Yes. I am that crazy mom with the rubber gloves and the face mask and the endless supply of Wet Wipes, who orders her groceries so she doesn’t have to go to Walmart and uses her own pen to sign the pizza delivery guy’s receipt. This flu season has been a rough one, not because I have been personally infected by the flu, but because I have allowed my soul to become infected with an unhealthy fear of the “What if’s.”
“What if” I, at 7 months pregnant, contract the flu and spike such a high fever that I give my unborn daughter some sort of birth defect? “What if” my 2 year old son catches the flu, develops pneumonia, and gets placed in the ICU? “What if…” “What if…” “What if…”
I have never struggled with the brand of fear that I now face as a mother for her children. My husband often tells me that I am a “worst case scenario” person, especially involving our son. I am sure fellow mothers can relate with the dreaded “what if” syndrome. “What if my daughter is born with some kind of serious medical issue that they can’t detect until after she's born?” “What if my son rebels when he becomes a teenager?” “What if that crayon my kid just ate is actually toxic and he goes into shock because I didn’t take him to the ER just in case?” (Yes I am that bad.) I am sure that if I currently had a child in the public school system, I would daily wonder, “What if a shooter comes today and they never come home?”
These fears are exacerbated when we witness those around us actually living out these “worst case scenarios” that our over protective mom brains dream up. I have often found myself wondering, how do I follow God’s command to not fear, when I know that sometimes these bad things really do happen, even to Christians?
I wanted to live fearlessly as He commands, but I wasn’t sure how.
Over the past few weeks, God has graciously delivered me an answer that has helped to rewire my mind from constantly falling into worst case scenario traps and free me up to actually focus on what is real and true and happening right in front of me.
As I was researching this topic, I came upon a quote by Elisabeth Elliot,
“There is no grace for your imagination.”
Elisabeth doesn’t mean that God is less gracious to those of us with active imaginations.
She means that God isn’t going to swoop down and comfort us in the midst of our “imagined” worries. He’s not going to meet us in the midst of our worst case scenarios and give us some sort of divine imagined way out because He asked us not to worry in the first place.
He’s not going to give us an answer for every doomsday scenario that enters our minds because He’s already given us the only one that matters,
In the midst of all of our imagined worries, we can hear His whisper gently,
God doesn’t live in our imagined worries.
He lives in our todays.
And He promises His grace not for what we imagine will happen, but for what actually WILL happen.
We will have exactly enough grace for whatever each day brings.
And only He knows what that is.
We can take Him at His word that He will be enough to sustain us through all of our tomorrows.
This truth has been tremendous in setting me free from the constant nag of worry. Though I definitely have not been perfect, and have to be kept accountable by my husband, I have been much better able to stop my mind before it heads down the dark rabbit trails of "what if’s" and accept His all sufficient peace in the moment.
If anyone should be able to testify to the truth of God's grace sufficient grace, it was Elisabeth Elliot. One day, her worst nightmares did come true when her 28 year-old husband was brutally martyred while serving as a missionary to a native people in Ecuador, leaving her and their one year old daughter behind.
Yet, on the other side of this terrible tragedy, Elisabeth chose not to remain a captive to fear. She did not bubble wrap her life and walk around on tiptoe. Incredibly, Elliot chose to remain with the very people who had taken her husband’s life and continue to minister to them for years.
If it were me, I probably would have taken my baby daughter and immediately vacated the country to find a nice, quiet suburban neighborhood to finish out my days in shaken solitude and lots of mind numbing Netflix reruns. (With 4 padlocks on each door, a top notch security system, and a round the clock, armed security guard.)
This is not to say that Elisabeth did not grieve over this horrendous loss or did not experience pain. This is to say that prior to this event, Elisabeth was so entrenched in God’s larger mission for her life that she was able to accept that this event was a part of His good plan to make Himself known to the world and was able to more readily receive the peace that God offered to her.
Elisabeth faced the worst that this life had to offer and was able to say with sincerity, “It was all worth it to run and finish the race that He has for me.”
Can I truly say that?
As Chip Ingram so wisely put it, "God’s agenda, not my personal peace, comfort, happiness, or prosperity is what I need to understand, and then I need to understand what’s my role in His plan rather than how do I convince God to fulfill my plan?"
When we are more confident of God’s wisdom than our own, and more committed to God’s mission for our lives than our own, we can begin to live more fearlessly, certain that whatever comes our way has been through His hands first and can be turned around for our good and His glory.
-“Courage, dear friend,” encourages Charles Spurgeon, “the Lord, the ever-merciful, has appointed every moment of sorrow and pang of suffering. If He ordains the number ten, it can never rise to eleven, nor should you desire that it shrink to nine.”
This post was originally posted at theunboring.com.
“Prayer is the most significant form of communication that humans, specifically parents, can engage in. When a Christian talks to God, all the power of heaven is at play, and cultures, nations, and history lay in the balance. For parents, talking to our kids is critical; talking to God about them is even more so.” —Will Davis Jr.
Mornings could always be counted on when I was a child. I was the first one up, my brother would eat a massive amount of cereal, my mom would sip a cup of hot tea, and my dad would start out the day on his knees. I would frequently make the error of running into my parents’ room to grab something too early and find him, having just rolled out from the covers, on his knees beside the bed, hands clasped, head bowed in silent homage. I remember, even as a very young child, understanding that I had just interrupted something very sacred, and would quickly close the door and gingerly inch away. It was only as I grew older that I understood just how sacred those steady morning prayers had been. When I graduated from high school, he pulled out a crinkled piece of paper that he had kept on his nightstand all those years. It was a list, a list of all the things he had been praying for my siblings and I since before we were born. He had prayed for our spouses, that we would find Christ as our Savior, and once we did, to live inside of the plan He had for us, and countless other blessings that I can’t even begin to recount. I do remember feeling awed at how many of these requests had already come to fruition and unutterably grateful that he had prayed so faithfully for so many years before actually seeing any results. I will never fully know how the persistence of my father’s prayers changed the landscape of my life, but I want to be a part of helping to shape my children’s future in the same way.
There are some things we just can’t do for our children. We can make them peanut butter sandwiches and tie their shoes. We can make sure they have all their homework stuffed neatly into their little backpacks, and that they make it to the bus stop on time, but we cannot change their hearts. There a lot of things we can and are called to do to help foster heart change, but ultimately, they are responsible for their own sweet souls. That’s where prayer comes in. We can come in contact with the One Being who does wield the power to shape souls.
Though Kyle and I do make it a daily habit to pray together for our children, I will admit that I have not been as persistent, pointed, or consistent, as I should be. If prayer has the potential to hold this much power over my child’s future, I want to make sure that I do it right.
This post is a compilation of some of the best thoughts and ideas I could find on the subject as I’ve been researching how to pray for my children more effectively.
The quote above is from an article by Will Davis Jr. that discusses the importance of offering “pinpoint” as opposed to “no point” prayers for our children. So many times in the lives of our children, and in our own lives, we pray with only the most basic human needs or goals in mind. For ourselves we might pray something like, “God, let me survive this Friday without having to drink more than 3 cups of coffee and without any nasty comments from my customers.” For our children, we might pray, “Lord, please help us get through today without a giant tantrum,” or “Please help my teenager not be too rebellious." We should definitely start with these sorts of prayers, but we shouldn’t end there. God wants more us than just survival, He wants us to thrive and experience the kind of joy and victory that His cross purchased for us, and He wants us to ask Him for it. One of the greatest invitations in the Bible is the call to, "seek and find," to, "knock and find the door opened for us." In the article, which I highly recommend that you read, Davis points out the difference between prayers which are too vague and “safe” and prayers which are “bold” and “specific.”
In the vein of bold and specific prayers, this post has a list of 40 alphabetized Biblical requests or blessings that are wonderful to pray over our children, such as endurance, humility, and generosity. I plan to post this list somewhere in our house, and pick one out to pray for our children whenever I pass by and have a spare moment. Here is another list I found with 32 “virtues” to pray for your children.
Mark Batterson has released a companion book to his best selling book on prayer, “The Circle Maker,” called “Praying Circles Around Your Children.” I have yet to read it, but in this post, he gives some practical pointers that he reiterates in his book. My two favorites are keeping a prayer journal for your children and developing a prayer “mantra” for your children. Similar to my father’s list, Batterson suggests writing down prayers that are specific and meaningful for each of your children and using that as your go to for your prayer times. When I was pregnant with my son, I was fairly diligent in recording my prayers for him, but have since lost track. I would love to be able to one day present both my children with a journal of all of our prayers for them like my father did for me. I am also excited about working on this project together with my husband!
Batterson also suggests choosing a simple, repeatable prayer that can be your family’s sort of prayer theme to be prayed over them in all seasons of life. In the Batterson home, they use Luke 2:52, which speaks of Jesus’ development from childhood to adulthood, “"May you grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and with man." In my house growing up, my dad would pray a blessing from Numbers over us every single night, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace,” or in his own little version, “When He thinks about you, may He smile.” Since my dad is a pastor, all three of us kids had the privilege of having him perform our wedding ceremonies. I remember his joyful yet tearful ending to each ceremony, as he stretched out his hand over the new couple and repeated the well used blessing. It was such a fitting cap to our childhood, and I now rejoice knowing that not only does he continue to pray for me, but for my own children.
I also want to make it a habit to pray with my children and as a family. One thing that my parents did very well was creating a culture of prayer in our home. If we said we needed help with a certain situation at school, they would stop whatever they were doing, wrap their arms around us, and take us before the Lord with our request. If someone we knew was ill or going through a rough time, my parents would often turn off the tv or immediately stop whatever we were doing, gather us a family, and we would all join in corporate prayer for our friend. If one of us was going on a trip, or had an important event coming up, we would all gather around the family member and pray for protection, for wisdom, and for success. I even remember that as a little girl my dad would take the time to pray with me before every soccer game, since at the time, soccer was the biggest event in my life. We didn't just talk about things to each other. We discussed them amongst ourselves and then we brought them before our Heavenly Father. As a result, we children naturally learned to take our requests, whatever they were--soccer games, banged up knees, or college applications--before God. It wasn't strange for us to drop everything and pray.
We knew that prayer was not a magic spell, or a guaranteed method for getting whatever we wanted via a Divine "Vending Machine," but we knew that it was important, and that despite the outcome, when we placed the situation in God's hands, He could be trusted with the outcome. I want to teach my children to make prayer a non negotiable part of their everyday lives, not just something to be done at meal times and before bed, but something to be done "without ceasing," and "on all occasions with all prayers and requests." I cannot tell you the number of times that my father explained to us that the Greek phrase "without ceasing" was the same used to describe a "hacking cough." It should be something we just can't stop ourselves from doing all the times. In every occasion, prayer just spills out.
Thank you mom and dad for leaving me such an incredible legacy of prayer. I pray that I will be able to pass on even a fraction of your wisdom to my children. What are some of your ideas for praying with your kids?
Brooke Hamlin is a blogger at Theunboring.com. She is a wife to studly youth pastor Kyle, and mother to a hilarious, almost two year old, Ryder, and an upcoming baby girl Hadley. She loves chocolate, laughter, more chocolate, and couldn't live without her imagination and blank pieces of paper.
I will admit that before having children, I was inwardly baffled when I heard mothers of young children express that they had difficulty finding even a spare moment to spend with God. “How is that even possible?” I would wonder.
One of my clearest memories from the beautiful chaos following the weeks after my son was born is the moment when I stopped what I was doing, jaw dropped, and came to the realization, “I literally have not had one single second in the past 24 hours to spend alone with Jesus.” Since then, I have battled hard to find the most effective ways to get into the Word with the time and mental energy that I am granted as a mom. One of my greatest fears in writing this post is that the reader will assume that I have this all figured out. In reality, I felt the need to share these tips because it is a daily, ongoing struggle to give my best effort to meet with Him. We cannot, however, afford to give up, since connecting with Christ is the most critical thing we can do both as both a parent and a child of God. The quality of our connection with Christ is the most important part about us. We cannot “outlive” the depths of our intimacy with Him. Though your quiet times may look different than they did before having children, this doesn’t mean that they have to be any less effective or meaningful. I think the most crucial thing to remember for any season of life is that abiding in Christ is a 24/7 activity that occurs whether we are alone with our Bibles and a cup of coffee, or whether we are trying to feed a child with one hand and change a diaper with the other. Motherhood can develop into a wonderful time of remembering that a love relationship with Christ doesn’t just happen in still quiet, moments, but is meant to be an all day, everyday, all encompassing love affair.
Finding that set aside time is going to look differently for everyone. I used to feel guilty that I was never able to have a quiet time in the morning, when it seemed like everyone else chose the morning as their set aside time. It simply doesn’t work for me. It would either be cut shorter than I liked, or I would be too tired to concentrate despite my best efforts. In the evening I am more alert and I find it helpful to meditate on what He’s been teaching me throughout the day. Everyone is different and that’s ok! He made us this way! Maybe you like your lunch break, or enjoy getting up early and are able to stay alert. Maybe you’re in one of those seasons where it’s simply not possible to do any of these. I know that I used to feel guilty about not being able to spend as much time alone in the Word as I did pre children, but we need to remember He understands. He is the One who blessed and entrusted us with our children. Though we can’t use this as an excuse to never meet with Him at all, we can remember that He sees our time constraints and can use the two minutes we give Him today as much as the twenty or forty or one hundred we’re able to give Him tomorrow. The key is giving Him the best that we have.
It’s also important to remember that though it is wonderful to read devotionals written by other more mature Christians, we need to be intentional about spending time with the Word for ourselves. Though the wise words of others may be incredible helpful in our journey with Jesus, it is the Words of Jesus Himself that ultimately change us. It’s His word alone that comes with the promise to, “Never return void, and to accomplish the purpose for which He sent it out.”
I am passionate about sharing this topic, since discovering how to meet with Him literally changed the entire course and direction of my life. I have no idea who I would be or what I would be doing if I hadn’t been given some wise mentorship as a teenager on making time with Him a priority. If I’m starting to get more irritable or find it harder to love others, I can almost always trace it back to a lack of time spent with Jesus. When we’re abiding in Him as we’re meant to, He daily renews our vision and turns our ordinary into an incredible adventure with Him. (Seriously, it’s awesome.)
So without further ado, here are some great resources that I have found to help the busy mom establish a regular, though loud “quiet times” with Jesus.
SheReadsTruth can be looked up online or downloaded as an app, and is a quick and meaty way to get the Word into you everyday. Everyday, the reader is given a portion of Scripture to read and a VERY well written devotional, geared specifically for women, to go along with it. I would HIGHLY recommend, pulling this app up first thing in the morning rather than selecting the Facebook icon. (Which I am totally guilty of) It’s a great way to start the day and let you grapple with some deep questions about how to love Jesus in the sometimes hectic life of a 21st century woman.
YouVersion is the most popular Bible app in the world. Not only does it come with the Bible in nearly every version available, but offers devotional plans on an infinite number of topics. Want to learn about deeper intimacy with your spouse? They’ve got several hundred to choose from. Want to learn how to discipline your children in a godly way? BAM they’ve got it. You can even set it so it will send you a daily reminder to complete your reading plan for the day. For those of us who like to play “Magic 8 Ball” with your Bible and just open up to a random verse, YouVersion can also give you great plans to help your reading stay on track and targeted. On top of all this, they have a wonderful children’s Bible app which can help your kids learn to get into the Word at an early age. This app is a must have!
3) Christian Podcasts
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you simply won’t have a spare moment to sit down and study. That’s why I try to have truth pouring into me through other sources as much as possible. It’s so good for us to be constantly, “renewing our minds” through whatever means we can. I have found that there are an abundance of absolutely amazing Christian podcasts out there, many geared specifically for the mother, that are wonderful to listen to throughout the day. Here's a list of some of my favorites. You can do the dishes and be discipled at the same time! It’s fantastic! You can follow this link for an awesome listing of some great podcasts, but there are so many more out there to explore. When I’m driving, 90.5 FM plays a lot of family oriented programs throughout the day that can be edifying as well.
4) This podcast by “Risen Motherhood”
This podcast basically reiterates everything I said above and shares the personal journey of two young moms and their struggle and victory to spend time with Jesus everyday. Filled with practical tips and hilarious, yet relatable stories, their wisdom is guaranteed to help you in your journey to find time in the Word. There is also an incredible list of resources at the bottom of this page.
5) Daily Devotional Books
When you only have a few minutes to spare, a daily devotional book can be excellent in sharing some life altering wisdom. I know that my life has been totally transformed by some of the books on this list. One of the best features about my iPhone has been discovering its ability to read to me while I go about my day or am driving. This way, I can download a Kindle book and “read it” without ever having to sit down and crack open a page.
-MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST-
The most popular devotional book of all time, this gem literally does not get old. I have personally read through this book possibly half a dozen times, but still find myself convicted and stunned by his wisdom with every reading. My Utmost For HIs Highest is always my failsafe back up plan if I haven’t had much time to spend with Jesus for the day. Each one is so deep I have literally spent hours mediating on individual readings. You can access the daily reading for free at utmost.org.
(This book is also available in an app form) Also one of the greatest classics of all time, this book is composed of letters as if they were written by Jesus to His children. I have found that these letters really help connect me to our Abba’s intimate love for us and His desire for us to find intimacy with Him.
Literally, ANYTHING by Chris Tiegreen is amazing. He has dozens of devotionals but they are ALL awesome. I just went through his “One Year of Heaven on Earth” devotional about the coming of the Kingdom into our lives today, and absolutely loved it.
-PRESSING PAUSE: 100 QUIET MOMENTS FOR MOMS TO MEET WITH JESUS-
I have actually had two friends gift this book to me over the past few years, and it has been a blessing. The stories are deep and relevant to this season of life. A double thumbs up!
Believe it or not, Youtube actually has tons of wonderful material if can sift through the mess and know what you are looking for. When Ryder was an infant and I would wake up multiple times a night for feedings, I would pop on a Youtube video from Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Francis Chan, or Christine Caine. This way, I was being “fed” at the same time as my son.
There are SO many others, I could take up pages and pages just writing about them, but I hope this list is a good start and can help you get a jumpstart on your journey to grow closer to the heart of Christ even in the midst of your beautiful, mommyhood chaos.