Mothering When The World Is Scary: Raising The Next Generation To Change The World

This has been a scary couple weeks for our world. I watch the news with a stomach ache, wondering how my children will grow up, wondering what more horrors they will see and experience. I wonder for their physical safety, political freedoms and what damage will be inflicted on their hearts as they grow and mature. I feel hopeless as to how to protect them, like the world is spinning out of control and we are merely along for the ride, no matter how dark and scary it gets.

There's a question that's been swirling in my mind, a question my friends and I keep asking each other, keep asking ourselves: "What kind of world have we brought our children into?" And more importantly: "What can we do about it?"

So what is a mother to do when the world seems to keep getting scarier? What can we do?  How do we respond to the frightening things we're seeing happen on TV, on the internet and even in our own cities, in our government, at our children's schools and with their friends? How do we deal with raising children in a broken culture?

When I hear about the shootings, the refugees, the political corruption, the terrorism the bombings, the racism, I know my first response is to lose heart, to lay awake at night worrying and agonizing over the devastation in the world and feel helpless concerning my children's future. But as a mother who fears God, this is the exact opposite response that I should have.

It will not do us or our children any good to live as fearful mothers.

God has called us to to be steadfast, faithful women, women who trust in his promises, who believe what he says to be true. When we take him at his word - when we eradicate our unbelief, we can live in a radical way that's counter-cultural to our world today. We mothers can watch the news without despair, because we know God is sovereign and has a much bigger plan than what the 10 o'clock anchors are reporting. No matter what awaits us, or our babies, we don't have to fear because our hope is not in today.

We can live with a rare fearlessness - because we have a hope in God's great redemption story - that even though today I am drowned in grief and sorrow over what is happening to African Americans, to police, to the LGBTQ community, to the Syrian refugees, and so many more innocent people, I can still live with trust in God's great mercy and love for his people - that someday, all will be redeemed. No more tears. No more pain. No more fear. No more suffering or shootings or protests or fighting or people fleeing for their very life.

One day we will be with him in eternal glory, and no matter what happens to us today, we can trust our future is secure. We can mother fearlessly with faith, because of what God has done in the past and hope for what we know he will do in the future. We trust that he is sovereign over all, that he is still fighting for us

To be honest, I find myself daily crying out, "I believe, help my unbelief!" I am not perfect at this, is anyone? But when we put this into practice, when we study God's word, when we spend time talking to him and walking in his ways, we can admit this is a hard truth, but that we know it IS truth. And slowly, surely, our hearts are transformed.

And when we have this truth (as elusive as it can feel at times) embedded deep in our souls we can raise our children to understand the same.

So what does our world need? What can we as mothers do?

We can raise our children to weep for a loss of life. To have mercy on the helpless. To know that all people are created in the image of God - and no matter the age or race, all have value - every life matters. We teach them to have eyes for the hurting, hands for helping, hearts of bravery and valor. We teach them to love God's law, with a deep conviction for truth, yet great mercy and empathy for lost and hurting souls.

What we can do is impact the next generation.

If we want to see our world changed, then we start with our own children. We must train them to love righteousness, to have a deep compassion for the pain and turmoil the world is in, yet understand how to stand up and fight for truth.

You are raising a world-changer, mom.

You are enormously, vitally, part of the cause to change the world.

You are shaping souls in your home, every, single day.

In everything you do, every bedtime story, every breakfast conversation, every walk to the park or drop off at daycare, you are shaping them to someday change the world.

When you talk to your children in the car about loving their black friends well and not placing stereotypes on them, you are shaping them. When you treat your gay family member with respect and love in front of your children you are shaping them. When your children watch you swing by a birth center to stand up for a helpless baby in the womb's right to life, you are shaping them. When you email your politicians, serve on PTA or walk to the mailbox to send money to a cause Middle East, you are shaping them.

Our children are taught, not in lengthy, great, eloquent speeches, or in a few, random moments of awkward talk about Christian values when they are teens - no, they are shaped and transformed little by little, though living life with you each day.

Your children will learn to live their life by the wisdom of God when they have watched you, their mother, model it for them day in and day out.

This is a weighty responsibility. But it is an investment that is worth more than anything else we will ever do.

We are the gatekeepers of our homes, and we will likely have the greatest impact on our children's lives - on what ultimately shapes their opinions, loves and values. We must teach them to become leaders in their generations, deep thinkers and high action-takers, shaped by a love for what God loves.

Our children will be world-changers when they learn to live different from the world, with a deep reverence for the balance of unity, mercy, truth and grace.

When we see horrific stories covered on our news, it should not make us fear and want to hide, it should spur us on to become even more committed to raising our children to become protectors of the helpless, Godly messengers to a lost and broken world. When we have no fear for our own futures (however bleak and full of suffering they may become) we can raise our children confidentially, radically, to rest secure in the same future hope we have in the coming return of Christ.

Moms, if we can unite in this truth, if we all would strive to raise our own children with this hope and truth deep in their souls, then someday, an entire generation will rise up that loves moral goodness, values life, protects the needy, bears the burden of grace and acts in love! It will be a generation like we've never seen before, one that is dedicated to the good things of God, to shaping our culture towards righteousness, towards the way it was originally designed.

When all hope seems lost for our world, there is something you can do, and you're doing right it now. So go, live life with your children, remembering that you are making an impact on generations to come. Your responsibility as a mother is great, but it is not on your shoulders alone - Christ the King has given you all that you need when he gave his life for yours on the cross.

Me and my little world-changers.

When You Doubt God's Goodness (enCourage)

It was about a year ago the doubt began. We had just moved across states, a three month old and a not-quite two year old in tow, living in temporary housing while we renovated a house. I didn’t necessarily want to move, but a new job opportunity for my husband called, and I agreed, wanting him to pursue his dreams. As the weeks ticked by with a colicky newborn, and nap-striking toddler, and no friends or family available for support in a unfamiliar city, the doubt grew. Slowly at first, but soon spreading, infecting, deepening its roots in my heart.

 As I watched my toddler play with the handful of toys we brought to temporary housing, I found myself thinking about all that had happened: the move, the baby, the toddler tantrums, the long hours my husband worked, the colic, the loneliness, the fear – the feeling of abandonment by God. I was wallowing in self-pity, feeling unloved and unseen by a Father that I had always been close to. I began to believe the lie that I am the orphan, knowing I have a father, but never feeling his love, joy and affection for me.

The lies crept further in telling me that I was overlooked by God, unremembered, passed over. I was disappointed with God and questioned his goodness when he didn’t answer my pleas. I was asking him for a change, for the good gifts he promises me in his word, but as the weeks ticked by with nothing but the same struggles, I began to question if God cared for me at all ... to read more visit the enCourage blog. I'm honored to be guest posting over there today!

Backyard Camping & Becoming A Mom of "Yes"

Why is it that summer days always seem to go so much more quickly, and the weeks feel so much fuller? As a SAHM to two under three, it's not like my schedule changes at all. There's no "last day of school," summer camps or sports, so I'm still trying to figure out why it feels like we're running around like crazy to get things done. Lately, between adoption paperwork, outside projects (like Risen Motherhood) and traveling, it's been hard to really slow down and enjoy the summer.

I feel like I'm often having to say, "no," or "hurry up," or "we don't have time for that," and after a while I realized that was about all I was saying. So halfway through June, I decided it was time to change my tune, and become a mom of a bit more "yes." With the longer days, it's easier to keep the kids up later – and easier to keep their good attitudes with all the fun things there are to do outside. Eli's been asking to go camping since Christmas, so one random Saturday when he asked yet again, instead of thinking about how much work it would be and how late a bedtime he'd end up having, I just said "yes."

"Yes! Camping! Wonderful idea!"

You shoulda seen the look of shock on that kid's face.

So Mike and I set up the tent in the backyard and I grabbed a snack for the kids since I knew it'd put off dinnertime (and bedtime) quite a bit. I love pulling out snacks like FLYJOY bars, since they have such long-lasting, healthy energy from ingredients like quinoa, chia, flax and nut butter. Colette can get pretty fussy in the evenings, but having something to munch on quickly puts her in a good mood. As soon as the tent was up, both kids had a blast just playing in it while it was empty – in the future, I plan on setting it up on random days just as a clubhouse for them to play in.

As soon as we brought in Eli's sleeping bag, he promptly requested that we all go immediately to bed and he put all his gear in the little tent pocket while "sushing" all of us as loud as he could. First time I've ever heard that kid request to go to bed.

Of course, what's camping without a campfire? After we put Colette down inside (the beauty of camping in your own backyard), we built a fire and made s'mores with "marsh-pillows." As soon as he was done with the sweet treat, Eli continued his requests to go to bed immediately, so I went inside to sleep in the AC and a bed with a mattress, and Eli and Mike had a "boys night" sleeping under the stars.
Even a week later and every time I ask Eli what his favorite part of his day was, he still says, "When I went camping with you and daddy and made "marsh-pillow s'mores." 

And that my friends, is why it's worth slowing down summer – and becoming a mom of "yes."

This post was sponsored by FLYJOY. 

Four Truths of The Christian Life: Takeaways from TGC Women's Conference 2016


Thoughts have been swirling around in my head for days, and I've been nervous they'd slip away before I had to chance to write them down. Last weekend I attended the TGC Women's Conference, and four days later and I've finally finished unpacking my bags, and now I can unpack the truths I learned. While this is in no way a concise list, these were the things that bubbled to the surface – but it took all my might not to just write down a carbon copy of my notes for you all.

So many good truths were shared and I fear the below won't even do it justice. But I thought I'd share, to process the "big things" further, and in hopes that you might find an encouraging along the way.

It's a matter of the mind. 
I'm a long-time Christian conference attendee. I've been going to conferences since I was in Jr. High and most of them end with a high, high, HIGH emotional high – the last night's talk a capstone to make you sob and recommit something – or your entire life – to Jesus. And this is not always a bad thing, but I've come to realize because it's so focused on the emotions of the heart, it's often short-lived. I've always walked away from a conference "on fire for Jesus" (or something like that), but fairly quickly hit a valley when I'm no longer sleeping next to my best friends in a hotel.

At TGCW, there was never a "moment" or a major sob-fest where I could barely breathe. Instead, I came away with my head throbbing over all the new truths I encountered and ways I wanted to change and develop my thinking. Jen Wilkin talked about how the Christian life begins with the mind, and the importance of Biblical literacy in shaping our thoughts: "Right thinking starts with right desires, which creates right actions." She charged us to "prepare our minds for action" – to battle for holiness and against passions. And the only place I'm going to get right thinking is from reading and engaging in God's word.

Often I feel incredibly overwhelmed by all that I don't know. And at TCGW, it was pretty easy to feel small and inferior when there were Christian heavy-hitters at every turn. As a mom to young children, I often feel like I don't have time to apply myself to God's word the way D.A. Carson or John Piper does, so how will I ever grow in my knowledge of God? But God's not asking me to be Piper or Carson or Wilkin. He knows exactly where I'm at and the season I'm in. God doesn't listen to Jen Wilkin's prayers more than he listens to mine. All he asks is for me to spend time with him, learning about who I am because of who he is. He grants wisdom – "right thinking" to those who ask for it. And so in this season of life, I'm learning not to live emotional high to emotional high, but instead to rest in the steady, plodding, faithful faith I've known since I was a child. To consistently study God's word in the time I have. To find something to study, and learn it. To pick one thing and apply it. To believe in the transforming power of God's word in my mind to transform my desires, to transform my actions.

Sometimes, the right answer is to choose suffering.
I plan to write about this more, but the as the adoption process progresses, I confess that I've continued to go back and forth on whether this is the right decision for our family. I know, I KNOW, deep down that God is calling us to it, but certain things have come up since we started the process that have made me question if the timing is right, and Satan continues to bring lies to mind about choosing something that will make our life "harder than it needs to be."

While much of the conference focused on suffering, Don Carson said something that really stuck with me. "Sometimes choosing the right thing – the hard way – is sometimes choosing suffering." He went on to say that believers should have a place in their life where their life costs something. "You should choose something, not because you want it, but because you should – because you want to be identified further with Christ." I have no rose-colored glasses when it comes to adoption. I know enough friends that have adopted or been adopted themselves to know that my adopted children will bring with them deep, deep wounds of suffering. But I also know enough about God to know that he can redeem all things. That he makes all things new and that his grace will be sufficient for me and my entire family, no matter what we face. It was the perfect truth I needed to shut out the lies of the devil and walk fearlessly along the path to our children. I know adoption is what God has asked of our family – he made it undeniably clear last Christmas – and now instead of wanting to withdraw every time a bump in the road comes up, I will lean into it, knowing I am identifying more and more with my Savior, every time I face hardship and I can rejoice, knowing I am counted worthy of suffering for his name.

"It's family business."
There was a powerful panel one morning on the persecuted church and K.A. Ellis said something that struck a chord with me. "Advocating for the persecuted church is not advocacy, it's family business." Growing up in a family business, this hit home. I started working for my dad as soon as his business started when I was in grade school. Sweeping and moping floors, painting trim and walls, filing paperwork that I didn't even understand how to read. It was an expectation that everyone always pull together and get things done. We always had each other's backs, protected each other and provided for each other - no matter the cost. In a family business, everyone rises together, and everyone falls together. This thinking challenged me to see my Christian brothers and sisters in a new light - we rise and fall together, we support each other, we depend on each other. Even outside of the persecuted church, in my local church, how often do I really have this thinking? One day, my blood family will fade away and I will worship before the King only with an eternal family. If I took the attitude I have for my nuclear family and applied it to the rest of the church, I think I'd be a whole lot more invested. I'd serve more. I'd give more. I'd pray more.

A fearless life because of hope.
Ten minutes of watching the news today and I can't help but be filled with sadness, anger and a whole lot of fear. And it's becoming increasingly clear that as a Christian, I am walking the uncommon, unpopular path – one that often feels lonely, scary and disliked. But a major takeaway from the conference was that I don't have to live as a fearful woman, one that is scared of the coming elections, the shifting cultural values, or the future society my children will grow up in. I live differently from the rest of the world, with an extraordinary courage, a rare fearlessness, that can only be explained by hope of something beyond this world, hope of something more than what I see around me today.

Mary Wilson reminded me that my story is not depended on what happens on the news, in the world. I may be a United States citizen on paper, but ultimately, eternally, my citizenship is in Heaven. My story is the Kingdom story, a redeemed daughter of the King's story! John Piper charged me to live in an odd, peculiar, unpopular way, because I have hope in a reward beyond this life. As a mom, I almost feel like if I'm not worried for my kids and their future, I'm not a good mom. But as a woman of God - I can laugh at the future! I have nothing to fear for me or my kids, because I know ultimately God is in charge. He will provide, protect and care for me, my husband and my babies! No matter what happens to me, no matter what suffering, pain and adversity waits, I don't have to fear! One day I will be with Christ and enjoy him forever – my glory won't happen in this life because I don't need it now – I will be exalted for eternity with Christ! 

I feel like much of my motherhood has been fighting the snares of the devil telling me that I'm not good enough, I'm not doing it right, I'm not thinking ahead enough or training my children well. I've always known that I "shouldn't" fear or worry about these things, but throughout the weekend, the reasoning was solidified for me. It gives me so much freedom to mother with confidence in the gospel hope of the future coming of Christ. To know that I will not receive any reward now – and that's okay! My future reward is so much better, so much sweeter and more wonderful – IT IS WORTH THE WAIT. Oh, how I wish I help each of you mothers out there feel what I feel now! It's empowering to know that life doesn't depend on me. I can live like the great women of the Bible, having faith because of what God has done in the past, and hope for what I know he will do in the future. 

***

And that was trying to keep it concise! There is so much more I could share, but I know this is getting long, and my coffee's getting cold. I've heard TGC is planning on putting all the talks online for free, so if you weren't at the conference, I highly encourage you to take time to listen to some of the sessions while you go about regular life. This was my first year at the conference, but it definitely won't be my last. Anyone else go? I'd love to hear about what you took away!

Why "Give Yourself Grace" Often Falls Short

It was a rare day for both my friend and I. We were in the car alone, coffee in hand, and all the carseats in the back were empty. During the drive, we got to talking about the bible study we were in at church together, about how it's hard, requiring more thinking than our mom-brains have done in years.

"Give yourself grace," I said. "God knows the season we're in, it's okay if we don't get it done each week."

It was a nice thing to say, balm to our guilt, salve to our failings, but was it true?

*** 

A month or two later, I'm on a walk with a different friend of mine. Each of us pushing our double strollers, doling out apple sauce and cashews every ten minutes to keep the kids quiet. We're talking about how we can't do it all. How we try to add something to our plates, and for a time, it seems pretty good, but after a few weeks or months, we start to see our plates cracking and we know something has to give before they crash.

We start talking about how thankful we are for God's grace, how he knows our hearts and how there's grace when we fail. But then she says to me, "You know, I used to always say, 'I just have to give myself grace.' But really, I'm learning I should say, "Come stand in the grace that's been offered to you.'"

And in that moment, I had never heard anything more profound.

***
"Give yourself grace." It seems to be the latest catch-phrase. I'll admit, it sounds good and  I've caught myself saying it multiple times. And sometimes, it's a good saying, a truth to hear when holding ourselves to impossible, unrealistic standards of perfection in areas we don't need to be.

But usually, that phrase can quickly lead us to sticky ground.

I don't know about you, but when I'm truly honest with myself, I often find myself saying "give yourself grace" as an excuse for my sin, rather than something to motivate me out of my sin.

When I lose my temper with my children from impatience, or choose to ignore the dishes in the sink out of laziness, or tear apart my post-partum body out of insecurity, then tell myself, "It's okay that I do this, I'll be better tomorrow, don't worry about it, give yourself grace." What I'm doing is coddling myself by excusing bad behavior and tolerating sin. "Giving yourself grace" skips one giant, vital, all-important step: repentance.

Self-grace isn't true grace at all - it's taking the grace right out of grace, to a point it no longer has any meaning. It's cheapening grace - effectively disgracing, grace.

Cheap grace ignores repentance. Cheap grace ignores the cross. Cheap grace ignores our need for forgiveness. Cheap grace ignores the beautiful, sacrificial redemption story.

Because when you truly understand what Jesus Christ crucified has done for you - when you understand the full weight of your sin and what grace cost: the pain, the suffering, the undeserved wrath poured out on the Son - you will no longer use grace as an excuse to sin in your heart or actions. 

We are not able to pardon ourselves with self-imposed grace, it is based purely on the will and good pleasure of God. Grace doesn't mean you did a little something here or there or even a little bit, grace means you did NOTHING - least of all to impart it on yourself.

Moms, grace isn't about giving yourself anything - it's about receiving and accepting the work that's already been completed on the cross.  We don't give ourselves grace, we accept the grace that has been given to us by God.

And that is true good news. Because time and time again, we will fail – we cannot be perfect moms – but the gospel of grace brings us back to the cross to refine us, transform us and make us new.  It is his grace from beginning to end. It is his grace forever and for always. It is his grace alone.

Come stand in the grace offered to you.

What Moving To A New City Taught Me About Life

When we made the decision to move from Minneapolis to Chicago, I don't think I had any comprehension of the storm that was about to hit. I had just had a baby five days before, had a 20 month old toddler clinging to my leg and must have been on some sort of post-partum drug I didn't know about to have agreed. It set in motion the hardest, most difficult year of my life thus far, but it also began a refining, purifying and growing process that I never would have experienced had I not gone through it.

Moving to a new city where you don't know anyone is certainly a leap of faith - and one that a lot of people are scared to do. But now on the other side, I can say that I think everyone should try it at least once, because the growth and life lessons gleaned along the way are invaluable. Here's what moving to a new city taught me about life:
  • Moving doesn't separate a family. In Minneapolis, I had most of my husband's family within a 20 minute drive, and my family was only three hours south in Iowa. While I first learned this lesson when I moved from Iowa to Minnesota, I learned it again when I moved again from Minnesota to Illinois and my closest family was suddenly five hours away. But if anything, some of my relationships have become deeper with the move because the time I do get to spend with them is so precious and we're so intentional with it. Plus, with video chat, FaceTime, Voxer and all the other amazing technology out there now, I keep in touch with some family members multiple times a day and my kids talk back and forth with their cousins all the time. Moving hasn't pulled us apart, if anything it's drawn us closer together as we strive to keep extended family a priority. 
  • The world is full of amazing people. One of the things I was most scared of was leaving the strong community I had built in Minneapolis. Leaving my mom-friends, old colleagues, church home and neighbors, I was fearful I wouldn't be able to find people like them again. But wouldn't you know, world is full of loving, kind, caring people and I've been amazed by the depth of the friendships I've already built. Great people live all over the globe, and I'm thankful to know a few more. 
  • Time helps you learn to like something. I really, really, really didn't like Chicago when I first got here. Many things looked and functioned differently - and I found myself picking apart everything from the way the streets were laid out to the quality of the parks to the grocery store options. I compared everything to what I used to have and decided on the spot that "It was worse." But being here for a year, knowing how to get around without GPS, and just getting more familiar with the area has completely changed my mind. Things are different, yes, but time has allowed me to stop comparing and to see and enjoy the good things about the city. And realize the things that are better - and that if I moved back, I probably wouldn't like. Ha!
  • Friends can be like family. I've always been blessed with really strong, supportive family relationships - even from my extended family. And I was fearful moving far away from family would leave me stranded and unsupported because there was no family member around that had a "duty" to help me. But I was so wrong. As I said, the world is full of amazing people, and slowly but surely friends are becoming like family to me. Whether it's bringing me meals and sweet gifts of encouragement, babysitting my kids in a pinch, or just hanging out and letting me cry or laugh until I cry (I'm a big crier, what can I say?) - some of the women I've built relationships with here are truly like family. 
  • You grow the most when life doesn't go to plan. When moving, everything is in chaos. There are a lot of things that don't go to plan, and for me, even the move wasn't part of "my plan." But the growth I experience over the past year - spiritual and emotional - has been exponential. (Thank goodness the growth has not been physical!) Moving ripped away my security blankets and forced me to figure out who I was and what I found my strength in. Because my identity could no longer be in my community, in my home, in my perfectly laid plans, and even in myself - who was verrrrry unreliable - I had to lean on my faith, in the one person who is unchanging, immovable, and loves me more than I could ever comprehend. 
  • You can't do it all, but you will get what needs to be done, done. It truly is a myth that "you can do it all." But, somehow, you will get the important things done. When moving, you're buried in things "to-do," and often it feels so overwhelming to leave one place and get settled in another. But things have a way of working out and while the buzz of stress was a familiar sound in the back of my mind, I learned to just "do the next thing," and my small efforts eventually paid off to where the tasks weren't coming quite so fast. It was weird, one day I felt like we were still "wrapping up the move," and the next I realized it was done! There was nothing left to do but to enjoy being "settled." 
  • You are more resilient than you know. During the move, there were so many days I just wanted to hide in an empty bathtub and just stare at a blank wall I was so tired and overwhelmed. And I confess, there were days that I did! But each time it happened, I got back up and dove back into life. Motherhood is a sure way to realize your resilience, but moving is another. I learned about my ability to bounce back and roll with life's punches, and I know I'm better for it. 
  • Home really is where your heart is. My family truly makes up my best friends and as long as I have them I'm home. Even when I didn't know a soul in my new city, I just had to look at my children or my husband and remember that I have everything that's important in life right next to me, and in the end, that was what mattered. 
  • Finding new opportunities takes risk. Moving has opened so many doors for me that I never would have had if we had not come to a new city. It was a risk to move, and it's also been a risk for me to put myself out there to meet new people, serve in my church and even start up new projects (like Risen Motherhood). But each time I've taken a leap of faith, I've been amazed by the doors that have opened. I'm so glad I've taken risks over the past year - beginning with the move - because there are so many opportunities I would not have experienced if I hadn't.
Basically, moving makes you feel indestructible. It solidifies who you are and makes you agile, adaptable, open to changing and moulding as you need to in life. And honestly? That's a pretty good skill set to have.  Many of you long-time readers have walked through this move with me, and you've see just how hard it was for me. There were some really dark, dark days in there, but you know what? The darkness has finally, generously, graciously lifted and it feels like now is the time to enjoy the sweetness of the light. Things are not perfect of course, there are still hard things, things I can't even talk about here on the blog. But overall I'm truly thankful that we've moved and the lessons I've learned along the way.