the moment) I realized that this is new found independence for him is a gift. Yes, it comes with screaming, but he already wants to do something on his own. So thank you Jesus for a self-soothing, sleeping baby.
She's mad. I'm steaming. She's stuck in a rut with a new song on the violin. Stinkin' rhythm, staccato, accents, quarter notes, eighth notes. It's hard. I think she wants help, so I offer. This has only made the situation worse. Leaving the room and leaving her to herself, I continue listening (honestly, I'm still steaming) as she works through the piece. However, at times I can tell she's figuring it out. On her own. Thank you Jesus for nine-year-olds learning the violin.
She hates to enter new places by herself. She loves the comfort of momma beside her. But lugging a carseat in and out isn't exactly fun or easy and she knows it. When I drop her off at her appointment she asks, "Going in myself?" "Yes, please," I plead. And she bounds out the door. Thank you Jesus for twelve-year olds who can (and will) go by themselves.
"Are you sure you don't want someone to go over it with you?" both mom and dad have asked the middle schooler before her next math test. Lately, the engineer hasn't been helping her with any homework but she simply says, "I got it." As parents, we choose to let her go and trust her work ethic. Days later when she delivered the news: 100% on the test, we celebrated with her. Thank you Jesus for her discernment and confidence.
All these  prayers of thanksgiving are really thanking God for my children moving toward independence. Independent children are a gift.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, are the children of one's youth. Psalm 127:4
Arrows aren't meant to stay in the quiver or case, they are meant to go out. Our little (and not so little anymore) golden heads aren't meant to stay in our fold forever, but to go out into the world and spread the gospel. These prayers of gratitude for the little things are really prayers of thanksgiving for a bigger gift of independence. Independent children are a gift.
So on second thought, I will thank God for the screaming baby.
What circumstance in your life seems less than ideal? Sassy children, lying co-workers, broken dishwasher, waiting for surgery, the mundane day-to-day? Will you choose to find gratitude somewhere in that? In Corrie TenBoom's The Hiding Place, she tells the story of her sister, Betsy, thanking God for fleas. Later, the sisters realize it is because of the fleas, the Nazi guards let them have Bible Study and prayer in their bunk beds with other prisoners. Betsy chose to thank God for the circumstance in her life and in the bigger picture, the miserable circumstance was a gift. If you choose to offer prayers of thanksgiving, maybe like me with the screaming baby, you'll see the larger gift.

I'm pleased to report the baby boy found a new pacifier he likes and will occasionally let me cuddle him before naps. Thank you Jesus for pacifiers too!


Awakened by rustling in the bathroom next door and the clank of decor swinging on a bedroom door, I roll out of my bed, slide my feet into slippers, then throw an old sweatshirt over my pajamas so I can go straight to getting breakfast ready before the 7am bus. During the breakfast prep, I slide a horse-sized vitamin down my throat with a glass of water. A biblical teacher once taught me to visualize dressing myself with the following Colossians passage as if each attribute were clothes to put on in the the morning but never before have I realized how much I need this spiritual clothing, or daily vitamin, as to address my attitude, language and heart as I parent.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14
Graced with a unique cross-section of parenting, my home and heart embrace teen, tween, elementary-age and infant. Different stages, personalities and temperaments require a diverse set of needs and training. Each golden head requires a varied amount of endurance, creativity and energy on part and I deeply desire to respond to every encounter with a godly attitude; one of those listed in the Colossians 3 passage. Truthfully, I fail miserably mostly. But sometimes, by God's grace, the Holy Spirit speaks louder than my selfishness.
Angered by the waking baby in the middle of the night, I mutter to this crying infant, "Why can't you just sleep? Momma wants to sleep!" In that moment of frustration, I am convicted by the Holy Spirit, Put on compassion. After all, he's just a baby.
Skirting past middle schoolers in the morning kitchen as they rant and rummage through cupboards assembling lunches. I'm just trying to make my way to that glorious first cup of black coffee. I'm tempted to snap, "Can't you be less messy? Fight less? Bicker less? And could you stop slamming the cupboard doors?" Again the Holy Spirit nips on my heels, Bear with one another. 
A hungry, snappy 9-year old claims she "can't load the dishwasher because it's just too hard." I want to yell, "You'll load the dishwasher because I said so!" The Spirit's voice says, Meekness (humility) is not demanding what is rightfully yours: help in the kitchen before a crazy night of taxiing three kids after you've just made the entire meal. Rather in patience, teach her how in a moment of non-conflict. (I admit, I have to get back to that teaching part...)
The most important vitamins I can take are the virtues of Colossians 3. How do we take these one-a-days? I must daily ask the Holy Spirit for these attitudes so that I can respond in holiness to each parenting encounter. It's not about trying harder but letting God in the person of the Holy Spirit work through you. In essence, praying that I take a compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love daily vitamin, is inviting the Holy Spirit into my day, setting my mind on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5) and letting Him work in me (Colossians 1:29).
After inviting the Holy Spirit into my life, I can naturally "...be thankful," (Colossians 3:15b) for these family moments that sanctify me and give me opportunities to die to myself and live to Christ. And I am thankful for the words of the apostle Paul that instruct my attitude while I train them in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). 
When I desired to become a parent, it never crossed my mind that it would be my chance to grow in holiness. Did you think of this? My mind went to teaching them diligently the words of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Yes, this is biblical but I have overlooked the sanctifying work in motherhood.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16
If seeking the words of the Lord in scripture were not part of my daily routine like taking a multi-vitamin, would I hear the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sinful attitudes? This is how the message of Christ dwells in me richly during these days of parenting: teaching, advising and encouraging these children every day in every activity in every word and action.
Maybe you're not in the throws of parenting, but where are you? God sanctifies us in every stage of life. Where in your life could you be reminded to take compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love vitamins? Let these words from the Apostle Paul dwell in you richly this week as you set out on the course God has called you.