“To accept grace is to accept the vow to give it.”
“To accept grace is to accept the vow to give it.”
Several summers ago, I served on the staff of the Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference, a wonderful conference for women who want to step into writing and speaking. In addition to leading some workshops, I had the privilege of serving as a speaking coach for a group of wonderful women who wanted to improve their speaking skills.
It was there that I met Kathy Helgemo. Kathy had come to the conference with a a message to share and a book on her heart. Last month her dream came true as she and her blogging partner Melinda Means published their first book, Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family. These two ladies began as bloggers over at MotheringFromScratch.com and have now stepped into the writing and speaking arena.
I love their book and I asked them if I could share an excerpt with you. They said yes….and they offered to give away a book! (Instructions for entering the giveaway below!)
Let’s cut to the chase: Mommy guilt is a liar. It tells us that if only we had made all the right choices and done everything perfectly, we would’ve been able to produce all the right outcomes. It tells us that if we’ll only try harder, the internal struggle will stop. Unfortunately, it’s a false, misleading trap.
No matter how hard we’re trying, mommy guilt pushes us into thinking we could and should be trying harder. It pelts us with accusing thoughts like Why can’t I do this better? Why are everyone’s kids more well-behaved than mine? What am I doing wrong? What am I missing? If I would’ve just started earlier, my kids wouldn’t be making these choices.
Mommy guilt stems from an illusion that we’re ultimately in control. Yes, we can guide and influence our children. But from the time they’re very small, they’re making their own choices.
For years, I lived under a cloud of mommy condemnation. I never felt like I was enough. At the same time, I had this misguided notion that all outcomes, good or bad, were the direct result of my actions. If only I could do more for my children, be more for them, get it all right, they’d be perpetually happy and compliant. I believed that their displeasure at any given moment could somehow be traced back to my failure. I provided too much indulgence, too many second chances, and not enough responsibility.
Ironically, I didn’t see these behaviors as unhealthy or enabling. I was just trying to be a good mom and apparently failing badly. I always believed that it wasn’t my approach that was badly flawed. It was me.
The “aha!” moment, the one that put me on the path to change and acceptance of God’s grace, began with a question. Several years ago, my sister was visiting from out of town. After a couple of days, she looked at me and said simply, “Why are you still pouring Micah’s cereal?” It was as if I’d been struck by lightning. Yes, why was I pouring my very capable, able-bodied, nearly preteen boy’s cereal? Somehow that question opened my eyes to a host of other ways I was enabling my kids. Did I truly want to do what was best for my kids? Well, it wasn’t pouring their cereal until they were in college. In that moment, it was as if Jesus simply said to my heart, “I was waiting for you to realize this, child.”
Five years later, I’m still on that journey, propelled each day by His gentle conviction to make adjustments and always covered by His boundless grace.
We can’t control what has happened in the past. Yet we try to console ourselves into thinking that “this” will make up for “that.” Doesn’t that ignore that He has cast our sins “as far as the east is from the west”? (Psalm 103:12). Jesus died for freedom from mommy guilt, too.
I experienced traumatic postpartum depression after the births of my children. Could I have prevented it? Why didn’t I get treatment earlier? What damage did I do to my children because I was untreated and muddling through motherhood?
Those feelings of condemnation led to emotional and physical isolation, refusing to ask for real help (at least not for more than a frozen lasagna), and wallowing in overall self-pity.
When I finally sought active treatment through therapy and medication, the grip that depression had over my mothering loosened. God granted me the conviction that He entrusted these children to me. I had to get well. I couldn’t stay in some dark place in my mind because I was ashamed of how I felt about mothering. There was no overnight healing. God placed people in my life, mostly my dear husband, who challenged me to treat the real problem: the depression.
We can’t go back and change history. The “if onlys” and “I should haves” aren’t productive change agents. With God’s help, we can break out of our paralysis and take concrete steps to act on our convictions now. Here’ s how:
Ask yourself about regret. Here’s a strategy: Ask yourself, “What do I need to do now in order to look back on this time with no regrets?” You don’t want to look back ten years from now, or even one day from now, and want a redo.
Seek support. Neither of us did nearly enough of this, especially as moms of young children, when we were so susceptible to isolation and feelings of insecurity.
Start with one. This helps when we’re overwhelmed by too many areas we want to change at once. For example, maybe we want to undo some enabling behaviors with our children. We can start by asking them to pack their own lunches. The idea is to start somewhere, no matter how small.
Where’s the Sweetness in Imperfection?
If we were perfect mothers, we’d be insufferable. We’d lack compassion and be fooled into thinking we have no need for God or each other.
Our children need to observe a mother who regularly accepts God’s grace and forgiveness and offers them the same. Romans 8:28 promises us, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The mistakes we’ve made, the ways we feel we’ve fallen short, are part of our children’s journeys and can be redeemed by their heavenly Father. We’re going to fail them. Guaranteed. That’s why we have to keep pointing them toward Jesus, who never will.
What about you? How have you battled mommy guilt? How have you found your imperfections to actually be helpful in some way?
If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Kathy and Melinda’s book, comment on this post by answering one of the above questions or sharing why you’d like a copy of this book!
Jill says: One of the beautiful things about the empty nest season is that Mark and I have the freedom to travel together more often than in the past. Since I do quite a bit of speaking both in and out-of-state, it’s great to have Mark accompany me whenever possible.
Mark says: This past weekend Jill’s dad and I moved our son, Nicolai, from Oklahoma City back to our home in Illinois. While in Oklahoma, we also helped Jill’s sister with some home projects. This made it a four-day trip. In a switch of roles, I did the traveling this time and Jill stayed home.
Jill says: I don’t have the same need Mark has for staying in touch when we’re apart. I’d be fine with one phone call a day to connect. That’s the independent likes-her-personal-space girl in me.
Mark says: I, however, like to stay in touch throughout the day. I enjoy texting, sharing pictures of the projects we’re working on, and chatting when we can.
Jill says: While I don’t “need” the same amount of connection Mark desires, I have learned to appreciate the result of more intentional contact when we’re apart. We don’t have as much “debriefing” when one of us gets home as we do when we don’t stay as connected.
Mark says: When the kids were younger and one of us traveled, we would usually plan a “re-entry” date within the first 24 hours home. This allowed the parent at home to catch the traveling parent up on the good, bad, and ugly that happened at home while he/she was gone. We also found that it helped us reconnect sexually because we first reconnected emotionally.
Jill says: We’ve also found a couple of smartphone apps that have been fun to use to stay connected with each other throughout the day. One is the Bitmoji app which allows you to create a cartoon version of yourself. Once you create your cartoon, there are dozens of messages you can share through texting.
We also enjoy using the Couple App. It’s not only where we keep a shared shopping list, but it’s also a place we can send videos, written messages, stickers, and even draw a picture and share it with one another.
What about you? What are some creative ways you stay in touch when you and your spouse are apart?
“Love doesn’t erase the past, but it makes the future different.”
When I read the book Love and Respect, I was first introduced to the concept of “unconditional respect.” It wasn’t something I’d ever heard of before.
I always thought that respect needed to be earned. What I’ve come to understand is that trust needs to be earned, but respect is to be given…to anyone…because they are valuable.
In marriage this means:
Speaking respectfully to him even when we disagree.
Respecting his differences and seeing him as a different, but not wrong.
Respecting his perspectives and realizing he brings important thoughts and info to the table when we are making a decision.
In parenting this means:
Giving my kids a five minute warning when they need to clean up or get ready for dinner.
Recognizing their likes and dislikes may be different from mine.
Speaking respectfully to them even if I’m frustrated.
I have the power of respect inside of me because of the love God has given me and the love He wants to display through me. Oftentimes, I don’t “feel” like being respectful, but with God’s help I can be!
Today is our Third Thursday Blog Hop where other moms are sharing about respect this month. Hop around, find encouragement, and unleash YOUR power to respect! (If you receive my posts by email, you can find the Blog Hop links here!)
Last September, Mark and I started taking an exercise class together. It’s a first for us as we’ve always done any exercise routine we had independent of one another.
Last August, our youngest headed off to college and we suddenly realized that we had a newfound freedom to explore. We decided to sign up for a 10 week “Extreme Bodyshaping” class together.
Doing this class together has caused us to ask, “What else are we doing apart that we could be doing together?” It’s a good question for any couple to ask, no matter their season of life.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of hearing John Rosemond speak. He shared about the tragedy in our culture of our lives revolving around our children which is not only creating a self-centered generation but it is also destroying marriages. He said that he often surveys his audiences when he speaks about how much time they spend nurturing their kids and how much time they spend nurturing their marriage. Most often it is in the vicinity of 95% kids and 5% marriage. No wonder so many families are falling apart. We are child-centered when our children desperately need us to be marriage-centered. You see, when mom and dad’s relationship is strong, it gives a sense of security to the kids.
Of course, it’s important that we have our own hobbies, interests, and even friendships. It wouldn’t be healthy to do EVERYTHING together. However, there are things we do apart that we don’t need to be. Consider some of these things:
If your kids are little, it may be harder to run errands, exercise, or grocery shop together, but going to bed at the same time, cooking dinner, or reading together could be possibilities.
Marriage require investment. It needs intentionality. Evaluating what you are doing apart that you could be doing together is an important step in moving from me to we.
What about you? What are you doing apart that you could be doing together? What is one change you could make to move from me to we?
“Don’t ever let the place you start dictate where you finish.” ~Unknown
This is part 2 of my Fifty Shades of No post.
Over twenty years of ministry, Mark and I have mentored hundreds of married couples in crisis. Many of those couples were dealing with issues caused by pornography–and no, it wasn’t always the guys. Sometimes it was the women who were reading erotica or even just secular love stories filled with steamy love scenes. Many of these couples would say, “Marriage shouldn’t be this hard.” When we would dig deeply into why they expected marriage to not be so difficult, it often came down to the television shows they watched, the novels they read, or the movies they viewed that painted a different–and unrealistic–picture.
I’ve seen way too many marriages begin to fall apart because the couple was not careful and discerning about the messages they were believing from whatever form of media they were “digesting.” Some even admitted that it was constant exposure to work conversations or the moms they were hanging around with that were affecting their perspective, causing discontent, or eroding their sense of right and wrong. We tell our kids that they need to choose their friends wisely and that applies to us as parents, too!
No I won’t see the movie or read the book but I have seen plenty of movies and read plenty of books that have affected my thinking and skewed my perspective even just a slight bit. The problem with that is a slightly skewed perspective away from the way God wants me to live can easily become a slippery slope.
Let me share with you one such time and one such movie that has forever stuck with me. This was many years ago when Mark and I were experiencing a tough time in our marriage. It was a few years after he finished Bible college and a few years into his first ministry assignment. I was a stay-at-home mom of four little ones. Mark was busy with ministry and we were living under the same roof but there wasn’t a lot of emotional connection in our relationship. I wouldn’t say our marriage was in trouble, but my heart was definitely vulnerable.
One night Mark was at a church meeting. I put all the kids to bed and decided to pop in a movie I’d rented earlier in the week. It was the movie The Bridges Over Madison County.
The movie was about a mom named Francesca who was devoted to her family (played by Meryl Streep). Her husband was gruff and unkind and it was obvious she was living in a loveless marriage. The husband took the kids away for four days to the State Fair leaving mom to care for things at home.
A photographer, Robert (played by Clint Eastwood), stops by the farm to ask for directions as he’s looking for covered bridges to photograph. Francesca befriends the photographer and takes him to see the bridges he’s searching for. A four-day affair results between the two characters. While this didn’t happen on the screen, it was as if her life went from black and white to color. The way the movie presented the picture was as if the affair brought color to her life.
As I was sitting there watching the movie, I began to have thoughts like these:
Before I knew it, I was swept into what I saw on the screen and personalizing it for my life. I was resonating with the character’s loveless marriage and rationalizing why her actions were okay for her and ultimately would be okay for me.
Then I caught myself. Conviction entered my heart. Wow….I got sucked into that message so easily! I almost started to believe lies that could have destroyed…particularly if I would have acted on those lies, believing my happiness was all that needed to be considered.
What we think, what we read, what we see does affect our morals, our values, and our sense of right and wrong. I have personally experienced that…or I wouldn’t have taken the time to write about it.
The Bible isn’t relative to what we think or feel. It’s truth. Absolute truth. God gives it to us as an instruction book for life. Not to limit us, but to set us free and protect us from making choices that can hurt us or those who love us. He gives us guidelines for what to think and directions for how to live because he loves us and wants the best for us. Our feelings can lead us astray, because they change all the time. God’s truth guides us because it never changes.
Several have asked why this book and movie were singled out. If we’re concerned with them, shouldn’t we be concerned about other books we read and movies we watch. Yes! Absolutely yes! There are good reasons you don’t let your kids read or see certain things and there are good reasons why we, as parents, should be discerning about what we read or see.
As one who has helped put back together the pieces of too many broken lives and broken marriages–including my own– I can attest that being careful about the messages we expose ourselves is very important.
That’s not judgment. Nor is it criticism.
That’s first-hand experience.
You can still enter the giveaway we announced yesterday. I apologize that the link sent out yesterday didn’t work. Many of you found where to share your comment on the blog site in order to enter the giveaway, but if you didn’t and you’d like to enter, you can do so here. Because yesterday’s link didn’t work, we are extending the giveaway through midnight CST tonight (2/10/15)
Several years ago, when the Fifty Shades of Grey novel released, I wrote about it in a post I titled Fifty Shades of No. Because of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie releasing this weekend, today and tomorrow I will be sharing an updated repost of that message today and another one I called “Fifty Shades of Experience” tomorrow.
I also want you to know about an offer my friends Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh are giving this week over on their website www.TradeYourShades.com. It’s a book exchange for those who already own the Fifty Shades of Grey book. If you send in your book, they’ll send you their book Pulling Back The Shades…a book I’ve personally read and can heartily recommend.
Now here’s my updated thoughts on the dangers of books and movies like Fifty Shades of Grey.
There’s a push these days for healthy eating. We have more nutritional information than any previous generation and many of us are conscious of our carbs, sodium, and calorie consumption more than ever before. Countless concerned moms are limiting processed foods and trying to provide fresh, organic foods for their families.
There’s also a push for green home products. More and more we’re hearing about just how many chemicals can be found in everyday cleaning supplies. Scores of conscientious moms are making their own cleaning supplies using natural products like vinegar and baking soda.
After all, we want what’s best for our family and some of us will go the distance to protect them from the dangers of this world. Right?
We’re concerned about what we’re putting in our mouths. We’re concerned about what we’re absorbing through our skin. Why then are we not concerned about what we’re feeding our minds?
What I’m talking about are the droves of women who are grabbing girlfriends and planning to go see the movie Fifty Shades of Grey this weekend. I also just learned there will soon be a sequel to the movie “Magic Mike” which also released around the same time the Fifty Shades of Grey book several years ago.
Let me tell you right up front, I haven’t seen the movie “Magic Mike,” nor have I read Fifty Shades of Grey. I won’t be opening my heart up to either one. Why? Because I firmly believe they are junk food for the mind.
In the same way that potato chips do nothing to nourish my body, movies about male strippers and erotica novels do nothing to nourish my mind. Not only that, but Fifty Shades of Grey has been determined to be the most sexually explicit movie ever to receive an “R” rating. An “R” rating ensures a wider release than an “NC 17″ rating that would have likely limited its release.
There’s a reason God tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
He clearly wants us to consume only what is good for our mind.
I won’t be reading an erotica novel or seeing a sexually tantalizing movie for these reasons:
Don’t get me wrong. I like sex. A lot. I wouldn’t have written a book on the subject if I didn’t!
However, I’m intensely aware of how easily the human heart can be led in the wrong direction. A movie here. A novel there. Before you know it, your heart has been drawn away from the things most important in this world.
For me there’s fifty shades of “no” and there’s no magic in Mike…only Mark.
As this movie releases this weekend, will you join me in fifty shades of “no?”
Yesterday I had a text conversation with a friend. She has been frustrated with the lack of spiritual intimacy in their marriage. From her perspective, they have not been attending church or engaging in any spiritual pursuit together. She said that somehow her requests seem to be “making him feel inadequate, as if he can’t do it right.” I suggested that she take baby steps in her requests. Maybe rather than talking with him about ALL they’re not doing that she wants to do, she could start with a request like “I love it when we go to church together. Do you think we could start that again?”
Then she said “Well I guess he has stepped up a little. We have gone to church three weeks in a row. That’s a record for us.”
“So,” I responded, “Have you thanked him for that? Have you said, ‘Honey, thank you so much for making church a priority the last 3 weeks. That means the world to me!'”
Her response: “No, I guess I haven’t. Duh.”
Affirmation is powerful in marriage. It’s a tool we all have in our toolbox but it is used far too infrequently. We quickly focus on what IS NOT happening rather than celebrating, thanking, or affirming our spouse for what IS happening.
When my perspective became skewed and I headed down the road of infidelity, I could only see Jill’s faults and failures. I couldn’t see any good in our marriage, I only saw bad. The truth is we see only what we choose to see. When we start seeing only negative, we have to “take our thoughts captive” and move our focus to what is good and what can be affirmed.
This doesn’t mean we don’t address things that need to be addressed. It means that we take some intentional steps to move our focus from the bad to the good. This helps us balance our perspective and even take steps to speak words of life, words of appreciation, and words of affirmation to our spouse.
During our separation, there was one interaction that we had that was very powerful for me. I asked Jill how to handle a certain situation. Jill paused before responding to me with these powerful words, “Mark, you are a man after God’s own heart who has lost his way. I will not tell you how to handle this situation because I believe you already know what to do.”
Why was that so powerful? She affirmed me! She believed in me. In fact, she believed in me enough to trust that I would make a right decision without her input. That was powerful affirmation for me.
What about you? What is your spouse doing that you haven’t thanked him or her for? Where have you been focusing on the negative that you need to balance out with some positives? Where could some daily words of affirmation change the dynamic in your marriage?
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Hearts at Home is offering a huge giveaway for all who have joined us for the No More Perfect Marriages blog series and Marriage Mondays! All you have to do to be entered into the drawing is to share a comment on this post with one takeaway from the No More Perfect Marriage blog series or the last two Marriage Mondays that has really caused you to think or has already made a difference in your marriage. You can also share a thought/question about something you would love to see us address in a future Marriage Monday or in the upcoming No More Perfect Marriages book. We will take comments until noon CST on Tuesday, Feb 10 and then draw 30 winners! Ten winners will get Family Life’s Simply Romantic Nights Resource Pack, ten will win a Dr. Kevin Leman marriage book, and ten will win Hearts at Home Marriage Love Notes to help you encourage your spouse’s heart! You can share your comment and enter the giveaway here!